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.


Can green investment help relaunch Germany’s economy?

Updated 29 min 2 sec ago

Can green investment help relaunch Germany’s economy?

  • The German government has so far shown little willingness to change its stance

FRANKFURT, Germany: A recession looms for Germany and the European Central Bank is pleading for governments to spend more to revitalize economic growth. Yet despite having the luxury of borrowing money for less than nothing, the German government is keeping a tight rein on its finances.
A debate over Germany’s devotion to budget austerity is intensifying as the outlook for the economy dims and public pressure grows to address big issues such as global warming. On Friday, the government will unveil a raft of measures that could include billions in incentives and spending to make the economy more environmentally-friendly.
“The call for fiscal stimulus has never been louder,” said Carsten Brzeski, chief economist for the bank ING Germany. “And this week will show whether the eurozone country with the deepest pockets finally plans to empty them.”
The slowdown in growth across Europe, blamed largely on the US-China trade conflict and uncertainty about Brexit, is putting a sharp focus on Germany’s devotion to the so-called “Schwarze Null,” or “black zero,” which refers to the policy of balancing the budget — the zero — with at least a small surplus to keep it in the black.
The debate over government spending policy affects the entire 19-country eurozone, since more government outlays by Germany and other fiscally sound countries such as the Netherlands could help support growth by building new infrastructure, such as roads, rail lines or high-speed Internet, or by gathering less in taxes.
The German government has so far shown little willingness to change its stance. It has ignored repeated pleas from the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, who said last week it was “high time” for government spending to take over as the main tool of economic policy. The central bank announced interest rate cuts and bond purchases in an attempt to ward off a downturn.
The government argues it’s important to reduce debt while the economy is growing and not to burden future generations. German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz submitted a balanced draft budget of 360 billion euros ($400 billion) for 2020 last week and Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a speech before the German Taxpayers’ Federation that the government was sticking to its balanced budget, “not as a goal in itself, as we are often accused of doing, but because clear economic reasons and fairness aspects argue for that.”
Merkel noted that Germany’s total debt would fall below 60% of gross domestic product — the limit for countries that use the euro — for the first time since 2002. The German constitution itself sharply limits deficits to 0.35% of GDP except in a crisis, yet the government’s surpluses go well beyond that requirement.
While the German government may not be giving up on balanced budgets, there are signs it is at least easing up the zeal with which it amasses surpluses.
Last year’s surplus of 1.9% of GDP has fallen to 1.4% this year and is expected to hit 0.9% next year — meaning that the government is already providing some fiscal stimulus. Germany’s economy shrank 0.1% in the second quarter and underlying figures are pointing to another quarter of contraction, which would put the country in a technical recession.
It is striking that the government refuses any new borrowing at a time when it can do so at negative interest rates — meaning it would get paid back more than it borrows. German 10-year bonds currently yield minus 0.48%, and the government was able to sell a 30-year bond at a negative interest rate in August.
Marcel Fratscher, the head of the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin, has called the balanced budget a “false fetish.” His institute has argued that Germany needs to invest in long-term modernization projects such as extending digital services in rural areas.
The president of the Federation of German Industries, Dieter Kempf, said in an interview with Der Spiegel that “it’s worth considering sensible use of the space,” allowed by the constitution to fund more investment.
The calls to spend are not coming only from those concerned about the economy, but also climate activists who say more needs to be done to shift the world economy from carbon-intensive industries and consumption. Public pressure has only grown after the country witnessed its hottest summer on record and the opposition Greens party made big gains in elections to the European Parliament and in domestic polls.
On Friday, the government is expected to unveil a package of incentives aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from homes and autos so that Germany can meet its goals under the 2015 Paris climate accord. Possible measures include incentives to replace old heating systems or to purchase battery-powered autos. A report in Die Welt newspaper said the government was considering measures totaling some 40 billion euros ($44 billion) through 2023.
Brzeski said such a program “would not be enough to stop the slide of the economy toward recessionary territory, but it could be an important cornerstone in Germany’s recovery and its quest for a new economic model.”
Spending on that level would only be “a slow-motion stimulus” since it will take time to roll out, said Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg bank.
“It will add up over time and support domestic demand,” he said. “However, the German stimulus will not be a European, let alone a global, game changer.”