Boeing 737 MAX: Manufacturer rolls out software fix but claims it is nothing to do with Ethiopia crash

Jane Dalton

Boeing says it has developed software fixes for an automated flight-control system on its 737 airliners, which are under scrutiny after two deadly crashes in five months.

The aircraft manufacturer is under pressure from victims’ families, airlines, US politicians and regulators worldwide to prove the automated systems aboard its 737 Max aircraft are safe and pilots have the training required to override the system in an emergency.

Earlier this month, 157 people were killed when a 737 Max jet of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed minutes after take-off.

In October, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed just minutes into a flight from Jakarta, Indonesia, killing 189 people. It was the first fatal accident involving a 737 Max.

Preliminary evidence has suggested similarities between the two accidents, and investigators are examining whether an automated system designed to help the plane avoid stalling may have been partly to blame.

A Boeing official in Seattle said on Wednesday the timing of the software upgrade was “100 per cent independent of the timing of the Ethiopian accident”, and the company was taking steps to make the anti-stall system “more robust”.

“We are going to do everything that we can do to ensure that accidents like these never happen again,” said Mike Sinnett, vice president for product strategy and development at Boeing.

Boeing will offer the software fix to airlines free of charge, and it will be released only after it is certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Seattle Times reported.

The company previously charged airlines extra for some safety features, the New York Times has reported.

A spokesperson for the FAA said it had not reviewed or certified the software upgrade yet.

Southwest Airlines, which is the first major airline to cut its financial outlook for the year after being forced to pull its 34 Max jets out of service, said it supported Boeing’s decision.

Additional reporting by agencies