Boeing’s 737 Max has been cleared to return to service in the UK and Europe, 22 months after the aircraft was grounded following two fatal crashes.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (Easa) issued new airworthiness and safety directives for the Max on Wednesday (27 January).
It comes after airlines in the US and Canada were given the green light to restore their Maxs to service.
"We have reached a significant milestone on a long road," said Easa executive director Patrick Ky.
The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), meanwhile, has lifted its ban on Max operations in UK airspace.
The Max’s return in Europe is conditional on a package of software upgrades, electrical amendments, and updates to crew training and operational documentation.
Ky said Easa’s assessment was carried out independently of Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration, which included running its own flight tests and simulations.
He also stressed Easa’s work with regards to the Max would continue. "We have every confidence the aircraft is safe, which is the pre-condition for giving our approval," said Ky.
"But we will continue to monitor 737 Max operations closely as the aircraft resumes service.
"In parallel, and at our insistence, Boeing has also committed to work to enhance the aircraft still further in the medium term, in order to reach an even higher level of safety."
The Max was grounded in March 2019 following two fatal crashes in the space of five months, one in Indonesia and another in Ethiopia, which claimed 346 lives – all those onboard the two aircraft.
The cause was traced to the aircraft’s MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), which pushed both aircraft into irretrievable nosedives.
Ky confirmed all four of Easa’s conditions for the Max’s return to service had been met – sufficient understanding of the two crashes; approval of mandated design changes by Boeing; completion of an independent design review of the Max; and updated training of flight crews.
In a statement, the CAA said it would allow UK airlines to operate passenger flights with Boeing 737 Max aircraft, "subject to close oversight", with immediate effect
"The ban on the aircraft operating in UK airspace will also be removed," said the authority. "It follows similar decisions by Easa, [the] US Federal Aviation Administration and Transport Canada."
CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty added: "This is not a decision we have taken lightly and we would not have allowed a return to service for UK operators, or lifted the ban on the aircraft operating in UK airspace, unless we were satisfied that the aircraft type is airworthy and can be operated safely.
"The international work to return the Boeing 737 Max to the skies has been the most extensive project of this kind ever undertaken in civil aviation and shows how important the cooperation between states and regulators is to maintaining safety."