Boeing sets briefing on 737 MAX aircraft software and training updates

The 737 MAX is Boeing’s best-selling plane, with orders worth more than $500 billion at list prices. (Reuters)
Updated 25 March 2019
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Boeing sets briefing on 737 MAX aircraft software and training updates

  • The 737 MAX is Boeing’s best-selling plane, with orders worth more than $500 billion at list prices
  • Regulators this month grounded the worldwide fleet of the aircraft following a crash that killed 157 people

ADDIS ABABA/SINGAPORE: Boeing will brief more than 200 global airline pilots, technical leaders and regulators this week on software and training updates for its 737 MAX aircraft, as Ethiopian Airlines expressed confidence in the planemaker despite a recent crash.
The carrier will work with Boeing and other airlines to make air travel safer, its chief executive, Tewolde Gebremariam, said, after regulators this month grounded the worldwide fleet of the aircraft following a crash that killed 157 people.
“Despite the tragedy, Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines will continue to be linked well into the future,” he said in a statement on Monday. “Ethiopian Airlines believes in Boeing. They have been a partner of ours for many years.”
However, many questions on the 737 MAX “remain without answers,” Tewolde added, and a spokesman for the carrier said it had no “immediate plans” to attend the Boeing session, without giving further details.
Wednesday’s meeting is a sign that Boeing is nearing completion on a planned software patch required to return the grounded fleet to commercial service, though it will still need approval from regulators.
The session in Renton, Washington is part of an effort to reach all current, and many future, 737 MAX operators and their home regulators to discuss software and training updates to the jet, Boeing said in a statement.
The 737 MAX is Boeing’s best-selling plane, with orders worth more than $500 billion at list prices.
Garuda Indonesia was invited to the briefing, Chief Executive Ari Askhara said on Monday. Last week, Indonesia’s national carrier said it planned to cancel its order for 49 737 MAX jets, citing a loss of passenger trust.
“We were informed on Friday, but because it is short notice, we can’t send a pilot,” Askhara said, adding that the airline had requested a webinar with Boeing, only to be rejected.
A Boeing spokeswoman said the meeting formed part of a series of in-person information sessions.
“We have been scheduling, and will continue to arrange, additional meetings to communicate with all current, and many future, MAX customers and operators,” she said.
Garuda, which has only one 737 MAX, had been reconsidering its order before the Ethiopian crash, as had fellow Indonesian carrier Lion Air, which suffered a crash in October that killed all 189 aboard.
Boeing had informed the airline of the meeting but it might not attend, said Lion Air Managing Director Daniel Putut, who declined further comment.
Singapore Airlines Ltd. said its offshoot, SilkAir, which operates the 737 MAX, had received an invitation to the meeting and would send representatives.
Representatives of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore will also attend, a spokeswoman for the regulator said.
Korean Air Lines Co. Ltd, which, before the grounding, had been due to receive its first 737 MAX in April, said it planned to send pilots to Renton. South Korean low-cost carrier Eastar Jet will send two pilots, a spokesman said.
On Saturday, teams from the three US airlines that own 737 MAX jets joined a session in Renton reviewing a planned software upgrade.
Flydubai representatives attended that session and some will also attend this week’s meeting, a spokeswoman for the Dubai-based airline said.
A US official briefed on the matter on Saturday said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had not yet signed off on the software upgrade and training but aimed to review and approve them by April.
It remained unclear whether the software upgrade, called “design changes” by the FAA, will resolve concerns stemming from the investigation into the March 10 Ethiopian Airlines crash.
Tewolde, the airline’s chief executive, said until there were more answers about the 737 MAX, the planes should remain grounded, adding, “Putting one more life at risk is too much.”
The US official said planned changes included 15 minutes of training to help pilots deactivate the anti-stall system known as MCAS in the event of faulty sensor data or other issues. It also included some self-guided instruction, the official added.


Oil jumps as Iran shoots down US drone in Gulf

Updated 8 min 36 sec ago
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Oil jumps as Iran shoots down US drone in Gulf

  • The drone was downed in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz by an Iranian surface-to-air missile
  • Also propelling oil higher was a decline in US crude inventories and the prospect of prolonged supply restraint by producer group OPEC and its allies

LONDON: Oil rose more than 3 percent toward $64 a barrel on Thursday after Iran shot down a US military drone, raising fears of a military confrontation between Tehran and Washington.
Expectations that the US Federal Reserve could cut interest rates at its next meeting, stimulating growth in the world’s largest oil-consuming country, and a drop in US crude inventories also supported prices.
US crude was up 5.8 percent at $59.91 per barrel, a three-week high. Brent crude was up 4.3 percent at $64.52 per barrel, also a three-week high, having earlier gained 3.4 percent to $63.93. US West Texas Intermediate crude rose $2.33 to $56.09.
“The risk of a military conflict in the Middle East has risen because of a ratcheting up of tensions between the United States and Iran,” said Abhishek Kumar of Interfax Energy in London. “Elsewhere, the US Federal Reserve has signaled its willingness to loosen monetary policy over the coming months, which is being perceived as favorable to oil demand.”
The drone was downed in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, a US official said. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said the drone was flying over southern Iran. Tension has been rising in the Middle East, home to over a fifth of the world’s oil output, after attacks on two tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, a chokepoint for oil supplies. Washington blamed Tehran for the tanker attacks. Iran denied any role.
Concern about slowing economic growth and a US-China trade dispute has pulled oil lower in recent weeks. Brent reached a 2019 high of $75 in April.
The prospect of further rate cuts could prove the more significant factor for oil, said Petromatrix analyst Olivier Jakob, should Iran-US tension not escalate.
“The Fed and the cutting of rates is something that will provide more substantial support,” he said.
Also propelling oil higher on Thursday was a decline in US crude inventories and the prospect of prolonged supply restraint by producer group OPEC and its allies.
US crude stocks fell by 3.1 million barrels last week, more than analysts expected, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.
OPEC and allies including Russia agreed this week to meet on July 1-2, ending a month of wrangling about the timing.
The coalition known as OPEC+ looks set to extend a deal on cutting 1.2 million barrels per day of production. The deal expires at the end of June.