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It May Take Weeks Before Boeing Finishes 737 Max Software Fixes

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Boeing wants more time. The company has been working on software fixes for a flight control system on the 737 MAX airplanes. Two of those planes crashed in recent months, one in Indonesia last October, another in Ethiopia last month, killing a total of 346 people. Investigators say the flight control system may have been a factor in both crashes. Boeing had said the problem with the planes was solved. Now the company has reversed course. NPR's David Schaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: In an effort to improve the safety of its troubled 737 MAX and rebuild trust in the Boeing name, company officials unveiled fixes to the plane's MCAS flight control system to pilots, industry officials, regulators and reporters from around the world in suburban Seattle last week. They showed how they'd be giving pilots more control over the automated system, how they'd be adding redundancies and would be making warning lights alerting pilots to a problem standard. And Boeing detailed improved pilot training on how to deal with an unexpected activation of the system.

Officials at the aircraft manufacturer then said that those fixes would be submitted to the FAA for regulatory review before the end of last week, but that didn't happen. And now both Boeing and the FAA say a few more weeks are needed before the software fixes will be ready.

ED COLEMAN: What may have happened is as they were doing the testing last week or the rollout with some of the customers and pilots, they may have noticed something that they didn't expect. So they're going to go back in and take a look at it again.

SCHAPER: Ed Coleman is director of the aviation safety institute at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz.

COLEMAN: Just changing one line of code can have different effects throughout multiple systems on the airplane. So they need to take their time and make sure they're doing it right.

SCHAPER: In a statement, Boeing says the company is taking a thorough and methodical approach to the development and testing of the software update to ensure that they get it right. The FAA says it will subject the changes to a rigorous safety review and will not approve Boeing's fixes until regulators are satisfied. David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOLLOWED BY GHOSTS' "BEARDS OF THE PATRIARCHS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.