It’s been 20 months since the aircraft was grounded, and the FAA have now finally certified the aircraft as fit to fly and carry fare paying passenegers.
In rather bizarre wording the FAA claimed to have “thoroughly vetted the aircraft this time”, which is in many ways a shameful admission that they failed miserably to do so the first time round, which is of course true.
Now comes the restoration of the in service but grounded aircraft to their owners (some 485 of them), all of which have to undergo some kind of modification, and all pilots will have to be retrained.
Southwest for example thinks the process will take so long they have no plans to fly the MAX until the end of March 2021.
There is then the situation of what to do with the built but never delivered aircraft, comprising nearly another 400. All will need modifications, and most of them have reluctant to take delivery airlines, some 40 will never be delivered at all to the original customer.
The airlines are also pushing hard for a rebranding of the aircraft by Boeing and trying to find a way of making the aircraft palatable to customers reluctant to fly on it.
You have two schools of thought. There are those that believe that no matter what you do to this aircraft it is essentially a flawed design – many aircraft engineers still think this is the case, and that no matter what Boeing do to it, they think it will always be high risk. Sadly, I find myself in this group. I’ve seen far too many convincing arguments that this aircraft is just essentially a mistake from the day it was concocted.
The other school of thought is that Boeing and the FAA especially, followed by EASA, have gone over the aircraft with such a fine tooth comb it’s now possibly the safest any aircraft has ever been. You pay your money and make your choice!
Would you fly on it?