New Software Issue Found As Boeing 737 MAX Certification Flights Draw Near

The Boeing 737 MAX has been grounded for almost a year. However, following in-depth investigation and testing by the regulators, it looks poised to begin certification flights in a matter of weeks. However, today a new software issue has cropped up that could spell more trouble for Boeing. Does this mean the MAX will take even longer to return?

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The 737 MAX has developed another problem. Photo: Getty Images

The 737 MAX is almost ready to fly

The world is eagerly awaiting the return of the Boeing 737 MAX to its skies. Now, it seems that the countdown is on, as the FAA has announced that certification flights will begin in a matter of weeks. FAA administrator Steve Dickson has said that international regulatory bodies are on the verge of an agreement to the final fixes so that the MAX can return to service. He was reported by Reuters to have said,

“On the design approval, from everything that I have seen, I think we’ll have very solid alignment.”

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Great news for Boeing, but the announcement comes with a barbed edge. Almost simultaneously, Bloomberg broke the news that another software issue has been found on the 737 MAX, which must be patched before it can take those all-important flights.

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What’s the problem now?

Dickson has been somewhat tight-lipped about the precise issue with the 737 MAX. He noted that a light which indicates the stabilizer trim is not working properly had been “staying on for longer than the desired period.”

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The software issue must be patched before it can fly. Photo: Getty Images

According to sources who talked to Bloomberg, the problem involves an alert that is designed to warn pilots when the trim system, which raises and lowers the nose of the plane, is not working as it should. The sources further said that the issue came about due to Boeing’s redesign of the two flight computers on the 737 MAX, which were supposed to make them more resilient to failure.

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While this is not an issue with the MCAS, it’s painfully close to the problem Boeing was originally trying to fix. Although this seems to be a less severe issue, Boeing will still need to work hard to ensure everything is working perfectly before the FAA agrees to let the aircraft fly.

What does this mean for the MAX?

Dickson has been noted to have indicated that the 737 MAX could be back in service before the middle of the year. However, he has also consistently warned against putting any definitive timeline on the aircraft’s return.

Boeing 737 MAX, Rename, Donald Trump
Still no clear timeline on the return to service. Photo: Getty Images

Boeing has often been more optimistic, previously indicating several return to service dates, all of which have passed. Its most recent message has been that we should see the aircraft in the skies again by mid-2020, which is largely in line with the FAA’s overall indications. But will this latest software issue cause a further delay?

Bloomberg’s sources said that they did not expect this new issue to really affect the timeline of return to service. They said that the planemaker had sufficiently padded its projected timelines to allow for such issues to crop up.

Many of the operators of the Boeing 737 MAX have already removed the type from service well into the summer season. Ryanair has said it doesn’t expect to receive its modified version of the plane, the 737 MAX-200, until at least October, but that didn’t put Michael O’Leary off from announcing his intention to order more of the type, this time the 737 MAX 10.

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Frank

It’s a knock on effect; you change one thing, which impacts something else, you correct it, then something else gets changed. In an older design with limited computing power, it boxes you in with limitations pretty quickly. You gotta have really smart people who can see the big picture, working the issue.

Sam H

I still wouldn't fly on a MAX

David C.

Bwahahaha! Quote from the article: “The world is eagerly awaiting the return of the Boeing 737 MAX to its skies..”

Nope, Boeing is eagerly awaiting the max returning to the skies. Some airlines might be keen from a route and capacity standpoint, but very few if any of the flying public are eagerly awaiting the return of the MAX. That line was sheer comedy.

pats

Correct, the US carriers might get the green light from the FAA, but the rest of the world may not approve the MAX so quickly. Convincing other countries civil aviation authorities will be the biggest hurdle that Boeing will have. Until the rest of the world approves the MAX, don’t expect any flights outside the US.

TonytTDK

China have repeatedly said that their CAAC regulatory body WILL make a full independent examination of the MAX BEFORE they re-certify it.
Given the coronavirus issue which has overwhelmed parts of their nation & the fact that Airbus has closed-down it’s FAL in China, unless things improve very quickly, it may well be that the CAAC is not able to do the necessary work to re-certify the MAX for some time.?
Since China currently has the most delivered MAX’s & one assumes, a substantial number on order, this will delay Boeings’ income-stream from improving from that region.?

Lowflying

As an airline pilot, I would fly the Max.

The 737, in various forms, has been a success story for over 50 years. MCAS was a disaster, for sure, and should never have happened, but it will be sorted one day. Airlines see the value and utility of the 737 or they wouldn’t have ordered them.

David C.

You may fly a MAX, but the horrific stigma attached to it will affect the general flying public. That will linger for years and is quite frankly warranted. Boeing broke the social contract to deliver a product that was safe in the first place. As far as value placed by the airlines, the only orders for the since the disasters and removal from service have been by bottom feeder CEO’s. O’Leary in general is betting that his “lowest price possible” customer base will not care or notice that much. And he is probably right. The vast majority of airlines and… Read more »

Frank

But just in case Dave, he has changed the name on the aircraft…

David C.

Hahahaha! And the discussion at the Ryan Air gates between all the gate lice will be: “Oy, that’s not a MAX mate, its a 737-8200! You’re right man, we are safe!”

JackFlash

Well, if you want to fly a flawed airplane designed by clowns and supervised by monkeys that’s your prerogative.
The only value in B737 Max is a scrap metal. All new orders are not worth the paper they are written on.

shapes

It was very strange that when boing stock tanked last week and they stopped trading, when it came back online it was trading normally and mr dickson had completely changed his outlook on the max, me thinks he had his balls chewed by some very high up people who said ” mr dickson, you are single handedly destroying the u.s economy….certify the max

David C.

That didn’t work the first time RE: certifying the MAX. Once bitten, twice shy..

Frank

Somebody with Orange hair, perhaps?

David C.

Frank, even if the great cheeto did force it through, it would only be a domestic approval. Transport Canada is doing its review separately as well as EASA. I can already see that the Westjet 737-MAX airframes have been pulled from the Glasgow – Halifax route through July. They were the scheduled airframe as late as the third week of January.

TonytTDK

As I mentioned earlier, China has the largest number of MAX’s already delivered & presumably loads more on order.? China has said CAAC, their regulatory body WILL do their own assessment & certification, so you can definitely add that country to Canada & Europe who’re not going allow the MAX to fly in their airspace until after the FAA have finished their certification process & these other nations/regions have then made their own decisions.!

Reed Hummell

I have the sense from reading these articles about the MAX that there is a certain amount bias against Boeing. A computer glitch can be any manner of things including a minor coding issue. To imply that this new issue will continue to delay the MAX’s return to service is pure conjecture. Neither Boeing or the FAA is likely to gloss over any additional safety issues for the sake of expediency. Once this plane is returns to service, it will have been scrutinized far beyond any other aircraft in history. I will have absolutely no issue boarding one if it’s… Read more »

Gerry S

@Reed Hummell:……….I remember the American Airlines tragedy over ( or rather, in) Queens NY. Airbus's insistence that the pilot used too much rudder too violently was ridiculous. I thought then that they had never considered crab landings.

TonytTDK

You’ll NOT be a pilot then.? Light aircraft or airliners from the ‘old days’, controlled sideslip with heavy use of the rudder. Modern aircraft don’t.! They use the smaller control surfaces of the wings such as ailerons, to adjust the aircraft. (This is why good hand-flying pilots enjoy the occasional crosswind landing, as for a change they get to really use their feet, as well as their hands to land their aircraft) I think the Discovery channel TV show of that crash said that the tailplane broke-off at almost 220% of it’s anticipated load capability.??????? I’m not blaming the pilot,… Read more »

Reed Hummell

Actually, I am a pilot. American cited the pilot’s tendency to “over use” rudder input in a prior evaluation. But, that’s not my point. Boeing is not the only manufacturer to have suffered catastrophic system failures.

TonytTDK

This is (yet) another setback for Boeing & the MAX, but in the bigger picture, it’s not so bad.! Because it’s been discovered whilst the aircraft is still grounded, the great mass of the public won’t notice any difference. It’s not flying & wasn’t expected back in service for at least a few more months, so if this hitch/glitch costs Boeing & the FAA a couple of weeks or even a month or so to fix, it’ll only be a marginal extention to the existing grounding. It would have been massively worse had the aircraft been certified by the FAA… Read more »

Michael Sheargold

Boeing’s report card on the Max is not good! There’s been bad decision on top of bad decision. And if you want the full low down I’m happy to share. But really ending production quickly and producing a new single isle aircraft is Boeing’s best strategy. When airlines are flying empty planes the 737 Max will be history. Everyone seems to forget social media!

KEITH HITCHMAN

I agree 100% with your comments. No matter what the outcome of this Max saga is. This aircraft is jinxed, it will never get approval from the People who will be asked to fly in it. I for one would not consider flying as a passenger in one of these badly designed and dangerous aircraft!!!!

David King

The air-frame is sturdy with 50 years of service, , the engines are not an issue, and the basic aircraft is a well proven performer. The fault is with a computing warning system with the raising and lowering of the nose of the aircraft….nothing else… and once this is sorted, it will be a safe aircraft to fly in. Remember there are a lot of 737 maxes that have been in service prior to the crashes, that have been flying without any incidents and once new flight crews are briefed on the changes, there will be nothing to worry about.

Dave

What an overly simplistic attempt at explaining the MAX’s problems. The problem here is more than simply a computer system raising and lowering the nose of the aircraft – it’s attempting to use a 50 year old airframe with undercarriage too short for the latest generation of engines, jacking those engines up into a position that the airframe wasn’t designed to accommodate, and thereby creating and inherently unstable aircraft which then REQUIRED software to assist them to fly. When that software proved to have glitches they plummeted from the sky. The MAX is a flawed design. They tried to make… Read more »