Aircraft manufacturer Boeing says it is close to releasing a software upgrade and revised pilot training for its 737 Max, the plane that has suffered two fatal crashes in five months.
The updates are intended to improve how the aircraft’s flight control system – MCAS (Manoeuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) – responds to erroneous sensor inputs, Boeing said on Monday.
American Airlines pilot union and 737 pilot Dennis Tajer said on Monday that one idea for revised training was an additional 10-15 minute iPad course to explain the new software.
Boeing’s proposed software update was fast-tracked after a 737 Max 8 operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed shortly after take-off on March 10, killing all 157 on board.
On Sunday, Ethiopia’s transport minister Dagmawit Moges said the tragedy had “clear similarities” with a Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October, according to initial analysis of the recovered black boxes.
“Clear similarities were noted between Ethiopian Air Flight 302 and Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610, which will be the subject of further study during the investigation,” Mr Moges said.
Concern about the safety of the Max 8 prompted aviation authorities worldwide to ground the model following the Ethiopian Airlines disaster. Boeing has also suspended delivery of the planes, which are its fastest-selling models.
The company has been working on a software upgrade for an anti-stall system and pilot displays on the 737 Max, following the deadly Lion Air crash, and has said it was updating pilot training as well.
Mr Tajer has told reporters he was among a group of Allied Pilots Association representatives who met Boeing executives in Fort Worth after the Lion Air crash.
Pilots reportedly suggested then that Boeing should update flight control software and provide more training.
“Whatever level of training they decided on, it resulted in an iPad course that I took for less than an hour,” Mr Tajer told the newspaper. “A lot of pilots here at American did that course.”
But he said the course did not cover the new MCAS.
Industry sources have said that specific new pilot training for the Max planes is not expected to be defined until the software fix is in place.
Boeing plans to release upgraded software for its 737 Max within 10 days.
Boeing CEO Muilenburg Issues Statement on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Accident Investigation
Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Dennis Muilenburg issued the following statement regarding the report from Ethiopian Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges today.
First and foremost, our deepest sympathies are with the families and loved ones of those onboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.
Boeing continues to support the investigation, and is working with the authorities to evaluate new information as it becomes available. Safety is our highest priority as we design, build and support our airplanes. As part of our standard practice following any accident, we examine our aircraft design and operation, and when appropriate, institute product updates to further improve safety. While investigators continue to work to establish definitive conclusions, Boeing is finalizing its development of a previously-announced software update and pilot training revision that will address the MCAS flight control law’s behavior in response to erroneous sensor inputs. We also continue to provide technical assistance at the request of and under the direction of the National Transportation Safety Board, the U.S. Accredited Representative working with Ethiopian investigators.
In accordance with international protocol, all inquiries about the ongoing accident investigation must be directed to the investigating authorities.