(ALBANY, NEW YORK) – Calling it an unprecedented move in the history of aviation, numerous countries, agencies, and airlines across the globe grounded the Boeing 737 MAX series airliners this week in an effort to keep the public safe due to concerns with the airliners computer systems.
However, unbeknownst to many travelers, some of the aircraft that were banned earlier this week have already taken to the skies. Only, they’re not Boeing 737 MAXs anymore: they’re Airbus A321neos.
“Well, we came together and we thought, look, we have a plane out of work here, and the jet felt that it wasn’t being really properly treated. I had one of the pilots sign the plane back into maintenance and he said, ‘I didn’t know Southwest flew Airbus!’. Well, I had no idea what he was talking about. Until I took a look for myself.”
Numerous maintenance crews helped pilots and painting teams around the clock over the past 48 hours repainting the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft into the Airbus livery.
However, it’s not just the paint that has changed.
“Here, we don’t fly any Airbus. I am thrilled that these aircraft have decided to identify with a new type, I really am. This is 2019, and I couldn’t be more proud. But, logistically, it’s difficult for us,” said one training manager who wished to remain anonymous.
“We have absolutely no training material for Airbus aircraft. None. Some might say, ‘oh, give me a break, they’re still Boeing products,’ but no, they’re not. We must respect their decision. These aircraft are Airbus now.”
Because of the lack of training material, many pilots are currently waiting for a class date in which they will learn the basics of Airbus aircraft.
“I was all excited to start learning the 737 MAX, but I guess it’s an A321 now,” said one young first officer, as he ripped up his unopened training material labeled ‘737 MAX’.
“Hopefully the store down the road sells the Airbus one.”
While the aircraft themselves transition from Boeing to Airbus and can file flight plans as such, a number of them have not had ‘transponder-reassignment modification’, which includes replacing a device known as an ADS-B squitter. This means the aircraft still appears as a Boeing 737 MAX to air traffic controllers and other aircraft.
“Yeah, some of these planes will have Boeing squitters for awhile. It’s not like it’s a particular dangerous or complex procedure, or anything like that, it’s just that we simply don’t have enough Airbus parts to go around right now,” said one shop foreman in maintenance.
Still, many took to social media in utter disbelief that the planes that appeared to be 737s MAXs were still flying.
“This is going to take a while, probably a few weeks,” said one pilot.
“I think that by the time Boeing rolls out this firmware update, many of these 737s will not want to convert back to Boeing aircraft. It’s so nice that there is little sigma today in 2019 about this sort of thing. I remember back in the DC-10 days, a number of those aircraft tried to identify as L-1011s. It never really worked for them.”
We are also closely following a story involving a Cessna identifying as an A-10 Warthog.
This is a developing story.