Returning our MAX aircraft to service

The grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX

On 12 March 2019, the UAE’s regulator, the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) issued a Safety Decision, meaning that the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft could not operate in UAE airspace. Our fleet of 11 Boeing 737 MAX 8 and three MAX 9 aircraft were immediately removed from operational service.

While on the ground

Throughout the period while the aircraft were grounded, our MAX aircraft were under continuous maintenance as part of an aircraft storage programme. The Engineering and Maintenance team spent 18 hours per aircraft each week maintaining the aircraft to the highest international standards meeting all regulatory requirements. We employed a systematic approach to identify actions which could be taken over and above the minimum mandatory requirements to ensure they were returned to service in the best possible condition.

Watch this video to hear about the work our Engineering and Maintenance team carried out.

Changes to the MAX aircraft

Following an exhaustive 20-month review by aviation stakeholders, there were a series of enhancements to the aircraft and its systems. These include enhanced protections to the automated flight control system, as well as additional software updates and a modification to wiring.

Enhanced protections to MCAS

The MAX’s automated flight control system, known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), received multiple enhanced protections.

Additional updates

The review and testing process identified additional items, not directly related to MCAS, that needed to be addressed before the MAX returned to service. These include a wire separation modification, inspections for Foreign Object Debris and the installation of two additional software updates.

Regulatory approval

Prior to resuming passenger service, flydubai met the stringent requirements set out by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), which included installing software enhancements, completing a wire separation modification, conducting pilot training and performing thorough aircraft reactivation activities.

Aircraft reactivation

When each aircraft was stored, it went through a process designed to preserve the aircraft and its engines and systems while not in use. This process needed to be reversed before each aircraft could be reactivated.

All of the changes mandated by the GCAA were completed to the highest international standards. These included updates to MCAS, additional software updates and a wire separation modification.

To conclude the process each aircraft undertook an operational readiness flight before the GCAA approved each aircraft for passenger service.

Pilot training

As part of the review pilots, engineers and safety experts created additional Boeing 737 MAX training. This was validated by the FAA and subsequently by the GCAA.

Every one of our pilots received additional training before they operated the MAX. This training programme exceeds the regulatory requirement. It was conducted in the classroom and in flydubai’s MAX aircraft full motion simulator.

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