American Airlines pushes return of Boeing 737 MAX
By Edwin Kis'sanya

Image [Courtesy]

American Airlines will resume flights with Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft in January 2020.

This will be more than a month beyond the projections of the airline which had hoped to have its fleet that is picking dust back in the skies.

The airline said in a press statement that it expects software updates on the grounded aircraft models to result in their recertification by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“American is extending cancellations for the MAX through December 3. By doing so, our customers and team members can more reliably plan their upcoming travel on American. In total, approximately 140 flights per day will be cancelled through Dec. 3.” the Airline said.

It added: “American Airlines remains confident that impending software updates to the Boeing 737 MAX, along with the new training elements Boeing is developing in coordination with our union partners, will lead to recertification of the aircraft this year.”

Aviation authorities and airlines around the world grounded the Boeing 737 MAX passenger airline in March 2019 following the Ethiopian airline’s crash involving a MAX 8 aircraft.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the aviation regulator in the US ordered the temporary grounding of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft operated by US airlines or its territories on March 13, 2019.

The agency said it made the decision as a result of the data gathering process and new evidence that had been collected at the site of the Ethiopian crash. 

“The grounding will remain in effect pending further investigation including examination of information from the aircraft’s flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders,” FAA said in a statement. 

Following the announcement, American Airlines grounded the MAX in April 2019 leading to the cancellation of approximately 115 flights per day.

Where it all began

Destined for the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi, Flight ET302, an Ethiopian Airline-operated aircraft left Addis Ababa on March 10, 2019. 

The aircraft - Boeing 737 MAX 8 - with registration number ET- AVJ took off at 08:38 am local time from Bole International Airport. 

The pilot, who had worked with the airline for 9 years in a senior position, told air traffic control that he was having difficulties.

He had been given clearance to return to the airport. The aircraft then lost contact. This was six minutes after takeoff.

It wasn't long before devastating news emerged. A Boeing 737 MAX 8, one of Boeing’s 737 Max models had nose-dived into a farm in Bishoftu, a town in the southeast of Addis Ababa.

It was the ET302 plane. The ill-fated 737 MAX aircraft had recorded 1,200 hours of flight time since Boeing delivered it to Ethiopian Airlines. 

An eyewitness told the media that the plane was already on fire before it hit the ground. 

The aircraft had 149 passengers and 8 crew from 35 nationalities on board. None of them survived the crash. Among the victims were eight Americans, 18 Canadians, nine Ethiopians and 32 Kenyans.

Another deadly plane crash involving a Boeing 737 Max 8 happened on October 29, 2018. The aircraft, owned by Lion Air, an Indonesian airline crashed into the Java Sea 13 minutes after takeoff. There were 189 passengers and crew on board. No one survived. 

Investigators found similarities between the two accidents and blamed the MAX’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), software installed on the 737 MAX.  

What is the Boeing 737 MAX?

Boeing has four variants under the 737 MAX model, including MAX 7, 8, 9 and 10. According to the company’s website, the 737 MAX is the fastest-selling aeroplane in the company's history, having accumulated nearly 4,600 orders from more than 100 customers worldwide. 

The 737 MAX 8 has a capacity of between 162-178 seats with a maximum seating of 210 passengers.  The plane is 39.52 meters long with a wingspan of 35.9 meters and has a range of 6,570KM that means the plane’s fuel capacity can allow it to fly for 6,570 KM after take-off, before landing.