The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports that the FAA has “tentatively” approved a software update key to the aircraft’s stabilisation system, although further checks and ground tests will be required prior to its rollout.
If tested and formally approved, the update could be issued within the next few weeks and see the grounded aircraft permitted to fly again.
The fix will make the Boeing’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) feature on 737 Max aircraft less “aggressive,” allowing pilots to have more control, according to the WSJ.
At this point, it is believed that a MCAS malfunction played a key role in the Lion Air disaster, and possibly the Ethiopian Airlines disaster as the two incidents share many similarities.
After the update, the system should not misfire based on inaccurate readings from a single sensor and it will only activate once for a short space of time in the event there is an issue. Boeing said it will also include a warning light, which previously was part of an optional package that carriers could purchase.
In addition to the update, there will be better training provided for crew operating the aircraft. The WSJ reports that the new training will include interactive computer courses, more information about how the MCAS system functions, and how to disable it.
Previously, Boeing had boasted that the aircraft was so close to the existing 737 that pilots wouldn’t need to go through extensive retraining, pilots involved in the Ethiopia and Indonesia crash had trained on an iPad.
A spokesman for the FAA said in a statement to the Washington Post it “expect[s] the software fix early next week; and we will evaluate it at the time.” The New York Times reported that the update was tested by pilots from the three American carriers that use the 737 Max planes.
With the updated software, each pilot was able to successfully land the plane in a simulation designed to mimic the scenario that brought down the Lion Air flight. It is unlikely the FAA will lift the ban on the planes before all the black box data has been analysed and further tests have been run on the update.