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SilkAir’s Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft to incorporate software fix when available

SINGAPORE — The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) will ensure that SilkAir incorporates Boeing’s software fix for its Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft fleet once it is available, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Dr Janil Puthucheary in Parliament on Monday (April 1).

A SilkAir Boeing 737 Max 8 plane seen at Changi Airport Terminal 1.

A SilkAir Boeing 737 Max 8 plane seen at Changi Airport Terminal 1.

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SINGAPORE — The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) will ensure that SilkAir incorporates Boeing’s software fix for its Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft fleet once it is available, Dr Janil Puthucheary said in Parliament on Monday (April 1).

The Senior Minister of State for Transport added that the suspension of the Boeing 737 Max 8s will only be lifted when authorities are “fully satisfied” that all safety concerns have been adequately addressed.

About 300 SilkAir passengers have been affected daily due to the grounding of the planes. Flights have to be cancelled or adjusted, with passengers rebooked on other flights or offered refunds instead.

On March 12, the CAAS said that it was temporarily suspending the operation of all variants of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft in and out of Singapore after two recent fatal accidents involving the aircraft.

Dr Puthucheary said that more flights may be cancelled if the suspension continues.

Responding to questions from Ms Cheng Li Hui, Member of Parliament for Tampines Group Representation Constituency, on the suspension of affected Boeing aircrafts, “There is currently no evidence of safety issues with other Boeing aircraft,” he said.

Dr Puthucheary also said that the CAAS will not allow airlines to register new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft during the suspension.

SilkAir, a regional arm under Singapore Airlines, has six Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft in its fleet. Singapore Airlines (SIA) does not own the affected model.

Four other foreign airlines that have been affected by the CAAS’ grounding are: China Southern Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Shandong Airlines and Thai Lion Air.

Shandong Airlines has suspended its operations to Singapore while the rest have maintained normal operations using other aircraft types as they have limited flights to Singapore.

“CAAS will continue to work with the Changi Airport Group, SIA and SilkAir and other affected airlines to minimise the impact on passengers,” Dr Puthucheary said.

He added that CAAS has been communicating closely with Boeing, the United States Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and other leading regulators such as the European Union Aviation Safety Agency on the safety issues of the Boeing 737 Max 8.

This follows Boeing’s announced software update on March 27 for the affected aircrafts’ Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), an anti-stall system that is believed to have led to the two fatal crashes involving the Boeing 737 Max 8.

The update will include using both sensors on board to establish the plane’s angle of attack (AOA), which is the lift of the aircraft. Previously, only a single sensor was used for MCAS.

Last week, it was also reported that add-on safety features such as the AOA indicator and a "disagree" light were made optional during the purchase of the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft and extra fees were payable for its installation.

The AOA indicator gives a visual indication of the aircraft’s lift — which can alert pilots when the plane is stalling — while the disagree light illuminates when both sensors on the aircraft have conflicting readings.

Responding to TODAY’s queries, Mr Tan Kah Han, CAAS' senior director for the safety regulation group, said that SilkAir’s Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft were approved by CAAS and equipped with both optional safety features.

SilkAir has 31 orders for the Boeing 737 Max 8 and the orders remain unchanged, a SilkAir representative said on Monday.

Concerns over the aircraft surfaced after an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max 8 bound for Nairobi in Kenya crashed minutes after take-off on March 10, killing all 157 people on board and prompting the carrier to ground the rest of its 737 Max 8 fleet.

Earlier in October last year, a 737 Max 8 operated by Indonesian budget carrier Lion Air crashed 13 minutes after take-off from Jakarta on a domestic flight, killing all 189 passengers and crew on board.

The 737 Max 8 is the latest version of Boeing's bestselling single-aisle 737 Max jets, which first entered service in 2017.

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