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737 Max

American Quietly Celebrates 737 MAX Return to Commercial Operations

American Quietly Celebrates 737 MAX Return to Commercial Operations
Joe Cortez

On the first commercial Boeing 737 MAX flight in the United States since the aircraft’s ungrounding, American executives and enthusiasts lined up to take their seat. The troubled aircraft flew paying customers from Miami to New York’s LaGuardia Airport for the first time since two fatal accidents forced the worldwide grounding of the airframe for 20 months. 

True to the airline’s word, American Airlines president Robert Isom was at Miami International Airport to be among the first to fly the carrier’s first Boeing 737 MAX operation in nearly two years. Today, the Fort Worth-based airline had the distinction of operating the first two U.S. flights of the aircraft since being grounded 20 months ago: Once from Miami International Airport (MIA) to LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York, and once returning to MIA.

Nearly Five Hours of Flight Pass Without Incident for First Flyers

The two flights were planned well in advance, staged as one of 14 “test” flights to take place during the last week of 2020. At the time, American said they would evaluate the results of the flights before making any further decisions about using the 737 MAX in regular operations. However, the airline has changed course and announced they will start re-integrating the airframe starting in January 2021, with 36 departures from MIA taking place aboard the MAX.

Prior to the trip, Isom delivered remarks to the media about the flight. As quoted by NBC News, Isom told reporters: “This aircraft has been checked out from top to bottom.”


There was no shortage of American flyers willing to be among the first to board the MAX. One Twitter post noted the upgrade request list was full, while another noted the airline would begin announcing the aircraft type at the gate.


Aboard the aircraft, the atmosphere seemed as relaxed as it could be, given the circumstances. Isom chose to sit in the Main Cabin Extra section, while the flight crew recognized him for being onboard and his work to bring the MAX back into the skies.


According to FlightRadar24, the flight itself was routine, departing Miami at 10:32 a.m. Eastern Time, and arriving at 1:30 p.m. in New York. The aircraft sat for roughly an hour before making the return flight. So far, American has not issued a public statement about the flight, but instead will continue the test runs through Jan. 4, 2021.

American Allows Flyers to Opt Out of Boarding 737 MAX Aircraft

The move for American is months in the making, as they seek to be the first airline regularly operating the aircraft over U.S. skies. Flyers who unknowingly book a flight aboard a 737 MAX will be allowed to change their plans. Options include rebooking on a different flight in the same cabin, cancel the trip and receive a travel credit towards a future flight, or make changes to their itinerary within a 300-mile radius if there is no alternative option available.

“In the immediate term, we’ll provide additional flexibility to ensure our customers can be easily re-accommodated if they prefer not to fly this aircraft type,” the American policy reads on their website. “And if their aircraft type ever changes to a 737 MAX, there is no end to the flexibility our customers will have to feel comfortable.”

Joining American as future 737 MAX operators are their future Oneworld partner, Alaska Airlines, which recently added more airframes to their existing order. United Airlines will start flying their 737 MAX jets on Feb. 11, 2021, while Southwest says they will not reintegrate their MAX airframes into their fleet until the summer of 2021.

View Comments (7)


  1. edgewood49

    December 29, 2020 at 7:38 pm

    Good now let’s get on with life

  2. rpaverd

    December 30, 2020 at 6:21 am

    There are multiple aspects to this..
    IF the new engines and enhancements implemented in the 737 Max are actually beyond the design limits for an airframe conceived 50 years ago, as some have suggested, we might see more issues from this aircraft. If not, then the degree of inspection and attention to addressing the MCAS and all other issues, will make this a suitable, viable and successful aircraft for the next 20 years…
    Of greater concern is the general approach that the aircraft manufacturer is “supposed” to make the aircraft totally safe – thus the requirement to install MCAS in the first instance… Obviously from a marketing aspect, Boeing wanted to be able to say that the Max was “just like every other 737” thus the implementation of MCAS “to mitigate the aircraft’s tendency to pitch up because of the aerodynamic effect of its larger, heavier, and more powerful CFM LEAP-1B engines and nacelles.” At the risk of being thrown out of my next flight at 40,000ft, there are a couple of well trained people at the front of the aircraft, both of whom “should” be able to identify when an aircraft is pitching up – and we hope that they are capable of handling that?

    The fact that over 100,000 hours of flights occurred prior to the crashes seems to indicate that many flights occurred where the aircrew flew the aircraft within the normal bounds of operation and MCAS was not an issue. With the revised nacelles and more powerful engines – the nacelle being ahead of the Center of Gravity, the lift generated by this configuration on the Max causes a slight pitch-up effect. It would appear that the vast majority of pilots, being experienced, when pitch up occurred, adjusted for it and never got to the stage where MCAS was triggered.

    FAA 14CFR §25.203(a) “Stall characteristics” regulations specify that pitch up is disallowed. This is the primary rationale behind the implementation of the MCAS system. Thus – to my mind at least – part of the blame lies with the regulators… Obviously safety is paramount, but at what stage do we hand over responsibility for safety from the skilled and experienced pilots to regulators and systems….? In other words, would the 737 Max not have been a far safer aircraft without MCAS?

  3. bleakhall1

    December 30, 2020 at 7:41 am

    i am not so sure the words……. Quietly Celebrates……should even be mentioned after all the deaths..i am sure they would just like it to happen in the way it was,which was quite sober…….please done use sensationalist headlines its disrespectful to the families left behind.BC

  4. Carolinian

    December 30, 2020 at 9:19 am

    Not an aircraft I would get on anytime soon. This one was designed around issues other than safety, and whether they have got the safety thing down yet on this engineering nightmare is not something I trust.

  5. BC Shelby

    December 30, 2020 at 10:50 am

    …I’m from the “wait a bit and see” crowd. I’m this way with software updates to make sure the bugs have been totally worked out and and any improvements are actually improvements so my system isn’t at risk or my workflow impeded. This was only the first revenue flight in relatively decent weather conditions. .

    True, the Lockheed L-188 came out a much better aeroplane following the massive programme to strengthen wing components and the engine mounts after two fatal crashes attributed to by a condition called “whirl mode” caused by weakened engine mounts. Same with the DC-10 and the poorly designed/engineered baggage door locking mechanism. For the Max it was a software and training fix not a physical one that was implemented to deal with the issue of pitch up built into the aircraft by the engine size and placement. The only physical fix in this situation would have either been to add a plug to the forward fuselage to move the centre of gravity forward more in line with the engines. or extend the undercarriage and so the engines.could be moved down and back,. Either modification would have been much more involved and expensive than the L-188 programme (particularly given the large number of 737s already completed) and essentially turned it into a “new type” which means full flight crew re-certification . it would also have admitted a flaw in the initial concept which could make some airline customers a bit more wary in the future. Making 737 a fully integrated FBW aircraft like the A 320/321 also have been a very costly and lengthy process, something in hindsight maybe should have been done at the outset, though again it would have made the Max a totally new type which airlines wanted to avoid because of crew retraining costs.

    On the other hand scrapping the aircraft completely would be disastrous for Boeing as they no other comparable aircraft in the pipeline to replace it with. The “on again off again” NMA and the FSA concepts (the latter the the 737s replacement) i started next week wouldn’t enter service for at least 5 years giving rival Airbus an even wider open market than they currently have with the 321 Neo and 321 XLR. Given that some felt the Max was rushed and corners cut to avoid airlines turning to Airbus, repeating that mistake again with a clean sheet design would only further damage the company’s reputation (which has also taken a hit from the 787 QA situation).

    So again for some like myself its “wait a bit and see” before I’d consider booking a seat on the fix needs to prove itself to be bug free, not just in calm weather, but all conditions the aircraft operates in. As I mentioned in a post to another article I have an option as two airlines that serve my area and travel needs do not operate the Max nor have plans to. Alaska would have been my third (particularly with the announcement of banning emotional support animals) were it not for increasing their Max order.

  6. AsiaTravel2019

    December 30, 2020 at 3:32 pm

    Already booking my trip from MIA to LGA to try it out. This is now the safest aircraft in the sky with all the improvements.

  7. edgewood49

    December 30, 2020 at 3:42 pm

    As I first commented its done let’s move on. I understand what “repaved” wrote but it’s a rehash of rehashing not withstanding your intentions nor written as an insult. As an ex USAF driver I have seen this picture show before and fully understand the dynamics of the design placement etc, take the same plane put in the hands of a US airline cockpit crew be it civilian or military then take that same plane with the same profile flown by a cockpit crew of another country and you will see varying differences. With same plane your results will be differing. I have seen it happen in the phantoms oh I have seen it. Nato is a great eyer opener !

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