With the UAE’s civil aviation regulator recently re-certifying the 737 MAX to fly in the country’s airspace, Dubai-based budget airline flydubai has reason to be celebrating this month. Operating an all-Boeing 737 fleet, the carrier currently has 14 MAX jets in its fleet. However, with plans to modernize and expand, flydubai will eventually operate 251 MAX jets – making recertification essential. After having been grounded for nearly two years, let’s take a look at how the airline is preparing its 737 MAXs to once again carry passengers.
Over 20 months of continuous maintenance
It was nearly two years ago, on March 12th, 2019, that the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) issued a “Safety Decision,” banning the 737 MAX from operating in the country’s airspace.
Throughout the entire time, the airline’s MAXs have been on the ground, they have been “under continuous maintenance as part of an aircraft storage program,” the airline notes on its website. Adding,
“The Engineering and Maintenance team are spending 18 hours per aircraft each week maintaining the aircraft to the highest international standards meeting all regulatory requirements. We are employing a systematic approach to identify actions which could be taken over and above the minimum mandatory requirements to ensure they will be returned to service in the best possible condition.”
The airline has gone so far as to produce a video that provides the public with some insight into the kind of work that goes on to keep the aircraft in top condition. Filming of the video took place over a year ago as it notes filming took place before the current health crisis:
Taking queues from the FAA and EASA
While we’ve covered stored aircraft maintenance in previous articles, what will flydubai and other airlines be doing specifically for the 737 MAX’s reentry into service? As you will recall, the aircraft was grounded a year before the pandemic following a second fatal crash. Subsequent investigation revealed issues with the aircraft’s automated flight control systems.
flydubai will be taking direction from the UAE’s GCAA. The GCAA will be issuing instruction based on findings and directives from other civil aviation regulators that have put the MAX through rigorous testing. These would primarily include the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.
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Here are the main updates to the MAX as outlined by flydubai:
- The aircraft’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), the MAX’s automated flight control system, has received “multiple enhanced protections.” This is the key update related to the aircraft’s re-entry into service.
- Unrelated to MCAS, the jets will also undergo:
- Wire separation modification
- Inspections for Foreign Object Debris
- Installation of two additional software updates
Also required will be additional pilot training and “performing thorough aircraft reactivation activities,” adding, “Every one of our pilots will receive additional training before they fly the MAX. This training program exceeds the regulatory requirement. It will be conducted in the classroom and in flydubai’s MAX aircraft full-motion simulator.”
Many have expressed hesitation with stepping onboard a 737 MAX aircraft. Do you think the above information adequately addresses concerns? Let us know in the comments.