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Boeing 737 Max test flights with new software are underway

Boeing admits likely factor in deadly crashes
  • After regulators around the world grounded the 737 Max, Boeing has been scrambling to address the problems believed to have led to two fatal crashes.
  • The plane maker is now making test flights of planes fitted with new software aimed solving the problems.
  • CEO Dennis Muilenburg says more tests are planned as Boeing meets with concerned officials and pilots from airlines that own 737 Max planes.

Boeing has made 96 flights to test a software update for its troubled 737 Max jet, the company's CEO said. Dennis Muilenburg said Thursday that more test flights are planned in the coming weeks as Boeing attempts to convince regulators that the plane is safe.

The Max was grounded by regulators around the world last month after a second deadly crash involving the plane, in Ethiopia. In that crash and an October crash in Indonesia, faulty information from a sensor caused anti-stall automation to kick in and push the plane's nose lower. Pilots were unable to save the planes. Muilenburg also said Boeing representatives have held meetings in the U.S., the U.K., Singapore and China with pilots and officials from most of the airlines that own Max jets.

The pressure is on Boeing to rebuild confidence among airlines and air passengers in the workhorse 737 Max line. Deliveries of the company's best-selling jet tumbled after the newest version of the plane was grounded around the world following the two deadly crashes.

The aviation giant said on Tuesday that it delivered 149 commercial airplanes, including 89 737s, in the first quarter. In the same period last year, the company delivered 184 planes, including 132 737s.

Safety gear as standard equipment

In a related development, Democratic Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts is introducing a bill in Congress requiring plane makers to provide airlines with all safety equipment now considered optional and to do so without an additional charge. That's because safety equipment that had not been installed on two Boeing 737 Max jets might have saved them from fatal crashes. Markey said the equipment might have alerted crews to false readings from sensors implicated in the crashes that killed all 346 aboard.

Markey says plane makers shouldn't treat safety features as luxuries that can generate additional fees like premium seats and extra bathrooms. Boeing has said its planes are equipped with "all critical features" necessary for safety. And it has said it will now provide two features that were missing in the two crashed planes free of charge.

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