American Airlines to Resume Boeing 737 Max Passenger Flights Today
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American Airlines is the first commercial airline to resume flights with Boeing's 737 Max after the plane was decommissioned more than a year ago. CNBC reports that the ship's return to active duty begins with Flight 718, a round-trip excursion from Miami to New York. It will be the first time since March 2019 that a 737 Max will run commercial service in the United States after it was grounded as a result of two fatal plane crashes. However, it has already worked in other countries, including Brazil's Gol, which resumed its flights on December 9 .
Boeing's 737 Max was an upgrade to its 737 warhorse, a mainstay for short and medium routes around the world. The aerospace giant needed to upgrade its equipment to better compete with Airbus' A320, leading to reworking of the existing 737 bodywork. Boeing said so little set-up time was required that pilots didn't need time in a simulator, making it a big sell for airlines looking to save on training. But the plane's newer and larger engines ran the risk of stalling in midair , something Boeing didn't mention.
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Instead, it built a software system, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), that will automatically activate to avoid these jams. However, MCAS did not work, leading to two fatal accidents: Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. A subsequent investigation found that Boeing employees had expressed serious concerns about the design and operation of the system. And the FAA added that it had failed in its oversight by originally certifying the plane as safe.
After the accidents, the 737 Max was grounded and Boeing spent the next 18 months working to fix its problems. This process has generated a number of additional bugs within the system that have taken their own time to fix, further delaying their return. The FAA recertified the plane in November (regulators in Europe did the same in October) and American quickly conducted a test flight, with the media on board, in early December. The airline has stated that passengers who do not wish to fly in a737 Max will be offered a "flexible booking change."
Several other airlines hope to return the 737 Max to the skies until 2021, and United Airlines plans to resume service in February. Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines says it will resume sometime in the second quarter of 2021, at least in June. However, it remains to be seen whether an aircraft that has been presented as an example of how Boeing culture has failed, and as a broader calamity, will win over a suspicious audience.