In another blow for troubled aircraft company Boeing, a Southwest Airlines 737 Max has been forced to make an emergency landing in Orlando, Florida, after experiencing a engine problems.
The crew declared an emergency after taking off from Orlando International Airport around 2.50pm on Tuesday local time and returned to the airport safely, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said.
No passengers were on board, and the aircraft was being ferried to Victorville, California, where Southwest is storing the planes.
The two pilots aboard the flight reported “a performance issue with one of the engines shortly after takeoff,” Southwest said.
“The crew followed protocol and safely landed back at the airport,” the airline added.
The Southwest 737 Max was grounded around the world earlier this month after a deadly crash involving a Max aircraft in Ethiopia on March 10.
It was the second fatal crash involving the plane after a similar mishap caused the death of all onboard a Indonesian Lion Air flight last year.
US airlines are allowed to shuttle the Boeing planes, but cannot carry passengers.
Investigations into the tragedies have focused on an automated, anti-stall system and not engine problems.
The FAA says it’s investigating the latest incident, but the emergency was not related to anti-stall software that is suspected as a cause of the two fatal crashes including one last year involving a plane from Indonesia.
The Southwest Airlines emergency landing comes as flight simulations recreating the problems with the doomed Lion Air plane revealed that pilots discovered they had less than 40 seconds to override an automated system their Boeing’s new jet and avert disaster.
The pilots tested a crisis situation similar to what investigators suspect went wrong in the Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October.
In the tests, a single sensor failed, triggering software designed to help prevent a stall.
Once that happened, the pilots had just moments to disengage the system and avoid an unrecoverable nose dive of the Boeing 737 Max, according to two people involved in the testing in recent days.
Although the investigations are continuing, the automated system, known as MCAS, is a focus of authorities trying to determine what went wrong in the Lion Air disaster and the Ethiopian Airlines crash of the same Boeing model this month.
The software, as originally designed and explained, left little room for error. Those involved in the testing had not fully understood just how powerful the system was until they flew the plane on a 737 Max simulator, according to the two people.
Compounding the flaws, pilots received limited training about the system before the first crash.