GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (CNS) – Tourism minister, Moses Kirkconnell has not ruled out a change in the plan to replace the Cayman Airways fleet with the new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, given the grounding of that model in the wake of two fatal crashes and problems the manufacturer has not yet solved. Answering questions in the Legislative Assembly on Friday about how the situation was impacting the national flag carrier and what was happening with compensation and the future delivery of two more Max 8s, Kirkconnell did not say that CAL was going to switch to another type of aircraft, but he did say that the airline was “looking at all options including fleet replacement.”
When Member of the Legislative Assembly, Chris Saunders, suggested that the public had lost confidence in the aircraft and the damage was done even if the problem gets solved, Kirkconnell did not commit that CAL would not be flying the 737 Max 8s in future. However, he did commit to ensuring that the concern would be among those weighed during the current review of the airline’s situation before any decisions were made.
Kirkconnell said that discussions were happening about the right equipment for Cayman Airways and that he would be looking to the airline’s expertise and pilots to help decide what the best and safest planes the airline should fly are.
There are still no indications from Boeing about when it will have made the necessary software upgrades to address the in-flight computer problem, which is believed to cause the planes to dive when pilots are trying to climb. Following further confirmation that this was likely to be the cause of both the recent 737 Max 8 crashes, Dennis Muilenburg, chairman, president and CEO of the Boeing company, issued a statement Thursday saying the airline had a responsibility to eliminate this risk and knew how to do it.
“We’re taking a comprehensive, disciplined approach, and taking the time to get the software update right. We’re nearing completion and anticipate its certification and implementation on the 737 MAX fleet worldwide in the weeks ahead,” he said. “We regret the impact the grounding has had on our airline customers and their passengers.”
He added that the update, training and additional educational materials that pilots want would eliminate the possibility of unintended Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) activation, the system believed to be at fault, and prevent an MCAS-related accident from ever happening again.
Kirkconnell said that the grounding of the aircraft had not had a significant impact on CAL because it had been able to fill the gaps with its existing fleet and those other airlines using 737 Max 8s flying into Cayman had also replaced the aircraft.
So far, the various airlines flying to Cayman have continued to bring guests, he said. CAL has also identified aircraft it can contract if it needs to supplement the current active fleet and has already done so on occasions, the minister explained.
Although CAL has two new Max 8s that have been grounded, it still has one of the old 737s that they were meant to replace. Two more Max 8s were not due to arrive until next year.
The original question asked by MLA Alva Suckoo included a query about compensation, which the minister said was part of the discussions that were ongoing with Cayman Airways, the leasing company and Boeing. The minister said that CAL had mitigated all of the risks that were posed by the grounding and had contingency plans in place until the end of the summer when further decisions will be made.
Republished with permission of Cayman News Service