Pilots from five airlines, including the three U.S. carriers that flew the MAX jets before they were grounded worldwide, recently tested upgrades to the flight-control system over the weekend at Boeing’s facility outside Seattle, the aircraft manufacturer confirmed.
Southwest Airlines Co., the largest operator of Boeing Co.’s 737 MAX, said the jet’s grounding will combine with soft leisure-travel demand to shave $150 million from first-quarter revenue.
Boeing will also host more than 200 airline pilots, technicians and regulators in an informational session Wednesday that is among the initial steps in its attempt to get the MAX planes back in the air.
Investigators have pointed to the stall-prevention system known as MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) as a likely factor in last fall’s crash of Lion Air Flight 610, which ultimately killed 189 aboard when it plunged into the Java Sea off the coast of Indonesia.
“I believe it is crazy how airlines are passing planes through inspections without fully checking them,” said Max Gold, sophomore. “The most important thing is the passengers’ safety, and they are jeopardizing that.”
Aviation authorities have noted clear similarities between that airplane’s movements and the path taken by Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which crashed March 10 just outside the capital city of Addis Ababa and took the lives of the 157 passengers and the entire crew onboard.
Pilots from Southwest, American and United airlines as well as foreign airlines Copa and Fly Dubai took simulated flights using the MCAS in its original form. With the proposed updates, all we able to land safely, the New York Times reported.
The Federal Aviation Authority is expected to mandate the flight-control system upgrade this month, but receiving the approval from domestic and foreign regulators for MAX planes to fly again is expected to take months.
Southwest and other notable airlines are hoping to get their Boeing planes in the air as soon as possible because not only are they losing money, but customers as well. Still, safety is the main concern as they look to improve alongside continuous innovation.