Flydubai prepares for Boeing 737 Max to rejoin its fleet

The carrier has the second largest order of the jet after Southwest Airlines globally

FILE PHOTO: A Boeing 737 MAX aircraft bearing the logo of flydubai is parked at a Boeing production facility in Renton, Washington, U.S. March 11, 2019. REUTERS/David Ryder/File Photo
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Dubai-based budget carrier flydubai is preparing for grounded Boeing 737 Max jets to rejoin its fleet after the UAE’s aviation regulator cleared the aircraft to fly again.

Flydubai, which has the second largest order of the jet after Southwest Airlines globally, had grounded its fleet of 11 Boeing 737 Max 8 and three 737 Max 9 aircraft during the 23-month safety review of the jet. Flydubai has 251 of the 737 Max on order from Boeing.

The airline will now "start the process of preparing the aircraft for passenger service", it said in a statement on Thursday, without specifying when it will join the service.

On Wednesday, the UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) joined Canada, the US and Brazil in approving the plane's return to commercial service, lifting safety ban on its operations.

"The Boeing 737 Max is an integral part of flydubai’s fleet and I have full confidence in the aircraft as it returns to passenger service," Ghaith Al Ghaith, chief executive of flydubai, said.

"Safety is the founding principle of our business. We said that we would only return the aircraft to service when it was safe to do so and that time is now."

In its statement clearing the jet to fly again, the GCAA said lifting the ban is the result of "intensive efforts by the authority's technical committee", which evaluated all the technical requirements by the US Federal Aviation Authority, Boeing and the European Aviation Safety Agency.

The UAE regulator has laid out a set of specific requirements for every flydubai Boeing 737 Max to return to service, which includes software enhancements and additional protections to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System.

Apart from a thorough inspection of the aircraft, the regulator requires other software updates that are not related to the flight control system. The GCAA has also mandated additional training for flydubai pilots, the airline said.

"These changes and enhancements will be validated and form part of the regulator’s approval for the aircraft to enter service," it said.

Boeing's best-selling narrow-body jet was grounded globally in March 2019 following two fatal crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia that killed 346 people.

The incidents triggered a string of investigations, led to reforms in aircraft certification methods and cost Boeing nearly $20 billion.

Flydubai said it is "too early" to say when the 737 Max returns to service, but it will announce routes serviced by the aircraft at a later date.