April 17 (UPI) -- The Boeing 737 Max 8 fleet should re-enter service with new software and without new simulator training for pilots, a Federal Aviation Administration board advised in a new report.
A 57-page draft report by the Flight Standardization Board Tuesday said engineers are still working on a software update for the plane, which has been grounded worldwide since shortly after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet last month. The panel is comprised of expert pilots who have reviewed the software fix.
More than 300 people died in two crashes involving the Max 8 since October, which led Boeing to develop a software fix for the plane's automated flight system. Investigators believe anti-stall software forced the planes into a dive and that pilots were not trained for that scenario.
So far, the board determined, the software update addresses the needed changes.
"In March 2019, the FSB conducted an evaluation of the modified Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System for training and checking differences determination. The system enhancement is incorporated on all MAX series aircraft. The MCAS system was found to be operationally suitable," the panel said.
Boeing has completed 96 flights totaling more than 159 hours of air time with the new software fix for the Max fleet. The update could be finished by the end of the month, at the earliest. The FAA would then have to sign off on the fix. With the current system, the plane's anti-stall system takes over if there's a risk of a stall, forcing it into a steep dive that the pilots can't override. The new software wouldn't go into as steep a dive and would alert pilots when there's a malfunction.
The report said new pilots should receive a special emphasis on the MCAS system in training, but existing pilots won't need re-training in the flight simulator -- a costly and time-consuming endeavor. No U.S. carrier has a specific simulator for the Max series aircraft.
"MCAS ground training must address system description, functionality, associated failure conditions and flight crew alerting," the report said.
The software fix is the first of several steps in getting the Max planes back into service. Regulators in other countries also have to sign off on the fixes for the planes to fly in their airspace. There's also the issue of public acceptance, as the crashes have influenced safety perception about the plane.
Boeing shares climbed 2.5 percent after the report was issued Tuesday.
United, Southwest and American airlines -- the only U.S. airlines that fly Boeing's Max 737 series -- have grounded flights through the summer.