American Airlines CEO reveals when he would feel safe flying on the Boeing 737 Max again

  • The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an emergency order on March 13 grounding the all Boeing 737 Max airliners in the US in the wake of two crashes in four months.
  • The grounding included the 24 737 Max 8 jetliners in the American Airlines fleet.
  • “Our focus right now is working with the regulators and our pilots and with Boeing to get to a point that we all feel comfortable the aircraft is safe, it won’t be flying until everyone is comfortable about that,” Doug Parker, American Airlines CEO told us.
  • Parker also said that if the 737 Max has been certified by regulators and if American Airlines pilots are comfortable flying it, then the plane is “100% safe.”
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The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an emergency order on March 13 grounding the all Boeing 737 Max airliners in the US in the wake of two crashes in less than five months. A total of 346 passengers and crew died in the crashes of Lion Air Flight JT610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302.

The grounding included the 24 737 Max 8 jetliners in the American Airlines fleet. The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline is awaiting delivery of 76 more Max 8 airliners in the coming months and years.

With the safety of the 737 Max in question, many in the public will likely have reservations about flying on the plane. In fact, a poll conducted by Business Insider a week after the Ethiopian Airlines crash showed that 53% of American adults would not want to fly on a Boeing 737 Max even after the FAA clears the aircraft for service.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker.

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American Airlines CEO Doug Parker.
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REUTERS/Mike Stone

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker told Business Insider in a recent interview that the by the time the 737 Max has been recertified by the FAA and is flying again, the airline “will have 100% certainty that airplane is safe.”

“Our focus right now is working with the regulators and our pilots and with Boeing to get to a point that we all feel comfortable the aircraft is safe, it won’t be flying until everyone is comfortable about that,” Parker told us.

The long-time airline CEO also noted that if his pilots feel the 737 Max is safe, then so will he.

“If an American Airlines pilot is comfortable flying that airplane, we all can know with 100% certainty that airplane is safe because we have the best-trained pilots in the world,” Parker said. “It’s not just American, that’s true at all the US carriers.”

Read more: An American Airlines executive reveals why its exposure to the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max has been limited.

At the heart of the controversy is the jet’s new Maneuvering Characteristic Augmentation System or MCAS. It’s a system that was not disclosed to airlines and pilots until the Lion Air crash in October.

Boeing confirmed in April that faulty readings from malfunctioning angle-of-attack sensors triggered MCAS ahead of both crashes.

In recent interviews, pilots across the industry have expressed their dismay that there could be hidden flight control systems embedded in their aircraft. Parker agreed that his pilots should know everything happening on their planes.

“Absolutely they need to know everything about that aircraft,” he said. “I think clearly this has highlighted some issues that need to be addressed.”

Parker added, “our pilots play a huge leadership role in this and because again, they are much more the experts on this than I am. So we rely upon them as much as anything, to make sure that the aircraft is airworthy.”

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in a press conference last month that he will be on the first flights of the 737 Max when it returns to service. Parker also said he’d fly on the jet upon its reentry into the fleet.

“If the airplanes are certified, I’d absolutely fly in it,” he told us. “Because I know for certain that if it’s certified and an American Airlines pilot is comfortable flying it, then it’s 100% safe”

Grounded American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 airliners.

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Grounded American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 airliners.
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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Through it all, the 737 Max grounding has not dampened Boeing’s relationship with American Airlines.

“I think Boeing has learned a lot from this,” he said. “Boeing’s been a great partner to American for a very long time and I suspect they will be well into the future.”

Parker went on to say, “we all have learnings through separate events and through different events over time. This was clearly one where we need to make sure that we learn from this situation so that it never happens again.”