Singapore joins US, EU in lifting flight ban on Boeing 737 Max planes

The 737 Max was grounded by aviation authorities worldwide after two crashes within five months - from October 2018 to March 2019. A total of 346 people were killed. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Singapore's aviation authority has lifted a flight ban on Boeing 737 Max planes that was imposed more than two years ago.

The 737 Max had been banned from commercial operations in Singapore in March 2019 after two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia involving the aircraft.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) on Monday (Sept 6) said it has lifted the restrictions on the 737 Max after completing its technical assessment.

This comes after other aviation authorities - such as those in the United States and the European Union - earlier lifted restrictions on the plane.

The CAAS said it had evaluated the design changes made to the aircraft by Boeing, which were approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other validating authorities.

"CAAS also reviewed the operational data of flights of the aircraft that had resumed service over the past nine months and observed that there have been no notable safety issues," it added.

The 737 Max was grounded by aviation authorities worldwide after two crashes in five months - from October 2018 to March 2019. A total of 346 people were killed.

Investigations pinpointed a faulty flight handling system known as the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) as a principal cause in both crashes.

Meant to keep the plane from stalling as it ascends, the automated system had instead forced the nose of the plane downwards.

Boeing has made changes to the system and also to the plane, such that flight crews are "likely never to experience a situation that would activate MCAS".

CAAS has issued a directive for operating the aircraft, in line with the lifting of restrictions.

It requires airline operators that operate the 737 Max in Singapore to implement a set of measures, including establishing a specific flight crew training programme. Pilots have to go through additional simulator sessions to ensure they are adequately trained to handle aircraft emergencies.

SIA is the only one of the three local airlines which has the 737 Max, with six of such aircraft in its fleet.

CAAS said SIA must prove that it has implemented all required actions before it can use the plane for commercial operations.

Foreign airlines intending to operate the 737 Max will have to comply with a range of safety requirements as well.

SIA said it welcomed the decision by CAAS and that it has progressively flown its six 737-8 planes back to Singapore from its Alice Springs storage facility in Australia.

It added that it has proactively completed technical modifications and software upgrades to its aircraft, and conducted operational readiness flights in Alice Springs.

SIA said it will continue to work closely with CAAS and relevant regulators in the coming weeks to fulfil all of the requirements for the return of service of the planes.

It will announce further details on its 737-8 operations at a later date.

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