The head of the UAE’s civil aviation regulator told reporters on Sunday that he isn’t “optimistic” the troubled Boeing 737MAX will be allowed to fly again until the start of 2020 at the earliest. The comments from Said Mohammed al-Suwaidi, director-general of the General Civil Aviation Authority puts the UAE at odds with Boeing which is hoping to get the plane recertified at some point in the fourth quarter of this year.
Boeing is nearing completion of a software fix and additional pilot training to correct a potential issue with faulty angle of attack sensors. The aircraft type has been grounded since March following two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people in less than six months.
Before the 737MAX is allowed to fly again it will need to be recertified by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). While the FAA won’t be drawn on when it thinks this process will be complete, Boeing and many airlines that operate the 737MAX hope the recertification process will be concluded at some point in October.
Rather than just accepting the FAA’s recertification, the GCAA will likely want to review the fix before lifting its own ban. A similar process may well be followed by a number of other civil aviation authorities around the world – although Boeing is attempting to avoid that from happening.
At present, American Airlines has extended cancellations for the 737MAX through December 3. United Airlines has taken a slightly more cautious approach and has pulled the 737MAX from its schedules until at least December 19. Both airlines have extended the cancellation period several times since March.
United currently estimates the 737MAX grounding will lead to 95 cancelled services per day throughout October – a total of 2,900 cancellations in just one month.
The grounding hasn’t had such a massive impact on Dubai’s government-owned low-cost carrier flydubai as much as the carrier has just three of the aircraft type in its fleet at the moment. But flydubai is one of Boeing’s biggest customers for the 737MAX with more than 250 on order at a list price of over $27 billion USD.
al-Suwaidi told reporters he believes a timeframe of somewhere in the first three months of 2020 is a more realistic timeframe for when the UAE might lift its ban on 737MAX flights.