An American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX airliner took to the skies for a short flight from Dallas, Texas to Tulsa, Oklahoma on December 2, as part of a Boeing publicity event hailing the return of the jet to service.
The plane carried about 90 people, including journalists, flight attendants, and American Airlines employees, making the 45-minute jaunt the first time the 737 has flown since the first half of 2019 with members of the public on board. According to the AP, American Airlines plans on returning the 737 to normal service December 29 with round trips from New York to Miami.
The publicity event comes about two weeks after FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, asserting he was “100% comfortable” with the plane’s flightworthiness, signed an order rescinding the FAA order that grounded the plane in March 2019. Dickson, a trained pilot, flew the plane personally before rescinding the grounding order November 18.
The 737 MAX has been a thorn in Boeing’s side ever since two of the planes crashed within five months and it was grounded worldwide. The ensuing public-relations situation, which eventually saw Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg grilled by Congress before being replaced in January by Dave Calhoun. The FAA also endured criticism that it had not held Boeing to strict enough security standards.
After Calhoun took Boeing’s reins in January, he announced a timetable that would have seen the 737 MAX return to the skies in time for the summer. In any ordinary year, summer is the hottest time for travel. In 2020, though, the COVID-19 pandemic became another huge stumbling block for Boeing, which saw already-depressed deliveries plummet as airlines without passengers cut back and canceled orders for new planes.