Boeing says it has found second software problem with 737 Max

Second software issue explains why Boeing decided to delay submitting planned software fix to the FAA

 A 737 Max aircraft at the Boeing factory in Renton, Washington, US. Photograph:  Reuters/Lindsey Wasson

A 737 Max aircraft at the Boeing factory in Renton, Washington, US. Photograph: Reuters/Lindsey Wasson


Boeing said it has found a second software problem with its troubled 737 Max aircraft, separate from the malfunctioning anti-stall system which Ethiopian investigators identified on Thursday as a factor in the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft last month.

The emergence of a second software issue explains why Boeing earlier this week decided to delay submitting to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) a planned software fix aimed at solving problems with the anti-stall system, the manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system ( MCAS).

Boeing and the FAA said on Monday that the long-awaited fix, intended to prevent future incidents like those in Indonesia and Ethiopia which have claimed 346 lives in the past six months, would now only be submitted for approval “in the coming weeks”.

The company had previously said it would submit the software update for approval by the end of last week.

“We’re making progress on the software update that will prevent future accidents,” Boeing said in a statement on Thursday. But the company added “as part of this process we have identified an aspect of the software, unrelated to MCAS, that will also be addressed as part of the software update”.

Boeing called it a “relatively minor issue”, and added that it already had a solution to the problem.

“Over the coming weeks we will finalise the development of our update for certification by the Federal Aviation Administration, taking a comprehensive, disciplined approach to get it right,” the statement said.

Public confidence

Boeing is understood to have disclosed this issue to the FAA, and chosen to delay submitting the overall software fix until it was sorted out, according to officials familiar with the situation.

Thursday’s news that the MCAS system appears to have featured in both the Ethiopian and Indonesian crashes has badly shaken public confidence in the safety of the 737 Max aircraft, Boeing’s best-selling aircraft and a workhorse of the global aviation industry. Last month Boeing said it was grounding the entire fleet of 737 Max aircraft “out of an abundance of caution”.

The preliminary findings of the investigation into the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 released on Thursday said the pilots had correctly followed emergency procedures to override a malfunctioning MCAS system, prompting some pilots’ unions to call on the company to take its time getting the software fix right. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019