The Washington Post

737 Max flight can­cel­la­tions ex­tended

Wait for soft­ware fix af­fects 115 trips per day from Amer­i­can Air­lines

- BY AARON GREGG aaron.gregg@wash­post.com Airlines · Aviation · Transportation · Industries · American Airlines · Boeing · United States of America · United Airlines · U.S. Federal Aviation Administration · National Transportation Safety Board · Transportation Safety Board of Canada · Indonesia · Ethiopia · Europe · China · United States Department of Transportation · Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System

Amer­i­can Air­lines an­nounced Sun­day that it will ex­tend flight can­cel­la­tions through Sept. 3 for Boe­ing’s em­bat­tled 737 Max, a new pas­sen­ger jet that has been out of com­mis­sion for al­most three months af­ter its flight-con­trol soft­ware played a role in two deadly crashes.

The can­cel­la­tions will af­fect ap­prox­i­mately 115 flights per day, the air­line said.

The move sug­gests air­lines are plan­ning for a 737 Max reen­try that will take longer than ex­pected. The three U.S. air­lines that op­er­ate Max jets — Amer­i­can, South­west and United — have been await­ing a planned soft­ware up­date and pilot-train­ing reg­i­men de­signed to make the plane safe to fly.

A Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion di­rec­tive is­sued in March ini­tially called for the soft­ware fix to be fin­ished “no later than April,” but the sched­ule slipped af­ter an ad­di­tional soft­ware is­sue was found and the FAA asked for fur­ther de­tails.

In its an­nounce­ment Sun­day, Amer­i­can Air­lines said it is “pleased with progress to date” on re­cer­ti­fy­ing the plane and said it has been in fre­quent con­tact with the FAA, the Depart­ment of Transporta­tion and the Na­tional Transporta­tion Safety Board.

“Amer­i­can Air­lines re­mains con­fi­dent that im­pend­ing soft­ware up­dates to the Boe­ing 737 Max, along with the new train­ing el­e­ments Boe­ing is de­vel­op­ing in co­or­di­na­tion with our union part­ners, will lead to re­cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of the air­craft soon,” the air­line’s state­ment reads. “By ex­tend­ing the can­cel­la­tions, our cus­tomers and team mem­bers can more re­li­ably plan their up­com­ing travel on Amer­i­can.”

A Boe­ing state­ment said the com­pany is work­ing closely with its air­line cus­tomers to en­sure a smooth reen­try into ser­vice.

“We con­tinue to work with global reg­u­la­tors to pro­vide them the in­for­ma­tion they need to cer­tify the 737 Max up­date and re­lated train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion ma­te­rial and safely re­turn the fleet to ser­vice,” a Boe­ing spokesman said in an emailed state­ment.

The 737 Max was in­tro­duced in May 2017. It was de­signed to be a newer, bet­ter ver­sion of Boe­ing’s 737, a long-trusted airplane model that is the best-sell­ing jet in the com­pany’s his­tory.

Rather than go through the costly process of de­sign­ing and re­cer­ti­fy­ing an en­tirely new jet, Boe­ing wanted to make the Max op­er­ate as sim­i­larly as pos­si­ble to ear­lier 737 mod­els.

To make the plane more fu­el­ef­fi­cient, Boe­ing in­cluded new engines that had to be placed dif­fer­ently on the jet’s wings. But do­ing so threat­ened to change the jet’s han­dling qual­i­ties, so Boe­ing added a new flight con­trol sys­tem called the Ma­neu­ver­ing Char­ac­ter­is­tic Aug­men­ta­tion Sys­tem — known as MCAS — to ad­just the di­rec­tion of the plane’s nose in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions.

Prob­lems arose when MCAS re­lied on faulty data from the plane’s ex­ter­nal sen­sors, push­ing the plane’s nose down­ward.

A mis­fir­ing MCAS sys­tem com­bined with faulty sen­sors be­came a deadly com­bi­na­tion in two crashes that to­gether killed 346 peo­ple — the first, on Oct. 31 in In­done­sia, and the se­cond on March 10 in Ethiopia. The FAA grounded all Max 8 and 9 jets a few days af­ter the se­cond crash.

Even when the FAA gives the Max its stamp of ap­proval, Boe­ing could still face ad­di­tional hur­dles be­fore the si­t­u­a­tion re­turns to nor­mal.

Reg­u­la­tors in Eu­rope, China and else­where will have to con­duct their own re­views of the plane, and they may have dif­fer­ent stan­dards than the FAA. Even then, Boe­ing will have to con­vince the fly­ing pub­lic that its jets are safe fol­low­ing one of the big­gest safety crises in the com­pany’s his­tory.

DI­GEST

 ?? AMER­I­CAN AIR­LINES/REUTERS ?? Amer­i­can Air­lines is ex­tend­ing flight can­cel­la­tions through Sept. 3 for Boe­ing’s em­bat­tled 737 Max jets, seen at a fa­cil­ity in Tulsa.
AMER­I­CAN AIR­LINES/REUTERS Amer­i­can Air­lines is ex­tend­ing flight can­cel­la­tions through Sept. 3 for Boe­ing’s em­bat­tled 737 Max jets, seen at a fa­cil­ity in Tulsa.

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