Boeing’s 737 Max was cleared for flight almost two years after it landed after two fatal crashes.
The United States Aviation Safety Agency gave the go-ahead, saying the decision was made after a comprehensive and methodical 20-month review process.
The Max was banned from flying after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet in March 2019, less than five months after another Max, flown by Indonesia’s Lion Air, mysteriously crashed into the Java Sea.
All 346 passengers and crew on both aircraft were killed.
The planes will not return to the skies immediately as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires it to approve changes to pilot training for every U.S. airline and the airlines to perform necessary maintenance on the aircraft.
The FAA says the move was made in collaboration with aviation safety agencies worldwide.
Before the flight ban, Ryanair had ordered 135 planes, and Tui UK and British Airways were also due to collect the jets.
“These regulators have indicated that Boeing’s design changes, along with changes in crewing procedures and training improvements, will give them the confidence to validate the aircraft as safe to fly in their respective countries and regions,” the FAA said in a statement.
Anti-stall software to counter the tendency of the aircraft to tip up due to the size and placement of the engines was associated with the malfunctions. It pressed the nose down on both crashed planes, forcing the pilots to lose control.
Boeing has changed the software that does not override the pilot controls. The pilots are also required to complete simulator training, which was not required at the time the aircraft was introduced.
Sales of new aircraft have decreased due to the Max crisis and the coronavirus pandemic. Orders for more than 1,000 Max jets were canceled or removed from Boeing’s order book this year.
The European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which has launched its own test program, has claimed that FAA clearance does not automatically mean that the aircraft is considered airworthy in Europe.
“These events and the lessons learned from them have changed our company and continued to focus our attention on our core values of safety, quality and integrity,” said current Boeing CEO David Calhoun in a statement.
The then CEO of Boeing, Dennis Muilenburg, initially suggested that the pilots were to blame. However, investigators predicted that if the flight control software were not repaired, there would be 15 more crashes during the aircraft’s life.
Investigators said Boeing suffered from a “culture of obfuscation” and was in a hurry to pressurize the engineers to bring the aircraft to market.