Ethiopian Airlines B737 crash

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  • nevereconomy

    If you look back at the rudder issues way back, this aircraft has had its problems and not always so quickly addressed..


    The plane is now banned throughout Europe by the European regulatory agency (EASA). The only question at this point is which of the two remaining [now relatively] reputable regulators (Canada or US FAA) will be the last to ban the aircraft until software modifications initiated by Boeing several weeks ago are completed. Indeed, it should be noted that Boeing launched the modification process rapidly after the Lion Air crash in Indonesia, when it appeared probable that the issue was due at least in part to the aircraft’s systems or ergonomics rather than pilot error. This, however, did not phase safety authorities (after all, everybody knows that when a Western plane crashes in the third world, the fault lies with incompetent locals and certain not with the aircraft manufacturers). Now the body count is sufficient, I expect the FAA to act in the next few hours or days at most.


    [quote quote=922497]

    There seems to be a lack of synergy between the human and the machine, and until it’s 100% confirmed that 100% of 737 Max pilots can successfully use their aviator skills to override the malfunction then the fleet should be grounded.[/quote]

    In reality, it is nothing more than runaway electrical trim. Easily taken care of by the two red guarded switches on the center pedestal where you turn off the two electric motors. Then you trim using the trim wheel on either side of the pedestal. Like any Boeing, works good, lasts a long time. Have never flown the 737 but the 727 is exactly the same and it’s not a big deal. But talking to friends of mine working for the US 3 and Southwest, it is taught in the sim during initial qualification and it’s not a big challenge.

    I have worked for Airbus as a 320 instructor in some pretty 3rd world countries. I would be hard pressed to get on one today.

    1 user thanked author for this post.


    Another aspect of the aircraft being grounding, apart from airlines either cancelling flights or sourcing spare aircraft, is that many airports have to find extra space for the aircraft that might be there for some time. I suspect that Wamos and Hifly might be revising their rates today.

    3 users thanked author for this post.


    A little light relief on this topic.
    I Remember in 1989 the new B737-400 being grounded, for what for I cannot remember, the airline I worked for had 2 of them and this wrecked our short haul flying, thankfully MEA were offering B707Q aircraft at a good rate. We had one incident when a group of Americans doing Europe refused to board as it was not a familiar airline, I pointed out that it was an American built aircraft and that days service was crewed by Ex pat American flight deck and senior cabin crew. They still offloaded as they had never heard of the Boeing 707


    I was on Air Baltic, flying from Gatwick to Tallinn, last evening on one of their 737-500s. We were boarded and in our seats when a couple acroos the aisle from me started to show concerns after looking at the safety card and called a cabin crew member over. “Is this one of the planes that’s been banned?” They seemed to be reassured when it was explained that the aircraft was, in fact, a rather older version of the 737…. and I did not have the heart to tell them that the last of this type was rolled out in 1990…..

    I would be surprised if this was not replicated widely as passengers pick up half-news about the 737.


    Canuclad wrote that:
    ”….100% of 737 Max pilots can successfully use their aviator skills to override the malfunction…’

    I remember well my first instructor saying that a superior pilot uses his superior knowledge to avoid any situation where his superior skills my become neccessary.
    As has been said, it is a fact that a specific settings of pitch and thrust will result in a specific flight profile. If all else fails – read the instuctions (preferably beforehand)!


    If one recall the radar issue of early generation B737, there were a few accident and Boeing had no clue. Then in one accident Pilots and all survived and problem was identified. I do not recall exact detail, but it was something like when pilot commands the aircraft in one direction, it went another direction due to icing or similar issue with a hydraulic valve.
    The recent incidents are similar. The problem could come during some circumstances like slightly different take-off condition.
    Is it prudent to fly the aircraft until the root cause is known? Absolutely not. So the authorities that took no fly decision are correct and caring.

    Mark Caswell

    Stats from FlightRadar24 on the number of B737 Max flights over the last couple of weeks.


    The EASA Directive effectively says that it is premature to decide whether the aircraft is to blame, but as the possibility cannot be ruled out that both crashes were caused by similar issues, it is better to err on the side of caution.




    Boeing, The FAA, And Why Two 737 MAX Planes Crashed

    On Sunday an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed, killing all on board. Five month earlier an Indonesian Lion Air jet crashed near Jakarta. All crew and passengers died. Both airplanes were Boeing 737-8 MAX. Both incidents happened shortly after take off.

    Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are now grounded about everywhere except in the United States. That this move follows only now is sad. After the first crash it was already obvious that the plane is not safe to fly.

    The Boeing 737 and the Airbus 320 types are single aisle planes with some 150 seats. Both are bread and butter planes sold by the hundreds with a good profit. In 2010 Airbus decided to offer its A-320 with a New Engine Option (NEO) which uses less fuel. To counter the Airbus move Boeing had to follow up. The 737 would also get new engines for a more efficient flight and longer range. The new engines on the 737 MAX are bigger and needed to be placed a bit different than on the older version. That again changed the flight characteristics of the plane by giving it a nose up attitude.

    The new flight characteristic of the 737 MAX would have require a retraining of the pilots. But Boeing’s marketing people had told their customers all along that the 737 MAX would not require extensive new training. Instead of expensive simulator training for the new type experienced 737 pilots would only have to read some documentation about the changes between the old and the new versions.

    To make that viable Boeing’s engineers had to use a little trick. They added a ‘maneuver characteristics augmentation system’ (MCAS) that pitches the nose of the plane down if a sensor detects a too high angle of attack (AoA) that might lead to a stall. That made the flight characteristic of the new 737 version similar to the old one.

    But the engineers screwed up.

    The 737 MAX has two flight control computers. Each is connected to only one of the two angle of attack sensors. During a flight only one of two computer runs the MCAS control. If it detects a too high angle of attack it trims the horizontal stabilizer down for some 10 seconds. It then waits for 5 seconds and reads the sensor again. If the sensor continues to show a too high angle of attack it again trims the stabilizer to pitch the plane’s nose done.

    MCSA is independent of the autopilot. It is even active in manual flight. There is a procedure to deactivate it but it takes some time.

    One of the angle of attack sensors on the Indonesian flight was faulty. Unfortunately it was the one connected to the computer that ran the MCAS on that flight. Shortly after take off the sensor signaled a too high angle of attack even as the plane was flying in a normal climb. The MCAS engaged and put the planes nose down. The pilots reacted by disabling the autopilot and pulling the control stick back. The MCAS engaged again pitching the plane further down. The pilots again pulled the stick. This happened some 12 times in a row before the plane crashed into the sea.

    To implement a security relevant automatism that depends on only one sensor is extremely bad design. To have a flight control automatism engaged even when the pilot flies manually is also a bad choice. But the real criminality was that Boeing hid the feature.

    Neither the airlines that bought the planes nor the pilots who flew it were told about MCAS. They did not know that it exists. They were not aware of an automatic system that controlled the stabilizer even when the autopilot was off. They had no idea how it could be deactivated.

    Nine days after the Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610 ended in a deadly crash, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive.


    The 737 MAX pilots were aghast. The APA pilot union sent a letter to its members:
    “This is the first description you, as 737 pilots, have seen. It is not in the AA 737 Flight Manual Part 2, nor is there a description in the Boeing FCOM (flight crew operations manual),” says the letter from the pilots’ union safety committee. “Awareness is the key with all safety issues.”

    The Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed went down in a similar flight profile as the Indonesian plane. It is highly likely that MCAS is the cause of both incidents. While the pilots of the Ethiopian plane were aware of the MCAS system they might have had too little time to turn it off. The flight recorders have been recovered and will tell the full story.

    Boeing has sold nearly 5,000 of the 737 MAX. So far some 340 have been delivered. Most of these are now grounded. Some family members of people who died on the Indonesian flight are suing Boeing. Others will follow. But Boeing is not the only one who is at fault.

    The FAA certifies all new planes and their documentation. I was for some time marginally involved in Airbus certification issues. It is an extremely detailed process that has to be followed by the letter. Hundreds of people are full time engaged for years to certify a modern jet. Every tiny screw and even the smallest design details of the hardware and software have to be documented and certified.

    How or why did the FAA agree to accept the 737 MAX with the badly designed MCAS? How could the FAA allow that MCAS was left out of the documentation? What steps were taken after the Indonesian flight crashed into the sea?

    Up to now the FAA was a highly regarded certification agency. Other countries followed its judgment and accepted the certifications the FAA issued. That most of the world now grounded the 737 MAX while it still flies in the States is a sign that this view is changing. The FAA’s certifications of Boeing airplanes are now in doubt.

    Today Boeing’s share price dropped some 7.5%. I doubt that it is enough to reflect the liability issues at hand. Every airline that now had to ground its planes will ask for compensation. More than 330 people died and their families deserve redress. Orders for 737 MAX will be canceled as passengers will avoid that type.

    Boeing will fix the MCAS problem by using more sensors or by otherwise changing the procedures. But the bigger issue for the U.S. aircraft industry might be the damage done to the FAA’s reputation. If the FAA is internationally seen as a lobbying agency for the U.S. airline industry it will no longer be trusted and the industry will suffer from it. It will have to run future certification processes through a jungle of foreign agencies.

    Congress should take up the FAA issue and ask why it failed.


    Canada just announced ban on Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 in Canadian airspace. Canadian transportation ministry says new information came forth this morning showing disturbing and until now unconfirmed similarities between Lion Air crash and Ethiopian Airlines crash. These similarities relate to vertical speed data. Airlines registered in Canada operate roughly 30+ Boeing Max planes. FAA of US now last holdout in letting plane fly.

    Mark Caswell

    Reports now coming in that Canada has now moved to ground B737 Max flights.


    Associated Press reporting disturbing news:

    If correct it goes beyond the 737 issue and indicates a systemic failure of regulatory framework, commercial and governmental.

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