Boeing executives said today that they would take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of the company’s 737 MAX airplanes, after Ethiopia’s Civil Aviation Authority issued a preliminary report saying that an Ethiopian Airlines jet was felled last month due to the same sensor problem that caused a fatal crash in Indonesia less than five months earlier.
The Ethiopian crash and last October’s Lion Air crash in Indonesia killed a total of 346 people and led to the worldwide grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX airplanes. Like investigators in Indonesia, the Ethiopian investigators said an automated flight control system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, forced the plane into a catastrophic dive.
Boeing’s software-based MCAS system was added to the 737 MAX as a safeguard against stalling, but in both cases, investigators said a faulty sensor fed bad data into the system. The preliminary report on the Ethiopian crash, issued today, said the pilots tried Boeing’s recommended procedure for overriding the MCAS system but still failed to regain control of the plane.
In one statement, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said it was apparent that the MCAS system added to what is already a high workload environment. “It’s our responsibility to eliminate this risk,” he said. “We own it, and we know how to do it.”
Readings from the recorders recovered from last month’s crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX jet reportedly suggest that the pilots tried using the recommended procedure for overriding a balky automated flight control system — but that the system was re-engaged and forced the plane into its fatal dive.
The reports by The Wall Street Journal and Reuters, based on interviews with unnamed sources who have been briefed on the post-crash investigation’s preliminary findings, raise deeper questions about the safety of the flight control system, known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS.
Were airline pilots adequately trained on a catastrophic scenario involving the automatic flight control system for Boeing’s 737 MAX airplanes? And did the Federal Aviation Administration cede too much of its responsibility to Boeing when the system was certified as safe?
Those are among the key questions that U.S. senators had for federal officials today during a pair of Capitol Hill hearings today.
Meanwhile, Boeing brought about 200 pilots and airline industry officials to Renton, Wash., the base of operations for the company’s 737 program, to learn more about the changes being made in the wake of two fatal MAX crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. October’s Lion Air crash in Indonesia killed all 189 people aboard, while this month’s Ethiopian Airlines crash killed 157.
Two optional safety features that might help pilots head off a scenario that’s at the heart of investigations into two catastrophic crashes of Boeing 737 MAX jets will become available free of charge, The New York Times reported.
The features are an indicator that shows pilots the readings from two sensors that monitor an aerodynamic characteristic known as the angle of attack, and a “disagree light” that flashes when those sensor readings are at odds with each other.
Regulators around the world suspected as much, based on data received via satellite from the plane during its minutes-long flight from Addis Ababa heading for Kenya on March 10. That’s what led them to ground hundreds of 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 planes last week.
The Federal Aviation Administration today ordered the temporary grounding of Boeing’s next-generation 737 MAX jets, due to “new evidence” collected at the site of Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash as well as data transmitted via satellite.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has suspended all flight operations of Boeing 737 MAX jets in EU countries in the wake of March 10’s fatal plane crash in Ethiopia, even though the Federal Aviation Administration insisted the model was airworthy.
EASA said it issued its own airworthiness directive “as a precautionary measure,” and suspended all 737-8 and 737-9 flights into, out of or within the European Union.
The suspension follows this morning’s decision by the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority to suspend operations and ban 737 MAX jets from flying over British airspace until further notice.
In the wake of March 10’s fatal Boeing 737 MAX airplane crash in Ethiopia, President Donald Trump took computer scientists to task today for making airplanes “too complex to fly.” And the computer scientists struck back.