UAE pledges to sustain aviation sector

GCAA sees Boeing 737 MAX back in skies in Q1 2020, to conduct on probe

  
A Boeing 737 MAX aircraft bearing the logo of flydubai is parked at a Boeing production facility in Renton, Washington, U.S. March 11, 2019. Image used for illustrative purposes

A Boeing 737 MAX aircraft bearing the logo of flydubai is parked at a Boeing production facility in Renton, Washington, U.S. March 11, 2019. Image used for illustrative purposes

REUTERS/David Ryder

Boeing's 737 MAX aircraft, which has been grounded since March after two fatal crashes resulting in the death of 346 people, is unlikely to be allowed to fly this year, a senior UAE civil aviation official on Sunday said.

"We will not follow the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] of the US. However, the FAA's study or assessment will help us to take a good decision," said Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, director-general of the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).

"We are waiting for Boeing to provide solutions. Once they are finished [with their work], they will submit a report to the FAA. We will do our own investigation - either alone or with entities from other countries like China where the MAX is used," he added.

Replying to a question, Al Suwaidi said he is "not very optimistic" about the 737 MAX taking off in the fourth quarter of 2019."

"I am not every optimistic... the first quarter 2020 is more realistic," he told reporters on the sidelines of a Press conference hosted to announce the second edition of the Global Investment in Aviation Summit to be held in January.

In addition, the GCAA may ask for additional tests for 737 MAX if needed, he added.

Dubai-based budget carrier flydubai is one of the largest MAX customers, having ordered 250 of the narrow-body jets. The US aircraft manufacturer Boeing aims to get approval from regulators for its 737 MAX fixes in October. But the US Federal Aviation Administration has not yet given any timeframe for a 737 MAX takeoff.

Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research, said it is hard to pin down when the 737 MAX would return to action.

"Given the time that has elapsed since the grounding, there is no point rushing the MAX back into operations if something in flight testing is not addressed. With that in mind, its better to err on the side of caution and even if that means no 737 MAX flights restarting until next year, then so be it," he said.

"Safety, as Boeing has been very focused on in its messaging, remains the core driver of the efforts to get the 737 MAX back into service. We've waited half a year already, so an extension to that will ensure that type fulfils its testing that will allow it to resume passenger flights, even if that is done on a region-by-region basis."

'Working to sustain growth'

Commenting on the slowdown in the aviation sector, he noted that it is a reflection of the global economy, which is experiencing a slowdown.

"We are working to sustain growth. However, challenges come from outside because of a slowdown in the global economy. We will see good growth next year," he said, adding that the Abu Dhabi Midfield Terminal will be certified by the end of this year and could be ready in 2020.

He expects over 1,200 visitors, 200 investors and senior officials of the civil aviation industry to attend the summit in January.

He said the aviation sector has contributed significantly to the UAE's GDP by up to 15 per cent. The UAE now accounts for around 45 per cent of the Arab aviation sector, taking into consideration the number of passengers and aircraft capacity, as well as the arrival of five to six aircraft per month to its fleet of four national carriers.

"A whopping Dh85 billion worth of airport development projects are in progress in the UAE, that would see a combined capacity of handling more than 300 million passengers every year," he added.

"The first edition was a major success with over 850 attendees and 120 investors from 60 countries. We'll also enable SMEs to enter this important sector and encourage entrepreneurs and startups to attend in order to realise their tangible targets," he said.


 

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