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Boeing 737 MAX 9 Back in the Skies

New York, NY - Today, the FAA approved a path back to the skies for the 179 grounded Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft. While the news is undoubtedly a breath of fresh air for Boeing, it also comes with bittersweet news that another extensive investigation will be launched into its safety culture. The FAA also further stated that a production expansion would not be granted to the Boeing 737 MAX backlog currently being produced. As mentioned, the family's MAX 7 and MAX 10 variants are still in the middle of the certification process.

The reimplementation will not happen overnight, of course. Before each Boeing 737 MAX 9 is signed off to rejoin the rest of the fleet, an extensive inspection must be completed to examine all components of the plug-type door, including the bolts, fittings, and guide tracks. The inspection also requires tightening fasteners and detailed inspections of "dozens of other related components."

Alaska Airlines is confident inspections will require approximately twelve man-hours of labor, with the whole grounded fleet back in the skies this time next week (barring any setbacks, of course). United Airlines shared a similar sentiment, with their fleet tentatively scheduled to return to full operations by next Sunday.

Boeing, however, continues to remain under the microscope. CEO Dave Calhoun had to once again defend the once-great aircraft manufacturer's integrity forcefully. Calhoun acknowledged the severity of the situation and promised full transparency as the further in-depth investigation into their safety culture moves forward.

“We fly safe planes. We don’t put planes in the air that we don’t have 100% confidence in.” - Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun.

A Copa Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 taxis out of the ramp in Orlando.

Am I Safe?

At the beginning of this fiasco, a friend contacted me to ensure she could fly a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 (shoutout Mary) to Denver without buckling extra tightly. I later found out during this conversation that a Facebook group full of concerned travelers was doubting future flying plans for Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. While I understand the concerns, this is simply an example of our body's natural ability to catastrophize.

For starters, it helps to familiarize yourself briefly with the different variants. The Boeing 737 MAX 8 was entirely unaffected by this incident. However, I am sure that if you ask each operator of the type, there was some quantifiable adverse impact associated with the plane in question. Southwest, set to be the launch customer for the Boeing 737 MAX 7, currently only operates the family's Boeing 737 MAX 8 variant. The MAX 8 does not seat enough passengers for the aft plug-type emergency exit door.

For those indeed flying on the Boeing 737 MAX 9, speaking from someone who has experienced it himself, I can say it is quite an enjoyable aircraft. Especially combined with Alaska and United's fresh interior, there is not much to dislike about its quality. Talking with flight operations personnel, the Boeing 737 MAX 9 is very dependable and ultimately gets the job done according to projections.

You can ultimately feel reassured and comfortably safe if you are flying on these aircraft. The FAA, particularly following the MCAS issue of years past, would not send this airplane back into the skies if it was not unquestionably ready. Any news moving forward about investigations into the incident is beyond the scope of the accident, namely Boeing's culture of safety.

I have spoken to a future Boeing 737 MAX pilot who admits he does not get a fuzzy feeling about flying aircraft fresh out of the Boeing factory in Renton, WA. I mean, who would be? This is a natural human reaction after the public lost so much trust in the once-great aerospace manufacturer. Every event like this will be scrutinized to the fullest extent, so make no mistake that there will be a significant fallout if any ongoing corruption is uncovered.

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