The Boeing 737 MAX plane and its two fatal accidents in less than five months raise the alerts in commercial aviation
On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines flight ET-302, which would route between Addis Ababa and Nairobi, Kenya, crashed six minutes after taking off, carrying 149 passengers, of 35 nationalities, and eight crew members. . Unfortunately there were no survivors. In addition to the accident, there is a factor that right now is lighting the alerts in the world of commercial aviation: it is an airplane Boeing 737 MAX 8, the same model that crashed in October 2018 just 13 minutes after taking off.
The 737 MAX is a new aircraft, an aircraft that came to replace the famous 737 after some improvements, such as more efficient higher-thrust engines. Boeing claims it has 4,754 orders from airlines and companies around the world, making this aircraft the fastest-selling aircraft in Boeing history. The tricky thing about this is that this plane has two fatal accidents, of apparently similar causes in less than five months, and to this day it is still not possible to determine what happened or is happening.
Boeing in the eye of the hurricane
On October 29, 2018, Lion Air flight JT-610, also with a 737 MAX 8 aircraft, crashed approximately 13 minutes after taking off from Jakarta, Indonesia. In this accident, all 189 people on board lost their lives. Between the two accidents, the Ethiopian Airlines and the Lion Air, there are several similarities, for example, that the failure was recorded minutes after takeoff and in both cases the captain reported that they had difficultiesIn both cases, permission was requested to return to the airport and seconds later contact with the crew was lost.
In the case of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, the captain had been with the airline for nine years with more than 8,000 flight hours, while the 737 MAX had only four months of service. Regarding the Lion Air flight, the aircraft was only two months old and the pilot had six years of experience with the company with more than 6,000 flight hours.
Without being clear about what would have caused the accidents, preliminary investigations point to new anti-stall system, since in both cases the pilots tried to correct the automatic descent of the plane, which in the end would have caused the aircraft to go into a nosedive. This, apparently, was due to erroneous data in the sensors of the nose of the airplane.
After the Lion Air accident, the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States (FAA) issued an emergency communication to the airlines to update the flight manuals, where information had to be added on what to do when the anti-loss system of the aircraft is activated by erroneous data, which can cause the aircraft to point its nose down. On the other hand, Boeing asked the airlines to review the checklist to stabilize the aircraft.
Updated Statement on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302: https://t.co/0jyiFuGHIE pic.twitter.com/Unl92SYykI
– Boeing Airplanes (@BoeingAirplanes) March 10, 2019
So far, Boeing has only confirmed that they are working with authorities to investigate the cause of the new accident, but there are still no changes to flight procedures and there is no general call to ground the 737 MAX while the investigation continues. Given this, the company is being hit hard with a fall in its shares that fell to almost 12% of its valuation.
Today they reported that the two flight data recorders (FDR) and cockpit voice recorders (CVR) have been recovered of the Ethiopian Airlines plane. Although the first reports indicate that “they were partially damaged”, the airline trusts that they could be useful for the investigation. The ‘FDR’ is one of the two “black boxes” of the airplanes, which is in charge of registering the state of all the electronic and mechanical systems of the plane. While the other recorder, the ‘CVR’, stores the voice and all the sounds that occur in the cockpit.
Accident Bulletin no. 6
Issued on March 11, 2019 at 01:40 PM Local Time
The Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) and Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) of ET302 have been Recovered.
– Ethiopian Airlines (@flyethiopian) March 11, 2019
19 airlines grounded their 737 MAX fleet
As mentioned, Boeing has not issued an alert to ground the 737 MAXHowever, the same airlines and authorities are the ones who are deciding to suspend operations with these aircraft in which it is determined what happened.
The only authority that requested to land the 737 MAX It was the Civil Aviation Administration of China (AACC), who mentioned that there will be “zero tolerance when it comes to safety risks” and ordered domestic airlines to suspend all commercial operations of the Boeing 737 MAX before 6:00 p.m. the afternoon (local time) of this Monday, March 11.
On the other hand, the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), a Chinese company that oversees government holdings in various industries, reported that its 96 737 MAX aircraft used by national carriers have been immobilized. This affects Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Xiamen Airlines, Shandong Airlines, Lucky Air, Okay Airways, 9 Air, Fuzhou Airlines and Kunming Airlines.
Both the AACC and SASAC mentioned that they will be in contact with the FAA and Boeing to find out when to resume operations of the 737 MAX, this despite the fact that neither Boeing nor the FAA have asked for them to be suspended.
Given all this, Ethiopian Airlines itself reported that they will also ground their 737 MAXs while the cause of the accident is determined. As of today, there are 374 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft operating worldwide, and after this accident 120 aircraft, belonging to 19 airlines, will remain on the ground.
Curiously, no airline on the American or European continent has made the decision to ground their 737 MAXs, with the exception of Cayman Airways based in the Cayman Islands. This is because most are based on FAA certifications.
To give an example, this is what some of the airlines and authorities who decided not to suspend operations of the 737 MAX have declared:
- Aeroméxico (6 aircraft): “For Aeroméxico, safety is the most important thing, so it will always continue to work in that direction and under the highest international standards.”
Update (01:30): Although Aeroméxico had initially said that its Boeing 737 MAXs would continue to operate, the company has just confirmed that they will suspend their operation until there is conclusive information about the Ethiopian Airlines accident.
American Airlines (24 aircraft): “At this time there is no data on the cause of the accident other than news reports. We have full confidence in the aircraft and in our crew members, who are the best and most experienced in the industry. “.
Southwest Airlines (34 aircraft): “We are confident in the safety and airworthiness of our fleet of more than 750 Boeing aircraft.”
Norwegian Air (18 aircraft): “We are in close dialogue with Boeing and follow their instructions and recommendations and those of the aviation authorities. The safety of our passengers is and will always be our top priority.”
UK Civil Aviation Authority: “There are currently five Boeing 737 Max aircraft registered and operating in the UK. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for certifying all Boeing 737 Max models and is the Agency European Aviation Safety (EASA) which validates this certification throughout the EU, including the United Kingdom “.
European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA): “We will immediately post any additional information on our website when the necessary information is available.”
The FAA says the 737 MAX is safe
Update (00:20): The FAA has issued the first statements regarding the Ethiopian Airlines accident.
the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finally came out to offer statements, which come more than 24 hours after the Ethiopian Airlines crash. According to the agency, “Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are still suitable for flight, and they hope to demand design changes by April. “
“External reports are showing similarities between this accident and the Lion Air Flight 610 accident of October 29, 2018. However, this investigation has only just begun and to date we have not been provided with data to draw conclusions or take. measures.”
Although the FAA affirms that the Boeing 737 MAX is safe, they anticipated that they will require improvements in the design of the automated system and onboard signaling by April 2019. Also, the FAA stated that Boeing already plans to update training requirements and manuals along with those changes.
Update (01:50): Aeromexico and Brazil’s Gol confirm that they will suspend the operations of their Boeing 737 MAXs until the results of the accident investigation are given. With this, they become the first two airlines in America to ground their 737 MAXs.
São Paulo, March 11, 2019 – A GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes informs that since the start of operations as a Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, in June 2018, it has performed 2,933 voos, totaling more than 12,700 hours, with total safety and efficiency .
– GOL Linhas Aéreas (@VoeGOLoficial) March 11, 2019
Updated information on the operation of our B 737 MAX 8.
Learn more: https://t.co/mN2yvEbhlS
– Aeroméxico (@Aeromexico) March 12, 2019
Update (02:48): Aerolineas Argentinas also confirms that it suspends the operations of its five Boeing 737 MAXs.
Information on the temporary suspension of operation of our Boeing 737 MAX 8: https://t.co/1ZKIvQA0Zt pic.twitter.com/K9U9P7FcqO
– Aerolineas Argentinas (@Aerolineas_AR) March 12, 2019