Boeing 737 Max 8 software has been improved to ensure "unintended MCAS activation" will not happen again. © Joe Raedle / Getty Images
Boeing 737 Max 8 software has been improved to ensure "unintended MCAS activation" will not happen again. © Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Boeing cuts 737 Max production to focus on software

Boeing 737 aircraft production has been cut as efforts go towards updating the plane's software following two fatal crashes.

Boeing has changed the production system of the Boeing 737 Max aeroplanes temporarily, with the monthly production rate falling from 52 to 42, starting in mid-April, according to a Boeing statement.

The production adjustments are in response to the two airline crashes of the Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 320. Both air crashes killed all passengers and crew onboard, with fatalities of the Ethiopian Flight 302 at 157, and fatalities of the Indonesian Flight 610 at 189, according to official air investigation reports.

Air crash investigations conducted by the Ethiopian Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) revealed that the Boeing 737 Max software had an “erroneous angle of attack sensor input that activated the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) function during the flight,” causing extreme fluctuations in upward and downward speed, said Boeing.

As a result, airlines and governments worldwide grounded the fleet. Boeing has been “advancing and testing the software, conducting non-advocate reviews, and engaging regulators and customers worldwide,” in order to ensure the aircraft can safely return to flight, according to the American aeroplane manufacturer.

The software update will ensure “unintended MCAS activation” will not happen again, by building up layers of protection that prevent faulty data affecting the MCAS system.

The production change has enabled prioritisation of resources towards the software update, flight testing, and training. The update is near completion, and certification and implementation of the changes to the software are expected for the 737 Max fleet worldwide in the next few weeks, said Boeing.

Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing CEO, said: “The 737 programme and related production teams will maintain their current employment levels while we continue to invest in the broader health and quality of our production system and supply chain. We're also finalising new pilot training courses and supplementary educational material for our global Max customers.

“We are coordinating closely with our customers as we work through plans to mitigate the impact of this adjustment. We will also work directly with our suppliers on their production plans to minimise operational disruption and financial impact of the production rate change.”

Muilenburg has called upon the Boeing board of directors to establish a new regulatory committee to “review company-wide policies and processes for the design and development of the airplanes” in order to assure “the highest level of safety on the 737-Max programme, as well as our other airplane programmes, and recommend improvements to policies and procedures”.

Boeing worked with the US Federal Aviation Administration and other regulatory agencies worldwide to develop the software solutions and training programme.

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