South Korea’s transport ministry indicated today that it is ready to re-certify the MAX this coming Monday. The decision has been made after a thorough review of changes done to the aircraft and monitoring operations following the lifting of bans in other countries, authorities said. This means that China will be the last major country to maintain a ban on the Boeing 737 MAX.
Monitoring entry into service
The South Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT)said in a statement Friday that it would lift the ban on the 737 MAX on November 22nd. It will also step up safety checks to make certain airlines will provide pilots with the necessary training for the type. Furthermore, it will monitor how carriers implement changes when the planes are delivered and brought into service.
The only airline in South Korea in possession of the 737 MAX at the moment is troubled budget carrier Eastar Jet. Currently undergoing restructuring, the airline’s original Air Operator Certificate (AOC) has been inactive since May 2020. Meanwhile, the Seoul Bankruptcy Court has given a South Korean property developer the all-clear to acquire an 80% share in the airline for $53 million.
Eastar Jet is expected to receive a new AOC by January and resume services the following month, ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays. The carrier currently has two 737 MAX 8s, as well as two 737-800s in its fleet. However, many more MAXs are set to arrive with South Korean airlines before long.
Seventy MAXs heading to Korea
Flag carrier Korean Air has an order for 30 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, while the country’s largest low-cost airline Jeju Air is expecting no less than 40 of the same type. The order will nearly double Jeju’s fleet, which currently consists of 41 737-800s with an average age of 12.5 years.
China inching closer
With South Korea recertifying the MAX, this leaves only China as the major economy not to lift the ban. However, the country’s aviation regulator, the CAAC, has told airlines it is satisfied with Boeing’s changes to the plane and is now seeking industry feedback, Reuters reported earlier this week.
The 737 MAX was grounded in March 2019, following the two deadly crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. Since then, Boeing has made changes to the MCAS, the malfunctioning system responsible for pushing the plane’s nose down repeatedly.
The manufacturer has also altered the display software to alert pilots when data from sensors conflict. Furthermore, it has rerouted internal wiring and rewritten the flight manual.
The Boeing 737 MAX has now been back in the skies in the US for almost a year. By the end of November, it will have performed over 19,000 take-offs and landings this month alone. International departures make up for a total of 18% of those flights.
For Boeing, which is committed to the MAX as its core narrowbody aircraft of the future, a lot rides on that they keep operating smoothly. Recertification from the CAAC would undoubtedly be a big boon to the company.
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