Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration are nearing completion of long-awaited software and training overhaul for the 737 Max 8 airline's flight guidance systems, both organizations confirmed Saturday.
If the new changes are timely approved and approved by the FAA, they could be a first step toward security measures Concerns have hit the global aviation industry in recent months following fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
The software and training corrections were announced by Boeing on March 11 after the FAA requested them in an official airworthiness directive. The two organizations have been developing the fixes for months, but are committed to it only after a second fatal crash with a Boeing 737 Max 8 Jet on March 10 publicly.
"We have worked diligently and closely with the airline FAA on the software update," a Boeing spokesman said in a statement Saturday. "We are pursuing a comprehensive and thorough approach to designing, developing and testing the software that will ultimately lead to certification."
The FAA requested that the software fixes be "completed by April at the latest" and that the software fixes be evaluated next week.
"We expect software correction early next week; and we will evaluate it at the time, "said a FAA spokesman on Saturday.
The news is that Boeing and the FAA are facing a rare security crisis that has shaken the trust of international regulators. On 10 March, a Ethiopian Airlines powered Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed just minutes after launch, killing all 157 on board. It came just months after another Boeing aircraft – also a 737 Max 8 – off the Indonesian coast with 189 dead. Aviation regulators around the world had grounded the nozzles of the Max 8 and Max 9 jets within a few days.
The two crashes occurred in similar circumstances. In any case, the plane spun and paced in the few minutes after taking off before it became a deadly dive. The FAA concluded on March 13 that the two crashes were similar based on recently analyzed satellite data and the evidence gathered by the debris in Ethiopia.
Although the exact causes of the two crashes are still unknown, Boeing has been heavily criticized by US pilot groups, advocacy organizations, and legislators over the decision to add a flight control system, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), to the 737 Max 8, without notifying the pilots.
The MCAS is designed to accommodate changes in the aircraft engines. It is designed to prevent the aircraft from blocking by automatically letting its nose down when receiving information from the aircraft's external sensors. Boeing has not described the system in detail in the pilot training for the 737 Max, but according to the pilots was left unclear how to respond to potentially dangerous scenarios.
The circumstances under which Boeing designed the aircraft and FAA oversight have been the subject of numerous lawsuits, congressional investigations, and criminal investigations.
All eyes will be on Boeing to see if the software can be fixed in time and if the crew's new training is considered sufficient.
A Boees spokesman said on Saturday that the aircraft's new flight systems would rely on more than one external sensor to measure the direction of the nose of the aircraft before automatic changes would be made. This should meet the FAA requirement that aircraft systems fail to make automated decisions on a single object that can be traced. The spokesman also said the new software would also prevent the aircraft's automated system from pointing the nose too far down, causing the aircraft to overreact to poor flight data.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday The system would include new alerts informing the crew when the MCAS will be triggered. Recently, Boeing said the new flight system was also accompanied by a new crew from the MCAS, which was seen as a major departure from their previous policy on the matter.