The United Arab Emirates (UAE) looks set to open its airspace the Boeing 737 MAX as the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) prepares to lift a ban that has been in place for nearly two years. The GCAA issued a ban against airlines operating Boeing 737 MAX aircraft landing or taking from UAE airports on March 13, 2019. The ban came about after the fatal crashes of two MAX aircraft operated by Ethiopian Airlines and Indonesian low-cost carrier Lion Air.
Now following an initial investigation and months of finding a fix for the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) that is thought to have been responsible for the crash, aviation authorities are convinced it is now safe. Following the software upgrades and hundreds of hours of test flights, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cleared the MAX to return to service on November 8, 2020.
Transport Canada and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) soon followed suit, clearing the MAX in late January 2021. Now the GCAA is, according to the Khaleej Times, willing to lift its flight ban sometime in March.
flydubai has 14 737MAXs
The only UAE carrier affected by the grounding was flydubai, who, according to aviation enthusiast website Planespotters.net, has 11 Boeing 737 MAX 8 and three Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft. flydubai will be a major beneficiary of the ban being lifted.
When speaking to Khaleej Times, Director-General of the General Authority of Civil Aviation, Saif Al Suwaidi, said:
“The technical committee in the authority is currently working on evaluating the additional requirements that were mentioned in the latest version of the authority’s directive issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The evaluation will be completed within a two-week period, after which a safety decision will be issued in mid-February, which will indicate the expected time stage to restart the plane,” Al Suwaidi said.
Pilots need to be retrained
Al Suwaidi explained that before the 737 MAX could fly in the UAE, all safety modifications would have to have been made and that all MAX pilots are retrained to understand how the improvements to the MCAS function. Al Suwaidi stressed that the GCAA worked alongside the FAA and the EASA to ensure the Boeing 737 MAX’s safe return.
When asked by the Khaleej Times on Saturday about when flydubai expects the MAX to return to service, a spokesperson for the airline said:
“flydubai continues to work closely with its regulator, the General Civil Aviation Authority. Flydubai’s Boeing 737 MAX aircraft will not rejoin the operational schedule until it has received regulatory approval by the GCAA.”
flydubai has bet big on the MAX
In 2017 at the Dubai Airshow, flydubai placed a $27 billion order for 175 MAX aircraft along with an option for another 50 planes. In an interview with the Khaleej Times, Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at London-based StrategicAero Research, said:
“With the safe return to service of the 737 MAX already established in the USA, Canada, and Brazil, the UAE is keen to rubber-stamp its approval of the type so that big Boeing customer, flydubai, can resume operations too,” adding, “Thereafter, we’ll see the fuel-efficient 737 MAXs take to the skies again. Even with the pandemic still in play, the resumption of the 737 MAX will still be hugely beneficial to flydubai.”
Many flydubai customers may be reluctant to get on a 737 MAX at first, but flydubai and Boeing have bet big on the aircraft and need to restore its reputation as soon as possible.
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