Boeing gets good and bad news on its grounded 737 Max

Boeing 737 Max (copy)

The Boeing 737 Max has been grounded since March. File/AP

LONDON — Boeing Co. has found a new problem with changes it is making to software on the 737 Max, but the company says the issue will not further delay the grounded plane's return to flight.

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Stephen Dickson, discussed the issue Thursday with media outlets in London.

Dickson indicated that the FAA could conduct a certification flight for the Max in the next few weeks. That flight will be a key milestone in Boeing's bid to get FAA recertification of the plane this summer.

"Once we get past the certification flight, and the data that comes out of the certification flight, the steps from there on ... are more predictable, in terms of they're just fewer variables,'' Dickson said. "But we've got to get to those points before we're willing to predict anything.''

The new software issue involves a warning to pilots about a system used to make the plane point up or down by moving part of the tail. A Boeing spokesman said that during testing of new software for the Max it was discovered that the light wasn't working properly.

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"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," said spokesman Gordon Johndroe. The company does not believe the problem will change Boeing's estimate of a return to service for the Max around mid-year, he said.

Dickson said that the design of the plane is only one factor being examined. The FAA's work will also examine human-performance and aircraft-maintenance issues, he said.

"We need to take a more holistic look at all these issues,'' he said .

The 737 Max was grounded in March 2019 after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people.

Boeing makes engine parts for the jet in North Charleston, where it also builds the 787 Dreamliner. The planemaker is the region's largest private-sector employer with more than 6,800 workers.

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