June 26, 2019 4:51 pm
Updated: June 26, 2019 9:21 pm

FAA says new potential risk identified on Boeing 737 MAX jets

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday that Boeing would need to address a new potential risk on the 737 MAX before the grounded plane could return to service.


The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has identified a new potential risk that Boeing Co must address on its 737 MAX before the grounded jet can return to service, the agency told Reuters on Wednesday.

The risk was discovered during a simulator test last week, sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

READ MORE: Pilots criticize Boeing for mistakes made while developing 737 MAX jets

The new issue means Boeing will not conduct a certification test flight until July 8 at the earliest, the sources said, and the FAA will spend at least two to three weeks reviewing the results before deciding whether to return the plane to service.

Last month, FAA representatives told members of the aviation industry that approval of the 737 MAX jets could happen as early as late June.

WATCH: Sullenberger says pilots must be ‘fully armed’ to operate Boeing 737 Max

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The world’s largest planemaker has been working on the upgrade for a stall-prevention system known as MCAS since a Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October, when pilots were believed to have lost a tug of war with software that repeatedly pushed the nose down.

Boeing‘s top-selling 737 MAX was grounded worldwide after a second deadly crash in March in Ethiopia which also involved MCAS. The two accidents combined killed 346 people.

READ MORE: 737 Max: Boeing CEO says company made ‘mistake’ with planes involved in fatal crashes

“On the most recent issue, the FAA’s process is designed to discover and highlight potential risks. The FAA recently found a potential risk that Boeing must mitigate,” the FAA said in the statement emailed to Reuters.

Asked about the new potential risk, Boeing said it is “working closely with the FAA to safely return the MAX to service.”

WATCH: Boeing CEO pledges to apply lessons learned from MAX 737 crashes

Two people briefed on the matter told Reuters that an FAA test pilot during a simulator test last week was running scenarios seeking to intentionally activate the MCAS stall-prevention system. During one activation it took an extended period to recover the stabilizer trim system that is used to control the aircraft, the people said.

It was not clear if the situation can be addressed with a software update or if it is a microprocessor issue, but Boeing has told the FAA it believes the issue can be addressed with a software upgrade.

A hardware fix could add new delays to the plane’s return to service.

In an email to Global News, WestJet spokesperson Lauren Stewart said the airline is in “close contact” with Transport Canada and other regulators to “understand how and when to safely reintroduce the MAX aircraft into service.“

“We remain unrelenting in putting safety at the forefront and will thoroughly evaluate processes, procedures and any further required training before our MAX aircraft once again take to the skies,” Stewart wrote.

The airline has 13 737 MAX jets which remain grounded.

The aircraft were banned from Canadian airspace in March.

— With files from Global News

© 2019 Reuters

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