Boeing to Release 737 MAX Software Update This Month

The 737 MAX 7’s first flight. (Boeing)

Boeing is developing an update for its 737 MAX flight control software after two deadly crashes in the new aircraft within the last six months killed more than 300 people.

In October, a Lion Air flight out of Jakarta, Indonesia crashed, killing the 189 people onboard. Sunday, Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 similarly crashed within minutes of takeoff, killing all 157 passengers and crewmembers. Neither investigation will be complete for some time, but the circumstances look similar between the two deadly accidents, leading customers and carriers alike to worry about the 737 MAX’s safety, with some countries and airlines grounding the plane until more is known.

Boeing insists that the 737 MAX is safe, but said this software update is “designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer.”

Preliminary reports on the Lion Air crash indicate that pilot struggles with the 737 MAX’s trim system and accounting for inaccurately reported angle-of-attack (AOA) information may have played a role in that crash, leading the FAA to require a flight manual update, which Boeing put out on Nov. 6.

That system seems to be the focus of Boeing’s software update, which includes changes to the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals and crew training, according to the company. The enhanced flight control law incorporates AOA inputs, limits stabilizer trim commands in response to an erroneous AOA reading and provides a limit to the stabilizer command in order to retain elevator authority.

The update will be deployed across 737 MAX fleets “in the coming weeks,” according to Boeing’s announcement, and the FAA is expected to make it mandatory through an airworthiness directive no later than April.

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