Brazilian low-cost carrier GOL has resumed commercial flights aboard a Boeing 737 Max, following an order from the US Federal Aviation Administration which cleared the aircraft to fly again. Brazil’s National Agency Civil Aviation Administration followed the FAA’s action, certifying the 737 Max to return to Brazil’s skies.
The 737 Max 8 is now flying on selected domestic routes from Sao Paulo. The carrier says it hopes to have cleared all seven of its Max fleet to return to operation by the end of the month.
The FAA’s decision in November rescinded the order which had grounded all 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft in 2019, following two fatal crashes which were blamed in part on the plane’s flight control system. During the intervening months, the FAA required Boeing to make a series of software changes, wiring and hardware redesign and develop new pilot training requirements before giving a go-ahead for the plane to fly again.
Each individual 737 Max will require an FAA inspection and be issued its own airworthiness certificate before it can be returned to service. Before reintegrating the aircraft into its fleet, GOL carried out simulator training of 140 of its pilots in conjunction with Boeing, as well as completing “a rigorous series of technical flights, which exceeded the requirements set out by aviation regulatory agencies.”
GOL, Brazil’s largest domestic airline, has over 90 737 Max aircraft on order to replace its existing 737-700 and 737-800 fleet. The FAA’s lifting of the ban on the Max has recently prompted other airlines to increase their orders for the new aircraft as well, including Alaska Airlines, which bumped its fleet up by 13, and Ryanair which added 75 Max 200s to its fleet.
In all, nearly 400 737 Max jetliners had already been delivered to airlines at the time of the grounding and Boeing resumed production in June, adding about 450 more awaiting delivery. Each one of the aircraft will require an FAA inspection and certification before it can be returned to service.
American Airlines is the only US carrier that has the Max back in its schedule, beginning Dec. 29 with one round trip daily between New York and Miami. United says it expects to start using the plane in the first quarter of 2021.
Meanwhile the jetliner’s biggest operator, Southwest Airlines, says it probably will relaunch Max flights “no sooner than the second quarter of 2021,” according to the airline’s chairman and CEO Gary Kelly.
“Over the past 20 months, we have watched the most comprehensive safety review in the history of commercial aviation unfold, bringing together regulatory agencies and airlines from around the world to monitor and contribute to the upgrades in aircraft systems and pilot training,” said Celso Ferrer, VP of operations at GOL.