New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority has effectively lifted its ban on the 737 MAX, after granting Fiji Airways official approval to resume flight to and from New Zealand using its 737 MAX jets.
The New Zealand regulator said the decision followed a “comprehensive safety review” of the jet, which was grounded around the globe for over 21 months following two fatal crashes that occurred in 2018 and 2019.
Deputy chief executive David Harrison said the NZ CAA has been working closely with the civil aviation authority in Fiji to ensure the “necessary safety improvements” have been implemented across flag-carrier Fiji Airways’ 737 MAX aircraft.
Today’s approval initially covers two out of the airline’s five 737 MAX 8 jets, with the remaining through to continue to be subject to CAA scrutiny before they are similarly approved for operation to and from New Zealand.
“We have thoroughly and independently reviewed the work undertaken by Fiji Airways to bring their 737 MAX aircraft back into service and are confident these aircraft are safe to return to operation,” Harrison said.
“The date for these aircraft being added to flight schedules between New Zealand and Fiji hasn’t yet been decided given the evolving COVID-19 situation.
“But passengers can be assured that no stone has been left unturned to ensure all the necessary safety improvements have been put in place so that when these aircraft return to New Zealand’s skies, they do so safely.”
New Zealand is among the final regulators to lift the ban, following the US FAA in November 2020, much of Europe in early 2021, and Australia in February.
When the FAA lifted its ban in November, it said the decision came after the introduction of safety upgrades, new training protocols, and extensive safety testing.
The agency also revealed the final details of the MAX’s updated software, system and training requirements, which Boeing and airlines must complete before carrying any passengers.
Included in these requirements are mandatory simulator training sessions for MAX pilots, as well as new software upgrades, both of which address the stall-prevention system, the MCAS, which was at the heart of the two fatal MAX crashes that grounded the planes.
The FAA is requiring new pilot training and software upgrades to deal with a stall-prevention system called MCAS, which in both crashes repeatedly shoved down the jet’s nose as pilots struggled to regain control.
“This airplane is the most scrutinised airplane in aviation history,” said FAA administrator Steve Dickson following the 2020 announcement.
“The design changes that are being put in place completely eliminate the possibility of an accident occurring that is similar to the two accidents.
“I feel 100 per cent confident. We have run this thing top to bottom … We’ve done everything humanly possible to make sure.”
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