Boeing on Tuesday delivered its first 737 MAX in 21 months, the first since the Federal Aviation Administration ungrounded the jet last month.
United Airlines flight 2703 took off from Boeing Field at about 2:30 p.m., made a check flight toward eastern Washington, then looped back and arrived at the gate at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport 90 minutes later.
The airline will do some modifications to the plane at Sea-Tac, and it is expected to depart for United’s hub in Houston by the end of the week.
United won’t fly any passengers on the MAX yet. It doesn’t plan to have the jet enter scheduled service until the first quarter of 2021, probably in February.
“As we begin receiving 737 MAX deliveries from Boeing, we will inspect every aircraft, require our pilots to undergo additional training reviewed and approved by the FAA, and conduct test flights before we bring these aircraft back into service,” said United spokesperson Frank Benenati.
He said the airline will share a more specific schedule with the public and employees soon.
United pilots will be trained to fly the MAX on the airline’s flight simulators in Denver. Once passenger service begins, United will deploy its MAXs from the Denver and Houston hubs.
The Chicago-based carrier had 14 MAXs in service before the plane was grounded in March 2019, and in the months ahead expects to take 15 more following this first new delivery.
American Airlines plans to be the first U.S. carrier to fly passengers on the jet — with service from Miami to New York’s LaGuardia airport scheduled for Dec. 29.
However, the world’s first MAX passenger flight in 21 months is scheduled for Wednesday in Brazil, when local carrier Gol is set to resume MAX service on domestic routes from Sao Paulo.