On March 10, 2019, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane operating as Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed shortly after taking off from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people onboard. The crash is the deadliest aviation disaster in Ethiopia’s history.
The victims of the fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash were from 35 countries and included at least 22 employees working for United Nations-affiliated agencies. The nations of Britain, Canada, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Slovakia and the United Sates all lost four or more citizens in the crash.
According to U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, Michael Raynor, eight Americans died in the crash. Raynor said the American victims were “people who either lived here or were here to work and contribute to the development of this continent.”
“Eight inspiring lives and eight true tragedies and our hearts go out to everyone impacted by their deaths,” Raynor said of the victims.
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 departed from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport at approximately 8:38 a.m. local time bound for Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya. The passenger manifest included eight flight crew members and 149 passengers.
Minutes after takeoff, the pilot informed air traffic controllers of a problem with the aircraft and requested a return to the airport. At approximately 8:44, just six minutes after takeoff, the plane disappeared from radar and crashed near the town of Bishoftu, some 39 miles southeast of Bole International Airport.
What Caused the Ethiopian Airlines Crash?
Officials investigating aviation disasters of this magnitude typically take a year or more to issue a report on the probable cause. The Kenyan and Ethiopian governments will lead the crash investigation with assistance from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
While it may take some time before we know exactly what caused this tragedy, many in the aviation community believe a design defect with the Boeing 737 MAX 8 could be a possible contributing factor.
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 is the newest version of Boeing’s most popular aircraft. Approximately 350 are in use by 54 operators throughout the world, according to U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records.
But Boeing and its latest aircraft are facing worldwide scrutiny after two devastating 737 MAX 8 crashes over the last six months killed nearly 350 people. In October of 2018, a Lion Air flight crashed shortly after takeoff in Indonesia, killing all 189 people onboard.
Some circumstances between the Lion Air crash and the Ethiopian Airlines crash appear similar, bolstering concerns that a design defect could be at the center of both disasters.
Similarities Between Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. Both:
– Involved brand new airplanes that had been delivered straight from Boeing to the airlines within four months of the disasters.
– Experienced unstable vertical airspeed after takeoff.
– Crashed shortly after takeoff in generally clear weather conditions.
– Flight crews requested returns to their departure airports but were so imperiled that they could not make it back.
– Entered into steep nosedives.
– No evidence of terrorism thus far in both investigations.
“Two highly-experienced, professional pilots could not recover from what appear to be out-of-control stalls, facts which reveal the most probable explanation for both the Lion Air crash and this crash is a design defect in the airplane’s stall recognition and recovery systems,” says board-certified trial attorney, Ronald L.M. Goldman from the law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman.
“Before more people die, the B737 MAX fleet must be grounded until the NTSB gets to the bottom of the problem and Boeing fixes it. Two disasters within months of each other from the same brand-new plane under similar circumstances should be a serious red flag.”
It is yet to be determined if the Lion Air crash or the Ethiopian Airlines crash are cases of runaway elevator trim, a condition where the trim tabs on control surfaces like the airplane’s elevators operate to demand full nose down or up authority. The job of the trim tabs is to lighten the load on a flying surface (wing or elevator or rudder) such that the pilot does not have to maintain pressure for controlled flight.
If the elevator trim tab is rolled to full down, it will pitch the airplane into a dive and the controls will be exceedingly heavy, making recovery by pulling back on the control wheel or stick difficult if not impossible. In these cases, the airspeed indicators, and the computers that run them, likely were not giving the pilots good information. In both crashes, the abrupt pitch down will have taken the pilots by surprise, and all efforts were likely made to pull back on the control column to raise the nose, fighting a force greater than their strength.
What is Boeing MCAS?
Boeing marketed the 737 MAX to airlines to save money with reduced fuel costs, operating cost reductions, and not having to retrain pilots on using the new version. By limiting the difference between the old 737 and the 737 MAX, Boeing could save airlines from having to put their pilots in simulators for hours to learn the MAX’s new features.
The pitch appealed to airlines with 737s already in their fleet – over 5,000 have been sold.
But the wholesale changes Boeing applied to the 737 MAX were significant – the engines had to be mounted further apart, which changed the aerodynamics. The change, in turn, causes the plane to lift its nose, which can trigger a stall under certain circumstances.
To address this, Boeing added a special technology called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), intended to automatically lower the nose to head off an aerodynamic stall.
The MCAS uses airspeed and other sensor data to compute when a dangerous condition has developed; if the sensed angle of attack (AOA) exceeds certain thresholds based on airspeed and altitude, the system is activated.
The MCAS works by tilting part of the horizontal stabilizer in the tail of the aircraft, known as a trim tab, which is operated by a jackscrew. Officials investigating the Ethiopian Airlines crash have found physical evidence that the trim tab had been configured to react as if the airplane was stalling, and sharply lower the nose.
According to media reports, Boeing sold its standard base model 737 MAX 8 without two key safety devices—Angle of attack (AOA) indicators or AOA disagree lights—which experts say could have helped the pilots of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 diagnose and address the problems they encountered before both planes crashed.
AOA refers to angle of the chord of the wing to the relative wind. This may, and usually does, have something to do with the pitch up or down of the nose, but not necessarily so. An AOA disagree light illuminates if the plane’s sensors are giving contradictory signals. A pilot cannot “see” the angle of attack necessarily, so an instrument that gives the pilot that information can be very valuable to avoid stalling.
“Boeing chose to make these two vital safety devices add-on options instead of including them as standard equipment. The FAA should not have certified the 737 MAX to be sold as a passenger jet without requiring this safety equipment. The airlines are complicit by not requiring these features to be included as standard equipment, and if not, by failing to buy the options in the interest of passenger safety. After all, these devices’ combined cost is less than one tenth of one percent of the cost of the airplane, and can save lives.” – Aviation Attorney Ronald L.M. Goldman
It appears certain that the pilots in both the Lion Air crash and the Ethiopian Airlines crash did not know how to deal with this issue because they were never trained for it, and possibly did not even know of the existence of the MCAS.
China, Indonesia and Several Airlines Ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 Following Ethiopian Airlines Crash
China, Indonesia and several other airlines around the world grounded Boeing 737 MAX 8s following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. China has nearly 100 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in operation, more than a quarter the total operating in the world.
The grounding prompted a massive sell-off of Boeing stock, which fell by 9% the day after the fatal crash.
Boeing said it does not intend to issue any new guidance to its 737 MAX 8 customers. The company will send a technical team to Ethiopia to assist investigators, however. In a statement, Boeing said the company was “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a 737 MAX 8 airplane.”
Which Airlines Fly Boeing 737 MAX 8 Aircraft?
A full list of airlines that fly Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft can be found here.
Despite several airlines grounding Boeing 737 MAX 8s in the aftermath of the ET302 crash, the following airlines issued statements indicating they will continue to fly Boeing 737 MAX 8’s:
American Airlines has 24 737 MAX 8 planes in its fleet. In a statement, the airline said it would not ground them. “We have full confidence in the aircraft and our crew members, who are the best and most experienced in the industry.”
Fiji Airways has two 737 MAX 8s. “We have full confidence in the airworthiness of our entire fleet,” the airline said in a statement.
Flydubai operates 11 737 MAX 8 aircraft. The airline “remain(s) confident in the airworthiness of [their] fleet.”
GOL Linhas Aéreas has seven 737 MAX 8 Boeings. “GOL continues to follow the investigations and maintains close contact with Boeing for clarification,” the airline said in a statement.
Icelandair operates three Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes. The company said it “is not taking any action following recent events.”
Norwegian Airlines has 18 Boeing 737 MAX 8s. The airline said in a statement that it would follow instruction and recommendations from Boeing and aviation authorities.
Silk Air has six Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes. The airline has no plans to ground them.
Southwest Airlines operates 34 737 MAX 8s, the most in the U.S. In a statement following the crash in Ethiopia, Southwest said it remains confident in its fleet of over 750 Boeing aircraft.
TUI operates 15 Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes. “We have no indication that we can’t operate our 737 MAX in a safe way,” the company said in a statement.
WestJet has 13 MAX 8 aircraft in its fleet. The airline claims it is monitoring the situation closely but remains “confident in the safety of [its] Boeing 737 fleet.”
Boeing Withheld Information About Potential Hazards with 737 MAX
In November of 2018, just weeks after the Lion Air Flight 610 crash, the Wall Street Journal reported that Boeing “withheld information about potential hazards associated with a new flight-control feature suspected of playing a role in last month’s fatal Lion Air jet crash…”
According to the article, in certain circumstances, the Boeing 737 MAX 8’s automated stall prevention system could push the plane down “unexpectedly and so strongly that flight crews can’t pull it back up.” In a safety bulletin issued a week after the Lion Air crash, Boeing told airlines that the issue could result in a steep nosedive or crash, even if pilots are flying manually and do not anticipate flight-control computers kicking in.
Safety experts told WSJ that neither airline managers nor pilots were told about the new flight-control system on the 737 MAX 8, and were therefore unprepared to deal with the possible risks. The FAA issued an airworthiness directive (AD) in November to instruct operators how to train pilots to deal with the issue.
International Aviation Accident Attorneys with Experience Litigating Against Boeing
Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman represents victims harmed in aviation disasters, including international commercial crashes. Our firm has a track record of success in claims against some of the world’s largest international airliners, including, among many others:
– Aero Mexico
– Asiana Airlines
– British European Airways
– China Eastern Airlines
– Korean Air
– Singapore Airlines
– SAS-Scandinavian Airline Systems
– TACA Airlines
Our attorneys have also handled international aviation cases involving airlines and U.S. manufacturers that do business worldwide, including, among others:
– McDonnell Douglas
Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman senior partner Ronald L.M. Goldman has been litigating aviation mechanical defect cases for more than 40 years. In the 1970s, Ron represented plaintiffs in a case stemming from the British European Airways Flight 548 crash in London, United Kingdom, which appears to share similarities with the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash.
Like the ET302 crash, British European Airways (BEA) Flight 548 crashed minutes after takeoff, killing all onboard. The crash sequence started with retraction movement of the front (leading edge) slats (droops, in English terms). These devices are part of a high lift system that enlarges the wing in order to provide lift at lower speeds, and to streamline the wing after climb to gain more speed.
The moment the droops started to retract, the lift was lost and therefore the wing (the whole airplane) stalled. The pilots did not know of the droops’ movement as it was uncommanded, so they did not understand that they were stalling. In fact, this crash case coined the term “out of configuration stall.”
There was no warning on the panel that the droops were moving out of takeoff configuration. Since the stall occurred without a stall warning (pilots are trained to recognize the edge of a stall, and to recover once that is appreciated), the pilots had no notice that they were in fact in a stall, and believed they had a failure of the stall recovery system; the system was trying to recover from a stall but all indications in the cockpit were that there was no stall. Consequently, the pilots disabled the stall recovery system, sealing their fate.
Investigators concluded that several factors caused the deep stall, noting that an unspecified “technical problem” was apparently resolved prior to takeoff. In the case that followed, Ron secured a settlement for his clients in the U.S., even though the crash occurred in a foreign country.
“We don’t yet know what caused the Ethiopian crash, but if it is anything like the event in the BEA case, it will show that the airplane’s stall recovery system was activated, and hundreds of pounds of pressure was exerted automatically on the control pushing the nose down, as the system sensed a stall possibly due to incorrect data being fed into it by the computers that monitor and interpret the over the wing air flow data, or possibly just malfunctioning computers,” says Goldman.
“We can say with confidence that in the BEA, Lion Air and now Ethiopian Airlines incidents, the sequence that set in motion the course to disaster started with mechanical malfunction that the pilots were unable to overcome. In some macabre sense, we are still fighting the battles first encountered at the dawn of the passenger jet travel era over 45 years ago.” – Aviation Attorney Ronald L.M. Goldman
In 2017, Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman earned a groundbreaking ruling in an international plane crash case against Germanwings stemming from the fatal crash of Flight 9525 in 2015. Our firm represented the family of the only Americans onboard the ill-fated flight, Yvonne Selke and her daughter, Emily.
Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman filed suit against Germanwings and other defendants in Virginia on behalf of surviving members of the Selke family. Germanwings filed a motion to dismiss the case, alleging lack of personal jurisdiction over the airline in Virginia on the grounds that it was a German corporation with no offices in the U.S., had never flown its planes into the United States, and that tickets for the fatal flight weren’t codeshare tickets with United.
However, U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee ruled that the “Court has personal jurisdiction over Germanwings because the airline purposely availed itself of Virginia by transacting business in the Commonwealth through its agent, United. This business activity resulted in the sale of tickets that gave rise to Plaintiffs’ cause of action.”
This was a significant ruling “[g]iven the tide of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have restricted personal jurisdiction,” said Ilyas A. Akbari, partner and aviation attorney at Baum Hedlund. “This decision should serve as a ray of sunshine to the plaintiffs’ community, especially in international plane crash cases. Our case shows that if American residents are killed while flying overseas, their families can still bring an action against a foreign airline in America.”
The National Law Journal selected Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman as a finalist for Elite Trial Lawyer honors in the practice area of consumer protection for the firm’s work in Selke, et al. v. Germanwings GMBH, et al.
If you lost a loved one in the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, the law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman can help you. Contact us today or call toll-free 1-800-827-0087 to speak with an attorney about your claim.
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Crash Investigation Updates
Boeing Resisted Pilots’ Calls for Action on 737 MAX | May 21, 2019
According to a new report from The New York Times, American Airlines pilots pushed Boeing to fix its 737 MAX after the Lion Air crash in Oct. 2018, even suggesting Boeing take action that could result in the MAX being grounded. Boeing executives, however, stood firm in not having its aircraft grounded and said it was up to pilots to effectively deal with issues on the planes.
When the American Airlines pilots met with Boeing officials on Nov. 27, Boeing maintained investigators had not yet blamed the 737 MAX’s anti-stall software for the crash and further argued they did not want to rush a software upgrade. Months later, an Ethiopian Airlines plane also crashed, and Boeing has since acknowledged the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was a direct factor in both tragedies.
During the meeting, American Airlines pilots argued that Boeing should push for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue an emergency airworthiness directive, which may have resulted in the MAX being temporarily grounded. Pilots were also angry they had not been told the MCAS was installed on the planes until after the Lion Air crash. Boeing officials maintained that they cared about safety as much as the pilots, and that the pilots should use their training to manage any software malfunctions.
Boeing and the FAA both face investigations into their actions in certifying the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Boeing also faces lawsuits filed by the families of people who died in the preventable catastrophes.
FAA Acting Administrator Concerned About Boeing’s Actions | May 16, 2019
Speaking with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s aviation subcommittee, Daniel Elwell, the Federal Aviation Administration’s acting administrator, said he was concerned that it took Boeing a year to disclose issues with the angle-of-attack indicator light, which would have warned pilots if the Boeing 737 MAX’s two angle-of-attack sensors obtained different data regarding the position of the aircraft’s nose. The indicators were intended to be standard on every plane but were mistakenly linked to an optional sensor. As a result, the indicators were only operable on aircraft for which the optional upgrade had been purchased.
The FAA only learned about the indicator issue after the Lion Air crash, even though Boeing knew about the problem a year before.
Additionally, Elwell expressed concern that Boeing did not make pilots aware of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), a frustration that American Airlines pilots shared following the Lion Air crash. The MCAS system is critical to the safety of a plane, and a malfunction of that system is catastrophic. Boeing has acknowledged that the MCAS was directly linked to both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes.
While the FAA faces criticism for not moving quickly enough to ground the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft and for giving Boeing too much autonomy in getting the 737 MAX certified, Boeing faces lawsuits from the families of people who died in the tragedies.
Angry Pilots Confronted Boeing After Lion Air Crash | May 15, 2019
Weeks after the Lion Air catastrophe and approximately four months before the Ethiopian Airlines crash, angry American Airlines pilots confronted a Boeing representative about the company’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), the system preliminary reports linked to both tragedies. The American Airlines pilots expressed frustration that they—and the Lion Air pilots—had no idea the MCAS was installed on the plane.
The Boeing official, who is not identified, told pilots that the company was working on software changes and would have them available shortly, but that the company was not going to rush the updates. The official also attempted to reassure pilots that issues with the MCAS were incredibly rare and that knowing the system existed would likely not have changed the outcome of the Lion Air crash.
Boeing has admitted it knew back in 2017 that an indicator light which would have warned pilots about issues with its angle-of-attack sensors was not operational on many 737 MAX aircraft. Despite that, the company did not release a fix to the problem, even after the first 737 MAX crash. The aircraft maker faces lawsuits and a congressional investigation in the wake of the crashes.
FAA Officials Failed to Adequately Review Boeing 737 MAX Safety | May 14, 2019
New information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) indicates senior FAA officials did not thoroughly review vital safety assessments of the Boeing 737 MAX’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), the system that Boeing admitted was directly involved in the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines catastrophes. In addition to other issues uncovered in the FAA’s internal probe, Boeing did not label a malfunction of the MCAS as disastrous, which would have resulted in a more comprehensive examination of the stall-prevention feature. The agency has not said how much safety information Boeing provided the FAA with, nor whether FAA officials assessed the MCAS’s safety classification on their own.
The FAA is currently under fire for giving Boeing too much authority in certifying its new aircraft as safe and in allowing Boeing to push for pilots to not undergo simulator training before flying the 737 MAX. Boeing, meanwhile, faces harsh criticism from airlines for not warning them that a standard safety feature which would have warned pilots about angle-of-attack sensor malfunctions was not activated on all planes.
Boeing faces lawsuits from the families of the people who tragically lost their lives in the crashes. The aircraft maker also faces federal investigations and lawsuits from shareholders.
International Faith in Boeing and FAA Waning | May 13, 2019
With the entire fleet of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft grounded, experts say it could be a long time before the planes are back in the air. Before its planes can fly again, Boeing needs regulatory approval for the software update to its 737 MAX automated flight system, which ordinarily would fall to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In this case, however, international regulatory bodies are questioning how the FAA certified the 737 MAX in the first place, and they may not simply follow suit if the FAA approves the update. Instead, they may require their own certification process.
International faith in the FAA has decreased in recent months, following reports the agency allowed Boeing too much authority in getting the MAX aircraft certified and in pushing for pilots not to undergo simulator training to fly the new plane. The FAA was also among the last of the international regulatory bodies to require the MAX 737 be grounded.
An international review panel is analyzing the FAA’s certification process, and the agency also faces an investigation from Congress and the US Department of Transportation. Boeing, meanwhile, faces numerous lawsuits from the families of victims of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes, as well as shareholders who say they were misled about Boeing 737 MAX safety.
FAA Convenes International Panel to Review 737 MAX Certification | May 10, 2019
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced it has convened an international panel of authorities to review how the agency certified the Boeing 737 MAX as safe to fly. The panel, which consists of members from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the EU, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates, is tasked with reviewing the agency’s evaluation of the Boeing 737 MAX and offering recommendations for improving its processes.
The panel, called the Joint Authorities Technical Review, is expected to take about 90 days to conduct its analysis. The FAA faces strong criticism from regulators in the US and around the world after the two 737 MAX tragedies. Included in that criticism is concern that the FAA gave Boeing too much authority, not only in getting the aircraft certified, but also in convincing the FAA that pilots would not need simulator training on the new plane.
Boeing, meanwhile, faces congressional investigations, regulatory reviews, and lawsuits filed by the families of those who died in the entirely preventable crashes.
Boeing Put Performance Targets Ahead of Safety | May 9, 2019
Amid accusations that Boeing knew about issues with its angle-of-attack sensor alert come criticisms that the company made decisions that put profit and investor interests over passenger safety. Among the moves Boeing made were laying off half the members of a flight crew operations team, pushing to have pilots undergo iPod-only training (rather than simulator training) on changes to the 737 MAX – and telling the FAA they wanted the less rigorous pilot training – and increasing plane production while cutting the workforce.
According to one former engineering manager, Boeing began emphasizing profits over safety, with engineers reviewed based on the cost of their designs, not their design’s merits. That shift, combined with repeated layoffs and diminished morale at Boeing, has put pressure on managers to meet cost targets. Meanwhile, junior employees were put into supervisory roles as Boeing’s authorized FAA representatives, pushing through the safety certifications.
These factors combined to create a situation in which the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was not properly tested before it was approved, the angle-of-attack alert was not delivered as promised to Boeing customers, and pilots were not adequately informed about or trained in MCAS use.
Boeing faces congressional inquiries, a criminal investigation from the Justice Department, lawsuits from victims’ families, an FAA review, and public concern about the safety of its 737 MAX airplanes following the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines disasters.
Survey Suggests Fliers Will Avoid Boeing 737 MAX | May 8, 2019
A survey conducted by Barclays Investment Bank suggests that fliers are hesitant about getting back on Boeing MAX airplanes once the grounding is lifted. The survey included 1,765 people who were asked how they felt about flying on the Boeing 737 MAX. In all, 44 percent said they would wait at least a year before boarding the aircraft, while 39 percent said they would wait a few months. Around 20 percent said they were fine with getting on the MAX plane as soon as the grounding ends. Meanwhile, 52 percent said they would rather use another aircraft.
Boeing has said the public’s confidence is very important to the company, while acknowledging that problems with faulty sensors triggering the automatic anti-stall system on its planes likely caused the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes.
Boeing Relied on One Sensor Despite 2009 Crash | May 7, 2019
The Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines tragedies were not the first Boeing plane crashes linked to reliance on data from only one sensor. In 2009, the crash of a Turkish Airlines plane that killed nine people and injured 120 was blamed on a malfunctioning altitude sensor. That sensor indicated the plane was close to the ground, causing the engines to idle and resulting in the crash. A second altitude sensor had the plane’s correct elevation, but the throttle only received data from the faulty sensor.
Despite that crash being linked to information from only one sensor, Boeing tied its 737 MAX flight-control Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) to only one angle-of-attack sensor. In both recent crashes, investigators cited faulty information from a single angle-of-attack sensor as triggering the MCAS to push the plane’s nose down, even though the plane was not at risk of a stall.
Though the sensor involved in the Turkish Airlines crash is different from the sensors at fault in the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes, the concern about relying on information from only one sensor remains the same.
Astounding Announcement: Boeing Knew About Problems With 737 MAX for a Year | May 6, 2019
Boeing has issued a statement about an issue with its angle-of-attack sensor alerts indicating the aircraft maker knew about the issue for a year before the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes, but did not act on that knowledge. The statement refers to the disagree alert, which would have warned pilots that the two angle-of-attack sensors had different readings, indicating an issue with one of the sensors. That alert was meant to be standard on all 737 MAX aircraft. Boeing now claims it was accidentally linked to an optional alert, so it only worked if an airline purchased the optional upgrade.
It is reported that some airlines thought the disagree alert was standard equipment and operational when they took delivery, and others thought it was an option that cost extra money. This confusion was not clarified by Boeing until its recent announcement.
Boeing’s statement maintains that the issue would not have affected airplane safety. But if pilots knew about the issue with the sensors and were trained to recognize and handle its malfunction, they likely would have reacted differently when the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) kicked in based on false information. Although Boeing’s engineers knew there were issues with the disagree alert in the 737 MAX as early as 2017, they concluded that the issue could be fixed through a display system software update.
The statement maintains senior Boeing officials did not know about the issue until the Lion Air accident. After the Lion Air tragedy, the company added information to an FAA directive indicating the disagree alert was an optional feature. It has since said that when the MAX returns to service, all customers will have the ability to activate the disagree alert.
Parallel criminal, civil and congressional investigations are underway.
Boeing’s Test Pilots Not Aware of Anti-Stall System’s Abilities | May 3, 2019
Already facing scrutiny for not telling airline pilots about the existence of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), Boeing now faces criticism that its test pilots were not aware of the MCAS’s full power. A report from The Wall Street Journal indicates that while Boeing typically relied on its test pilots for in-depth analysis and input about the company’s planes, when it came to the 737 MAX, Boeing limited how involved its test pilots were in the later stages of development.
Ultimately, the senior pilots received little to no information about the use of data from only one angle-of-attack sensor, or about how quickly the MCAS would push a plane’s nose down if it sensed a potential stall. Test pilots said they were not given details about the MCAS and did not have the opportunity to test the system when it activated at full force.
Report Suggests Incomplete MAX 737 Paperwork Submitted to FAA | May 2, 2019
A new report from The Verge suggests that, in its rush to get the MAX 737 approved, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conducted an incomplete review of paperwork, overlooking the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) on the new Boeing planes. According to the report, Boeing pushed to have the 737 MAX approved under the 737 type certificate, which requires the FAA to list the ways in which the new plane—in this case, the 737 MAX—is similar to and different from the other planes on the certificate.
The FAA’s 30-page list of similarities and differences reviewed engine noise, aluminum fatigue and many other features, but did not mention MCAS. The anti-stall system is not named or even described in that paperwork. Furthermore, the FAA did not notice that the version of MCAS that made it onto the planes was more powerful than what the company described in its documents.
FAA Received More Than 200 Reports About Sensor Linked to Crashes | May 1, 2019
Boeing has already come under fire for using a single angle-of-attack (AOA) sensor to activate the MAX 737 anti-stall system, and a new report suggests the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) received more than 200 reports of incidents involving the AOA sensor. CNN examined FAA data related to the angle-of-attack sensors and found at least 216 reports of incidents in which the sensors failed or otherwise needed repair, replacement, or adjustment since 2004.
Of the reports CNN analyzed, approximately 20 percent involved Boeing planes. Reports linked to Boeing aircraft included frozen AOA sensors, sensors hit by flying birds or damaged by lightning, or faulty information from sensors that forced emergency landings.
Despite issues with the angle-of-attack sensors, Boeing chose to use input from only one sensor to activate the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), even though each plane had two sensors. Furthermore, several sources claim Boeing
Boeing Says Alert Not Operational on All MAX 737 Airplanes | Apr. 30, 2019
Boeing has admitted that a standard alert feature for its 737 MAX airplanes was not functioning on all planes. The alert, known as the disagree alert, was designed to warn pilots if the plane’s two angle-of-attack sensors obtained different readings and was meant to function on all 737 MAX aircraft as a standard feature. In some cases, however, the alert was improperly linked to the angle-of-attack indicator, an optional feature that warns pilots if one of the angle-of-attack sensors is not working properly.
Boeing said the disagree alert was not required to ensure a safe flight, but authorities have pointed to issues with the angle-of-attack sensors on the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines planes as factors in the tragic crashes. Some airlines, meanwhile, say they were not warned about issues with the disagree alert until after the Lion Air crash. A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines said they were under the impression the disagree alert was operable on all aircraft, until Boeing notified them it had not been activated on their planes.
Boeing Shareholder Meeting Tense for Executives | Apr. 29, 2019
Boeing held its first annual shareholders’ meeting since the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes, facing some tense moments with shareholders at the Chicago meeting on Apr. 29, 2019. The aircraft maker’s stock lost approximately 10 percent of its value, and its earnings dropped 21 percent in the first quarter of the year.
The annual meeting started with a moment of silence for the 346 people who died in the two crashes. Outside the meeting, protesters gathered with signs calling out Boeing for its role in the tragedies, which many believe included making airlines pay extra for an alert regarding conflicts in data from the two angle-of-attack sensors. One shareholder accused Boeing of rushing the 737 MAX into production, jeopardizing passengers’ lives.
737 MAX Grounding Cost Boeing $1 Billion | Apr. 26, 2019
The grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft has cost Boeing around $1 billion so far, with no word yet on when the MAX planes will be certified as safe to fly again. Boeing has been working on an update to its automated flight systems to counter the issues investigators say were factors in both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes, but the company has not said when the process of certifying the updates will be complete. The longer the planes are grounded, the greater the impact the grounding will have, with some estimates putting Boeing’s total losses at $10 billion by the time the process is done.
Experts believe pilot approval may determine how comfortable passengers will be with getting back on the MAX planes following the two tragedies. Pilots may also play a key role in how airlines and officials view the planes and how quickly the planes will receive certification.
It is our opinion that the public’s confidence will be significantly strengthened if pilots are given simulator training in the use of the updated MCAS system, and the public is made aware of that training.
Still No Word on When MAX 737 Update will be Approved | Apr. 25, 2019
Despite having initially indicated it would submit its 737 MAX software updates to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in early April, Boeing still has not filed for final approval. The aircraft maker says it has completed more than 230 flight hours on 737 MAX planes using the new software updates, and the next step is to have the FAA prepare a certification flight.
The FAA must approve the update before Boeing’s 737 MAX planes are cleared to fly again, though FAA approval does not necessarily mean regulators in other countries will follow suit. The FAA was among the last regulators to ground the Boeing aircraft and other countries may implement their own processes for approving the upgrade and requiring pilot training. Neither Boeing nor the FAA has committed to any timeline for removing the grounding.
Boeing Profits Plummet Following Crashes | Apr. 24, 2019
Boeing released its first-quarter report for 2019, showing that the company’s core profits dropped 21 percent over the same quarter in 2018. The aircraft maker has not received any new orders for its 737 MAX aircraft following two fatal crashes that killed almost 350 people. Some airlines reportedly attempted to cancel existing orders.
After the crashes, Boeing 737 MAX planes around the world were grounded, and the company said it would decrease the MAX’s production by 10 planes a month.
FAA Announces International Review Panel for Boeing 737 MAX | Apr. 23, 2019
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a joint international review panel, which will review how the Boeing 737 MAX’s automated flight control system received its certification. The panel—called the Joint Authorities Technical Review (JATR)—includes officials from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Singapore, the UAE, and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), in addition to American investigators.
Former National Transportation Safety Board chairman Christopher Hart chairs the JATR. Prior to the Boeing 737 MAX tragedies, the FAA typically conducted such investigations under its authority, but international officials expressed concern about how the 737 MAX was certified and about the lack of pilot retraining for the new automated flight system.
The JATR’s investigation is expected to take approximately three months.
Report Details Unsafe Practices at Boeing Factory | Apr. 22, 2019
A new report details unsafe practices at a Boeing factory in South Carolina that could have an impact on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. According to the report, employees who worked at the Boeing plant in North Charleston, South Carolina, told journalists from The New York Times that shortcuts were taken on the assembly line to in order to produce the Dreamliner planes quickly.
Among concerns employees raised were loose metal debris left near flight control wires, which could cause damage to the flight controls; tubes of sealant left on planes; and a string of lights left in a plane’s tail. At least one employee said he would not fly on a Boeing Dreamliner.
Unlike the Boeing 737 MAX, the Dreamliner so far has maintained an excellent safety record.
Boeing Tests Software Update on 737 MAX | Apr. 18, 2019
Boeing announced that it has conducted an engineering test flight using its 737 MAX software update. The update is designed to address flaws in the aircraft’s automated flight system, which are believed to have caused both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes. According to a video released by Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, test pilots have conducted 120 flights adding up to more than 200 hours in the air using the updated software.
The engineering test flights conducted by Boeing are the first step to having the planes certified as safe. Until that happens, hundreds of 737 MAX aircraft around the world remain grounded. The software update must now undergo a certification flight controlled by FAA pilots who will check that the update meets all federal safety requirements.
Boeing’s software update has been in the works since the Lion Air crash in October, although the company said nothing publicly about the update until after the Ethiopian Airlines crash. The update is designed to stop the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System from reacting to incorrect data from the angle-of-attack sensors and to give pilots more control over their aircraft.
Boeing 737 MAX Update “Operationally Suitable” | Apr. 17, 2019
A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) review board deemed Boeing’s software update for its 737 MAX planes “operationally suitable,” clearing one hurdle to allowing the aircraft to get back in the air. The software update is designed to prevent faulty angle-of-attack sensor data from triggering the aircraft’s anti-stall system, which is believed to have caused both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes.
In reviewing the software upgrade, the FAA’s Flight Standardization Board said pilots would need additional training for the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), but that the training does not need to be done in a simulator.
It may be more than three months before the grounded MAX aircraft are permitted to fly, as experts say the process to get the planes back in the air will take at least that long.
Boeing has indicated that it will equip all 737 Max airplanes with an angle of attack (AoA) indicator that will take information from both AoA sensors, and an angle of attack disagree indicator on all future sales of this airplane, both of which enhance flight safety. It has not yet been publicly disclosed whether it will retroactively equip the entire fleet with those indicators.
Downed Planes Lacked Safety Features | Apr. 16, 2019
With much of the attention surrounding the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes focused on the 737 MAX’s automatic anti-stall system, reports suggest that Boeing developed safety features that might have helped the pilots in both crashes understand what was going wrong, but those features were optional upgrades and not standard on the aircraft.
The safety features concern the plane’s angle of attack sensors, which help the automated flying system determine if the plane is at risk of a stall. Though the plane has two angle of attack sensors, the 737 MAX relies on information from only one when determining the risk of a stall.
The two safety features would have provided the pilots with vital information about the angle-of-attack sensors. The first upgrade displays information from both sensors, which would have shown pilots if the sensors had conflicting readings or if the readings did not match the plane’s actual position—for example, if the reading showed the plane’s nose as being too high even though the plane was relatively level. The second upgrade would have warned pilots by activating a disagree light.
FAA Holds Meeting with Airlines | Apr. 15, 2019
On Fri., Apr. 12, 2019, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) held a meeting with the three American commercial airlines that operate Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to discuss concerns about the plane’s safety problems. Included in the meeting, at which participants discussed the preliminary reports from the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes, were representatives from American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and the airlines’ pilot unions.
On Mar. 13, the FAA grounded all Boeing 737 MAX models temporarily. American Airlines has taken the aircraft off its schedule until at least June. Southwest Airlines recently announced it has removed the 737 MAX until Aug. 5.
Boeing has been working on a software update for the MAX planes and started testing the updates in early April.
Full Preliminary Report Into Ethiopian Airlines Crash Released | Apr. 12, 2019
Officials released the full preliminary report into the Ethiopian Airlines crash, detailing the battle the two pilots had to try to regain control of their aircraft and the perceived role of the plane’s automatic flight control system. The report notes that shortly after the plane left the airport, the angle of attack sensor began recording incorrect information and the plane’s “left stick shaker activated and remained active until near the end of the flight.”
The information from sensors on the left side of the plane did not match the information sent from the right side of the plane, and despite following Boeing’s emergency procedures the pilots were not able to maintain control of the airplane. The preliminary report does not place blame for the crash, but simply notes the various conditions that existed when the tragedy occurred. A full, final report will likely not be released for a year.
Angle-of-Attack Sensors on Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft Vulnerable | Apr. 11, 2019
Among the tools that aircraft use to ensure flight safety is the angle-of-attack sensor, which alerts pilots if the plane’s position puts it at risk of an aerodynamic stall, a potentially catastrophic event. On Boeing MAX aircraft those sensors can activate a system which pushes the plane’s nose down rather than simply alerting pilots to the risk of a stall. Even though the plane has two sensors, the Boeing MAX only uses data from one, which increases the risk of a catastrophe if that sensor is damaged.
A new report suggests that angle-of-attack sensors on the whole are prone to damage and failure. There have been at least 140 cases since the early 1990s where the sensors on US planes were damaged, either by being hit by jetways or equipment while on the ground, or birds while in flight. In some cases, damage to the sensors set off alarms or created emergency situations.
Airlines Stop Ordering Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft | Apr. 10, 2019
Following two tragedies involving Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, airlines have stopped ordering the planes. Boeing released its first-quarter report for 2019 and noted that there were no new orders for the 737 MAX in March. Additionally, there was a decline in deliveries of all 737 models compared with the same period last year.
Boeing announced it was slowing production of the 737 MAX as safety updates are still being made. The 737 MAX planes are grounded around the world while safety changes are developed. Initial reports from the Ethiopian Airlines crash indicate that incorrect information from the plane’s angle-of-attack sensor activated the aircraft’s anti-stall system, which pushed the plane’s nose down and ultimately caused the crash.
Preliminary Report Highlights Dangerous 737 MAX Design Flaws | Apr. 9, 2019
The release of the 33-page preliminary report into the Ethiopian Airlines crash includes partial transcripts from the voice recorder in the cockpit and data from the flight recorder. Although the preliminary report does not place blame for the crash—a full investigation and report will take about a year—it does highlight issues with the plane’s design, which may have resulted in the tragedy.
According to the report, issues with the plane’s angle-of-attack sensor on the plane’s left side began as the plane’s main gear left the runway, but the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) did not activate immediately because it is not designed to activate while the plane is in takeoff mode. After the plane’s flaps were raised, the MCAS kicked in and the plane began to sink. The pilots turned off the electrical trim system and then turned it back on, hoping it would stabilize the plane. The MCAS should only have activated at a low speed but kicked in with the plane at full speed.
As the pilots fought to regain control of the plane, the aircraft crashed into the ground at nearly 700 miles per hour, killing everyone on board instantly.
Boeing Acknowledges Error in Sensor | Apr. 8, 2019
In a statement following the release of the preliminary report into the Ethiopian Airlines crash, Boeing’s CEO acknowledged the role the angle-of-attack sensor may have played in the tragedy. Though he noted that the final reports will contain the full details—and those will likely not be released for months—Dennis Muilenburg said the Boeing 737 MAX 8’s automatic flight control system likely played a role in both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes.
“…it’s apparent that in both flights the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, known as MCAS, activated in response to erroneous angle of attack information,” Muilenburg said. He later noted that it is up to Boeing to prevent the chain of events that leads to a plane crash.
Ethiopian Airlines Pilots Followed Boeing Procedures | Apr. 5, 2019
The preliminary report from the Ethiopian Airlines crash suggests the pilots followed Boeing’s emergency crash procedures but still could not regain control of their Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, contradicting Boeing’s claims that pilots did not follow proper emergency procedures. According to the report, the pilots shut off power to the system that pushed the plane’s nose down, then tried to correct the plane’s trajectory, as per emergency instructions.
Despite following the emergency procedures, the pilots were unable to regain control of the plane. It crashed only six minutes after take-off, four minutes after the anti-stall system activated. The report suggests that Boeing’s checklist might not have been appropriate when the plane was traveling at high speeds, and the pilots might have reactivated the automated system in a final attempt to gain control of the plane.
Whistleblowers Accuse FAA of Lax Safety Training | Apr. 5, 2019
Multiple whistleblowers have provided information to the Senate Commerce Committee indicating that some Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety inspectors, including some involved in the Boeing 737 MAX certification, were not properly trained. The whistleblowers alleged that improperly trained personnel may also have helped determine that no additional pilot training was required for Boeing’s new aircraft.
The Transportation Department is now investigating how the FAA certifies new planes as safe, and the Justice Department has launched a criminal probe into the matter.
Ethiopian Airlines Crash Preliminary Report Released | Apr. 4, 2019
News outlets obtained the preliminary report regarding the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and although the report does not place any blame for the tragedy, the findings are similar to those of the Lion Air Flight 610 crash and suggest faulty information from an angle-of-attack sensor triggered the catastrophe.
The preliminary report notes the pilots fought the anti-stall system for almost the entire six-minute flight while the automated system pushed the plane’s nose down four times, beginning almost immediately after the aircraft took off. The flight crew turned the plane back to Addis Ababa, but the system pushed the plane’s nose down a final time, and the pilots were not able to recover.
Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said the airline had “always been confident” of its pilots. In the US, Captain Jason Goldberg, a representative of the American Pilots Association, said the initial findings confirmed that an MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System anti-stall software) malfunction is “a serious emergency and not a benign event.”
A full report is not expected for a year.
Anti-Stall System Repeatedly Engaged Before Crash | Apr. 3, 2019
Sources familiar with the investigation into the Ethiopian Airlines crash revealed the Boeing 737 MAX 8’s anti-stall software re-engaged four times after the pilots shut it off and may have re-activated without human input. Investigators are now reportedly looking into whether the software could have activated itself without the crew doing so and what circumstances would have made such a situation possible.
The anti-stall software is thought to have initially activated by pushing the airplane into a dive due to false information from an angle-of-attack sensor that indicated the plane’s nose was too high and the aircraft was at risk of a stall. The investigation into the crash suggests the pilots followed the emergency checklist procedure and disabled the anti-stall system about four times, but that system then re-engaged each time before the aircraft fatally nosedived.
Boeing Faces First Lawsuit Following Ethiopian Airlines Crash | Apr. 2, 2019
Boeing now faces its first lawsuit following the Ethiopian Airlines crash, though more will almost certainly follow. The lawsuit was filed in Chicago federal court in late March by the family of Rwandan citizen Jackson Musoni, a U.N. worker who died in the crash. In the wrongful death lawsuit, the family alleges Boeing defectively designed the automated flight control system on its 737 MAX aircraft.
Early reports indicate the plane’s anti-stall system incorrectly activated and repeatedly pushed the aircraft’s nose down even as pilots fought to regain control. Officials believe this same situation also caused the Lion Air crash in Oct. 2019. Boeing has reportedly developed a software update to prevent this situation from recurring, but its fleet of 737 MAX aircraft remains grounded.
Officials From US, Ethiopia Clash Over Investigation | Apr. 1, 2019
Officials from the United States and Ethiopia are reportedly at odds over the investigation into the Ethiopian Airlines crash, with complaints from each side about how the other is managing the process. While US investigators reportedly aired concerns that Ethiopian officials have been slow in sharing information from the black box recorders, Ethiopian officials expressed discomfort with what they see as US attempts to control information in the preliminary crash report. Furthermore, sources told The Wall Street Journal that investigators in Ethiopia have concerns that Boeing has attempted to influence the report and has pushed for it to be released quickly.
A preliminary report is expected any day. Early information released from the Ethiopian Airlines crash investigation indicates the Boeing 737 MAX 8’s anti-stall system incorrectly activated while the plane was gaining altitude after takeoff. This is similar to the circumstances surrounding the Oct. 2018 Lion Air crash.
Preliminary Report Links Ethiopian Airlines, Lion Air Crashes | Mar. 29, 2019
Investigators released their preliminary findings regarding the Ethiopian Airlines crash based on the information contained on the Boeing 737 MAX’s black box. At a high-level briefing, FAA officials said that the same system that was linked to the Lion Air crash—the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS)—was also linked to the Ethiopian Airlines crash. This was based on information provided to the FAA by Ethiopian investigators.
In both crashes, the MCAS was activated shortly after take-off and attempted to push the plane’s nose down, even as pilots struggled to correct the aircraft’s trajectory.
According to information from FAA acting administrator Daniel Ewell, there were no flight tests of the 737 MAX prior to certification. This was based on a review of the software in a simulator, which indicated no additional training was necessary to fly the 737 MAX if pilots were already 737-rated.
A full investigation will not be finished for months, and investigators have not reached a final conclusion on what caused the crash.
European Officials Sounded Alarm Over MCAS in 2016 | Mar. 29, 2019
Reports indicate officials in both the US and Europe apparently had information in 2016 that the typical means of gaining control of a Boeing 737 MAX might not work in all situations, including conditions similar to the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes. Such circumstances reportedly involved speeds greater than 265 miles per hour with the flaps retracted, which could require the pilot to use the manual trim wheel in the console instead of the electric thumb switch.
Furthermore, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) was reportedly worried about the Boeing 737 MAX trim control system in 2016, highlighting concerns that the system could be confusing to pilots.
Information about the circumstances under which the manual wheel would be needed was not included in the aircraft’s flight manual. EASA still certified the plane, noting that additional training would explain the changes pilots would have to make and that the circumstances that could lead to issues were relatively rare.
FAA to Rewrite Airline Safety Oversight Rules | Mar. 28, 2019
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has said it will rewrite its rules governing airline safety following criticisms and concerns about how the agency certified Boeing’s MAX 8 aircraft. Under current rules, manufacturers are allowed to run at least some safety checks on the components they produce, which experts say created a situation in which Boeing was able to downplay or underemphasize some of the risks associated with its new aircraft. The FAA has a program under which employees of the manufacturer actually do the work of the FAA by reviewing and signing off on the FAA’s behalf some safety systems; this is called the FAA’s Organization Designation Authorization, or ODA, program. Some have called into question the wisdom of having a person on the payroll of the manufacturer acting on behalf of the FAA. “The fact is the FAA decided to do safety on the cheap … and put the fox in charge of the henhouse,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
Dan Elwell, acting FAA administrator, is testifying before members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Aviation and Space and is expected to speak about changes to how the FAA regulates aircraft manufacturers. Those changes are reportedly expected by July 2019 and may include developing new criteria for evaluating aircraft components, though specific details have not been released.
The Inspector General’s office is investigating how the 737 MAX was certified, while the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is looking into potential deficiencies in the US certification process.
Boeing 737 MAX 8 Makes Emergency Landing | Mar. 27, 2019
A Boeing 737 MAX 8, part of a fleet that has been grounded since shortly after the Ethiopian Airlines crash, made an emergency landing in Florida on Tuesday, Mar. 26, 2019. The aircraft, which was not carrying any passengers, was headed from Orlando International Airport to California for storage while the planes are grounded.
At approximately 3:00 pm, the pilots of Southwest Airlines Flight 8701 reported an engine issue and returned to the Orlando airport. Officials have not said if the emergency landing is related to the problems that are thought to have brought down the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air planes; investigations are focused on those aircrafts’ anti-stall systems.
The plane that made the emergency landing is now being moved to a maintenance facility in Orlando where it will be looked over. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating the circumstances surrounding the emergency landing.
Boeing Unveils Software Fix for 737 MAX Aircraft | Mar. 27, 2019
Boeing has announced a software update and additional training procedures for its 737 MAX aircraft, following the tragic crashes of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines planes. Most of the software revisions involve the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). They include requiring input from both angle-of-attack sensors and not activating the MCAS if the two sensors have readings that differ by 5.5 degrees or more when the flaps are retracted.
Although the 737 MAX aircraft have two angle-of-attack sensors, the MCAS relied on information from only one sensor. Even if that sensor was faulty or provided inaccurate data, the MCAS still activated if data from the sensor indicated the potential for a stall.
Additionally, pilots will be provided with training to ensure that they are comfortable with the 737 MAX system and the software changes. Crew will also be made aware of differences between the 737NG—the previous version of the 737—and the 737 MAX.
Noting that the company is committed to restoring faith in the industry, Mike Sinnett, Boeing’s vice president of product strategy and development, said Boeing is working to ensure similar accidents do not happen again.
Lion Air Pilots Pressed Same Switch Repeatedly Before Crash | Mar. 26, 2019
While investigators looking into the Ethiopian Airlines MAX 8 crash may release a preliminary report in the coming days, sources close to the Lion Air crash investigation have released more information about that disaster. According to the sources, who spoke to The New York Times, the Lion Air pilots repeatedly hit a rebalancing switch that they thought would override the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), not realizing that there were at least three more steps they needed to take to stop the plane from diving.
The sources reportedly told The Times that the pilots took the correct first step by triggering the switch, but then should have pressed two more switches to shut off the motor that pushed the plane’s nose downward, and finally turned a wheel to redirect the plane’s nose.
The full investigation into the Lion Air crash likely will not be complete until August 2019. Preliminary information from the Ethiopian Airlines crash indicates the tragedy occurred under similar circumstances to the Lion Air crash.
MCAS was Likely Active When Ethiopian Airlines MAX 8 Crashed | Mar. 25, 2019
Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, told the Wall Street Journal that he believes the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) antistall software was active on Flight 302 at the time the plane crashed. Although the investigation into the tragedy is ongoing, Gebremariam said that “to the best of our knowledge” the system was in play as the plane took off and then crashed.
He further said Boeing should have been more transparent about its use of the MCAS—including what the MCAS does and does not do—especially following the Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX crash.
So far, officials have only said there are similarities between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air crash. Investigators have said the MCAS was a factor in the Lion Air catastrophe, but no such information has yet been released about the Ethiopian Airlines crash.
FBI Joins Boeing MAX Investigation | Mar. 22, 2019
The FBI has joined the investigation into how officials deemed the Boeing 737 MAX plane as safe in the months before the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes. Investigators are looking into how the aircraft was certified as criticisms about the relationship between Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) continue to grow. The Transportation Department leads the investigation with assistance from the FBI, which will provide resources, a source told USA Today.
A federal grand jury is investigating the matter, also focusing on the certification process.
Canada and Europe, meanwhile, announced they will review revisions Boeing makes to its anti-stall software, breaking from their previous policies of going with the FAA’s assessment. Under an international agreement, if planes are certified as safe in the country they are built, regulators in other countries usually accept that certification with little to no review of their own.
Ethiopian Airlines Pilot Not Trained on Boeing MAX 8 | Mar. 21, 2019
A report from Reuters indicates the captain of the crashed Ethiopian Airlines MAX 8 had not been given time to practice on a MAX 8 simulator before flying the plane. The information comes from an unnamed colleague, who also told Reuters the pilot was scheduled for training at the end of March.
According to the source, Ethiopian Airlines did not receive manuals regarding the anti-stall feature, the MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), while most of the information pilots have received on the system has been through the media.
John Cox, an airline safety consultant, told Reuters that Boeing likely underplayed the differences between the 737 NG and the 737 MAX planes. “The operators didn’t realize the magnitude of the differences,” Cox said.
Reports from Lion Air Crash Indicate Off-Duty Pilot Saved Plane One Day Before Tragedy | Mar. 20, 2019
Early reports from the Indonesian investigation into the previous Lion Air crash indicate that the same Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft that crashed in Oct. 2018 faced an identical situation only the day before and that an extra pilot who was seated in the jump seat prevented disaster. The pilot, who was not part of the flight’s crew, recognized the problem with MCAS and told the flight crew how to respond to prevent a crash.
According to reports, the pilot told the flight crew to cut power to the trim system’s motor, which allowed the plane to continue gaining altitude and make its way to its destination. The crew requested maintenance for the aircraft but did not alert workers about issues with the stall warning.
DOJ Investigating Boeing, FAA MAX Jet Regulation | Mar. 19, 2019
Reports indicate the Department of Justice is investigating how the FAA oversaw Boeing and its development of the 737 MAX. A source told The Associated Press that a federal grand jury sent a subpoena on March 11 to an individual involved in development the plane, and that subpoena concerns emails and other communications linked to the 737 MAX.
The inspector general of the Transportation Department is also investigating how the FAA approved Boeing’s plane. Neither the Justice Department nor the Inspector General would speak about any potential investigations.
A preliminary report from the recent Ethiopian Airlines MAX 8 crash is expected within 30 days from the Ethiopian Accident Investigation Bureau.
FAA Boeing 737 MAX Safety Analysis Was Flawed | Mar. 19, 2019
A report from The Seattle Times indicates that the FAA’s safety analysis of the 737 MAX was deeply flawed, including understating the power of the MCAS flight control system, not accounting for the system resetting itself each time the pilot responded, and assessed a failure of the MCAS as only hazardous, not catastrophic. Additionally, the report argues that FAA managers pushed to allow Boeing to conduct its own safety assessments and to provide quick results.
Boeing’s engineers developed a safety analysis for MCAS, and that safety analysis concluded MCAS met FAA regulations. Meanwhile, FAA experts said the agency’s managers pushed them to speed up their analysis of other critical assessments, including giving Boeing additional responsibilities in analyzing its plane.
Boeing decided against notifying its customers about the MCAS system, and had denied it required any specific pilot training.
Preliminary Information from Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Recorder Released | March 18, 2019
Preliminary information from the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 data recorder indicates the March 10 crash has “clear similarities” with the Lion Air crash in Indonesia. Reports indicate that the jack screws that operate the trim tabs of the elevator of both airplanes were found to be in the full nose down position.
Ethiopia’s transport minister noted that the flight recorders were in good condition and analysts were able to obtain almost all data they contained. The flight data recorder and the voice recorder are now both in France where they are being analyzed.
According to transport minister Dagmawit Moges, detailed findings on the Ethiopian plane crash should be released within the month. Speculation has been raised that issues with sensors and software on the Boeing 737 MAX played a role in both crashes.
Black Box Analysis Begins | Mar. 15, 2019
The black box recorders from the doomed Ethiopian Airlines MAX 8 aircraft are now in Paris and are being reviewed by experts in France. The recorders are expected to contain information such as readings from the plane’s sensors and pilot voice communications. Investigators on the scene have reportedly found the plane’s jackscrew, which sets the trim to raise and lower the nose. According to sources, the trim was in a position similar to that in the Lion Air crash, which would have pushed the plane’s nose down.
Pilot communications with air traffic control are also coming to light, with Captain Yared Getachew, in a panicked tone, requesting permission to return to the airport.
FAA Suggests Link Between Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air Crashes | March 14, 2019
Following its order to ground all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that satellite data from the Ethiopian Airlines crash suggested it was linked to the Lion Air crash. When the FAA announced it was grounding the aircraft, it cited similarities between the crashes that “warrant further investigation of the possibility of a shared cause for the two incidents that needs to be better understood and addressed.”
Early reports indicate both planes had difficulty gaining altitude with a vertical speed that was not stable before they each crashed within 15 minutes of takeoff. In both cases, the pilots radioed air traffic control to report issues with the plane and request to return to the airport. Acting FAA Director Dan Ewell noted in an interview with NPR that evidence from the crash site further suggested similarities between the crashes. The FAA and NTSB are assisting in the investigation.
US Grounds Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 Planes | March 13, 2019
On Mar. 13, 2019, the US announced it was grounding all Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 planes, effective immediately. The move follows similar decisions by other countries, including Canada, to ground their MAX 8 fleets after finding similarities between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air crash. The US was the last primary MAX 8 user to ground the planes, after Canada announced that no Boeing 737 MAX planes would be permitted to arrive in, depart from or use Canadian airspace.
The move covers both the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 aircraft and affects American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines.
34 Airlines Suspend Use of Boeing MAX 8 | March 12, 2019
At least 34 airlines around the world have suspended their use of the Boeing 737 MAX 8, following two crashes in fewer than six months, pushing the total number of idle planes to above 130. The European Union has also suspended any flight operations involving the MAX 8 and a similar model, the Boeing 737 MAX 9, although the US has not. Other countries to ground the aircraft include India, Germany, Australia and China, with the EU saying its suspension would affect all third-country operators who fly into, out of, or through EU territory using the MAX 8.
Although the US has not grounded the MAX 8, industry insiders are speaking out in favor of suspending the aircraft’s use. The president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents American Airlines’ flight attendants, asked the company’s CEO to consider grounding the planes until an investigation was complete. American Airlines has 24 MAX 8 planes, second only behind Southwest Airlines, which has 34 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.
FAA to Issue Notice to MAX 8 Operators | March 11, 2019
The U.S. FAA announced today that it plans to issue an international notification to Boeing 737 MAX 8 operators, noting that it will “take immediate and appropriate action” if the agency identifies a safety issue.
Investigators Find ET302 Black Box | March 11, 2019
Officials recovered two flight data recorders from the downed Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 plane today. The plane’s Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) will be analyzed by investigators in the coming days for clues as to what went wrong before the fatal crash.