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FAA Says Boeing 737 MAX Planes Airworthy, To Mandate Design Changes

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The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration or FAA has issued a continued airworthiness notification for the Boeing 737 Max fleet of aircraft, saying it believes the aircraft is still airworthy, despite two fatal crashes in five months.

The FAA also said it will mandate that Boeing implement design changes to some systems and signaling on board the aircraft by April 2019. The agency's notice applies to both the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and the larger MAX 9 variant.

A 737 Max 8 aircraft operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board. This is the second 737 MAX 8 crash in five months, raising concerns over the aircraft's safety.

In October 2018, an Indonesian Lion Air jet went down in the Java Sea minutes after departing Jakarta, killing 189 people.

"External reports are drawing similarities between this accident and the Lion Air Flight 610 accident on October 29, 2018. However, this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions," the FAA said in a statement to international airlines.

However, the FAA said it expects Boeing to complete flight control system enhancements to the aircraft by April 2019. The design changes include Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System or MCAS Activation Enhancements and MCAS AOA Signal Enhancements.

Boeing is also planning to update training requirements and flight crew manuals along with these design changes.

The FAA noted that currently, there are 74 of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft in U.S.-registered fleets and 387 aircraft worldwide.

In a separate statement, Boeing said that for the past several months and in the aftermath of the Lion Air Flight crash, it has has been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX aircraft.

The company said it has been working closely with the FAA on development, planning and certification of the software enhancement, and it will be deployed across the 737 MAX fleet in the coming weeks.

"It is important to note that the FAA is not mandating any further action at this time, and the required actions in AD2018-23.5 continue to be appropriate," Boeing noted.

The 737 MAX 8 is the fastest-selling airplane in Boeing's history, accumulating more than 4,800 orders from over 100 customers worldwide.

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