Grounded Boeing 737 MAX airplanes stored near Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington

Boeing has said it expects its troubled 737 Max aircraft to return to the skies before the end of the year.

The jet was grounded after two fatal crashes, including the Lion Air disaster, in which 189 people were killed a year ago.

But just hours after Indonesian investigators blamed mechanical and design problems for the crash, Boeing said it had developed software updates.

It said it was working with regulators to return the jet to service.

“Our top priority remains the safe return to service of the 737 Max, and we’re making steady progress,” Boeing boss Dennis Muilenburg said as the company reported its financial results.

The firm said it had also developed a training update and that it expected regulators to allow the planes to take off again before the beginning of 2020.

“We’ve also taken action to further sharpen our company’s focus on product and services safety, and we continue to deliver on customer commitments and capture new opportunities with our values of safety, quality and integrity always at the forefront,” Mr Muilenburg said.

Design problems

The statement was published just hours after investigators in Indonesia said mechanical and design problems with the flight control system were among the causes of the Lion Air crash last October.

The investigators focused on a system used to improve handling and prevent stalling on the Boeing 737 Max, which crashed killing 189 people.

The 737 Max model was grounded after an Ethiopian Airlines crash in March 2019.

On Tuesday, Boeing’s Kevin McAllister was ousted, the most senior executive to go in the wake of the crashes.

Boeing did not comment ahead of formal publication of the report into the Lion Air crash, which took place 13 minutes after take-off from Jakarta on 29 October 2018.

The grounding of the 737 Max hurt the planemaker’s financial results in the third quarter. Profits more than halved to $895m and the firm said it would cut production of its 787 Dreamliner, blaming trade uncertainties.

On Tuesday, Boeing said Mr McAllister, chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, was leaving, becoming the most senior official to leave since the two crashes, which killed a total of 346 people.

Boeing’s chief executive, Mr Muilenburg, was stripped of his title as chairman by the board this month and is under pressure to explain what the company knew about issues with the 737 Max.

The final report by Indonesian investigators into the Lion Air crash is expected to be published on Friday, but an outline provided to families affected highlights issues with the MCAS (Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System), which was designed to make the aircraft easier to fly.

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