Archive for the ‘Boeing 737 MAX’ Category

Ethiopian Air pilots turned off 737 MAX anti-stall system. Then it turned on again

April 3rd, 2019
Parts of an engine and landing gear lie in a pile after being gathered by workers during the continuing recovery efforts at the crash site of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 on March 11, 2019 in Bishoftu, Ethiopia. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Enlarge / Parts of an engine and landing gear lie in a pile after being gathered by workers during the continuing recovery efforts at the crash site of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 on March 11, 2019 in Bishoftu, Ethiopia. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)

The pilots of Ethiopia Airlines Flight 302 apparently followed the proper steps to shut down an errant flight control system as they struggled to regain control of the 737 MAX aircraft shortly after takeoff. But according to multiple reports, data from the ill-fated aircraft’s flight recorder revealed that the anti-stall feature of the aircraft’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was triggered at least three times—and at least one time after the pilots followed the correct steps to shut it down.

Both Reuters and The Wall Street Journal report that the air crew followed procedures laid out by Boeing following the crash of a Lion Air 737 MAX in October, according to officials briefed on the initial findings of the investigation. But the pilots failed to regain control of the system, and the MCAS was reactivated again—triggering yet another automated correction of the aircraft’s stabilizers that would have pushed the nose of the plane down.

Boeing’s safety notice following the Lion Air crash noted that the MCAS’ automated adjustments to a 737 MAX’s stabilizers—the control surfaces on the tail of the aircraft that are used to change the direction of the aircraft’s flight—could be “stopped and reversed” with a thumb switch on the pilot’s yoke but “may restart 5 seconds after the [switch] is released.”

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Posted in Biz & IT, Boeing 737 MAX, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, Federal Aviation Administration, Lion Air Flight 610, MCAS | Comments (0)

Whistleblowers: FAA 737 MAX safety inspectors lacked training, certification

April 3rd, 2019
Acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Daniel Elwell and Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Robert Sumwalt testify during a Senate Commerce Subcommittee on  March 27, 2019.  The committee chair,  Sen. Roger Wicker, is now launching an investigation into the FAA's certification process for the 737 MAX.

Enlarge / Acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Daniel Elwell and Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Robert Sumwalt testify during a Senate Commerce Subcommittee on March 27, 2019. The committee chair, Sen. Roger Wicker, is now launching an investigation into the FAA's certification process for the 737 MAX. (credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Multiple whistleblowers have raised issues over the Federal Aviation Administration’s safety inspection process connected to Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft, according to a letter to the FAA from Senate Commerce Committee chairman Sen. Roger Wicker on April 2. And the FAA’s leadership was informed of these concerns as far back as August of 2018.

The whistleblowers cited “insufficient training and improper certification” of FAA aviation safety inspectors, “including those involved in the Aircraft Evaluation Group (AEG) for the Boeing 737 MAX," Wicker said in his letter to FAA acting administrator David Elwell.

According to the whistleblowers cited by Wicker, some of the inspectors that had not been properly trained or certified may have been participants in the Flight Standardization Board (FSB) for the 737 MAX--a body formed by the FAA’s AEG to determine pilot-training requirements to receive “type ratings” for the 737. The FSB’s report determined that 737 type-rated pilots required no additional training to fly the 737 MAX, and no additional documentation was added to the 737 MAX’s operations manual regarding the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).

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Boeing delays 737 MAX software fix delivery

April 2nd, 2019
The 737 MAX cockpit's layout is nearly identical to this 737-800's.  The software behind the glass isn't.

Enlarge / The 737 MAX cockpit's layout is nearly identical to this 737-800's. The software behind the glass isn't. (credit: Cory W. Watts)

Delivery of Boeing’s promised fix to the flight system software at the center of two 737 MAX crash investigations has been pushed back several weeks after an internal review by engineers not connected to the aircraft raised additional safety questions. The results of the “non-advocate” review have not been revealed, but the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed on April 1 that the software needed additional work.

“The FAA expects to receive Boeing’s final package of its software enhancement over the coming weeks for FAA approval,” an FAA spokesperson said in a statement. “Time is needed for additional work by Boeing as the result of an ongoing review of the 737 MAX Flight Control System to ensure that Boeing has identified and appropriately addressed all pertinent issues.”

The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was developed by Boeing to mitigate changes in the handling of the 737 MAX from other 737 designs. It included a more aggressive anti-stall feature intended to counter the modified aircraft’s inherent tendency to “nose up” during flight—automatically correcting the position of the aircraft’s stabilizers to bring the nose back down. Evidence from the crashes of a Lion Air 737 MAX off Indonesia in October and an Ethiopian Airlines flight last month indicates that a single faulty sensor input caused the anti-stall system to activate in error, pushing both aircraft into a dive shortly after take-off. Lack of diagnostic information and a change in how pilots would normally disable the software also contributed to the Lion Air crash; the investigation of the Ethiopian Airlines crash is still in progress.

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Posted in Biz & IT, Boeing 737 MAX, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, Lion Air Flight 610, MCAS | Comments (0)

Initial findings put Boeing’s software at center of Ethiopian 737 crash

March 29th, 2019
The Boeing 737 MAX's MCAS software was officially linked by FAA investigators to the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight earlier this month. The software was intended to compansate for the aerodynamic differences caused by the aircraft's larger engines.

Enlarge / The Boeing 737 MAX's MCAS software was officially linked by FAA investigators to the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight earlier this month. The software was intended to compansate for the aerodynamic differences caused by the aircraft's larger engines.

At a high-level briefing at the Federal Aviation Administration on March 28, officials revealed "black box" data from Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 indicated that the Boeing 737 MAX's flight software had activated an anti-stall feature that pushed the nose of the plane down just moments after take-off. The preliminary finding officially links Boeing's Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) to a second crash within a five month period. The finding was based on data provided to FAA officials by Ethiopian investigators.

MCAS was partly blamed for the crash of a Lion Air 737 MAX off Indonesia last October. The software, intended to adjust the aircraft's handling because of aerodynamic changes caused by the 737 MAX's larger turbofan engines and their proximity to the wing, was designed to take input from one of two angle of attack (AOA) sensors on the aircraft's nose to determine if the aircraft was in danger of stalling. Faulty sensor data caused the MCAS systems on both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights to react as if the aircraft was entering a stall and to push the nose of the aircraft down to gain airspeed.

On March 27, acting FAA Administrator Daniel Ewell told the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee's aviation subcommittee that there had been no flight tests of the 737 MAX prior to its certification to determine how pilots would react in the event of an MCAS malfunction. He said that a panel of pilots had reviewed the software in a simulator and determined no additional training was required for 737-rated pilots to fly the 737 MAX.

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Posted in Biz & IT, Boeing, Boeing 737 MAX, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, FAA, Federal Aviation Administration, fly-by-wire, Lion Air Flight 610, MCAS, Policy | Comments (0)

Simulations show Lion Air 737 crew had little time to prevent disaster

March 26th, 2019
A passenger jet emblazoned with Lion Air logos taxis down a runway.

Enlarge / A Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed in October 2018 because of problems with a sensor and a failure of flight control software. The crew had little time to react, data shows. (credit: PK-REN, Jakarta, Indonesia )

In testing performed in a simulator, Boeing test pilots recreated the conditions aboard Lion Air Flight 610 when it went down in the Java Sea in October, killing 189 people. The tests showed that the crew of the 737 MAX 8 would have only had 40 seconds to respond to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System’s (MCAS’s) attempts to correct a stall that wasn’t happening before the aircraft went into an unrecoverable dive, according to a report The New York Times. by

While the test pilots were able to correct the issue with the flip of three switches, their training on the systems far exceeded that of the Lion Air crew—and that of the similarly doomed Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which crashed earlier this month. The Lion Air crew was heard on cockpit voice recorders checking flight manuals in an attempt to diagnose what was going on moments before they died.

One of the controls—the electric stabilizer trim thumbswitch on the pilot’s control yoke—could temporarily reset MCAS’s control over stabilizers. The Lion Air pilots hit this switch over 24 times, buying them some time—but MCAS’ stall prevention software kicked in afterwards each time because of faulty data coming from the aircraft’s primary angle of attack sensor.

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Ethiopian Airlines flight’s stall prevention software was active at crash, CEO says

March 25th, 2019
BISHOFTU, ETHIOPIA - MARCH 11:  Parts of an engine and landing gear lie in a pile after being gathered by workers during the continuing recovery efforts at the crash site of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302.

Enlarge / BISHOFTU, ETHIOPIA - MARCH 11: Parts of an engine and landing gear lie in a pile after being gathered by workers during the continuing recovery efforts at the crash site of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302. (credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

The chief executive of Ethiopian Airlines told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published today that he had reason to believe that software intended to prevent Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from stalling in flight had been activated aboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 shortly before its crash. CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said that “to the best of our knowledge,” the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) for stall prevention was active at the time of the crash.

This is the first time anyone connected to the Flight 302 investigation has specifically referenced the flight software as being involved. Ethiopian and French investigators had noted similarities in flight data to that of the ill-fated Lion Air Flight 610, a crash that was determined to be at least partially caused by the MCAS software’s malfunction due to a faulty sensor input. Investigators also cited the Flight 302 crew’s lack of training on how to shut the MCAS system down in the critical moments before the crash.

Gebremariam did not share what details he had received that led to his conclusion. But he did say that it would be difficult for Boeing to restore trust in the 737 MAX aircraft’s safety, and he was critical of Boeing’s failure to do more to inform airlines of the changes in operation related to MCAS when it was introduced. “In retrospect I would have expected them to have been more transparent on the MCAS, the technicalities of the MCAS, what it does and what it doesn’t do,” he told The Wall Street Journal. And after the first 737 MAX crash in Indonesia, the CEO said, “more should have been done from the Boeing side in terms of disclosure, in terms of coming up with strong procedures, stronger than what they gave us.”

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Boeing takes $5 billion hit as Indonesian airline cancels 737 MAX order

March 22nd, 2019
A Garuda Indonesia 737-800. The airline is moving to cancel orders for the 737 MAX after the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes.

Enlarge / A Garuda Indonesia 737-800. The airline is moving to cancel orders for the 737 MAX after the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes. (credit: Boeing)

Indonesia's largest air carrier has informed Boeing that it wants to cancel a $4.9 billion order for 49 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft. Garuda Indonesia spokesperson Ikhsan Rosan said in a statement to the Associated Press that the airline was cancelling due to concern that “its business would be damaged due to customer alarm over the crashes.”

Garuda had originally ordered 50 737 MAX aircraft, and Boeing delivered the first of those aircraft in December of 2017. The airline already operates 77 older Boeing 737 models; two of the aircraft ordered were conversions from earlier orders for 737-800s. Garuda also flies Boeing's 777-300 ER, and the company retired its 747-400 fleet in the last few years—so the airline was looking for an economical long-range aircraft to fill in gaps.

But the stigma now attached to the 737 MAX 8 may have spoiled that relationship. The airline also has orders in for 14 of Airbus' A330neo, a wide-body design comparable to Boeing's 787 Dreamliner; the airline also flies 24 earlier-model A330s. If Garuda successfully breaks its deal with Boeing, the likely winner will be Airbus. Airbus' A320neo is the most comparable aircraft to the 737 MAX in cost and range.

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Safety feature that could have prevented 737 MAX crashes sold by Boeing as an option

March 21st, 2019
Boeing passenger jet shortly after takeoff.

Enlarge (credit: Marian Lockhart / Boeing)

The crashed Lion Air 737 MAX and the Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX aircraft had more in common than aircraft design and the apparently malfunctioning flight system that led to their demises. Both of the planes lacked optional safety features that would have alerted the pilots to problems with their angle of attack (AOA) sensors—the input suspected of causing the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) software to put both aircraft into a fatal dive.

The New York Times reports that both vehicles lacked an "AOA disagree" light—a warning light that indicates when the aircraft's two AOA sensors provide different readings—and an angle of attack indicator. Since the MCAS system relied only on one of the aircraft's AOA sensors, the disagree light and AOA indicator would have given the flight crew visible evidence of a sensor failure and prompted them to disable the MCAS. But both of these features were sold by Boeing as expensive add-ons. And many discount and smaller airlines declined to purchase them, as they were not required by regulators.

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Posted in air safety, Biz & IT, Boeing 737 MAX, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, flight control systems, Lion Air Flight 610, MCAS | Comments (0)

737 MAX crashes “linked” by satellite track data, FAA says

March 14th, 2019
Relatives of the victims of the Sunday plane crash take a picture next to a pile of airplane fuselage at the crash site of the Ethiopian Airlines operated Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, at Hama Quntushele village in the Oromia region, on March 13, 2019. - A Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines Boeing crashed minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa on March 10, 2019, killing all eight crew and 149 passengers on board, including tourists, business travelers, and "at least a dozen" UN staff. Families of the victims were taken to the remote site on March 13, 2019, where the plane smashed into a field with 157 passengers and crew from 35 countries, leaving a deep black crater and tiny scraps of debris.

Enlarge / Relatives of the victims of the Sunday plane crash take a picture next to a pile of airplane fuselage at the crash site of the Ethiopian Airlines operated Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, at Hama Quntushele village in the Oromia region, on March 13, 2019. - A Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines Boeing crashed minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa on March 10, 2019, killing all eight crew and 149 passengers on board, including tourists, business travelers, and "at least a dozen" UN staff. Families of the victims were taken to the remote site on March 13, 2019, where the plane smashed into a field with 157 passengers and crew from 35 countries, leaving a deep black crater and tiny scraps of debris. (credit: TONY KARUMBA / AFP / Getty Images)

The Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order grounding all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft on March 13, citing new data that showed a possible link between the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight and the crash of a Lion Air flight off the coast of Indonesia last October. In an interview with NPR's David Greene this morning, acting FAA Director Dan Ewell said that "newly refined satellite data" from a flight telemetry system had led the agency to make the move.

Both Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 (ET302) and Lion Air Flight 610 (JT610) were recently acquired 737 MAX 8 aircraft, and both were lost with all aboard just minutes after take-off. According to the emergency order issued by the FAA, "new information from the wreckage concerning the aircraft's configuration just after takeoff that, taken together with newly refined data from satellite-based tracking of the aircraft's flight path, indicates some similarities between the ET302 JT610 accidents that warrant further investigation of the possibility of a shared cause for the two incidents that needs to be better understood and addressed."

The source of the data in question is a combination of telemetry feeds from the flights' Automatic Dependent Surveillance(ADS) system. Introduced in the US in 2001 and more widely worldwide in the wake of the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 in 2014, Europe has required most aircraft to carry the UHF-band ADS-Broadcast (ADS-B) system since 2017, and the FAA has mandated ADS-B for most aircraft by 2020.

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Posted in ADS-B, aviation mishaps, Biz & IT, Boeing 737 MAX, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, FAA, Lion Air Flight 610 | Comments (0)

US to ground all Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 9 jets in wake of crash [Updated]

March 13th, 2019
A Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed in October 2018; a software fix based on the investigation was delayed by the US government shutdown. It's possible that the fix could have prevented the crash of a similar aircraft in Ethiopia on March 10, 2019.

Enlarge / A Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed in October 2018; a software fix based on the investigation was delayed by the US government shutdown. It's possible that the fix could have prevented the crash of a similar aircraft in Ethiopia on March 10, 2019. (credit: PK-REN, Jakarta, Indonesia )

Update: President Donald Trump announced Wednesday afternoon that the Federal Aviation Administration will order all 737 MAX 8 and 737 MAX 9 planes be grounded.

"We’re going to be issuing an emergency order of prohibition to ground all flights of the 737 Max 8 and the 737 Max 9 and planes associated with that line," Trump said. "Pilots have been notified, airlines have been all notified. Airlines are agreeing with this. The safety of the American people and all people is our paramount concern."

Original story: Despite two crashes within six months, a growing number of grounding orders worldwide for the Boeing 737 MAX, and a number of recent complaints from US pilots over problems with the aircraft's automatic trim controls, the Federal Aviation Administration continues to allow the 737 MAX to fly. "The United States Federal Aviation Administration is not mandating any further action at this time, and based on the information currently available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators," a Boeing spokesperson said in a March 12 statement.

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