Max-8 planes to remain grounded for foreseeable future

Cayman Airways' new Boeing 737 MAX 8 arrives at Owen Roberts International Airport in November last year. - Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Cayman Airways Limited has no immediate plans for its Boeing 737 Max-8 planes, which have remained out of service at a hanger in the Owen Roberts International Airport for more than 10 months.

Olivia Scott-Ramirez, the airline’s public relations manager, said on Thursday, “CAL has no plans regarding the use of its Boeing 737-8 Max aircrafts until after the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority), EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands ungrounds the aircrafts.”

Scott-Ramirez said that, in the meantime, Cayman Airways will continue to a make the necessary arrangements to operate its published schedule.

In March 2019, CAL took its Max-8 planes out of service, which increased pressure on its fleet, that at the time consisted of three Boeing 737-300 aircraft, the two 737-Max-8s, and two Saab 340B+ propeller planes. The Max-8 planes were grounded worldwide following two crashes that claimed the lives of 346 people.

An investigation into the crashes revealed issues with Boeing’s MCAS system, which is designed to prevent a plane from stalling when a takeoff angle is too steep. Although the MCAS system issue has been addressed, ongoing investigations into the safety of Max-8s had found other software-related problems with the planes.

However, on 1 Jan., the US Federal Aviation Authority, which is overseeing the investigations into the Boeing safety issues, stated that the latest documents submitted by aircraft manufacturer have not pointed to any new “safety risks that were not already identified as part of the ongoing review of proposed modifications to the aircraft”.

The global grounding of hundreds of Max-8 planes has resulted in Boeing being hit with multiple lawsuits from various airlines around the world; the most recent of which ended in a settlement between Boeing and Southwest Airlines, a US-based company.

Although Cayman Airways’ fleet includes two Max-8s, the airline does not own them. Instead, it is leasing the planes through Air Lease Corporation, with which CAL has come to an agreement to offset the losses caused by the grounding.

“CAL was able to reach an arrangement with its lessor and Boeing which negates all costs associated with the Boeing 737-8 Max aircraft while the aircraft are grounded,” said Scott-Ramirez.

Cayman Airways was due to receive an additional two Max-8 planes, one in late 2019 and the other sometime in early or mid-2020. However, in light of the safety concerns, the potential arrival of the planes has been pushed back.

“The 2019 aircraft … is currently in storage at Boeing’s facilities, and we expect that the aircraft scheduled for 2020 will be delayed into 2021,” Scott-Ramirez said.

Until then, Cayman Airways will continue to use its fleet of planes to service its destinations. Scott-Ramirez noted that although the fleet is aging, the planes are maintained rigorously.

“CAL’s aircrafts are all maintained under an extensive and robust maintenance programme which assures their airworthiness, and while the aircrafts may perhaps be aging out of CAL’s planned usage, these aircraft still have a significant amount of safe and useful life left in them,” she said. “It should be noted that in many cases CAL’s 737-300 fleet actually has less accumulated flying, or are younger in age, than many of the aircraft that are currently in service with major carriers that service Cayman.”

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  1. As far as I’m aware the plural of aircraft at least in UK English is “aircraft”, not to be confused with aeroplane and aeroplanes.
    The statement that Boeing and the lessor of the 737 Max aircraft will cover ALL costs associated with the aircraft whilst grounded sounds too good to be true. Were all the associated costs incurred, itemized at the time the agreement was signed?.
    It will be interesting to see the financial statements of the airline for the current year whenever they become available. All I can find online are statements for the year ended June 30th 2012.