Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Boeing 737-Max 8 Ethiopian Crash: Boeing, The FAA, And Why Two Boeing 737 Max Planes Crashed

I was in a deep conversation just the other day about the Ethiopian plane, flight ET302, crashed while enroute from Addis Ababa on Sunday morning to Nairobi Kenya.... It should have been a safe flight for the 157 passengers and crew on board, but just 6 minutes into the flight the aircraft lost altitude and crashed into the Ethiopian countryside killing all people on board.....And subsequent reports about this crash has indeed shown that some 18 Canadians on board that ill fated flight were killed in that horrendous crash.....

Everyone has been looking into exactly what happened, and how this crash in Ethiopia comes only 5 months after a similar crash happened back in October involving Lion Air Flight 610, where the same model 737 Max aircraft crashed into the Java Sea killing all 189 passengers and crew on board....

Something is obviously terribly amiss with the nature and design of these Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft, and the focus of the investigations into both of these crashes should focus in on the aircraft designs and possible flaws in the aircraft's electronics... And right now, I do want to present the following article, that comes from the Moon Of Alabama website, at www.moonofalabama.org, that tackles some of the possible flaws in the design of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft, and focuses in on what is called the "Maneuver Characteristics Augmentation System" or "MCAS" for short as being the very possible culprit behind both of these recent crashes.... Here is that article in its entirety, and I do have further thoughts and comments to follow:

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

On Sunday an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed, killing all on board. Five month earlier an Indonesian Lion Air jet crashed near Jakarta. All crew and passengers died. Both airplanes were Boeing 737-8 MAX. Both incidents happened shortly after take off. 
Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are now grounded about everywhere except in the United States. That this move follows only now is sad. After the first crash it was already obvious that the plane is not safe to fly.
The Boeing 737 and the Airbus 320 types are single aisle planes with some 150 seats. Both are bread and butter planes sold by the hundreds with a good profit. In 2010 Airbus decided to offer its A-320 with a New Engine Option (NEO) which uses less fuel. To counter the Airbus move Boeing had to follow up. The 737 would get new wings for a more efficient flight and longer range. The new wings on the 737 MAX required that the engines be placed a bit different than on the older version. That again changed the flight characteristics of the plane by giving it a nose up attitude.
The new flight characteristic of the 737 MAX would have require a retraining of the pilots. But Boeing's marketing people had told their customers all along that the 737 MAX would not require extensive new training. Instead of expensive simulator training for the new type experienced 737 pilots would only have to read some documentation about the changes between the old and the new versions.
To make that viable Boeing's engineers had to use a little trick. They added a 'maneuver characteristics augmentation system' (MCAS) that pitches the nose of the plane down if a sensor detects a too high angle of attack (AoA) that might lead to a stall. That made the flight characteristic of the new 737 version similar to the old one.
But the engineers screwed up.
The 737 MAX has two flight control computers. Each is connected to only one of the two angle of attack sensors. During a flight only one of two computer runs the MCAS control. If it detects a too high angle of attack it trims the horizontal stabilizer down for some 10 seconds. It then waits for 5 seconds and reads the sensor again. If the sensor continues to show a too high angle of attack it again trims the stabilizer to pitch the plane's nose done.
MCSA is independent of the autopilot. It is even active in manual flight. There is a procedure to deactivate it but it takes some time.
One of the angle of attack sensors on the Indonesian flight was faulty. Unfortunately it was the one connected to the computer that ran the MCAS on that flight. Shortly after take off the sensor signaled a too high angle of attack even as the plane was flying in a normal climb. The MCAS engaged and put the planes nose down. The pilots reacted by disabling the autopilot and pulling the control stick back. The MCAS engaged again pitching the plane further down. The pilots again pulled the stick. This happened some 12 times in a row before the plane crashed into the sea.
To implement a security relevant automatism that depends on only one sensor is extremely bad design. To have a flight control automatism engaged even when the pilot flies manually is also a bad choice. But the real criminality was that Boeing hid the feature.
Neither the airlines that bought the planes nor the pilots who flew it were told about MCAS. They did not know that it exists. They were not aware of an automatic system that controlled the stabilizer even when the autopilot was off. They had no idea how it could be deactivated.
Nine days after the Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610 ended in a deadly crash, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive.

The 737 MAX pilots were aghast. The APA pilot union sent a letter to its members:
“This is the first description you, as 737 pilots, have seen. It is not in the AA 737 Flight Manual Part 2, nor is there a description in the Boeing FCOM (flight crew operations manual),” says the letter from the pilots’ union safety committee. “Awareness is the key with all safety issues.”
The Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed went down in a similar flight profile as the Indonesian plane. It is highly likely that MCAS is the cause of both incidents. While the pilots of the Ethiopian plane were aware of the MCAS system they might have had too little time to turn it off. The flight recorders have been recovered and will tell the full story.
Boeing has sold nearly 5,000 of the 737 MAX. So far some 340 have been delivered. Most of these are now grounded. Some family members of people who died on the Indonesian flight are suing Boeing. Others will follow. But Boeing is not the only one who is at fault.
The FAA certifies all new planes and their documentation. I was for some time marginally involved in Airbus certification issues. It is an extremely detailed process that has to be followed by the letter. Hundreds of people are involved. Every tiny screw and even the smallest design details of the hardware and software have to be documented and certified.
How or why did the FAA agree to accept the 737 MAX with the badly designed MCAS? How could the FAA allow that MCAS was left out of the documentation? What steps were taken after the Indonesian flight crashed into the sea?
Up to now the FAA was a highly regarded certification agency. Other countries followed its judgment and accepted the certifications the FAA issued. That most of the world now grounded the 737 MAX while it still flies in the States is a sign that this view is changing. The FAA's certifications of Boeing airplanes are now in doubt.
Today Boeing's share price dropped some 7.5%. I doubt that it is enough to reflect the liability issues at hand. Every airline that now had to ground its planes will ask for compensation. More than 300 people died and their families deserve redress. Orders for 737 MAX will be canceled as passengers will avoid that type. 
Boeing will fix the MCAS problem by using more sensors or by otherwise changing the procedures. But the bigger issue for the U.S. aircraft industry might be the damage done to the FAA's reputation. If the FAA is internationally no longer trusted the industry will suffer too. It will have to run future certifications through a jungle of foreign agencies.
Congress should take up the FAA issue and ask why it failed.
Posted by b on March 12, 2019 at 04:39 PM | Permalink

NTS Notes: My background may be in Science, but I also have a strong understanding of Engineering as well.... And from what I have seen in this report, I would say that the author is absolutely onto something that may indeed be a critical flaw in these aircraft's design....

What I have found astonishing is how since the Ethiopian crash that ALL of these 737 Max aircraft flying in both the US and Canada are still flying at this moment, which I do find astonishing and perilous to passengers and crews on these flights here in North America!

I also find it astonishing that Boeing itself has still not come forward and requested a grounding of all of these aircraft immediately until the possible design flaws are investigated and sorted out.... But this is a situation where Boeing is still producing these aircraft by the thousands and as a corporation all they care about is profits rather than safety.....

The bottom line is this... Something is terribly amiss with these aircraft, and that flaw will continue to kill passengers until Boeing and the US Government pull these aircraft from the skies and have them thoroughly examined for both design flaws and flaws with the aircraft's flight computers....  Boeing should be doing the right thing, and have these aircraft "recalled" if necessary to inspect them immediately to determine if there is indeed a serious design flaw, but again it is profits first over people!

More to come



Cloud said...

Terrifying simulations of these accidents:

LION AIR 737 Crash at Jakarta [Flight JT610]

Ethiopia Plane Crash, Ethiopia Airlines B737 MAX Crashes After Takeoff, Addis Ababa Airport [XP11]

RickB said...

Made in the USA.

greencrow said...

And Canadian NASA astronaut/MP Marc Garnier says they're so safe HE would happily fly in one.

Adrian Chetwynd said...

It's a hoax (again) check the footage (what little there is), do you really think that a plane can penetrate the ground like that? Where are all the seats?
Why are the crisis actors that pretend to cry have no tears? Why do so many crisis actors have great big smiles on their faces?
Another Shanksville style hoax...

B said...

My first though was-where is the plane? The black bin liners being thrown into the back of truck, no stretchers. Unlike this one from Columbia last year. On Board some important people for the UN conference maybe?


Northerntruthseeker said...

OK... Yhere are too many eyewitnesses and proof that this was real, therefore I am dismissing the hoax idea..

However, there definitely was something wrong either mechanically or physically with the aircraft according to witnesses... I therefore have my suspicions that the fault does lie in the computer systems onboard..

Cloud said...

Boeing 737MAX, LionAir Update!! - MCAS?

MAX Chaos - Live answers

Indonesia Lion Air plane underwater �� unseen videos