The world’s biggest plane maker faced escalating pressure on Monday after Ethiopia pointed to parallels between its crash and one in Indonesia, sharpening focus on the safety of software installed in Boeing’s 737 MAX planes.
The Ethiopian Airlines disaster on March 10 killed 157 people, grounded Boeing’s marquee MAX fleet worldwide, and sparked a high-stakes inquiry for the shaken aviation industry.
Ethiopian Airlines, whose reputation also hinges on the investigation, said at the weekend initial analysis of the black boxes showed “clear similarities” with a Lion Air flight from Jakarta in October which crashed killing 189 people.
Both planes were MAX 8s and crashed minutes after take-off with pilots reporting flight control problems.
Under scrutiny is a new automated system in the MAX model that guides the nose lower to avoid stalling.
According to Reuters, lawmakers and safety experts were asking how thoroughly regulators vetted the system and how well pilots around the world were trained for it when their airlines bought new planes.
Ethiopian Transport Ministry spokesman Muse Yiheyis, had said data recovered from the black boxes by investigators in Paris demonstrated parallels with the Lion Air crash and had been validated by US experts.
US officials did not corroborate that, but U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) acting boss Daniel Elwell last week acknowledged that initial inspection of flight data indicated “the flight was very similar”.
With the prestige of one of the United States’ biggest exporters at stake, Boeing has said the MAX series is safe, Boeing has halted deliveries of its best-selling model, one intended to be the industry standard but now under a shadow.
There were more than 300 MAX airplanes in operation at the time of the Ethiopian crash, and nearly 5,000 more on order.
After a 10 per cent drop last week that wiped nearly $25 billion off its market share, Boeing stock slid another 3.5 percent on Monday to $365.60 in early pre-market trade.
Media reports heaped further pressure on Boeing.
The Seattle Times said the company’s safety analysis of a new control system known as MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) had crucial flaws, including understating power.
It also said U.S. FAA followed a standard certification process on the MAX rather than extra inquiries. The FAA declined to comment, but has said the process followed normal process.