B-737 Max 8 crashes: Boeing develops fix 'to ensure accidents like these never happen again', says senior official

Boeing revealed the software fixes it plans for the grounded 737 Max, the type of aircraft involved in two fatal crashes in five months, but the Federal Aviation Administration is not yet on board with the upgrade.
Boeing 737 planes are pictured on the company's production line, on March 27, 2019, in Renton, Washington.
Boeing 737 planes are pictured on the company's production line, on March 27, 2019, in Renton, Washington.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - More than two weeks after a Boeing 737 Max 8 jet crashed in Ethiopia, the aircraft maker has developed a software fix "to ensure accidents like these never happen again", a senior Boeing official said.

Mr Mike Sinnett, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice-president of product development and future airplane development, was referring to the March 10 crash in Ethiopia as well as the Lion Air accident last October, both of which involved the B-737 Max 8.

Speaking during a teleconference on Wednesday (March 27), he stressed repeatedly that the team is "very very confident" that the software fix to the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) will ensure that "we will never see the system behave in a certain way".

The MCAS is designed to prevent the aircraft from entering into a stall, or losing lift. A system malfunction that the pilots were unable to overcome is believed to have caused both accidents.

Mr Sinnett was speaking to journalists ahead of a Boeing briefing for about 200 pilots and other industry players in Renton, Washington, to update them on the changes made.

Pilots from SilkAir and officials from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) are among those who will be briefed.

SilkAir has six B-737 Max 8s that have not flown since March 12, as part of a global grounding of the aircraft type. There are about 350 of the jets currently in operation.

Even as he stressed Boeing's commitment to safety and reliability, Mr Sinnett acknowledged that it will be up to regulators and airlines to decide whether the B-737 Max takes to the skies again.

On its part, the Boeing team will do all it can to restore "faith and confidence" in the aircraft, he said.

Apart from the software fix, Boeing will also provide fresh training materials for all B-737 Max pilots.

A Boeing spokesman flatly rejected a suggestion from a journalist that these "upgrades" were an admission that the system was flawed to start with. He said that if the investigation into the Lion Air crash show that there are things that can be improved, then Boeing will make them without necessarily having to wait for the final crash report.

The updates to the MCAS address all known issues so far, the spokesman added.

The same principle applies to pilot training, he said, refuting suggestions that Boeing did not provide pilots with the necessary training to deal with MCAS issues.

He said: "We provide the training that we believe is required.....we will always look back and if we need to make improvements in training, we will."

On whether Boeing will offer compensation to affected airlines, he refused to comment. "We're here to talk about the technical aspects o the airplane...I won't comment on relationships with customers."