American Airlines has issued a press release in which they say that they expect the grounded 737 MAX to be back in service by January 16th, 2020. This is a longer time frame than any other US airline is saying in regards to when they expect the MAX to return. It could affect travel during the busy holiday season.
The world’s largest airline is anticipating that the impending software updates to the Boeing 737 MAX will lead to recertification later in 2019 and then a resumption of commercial service in mid-January next year. The Dallas based carrier says they are in continuous contact with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Transportation (DOT).
American Airlines plans to slowly phase the MAX back into service
Starting January 16th, American Airlines will start slowly phasing the 737 MAX back into commercial service. It plans to increase the number of 737 MAX flights throughout January and into February.
Knowing that some customers will be reluctant to fly in the 737 MAX when it re-enters service, American Airlines says it is working on policies and procedures and will release the details once they are complete.
Why was the Boeing 737 MAX grounded?
Aviation authorities around the world decided to ground Boeing’s best-selling aircraft following the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 on October 29, 2018, and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019.
After having investigated both crashes in which 346 people lost their lives, investigators concluded that it was the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) that caused both of the fatal crashes.
First introduced on the 737 MAX to offset the aircraft’s tendency to pitch up due to its larger, heavier and more powerful engines. Investigators suspect that the MCAS system automatically kicked in by falsely reading a high angle of attack to prevent the aircraft from stalling.
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On both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights the MCAS system activated shortly after take-off forcing the horizontal stabilizer trim motor to push down the aircraft’s nose. Pilots on both flights reported that they were having difficulty controlling the plane and asked to return to the airport.
In other Boeing 737 aircraft simply pulling back on the control column would have disabled electronic control of the stabilizers. Pilots would then have been able to manually control the plane, which was not the case with the MAX.
What has Boeing done to fix the MACS issue?
Since the worldwide grounding of the 737 MAX in mid-March the Associated Press claims that Boeing found a fix for the MCAS back in June and have developed new software that will read input from both of the aircraft’s flight control computers instead of just the one that the MAX was using and is confident that the 737 MAX is safe to fly.
While it seems Boeing is confident that their solution to the MAX issue is resolved the FAA will be under pressure to make sure the airworthiness of the 737 MAX merits its return to service in the United States, while the Canadian, European and Chinese aviation authorities will take longer to decide if the Boeing fix warrants its return to service