After over a year of being grounded, the Boeing 737 MAX has been cleared for test flights. Alongside this progress, United Airlines took a trip with one of its units across the United States yesterday.
It’s been a tough time
The 737 MAX has not seen passenger action since March last year due to two fatal accidents that preceded. Initially, in October 2018, a Lion Air jet crashed into the sea 13 after departing Jakarta. Altogether, there were 189 fatalities due to this incident.
Following this, in March 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines service also crashed soon after taking off. There were 157 confirmed fatalities at the crash site near Bishoftu, Ethiopia.
Since then, Boeing has been working rigorously with bodies such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on addressing the shortcomings of the plane. The issues were blamed on a malfunctioning anti-stall device called the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System, which the manufacturer has since been trying to make less powerful to give pilots more autonomy.
The next stage
Subsequently, the FAA is now allowing for test flights as part of the next stage of the aircraft’s eventual reintroduction. On 29th June, a Boeing 737 MAX 7 took off from Boeing Field for the first round of testing. However, it was not the only MAX in American skies yesterday.
According to FlightAware, a United 737 MAX 9 took off from Goodyear, Arizona, at 13:43 MST to fly all the way to the east coast of the US. It took only four hours and 18 minutes to reach its destination of Orlando, Florida, at 21:01 EDT. Registration N37513 was performing flight number UA2708 for a total distance of 1,993 mi (3207 km).
There were high hopes
Altogether, United Airlines holds 14 of the type in its fleet. The first of these took flight in June 2018 and was expected to help the Chicago-based carrier keep up with busy summer schedules. The company was excited about the jet’s advanced technology winglets and fuel-efficient engines to provide a quieter, more fuel-efficient ride.
However, the plane was inactive last summer, and demand could be minimal for many more months due to the global health crisis. Therefore, the airline is yet to use these units to their full potential. Regardless, the FAA shared that it will take more time to review the advancements made. It will lift the grounding order only after the plane meets certification standards.
Ultimately, it could still be a while before we see the jet on passenger operations again. Even once testing is complete, airlines will have to undergo robust training procedures. However, this week’s flights signal that we are one step closer to the plane’s reintroduction.
Simple Flying reached out to United for comment on this flight. A spokesperson said the airline is moving its 737 MAX aircraft to United’s facilities in Orlando to perform required maintenance.
What are your thoughts on United’s 737 MAX 9? How do you feel about the aircraft’s future reintroduction? Let us know what you think in the comment section.