The Boeing 737 MAX is officially allowed to fly again in commercial service. A lot of things need to take place before that happens, but while Southwest Airlines plans to take 4-5 months to get the plane back in the air, American Airlines is far more aggressive – planning to fly it again on December 29th.
Employees of American Airlines and its wholly-owned regional carriers (Envoy, Piedmont, and PSA) and of the American Airlines Credit Union are being invited to take one of five ‘flights to nowhere’ on the Boeing 737 MAX before it re-enters commercial service at the end of December. According to an internal employee communication,
We know that restoring our customers’ confidence in the 737 MAX starts with ensuring our own team members are comfortable. That’s why, leading up to the aircraft’s return to scheduled service Dec. 29, we’ll operate five 737 MAX flights, exclusively for team members.
The following flights will take off, spend about an hour in the air, and then return to the same airport.
The flights operate out of New York LaGuardia and Miami because the MAX will initially be Miami-based and the first flights will be back-and-forth to LaGuardia, while Dallas has the largest concentration of American Airlines employees since the carrier is based there.
Before this happens the airline needs to complete its check airmen training, which should be done within days, and then start pilot training in December. This consists of a 1 hour briefing, and 2 hours of simulator time, which will take place in Dallas and Miami. Pilots will go through situations including unreliable airspeed, runaway stab trim, and stalling with MCAS system engaging.
American Airlines plans for all current 737 pilots to be trained on the MAX by the end of March. I believe this plane is safe, but I still don’t want to fly it with American because of its inflight product. Southwest has two extra inches of space for each passenger compared to economy on American’s 737 MAX – an interior they’re rapidly converting the rest of their narrowbody fleet to in order to match.