Is the Boeing 737 Max ready

Boeing's problem plane 737 Max is about to make a comeback

It was the longest worldwide flight ban for a passenger aircraft in the history of civil aviation and has been in effect since March 13, 2019 until today. Now it has been repealed by the US FAA. For the return of the 737 Max, Boeing has to meet various requirements, such as installing new control software.

American Airlines has already added the first scheduled scheduled flights with the Boeing aircraft between New York and Miami to its reservation system for December 29th. After two crashes with a total of 346 deaths, Boeing's bestseller was banned from flying around the world. It had previously been found that deficiencies and malfunctions in the new MCAS flight trim system were the main causes of the disasters, but also that the pilots had deliberately not trained in the use of MCAS for reasons of cost.

Surveillance scandal of a different kind

At the same time, blatant deficiencies in the official supervision of the manufacturer Boeing came to light, the FAA had previously delegated essential supervisory tasks to Boeing itself. The findings had permanently damaged both the credibility and business of the world's largest aircraft manufacturer Boeing and called into question a system of approval procedures for new aircraft that had been in place around the world for decades. Above all, the role of the FAA, whose orders had previously been followed almost automatically by all other licensing authorities in the world.

Flowers and burning candles on a memorial wall for the victims of the Ethiopia crash on March 10, 2019

The European flight safety agency EASA, based in Cologne, has already announced that it will soon join the FAA's re-admission of the 737 Max. The European authority had previously expressed its satisfaction with the changes to the aircraft type, especially in the software of the MCAS trim system. This means that nothing stands in the way of the Boeing problem child taking off again with European airlines.

At the same time, EASA also requires the development of another so-called synthetic sensor for the unambiguous detection of the flight situation by the on-board systems. However, their development should take place while operations are already running again, as it can take up to two years.

Airlines need the new machine

The fact that flight operations with the 737 Max will soon be up again despite the low number of passengers due to the corona pandemic is very much in the interest of at least one European customer. "The machine is the key to our future strategy," says Ryanair boss Eddie Wilson. "The sooner they come, the better. We are ready for it, because with the 737 Max we can further reduce costs."

Finished Boeing 737 Max, parked at the manufacturer in Seattle

The Irish low-cost airline is the largest European buyer of the model with 135 orders, but was not one of the customers who had a total of 385 aircraft of the type in service before the flight ban. "We assume that we will fly the Max next summer at the latest," said the Ryanair boss now during an online event.

No rush to collect

However, for most of the other customers, including Norwegian Air Shuttle (110 orders), Turkish Airlines (75) and the TUI Group (72) in Europe, there is no great urgency to collect the 470 aircraft now parked in Seattle and the surrounding area . "Because of the virus, nobody is in a hurry except Boeing," says Sean Broderick, an expert on flight safety at the US industry portal "Aviation Week". Because Boeing is only paid for when it is handed over, the idle machines cost the manufacturer money beforehand.

And in the meantime, many customers have dropped out - of the previous almost 4400 orders for the supposedly successful model, 1043 have now been canceled or converted to other types of aircraft. In October alone there was a decrease in the order backlog of 448 units.

Since the grounding, Boeing has continued to produce, although production has been idle for a total of five months since the beginning of the year. "Of these 470 finished machines, about 60 currently have no customers," says Sean Broderick, "but overall the airlines want the Max because it is so much more efficient." The aircraft is even supposed to fly long-haul flights and is planned for transatlantic flights with the Canadian company WestJet.

How do I tell my customers?

First of all, all pilots trained for the 737 Max now have to complete their additional training as soon as the procedures, requirements and content have been officially approved. The five-hour training consists of two hours in the simulator and a one-hour training session on the plane. This can take months for several thousand pilots at large operators - at American Airlines for all 2,500 people affected, for example, until March of next year.

Pulled out of circulation: 737 Max from various airlines, parked in Moses Lake, Washington state

It is particularly important not only to keep an eye on the pilots of large western airlines - the accidents happened in Indonesia and Ethiopia. "It has to be more about the global pilot standards and how they get along with the Max philosophy, that's one of the lessons from the incidents," says Sean Broderick. At least as big will be the task for the airlines to get their employees and, above all, passengers used to the idea that they can now travel safely in the 737 Max, which was previously known as the unlucky aircraft.

"For some passengers, the problem of getting back into a Max will be greater than the fear of the coronavirus," suspects Broderick. American Airlines is already planning extensive campaigns such as sightseeing flights for employees and frequent flyers, as well as Max tours at airports and online question-and-answer sessions with pilots and mechanics. European operators such as TUIfly in Germany are also planning to present the 737 Max to the public as a now safe aircraft.

The article was published on 17.11. 2020 published and on November 18. updated.