EVERETT, Wash. (Reuters) – A Boeing Co executive said there was no need to revamp the cockpit crew alerting system in its forthcoming 737 MAX 10 jet, as the U.S. planemaker races to complete its certification before a year-end deadline.
“I personally have no belief that there’s any value in changing the 737,” Mike Delaney, Boeing’s chief aerospace safety officer, told reporters at its hub north of Seattle.
There’s no data that says switching to another system is safer, Delaney said, adding that the company was still evaluating its options.
The embattled U.S. planemaker is facing an increasingly high-stakes battle to win certification for the largest variant of the 737 MAX before a new safety standard on cockpit alerts takes effect.
The deadline for changes was introduced as part of broader regulatory reforms at the Federal Aviation Administration after fatal 737 MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019.
Missing the deadline could require Boeing to revamp the jet’s crew alerting system and mean separate pilot training – raising costs to airlines and putting orders at risk.
Delaney’s comments came during a media event where Boeing unveiled new pilot training tools and a revamped data-sharing system.
The efforts are part of a long-term global safety initiative, first reported by Reuters in 2019, to reduce risks such as those faced by the crews in two 737 MAX crashes.
The event was timed to the release of an annual safety report, required by a 2021 legal settlement over fatal 737 MAX crashes.
Boeing also separated the CEO and board chair positions, and is creating an ombudsperson program to provide Boeing employees handling certification work with a way to raise concerns.
Delaney, a Boeing veteran who took on the safety role more than a year ago, told reporters an ombudsman had been selected, but had not yet started the job. He declined to name the person.
Boeing has also added six new board members with expertise in engineering, safety and supplier management, and restructured its engineering ranks.
The 737 MAX 10 competes with Airbus’ strongest-selling model, the A321neo – jets aimed at the fast-growing segment of the market just above 200 seats.
Unlike other Boeing aircraft, the 737 lacks the Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting System known as EICAS, which complies with the FAA regulation.
Agency Partners analyst Nick Cunningham said the 737 MAX flight deck should be equipped with a modern crew alerting system, found on other production aircraft for decades.
“It is amazing that one of the world’s most populous commercial aircraft, that may be in service through the 2060s, can be certified without a modern crew alerting system,” Cunningham said.
The company has held talks with some lawmakers about asking for more time, but has not formally sought an extension to address the flight deck issue. Only Congress can extend the deadline if the FAA does not certify the MAX before the end of the year.
“People love the upside of design changes and never thinking about the downside,” Delaney said.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Jonathan Oatis)