A fatal crash that led numerous countries, including the U.S., to eventually ground the 737 Max 8 aircraft left many wondering about corrective actions from the plane’s manufacturer. It turns out Boeing not only knew what fix was needed, but might have had it in place before Sunday’s tragedy if not for the most recent government shutdown.
After a Max 8 crashed in October, Boeing was working on a software update to correct a safety feature that pitched the plane’s nose downward to avoid stalling. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, dialogue between Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration broke down during the shutdown, due to the number of FAA employees that were placed on furlough.
The conversation between the FAA and Boeing dealt with the update of sensor-driven data feeds running to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) and pilot displays. Boeing engineers and FAA officials were working through disagreements on the extent of the update, number of sensors, and the positioning of them before the shutdown began.
Boeing was hoping to have the update in place by January, but that was pushed back to April due to delays related to the shutdown. Both Boeing and the FAA approved the delay because all involved reportedly saw no immediate safety threat. They felt the increased pilot training that was instituted following the October 737 crash involving a Lion Air flight to Indonesia would be enough.
President Trump came on-line with most of Europe and Canada in grounding the 737 Max 8 on Wednesday. U.S.-based carriers currently operating the plane include Southwest, American and United Airlines.