Alaska Airlines is planning on taking its first Boeing 737 MAX in 2021. The airline, which has a hefty fleet of Boeing 737 Next Generations, is excited about the MAX’s improved economics and is looking forward to welcoming its passengers onboard the aircraft from March next year.
Alaska Airlines is gearing up for its first MAX
With the FAA recertifying the 737 MAX on November 18th, Alaska Airlines is looking forward to taking its first of the type in 2021. The first 737 MAX 9 is due at the airline in January of 2021. In March, Alaska Airlines will be conducting the first passenger 737 MAX flights two months after delivery.
There are currently three 737 MAX 9s already built and painted in the Alaska livery. A fourth is set to come off the assembly line by the end of the month. All of these are currently stored and maintained by Boeing. One is in San Antonio, Texas, and the other two are at Boeing Field in Seattle.
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In addition to the three built and one in progress, Alaska Airlines expects to take two more 737 MAX 9s in 2021. The airline has firm orders for 32 of the type with options for another 37.
Max Tidwell, Alaska’s Vice President of Safety and Security, stated the following:
“As a safety professional with decades of experience, including many years with the FAA, I’ve had the opportunity to stay very close to the FAA and Boeing through the grounding and recertification of the 737 MAX. I’m very confident with all the steps the FAA and Boeing have taken and the steps we’re taking at Alaska to prepare us to safely bring this aircraft into our fleet.”
Where will the MAX fly?
Alaska Airlines will begin MAX flights between Seattle and Los Angeles, Seattle and San Diego, Portland and Las Vegas, and Portland and Los Angeles. After a few months in operation, MAX operations will expand to East Coast flights. The jets are ETOPS-certified, so they can fly to Hawaii, but Alaska has not yet announced if they will be flying the MAX to Hawaii.
Alaska has announced that its 737 MAX 9s will carry 178 passengers. This includes 16 in first class, 24 in extra-legroom economy, and 138 in standard economy. This configuration is the same as the 737-900s in Alaska’s fleet.
When booking a flight, Alaska Airlines does display the aircraft model operating the flight. MAX flights will be designated as “737-9 MAX”. The MAX is an integral part of Alaska’s future fleet strategy, which could see it move back to a “Proudly All Boeing” carrier.
A rigorous review process
While Alaska Airlines does have confidence in the recertification process, the airline knows that it is not enough to get passengers onboard. So, the carrier will spend two months working with the MAX before it enters revenue commercial service.
The airline will be flying the MAX over 50 flight hours all over the country spanning 19,000 miles. These “proving flights” are designed to confirm the airline’s safety assessments and also give pilots the chance to demonstrate and ensure a full understanding of the airplane’s capabilities in different climates, terrains, and normal flight.
The MAX will fly up and down the West Coast, to airports in the state of Alaska, transcontinental, and to and from Hawaii on these proving flights.
In addition to this, pilots are also going to begin the eight hours of flight simulator and computer-based training that focuses on the operation of the MAX. Alaska states this is more extensive than the FAA’s requirement.
In addition to this, all maintenance technicians are undergoing a minimum of 40 hours of training on the variations between the MAX and the existing 737 Next Generation fleet. Certain technicians may also receive up to 40 hours of additional specialized training. Flight attendants will also complete computer-based training. One difference Alaska noted is that life vests, normally stowed below the seats, are stowed in overhead compartments on the MAX.
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