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Return Of The Max: Boeing 737 Takes Off On First Commercial Flight in 20 Months

Boeing's 737 Max jet is flying commercial routes once again, as Brazil's Gol Airlines brought the jetliner back into service Wednesday. The worldwide fleet of 737 Max planes has been grounded since March 2019, after two deadly crashes raised concerns over the aircraft's safety and airworthiness.

Gol flew passengers on a 737 Max 8 Wednesday from São Paulo to Porto Alegre, along Brazil's eastern coast. The trip lasted roughly an hour and 15 minutes, with the plane landing on schedule, according to the aviation tracking site Flightradar24.

A regular schedule of flights is planned — and the airline says it will accommodate anyone who would rather avoid the plane.

"Customers will be able to exchange their tickets if they don't want to fly on a 737 Max," The Associated Press reports, citing a Gol spokesperson.

Gol organized a celebratory demonstration flight late last week, in which a collection of the airline's employees, executives and their family members flew aboard the aircraft.

Wednesday's commercial flight comes two weeks after Brazil's aviation agency, the ANAC, joined the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in revoking an order that grounded the Boeing 737 Max.

The 737 Max came under intense scrutiny after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia were traced to "faulty sensors and a flawed flight control system that repeatedly forced the planes into nosedives that the pilots were unable to control," as NPR's David Schaper has reported.

The FAA ordered airlines to carry out several improvements before the plane could again carry passengers, including software changes and enhanced crew training. And after a long furlough, the planes had to be thoroughly checked out to be sure they were ready.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.