Official: Boeing 737 MAX “Ungrounded” By FAA

Filed Under: Misc.

The Boeing 737 MAX was grounded in March 2019, following two fatal crashed. Boeing has spent the last 20 months making fixes to the plane so that it can once again be certified by international aviation authorities. Well, a major milestone has been reached on that front, as the plane has officially been ungrounded in the US… it only took 600+ days!

FAA issues 737 MAX ungrounding order

The head of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Steve Dickson, has today signed the ungrounding order for the Boeing 737 MAX. Dickson says he has flown the plane himself, and says he is “100% comfortable with [his] family flying on it.” Here’s a video from Dickson explaining the decision:

This is huge news for the plane, which will soon be able to return to service.

Several weeks ago the head of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) similarly indicated that he’s satisfied with the changes that have been made to the 737 MAX, so the FAA isn’t alone in being pleased with Boeing’s fixes.

The 737 MAX will soon be ungrounded in Europe as well

What happens next?

Now that the 737 MAX has been ungrounded, should we expect airlines to resume passenger flights within hours? Not quite. A couple of things need to happen now:

  • Software updates need to be made to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which was a primary cause of the two 737 MAX crashes
  • The FAA needs to approve the new 737 MAX training program for any US airline operating the plane
  • Pilots will need to undergo additional simulator training before being able to fly the 737 MAX again

It’s also important to understand that the FAA only controls aviation within the US, so it will be up to aviation authorities in other countries to decide if & when they allow the 737 MAX to return to service.

If both the FAA and EASA allow the 737 MAX to return to service I’m sure we’ll see most other authorities follow their lead, but that might not be the case across the board. Only time will tell.

If anything, I think the support from the EASA will mean a lot to other foreign regulators, given how cozy Boeing and the FAA have historically been.

Pilots will need to undergo simulator training before returning to the skies

American will be first US airline to fly 737 MAX

American Airlines is expected to be the first US airline to put the 737 MAX back into service. American has scheduled once daily 737 MAX 8 flights between Miami and New York between December 29, 2020, and January 4, 2021.

The airline is clearly trying to ease the 737 MAX back into service, and make it clear to passengers what they’re booking.

Southwest and United are the other two US airlines operating the 737 MAX, but they don’t plan on putting the plane back into service as of 2021 (though that could change). While I’m sure they could put the plane back into service sooner, they have so many planes parked anyway, so there’s not much upside to flying these for now.

Southwest doesn’t plan on restarting 737 MAX flights until 2021

Boeing & airlines have uphill battle

I’ll be curious to see how the public responds to the 737 MAX returning to the skies:

  • So many people have said “I’ll never fly that plane,” but only time will tell if that’s just empty talk, or if people follow through on that; it could be like people who threaten to never fly an airline again, and then the next time when that airline is a dollar cheaper than the competitor, they book it
  • We’ve seen some airlines say they’ll let people rebook if they are scheduled to be on a 737 MAX, so I’m curious to see just how many airlines have a policy like this; perhaps it’s a moot point for now, as airlines are waiving change fees in general
  • Boeing is quietly rebranding the 737 MAX — for example, the Boeing 737 MAX 8 is now being branded as the 737-8, so clearly Boeing is hoping that people forget the “MAX” name

Would I be comfortable flying the 737 MAX when it returns to service? Well:

  • Have I lost a lot of respect for both Boeing and the FAA throughout this process? Absolutely
  • But personally I’d be happy to fly the 737 MAX again once it’s approved by multiple reputable regulators (and I feel better that the EASA also seems to be onboard)

Ironically airlines might be just as unhappy as passengers about the 737 MAX being cleared to fly again, because they’ll be on the hook for paying for these planes, and won’t be getting compensation from Boeing anymore.

Bottom line

The US FAA has today issued an ungrounding order for the 737 MAX. These planes will need a software update and pilots will need some additional simulator training. With that, we could potentially see the plane in the US skies within a few weeks, before the end of the year. That’s exactly what the plan seems to be, with American scheduling 737 MAX flights as of December 29.

Are you ready to fly the 737 MAX again?

Comments
  1. Still don’t think the plane is really all that safe. Software can’t fix the engineering chicanery these guys used when putting this bird together.

  2. Now that the 747 has been retired by most airlines and the 767 only has a few years left at best, I would actively avoid flying any Boeing aircraft. The 737 has had issues for years going back to the 90s with rudder issues, I had avoided flying on them before the Lion Air and Ethiopian crashes. The 787 has had issues from the outset and many airlines have refused acceptance of aircraft from the Charleston factory. The 777 is just plainly uncomfortable. The 767 and 747 were both comfortable and built to last. It will be interesting how the COMAC C919 and larger variants gain market share in the years to come as at the time being the Airbus A321LR/XLR, A350 and A220 are set to dominate.

  3. I trust it’s safe enough now but will avoid it if at all possible. I want this aircraft to be a major pain point for Boeing’s bottom line for decades to come; hopefully it will spark a renaissance in the company. Doubt it though.

  4. Maybe 5 years from now if there has been no accidents but no way am I flying that within the next few years.

  5. I am just gonna exactly do as what I am going to do with the COVID-19 vaccine.
    Wait a few rounds

    P.S – I’m not anti-vax if anyone of you decides to take that joke seriously lol

  6. Fully agree with David. Corporate greed at the cost of life’s needs to have a severe penalty attached. Either Boeing execs are prosecuted for corporate manslaughter or a massive punitive fine for hiring as a company, otherwise the failure of a safety first culture will lead to a repeat at some time in the future. If you cut corners you need to pay the price when things go wrong.

  7. It will take YEARS of accident-free flights before I even consider boarding a 737-Max.

    Ryanair is the only airline serving Beziers – the small airport near my home in France – and since the discount carrier will be flying the Max I will drive an extra hour to Montpellier, and pay more (sometimes LOTS more) to fly Air France.

  8. I gladly step aside and let others fly with that type of plane for 3-5 years first before I set foot in a MAX.

  9. I fly a lot. I’m not anxious to hop on a Max. I was flying out of Addis the morning of the ET crash. Different destination, different aircraft, about 30 minutes behind ET 302. It did cause me to think, what if.

    I think capitalism is one of the things that makes this country great. But it doesn’t absolve corporations of being responsible. Clearing Boeing was more interested in the bottom line. They need to pay big time. Although I seriously doubt people will boycott the Max in large enough numbers, for any protracted of time, to make much of a difference.

  10. Boeing better pray to every deity in the universe that there are no crashes for any reason, not just MCAS reasons, on the MAX for at least 2 years, because if there are, this plane is a goner.

  11. I have no problem flying on the Max–flew them after Lion Air. I do share the sentiment that Boeing needs an entire corporate makeover, however.

  12. I would fly it. Give all the intense inspection and work that has been done on it, it’s probably the safest aircraft in the world right now. But I totally get that people would rather avoid it.

  13. I grew up loving flying Boeing planes and was always a big fan but the past 10 years or so has killed any positive feelings I had. I’m not flying the 737max. Period. Half of it is concern and the other half is this:

    Malcolm says:
    November 18, 2020 at 9:03 am

    Fully agree with David. Corporate greed at the cost of life’s needs to have a severe penalty attached. Either Boeing execs are prosecuted for corporate manslaughter or a massive punitive fine for hiring as a company, otherwise the failure of a safety first culture will lead to a repeat at some time in the future. If you cut corners you need to pay the price when things go wrong.

  14. The MAX is fundamentally flawed, in its design, and in the process that led to its first certification. I’ve flown it once, from MIA to NYC about 6 weeks before it was grounded. It is a veritable piece of junk.

  15. There have been many design weaknesses and failures that have tragically brought down aircraft of many types over many eras of air travel. The problems were discovered and fixed and the vast majority of the flying public got back up in the air on these planes, myself included. Without hesitation, in recent years I’ve flown A300s after the crash over Queens, NY due to a design flaw in the vertical stabilizer and I have taken countless flights on A330s following the crash of AF447 into the ocean, contributed to numerous problems that go back to design and training. Currently, the MAX isn’t scheduled on any of my routes, but I’d fly it again if it were.

    Agree that the dangerous corporate culture of Boeing and lax FAA oversight created the environment that was largely responsible and hopefully, those issues were also fixed along with the MCAS.

  16. Regardless of the safety concerns, lets also remember that the 737 MAX, at least in the configurations that the vast majority of airlines have….SUCKS. First Class is awful and economy is tightly packed. I wouldnt want to fly it for that reason alone.

  17. I believe in the past, pilots also were “comfortable” flying their families on Comets and Electras. how did that turn out? This engineer says “no way” as to my getting back on this Frankenstein of a plane. Take a bad aerodynamic design and fix it with software? Yea right. Imagine if the DOT approved that approach to “fixing” Ford Pintos? And then combine the Max’s “fix’ with an Oasis interior? Not. Once again $$$ outweighs public safety with our government, and the airlines really don’t care or understand what their customers want.

  18. Boeing and the FAA both need makeovers. Boeing was most successful when engineers still had a significant say in overall company operations and strategic decisions, rather than being treated as the “seen but not heard” workforce that just dutifully churns out whatever designs the MBA-holding corporate execs dream up.

    And the FAA needs to address its policies regarding both aircraft certification as well as change requirements. MCAS exists because the FAA required the MAX to have similar flight characteristics to previous 737s, so Boeing had to install software to force the MAX to fly like older models despite changes in aerodynamics.

    Beyond this, Boeing and the industry at large are trapped by the 737’s huge customer base. I’m sure Boeing would love to roll out a clean-sheet design to compete with the newer A320 rather than try to eke out more and more improvements from a very old design, but so many huge customers like Ryanair and Southwest have built their business models on flying the 737 exclusively and would not welcome a switch to an entirely new aircraft with a new supply chain and new type rating for pilots. Boeing was happy to drop the 757/767 in favor of their notional NMA and those planes weren’t nearly as old, but they were also far less popular.

    That said, I would have no problem flying on a MAX operated by a reputable North American, Asian, or European carrier, aside from the fact that carriers seem to be really packing in the seats so they’re less comfortable than the older planes.

  19. It might have been from a post months ago on OMAAT, but I remember reading that there is a serious lack of simulators specifically for the MAX. And they take a long time to build. I think it was because pilots didn’t have to recertify. But with the requirement that they do need simulator training now, I wonder what sort of further issues/delays this might cause. Anyway, random thought.

    And hell no, I’m not flying this plane for a while. What’s “a while”? No idea but probably at least a year after US airlines put their fleets back into service.

  20. So much utter irrationality on display in these comments. The odds of anyone here being involved in a 737 Max incident are infinitesimal. Tiny. Microscopic. Almost beyond calculation. So many armchair aeronautical engineers who seem to have deep knowledge of Boeing’s design inadequacies. The incidents that caused all the fuss were brought on by inadequate flight training amplified by a poorly executed software interface. Boeing did f**k up that aspect for sure. But its been fixed and tested more thoroughly than any other aircraft in history. I affirm what a fee other posters have said; the Max is now the safest plane flying.

    Modern transport jets have become incredibly safe.

  21. Given the scrutiny this plane has been under for two years, I’d say it’s probably the safest plane of all to fly on. Yes I’d happily fly on it. I hope all you bedwetters cancel your tickets so I’ll have room to stretch out.

  22. I’ll take the vaccine as soon as I can, but will avoid the MAX for as long as possible. For one thing, nearly every airline that bought these chose to configure them into torture chambers that would make Torquemada smile. 28″ pitch, bathrooms smaller than phone booths (when those existed), wafer thin seats and all on an aircraft that some airlines (looking at you AA) will use for segments as long as 6 hours.

    No freaking way. And, oh yeah, the aerodynamics of this contraption still suck and need to be counteracted. So, I’d like to see how that goes too. All this said, I’ll trust the ex-US military pilots on UA or AA or WN to deal with these planes and handle their issues just fine. It’s the pilots over in SE Asia or Africa that would have me NOT flying a MAX even now. Because if anything goes wrong, they know not what to do.

  23. Oh please, airlines will put flights on the max on the cheapest fare ( compare to regalar 737) and everyone will fly it.
    It is not the first airplane ever grounded
    The only difference is that information is available.

  24. Alaska also plans to begin flying the MAX soon. Per today’s Seattle Times:

    “According to an internal memo sent Sunday to Alaska Airlines pilots, the Seattle-based carrier plans to take its first 737-9 MAX delivery early next year and start flying it in service by the end of March.”

  25. I will gladly fly on the Max! Unlike our upcoming experimental mRNA ‘Rona vaccine, this plane has been looked over with a fine tooth comb by a bunch of regulators looking for payback on the embarrassment they’ve suffered. The rear-chewing by the FAA and the rear-kissing by Boeing is finally done and this thing can get back to normal life. I agree with WR2, stay off the plane and give me room.

  26. The only reason I would not fly the 737-8 in the future is if the layout was unacceptable. The horrid seating and tiny washrooms would make any journey of more that 2 hours unbearable.

    All of the Airbus fans either never noticed or ignored the lengthy series of fatal crashes of the A3XX fly-by-wire planes in their early days. Of course, since they crashed in India they were written off as pilot error. Nor are the latest versions free of potentially fatal problems (COG for example).

    So I will be happier taking the Max than some Airbus products.

    Of course the A220 (C Series Bombardier) does not fall into the Airbus category.

  27. Love the 777 747 but never liked the tin can 737
    Will wait a few years before climbing into this one
    This is the story of self regulation again, like for the banks which also crashed and cost people their life. Human beings are to greedy to self regulate.

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