American Airlines Pilots To Test Boeing 737 MAX Software Fix

American Airlines pilots are set to begin testing a software fix for the Boeing 737 MAX. The fix follows two fatal crashes which are thought to be attributed to the aircraft’s MCAS system. The trials will take place at Boeing’s Renton plant in Washington.

The world’s Boeing 737 MAX fleet is currently grounded as Boeing desperately works on a software fix for the system. While American Airlines is sending pilots to review the software updates, Southwest and United Airlines are also sending non-pilot representatives.

737 MAX Software
American Airlines operates a fleet of 24 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Photo: American Airlines

Significant software flaws

The Boeing 737 MAX has much larger engines than its predecessor. As such, these are located further forward and higher than previous models of the 737. This means that the handling characteristics of the aircraft has changed. Boeing introduced the MCAS system to counteract this. MCAS stands for Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System.

The MCAS system is designed to trim the nose down if the aircraft stalls. However, it appears as though, in certain situations, this system can erroneously be activated, with disastrous consequences. As such, Boeing is working on a fix to the software which regulates the MCAS system. This software fix will need to be approved by the FAA before being rolled out.

737 MAX Software
The MCAS system trims the Boeing 737 MAX down if a stall is detected. Photo: American Airlines

346 fatalities

The flaw which is being corrected by the software upgrade is thought to be behind 346 deaths across two fatal air accidents. The first was the tragic loss of Lion Air flight 610 in late October. 189 lives were lost in this first incident, with no survivors. The second incident really brought home the magnitude of the software issue. On the 10th of March, a further 157 lives were lost when Ethiopian flight 302 crashed under similar circumstances.

Following the second incident, airlines and aviation authorities across the globe began to ground the Boeing 737 MAX. This became a global grounding when the FAA and Boeing finally bowed to global and public pressure on the 13th of March.

737 MAX Software
The world’s entire 737 MAX fleet is currently grounded. Photo: Boeing

The solution

Every day that the Boeing 737 MAX remains grounded is costing Boeing and airlines around the world more money. Boeing is looking to patch the MCAS software to stop the behaviour behind these accidents as quickly as possible. In fact, right now it appears that the software update is now almost complete.

Representatives from three major airlines are currently meeting with Boeing in order to review the changes. While Southwest and United have sent non-pilot and training teams, American Airlines is also sending two pilots to Renton. This will comprise of one union pilot and one pilot from American’s management. These pilots will test the software fix in one of Boeing’s 737 MAX simulators. There are currently just nine Boeing 737 MAX simulators in use globally.

Do you think the Boeing 737 MAX will be safe following a software fix? Let us know in the comments down below!

17 comments
    1. Stockle, you may want to cancel your ride on an A320, after last year’s software-implicated overrun in Warsaw: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lufthansa_Flight_2904. Oh, and you should include a330s as well, following a FBW failure involving an air data malfunction involving one of three INS nav units that resulted in a planeload of injured passengers. We can speculate with Donald Trump that aircraft are becoming too automated to fly safely, but the fact remains that software faults still occur and people can get hurt. Bruce Curtis ATP/CFI/CGI

    2. Couldn’t agree with you more. It seems outrageous that a processor-controlled device has to be fitted to deal with an inherent flaw in the craft. Fix the craft and consign MCAS to the dustbin. It’s called “cause and effect” but maybe Boeing and the FAA aren’t aware of that.

  1. Everything comes becauase of the aircraft’s height. I would feel safe if they just made the aircraft higher and mount the engines where they had to be with no need of MCAS.
    The design of 737 is really old and I think is not suitable for the market nowadays… This is why I think A320 is much safer and the accident statistics shows the same.

  2. When did safety become an optional feature of an airliner? The problem with MCAS is not limited to AOA sensors or faulty software. I comes down to dollars and “sense”. The MCAS system is not a complete safety system at all. The planes that crashed lacked two components of MCAS – A display that shows the readings of the two AOA sensors and a warning light that activates when the readings of the two sensors don’t agree. Boeing charges an extra $80,000.00 for a warning light. This is absolutely criminal. Executives from Boeing need to go to prison for putting greed above safety.

  3. Hopefully Boeing will be forced to have the aircraft re-certificated and only after the fix has been shown to be safe in non revenue test flights, the MCAS system is fully revealed, along with any other hidden “fixes” and taught to crew in simulators. This will undoubtedly take time and a great deal of money but that’s not as tough as the result the deaths of crew and passengers has had.

    Until then passengers and crews should wise up and let airlines and Boeing know that the aircraft, should it be rushed back into service, will be boycotted.

  4. I assume the previous comment has been paid for by an Airbus, that seems to forget it will probably find itself in a similar situation some day in the future, as some errors are inevitable. I’m not going to defend greedy Boeing but people will very soon forget about it all. Probably not a single passenger is going to choose their airline based on its fleet and by the end of the year their stock may stabilize. Trump will never let Boeing fall.

  5. I’m thinking like a lot of other people, sorry but I don’t trust the plane no matter what Boeing say or do. I’ll be making sure I don’t fly in one

  6. An ancient plane design (which was excellent to begin with) has been tinkered with so much that the d***n thing is unstable in the skies if not for a software “fix”! Even a phone that stays in the pocket needs constant updates and fixes. A plane is safe when pilots can fly it without the need for this ridiculous software fix. No thank you. Airbus from now on! Until Boeing designs a new plane (why take away 757/767??)

  7. I’m sure American, Southwest, and United will continue purchasing and flying the 737 MAX, as they all are U.S. airlines and have closer ties to Boeing. Also their pilots generally have more flight hours/experience than pilots at smaller third-world airlines. I bet that the 737 MAX MCAS software/certification issues will get resolved, but it’s too bad that hundreds of people had to die first. Both Boeing and the FAA will have black eyes over this for years to come.

  8. As a long time fan of the 737 and having flown tens of thousands of miles in them, it pains me to have to write that I’ve lost all confidence in Boeing. I will never knowingly fly in a -MAX .

  9. So… the plane is dangerous to fly without the software because it will stall. But the software causes nose dives into the ground/sea. So they “fix” the software by making it possible for pilots to turn it off? So if the software is turned off, the plane may stall…….. Are these our brightest smartest aeronautical minds here?

  10. Why not get rid of the MCAS and train the pilots to fly without it. As Ara pointed out, its not safe with it anyway. Just excess weight. After all, the pilots lives are important, too.

    1. Not a huge fan of computer controlled anything.

      Think that good old gauges at least kept pilots eyes on. Should the screen ever go blank, vne, vsi, altimeter, horizon, slip turn indicator, compass would be comforting. At least you can then check if your seat of pants is right. If you have a total compo failure you might lose the lot. However if you can at least maintain control a mayday will get you talked in. Dont know much about fixed wing aircraft but I dont see anybody orientating to ground let alone the sea. KISS!

      Lastly really feel for the pilots who got to fly an unsafe plane. They deserve better than they got on the max. After a lifetime flying it must be the worst to know you going in through no fault of your own and taking the pax with you.

  11. No Way José will you find me on one of these , “Quick Fixes” à la BOEING of the MCAS software, while ignoring the main issues of Structural and Aerodynamic modifications remain a more Important Outstanding Question marks🤔🙉
    Additionally if I were a Client with these B737 MAX on order, I would seriously consider canceling, since I’am not convinced in the Patchwork, presumably correcting The Problem, and definitely, don’t trust BOEING and FAA colluding in getting this aircraft certified and start delivery immediately. An intensive Audit/Investigation should be carried out on BOEINF/FAA to determine whether during the preliminary Test Flights carried out by their Test Pilots the Structural/Aerodynamic variances have been observed during those Test Flight, which should be recorded in the multiple flight Logs.

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