Boeing 737 MAX (Would you Fly?)

Image result for 737 max southwest

Boeing’s 737 is by a wide margin the most popular commercial plane on the planet.  The short to medium range plane dates back to the sixties.   The stubby plane uses less fuel than similar aircraft and can carry  from 130 to 190 passengers.    It is the back bone of many discount carriers like Southwest , Europe’s Ryan Air and other airlines.

In 2010, Boeing’s main competitor Airbus ,introduced a new plane that was more efficient than the 737.  For decades American Airlines purchased all there aircraft exclusively from Boeing.  The company broke ranks and  ordered nearly 300 planes from Airbus.  Enter the 737 MAX. 

The Max, were not only more efficient than the 737, it  had a longer range and depending on which variant ,could accommodate up to 240 passengers .

A Hit

From the moment Boeing announced production , the Max was a hit.  Boeing received over five thousand orders with Southwest, Fly Dubai and Lion Air being the largest clients.

The first Boeing 737 Max went into service in May 2017.  After the first years of service, most of the customers where happy with the aircraft efficiency.  Fly Dubai  observed 15% more efficiency with the Max than the737 NG, more than the 14% promised.

 Indonesia,October 29,2018

 620 am ,Lion Air flight 610 departing from Jakarta, Indonesia on route to Pangkal Pinang, Indonesia. As soon as the plane took off, pilots received a warning that the plane was in danger of stalling. Pilots could not ascertain their speed or altitude, and told air-traffic controllers that they were “experiencing a flight control problem.” The nose of the plane seemed like it was being forced downward.  The aircraft crashed into the Java Sea 13 minutes after takeoff  killing 189 people, the plane was two months old.

Indonesia’s Transportation Ministry ordered emergency inspections on all of the 737 Max 8s within the country — all were determined to be airworthy within two days. Within days of the Lion Air crash, the investigation began to focus on the MCAS technology and the pilots’ reaction to the system. Within days of the Lion Air crash, the investigation began to focus on the MCAS technology and the pilots’ reaction to the system. Although Boeing did not call MCAS out by that name, it argued that the Flight Crew Operation Manual described the function, and how to override it.

 Ethiopia,March 10, 2019

8:38am   Ethiopia Airlines flight 305 departing from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on route to  Nairobi, Kenya. Within one minute, the pilots reported a flight-control issue. A minute later, MCAS activated, pitching the nose downward. The pilots struggled to control the plane, but MCAS activated again. The pilots disabled the electrical trim tab system, per protocol, but were unable to manually turn the wheel that would change the trim by hand, partly because they had inadvertently left the engines on full thrust from takeoff.

Six minutes after take off the plane slammed into the the ground killing every one aboard  157.

On March 10, the day of the accident, Ethiopian Airlines grounded the rest of its 737 Max aircraft.

MCAS was again cited as a contributing cause, combined with the fact that pilots could not adjust the stabilizer trim by hand. While there was an electronic system to help turn the trim wheel, that system was disabled by the same switch that disabled MCAS.

The Cause? 

Through the years  Boeing built variations of the 737, each variation retained a great degree of commonality with the original  (called the Classic) .  Rather than having to be certified on  new aircraft . Pilots and ground staff received some supplementary training. Pilots ultimately were only required to take a brief tablet-based course, rather than training in a simulator, like they would for a new plane.

The fact that it was an existing, already certified airframe, which comprise the body and wings of the plane, only with new engines and avionics, it meant that Boeing would not have to undergo the same lengthy certification process it would for an all-new airplane.

Many experts believe Boeing’a desire to reliance on the Commonalty of the planes ultimately resulted in the crash.

The Max was similar to the other 737’s  but different. The engines on the Max were larger, positioned further forward, and higher up on the wing than the engines on the 737NG. That caused the plane to behave differently. For example, it could cause the nose of the plane to pitch upward in some situations, like low-speed flight, or flight with a high angle-of-attack, when the plane is being flown manually.

To compensate for that, Boeing designed automated software called Maneuvering Control Augmentation System (MCAS), which would automatically activate to stabilize the pitch and nudge the aircraft’s nose back down “so that it feels and flies like other 737s.”  With that in place, the Max could share the same type of rating as the 737NG, and pilots could fly the two families of 737 interchangeably.

Boeing did not include training on MCAS in the pilots’ manual, reasoning that the software would work in the background. The manual did include discussion about the trim stabilizer,

The World vs Federal Aviation Administration 

March 11, 2019, the Chinese Government ordered the grounding of the 737 Max, by March 12th every 737 Max in the world was grounded except the United States. The FAA said the plane was airworthy, however that changed on March 13.

From USA Today

A government watchdog agency says some Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors were not fully qualified to certify pilots to fly a variety of aircraft, including the troubled  Boeing 737 Max .

The U.S Office of Special Counsel, acting on a whistleblower complaint, says it found instances of inspectors who had not received all required formal training and were not certified flight instructors. Yet, according to the whistleblower, the inspectors were involved in hundreds of evaluations, known as “check rides,” to certify pilots to fly aircraft ranging from the Gulfstream VII to the 737 Max.

The FAA has denied the finding that its inspectors weren’t qualified, at least when it came to evaluating pilots for the 737 Max. The FAA’s independent Office of Audit and Evaluation found 16 out of 22 safety inspectors had not completed formal training, according to the special counsel’s office. Of those 16, 11 lacked the required flight instructor certificate. The inspectors who lacked full qualifications included the evaluation group in Seattle, where Chicago-based Boeing has long based its factory operations, and those assigned to the 737 Max. 

“The FAA is entrusted with the critically important role of ensuring aircraft safety,” said Special Counsel Henry Kerner in a statement. “The FAA’s failure to ensure safety inspector competency for these aircraft puts the flying public at risk.”

In addition, the office said the FAA issued misleading statements when questions were raised by members of Congress about training of FAA inspectors. On April 4, the FAA told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation that “all of the flight inspectors who participated in the Boeing 737 Max Flight Standardization Board certification activities were fully qualified.” 

Asked for comment about the special counsel’s findings, the FAA repeated its assertion that its Boeing 737 Max inspectors were qualified.

“All of the aviation safety inspectors who participated in the evaluation of the Boeing 737 MAX were fully qualified for those activities,” the FAA said.

8 Billion Dollars 

Boeing Says, they Hope to have the 737 Max  in the skies by the Fourth Quarter of 2019

So far the global grounding of Boeing 737 Max has cost the Airlines Eight Billion Dollars.

The grounding of nearly five hundred planes has effected airlines world wide. More than 15,000 flights were cancelled in June and July in the US alone.   Many routes have been eliminated to accommodate other routes with a greater demand.   American Airlines said they cancelled more than 7800 flights in the second quarter resulting in a $185 million loss in revenue.

Southwest, is single largest customer for the 737 Max in the United States.  The Airline currently has 34 Max’s and is scheduled to receive 40 more by years end..  Southwest has removed the Max from its scheduled through January 2020 and is considering ordering aircraft from other company.

Would you Fly on the 737 Max? 

Airline Analyst Henry Harteveldt say’s 20 percent of US travelers want to avoid the Max jet in the first six months after flights resume.

Last May, Reuters said that U.S travelers on a budget still consider ticket prices the most important factor when choosing a flight.  Note: Only half of American Adults say they are familiar with the two fatal crashes that lead to grounding and 40 percent could identify the aircraft involved.

United and Southwest said they would allow passengers fearful of boarding a MAX to rebook flights for free once the aircraft rejoins their fleets.