Embattled Boeing 737 Max aircraft may resume flight by December
American leading commercial plane manufacturer, Boeing, has hinted of a possible return of embattled Boeing 737 Max plane model to flight services before the year ends.
Boeing’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dennis Muilenburg, said they are conducting simulated flights with air-safety regulators this week, and plans to fly the 737 Max aircraft with the Federal Aviation Administration “very soon” to get the grounded planes cleared to return to airline service.
Aviation officials worldwide grounded the planes in mid-March, in the wake of two deadly crashes of the aircraft within five months of one another. The two crashes killed a total of 346 people. Muilenburg said he expects that the planes will get a green light to fly again by the end of the year, but declined to provide a timeline.
Boeing has completed a software update for an anti-stall system that has been implicated in the two crashes.Airlines that have purchased the 737 Max, including American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, have canceled thousands of flights due to the grounding and have scrambled to meet demand during the peak summer travel season.
The manufacturer will have to repair “damaged trust” of the flying public, Muilenburg said. Some airlines have said they won’t charge passengers skittish about the planes to switch to flights operated with other aircraft.The aerospace giant also has to mend things with airlines that have been left without the fuel-efficient jets during the peak summer travel season, and with flight crews who say they were blindsided by changes Boeing made to the new planes before the company delivered them to airlines.
Boeing is under fire from lawmakers, and multiple investigations are looking at how U.S. regulators came to certify the plane just over two years ago.
Communications experts say Boeing was too slow to apologise and provide information to a nervous public, missteps now recognised by the company’s CEO. “We know that our communication in some cases was not as effective, or not as complete as it should have been, and there are areas where we’ll improve transparency. We know we have work to do,” Muilenburg said.
In the wake of the crisis, the public isn’t necessarily looking for an immediate apology, but instead want detailed information about how the company is going to get to the bottom of the issue, said Dan Hill, a crisis communications consultant whose past clients have included aerospace manufacturers and airlines.
“They don’t want stiff, rigid” statements, he said. “They were missing a bit of that empathetic voice.”Another of Boeing’s mistakes was that it acted as a business-to-business company, providing information to airlines but not enough to the public, said Gene Grabowski, a partner at K Global, a public relations firm that helps companies navigate crises.
“B-to-B is dead,” he said. “They forgot in a crisis, they’re a business to consumer company.”
CEO of Delta, Ed Bastian, which does not fly the Max but is a longtime Boeing customer, said the manufacturer “didn’t get out far enough in advance of the story. The story was told about them rather than being able to manage the story,” Bastian said.
An automated anti-stall system that Boeing installed on the planes has been implicated in the two 737 Max crashes. Known as MCAS, the system repeatedly pushes the nose of the plane down if the plane perceives it is in a stall. In the two crashes, pilots were battling the system after erroneous sensor data triggered it, sending the nearly brand-new jets into deadly plunges.
Pilots said they didn’t know about the system until after the first plane, Lion Air Flight 610, went down shortly after takeoff from Jakarta in October.In a tense meeting in late November, American Airlines pilots fumed over being kept in the dark about the system.
“These guys didn’t even know the damn system was on the airplane — nor did anybody else,” said American Airlines pilot Michael Michaelis, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by CNBC.Pilots were given training on an iPad that lasted sometimes less than an hour to transition from flying older models of the 737 to the 737 Max.
In addition to a software fix for the flight system, Boeing is preparing new training materials. Allied Pilots Association spokesman Dennis Tajer, an American Airlines 737 captain, said the training should be robust and that the union has asked the FAA to update flight handbooks. “You want us to be complaining” that the training is too long, he said.
Flight attendants also need to be convinced. Boeing has recently met with unions representing flight attendants at United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, both of which operate the 737 Max.
“If we’re not safe, you’re not safe,” said Southwest Transport Workers Union spokesman, Chad Kleibscheidel, who added that the union is continuing to speak with Boeing and that flight attendants will not be forced to fly on any aircraft they don’t feel safe on.
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