After canceling thousands of flights in March following two fatal 737 Max 8 crashes, Southwest preps for the return of the now infamous aircraft.
All Max 8s have been removed from Southwest’s fleet through Aug. 5th, but if Boeing’s software fixes are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration before then, the grounded aircraft will be ready to hit the air much sooner. Southwest CEO Gary Kelly expects this to happen by the third quarter or beginning of the fourth quarter, or July through September.
Boeing has been vigorously addressing the anti-stalling system issues that factored into the 737 Max crashes that killed 346 people this year. Speculation by US Aviation authorities of a possible bird strike as the culprit that led to Boeing’s impaired sensor data resurfaced today, though Boeing dismissed the plausibility of such ideas in the past.
So far, 135 Max 8 test flights that have implemented software modifications have been completed, two of them carrying Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg. Muilenburg has stated that flights with Southwest execs, in addition to pilot-centric public announcements, will likely become the norm as the airline seeks to rebuild trust and a sense of safety with passengers in a forthcoming campaign.
Southwest currently has 34 Max 8s in its fleet, more than any other US carrier, just ahead of American Airlines’ 24.