(Yicai Global) April 10 -- Boeing has begun showing off its updated Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System in China as it looks to get 737 Max planes back in the air following two fatal crashes.
The Illinois-based firm held a demonstration for Chinese airlines in Shanghai yesterday, its first event of the kind outside of the United States ahead of similar plans in Europe, Australia and the rest of Asia.
It looks like the update could resolve the issue, one captain at the event told Yicai Global.
Fixing problems with the 737 Max software suite will be critical for Boeing as it looks to get hundreds of the planes back off the asphalt. Nations around the globe grounded the aircraft earlier this year after an Ethiopian Airlines flight killed 157 in March, just five months after a Lion Air crash that cost 189 lives, and American Airlines recently announced that it would extend its stoppage to June 5 from April 24.
Updating the systems on planes the world over will take some time, but Boeing plans to deliver its new MCAS to the US Federal Aviation Administration in a matter of weeks, Yicai Global learned at the event. The firm is already planning to cut production to 42 planes a month from 52 starting this month as a result of the flight suspension.
Many Chinese airlines are now reporting their first quarter earnings, offering insight into the level of impact the grounding of the planes has made.
China Eastern Airlines, the country's second biggest, had to ground 14 of the 737 Max jets, according to a company executive. It replaced them with Airbus A320s, so the suspension has not hit the firm's bottom line too hard, yet, he said.
The carrier, which is suing Boeing for an undetermined amount pending an investigation into the disturbance, will not need to make significant changes to its fleet and will take further action based on judgments from China's General Administration of Civil Aviation, the executive added.
China's third-largest airline, Air China, has 22 737 Max planes, more than any other in the country -- but it says earnings have not been affected because it is not peak season and many planes are undergoing repairs anyway. It does not plan to sue Boeing.
A 737 Max offers about 200 million to 300 million available seat kilometers (number of seats multiplied by number of kilometers flown) each year, an Air China executive said. All of the country's 737 Max planes give a combined ASK of about 30 billion, nearly 3 percent of China's entire civil aviation industry, he added.
Editor: James Boynton