Mike Sinnett, vice president of product strategy and development at Boeing Co., speaks during a news conference in Renton, Washington, U.S. (Photographer: David Ryder/Bloomberg)

Boeing Readies 737 Max Software Update as Senate Probes Crashes

(Bloomberg) -- Boeing Co. tried to quell the deepening crisis around its best-selling jetliner as the U.S. Congress began public hearings on federal safety oversight after two deadly crashes in the last five months.

While investigators are still piecing together what caused an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max 8 to fall out of the sky this month, senators in Washington zeroed in on a controversial safety feature on the plane. New anti-stall software on the new model, which debuted less than two years ago, has been linked to an Oct. 29 accident in Indonesia and is under scrutiny in the Ethiopian disaster.

Across the U.S. in Renton, Washington, where the plane is made, Boeing hosted news media as well as 200 pilots and industry officials to detail software changes it intends to submit to the Federal Aviation Administration for final approval this week. The company also defended its aircraft-certification process and safety oversight.

The U.S. planemaker, working with regulators, has spent months refining the software, and an executive said the upgrade proved more complicated than initially expected. Boeing was close to a software update when the Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed on March 10.

Southwest Airlines Co., the largest operator of the 737 Max, said it was encouraged by the proposed changes.

Pilots at American Airlines Group Inc., the world’s biggest carrier, urged Boeing and federal regulators not to rush approval for the software update.

“We are optimistic with the progress, but cautious,’’ the Allied Pilots Association, which represents aviators at American, said in a statement. “We don’t want to see the certification process rushed or fast-tracked.’’

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