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737 Max Return to Service: Expectations & Remaining Safety Questions

By a B737 Airline Pilot (video report in article)

The 737 Max return to service is going to present some serious challenges. Airlines, Boeing, aviation authorities around the world, and passengers are all going to be on pins and needles in anticipation. The challenges consist of expectations as well as remaining safety questions centered around the 737 Max product.

737 Max Return to service date

Airlines keep coming out with revised dates for when they plan on placing the Max into service again. All these dates set by individual airlines are just guesstimates. Airline operations center around planning, but only the FAA in cooperation with Boeing can recertify a return.

The FAA’s stance on recertification

In a recent announcement the FAA issued the following statement:

“Our first priority is safety, and we have set no timeframe for when the work will be completed.”

Worldwide aviation regulators differences

Traditionally global regulators follow the FAA’s lead in decision making and flight safety regulations. In regards to the Max recertification, aviation authorities around the world will most likely conduct their own independent analysis of the decision whether or not return the Max to service.

After recertification, the Max return to service won’t magically happen overnight

As soon as the 737 Max has been recertified by the FAA it will take time before airlines will have it operationally ready. Aspects such as scheduling, crew training, repositioning of airplanes, and other things have to be coordinated.

Will passengers fly the 737 MAX again?

Reactions from the flying public are expected to be mixed. But, Americans in particular, tend to “forget” tragedies easily. But this, in my mind, comes from the forward-looking and positive “can do” attitude that most Americans have.

How airlines will handle return to service

Airlines worldwide will have their own policies and guidelines for how they implement the return of Max.

Andrew Nocella, United Airlines’ Chief Commercial Officer said,

“If you get to the gate and it’s not an airplane you want to fly on for whatever reason, if it’s a Max, we’ll put you on another flight.”

Is the 737 Max going to be truly safe?

Well, that is the million-dollar question that will remain, even after the airplane has been recertified for flight.

The opinions of airline pilots currently flying the 737

Speaking to hundreds of fellow airline pilots currently flying the Boeing 737 the opinions are mixed. I am also a current Boeing 737 pilot myself. 737 airline pilots commonly appear to have a cautious opinion of the 737 Max.

There are generally three different opinions about the 737 Max-return commonly prevailing:

  1. The 737 Max should be considered fixed and safer with the new modifications. 
  2. The 737 Max problems, although extremely serious, have been blown out of proportion. Pilots are concerned about Boeing’s financial recovery as a result. Boeing and the FAA are both doing a great job safely recertifying the airplane. Many pilots feel that Boeing, as well as the FAA, have been falsely accused of not doing their jobs correctly.

And now perhaps the most explosive angle of opinions among some pilots:

3. There is more to the 737 Max problem than a faulty computer and the integrity of the AOA (Angle Of Attack) system. (More on this below).

The 737 Max is an advanced development of a 1960s airplane frame and systems

After return to service, there will still be unanswered questions. How far can Boeing stretch or further develop an old airplane design, technology, and systems before it’s no longer feasible or safe to do so?

737 Max, oversized engines on the wrong wing?

The wing of the Max is simply an enhanced 1960s wing design shaped into more efficient aerodynamics, mounted with oversized engines, never intended for the construction of a Boeing 737.

So, the question is, has Boeing attached these new larger engines to the wrong wing-design, potentially causing further Max problems down the line?

The real reason why the B737 max crashed?

Whether it carries any merit or not, it’s interesting to note what’s presented in the video below, by the news site VOX:

The real reason Boeing’s new plane crashed twice. Title & Credit: VOX/YouTube.

737 Max Updates

Updates about the 737 Max are dynamic, changing often. For accurate information on the status of what Boeing is doing to get the Max recertified you can go directly to Boeing’s status-page here.

B737 max return to service, Max 10
The 737 Max looks beautiful in this picture. Photo: Boeing.

About the Author

Captain Jimmy

Captain Jimmy (Nickname “Afterburner”) is a B737 captain for a major U.S. airline, a U.S. fighter pilot in the military Reserves, and an aviation journalist for Captain Jetson Aviation & Travel News. He has 12,000 hours of flight time in different models of the Boeing 737 for his airline, and he has accumulated more than 4,000 hours in fighter jets.

Featured Image: Boeing.

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