UPDATE 1-European regulator clears Boeing 737 MAX airliner for return to service
Jan 27 (Reuters) - Boeing Co's modified 737 MAX airliner is safe to return to service in Europe, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said on Wednesday, lifting a 22-month flight ban after two crashes of the jet which caused 346 deaths.
EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said it had "every confidence" that the plane was safe following an independent European review of changes ranging from cockpit software to maintenance checks and pilot training.
"Let me be quite clear that this journey does not end here," Ky said in a statement.
"We have every confidence that the aircraft is safe, which is the precondition for giving our approval. But we will continue to monitor 737 MAX operations closely as the aircraft resumes service."
Regulators around the world grounded the MAX in March 2019, after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet five months after one flown by Indonesia's Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea. A total of 346 passengers and crew members were killed in the two crashes.
The United States lifted its ban in November, followed by Brazil and Canada. China, which was first to ban the plane after the second crash, and which represents a quarter of MAX sales, has not said when it will act.
Relatives of some crash victims have strongly criticized the move the clear Boeing's best-selling airplane.
EASA represents 31 mainly EU nations, excluding Britain which formally left the bloc this month. Britain is expected to issue its own separate approval on Wednesday. (Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Rachit Vats; editing by Jason Neely)
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