a plane flying in the sky
The wing tips go both up and down on the 737 MAX.

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.

a plane flying in the skyThe 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.

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.

a plane on the runway at nightWhile 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.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. With the scum bag Boeing CEO (beyond belief that he is still the CEO) and scum bag Trump trying to rename the plane! These guys are money first!

    Once Boeing decides to dump the plane and start from scratch and the CEO resigns, then I will fly on the new airplane.

    Otherwise, no way Jose am I getting on that plane, unless it flies for 10 years without crashing. We only live once!

    Senior Software Engineer

  2. Do not agree with the title… “fear” is not the correct term, the aircraft will have been completely fixed and sound to fly. Articles like these are misleading to the general public as they promote a sense of insecurity which is completely unacceptable. In my opinion articles informing about the MAX situation should be encouraging and promoting the model, since it will “be the most tested plane in history”. A company flying the type would only fly it if it thinks that it is safe to fly as a crash could destroy it’s reputation, taking this into account I firmly believe that this aircraft after recieving it’s type certification will be one of the safest in the sky, and an article explaining this would be more useful.

    1. You think people should only be allowed to encourage people to fly the MAX? I can think of 345 families who may not feel too great about that, no matter how many tests it passes now.

    2. You’re getting ahead of yourself by peddling fear, no? Are you suggesting the rework done is in vain? Can you share the background of that opinion? Maybe you can be positive and tell the world what to do. We’re waiting.

  3. Well said Luigi and balanced despite some comments, though I do think Wee Willie deserves a little approbation for his reckless money before passengers stance… It may be safe in the future but wasn’t when he issued LoI.

  4. Perfect blog title and good post.

    I will not get on a 737MAX for a very long time to come. Thankfully I fly Delta mostly but any AM flights I book I will not fly the MAX. At least not until 2021!

  5. I won’t fly in a MAX, ever. And I will boycott any airline that rebrands it under the radar, whether that’s 737-8200 or otherwise.

  6. While it true that Boeing really screwed up with the Max, the fixes they have come up with should make it a safe aircraft. However, one thing has to be said, an aircraft this size and complex should NOT, I repeat NOT, have inexperienced crew in the cockpit. By inexperienced I mean less than 1000 hrs. Remember the 320 has had lots of software problems since its introduction.

  7. I flew on two Max flights of the 40000 over two years and they were perfect. I question how the jump seat pilot in the Lion Air the previous day of the crash knew and followed the issue from not occurring and apparently no one else knew what to do? I’d fly on one tomorrow no questions asked. The chances of me stumbling down the stairs are higher.

  8. All airplanes have problems,sometimes early on, sometimes later,and examples can be cited from any aircraft in any era. There are going to be many thousands of 737 MAX planes flying in the next 20-30 years,and this sad episode will only effect that small group of people who cannot reset their ” fear” button. But it is irresponsible to go online and hit that button, and then piously pretend you didn’t do it.

  9. Ill-informed article. “It wasn’t pilot error”. Pilot error was definitely a contributing factor. Hitting the ground at 90% N1 shows incompetence at a basic level of flying.

  10. I will not fly on a Max, it sounds like it was rushed into production with fatal flaws, you can only do so much with a old design, and as for renaming it you only have to look at the winglets to see it is a Max it should have been scrapped.

  11. The Max will be the safest plane in the air once they start flying. I’d fly on it day one. Also, I totally believe that there absolutely was some pilot error involved in the crashes. That is the truth, whether you want to believe it or not.

  12. Rather then design a new airframe to accomodate the new larger engines, which are the root cause of all the stall issues with the max, Boeing made a monetary decision to hang the larger engines on the old lower to the ground airframes. After all Airbus was coming out with a new fuel efficient more powerful engine. This created a stall condition on takeoff so they put in a software patch called MCAS to overcome a design problem. Trouble is they never told the airlines or the pilots that were forced to fly these Deathtrap. One cannot fix a mechanical design problem with a software patch. I wish the media would pay more attention to the root cause of the Max issues instead of focusing on a software patch that tries to correct an aerodynamic problem introduced by mounting the engines higher above the wings thus interrupting lift. Get off the software patch issue and investigate the real problem of that aircraft design. I would not fly on that airplane untill they redesign the airframe.

    1. I agree with you 💯. Everyone is focusing on software rather than engineering. I’m not flying on that aircraft either. And being a aircraft technician, the MAX should have never have flown and should be scrapped.

  13. Software fix or not, the underlying original problem of the larger LEAP engines mounted too far off the thrust line of the 737 airframe has never been directly addressed.

  14. Will not fly a Max reguardless. Not because it might become a lawn dart however. Because Boeing knowingly skipped corners and deserves to have this aircraft branded as a management failure.

  15. I would not get into one of those deadly machine no matter how many tests it went through. hell noooo !!!!

  16. God is good all the time. The test is going to be dpne as early september?? Let us see for sometime the Max to be certified and get it’s recertification. Pilots with out passenger need to fly at least for a month back and forth from us to Ethiopia and from us to Indonesia or from a country to country around the globe to see how it stays safe for how many hours on the sky/Air. In my openion This might give trust for the passengers in those two country that crash happened .

  17. I’m not understanding the larger engine closer to ground level and the installation of software to compensate for it.
    Don’t pilots fly the plane anymore?
    I understand computer data is helpful.
    What I am wondering is a pilot capable of flying an airplane without using any type of computerization?
    I want a pilot flying the plane,
    Not a computer

  18. I’m Barny and have worked in the aviation industry starting in 1966. My background training is in engineering and my business of 46 years was in aircraft maintenance , engineering and major aircraft modifications. I have worked with FAA engineers , inspectors , manufactures and have trust and respect for the aviation industry. I have listened to all the complaints about the two MAX accidents and feel that a big Pat of the failure can be the lack of experience of the crews who manned these two aircraft. When the crew members are paging thru the aircrafts “operating manual” !!!! Crews should be familiar with the aircraft and have many hours in the simulators before getting behind the “wheel” , learning and having knowledge of all the various required systems just as is required to operate ANY other type of aircraft. As soon as these aircraft are recertified I wouldn’t hesitate climbing aboard , they will be safe !!!!

    1. when they are told in advance whats been fitted to the aircraft, why do you think the PILOTS are suing boeing and the FAA , another brainless moron like trump

  19. @Horst
    You are wrong about the inability to correctly control (i.e. monitor and correct) digitally (i.e. hardware + software) an aerodynamic design flaw (i.e. flight instability) introduced either by design (majority of 4th and 5th generation fighter jets to ensure their nimble maneuverability) or by altering an existing aircraft (B737 MAX). The point is – it must be done correctly. In the case of B737 MAX, it wasn’t. Digital measures are meant to continuously monitor and correct the instable aerodynamics to ensure the flight stability without pilot’s intervention. Without this digital assistance the plane would invariably sooner or later enter a most likely unrecoverable pattern.
    And btw. Airbus new aircraft models also tend to suffer from plethora of dangerous flaws that are being addressed post implementation and aircraft deliveries. So both Boeing and Airbus competing for sales orders committed the cardinal sin to rush the development and certification without adequately testing the new digital (or other) necessary solutions.

  20. Enlighten yourself and read today’s New York Times Magazine article, which outlines pilot training issues LARGELY IGNORED BY THE PUBLIC/BLOGGERS, including you. It’s not as simple as you think it is.

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