[Editor’s Word: Brian M. Westbrook is a journalist and longtime member of the Seattle tech neighborhood who was the primary paying buyer aboard Alaska Airways’ first industrial 737-MAX 9 flight right this moment as a part of the Boeing aircraft’s return to service.]
For somebody who sometimes flies almost 100,000 miles a yr, leaving early this morning after a yr spent largely grounded was eerily overseas, whereas oddly acquainted. As I discovered my favourite offsite parking location within the pre-dawn hours and walked right into a pandemic-pivoted Sea-Tac Airport, I felt each comfy and secure.
Security, as anticipated, was a significant theme this morning as I boarded, for my first time, a 737-MAX 9 plane. For Alaska Airways, which just lately turned security into song and dance, right this moment’s departure had a extra critical goal: to reassure a flying public the storied Boeing plane was secure to fly after being grounded by world regulators for greater than 20 months following two separate worldwide crashes that killed 346 individuals.
As the primary airline to bet on the 737 MAX’s return to service, SeaTac, Wash.-based Alaska has thrown its assist behind Boeing, its Seattle-area neighbor, which manufactures planes in Everett and Renton, Wash.
“We imagine Boeing has made the required, crucial updates,” the airline says.
Learn on for a recap of my expertise on this morning’s flight.
Immediately we’re heading to San Diego, one in every of 4 flights on my itinerary right this moment, beginning with a 6:30am departure. By this night, I’ll have flown the plane’s whole every day itinerary with roundtrips to San Diego and Los Angeles earlier than returning to Seattle.
Each day 737-9 MAX schedule:
- Alaska 482 – SEA-SAN – 6:30am – 9:10am
- Alaska 539 – SAN-SEA – 11:45am-2:40pm
- Alaska 398 – SEA-LAX – three:55pm-6:36pm
- Alaska 705 – LAX-SEA – 7:55pm-10:41pm
Following supply from Boeing of the primary 737-9 MAX in January, Alaska Airways Flight 482 took off from Seattle-Tacoma Worldwide airport for the “Entry into Service” flight. Immediately’s launch comes after greater than 50 hours and 19,000 miles of “proving run” flights.
This morning’s pilots had been up entrance for almost all of those take a look at flights. Captain Joe Blunt is Director of Flight Requirements at Alaska Airways and is joined in the precise seat as First Officer right this moment by Brian Eyre, the Seattle-based provider’s fleet captain.
Throughout a pre-flight announcement, Captain Blunt describes the 737-9 MAX as “very planted, very rock stable” and “completely great.”
After thanking the staff of Alaska Airways for his or her efforts, our pilot describes the significance of gasoline effectivity, a key resolution within the airline including 68 Boeing MAX jets between now and 2024.
“We’ll burn 15% much less gasoline right this moment going to San Diego then we might in any other case. That’s necessary for our future, it’s necessary for the setting, and that’s going to take us into the longer term for Alaska Airways. Welcome onboard all people sit again and benefit from the journey, we’ll see you in San Diego,” Blunt says.
Pilots and upkeep technicians will obtain particular coaching particular to the brand new plane, together with time in Alaska’s personal MAX flight simulator earlier than being licensed.
Onboard, there are 149 passengers for the two-hour, 27-minute flight to San Diego.
One of many youngest passengers is 13-year outdated Cooper Bollom. He took his first flight at simply two months outdated. “We flew Redmond to Salt Lake, after which to Minneapolis,” the Bend, Ore., resident recounted as if it had been yesterday. Immediately he has a mannequin plane he’s passing round to passengers, crew, and workers of Alaska and Boeing to signal as a memento of right this moment’s flight.
Amongst these signing the size mannequin with tail quantity N913AK, matching our full-size plane, is Bil Douglass, a 39-year Boeing retiree in seat 3D.
“I’m on this inaugural roundtrip to point out my confidence within the Boeing Firm, Alaska Airways, and the FAA that the 737 MAX is the most secure plane on this planet,” he says.
Sporting his shiny yellow security jacket, Douglass shares tales of watching Boeing 707, 727, 737 and 757 plane roll off the meeting line within the Puget Sound space. He spent his remaining three a long time on the firm engaged on numerous navy applications.
My seatmate in row 6, retiree James Webber, says he’s not a “geek geek,” however commonly flies bizarre routes, usually only for enjoyable. The Kelwona, B.C. resident flies greater than 125,000 miles per yr and isn’t in any respect apprehensive in regards to the security of his favourite airline’s latest plane.
“It’s in all probability essentially the most confirmed plane after the grounding,” he shares whereas sipping on an early morning IPA from GeekWire neighbor Fremont Brewing.
One service not but obtainable on the airline’s 737-MAX flights? Inflight WiFi. Whereas the airline provides web on most flights, utilizing both 2Ku satellite tv for pc service, or the slower land tower-based service, the MAX planes don’t but provide this service. FAA-certification of 1 characteristic of the satellite tv for pc system has delayed the launch of the Gogo-powered service, based on Alaska spokesperson Ray Lane.
The airline made a “strategic resolution” to launch the aircraft on routes reminiscent of Seattle and Portland to Southern California, Lane tells GeekWire. The plane will keep away from transcontinental routes, reminiscent of flights to the east coast, the place inflight connectivity is most utilized by passengers.
Inflight WiFi on the airline’s MAX-series jets is predicted to be obtainable in September, Lane stated.
“We predict many shoppers shall be understanding,” he defined, whereas declaring that WiFi-based leisure choices reminiscent of motion pictures and tv exhibits can be found.
For the various staff of the airline, each on the bottom and right here within the sky, right this moment’s flight is the end result of a few years of effort. Alaska program supervisor Susan Kostoff spent 5 years getting ready the brand new plane for service. Throughout our chat on the gate in Seattle, earlier than she ducked off to offer the cabin one remaining verify earlier than passengers boarded, the proud worker described the approval course of, explaining how the FAA was preserving a watchful eye on the primary airline certification for the reason that floor order was lifted.
“So excited,” she exclaimed when requested how she felt about right this moment’s flight.
Bobbie Egan, who heads up public relations at Alaska Airways, shares her personal pleasure after I board the brand new aircraft as the primary paying passenger. Now not stashed between the seats, the life jackets are positioned in an overhead compartment, she explains.
New to the @Boeing 737-MAX 9, life vests are positioned above the seat adjoining to oxygen masks and name buttons. Right here, our @AlaskaAir flight crew explains how they work on board the airline’s first industrial flight from @flySEA to @SanDiegoAirport. #avgeek pic.twitter.com/dBudZqPWy8
— Brian M. Westbrook (@BrianWestbrook) March 1, 2021
Later, throughout our pre-departure security briefing, our flight attendants clarify how you can function the compartment in an emergency.
Worker pleasure echoed all through the cabin as self-professed aviation geeks, making up a big portion of right this moment’s passengers, focus on their aviation experiences. In lots of rows, aviation bloggers, YouTubers and others that comply with the airline business are getting ready movies, pictures, and updates to submit on-line. (As soon as we land, that’s.)
For individuals who would like to not be disconnected, or want to not fly on a 737-MAX, Alaska says they’ll work with passengers to re-accommodate a change to their itinerary with out price. To study which plane kind it’s possible you’ll be flying on an upcoming journey, click on “Particulars” and “Preview seats” whereas reserving.
A spherical of applause erupts within the contemporary, clear cabin as our two captains land us safely in sunny San Diego. As our flight crew and floor workers put together the plane to return to Seattle, many are refueling within the lounge, and profiting from WiFi, getting ready themselves for a return journey and one other disconnected delight.
One flight down, three extra to go!