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Boeing Finds New Software Problem With Scandal-Plagued 737 Max Plane

Boeing 737 MAX airplanes are parked at Grant County International Airport October 23, 2019 in Moses Lake, Washington.
Boeing 737 MAX airplanes are parked at Grant County International Airport October 23, 2019 in Moses Lake, Washington.
Photo: Getty Images

Engineers at Boeing have discovered a new software issue with the 737 Max plane, which has been grounded worldwide for almost a year over technical issues. The new problem, first reported by Bloomberg News, involves the trim system, which regulates whether the nose of the aircraft is pointed up or down. A light for the trim system wasn’t going off when it should, according to the company.

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“During flight testing of the 737 MAX’s updated software, an indicator light associated with the stabilizer trim system illuminated in the flight deck,” a Boeing spokesperson told Gizmodo via email. “We determined that the illumination of this light was caused by differences in input data between the flight control computers (FCC). This is a result of the FCC cross compare redundancy software update issued in June 2019.”

“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 aviation company’s statement continued. “Boeing notified the Federal Aviation Administration of this the week of Jan. 20 and has shared technical background regarding the issue and planned software update. We have also notified our airline customers.”

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Boeing, which hopes to have the 737 Max back in service by the middle of this year, has faced scandal after scandal following two crashes with the Max plane just five months apart. Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed in Ethiopia on March 10, 2019, killing all 157 passengers and crew on board, and Lion Air Flight 610 crashed in Indonesia on October 29, 2018, killing all 189 people on board. The plane’s new Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was reportedly forcing the nose of the plane down erroneously because it believed the plane was in danger of crashing.

The FAA and Boeing grounded every 737 Max operating in the U.S. in March of 2019, but only after almost every other country in the world that was operating the aircraft grounded the plane on its own.

Boeing fired its CEO in December following the seemingly never-ending series of scandals with the Max plane. Other recent Boeing headlines have involved a series of emails from employees saying things like, “this airplane is designed by clowns, who in turn are supervised by monkeys.” And the FAA knew about the problems almost from the beginning.

Despite yet another problem with the plane, Steve Dickson, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), seemed optimistic that the plane would return to service, according to Reuters, and has previously suggested it might be up in the sky before mid-2020. The only question that remains is whether passengers will want to fly on the doomed planes. United and Southwest have already announced that they’ll allow passengers the ability to opt-out of flying on the 737 Max.

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Would you fly on the plane? Employees at Boeing asked each other exactly that question before the two crashes in 2018 and 2019.

“Would you put your family on a Max simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn’t,” one Boeing employee wrote in an email in February of 2018.

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We’ll find out soon whether other people feel the same way.

Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog

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DISCUSSION

bigfatpartyanimal
BigFatPartyAnimal

At this point I feel bad for the MAX.  It’s under a tighter microscope than any other plane in history and thus it will never fly (I don’t mean that literally).  All types of airplanes all all sorts of bug in their software.  The CRJ 200/700/900 all have bugs where randomly the airspeed will without warning drop to 40kts causing the airplane to pitch to that airspeed (if in speed mode), easily overridden by the pilots, but it’s still there.  It’s been there for years, bombardier knows about but they cant or wont spend the resources to fix it.  Poor max.  In another note, boeing and their greedy habits deserve everything they are getting here.