Mumbai: Boeing Co. will offer software updates to automated flight control systems of its 737 Max planes which have been grounded worldwide following two fatal crashes in the past five months. “We are going to do everything that we can do to ensure that accidents like these never happen again," Mike Sinnett, Boeing’s vice-president for product strategy and future airplane development, told reporters on a conference call.
Boeing is battling one of its worst-ever crises after a 737 Max jetliner of Ethiopian Airlines crashed in March soon after take-off, killing all 157 on board. A similar plane of Indonesia’s Lion Air crashed last October, killing all 189 people.
Although the exact cause of both crashes has yet to be determined, investigators in the Lion Air crash have indicated that MCAS (Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System) automated anti-stall system designed to point the nose of the 737 Max plane downward, if the plane is in danger of stalling, or losing lift, could be the reason for the crash.
An initial report on the cause of the Ethiopia plane crash is expected this week.
Boeing said it has developed an update to the MCAS software to provide additional layers of protection if the AOA (angle of attack) sensors show erroneous data.
The MCAS software is managed by the flight control computer and introduced on the 737 Max to improve the aircraft’s handling characteristics.
The AOA is the difference between the pitch angle (nose direction) of the airplane and the angle of the oncoming wind.
“In the case of MCAS, we are making updates in the system that will keep us from having accidents like these. I can’t get into specifics as the final causes of either of the accidents haven’t been released," Sinnett said.
The software has been put through hundreds of hours of analysis, laboratory testing, verification in a simulator and two test flights, including an in-flight certification test with officials of US aviation regulator Federal Aviation Administration as observers, Boeing said.
The accidents have multiplied pressure on Boeing from regulators globally, families of crash victims, and airlines.
Boeing is trying to prove that the automated flight control systems for the 737 Max are safe, and that pilots have the necessary training to override the system in an emergency.
“We are working with regulators around the world at this point (to implement the software upgrade). I don’t want to speak for those regulators and say when they will be ready," Sinnett added.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on 12 March grounded all Boeing 737 Max planes in India in line with similar steps by other regulators after the Ethiopian Airlines crash.
A DGCA spokesperson did not say on Thursday if the regulator is satisfied with the solution offered by Boeing.
SpiceJet Ltd and Jet Airways (India) Ltd operate Boeing 737 Max planes in India. Both have so far taken delivery of 18 Boeing 737 Max 8 planes. Five of those, forming part of Jet Airways’ fleet, have been grounded by lessors for non-payment of dues.
The two carriers are slated to take delivery of a total of 362 Boeing 737 Max planes over the next decade, according to airline executives.
“We are working with customers and regulators around the world to restore faith in the industry and also to reaffirm our commitment to safety and earning the trust of the flying public," Sinnett said.