SINGAPORE,. Boeing Co said it invited more than 200 airline pilots, technical leaders and regulators for an information session on Wednesday as it looks to return the 737 MAX to commercial service.
The meeting is a sign that Boeing’s planned software patch is nearing completion, though it will still need regulatory approval.
Over the weekend, Ethiopian Airlines executives had questioned whether Boeing had told pilots enough about “aggressive” software that pushes the plane’s nose down, a focus of investigation into a deadly crash in Ethiopia this month that led to the global grounding of 737 MAX jets.
The informational session in Renton, Washington on Wednesday is part of a plan to reach all current and many future 737 MAX operators and their home regulators to discuss software and training updates to the jet, Boeing said in a statement.
Garuda Indonesia, which on Friday said it planned to cancel its order for 49 737 MAX jets citing a loss of passenger trust after the crashes, was invited to the briefing, CEO Ari Askhara told Reuters today.
“We were informed on Friday, but because it is short notice we can’t send a pilot there,” he said, adding the airline had requested a webinar with Boeing but that idea had been rejected.
A Boeing spokeswoman did not respond immediately to a request for comment on the webinar proposal.
Garuda has only one 737 MAX and had been reconsidering its order before the Ethiopian crash, as has fellow Indonesian carrier Lion Air, which experienced a deadly crash in October.
Singapore Airlines Ltd said today its offshoot SilkAir, which operates the 737 MAX, had received the invitation to the Wednesday event and would send representatives.
The 737 MAX is Boeing’s best-selling plane, with orders worth more than US$500 billion (RM2.03 trillion) at list prices.
Teams from the three US airlines that own 737 MAX jets participated in a session in Renton reviewing a planned software upgrade on Saturday.
A US official briefed on the matter Saturday said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not yet signed off on the software upgrade and training but the goal is to review them in coming weeks and approve them by April.
It remained unclear whether the software upgrade, called “design changes” by the FAA, will resolve concerns stemming from the ongoing investigation into the March 10 Ethiopian Airlines crash, which killed all 157 on board.
“After the crash it came to our attention that the system is aggressive,” Yohannes Hailemariam, vice president for flight operations at Ethiopian, told local reporters speaking in the Amharic language.
“It gives a message of stalling and it takes immediate action which is faster than the action which pilots were briefed to take by Boeing,” said Yohannes, himself a pilot with over 30 years of experience, including flying Boeing’s 777 and 787.
The US official said planned changes included 15 minutes of training to help pilots deactivate the anti-stall system known as MCAS in the event of faulty sensor data or other issues. It also included some self-guided instruction, the official added.
American Airlines said yesterday it will extend flight cancellations through April 24 because of the grounding of the 737 MAX and cut some additional flights. — Reuters