Thursday, May 20, 2021

FLEET UPDATE: Aerolineas Argentinas resumed 737 MAX 8 service on 23Mar21

Aerolineas Argentinas 737 MAX 8, LV-HKU (c/n 44293/6753), taxis at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) on 08Feb18.  This same aircraft operated the first regularly-scheduled flight of the MAX 8 for Aerolineas on 23Mar21 after the MAX's grounding was lifted.  (Phil Perry Photo) 

Aerolineas Argentinas took delivery of five 737 MAX 8's in late 2017 and early 2018.  The carrier has another six MAX series aircraft on order, for a total of eleven, with the option of choosing which model for the remaining six to be delivered; the MAX 7, MAX 8, MAX 200, MAX 9 or MAX 10.  

However, the Argentinean national airline removed its 737 MAX fleet from service when all MAX's worldwide were grounded in March 2019 in the wake of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines' MAX accidents in October 2018 and March 2019, respectively.     

Flaws with the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) software were identified as having caused the crashes.  After extensive modifications to the MCAS and some other systems during an eighteen-month period, the US Federal Aviation Administration recertified the 737 MAX series on 20Nov20 with several other worldwide aeronautical authorities following suit, enabling Gol Brazilian Airlines and American Airlines to be the first carriers to reintroduce MAX service in December 2020.  

The Argentine ANAC civil aviation body announced on 10Mar21 that it was certifying the MAX series to once again fly in Argentina.  Pilots were to be retrained on the updated systems through a combination of Computer-Based Training (CBT) and time on 737 MAX simulators.  

The APLA union representing Aerolineas Argentinas' pilots also had to sign off on flying the MAX again, which they did soon after the ANAC approval, noting the union's satisfaction with Boeing's plans to modify the MCAS system and some of the aircraft's cabling plus Aerolineas' plans for training crews on the up-to-date MCAS. 

After modifications to the MCAS and cabling, Aerolineas Argentinas did a test flight of 737 MAX 8, LV-HKU (c/n 44293/6753) on 18Mar21 that was completed to the satisfaction of the various parties, enabling the airline to put the MAX back into service on 23Mar21 when LV-HKU flew from Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) to Mendoza (MDZ).  

The plan was to put only one of the five MAX aircraft in Aerolineas' fleet back into service initially, flying on relatively short domestic routes to allow for the smoothing out of any small issues with minimal disruption to operations.  Some of the routes planned for the first few months back included Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) to Bariloche (BRC), El Calafate (FTE), Mendoza (MDZ), Rio Gallegos (RGL) and Ushuaia (USH).    

Aerolineas' four other 737 MAX 8's were tentatively scheduled to return to service in May, July, October and December 2021, coinciding with the airline's plans to gradually build up service to pre-COVID levels.  These aircraft and their current locations are:

LV-GVD (c/n 64207/6661): Parked at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP)
LV-GVE (c/n 64208/6717): Parked at Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE)
LV-HKV (c/n 44294/6807): Parked at Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP)
LV-HKW (c/n 44296/6926): Parked at Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE)

Aerolineas Argentinas has six more 737 MAX 8 on order.  While the contract for these aircraft is still in force, the exact delivery dates of the remaining airframes has not been determined yet.  


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