Boeing says it has finished a software update for the anti-stall system in its 737 Max aircraft, bringing the planes a step closer to returning to the air after the catastrophic crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia forced their worldwide grounding two months ago.
The aircraft manufacturer said it is now working on measures to gain certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which would re-open runways to the 737 Max, at least in the United States.
Boeing Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said the company has completed all of the engineering test flights required for FAA certification and is preparing for the final FAA certification flight.
“We’re committed to providing the FAA and global regulators all the information they need, and to getting it right. We’re making clear and steady progress and are confident that the 737 MAX with updated MCAS software will be one of the safest airplanes ever to fly,” Mr. Muilenburg said, adding that “the accidents have only intensified our commitment to our values, including safety, quality and integrity, because we know lives depend on what we do.”
Despite those strong assurances, however, not all carriers are willing to give the Boeing jets a second chance, at least for now.
In an interview with NBC News, Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, said his company will be the last one to fly the Boeing 737 Max again, if ever.
Families across Ethiopia and several other nations were devastated by the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, which crashed March 10 near the town of Bishoftu, Ethiopia, killing 157 people. The crash occurred just weeks after the crash of Lion Air flight 610, killing 189. Boeing maintained after the Lion Air crash that 737 Max 8 planes were safe to fly.
Mr. Gebremariam said Ethiopian airlines and flight crews have lost confidence in the safety of the 737 Max. He told NBC News that he believes the plane’s entire flight control system needs to be reviewed, not just the MCAS anti-stall system that investigators believe misfired and contributed to both fatal crashes.
Although Boeing says it has made progress with the 737 Max repairs, it could still be several months before the Max 737s fly again. It’s uncertain how long the FAA’s review and certification process will take, but the agency faces a congressional inquiry about why it certified the planes to fly in the first place.
Beasley Allen lawyer Mike Andrews is investigating both deadly 737 Max plane crashes and is representing families of those killed in the Ethiopian Airlines crash. Mike focuses much of his practice on aviation litigation and has written a book on the subject.