New Flaw in Boeing 737?
The Federal Aviation Administration has found a potential risk in the Boeing 737 Max software update that was supposed to improve safety after the jets were grounded worldwide following two fatal crashes since October.
Investigators found a problem with the updated Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, automated flight control system, during a flight simulation. If the MCAS software senses the plane is going into a stall, the system pushes the plane’s nose down repeatedly, which is a standard procedure to avoid a stall. Investigators believe the MCAS system may have been responsible for the two deadly crashes.
Pilots testing the MCAS update in a simulator, however, found that it took them too long to recover the airplane if the software was trying to avoid a stall, a source close to the investigation told NBC News. The FAA said in a statement to NBC News that its job is to find potential problems and that it found “a potential risk that Boeing must mitigate.”
“The FAA will lift the aircraft’s prohibition order when we deem it is safe to do so,” the statement said. “We continue to evaluate Boeing’s software modification to the MCAS, and we are still developing necessary training requirements.” Boeing has traced the issue to a microprocessor and how the chip handles data, but believes it can address the issue with a software code update.
Boeing engineers are now trying to address the issue, which has led to another delay in recertifying the 737 Max. “The safety of our airplanes is Boeing’s highest priority,” the company said in a statement.
Boeing said that the Federal Aviation Administration “identified an additional requirement that it has asked the company to address through the software changes that the company has been developing for the past eight months.” “Boeing agrees with the FAA’s decision and request, and is working on the required software,” the company said, adding that “Boeing will not offer the 737 MAX for certification by the FAA until we have satisfied all requirements for certification of the MAX and its safe return to service.”
The sources say Boeing engineers are trying to determine if the microprocessor issue can be fixed by reprogramming software or if replacing the physical microprocessors on each 737 Max aircraft may be required.