American Airlines Pilots Back the 737 MAX, as Black Boxes Get Analyzed We’ll Know More

I would love it if it were more possible to follow the facts and not the mob. We don’t yet know where the facts on the Ethiopian Airlines disaster will lead.

Although I think it’s perfectly reasonable to have concerns, based on what we know today I would not drive to avoid flying the MAX (driving isn’t as safe) and would not take a connecting itinerary to avoid it either (two takeoffs and landings).

After some wrangling over whether the black boxes from the Ethiopian aircraft would go to the US or London for analysis it seems likely they’ll be analyzed in Europe and not the United States.

That’s probably for the best, because the FAA is being accused of not being impartial in its judgment, based on its unwillingness to ground the MAX (neither has Canada) when many other governments have done so. The data will show what it shows, but conspiracy theorists might be more likely to complain about data released by the NTSB.

In the meantime American Airlines pilots have come out in support of the 737 MAX. Contrary to the Chinese regulator’s lack of confidence in their pilots flying aircraft manually,

The Allied Pilots Association (APA), representing the 15,000 pilots of American Airlines, remains confident in the Boeing 737 Max and in our members’ ability to safely fly it.

The pilots for the world’s largest airline have the necessary training and experience to troubleshoot problems and take decisive actions on the flight deck to protect our passengers and crew.

They point out:

  • Their experience with the aircraft has been exemplary, “We have reviewed data for more than 14,000 flights since the Lion Air Flight 610 accident in Indonesia last October, and we have not seen a single anomaly related to the MCAS.”
  • The American Airlines MAXs have a difference, “The two dozen 737 Max aircraft in the American Airlines fleet are the only ones equipped with two AOA displays, one for each pilot, providing an extra layer of awareness and warning.”

Southwest Airlines says they’ve operated 41,000 737 MAX flights without incident but unlike American Airlines will waive costs for customers to change plans if they prefer to avoid the aircraft.

There have been US pilot reports of 737 MAX issues descending shortly after takeoff, though not related to the plane’s anti-stall systems. Both American and Southwest Airlines say those issues were not with their flights.

While it will be quite some time before we know the official probable cause, we’ll get much more solid indications of what happened in the Ethiopian crash — and what we should be doing about it — once the black boxes are looked at.

In the meantime I don’t believe regulators ought to ground the plane based on lack of information, but airlines shouldn’t impose costs on passengers wishing to avoid it either.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. A far more realistic way of looking at this than Lucky, so thank you for saying something objectively fact based instead of purely emotional and possibly political.

    Thank you for sticking to the facts instead of the hyped drama without any justification.

  2. AA and SWA agree on something. And they have data to support their opinion.
    I hope they are right. But a 3rd incident could change my mind.

  3. Let’s not give too much credit here. AA wants to keep flying the plane, and the FAA is supporting that. So unless Boeing very conclusively has a safety issue, then I’d expect nothing else by the APA to publicly stand behind the abilities of its members to manage the plane safely.

  4. @Andrew +1


    I appreciate you taking a rational and reasoned approach. I really enjoy your blog.

  5. I feel a DC-10 like stigma hanging over this bird now. And I enjoyed the DC-10 on many long overseas trips.
    Has Boeing cut some corners in the training/certification dept? Why do they need two AOA screens providing extrAA AAwareness? (and who makes the call on something like that?) Is this like the exit lanes with 2 TSA agents providing “extra alertness” (in case one of them falls asleep)?
    Bottom line, how do I avoid flying on aircraft with 200 hour airmen or women?

  6. It is not a conspiracy theory. People have different tolerance for risk. What is the harm in playing it safe and grounding them until the facts are known.

  7. Normal order of this type of thing, the certifying agency takes the lead and makes a decision based on data from the aircraft.

    This event, emotional public outcry on social media, many countries air safety agencies act with no data nor it seems input from pilots with experience.

    The agency the follows well established patterns of reviewing hard data based evidence before acting is accused of not only dragging it feet but doing so because of political pressure and money

    A political leader we’ll know for ignoring both science and professional opinions announced a action the FAA hours before publicly is in opposition to.

    Welcome to the world of hysteria over professionalism.

  8. This has to be the most idiotic post ever — more good judgment tainted by corporate interests (note: this blogger is more often than not a shill for airlines).

    There is ample evidence that the airplane is flawed, but you’re waiting for evidence that the airplane will kill everyone every time. To me, the fact that it will kill some people some of the time, and that pilots who survived its un-intuitive systems complained about it to the FAA, is cause enough to be concerned.

  9. A Whitehouse spokesperson said that President Trump made the decision based on new data that had come in and that data has been shared with other countries. No specifics given.

  10. There is at least one comment that is 100% correct and that is Gary’s about being a shill for the airlines. Credit Card companies … different story.

    Page 2. Having many, many hours in pertnear every model of the B737 (starting with the -100) I caution, do not confuse knowledge with wisdom. Knowledge is that US airlines have the finest training in the world and employ most of the worlds best trained pilots. Wisdom is don’t assume it is lack of training that is the problem with B737 Max.

  11. lol, Perhaps AA can buy those 280 Chinese 737 Max orders, since Chinese can’t fly it anyway, let AA have them!

  12. AA can’t fly them during grounding either. Boeing now has every opportunity to redeem itself by reviewing its hardware, software, and training/certification requirements. They should at least put in extra angle of attack sensors for MCAS (plus sufficient redundancy elsewhere), more reliable flight control software (instead of the yo yo after launch), more reliable pilot operation interface (lack of fault indicators unless paid, non-traditional), and assurance with the aviation industry (lost confidence). This rushed job has not imparted confidence if one thinks about it. Grounding makes it better for everyone.

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