Boeing to mandate safety feature in MAX software upgrade – sources

JAKARTA/CHICAGO (Reuters) – Boeing Co will mandate on MAX jets a previously optional cockpit warning light, which might have warned of problems that possibly played a role in the recent crashes of Ethiopian and Indonesian planes, two officials briefed on the matter said.

An aerial photo shows Boeing 737 MAX airplanes parked on the tarmac at the Boeing Factory in Renton, Washington, U.S. March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

The safety feature is expected to be offered as part of a software update to the MAX fleet that was grounded in the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines crash, said the officials who asked not to be identified.

The crash set off one of the widest inquiries in aviation history and cast a shadow over the Boeing MAX model intended to be a standard for decades.

Boeing did not immediately comment on the plan to make the safety feature standard, but separately said it was moving quickly to make software changes and expects the upgrade to be approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the coming weeks.

But Indonesia’s national carrier Garuda said on Friday that customers had lost trust in the planes and it has sent a letter to Boeing asking to cancel an order for 49 MAX 8s – the first airline to publicly confirm plans to cancel an order for the troubled aircraft.

The current order was valued at $6 billion at list prices and Garuda, which currently has one MAX in its fleet, said it could switch to other Boeing models.

(Graphic: Boeing 737 MAX deliveries in question interactive –

While a direct link between the crashes has not been proven, initial investigations show similarities and attention has focused on an automated flight-control system, MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), that came into service two years ago with the MAX.

The software is designed to prevent a loss of lift that can cause an aerodynamic stall, sending the plane downwards in an uncontrolled way. In the Lion Air crash, it may have been erroneously activated by a faulty sensor, investigators believe.

Chicago-based Boeing will also retrofit older planes with the cockpit warning light, the officials told Reuters. The world’s largest plane maker previously offered the alert, but it was not required by aviation regulators.

Boeing has said it plans to make software changes to the aircraft, but it is unclear how long it will take Boeing to refit existing MAX planes with new software or hardware.

Experts said it could take weeks or months to be done, and for regulators to review and approve the changes. Regulators in Europe and Canada have said they will conduct their own reviews of any new systems.

The FAA has said installation of the new software and related training was a priority.

(Graphic: Grounded 737 MAX fleet interactive –


Randy Tinseth, Boeing’s vice president of commercial marketing, said the software changes include changes in the control laws of the airplane, an update of the displays, the flight manual, as well as the training.

Boeing has tested the improvements in a simulator and in the air, he said on Thursday. He defended Boeing’s design and production processes, adding that it was too early to speculate on what the investigations will show.

The company has said there was a documented procedure to handle the automated system at the heart of the problem.

The pilots’ union of Southwest Airlines, the largest operator of the MAX, said it is working with the company, Boeing, other pilot unions and the FAA to test and validate the new software.

“We still would like to have more detail on the development, control parameters and testing done on the algorithm that will trigger an MCAS event,” the union said in a statement.

The American Airlines’ pilots union told Reuters it expects to test the software fix on simulators this weekend in Renton, Washington, where Boeing builds the MAX and has two simulators.

MAX simulator training is currently not required, partly because not many simulators exist.

Southwest and American expect to receive MAX simulators later this year.

Ethiopian Airlines said on Thursday the simulators are not designed to replicate the MCAS problems. The airline is among the few that do have a simulator but the captain of the doomed flight had no chance to practise on it before the crash, a pilot colleague said.


The two crashes killed almost 350 people.

Since the Ethiopian crash, Boeing shares have fallen 12 percent and $28 billion has been wiped off its market value.

Pressure has mounted on the company from U.S. legislators, who are also expected to question the FAA. The company also faces a criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.

Several lawsuits already filed on behalf of victims of the Lion Air crash referring to the Ethiopian accident. Boeing declined to comment on the lawsuits.

Consumer advocate and former U.S. presidential candidate Ralph Nader lost a grand-niece in the Ethiopian crash and urged whistleblowers to help challenge the aviation industry and get to the bottom of what happened.

Slideshow (8 Images)

“They lulled us into complacency,” he said in an interview in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal.

(Graphic: Ethiopian Airlines crash and black boxes –

Additional reporting by David Shepardson in Washington, Jamie Freed in Singapore, Bernadette Christina Munthe in Jakarta, Maggie Fick and Jason Neely in Addis Ababa, Tim Hepher in Paris, and Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Writing by Sayantani Ghosh, Georgina Prodhan and Ben Klayman


more recommended stories

  • Russia says military plane in Venezuela to service equipment – Ifax

    An airplane with the Russian flag.

  • Seven migrant deaths reported in ‘extreme heat’ at U.S. border

    (Reuters) – Authorities in Texas reported.

  • Trump puts sanctions on Iranian supreme leader, other top officials

    WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald.

  • Supreme Court to hear insurers’ bid for $12 billion in Obamacare money

    (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court.

  • Italian ‘cocaine king’ makes midnight escape from jail in Uruguay

    MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) – An Italian mob.

  • Iran says U.S. cyber attacks failed, hints talks are possible

    JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia/LONDON (Reuters) – Iran.

  • Pompeo visits Saudi Arabia as U.S. prods Iran for talks

    RIYADH (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of.

  • Beyond the rainbow – Same-sex weddings are mainstream 50 years after Stonewall

    (Reuters) – Kimberly Bailey, owner of.

  • Thousands in Costa Rica celebrate in first pride march since gay marriage ruling

    Thousands take part in the annual.

  • Indian authorities recover bodies of seven climbers from mountain, one still missing

    MUMBAI (Reuters) – Police on Sunday.

  • Ethiopia’s army chief, three others killed in failed regional coup

    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s army.

  • Istanbul votes in mayoral re-run, in test for Turkish democracy, Erdogan

    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Millions of Istanbul.

  • Southeast Asian leaders meet, expected to discuss Rohingyas, South China Sea

    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Southeast Asian leaders.

  • Ethiopia’s army chief of staff has been shot – PM’s aide

    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s army.

  • Exclusive: White House’s Kushner unveils economic portion of Middle East peace plan

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House.

  • Sudan’s main opposition coalition says it has agreed to mediator draft agreement

    CAIRO (Reuters) – Sudan’s main opposition.

  • Myanmar orders internet shutdown in conflict-torn Rakhine state – telco operator

    YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar authorities ordered.

  • Iran says it will respond firmly to any U.S. threat as tension spikes

    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran said on.

  • U.N. rights chief Bachelet urges Venezuela to release prisoners

    MAIQUETIA, Venezuela, 22 Jun (Reuters) –.

  • Kim, Xi agree to grow ties whatever external situation – North Korean media

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

  • Kim, Xi reach consensus, to develop relations no matter the international situation – KCNA

    FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim.

  • Black-clad, anti-extradition protesters flood streets of Hong Kong

    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Thousands of.

  • Trump says he aborted retaliatory strike to spare Iranian lives

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald.

  • At least 24 dead in fire at Indonesia matchstick factory

    JAKARTA (Reuters) – At least 24.

  • North Korea has more than sanctions to overcome for foreign investment – report

    SEOUL (Reuters) – A historic visit.

  • Ecuador judge frees Swedish programmer close to Assange; probe continues

    FILE PHOTO: Swedish software developer Ola.

  • Honduran president sends military to keep order after protests turn violent

    TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – Honduran President Juan.

  • Trump says he is ready to press China’s Xi on case of two detained Canadians

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald.

  • EU leaders may toughen climate goal for 2050, haggle over top jobs

    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The EU’s 28.

  • Turkey’s Erdogan says he believes U.N. will look into death of Egypt’s Mursi

    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during.

  • Iran’s Guards shoot down U.S. ‘spy’ drone in southern province – Iran media

    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s elite Revolutionary.

  • China’s Xi leaves for first state visit to North Korea

    FILE PHOTO: China’s President Xi Jinping.