DUBAI: United Arab Emirates’ Flydubai expects to have all of its 14 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft back in service by the first week of June, the airline’s head of maintenance said on Tuesday.

Resuming 737 MAX flights this Thursday with a service to Sialkot, the airline has cleared five of those jets to return to service after a two-year grounding.

“You can rest assured we have every confidence in this aircraft,” Head of Maintenance Andrew Glover told an online press briefing.

Regulators worldwide grounded the 737 in March 2019 after two fatal crash in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed a total of 346 people onboard.

The UAE aviation regulator lifted the ban in February after the United States Federal Aviation Administration set out the return to service requirements.

Flydubai said 12 countries on its network had not approved the jet, including Russia and India, and that it would only operate flights to and over countries that had lifted the ban. Initially, the aircraft would be used to fly to destinations close to its hub, like Pakistan, it said.

Flydubai Senior Vice President, Flight Operations Captain Patrick Gonzenbach said 233 pilots had completed the additional training and were ready to resume 737 MAX flights. Its remaining 522 pilots are expected to receive the additional training by the end of the year, he said. Flydubai, which has been flying older variants of the 737 planes since starting operations in 2009, has ordered a total of 251 737 MAX jets, including the 14 already delivered. The airline, which last year reached an interim confidential compensation agreement with Boeing over the grounding, declined on Tuesday to comment on future 737 MAX deliveries.

Head of maintenance Glover said older model 737 NGs would remain part of the fleet for the next 8-10 years but would eventually be replaced by MAX jets.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2021

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