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Cars and Transportation

FAA chief waits on Boeing MAX 8 ruling

May 23, 2019

The US aviation safety agency FAA is not yet satisfied with Boeing's software fixes after two recent crashes of the 737 MAX 8. However, several US airlines have prepared for the return of the jet to their fleets.

Boeing 737 MAX 8
Image: Reuters/D. Ryder

The interim chief of the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) said on Thursday that the agency had not yet looked at a new patch from Boeing meant to address problems with its 737 MAX 8 aircraft.

This means that the popular passenger jet is likely to remain grounded.

"It takes as long as it takes to be right," said Dan Elwell at an aviation summit in Fort Worth, Texas.

The MAX 8 has been grounded by many international airlines after software problems were believed to be behind the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight and a Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October 2018. The two crashes claimed 346 lives.

Senior FAA officials gave detailed descriptions of their findings to date to the 60 air regulators from 33 governmental agencies, including from China, Brazil, Australia, the European Union, France, Ethiopia, Indonesia and South Korea, who came for the summit.

Included in the presentation was a session: "Data mapping to accidents: safety actions and changes to the 737 MAX training requirements."

FAA questions

Elwell said that the process was still ongoing because the FAA had submitted further questions to Boeing about its technology fixes.

Elwell was previously criticized by US lawmakers for not grounding the plane fast enough after the accidents.

Despite the FAA's hesitation, several US airlines appeared to be readying to return the MAX 8 to their fleets. Both American Airlines and Southwest have scheduled flights with the aircraft for August. Once regulators approve the grounded aircraft, "between 100 and 150 hours of preparation before flying" will be required, according to Reuters, which spoke to three US airlines.

China sues Boeing

Delegations from Canada and the European Union have said they will not clear the MAX 8 to return to the skies until they get more concrete answers from Boeing.

Boeing announced last week that it had completed the software update to address the issue with its Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).

In both the Ethiopian and Lion Air crashes, the MCAS forced the plane to face sharply downward, apparently based on faulty sensor readings.

China's three largest airlines announced on Wednesday that they were seeking restitution from Boeing for the grounding and postponed delivery of new jets.

es/jm (AFP, Reuters)

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