South Florida passengers will be the first on board when the Boeing 737 Max makes its return to the skies.
The Federal Aviation Administration and aviation authorities across the globe grounded the plane after a 737 Max Lion Air flight out of Indonesia crashed in late 2018, killing 189 people. Four months later, an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed, killing 157 people.
Nearly two years later, American Airlines at Miami International Airport will be the launching point to get the plane back in the sky with passengers on board. On Dec. 29, the 737 Max will make its first U.S. commercial flight from Miami to LaGuardia in New York. It's the only place in the U.S. for now where the flights will resume.
Some passengers at MIA on Monday said they‘re open to flying the plane.
“As long as all the safety measures are in place, I think that’s a good idea. So we are just waiting to see if the regulations are respected," Tamah Mathurin said.
Following the two fatal crashes, investigators blamed a computer system — called MCAS — that sent bad data to the plane’s horizontal stabilizer that controls the 737 Max’s movement up and down. Experts say both crews couldn’t override the problem that sent their aircraft into a nosedive.
"That’s a scary thought and that’s exactly what happened in those two crashes,” said Jay Rollins, a retired airline captain who flew in the U.S. Navy.
Rollins said Boeing, the FAA, and American fixed the problem and pilots are being shown the trouble in simulators. Boeing says the plane is safe.
“They have addressed that MCAS system. They have reprogrammed it. They have also made changes to how the pilots react to that so that they get that training in the simulators and it's in the books,” Rollins said. “They redesigned the system and they have also improved the training cycle. So, I have absolute confidence in their solutions.”
Passengers who are booking flights on American's website will be able to know if they're getting on a 737 Max. Knowing what aircraft that's operating in a flight is something travelers who might have only looked for cost and flight times before may look for now.
“It made me think about it, do my research,” said Ken Stud, who was boarding his flight Monday to Atlanta.
American said more 737 Max flights are coming out of Miami in the future.
"We expect to gradually phase more 737 Max aircraft into revenue service through January with up to 36 departures from our Miami hub depending on the day of the week," American’s Chief Operating Officer David Seymour said in a statement.
American has not indicated any 737 Max flights with passengers will be based out any other airports except MIA for now. The plane can fly to anywhere in the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America. Other airlines who own it say it will be well into 2021 before they fly it.