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Alaska Airlines announced (18-Nov-2020) plans to commence passenger service with the Boeing 737 MAX from Mar-2021, following the scheduled delivery of its first 737 MAX 9 in early 2021. Prior to the resumption of commercial service with the aircraft, pilots will fly in the aircraft for more than 50 flight hours and approximately 19,000 miles in "proving flights", which will occur up and down the US west coast, to Alaskan airports, across the US and to/from Hawaii.

On November 18, 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified the Boeing 737 MAX, giving approval to all airlines, including Alaska, to begin the process of bringing the aircraft back into service. Our first aircraft, a MAX 9 model, is currently scheduled for delivery in early 2021 and will begin passenger service in March 2021.

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.

Safety is everything

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

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.

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“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:

Up and down the West Coast

To airports in the state of Alaska

Across the country

To and from Hawaii

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:

Validate the operational performance of the MAX and to see for ourselves that the plane is safe

Validate the “Required Navigation Performance,” the technology we pioneered that allows an aircraft to fly safer and more reliable approaches and landings

Perform flight checks and validate procedures, such as working with our ground teams

Perform nighttime flying, GPS, and navigation testing

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

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