The absolute shitshow that is Boeing’s ongoing 737 Max headache saw yet another safety issue come to light this week, resulting in further flight cancellations by U.S. carriers with the aircraft in their fleets.
United Airlines announced Wednesday that it has extended previous cancellations to Sep. 3, the Guardian reported. Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines, which previously announced cancellations through the beginning of September, said in a statement Thursday that it was removing 737 Max flights from its schedule through Oct. 1. The airline said the changes would affect roughly 150 flights per day.
The announcements come amid reports that test pilots with the Federal Aviation Administration discovered a new critical safety issue with the 737 Max’s anti-stall software system, called MCAS, during flight simulations. According to a source familiar with the matter who spoke to the Washington Post, these pilots were worried they weren’t able to “quickly and easily follow the required recovery procedures.”
The FAA said in a statement Wednesday that it “found a potential risk that Boeing must mitigate.” The Washington Post reported the flaw as being separate from the one suspected to have played a major role in two 737 Max crashes that resulted in the deaths of 346 people.
Boeing said Wednesday that it was working on a fix for the software issue that would “reduce pilot workload by accounting for a potential source of uncommanded stabilizer motion.”
“During the FAA’s review of the 737 MAX software update and recent simulator sessions, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) identified an additional requirement that it has asked the company to address through the software changes that the company has been developing for the past eight months,” the company said in a statement. “Boeing agrees with the FAA’s decision and request, and is working on the required software.”
The FAA officially grounded the jets in March, and it’s not clear when the aircraft will again be cleared for commercial flight. The FAA said this week that it is “following a thorough process, not a prescribed timeline” in reviewing the aircraft.
As they await approval from the FAA, both carriers and Boeing appear to be willing to do just about anything to help remedy the shattered reputation of their 737 Max jets and convince customers they’re safe for flight. Boeing says it’s open to changing the name of the planes if that helps overhaul branding. Meanwhile, American Airlines, which recently extended its own cancellations of flights through the beginning of September, appears prepared to stick its executives on the planes to reassure the public.