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Boeing has announced it will temporarily cut production of the 737 Max aircraft as it continues to work on a software update for a system that has been implicated in two fatal crashes.
The company will dial back its production rate from 52 to 42 aircraft per month starting in mid-April to accommodate a pause in deliveries.
The 737 Max features the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which initial reports from a Lion Air crash last October and an Ethiopian Airlines accident in March point to as a factor that led the aircraft to nose dive. The latter investigation has found the pilots followed Boeing-recommended procedures but were unable to regain control of the aeroplane.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said on Friday that pilots have told the company “erroneous activation of the MCAS function can add to what is already a high workload environment. It’s our responsibility to eliminate this risk. We own it and we know how to do it.”
The global fleet of 737 Max aircraft has been grounded since March following the Ethiopian Airlines crash.
The company has had a team of engineers and “technical experts” working on a software update for the MCAS since the days following the Lion Air crash and expects its certification and implementation “in the coming weeks”.
Boeing says the reduction in building 737 Max aircraft will not affect employment levels. The company is “coordinating closely with our customers as we work through plans to mitigate the impact of this adjustment”.
Muilenburg has asked the company’s board to establish a committee “to review our company-wide policies and processes for the design and development of the aeroplanes we build”.
He said: “Safety is our responsibility, and we own it. When the Max returns to the skies, we’ve promised our airline customers and their passengers and crews that it will be as safe as any aeroplane ever to fly. Our continued discipline approach is the right decision for our employees, customers, supplier partners and other stakeholders as we work with global regulators and customers to return the 737 Max fleet to service and deliver on our commitments to all of our stakeholders.”