Flying involves absolute trust in technology and the people who operate it.
When your pilot tells you there is a bug on one of their indicators, you believe the pilot when they told you it was fixed and the takeoff time is safe.
In recent times, the hastily launched Boeing 737 Max is clearly not ready to take off. In two horrifying cases, 346 people died. In either case, the pilots were unable to handle the software in a way to fix the problem.
Max has been out of service. However, since the country̵7;s focus was on voting, American Airlines quietly announced that it would return Max to its schedule next month.
European regulators have stated that the Max is safe to fly. Curiously enough, Boeing has yet to make software changes that European regulators claim are necessary.
In the US, Max has passed certified test flights. However, Americans understand that passengers will be worried. American is trying to entice passengers to visit planes at selected airports.
All of them exuded quiet confidence. However, it’s one thing to patch the software. It’s another way to make sure that the people who operate it know all its nuances.
So this week I was a little puzzled when I read: “Southwest, American pilots say that a new Boeing 737 Max manual can lead to errors in an emergency.”
Pilots are concerned that the Federal Aviation Administration’s documentation for handling new software in an emergency is incomplete.
There are simply too many steps to remember, they say. This has been demonstrated in flight simulator, they stressed. However, the FAA is proposing pilot training every three years when pilots believe it’s two years.
Furthermore, pressure groups like FlyersRights.org are requiring all documents related to the latest FAA test and Boeing’s 737 Max to be made publicly available so independent experts can give their own reviews.
So how can American customers trust Max is safe to fly?
I flew Max twice – United Airlines Max. As a passenger, I am extremely conscious of the sheer size of the engines on either side of the wing. They make sounds that I’ve never heard of on an airplane before, feeling like a huge amount of thrust for an overly long airplane. However, I cannot say that I was scared.
Now, would I be more worried about what’s going on in the cockpit? I will.
Max is sure to have a difficult future. Southwest Airlines seems in no rush to schedule. The airlines are not ordering more. Some, including Southwest, are said to be looking at Airbus alternatives instead of ordering more Max.
One intriguing factor is whether American airlines and other airlines will tell customers they’re flying with Max.
At the end of last year, they started calling it 737-8. This is rather odd, given that there has been a 737-800, a flying fortress for many years.
While some passengers may be interested in the type of aircraft they are flying in, many do not. They are more concerned with whether the plane is clean or not and whether their feet actually fit in the front seats.
So could it be, one of the ways airlines will try and reassure passengers is to just let them know it’s Max after they land? That is not the case for Americans. I checked its Miami-La Guardia schedule – originally targeted for Max – and the aircraft type was specified as Max 8.
In terms of comfort, the Max has one big plus – the larger overhead barrel. It also prefers smaller bathrooms and thinner seats to accommodate more.
This is one of those software updates that can’t go wrong. It must be absolutely perfect and receive the absolute trust of those who use it.
Perhaps, though, by the time the Americans put their first Maxs back into the air, people will be so tired that they have no energy left from fear.
We will all be very grateful to be able to fly somewhere.