Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 30 September 2020

US regulator outlines list of proposed fixes for Boeing's grounded 737 Max

The Federal Aviation Administration has given the public up to 45 days to comment on the changes

A Boeing 737 Max jet comes in to land at a Boeing air field after a test flight in June in Seattle. AP
A Boeing 737 Max jet comes in to land at a Boeing air field after a test flight in June in Seattle. AP

The US aviation regulator has proposed an extensive list of fixes for Boeing’s 737 Max to address safety issues that arose after two crashes led to the jet being grounded for 15 months.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued an airworthiness directive that called for four main design changes to the aircraft, it said in a 36-page report on Monday evening.

These include installing updated flight control software, revising display-processing software to generate alerts, revising certain flight crew operating procedures and changing the routing of some electrical wiring.

The agency gave the public 45 days to comment on the proposed changes.

“Through a thorough, transparent and inclusive process, the FAA has preliminarily determined that Boeing’s proposed changes to the 737 Max design, flight crew procedures and maintenance procedures effectively mitigate the plane-related safety issues,” the agency said in a 96-page summary of its review of the plane that it included with the proposal.

Responding to the FAA’s requirements, Boeing said it continues to “make steady progress towards the safe return [of the 737 Max] to service, working closely with the FAA and other global regulators”.

“While we still have a lot of work in front of us, this is an important milestone in the certification process,” the Chicago plane maker said.

The company’s shares rose by 2.73 per cent to $162.27 (Dh596) at the end of trading in New York on Monday.

The proposal is in line with the expectations of Boeing and industry analysts over the past few months.

US airlines operate a total of 73 Boeing 737 Max aircraft across the country and are expected to pay about $1.33 million for each plane to make the changes, according to FAA estimates.

The agency’s report is a comprehensive review of Boeing’s proposed changes to the plane’s Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System, which was blamed for the two crashes.

The review took 18 months and involved more than 40 engineers, inspectors, pilots and technical support staff.

The FAA undertook more than 60,000 hours of review, certification testing and document evaluation.

This included about 50 hours of FAA flight or simulator tests and FAA analysis of more than 4,000 hours of company flight and simulator testing.

The US agency also proposed that operators of the plane should test the angle-of-attack sensor system, whose failures led to the two crashes, and perform operational readiness flights before the planes can return to service.

The design changes are intended to ensure that the system has several ways to prevent similar crashes in the future.

The FAA said it will also assess the impact of the proposed aircraft design changes on pilot training.

Flydubai, the only UAE airline with the 737 Max and one of the world’s biggest operators of the model, said it continues to work closely with the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority and Boeing.

“We recognise this is a unique and complex situation underpinned by safety and regulation,” a flydubai spokeswoman said.

“There are a number of procedural factors that our experienced teams are working through. We will follow the directives from our regulatory authority, and we will make any announcements once a decision has been made.”

The GCAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the FAA’s proposal.

We recognise this is a unique and complex situation underpinned by safety and regulation.

FlyDubai spokeswoman

Meanwhile, Kuwaiti aircraft lessor Alafco on Tuesday said that it will halve its planned 737 Max purchases after it reached an agreement to end its legal claim against Boeing over the order.

Alafco will now buy 20 Boeing 737 Max aircraft, down from an original order of 40, with revised delivery dates, the company told Boursa Kuwait.

“Alafco’s order book of Boeing aircraft has now been reconfigured to align it with current market dynamics,” Alafco said.

The company did not disclose additional details due to confidentiality clauses under its commercial agreement, it said.

Alafco is "looking forward to a long lasting and mutually beneficial relationship with Boeing", it said in the filing.

Updated: August 5, 2020 03:05 AM

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