Boeing plans to meet this week with customers and regulators to explain plans for getting its 737 Max back into service, after the aircraft was grounded following two deadly crashes in less than five months. The plane maker invited more than 200 pilots, technical leaders and regulators for an informational session Wednesday in Renton, Washington, Boeing said in an emailed statement Monday. The company said it met Saturday with some U.S. and overseas customers. Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration have come under scrutiny over the certification of the 737 Max aircraft after crashes of an Ethiopian Airlines flight this month and a Lion Air flight in October raised concern about an automated safety system on the plane. U.S. air-safety regulators are leaning towards approving Boeing’s changes to software and pilot training for the Max, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier, citing people familiar with the matter. “We had a productive session this past Saturday and plan to reach all current and many future Max operators and their home regulators,” Boeing said in the statement. “We continue to work closely with our customers and regulators on software and training updates for the 737 Max.” American Airlines is extending flight cancellations for its 737 Max aircraft until April 24 as it waits for information from U.S. authorities about when service can resume, according to a statement on the airline’s website. This will mean the cancellation of about 90 flights each day, it said. Extensive changes to the plane’s software will make its automated stall-prevention feature less aggressive and more controllable, according to the Journal’s report. Training will highlight information about when the system engages and how to shut it off, the report said. The system, which is called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, was supposed to counteract a changed center of gravity on the Max, which has larger and more powerful engines than its predecessors. The software intervenes automatically, without a pilot’s knowledge, when just one of two sensors indicates the aircraft is at risk of a stall. The so-called angle-of-attack vane provided a faulty reading to pilots of the Lion Air plane that crashed in October, according to a preliminary report by Indonesian investigators.
With airlines grounding 737 Max flights, and orders being at stake, Boeing is at pains to work closely with airline customers and regulators on software and training updates for the aircraft, which has crashed twice in less than five months.— Raini Hamdi
By Kyunghee Park, Bloomberg