Boeing’s ailing 737 Max aircraft is expected to carry revenue passengers over the skies of the United States for the first time in nearly two years on Tuesday.
These passengers will be aboard American Airlines Flight 718, which is scheduled to depart Miami just after 10:30 a.m. and land in New York at 1:30 p.m., ending a long and difficult chapter for Boeing.
The Max was grounded around the world in March 2019 after 346 people were killed in two crashes, separated by months, in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Accidents and disclosures about the plane’s deficiencies have seriously damaged the company’s reputation and cost it tens of billions of dollars in damages, government fines and lost orders.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which has been criticized by lawmakers and safety experts for doing a poor job of certifying the Max in the first place, last month became the first major regulator to lift its grounding order. and to allow Boeing and the airlines that use the Max to start making the changes necessary to fly the plane again.
The FAA has since been joined by regulators in Brazil. Canadian and European aviation officials are expected to follow up with approvals within weeks.
Families of those killed aboard the two fatal flights say the Max is still unfit to fly. Last week, they said in a letter to US lawmakers that “the whole recertification process is suspect.” A Senate committee released a scathing report this month criticizing Boeing and the FAA for their failures in security and surveillance.
The Americans plan to use the Max for daily flights between Miami International Airport and La Guardia Airport through Monday. The airline plans to increase service throughout January, using the Max for up to 36 flights from Miami each day, according to a letter US executives sent to employees last month. Tuesday’s flight can accommodate 172 people, 16 in business class and the rest in economy class.
United Airlines said it plans to start using the Max in the first quarter of 2021. Southwest Airlines, a major Boeing customer that operates a fleet entirely of 737s, said it does not plan to fly the plane until. the second trimester. Delta Air Lines does not use the plane.
It will be important for the public perception of Boeing and the Max that the first months of flight are free of major problems. Last week, Air Canada was forced to hijack a Max plane moved from Marana, Ariz. To Montreal due to an engine problem. The plane landed in Tucson, Arizona without incident, the airline said.