Boeing has held a meeting with Chinese airlines in Shanghai to demonstrate a revamped version of the flight control system at the centre of two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia in the past six months.
The demonstration was held at Boeing’s training base in Shanghai, with pilots from Chinese airlines using a flight simulator of the 737 Max jet involved in the crashes, according to a company spokesman. A similar demonstration flight was held in Seattle in March and a third is planned for Europe.
It was the first time the plane manufacturer has held a training meeting of this size, the spokesman said, citing the importance of the Chinese market for the US company.
Analysts have stressed China’s central role in the global aviation industry and the need for Boeing to convince local airlines and the country’s regulator of the 737 Max’s airworthiness.
More than 300 of the planes have been grounded worldwide — about 100 of them in China — following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight in March and a similar incident in Indonesia last year.
The two incidents, which killed a total of 346 passengers and crew, have created a crisis of confidence in the world’s largest commercial aircraft manufacturer and in its 737 aircraft.
The system on display this week in Shanghai, called the manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system, is meant to prevent the plane from stalling but has been implicated as the cause for the accidents.
A preliminary probe into the Ethiopian crash by local investigators has indicated that the pilots followed instructions from Boeing but were unable to pull up the diving plane before it crashed just six minutes after departing the capital, Addis Ababa.
Boeing is seeking to get the aircraft back in the sky in places such as China and end a costly period of grounding for the planes. JPMorgan said this week that the US company would lose $1bn in cash for each month that it is unable to deliver its grounded 737 Max 8 to customers.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China became the first authority to order domestic airlines to suspend operations of the aircraft in early March, noting similarities between the Ethiopian and Indonesian crashes. Aviation authorities around the world followed suit.
Chinese airlines have ordered more than 100 aircraft from the 737 Max range and account for 17 per cent of the 350 deliveries made up until January, according to Boeing.
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