Boeing 737 MAX flies in UK airspace for first time in more than a year

Sep 17, 2020

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Tuesday saw a rare occurrence in the skies above the U.K. — the return of a 737 MAX. The ill-fated MAX aircraft is still banned from European airspace following two fatal crashes in October 2018 and March 2019.

However, a TUI Airways U.K. Boeing 737 MAX was the first 737 MAX to enter U.K. airspace since the ban in March 2019. It entered U.K. airspace over the Channel before flying up through Kent, skirting around North East London and landing at Birmingham International Airport (BHX) at 6:17 p.m. on Tuesday.

(Screenshot courtesy FlightRadar24)

After starting its journey from where it was parked in Tenerife (TFS), G-TUMF touched down in Malaga (AGP), Spain, before completing its journey to the U.K.

(Screenshot courtesy FlightRadar24)

As per the flight-tracking website FlightRadar24, the aircraft reached a maximum altitude of 18,000 feet on both legs of the journey. It also appeared to skirt around the edges of large cities rather than flying straight over them.

The CAA told TPG that it develops the rules for the 737 MAX’s return to flying in the U.K. Airlines must go through a full application process before flying a MAX aircraft through U.K. airspace. The CAA will check that maintenance of the aircraft is up to standard as well as further checks of crew who would be on board the aircraft. Each time permission is granted, this is a one-off exemption, and an airline must reapply with a single application per aircraft for permission.

G-TUMF’s max altitude was 18,000 feet, even in the middle of its cruise from Spain to the U.K. (Screenshot courtesy FlightRadar24)

On this occasion, the flight operated to position the aircraft at Birmingham (BHX) for maintenance and had no passengers on board.

“On 15 September 2020 TUI Airlines safely positioned a 737-8 MAX from Tenerife to Birmingham”, a spokesperson for TUI U.K. told TPG. “The flight was approved to operate by the U.K. CAA and EASA and the maintenance work required to prepare the flight was fully co-ordinated with Boeing. The aircraft will now remain in Birmingham, and along with all TUI MAX aircraft will undergo a modification program to prepare for a safe return to operational service in the future. We are continuing to work hard with all relevant authorities and the health and safety of our customers and crew remains our highest priority”.

The checkered past of the 737 MAX started when two fatal 737 crashes killed over 300 people only five months apart. Just two days after the second crash, the MAX was banned from flying in European airspace. A month later, after a thorough investigation of the events, Boeing eventually took responsibility for the two crashes. This ultimately led to a lack of faith in the aircraft among passengers and airlines alike. In December 2019, the aircraft manufacturer said it would suspend all production of the aircraft.

Related: Delta CEO says he’d fly on the Boeing 737 MAX once it’s back in the air

Boeing recently dropped the addition of the word ‘MAX’ from the name of the aircraft, referring to it as the 737-8. Despite recent recertification flights, it could still be a while before the MAX is deemed fit to fly passengers once again.

Featured image by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

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