When Will The Boeing 737 MAX Fly Again?

The Boeing 737 MAX was grounded earlier this month. Since then, a hot question has been “When will the aircraft fly again?” Simple Flying takes a look at the fixes being implemented, in addition to what operators think of the aircraft.

It’s now been 19 days since the Ethiopian Airlines accident which saw 157 lives lost when flight ET302 plummeted to the ground shortly after takeoff. While China was the first to ground the jet, it took the US until March 13th to ground the jet. This action was finally announced by President Trump in a rather unusual move.

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TUI believes the B737 MAX will be grounded until at least mid-July. Photo: Boeing.

Anti-stall software

While we await the official results into the two accidents that caused the grounding of the 737 MAX, some facts seem well established. It looks as though both accidents were caused by the aircraft’s anti-stall system. The aircraft has an additional MCAS system due to its design. This is to stop the aircraft stalling, due to its differing centre of gravity to older 737 models.

Boeing has been working on a fix to the anti-stall software for some time now. However, Reuters today reported that regulators including EASA knew that the MAX’s trim control was confusing.

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Norwegian has 18 grounded 737 MAX aircraft. Photo: Norwegian

When will the 737 MAX fly again?

There is currently great uncertainty in the industry as to when the Boeing 737 MAX will fly again. While American Airlines pilots are testing out the software fix in Boeing’s simulators, much more still needs to be done. Firstly, the manufacturer needs to convince the FAA that the fix has remedied the problem. Next, it then has to convince other agencies including EASA.

After convincing aviation authorities that the aircraft is safe, the manufacturer will then need to convince airlines that the aircraft is once again safe. We know that airlines are not just acting on authority’s orders, as many grounded the plane before their respective aviation authority. Finally, Boeing will need to convince the public that the aircraft is safe to fly.

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Southwest has begun to store their 737 MAX aircraft in the desert. Photo: Southwest Airlines

What do airlines think?

There is no clear consensus on when the Boeing 737 MAX will fly again according to airlines. However, it seems as though some airlines are banking on using the aircraft from July. Air Canada has currently removed the aircraft from its schedules until 1st July, while TUI has arranged cover for the aircraft until mid-July. TUI did, however, tell The Independent that there was “considerable uncertainty around when the 737 Max will return to service”. Additionally, Norwegian Airlines confirmed 18 of their aircraft are grounded. Additionally, a Comair representative added: “We continue to consult with Boeing, technical experts and other operators.”

Simple Flying additionally contacted Southwest Airlines for comment, however, is still awaiting a response from each.

When do you think we will see the aircraft in the skies again? Would you trust it following recertification? Let us know in the comments down below!

23 comments
  1. It’s not the center of gravity that’s the issue but the forward position of the engines gives a longer moment arm that wants to raise the nose especially with more thrust available. The center of gravity would push the nose down from being moved forward. The pilots should have realized that they had stab trim runway and needed to hit the two shut off switches and manually adjust the stab trim.

    1. Wrongo Old guy… The power moment (i.e. to raise the nose) is a result of thrust, the centerline for the 737 Max thrust is only slightly altered due to the position of the engines, the much greater thrust produced by the new CFM Leap engine is the source of increased pitch forces during take-off and climb. The larger diameter of the new engine and cowling is also an aggravating factor in high angle-of-attack configuration (i.e. climb) as cowling causes a lift shadow over that portion of the wing directly downstream of the engine. This requires an increase in AoA to counter the loss. FTR during the first segments of take-off and initial climb pilots are monitoring airspeed and attitude indicators, power settings and thrust, flap settings, and looking outside if required – the well-marked trim wheels may not be visible to them as the MCAS system engages. Also, MCAS should only engage once the flaps have been retracted – when pilots are still checking airspeed, getting further departure headings/altitudes, and configuring for cruise-climb (the trim wheels move frequently during this phase so the extreme excursions from faulty MCAS inputs may not be recognized).

  2. It’s not the center of gravity that’s the issue but the forward position of the engines gives a longer moment arm that wants to raise the nose especially with more thrust available. The center of gravity would push the nose down from being moved forward. The pilots should have realized that they had stab trim runway and kill to hit the two shut off switches and manually adjust the stab trim. The stab trim wheels are large diameter wheels that spin right by the pilots and colors knees. They move whenever the stabilizer is moved.

  3. The stabalizer position indicator is right by the large wheels and is quite large, one by the captain and one by the co pilots in the console between them along with the stabilizer cutout switches

    1. There have been issues already. But the issues were whether “saved” by pilots understanding that the trim was moving, and the disconnected the pumps to it.

      There have been flights (the one before the 1st crash) where the AOA (angle of attack) measurement device was giving wrong indications to the pilot and to the computer.
      As the 2 factors of a stall situation are the speed and the angle of attack, when there is an alert, it is possible to try to stabilize the altitude, increase the speed. However, this is only working if the information received on the computer or partially wrong (not the right measures, but not bad enough to cause a crash).

      The problem here is that the computer makes a decision without the pilot being involved, and that there is only one device that makes the measure. So when the device is wrong, the computer does the wrong maneuver.
      Airbus is using much more the concept of “flight envelop” controlled by computer. However, the pilots know it, and are trained to deactivate the systems that could make a mistake and that are not needed to fly. Plus, the concept of redundancy is seriously applied.
      Boeing didn’t inform the pilots of that system. And Boeing pilots who are “proud” to say that they are the pilots and that Airbus pilots are “only” computer operators, however, not expecting the computer to make undesired moves may have completely surprised untrained pilots to this specific situation… Plus, not having any redundancy is the most basic mistake possible in aviation. Each system has to be doubled / tripled.

  4. According to preliminary information released by Boeing, the new MCAS software will be limited to making just one nose-down correction if the AOA sensor indicates excessive pitch-up. So, if AOA really is excessive (not just an erroneous sensor reading), there’s now the risk of a stall if the pilots override that single MCAS attempt. It might be prudent to wait a few months before getting on a MAX…assuming that the new software gets approved by regulators 😉

  5. You still have the standard stall warning which shakes the control column, which is how they have done it for over 60 years.

  6. I think Airlines with the MAX in their fleet are going to take a huge knock. The general public wont really trust this aircraft, well not initially anyway.

    I’m still gobsmacked how this was not picked up in testing, and also not incorporated into simulators.

  7. I am 100% convinced that Boeing will fix this problem. I think that between the fix and improved pilot awareness of the MCAS issues, there should not be any more problems of this type. I also point out that pilots operating North American aircraft might have experienced MCAS problems but knew how to manage things. So pilot training at the international level must be emphasized!

  8. I would gladly board a MAX today with the properly trained pilots in the US or EU. There is nothing wrong with this aircraft only the training and experience of the third world operators. Boeing did screw up by emphasizing the similarities between the MAX and other 737s and sugar coating the differences though.

    1. It was reported weeks ago that at least 5 US flight crews had reported serious incidents with MCAS before the MAX was grounded. It is unfair to pin this on “third world” flight crews…

  9. Boeing have lost my trust. I will not be flying aboard this plane and will keep an eye on airlines that continue to utilize these aircrafts.

  10. I will never ever board a Boing! 737 MAX of any variant, shape, or size. There are ways to determine what type of aircraft you will be flying on. If I find out it is one of these misdesigned disasters I will cancel my flight or try to change to another flight that has a different (i e safer) design. No doubt that the public will finally kill this malignant beastie.

    1. The problem is, with over 4,000 on order it is very likely we will all be flying 737 MAX’s one day. If we all cancelled them, then Boeing would go out of business.

      1. These accidents have energized the public and the authorities in a way not previously seen. Don’t bet yet that the MAX will return to service. Every day is revealing new dead rats under the floorboards…

  11. The reason I left aviation in 1997 was the interference of money over safety. I loved flying and have over 20,000 hours as a regional air line Captain. I still fly my hang gliders, my first love in aviation. The reason I left my airline was new aircraft that I did not want to be a test pilot on. They may test these new aircraft at the manufacturer but the real test is on the flight line. Not to mention all the security issues involved in flying safely. I love aviation and I’m a 69 year old Hang Glider Pilot with over 2000 hours in Hang Gliders . I’m also an Airframe And Power Plant Mechanic. My philosophy in aviation is practice aviation that causes no accident! I Have two hang gliders for sale but I can’t find qualified buyers. What I’m trying to say and I’m talking to every one in aviation is if man were meant to fly he would have been born with wings. But even the birds screw up. Never be in a rush to get airborne ,always put your safety as number one. As an airline pilot, I found it impossible to keep track of all the issues involved In flying safely. There are so many philosophies on safety,that’s what scares me. Who draws the line on safety? When I fly my hang glider I do. Remember, your the pilot in command of your own life weather your a pilot or a passenger how badly do you want to fly. Life is precious ! Way all the risks. Captain Mark H Wirth

  12. Hmmm… to produce an aircraft today (clearly under competitive pressure) that has the worst aerodynamics of its type is ridiculous! The flying public are smart enough to know a software “fix” for a hardware problem is not a good idea. Cancel production of the aircraft and create the new one you were going to introduce back in 2011. Boeing has “MAXED OUT” the design of a 1960’s airframe and is a better company than this aircraft!

  13. Never. No one will fly another boeing max ever again. Perhaps in the us, but those would be all internal flights as the rest of the world will refuse to let those plans and.
    I imagine pilots unions will plain refuse to ever fly them as well.

    Furthermore Boeing will not be trsted ny anyone for decades and they will be unable to ever again sell anything again. Yes people will go to jail, but trust will not return in at least half a century and no company can survive that. So right now the shares are essentially worthless.

  14. The safety requirements over the years have become complacent all over the build and operations
    They seem to have forgotten the reason for static testing I do not know but even software
    disturbance may be a problem

  15. this plane is really not safe anymore these changes were made to save fule unfortuley the system to left the nose isnot working propley becase the new desige to move engines forward on plane is not worth this problem I would problet thing going back to old plane desige would be the safe thing to do how every you thing about this the loved ones lost in both events make you think that these new plaines are not worth flying again how ever much money you spend on them yours sincirly robert

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