Boeing is preparing to host over 200 airline pilots, engineers and regulatory officials from around the world at its Renton, Washington facilities this coming Wednesday to discuss a software patch for its grounded 737 MAX 8 aircraft. Airline analysts believe the so-called “informational session” is a sign that a fix for the troubled aircraft model is nearing completion and could even be approved by aviation regulators in the next few weeks.
The news comes as American Airlines, who will be sending pilots to the Boeing event, confirmed that it had grounded its fleet of 27 Boeing 737 MAX 8’s until at least April 24. The news is a sure sign that American thinks a software patch, as well as an updated training programme, will be delivered and approved imminently.
Reservations for flights normally operated by the 737 MAX 8 have been switched to other aircraft types up to April 24 and flight attendants trained to work on the aircraft will continue to receive pay protection for any trips they miss out on because of the FAA-mandated grounding.
Last week, Boeing said it was “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.”
The aerospace giant has come under heavy fire for introducing the MCAS system on the 737 MAX, which is designed to prevent the aircraft entering a stall under certain conditions, without providing enough information or training to pilots first. A working theory is that a faulty sensor connected with the MCAS system attributed to the October 2018 Lion Air and March 2019 Ethiopian Airlines crashes involving the 737 MAX.
The vice president of flight operations at Ethiopian Airlines, Yohannes Hailemariam, was quoted as calling the system “aggressive” over the weekend.
“It gives a message of stalling and it takes immediate action which is faster than the action which pilots were briefed to take by Boeing,” Hailemariam told reporters.
Southwest Airlines, which is the largest operator of the 737 MAX 8 with 35 of the aircraft type in its fleet, has been storing some of its planes in the Mojave desert, whilst United Airlines has also been forced to put its fleet of 16 Boeing 737 MAX 9’s into storage.
Boeing’s fix for the suspected problem will have to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before any airline can even think about deploying the aircraft type of commercial flight again. Insiders say the FAA still hasn’t given the thumbs up although an official announcement is expected to made soon.
Aviation regulators around the world will likely quickly follow suit but confidence in the plane may take a lot longer to be restored. Garuda Indonesia is said to be mulling cancelling a huge $49 billion order for over 40 of the aircraft types and other carriers may also follow suit.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.