The 737 MAX remains officially grounded from commercial service. However, the aircraft still take to the skies every now and then for what are known as ferry flights. This is the case for Cayman Airways and its 737 MAX 8. The aircraft will take-off this weekend on a necessary maintenance flight.
Details and official statements regarding this flight were posted to Cayman Airways’ official website. This is what the airline’s leadership had to say:
“For almost a year, the grounded MAX aircraft have been maintained under an active storage maintenance program as specified by the manufacturer…Routine maintenance flights become necessary over time as part of this maintenance program and are being conducted in coordination with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands and Boeing.” -Fabian Whorms, President and CEO, Cayman Airways
Taking place this weekend
With the flight likely to happen this weekend, the airline says that maintenance flight will have an observer on board from the Civil Aviation Authority. In addition to the observer, there will be a representative from Boeing.
The airline says that the exact day and time of the flight for the aircraft – registration VP-CIW – will depend on clearance times provided by Air Traffic Control. The main goal is to work around airport congestion. The airline says the flight is likely to take place late Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning.
The airline has one other 737 MAX in its fleet (VP-CIX). While it also will require a maintenance flight before re-entry into service, the date for this flight is yet to be determined. However, the airline indicates that it will occur by early March.
Much newer than VP-CIW, the aircraft VP-CIX has not conducted any commercial flights since its March 2019 delivery. Therefore, it does not require the same level of maintenance as the other aircraft. Therefore, it will remain in the airline’s current active storage maintenance program on Grand Cayman.
Other 737 MAX flights
While the 737 MAX is officially grounded from commercial service, the plane type has been flying occasionally in the last year. Here are some instances where the banned aircraft took to the skies:
- In September, Silkair moved it’s Boeing 737 MAX fleet to Australia, where the dry outback conditions have been perfect for long-term storage of the aircraft. Fiji Airways did something similar in November, moving its aircraft to Alice Springs in Australia.
- In October we reported on Icelandair’s 737 MAX aircraft going to Spain to escape the harsh Icelandic winter.
- The same month we reported that two American Airlines 737 MAX jets will be heading to a maintenance facility in Oklahoma, to prepare the aircraft for a return to service.
It looks like Cayman Airways is being proactive in getting its aircraft ready to fly passengers before the U.S. FAA has officially given the MAX the green light to fly commercially again. This could be wise as airlines all around the world will be scrambling to do the same, using the mid-2020 estimate as guidance.
However, the timeline has been moved continuously since last summer and there is always the risk of more delays as we get closer to June.
Do you think this Cayman Airways is expressing the right level of cautious optimism in preparing its aircraft for commercial operations in advance of official re-certification? Or is it being too optimistic as the timelines have shifted continually since last summer? Let us know in the comments.