By Helen Coffey, independent.co.uk
A Boeing 737 Max plane has become the first to be awarded an airworthiness certificate since the jets were grounded in 2019 following two fatal crashes.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued the certificate, which authorises that particular aircraft to fly, after announcing that Administrator Steve Dickson had signed an order on 18 November allowing the 737 Max to return to commercial service.
The airworthiness certificate brings the model a step closer to taking flight again.
It was grounded globally after two separate crashes less than five months apart resulted in 346 deaths. A problem with a sensor in the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) repeatedly pushed the nose of the plane down in both incidents.
The FAA said the 737 Max had been through a “comprehensive and methodical safety review process” over the last 20 months.
Since the model was grounded, Boeing has built around 450 new 737 Maxes – each of which will need an airworthiness certificate – that are currently waiting to be delivered to airlines.
The Maxes that were already in service, which have been parked up for more than a year and a half, will need to meet maintenance requirements before they’re allowed to fly again.
There’s another step before sign-off too: US airlines must get the FAA’s approval of their 737 Max pilot training programmes.
American Airlines is scheduling the jet to enter service between Miami and New York La Guardia on 29 December, while United Airlines expects to operate its Max jets from Houston to Denver in the first quarter of 2021.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (Easa) has yet to certify the Max for return to service in the EU, but is expected to do so next year.
Eddie Wilson, chief executive of Ryanair DAC, which has ordered 175 special high-capacity Maxes, said the airline expected the jet to be signed off in late February or early March.