In suburban Seattle, Boeing keeps on cranking out 737 Max planes

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A Boeing 737 MAX aircraft operated by Southwest Airlines made an emergency landing yesterday after experiencing an engine problem as it was being ferried from Florida to California, the US Federal Aviation Agency said.

The Department of Transportation has opened a probe into the FAA's approval process and recently launched a special committee to review the system, while the Justice Department reportedly pursues a criminal investigation into the certification of Boeing's Max jets - which were involved in the recent Lion's Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes.

"The crew followed protocol and safely landed back at the airport", the firm added.

Elwell also said that an alert to pilots that Boeing was making standard on all 737 MAX planes as part of a software upgrade was not "safety critical".

The jet is one of hundreds of Boeing aircraft grounded around the world while investigators work to find the cause of an Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people earlier this month.

The changes were drawn up in response to the Lion Air crash but are seen as crucial to regaining the trust of pilots, passengers and regulators after the Ethiopia crash prompted a worldwide grounding Boeing 737 MAX planes.

Neither of the planes, operated by Lion Air in Indonesia and Ethiopian Airlines, that were involved in the fatal crashes, carried the alert systems, created to warn pilots when sensors produce contradictory readings. Just two people were on board.

In separate comments on Wednesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao asked why Boeing did not require safety features on its top-selling 737 MAX that might have prevented the crashes.

Neither of the two ongoing crash investigations have indicated any performance issues with the plane's CFM International Leap-1B engines.

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Boeing has been developing a software update to fix the plane's faulty MCAS system since the most recent crash, and on Wednesday briefed pilots on the new updates.

The final report may take months to complete but a preliminary report may be released "anytime soon", said the spokesman for Ethiopia's transport ministry.

The gathering Wednesday will also serve as counter-programming for a highly anticipated Senate hearing in Washington, DC, where lawmakers are expected to press regulators for changes to the aircraft certification process in the wake of the two crashes.

Well, we're glad the pilots were able to land this plane safely and there were no passengers on board. Both aircraft struggled to maintain speed and altitude immediately after takeoff, a problem that is being blamed on a fault with the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).

The system created to down the plane's nose, when it reaches beyond normal angles of attack, is one of the main suspected reasons that led to the two crashes of 737 MAX planes over the last half a year.

The FAA said it is investigating Tuesday's incident.

Elwell also details the steps taken to investigate the plane after the first crash in the Java Sea on October 29.

"I find it hard to believe that a safety company like an airline would save a couple thousand dollars on an option that might improve safety", Elwell said, who also defended the decision not to require new training after it was tested by pilots.

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