Boeing 737 MAX Likely Ungrounded In October, Flying Passengers In December

At the end of last week American Airlines told its pilots that based on conversations with the FAA and Administrator Stephen Dickson that they “see the finish line, it’s making good progress” bringing the Boeing 737 MAX into service. Their “targeted timeframe… [is] end of October-ish for the ungrounding to occur” for the aircraft. American intends to fly passengers in commercial service with the MAX starting in the second half of December.

The Joint Operation Evaluation Board process for the aircraft is “finalizing” while the agency’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which closes in September should yield a final rule in October and “will mandate software and other mod[ifications], some [American Airlines is already working through.”

American has expected it to take about a month from re-certification to be flying the plane in commercial service again. They’re getting aircraft ready for that – all of the MAX aircraft have been moved out of storage in Roswell and all 24 of their MAXs which have been delivered are now at their maintenance facility in Tulsa.

The airline reports that “every aircraft..flew clean” out of Roswell with “no writeups.” The last two were flown by members of Ad Hoc Committee from American’s pilots union.

American can’t start pilot training until the FAA publishes its final rule in October. Then they’ll “get check airmen trained, and start bringing pilots through for mandatory training.”

It will take a couple of months to get all their pilots through training. They’ve lined up capacity for this in Dallas and Miami. American Airlines has only one 737 MAX simulator but expected to have access to a simulator from Boeing, and one from maintenance, repair, and overhaul company CAE.

American’s current plan is to introduce 7 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft into their schedule for the second half of December, gradually adding in the rest of the planes. They’ll be Miami-based to start because that lets them “centralize the qualification requirement for pilots to certify on new training.”

According to Senior Vice President Vasu Raja, assuming they don’t grow their flight schedule between now and December they’ll still fly the new MAX aircraft and they’d replace “block 1” older 737-800s that would sit instead.

Last month American Airlines President Robert Isom told employees that the Boeing 737 MAX could fly again in December and it continues to appear to be on track for that. Europe and Canada are in the process of re-certifying. Some countries may certify the MAX quickly, but at a minimum we should see several recertifications come soon after the FAA signs off, perhaps even during the period between ungrounding here in the U.S. and the plane’s initial return to commercial service.

Ultimately some people will avoid the plane for a little while, but it’ll be safe and we’ll get used to flying it again.

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. Haven’t we seen this picture before, like last year? Now Boeing has an issue with the 787 and of course the 777x is pushed back once again. SO goes BA

  2. There were what, a couple hundred Mac’s flying, two crash and they all get grounded. During this period various airlines have flown empty planes between various storage locations and not a single one crashed and I don’t think any of them had any of the “fixes” implemented, at least not from what I’ve read. Something doesn’t quite add up. Seems to me like if there was this major defect, more planes would either have crashed or had some kind of in-flight emergency. But what do I know? I’m not involved in this field.

  3. Nothing like a highly densified, oversized capacity, mini-bathroom machine for the times we are in

  4. The Airbus system of having a computer making all the flight decisions is absolutely the poorest system ever made. Now couple that with an aircraft that is 67 % plastic and has insufficient lightning conduction gold wires imbedded in plastic structural pieces implies that the computer flying the aircraft can be damaged by airborne lightning strikes (ala Air France crashing in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean while going from Rio to Paris!!) No Thank You!!!

  5. Not a chance!
    I bailed on my last booked flight for the max YVR-HNL scheduled for day before they were all grounded in North America!
    Wouldn’t get on it then, still won’t!

  6. Gary – Is this statement from God’s ears to yours?

    “Ultimately some people will avoid the plane for a little while, but it’ll be safe and we’ll get used to flying it again.”

  7. Did I miss the part where it details the “WHEN, WHERE, and WHAT” fixes–those developed and implemented by Boeing as required by regulators–are being done by AA?

    And who inspects and certifies that each and every “updated and fixed” MAX, in order to absolutely ensure that 100% of the fixes are 100% correctly made?

  8. Oops!

    Gary – Is this statement from God’s mouth to your ears?

    “Ultimately some people will avoid the plane for a little while, but it’ll be safe and we’ll get used to flying it again.”

  9. My first question is how can 300 plus people die and no one is charged with murder.

    During my 13 years with Mc Donnell Douglas and Boeing I realize that if they wait until an airplane crashes they can sell the Airworthiness Directive to the airlines and not be responsible for supplying them with a replacement aircraft during the downtime.

    United Airlines that crashed in Sioux City had a known design flaw and I brought this to the Engineer Departments attention. The response was we have built 446 DC-10s that we are not worried about it.

    The day the aircraft crashed I brought the LA Times back to that Engineer and showed him the DC-10 fireball tumbling down the runway.

    I was terminated the next day. I am sure somebody at Boeing knew that a failure of Angle of Attack input could drive the aircraft into the ground. If they could not determine the result of this failure they should be charged with negligence and put in prison. You should be ashamed that you failed to protect the people flying?

    I put my career on the line and I will do it again every day I work on an airplane to make sure it is safe.

    Thank you.

  10. I work for Boeing. I fly often and I will NEVER fly on this plane. I’m starting to question the planes in general. Seems there are a lot of issues

  11. I would be very happy to fly on this plane, after all the Max has been through it will be the safest most inspected plane in the air. Besides the 737s have probably logged more hours than any other commercial airliner definitely making it one of the safest.
    Also pilot training will be top notch which makes me feel good.

  12. Everyone that is saying they will NEVER fly the MAX again are fooling themselves… Just wait for the years to roll by and all the non max planes retire and that will be your only choice… A perfectly safe aircraft to fly with properly trained crews.

  13. From the last couple of posts, it appears Boeing has heard about the negative comments made here, and maybe they sent out some PR folks to post positive remarks. Yes? No?

  14. The first 737 MAX that crashed the Digital Flight Data Recorder was retrieved and the DATA was downloaded. (DATA Dump)

    This would show the ;
    1) Flight Crews control wheel input.
    2) Controls surface positions.
    3)Autopilot mode.
    4)Aircraft airspeed.
    5) Aircraft altitude.
    6)Aircraft vertical speed.
    7)Angle of attack from both angle of attack sensors.

    With this basic flight information who ever read this data dump should have been able to determine the failure.

    It was 4 months and another crash of the MAX for the decision to ground the aircraft was made by other countries. BOEING should have made the call and not been forced to ground the aircraft.

    There is a problem with our system and I pray that someone will make a change in how crash data is analyzed. The FAA and NTSB should look into this.

  15. The EU’s Aviation Safety Agency will be taking its own look this week at the Boeing 737 MAX software and hardware upgrades before making its decision on allowing the jetliner to return to the air.

    The plane, grounded for nearly 18 months since two fatal crashes brought on by errors in software design and computer hardware, has completed it U.S. re-certification tests, and is awaiting final Federal Aviation Administration approval after a public comment period that expires later this month.

    In the past, the FAA and EASA have accepted each other’s certification decisions, but after a raft of publicity about issues in the original certification process and claims that FAA and Boeing are too close to each other, Europe and others are taking their own look.

    Simulator tests started Tuesday at London Gatwick. EASA has arranged for physical flight testing to take place next week at Vancouver, Canada, with help from FAA and Boeing. The process will then return to Gatwick on September 14 for a meeting of the Joint Operations Evaluation Board, which includes representatives from FAA, EASA and from Brazil and Canada.

  16. I would like to know if the former President of Boeing has been criminally charged with murder for 300 people losing their lives? Or did he just retire with $100,000,000 dollars?

    When an aircraft system is certified a Boeing employee signs off with a signature or employee stamp. If someone does a little investigation they can find out how this happened and prosecute the people involved. This will insure the next aircraft introduced will be safe for the flying public.

    The flight crew that certified the 737 MAX was also aware of the changes in the stall recovery system and they also signed off on the emergency procedures. They are very good pilots with many hours of flight time and they did not raise any flags about the emergency procedures?

    They were also negligent and should also be prosecuted. Quite sure they just moved on to another high paying job. If they will allow those people to die how well are they looking after the people they are flying today? Will they write up an aircraft with a major operational issue and ground the aircraft or just let it take the next flight and crash on takeoff?

    History does repeat it self. The FAA should take her or his license.

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