Hong Kong gives green light to Boeing 737 MAX flights

After nearly three years, Hong Kong has allowed airlines to resume operations with the Boeing B737 MAX aircraft in the city’s airspace. The Civil Aviation Department (CAD) in Hong Kong issued a directive Friday to lift the ban on the narrow-body model.

Hong Kong will allow airlines to use the MAX again in its airspace. Photo: Getty Images

The MAX back in Hong Kong

Nearly all countries have recertified the Boeing 737 MAX model by then, following a safety scandal caused by two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019. The crash of flights JT610 and ET302 by Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines, respectively, killed 346 people. .

After the second accident (10 March 2019), civil aviation authorities worldwide banned the MAX from their airspace. Boeing had to recertify the aircraft and fix several design issues, most notably the MCAS system.

On December 9, Brazilian airline GOL became the first airline to resume passenger service with the type, following the Federal Aviation Administration’s recertification.

Nevertheless, several countries, especially China, have continued to work on a recertification process with Boeing.

Today, Hong Kong’s Civil Aviation Department released a directive lifting the ban on the aircraft model. While there are no local operators of the MAX, Hong Kong has set out several rules. Airlines that want to fly the model in Hong Kong airspace and into the international airport must comply with the FAA’s airworthiness directive or a similar directive from the country where the aircraft is registered, said Victor Liu, CAD’s general manager.

In addition, the airline must carry a valid certificate of airworthiness that meets the standards of the Civil Aviation Organization.

China South MAX
China has yet to recertify the Boeing 737 MAX. Photo: Getty Images

The MAX in Hong Kong and China

According to Cirium data, only two airlines operated the Boeing 737 MAX in Hong Kong in January 2019. These airlines were Siberia Airlines and SpiceJet. The flights came from Novosibirsk and New Delhi, accounting for 80 flights per week and 15,568 available seats.

Nevertheless, several Chinese airlines are currently stockpiling Boeing 737 MAX fleets and could very well use them when the time is right. According to ch-aviation data, there are 97 MAX stocked in China from 13 airlines. The airlines using the model are 9 Air, Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Fuzhou Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Kunming Airlines, Lucky Air, Okay Airways, Shandong Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines and Xiamen Airlines.

As of January 2019, there were 4,370 scheduled flights in China on the MAX aircraft, with 772,708 seats available per Cirium.

Last year, the Civil Aviation Administration of China published an airworthiness directive outlining the steps airlines must take to resume flying the MAX. Nevertheless, the ban on flying MAX in Chinese airspace continues.

American Southwest United Boeing 737 MAX
Worldwide, more than 45,000 MAX flights are planned for January 2022. Photo: Getty Images

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The MAX worldwide

A few weeks ago, Ethiopian Airlines announced that it will fly Boeing 737 MAX in February. This news was very positive as Ethiopian was one of two airlines involved in the fatal crashes of 2018 and 2019.

According to Cirium, 29 airlines worldwide currently have MAX flights scheduled. There are 45,415 scheduled operations, an increase of 77.9% compared to January 2019, prior to the second accident.

The largest MAX operator in the world is Southwest Airlines, with 8,158 flights in January, followed by Ryanair (4,678 flights), American Airlines (4,594), United Airlines (4,401) and Brazil’s GOL (4,052).

When do you expect China to recertify the Boeing 737 MAX? Let us know in the comments below.

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