By David Shepardson and Eric M. Johnson
WASHINGTON/SEATTLE (Reuters) – Boeing (NYSE:) Co plans to submit a proposed software enhancement package for the grounded 737 MAX in “the coming weeks” after the company had previously said it planned to deliver the fix for government approval by last week.
The company on Monday confirmed a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration that it would submit the upgrade later than previously announced.
“We are working to demonstrate that we have identified and appropriately addressed all certification requirements and will be submitting for FAA review once completed in the coming weeks,” Boeing said in a statement. “We will take a thorough and methodical approach to the development and testing of the update to ensure we take the time to get it right.”
More than 300 Boeing 737 MAX jets have been grounded worldwide after two crashes – in Indonesia in October and in Ethiopia last month – killed nearly 350 people.
Boeing, facing one of its worst crises in years, is under pressure from crash victims’ families, airlines, lawmakers in Washington and regulators around the world to prove that the automated flight control systems of its 737 MAX aircraft are safe and that pilots have the training required to override the system in an emergency.
In a sign the plane may be out of service for longer than some forecast, Southwest Airlines (NYSE:) Co said on Monday it was “publishing a revised schedule for April and May that is built around the currently available Southwest fleet and intends to reduce drastically last-minute trip disruptions and same-day cancellations.”
Earlier on Monday, FAA spokesman Greg Martin said that “time is needed for additional work by Boeing as the result of an ongoing review of the 737 MAX Flight Control System to ensure that Boeing has identified and appropriately addressed all pertinent issues.”
Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell said last week the agency would not unground the planes until its analysis “of the facts and technical data indicate that it is appropriate.”
Boeing said last week that it had reprogrammed software on its 737 MAX passenger jet to prevent erroneous data from triggering an anti-stall system that is under mounting scrutiny following the two deadly nose-down crashes.
The world’s largest planemaker said the anti-stall system, which is believed to have repeatedly forced the nose lower in at least one of the accidents, in Indonesia, would only do so one time after sensing a problem, giving pilots more control.
It would also be disabled if two airflow sensors that measure the “angle of attack,” or angle of the wing to the airflow, a fundamental parameter of flight, offered widely different readings, Boeing said last week.
Federal prosecutors, the Transportation Department’s inspector general and U.S. lawmakers are investigating the FAA’s certification of the 737 MAX. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has also said she is naming an outside panel to review the issue.
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