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SIA flies Boeing 737 Max plane back to Singapore

A SilkAir Boeing 737 Max plane (foreground) sitting on the tarmac at Changi Airport in March last year, when the Boeing aircraft model was grounded after two fatal accidents in five months. SIA told The Straits Times yesterday that it has received ap
A SilkAir Boeing 737 Max plane (foreground) sitting on the tarmac at Changi Airport in March last year, when the Boeing aircraft model was grounded after two fatal accidents in five months. SIA told The Straits Times yesterday that it has received approval from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore to fly the planes back from their storage facility in Australia to Singapore. But approval for commercial flights is yet to be granted, ST understands.ST FILE PHOTO

Flag carrier Singapore Airlines (SIA) has flown the first of its six SilkAir Boeing 737-8 Max planes back to Changi Airport, indicating that these planes could return to commercial use in the near future.

The planes had been grounded since March last year and were subsequently flown to the Alice Springs plane storage facility in Australia. The grounding followed two fatal accidents involving the aircraft in less than five months.

But after more than a year away from Singapore, the first returning Boeing 737 Max landed at Changi Airport yesterday afternoon, according to flight trackers.

SIA told The Straits Times yesterday that it has received approval from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore to fly the planes back to Singapore.

But approval for commercial flights is yet to be granted, ST understands.

A spokesman said: "The safety of our customers and staff is the top priority at Singapore Airlines.

"We will continue to work with and be guided by our regulators on Boeing 737-8 Max operations."

SIA did not elaborate on why it decided to recall the planes from Alice Springs and what routes the planes will be deployed to.

The 737 Max crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people within five months - from October 2018 to March last year - and triggered a hailstorm of investigations.

They also frayed US leadership in global aviation and cost Boeing some US$20 billion (S$26 billion).

Following investigations, a faulty flight handling system known as the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System was identified as a principal cause in both crashes.

After a 20-month grounding, the United States Federal Aviation Administration last month ended its flight ban following upgrades to the aircraft.

Reuters reported that when the planes take to the skies again, Boeing will run a 24-hour war room to monitor all Max flights for issues that could impact the jet's return, from stuck landing gear to health emergencies.

Brazilian carrier Gol, the biggest domestic airline in Brazil, became the first carrier to resume commercial flights with the aircraft on Dec 9. American Airlines subsequently restarted 737 Max flights on Tuesday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2020, with the headline 'SIA flies Boeing 737 Max plane back to Singapore'. Subscribe