flydubai on Thursday operated its first flight with a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from Dubai International (DXB) to Sialkot International Airport (SKT) in Pakistan even as civil aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) asked it to stay clear of Indian airspace.
The flight FZ 327 departed at 6.30 a.m. and landed at 10.12 a.m. The four additional aircraft later operated flights to Karachi, Multan and Tehran during the course of the day.
Gauging MAX Performance
The DGCA which had been approached by flydubai with a request to operating its Boeing 737 Max to India and through Indian airspace, on Tuesday denied permissions to the UAE budget carrier on both counts for now.
A senior Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) official told The Times of India, “some more time is needed to gauge the performance of the aircraft and therefore it has been denied for the time being.”
Flydubai had sought India’s nod to operate the aircraft to and from India and also to overfly the Indian airspace on flights between its Dubai hub and other countries. “DGCA has denied permission to flydubai both for operating this particular aircraft to India and to overly Indian airspace,” The Times of India said quoting a person in the know.
India, which has 18 such aircraft of SpiceJet and erstwhile Jet Airways parked here, is yet to approve this grounded-since March 2019 aircraft to fly in its airspace again after carrying out the required corrective modifications.
Boeing had recently begun ‘return to service’ modification work on the five B737 Max in India that now-defunct Jet Airways had in its fleet.
Modification Work Underway
Once complete, the two foreign lessors of these five planes will seek India’s nod to either fly them to their home countries or to new customers abroad. This modification work has not started on the 13 aircraft of SpiceJet as the Indian budget airline says that process can happen only after the DGCA approves of the changes.
flydubai will only operate its aircraft in airspace where the regulator has approved it for passenger service. “It is for each regulatory body to set the requirements and timelines for return to service for the aircraft. Flydubai will only operate the aircraft where it has been approved to do so,” an airline spokesperson had recently said.
The airline said passengers would be notified in advance of travel if their itinerary now includes a flight that is scheduled to be operated by the MAX.
The MAX were globally grounded in March 2019 soon two aircraft crashed within five months. In all, 346 people died in these two crashes. Since last December, the B737 MAX has been allowed to fly again by regulators in some places like the US and Europe after carrying out the required changes in software and hardware. The first request the DGCA has received for resuming Max operations is from flydubai.
On occasion of its return to flight, Ghaith Al Ghaith, Chief Executive Officer of flydubai, said: “With the return to service for the Boeing 737 MAX today this marks the end of 22 months of diligent work undertaken by the global community of regulators and the uncompromising efforts of the flydubai team in preserving and returning the aircraft to passenger service. Now is the time for our MAX aircraft to fly once again.”
The remaining nine MAX aircraft will continue to join the fleet with one aircraft scheduled to rejoin the fleet every 10 days. The aircraft will supplement and support the existing flight schedule serving flydubai’s network of 76 destinations.
Hamad Obaidalla, Chief Commercial Officer of flydubai, said: “The primary objective for everyone involved has been to safely return the aircraft to passenger service and we were pleased to see our passengers once again enjoy the exceptional product on our MAX fleet. They offer unrivalled comfort on a narrow-body aircraft in both our Business and Economy cabins.”
MAX Pilot Training
In addition to the enhancements and modifications to the aircraft and its systems, the GCAA has mandated additional pilot training as part of the stringent requirements for the aircraft’s return to service.
Of flydubai’s pilots 233 have now completed the additional classroom and simulator training and are now ready to fly the MAX aircraft. The training programme continues as every one of flydubai’s pilots will receive this regulator-approved MAX aircraft training.
For more information about how flydubai is returning its MAX aircraft to service, please go to news.flydubai.com and flydubaiMAX.info.