Oct. 16 (UPI) -- The European Union's chief aviation regulator said Friday he is willing to allow the Boeing's 737 Max -- which has been grounded worldwide for 19 months -- to return to service within the 27-member bloc.
Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, told Bloomberg he is satisfied with safety upgrades that have been made to the aircraft since it stopped flying in March 2019.
"Our analysis is showing that this is safe, and the level of safety reached is high enough for us," he said.
Ky's comments are the first from a major governmental regulator endorsing the return of the 737 Max, which was grounded after two crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia that killed 346 people. Boeing has since identified a problem in the airliner's automated flight system but its software fix has not yet been approved by U.S. regulators.
Boeing had set a goal of returning the 737 Max to service by the end of this year.
Ky said the EASA has conducted test flights and the matter is now under final review. A draft airworthiness directive is expected next month, although an additional upgrade demanded by the agency -- a redundant "synthetic sensor" -- won't be ready for as long as two years.
U.S. congressional investigators concluded last month that Boeing prioritized profits over safety in rushing to complete the model's design. It also said the Federal Aviation Administration, the chief U.S. civil regulator, provided "grossly insufficient oversight" during the approval process.
Investigators have said the Max's automated flight system was adversely activated in both crashes after receiving inaccurate sensor data, and put both planes into a nose-down position from which the pilots weren't able to recover.
The FAA is still reviewing the 737 Max's airworthiness and has not indicated when it could be cleared to fly again in the United States.