Sun, Apr 21, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Boeing systems face review


A global team of experts next week is to begin reviewing how the Boeing Co 737 MAX’s flight control system was approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The FAA has said that experts from nine international civil aviation authorities have confirmed participation in a technical review promised by the agency.

Former US National Transportation Safety Board chairman Chris Hart is to lead the group, which will also have experts from the FAA and NASA.

They are to look at the plane’s automated system, including the way it interacts with pilots.

The group is to meet on Tuesday and is expected to finish in 90 days.

The Boeing jetliner has been grounded around the world since the middle of last month after two crashes killed 346 people. Investigators are focusing on anti-stall software that pushed the planes’ noses down based on erroneous sensor readings.

In a statement on Friday, the FAA said aviation authorities in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the EU, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to help with the work, called a Joint Authorities Technical Review.

The group is to evaluate the automated flight control design and determine whether it complies with regulations. It would also decide whether changes need to be made in the FAA’s approval process.

Chicago-based Boeing is working on a software fix to the planes’ anti-stall system, known by its acronym, MCAS. In both a crash in October last year off the coast of Indonesia and crash in March in Ethiopia, a faulty sensor reading triggered MCAS and pushed the plane’s nose down. Pilots were unable to recover.

Pilots at US airlines have complained that they did not even know about MCAS until after the October crash. They then received computer training that described the system and how to respond if something were to go wrong with it.

On Wednesday, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said that the company completed its final test flight of updated flight-control software.

Test pilots flew 120 flights totaling 203 hours with the new software, Muilenburg said.

The company is expected to conduct a crucial certification flight with an FAA test pilot onboard soon, possibly next week.

“We are making steady progress toward certification” and returning the MAX to service, Muilenburg said as he stood in front of a MAX jet at Boeing Field in Seattle.

Muilenburg said he went on a test flight that day and saw the updated software “operating as designed across a range of flight conditions.”

In the US, United Airlines has removed its 14 MAX jets from the schedule until early July, while American Airlines Group Inc, with 24, and Southwest Airlines Co, with 34, are not counting on the planes until August.

It could take longer before foreign airlines can use their MAX jets. Regulators outside the US once relied on the FAA’s judgement in such matters, but have indicated plans to conduct their own reviews this time.

Foreign nations might impose additional requirements, delaying the use of the MAX by their carriers.

For example, FAA experts concluded in a draft report that while pilots need training on the anti-stall system, they do not need additional time in flight simulators.

However, Canada’s transportation minister said this week that he wants simulator training for MAX pilots.

Air Canada has 24 MAX jets.

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