As an aftermath to the two deadly crashes, President Donald Trump has ordered that the US would join the league of countries that has issued a ban on flying Boeing 737 Max 8. Let us have a look at series of events.
Ethiopian Airlines Accident
On March 10, 2019, a few minutes after the takeoff, the pilot of flight 302 of Ethiopian Airlines radioed a distress call. This Nairobi, Kenya bound flight that had just departed from the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport was given immediate clearance to return and land. But before the pilot could make it back to the land, the aircraft crashed about 64 kilometers from the airport. 149 passengers and 8 crew members that were on the aircraft lost their lives. The aircraft that was involved in the accident was only four months old.
Lion Air Accident
On October 29, 2018, 13 minutes after takeoff, flight 610 of Lion Air crashed with 189 people aboard. As in the Ethiopian case, here also pilot made a distress call as the aircraft lost control a few minutes after its takeoff from Jakarta, Indonesia. This aircraft had arrived at the airline just three months prior to the crash.
What is special about Boeing 737 Max 8?
The Boeing 737 Max 8 is one of the Boeing’s newest airliners which entered into passenger service on May 22, 2017, with Malindo Air of Malaysia. This aircraft has a range of 3,850 nautical miles and has a seating capacity between 138 and 158, depending on the configuration.
This aircraft is an extended part of the Boeing 737 family which is an aircraft series that has been operational since 1968. The 727 Max series is configured with a bigger and more powerful and efficient CFM LEAP engine, improved aerodynamics and redesigned cabin to make it look more spacious. It consists of four models, of which Max 8 is the most popular. As of Feb. 28, Boeing has delivered 376 aircraft to more than 50 airlines. Currently, the three largest customers (in order) are of the 737 Max 8 is Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, and Air Canada.
What is the cause of crash?
We have no clue about the official reason and we won’t be having for a long time. This is because the investigations of the crash are tremendously complex. Usually, it takes months to collect evidence and reach to the probable cause. This is the reason that though an investigation team reached the crash spot in Jakarta hours after the crash, still full report is not due until September. Similar would be the case with for Ethiopian 302.
The current focus of investigations is on?
In Boeing 737 Max 8, there has been a deliberate design change to let it operate even on the smaller airports with limited ground equipment. Unlike its predecessors, the large CFM LEAP engines have been moved slightly forward, under the underwing pylons by the Boeing. Now, we know that if an engine is placed too close to the ground, there is a possibility that the engine would suck debris while the plane is taxiing. Now, because of this position change, the center of gravity of aircraft has changed. Because of which a potential is created that pitches the nose of the aircraft up during the flight. To overcome this action, Boing also designed software called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS. When the sensors on the fuselage detect that the nose is too high, which could eventually cause the aircraft to stall, MCAS would automatically push the nose down. According to the investigators of Lion Air crash, the sensor that is feeding the data to MCAS could have been at fault as the pilots struggled to take control of the aircraft before the crash as it was constantly pitching up and down.
After the Lion Air crash, on November 6, 2018, Boeing issued a safety warning advising 737 Max operators about the potential sensor failure and instructing them how to deactivate MCAS. But two days later, on November 10, the Seattle Times reported that Max 8 pilots were not trained on using MCAS. The reason for this, according to the New York Times is that because Boeing which is backed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) wanted to minimize the cost and time of training and certifying pilots who had already been flying other versions of Boeing 737. Several Max 8 pilots even had complained about this inadequate training, as investigated and reported by the Dallas Morning News.