US transport chief questions Boeing decisions on 737 MAX safety features

An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 is seen grounded at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa Ethiopia on Saturday

A Southwest Airlines Max 8, one of 34 in the carrier's fleet, had to make an emergency landing shortly after takeoff Tuesday in Orlando, Florida, cutting short a flight to a short-term aircraft storage lot in California.

Boeing pilots later conducted a certification flight with the FAA on March 12, two days after the Ethiopian Airlines crash, to demonstrate to regulators that the updated software met certification requirements, the official said.

The crew declared an emergency after taking off from Orlando International Airport on Tuesday and returned to the airport safely.

A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration has said that the regulatory agency has not approved a software update for Boeing's troubled 737 MAX 8 jetliner, previewed by Boeing on Wednesday.

The US government followed almost every other country in the world this month by ordering all Max 8 planes grounded after 157 people died in the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8. Indonesia's Lion Air and Garuda Indonesia plan to cancel their cumulative $28 billion worth of orders for Boeing's 737 MAX planes.

Among the changes, the MCAS will no longer repeatedly make corrections when the pilot tries to regain control, and will be automatically disconnected in the event of disagreements between the two "angle of attack" (AOA) sensors, the company said.

The New York Times reports that Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610 were not equipped with special warning indicators in the cockpit; Trace Gallagher reports from Los Angeles.

The Transportation Department watchdog has previously raised questions about the FAA's certification of Boeing planes and the seemingly close relationship between some agency managers and Boeing.

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The cause of the engine failure will need to be determined by engineers, but on the face of it, it appears unrelated to the two recent fatal crashes involving the 737 MAX.

The FAA has grounded all 737 MAX aircraft pending a thorough investigation of the problem.

The system created to down the plane's nose, when it reaches beyond normal angles of attack, is one of the main suspected reasons that led to the two crashes of 737 MAX planes over the last half a year. An anti-stall system known as MCAS, or Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, has come under scrutiny. The Lion Air pilots, on the other hand, had received little training on the system, and it was only after the plane crashed that Boeing first notified pilots of the system's existence.

Ethiopian officials and some analysts have said the Ethiopian Airlines jet behaved in a similar pattern before crashing shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa, but that investigation is still at an early stage.

These procedures are "extensive, well established and have consistently produced safe aircraft designs for decades", the remarks say.

In a statement given to CBS News, American Airlines, which owns 24 Boeing 737 Max aircraft, is cancelling about 90 flights a day and is extending the cancellations through until the end of April.

The software is believed to have been the cause of two accidents (Indonesia and Ethiopia) that claimed that lives of 346 people. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.

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