Skip to main content

Boeing 737 Max back in service 2 years after crashes grounded global fleet

Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft is flying paying passengers again almost two years after it was grounded by two deadly crashes.

Following modifications to the aircraft’s software and additional pilot training specific to the Max, Brazil’s Gol Airlines became the first carrier to return the aircraft to the skies, flying a 737 Max 8 from Sao Paulo to Porto Alegre 530 miles to the south on Wednesday, December 9.

According to Flightradar24, the flight took around 75 minutes, with the aircraft traveling without incident to its scheduled destination.

638 days after the #737MAX last carried paying passengers and the fleet was grounded worldwide, @VoeGOLoficial becomes the first airline to return the aircraft to commercial service with #G34104. Follow live:

— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) December 9, 2020

Gol Airlines will launch a regular service using the 737 Max from next week, with the airline allowing passengers to exchange their ticket if they’d prefer not to fly on the aircraft, according to Associated Press. Indeed, as more airlines return the plane to commercial service, the industry will be watching closely to see how paying passengers respond.

Gol’s flight comes almost a month after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which regulates U.S. airspace, gave approval for the Max to fly passengers again, with Brazil’s Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil, among other regulators around the world, following suit.

The FAA’s decision followed a long-running investigation into the two crashes, which killed a total of 346 people. Extensive work on the aircraft has been carried out to address the issues that caused the accidents, with particular focus on enhancing the plane’s automated flight control system.

In a video message posted last month, FAA chief Steve Dickson, who piloted the 737 Max himself following the safety updates, said: “I can tell you now that I am 100% comfortable with my family flying on it.”

In the U.S., only American Airlines has so far scheduled the Max for service, beginning later this month with a small number of flights between New York and Miami. United may return its Max aircraft to the skies in the early months of 2021, while Southwest plans to fly it again in the spring. The speed at which the 737 Max is redeployed will also depend on flight demand in the wake of COVID-19, with the virus having caused huge disruption to the travel industry since its emergence at the beginning of the year.

The 737 Max was grounded in March 2019 following two fatal accidents in the space of five months. The first happened in October 2018 when a Lion Air flight crashed near Jakarta, Indonesia, killing all 157 passengers and crew. Five months later, in March 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines plane came down near Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, resulting in the deaths of all 189 people on board.

It was found that the crashes were caused by a fault with the aircraft’s automated flight control system, which sent the planes into nosedives that the pilots were unable to correct. But as the investigation into the accidents continued, other problems with the plane surfaced that also had to be addressed.

Around 500 Max jets were in service globally when the aircraft was grounded. Boeing has a further 400 in storage waiting to be delivered to customers.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
737 Max: Boeing is working to fix another issue with its troubled aircraft
Boeing 737 Max 8

Boeing is reportedly facing more problems with its troubled 737 Max aircraft after another glitch was found on the plane’s redesigned software systems.

The issue came to light last month during a flight test of the Max, according to a Boeing email seen by Bloomberg. U.S. Federal Aviation Administrator Steve Dickson confirmed the news at an airline industry event in London on Thursday, February 6.

Read more
Boeing says 737 Max will stay grounded until at least mid-2020
Boeing 737 Max 8

Boeing is informing airlines and suppliers that its troubled 737 Max aircraft is unlikely to return to service until mid-2020 at the earliest, months later than the aviation giant originally forecast. The news will be a yet another blow to affected carriers that were hoping the plane would be airborne again for the busy summer season.

The 737 Max was grounded globally in March 2019 following two deadly crashes caused by a fault with a new feature on the aircraft.

Read more
Boeing discovers another potential issue with the troubled 737 Max
Boeing 737 Max 8

Boeing’s troubled 737 Max aircraft has been grounded globally since March 2019 after it was determined that two fatal crashes were caused by a fault with the aircraft's software that sent the doomed planes into nosedives.

To get the Max flying again, the aerospace giant has to convince regulators that it has incorporated the necessary changes to make the jet safe. But the process, which requires close examination of all parts of the aircraft, may have uncovered more problems that might require attention prior to the issue of an airworthiness certificate.

Read more