Boeing issues patches in bid to restore 737 MAX to the air

Image credit: reuters

Boeing said it has completed development on updated software for the 737 MAX which have all been grounded since the fatal crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane in March.

The crash caused the death of all 157 passengers on the jet, which fell to Earth just six minutes after take-off. The nature of the descent had similarities with last year’s crash of an Indonesian 737 MAX, prompting concerns that it was due to an internal flaw with the planes themselves.

Boeing said it was in the process of submitting a plan on pilot training to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and would work with the regulator to schedule its certification test flight.

The FAA is planning to meet later this month with regulators from around the world to update them on reviews of Boeing’s software fix and on pilot training. Aviation regulators from other countries will have to assess Boeing’s proposed fixes and clear the aircraft to fly in other regions independently of the FAA.

It is unclear when the 737 MAX aircraft will return to service, but US airlines have said they hope the jets will fly this summer.

The reasons behind the flaws have been attributed to a number of different errors including a rush on Boeing’s part to develop the higher capacity jets after rival Airbus announced its own fuel-efficient model. Its MCAS software, which is thought to be responsible for the crashes, was also not probed enough by the FAA and Boeing was largely left to find flaws in its own systems.

Southwest Airlines and American Airlines, the two largest US operators of the MAX, have pulled the jets from their schedules until August. The airlines, which must still decide on pilot training, have said they would use the jets as spare planes if they are approved for flight before those dates.

Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell said he expected Boeing to make its formal submission for its software update in the next week or so.

Boeing hopes the software upgrade and associated pilot training will add layers of protection to prevent erroneous data from triggering a system called MCAS, which was activated in both the planes before they crashed.

“With safety as our clear priority, we have completed all of the engineering test flights for the software update and are preparing for the final certification flight,” said Boeing chairman, president and chief executive officer Dennis Muilenburg. “We’re committed to providing the FAA and global regulators all the information they need, and to getting it right. We’re making clear and steady progress and are confident that the 737 MAX with updated MCAS software will be one of the safest airplanes ever to fly.

“The accidents have only intensified our commitment to our values, including safety, quality and integrity, because we know lives depend on what we do.”

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