Amer­i­can to re­sume fly­ing 737 Max in Jan­uary, but FAA not yet aboard

The Morning Call - - BUSINESS CYCLE - By Lori Aratani

Amer­i­can Air­lines said Wed­nes­day it ex­pects fed­eral of­fi­cials to sign off on soft­ware up­dates and other changes to Boe­ing’s 737 Max jets later this year and that it plans to re­sume pas­sen­ger ser­vice on the air­craft on Jan. 16.

“Amer­i­can Air­lines an­tic­i­pates that the im­pend­ing soft­ware up­dates to the Boe­ing 737 Max will lead to re­cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of the air­craft later this year and re­sump­tion of com­mer­cial ser­vice in Jan­uary 2020,” the air­line said in a state­ment. “We are in con­tin­u­ous contact with the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion (FAA) and Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion (DOT).”

De­spite Amer­i­can’s an­nounce­ment, FAA of­fi­cials main­tained there is no time­line for re­turn­ing the planes to ser­vice. The FAA said it has not given air­lines a date for when the ground­ing will be lifted.

“The FAA is fol­low­ing a thor­ough process, not a pre­scribed time­line, for re­turn­ing the Boe­ing 737 Maxto pas­sen­ger ser­vice,” the agency said in an email. “The FAA is con­tin­u­ing to eval­u­ate Boe­ing’s soft­ware mod­i­fi­ca­tion and is still de­vel­op­ing nec­es­sary train­ing re­quire­ments.”

Amer­i­can’s date for re­sum­ing ser­vice with the Max would make it the last of the ma­jor car­ri­ers to re­sume fly­ing the Max un­der dates that have been an­nounced. South­west Air­lines, which has the most Max jets of any U.S. car­rier, has re­moved the jets from its sched­ule un­til Jan. 5, while United Air­lines has re­moved the Max from its sched­ule un­til Dec. 19.

Amer­i­can’s an­nounce­ment comes nearly seven months af­ter reg­u­la­tors around the world grounded the Max in the wake of two fa­tal crashes that killed 346 peo­ple. This month marks the an­niver­sary of the Oct. 29 crash of a Lion Air flight that plunged into the Java Sea shortly af­ter take­off, killing all 189 pas­sen­gers and crew aboard. A fi­nal re­port on that crash is ex­pected later this year.

Less than five months later, a 737 Max fly­ing un­der the Ethiopian Air­lines ban­ner went down shortly af­ter take­off from Ad­dis Ababa Bole In­ter­na­tional Air­port on March 10, killing all 157 pas­sen­gers and crew. In both in­stances, pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tions pointed to is­sues with an anti-stall sys­tem known as the Ma­neu­ver­ing Char­ac­ter­is­tics Aug­men­ta­tion Sys­tem, which was de­signed to com­pen­sate for changes to the plane’s de­sign.

Amer­i­can said that flights on the 737 Max will re­sume start­ing Jan. 16, and will grad­u­ally in­crease through­out Jan­uary and into Fe­bru­ary. The air­line noted that since the num­ber of flights on 737 Max jets will slowly in­crease over the course of a month, there may be ad­di­tional sched­ule changes.

Amer­i­can said it is work­ing on ac­com­mo­da­tions for trav­el­ers who do not wish to travel on the 737 Max once it re­sumes fly­ing.

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