CHICAGO – Boeing Co. has completed a software fix for its 737 MAX jets, but faces requests for additional information from US regulators, another hurdle in returning the troubled aircraft to passenger service, the company said on Thursday.
The Chicago-based company said the Federal Aviation Administration requested details about how pilots interact with cockpit controls and displays in different flight scenarios under the revised software. Once Boeing addresses the requests, it said it would work to schedule a certification test flight and formally submit final documentation for approval.
Boeing doesn’t anticipate the requests will require more work or significant time, a person familiar with the matter said.
The certification flight and formal submission have been expected later this month, after a string of delays. Further delays could add to headaches for airlines that have already taken the 737 MAX out of schedules through much of the busy summer travel season.
The 737 MAX fleet has been grounded since March. Countries around the world prevented the plane from flying after a second aircraft crashed on March 10 in Ethiopia, following an accident in Indonesia less than five months earlier. The accidents together took 346 lives.
“We are expecting additional information we requested,” an FAA spokesman said, adding that “this process will require as long as it takes to ensure the aircraft is safe and returned to service.”
A Boeing spokesman previously said “the FAA is ensuring a very thorough process.”
The FAA has envisioned getting a final Boeing package – for the software fix, training and associated materials – from the company as soon as next week and then doing flight tests, a person briefed on the matter said.
The FAA and Boeing have been discussing, testing and analyzing various proposed versions of the fix for nearly four months, so the latest questions amount to an unexpected complication, this person said.
Boeing is conducting conferences for airline customers around the world about the MAX changes while the FAA will host a meeting of global regulators on May 23 in Texas on the same topic.
Boeing said it has flown the jet with updated software for a flight-control system known as MCAS for more than 360 hours on 207 test flights. The system was implicated in both crashes.
“We’re committed to providing the FAA and global regulators all the information they need, and to getting it right,” Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said on Thursday.