Boeing has announced that it will release a Boeing 737 MAX software ‘enhancement’ in a matter of weeks. This announcement came only hours after the FAA stated that it would mandate design changes to the aircraft to be implemented by April.
Several airlines and countries around the globe have grounded the aircraft after the second Boeing 737 MAX 8 crash in only 5 months. The FAA, however, insists that the aircraft remains airworthy.
The Boeing Company released a statement concerning the flight control software enhancement “to make an already safe aircraft even safer” on Monday. According to the statement, the aircraft manufacturer has been working on the enhancement for a few months. As a matter of fact, it started working on it in response to the Lion Air crash.
According to Boeing, we will see “updates to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals and crew training. The enhanced flight control law incorporates angle of attack (AOA) inputs, limits stabilizer trim commands in response to an erroneous angle of attack reading, and provides a limit to the stabilizer command in order to retain elevator authority.”
Boeing did not mention the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines aircraft while addressing the software update. The company did, however, express its deepest condolences to the ones affected by the crash.
The FAA will mandate the software enhancement via an AD (Airworthiness Directive) in April. As a result, operators will have to comply with the requirements of the AD within the compliance times specified in the document in order to continue to fly the aircraft legally.
Do we know what caused the aircraft to crash?
At this point, the cause of both crashes is still unknown. Nonetheless, we do know that the Lion Air 737 MAX 8 had experienced technical difficulties in the days before the crash. Right before the crash, the pilots had problems with the anti-stall system. The nose of the aircraft dipped uncontrollably. The pilots tried to point the nose up numerous times, but the system kept forcing the nose down. It appears that the aircraft’s angle-of-attack (AOA) sensor was malfunctioning.
The FAA issued Emergency AD 2018-23-51 in response to the accident. The AD required operators to revise portions of the Aircraft Flight Manual (AFM). The FAA, however, stated that this AD was only an “interim action.”
The Ethiopian Airlines aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff just like the Lion Air 737 MAX 8. The Ethiopian Airlines aircraft reportedly experienced problems with its vertical speed during the six-minute flight. Nevertheless, we do not know if there were also issues with the AOA sensor in this case.
The aircraft’s flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR) have been recovered and are being analyzed. This analysis will hopefully give us further insight into what happened during the flight.