Boeing to update software in model of plane involved in Ethiopian crash

Boeing confirmed late on Monday it will deploy a software upgrade to the 737 Max 8 — the model that crashed on Sunday in Ethiopia and six months ago in Indonesia — a few hours after the Federal Aviation Administration said it would mandate “design changes” in the aircraft by April.

Boeing did not reference Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash in connection to the software upgrade. However, the statement did express the company’s condolences to the relatives of the 157 people who died — 18 of whom were Canadian.

The company said in the aftermath of October’s Lion Air Flight crash it has for several months “been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 Max, designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer.”

The software upgrade “will be deployed across the 737 Max fleet in the coming weeks,” it said.

Ethiopian Airlines and all Chinese airlines have grounded their Boeing 737 Max 8 planes indefinitely in the wake of the crash. Ethiopian has five of the planes in its fleet and was awaiting delivery of 25 more.

Indonesia grounded 11 of the aircraft for inspections, said Polana B. Pramesti, director general of Air Transportation. Caribbean carrier Cayman Airways, Comair in South Africa and Royal Air Maroc in Morocco temporarily grounded their Max 8s.

Canada’s two largest airlines say they are confident in the safety of the aircraft. 

Air Canada said its 24 Max 8 aircraft have performed “excellently” and met safety and reliability standards.

Calgary-based WestJet said it is “working with Boeing to ensure the continued safe operation of our Max fleet,” which includes 13 Max 8s.

Boeing says it is not issuing new guidance to airlines about the 737 Max 8.

A statement Monday referred questions about the grounding of planes to airlines and aviation authorities. It said “at this point, based on the information available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.”

Shares of Chicago-based Boeing slid almost 10 per cent in early trading on Monday. They ended the day down five per cent, halting a surge that has seen the value of the company’s stock triple in just over three years to a record high of $446 US last week.

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