Boeing says 737 MAX software update is complete

Clay Curtis
May 20, 2019

Many airlines, including SilkAir, had grounded the B-737 Max in the wake of two crashes that involved the jet - the first in Indonesia in October 2018, and the second in March this year in Ethiopia.

Aviation regulators still have more questions about how pilots interact with the plane's controls under different circumstances and Boeing says it is providing that information.

The FAA is planning a meeting on May 23 in Fort Worth, Texas, with regulators from around the world to update them on reviews of Boeing's software fix and on pilot training. Currently, Southwest Airlines owns 34 MAX series planes. The FAA waited for three days after the Ethiopian Airlines crash to ground the 737 MAX fleet.

The FAA said on Thursday that Boeing had not yet submitted its final software package for approval.

Earlier this month in a major endorsement for the changes made by Boeing to the 737 MAX, the world's largest pilots' union said it will not ask the United States regulator the FAA to require additional mandatory simulator training on the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) scenarios before pilots can fly the aircraft again.

In both accidents, the automated Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, pushed the planes' noses down while the pilots struggled to regain control.

Southwest and American have scheduled MAX flights as of 6 and 20 August respectively.

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Boeing rose to session highs on the news.

The crash bore alarming similarities to the circumstances surrounding an earlier fatal air accident involving another 737 Max aircraft of the Indonesian Lion Air, which went down in Indonesia in October previous year and killed all 189 passengers and crew on board. Boeing said the flight controls have been tested on 360 hours of flights, up from 246 hours in late April. Boeing hasn't said what those concerns were or whether those concerns had been addressed in this latest update. March, a 737 Max 8 of Ethiopian Airlines crashed shortly after takeoff in Addis Ababa.

The extent of additional pilot training is emerging as a key issue.

At a congressional hearing on Wednesday, Acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell criticized Boeing for not informing the agency more quickly of problems and said the FAA would permit the 737 MAX to resume flights "only when the FAA's analysis of the facts and technical data indicate that it is safe to do so".

When asked why the FAA approved a system that could cause the aircraft to dive based on one faulty angle-of-attack (AOA) reading, he replied that pilots could counter MCAS by using a checklist "they should have in memory".

Safety advocates and relatives of passengers killed in the crashes are concerned that the plane could carry passengers again even before investigations into the crashes are completed.

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