Boeing announces fixes to the grounded 737 MAX, but probes continue 

Quick notes

  • All Boeing 737 MAX jets were grounded after two separate deadly crashes in October 2018 and March 2019.

  • Boeing has announced that the planes may be back in use as early as January, after fixes are approved.
  • Congress is still investigating to figure out why the planes were cleared to fly originally and what reforms are needed in aviation regulation.

The Boeing 737 MAX jet model that was grounded worldwide in March after two aircraft crashed within five months of each other, killing everybody on board, maybe back to the skies in January. 

Boeing has implemented fixes to the software system that caused the crashes, which killed nearly 350 people. It is in the process of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification for the updated system, which would allow the planes to fly in the United States again. In the meantime, Boeing and the FAA are still under scrutiny about why the original 737 MAX planes were allowed to fly in the first place. 

To recap, in October 2018, an Indonesian Lion Air flight crashed less than 13 minutes after takeoff. In March 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed six minutes after takeoff. Both planes experienced similar issues, like uncontrollable nose-diving. The FAA grounded all Boeing 737 MAX models a few days later after many other countries already had. 

Boeing 737 MAX problems and what the company is doing now

The cause of the crashes was determined to be an issue with the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) software, which was meant to engage in certain situations.

When engaged, the MCAS made the 737 MAX fly like previous versions of the 737, since the MAX’s new design changed how the plane can handle. However, the software wasn’t allowing pilots to override it, which contributed to the plane crashes. In addition, pilots weren’t given training on flying these planes. 

Valentin Hintikka/Flickr

Boeing has made revisions to the software system, including making it easier for pilots to override it.

According to a press release Boeing issued on November 11, it is getting these changes certified by the FAA, which will lead to the 737 MAX heading back to the air. 

Boeing is still expected to outline what kind of training pilots will receive with the new system, reports USA Today.  

Not everyone is ready to see the grounded 737 MAX fly again 

While it looks like the FAA is getting closer to certifying the 737 Max to fly again, other countries, with their own aviation regulatory bodies, may not follow suit. European regulators are conducting their own investigations, according to Politico.  

In September, Australia said it may not approve the use of the 737 MAX again, regardless of the FAA decision, according to The Guardian

Union leaders say American Airlines’ flight attendants are “begging” not to have to work aboard the 737 MAX, according to Business Insider

However, not all are skeptical: The Guardian reported on November 19 that Kazakhstan’s Air Astana signed a letter of intent to buy 737 MAX aircrafts, and there was speculation that other airlines are interested in buying the jets as well.  

Questions still loom after investigations and congressional probe

Governmental officials and aviation experts are also probing how the 737 MAX was approved to fly in the first place

Union leaders say American Airlines’ flight attendants are “begging” not to have to work aboard the 737 MAX, according to Business Insider.

An Indonesian government report released in late October found that the FAA and Boeing were to blame for the Lion Air crash, according to Politico. In addition, a U.S. government agency found that underqualified FAA inspectors certified the 737 MAX pilots, reports USA Today. 

The Boeing CEO testified in front of Congress in late October about information that has come up in investigations, including emails from a Boeing technical pilot that acknowledge issues with the MCAS system and that mention accidentally lying to the FAA. 

Reuters reports that the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is continuing its investigation into the crash, with the hopes of creating new legislation to fix the problem.

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Juliane Koepcke was 17 years old in 1971 when she survived a plane crash.