American commercial aircraft manufacturer, Boeing, has announced plans to cut production of its 737Max airplane model by at least 19 per cent.
Boeing made the “tough decision” to reduce monthly production from 52 to 42 in the aftermath of two deadly crashes, and the grounding of the model by 41 countries, including the United States.
The announcement was made a day after Ethiopian officials published their preliminary report on the March 10, crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302. Black box data showed that the plane’s anti-stall system activated, sending the plane into repeated dives that the pilots were unable to counteract in spite of following the procedures recommended by Boeing.
The apparent attempts to override the software were a major difference from the previous 737 Max crash of Lion Air flight 610 in Indonesia last October. Nearly 350 people were killed in the two crashes. Ethiopia urged Boeing to review the “flight controllability” of the aircraft.
Boeing acknowledged the findings regarding the 737 Max’s anti-stall feature, known formally as the Manoeuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), in its announcement.“We now know that the recent Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accidents were caused by a chain of events, with a common chain link being erroneous activation of the aircraft’s MCAS function,” said the company.
“We have the responsibility to eliminate this risk, and we know how to do it. As part of this effort, we’re making progress on the 737 MAX software update that will prevent accidents like these from ever happening again. Teams are working tirelessly, advancing and testing the software, conducting non-advocate reviews, and engaging regulators and customers worldwide as we proceed to final certification.”
Boeing added that cutting production to 42 planes per month would allow it to put more resources towards the software-certification process, without affecting the jobs of workers on the 737 programme. Boeing CEO, Dennis Muilenberg, flew in a demo 737 Max flight using the new software last week.
The company has also developed new pilot training courses and education material for airlines. Pilots have said they were unaware of the new MCAS features in the aircraft until the Lion Air crash.Boeing has signed more than 5,000 orders for the plane, which is intended to be a game-changer for short-haul aviation. Vietnam budget airline VietJet Air doubled its order, to 200, less than two weeks before the second crash.
Last year, the Max, which has a list price of $122 million for the Max 8 model, made up about a third of Boeing’s 806 commercial plane deliveries (and about half of deliveries in the fourth quarter). Commercial planes contributed more than $60 billion to Boeing’s more than $100 billion in revenue in 2018.Boeing paused deliveries of the Max after the crash in Ethiopia. The model accounts for about 80 per cent of its unfilled orders.