UAE Clears 737 Max for Return to Service

 - February 17, 2021, 11:12 AM
The first FlyDubai 737 Max 8 takes off from Boeing's Seattle delivery center in July 2017. (Photo: Boeing)

The United Arab Emirates’ civil aviation authority on Wednesday certified the Boeing 737 Max to return to service in the country, clearing one of the model’s biggest operators—FlyDubai—to resume operations. General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) director-general Saif Al Swuaidi noted “intensive efforts” on the part of the authority’s technical committee to evaluate Boeing guidance and requirements issued by the U.S. FAA and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), reported official UAE press agency WAM.   

Al Suwaidi said the decision took into account “corrective procedures,” most notably upgrades to the airplane’s MCAS system, pilot training procedures, and operational readiness tests of all aircraft returning to service.

A Boeing 737-800NG operator since flying its first service in June 2009, FlyDubai had flown 11 Max 8s and three Max 9s before the type’s grounding in March 2019. Boeing lists unfilled orders from FlyDubai for 237 more Maxes, the bulk of which came with a contract signed at the 2017 Dubai Airshow for 175 of the narrowbodies. That deal marked the biggest single-aisle order ever in the Middle East.

Global aviation authorities grounded the 737 Max in March 2019 following the second of two accidents within six months that together claimed 346 lives. Investigators traced the root cause to flight control software known as the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS), which Boeing engineers developed to overcome handling deficiencies caused by changes to the Max from the 737NG, most notably the engines. However, the MCAS, guided by only one angle-of-attack (AoA) sensor, activated repeatedly if the sensor malfunctioned, pushing the nose of the aircraft downward multiple times. In both accidents, pilots lost control of their airplanes, resulting in the crashes.

Although EASA and Transport Canada essentially validated earlier recertification mandates issued by the FAA, a key difference lies in a provision in the European and Canadian rules for flight crews to stop a stick shaker from continuing to vibrate in the event of an erroneous activation. It remains unclear whether or not the UAE also adopted that stipulation in its order.