TUI’s Boeing 737 Max airplanes have been taking to the skies of Manchester once again after two years of being grounded for safety reasons.
The model became notorious following two deadly crashes, which were found to have been caused by a faulty piece of technology in the plane and a lack of pilot training around new software.
A total of 346 passengers and crew died when 737 Max aircraft operated by Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashed in October 2018 and March 2019 respectively.
The second incident led to the planes being grounded around the world, amid concerns that flight control software forced the aircraft to go into a dive.
In January 2021, the UK lifted its ban on the aircraft after ‘significant changes’ were made to the model by manufacturer Boeing.
This follows similar decisions in the US, Canada and by Europe’s aviation body. After years of modification, testing, and scrutiny, the plane is said to now be one of the most intensely examined models ever, which will come as a reassurance to passengers.
Footage shot at Manchester Airport last Thursday (8th April) shows one of TUI’s 737 Max planes taking one of its first flights since the ban was lifted.
The leisure airline and travel agent is currently the only UK operator of the model.
The video, which was shot by videographer AviationUpClose, shows the aircraft taking off on a ‘serviceability test flight’, which involves carrying out safety checks before passengers are able to fly in it once again.
The plane flew towards Scotland during the test, before looping back and landing back at Manchester after just under an hour in the sky.
“Following the all clear to return to service, TUI have started to fly their aircraft in the last couple of weeks,” the aviation enthusiast said.
“This was the turn of G-TUMD. The aircraft, named Dubrovnik, was delivered in February 2019 and was in service for less than a month before the grounding on March 11th.
“The aircraft departed 23R and flew North towards Scotland, climbing to FL410 before coming back in for a gusty approach and landing. Great to see the MAX back!”
A TUI UK spokesperson confirmed the airline was carrying out testing flights with the plane.
“We can confirm that TUI UK is conducting operational readiness flights for its fleet of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft,” they explained.
“These flights are a regulatory requirement as part of the recertification process and ensure every aircraft is approved to resume carrying passengers when travel restrictions are lifted.
“Onboard is a fully trained 737 MAX pilot along with crew and an engineer, who carry out final checks.”
The travel firm added that the planes have been subject to a meticulous testing process.
“We welcome the decision from the European and UK regulators to recertify the Boeing 737 MAX following extensive and rigorous testing,” the spokesperson said.
“We can now be confident that this aircraft is the most reviewed in aviation history and everything is in place to ensure a safe and successful return to service.”
The 737 Max is not to be confused with other models of Boeing’s 737 line, which is one of the most popular planes for airlines today.
A total of 453 deliveries of the 737 Max have been made to airlines around the world so far.
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In January the chief executive of the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority, Richard Moriarty, highlighted the amount of work that had gone into ensuring the model was safe for passengers.
“Our thoughts remain with those affected by the tragic accidents of the Boeing 737 Max,” he said.
“This is not a decision we have taken lightly and we would not have allowed a return to service for UK operators, or lifted the ban on the aircraft operating in UK airspace, unless we were satisfied that the aircraft type is airworthy and can be operated safely.
“The international work to return the Boeing 737 Max to the skies has been the most extensive project of this kind ever undertaken in civil aviation and shows how important the cooperation between states and regulators is to maintaining safety.”
The test flights come as TUI ramps up preparations for holidaymakers to be welcomed onboard their aircraft this summer.
All TUI holidays are currently cancelled until 17 May, but a spokesperson for the company said they are ‘reviewing our holiday and aviation programme on a rolling basis in line with government advice’.
More clarification is set to come on the possibility of summer holidays abroad in early May.