New York: A fix to the anti-stall system suspected in the crash of a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet that killed 189 people in Indonesia last October, is ready, industry sources said Saturday here, as the company tries to avoid a lengthy grounding of its planes.
Boeing was due to present the patch to officials and pilots of US airlines – American, Southwest and United – Renton, Washington state, where the plane is assembled, other sources said.
“Boeing has already finalised the necessary corrective measures for the MAX,” an aviation sector source told this agency on condition of anonymity. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will receive the patch ‘early next week’, a government source added.
Asked how long the certification process could take after the patch is in the hands of the authorities, this source said that nothing has been decided yet. The FAA in the US declined to comment.
The Lion Air crash in Indonesia last October and another accident this month involving an Ethiopian Airlines jet, which killed 346 people between them, has raised major concerns about the safety certification of the ‘737 MAX 8’ model. The Ethiopian Airlines crash March 10 led to the global grounding of 737 MAX planes.
Although it will take months to determine the exact cause of both crashes, investigators in the Lion case have honed in on the MCAS automated anti-stalling system designed to point the nose of the plane downward if it is in danger of stalling, or losing lift.
The FAA had given until April for Boeing to make the necessary changes to the critical anti-stall system, and March 15 two anonymous industry sources told this agency the upgrade would be ready in about 10 days.
American Airlines and Southwest pilots were set to test simulators with the updates Saturday, according to the sources. Boeing neither confirmed nor denied the information.
A spokesman for United Airlines, whose fleet includes 14 of the 737 MAX 9 planes, confirmed the company’s attendance at the training session.
Southwest and its SWAPA pilots union ‘have subject matter experts from our Technical Pilot Team and Training Teams headed to Boeing to review documentation and training associated with the modification to the B737 speed trim system’, a spokeswoman said. The company is one of the biggest 737 MAX 8 customers, owning 34 of the planes.
In another modification, the 737 MAX will be outfitted with a warning light for malfunctions in the anti-stall system, an industry source said Thursday, standardising a feature previously sold as an optional extra. Neither the Lion Air aircraft nor the Ethiopian Airlines jet had the feature, the industry source said.