American Airlines has confirmed it will resume flights with its 737 Max 8s as soon as the FAA gives the all-clear—whether or not other nations’ regulators re-certify the 737 Max models and lift the commercial-flight ban at the same time as the FAA.
“If the FAA re-certificates the Max, we absolutely will fly the airplane. That’s our regulator,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker told reporters on April 26. “It certainly will be airworthy if the FAA re-certificates it.” As yet, American operates the 737 Max only on its domestic network, so potential re-certification delays on the part of other regulators don’t factor into the carrier’s return-to-service decision.
American has blocked all 737 Max flights out of its schedule until August 19, by which time the airline will have had to re-accommodate almost 700,000 passengers who would otherwise have flown on the one hundred fifteen 737 Max flights each day that American has canceled until then, according to Robert Isom, American Airlines’ president.
“We need 95 percent certainty that what we’re going to be selling will actually be flown,” in order to allow the resumption of 737 Max commercial flying, said Parker. “That’s what we think about August 19. We think it’s well outside the date” on which the FAA will re-certify the 737 Max models.
Southwest Airlines has blocked all 34 of its 737 Max 8s out of its schedule until August 5. Southwest COO Mike Van de Ven told financial analysts Thursday that it would require about a month to unseal the aircraft, check their systems, perform the required MCAS software upgrade, and clean the cabins to prepare them to return to service.
All but one of Southwest’s Max 8s are in storage at Southern California Logistics Airport at Victorville, California. The other remains at Orlando International Airport, where it returned when its pilots were forced to shut down one of its CFM Leap-1B engines early in the aircraft’s ferry flight to Victorville on March 26.
After CFM joint-venture partner GE Aviation inspected the affected Leap-1B at Orlando and found “coking around the fuel nozzles [which] created hot spots around the engine and damaged the [high-pressure] turbine,” Southwest changed the engine and inspected 12 other Leap-1Bs in its fleet. It found coking in several other Leap-1Bs and “we have done some replacements,” said Van de Ven. “If we can do engine changes rather than inspections, we’d rather do that,” because it requires less maintenance planning and program disruption.
Van de Ven said that, despite the March 26 inflight shutdown, “the [Leap-1B] engine, for the most part, has performed in line with our expectations.” Reminding analysts and reporters that the Leap engine is still very early in its production and service life and that its “phenomenal” predecessor the CFM56 had “a rocky start” with technical issues, Van de Ven said the Leap-1B “is a great engine we only expect to get better…I don’t think the Leap maturity curve is much different from the CFM56 engine.”