Five months after the crash of Lion Air Flight 610, and less than a week since the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 — both involving Boeing 737 Max 8s — Boeing has announced that the plane model will receive updated flight-control software. This is an effort not only to prevent future incidents, but also to reassure the international community that its planes are safe to fly. Several airlines have grounded their 737 Max 8 planes and several countries, including the entire EU and UK, have banned the aircraft model from their airspaces, and Boeing is eager to get its fleet up and running again.
In a statement from March 11, 2019, Boeing insisted that its Max 8s are already safe, and that this update merely makes them more so. The new flight control software, it said, is designed “to make an already safe aircraft even safer. This includes updates to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals, and crew training.”
Boeing has not announced any physical changes to the aircrafts, but the update is scheduled to be released across the entire 737 Max fleet in the next few weeks. By improving the MCAS, Boeing hopes to lay to rest any concerns about its planes’ safety capabilities.
According to Business Insider, since the Max planes have larger engines, Boeing had to change the way it mounts engines on the new model. This disrupted the plane’s center of gravity and caused the Max models to tip their nose slightly upward during flight. The MCAS is supposed to counterbalance that tendency and point the plane nose downward. Reports from the Lion Air investigation — and speculation during the current Ethiopian Airlines investigation — showed that a faulty sensor may have triggered the MCAS at the wrong time, shortly after takeoff.