Copa Could Be Readying To Resume 737 MAX Flights In Panama

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Copa Airlines could be near to reactivate its Boeing 737 MAX fleet, according to the latest movements by the carrier. In the last few days, at least three of Copa’s six Boeing 737 MAX have flown around Panama City. So, what else do we know?

Copa Airlines Boeing 737 MAX
Copa Airlines has operated a few passengerless Boeing 737 MAX flights in the last few days. Photo: Felipe Escalona / AviacionPTY

The latest information

Three countries worldwide have already recertified the MAX for commercial operations. The first was the US, followed swiftly by Brazil and Mexico. Already, two of the four Latin American carriers that have MAX fleets have resumed commercial operations with the Boeing narrowbody.

GOL was the first airline to operate the MAX after 20 months grounded. Grupo Aeromexico followed last Friday. In Latin America, Copa Airlines in Panama and Aerolíneas Argentinas in Argentina remain as the two MAX operators yet to reactivate their fleets.

In the last few days, three MAX aircraft of Copa, registrations HP-9901CMP, HP-9905CMP, and HP-9906CMP, have flown around Panama City, according to Flightradar24.com.

Copa Airlines Boeing 737 MAX
Copa Airlines has six Boeing 737 MAX-9 in its fleet. Photo: Felipe Escalona / Aviacion PTY

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So, how do we know the recertification is coming?

So far, the Civil Aviation Authority in Panama (or AAC) hasn’t officially recertified the Boeing 737 MAX. A year ago, the AAC published a decree in which it outlined the minimum requirements for the safe return of the Boeing best-seller, according to Felipe Escalona, an aviation lawyer in Panama and partner at Delvalle, Escalona, Levy & Corró.

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These are the minimal requirements:

  1. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) must previously recertify the aircraft.
  2. The operator, Copa Airlines, must complete the established requirements by the FAA.

On the training side:

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  1. The flight simulator software, certified by the AAC, must have the approved changes regarding the operation of MCAS.
  2. Every Copa pilot authorized to operate the MAX must complete its training on the new requirements.

On the maintenance side:

  1. Copa must follow all the maintenance directives issued by Boeing.
  2. Copa must operate a passengerless flight of about 30 minutes.

The Panamanian airline is already on that last step.

Copa Airlines Getty
This year, Copa Airlines has reduced its fleet size due to the pandemic crisis. Photo: Getty Images.

The recertification is coming

Felipe Escalona wrote,

“Last week, Copa Airlines started some of the test flights with its Boeing 737 MAX 9 fleet. Therefore, it is very likely that the AAC is verifying the minimal requirements to authorize, in the next few days or weeks, the return to service of these aircraft.”

Copa Airlines currently has a fleet of 74 aircraft: 68 Boeing 737-800 and six Boeing 737 MAX 9. FlightRadar24.com accounts for 11 Boeing 737 MAX. This means Boeing already has a few ready to be delivered.

This year, Copa has reduced its fleet by selling its 14 Embraer E-190; these planes ended with Australian carrier Alliance Airlines. Copa is also selling its fleet of Boeing 737-700 aircraft.

About the Boeing 737 MAX, Copa said the following during its third-quarter results,

“The Company has a plan in place to comply with all new requirements and expects to return its six Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft to service soon.”

Moreover, it said that it is in advanced discussions with Boeing to reach a settlement regarding the grounding. Subject to these discussions, Copa expects to receive two MAX 9 in December. These deliveries haven’t yet happened.

One final note: according to Escalona, the AAC will also authorize the operation of foreign airlines using the Boeing 737 MAX. That means, theoretically, both GOL and Aeromexico could fly through Panamanian airspace using its MAX fleet. But, let’s remember: GOL is not flying internationally at the moment, and Aeromexico canceled its flights permanently to Panama City.

Are you planning to fly on Copa’s Boeing 737 MAX soon? Let us know in the comments.

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