DALLAS (NewsNation Now) — American Airlines hosted the first public flight Wednesday of the Boeing 737 MAX since the plane was grounded in 2019. Members of the media were on board for a quick trip from Dallas to Tulsa, Oklahoma in an effort to redeem the aircraft’s reputation.
Following 20 months of intense inspection, the Boeing 737 MAX is ready for takeoff. On Tuesday night, final cockpit modifications were made to the aircraft that has been grounded worldwide since March of 2019 following two deadly crashes within five months that killed 346 passengers.
The preparation was for Wednesday morning when journalists climbed aboard an American Airlines MAX to see what the new bird was made of and how safe the flight really felt. This pre-flight checklist carried the weight of a reputation needing revival.
Boeing is in the thick of a campaign to allay flying fears and address the mixed reactions received from passengers.
“And the truth is, there’s a lot of skepticism about this plane,” said travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt.
Harteveldt was invited on the 45-minute media flight from Dallas and Tulsa, but couldn’t make it from California. He says transparency is the name of the game, and he applauds Boeing for its efforts in the wake of tragedy.
“If this were a movie, the 737 MAX would have been the ‘it’ girl or ‘it’ guy who has everything going for it, and then takes a really bad turn, goes through hell and then is redeemed,” he said. “And this is the part where that redemption begins.”
The new plane comes equipped with simulator training for its pilots, software upgrades and rewiring. However, some relatives of those who died in the crashes still unconvinced of the MAX’s safety. But in the weeks leading up to this first flight, FAA administrator Steve Dickson took to Twitter to let fliers know he has put it to the test.
“I can tell you now that I am 100 percent comfortable with my family flying on it,” said Dickson in the video.
Wednesday’s journey marked the first time industry outsiders flew the MAX since its safety ban. Harteveldt added that fewer fliers during a pandemic is likely advantageous to the companies reintroducing the wings to their fleet. “And that is because they will have a few months to get flights scheduled and operating, and prove that the plane is safe and reliable,” he said.”
Harteveldt told NewsNation he predicts it takes about six months of successful flights before most Americans feel fully comfortable. NewsNation was told today’s flight was a success and met with applause upon the plane’s landing in Tulsa. The 737 MAX is scheduled for its first flight with the general public come December 29th on American Airlines.