Aviation

Boeing to cut 737 MAX output and focus on fixing anti-stall software implicated in crashes

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

Boeing has announced it will reduce its output on manufacturing for the 737 MAX aircraft, in order to focus its attention on fixing the anti-stall software that has been implicated in two fatal crashes.

In the first preliminary report into the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, Boeing’s Movement Characteristic Augmentation System (MCAS) was confirmed as contributing to the crash, as well as last year’s Lion Air flight 610 disaster.

In the last month, news has circulated around the possibility of the system’s involvement in the crash, with experts surrounding both the Lion Air flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 drawing correlations between the two disasters.

Flight data recorder information confirms the aeroplane had an erroneous angle of attack sensor input that activated the MCAS function during the flight, as it had during the Lion Air 610 flight.

As a result, both jets experienced nosedives from the intervention of the MCAS system, which is designed to pitch the plane down when the anti-stall technology detects an imminent stall.

The company has said starting in mid April, production of the plane will be cut by nearly 20 per cent, from 52 to 42 planes per month.

The Boeing Company chairman, president and CEO Dennis Muilenburg described the production cut as temporary and a response to the suspension of MAX deliveries.

Boeing has been working tirelessly to fix its MCAS issue, hosting pilots and airline executives from around the world, including Virgin Australia, to demonstrate its commitment to improving the software.

“We’re taking a comprehensive, disciplined approach, and taking the time, to get the software update right. We’re nearing completion and anticipate its certification and implementation on the 737 MAX fleet worldwide in the weeks ahead. We regret the impact the grounding has had on our airline customers and their passengers,” Muilenberg said.

“This update, along with the associated training and additional educational materials that pilots want in the wake of these accidents, will eliminate the possibility of unintended MCAS activation and prevent an MCAS-related accident from ever happening again.

“We at Boeing take the responsibility to build and deliver aeroplanes to our airline customers and to the flying public that are safe to fly, and can be safely flown by every single one of the professional and dedicated pilots all around the world. This is what we do at Boeing.”

The company claims it is weeks away from submitting its software updates and training program to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval.

“When the MAX returns to the skies with the software changes to the MCAS function, it will be among the safest airplanes ever to fly,” Muilenberg said.

Following the release of Ethiopia’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau report, Muilenberg issued an apology on behalf of the company for the lives lost in Lion Air flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines flight 302.

Ethiopian Airlines issued a further statement via Twitter, with the company confirming its pilots followed proper guidance but could not control its Boeing 737 MAX 8 jetliner last month.

On top of fronting enormous public and private pressure, Boeing faces a federal court lawsuit from the family of Jackson Musoni, a citizen of Rwanda who was killed in the Ethiopian Airlines disaster.

At the time of its submission, the suit alleged that Boeing defectively designed the automated flight control system.

“I’d like to reiterate our deepest sympathies are with the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives in the accident,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Kevin McAllister in a written statement.

“We thank Ethiopia’s Accident Investigation Bureau for its hard work and continuing efforts. Understanding the circumstances that contributed to this accident is critical to ensuring a safe flight. We will carefully review the AIB’s preliminary report, and will take any and all additional steps necessary to enhance the safety of our aircraft.”

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