The March 10 crash
On March 10, the world was hit by the news that a passenger aircraft operated by Africa’s top national carrier had crashed. The reference point for the information was solely the office of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
This article focuses on a rolling coverage of the incident straddling the before, during and aftermath of what is one of the deadliest incidents Ethiopian has faced in recent years.
Boeing CEO bolsters shareholder confidence
Boeing Co Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg tried to bolster shareholder confidence in the company on Monday in his first general meeting since two fatal crashes of the 737 MAX triggered the jet’s grounding, lawsuits and investigations.
Battling the biggest crisis of his tenure, Muilenburg said the company was making steady progress towards getting approval for new software as questions linger over the safety of its fastest-selling airplane.
Boeing is under pressure to deliver a software fix to prevent erroneous data triggering an anti-stall system called MCAS and a new pilot training package that will convince global regulators, and the flying public, that the aircraft is safe.
Boeing has acknowledged that the accidental firing of the software based on bad sensor data was a common link in the separate chains of events leading to the two accidents.
Boeing hopes for MAX ungrounding in July
Boeing Co has told some 737 MAX owners it is targeting U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approval of its software fix as early as the third week of May and the ungrounding of the aircraft around mid-July, two sources told Reuters.
The dates are part of a provisional timeline that Boeing has shared in meetings with airline customers as it explains an upgrade to software that played a role in two fatal crashes and led to the worldwide grounding of its MAX 737 jetliner in March.
However, Boeing has not yet submitted its completed software package to the FAAfor approval, two other sources said.
None of the sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly, said they knew for sure how long the re-certification process will take.
A Boeing spokeswoman said the company is focused on the safe return to service of the MAX and its engagement with global regulators and customers.
What will it take to unground MAX planes?
On April 1, the FAA said that once it received Boeing’s completed software package it would run a rigorous safety review before approving the software for installation.
The agency also plans to work with other international regulators on MAXcertification in their countries and regions before lifting the flying suspension in the United States, with Boeing prepared to address any concerns, one source said.
Aside from the software certification, international regulators must also decide on new pilot training.
This process is separate from an FAA-led international review panel, which the agency has said may not be completed before the MAX flying suspension is lifted.
The two largest U.S. MAX owners, Southwest Airlines Co and American Airlines Group Inc, removed the aircraft from their flying schedules into August but have said they could use their MAX jets as spares if they are ungrounded sooner.
United Airlines, with 14 MAX jets, said last week that it expected the aircraft to return to service this summer, with deliveries resuming before the end of the year.
Boeing halted MAX deliveries to customers after the grounding in mid-March and said earlier this month that it would cut 737 production to 42 airplanes per month from 52.
One industry source said that as of last week, Boeing planned to keep the lower production rate in place for two months, meaning it aims to resume a rate of 52 aircraft in July but the timeline could shift.
Global airlines have had to cancel thousands of flights and use spare aircraft to cover routes that were previously flown with the fuel-efficient MAX.
Boeing’s first quarter profits fall by 20%
Boeing says its profits for the first quarter of 2019 had fallen by 20% because of lower deliveries of its now controversial and grounded 737-Max jets.
The US plane manufacturer also withdrew profit projections for the year saying it will publish new figures soon as it resolves issues around the now grounded fast-selling product.
The March 10 Ethiopian Airlines crash in Bishoftu was the second deadly crash of the 737 Max in five months. The first was a Lion Air crash in October 2018.
The model was grounded about two weeks after the Ethiopian incident and US federal authorities are currently undertaking a rigorous certification process as Boeing tries to correct the automated flight control system blamed for the crashes.
All 157 people aboard the ET302 crash died when the jet crashed minutes into a flight bound for the Kenyan capital Nairobi. It had set off from Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport.
Who are the reviewers?
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said last month the panel would be co-chaired by retired Air Force General Darren McDew, the former head of the U.S. Transportation Command, and Lee Moak, a former president of the Air Line Pilots Association.
Chao on Monday said she was naming NASA’s former aviation safety program director Amy Pritchett and Gretchen Haskins, chief executive of HeliOffshore Ltd, an international expert in aviation safety and a former U.S. Air Force officer.
She also named Kenneth Hylander, chief safety officer at Amtrak and a former senior safety executive at Delta and Northwest airlines, and J. David Grizzle, chairman of the board of Republic Airways and a former FAA chief counsel.
Federal prosecutors, the Transportation Department’s inspector general and lawmakers are investigating the FAA’s certification of the 737 MAX 8 aircraft. A joint review by 10 governmental air regulators is also set to start April 29.
US names experts to review Boeing certification process
The United States Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Monday named four experts to a blue-ribbon committee to review the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) aircraft certification process after two deadly Boeing 737 MAX crashes killed nearly 350 people.
The committee is “specifically tasked to review the 737 MAX 800 certification process from 2012 to 2017, and recommend improvements to the certification process.”
U.S. lawmakers have criticized the FAA’s program that allows Boeing Co (BA.N) and other manufacturers to oversee the process that ensures air worthiness and other vital safety aspects of new aircraft.