FAA uncovers new Boeing Max issue as carriers extend flight cancellations

The Federal Aviation Administration uncovered a new software issue with the beleaguered Boeing Max jet, a fresh hurdle that is likely to further delay the jet from returning to service.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
BA THE BOEING CO. 174.52 +2.31 +1.34%

In a statement, the agency said it is “following a process, not a prescribed timeline” for reviewing the problems with the Max, including those that led to two recent crashes.

“The FAA’s process is designed to discover and highlight potential risks. The FAA recently found a potential risk that Boeing must mitigate,” it said on Wednesday.

Boeing said it agreed with the agency’s decision and is working on a software update to fix the new problem.

“Boeing will not offer the 737 MAX for certification by the FAA until we have satisfied all requirements for certification of the MAX and its safe return to service,” the company wrote in a statement.

Earlier in the day, CEO Dennis Muilenburg said he anticipated the ground halt to lift in “late summer,” a timeline that top U.S. airlines are also counting on. Bucking a suggestion from President Trump, Muilenburg also ruled out the possibility that the company would change the name of the Max airliner.

On Wednesday, United Airlines became the latest carrier, joining American Airlines and Southwest Airline, in extending the potential for flight interruptions as a result of the Max grounding through early September.

The Chicago-based carrier expects to cancel up to 1,290 flights in July and 1,900 flights in August.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
LUV SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO. 26.84 +0.19 +0.71%

Federal regulators previously said it could be months before the software update is approved. And once the Max jet obtains clearance to fly again, it could be several more weeks before airlines can actually use the plane.

The new issue uncovered by the FAA is a separate problem from the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, the auto-pilot program that contributed to the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes. It is, however, related to an emergency procedure used in the event of MCAS failure, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The latest hiccup delayed planned certification tests, which were expected to begin as early as last week.


One lingering question is whether Boeing can address the issue through a software update, or whether it will require a broader and more intensive change to the hardware on the planes.