With its entire 737 MAX fleet grounded across the world, Boeing is undoubtedly working around the clock and racing against time to earn back its wings. Last week it announced the availability of an update to the problematic MCAS that is the eye of this storm but, despite its wording, it’s still waiting for FAA approval. Now the FAA has issued a statement that basically tells Boeing, “not so fast.”
Haste, after all, may have been the non-technical cause of two fatal crashes that are now believed to have been caused by an over-aggressive and erroneous Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System or MCAS. In the Lion Air crash last October, investigators believe that the MCAS only took into account data from one of two sensors and also prevented pilots from taking back control from the automated system.
Boeing’s software update addresses those points and also introduces additional training requirements for pilots. The latter was allegedly foregone during the 737 MAX certification process based on the assumption that the new plane will handle similarly to any other 737, which is also the purpose of the MCAS in the first place. That, however, wasn’t the case and may be one of the reasons the US Federal Aviation Administration is getting dragged into the ugly mss.
The FAA isn’t taking any chances this time. It expects to receive the software update from Boeing over the coming weeks and then subject it to “rigorous safety review”. That should take even longer this time around considering the scrutiny it’s under.
Suffice it to say, the Boeing 737 MAX isn’t flying any time soon. The review process in the US is just one part of the saga. Considering how they’ve been burned, other countries, especially Canada and the European Union, will most likely draw their own conclusions independent of the US.