Boeing's stock rose Thursday despite the release of a preliminary report that highlighted the role of an automated anti-stall system on its best-selling plane in two deadly crashes.
The shares gained 70 cents, or 1.3 percent, to close at $53.51.
Key findings of the Ethiopian report had already leaked, so investors may have been prepared for more bad news around Boeing's 737 Max jet.
They might also have been encouraged when Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg tweeted late Wednesday about being on a test flight during which a software upgrade to the anti-stall and flight-control system on the plane was tested successfully. That system is believed to have played a key role in a crash off the coast of Indonesia in October and another March 10 in Ethiopia.
CFRA Research analyst Jim Corridore said the software test flight made it more likely that Boeing could get the grounded Max planes back in the air relatively soon, within several weeks.
"We expect extreme regulatory scrutiny around the safety of the 737-MAX fleet, but do expect these planes to resume flying eventually," the analyst said in a note to clients.
The two pilots of the Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed last month had just 159 hours of flying time on the Boeing 737 Max between them.
The captain, Yared Getachew, was just 29 but had accumulated more than 8,000 hours of flying since completing work at the airline's flight academy in 2010, according to a preliminary accident report released Thursday by the Ethiopian government.
Getachew was licensed by the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority to fly the 737 and several larger Boeing jets, the 767, 777 and 787. In 2017, he was permitted to command flights on 737s, and that was expanded in 2018 to include the Max, Boeing's newest version of its workhorse single-aisle jetliner.
The captain flew more than 1,400 hours on 737s, but just 103 hours on the Max, of which Ethiopian Airlines had just five, including the one that crashed on March 10.
The co-pilot, Ahmed Nur Mohammod Nur, was only 25 and was licensed to fly the 737, including the Max, on Dec. 12 of last year. He logged just 361 flight hours — not enough to be hired as a pilot at a U.S. airline. He flew 207 of those hours on 737s, including 56 hours on Max jets.
A preliminary report released Thursday by the Ethiopian government found that the two pilots followed Boeing's recommended procedures when their plane started to nose dive but could not avoid crashing.
Boeing is reiterating its sympathies to the families of victims who died in a March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet and emphasizing that it is making fixes to an anti-stall system that is suspected of also playing a role in a second crash.
The system, known by its acronym MCAS and designed specifically for the 737 Max, can automatically lower the plane's nose to prevent an aerodynamic stall in certain circumstances. Investigators are looking into whether MCAS contributed to the Ethiopian Airlines crash as well as a Lion Air jet crash off of Indonesia in October.
"To ensure unintended MCAS activation will not occur again, Boeing has developed and is planning to release a software update to MCAS and an associated comprehensive pilot training and supplementary education program for the 737 MAX," the company said in its statement.
Boeing said the software update "adds additional layers of protection and will prevent erroneous data from causing MCAS activation. Flight crews will always have the ability to override MCAS and manually control the airplane."
The company says it cannot comment on a preliminary report released by the Ethiopian government Thursday pending an investigation.
The Max has been grounded worldwide until Boeing completes the software update, which still needs to be approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and other regulators.
A doomed Ethiopian Airlines jet suffered from faulty readings by a key sensor, and pilots followed Boeing's recommended procedures when the plane started to nose dive but could not avoid crashing, according to a preliminary report released Thursday by the Ethiopian government.
The findings including the faulty sensor data drew the strongest link yet between the March 10 crash in Ethiopia and an October crash off the coast of Indonesia, which both involved Boeing 737 Max 8 jetliners. All 346 people on the two planes were killed.
Both planes had an automated system that pushed the nose down when sensors readings detected the danger of an aerodynamic stall, but it now appears that sensors malfunctioned on both planes.
In a statement, Boeing repeats that it is working on a software update to prevent the automated system from activating when it should not.
The family of a 24-year-old American passenger on the Ethiopian jet has sued Boeing in Chicago. The complaint, which also names Ethiopian Airlines and parts maker Rosemount Aerospace as defendants, is alleging negligence and civil conspiracy among other charges.
The American who was killed in the March 10 crash in Ethiopia, Samya Stumo, is the great niece of consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader.
"Blinded by its greed, Boeing haphazardly rushed the 737 MAX8 to market" and "actively concealed the nature of the automated system defects," the lawsuit alleges, demonstrating a "conscious disregard for the lives of others."
"You've let us down. You've killed people when you've let us down," said Adnaan Stumo, the victim's brother, addressing Boeing during a press conference in Chicago.
Boeing is facing several other suits, including seven filed in Chicago earlier by one law firm alone claiming the flight-control system was defective and that Boeing failed to warn airlines about it or fully train pilots.
The Max 8 has been under scrutiny since a Lion Air flight crashed off the coast of Indonesia under similar circumstances in October.
A sister of one of the crash victims of the Ethiopian Airlines flight said her whole family is grieving the death of her brother again amid the release of a preliminary report Thursday that said pilots followed Boeing's recommended procedures when the plane started to nose dive but could not avoid crashing. Konjit Shafi, who lost her younger brother Sintayehu Shafi in the crash, told The Associated Press that her family is unsettled by the news reports that are coming out all day.
"Today's preliminary report suggests Boeing could have done better in notifying the problem with the aircraft system early on," she said, surrounded by her family members in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa. "This is causing us a great deal of pain. It is so sad to learn that our loved ones would have been spared if this problem was detected on time."
Konjit said her family has not yet decided to hire a legal team and is waiting for the full report to come out.
"We will do what we got to do when it's the right time for us," she stated. "But we want justice . not a delayed justice but a quick one. I heard the full report may take one year. But that's too long."
The late Sintayehu, a senior mechanic with a Toyota dealership in Ethiopia, was travelling to Kenya to attend a training workshop.
"My late brother was the one who used to drive me back home every day after work," she said tearfully. "Now I have to walk all the way from the main road to my home. And that's become a long walk."
The pilots of a doomed Ethiopian Airlines jet followed all of Boeing's recommended procedures when the plane started to nose dive but still couldn't save it, according to findings from a preliminary report released Thursday by the Ethiopian government. The plane crashed just six minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board.
The report, based on flight data and cockpit voice recorders on the Boeing 737 Max 8, was not released in full. Boeing declined to comment pending its review of the report on the March 10 crash.
The Max 8 has been under scrutiny since a Lion Air flight crashed off the coast of Indonesia under similar circumstances in October. Thursday's revelations raise questions about repeated assertions by Boeing and U.S. regulators that pilots could regain control in some emergencies by following steps that include turning off an anti-stall system designed specifically for the Max, known by its acronym, MCAS.