Journalists board American Airlines Boeing 737 Max in first public flight since grounding
The moment marked the first time the plane has flown the public since a pair of fatal crashes involving the aircraft less than five months apart forced U.S. regulators to ground the plane in March 2019.
All Max jets worldwide were grounded after the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash in March 2019 and Indonesia's Lion Air crash in October 2018 killed all 347 passengers and crew members on board. Both crashes involved the Boeing 737 Max aircraft. However, last month, the Federal Aviation Administration approved changes – mainly in flight-control software – that will allow airlines to resume flying the plane.
In order to regain public trust, the major U.S. carrier, which plans to reintroduce the jets to service in late December, flew journalists from Dallas to the airline’s maintenance center in Tulsa, Okla. During the roughly 40-minute flight, crews explained how they are bringing the planes out of storage and making FAA-required changes.
The company has been storing and performing maintenance on its two dozen Max jetliners in Tulsa until the day the planes were cleared to hit the skies again, American's chief operating officer David Seymour told FOX Business' Grady Trimble.
"I tell my friends, my family, I tell anybody it's a safe airplane to fly," Seymour said.
Scrutiny of the plane has focused on a flight-control system called MCAS, which repeatedly pushed down the nose of the plane before both crashes. Boeing, which describes changes to the plane on its website, and the FAA say the system has been made less powerful and easier for pilots to override.
The Texas-based carrier is likely to be the first airline to put passengers on Max jets, beginning Dec. 29 with once-a-day round trips between New York and Miami.
American previously told Fox News that the airline is specifically aiming to provide passengers with as much “transparency and visibility” as possible regarding the aircraft.
However, for the still-grieving family members, some of whom say they're living "diminished lives," the FAA's decision provokes deep concern. Some told FOX Business it's "premature" and that they want evidence to show that the plane is safe to fly.
"You just pray to God that this plane actually is safe and that Boeing and the FAA are not cutting corners," Brittney Riffel, who was seven months pregnant with baby Emma when she lost her husband, Melvin, and brother-in-law Bennett in the March 2019 crash.
"The way things are going right now, it still doesn't seem like they have learned their lesson," she said.
Some of the family members, however, wanted a deeper, nose-to-tail review of the plane.
"We have repeatedly asked for the technical descriptions of the alleged fixes, the test protocols and results and the safety assessments," Michael Stumo, who lost his 24-year-old daughter Samya on the same flight, said.
"'Just trust us' does not work anymore," he added.
Chicago-based Boeing said Wednesday it has flown more than 1,400 test flights on updated Max planes. The FAA said its employees put in 60,000 hours reviewing and testing Boeing’s work.
This article originally appeared on Fox Business