FAA wants new software on Boeing 777s to prevent inadvertent autopilot engagement

By Harry R. Weber, AP
Tuesday, March 16, 2010

FAA: Boeing 777s must get new software

ATLANTA — The Federal Aviation Administration wants new software installed on Boeing 777s to prevent crews from inadvertently engaging the autopilot before takeoff.

The problem can result in a high-speed rejected, or aborted, takeoff and increase the chance of a runway overrun.

Boeing says the problem is rare — just nine reported instances of a rejected takeoff because of inadvertent engagement of the autopilot during the 777’s 15-year service history. Two incidents occurred in January. There have been no runway overruns or injuries associated with the issue.

The airworthiness directive is to be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday. The rule, which applies to certain model 777-200, 777-200LR, 777-300, 777-300ER and 777F series airplanes, takes effect 15 days later.

The 777 is a long-range, wide-body aircraft that seats over 300 passengers. One configuration allows for seating up to 440 passengers.

Boeing Co., which is based in Chicago, has delivered 254 777s to U.S. carriers through February. Excluding leasing companies, 147 of the airplanes are operated by U.S. carriers, according to Boeing.

Delta Air Lines, the world’s biggest carrier, lists on its Web site that as of Sept. 30, 2009, it owned eight Boeing 777-200ERs and eight 777-200LRs. American Airlines says on its Web site that as of May 2009 it had 47 Boeing 777s. United Airlines says on its Web site that it had 52 Boeing 777-200s in its mainline fleet as of the end of 2009.

Boeing said it supports the FAA’s directive. The company said the directive essentially mandates the service bulletin it issued to 777 operators on Jan. 22.

Boeing shares fell 68 cents, or 1 percent, to close at $68.72 in Tuesday trading.

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