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I’m pretty sure there’s no need for me to go over the reasons why the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are getting so much attention right now (I’ve gone over that ground a few times before) so I’ll just focus on the question a lot of readers have been asking me over the past few weeks – will I be happy to fly on Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft once the authorities have re-certified the aircraft as airworthy?
Recent schedule changes have seen various airlines tentatively scheduling their 737 MAX aircraft to operate services later this year – American looks like it expects to be flying its MAX from the beginning of September, Alaska appears to expect its MAX aircraft to be flying between Seattle and LA from the end of August and even foreign carriers (like Turkish Airlines) are scheduling 737 MAX service for later this year – but the truth is that none of this really matters right now.
What matters is how the public will feel about the aircraft when it returns into service.
Whether or not the 737 MAX aircraft start flying tomorrow, next week, next month or next year the fact is that the aircraft will, at some point, return to the skies and some people are understandably concerned about the safety of the aircraft.
I happen to be one of them.
I’ve never really questioned the safety of a commercial aircraft before and even when the Dreamliner’s batteries were catching on fire I never really considered attempting to boycott the aircraft…but things are different with the 737 MAX.
A lot of what I’ve heard and read since the second 737 MAX tragedy has left me with serious doubts about the integrity of Boeing as a corporation and serious doubts about the Federal Aviation Agency’s capability to certify a complex machine such as a 737 MAX as airworthy.
I didn’t have such reservations when things were going wrong with the Dreamliner.
Corners appear to have been cut during the design of the 737 MAX, profitability appears to have put ahead of safety and, worst of all, political pressure appears to have been applied in an attempt to keep the MAX flying when prudence and logic dictated it should be grounded.
None of this leaves me with very much confidence that either Boeing or the FAA can be trusted to do the right thing going forward….and that’s why it’s good news that some of the bigger aviation authorities around the world (like the European Union Aviation Safety Agency – EASA) are expected to play a much more significant role in certifying the 737 MAX to fly in their jurisdictions.
Historically, agencies such as the EASA have relied heavily on information supplied by the FAA when it comes to certifying US-built aircraft, but it looks like the issues with the 737 MAX aircraft may be changing how things are done.
The FAA has emerged from the 737 MAX crisis looking like the underfunded, underresourced agency that it is and regulators elsewhere around the world appear to now be questioning just how much weight they can put on the information the FAA supplies….and understandably so.
So, before the 737 MAX will be certified to operate outside of the US there’s almost certainly going to be a lot more scrutiny of the aircraft from the European Union, Canada, Brazil, etc… and that means that we, the flying public, should be able to have quite a bit more confidence that any 737 MAX taking to the air in the future has been properly checked out.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that I’m not sure that’s really going to be enough for me.
I’m under no illusion that one day I’ll be stepping foot on to a 737 MAX…but I’m in no hurry for that day to come. While the number of 737 MAX aircraft flying around the world is comparatively low it should be easy to give the aircraft a wide berth…and that’s what I plan to do.
While there are other aircraft operating the routes I want/need to fly I’ll be doing my best to avoid the 737 MAX as I see no reason to fly it just now.
It’s possible that the 737 MAX will re-enter service as the safest aircraft ever manufactured but the fact remains that, thanks to the attitude apparently adopted by Boeing during the design and production of the aircraft, I can’t help but wonder if the fixes we see implemented on the MAX won’t just be a series of bandaids designed to cover up deficiencies that only a complete redesign will truly fix. A redesign that we’re unlikely to ever see.
The 737 MAX is an aircraft I’m not sure I’ll ever fully trust and, as someone who doesn’t really like flying all that much (yes, I know that’s amazingly illogical), I don’t see any reason to fly in the aircraft unless I absolutely have to.
There will come a time where it will be quite hard to avoid flying in a 737 MAX aircraft without taking an annoyingly circuitous routing or without having to pick another destination and when those times come I’ll probably fly in the aircraft just like everyone else….but until then I think I’ll take a pass.