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Boeing 737 MAX returns to US skies

December 29, 2020

The American Airlines flight was the first commercial flight in the US since the Max was grounded in March 2019. Two plane crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia meant authorities barred the plane from taking to the skies.

American Airlines Boeing 737 Max
An American Airlines Boeing 737 takes off on a test flight from Dallas, Texas, earlier this monthImage: Cooper Neill/AFP/Getty Images

A Boeing 737 Max bound for New York took off from Miami International Airport on Tuesday with some 100 passengers on board for the aircraft's first US commercial flight since faulty sensor readings led to two crashes in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

"This aircraft is ready to go," American Airlines President Robert Isom said at a press conference ahead of the flight.

Nevertheless, the airline gave passengers the chance to switch flights if they felt uncomfortable traveling with the Max.

Grounded worldwide

In November, the Federal Aviation Administration approved changes that US planemaker Boeing made to automated flight-control software.

In October 2018, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea shortly after take-off, killing all 189 people on board. Five months later, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 ran into trouble on its way to Nairobi, and all 157 passengers perished. Investigations into both crashes pointed to issues with Boeing's new anti-stalling MCAS system. In both instances, the faulty software was responsible for forcing the nose of the airplane down repeatedly based on incorrect sensor readings, with pilots unable to regain control. The Max was grounded just days after the second crash as a result.

The first passenger flight with a revamped Max occurred earlier this month in Brazil, with Gol airlines operating more than 540 flights and Aeromexico more than 80 since the restart, according to aviation tracking utility Flightradar24.

jsi/nm (AP, AFP, Reuters)