American Airlines' Ungrounded Boeing Max Planes are Headed Back to Miami

Nov. 19, 2020
American Airlines' Boeing Max planes will be flying from Miami International Airport by the end of the year, after the Federal Aviation Administration lifted its ban on the aircraft Wednesday.

Nov. 18—American Airlines' Boeing Max planes will be flying from Miami International Airport by the end of the year, the company said, after the Federal Aviation Administration lifted its ban on the aircraft Wednesday.

The national air safety agency first grounded the planes in March 2019 following two Boeing Max crashes less than six months apart. The two crashes killed 346 passengers and crew members on Ethiopia Airlines and Indonesia's Lions Air flights.

Federal Aviation Administration chief Stephen Dickson signed an order Wednesday rescinding the grounding. U.S. airlines will be able to fly the Max once Boeing updates critical software and computers on each plane and pilots receive training in flight simulators.

The FAA said in a release that the order was made in cooperation with air safety regulators worldwide.

Before the grounding, MIA's largest airline, American Airlines, based its Max fleet of 24 aircraft in Miami. Since the stoppage, the planes have been stationed at the company's technical operations center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The company has 76 Max planes on order.

American Airlines Chief Operating Officer David Seymour sent a letter to company employees Wednesday after the FAA announced the change, saying the airline is taking a "phased approach to return the aircraft to service" starting with non-commercial flights in early December.

On Dec. 29, the company plans to launch a daily, round-trip MIA to Los Angeles flight on a Boeing Max. By the end of January, the company plans to have as many as 36 daily departures from MIA on the planes.

Seymour said in his letter that customers who prefer not to fly on the Max planes will be accommodated on other planes.

"Our customers will be able to easily identify whether they are traveling on one even if schedules change," he said.

The FAA's decision to release the Boeing Max follows exhaustive congressional hearings on the crashes. The FAA was criticized for lax oversight. Boeing was cited for rushing to implement a new software system that put profits over safety; ultimately its CEO was fired.

Investigators focused on anti-stall software that Boeing had devised to counter the plane's tendency to tilt nose-up because of the size and placement of the engines. That software pushed the nose down repeatedly on both planes that crashed, overcoming the pilots' struggles to regain control. In each case, a single faulty sensor triggered the nose-down pitch.

The new software now requires inputs from two sensors in order to activate the software. Boeing said the software also does not override pilot controls — a problem in the past.

On CNBC Wednesday, the FAA's Dickson said the design and pilot training changes required by the agency make it "impossible for the airplanes to have the same kind of accident that unfortunately killed 346 people."

In an FAA video, Dickson said that for the time being, the FAA will inspect every new Max before letting the planes fly.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.


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