Boeing’s 737 Max Will Be Flying Once more. This is What You Have to Know
The Federal Aviation Administration has lifted Boeing’s 737 Max to allow the plane to return to the skies after landing more than 20 months after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people.
It’s a turning point for Boeing, which has suffered huge losses from both the grounding and the slowdown in global travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Until landing, the single aisle max with up to 230 seats was a workhorse on routes that covered short and medium distances. However, the lifting of the ban raises several questions about what comes next.
When will the Max flights resume?
It is unlikely that most travelers will encounter the Max anytime soon.
The FAA has yet to approve pilot training procedures for the U.S. airlines flying the Max. The planes need to be updated with new software and wiring. And airlines, hit by a sharp drop in travel, have little incentive to act urgently.
American Airlines is expected to be the first airline to fly the Max. From December 29th to January 4th, the aircraft is to be used for flights between Miami International Airport and La Guardia Airport in New York. According to a letter from American executives to employees, the airline plans to improve service in January and use the Max for up to 36 flights from Miami in a single day.
United Airlines The company is expected to begin using the Max in the first quarter of 2021 until more than 1,000 hours of work on each aircraft, pilot retraining and the result of its own test flights and analysis.
And Southwest Airlines, a major Boeing customer who operates an All-737 fleet, said it would be even longer before its 34 Max jets were back in service. In a letter to employees, the airline’s chief executive, Gary Kelly, said Southwest won’t operate the Max until the second quarter of the new year – and only when he and many other executives fly on the plane.
Alaska Airlines has ordered several dozen Max jets and expects the first in January; service will start in March.
Delta Air Lines, the other major national airline, doesn’t fly the Max.
Is it safe?
The Max’s flight ban comes after nearly two years of intense scrutiny of the aircraft in the press, Congress, the FAA, and aviation authorities around the world.
Stephen Dickson, the head of the FAA and a former airline pilot, took control of a test flight in September and said he liked what he saw. After the FAA finished grounding, he said he was confident the proposed changes to the aircraft would remove any safety concerns.
“The road that got us to this point was long and arduous, but we said from the start that we would take the time to get this right,” he said in a video message. “I feel 100 percent comfortable when my family flies on it.”
Before the plane can fly again, the onboard software known as MCAS, which has been accused of pushing the planes down in both crashes, will be overhauled and the pilots retrained. For example, every Southwest pilot is trained on one of the airline’s nine 737 Max simulators.
The Air Line Pilots Association, a union that represents nearly 60,000 pilots in North America, including those in Delta and United, expressed confidence in the changes mandated by the FAA, stating in a statement that the group “believes that the Technology repairs the flight – critical aircraft systems are solid and will be an effective component in bringing the 737 Max back up and running safely. “
Who will fly
There is no question that many travelers will hesitate to fly aboard the Max, but many experts claim it won’t take long to restore confidence.
The airlines endeavor to demonstrate the safety of the aircraft and reassure customers that they will verify the readiness of the aircraft themselves. United said it will “conduct additional pilot training, multiple test flights and careful engineering analysis to ensure the planes are ready to fly.”
But the pandemic has eased the pressure to get the plane up and running quickly – and created an opportunity. With so few people traveling, airlines can afford to gradually reintroduce the jet without losing a lot of business, giving them time to show hesitant travelers that the plane can fly without incident. And analysts believe that a few months without any major issues will go a long way in overcoming doubts.
If the past is a guide, they can be correct. In 2013, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner was grounded worldwide for four months because lithium-ion batteries were smoked in two separate cases. Passengers were nervous about flying the plane for a while, but Boeing quickly weathered the crisis and now the Dreamliner plays a central role on many airlines’ international routes.
What about other countries?
The FAA’s decision paves the way for airlines to fly the Max in the US, but other aviation authorities must make similar decisions before they can operate elsewhere. Many are expected to catch up quickly, but some can take their time and make their own demands.
Canada’s Transport Minister Marc Garneau said his agency is still conducting its own review.
“We expect this process to be completed very soon,” he said. “However, there will be differences between what the FAA approved today and what Canada will ask for its operators.”