American Airlines flew a Boeing The 737 Max with paying passengers from Miami to New York on Tuesday, the aircraft’s first commercial flight in the US sky since it was grounded after two fatal crashes.
U.S. flight 718 carried 87 passengers in the 172-seat plane, and the return flight from LaGuardia Airport to Miami International Airport carried 151 passengers, according to an airline spokesperson.
Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration approved changes Boeing made to an automated flight control system involved in crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed a total of 346 people. In both crashes, the system repeatedly pushed the nose down due to faulty sensor readings, and the pilots were unable to regain control.
The FAA has allowed U.S. airlines to resume use of the aircraft if certain changes are made, and pilots are given additional training, including time in a flight simulator.
Brazilian airlines Gol operated the first passenger flight with a revamped Max on December 9. Since then, Gol and Aeromexico have operated around 600 flights between themselves using Max jets, according to tracking service Flightradar24 and aeronautical data company Cirium.
The Americans plan to do one round trip a day between Miami and New York with Max jets until Jan.4 before putting the plane on more routes. United Airlines plans to resume Max flights in February, and Southwest Airlines expects to follow in March.
All three airlines say they will give customers the option to change flights if they aren’t comfortable flying the Max.
The Max was grounded around the world in March 2019, days after the second crash. Reports from House and Senate committees blamed Boeing and the FAA for failures in the aircraft’s certification process. Congressional investigators uncovered internal Boeing documents in which company employees raised safety concerns and bragged about deceiving regulators.
FAA administrator Stephen Dickson, a former military and airline pilot, carried out a test flight in September and vouched for the safety of the reworked plane, saying he would put his family there. American Airlines President Robert Isom was on Tuesday’s first US flight, according to the airline.
Relatives of those who died in the second crash, a Max operated by Ethiopian Airlines, say the plane is still unsafe. They and their lawyers claim that Boeing refuses to hand over documents on the design and development of the aircraft.
“The truth is, 346 people are now dead because Boeing has taken shortcuts, lied to regulators and just considers it the cost of doing business,” said Yalena Lopez-Lewis, whose husband died in the crash, in a statement released by his lawyers. . “It is infuriating that American Airlines is in fact rewarding Boeing for the corrupt and catastrophic process that led to the Max.”
Zipporah Kuria, a British citizen whose father also died in the Ethiopian crash, pointed to the recent disclosure in a Senate committee report that Boeing officials trained FAA test pilots reviewing the updates. Boeing update on the Max flight control system.
“Boeing’s leadership is still riddled with deception. Their priorities are not about consumer safety, ”she said in an interview.
Boeing spokesman Bernard Choi said the company “had learned many difficult lessons” from the crashes and was committed to ensuring safety.
“We continue to work closely with global regulators and our customers to support the safe return to service of the fleet worldwide,” said Choi.
The plane’s return to the US skies is a huge boost for Boeing, which lost billions in the Max grounding because it was unable to deliver new planes to airline customers aerial. Plane orders have plummeted. Boeing has removed more than 1,000 Max jets from its backlog because airlines have canceled orders or sales are unsure of ending due to the pandemic crisis in the travel industry.