HENNING, Minn. — It has taken many months of planning, technical fixes, training and test flights, but Boeing's 737 Max is now back in the air, and an Otter Tail County man has a front-row seat with American Airlines to watch it all unfold.
Boeing's Max has been grounded since March of 2019 after two crashes overseas. When American Airlines put its Boeing 737 Max into the air right before the new year, there was reason to celebrate.
"To know that it was back in revenue service and I was there in Miami for that flight, I have to admit, I had a tear in my eye," said Capt. Alan Johnson, a fleet training manager with American Airlines.
Johnson has been working alongside Otter Tail County's Cpt. Grant Smith, a 31-year veteran with the company. Grant has been spending the last several weeks as an instructor, training pilots to fly the 737 Max after Boeing fixed its flawed flight control system, which was the reason for its grounding following two Max crashes.
"For something like this to happen and bring this new airplane back on online again and go through what we have been through, this is exciting and special to be part of this, and I am a little cog in a big wheel here," Grant said.
The training of pilots has been taking place at American's Fort Worth facility. Grant leaves his farm near Henning, Minn., and heads to Texas, where hours are spent with pilots in the simulator and real flights.
"With 3,800-plus pilot on the 737 and nine simulators, how busy we are. We are never out of work, so it is fun to be part of this."
Grant got his start flying on a grass airstrip in Henning. Before joining American three decades ago, he flew in the military; now two of his sons fly in the Air Force Reserve. From that little Henning airstrip to now being part of aviation history with the relaunch of the Max.