Boeing 737 MAX returns to skies with media onboard
DALLAS: Boeing’s 737 MAX made its first public appearance with media onboard since being grounded over fatal crashes, as one of its biggest customers, American Airlines, seeks to prove it is safe for passengers.
Wednesday’s flight from Dallas, Texas, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, comes weeks before the first commercial passenger flight on Dec. 29, and is part of a concerted PR effort to restore the jet’s image following a 20-month ban.
American Airlines Chief Executive Doug Parker said on Instagram he had flown on the MAX with his wife and airline colleagues on Tuesday “with the utmost peace of mind”.
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Boeing’s best-selling jet was grounded in March 2019 after two crashes in five months killed a combined 346 people, marking the industry’s worst safety crisis in decades and undermining U.S. aviation regulatory leadership.
Wednesday’s flight marks the first time anyone besides regulators and industry personnel have flown on the MAX since the grounding, which rocked the aviation industry and ignited investigations focusing on software that overwhelmed pilots.
Last month, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration cleared the jet following design changes and new training.
A smooth return to service for the MAX is seen as critical for Boeing’s reputation and finances, which have been hit hard by a freeze on MAX deliveries as well as the coronavirus crisis.
It is bracing for intense publicity from even routine glitches by manning a 24-hour “situation room” to monitor every MAX flight globally, and has briefed some industry commentators on details on the return to service, industry sources said.
Boeing has said that airlines will take a direct role in demonstrating to passengers that the 737 MAX is safe.
“We are continuing to work closely with global regulators and our customers to safely return the fleet to commercial service,” a spokesman said.
Brazil’s Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes is planning a similar media event this month, with cautious hopes to fly its first commercial flights as soon as next week.