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New Boeing 737 Max issue Could Significantly Delay its Return

Sinead Donnelly

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boeing

US regulators have revealed a possible new flaw in Boeing’s troubled 737 Max aircraft which likely to push back test flights.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not revealed details has said it identified the “potential risk” during simulator tests. In March, Boeing’s best-selling aircraft was grounded after two crashes. The company is currently in the process of upgrading the aircraft’s flight control system, which is the focus of crash investigators. This control system can prevent a plane from stalling.

In a tweet, the FAA stated: “On the most recent issue, the FAA’s process is designed to discover and highlight potential risks. The FAA recently found a potential risk that Boeing must mitigate.”

Last month, the FAA suggested that approval of Boeing’s changes to the 737 Max could come in late June. This would have allowed test flights to take place in early July.

Airlines hoped that the 737 Max would be up and running during the summer, however, the timetable was pushed back to late this year before the latest revelations.

Reuters was the first to report the new issue and said during an FAA pilot simulation in which the stall-prevention system was activated that it had taken longer than expected to recover the aircraft.

Other sources have highlighted that the problem was connected to the aircraft’s computing power and whether the processor possessed enough capacity to keep up.

Boeing said: “We are working closely with the FAA to safely return the Max to service”. They explained that they believed a software fix would address the problem.

However, the FAA will be investigating whether it is a hardware issue. If regulators are unsatisfied with the software fix, the microprocessor unit will have to be replaced and the grounding may continue longer than previously anticipated.

The disappearance of Ethiopian flight ET302 in March was the second fatal accident involving a 737 Max in the space of five months. A near identical aircraft, owned by the Indonesian carrier Lion Air, went down in the sea off Jakarta in October 2018.

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Reports into both accidents have indicated they were triggered by a flight control system deploying at the wrong time, due to a faulty sensor. The FAA have received a backlash for its lack of oversight and the certification process that cleared the aircraft to fly.

Earlier this month, Captain Chesley Sullenberger, whose landing of a crippled aircraft on New York’s Hudson River was turned into a Hollywood film, told a Congressional hearing into the 737 Max that the “crashes are demonstrable evidence that our current system of design and certification has failed us”.

On Wednesday, Airlines, regulatory authorities and equipment makers met in Montreal to discuss the Boeing 737 Max situation, a gathering organised by industry trade group the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Commenting after the meeting, IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac said: “The Boeing 737 Max tragedies weigh heavily on an industry that holds safety as its top priority.

“We trust the Federal Aviation Administration, in its role as the certifying regulator, to ensure the aircraft’s safe return to service. And we respect the duty of regulators around the world to make independent decisions on FAA’s recommendations.

“At the same time, aviation is a globally integrated system that relies on global standards, including mutual recognition, trust, and reciprocity among safety regulators.”

De Junaic added that aviation “cannot function efficiently without this coordinated effort, and restoring public confidence demands it.”

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Sinead Donnelly

Journalist

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