Alaska prepares for the Boeing 737 MAX to safely join our fleet with first passenger flights expected in March

Alaska Airlines has 32 MAX 9s on order. The airline has provided this update on the Boeing 737 MAX:

This March, Alaska Airlines is scheduled to start welcoming guests on our first Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. We currently don’t have a MAX in our fleet. We expect delivery of the first plane in January, followed by several more throughout 2021.

On November 18, 2020 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified the MAX, giving the approval to all airlines to begin the process of bringing the aircraft back into service. Our guests will only fly on a MAX aircraft after we’ve tested and verified all required and necessary processes to prepare the aircraft for passenger service.

We have high expectations and confidence that Boeing has made the required changes and necessary improvements to the MAX. With these enhancements and the FAA’s thorough inspection processes, this aircraft will meet the high safety standards we expect.

For us, safety is always priority number one. If an aircraft is not safe, we won’t fly it.

“As a safety professional with decades of experience, including many years with the FAA, I’ve had the opportunity to stay very close to the FAA and Boeing through the grounding and recertification of the 737 MAX,” said Max Tidwell, Alaska’s vice president of safety and security. “I’m very confident with all the steps the FAA and Boeing have taken and the steps we’re taking at Alaska to prepare us to safely bring this aircraft into our fleet.”

One of Alaska’s 737-9 MAX at Boeing Field in Seattle.

Once our first MAX is delivered, we’ll begin two months of testing and verifying all the necessary processes to prepare the aircraft for passenger service, which is scheduled to begin in March. Our teams will put the plane through its paces, which includes flying it more than 19,000 miles and over 50 flight hours all over the country, including Alaska and Hawaii.

In the coming weeks, our pilots will also begin the required eight hours of flight simulator and computer-based training that focuses on the operation of the MAX. Our pilot training program for the MAX is more extensive than what’s required by the FAA. All of our maintenance technicians undergo a minimum 40 hours of training on the variations between the MAX and our existing 737 NG fleet, with certain technicians receiving additional specialized training.

Before the MAX is added to our fleet, our team of pilots, maintenance technicians and safety experts will put the plane through its paces – flying more than 19,000 miles and over 50 flight hours to test the aircraft. We will activate our training programs and make sure our employees are ready. We’ve been closely testing, verifying and implementing all the necessary processes to ensure the MAX aircraft meets our high safety standards.

At Alaska, safety is always priority number one. If an aircraft is not safe, we won’t fly it.

There is nothing more important than the safety of everyone on board every aircraft we fly.

Safety is everything   “This indicates a link to an external site that may not follow the same accessibility or privacy policies as Alaska Airlines. By selecting a partner link you agree to share your data with these sites.”

 

When we talk about safety, we mean it. Each of our employees is empowered to stop any part of our operation if something isn’t right. We call it “Ready, SAFE, Go.” Before we do anything, we take a moment to check whether everyone is ready, we make sure we’re being safe, and only then do we go.

Alaska manages safety through our Safety Management System (SMS). We were the first major U.S. airline to receive FAA validation and acceptance of our SMS in 2016, even before it became required in 2018. It helps us focus on safety – every day. Rather than rely on a separate “safety manager” or “safety department,” our SMS empowers employees at all levels to participate in it and improve the process.

Alaska will fly the Boeing 737 MAX only after our own assessments, verifications and internal reviews determine that the aircraft is safe throughout our network for our guests and our crews. Teams from divisions all across Alaska are working on the entry into service requirements for the MAX.

“As a safety professional with decades of experience, including many years with the FAA, I’ve had the opportunity to stay very close to the FAA and Boeing through the grounding and recertification of the 737 MAX. I’m very confident with all the steps the FAA and Boeing have taken and the steps we’re taking at Alaska to prepare us to safely bring this aircraft into our fleet.”

— Max Tidwell, Alaska’s Vice President of Safety & Security


We have confidence in the certification process of the 737 MAX.

Boeing has worked closely with the FAA and international regulatory authorities to make improvements to the 737 MAX flight control system and mandatory pilot training. Our teams remained in close contact with Boeing and the FAA all along the way.

We have high expectations and confidence that Boeing has made the required changes and necessary improvements to the 737 MAX and that, with these updates, the MAX will meet the high safety standards we expect.

We will put the MAX through its paces.

We will spend a lot of time with our first MAX aircraft before it’s put into service. Our pilots will fly it more than 50 flight hours and roughly 19,000 miles on what are called “proving flights” to confirm our safety assessments and ensure a full understanding of the airplane’s capabilities in different climates and terrain:

These proving flights are part of the formal delivery process of bringing a new aircraft into the fleet. The flights will be supervised directly by the FAA with representatives on board to evaluate that we can safely operate the aircraft. It will give our pilots the opportunity to:

There will also be “gate fit” tests at designated airports to ensure the readiness of ground operations with the new plane.

Testing and more testing.
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Background

The 737 MAX was designed with larger, more efficient engines. To help pilots with the handling of the aircraft, Boeing implemented new flight control software called MCAS, or Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System. MCAS relied on information from a single sensor to monitor the angle of the plane. In two accidents, the sensor – an ‘angle of attack’ vane – gave incorrect data to MCAS, which caused the system to activate repeatedly.

Boeing has since made key changes to prevent the previous issues from happening again:

What happens next with our MAX?

The FAA’s airworthiness directive continues the process of outlining the required software updates along with the training requirements for flight crews, maintenance technicians and ground crews that must be completed before we bring the MAX into service.

With the lifting of the grounding order by the FAA, it’s expected to take two months until we receive our first MAX from Boeing.

Once we accept delivery of the aircraft, we’ll follow a service readiness timeline that will guide the actions we must take before we begin flying our passengers. The process could take about six weeks for our first MAX to join our fleet after rigorous rounds of test flying, verifying and preparing.

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