By Ian McMurtry
South Korea Expected to Remove 737MAX Grounding Next Week
After 32 months of being grounded, Boeing has neared completion of getting the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft recertified to fly in South Korea. The aerospace manufacturer and customers of the Boeing aircraft are believed to get the green light to start operations again next week, following a grounding that has taken place since March 2019.
This immediate change takes hold for one airline right now as Eastar Jet had taken delivery of two Boeing 737 MAX 8 models in the months leading up to the suspension, but the fallout of COVID-19 resulted in the airline suspending operations. Easter Jet is based in Seoul-Gimpo International Airport and operates to 21 destinations using four aircraft with the potential to bring in four additional Boeing MAX models in the coming years. Even if the MAX is ungrounded it might not see immediate action from Eastar Jet as the airline is currently restructuring and has not utilized its Air Operator Certificate since early 2020, the low-cost airline hopes to pick up a new AOC in early 2022 and start operations in the following months.
However, other airlines have much larger plans that have since been put on hold while the MAX went through recertification. The largest MAX consumer in South Korea currently sits at Jeju Air as the airline looks to take on 40 MAX 8 aircraft with options for 10 additional aircraft. Korean Air follows at 30 confirmed orders for the same variant with 20 additional optional models. Low-cost airline T’Way is also stuck in limbo, waiting for 8 of the 737 MAX 8 to be delivered in the coming years. For T’Way and Korean, some of the aircraft have already come off the production line and are in the large inventory pile that Boeing accumulated when the aircraft had lost certification but was still being produced.
As for the decision tree, the process of getting the aircraft back airborne in Asia has been a long process for Boeing. China is by far the biggest thorn in Boeing’s ungrounding movement and has yet to allow the MAX to get airborne again. However, it is believed that this will finally come to a head in the near future and Boeing can begin seeing MAX operations in the nation again. As for South Korea, it is still keeping a close eye on the restart of operations. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said that while it does plan on keeping close tabs on the aircraft’s reintegration into service and will oversee that proper training is given to Boeing 737 MAX pilots.
That leaves China as Boeing’s biggest target, but even that shows signs of promise. The Civil Aviation Administration of China found that Boeing’s design changes met the group’s expectations and would meet with airlines in the coming weeks to talk about the MAX. These airlines range from government-backed entities like Air China and China Eastern as well as private firms like XiamenAir. Boeing will also continue to work towards bringing the final two MAX variants online, with the smaller MAX 7 and largest variant MAX 10 still in different steps of the certification process.