By Lindsey Turnbull
Having been grounded for 23 months, Cayman Airways’ two Boeing 737-8s will be used for all passenger flights from 19th February, as the planes have undergone the necessary refitting to ensure their safety, airline officials said. With Cayman Airways now operating on a vastly reduced schedule due to Covid-19 restrictions, it will be able to accommodate all current flights using the two 737-8s that will be in operation from 19th February.
Following the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes by Boeing 737-8s and the subsequent tragic loss of life, Cayman Airways immediately grounded their 737-8s almost two years ago, the first airline in the world to take such unprecedented action, having only just taken delivery of the planes. Since then, the planes have been refitted and Cayman Airways pilots undergone training over and above what has been required of them, CAL President and CEO Fabian Whorms advised.
Because of the accidents, a huge amount of apprehension had developed about the 737-8s returning to service globally and as such, they had received a level of scrutiny from regulatory authorities throughout the world which was unprecedented in the airline industry, Mr Whorms said.
“It also meant we as an airline kept ourselves thoroughly abreast of all of the developments, all of the proposed design changes,” he advised. “We participated in events where we were allowed to have input with the manufacturer as to what some of these changes would be, and we have been quite comfortable for some time that with the changes that have been implemented it is now impossible for an accident such as what happened with Ethiopian Airlines or Lion Air to repeat itself.”
Mr Whorms said he wanted it to be remembered that if ever there was an airline that was cautious in the first instance, CAL demonstrated that care, diligence and cautiousness when they voluntarily removed the aircraft from service, and they would not for a minute attempt to put it back into service with any less care, caution or diligence than they had on 10th March, 2019 when they grounded the aircraft.
Richard Smith, Director General of the CAACI, said he was very confident that the actions that had been taken to put this aircraft back to service were the right ones at this time and the public should be reassured of the safety of this operation.
“I’m very proud of Cayman Airways as an operator under our jurisdiction and we support them fully in their actions in abiding by all safety regulations,” he said.
There will be a series of events lined up to help ease people’s worries, including pilot training flights to Jamaica ahead of the first passenger flights. The public will be able to view the planes and speak with senior pilots on Saturday at the Owen Roberts International Airport at a special open day to be held from 10am until 2pm. The first passenger flights will take place on 18th February when CAL staff, Government officials and specially invited guests will fly to Cayman Brac, ahead of the first revenue passenger flight that will begin the next day, flying to Miami. Mr Whorms said that CAL realised people’s reservations about flying in the planes and people will be offered refunds if they felt the need.