A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration has said that the regulatory agency has not approved a software update for Boeing’s troubled 737 MAX 8 jetliner, previewed by Boeing on Wednesday.
Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 aircraft has been grounded worldwide after two fatal crashes: Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 earlier this month and Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610 last October. Both planes nosedived shortly after takeoff, killing all on board. Investigators believe the 737 MAX 8’s MCAS leveling system – which adjusts the tail to keep the plane’s nose level in flight – may be to blame for the tragedies.
Boeing has been developing a software update to fix the plane’s faulty MCAS system since the most recent crash, and on Wednesday briefed pilots on the new updates. The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that the FAA has “tentatively” approved the software update.
But the agency now says it hasn’t, with an FAA spokesperson saying “we have not received the completed software enhancement for review and certification.”
Centered on safety, our Boeing teams this week are previewing the 737 MAX software update and related training materials for our airline customers, their pilots and regulators. pic.twitter.com/qu1LJRj7uv
— Dennis A. Muilenburg (@BoeingCEO) March 27, 2019
In the wake of both accidents, which a team of French investigators say showed “clear similarities” to each other, both Boeing and the FAA have come under intense scrutiny. A group of engineers with Boeing and the FAA claimed that Boeing downplayed safety concerns around the MCAS system in an effort to bring the plane to market faster. Pilots were not trained in how to operate the system, and a warning light that could notify pilots of errors with it was shipped to airlines as an optional extra.
Furthermore, the engineers claimed that the FAA delegated crucial safety analysis tasks to Boeing itself, trusting the airline’s own conclusions. Once the FAA had signed off on the jet, other regulatory agencies around the world followed the American regulator’s lead.
At a Senate hearing on Wednesday, FAA chief Daniel Elwell will tell lawmakers that his administration had a version of Boeing’s proposed software update seven weeks before the Ethiopian Airlines crash, according to his prepared remarks.
Federal prosecutors are currently looking into the FAA’s certification of the 737 MAX 8, and the Transportation Department’s inspector general is holding an audit into the certification process.
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