The Boeing 737 MAX is the newest variant (the fourth generation, actually!) of the Boeing 737 family of aircraft. 737 MAX was designed to compete with the Airbus A320neo family of aircraft, and offer better fuel efficiency than the earlier Boeing 737 NG variant. It flew its first flight in 2016, and the FAA, the home regulator for Boeing, granted the 737 MAX 8 certification in 2017. The aircraft sold like hotcakes, until two crashes happened, one in 2018 and one in 2019, causing regulators around the globe to ground the jet.
The aircraft was permitted to fly again in 2020 by the Federal Aviation Authority after Boeing made adequate modifications to the aircraft. In a nutshell, Boeing redesigned how the airplane’s flight control computers process the information provided by the Angle of Attack (AOA) sensors. Also, MCAS, the computer programme which was responsible for the two incidents, will now only activate once and will never provide more input than the pilot can counteract using the control column alone. Pilots will continue to have the ability to override MCAS at any time. You can read about the modifications made on the Boeing website.
In August 2021, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation of India lifted its grounding order on flying the aircraft. Subsequently, Boeing signed a deal with the upcoming airline Akasa, to provide them with 72 737 MAX aircraft for their fleet. And SpiceJet also started to reinduct the 737 MAX aircraft in its fleet after completing the required activation processes and modifications. About 11 out of their 13 aircraft have been ungrounded so far. I’ve previously flown the 737 MAX thrice with Jet Airways thrice while they were around.
After the ungrounding, however, this past weekend, I was able to fly for the first time on the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, this time on SpiceJet. While we avgeek types sometimes chase specific planes, this time around, there was no such intention, and I guess I just got lucky. I tried chasing this specific plane type with SpiceJet back in December 2021, and SpiceJet just replaced it with a jaded 737 at the last minute.
First step onboard, and I realised how much of a welcome change this aircraft is compared to the last version. The 737 MAX has an amazing amount of overhead storage space, which explained how on an almost full flight, there was no one looking out for overhead bin space (that while many people brought full rollaboards rather than just a knapsack like I did). The overhead storage space is one of the largest in the industry, and it will be one of the big reasons people love this airplane.
Instead of shelf-type stow compartments bordering the aisle, the 737 MAX, which features the Boeing Sky Interior, has stow bins that tuck up and out of the way when closed. And because they more closely match the shape of standard carry-on roller bags, the bins maximize the space for overhead stowage. With more bags stowed above, there’s more legroom available below.
These bins also feature an easy-to-use latch that works whether passengers pull or push it from either the top or the bottom. The latch was developed for the 787 and, in fact, is the identical part.
But that was not the only great thing about the aircraft. With over 700 of these delivered, the aircraft had very roomy interiors. A part of this is made possible with the larger windows and new sidewalls. A sculpted window reveals directs the passengers’ eyes outside. The windows themselves, now rounder, are also slightly larger because they use all the available viewing area of the external windows, unlike the squared design on current 737s.
Boeing also has over 4,000 737 MAX’s on order in the coming years so you will no doubt be flying on the airplane as many airlines around the globe have them on order. But as the aircraft took off, the best part about the aircraft came to the fore. I was seated in the forward section, but not very far from the engines, and there was hardly any noise when the aircraft took off. In fact, I had the decibel metre on, and it came to a neat 88 decibel, which per the software I used, was more like the noise produced when you are in a car.
While I will write a full report of my SpiceJet 737 MAX experience, the aircraft was in great shape, and a joy to fly. Getting back on board after roughly three years, reminded me of how good it really was in terms of passenger experience compared to the earlier version.
And not just that, there seemed no hesitation on board with anyone about the 737 MAX, even while the airline spelt it out in as many words.
Have you flown the Boeing 737 MAX after it was ungrounded? What are your thoughts about the aircraft?
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