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CASA to join US FAA Boeing 737 MAX review team

written by Denise McNabb | April 23, 2019

A supplied picture of a Boeing 737 MAX 7 landing on April 17, 2019 after a technical demonstration flight for the MCAS software update. (Boeing)
A supplied picture of a Boeing 737 MAX 7 landing on April 17, 2019 after a technical demonstration flight for the MCAS software update. (Boeing)

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has joined a team of international authorities and other aviation experts who will begin a detailed review of certification of the Boeing 737 MAX’s automated flight control system.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said CASA would be represented on its 737 MAX Joint Authorities Technical Review (JATR) team alongside experts from eight other international regulatory bodies.

The JATR was expected to hold its first meeting on April 29 and take 90 days to conduct the review, suggesting the worldwide grounding of the 737 MAX following two tragic accidents was expected to remain in place until at least July.

“The team will evaluate aspects of the 737 MAX automated flight control system, including its design and pilots’ interaction with the system, to determine its compliance with all applicable regulations and to identify future enhancements that might be needed,” the FAA said in a statement on April 19.

The FAA established the Joint Authorities Technical Review (JATR) of the 737 MAX earlier in April with former National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chairman and veteran safety investigator, Chris Hart, its chairman.


Boeing has been working on a software update to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) since shortly after the crash of a Lion Air 737 MAX 8 in October 2018. All 189 people on board were killed when the aircraft plunged into the Java Sea shortly after it took off from Jakarta.

Then, in March 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 with 157 people on board crashed minutes after it took off from Addis Ababa. There were no survivors.

The airframer has acknowledged previously that the MCAS anti-stall feature was activated in response to erroneous angle of attack (AoA) information in both the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air tragedies, following the publication of the preliminary report into the Ethiopian Airlines accident.

Boeing said in a statement on April 18 the company completed an engineering flight test with the updated MCAS software on April 16.

“This is the key technical flight prior to the certification flight with the Federal Aviation Administration,” the Boeing statement explained.

Overall, the company said it had completed 120 test flights with the software update, representing about 203 hours of flying time.

Further, it said about 85 per cent of all 737 MAX operators around the world had seen the update being used in simulator sessions.


Boeing has explained previously the software update added extra layers of protection from erroneous data out of the aircraft’s angle of attack (AOA) sensors.

This included having the flight control system compare inputs from both AOA sensors. If there was a significant disagreement – by 5.5 degrees or more with the flaps retracted – the MCAS would not activate and an indicator of the flight deck would alert the pilots, according to Boeing.

Further, Boeing said “MCAS can never command more stabilizer input than can be counteracted by the flight crew pulling back on the column”.

“The pilots will continue to always have the ability to override MCAS and manually control the airplane,” Boeing said on its website.

“These updates reduce the crew’s workload in non-normal flight situations and prevent erroneous data from causing MCAS activation.”

In terms of pilot training, Boeing said it had updated the computer-based training to accompany the software update.

“This course is designed to provide 737 type-rated pilots with an enhanced understanding of the 737 MAX Speed Trim System, including the MCAS function, associated existing crew procedures and related software changes,” Boeing said on its website.

Further, Boeing said pilots would also be required to review the Flight Crew Operations Manual Bulletin, Updated Speed Trim Fail Non-Normal Checklist and Revised Quick Reference Handbook.

A supplied picture of a Boeing 737 MAX 7 landing on April 17, 2019 after a technical demonstration flight for the MCAS software update. (Boeing)
A supplied picture of a Boeing 737 MAX 7 landing on April 17, 2019 after a technical demonstration flight for the MCAS software update. (Boeing)

Joining CASA on the review team are Brazil’s Agencia Nacional de Aviação Civil (ANAC), Canada’s Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA), China’s Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Japan’s Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB), Indonesia’s irectorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and United Arab Emirates General Civil Aviation Authority (UAE GCAA).

Each of these authorities oversees airlines that have bought or ordered the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

A draft report from the FAA’s Boeing 737 MAX Flight Standardization Board (FSB) published on April 16 found the training aspects of Boeing’s proposed software update for an anti-stall feature on the 737 MAX were “operationally suitable”.

“In March 2019, the FSB conducted an evaluation of the modified Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) for training and checking differences determination,” the draft report said.

“The system enhancement is incorporated on all MAX series aircraft. The MCAS system was found to be operationally suitable.”

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Comments (6)

  • 737 pilot


    Yes make the MCP panel functions the same as every other modern Boeing, the 1960’s are a long time ago and badly designed

  • Arthur Babbington


    I hope these airworthiness authorities don’t sign off on the MCAS modifications in isolation before the final accident reports are published. To do so before any other possible contributing factors are identified would be premature and may leave these authorities red faced. The anatomy of an accident is always multifaceted with often obscure or hidden contributing factors that involve detailed lateral consideration. From a retired Airworthiness Surveyor.

  • Craigy


    Given what has transpired, I think this group should complete a full air worthiness review of the aircraft as there appears to be too many questions about the whole certification process so Boeing could get the aircraft to market while still claiming type certification. Another issue is the amount of analysis devolved to Boeing in the certification process by the FAA. I just wonder what else Boeing have introduced to the aircraft that hasn’t been adequately communicated to the airlines.

    Given the issues about batteries (thermal runaway was well known with that type of battery but not at Boeing apparently) with the B787 and on going stories about build quality in South Carolina, and now big issues with the max, I would be be vary wary of what Boeing is saying about the B777x.

  • Richard Jones


    Does the B737 MAX meet FAR . 25.173 — Static longitudinal stability requirements if the MCAS is not serviceable for any reason? If not it should be called a Stability Augmentation System and is that appropriate for a commercial passenger carrying aircraft?

  • Doug


    how many people on Boeing 737 for what ever design fault have been killed

  • Alfred Stephanus Goliath


    Is Kenia Aviation Authority or any Aviation Authority from Africa not represented on this investigation team, as B737 aircraft are also flying in African skies?

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