Max 8 to make first flight in nearly a year

Maintenance journey to US scheduled for this weekend

The first Boeing 737 Max 8, seen here arriving in Cayman on 30 Nov. 2018, will undertake a maintenance flight to the US at the weekend. - Photo: Taneos Ramsay

After sitting inactive in a Cayman Airways hanger for nearly a year, one of the airline’s Boeing 737-Max 8 aircraft will take to the skies this weekend.

A statement issued on behalf of Cayman Airways said the trip is a necessary maintenance flight for the plane, which was delivered to the airline 30 Nov. 2018.

“For almost a year, the grounded Max aircraft have been maintained under an active storage maintenance program as specified by the manufacturer,” the airline’s president and CEO, Fabian Whorms, said in a statement. “Routine maintenance flights become necessary over time as part of this maintenance program and are being conducted in coordination with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands and Boeing.”

Cayman Airways took its Max 8 planes out of operation in March last year during a global grounding of the aircraft following two fatal crashes that claimed the lives of 346 people.

On board the maintenance flight will be an observer from the Civil Aviation Authority and a representative from Boeing. The exact date and time of the flight is unclear, but CAL officials say it is likely the flight will depart from the Owen Roberts International Airport on  Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning.

Following the completion of the maintenance flight, the Max 8 aircraft will be taken to a Boeing maintenance facility in the US, before returning to Cayman.

“We are planning to shortly ferry VP-CIW to a US-based maintenance and storage facility to conduct some required maintenance work and to prepare the aircraft for return to service, which is generally expected to occur later this year,” Whorms said.

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 the 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”.

At this stage, it is still not clear when Max 8 planes will be given the all-clear to return to commercial flights.

Cayman has two Max 8 planes, but only one will be heading to Boeing’s facility.

“Our second Max, VP-CIX, which has not conducted any commercial flights since its March 2019 delivery, does not require the same level of maintenance at this time and will remain in the current active storage maintenance program on Grand Cayman,” said Whorms.

Cayman Airways ordered four Max 8 planes prior to the international grounding of the aircraft. Two of those were delivered to Cayman and a third is in storage at a US Boeing facility. The fourth plane, which had been expected to be delivered sometime this year, has had its delivery date pushed back to 2021.

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