Southwest Airlines 737 Max makes emergency landing in Orlando

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max made a safe emergency landing Tuesday in Orlando, Florida, after experiencing an engine problem, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The crew declared an emergency after taking off from Orlando International Airport around 2:50 p.m., and returned to the airport safely. No passengers were on board, and the aircraft was being ferried to Victorville, California, where Southwest is storing the airplanes.

The 737 Max was grounded in the U.S. March 13 after a deadly crash involving a Max in Ethiopia on March 10. It was the second fatal crash involving the airplane. U.S. airlines are allowed to shuttle the planes but cannot carry passengers.

The FAA says it's investigating 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.

Airport spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell says one of the airport's three runways was shut down for cleaning after the landing. She says its standard procedure to check a runway for debris after an emergency landing. It wasn't clear if any parts actually fell off the plane.

Fennell says the airport's other two runways remained open, and normal operations weren't affected.

Southwest said the plane's pilots reported a "performance issue" with an engine shortly after taking off for the California airport, where it was flying to be in short-term storage. The Max 8 jet was to be moved to Southwest's Orlando maintenance facility to be checked, a company statement said.

The incident came just a day before congressional testimony focused on safety issues with the Max 8 and its suspect flight control system.

The New York Times now reports that “during flight simulations recreating the problems with the doomed Lion Air plane, pilots discovered that they had less than 40 seconds to override" that system.

“I don't care how well you're trained,” said Denny Kelly, a retired airline captain. “First of all, it takes a certain amount of time for your mind to get geared up with the airplane and what’s going on even if you're trained. Then, it takes a certain amount of time to react.”

As the FBI conducts a criminal probe into the Max 8's approval, senators are set to scrutinize federal aviation regulators on Wednesday. A subcommittee chaired by Texas Senator Ted Cruz will hold a hearing on the Max 8. Senators are expected to ask about the process for certifying the Max 8, the MCAs and why it's taken so long for a software fix since the Lion Air crash last October.

Boeing will host hundreds of reps from airlines and pilots to go over the new software fix on Wednesday.

The FAA will still have to sign off of a fix before the 737 Max 8 is closer to getting back in the air.