Boeing Max returns to US skies with first passenger flight

American Airlines flew a commercial flight using a Boeing 737 Max on Tuesday, the first one in U.S. skies since Max planes were grounded after two deadly crashes

American Airlines flew a Boeing 737 Max with paying passengers from Miami to New York on Tuesday, the plane’s first commercial flight in U.S. skies since it was grounded after two deadly crashes.

American flight 718 carried about 100 passengers, according to an airline spokeswoman, and landed Tuesday afternoon at LaGuardia Airport.

American plans to make one round trip a day between Miami and New York with Max jets through Jan. 4 before putting the plane on more routes. United Airlines plans to resume Max flights in February, and Southwest Airlines expects to follow in March.

All three airlines say they will give customers the chance to change flights if they are uncomfortable flying on the Max.

The Max was grounded worldwide in March 2019, days after the second crash. Reports by House and Senate committees faulted Boeing and the FAA for failures in the process of certifying the plane. Congressional investigators uncovered internal Boeing documents in which company employees raised safety concerns and bragged about deceiving regulators.

FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson, a former military and airline pilot, operated a test flight in September and vouched for the reworked plane’s safety, saying he would put his family on it. American Airlines President Robert Isom was on Tuesday’s inaugural U.S. flight, according to the airline.

Some relatives of people who died in the second crash, a Max operated by Ethiopian Airlines, contend that the plane is still unsafe. They and their lawyers say that Boeing is refusing to hand over documents about the plane’s design and development.

“The truth is that 346 people are now dead because Boeing cut corners, lied to regulators, and simply considers this the cost of doing business,” Yalena Lopez-Lewis, whose husband died in the crash, said in a statement issued by her lawyers. “It is infuriating that American Airlines is in effect rewarding Boeing for the corrupt and catastrophic process that led to the Max.”

Zipporah Kuria, a British citizen whose father also died in the Ethiopian crash, pointed to the recent disclosure in a Senate committee report that Boeing representatives coached FAA test pilots reviewing Boeing updates to the Max flight-control system.

“Boeing leadership is still riddled with deceit. Their priorities are not on consumer safety,” she said in an interview.

The return of the plane to U.S. skies is a huge boost for Boeing, which has lost billions during the Max grounding because it has been unable to deliver new planes to airline customers. Orders for the plane have plunged. Boeing has removed more than 1,000 Max jets from its backlog because airlines canceled orders or the sales are not certain to go through because of the pandemic crisis gripping the travel industry.

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David Koenig can be reached at www.twitter.com/airlinewriter

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