Boeing and US regulator the Federal Aviation Administration plan to gain international support to approve a safety fix for the company’s 737 MAX jets, which have been grounded following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines airliner, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing industry and government officials.
According to the outlet, the company’s management, as well as the FAA, recognises that an endorsement of an outside body is essential for restoring trust in Boeing’s best-selling aircraft, which was severely undermined by the fatal crashes allegedly caused by a technical fault in the planes. The report says that the FAA’s top safety official, Ali Bahrami, had allegedly told colleagues that an independent validation was indispensable for reassuring foreign regulators and carriers that the jets are safe. Boeing’s management reportedly agreed with his assessment.
For this, the FAA has reportedly formed an international panel including representatives from Canada, China, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, the European Union, and Brazil, which is expected to meet later in April. According to the WSJ, it has been granted a broad mandate to study and certify the 737 MAX’s safety; in particular, fixing the plane’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which has been identified as the possible cause of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines tragedies. The group is headed by former Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board Christopher A. Hart.
Following the fatal crashes, Boeing updated the jets’ software to eliminate the possibility of unintended actions of the MCAS and has reportedly successfully tested the fix. It is now set to be assessed by the FAA. Despite the existing practice of aviation regulators accepting the certification of a jet issued by the country where it was built, the European Aviation Safety Agency and Canada's Transport Ministry have announced that they would conduct their own analyses of the changes that Boeing will suggest in order to make their own MAX 8 aircraft safer. Among other things, this could prolong the current worldwide flight ban on the jets and result in further losses to the aerospace giant.
After the crash, Boeing's market value took a dive. The company failed to secure any commercial orders for its 737 MAX passenger planes in March, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) cited company records as saying. The newspaper reported that March was the first month without a sale of the company’s best-selling aircraft in almost seven years.
Meanwhile, a Boeing shareholder recently filed a class-action lawsuit against the manufacturer over an alleged cover-up of safety issues related to the 737 MAX airplanes, The Washington Post reported. The lawsuit claims that the company had put "profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty" and seeks damages for alleged security fraud violations, claiming that investors have suffered economic losses as a result.
A 737 MAX plane operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed on 10 March, taking the lives of all 157 people on board. The incident was the second involving a 737 MAX within a five-month period. On 29 October 2018, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed off the coast of Indonesia, killing all 189 passengers and crew members. Preliminary investigations reportedly discovered that the anti-stall system in Boeing's new aircraft might have been to blame.