The FAA has given Boeing the all-clear to return the much-maligned 737 MAX to service after the plane was grounded in March 2019, days after an Ethiopian Air crash similar to an October 2018 Lion Air crash. A total of 346 passengers and crew members on both planes were killed.
The nation’s air safety agency announced the move early Wednesday, saying it completed its 20-month review process. The FAA still must approve pilot training changes for each U.S. airline. To this point, American is the only U.S. airline to have the MAX included in its lineup, starting with a daily New York to Miami round trip beginning Dec. 29.
“We will never forget the lives lost in the two tragic accidents that led to the decision to suspend operations,” Boeing Company CEO David Calhoun said in a Wednesday statement. “These events and the lessons we have learned as a result have reshaped our company and further focused our attention on our core values of safety, quality and integrity.”
Boeing should get the OK from regulators in Europe, Canada and elsewhere, though it was unclear when China would be back on board.
Investigators eventually blamed a Boeing software system designed to keep the aircraft level. “The path that led us to this point was long and grueling, but we said from the start that we would take the time necessary to get this right,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said Wednesday.
Some critics say the plane’s design is inherently flawed and it shouldn’t be allowed to fly again, but Dickson underscored his confidence in the fixes. He said he flew the 737 MAX for about two hours, evaluating the plane. “I am 100% comfortable with my family flying on it,” he said.