Boeing is reportedly facing more problems with its troubled 737 Max aircraft after another glitch was found on the plane’s redesigned software systems.
The issue came to light last month during a flight test of the Max, according to a Boeing email seen by Bloomberg. U.S. Federal Aviation Administrator Steve Dickson confirmed the news at an airline industry event in London, U.K., on Thursday.
In line with established procedures, Boeing reported the problem to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which will have the final say on when the troubled aircraft can take to the skies again.
The 737 Max was grounded around the world after two crashes in the space of five months, both caused by a fault with the aircraft’s software. The first happened in October 2018 when a Lion Air flight came down shortly after takeoff near Jakarta, Indonesia, killing all 157 passengers and crew. Five months later, in March 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed near Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, resulting in the deaths of all 189 people on board.
The latest issue is one of several to be reported by Boeing since the Max’s grounding last year. It’s related to a flight deck indicator light for the stabilizer trim system, which helps to raise and lower the plane’s nose. During testing, the light has been incorrectly illuminating, prompting Boeing to work on a fix so that it only lights up as and when intended.
The flaw is all the more concerning as it resulted from “Boeing’s redesign of the two flight computers that control the 737 Max to make them more resilient to failure,” Bloomberg reported. Also, it appears to have some association with the flawed system that caused the two fatal crashes.
Despite this latest setback, Boeing said it is still aiming to have the Max return to commercial service in mid-2020, though the FAA — as well as other regulators around the world — will have the final say. In London, FAA chief Steve Dickson revealed that a certification flight for the aircraft may take place later this month, which, if successful, would be a major step forward for Boeing’s plans to get the plane airborne again.
In January, Boeing reported a potential problem with the wiring that controls the Max’s tail, and a few weeks later another issue surfaced that had the potential to prevent the jet’s flight control computers from starting up and verifying that they’re ready for flight.
Chicago-based Boeing announced at the end of last year that it was suspending production of the Max until regulators clear it for take-off again. Around 800 Max jets have left the factory to date, with about half of them in service with airlines around the world until the plane’s grounding in 2019.