Q – There has been lots in the news about the crashes of the 737 Max version. I think we’re about to be scheduled to fly it by our tour company in August (2019). Can you offer a quick summary of where things stand, what the issues are, how we would know if our pilot knows what he/she is doing, and whether or not there is anything we need to do at this point to change planes? It seems that the problem is only with American Airlines. Is that correct?

A – It is true that American and Southwest have a large number of this new version of the 737 in service or on order. But many airlines all over the world have the aircraft or have it on order. It is a workhorse with high levels of fuel efficiency for short-haul routes. Here are just a few observations we hope will be helpful:

  • No oversight organization is going to rescind the grounding of these aircraft until the software issue is fixed and all pilots are aware of proper procedures. 
  • In fact, it does not appear that pilot error was an issue in the crashes. The issue had to do with the fact that the safety fix software was not installed and the manufacturer did not adequately instruct airlines considering purchase of the aircraft why the safety “extra” was a critical component in an in-flight emergency.
  • The reason it was not installed is that Boeing had made the safety equipment at the center of this issue non-mandatory. It was sold as an add-on and airlines purchasing the aircraft were not informed of potential problems if it was not installed. Just think about that for a moment. Safety-based software that would have prevented sudden dives was offered at an extra-charge – sort of like adding a shot of espresso at Starbucks. That needs to change. But the public seems to have turned away from this issue.
  • American has announced that they are now (April 14, 2019) expecting the planes to be back in service by the third week in August. Meanwhile, American is canceling more than 100 flights per day to try to manage a meaningful schedule. 
  • We recommend waiting until 30-Days prior to your scheduled flight to see what kind of aircraft is scheduled for your flight. We would not have the slightest trepidation flying the 737 Max once it is, again, cleared for take-off. Meanwhile, several of the nation’s largest airlines will not have enough aircraft authorized to fly that can possibly meet the needs of summer travel schedules and weather-related issues that cause flight cancellations in July and August.