FAA Orders Boeing to Make Software Fix on 747s

March 25, 2014 by Paul Ausick

Boeing 747
Source: Courtesy of Boeing Co.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Tuesday issued an airworthiness directive to The Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) requiring the company install new software that could prevent a crash on the Boeing’s 747-8 and 747-8F aircraft. To date, the faulty software has not caused a crash, but the FAA is taking no chances, making the effective date of the directive April 9th, which eliminates the usual comment period.

Boeing and General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE), the maker of the planes’ engines, analyzed the software last year and Boeing advised customers to update the software at that time. The company said it believes that many of its customers did so. Those that have not done so yet, will be encouraged to install the new software.

The issue is related to the thrust reversers which may not be properly stowed if the plane should abort a landing and try to regain altitude. According to the FAA, if the thrust reversers fail to be stowed properly the failure “could result in inadequate climb performance at an altitude insufficient for recovery, and consequent uncontrolled flight into terrain.” In other words, a crash.

There are seven of the affected Boeing 747-8 and 747-8F aircraft in operation in the U.S. according to a report from Reuters. However a total of 66 planes have been delivered internationally since the models were introduced in October 2011. None of the planes has ever experienced the current issue in flight.

The freighter version, Boeing’s 747-8F, is used by U.S. carrier Atlas Air, which owns 8 of the planes, and China’s Cathay Pacific which owns 13 and CargoLux which owns 9. Lufthansa is the largest operator of the 747-8 passenger plane, with a fleet of 11. Not all 747-8s and 747-8Fs were equipped with the affected GE engine.

Boeing’s stock is up about 0.4% in late afternoon trading on Tuesday at $123.96 in a 52-week range of $83.80 to $144.57.