Published: Sat, April 06, 2019
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

Boeing cutting production rate of troubled 737 Max jet

Boeing cutting production rate of troubled 737 Max jet

U.S. planemaker Boeing admitted on Thursday that its 737 MAX passenger jet has another software error in addition to the one implicated in two major crashes in recent months.

The preliminary findings released on Thursday by transportation authorities in Addis Ababa put the American aircraft giant under even greater pressure to restore public trust, with almost 350 people dead in crashes involving its formerly top-selling 737 Max aircraft in less than five months amid mounting signs the company's onboard anti-stall systems were fault.

The head of the Ethiopian investigation, Mr Amdiye Ayalew, said the full probe would take six months to a year, but that there had been no sign of "foreign object damage" to the aircraft.

It has also brought uncomfortable scrutiny over new software, pilot training and regulatory rigour. Other pilots said the flight crew's actions were understandable given the chaotic situation.

In one statement, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said it was apparent that the MCAS system added to what is already a high workload environment.

Data from the Ethiopian Airlines flight indicates the aircraft was flying nose-heavy and not in a "neutral" attitude when pilots hit the stabilizer cutout switches to disable the MCAS system, the preliminary report showed.

While not explicitly stated in the report, Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said to CNN that the crash might have been caused by the plane's stabilization system.

However, the report could spark a debate with Boeing about how crew responded to problems triggered by faulty data from an airflow sensor, particularly over whether they steadied the plane before turning key software off.

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Two more people are believed to have died in a collision with a police vehicle which was responding to the scene. The police statement said the passengers would probably be positively identified only in the coming week.

It suggested that Boeing review the aircraft control system and aviation authorities confirm the problem had been solved before allowing that model of plane back into the air.

The inquiry found the pilots were not to blame and pointed to sensor issues as a potential cause of the crash.

Starting in mid-April, Boeing will cut its production of the 737 Max from 52 planes per month to 42 planes. The complaint named Boeing and Rosemount Aerospace, the manufacturer of the angle of attack sensor, as defendants. Twenty seconds later it went off again, throwing the plane into a steep nose dive.

Separately, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chairman Robert Sumwalt told reporters that USA investigators were given the raw data from Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 as soon as it was read in France last month.

"This accident was not survivable", the report read.

After the Lion Air crash last October, pilots and airlines complained that they had not been adequately briefed on MCAS by Boeing.

Muilenburg said Boeing has almost completed work on a software update that would "prevent an MCAS-related accident from ever happening again". The trim system is also used to stabilise a plane. "Every honest pilot says, I could see me right there, doing that, even if it was not a good thing, or saying, yeah that makes sense".

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