Boeing invited pilots and others to tour its Renton, Washington plant Wednesday where 737 Max jetliners are assembled in an effort to show how it is improving safety in the aircraft that has had two fatal crashes in the past 6 months. (March 27)
The Federal Aviation Administration issued a draft report Tuesday that found changes in Boeing’s anti-stalling system considered a factor in the crashes of two Boeing 737 Max jetliners to be “operationally suitable” in recommending pilot training on them.
The FAA’s Flight Standardization Board says it reviewed Boeing’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, now known commonly as MCAS, in March to see if it needed to recommend changes in training and to see how it sets the Max apart from previous 737 versions. Boeing promised changes in MCAS’ software after the crashes.
The report, open to public comment for two weeks, relates only to training aspects related to software enhancements to the aircraft, said FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford. “Boeing Co. is still expected in the coming weeks to submit the final software package for certification,” he said.
MCAS is being blamed as a factor in the crash of a Lion Air 737 Max 8 that plunged into the Java Sea, killing 189, last October. Then, on March 10, an Ethiopian Airlines jet crashed after takeoff from Addis Ababa, claiming 157 lives.
In both crashes, crews struggled to keep the plane in the air as the MCAS automated system tried to lower the nose, eventually sending it into the ground. The system was meant to work in the background to compensate for larger, heavier engines on the newest version of the 737 that are mounted farther forward in a way that can cause the jet to tilt up. Pilots complained they had received little or no training on MCAS.
Now, however, the board’s report recommends ground training that “must address system description, functionality, associated failure conditions and flight crew alerting” when it comes to MCAS. Training would be required for pilots entirely new to the plane or those upgrading, transitioning to it or currently authorized to fly it. The training would also include noting the differences in the Max compared to previous 737 versions.
Boeing wants to add a warning light in the cockpit to those jets that don’t already have it and make software changes to ensure sensors feeding into MCAS are in agreement. The changes would also make it easier for pilots to disengage the system.
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