Boeing is fixing a new software bug on the 737 Max

Boeing is fixing a new software bug on the 737 Max

It involves a warning light for the horizontal stabilizer trim system.

By Alan Levin, Siddharth Philip and Christopher Jasper / Bloomberg News

The Boeing Co. has discovered a new software problem on the grounded 737 Max, but the company said that the flaw won’t set back the goal of returning the plane to service in mid-2020.

The planemaker notified U.S. regulators last month after identifying the issue during flight testing, according to an emailed statement Thursday from Boeing. Because of how the plane’s revised flight-control computers handle data, a light indicating that the stabilizer trim system wasn’t working was turning on when it wasn’t supposed to, the company said.

“We are incorporating a change to the 737 Max software prior to the fleet returning to service to ensure that this indicator light only illuminates as intended,” the company said.

The new software problem complicates Boeing’s efforts to return the Max to service by mid-2020, even if it doesn’t derail the recently extended timetable. The head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Steve Dickson, told reporters in London that a certification flight for the grounded jet could occur in the next few weeks — a key regulatory step in allowing the aircraft to start flying passengers again.

Dickson said during his remarks that the agency is evaluating the latest software issue.

The stabilizer trim warning light “had been staying on for longer than a desired period,” Dickson said, without providing more detail.

Aviation regulators are closely aligned on design requirements for the grounded 737 Max but may differ country by country on the jet’s operational return, Dickson said.

The divergence is likely even though authorities agree more than they disagree on the measures needed for the Max to resume flying after two fatal crashes, Dickson said.

The new issue on the Max involves an alert designed to warn when the trim system, which helps raise and lower the plane’s nose, isn’t working properly, according to two people familiar with the issue who weren’t authorized to comment on it.

One of the people familiar with the trim alert problem confirmed Boeing’s assessment, saying it’s not likely to change the projection of returning the plane to service because the company had built padding into the schedule.

The trim alert issue resulted from Boeing’s redesign of two flight computers that control the 737 Max to make them more resilient to failure, the two people said.

Boeing last month announced it doesn’t expect the plane to fly again until the middle of the year. After months of missed deadlines and growing tension with the FAA, the company said it was projecting a timeline that included extra room in case new issues arose.

The company was already at work on a separate software system known as Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System that was involved in the two fatal crashes on the plane that killed 346 people and led to the grounding last March 13.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

County lost 100 aerospace manufacturing jobs in June

At 6.1%, Snohomish County has the sixth-highest unemployment rate in Washington.

The growing business district along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, looking west toward I-5. At lower left is the construction site of the new Amazon fulfillment center. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald)
Marysville-Arlington road improvements won’t happen at once

Traffic improvement projects near the Cascade Industrial Center will take shape over the next decade.

A line of Southwest Air Boeing 737 jets are parked near the company's production plant while being stored at Paine Field Friday, April 23, 2021, in Everett, Wash. Boeing reported its first quarterly profit since 2019 and revenue topped expectations, as the giant aircraft maker tries to dig out from the most difficult stretch in its history. Boeing said Wednesday, July 28, 2021, that it earned $567 million in the second quarter, compared with a $2.4 billion loss a year ago. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Boeing, for first time since 2019, has a profitable quarter

The earnings hint at a potential turnaround after one of the worst financial crises in the company’s history.

About 4,000 Snohomish County tenants approved for rent help

While some eviction restrictions have eased, it’s unclear what the effect will be here.

FILE - In this June 18, 2015, file photo, an Airbus A380 takes off for its demonstration flight at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget airport, north of Paris. European planemaker Airbus reports that it made 1.87 billion euros profit in the second quarter. That's a relief after a loss in the same quarter a year ago during the depths of the pandemic shutdowns and travel restrictions. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)
Airbus, Boeing rivalry is back on as sales campaigns pick up

The improving outlook comes amid a travel reopening that’s gathering pace in some key markets.

Festive seafood specialties, modern delicacies with a beautiful presentation on the plate. Delicious dish - tender fish meat, with greens, lemon and vegetables. Cartoon vector.
You voted: The best seafood in Snohomish County

Even during a pandemic, people have their favorites

File - In this Sept. 24, 2014 file photo, smoke hangs over Reno-Tahoe International Airport as a plane takes off in Reno, Nev. A shortage of jet fuel, coupled with supply chain issues and an urgent demand from firefighting aircraft, continues to cause problems at airports around the West. In Nevada, state and federal lawmakers said they are investigating a possible shortage of jet fuel that could delay cargo delivery and passenger travel at Reno-Tahoe International Airport in the coming days. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine, File)
Airports in the US West dealing with shortage of jet fuel

Supply chain issues and an urgent demand from firefighting aircraft have combined to cause problems.

sandwich with ham, tomatoes, lettuce and toast isolated on white background, healthy breakfast, lunch
You voted: The best darn sandwich in Snohomish County

Even during a pandemic, people have their favorites

FILE - In this Aug. 26, 2019, file photo, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks at a news conference in Seattle. Washington state sued Johnson & Johnson on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, claiming the company was negligent when it used deceptive marketing to say the drugs were effective for treating pain and were unlikely to cause addiction. The lawsuit filed Thursday says the company that supplies raw materials used to make opiates drove the pharmaceutical industry to recklessly expand the production of the drugs. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Washington AG rejects opioids settlement, wants trial

The proposal would pay Washington about $527.5 million over 18 years if cities and counties opt in.

This photo provided by Blue Origin,   Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, exits the  Blue Origin's New Shepard capsule after it parachuted safely down to the launch area with passengers Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk, near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021.  (Blue Origin via AP)
Blue Origin’s Bezos reaches space on 1st passenger flight

The Amazon founder is the second billionaire in just over a week to ride his own spacecraft.

The first flight for United Airlines servicing Paine Field taxis to the gate on March 31, 2019. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)
Come October, United Airlines will discontinue flights at Paine Field

The airline is one of two commercial carriers at the Everett airport. United flies to Denver.

Community leaders and officials break ground at the Port of Everett's Norton Terminal at the former Kimberly-Clark mill site along the waterfront Thursday morning in Everett on July 15, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Legacy of pollution makes Everett port project ‘challenging’

The former Kimberly-Clark mill site is nearing the end of a complex cleanup, part of a $36 million terminal project.