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Boeing readies 737 MAX software fix as families wait for crash report

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BOEING Co will provide airlines that have bought the 737 MAX with free software upgrades, the US manufacturer said on Monday, as Ethiopian Airlines told Reuters it expected a preliminary crash report this week or next.

Any fixes to the MAX software, the focus of investigations in two deadly crashes that have prompted worldwide groundings of the aircraft, must still get approval from governments around the world.

The US Transportation Department said on Monday it is forming an outside panel to review the Federal Aviation Administration's aircraft certification programme amid growing concerns after two fatal Boeing 737 MAX crashes since October.

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The causes of separate Lion Air and Ethiopian Airline crashes are also still unknown, though Ethiopian Airlines chief executive officer Tewolde Gebremariam said he trusts Boeing.

"Despite the tragedy, Boeing and Ethiopian Airlines will continue to be linked well into the future," Mr Tewolde said on Monday. "Ethiopian Airlines believes in Boeing. They have been a partner of ours for many years."

Meanwhile, Boeing has begun briefing airlines on software and training updates for the MAX, with more than 200 global airline pilots, technical experts and regulators due in Renton, Washington where the plane is built, this week. The sessions follow a briefing with carriers including three US airlines on Saturday, part of Boeing's effort "to communicate with all current, and many future, MAX customers and operators", a Boeing spokeswoman said.

Mr Tewolde told Reuters the leading African airline may or may not attend the briefing.

Lion Air managing director Daniel Putut said his airline would send two people on Wednesday, a pilot and an engineer.

The crash of an Indonesian Lion Air flight last October killed 189 people and first brought the safety of the 737 MAX into focus.

The 737 MAX is Boeing's best-selling plane, with orders worth more than US$500 billion at list prices. REUTERS