Back from the Ground
Ready for takeoff and safe landing? Questions that many are asking as the supposedly-revamped American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX’s took its first public flight Wednesday following a 20-month grounding – the longest in the history of civil aviation, after two fatal crashes that saw 346 people lose their lives.
In November, the US and Brazilian authorities gave the green light for the controversial aircraft to return to service, after several modifications and the introduction of specific training for the pilots. As before flying the MAX, a two-hour course on a computer tablet, an hour of flight simulation, followed by two-hour flying scenario reaction training by paired colleagues is required to be undertaken by each US pilot.
The American Airlines promotional trip on Wednesday between Dallas, Texas and Tulsa, Oklahoma was an active communication strategy to attract and reassure the public before resuming commercial service on December 29 – with the MAX’s first scheduled flight for Miami and New York.
Face mask-clad passengers were seated according to social distancing guidelines in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the 50-minute flight to Tulsa on Wednesday proceeded uneventfully with only a little turbulence along the way.
Doubts and Speculations
Although the Boeing 737 MAX has already gone through several thousand hours of test flights in the hands of specialists in the aviation sector, the families of the victims of the tragedies of Lion Air on October 29, 2018, and Ethiopian Airlines on March 10, 2019, are not convinced.
They condemn the perceived-marketing ploy by American Airlines’ and dismiss the efforts as a way to salvage a bad investment on the part of the company – which had 24 units in its service i.e. the second-largest customer out of all other airlines, since before the two calamities.
The traumatised family members believe that there are still technical problems to be corrected and heed caution.
The main change requested by the regulators concerns the MCAS flight control software, which the pilots of the aforementioned tragedies were unable to master.
Boeing plans to set up an operations centre that will monitor all flights in real-time.
American Airlines has stated that all customers who buy tickets will be notified of flights employing the MAX aircraft and the carrier will provide alternative trips to passengers who prefer not to board this specific plane.