(CMR) Cayman Airways could return two grounded aircraft to service by the second half of February following a decision by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands (CAACI) to lift a ban on the Boeing 737 MAX.
CAACI announced that it would allow the Boeing 737 MAX to operate passenger flights, subject to close oversight. The ban on the aircraft operating in Cayman Islands’ airspace has also been removed.
The changes were effective as of January 27.
This follows similar decisions by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the UK Civil Aviation Authority (UK CAA), and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
CAACI said the decision was made following the approval of extensive modifications to the aircraft's design, to how it is flown, and to pilot training. This includes modifications to the aircraft’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) and other key safety changes aimed at preventing further accidents.
The removal of the airspace ban will allow foreign operators of the aircraft to fly into Cayman Islands’ airspace. However, all airlines will need to go through the necessary steps to return the aircraft to service, including pilot training.
President and CEO of Cayman Airways Fabian Whorms said the airline has been implementing a comprehensive series of actions to comply with new regulatory requirements to return the aircraft to service safely.
“The decision to unground the Boeing 737-8 by the CAACI is therefore timely and is supported by international regulatory consensus, combined with the inherent safety standards in the aviation industry in general. With that in mind, Cayman Airways plans to return the aircraft model to service in the second half of February 2021, after we complete the final series of actions necessary to reintroduce the aircraft to service,” Whorms said in a statement.
The Boeing 737-MAX was grounded for almost two years following two major crashes in 2018 and 2019, which killed over 300 people.
The UK, including the Overseas Territories, was one of the first countries to prevent the aircraft from using its airspace.
The US FAA is responsible for the initial type certification (approval) of the Boeing 737 MAX, as it is manufactured in the USA. The CAACI has decided to allow a return to service on detailed information from the FAA, EASA, Boeing, and the UK CAA.
The CAACI said it was working with Cayman Airways, the only operator of the aircraft in the territory, to safely return the Boeing 737 MAX to service.
CAACI said it would undertake a full review of the airline’s return to service plans, including its pilot training programs and implementation of the required aircraft modifications.
The main modifications to the aircraft that allow a safe return to service are:
- Flight Control Computer (FCC) software changes, so that both of the aircraft’s Angle of Attack (AoA) sensor inputs are used by the aircraft systems (rather than one);
- Safeguards against MCAS activating unnecessarily, due to a failed or erroneous AoA sensor;
- Removal of the MCAS repeat command;
- Revised limits on the MCAS command authority;
- Revisions to flight crew procedures and training requirements;
- Implementation of an AoA ‘disagree’ alert indication that would appear on the pilots’ primary flight displays;
- Cross FCC trim monitoring to detect and shutdown erroneous pitch trim commands.