Is the 737 Max Awaking from Hibernation “Sleeper” Style?

September 1, 2020 / Share your comments...

American Airlines flew its last Boeing 737 Max airliners home to its maintenance base in Tulsa, Oklahoma last week, bringing to 24 the number of grounded planes still awaiting their wake-up call. Am I the only one who is reminded of the Woody Allen movie Sleeper?

Back in 1973, Allen played Miles Monroe, a health food store proprietor and jazz musician who dies unexpectedly on the operating table. He is preserved, frozen until 2173 when a more scientifically advanced society brings the sleeper back to life.  He quickly discovers things have changed. America is now a police state ruled by a dictator. (Need I say more?) Soon he is on the run.

Like Sleeper, when and if the Maxes are resuscitated, they will rejoin a future far different than the not-so-recent past from which they were unceremoniously pulled 18-months ago.

So let us go back even farther in time, back to 2016, when the Max was first introduced to the world’s airlines.

The airlines were, excuse the pun, flying high. Jacked up on the crack cocaine of ever-increasing passenger demand, the carriers were swiping right as if on Tinder, furiously looking for more points on the earth to connect. Travelers were swiping right too, looking for the next flight to anywhere.

The Max with its right size narrow body and fuel-efficient engines was the perfect vehicle to enter the market at that time and enable those airline/traveler fever dreams.

The romance between airline and air traveler bears striking resemblance to the one between Woody Allen’s Miles Monroe and Diane Keaton’s, Luna Schlosser. There’s was an attraction of urgency and misunderstanding or as the Hollywood publicity department described the movie, “A love story about two people who hate each other 200-years in the future.” The mutual desire/destain between passengers and airlines has defined the term “love/hate” for more than a decade.

And now, American is pushing ahead with cautious optimism readying the Maxes to come out of hibernation as soon as there is a chink in the present uncertainty. In a news blast to its pilots, 737 fleet captain Chris Hurrell and John Deleeuw chair of the pilots’ union return to service committee, said two American pilots flew the 737 Max simulator at Boeing headquarters on Tuesday to assess new training proposals and an FAA notice of proposed rulemaking on the subject.

The airplanes in Tulsa are in “immaculate condition,” the memo says, though nothing was said of the airliners damaged while stuck in a hail storm during storage which will require inspections and repairs.

Still, even bringing an immaculate airliner back to life after an 18-month nap, is a time-consuming procedure. Reawakening engines that have been stored correctly entails removing desiccants from what should have been sealed compartments, flushing preservatives out of plumbing, running oil through fuel injectors and testing cables, a process that could take weeks, not days.  That’s 48 engines just at American. Another mechanic tells me  “electronics are the biggest problem” because these systems are not designed to be shut off for weeks at a time.  And this work cannot even get started until the airlines have a firm date for rousing the Maxes from their slumber.

December perhaps? Well, some public statements suggest it, but that’s Santa Claus and unicorn talk one American insider told me.  And, even once the FAA gives its okay, getting pilots trained will take time too.

Then there is the larger question of whether passengers will want to fly on the ill-fated airliner. How many people will want to get on any kind of airplane?

Meanwhile, the clock ticks on with airlines on the run from previously unimaginable villians. In a Woody Allen film, it is hilarious.

In reality, it feels more like its time for the alarm to ring signaling it has all been a very bad dream.


Categories: Flying Lessons, Uncategorized

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