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Discrepancies among global regulators over Boeing 737 MAX worry Iata

Chicago

THE head of the International Air Transport Association (Iata) has warned that any discrepancy among global regulators over reapproving Boeing Co's 737 MAX for commercial flight could set a worrying precedent for future aircraft programmes.

The 737 MAX, Boeing's newest single-aisle aircraft, was grounded worldwide in March after two deadly crashes - one in Indonesia and the other in Ethiopia - five months apart. Boeing is updating flight-control software at the centre of both crashes, and the planes will not fly commercially again until that is approved by regulators.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has traditionally taken the lead on certifying Boeing aircraft, leaving other regulators globally to follow suit. That process has been supported by Iata, a trade association of the world's airlines.

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But international regulators have indicated they will pursue their own analysis of the 737 MAX and Boeing's proposed updates, with the FAA's credibility having been dented following the 737 MAX crashes.

Alexandre de Juniac, Iata director-general, told reporters ahead of a summit in Chicago: "With the 737 MAX, we are a bit worried ... because we don't see the normal unanimity among international regulators that should be the case." He urged regulators to make any changes to the single certification process "collectively".

In an e-mailed statement, the FAA said it has a "transparent and collaborative relationship" with other civil aviation authorities, but "each government will make its own decision to return the aircraft to service based on a thorough safety assessment."

In a presentation to the European Parliament transport committee on Tuesday, European Union Aviation Safety Agency (Easa) executive director Patrick Ky said the regional regulator has 20 experts, including test pilots and engineers, examining the 737 MAX design to ensure against weaknesses in safety-critical areas.

Presentation slides posted on the European Parliament website showed that of the latest solutions presented by Boeing, Easa was satisfied with changes to the flight-control computer architecture and believed improved crew procedures and training were a work in progress. However, it noted there was still no appropriate response to issues with the integrity of the angle-of-attack system. In both the 737 MAX crashes, erroneous data to one of the angle-of-attack sensors led to the activation of an automated system that repeatedly pushed down the plane's nose.

US airlines are drawing up flight schedules that exclude the 737 MAX into December or early next year, taking a financial hit while the jets remain grounded.

Boeing is targeting regulatory approval for the fixes and new pilot training in October, though the FAA reiterated on Tuesday that it does not have a firm timeline to put the jets back in the air. "Our first priority is safety, and we have set no timeframe for when the work will be completed," it said. REUTERS