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


Rolls-Royce hit by further setback to fixing Boeing 787 engines

Updated 2 min ago

Rolls-Royce hit by further setback to fixing Boeing 787 engines

  • The company faces £1.6 billion ($2 billion) in extra costs and disruption as a result of the engine problem
  • As of late February, Rolls said 35 787s were grounded globally due to engine blades corroding or cracking prematurely
Rolls-Royce will take longer than expected to fix problems with its Trent 1000 engine, frustrating efforts to get Boeing 787s grounded by the glitch flying again and knocking the British company’s shares.
Rolls-Royce, whose engines power large civil and military planes, said on Friday it had sped up turbine blade replacement for some models, leading to additional removals and delaying a reduction in the number of grounded aircraft to single figures until the second quarter of 2020.
The company faces £1.6 billion ($2 billion) in extra costs and disruption as a result of the engine problem, which is due to the poor durability of components, and the latest delay spells further frustration for its customers and investors.
Rolls-Royce, whose customers include more than 400 airlines, 160 armed forces and 70 navies, said in August that it would spend another £100 million to fix the issue.
“We perceived a risk that further action would be required, potentially leading to higher costs being incurred ... today’s announcement that guidance for the Trent 1000 cash costs in 2019 and 2020 remains unchanged comes as a relief,” Jefferies analysts, who rate the stock as “buy,” said.
Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East said in August that a target of fewer than 10 aircraft on the ground at the end of the year might take a bit longer to achieve as a result of an additional repair load resulting from faster deterioration of a blade on the Trent 1000 TEN.
The Trent 1000 TEN is the latest version of an engine that has had a problematic entry into service. As of late February, Rolls said 35 787s were grounded globally due to engine blades corroding or cracking prematurely.
“We deeply regret the additional disruption that this will cause our customers and we continue to work closely with them to minimize the impact on their operations,” Rolls-Royce said.
Airlines have faced disruptions because of the groundings, with Norwegian Air’s strategy switch to prioritize profits over growth hampered by the global grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft and long-running problems with Rolls-Royce’s engines on Boeing Dreamliners.
Singapore Airlines has also grounded two 787-10 jets fitted with the Trent 1000 TEN engines.
Rolls-Royce is keen to avoid further problems with the engine and in March dropped out of the race to power Boeing’s planned mid-market aircraft.