UAE lifts ban on B737 Max

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The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has lifted ban placed on the Boeing 737 Max, approximately two-year after, an indication that the aircraft is clear to return to service in the UAE.

According to Director-General of the GCAA, Saif Al Suwaidi “Lifting the ban on the aircraft is the result of the intensive efforts by the authority’s technical committee to evaluate all the technical requirements by the US Federal Aviation Authority, Boeing and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which led the committee to identify the technical conditions that all airlines must address to guarantee the plane’s return to the skies.” 

Boeing’s 737 Max was grounded in March 2019 following two fatal crashes that killed 346 people. The saga of investigations that followed is thought to have cost Boeing some $20 billion.

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Al Suwaidi said that the decision from the UAE regulator “includes the correct measures to be applied by airlines operating the Boeing 737 Max aircraft, most notably updating the MCAS system, pilot training procedures and the operational readiness of all aircrafts before operating again, in addition to the flight permit procedures that will be issued by the authority for each aircraft.”

He also said that the decision also includes the technical requirements that must be met by foreign airlines’ Boeing 737 Max aircraft, which will operate in UAE airspace. “We emphasize GCAA’s commitment to guarantee the safe return of the aircraft to the country’s airspace,” said Al Suwaidi.

The GCAA said it will be “closely monitoring and making sure that the companies are meeting these technical requirements before their aircraft operate again”.

Only one airline in the UAE operates Boeing’s 737 Max – FlyDubai. But the budget airline is the world’s second largest customer of the jet, with 14 Max’s in its fleet and another 175 on order.

The company, which has since received compensation from Boeing, has said that the grounding of the jet has cost the airline in revenues. Before the pandemic struck, FlyDubai began leasing 737 NGs to make up for the 737 Max’s it could not fly.

Linus Benjamin Bauer, Managing Director of Dubai-based consultancy, Bauer Aviation Advisory, said that FlyDubai will be a “major beneficiary” of the ban being lifted, because of the added fuel efficiency and flexibility the Max will bring to its network.

“However, the re-launch of 737 Max operations during the pandemic will be indeed a very tough challenge in the short-term. In addition to all legal, technical and operational aspects including the need to retrain pilots and familiarise with improved MCAS function, the customer confidence in flying on that aircraft need to be restored first.