One of Cayman Airways’ 737-Max 8 aircraft arrived safely to a Boeing maintenance facility in the US, after completing a flight last Tuesday.

Cayman Airways officials said the Max 8 VP-CIW aircraft departed the Owen Roberts International Airport on 25 Feb. at 9:45am and arrived at the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, California, at 1:05pm California time.

The flight was piloted by Captain Perry Panton and Captain Stephen Coe.
“Much like the recent maintenance flight, the aircraft performed perfectly in all phases of flight, and accomplished the non-stop journey from Grand Cayman to California in six hours and twenty minutes,” said the airline’s president and CEO, Fabian Whorms.

On Saturday, 22 Feb., the aircraft completed a one-hour test flight that saw the Max 8 flying to Little Cayman before making a ‘U-turn’ and returning to Grand Cayman.

The flights come after the plane sat grounded in Cayman Airways’ hanger at the Owen Roberts International Airport for nearly a year.

Prior to the flights, Whorms said the Max 8 needed to go California “to have upgrades accomplished in preparation for return to service later this year”.

However, it is unclear when Max 8s will be cleared to return to the skies.

Cayman Airways took its two Max 8 planes out of operation in March last year following two fatal crashes – Lion Air near Jakarta, Indonesia, and Ethiopian Airlines outside Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – that claimed the lives of 346 people. A global grounding of the Max 8 planes remains in effect.

An investigation into the crashes revealed issues with Boeing’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (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 has found other software-related problems with the planes.

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”.

Since then, the FAA has provided no additional update, and it is unclear when the Max 8 aircraft will return to the skies.

Until then, Cayman Airways’ second Max 8 plane will remain grounded at its hangar in Cayman. A third Max 8 plane which Cayman Airways ordered, but which was not delivered before the international grounding of the aircraft, will remain in a Boeing facility in the US.

A fourth Max 8 aircraft ordered by CAL has not yet been built and its order has been pushed back until 2021.

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