By Charlotte Seet
Fiji Airways Granted Approval for Return of 737 MAX to New Zealand
Fiji Airways made a deal for five Boeing 737 MAX aircraft back in 2016 with the first two received in 2018 and early 2019 and the subsequent three due by mid-2019. The MAX aircraft were due to be the new heartbeat for the Fiji Airways fleet, as since 2018, the airline has been slowly getting rid of its older Boeing 737 aircraft to make way for the newer, more fuel-efficient fleet.
Unfortunately, following two fatal accidents, the aircraft was grounded globally and it wasn’t until late-2020 when the grounding was gradually lifted worldwide.
Having closely worked with regulators for the past two years, Fiji Airways made the announcement in April regarding Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji approval of the changes Boeing had made to the aircraft following the approval given by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia and the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAANZ), which are two of the airline’s key destinations in its route network.
These approvals came as the Fiji Airways Aviation Academy used the Full Flight Simulator for the 737 MAX for mandatory training for its pilots and technical crew on the newer requirements following the aircraft’s recertification.
“Everyone at Fiji Airways, including our pilots and technical crew have complete confidence in the safety of the MAX, given the intense scrutiny, thousands of test flights and necessary upgrades made to the aircraft over numerous months. Safety and care for our customers and staff remain our highest and unrelenting priority,” Fiji Airways Managing Director and CEO Andre Viljoen said.
The airline still needed an all-clear on the safety of the 737 MAX from the CAANZ before it could resume flying to New Zealand using the specific aircraft, as the regulator had placed a condition on the airline in March of 2019 which prevented Fiji Airways from operating the aircraft type into the country.
Overseas airlines would require a CAANZ-issued Foreign Air Operators Certificate, which in turn would include a list of approved aircraft types the operator is allowed to fly to the country, before they can fly regularly to New Zealand.
The condition came as a direct result of two tragic accidents that occurred in 2018 and 2019, which led to serious safety concerns regarding the 737 MAX aircraft. And as more aviation regulators started placing similar conditions on numerous airlines, the entire global fleet was eventually grounded.
To rectify the issue, Seattle-based aircraft manufacturer Boeing had been tirelessly working with various aviation regulators worldwide to input packages of system modifications, adding changes to flight manual procedures and even updating pilot training requirements, which would pave the way for the 737 MAX to return to service for airlines.
The efforts seem to have eventually paid off as more airlines — including Fiji Airways — started to accept and gain approvals for the return of the aircraft. Now, more than two years later, following a thorough safety review on the 737 MAX, the CAANZ has given Fiji Airways the approval it needs to resume flying operations to New Zealand using the aircraft in question.
Deputy Chief Executive of the CAANZ David Harrison said that the authority has been working closely with the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji to ensure the necessary safety improvements have been made for Fiji Airways’ 737 MAX aircraft.
“We have thoroughly and independently reviewed the work undertaken by Fiji Airways to bring their 737 MAX aircraft back into service and are confident these aircraft are safe to return to operation,” Harrison said.
Although the initial approval only covers two of the five 737 MAX aircraft operated by Fiji Airways, it is still an important stepping stone for all parties involved. The remaining three aircraft will still continue to be subjected to CAANZ’s review before they are allowed to be used in flight operations to New Zealand.