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06 Nov 2015 - Russian MAK suspends 737 airworthiness certificate.

In a surprise move, the Russian Interstate Aviation Committee (MAK) has suspended the airworthiness certificate of the Boeing 737 family stating that "deficiencies in the aircraft's elevator system need to be addressed before safe continuation of operation can be ensured." (Copy of the letter here)

The decision stems from the investigation into the fatal accident of Taterstan 737-500, VQ-BBN, on 17 Nov 2013 during a go-around in low visibility. The final report into this accident was finalised and signed by all parties involved in the investigation including the MAK, the Russian MInistry of Transport (Rostransnadzor) and Civil Aviation Authority (Rosaviatsia), plus investigators from UK, France, USA, and Bermuda. on April 17th 2015. However, in June 2015 the representative of Rosaviatsia withdrew their signature and stated their opinion that the cause of the crash was the malfunction of the pitch control system due to constructive deficiencies in the 737 elevator system. Consequently the MAK sent a formal inquiry with the FAA, but the reply did not satisfy the requirements to ensure safe operation of the aircraft. As result, the MAK was forced to suspend the airworthiness certification of the Boeing 737 family aircraft.

Russia's Ministry of Transport stated in response to the letter by the MAK, that the "MAK can not stop the operation of the Boeing 737 by Russian airlines by its decision to revoke the airworthiness certificate. Only a specially empowered federal executive authority can prohibit the operation of a specific aircraft type. This authority has not made this decision."

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*** Updated 17 Jan 2017 ***

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07 Nov 2015 - Russia reinstates 737 airworthiness certificate and says no reasons to ground the fleet.

From Flight Global...

Russian authorities have decided that there are no reasons to ground the Boeing 737 fleet, during a hastily-convened meeting sparked by an internal row between high-level safety organisations. The Interstate Aviation Committee had been prepared to withdraw its certification approval for the 737 because, it claims, federal air transport regulator Rosaviatsia backed out of approving the draft final report into a fatal 737-500 accident at Kazan two years ago. Rosaviatsia had taken the view that an elevator problem had contributed to the Tatarstan Airlines crash, even though investigators could find no evidence to support this theory. The Interstate Aviation Committee says that Rosaviatsia – despite taking this stance – did not act on its opinion, instead allowing Russian carriers to continue flying 737s rather than suspending their operation. This apparent contradiction spurred a communication from the Interstate Aviation Committee to both Rosaviatsia and the US FAA, warning that the Russian airworthiness certificate for the type would be withdrawn. Rosaviatsia responded by meeting with 737 operators and government figures on 6 November. Neither the head of the Interstate Aviation Committee nor its airworthiness arm attended the meeting, although a representative was present, and Rosaviatsia took the opportunity to describe the Interstate Aviation Committee’s actions as “frivolous” given the importance of the matter. The chief of Rosaviatsia, Alexander Neradko, also accused the Interstate Aviation Committee of contradicting itself, following the publicity over the certification threat, and hosting “different points of view” within its ranks. Neradko said the inquiry into the Kazan accident was “not complete” and condemned the leak of information. Unresolved technical matter, he said, should remain a subject of discussion by specialists until the investigation is closed. Rosaviatsia says the meeting was “unanimous” in determining that there were no grounds, at present, for halting the operation of 737s registered in Russia and other states. “Operation of the Boeing 737 in Russia will continue, on the same basis as before,” it adds. Boeing states that it is “pleased” the Russian authorities have confirmed that the 737 fleet “fully complies” with both US and Russian type certification requirements.

Tatarstan 737-500 VQ-BBN debris (Photos: Transport Prosecution Office Tatarstan):

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