FAA statement on Boeing 737 MAX Software Update

Lauren Eldershaw
By Lauren Eldershaw April 2, 2019 15:42

FAA statement on Boeing 737 MAX Software Update

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) states that it expects to receive Boeing’s final package of its software enhancement over the coming weeks for FAA approval. The FAA said in a statement 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. Upon receipt, the FAA will subject Boeing’s completed submission to a rigorous safety review. The FAA will not approve the software for installation until the agency is satisfied with the submission.”

Boeing stated that it continues to work with the FAA and other regulatory agencies worldwide on the development and certification of the MCAS software update and training program. “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. Safety is our first priority, and 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.”

The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight control law was designed and certified for the 737 MAX to enhance the pitch stability of the airplane – so that it feels and flies like other 737s. MCAS is designed to activate in manual flight, with the airplane’s flaps up, at an elevated Angle of Attack (AOA).

Boeing has developed an MCAS software update to provide additional layers of protection if the AOA sensors provide erroneous data. Boeing states that the software was put through hundreds of hours of analysis, laboratory testing, verification in a simulator and two test flights, including an in-flight certification test with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) representatives on board as observers.

The additional layers of protection include:

Flight control system will now compare inputs from both AOA sensors. If the sensors disagree by 5.5 degrees or more with the flaps retracted, MCAS will not activate. An indicator on the flight deck display will alert the pilots.
If MCAS is activated in non-normal conditions, it will only provide one input for each elevated AOA event. There are no known or envisioned failure conditions where MCAS will provide multiple inputs.

MCAS can never command more stabilizer input than can be counteracted by the flight crew pulling back on the column. The pilots will continue to always have the ability to override MCAS and manually control the airplane.
These updates reduce the crew’s workload in non-normal flight situations and prevent erroneous data from causing MCAS activation.

Lauren Eldershaw
By Lauren Eldershaw April 2, 2019 15:42