New Timeline For 737 MAX Returning To Service

Filed Under: Misc.

Last week I wrote about how Boeing completed the software update that they’ve been working on for the 737 MAX. This came about two months after the Boeing 737 MAX was grounded globally, in mid-March.

Not only did Boeing complete the development of the updated software for the 737 MAX, but they also flew more than 360 hours on 207 flights with the updated MCAS software.

It sounds like that’s good progress on Boeing’s part, though it doesn’t answer the question of when the plane will be back in service. The plane now has to be certified to re-enter service, and a lot of us have been wondering how long that will take.

Given the public’s lack of trust for both Boeing and the FAA at the moment, one would hope they’ll be especially thorough, rather than trying to rush this (despite the financial implications of these planes being grounded).

That’s why it’s interesting to note what the FAA is expecting. Reuters reports that the US FAA has informed the United Nations’ aviation agency that they expect the 737 MAX could return to service as early as late June.

It sounds like it will be at least a month before the 737 MAX is certified properly, and that’s best case scenario. Keep in mind that just because the FAA certifies the plane, doesn’t necessarily mean that all other international authorities will certify the plane immediately as well. This could be both due to genuine safety concerns, and also for political reasons, given trade wars, given state owned airlines in some cases owning 737 MAXs they may not want anymore, etc.

I had been wondering if the 737 MAX might be back in service in the next couple of weeks, though it sounds like that’s definitely not the case. It’s possible the plane may be back in service at some point during the busy summer travel period, though.

Even once the plane is back in service, Boeing and airlines will have the job of convincing the public that the plane is safe to fly. Both the CEOs of American and United have chimed in with their take, including what they plan to do to instill confidence in the public with this plane.

Comments
  1. I think recertifications will take a long time. No one trusts Boeing and the FAA. Also, other countries have hardball reasons to slow walk the process. EU will want to support Airbus. China will use it for trade war leverage.

  2. My partner won’t fly on one now so that means neither of us will. They should scrub it all together.

  3. Lucky, do you have a list of all the airlines that operate the Max or have ordered them?

  4. We should remember that the software update is just a band-aid. The root of the issue is that Boeing designed the Max with engines that are too far forward and sit too high on the wing because it suited them to modify the 40 year-old 737 rather than design a new aircraft. This has been well documented and nobody seems to mind.

  5. You will all fly the max… So will I (as a passenger and as a pilot on the plane). Its taking over for the 737NG. 737NG will soon be like the 737 classic is now, outdated.

    Saying ‘Ill avoid the max’, is as I see it a politically statement. We’ll all fly it. Soon there will be thousands of them in the skies.

    They will be perfectly safe when returning to service

  6. How long will it take for the ‘solution’ to be deployed to U.S. fleets? While it may be re-certified by the end of June, that doesn’t mean that the fix and training will be ready to go on AA, UA, etc. at that point.

  7. Amen Mark. I flew a MAX9 between the 2 MAX crashes and I would have continued to fly them on US carriers (emphasis on US CARRIERS) even if they weren’t grounded.

  8. I will try to avoid it as best I can. Not really loving Boeing and the FAA right now, that whole profit over safety thing is not acceptable to me.

  9. Let me remind everyone that has fears about flying a MAX because of MCAS and the instability of the aircraft because of the placement of the engines, an Airbus can’t even fly without automation. They had their problems in the past and have all been solved, like Boeing has done now. Face it, all new generation planes are fly by wire, so it is software and electrical components keeping that thing in the sky.

  10. The MAX frame is not airworthy. Boeing tried to fix it with software solution, MCAS. It keeps beating the dead horse. Speculatipng about flying MAX again makes no sense before investigations on the crashed planes are completed. Second, Boeing must release all the MAX documentation to authorities internationally.

  11. Both Boeing and the FAA said the plane was safe originally and also safe after almost every other country had grounded it after two crashes.

    Why would anyone believe anything they have to say about safety now?

  12. While it MAY be safe after coming back into service I will still avoid it. Not because I necessarily fear it…more so because this never should have happened in the first place and Boeing, the FAA, (and to some degree the airlines who did know beforehand given the recent reports of pilots who warned them and Boeing) should be made to pay and know there are consequences to lax design, certification, and oversight. The whole damn world should refuse to fly it for a year to force delayed deliveries, cancellations, and low load factors to make sure they see that there are real repercussions for causing the deaths of so many and risking so many other lives. Boeing and the FAA are criminals over how this was handled both from the absurd certification it got and then later hiding that they knew there were issues after the first crash.

  13. It will be more interesting to see if other countries impose further certification steps. I remember reading that some countries said they would trust the FAA anymore.

  14. @Memento
    Airbus can’t deliver anymore A320 family airplanes for the next 5 years. They struggle to deliver the orders they have. No interest in the 737 demise…. on the contrary. That could open the door to the C919 or the Russians.
    So Europeans have no interest in dragging their feet…. but they won’t damage their credibility either as the FAA did…

  15. @Mark
    Typically the type of arrogance that put Boeing and the FAA where they are…
    You sound like a General Motors exec in the late 80’s….

  16. How do you solve this basic problem ? :
    – the 737 Max needs a MCAS in order to prevent a stall which would not be manageable by the pilots and would lead to a crash in some high incidence situations.
    – It must be possible to disconnect the MCAS in case it’s not working properly when sensor AoA or else, is feeding wrong information. Pilot must be able to take back control at any time. Fine.
    – what if the MCAS is not working properly (failing AoA), the pilot disconnect it to take back control, and then the plane enters a configuration where the MCAS is required and the pilot is unable to prevent stall?

    Boeing engineers are not fools. If they made the MCAS so “over ruling” and so difficult to disconnect (or prone to reconnect) it’s simply because the system is crucial, vital, to the airworthyness of the 737 Max.
    There is no solution to the hazard created by the intrinsic instability of the air frame at high incidence.

  17. I would, after all the test and upgrades, I belive it’s going to be one of the safest planes in the air..

  18. I would fly on a 737MAX today, right now – as long as the crew was experienced and well-trained.

    A better question to ask would be: How long will it take to get low-experience, foreign flight crews an appropriate level of real-world experience (for this or any other plane)?

    But what the hell do I know. I’m just a pilot. I’m sure the self-appointed keyboard warrior aviation experts out there know much better, because they have a sock-drawer full of credit cards and fly business class.

  19. I’m old enough to remember the 90’s and the 737 crashes (1991 UA 585; 1994 US 427) which were both attributed to rudder malfunctions and a design flaw. They eventually fixed the problem but that didn’t keep people from flying them in the interim or since, myself included. I’m sure some of these 737-200 and 737-300 aircraft are still in service today. The stakes are very high with a lot of money and jobs and lives riding in the balance and I’m quite certain Boeing, the FAA and the airlines who fly the MAX are going to make damn sure this problem never brings down another aircraft. I’ll fly the MAX after it’s return to service.

  20. I will bet $7.37 cents that once this plane is back flying, someone will scam a MAX amount out of Boeing for PTSD.

  21. @TIM
    Let me remind you that ALL civil airplanes are intrinsically stable by design. ALL but the 737MAX.
    The fly by wire aspect has nothing to do with that. (By the way the 737 Max is NOT fly by wire).
    Electrical or hydraulic commands are not the issue here.
    Software use is neither an issue.
    The problem is the fact that due to an aerodynamic flaw, the thrust from the engines is not compensating the loss of wing load at high incidence (sharp take-off) or more exactly, the thrust, being ahead of the wing, INCREASES the incidence and further reduces the wing load until stall.
    Have you ever seen engines ahead of the wings? On the rear fuselage, yes. (727, DC9) NEVER AHEAD.
    Well, for some reasons mate!

  22. The penny still hasn’t dropped at the FAA how much they’ve shattered their credibility. They’re treating the return to service of the MAX like a minor routine matter and a foregone conclusion. Other countries no longer trust them, and if they prematurely force it back into service to serve US corporate interests, they will just do further damage.

  23. I’m suprised any of you even fly at all. Every aircraft has had design flaws and have crashed and killed people. Cars buses and trains have design flaws that have killed people

  24. @Dona Dick and Leopoldo
    Your statements are more related to “faith” than technical analysis.
    @ Dick
    If you believe that US pilots are superior to their foreign colleagues… so be it.
    This is the same kind of contempt and arrogance that led to Airbus success in the 80’s…
    Just keep it this way and you will fly Chinese soon…

  25. @jojo
    No. You may believe so, but aircraft design flaws are corrected before certification.
    A design flaw is a very serious matter.
    It’s not just a poor quality component or a failure prone component: it’s a structural mistake that make the whole frame unfit for purpose.
    Design flaws are just unacceptable the way we design now.
    You are confused. Quality flaws or poor quality ARE NOT a design flaw!

  26. The constant wrestling between MCAS trying to push the plane nose down, and the constant upward push of the plane’s nose because of slapping on engines that don’t fit .

    MCAS system should not exist at all, if you can’t fly a plane properly normally , that plane is not air worthy to be flown, let alone having passengers on it.

    Making money on the cheap at the expense of human lives is unacceptable.

    The MCAS COMPUTER SYSTEM is an example of the “scotch tape and bubble gum” approach to building the 737max, just slap on ill fitting engines, and then get a uncontrollable computer to keep constantly pushing the nose of the plane towards the ground on the earth. Do you want to die because of a “computer glitch”.

  27. Considering the biggest issue with the Max was the failure of Boeing to inform pilots about the new system and how to deal with any system failures, which is now clearly at the forefront of every pilot’s awareness now. I would happily fly on a Max. The pilot would not be flying one if they were not confident that he or she could not address an issue with the plane. The pilots have just as much to risk as the passenger. I just hope I get a discount due to people who are going to not fly on the Max.

  28. I don’t intend to fly on the MAX for several reasons – the main being that it’s a horrid and uncomfortable aircraft with the layouts the US airlines have chosen.

  29. No, thanks. Not flying that until its completely rebuilt from scratch.

    I doubt China and those in its sphere of influence will certify this. It would be kind for them if they don’t outright cancel the remaining orders, lol.

  30. Sadly most people do not know about the MAX and do not care. $ drive choices and the FAA and airlines know it.

    Whether the FAA is saying the right things in public and in effect has got its time line inplace is open to debate. Who can you trust, certainly not Boeing.

    The deal breaker for me is simulator training. If they wait for that safety is number 1. If not $$$$ are number 1 and safety we have done enough to get away with it.

  31. The fact is anyone flying on the Max within two years of any potential recertification is effectively serving as a flight test subject on an aircraft with a resume that includes two proverbial smoking holes in the ground in its first year of service when there just weren’t that many Max in the sky.

    And it has nothing to do with what some brainwashed Americans would like to chalk up to being just incompetent foreign pilots. For those poor souls, dear Boeing and Trump’s deregulated FAA couldn’t possibly bear any responsibility.

    After Lion Air, American Airlines pilots met with Boeing and stated that they had several issues with the MAX. One issue, believe it or not, was Boeing hadn’t even bothered to inform airlines MCAS was on the damn plane. Boeing wouldn’t listen. Then there was Ethiopian Airlines.

    If you want to fly the Max if it gets FAA certification this summer, be my guest. I’m not going to stop you. The odds of surveying any given flight are pretty good. So Munoz and Parker aren’t proving anything by being on one flight. But unless Boeing and the FAA get it right this time (and based on past events, I have less than great confidence that is going to happen) some people will be on the Max that becomes the third smoking hole in the ground. If that happens, the Max will be kaput.

    Here’s one of dozens of articles about Boeing’s failure to act after American Airlines pilots expressed their concerns.

    https://interestingengineering.com/pilots-confronted-boeing-about-risks-before-2nd-737-max-8-crash

  32. @Donna
    Why? Can you elaborate?
    You seem short of arguments… and rather relying on “feelings” “beliefs” or “faith” in Boeing doing the right thing.

    I was believing the same as I have been in this industry for over 35 years now, and Boeing is (was?) a great name.
    But we must admit they made terrible mistakes here and don’t seem eager to correct them.

    Now aerospace deserves more than “beliefs”, it needs rationality.

    How do you solve this basic problem ? :
    – the 737 Max needs a MCAS in order to prevent a stall which would not be manageable by the pilots and would lead to a crash in some high incidence situations.
    – It must be possible to disconnect the MCAS in case it’s not working properly when sensor AoA or else, is feeding wrong information. Pilot must be able to take back control at any time. Fine.
    – what if the MCAS is not working properly (failing AoA), the pilot disconnect it to take back control, and then the plane enters a configuration where the MCAS is required and the pilot is unable to prevent stall?

    Boeing engineers are not fools. If they made the MCAS so “over ruling” and so difficult to disconnect (or prone to reconnect) it’s simply because the system is crucial, vital, to the airworthyness of the 737 Max.
    There is no solution to the hazard created by the intrinsic instability of the air frame at high incidence.
    Please answer to this dilemma.

  33. @Katie The A340, MD11, and God knows how many other airplanes use software to stay stable. I am pretty sure rockets are only aerodynamically stable because of software. Should we ground all of those aircraft/spacecraft?

  34. A permanent solution to the present flawed airframe – engine design on the MAX, would be to get rid (remove) the MCAS system altogether. and retain the stick shaker and “Stall, Stall, Stall” audio. Pilots around the world know how to prevent and how to recover from a stall, or an impending stall. Additionally an increase in elevator and rudder boost would help, along with a quick autopilot disengage button would assist the pilots to gain positive control of the aircraft.

    However, as there is no solution to the mismatch of a 50 years old airframe design and the new Leap engines, it would be prudent of Boeing to recall all the MAX aircraft delivered, and convert them into the B737-800/900’s.

  35. Just to toss my own 2¢ into the fire, so to speak…

    1) Regardless of whether it’s a MAX or nor, I have a preference for A320s versus 737s, and so that “locks in” my choice right there. It’s not that I *don’t* fly on 737s — I do — but TTBOMK, I have flown on the A320 family of planes 180 times, versus 141 times on various 737s. But if there’s a convenient option…

    2) @Mark is correct (IMHO): we’ll all fly on 737 MAX aircraft in the future. Human beings have notoriously short memories. People still bought Ford Pintos, even after the whole gas-tank-explodes-upon-impact thing…sure, eventually Ford dropped it, but it was still selling; same with their SUV, the Ford “Exploder” — sorry, Explorer. People continue to fly on MD-80s, despite its crash history, and so on and so on and so on. Even those who say *now* they’d never fly on a MAX, after a year or two of safe operations…most won’t even bother to notice what plane they’re on; they just want to get from Point A to Point B….

    3) Will people be nervous? Only those people who stop to notice what plane they’re on, and that’s a MINORITY of the flying population. (We here represent such a tiny fraction of the flying public; talk about “inside baseball”…) Even among those who *do* notice, a sizable number of them will be saying, “Hey, after all that’s happened, this has now got to be the safest plane in the world…”

  36. Seems to me the old safety v dollars has caught them out again. Putting new bigger engines on an “old” 1960 design (737) to curb the airbus advantage was not a good short cut. It screwed up the flying characteristics of the old reliable 737 which they tried to correct with a software cheat. No wonder they didn’t tell pilots!!

  37. David, you are absolutely correct. The present configuration of the airframe and engines will never work. MCAS has to go first – The Pilots are in command of the aircraft, not some ill thought off computer software. Better still – Boeing should scrap the MAX program and cut their losses. They should not try and find a “Fix”.

  38. @ speedbird
    Where did you get that the A340 or MD11 or else are not intrinsically stable???
    The use of software or fly by wire to control an aircraft doesn’t mean the aircraft isn’t stable!
    Only some military aircraft such as the famous B2 are not intrinsically stable and need a permanent software control to fly…
    All commercial aircraft MUST be intrinsically stable to be certified. That is the very reason why Boeing never told any pilot about it!
    Regarding rockets… then you seem totally deluded: are you buying tickets on rockets?
    Are your rocket FAA certified?
    Please read what you write before posting.

  39. I was looking for a Las Vegas betting line for a return to service date. I would be willing to bet against October. The pilots are going to required simulator training, if not now then after next accident.

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