Flying involves absolute trust in the technology and the humans who make it work.
When your pilot tells you that there is a fault with one of his indicators, you believe the pilot is telling you that it is fixed and that take-off is now safe.
Lately, the hastily released Boeing 737 Max was clearly not ready for takeoff. In two horrific incidents, 346 people died. In either case, the pilots were unable to manage the software to correct the nose of the aircraft being pushed down, which ultimately resulted in fatal consequences.
The Max has been taken out of service. However, as the nation focuses on all electoral matters, American Airlines has quietly announced that it will be bringing the Max back to its agenda next month.
European regulators have already said the Max can fly safely. What is curious is that Boeing has yet to make the software changes that European regulators have insisted need.
In the United States, the Max has passed its certification test flights. American, however, understands that passengers will be nervous. The airline is trying to entice passengers to take a tour of the plane at certain airports.
It all exudes a quiet confidence. However, it is one thing to patch software. It’s another to make sure those who operate it know all of its nuances.
So this week I was a little bothered to read: “In the Southwest, American pilots say the new Boeing 737 Max manual can lead to errors in an emergency. ”
Pilots are concerned that the Federal Aviation Authority’s manual for handling the new software in an emergency is inadequate.
They say there are just too many steps to remember. This, they insist, has been proven in simulator flights. Still, the FAA offers pilot training every three years while pilots believe there should be two.
Additionally, pressure groups such as FlyersRights.org are demanding that all documents relating to the FAA and the latest tests of the Boeing 737 Max be made public so that independent experts can speak out.
How, then, can US customers be sure the Max can fly safely?
I have flown in a Max twice – a United Airlines Max. As a passenger, I was extremely aware of the size of the engines on both wings. They made the kind of sound I had never heard on an airplane before, delivering what felt like a huge push for an excessively long airplane. However, I cannot say that I was afraid.
Now would I be more concerned with what’s going on in the cockpit? I would like.
The Max will undoubtedly have a difficult future. Southwest Airlines does not seem in a rush to schedule it. Airlines are no longer ordering. Some, including Southwest, are reportedly considering Airbus alternatives instead of ordering more Maxes.
One intriguing element is whether American airlines and others will tell customers that they are flying in a Max.
At the end of last year, they started to refer to it as the 737-8. Which is quite bizarre, considering that there is already a 737-800, a stronghold of theft for many years.
While some passengers may be interested in the type of aircraft they are flying, many don’t care. They are more interested in knowing if the plane is clean and if their feet will actually fit under the front seat.
Could it then be that one of the ways airlines will try to reassure passengers is to just tell them that it was a Max after they land? This is not the case with American. I checked his Miami-La Guardia schedule – the one initially targeted for the Max – and the aircraft type is clearly marked as a Max 8.
In terms of comfort, the Max has a big plus: larger top trays. He also appreciates the criminally tiny bathrooms and seats that are thinner for better storage.
This is a software update that just can’t go wrong. It must be absolutely perfect and have the absolute trust of those who use it.
However, maybe by the time the American sends his first Maxes into the air, everyone will be so tired that they will have no energy left for fear.
We will all just be grateful to fly somewhere.