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November 8, 2019 02:00 pm

Delays in Boeing Max Return Began With Near-Crash in Simulator

Boeing engineers were nearly done redesigning software on the grounded 737 Max in June when some pilots hopped into a simulator to test a few things. It didn't go well. From a report: A simulated computer glitch caused it to to dive aggressively in a way that resembled the problem that had caused deadly crashes off Indonesia and in Ethiopia months earlier. That led to an extensive redesign of the plane's flight computers that has dragged on for months and repeatedly pushed back the date of its return to service, according to people briefed on the work. The company -- which initially expressed confidence it could complete its application to recertify the plane with the Federal Aviation Administration within months -- now says it hopes to do that before the end of the year. Changing the architecture of the jet's twin flight computers, which drive autopilots and critical instruments, has proven far more laborious than patching the system directly involved in 737 Max crashes, said these people, who asked not to be named speaking about the issue. The redesign has also sparked tensions between aviation regulators and the company. As recently as this week, the FAA and European Aviation Safety Agency asked for more documentation of the changes to the computers, said one of the people, potentially delaying the certification further. Developing and testing software on airliners is an exacting process. Manufacturers may have to demonstrate with extensive testing that a software failure leading to a crash would be as rare as one in a billion. Further reading: Boeing Has So Many Grounded 737 Max Planes Waiting To Be Fixed They're Parking Them in the Employee Parking Lot.

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