Cayman Airways’ 737 MAX 8 aircraft are unlikely to take to the skies anytime soon, even though the US Federal Aviation Administration last week cleared the Boeing 737-8s and 737-9s to return to commercial service, pending design changes.

“The [Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands] will continue to liaise with Boeing, the UK Aviation Authorities in conjunction with EASA [European Union Aviation Safety Agency] on return to service strategies for Cayman registered Boeing Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft,” CAACI said, adding it’s the first step in the return to service after extensive safety reviews.

On 18 Nov., the FAA rescinded its emergency order grounding the Boeing 737 MAX globally. However, the plane cannot return to the skies until it receives an FAA airworthiness directive specifying that design changes have been implemented.

“This order enables the ungrounding of the Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 after satisfactorily completing applicable return to service requirements, for aircraft to be operated in US Airspace,” the CAACI said in the statement.

The local regulator said it will work closely with Cayman Airways.

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The planes have been grounded since March 2019, when MAX 8 aircraft were involved in two fatal crashes within five months that killed 648 people. 

Cayman Airways was among the first airlines to ground the MAX.

The national flag carrier, in response to queries from the Compass on the FAA announcement, said it was aware the administration had completed its recertification of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. 

“While [Cayman Airways] welcomes this significant milestone towards the aircraft returning to service in the United States, the FAA recertification completion does not immediately result in any changes for Cayman Airways,” it said.

Cayman has two MAX planes on island. It had ordered an additional two planes prior to the international grounding of the aircraft. 

In addition to the two planes delivered to Cayman, a third is in storage at a US Boeing facility. The delivery date for the fourth plane, which was expected to be sometime this year, has been pushed back to 2021.

The FAA review of the plane and its safety upgrades stated, “Through a thorough, transparent and inclusive process, the FAA has determined that Boeing’s changes to the 737 MAX design, flight crew procedures and maintenance procedures effectively mitigate the airplane-related safety issues that contributed to the Flight 610 and Flight 302 accidents.”

The MAX will not return immediately to the skies. The FAA has mandated design changes that must first be completed, and must approve 737 MAX pilot training programme revisions for each US airline operating the MAX. It will also issue airworthiness certificates for older MAX planes.

Airlines that have parked their MAX aircraft must take required maintenance steps to prepare them to fly again, the FAA added.

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