The FAA permits Boeing 737 Max to fly once more after 20 months of grounding attributable to deadly crashes

FAA chief Steve Dickson flies a Boeing 737 MAX from Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington on September 30, 2020.

Mike Siegel | Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration released the Boeing 737 Max for the next flight on Wednesday. This marks a turning point in a protracted crisis for the aircraft giant that can be traced back to two crashes of its best-selling plane, killing 346 people.

The end of the 20-month flight ban gives Boeing the opportunity to hand over the 450 or so Max jetliners it has produced, but was unable to deliver them to customers after regulatory authorities ordered the airlines to suspend flights in March 2019.

Boeing shares rose 5.4% after the FAA failed to ground the Jets.

Boeing is behind more than 3,000 other Boeing 737 Max aircraft. That number has declined as the lengthy grounding associated with the coronavirus pandemic caused customers to cancel hundreds of orders.

Regulators grounded the Max in March 2019 after the second of two nearly new 737 Max airplanes crashed within five months. The crashes led to a lengthy security review that resulted in numerous delays and increased losses and costs for Boeing.

For months after the crashes, Boeing and the FAA were criticized by lawmakers and some aviation safety experts for the design and certification of the aircraft. The tension between Boeing and the FAA cost the former CEO his job.

Research into the crashes and the development of the Max focused on an automated flight control system designed to prevent the aircraft from stalling. Pilots on both crashed flights – Lion Air Flight 610 on October 29, 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019 – fought the system after it was activated due to incorrect sensor data.

Grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are seen on an aerial photo parked at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington on July 1, 2019.

Lindsey Wasson | Reuters

The pilots were not informed of the system and the mentions were removed from the pilots manuals when they were delivered to airlines. A House of Representatives investigation in September found that regulatory, design and management problems in the development of the jets resulted in the "avoidable death" of everyone on board.

Boeing has made the system less aggressive, including adding more redundancies in the past two years.

Airlines still need to train pilots and remove aircraft from camp if they had 737 Maxes in their fleets at the time of landing.

American Airlines is expected to be the first US carrier to return the aircraft to commercial service in late December. United Airlines and Southwest Airlines executives have announced that the planes are expected to return to their flight schedules next year.

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