The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has cleared the Boeing 737 Max to return to the skies, The Associated Press reports.
The plane has been grounded in the U.S. since March 2019 after it was involved in two deadly crashes just months after initial orders for the model had been fulfilled. The two crashes — one which occurred in Africa, the other in Asia — killed a combined 346 people.
In Congressional hearings last September, Boeing officials say the plane's software included a fatal flaw that caused a nosedive in certain situations.
In addition to the human cost of the software error, the Boeing 737 Max has proven to be malignant for Boeing's business. According to CNN, Boeing says the grounding of the 737 Max has resulted in $20 billion in direct costs. Boeing's stock fell 100 points between March 2019 and January 2020 — a massive loss even before the COVID-19 pandemic dragged the entire market down with historic losses.
"These 20 months they took to look at every possible issue with the aircraft is more than enough time to make it safe to go back in the air," said Kevin Kuhlmann, an Aviation and Aerospace Science Professor at Metro State University. "It's no small undertaking to go through and develop this training, put the pilots through the training and absorb the cost of the training."
In October, American Airlines announced it would begin using the plane on certain routes in late December, pending FAA approval. The company says it will provide flexibility to passengers who do not want to fly on the plane.
Other airlines like Southwest say they won't be putting the plane back in rotation until April.