New software glitch found in Boeing’s troubled 737 Max jet

This Dec. 7, 2015, file photo shows the second Boeing 737 MAX airplane being built on the assembly line in Renton, Washington. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Updated 27 June 2019
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New software glitch found in Boeing’s troubled 737 Max jet

  • Test pilots trying out Boeing’s updated Max software found a flaw that could result in the plane’s nose pitching down
  • The Max began passenger flights in 2017 and is Boeing’s best-selling plane, although fewer than 400 have been delivered to airlines

A new software problem has been found in the troubled Boeing 737 Max that could push the plane’s nose down automatically, and fixing the flaw is almost certain to further delay the plane’s return to flying after two deadly crashes.
Boeing said Wednesday that the FAA “identified an additional requirement” for software changes that the aircraft manufacturer has been working on for eight months, since shortly after the first crash.
“Boeing agrees with the FAA’s decision and request, and is working on the required software to address the FAA’s request,” Boeing said in a statement.
Government test pilots trying out Boeing’s updated Max software in a flight simulator last week found a flaw that could result in the plane’s nose pitching down, according to two people familiar with the matter. In both Max crashes, the plane’s flight-control software pushed the nose down based on faulty readings from one sensor.
The people said fixing the issue might be accomplished through software changes or by replacing a microprocessor in the plane’s flight-control system. One said the latest setback is likely to delay the plane’s return to service by an extra one to three months. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss aspects of the review process that are not public.
In a statement, the Federal Aviation Administration said it will lift its grounding of the plane only when it deems the jet safe — there is no set timeline.
“On the most recent issue, the FAA’s process is designed to discover and highlight potential risks. The FAA recently found a potential risk that Boeing must mitigate,” the agency said.
The Max began passenger flights in 2017 and is Boeing’s best-selling plane, although fewer than 400 have been delivered to airlines. A Max flown by Indonesia’s Lion Air crashed in October, and an Ethiopian Airlines Max crashed in March. In all, 346 people died. Days after the second crash, regulators around the world grounded the plane.
Boeing is scaling back the power of flight-control software called MCAS to push the nose down. It is also linking the software’s nose-down command to two sensors on each plane instead of relying on just one in the original design.
It is still uncertain what kind of training pilots will get for flying the plane with the new software — either computer-based or in-flight simulators.
Meanwhile, some airlines that own Max jets have had to cancel large numbers of flights while the planes remain grounded.
On Wednesday, United Airlines pushed back the scheduled return of its 14 Max jets until September. Southwest Airlines and American Airlines had already made similar announcements — an acknowledgement that the plane won’t return to flying as soon as the airlines had hoped.
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David Koenig can be reached at http://twitter.com/airlinewriter


Singapore woes ring trade alarm bells

Singapore has long been viewed as a barometer of the global demand for goods and services. (AFP)
Updated 22 July 2019
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Singapore woes ring trade alarm bells

  • Governments have slashed economic growth forecasts, and gauges in several countries measuring activity in the manufacturing and services sectors paint a bleak picture

SINGAPORE: A plunge in exports and the worst growth rates for a decade have fueled concerns about the outlook for Singapore’s economy, with analysts saying the figures offer a warning that Asia is heading for a slowdown as China-US tensions bite.
While it may be one of the smallest countries in the world, the export hub is highly sensitive to external shocks and has long been viewed as a barometer of the global demand for goods and services.
The affluent city-state is highly dependent on trade and has traditionally been one of the first places in Asia to be hit during global downturns — with ripples typically spreading out across the region. The latest signs are not good. In June, exports collapsed 17.3 percent from a year earlier, the fastest decline in more than six years, led by a fall in shipments of computer chips.
That followed a shock 3.4 percent quarter-on-quarter contraction in GDP in the second quarter. Year-on-year growth came in at just 0.1 percent, the slowest pace since 2009 during the global financial crisis.
“Singapore is the canary in the coal mine,” Song Seng Wun, a regional economist with CIMB Private Banking, told AFP. “And what it tells us is that it is a tough environment.”
To warn of danger, miners used to bring caged canaries underground with them as the birds would die in the presence of even a small amount of poisonous gas — signaling to workers that they should make a swift exit.

BACKGROUND

In June, exports in Singapore collapsed 17.3 percent from a year earlier, the fastest decline in more than six years, led by a fall in shipments of computer chips.

While steadily weakening growth in China is partly to blame for a slowdown in exports, analysts say the trade war between the US and China has dramatically worsened the situation.
While Singapore — a transit point for products heading to and from Western markets as well as the Asian base for manufacturers of some hi-tech goods — may be showing the strain most, negative data has emerged throughout the region.
Exports have been slipping across Asia. In India they plummeted 9.7 percent in June, in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, they dropped 8.9 percent in the same month while in South Korea they slipped 10.7 percent in May.
Governments have slashed economic growth forecasts, and gauges in several countries measuring activity in the manufacturing and services sectors paint a bleak picture.
Central banks are moving to spur domestic consumption, with Indonesia and South Korea cutting interest rates Thursday, the latest in Asia to lower borrowing costs.
Singapore’s central bank is seen as likely to ease monetary policy at an October meeting, and some economists are predicting the country could fall into recession next year.
“There are no winners in this trade war. While most of the attention has focused on the trade conflict between China and the US, the damage has not been confined to these two economies,” business consultancy IHS Markit said in a commentary.