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Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft is unlikely to start flying again this year and the first quarter of 2020 is a “more realistic” timeline, the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) said.

The head of the country’s aviation regulator said the UAE has its own process to determine whether the 737 Max aircraft can return to operations or not, and that it will not merely rely on the word of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The comments from the GCAA come after Boeing last week said that the 737 Max jets are still on track to fly again in 2019.

Boeing chief executive officer Dennis Muilenburg said at a conference in California that all the company’s work with the US regulator supports its timeline of having 737 Max planes fly again in the fourth quarter of this year.

Grounded

The aircraft model has been grounded across the world since mid-March 2019 after two fatal crashes of 737 Max jets that caused regulators globally to call for a suspension in operations until Boeing resolves software issues on the aircraft.

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A seal is seen on Garuda Indonesia's Boeing 737 Max 8 airplane parked at the Garuda Maintenance Facility AeroAsia, at Soekarno-Hatta International airport near Jakarta, Indonesia, March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY Image Credit: Reuters

Asked in Dubai about Boeing’s timeline of a resumption in the fourth quarter of this year, Saif Al Suwaidi, director general of the GCAA, said, “I’m not very optimistic about that.”

We will not follow the FAA. However, the FAA assessment will help us to take a good decision. We are waiting now for Boeing to provide the solutions. Once they finish, they will submit it to FAA and after that, our turn will come

- Saif Al Suwaidi, Director General, UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA)

He said that while the communications from Boeing to the GCAA (and other regulators) on the 737 Max’s are “not bad,” the Authority is still looking to see comprehensive solutions for the issues pertaining to the jet’s software.

Testing

Al Suwaidi reiterated that the UAE will conduct its own testing of the aircraft, even after Boeing and the FAA give the model the clear, and that the GCAA may cooperate with other regulators around the world to do such additional tests.

He suggested China’s aviation regulator as an entity the UAE may work with, given that China has a lot of 737 Max’s.

“We will not follow the FAA. However, the FAA assessment will help us to take a good decision. We are waiting now for Boeing to provide the solutions. Once they finish, they will submit it to FAA and after that, our turn will come,” Al Suwaidi told reporters at a press conference.

Flydubai is the only UAE-based carrier operating Boeing 737 Max’s and has had to ground all 11 of its Max 8 jets and its two Max 9's following the bans from the GCAA. Flydubai earlier said it will seek compensation from Boeing and that the grounding could have a “significant” impact on its earnings if it were to last much longer.

Separately, the head of the GCAA confirmed on Sunday that there will be no changes in the operations of UAE airlines flying over Saudi Arabia after the drone attacks on oil facilities in the kingdom.

Al Suwaidi said that because the drones were flying at a low altitude, this will not affect flight operations into and out of the UAE.

Flydubai is the only UAE-based carrier operating Boeing 737 Max’s and has had to ground all 11 of its Max 8 jets and its two Max 9's following the bans from the GCAA. Flydubai earlier said it will seek compensation from Boeing and that the grounding could have a “significant” impact on its earnings if it were to last much longer.