On November 18, 2020, the FAA lifted the grounding order for Boeing’s 737 Max airplanes. After two fatal crashes, which were determined to be the result of flaws in a system software upgrade, the 737 Max has been grounded for about 20 months.
Southwest is the largest customer for the 737 Max (though not mentioned in the article, its entire fleet is comprised of 737 models). 34 completed aircraft are in “desert hibernation” in Victorville, CA, awaiting upgrades and FAA certification. With the grounding order lifed, company mechanics are heading to Victorville to make the planes airworthy for travel to maintenance facilities for further work.
Although the planes were maintained in active storage, each one will require 280 hours of work and approved changes prior to this flight out of storage.
The bigger question is how customers will react. Surveys indicate 25% are not comfortable flying the plane, so Southwest will allow penalty-free flight changes for those who choose to avoid this aircraft.
The Max is expected to enter revenue service in the second quarter of 2021. In the meantime, 8,000 Southwest pilots will receive additional training including simulator time.