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Boeing 737MAX getting closer to re-entering service. Is that something to worry about?
John Quayle 623

Boeing 737MAX getting closer to re-entering service. Is that something to worry about?

New aeroplanes coming into service may be a little superfluous to requirements at the moment until business builds back up

In a previous post via this forum I discussed the withdrawal around the globe of the Boeing 737MAX-8 and MAX-9 airliners, and the technical reasons for that decision. I concluded by speculating whether the type would ever return to service, and if it did, whether it would be promoted under the same name, and what the passenger reaction might be once they realised that they were about to travel on a MAX?


Today’s Guardian suggests that in fact a tacit re-brand is now under way, so I’ve dug a little deeper to establish what is afoot.


Firstly, I think that there is little doubt that what for the moment we still call the 737MAX will re-enter service at some point in the immediate future, although whether that is likely to be this year or the early part of next is still uncertain. Certainly its back to service date continues to slip which suggests that some significant recertification bridges still need to be crossed by the manufacturer and the Federal certification authorities.


Earlier in the summer a laid-up Ryanair MAX-8 was seen with the aircraft type aside of the fuselage changed to Boeing 737-8200. This was probably an in house Ryanair incentive; however, now Boeing themselves have begun referring to it in publicity simply as the 737-8. Indeed this is how it has always been referred to internally and technically – the ‘MAX’ handle merely being a marketing tool. This single digit approach appears to be how Boeing now distinguish variants of a type. The latest version of the 747 for example is the 747-8, so referring to the respective MAX jets as the 737-8 or 737-9 brings them in line with this new house style.


In a press release yesterday the company announced the first order for the type this year (just four jets for small Polish independent Enter Air), Boeing repeatedly referred to the order being in respect of “737-8” aircraft.


What have Boeing achieved since two accidents involving MAX-8s killed some 350 people? According to the Seattle based company’s website quite a bit. Clearly the MCAS software preventing an uncommanded pitch up at high power setting has been comprehensively re-written. There was also criticism that there was no redundancy regarding the source of data being fed into the MCAS (i.e. it came from a single source – a lone Angle of Attack Indicator - with no backup). There are now three layers of redundancy.


Furthermore, it has long been Boeing philosophy that if the pilot doesn’t need to know about a piece of equipment (because he/she has no means of controlling it), then it won’t be found in pilots’ manuals nor discussed during pilot type-training. Accordingly pilots were initially unaware of the existence of MCAS, and thus had no means of dealing with the system if it went wrong! This clearly had to change, and pilots will now be very much in the loop and robust procedures established for runaway stabilizer trim created by MCAS, and a more efficacious customer feedback protocol set in place.


Would I be happy to wave the wife and kids off on holiday if they were travelling on a 737-8 or -9? Indeed, would I be happy flying one professionally? Absolutely, on both counts. Whilst the ongoing delay is an indicator of the gravity of the problem, it also goes to show just how determined both Boeing and the FAA are to get things right this time, however long it takes. The -8 and -9 will be the most scrutinised commercial jets in the sky by the time they are released to fly passengers again.


Still on an aviation theme, but changing tack, I was quite shocked by a recent newspaper article in which it was suggested that perhaps as many as half of Britons would refuse to take a Covid vaccine if one was to become available. The proportion that are concerned about the speed with which it had been conceived, against those who are simply anti-vaccine per se was unclear.


Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Australian government has recently placed an order with Oxford University and AstraZenica for 25 million doses of Covid vaccine, if and when such a product is licensed. The country’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has floated the idea of making such a vaccination mandatory for anyone wishing to travel by air. His logic is that it will help the airline/travel industry to re-establish international routes sooner, without the need for quarantine. I wonder how many ‘anti-vaxers’ that is likely to upset? Logically, we already need certain vaccinations to fly to many destinations around the world, so one more wouldn’t appear an especially arduous demand. Only time will tell, but I do wonder whether an up to date Covid vaccination will indeed be the new normal if we want to once more jet off to Spain for our precious summer holidays, without the Sword of Damocles that is quarantine forever hanging over us.


Capt J W H Quayle 20-08-20


Photo Miguel Angel Sanz


The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of N-Registration.Com

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