Boeing to deploy software upgrade across 737 MAX 8 fleet

WASHINGTON The US will mandate that Boeing implement design changes by next month that have been in the works for months for the 737 MAX 8 fleet after a fatal crash in October, but said the plane was airworthy and did not need to be grounded, despite a second crash on Sunday.

An Ethiopian Airlines' 737 MAX 8 bound for Nairobi crashed minutes after take-off on Sunday, killing all 157 aboard.

It raised questions about the safety of the new variant of the industry workhorse, one of which also crashed in Indonesia in October, killing 189 people.

Boeing confirmed the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announcement late on Monday that it will deploy a software upgrade across the 737 MAX 8 fleet "in the coming weeks" as pressure mounted.

Two US senators called for the fleet's immediate grounding and a rising number of airlines said they would voluntarily ground their fleets.

The company confirmed it had for several months "been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX 8, designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer".

Boeing did not reference Sunday's Ethiopian Airlines crash in connection with the software upgrade.

The statement did express the company's condolences to the relatives of the 157 victims.

The FAA said the changes will "provide reduced reliance on procedures associated with required pilot memory items".

The FAA also said Boeing will "update training requirements and flight crew manuals to go with the design change" to an automated protection system called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System or MCAS.


US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao told reporters regulators would not hesitate to act if they find a safety issue.

Meanwhile, Australia, South Korea, Gol in Brazil, Argentina's state airline Aerolineas Argentinas, Mexico's Aeromexico and Norwegian Air Shuttle all suspended 737 MAX 8 flights.

Malaysia, Germany and Britain have banned all 737 MAX 8 jets from their airspace. On Monday, China, Indonesia and Ethiopia grounded the jets. - REUTERS