American Airlines have been flying their executives, employees and journalists onboard the newly-certified Boeing 737 MAX this week, as the airline aims to boost passenger confidence in the troubled jet.

Chris Sloan was onboard the short 737 MAX flight from Dallas, TX to their maintenance base in Tulsa, OK on Wednesday; prior to departure American detailed safety improvements and strategies for bolstering public confidence, including allowing passengers to view the jet.

American Airlines 737 MAX
American Airlines 737 MAX
American Airlines 737 MAX Flight Program. Photo Chris Sloan

The flight was piloted by Peter Gamble, who received applause when the MAX touched down after a safe and uneventful 45-minute hop. Wednesday’s flight was the first that anyone besides regulators and industry personnel flew on the MAX since the grounding.

“The history of aviation is built around a chain of safety… When the chain of safety breaks it’s up to those of us in the industry to mend it and bring it back.

Captain Peter Gamble
American Airlines 737 MAX Cabin
American Airlines 737 MAX Flight. Photo Chris Sloan

At AA Tulsa Tech Ops

Upon arrival into Tulsa, we observed many of the 737 MAX fleet spread out all over the airfield.

Roger Steele of AA TechOps notes that each aircraft will take six to eight days for the new MCAS software updates (which takes six hours). The aircraft also require rewiring of certain flight control system and other FAA directives for each aircraft to be certified to fly again.

Following the engineering rework, each aircraft will be put through a two-hour Operational Readiness Flight (ORF); with particular emphasis on testing the aircraft’s MCAS software updates and runaway trim. The timeline for 24 737 MAXs to be re-certified is by the end of January 2021.

Training for the 2,700 737 MAX line pilots began in early December, with the goal of having them trained by the end of March. The pilots are being subjected to classroom training and two-hour simulator sessions, with handling runaway stabilizer trim and MCAS scenarios at the top of the list.

“We’ve left nothing to chance…”

Ken Kagal of AA Tech Ops

American will become the first US airline to resume commercial flights utilising the MAX. They plan to start flights between Miami and New York LaGuardia Airport on 29th December.

For their first full month of MAX operations in January 2021, American has only filed 170 flights utilising the aircraft. It is expected that the return to normal service will be gradual, made even more so due to the COVID passenger downturn.

“No Pressure” to Fly on the MAX

Considering the large distrust for the MAX, even after such an overhaul, American has opted to notify all passengers that they will be specifically flying on the aircraft.

In addition to the elimination of change fees for most customers announced in August 2020, in the immediate term, American will also provide additional flexibility for those who would rather fly on something else. This also applies if a customers’ flights are shifted to a MAX in the event of a cancellation. Customers can:

  • Rebook on the next available flight in the same cabin — free of charge
  • Cancel their trip and receive travel credits redeemable with American Airlines
  • Change their itinerary within a 300-mile radius at no extra charge, if there is no alternative American Airlines flight available to get them to their destination
American Airlines 737 MAX Cruise
B737 MAX Inflight on yesterday’s flight. Picture: Chris Sloan