American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines are planning to conduct Boeing 737 MAX demonstration flights with senior company officials, but not real airline passengers, on board, to prove that the troubled aircraft is safe.
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Aiming to win back public confidence in the Boeing 737 MAX, major US carriers want to hold the additional checks as soon as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing clear the 737 MAX to resume operations after months of worldwide groundings. The plans were revealed by The Wall Street Journal, which cited government and industry officials familiar with the matter late on Sunday.
“Restoring the trust of the traveling public in the safety of the 737 MAX once it’s recertified is our top priority,” a Boeing spokesman said.
The plane may be formally cleared to fly before the end of the year, and even though the companies have lost out on money due to the groundings, it will be at least another month before they are ready to welcome passengers on the 737 MAX again. The airlines want the planes to initially take several trips without ticket holders and eventually fly executives, members of the media and potentially corporate clients to vouch for the aircrafts’ safety.
The test flights are part of a public relations campaign aiming to raise confidence both among pilots and passengers after two deadly crashes involving 737 MAX planes claimed lives of 346 people. The anti-stall system, known as MCAS, has been blamed for both tragedies. It has recently been revealed that Boeing misled regulators about the “egregious” software program.
Last week, Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg was grilled by US lawmakers over the crashes, and faced calls to step down and accusations of putting profits over quality and safety.