#JT610

Boeing 737 MAX-8 piñatas

The loss of life through any accident is tragic. Make no mistake. Yet if aviation authorities (AA) across the world were truly worried about the safety of the Boeing 737 MAX-8 they’d have grounded it after accident #1 when they’d learnt about the faulty AOA sensor issue. They could have issued Boeing with an immediate action to fix it. They didn’t. Just let the FAA do its work and adopted its resolutions. Now it appears they’ve merely followed the followers. It is as if they’ve felt social media pressure to cover their behind so as not be the last AA do so. It’s irrational. Think of it as aviation piñatas. Bashing with a blindfold.

China was the first to ground the plane. The stunt was in part a trade related issue because the FAA airworthiness directive wasn’t just issued inside a cornflakes packet and as the strictest aviation authority should carry weight. The FAA has said the evidence is not broad enough to justify a ban.

Having been a former aerospace analyst, this is the first time in a very long time CM can remember that a virtual global ban was put on any aircraft type. When Qantas flight QF32 (an Airbus A380) had an uncontained engine failure which ruptured the wing tanks and severing hydraulics, the airlines grounded their own planes as a safety measure, not the authorities. Singapore Airlines suspended its A380 flights for one day before resuming operations.

When AA587 crashed in Queens after the tail and engines sheared off, Airbus A300s weren’t summarily grounded. When AF447 crashed into the ocean off Brazil, A330s weren’t grounded as a precaution.

The Boeing 737-400 series had inert fuel tank issues where near empty scenarios could cause the vapor to ignite in the centre tank and lead to a deadly explosion. Several did explode. Some in the air. Some on the tarmac. These planes weren’t grounded. World aviation authorities, like Australia, issued advisories on how to ensure it doesn’t happen. Not knee jerk copy thy neighbor responses.

The list of 787 airworthiness directives (from fire issues, wings, flight controls to landing gear) stands at 52. FIFTY TWO. Sure a 787 has not crashed yet but where have the authorities been trying to ground the type until it has no ailments at all? Do they need a crash to rally into action? Or do they look at the issue on its individual merits? The 737 can fly without this AOA safely, which is why the FAA still allows its operation.

This seems to be follow the pattern of board governance today. Aviation authorities reacting with emotion, not data. Seemingly acting for fear of a twitter backlash rather than applying common sense to a problem and shutting out noise. Are social media trolls experts on aviation matters? Yet another “it’s better to be morally right than factually so” argument it would seem.

Maybe the biggest qualification is whether airlines ground them because passenger refuse to board 737 MAX-8s where they’re allowed to operate. However most passengers don’t look at the “registration plate” affixed to the top of the front left hand door jam as they board to see what type of plane they’re on. They don’t look at the safety placard in the seat pocket. Most certainly don’t pay attention to the cabin attendants during the pre flight safety instruction.

By the way, flight AA293 from Miami to Washington DC is scheduled to land 11 minutes early today. It’s a MAX-8. Passengers in America are prepared to put their faith in the FAA not the whims of social media activism led policy to unnecessarily ban something to appear virtuous.

Boeing 737 MAX-8 – question the pilots not the plane

There is something to be said about the group think behind countries stepping up to ground the 737 MAX-8. Of course safety is of maximum importance. It always is. However had the FAA held the slightest inkling that switching off the Boeing 737 AOA would still cause crashes it would be grounded immediately. The FAA is comfortable that airlines that follow the updated airworthiness directive (AD) will not experience danger. So confident in that decision the AD called for a continuation.

If anything blanket groundings are more a slap in the face of pilots in questioning their skill to fly these planes without all of the gizmos. As a passenger you should question the airlines that ground as a reflection on the level of pilot training and confidence in them during a crisis situation.

It’s a bit like having your parking camera and sensors go on the blink. Is reversing into the car space with your left arm on the passenger seat looking over your shoulder impossible without these aids? No. Do you stop driving your car because you’re afraid you can’t park it? The problem is all of these aids are to a point dumbing down the ability to drive using feel. Perhaps we should demand The NHTSA grounds Tesla for the spate of autopilot accidents ending in death of drivers.

Would Boeing risk such massive corporate negligence by letting the planes still fly if they had the slightest doubt switching off the AOA would cause more crashes? This is not a Ford Pinto moment. It’s a serious flaw to be sure but the plane has got a clean bill of health without autopilot AOA. That’s why the FAA hasn’t grounded it.

Boeing assures customers it has a software upgrade to be released in coming weeks. There are 4,800 orders outstanding. The new Leap X engines are so much more efficient than the CFM-56 variant they replace. The secret sauce in the engines is made by NGS Advanced Fibers (50% owned by Nippon Carbon) in Japan. Airlines want them. Period. Efficiency helps them stay in business.

The Boeing 737 fleet has done around 1 billion flight hours combined. This is a 50 year old plane which has been modernized. Think of it like a Porsche 911. The basic shape is the same. The plane is airworthy. The software is faulty. As passengers we should pray that the pilots have the skills when the systems fail, not fail when the systems let them down.

Boeing 737 MAX-8 – FAA continues airworthiness directive

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a continued airworthiness directive (AD) notification for the Boeing 737 MAX-8 after the crash of flight ET302. Note there have been 15,342 ADs issued by the FAA. 46 have been issued in the last 60 days. While we probably don’t give it much thought when we board a flight, that’s how much scrutiny goes on behind the scenes.

As tragic as the preventable loss of life was, the FAA had issued training procedures on 7 November 2018 to overcome the angle of attack (AOA) problem post the Lion Air flight JT610 MAX-8 accident on 29 October 2018. Many airlines assured the FAA that their crews have been trained to handle the issue in case of malfunction.

Former NTSB member John Goglia noted that while many pilots have learned to fly aircraft with complex electronic aids, those in countries with less developed aviation industries have less experience flying without them.

The FAA views the MAX-8 as a safe aircraft provided the erroneous AOA data is dealt with correctly. Boeing will fix the problem to ensure the product’s reputation. To the FAA, if the AOA couldn’t be disabled then the aircraft would be grounded.

Note Boeing has 4,800 orders outstanding for the MAX type. Around 230 are in service. The aircraft is the most popular selling commercial jet plane worldwide.

It’s not the first time Boeing has had issues with the 737.

In 1991, the first of a series of rudder hard overs caused several crashes until one pilot managed to save his plane which suffered the same fault for investigators to understand the problem and rectify it.

As for air safety, US Census data points to an1 in 205,552 chance of dying in an aircraft vs. 1 in 4,050 dying as a cyclist, 1 in 1,086 risk of drowning and 1 in 102 in a car crash.