Boeing 737 Max returns to US skies with first commercial flight on American Airlines

The Boeing 737 Max made its official return to U.S. skies on Tuesday, more than 20 months after the aircraft was grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration and about six weeks since it was recertified.

American Airlines’ Flight 718, the first commercial 737 Max flight by a major U.S. airline since its recertification on Nov. 18, departed from Miami shortly before 10:30 a.m. ET and is scheduled to arrive at New York LaGuardia a little early at 1:18 p.m. ET.

The airline has one of the largest 737 Max fleets in the U.S., with 24 planes at the time of the aircraft’s grounding in March 2019. 

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said at the time of recertification that the Dallas-based carrier, which had 34 of the planes at the time of the grounding, doesn’t anticipate putting the 737 Max on the schedule before Spring 2021. The airline confirmed to USA TODAY on Monday that the plane is not on its 2021 schedule yet.

United, which had 14 planes at the time of grounding and has received several more since, said it will fly the first of its 737 Maxes on Feb. 11, though it has not announced the plane’s route yet. 

While there have been several test flights leading up to and following the 737 Max’s Nov. 18 recertification, it has not been flown on any commercial flights in the U.S. since March 2019.  

Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Agency greenlit the plane’s return about a week after the FAA decision. On Dec. 9, GOL Linhas Aereas airline became the first airline to fly it commercially, according to flight-tracking site FlightRadar24.

The European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency has not recertified the plane yet but said it expects to make its decision in mid-January. 

EASA director Patrick Ky, told the BBC that he is “certain” it is safe and that EASA “left no stone unturned” in its review.

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