American Offers Tours of Boeing 737 MAX – May Fly in December

by Miles Jackson

American Airlines plans to be one of the first airlines to fly the Boeing 737 MAX when it returns to service. According to a story by CNBC, American Airlines is planning to offer tours of the Boeing 737 Max with customers. American plans to also offer calls to its pilots to answer questions by the public regarding the modified aircraft’s return to service. Both efforts designed to increase the public’s confidence in the plane after it was grounded following two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019.

Boeing 737 MAX Grounded Since mid-2019

Boeing 737 MAX Console

The entire global fleet of nearly 400 737 MAX were grounded worldwide in March 2019 following the two crashes — Lion Air Flight 610 in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March 2019. All passengers and crew (totaling 346 souls) on board both flights perished.

Since then, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the plane’s manufacturer, Boeing, have been working to get the plane re-certified. The original certification came under scrutiny and resulted in Congressional hearings on the company’s production shortcomings.

FAA ReCertification Coming Soon

However, recently the FAA announced it was close to approving the plane’s return to commercial passenger service. The European Union (EU) also tentatively accepted Boeing’s modifications to the plane, contingent on some additional modifications. One such concession involves adding a third sensor to the plane’s electronics which should reduce false indications of the aircraft stalling; the cause of the two crashes. False stalling indications led the plane’s avionics to automatically take over to prevent the perceived stall. In the case of the two crashes, these were false readings and the pilots found themselves attempting to manually override the plane’s aggressive auto-responses.

Following repeated setbacks, the Federal Aviation Administration is at the tail-end of its recertification process for the jets though it has not signed off on the planes officially.

American Airlines to Fly 737 MAX in November

It is reported the Fort Worth-based airline will initially begin flights with their own employees after Thanksgiving. Although the FAA has not committed to a final approval, American Airlines leadership expects the FAA will lift the flight ban in mid-November.

During the earnings call with investors Robert Isom, American’s president stated:  “Based on what we’re hearing, that would allow for an ungrounding sometime in the month of November. If that holds true, that would allow us to be flying the aircraft say a month later.”

American has already put the 737 MAX on its schedule. It looks like the first 737 Max flights are between New York’s LaGuardia Airport and American’s Miami hub starting as early as December 29th.

American Offers Tours of Boeing 737 MAX

Prior to these flights, American will offer customers and employees the chance to see the plane up close and personal. Sometime after Thanksgiving American plans to have the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft at several airports, including Dallas/Fort Worth, LaGuardia and Miami. To boost confidence, the airline will make available pilots and mechanics to answer the public’s questions.

Knowing that some people may be concerned if they are scheduled to fly on a 737 MAX, American says they will notify customers and allow them to switch if they do not feel comfortable.

Pilots of the modified aircraft will have to undergo training and some additional time in flight simulators. Most of those are scheduled in December.

The Allied Pilots Association, the union which represents American’s pilots, has been critical of promoting the return of the aircraft. They argue that once the aircraft is certified and vetted then ‘just go fly the jet.’

During the airline’s 3rd quarter earnings report American’s management also announced it reached an agreement with Boeing to defer deliveries of 18 737 MAX aircraft originally set for delivery in 2021 and 2022 to 2023 and 2024.

Will Other US Carriers Fly the 737 MAX?

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX

Two other U.S. airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines also have several 737 MAX aircraft grounded. The grounding severely hurt Southwest’s operations; they have 34 MAX’s in their fleet, with more than 275 on order. Southwest’s CEO Gary Kelly says the airline does not know when their 737 MAX’s will return. He’s still waiting on the FAA clearance.

United has said they plan to bring their 737 MAX aircraft back ‘sometime next year (2021.)

It has been speculated Delta Air Lines may have an interest in acquiring the modified 737 MAX. Boeing is known to be courting them to pick up orders cancelled by other buyers. Most likely, they anticipate a good price as Boeing needs to get firm orders for future production.

Boeing will report its third-quarter results on Wednesday, October 28th. At that time, investors will get a better picture of the when the 737 MAX will fly again. Many are interested to know the effects COVID on the aircraft manufacturer.

The UpShot

It appears that American will Offer tours of their Boeing 737 MAX aircraft at several airports soon. They may even begin flying passengers as early as December. The COVID pandemic offered some relief of the financial sting that grounding the 737 MAX otherwise might have caused. Southwest Airlines is especially vulnerable given its use of the aircraft.

Will you visit one of the airports where American Airlines will offer a tour of the Boeing 737 MAX?

As we begin to hear more about plans to return the 737 MAX to service, do you have any concerns? Will you change your flight after notification that you are scheduled to fly on a Boeing 737 MAX?

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