Boeing to brief on 737 Max software upgrade

US planemaker invites pilots and other industry players to meeting as it seeks to return jet to service

ADDIS ABABA • Boeing will brief more than 200 global airline pilots, technical leaders and regulators this week on software and training updates for its 737 Max aircraft, as Ethiopian Airlines expressed confidence in the planemaker despite a recent crash.

The carrier will work with Boeing and other airlines to make air travel safer, its chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam said, after regulators this month grounded the worldwide fleet of the aircraft following a crash that killed 157 people.

"Despite the tragedy, Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines will continue to be linked well into the future," he said in a statement yesterday.

However, many questions on the 737 Max "remain without answers", Mr Tewolde added, and a spokesman for the carrier said it had no "immediate plans" to attend the Boeing session, without giving further details.

Tomorrow's meeting is a sign that Boeing is nearing completion on a planned software patch required to return the grounded fleet to commercial service, though it will still need approval from regulators.

In Singapore, national carrier Singapore Airlines said its offshoot, SilkAir, which operates the 737 Max, had received an invitation to the meeting and would send representatives. Officials of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore will also attend, a spokesman for the regulator said.

The session in Renton, Washington, is part of an effort to reach all current, and many future, 737 Max operators and their home regulators to discuss software and training updates to the jet, Boeing said in a statement.

Tomorrow's meeting is a sign that Boeing is nearing completion on a planned software patch required to return the grounded fleet to commercial service, though it will still need approval from regulators.

 
 
 
 

The 737 Max is Boeing's best-selling plane, with orders worth more than US$500 billion (S$676 billion) at list prices.

Garuda Indonesia was invited to the briefing, its CEO Ari Askhara told Reuters. Last week, Indonesia's national carrier said it planned to cancel its order for 49 737 Max jets, citing a loss of passenger trust. A Boeing spokesman said the meeting formed part of a series of in-person information sessions.

"We have been scheduling, and will continue to arrange, additional meetings to communicate with all current, and many future, Max customers and operators," she said.

Garuda, which has only one 737 Max, had been reconsidering its order before the Ethiopian crash, as had fellow Indonesian carrier Lion Air, which suffered a crash last October that killed all 189 aboard.

Boeing had informed the airline of the meeting but it might not attend, said Lion Air managing director Daniel Putut, who declined further comment.

Korean Air Lines, which had been due to receive its first 737 Max next month, said it planned to send pilots to Renton. South Korean low-cost carrier Eastar Jet will send two pilots, a spokesman said.

Last Saturday, teams from the three US airlines that own 737 Max jets joined a session in Renton reviewing a planned software upgrade.

Flydubai representatives attended that session and some will also attend this week's meeting, a spokesman for the Dubai-based airline said.

A US official briefed on the matter last Saturday said the Federal Aviation Administration had not yet signed off on the software upgrade and training, but aimed to review and approve them by next month.

It remained unclear whether the software upgrade will resolve concerns stemming from the investigation into the March 10 Ethiopian Airlines crash.

Mr Tewolde said that until there were more answers about the 737 Max the planes should remain grounded.

REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2019, with the headline 'Boeing to brief on 737 Max software upgrade'. Print Edition | Subscribe