The Boeing 737 MAX was the plane the airline industry never wanted to happen. One tragic crash seemed like a one off, but then a second, near identical crash just months later due to software errors shook the foundation of trust we put in flying machines, regulatory bodies and governments alike.
It wasn’t pilot error, weather or an incident which makes things feel isolated – it was the plane itself causing its own doomed fate, and make no mistake – it was only a matter of time until it would’ve been repeated again, had aviation bodies around the world not barred the plane from sovereign skies.
The Boeing 737 MAX shouldn’t have been certified to fly, and that’s evidently clear in the aftermath, though it certainly doesn’t help the 345 souls who perished. Now, after months of extensive testing, newly found flaws and inquiries the plane will face a series of final certification flights, before a return to the skies for commercial duty. For passengers, the likely return of the 737 MAX as soon as October is stoking fear, however unwarranted it may be.
According to Bloomberg, the United States FAA has spent 110,000 hours addressing inquiries from bodies all around the world regarding the airworthiness of the 737 MAX. A large majority of concerns centred around flight control software systems, which were causing the plane to dive when it did not need to, with no easy way for pilots to correct this action. At this point almost all the inquiries have been resolved, and Boeing is said to be imminently close to submitting a final certification package in September.
Would you fly the #737MAX on its first flight, or flights back into service? Gut answer…
— Gilbert Ott | GSTP ✈️🌴🌏 (@godsavethepoint) August 24, 2019
The 737 MAX would require test flights by FAA pilots to confirm that all fixes have been adequately made, and if successful, a final certification would be issued. This would then lead to a guidance brief from the FAA, which would instruct airlines what pilots would need to learn, review and do before any flights could take off. It’s understood at this point that this would largely involve simulator work to review new processes.
While this is great news for Boeing, and airlines hoping to quell fleet shortages, passengers seem to be singing a different tune. Ryanair was found attempting to rebrand 737 MAX aircraft into 737-8200 planes, by changing the decal near the nose. But rebranding, or forgetting the history of this aircraft seems unfair, and for passengers who may unknowingly book onto it, particularly so.
The 737 MAX will undoubtedly be the most tested plane in history when it completes recertification, which would in theory make it the safest, but that doesn’t change perception, however unwarranted. Many travellers have expressed an “it’s a no from me” attitude, and frequent travellers have gone so far as to say that they’ll specifically avoid any flight itineraries with a MAX on it. The same has been said for corporate travel agents who look into risk factors when choosing airlines, routes and aircraft.
With test flights expected in early October, the 737 MAX will likely be on track for an early Q4 return to skies around the world. The Boeing 737 program as a whole is the most successful airliner program in history, and as airlines seek to replace ageing models with this new edition, it may prove harder to avoid. If you don’t want to fly the aircraft, be sure to check the “more info” sections of any potential flight bookings, and consider setting aircraft change alerts using tools like ExpertFlyer.