Boeing is nearly finished with a software update for its 737 Max aircraft, The Seattle Times reports.
Airlines are reportedly able to order the update, which the aerospace manufacturer will give to them for free, following two deadly crashes involving the 737 Max 8 in five months. The first, a Lion Air flight that crashed in October, killed all 189 people on board, and the second, an Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed earlier this month, killed all 157 people on board.
Pilots have tested the new software in flight simulators, according to The Seattle Times, and flight tests are expected to begin once the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) receives details on the update. An FAA representative told Business Insider the agency expects to receive the update “early this week.”
The FAA must approve the update before it can be used in commercial flights. Boeing did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
The Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes have put Boeing and the 737 Max aircraft under intense scrutiny. CNN reported last week that the Department of Justice had subpoenaed Boeing as part of a criminal investigation into the certification and marketing processes for the 737 Max aircraft.
Many countries, including the US, China, France, and Britain, have grounded the 737 Max 8 as investigators work to determine what caused each crash. While investigators have not released their final reports, there appear to be a number of similarities between the crashes, including the possible involvement of the 737 Max’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which points an aircraft’s nose downward if the plane is flying at too steep an incline.
Boeing installed the system on 737 Max aircraft because the planes feature larger engines that are mounted in a different way from those on previous 737 aircraft. The new engines created a tendency for 737 Max aircraft to tilt upward, which makes it more likely that the engines will stall in midair. The MCAS was designed to counter this tendency.
Evidence from both crashes indicates that the pilots on each flight struggled against the MCAS before their planes crashed, and speculation from observers has suggested that the sensor that causes the MCAS to point the plane downward may have activated in each case because of an error.
Boeing’s 737 Max software update will limit when and how often the MCAS can point a plane downward, according to The New York Times.
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