Boeing 737 Max Fixes Delayed Due to Government Shutdown

Distraught family members attend a memorial service held for the victims of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 crash on March 14, 2019, in Ejere, Ethiopia.
Photo: Jemal Countess (Getty Images)

The Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people is still being investigated, but what is becoming clearer is that there may have been issues with the make of the plane itself, the Boeing 737 Max 8, which also crashed in Indonesia in October of last year.

In that flight, investigators determined that a faulty instrument reading forced an automated “safety feature” to send the plane into the sea, according to QZ. All 189 on board that flight died.

Although the U.S. has deemed the Boeing 737 aircraft safe to fly, several countries have grounded the fleet, including China, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and Australia.

According to QZ, Boeing said on Monday that it has been working on a new software update for the planes with US officials for “the past several months” and planned to release it “no later than April.”

What makes that especially interesting is those upgrades could have happened in January but were delayed until next month because of “engineering challenges,” “differences of opinion” between federal and Boeing officials, and the 35-day government shutdown, during which “consideration of the fixes was suspended,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

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QZ reports:

During the shutdown, the longest in US government history, FAA activities deemed crucial, including air-traffic control and safety oversight, continued, although the workers involved were unpaid. Many other activities were stopped.

After the Lion Air crash, the FAA—which, with EU airline regulators, generally sets the tone for aviation safety worldwide—issued a new “airworthiness directive” to US operators of the Boeing 737 8 and 9 planes, warning that an “unsafe condition” exists on the models and providing flight crews “with runaway horizontal stabilizer trim procedures to follow under certain conditions.”

The 61,000-member pilots association warned Trump of the dangers in a letter on Jan. 2, noting specifically that complicated oversight of manufacturing activities had stopped or were “significantly reduced”…

The pilots, sounded the alarm again Jan. 10, in a letter to Trump, House speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

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And then, on March 14, all 157 passengers and crew perished after Ethiopian Airlines flight 302—a Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft—came down six minutes after taking off from Bole Airport.

Although we cannot know conclusively if the software fix could have prevented the tragedy in Ethiopia, it’s probably not ever a good idea to mess with air travel or people’s lives (and livelihoods) for a fucking wall that no one wants.

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