Boeing Co will brief more than 200 global airline pilots, technical leaders and regulators this week on software and training updates for its 737 MAX aircraft, as Ethiopian Airlines expressed confidence in the planemaker despite a recent crash.
The carrier will work with Boeing and other airlines to make air travel safer, its chief executive, Tewolde Gebremariam, said, after regulators this month grounded the worldwide fleet of the aircraft following a crash that killed 157 people.
“Despite the tragedy, Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines will continue to be linked well into the future,” he said in a statement on Monday. “Ethiopian Airlines believes in Boeing. They have been a partner of ours for many years.”
However, many questions on the 737 MAX “remain without answers”, Tewolde added, and a spokesman for the carrier said it had no “immediate plans” to attend the Boeing session, without giving further details.
Wednesday's meeting is a sign that Boeing is nearing completion on a planned software patch required to return the grounded fleet to commercial service, though it will still need approval from regulators.
The session in Renton, Washington is part of an effort to reach all current, and many future, 737 MAX operators and their home regulators to discuss software and training updates to the jet, Boeing said in a statement.
The 737 MAX is Boeing's best-selling plane, with orders worth more than $500 billion at list prices.
Garuda Indonesia was invited to the briefing, Chief Executive Ari Askhara told Reuters on Monday. Last week, Indonesia's national carrier said it planned to cancel its order for 49 737 MAX jets, citing a loss of passenger trust.
“We were informed on Friday, but because it is short notice we can't send a pilot,” Askhara said, adding that the airline had requested a webinar with Boeing, only to be rejected.
A Boeing spokeswoman said the meeting formed part of a series of in-person information sessions.
“We have been scheduling, and will continue to arrange, additional meetings to communicate with all current, and many future, MAX customers and operators,” she said.
Garuda, which has only one 737 MAX, had been reconsidering its order before the Ethiopian crash, as had fellow Indonesian carrier Lion Air, which suffered a crash in October that killed all 189 aboard.
Boeing had informed the airline of the meeting but it might not attend, said Lion Air Managing Director Daniel Putut, who declined further comment.