An Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, carrying 157 people aboard, on the way to Nairobi, Kenya, crashed on Sunday, March 10, 2019 in Addis Ababa. (Largely gone unnoticed, this crash occurred two days after the 5th-anniversary of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines MH370’s Boeing 777ER on March 8, 2014.) According to an Ethiopian airline spokesman (like from a Malaysia Airlines spokesman 5-years ago), there were no survivors. The Boeing 737Max plane, en route to Nairobi, Kenya, lost contact at 8:44 am local time, six minutes after taking off from Bole International Airport in the Ethiopian capital.
“Few details about the crash are yet available, but according to Ethiopian Airlines the pilot, who was experienced with an excellent flying record, reported difficulties and asked to turn back,” according to The Guardian (U.K.).
“Flight data showed erratic climbs and descents before the plane, also a MAX 8, came down 12 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta.
Ethiopian Air announced on March 11, 2019, both cockpit voice and flight data recorder have been recovered.
“Two listeners on frequency reported independently the crew declared emergency shortly after normal departure, while in the initial climb, reporting they had unreliable airspeed indications and had difficulties to control the aircraft. The listeners could not hear later transmissions due to frequency changes,” according Aviation Herald.
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United States Holds Off as the European Union suspends all Boeing 737 Max aircraft in Europe at 3 p.m. ET on March 12, 2018, according to CNN and The New York Times.
“As a precautionary measure, European Union Aviation Safety Agenda (EASA) has published today an Airworthiness Directive, effective as of 19:00 UTC (3 pm ET), suspending all flight operations of all Boeing Model 737-8 MAX and 737-9 MAX airplanes in Europe.”
“In addition EASA has published a Safety Directive, effective as of 19:00 UTC, suspending all commercial flights performed by third-country operators into, within or out of the EU of the above mentioned models.”
The announcement follows a growing tide of European countries that grounded or banned the airplane from flying overhead.
The New York Times reports on March 12, 2019: “European authorities banned the planes, one of the most important aviation regulators in the world to do so. The decision followed earlier moves by aviation regulators in China, Indonesia, Singapore and Australia, as well as carriers in Africa, South America, North America (Canada) and Russia, to ground the jets.
With the decision by European authorities, roughly two-thirds of the 737 Max 8 aircraft in the world have been pulled from use since an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed on Sunday, killing 157 people.
One country holding back: the United States.
Such groundings of the Boeing 737-8 Max and 737-9 Max series by President Trump and the United States Federal Aviation Administration on March 13, 2019 are rare in the United States. The Federal Aviation Administration, the American regulator, is typically hesitant to ground an entire fleet without concrete findings of an inherent design or manufacturing problem.
March 13, 2019 – Boeing continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX. However, after consultation with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and aviation authorities and its customers around the world, Boeing has determined — out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety — to recommend to the FAA the temporary suspension of operations of the entire global fleet of 371 737 MAX aircraft.
“On behalf of the entire Boeing team, we extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives in these two tragic accidents,” said Dennis Muilenburg, president, CEO, Chairman of The Boeing Company.
“We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution. Safety is a core value at Boeing for as long as we have been building airplanes; and it always will be. There is no greater priority for our company and our industry. We are doing everything we can to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements and help ensure this does not happen again.”
Boeing makes this recommendation and supports the decision by the FAA.
Early Tuesday, March 12, 2019, Dennis A. Muilenburg, the chief executive of Boeing, spoke to President Trump on the phone and made the case that the 737 Max planes should not be grounded in the United States, according to two people briefed on the conversation.
“The investigation of the Ethiopia Air crash is in its initial phases, as the authorities analyze the plane’s flight-data and cockpit-voice recorders,” Muilenburg said.
This is to determine more information, knowledge and understanding about the 737 Max in the aftermath of both the Ethiopian Air and Lion Air crashes spaces 5 months apart, which is so closely resonate in global business crisis management we’ve observed in the aftermath of Malaysia Airlines MH370 Boeing 777ER crash disappearance on March 8, 2014 and MH17 Boeing 777ER airliner crash on July 17, 2014, spaced 4 months apart.
What will be the effect of grounding all these 737 Max flights?
Very little effect especially for Americans Airlines and Southwest Airlines, which owns 60 percent of America’s aircraft fleet and both carriers have back up assets of old school workhorse pilot-favorite Boeing 737s to fly outside of the new school 737 Max Series. This is causing a upward push on Boeing’s stock price on March 13, 2019, which primarily forecasts the airliner company’s future growth value going forward, as the 737 Max series fixes, like the 787 Dreamliner ones, are effectively redeveloped and efficiently completed off-line from service, as a result of President Trump’s grounding executive order Wednesday.
What will this mean for U.S. travelers?
More reliable environment for travelers to receive aviation services safely and more secure with the old school Boeing 737s, as a new “clean sheet” redesign of the 737 Max series commences off-line, so Boeing can get the 737 Max series up to speed aerodynamically and structurally to globally compete with Airbus’ A320 New Engines Options series – flying travelers safely and not falling out of the sky in the last 5 months frightening U.S. and international airline consumers and travelers.
New Autonomous Boeing 737 Max Series
More than 300 Boeing 737-Max planes are in operation and more than 5,000 have been ordered worldwide since 2017. It is the latest iteration of the 737, the world’s bestselling plane, ever more capable of flying autonomously.”
The disaster in Ethiopia in the aftermath of the recent crash of Lion Air’s 737 Max off the coast of Indonesia on October 29, 2018 has raised concern across the international aviation safety and security community.
A preliminary report (see Appendix B) into Lion Air Flight 610 indicated that “pilots struggled to maintain control following an equipment malfunction.” The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is working with Boeing on “a possible software change to reduce the chances that such a failure could cause an accident in the future.”
According to Bloomberg, “Boeing responded to the earlier crash (see Appendix A) by advising pilots that Boeing 737 Max’s so-called “angle-of-attack sensor can provide false readings, causing the plane’s computers to erroneously detect a mid-flight stall in airflow. That in turn can cause the aircraft to abruptly dive to regain the speed the computer has calculated it needs to keep flying. Pilots could counteract the sudden downward tilt by following a checklist in their training manual,” Boeing has said.
Background to Boeing’s 737 MAX Series’ Autonomous Flying
(via, Bjorn Fehrm, November 14, 2018 Leeham News)
Reports Leeham News’ Bjorn Fehrm: “Boeing 737-8 Max (autonomous flying or) automatic trim (as they say in the airliner industry) we described (in November 2018) has a name, MCAS, or Maneuvering Characteristics Automation System – anti-stall software.
It was news to the Pilots flying the MAX since 18 months as well.
Boeing and its oversight, the FAA, decided the Airlines and their Pilots had no need to know. The Lion Air accident can prove otherwise.
It’s unique to the MAX because the 737 MAX no longer has the docile pitch characteristics of the 737NG at high Angles Of Attack (AOA). This is caused by the larger engine nacelles covering the higher bypass LEAP-1B engines.
The nacelles for the MAX are larger and placed higher and further forward of the wing, according to Boeing 737NG (cropped nacelle, left) and MAX (un-cropped nacelle, right) compared. Source: Boeing 737 MAX brochure.
The 737 Max’s larger CFM LEAP 1A or 1B turbofan engine nacelles are placed further forward and higher on the wings. Combined with a higher nose landing gear, which raises the nacelles even further, the same ground clearance could be achieved for the nacelles as for the old-school 737NG airliners, whose aerodynamic and structural design has been known for a generation (about 30 years).
The drawback of using larger nacelles, placed further forward, is it destabilizes the aircraft in climbing pitch. All objects on an aircraft placed ahead of the Center of Gravity (C.G.) (the line around which the aircraft moves in climbing pitch) will contribute to further destabilizing the aircraft in (climbing) pitch.”
“When the nose is elevated … (via Reuters)
The angle of attack rises and when it becomes too high, the anti-stall system activates. MCAS then tilts the smaller wing (horizontal stabilizer) in the tail of the aircraft to force the plane’s nose down and restore airflow.”
Bottom-Line: This has been all about global competitive strategic interdependence between the Boeing 737 series versus the Airbus A320 series.
Basically, in order for the Boeing 737 Max series to globally compete on overall flight range capacity with the A320neo (Next Generation Engines) for short-haul transatlantic and transpacific aviation markets, Boeing had to place larger, cleaner, fuel efficient CFM LEAP 1A-1B turbofans forward on an older Boeing 737NG (Next Generation) structural airframe, having a more nose-forward center of gravity.
The 737 series was developed over 35 years ago, when low ground clearance was essential to operate out of smaller air fields. In contrast, the A320 series was development in the newer age of high-bypass turbofan engines. As a consequence, the A320 series was structurally designed with a higher front-nose and back landing gear-fuselage ground clearance.
Now that the A320 series has matured, Airbus is competitively advantaged with its A320 design to flexibly install more higher-range, larger, cleaner, fuel efficient turbofans for short-haul transatlantic and transpacific aviation markets.
This has forced Boeing to compete by installing larger turbofan engines onto an older 737 structural airframe that was not designed for A320’s modern use purposes.
Reports Leeham News’ Bjorn Fehrm: “But if the pilot for whatever reason maneuvers the aircraft hard, generating an angle of attack close to the stall angle of around 14°, the previously neutral engine nacelle generates lift. A (differential lift) which is structurally felt by the aircraft as a pitch up moment (as the engine nacelle differential lift is ahead of the Center of Gravity Line), now stronger than on the older-generation 737NG.
This destabilizes the MAX in climbing pitch at higher Angles-of-Attack (AOA). The most difficult situation is when the maneuvers has a high pitch ratio. The aircraft’s inertia can then provoke an over-swing into stalling Angles-of-Attack.
To counter the 737 MAX’s lower stability margins at high Angle-of-Attack, Boeing introduced their anti-stall MCAS software. Dependent on Angle-of-Attack value and rate, altitude (air density) and Mach (changed flow conditions), the MCAS, which is a digital software loop in the Automated Flight Control computer, initiates a nose down trim above a stalling threshold Angle-of-Attack.”
Bottom-line: Basically, the artificial intelligence of the MCAS anti-stall software is saying that the Boeing 737 Max airliner is stalling ahead of it actually stalling. In response the artificial intelligence of the MCAS software continues to push the airliner’s noise down, as the human intelligence and old-school Boeing 737 experience of the pilot attempts to correct with inadequate 737 Max training or proper 737 Max simulation training with realistic MCAS anti-stall conditions of malfunctioning and/or proper functioning.
Optimally, the Boeing 737 Max series’ aeroelastic dynamic stability planners should’ve opted for an innovative “clean-sheet” design over a rudimentary “re-engine” design (by shoving a bigger wing-mounted turbofan engine wing-forward by any means necessary at a lower cost of design).
Boeing first submitted a proposed certification plan to the FAA in January for the update, and the FAA has since participated in simulator tests to the new software, according to CNN
. On March 12, the FAA went up on a Boeing certification flight to test the new software, a Boeing official said.
“The updated software will include data from a second angle of attack sensor and will no longer be able to produce an angle that cannot be counteracted manually by a pilot.
The update design had appeared to be going smoothly and approaching conclusion last week. A Boeing official had said then that the company was planning to send the update to the FAA for final certification by last Friday, and that Wednesday, Boeing unveiled the new software to a gathering of aviation officials at its Renton, Washington, facility.”
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg was aboard a test flight of the 737 Max in Seattle on Wednesday for a demonstration of the updated MCAS software, according to Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe.
The software worked as designed and the plane landed safely, Johndroe said.
Later in the week, however, Boeing employees going through a final check, called the non-advocate review process, identified integration issues with the new software, a Boeing official said. That review process, a regular layer of oversight at the company, involves inspection of a program by Boeing employees that did not work on its development.
A Boeing spokesman later said the problem in the updated software that was discovered in the non-advocate review process was unrelated to MCAS and “relatively minor.”
On Monday, Boeing notified airlines that flew the Max and aviation regulators that there would be a delay in submitting the final certification for the update, two people familiar with the timeline said.
Boeing has said the completed update will be sent to the FAA for final review in “the coming weeks.”
“The fact is that the FAA decided to do safety on the cheap, which is neither safe or cheap, and put the fox in charge of the henhouse,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said at a hearing last week.
Michael Goldfarb, a former FAA chief of staff, said the fixes to the 737 Max will likely take months, not weeks, because Boeing does not want to “create a bigger problem than was fixed.”
“This will be treated differently from the way business is done,” Goldfarb told CNN of the FAA review of the update. “This will be micromanaged from Secretary Chao down.”
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao told a Senate panel last week that she was “concerned” about the allegations of coziness between FAA and Boeing but she defended the practice of company employees handling certification responsibilities.
“I am of course concerned about any allegations of coziness with any company, manufacturer,” Chao said. “These questions, when they arise, if they arise, are troubling because we should have absolute confidence in the regulators that they are certifying properly.”
In an April 2, 2019 Forbes interview, MIT Professor John Hansman emphasized that Boeing’s installation of the MCAS software system “fixes the pitch-up problem. It is not a bad design.”
“This case is not dissimilar to the initial problems with the A320, when it initially entered service. Boeing must get the improved software and training material approved by the FAA, EASA and Canadians and get the airplane flying again. There is not a fundamental problem in the design of the aircraft.”
I must respectfully disagree with the MIT professor, as fundamentally inaccurate here in his Forbes interview, as he’s leaving out that Boeing has a clear “center of gravity” placement problem that affects fundamentally the core flight maneuverability of the Boeing 737 MAX creating flight instabilities both aerodynamically and structurally through its load factors (lift-to-weight) and thrust factors (engine thrust-to-weight)!
I have always know that Boeing is trying to get its anti-stall MCAS software patches “fully-integrated” into its Boeing 737 MAX. And, right now that “complete-integration” into the Boeing 737 MAX remains somewhat problematic to meet FAA, EASA and Canadian safety regulation requirements, perhaps ground the airliner for weeks, maybe even months?
But I have also called out publicly on numerous Fox Business and Fox News broadcasts first and early exclusively to them that the Boeing 737 MAX needs a “clean-sheet” redesign to match what its competitor Airbus A320neo (New Engines Options) has in its fundamentally superior maneuverability airliner that is flexible enough for various wide-mouth heavy engine mounts, while at the same time maintaining proper load factors and thrust factors aerodynamically and structurally.
FAA, EASA and Canadian Aircraft safety regulators and certification issuers absolutely can’t ignore this fundamental aircraft “center of gravity” maneuverability and flight stability fact! International aviation safety and security regulations also must respect FAA Level C and D pilot simulator certification requirements (which is very costly to airlines) before flying the Boeing 737 MAX – which Boeing wants to leave at FAA’s Level B “no pilot simulator certification requirements!”
Right now pilots have to undergo only a 30-minute MCAS anti-stall software training video! This places the Boeing 737 MAX up to only FAA’s regulated “hazardous risk level” – which is a major injurious loss to passengers and crew, but not a total loss of the aircraft – and which is one-step below FAA’s regulated “catastrophic risk level” – which is a complete loss of the aircraft and all passengers and crew on board!
Here’s How Pilots Are Seeing The Complex Problem of Flying Autonomously Boeing’s 737 Max Airliners
Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and Allied Pilots Association (APA), including the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) and Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) utilize NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) Database, which is according to its website, “the world’s largest repository of voluntary, confidential safety information provided by aviation’s frontline personnel, including pilots, controllers, mechanics, flight attendants, and dispatchers. The database provides a foundation for specific products and subsequent research addressing a variety of aviation safety issues.
ASRS’s database includes the narratives (see Appendix C) submitted by reporters (after they have been sanitized for identifying details). These narratives provide an exceptionally rich source of information for policy development, human factors research, education, training, and more. The database also contains coded information by expert analysts from the original report which is used for data retrieval and analyses.”
For example, consider on the ASRS website, Report Number: 1593017
“The recently released 737-8 MAX Emergency Airworthiness Directive directs pilots how to deal with a known issue, but it does nothing to address the systems issues with the Angle-of-Attack system.
MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) is implemented on the 737 MAX to enhance pitch characteristics with flaps UP and at elevated angles-of-attack. The MCAS function commands nose down stabilizer to enhance pitch characteristics during steep turns with elevated load factors and during flaps up flight at airspeeds approaching stall. MCAS is activated without pilot input and only operates in manual, flaps up flight. The system is designed to allow the flight crew to use column trim switch or stabilizer aisle stand cutout switches to override MCAS input. The function is commanded by the Flight Control computer using input data from sensors and other airplane systems.
The MCAS function becomes active, when the airplane Angle-of-Attack exceeds a threshold based on airspeed and altitude. Stabilizer incremental commands are limited to 2.5 degrees and are provided at a rate of 0.27 degrees per second. The magnitude of the stabilizer input is lower at high Mach number and greater at low Mach numbers. The function is reset once angle of attack falls below the Angle-of-Attack threshold or if manual stabilizer commands are provided by the flight crew. If the original elevated angle-of-attack condition persists, the MCAS function commands another incremental stabilizer nose down command according to current aircraft Mach number at actuation.
This description is not currently in the 737 Flight Manual Part 2, nor the Boeing FCOM, though it will be added to them soon. This communication highlights that an entire system is not described in our Flight Manual. This system is now the subject of an AD.
I think it is unconscionable that a manufacturer, the FAA, and the airlines would have pilots flying an airplane without adequately training, or even providing available resources and sufficient documentation to understand the highly complex systems that differentiate this aircraft from prior models. The fact that this airplane requires such jury rigging to fly is a red flag. Now we know the systems employed are error prone–even if the pilots aren’t sure what those systems are, what redundancies are in place, and failure modes.
I am left to wonder: what else don’t I know? The Flight Manual is inadequate and almost criminally insufficient. All airlines that operate the MAX must insist that Boeing incorporate ALL systems in their manuals.
B737 MAX Captain expressed concern that some systems such as the MCAS are not fully described in the aircraft Flight Manual.”
Boeing 737-8 Max Deliveries Worldwide
Ethiopian Air’s plane was a 737-8 Max, one of the newer models produced by Boeing, that generates almost one-third of the company’s operating profit. Ethiopian Air’s 737-8 Max is similar to the aircraft used by Lion Air, the largest 737 Max customer for Boeing outside of North America. Lion Air has ordered 201 737 Max planes and taken delivery of 14, according to Boeing’s website. Ethiopian Airlines had 5 Boeing 737 Max planes in operation as of the end of January 2019 and another 25 on order.
China Southern Airlines Co. has 16 Boeing 737 Max aircraft through January 2019 (updating the September 2018 data charted below), with another 34 on order, according to data through January 2019 on Boeing’s website. China Eastern Airlines Corp. has 13, while Air China Ltd. has 14, Boeing says. Other Chinese airlines that have bought the Boeing 737 Max aircraft include Hainan Airlines Holdings Co. and Shandong Airlines Co., the data show.
Boeing aircraft deliveries had been highly cyclical compared to upstart Airbus, between 1990-2003. After 2003, Boeing and Airbus deliveries have tracked competitively close with Boeing delivering 24 aircraft a month in 2003 up to 67 aircraft a month in 2018. At the time of the October 29, 2018 Lion Air 610 crash and the March 10, 2019 Ethiopian Air 302 crash, Boeing has been delivering around 50 aircraft a month.
On March 11, 2019, “China ordered its carriers to ground all 96 of Boeing’s newest 737 model, while Indonesia said it would also halt flights after Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 went down in a field shortly after takeoff Sunday, killing all 157 people on board. While the flight recorders have now been recovered and must be analyzed, the disaster bore similarities to the doomed Lion Air 737 Max that crashed in October,” reports Bloomberg.
“While the groundings in China and elsewhere are important, most nations typically wait to act until the U.S. and Europe issue findings on aviation matters. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) oversee the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers and take the lead in ensuring the safety of their planes.”
“A Boeing technical team is at the crash site to provide technical assistance under the direction of the Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. It is still early in the investigation, as we seek to understand the cause of the accident.” – Aviation Herald.com
Aviation Herald reports on March 11, 2019: “In the morning of Mar 11, 2019 (Chinese Time) Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) released an instruction to all operators to stop using the Boeing 737-8 MAX (editorial note: the instruction does not include the 737-9 MAX series) by Mar 11th 2019 18:00 Chinese time.
The CAAC reasoned: “In view of the fact that the two air crashes are newly delivered Boeing 737-8 aircraft (editorial note: see the other crash at Crash: Lion B38M near Jakarta on Oct 29th 2018, aircraft lost height and crashed into Java Sea, wrong AoA data), and they all occur in the take-off phase, they have certain similarities. In line with the management principle of zero tolerance for safety hazards and strict control of safety risks, in order to ensure Flight Safety of Civil Aviation in China, at 9:00 on March 11, the Civil Aviation Administration issued a notice requesting domestic transportation airlines to suspend the commercial operation of the Boeing 737-8 aircraft before 18:00 on March 11, 2019.”
A number of airlines, in particular Ethiopian Airlines, decided to stop using their Boeing 737 MAX aircraft until clarification of the causes of the two crashes so far.
The FAA announced: “Today, the FAA will issue a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community (CANIC) for Boeing 737 MAX Operators.” The FAA released the CANIC for both Boeing 737-8 MAX and 737-9 MAX stating, they continue to monitor pending changes in the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) system, AoA Sensor Signal improvements and MCAS maximum command limits as well as training requirements associated with MCAS following their initial reaction to the crash of LionAir JT-610.
The FAA states: “External reports are drawing similarities between this accident and the Lion Air Flight 610 accident on October 29, 2018. However, this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions.”
“The UK Civil Aviation Authority has been closely monitoring the situation, however, as we do not currently have sufficient information from the flight data recorder we have, as a precautionary measure, issued instructions to stop any commercial passenger flights from any operator arriving, departing or overflying UK airspace.”
The CAA added: “The UK Civil Aviation Authority’s safety directive will be in place until further notice. We remain in close contact with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and industry regulators globally.” Other European Civil Aviation Authorities, e.g. France and Ireland, followed suit.
Bloomberg reports on March 12, 2019: “After China became the first major market on March 11, 2019 to halt take-offs and landings of Boeing’s latest single-aisle model, flight halts quickly cascaded around the globe. Singapore barred all 737 Max service in and out of the city-state, a move that was followed by Australia and Malaysia.
Elsewhere in Asia, a South Korean carrier suspended its 737 Max planes, while two airlines in Latin American also halted operations of the jet, which entered service just a few years ago and has become Boeing’s fastest-selling aircraft, with nearly 4,700 orders. The suspensions have put about a third of the 350-strong global fleet out of action.
In a sign that the tragedy in Ethiopia, which killed everyone on board, threatens to become a commercial fiasco for Boeing, launch customer Lion Air is said to be considering a complete switch to Airbus SE planes, a person familiar with the discussions said, with the carrier suspending further 737 Max deliveries this year.”
Associated Press reports on March 12, 2019: “No U.S. airlines have grounded the Boeing 737 Max 8 models that they fly, but at least one group representing flight attendants at a major carrier says it does not want to put its members on the plane until further investigations are completed.
After the second deadly crash involving the model in five months, several airlines and countries in Asia, Europe and the Middle East have grounded it or banned it from their airspace.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents more than 26,000 flight attendants at American Airlines, called on CEO Doug Parker to “strongly consider grounding these planes until an investigation can be performed.” The group said flight attendants will not be forced to fly if they feel unsafe.
Brian Parrish, a spokesman for Southwest Airlines which flies 34 Max 8s, said the carrier remains confident about the plane’s safety. American Airlines Group, which flies 24 of the planes, said it has full confidence in the model.
Turkish Airlines says it is grounding all Boeing 737 Max aircraft in its fleet until further notice.
In a statement issued on Twitter on Tuesday, Turkish Airlines CEO Bilal Eksi said all Boeing 737 Max flights are suspended until the “uncertainty affecting safety is cleared.” He added that passenger safety was the company’s priority.
Turkish Airlines is the latest company around the world to ground the planes following the Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday.
The French Civil Aviation Authority has joined several other nations and closed French airspace to all Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.
In a statement Tuesday, the authority says that “France is carefully following the progress of the inquiry” relating to the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash in Addis Ababa on Sunday that left 157 people dead.
It says French airline companies do not possess any of the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.
But as a precautionary measure, French authorities have decided to “forbid all commercial flights on a Boeing 737 Max departing from, traveling to, or flying across, France.”
Irish aviation authorities have suspended all variants of Boeing 737 Max aircraft into and out of Ireland’s airspace as European aviation regulators respond to recent crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
Irish authorities say they made the decision “based on ensuring the continued safety of passengers and flight crew.”
The decision comes shortly after UK civilian aviation authorities took a similar step, motivated by the lack of information coming from the flight data recorder involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday.
Experts are chasing details on why the plane crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 157 on board. But answers could take months and regulators are taking steps in the interim.
Germany’s transport ministry says the country is closing its airspace to Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, following a similar decision by Britain.
The ministry confirmed to news agency dpa on Tuesday comments made by Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer to n-tv television.
The broadcaster quoted Scheuer on its website as saying safety is the priority, and “until all doubts are cleared up, I have ordered that German airspace be closed for the Boeing 737 Max with immediate effect.”
Germany joins a rapidly growing number of nations and carriers either grounding the planes or barring them from their airspace.”
The Dutch Aviation Authority has ordered its airspace closed for Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, according to Roel Vincken, a spokesman for the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water management.
“The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Monday issued its support of the aircraft, saying the plane remains safe to fly and that there wasn’t conclusive evidence so far to link the loss of the Ethiopian 737 Max 8 on Sunday and the fatal Lion Air disaster. Boeing echoed the FAA’s statement, saying it stood by the aircraft, a revamped version of its workhorse single-aisle jet. Airbus competes in this lucrative segment of the market with its family of A320-neo (“New Engines Option”) models,” Bloomberg reports.
“Speculating about the cause of the accident or discussing it without all the necessary facts is not appropriate and could compromise the integrity of the investigation,” Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said in a message to employees. Boeing said late Monday that in the coming weeks it plans to roll out software improvements for the anti-stall function that contributed to the Indonesian disaster.
The Boeing Company said it currently “does not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators” of its 737 Max 8 model.
“We have engaged our customers and regulators on concerns they may have — and would refer you to them to discuss their operations and decisions,” a Boeing spokesperson told ABC News in a statement Monday morning. “Safety is our number one priority and we are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this accident, working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved. The investigation is in its early stages, but at this point, based on the information available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.”
U.S. carriers such as Southwest Airlines Co., American Airlines Group Inc. and United Continental Holdings Inc. are still flying the 737 Max.
“Chinese airlines accounted for about 20 percent of 737 Max deliveries worldwide through January, and further purchases of the Chicago-based plane-maker’s aircraft are said to have been touted as a possible component of a trade deal with the U.S.”
Boeing 737 Max Flight-Control System to Prevent a Stall
“The 737 Max is the newest version of Boeing’s most important aircraft type, a plane family that generates almost one-third of the company’s operating profit. The narrow-body jet forms the backbone of many global airline fleets who use the model and Airbus’s competing A320 line on shorter routes.”
Lion Air’s Boeing 737-8 Max, performing as Flight 610 and registered as PK-LQP, crashed in Indonesia on October 29, 2018, killing 189 people on-board.
According to Wikipedia, “This was the first major accident involving the 737 MAX and the deadliest involving a 737 aircraft surpassing Air India Express Flight 812 in 2010. It is also the worst accident for Lion Air in its 18-year history, surpassing the previous crash in Surakarta that killed 25.
A preliminary investigation (see Appendix B) revealed problems noticed by passengers and crew on the aircraft’s previous flight, as well as signs of instrument failure on previous flights. As a result, Boeing issued a warning to all operators of the 737 MAX series to avoid causing an abrupt dive similar to the Lion Air flight.”
Photo Credit: The Air Current
Human intelligence needs to catch up with the artificial intelligence inside the advancements of digital cockpits inside modern big jumbo jets. Big jumbo planes are designed to fly by themselves autonomously. Humans who are responsible and accountable inside the digital cockpits must be trained to work with the autonomous nature of artificial intelligence.
Newer Boeing 737 Max series aircraft, reports The Guardian (U.K.) “automatically (or digitally) compensates if it believes its angle puts it at a risk of stalling (see Appendix A), a safety feature that worked in a slightly different way to that which 737 pilots were used to. Lion Air’s black box suggested the pilots of flight 610 had been wrestling with this issue.
“The crash may show insufficient training for the new stall prevention systems on the 737 Max (see Appendix A). It’s unlikely due to design flaws, and the plane is likely to stay in service.” — George Ferguson, global aviation analyst
Boeing argued that if pilots followed existing procedures, there should be no danger. Past crashes, however, and most famously the Air France Flight 447 disaster in the south Atlantic (off the coast of Brazil), have shown that the sensors on which aircraft computer systems rely can malfunction, and that pilots who have grown to trust the technology can become rapidly bewildered when things go wrong. All too (common) human (factor errors and) reactions led to disaster.”
Photo Credit: The Air Current
According to Aviation Herald: “For the past several months and in the aftermath of Lion Air Flight 610, Boeing has been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX, designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer. This includes updates to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals and crew training. The enhanced flight control law incorporates angle of attack (AOA) inputs, limits stabilizer trim commands in response to an erroneous angle of attack reading, and provides a limit to the stabilizer command in order to retain elevator authority.
The FAA says it anticipates mandating this software enhancement with an Airworthiness Directive (AD) no later than April. We have worked with the FAA in development of this software enhancement.
It is important to note that the FAA is not mandating any further action at this time, and the required actions in AD2018-23.5 continue to be appropriate.
A pitch augmentation control law (MCAS) was implemented on the 737 MAX to improve aircraft handling characteristics and decrease pitch-up tendency at elevated angles of attack. It was put through flight testing as part of the certification process prior to the airplane entering service. MCAS does not control the airplane in normal flight; it improves the behavior of the airplane in a non-normal part of the operating envelope.
Boeing’s 737 MAX Flight Crew Operations Manual (FCOM) already outlines an existing procedure to safely handle the unlikely event of erroneous data coming from an angle of attack (AOA) sensor. The pilot will always be able to override the flight control law using electric trim or manual trim. In addition, it can be controlled through the use of the existing runaway stabilizer procedure as reinforced in the Operations Manual Bulletin (OMB) issued on Nov. 6, 2018.”
According to the International Air Transportation Association, the worst disasters have been attributed to deliberate acts – terrorist attacks (Russian Metrojet 9268), pilot suicide (Lufthansa low-cost subsidiary Germanwings 9525), Russian missiles (Malaysia Airlines MH17) – or, in the case of Malaysia Airlines MH370, left unexplained.
Industry Reactions, according to Bloomberg
Airline or Authority
|Southwest Airlines||Says it’s “confident in the safety of our fleet” including its 34 Boeing 737 Max 8 planes|
|American Airlines||Will closely monitor the investigation via Boeing and NTSB|
|Singapore Airlines||Monitoring the situation; the 737 Max 8 flights operated by SilkAir are flying as scheduled|
|Iceland Air||Says it’s had no issues with its three 737 Max 8s|
|Korean Air||Due to receive its first Max in April, is monitoring the situation|
|Cayman Airways||Grounds both its Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft|
|Thailand||Says it currently has no plans to ground Boeing 737 Max jets|
|China||Grounds entire fleet of Boeing 737 Max 8 jets. China Eastern to talk with Boeing about losses caused by grounding.|
|Fly Dubai||Says it’s monitoring situation and in touch with Boeing|
Airbus Learned From Its Errors of “Fly-By-Wire” Autonomous Digital Cockpit Aircraft Technology
“Air France Flight 296 was a chartered flight of a new Airbus A320-111 operated by Air France. An Airbus A320-111, registration F-GFKC, serial number 9, first flew on January 6, 1988, and was delivered to Air France on June 23, 1988. It was the third A320 delivered to Air France, the launch customer.
On June 26, 1988, it crashed while making a low pass over Mulhouse–Habsheim Airport (ICAO airport code LFGB) as part of the Habsheim Air Show. Most of the crash sequence, which occurred in front of several thousand spectators, was caught on video. The cause of the crash has been the source of major controversy.
This particular flight was not only the A320’s first passenger flight (most of those on-board were journalists and raffle winners), but it was also the first public demonstration of any civilian fly-by-wire aircraft. The low-speed flyover, with landing gear down, was supposed to take place at an altitude of 100 feet (33 meters); instead, the plane performed the flyover at 30 feet, skimmed the treetops of the forest at the end of the runway (which had not been shown on the airport map given to the pilots), and crashed. All the passengers survived the initial impact, but a woman and two children died from smoke inhalation before they were able to escape.
Official reports concluded that the pilots flew too low, too slow, failed to see the forest and accidentally flew into it. The captain, Michel Asseline, disputed the report and claimed an error in the “fly-by-wire” computer prevented him from applying thrust and pulling up. In the aftermath of the crash, there were allegations that investigators had tampered with evidence, specifically the aircraft’s flight recorders (“black boxes”).
This was the first crash of an A320 aircraft.”
The Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 carried passengers from 35 different countries. At least four of the crash victims were United Nations officials traveling to an environmental conference in Nairobi, Bloomberg reports.
Altogether 35 nationalities of passengers were on-board. Kenya’s transport minister has tallied 3 Austrians, 1 Belgium, 18 Canadians, 8 Chinese nationals, 5 Dutch Netherlands, 1 Dijoubti, 6 Egyptians, 2 Spanish nationals, 9 Ethiopians, 7 France, 7 United Kingdom, 1 Indonesian, 8 Italians, 2 Israelis, 4 Indians, 1 Ireland citizen, 32 Kenyans, 2 Morocco nationals, 1 Mozambique, 1 Norwegian, 2 Poland nationals, 3 Russians, 1 Rwanda national, 1 Saudi, 1 Sudan, 1 Somalian, 1 Serbian, 4 Slovakians, 4 Swedes, 1 Togo national, 1 Uganda national, 8 Americans, 1 Yemeni, 1 Nepal national, 1 Nigerian, and 2 unknown.
Ethiopian Airlines posted a photo that showed its CEO standing amid the wreckage of the plane that crashed shortly after takeoff.
In this photo taken from the Ethiopian Airlines Facebook page, the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam, looks at the wreckage of the plane that crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sunday March 10, 2019. (Facebook via AP)
A message of condolence by the office of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed suggested that there were some deaths.
“The Office of the PM, on behalf of the Government and people of Ethiopia, would like to express its deepest condolences to the families of those that have lost their loved ones on Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 on regular scheduled flight to Nairobi, Kenya this morning”, the message on government’s Twitter handle read.
The airline’s social media post said that “Tewolde Gebremariam, who is at the accident scene now, regrets to confirm that there are no survivors. He expressed his profound sympathy and condolences to the families and loved ones of passengers and crew who lost their lives in this tragic accident.”
The State Department confirmed that Americans were among the among the dead.
“Our U.S. embassies in Addis Ababa and Nairobi are working with the Government of Ethiopia and Ethiopian Airlines to offer all possible assistance,” the State Department said in a statement to Fox News. “The U.S. Department of State will contact directly the family members of U.S. citizens who died in the crash. Out of respect for the privacy of the families, we won’t have any additional comments about the victims.”
“This is the second crash of a brand new 737-8 MAX in just six months,” writes www.LinkedIn.com Editor Brittan Ladd, Founder and CEO of Six-Page Consulting.
“According to aeronautical engineers I spoke with while researching a story about the 737-8 MAX and Boeing, I was told the odds against such a crash happening is one in 11,000,000. The odds of a brand new aircraft crashing months after a previous crash of the same type of aircraft is one in 10,000,000,000.
Boeing must insist that all 737-8 MAX aircraft globally are removed from service; inspect all planes to identify any mechanical issues; and improve the controls on the aircraft to eliminate any chance of pilot error. Although pilots must be certified to fly an aircraft, pilots believe the 737-8 MAX requires additional flight simulation and certification.
Brand new airplanes aren’t supposed to crash. Ever. Two crashes in six months of the same model aircraft…unheard of in modern aviation. I for one am anxiously awaiting the results of the investigation. It is entirely possible that the crash is just a coincidence and Boeing is not at fault in any way.”
The last deadly crash of an Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane was in January 2010, when the aircraft crashed minutes after takeoff from Beirut, killing all 90 people (83 passengers and 7 crew) on board, according to the AP.
According to The Hindu, Transportation Minister Ghazi Aridi said the pilot initially followed the tower’s guidance, but then abruptly changed course and went in the opposite direction.
“They asked him to correct his path but he did a very fast and strange turn before disappearing completely from the radar,” Mr. Aridi told The Associated Press.
It was not immediately clear why the pilot veered off the recommended path. Like most other airliners, the Boeing 737 is equipped with its own onboard weather radar, which the pilot may have used to avoid flying into thunderheads rather than following the flight tower’s recommendation, according The Hindu.
“Nobody is saying the pilot is to blame for not heeding orders,” Mr. Aridi said, adding: “There could have been many reasons for what happened. … Only the black box can tell.”
“On 25 January 2010, Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 409, a Boeing 737-800, on its way from Beirut to Addis Adeba, crashed just after take-off from Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon, into the Mediterranean Sea. All 90 persons on-board were killed. The investigation concludes that pilot error was the cause of the accident. Ethiopian Airlines refutes the outcomes of the investigation.”
Flight Crew Operations Manual Bulletin for The Boeing Company
Number: TBC-19 IssueDate: November 6, 2018 Airplane Effectivity: 737-8 /-9
Subject: Un-commanded Nose Down Stabilizer Trim Due to Erroneous Angle of Attack (AOA) During Manual Flight Only
Reason: To Emphasize the Procedures Provided in the Runaway Stabilizer NonNormal Checklist (NNC)
Information in this bulletin is recommended by The Boeing Company, but may not be FAA approved at the time of writing. In the event of conflict with the FAA approved Airplane Flight Manual (AFM), the AFM shall supersede. The Boeing Company regards the information or procedures described herein as having a direct or indirect bearing on the safe operation of this model airplane.
THE FOLLOWING PROCEDURE AND/OR INFORMATION IS EFFECTIVE UPON RECEIPT
Background Information The Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee has indicated that Lion Air flight 610 experienced erroneous Angle-of-Attack (AOA) data. Boeing would like to call attention to an AOA failure condition that can occur during manual flight only. This bulletin directs flight crews to existing procedures to address this condition.
In the event of erroneous AOA data, the pitch trim system can trim the stabilizer nose down in increments lasting up to 10 seconds. The nose down stabilizer trim movement can be stopped and reversed with the use of the electric stabilizer trim switches but may restart 5 seconds after the electric stabilizer trim switches are released.
Repetitive cycles of un-commanded nose down stabilizer continue to occur unless the stabilizer trim system is deactivated through use of both STABILIZER TRIM CUTOUT switches in accordance with the existing procedures in the Runaway Stabilizer Non-Normal Check.
It is possible for the stabilizer to reach the nose down limit unless the system inputs are counteracted completely by pilot trim inputs and both STABILIZER TRIM CUTOUT switches are moved to CUTOUT.
Additionally, pilots are reminded that an erroneous AOA can cause some or all of the following indications and effects:
• Continuous or intermittent stick shaker on the affected side only.
• Minimum speed bar (red and black) on the affected side only.
• Increasing nose down control forces.
• Inability to engage autopilot.
• Automatic disengagement of autopilot.
• Indicated Airspeed DISAGREE alert.
• Altitude DISAGREE alert.
• Angle-of-Attack DISAGREE alert (if the AOA indicator option is installed)
• FEEL DIFFERENTIAL PRESSURE light.
In the event an un-commanded nose down stabilizer trim is experienced on the 737-8 /-9, in conjunction with one or more of the above indications or effects, do the Runaway Stabilizer Non-Normal Check ensuring that the STABILIZER TRIM CUTOUT switches are set to CUTOUT and stay in the CUTOUT position for the remainder of the flight.
Note: Initially, higher control forces may be needed to overcome any stabilizer nose down trim already applied. Electric stabilizer trim can be used to neutralize control column pitch forces before moving the STABILIZER TRIM CUTOUT switches to CUTOUT. Manual stabilizer trim can be used after the STABILIZER TRIM CUTOUT switches are moved to CUTOUT.
Administrative Information Insert this bulletin behind the Bulletin Record page in Volume 1 of your Flight Crew Operations Manual (FCOM). Amend the FCOM Bulletin Record page to show bulletin TBC-19 “In Effect” (IE).
This Bulletin remains in effect until Boeing provides additional information on system updates that may allow this Bulletin to be canceled.
Please send all correspondence regarding Flight Crew Operations Manual Bulletin status, to the 737 Manager, Flight Technical Data, through the Service Requests Application (SR App) on the MyBoeingFleet.com home page.
Southwest Airlines Directive to Pilots Flying New Boeing 737-8 Max Aircraft in Response to Lion Air Flight FNI043 Crash
Southwest Airlines exclusively employs Boeing 737 airplanes as a competitive advantage in the airline industry. Here’s what Southwest Airlines uses out of their QRH (Quick Reaction Handbook) to deal with Runaway Stabilizer Trim on the Boeing 737-8 Max airplane fleet.
In the Boeing 737-8 Max that could mean either a runaway horizontal stabilizer trim motor condition or, in the case of erroneous AOA indications, flight control logic “can cause the pitch trim system to trim the stabilizer nose down in increments lasting up to 10 seconds, when in manual flight with flaps retracted.” This is likely what happened in the recent Lion Air Flight 610 crash on October 29, 2018. In either condition above, pilots are directed to the procedure below to remedy the condition.
In all non-normal situations, U.S. trained pilots are completely indoctrinated to do the following first and foremost:
1. Maintain aircraft control
2. Analyze the problem
3. Take appropriate action (Checklist, procedures, etc)
4. Maintain Situational Awareness
These four steps will always keep an aircraft flying no matter how poorly a crew identifies a problem or applies subsequent procedures.
Here are our QRH procedures for a Runaway Stabilizer. This is a Boeing QRH verbatim. Southwest chose to use Boeing’s checklist 3-5 years ago vice creating our own and then having to receive FAA approval for each and every change:
Condition: Un-commanded stabilizer trim movement occurs continuously
- Control Column – Hold firmly.
- Autopilot (if engaged) – Disengage. Do not reengage the Autopilot. Control Aircraft pitch attitude manually with control column and main electric trim as needed.
- Auto-throttle (if engaged) – Disengage.
- If runaway stops after the autopilot is disengaged … checklist complete.
- If runaway continues after the autopilot is disengaged: (a) STABILIZER TRIM CUTOUT SWITCHES (both) – CUTOUT; (b) If the runaway continues: (i) Stabilizer Trim Wheel – Grasp and Hold.
- Stabilizer – Trim Manually.
- Anticipate trim requirements.
- CHECKLIST COMPLETE.
Aircraft Accident Investigation Report
PT. Lion Mentari Airlines Boeing 737-8 (MAX)
PK-LQP Tanjung Karawang, West Java Republic of Indonesia
October 29, 2018
“On October 29, 2018, a Boeing 737-8 Max aircraft, performing as Flight FNI043 and registered as PK-LQP, was being operated by PT. Lion Mentari Airlines (Lion Air) as a scheduled passenger flight from I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport (WADD), Denpasar to Jakarta, Indonesia.
During pre-flight check, the Pilot-in-Command (PIC) discussed with the engineer about the maintenance actions that had been performed, including replacement of the Angle-of-Attack (AoA) sensor and had been tested accordingly.
The aircraft departed at 1420 UTC (2220 LT) at night time or 9:20am Eastern Time (ET), the Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) showed the stick shaker activated during the rotation and remained active throughout the flight. About 400 feet, the Pilot-in-Command noticed on the Primary Flight Display the Indicated Air Speed DISAGREE warning appeared.
The Pilot-in-Command handed over control to the Second-in-Command and cross checked the Primary Flight Displays with the standby instrument and determined that the left Primary Flight Display had the problem.
The Pilot-in-Command noticed the aircraft was automatically trimming. In response the Pilot-in-Command moved the stabilizer trim switches to CUT OUT. The Second-in-Command continued the flight with manual trim without auto-pilot until the end of the flight.
The Pilot-in-Command declared “PAN PAN” to the Denpasar Approach controller due to instrument failure and requested to maintain runway heading. According to Wikipedia, “PAN PAN” is “the international standard urgency signal that someone aboard an aircraft uses to declare that they have a situation that is urgent, but for the time being, does not pose an immediate danger to anyone’s left or to the aircraft itself.”
The Pilot-in-Command performed three Non-Normal Checklists and none contained the instruction “Plan to land at the nearest suitable airport.”
The remainder of the flight was uneventful and the aircraft landed in Jakarta about 1556 UTC (around 11am ET).
After parking, the Pilot-in-Command informed the engineer about the aircraft problem and entered Indicated Airspeed and Altitude Disagree and FEEL DIFFERENTIAL PRESSURE problem on the Aircraft Flight Maintenance Log. The engineer performed flushing the left Pitot Air Data Module and static Air Data Module to rectify the Indicated Airspeed and Altitude Disagree followed by operation test on ground and found satisfied. The Feel Differential Pressure was rectified by performed cleaned electrical connector plug of elevator feel computer. The test on ground found the problem had been solved.
At 2320 UTC, (0620 Local Time on 29 October 2018), the aircraft departed from Jakarta, Indonesia with intended destination of Pangkal Pinang. The Digital Flight Data Recorder showed a difference between left and right Angle-of-Attack of about 20° and continued until the end of recording. During rotation the left control column stick shaker activated and continued for most of the flight.
During the flight the Second-in-Command asked the controller to confirm the altitude of the aircraft and later also asked the speed as shown on the controller radar display. The Second-in-Command reported experiencing “flight control problem.”
After the flaps retracted, the Digital Flight Data Recorder showed automatic Aircraft Noise Down trim active followed by flight crew commanded Aircraft Noise Up trim. The automatic Aircraft Noise Down trim stopped when the flaps extended. When the flaps retracted to 0, the automatic Aircraft Noise Down trim and flight crew commanded Aircraft Noise Up trim began again and continued for the remainder of the flight.
At 23:31:54 UTC, the Digital Flight Data Recorder stopped recording.
Until the publishing of this Preliminary Report, the Cockpit Voice Recorder has not been recovered, the search for Cockpit Voice Recorder is continuing. The investigation will perform several tests including the test of the Angle-of-Attack sensor and the aircraft simulator exercises in the Boeing engineering simulator. The investigation has received the Quick Access Recorder data for flight for analysis. The investigation involved the National Transportation Safety Board of the United States of America as State of design and State of manufacturer, the Transportation Safety Investigation Bureau of Singapore and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau of Australia as State provide assistant that assigned accredited representatives according to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Annex 13.”
The ICAO Annex 13 “defines an accident as an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft in which a person is fatally or serious injured, or in which an aircraft sustains damage of structural failure that adversely affects the structural strength, performance or flight characteristics of the aircraft and would normally require major repair or replacement of the affected component, or in which an aircraft is considered to be missing or is completely inaccessible.”
History of the Flight
“On October 29, 2018, a Boeing 737-8 (MAX) aircraft registered PK-LQP was being operated by PT. Lion Mentari Airlines (Lion Air) as a scheduled passenger flight from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (WIII), Jakarta1 with intended destination of Depati Amir Airport (WIPK), Pangkal Pinang2.
The scheduled time of departure from Jakarta was 0545 LT (2245 UTC3 on October 29, 2018) as LNI610.
At 2320 UTC, the aircraft departed from Jakarta using runway 25L and intended cruising altitude was 27,000 feet.
The LNI610 pilot was instructed to follow the Standard Instrument Departure (SID) of ABASA 1C4.
According to the weight and balance sheet, on board the aircraft were two pilots, five flight attendants and 181 passengers consisted of 178 adult, one child and two infants.
The voyage report(5) showed that the number of flight attendant on board was six flight attendants. The Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) recorded a difference between left and right Angle-of-Attack (AoA)(6) of about 20° and continued until the end of recording. During rotation the left control column stick shaker7 activated and continued for most of the flight. Shortly after departure, the Jakarta Tower controller instructed LNI610 to contact Terminal East (TE) controller.
At 23:21:22 UTC, the LNI60 SIC made initial contact with the TE controller who responded that the aircraft was identified on the controller Aircraft Situational Display/ASD (radar display). Thereafter, the TE controller instructed the LNI610 to climb to altitude 27,000 feet.
At 23:21:28 UTC, the LNI610 SIC asked the TE controller to confirm the altitude of the aircraft as shown on the TE controller radar display. The TE controller responded that the aircraft altitude was 900 feet and was acknowledged by the LNI610 Second in Command (SIC).
At 23:21:53 UTC, the LNI610 SIC requested approval to the TE controller “to some holding point.” The TE controller asked the LNI610 the problem of the aircraft and the pilot responded “flight control problem.” The LNI610 descended from altitude 1,700 to 1,600 feet and the TE controller then asked the LNI610 of the intended altitude. The LNI610 SIC advised the TE controller that the intended altitude was 5,000 feet.
(2) At 23:22:05 UTC, the DFDR recorded the aircraft altitude was approximately 2,150 feet and the flaps were retracted. After the flaps reached 0, the DFDR recorded automatic aircraft nose down (AND) trim active for 10 seconds followed by flight crew commanded aircraft nose up (ANU) trim.
At 23:22:31 UTC, the TE controller instructed the LNI610 to climb and maintain altitude of 5,000 feet and to turn left heading 050°. The instruction was acknowledged by the LNI610 SIC.
At 23:22:48 UTC, the flaps extended to 5 and the automatic AND trim stopped.
At 23:22:56 UTC, the LNI610 SIC asked the TE controller the speed as indicated on the radar display. The TE controller responded to the LNI610 that the ground speed of the aircraft shown on the radar display was 322 knots.
At 23:24:51 UTC, the TE controller added “FLIGHT CONT TROB” text for LNI610 target label on the controller radar system as reminder that the flight was experiencing flight control problem.
At 23:25:05 UTC, the TE controller instructed the LNI610 to turn left heading 350° and maintain altitude of 5,000 feet. The instruction was acknowledged by the LNI610 SIC. At 23:25:18 UTC, the flaps retracted to 0.
At 23:25:27 UTC, the automatic AND trim and flight crew commanded ANU trim recorded began again and continued for the remainder of the flight.
At 23:26:32 UTC, the TE controller instructed the LNI610 to turn right heading 050° and maintain altitude of 5,000 feet. The instruction was acknowledged by the LNI610 SIC.
At 23:26:59 UTC, the TE controller instructed the LNI610 to turn right heading 070° to avoid traffic. The LNI610 pilot did not respond to the TE controller‟s instruction, thereafter, the controller called the LNI610 twice who responded at 23:27:13 UTC.
At 23:27:15 UTC, the TE controller instructed the LNI610 to turn right heading 090° which was acknowledged by the LNI610 SIC. A few second later, the TE controller revised the instruction to stop the turn and fly heading 070° which was acknowledged by the LNI610 SIC.
At 23:28:15 UTC, the TE controller provided traffic information to the LNI610 who responded “ZERO.” About 14 seconds later, the TE controller instructed the LNI610 to turn left heading 050° and maintain an altitude of 5,000 feet. The instruction was acknowledged by the LNI610 SIC.
At 23:29:37 UTC, the TE controller questioned the LNI610 whether the aircraft was descending as the TE controller noticed that the aircraft was descending. The LNI610 SIC advised the TE controller that they had a flight control problem and were flying the aircraft manually.
At 23:29:45 UTC, the TE controller instructed the LNI610 to maintain heading 050° and contact the Arrival (ARR) controller. The instruction was acknowledged by the LNI610 SIC.
(3) At 23:30:03 UTC, the LNI610 contacted the ARR controller and advised that they were experiencing a flight control problem. The ARR controller advised LNI610 to prepare for landing on runway 25L and instructed them to fly heading 070°. The instruction was read back by the LNI610 SIC.
At 23:30:58 UTC, the LNI610 SIC stated “LNI650 due to weather request proceed to ESALA8” which was approved by the ARR controller.
At 23:31:09 UTC, the LNI610 PIC advised the ARR controller that the altitude of the aircraft could not be determined due to all aircraft instruments indicating different altitudes. The pilot used the call sign of LNI650 during the communication. The ARR controller acknowledged then stated “LNI610 no restriction.”
At 23:31:23 UTC, the LNI610 PIC requested the ARR controller to block altitude 3,000 feet above and below for traffic avoidance. The ARR controller asked what altitude the pilot wanted.
At 23:31:35 UTC, the LNI610 PIC responded “five thou”. The ARR controller approved the pilot request.
At 23:31:54 UTC, the FDR stopped recording. The ARR controller attempted to contact LNI610 twice with no response.
At 23:32:19 UTC, the LNI610 target disappeared from the ASD and changed to flight plan track. The ARR controller and TE controller attempted to contact LNI610 four more times with no response. The ARR controller then checked the last known coordinates of LNI610 and instructed the assistant to report the occurrence to the operations manager. The ARR controller requested several aircraft to hold over the last known position of LNI610 and to conduct a visual search of the area. About 0005 UTC (0705 LT), tug boat personnel found floating debris at 5°48’56.04″S; 107° 7’23.04″E which was about 33 Nm from Jakarta on bearing 56°. The debris was later identified as LNI610.”
1 Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (WIII), Jakarta will be named as Jakarta for the purpose of this report.
2 Depati Amir Airport (WIPK), Pangkal Pinang will be named as Pangkal Pinang for the purpose of this report.
3 The 24-hours clock in Universal Time Coordinated (UTC) is used in this report to describe the local time as specific events occurred. The Local Time (LT) is UTC +7 hours.
4 The detail of ABASA 1C Standard Instrument Departure (SID) is described in subchapter 1.8 Aids to Navigation.
6 Angle of Attack (AOA) is the angle between wing mean aerodynamic chord and direction of relative wind.
7 Stick shaker is an artificial warning device to alert the flight crew when airspeed is at a minimum operating speed and is close to a wing stall condition (Boeing 737-8 System Description Section of the Aircraft Maintenance Manual).
NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) Database
“Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and Allied Pilots Association (APA), including the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) and Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) utilize NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) Database, which is according to its website, “the world’s largest repository of voluntary, confidential safety information provided by aviation’s frontline personnel, including pilots, controllers, mechanics, flight attendants, and dispatchers. The database provides a foundation for specific products and subsequent research addressing a variety of aviation safety issues.
ASRS’s database includes the narratives submitted by reporters (after they have been sanitized for identifying details). These narratives provide an exceptionally rich source of information for policy development, human factors research, education, training, and more. The database also contains coded information by expert analysts from the original report which is used for data retrieval and analyses.”
Consider on the ASRS website, Report Number: 1590012
“After 1000 feet I noticed a decrease in aircraft performance. I picked up that the auto-throttles were not moving to commanded position even though they were engaged. I’m sure they were set properly for takeoff but not sure when the discrepancy took place.
My scan wasn’t as well developed since I’ve only flown the MAX once before. I manually positioned the thrust levers ASAP. This resolved the threat, we were able to increase speed to clean up and continue the climb to 3000 feet.
Shortly afterwards I heard about the (other carrier) accident and am wondering if any other crews have experienced similar incidents with the auto-throttle system on the MAX? Or I may have made a possible flying mistake which is more likely.
The FO (First Officer) was still on his first month and was not able to identify whether it was the aircraft or me that was in error.
B737-MAX8 Captain reported the auto-throttles failed to move to the commanded position during takeoff and climb.”
Consider on the ASRS website, Report Number: 1593701
“We were climbing from FL 330 given a clearance to FL 360. Aircraft briefly leveled at initial cruise altitude FL 340 before Aircrew intervention. [Center] queried if we received the clearance to FL 360.
As a result of the brief delay [Center] issued brief off-course vectors to both us and converging traffic.
Causal factors were equipment: not much experience in MAX-800, as a result, still have to search for everything.
Automation: Upon receipt of FL 360 clearance and after the Captain dialed the Flight MCP (Mode Control Panel) to Altitude 36,000 FT, I should have, but failed to, ensured the cruise altitude reflected FL 360. Engaging the ALT INTV (Altitude Intervention) button would have facilitated the process.
The solution is to Verify/Verbalize/Monitor. Verifying the CDU (Control Display Unit) cruise altitude (NAVIGATION 2/3) would have prevented the temporary level off. Monitoring would have mitigated the delay at FL 340 but could have been timelier.
As a relatively new First Officer, I had not seen this issue. However, I could have done a better job with VVM (Verbalize, Verify, Monitor) to back up the Captain with his duties while flying. Had I seen the momentary level off, I might have been able to alert ATC (Air Traffic Control) of it, avoiding any confusion or deviation of what the expectations were.
B737 MAX8 First Officer reported an altitude deviation due to an intermediate level off by the aircraft automation.”
Consider on the ASRS website, Report Number: 1597286
“Day 3 of 3 departing in a MAX 8 after a long overnight. I was well rested and had discussed the recent MAX 8 MCAS guidance with the Captain.
On departure, we had strong crosswinds (gusts > 30 knots) directly off the right wing, however, no LLWS (Low-Level Wind Shear) or Micro-burst activity was reported at the field. After verifying LNAV (Lateral Navigation) , selecting gear and flaps up, I set “UP” speed.
The aircraft accelerated normally and the Captain engaged the “A” autopilot after reaching set speed. Within two to three seconds the aircraft pitched nose down bringing the VSI to approximately 1,200 to 1,500 FPM.
I called “descending” just prior to the GPWS (Ground Proximity Warning System) sounding “don’t sink, don’t sink.”
The Captain immediately disconnected the autopilot and pitched into a climb. The remainder of the flight was uneventful. We discussed the departure at length and I reviewed in my mind our automation setup and flight profile but can’t think of any reason the aircraft would pitch nose down so aggressively.
B737 MAX First Officer reported that the aircraft pitched nose down after engaging autopilot on departure. Autopilot was disconnected and flight continued to destination.”
Consider on the ASRS website, Report Number: 1597380
“It was day three of six for me and day three with very good FO (First Officer). Well rested, great rapport and above average Crew coordination. Knew we had a MAX. It was my leg, normal Ops Brief, plus I briefed our concerns with the MAX issues, bulletin, MCAS, stab trim cutout response etc.
I mentioned I would engage autopilot sooner than usual (I generally hand fly to at least above 10,000 ft.) to remove the possible MCAS threat.
Weather was about 1000 OVC (Overcast) drizzle, temperature dropping and an occasional snow flake. I double checked with an additional personal walk-around just prior to push; a few drops of water on the aircraft but clean aircraft, no deice required.
Strong crosswind and I asked Tug Driver to push a little more tail east so as not to have slow/hung start gusts 30+. Wind and mechanical turbulence was noted.
Careful engine warm times, normal flaps 5 takeoff in strong (appeared almost direct) crosswind. Departure was normal. Takeoff and climb in light to moderate turbulence.
After flaps 1 to “up” and above clean “MASI (Mach Speed Indicator) up speed” with LNAV (Lateral Navigation) engaged I looked at and engaged A Autopilot. As I was returning to my PFD (Primary Flight Display) PM (Pilot Monitoring) called “DESCENDING” followed by almost an immediate: “DON’T SINK, DON’T SINK!”
I immediately disconnected AP (Autopilot) (it WAS engaged as we got full horn etc.) and resumed climb. Now, I would generally assume it was my automation error, i.e., aircraft was trying to acquire a miss-commanded speed/no auto-throttles, crossing restriction etc., but frankly neither of us could find an inappropriate setup error (not to say there wasn’t one).
With the concerns with the MAX 8 nose down stuff, we both thought it appropriate to bring it to your attention.
We discussed issue at length over the course of the return to ZZZ.
Best guess from me is airspeed fluctuation due to mechanical shear/frontal passage that overwhelmed automation temporarily or something incorrectly setup in MCP (Mode Control Panel).
PM’s callout on “descending” was particularly quick and welcome as I was just coming back to my display after looking away. System and procedures coupled with CRM (Cockpit or Crew Resource Management) trapped and mitigated issue.
B737 MAX Captain reported an autopilot anomaly in which led to an undesired brief nose down situation.”
“RUSH: I’ve done some more look-see investigation into this whole 737 Max 8, Max 9 business, and I now think that I have a real good understanding of what happened here. And the basics are these. The competitor for Boeing and the 737 series is A20 (author’s note: A320 series), the Airbus A20 (author’s note: the Airbus A320). And back in 2011 the 737 was getting long in the tooth, they needed to modernize it, make it more fuel efficient, new engines. And the debate was, “Okay, do we re-engine the airplane or do we reengineer the entire plane?”
Well, Airbus decided just to put new engines on their planes thereby not spending much at all to upgrade them. They just put new engines on them and made whatever retrofits on them to handle the increased power, but they didn’t redesign a new airplane, any of that.
Boeing couldn’t do that with the 737. If they’re gonna add bigger engines, they had to change the design of the airplane, and they tried to do this as cost efficiently as possible. Trump was right in a way. I mean, these airplanes have gotten very complex in pursuit of economy, in pursuit of having them as cheaply as possible to use and to fly.
And it’s exactly what I thought. Because of the redesign of the airplane and the change in center of gravity brought about by the bigger engines — the nose gear’s eight inches longer, for example — it has changed the entire angle of attack that the airplane takes in normal flight (author’s note: the nose gear being 8 inches longer plays no role in the aircraft’s angle of attack, only the forward engine mount onto the wing’s leading edge, producing unwanted differential lift from the engine’s wide-mouth nacelle changes the aircraft’s angle of attack). If you’ve ever paid any attention to flying, you feel like sometimes on certain airplanes you’re always climbing even though you’re at cruising level. That’s the angle of attack, the nose and the wings as they fly through the air. This airplane’s angle of attack was made much steeper because these new engines are incredible. They have their own aerodynamic lift in addition to that which they get from the wings and the tail.
And because of that rapid elevation of the nose promoting stalls or making the airplane think it’s in a stall, they put in a computer system that automatically trimmed some of the lift back on the tail, elevators on the tail to keep the nose lowered. And if something went wrong with that system, the nose after takeoff would be up and down and up and down and none of this was explained in the flight manual.
So the pilots were not aware of what was going on. This is what they think happened in the Lion Air crash, and they’re pretty sure it’s what happened with Ethiopia, although it’s still unknown. So you have to disconnect the autopilot (author’s note: MCAS, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, is not active when the autopilot is on; MCAS is specifically for manually operated flying) and the computer programming that takes the airplane off the runway and into flight.
And it really is gonna be nothing more than a simple software fix, but the whole thing happened because of competition with Airbus, at least the best anybody can tell, that Boeing had to hurry and they couldn’t just add new engines to the existing 737. They had to basically design a new airplane and build a new airplane. It’s obviously much more complicated than that, but that’s the root of this.
All this dates back to 2011. This is eight years old, this whole process. There are 5,000 of these 737 Max 8s and Max 9s on order. It is the future of Boeing, so they have to get this fixed. And they will.
RUSH: I got a bunch emails during the break that I checked asking me to explain further (and not so hurriedly) what I was saying about the Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9. All right. But, folks, it gets kind of technical here, and I have to also specify that I’m not an aeronautical engineer; so I’m only gonna share with you that which I have learned on my own consulting various authorities, experts and so forth. It all starts, apparently, back in 2011 when Airbus, the A320, decides that they’re gonna modernize by simply putting new engines on the A320, which is a much cheaper upgrade than having to redesign the entire airplane.
If you can put more powerful engines, if you retrofit engines on an existing airplane without having to redesign it in any way, then you are way ahead of the cost competition game with your competitors. And Airbus is a consortium of the French and the U.K. with governments involved subsidizing the manufacture of these airplanes versus American private sector aircraft manufacturers — in this case, Boeing. So the 737 was a cash cow for Boeing. The Boeing 737 and its success is what allowed Boeing to develop the 777 and the 787 Dreamliner.
They’re selling the Dreamliner, the 787, for more than it costs to make it. But they’re still running a $23 billion manufacturing deficit on the 787. So the 737… Once Airbus decides to put new engines on the A320, they’re gonna become cheaper to operate. That’s the whole point of putting new engines on. New engine technology always includes more efficiency — more power for less operating cost — and if Airbus had found a way to put new engines on without having to rebuild the wings and without having to change the center of gravity of the existing A320, then that gave them a leg up on Boeing in selling aircraft to airlines.
So Boeing needed to keep up with this, and they rejected the idea of simply putting bigger engines on the existing 737. It was pretty much maxed out design-wise. All airplane development is a series of compromises. When you have something that weighs as much as an airplane does, to develop the power and the aerodynamics to get it off the ground and fly at a competitive commercial speed of 450 to 550 knots loaded with passengers so that you can make money doing so, you have to make a whole series of compromises for that to happen.
Because devices that weigh that much need all kinds of propulsion in order to fly. So the compromises that are made… And then you start requiring increasing innovation in the engines for fuel efficiency and all of that. And as it was described in one article, Boeing had to find a way — with the 737 Max 8 — to fit 12 gallons into a 10-gallon jug, if you can visualize this. The bigger engines that they designed required a different airplane. It really isn’t a Boeing 737. They call it a 737; it’s got the basic overall shape, but it isn’t.
It’s got entirely new flight characteristics because of these new engines and the changed center of gravity. The nose gear, for example, is eight inches longer. You’ve noticed 737s. They’re really low to the ground, and the engines on a 737 at the bottom are flat because they’re so close to the ground. Well, you can’t put a bigger engine on that airplane. You have to change the design. So you need to have it higher off the ground with longer nose gear. Not main gear.
Just the longer nose gear, which has to do with the perceived angle of attack as the airplane is taking off — which is the key to all this, if you strip it all down. They changed some of the aerodynamics of the tail cone. They added some new winglets and fly-by-wire spoilers and they put gigantic new big displays in the cockpit for Millennial-age pilots, who love screens. So the 737 Max ends up with a nose pointed higher in the air to begin with, and it has larger engines. And the design of engines is such now that they create lift on their own, of course, with their aerodynamic thrust, in addition to the lift created aerodynamically over the wings.
So that makes the airplane nudge even higher. The nose nudges even higher in terms of angle of attack flying through the air. Now, Boeing discovered through analysis and flight testing that under certain high-speed conditions both in wind-up turns and wings-level flight, that upward nudge of the nose created a greater risk of stalling. Stalling is when you don’t have power to maintain your level of ascent. So the natural way to correct for a stall is to drop the nose and ram the throttles forward full-fledged power. You have to have enough altitude to do that.
Well, since this airplane’s design naturally raised the profile of the nose and created a higher angle of attack, they had to have a computer solution to lower the nose in both takeoff and cruise flight. That solution was called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System. It was a computer program that was also used and adapted to the existing 737 (author’s note: MCAS, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System is not on the existing 737) and the 737 Max. What it did was automatically trim the horizontal stabilizer to bring the nose down. It just barely elevated the trim tabs on the stabilizer to lower the nose to compensate for the angle of attack.
The computer program was supposed to do that independent — it’s part of the autopilot system — and the pilots just trust that that was happening. But, for it to work, the angle-of-attack data that is fed into the computer has to work in concert with the MCAS, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System that’s handling the trim tabs on the horizontal stabilizer. If they’re not in sync, then the airplane is gonna compensate by lowering the nose and raising the nose and lowering it and raising it. This apparently was happening in Lion Air and the pilots were having trouble disconnecting the MCAS system in the autopilot.
And eventually I think what happened was the airplane — because of the way all this was designed — lowered the noses full throttle right into the ground, and the pilots were unable to get control of it. So the fix for this… And none of this was explained. Apparently, the pilots are upset ’cause none of this was explained in the flight manual for the 737 Max 8. Look, I love Boeing. I’ve had a tour of their manufacturing plant out in Renton, Washington, where they were making 747s. I was blown away by it.
One of the things I most wanted to see was: How do you make an airplane? What’s the first thing you do if you’re gonna build a gigantic airliner like this? So they let me take a tour. They guided me through it, like three hours. But what they attempted to do here was convince people the 737 Max 8 was a 737, so that it wasn’t gonna need a bunch of new training, and it wasn’t gonna need new adaptations. If you knew how to fly a 737, if you knew how to handle behaviors of the aircraft — the 737 — you’d do the same thing with the 737 Max 8.
It’s apparently not the case. So the fix for this is gonna be a relatively simple software update. But then they’re gonna have to flight test this to the satisfaction of the FAA. They’ve got 5,000 of these airplanes on order. There aren’t that many in service in the United States relative to how many have been ordered. Their future is wrapped up in this airplane. It is the best-selling plane. The 737 Max 8 and Max 9 are the best-selling airplanes Boeing has ever made in the commercial airline inventory, and I hope they get it right, ’cause aside from this, it is a fantastic airplane.
A number of pilots, by the way, have advocated for not grounding it, for not banning it, that it’s perfectly fine. They don’t know what all this is about. Other pilots have said, “Well, you need to upgrade the flight manual because there’s stuff happening here that the manual does not tell us what to do with.” So there’s conflict. But it’s all rooted in trying to keep up with… You put increased complexity in these gigantic manufactured airplanes. You put in increased complexity all for the purposes of flying them as cheaply as possible, all for the purposes of economics — and you reach a point where the complexity may end up harming the pursuit of the most efficient manner of flying a loaded airplane at a profitable speed.
Anyway, they’ll get it fixed at some point.
It’s then gonna be a matter of convincing everybody to trust that it has been rectified.
But they’ll get it.
RUSH: I’ll tell you how I got interested in all this. Back in 1989, 1990, I was flying on an American Airlines 767, and I was seated next to an off-duty pilot who was being ferried out to the West Coast to make a flight. His base was New York, and they were dispatching him. I had a long talk with him. And my question to him — and this is 1990, this is 30 years ago. Well, 28 years. “Why is it that with all the technological advances we’re making throughout our lives, why is it we cannot fly any faster commercially than 550 or 600 miles an hour?”
And that’s when he gave me the flight is a series of compromises speech. He said, “If you want to fly supersonic, we can do it, but nobody’s gonna pay for it. Do you realize how much fuel it takes to fly supersonic?” He gave me the aerodynamics. The faster you go through the air, the greater resistance the air is, the more power you need, the more power you’re using.
And he said, “Look, we could manufacture airplanes to get you to London in three hours, we’ve done it, the Concorde, but nobody can afford to fly it.” And he said, “We can barely fuel the Concorde. It doesn’t have any reserves. It’s got to land when it has to land. It can’t go into a holding pattern very long and people just aren’t gonna pay for it. But we’ve got the technology to do it. It’s just not sensible cost-wise in a mass market situation.”
And that’s true. So now the entire pursuit of commercial aircraft is forever cheaper to operate engines. The margins are so small and so tiny and the competition is so intense that people are only gonna pay what they’re gonna pay to fly commercially. First class, business, coach, whatever, they’re only gonna pay what they’re gonna pay. And so everything has been pared down to make sure that people can get from point A to point B at a price they’re willing to pay as efficiently as possible for the airline so they can stay in business.
And if some airline comes up with a brand-new way of really having a brand-new cost efficient engine on an existing airplane without having to redesign it, they have a leg up on their competitors that you can’t believe. And this is what Boeing faced.
So they tried to combine the existing airframe of the 737, modifying it to handle the new bigger engines they were gonna put on it, and it changed the characteristics, the aerodynamics of the airplane enough that it doesn’t fly like a standard, ordinary issue 737.
Anyway, Doug in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Great to have you on the EIB Network, sir. Hello.
CALLER: Hello, Rush. I’d say dittos on almost everything you ever say, and today I say double dittos. I don’t know where you get your info, but you’re spot on.
RUSH: I appreciate hearing that, because I’m not an expert in this, but I’ve tried to inform myself as best I can, so I’m glad to get your endorsement.
CALLER: Well, you’re well informed. I would say one of the problems was the design on the Max — and I’ve gotta preface first. I’ve never flown a 7-3. I flew the 7-2, 7-5, 7-6, and triple 7. And about 20,000 hours. And I will say that they were trying to make the common type rating because that makes it cheaper for the airline. So if an airline flies a version of a 300, a 500, a 6, 7, 8, and 9 of the 7-3, the common type rating, all you have to do is get differences training. So they do the same type rating ride by the FAA and then you take a little test for the differences between the airplanes.
Now, for example, I flew the triple seven about 12 years and we had two versions of it, 200ER and LR. Different engines. Pretty much the same systems, but they handle a little bit differently. You could take off with an LR from Johannesburg to Atlanta about 750,000 pounds with a two-engine airplane. Your nose is still way on up there ’cause you’re climbing out at about 5,000 foot per minute. Now, in the ER, the same one, you can only fly that at about 600, which is under the gross weight.
RUSH: Wait, wait. Is the LR longer range than the extended range?
CALLER: Yeah. It will do about 8,000 miles point A to point B with reserves.
CALLER: Longest commercial aircraft there is other than, say, a Gulf-stream 650ER. That will do the same mileage or greater. But, as far as commercial passenger aircraft, the triple seven LR is the longest range airplane currently flying. Now, the Airbus 350 tried to compete with it, but personally if it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going.
RUSH: Right, but back to your original point because time is limited. The idea of the manufacturer is to build airplanes that have similar type ratings so that if you fly one you can fly the other with just a few hours in a simulator. You don’t have to relearn how to fly every new airplane that’s made.
CALLER: That’s correct. Spot-on. Exactly. It’s cost of training.
RUSH: And with the 737 Max, they had to hurry things along, and it is a different experience, it does have a different rating, but they weren’t quite up front enough about that. Right?
CALLER: That’s correct. And you also have to look at who’s flying those airplanes. The latest one that went down, I feel bad for everything, but you have to also look at the training and the experience of the pilots flying.
RUSH: Well, I tell you what. If these two crashes, if those two airplanes had been a Southwest Airlines or an American Airlines jet, if either one of those, that airplane would have been grounded that day. But since it was Ethiopian and Lion Air, there was a little bit of a — and that’s just a difference in the perceived quality experience of various nations and their airline system. I gotta run.
RUSH: The system that I described — the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System — is designed to compensate for the increased angle of attack, the elevation of the nose as the airplane takes off and is flying through the air. That’s the angle of the attack, and the higher the angle of attack, the greater — even though it’s remote, but the greater — the risk of a stall or that the airplane’s computer can think it’s in a stall.
You don’t want that. You don’t want to be in a stall. You don’t want the aircraft’s computer to think. So they put this system in to compensate for the higher angle of attack called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, and that is a computer program that automatically trims the horizontal stabilizer to bring the nose down. So you’ve got two things working against each other here which should not happen. You shouldn’t need to have something on an airplane that… A pilot would probably call this a “jury-rig.”
So they set up this MCAS, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, to keep the nose down using the rear stabilizer to compensate for the higher angle of attack brought about by the redesign necessary for the new engines. So a pilot would probably tell you that any time you require a jury-rig like this to fly airplane, that it’s a red flag. It shouldn’t be necessary. It’s something that you shouldn’t need a computer. Now, if you’re flying something like the stealth bomber which has no elevators — the B-2, which is just a flying wing — that thing can’t fly without a computer flying it.
A human being cannot keep the B-2 in the air because there’s no vertical elevator. That thing is a flying wing, and the computer is making precise, infinitesimally microscopic changes in the flight control systems to keep that airplane from spiraling down and crashing, because there’s no way it flies without a computer being able to do it. On a commercial aircraft, you shouldn’t have to need things like that. That’s why you have pilots. Pilots can be able to manually run the trim on the rear stabilizer and compensate.
But the more you put this up to a computer… We all know computer glitches, and if there’s a disagreement in the sensors in the cockpit that are calculating the angle of attack — if there’s any kind of a disparity or disagreement between that and the MCAS system — then you should ground the airplane. You shouldn’t take it off if there’s a massive disparity in agreement between the sensors and the MCAS system. So I just wanted to wrap that up because most pilots would probably call this a jury-rig.
I’m putting words in their mouths, but it shouldn’t require that.
RUSH: Okay. Here’s Stewart, West Hartford, Connecticut. Somebody still lives in Connecticut. Great to have you on the program, sir. Hi.
CALLER: Hi, Rush. I’m an 81-year-old retired Pratt & Whitney engineer, and I just wanted to give you a little update on the difference in the engines. I don’t want to talk about the incidents. This is basically trying to educate the listeners and yourself. Most commercial engines are twin-spool engines. There’s really no difference between a GE engine or a Pratt & Whitney engine in performance.
However, many years ago Pratt & Whitney discovered a way of changing the performance of an engine by incorporating what they call a geared turbine in the engine itself. GE elected not to do that, and it continued on its path of engines. Pratt worked feverishly for 20 years developing this concept. It came about recently, and they sold it to Airbus. The benefit of that is the performance of that is phenomenal. The fuel burn is unbelievable. The other engine by GE, under CFM, is the same old kind of engine. They tried to sell the —
RUSH: Now, wait a minute. Some people… The CFM is what’s on the 738 Max. Is that what you’re saying?
CALLER: Correct. Right.
RUSH: Just wanted to stipulate that. I knew that, but I wanted to make sure everybody else knew.
CALLER: (chuckling) Right. I’m a little nervous here.
RUSH: Well, you don’t sound nervous. My God, you’re 81. You’ve seen everything. There’s no way you can be nervous.
CALLER: (laughing) That’s true. But I’ve been a follower of you all these years, and it’s an honor to talk to you.
RUSH: I appreciate that. I really do. So the bottom line is Airbus has a distinct advantage with that engine —
RUSH: — in terms of fuel efficiency and economy?
CALLER: Absolutely, and emissions. There’s low emissions. It is so quiet that you can almost be standing next to it and you don’t hear it. I know I’m exaggerating some of these things, but if people would look into it — and it’s their latest and greatest engine. They were shocked. They were so shocked — I’m talking about CFM — that they didn’t know what to do.
RUSH: Right, and this was Boeing’s trying to keep up with this.
CALLER: Correct. So they’ve been tweaking and tweaking and tweaking — and it’s very hard to tweak these engines to get more and more out of it. The one that’s Pratt & Whitney — called the GTF, Geared Turbofan — is totally in a different class by itself. All I’m saying is, because of that, whatever changes they had to make to the airplanes on the Max is a result of not being to have an engine like the Pratt engine which would have been a smaller engine and there probably would have been no changes to the body or anything.
RUSH: Right. But since they couldn’t do that, they had to make modifications in the body, meaning the design of the airplane. If you get right down to it, it’s not a 737. It looks like a larger 737, but engineering-wise it’s a different airplane. Look, I really don’t want to come down on Boeing here. They may deserve it for certain things, but they’re such a great company, and they’re gonna rebound from this. But they just… The previous caller talked about it.
In your whole fleet… Like, Boeing has the 7… Well, the don’t have the ’27 no longer. The ’37, the ’47, and all the different series, the ’57, ’67, the 777, 787. They try to make the flight experience for the pilots similar enough that it’s not a major deal to get pilots type rated in each different upper. And for manufacturing purposes, you want to be able to have at least some consistency from model to model to model just for the cost of it.
And they tried. They went a little bit too far in the 737 Max 8 and Max 9. There’s a Max 9 out there flying around too. Anyway… But it was the competition with Airbus. Airbus, all they had to do was put these new engines on their existing airplanes. Boeing could not do that. They couldn’t put new engines on an existing 737. They needed a bigger plane to be able to compete. I appreciate the call, Stewart, and I’m glad you waited. I appreciate your patience as well.
RUSH: Hey, I got a quick airplane question for you, folks. When you’re in an airliner taking off/landing when you’re flying, do you want to hear the sounds? Do you want to hear the engines rev up for takeoff? Do you want to know you’re taking off by virtue of what you’re hearing? Do you want to be able to hear the flaps being lowered, do you want to hear the landing gear going up and down, do you want to be able to hear when descent happens — feel its slowdown, the rush of air in descent and the nose dropping?
Do you want to know all that when you’re flying? (interruption) Airbus designs its airplanes to limit as much of that noise as possible. It’s just a competitive thing, especially the A380, that gigantic two-story thing? You cannot… If you’re inside most planes, you cannot tell when the engines are revved. The only sense that you have that you’re taking off is you have a sense of a higher speed. But the sounds associated with the airplane and flight you don’t hear. That’s how quiet they’ve made the cabin and the engines.
It’s kind of unnerving for some people. (interruption) Not… (interruption) Well, no, no, no. They can’t change turbulence. Just you don’t hear the engine. You’re rolling down for takeoff, but you don’t know it because you don’t hear the engine. The only way you can know it is the sense of speed. Some people, this makes ’em nervous. They want to hear the evidence that everything’s working! Other people love the quiet.
When you’re on a boat… Like, let’s say you’re on a Bill Kristol cruise. The only noise you can hear is those Never Trumper flap-gummer lecturers. You don’t hear the engine on a big cruise ship, do you? You do not. For a whole host of reasons, you don’t. You just have a sense you’re plowing through the waves there. You can see it, but if you’re in your cabin… You know, you feel the roll of the waves. You don’t hear the chop.
But you never hear the engine of a cruise ship. Most airplanes you can’t avoid it. Now, Boeing wants customers to hear. They want customers to have the comfort that the systems are working. The reason I ask is this is a factor in the new engines that they put on the A320 that Boeing was trying to compete with the 737 Max. The competition… Capitalist competition, I have to say, folks, it is just vicious out there, and most people are not taught to respect it. They’re taught to hate it so. But it’s fascinating stuff to me.
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