It's been just under two years since the 737 Max was grounded following two crashes that prompted a slew of investigations and litigation. In the wake of the two crashes, it was discovered that the "Maneuvering Control Augmentation System," or MCAS, was taking control of planes and causing them to stall. MCAS, which was intended to avoid incidents where the plane's nose would veer too far upward due to the different engines on the 737 Max compare to similar models, was deeply flawed, taking control away from pilots situations where it shouldn't have.
On Wednesday, the FAA finally cleared the 737 Max to return to service. MCAS remains aboard the 737 Max, although with new features intended to avoid similar mishaps that claimed over 300 people's lives. The process has been long and complicated for Boeing, whose reputation has been severely impacted by the scandal. The 20-month grounding and subsequent recertification process has cost the company $20 billion.
There was little fanfare when the announcement was made, as there is little to celebrate despite the plane's return to service. Not only does the 737 Max still require approval from other aviation regulators aboard, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has also driven demand for air travel to record lows. With many jets already grounded due to cratering demand, the 737 Max's reintroduction couldn't have come at a worse time.
The recertification has also drawn criticism, particularly from the families of victims who perished in the two 737 Max accidents.
"The plane is inherently unstable, and it is unairworthy without its software," said the father of a victim who died in the 2019 Ethiopian Airlines crash. "They haven't fixed it so far. The flying public should avoid the Max in the future. Change your flight."
The recertification of the plane also coincides with the approval of legislation resulting from the crashes. On the same day as the announcement, the House of Representatives approved legislation to reform the certification process.