FAA starts Boeing 737 Max test flights

Today, the 737 MAX has returned to the sky, albeit only for test flights. Still, that’s a major milestone in getting the plane recertified.

In another thread many months ago, which I can’t seem to find now, I predicted that the airlines that have already ordered the MAX would have no choice but to take delivery of them, simply because they needed the new planes and Airbus was pretty much sold out for years. But that was before COVID-19. Everything is completely different now, and airlines can very likely do without new planes for a few years. So it’s up in the air (pun intended) as to whether the MAX will be successful once it gains certification again. I’m still going to be cautiously optimistic and predict that while it will be a rocky couple of years for Boeing, after a few years the public will regain trust in the 737 MAX, like they did with the DC-10 decades ago.

Covid might not have as big a negative impact on the Max as you expect. As airlines struggle to cut down costs there will be some incentive to accelerate the replacement of older inefficient aircraft with newer models.

Where I’m working, they had always planned to retire the B777-200 and replace them with B787s. Covid has forced this to happen sooner. The replacement hasn’t happened yet because the demand isn’t there but the current B787s are doing as much flying as possible while the B777s have been sent to storage in Alice Springs, Australia. Likewise our A320 and A321 NEOs have been doing the bulk of the short haul flying while the CEOs fill the gaps. Although further NEO orders are on hold, you can be sure that once demand and cashflow returns there will be a push to resume the deliveries.

The difference in fuel efficiency between the new Max / NEOs compared to the older aircraft is remarkable, around 20-25%. Its to the point that you find it hard to believe you’ve got enough fuel loaded for the flight.

I think you will see the airlines that can afford to, going ahead with their fleet upgrades as soon as they can.

If they really want to prove they think the 737 Max is safe, they should do the test flights with their spouses and children on board.

Yeah, no.

Nah. Load it up with COVID patients. The philosophical arguments will keep people busy for years!

Just tell the sick folks it’s a makeshift ICU.


I was flying the MAX before the grounding. Both before and after both crashes.

I would not hesitate to fly an unmodified MAX today. I certainly would not hesitate to fly a modified MAX once they get past the political ballyhoo.

Did Boeing do an uncharacteristically crappy job of failure analysis when they released MCAS and its supporting systems the first time? Yes. Was it a death trap then? No. Will the new arrangements be a large improvement? Yes.

Somewhat related, there is another spate of stories this morning that the 747 is going away. Perhaps they made the final announcement. We knew production would end soon, that is why we had to buy two new presidential airplanes. In twenty years, the American president will be flying in a cute antique.

‘Two engines good, four engines baaaaad’.

Thought they were still going to be used as freighters for awhile though?

The remaining 16 in the construction pipeline are all cargo configurations. They’ll be flying those for a while. It’s the passenger models that are being phased out. But some will continue to fly for decades.

Some will. The presidential aircraft get very few hours on their airframes.

The latest passenger & freight versions are the -8I & -8F respectively. They were first delivered in 2011 & both have been slow sellers since Day 1. The 8I- hasn’t been ordered by anyone since 2016 and the -8F since 2018.

If nobody wants to buy them there’s not much reason to make them.

Back in 2018 they’d already slowed production to the point that due to overhead they haven’t made a profit on the last few units built nor will they make a profit on their few remaining unbuilt orders. The earliest parts for any given airplane need to be ordered from the most upstream suppliers about 2 years before that airplane will fly. Said another way, once the pipeline of unbuilt orders is shorter than about 2 years you’re about to start buying parts for planes you haven’t sold. Once you decide you won’t be able to sell them there’s not much reason to order those parts. And that signals the end of life.

The 747 has had a good long run; there’s nothing inherently embarrassing about it finally getting to the end of its natural life. But with all the other negative news about Boeing, there’s always an executive desire to keep some happy prestige thing looking healthy. The industry has been watching Boeing sidle up to pulling the trigger on this for at least a year now. It’s all still rumor today, but the betting is it’s real soon.

As folks just upthread have said, the existing airplanes will be flying for 20+ years to come. The existing passenger versions will probably be converted to freighters sooner rather than later.

OTOH, if nothing else, any business that was looking at an embarrassing decision of retrenchment now has a really handy excuse in COVID.

“COVID made me do it” can excuse a lot of executive goofs. Whether those goofs are smart people who predicted wrong, or dumb people doing dumb things. Or even criminal people doing criminal things. COVID makes a great cover story for all.