It’s been over a year and a half since they’ve flown. Countless hours have been spent retooling software and safety systems. The head of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency has approved it. The FAA has approved it.
The Boeing 737 Max is back…and I just flew on one.
With the jet’s reputation, how is American planning on bringing the Boeing 737 Max back into service?
Well, the easiest way of saying it is: they just put it back into the schedule. The first revenue flight of the 737 Max will be on December 29, 2020. I know quite a few friends who will be on that flight, actually. Between now and then, select American team members will go on “flights to nowhere” departing from American hubs around the country so they can be confident in its airworthiness as American, Boeing, and airlines everywhere all work to rebuild the reputation of a jet marred by the tragic crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
Most significantly, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, Parker’s wife, American Airlines President Robert Isom, and other assorted executives were some of the first to fly on the 737 Max last night, as a show of confidence in the jet.
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Their hope is by leading from the front and showing that they’re confident enough to bring their own families onboard that they’ll reassure the public that the plane is safe to fly upon.
My 737 Max flight
My flight began at the charter pad, where athletic teams who charter American flights board their jets on the way to their games. Today the charter pad would host the first semi-public passenger carrying flight in the United States. Front and center, there she stood.
Aesthetically I think the 737 Max is the best canvas for American’s new livery, it feels well-balanced and I love the engine cowlings, similar to the 787. The easiest way to tell an American 737 are the winglets on the underside of the wing. All in all, it’s a beautiful jet.
It was time to board, via air stairs. I grabbed a classic snap from the top of the stairs.
American’s 737 Max also features the most optimized and dense version of their “Oasis” interior design. It has seating for 172 passengers, slimmer seats, and the oft-discussed slim lavatories.
Former flyers of the 737 Max will be pleased to know they’ve fixed the issue where the lavatory doors would open into each other.
The Max also represents an enormous bet by American Airlines that clients would rather consume content on their personal devices instead of seat-back screens. As such, there are no seat-back screens on the 737 Max, rather there are places for putting your phone or tablet and plenty of power ports.
I was looking forward to hopefully seeing AA’s new pre-flight safety video, but then I realized that nobody will see them on the 737 Max (or really any narrow body aircraft) since there weren’t any seat-back screens anymore. The safety briefing was a recording and flight attendants (we had permission to film them) demonstrated things manually.
American staff introduced themselves and gave us the rules of the day. Then the microphone was handed to Captain Pete Gamble. He gave a short but meaningful announcement, saying that airlines and crew are responsible for a “chain of safety” to care for their passengers. That chain had been broken and he said all of American was dedicated to “strengthening that chain”. Gamble referenced Doug Parker’s promise that American would fly the 737 Max when its pilots said it was safe to fly, and told he was happy to fly it.
The flight itself
So, how was my flight? Well, it felt really normal, and that’s a victory for the 737 Max. It actually felt much smoother than I expected but that could’ve been a symptom of the air more than anything I guess. After some light turbulence we reached our cruising altitude and I made sure to actually sit and enjoy the flight for a minute, thankful for the thousands of people involved in getting this jet ready to fly again.
The rest of the trip
We were on our way to American’s Tech Ops maintenance base at Tulsa International Airport. Their maintenance base is the largest such facility in the entire world. What did we learn there? Stay tuned to find out!