November 18, 2020 / The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officially uplifted the ban imposed to the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in March 2019, putting an end to a 20-month grounding of the type, the longest in the history of commercial aviation. The decision has been taken following the introduction of safety upgrades, new training protocols, and extensive safety testing. Included in these requirements are mandatory simulator training sessions for MAX pilots, as well as new software upgrades, both of which address the stall-prevention system, the MCAS, which was at the heart of the two fatal MAX crashes that caused the grounding of the planes.
“This airplane is the most scrutinised airplane in aviation history,” FAA chief Steve Dickson told the media, following the announcement. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) previously stated it intended to lift its grounding order on the jet in November, shortly after the FAA announced its decision. Meanwhile, aviation authorities in Brazil and Canada have both stated they will continue their own reviews into the MAX, however also expect to conclude this process soon. Though questions still remain over whether or not Chinese regulators will lift their ban on the MAX.
Once commercial flights resume, Boeing will reportedly be running a 24-hour “war room” to monitor every MAX flight for potential issues. American Airlines (AA), which already has 24 MAX 8 in its fleet, will be the first to fly it again, on a single daily rotation between New York and Miami starting on December 29, followed by United Airlines (UA) in the first quarter of 2021 and Southwest Airlines (WN) in the second quarter.
Despite the positive news, Boeing still has an uphill battle ahead. The FAA has said it will conduct in-person inspections of the 450 undelivered 737 MAX planes, which it believes could take at least a year to complete. Further, airlines have already made attempts to distance themselves from the tarnished ‘MAX’ brand, with analysts suggesting the MAX name will likely be dropped altogether in the future. (Photo Boeing)