dagger

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  1. This version of the story goes into detail about what specific North American airlines had done with Boeing's "options" on this issue https://www.thestar.com/business/2019/03/21/doomed-jets-lacked-2-key-safety-features-that-boeing-sold-as-extras.html Boeing’s optional safety features, in part, could have helped the pilots detect any erroneous readings. One of the optional upgrades, the angle of attack indicator, displays the readings of the two sensors. The other, called a disagree light, is activated if those sensors are at odds with one another. Air Canada said Thursday its grounded Boeing 737 Max aircraft are equipped with both the angle of attack indicators and disagree lights that are used by the aircraft’s software system during flight to avert stalls. Air Canada spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur says the airline purchased the features for its fleet of 24 Max 8 planes. Boeing will soon update the MCAS software, and will also make the disagree light standard on all new 737 Max planes, according to a person familiar with the changes, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they have not been made public. The angle of attack indicator will remain an option that airlines can buy. Neither feature was mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration. All 737 Max jets have been grounded. “They’re critical, and cost almost nothing for the airlines to install,” said Bjorn Fehrm, an analyst at the aviation consultancy Leeham. “Boeing charges for them because it can. But they’re vital for safety.” Earlier this week, Dennis A. Muilenburg, Boeing’s chief executive, said the company was working to make the 737 Max safer. “As part of our standard practice following any accident, we examine our aircraft design and operation, and when appropriate, institute product updates to further improve safety,” he said in a statement. Add-on features can be big money-makers for plane manufacturers. In 2013, around the time Boeing was starting to market its 737 Max 8, an airline would expect to spend about $800,000 to $2 million on various options for such a narrow-body aircraft, according to a report by Jackson Square Aviation, a consultancy in San Francisco. That would be about 5 per cent of the plane’s final price. Boeing charges extra, for example, for a backup fire extinguisher in the cargo hold. Past incidents have shown that a single extinguishing system may not be enough to put out flames that spread rapidly through the plane. Regulators in Japan require airlines there to install backup fire extinguishing systems, but the FAA does not. “There are so many things that should not be optional, and many airlines want the cheapest airplane you can get,” said Mark H. Goodrich, an aviation lawyer and former engineering test pilot. “And Boeing is able to say, ‘Hey, it was available.’” But what Boeing doesn’t say, he added, is that it has become “a great profit center” for the manufacturer. Both Boeing and its airline customers have taken pains to keep these options, and prices, out of the public eye. Airlines frequently redact details of the features they opt to pay for — or exclude — from their filings with financial regulators. Boeing declined to disclose the full menu of safety features it offers as options on the 737 Max, or how much they cost. But one unredacted filing from 2003 for a previous version of the 737 shows that Gol Airlines, a Brazilian carrier, paid $6,700 extra for oxygen masks for its crew, and $11,900 for an advanced weather radar system control panel. Gol did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The three American airlines that bought the 737 Max each took a different approach to outfitting the cockpits. American Airlines, which ordered 100 of the planes and has 24 in its fleet, bought both the angle of attack indicator and the disagree light, the company said. Southwest Airlines, which ordered 280 of the planes and counts 36 in its fleet so far, had already purchased the disagree alert option, and it also installed an angle of attack indicator in a display mounted above the pilots’ heads. After the Lion Air crash, Southwest said it would modify its 737 Max fleet to place the angle of attack indicator on the pilots’ main computer screens. United Airlines, which ordered 137 of the planes and has received 14, did not select the indicators or the disagree light. A United spokesman said the airline does not include the features because its pilots use other data to fly the plane.
  2. This could be a red herring, but a jackscrew is today's focus in the Ethiopian crash https://www.seattletimes.com/business/boeing-aerospace/investigators-find-new-clues-to-potential-cause-of-737-max-crashes-as-faa-details-boeings-fix/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=article_left_1.1 Investigators on the ground near the crash site of the Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX found the plane’s jackscrew, a part that moves the horizontal tail of the aircraft, and it indicates that the tail was in an unusual position, according to an aviation safety consultant briefed on the findings. The consultant, John Cox, chief executive of Safety Operating Systems and formerly the top safety official for the Air Line Pilots Association, said that Boeing’s new flight control system on the MAX — implicated in the preliminary investigation into the earlier crash of a Lion Air jet in Indonesia — is one of several possible systems that could explain the unusual deflection in the horizontal tail, a control surface that swivels to pitch the plane’s nose up or down. .... MCAS is designed to swivel the horizontal tail so as to push the plane’s nose down automatically, without pilot input, if a sensor on the fuselage indicates the nose relative to the air flow is at too high an angle — the Angle of Attack (AOA).
  3. https://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2019/03/dont-ground-the-airplanes-ground-the-pilots/584941/\ James Fallows in The Atlantic offers some good perspective James Fallows 2:40 PM ‘Don’t Ground the Airplanes. Ground the Pilots.’ An American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 flight Joshua Roberts / Reuters In the days since the horrific Ethiopian Airlines crash, I have received a lot of email from pilots, aircraft engineers, and others with experience in aviation. These have been in response to three previous posts: first here, then here, then most recently here (with quotes from pilots’ observations about the Boeing 737 Max via NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System). While I sift through the other messages, let me start with one from a highly experienced pilot and flight instructor. His name is Wally Magathan, and he has worked as an airline pilot, an Air Force pilot and C-5 Galaxy flight instructor, and an instructor in airline L-1011 flight-simulators. I know him through COPA, the organization of pilots and owners of Cirrus’s small single-engine airplanes. With Magathan’s permission, I quote a post from him, offering a professional’s view of risk-management after these two Boeing 737 Max tragedies. (For brief background, and as a reminder: the Boeing 737 Max has different handling characteristics from previous 737 models, because its engines are in a different place on the wings. This new engine placement increased the tendency of the plane to “pitch up”—that is, to point its nose upward, in a way that could increase the risk of aerodynamic stall. The MCAS system was added to offset this tendency, when detected and when the plane was being hand-flown, by automatically pointing the nose back down. The main hypothesis about last fall’s Lion Air crash, in Indonesia, is that this MCAS system went out of control, because of a failed sensor reading, and pushed the nose down, down, down, until the plane plunged into the sea. The main question after that crash was whether the Lion Air pilots had been appropriately informed about how MCAS worked, and trained on how to turn it off. No one yet is sure whether the same problem was part of the recent Ethiopian Airlines crash.) Magathan says this about training, design flaws, and who should be grounded, when: Obviously (as I know from the inbox) other pilots and engineers have a range of views. But I thought this was a particularly lucid description of the relationship between technology and training, and about the difference between views from inside the industry and reactions from outside.Please read on for another message from another airline pilot, which has just come in I have heard from a person who now flies 737s as a captain for a major U.S. airline, and who has worked over the decades as a crash investigator on projects for NASA, the FAA, and the Air Lines Pilots Association. In those roles, he says, he has “read and analyzed thousands of ASRS reports.” He has a cautionary note about current coverage of the 737 Max. He begins by referring to some of the ASRS reports I was quoting, including one that is harshly critical of Boeing (and that has been cited in many newspaper reports). This pilot writes: Thanks to these two pilots. More to come.
  4. Canada used ADS-B data in making its grounding decision? https://twitter.com/WandrMe/status/1105879036851568641 While Garneau did not name the data supplier PaxEx.Aero confirms that the new information was provided by space-based aircraft tracking service Aireon. The Aireon solution rides along on the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation, collecting data from ADS-B out transmitters across the globe. Aireon CEO Don Thoma notes that the company is tracking thousands of aircraft at any time, even as the solution is not yet fully live. The final satellites launched just two months ago and are in the final stages of payload testing. Still, the company collects billions of data points monthly and can quickly respond to requests for such data following incidents such as the ET302 incident. Transport Canada requested the data from Aireon late Tuesday and it was delivered overnight, allowing for the review this morning and the decision that followed. Thoma was clear that his company provides the data and that interpretation of that data is up to the individual regulatory agencies.
  5. I'm sure litigators will delve into correspondence we have no access to, such as when did Boeing become aware of certain deficiencies, and did it respond adequately in a timely fashion. There is a practical matter for Boeing - if your customers believe they are entitled to compensation, you can fight them, and alienate them in the process, or make arrangements with them to keep them happy, whether that is cash payments, discounts on other aircraft, deferrals of deliveries on planes not yet in production, etc.
  6. Final shoe of this phase drops: US now will ground the MAX
  7. Here's another thing, longer term, to consider about this whole affair: Who picks up the tab? Most airlines, I suspect, plan to stick Boeing with the bill. Will Boeing pay in cash, discounts, deferrals or all of those? https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ethiopia-airplane-norwegian-boeing/norwegian-air-to-seek-compensation-from-boeing-for-max-groundings-idUSKBN1QU0S9 Norwegian Air to seek compensation from Boeing for MAX groundings OSLO (Reuters) - Norwegian Air said on Wednesday it will seek compensation from plane maker Boeing for costs and lost revenue after grounding its fleet of 737 MAX 8 aircraft in the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines crash. “We expect Boeing to take this bill,” Norwegian said in an emailed statement.The Oslo-based airline has 18 ‘MAX’ passenger jets in its 163-aircraft fleet. European regulators on Tuesday grounded the aircraft following Sunday’s crash of a similar plane in Ethiopia, which killed 157 people and was the second crash involving that type of plane since October.Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said on Monday that he was confident in the safety of the 737 MAX in an email to employees, which was seen by Reuters.Industry sources, however, said the planemaker faces big claims after the crash.Norwegian has bet heavily on the ‘MAX’ to become its aircraft of choice for short- and medium-range flights in coming years as the low-cost carrier seeks to boost its fuel efficiency and cut the cost of flying. “What happens next is in the hands of European aviation authorities. But we hope and expect that our MAXes will be airborne soon,” Norwegian Air’s founder and Chief Executive Bjoern Kjos said in a video recording released on social media. “Many have asked questions about how this affects our financial situation. It’s quite obvious that we will not take the cost related to the new aircraft that we have to park temporarily. We will send this bill to those who produce this aircraft,” he added. Idle planes will add to pressures on the airline, which is making losses amid intense competition at a time when several smaller European competitors have gone out of business. The carrier has raised 3 billion Norwegian crowns ($348 million) from shareholders in recent months and said it would cut costs as it tries to regain profitability this year. “If this situation gets solved within the next fortnight, this will not be very serious for Norwegian,” said analyst Preben Rasch-Olsen at brokerage Carnegie, adding that seasonally low demand in March likely leaves spare capacity. “The little extra costs they are incurring, they can probably get that covered by Boeing,” Rasch-Olsen said. “But if this situation continues into the Easter holidays, or May and June, then it is a problem. They (will) need to get in new planes. And then comes the costs.” Europeans tend to book their summer holidays in May, so the grounding may not yet affect bookings for the peak season for the airline industry, the analyst said. Meanwhile, Norwegian was maintaining its order for more aircraft of the same type from Boeing, spokesman Lasse Sandaker-Nielsen said. Norwegian is expected to take delivery of dozens more of the ‘MAX’ in coming years, raising the overall number to more than 70 by year-end 2021, according to recent company announcements. Shares in the airline have now dropped 6.8 percent this week as investors worried about the impact of the Ethiopian crash. They fell by 4.8 percent in early trade on Wednesday but later recovered to trade up 2.7 percent by 1246 GMT. Norwegian canceled some flights on Tuesday, and on Wednesday it canceled at least three dozen departures, its website showed, most of which were due to fly from airports in Oslo, Stockholm and other Nordic cities. Boeing to upgrade software after crash The airline was booking passengers on to other flights and using other types of planes from its fleet to help fill the gaps. In a separate statement, Norwegian said it would deploy one of its larger Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft to operate its daily route from Dublin to Stewart airport north of New York City, replacing the grounded MAX.
  8. The Financial Times has a story I can't access, but the headline says US corporations are pulling business travellers off MAX flights in the US. So even if these planes keep operating, the carriers face operating those flights at a loss (though the money must end up elsewhere in their operations).
  9. The icing on the cake is that the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the MCAS software fix would be ready by now, even implemented, if not for the US government shutdown in January. So Trump is going to be drubbed twice over on this one.
  10. This is a fascinating development - basically, it's pulling Trump right into the crisis, because the Ethiopians are saying, in effect, that they view the FAA and NTSB as compromised. Trump doesn't trust expertise, so everything he says or tweets is viewed as political, and hence transactional and personal. This will make the hole deeper for Boeing, having to prove the plane's safety when the US regulator is view as compromised.
  11. Probably. I do wonder if this would have happened, if the word of US regulators would be so doubted, if almost anyone else - Republican or Democrat - inhabited the White House. This is the president who wanted to nominate his private pilot to head the FAA.
  12. I'd say it won't be obvious to the public either way. A better question: How does Boeing, the FAA, etc, get the planes back in the air? A process has to occur with identifiable markers, to re-establish confidence in the aircraft. Installation of AoA indicators, software upgrade to MCAS, etc. Someone has to lay out the process goals, and the airlines and regulators have to set up the checklist, compliance, etc. At the very least, it uses Lion Air, not Ethiopian, as the interim benchmark because that crash revealed both a hardware and crew inadequacy. And, of course, the process has to accommodate any additional upgrades to hardware, training, manuals, etc that might be revealed from investigating the second accident.
  13. Aviation journalist Dan Reed chips in his view on grounding of MAX - takes a view most here would endorse https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielreed/2019/03/13/to-ground-or-not-to-ground-the-max-8-that-is-the-impatient-andpremature-question/#f0c9dae26b27 To Ground, Or Not To Ground The MAX 8? That Is The (Impatient And Premature) Question American Airlines grounded 14 Boeing 737-800s last week because of problems with the installation of new, larger overhead storage bins in the planes’ cabins. Very few people noticed. Fewer still cared. Yet the nation’s – and the world’s – largest airline won’t ground 24 MAX 8 versions of the 737-800 aircraft now operating in its fleet following the second deadly crash Sunday in Ethiopia of a MAX 8 in less than five months. And now the question of grounding every MAX 8 in the nation – or even in the world – dominates the national discussion. For that matter, neither United, which has around a dozen MAX 8s in its active fleet, nor Southwest, which is flying nearly three-dozen MAX 8s right now is grounding their copies of the latest and largest version yet of the world’s best-selling jet airliner, the 737. Both Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration also are standing behind the MAX 8 (at least they were as of Tuesday afternoon), refusing to bow to the growing pressure from around the globe to put the global MAX 8 fleet on the ground. Some – but not all - individual airlines and/or aviation regulators and safety authorities around the world already have issued grounding orders for the MAX 8. So what gives? Why won’t U.S. carriers, Boeing and the FAA follow the crowd, if for no other reason than, as they say, “out of an abundance of caution?” Yes, grounding all the MAX 8s, even if only for a few days, would create travel problems for thousands of travelers a day, and cost carriers millions of dollars a day in foregone revenue – plus lost face and marketing momentum for Boeing. But the MAX 8 has been in service for only 22 months. There are only a little over 100 in service around the world so far – and just 72 operating in this nation. So grounding them now would be a lot less costly than it would be in a few more years when 1,000 or more MAX 8s are dominating airline fleets globally. Besides, if everybody and their dog already is talking about the MAX 8’s reliability and safety performance, how could a brief grounding and safety check do any more harm to Boeing’s reputation that what’s already being done to it Those are all valid questions. And lots supposed “experts” - ranging from authentic technical aircraft design/operational/experts to “No, but I played one on TV” kind of experts (i.e., frequent fliers, people holding private pilots licenses, respected aviation journalists and, especially, politicians and the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.) have weighed in on the “to ground, or not to ground” question. And so far the only result is widespread confusion and wild illogic. That’s because what’s both known and unknown about the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 gives us very little from which either real experts or the armchair variety can make valid decisions. So let’s try to think our way through the issues together in order to arrive – hopefully – at some sort of consensus decision: How similar is the crash of Ethiopian 302 to the crash of Lion Air 610 on Oct. 29 in the Java Sea? Yes, it is eerily similar that both planes were the same type, happened within 10 minutes of takeoff, and exhibited somewhat (but not entirely) similar flight behaviors just prior to crashing. But there remains a ton of information we don’t yet know because investigators don’t yet have a readout and analysis of the two black boxes (the flight data recorder which captures several dozen aircraft systems data streams, and the cockpit voice recorder, which captures the pilots conversations plus all the alarms, bells, switch clicks and other noises in the cockpit during the harrowing event). Foreign investigators examine wreckage at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia. (Mulugeta Ayene/Associated Press) In historical terms, even in crashes involving similar aircraft and technical problems there always are key differences in both the actual flow of events and in the peripheral considerations including training, pilot experience, weather conditions, maintenance prior to the flights and more. Certainly the similarities need to be understood quite well. But so do the dissimilarities, of which inevitably there will be very many. To what degree is public angst and lack of understanding - and political pressure - playing a role in the debate over whether to ground or not ground the MAX 8? Putting some sort of number on that is impossible, but obviously public angst and politicians’ instincts to “do something” even before they understand the situation well enough to make an informed decision are playing a huge role in the current debate. So does culture. China, for example, has a well-earned reputation for conservative response to situations that hold the potential for cause politicians to “lose face,” as certainly would happen should a Chinese airline suffer a MAX 8 crash any time soon. So it’s not surprising that China would be the first country other than Ethiopia itself to ground MAX 8s. France, too, is reputationally-sensitive, so its grounding of MAX 8s isn’t surprising. Nor is the similar decision Tuesday by the European Union, which to a large degree is French-led on such matters. Smaller countries lacking great technical aviation acumen also are more likely to act quickly to ground planes in such circumstances while they wait for the real experts from larger, more advanced and wealthier nations to sort out the cause of the crashes. Small countries also have little to lose, especially with brand-new aircraft like the MAX 8 that occupy a very slim sliver of their aviation market. But that doesn’t fully explain why the United Kingdom, where the aviation safety environment is both sophisticated and technically quite capable joined in on the MAX 8 grounds very quickly. Then again, Britain’s aviation safety regulation and monitoring institutions are in an odd predicament right now. Much of their expertise and capability in recent years had been transferred to the E.U. But with Brexit scheduled to happen in just over two weeks, aviation safety responsibilities within the U.K. will return to British agencies. So those agencies currently are scrambling to gear up to resume those responsibilities, assuming Brexit happens on schedule. Chances are they’re overwhelmed right now and have neither the staff nor the resources to do their own analysis of the MAX 8 question. Do the real “experts” actually know what they’re talking about, and if so, are they unbiased? The real experts do, in fact, know what they’re doing. That’s why they aren’t talking much about the MAX 8 ground question just yet. They know enough to know that they don’t yet know enough - about the Ethiopian 302 crash’s specifics to support or oppose the grounding of MAX 8s. They simply don’t have enough information to make an informed decision. However, some real aviation safety experts currently argue that in the absence of clear evidence that the MAX 8 is somehow flawed, there is no valid reason to ground it – at least not yet. They reason from the absence of other safety-related issues with the MAX 8 and, especially from the absence of issues with the MAX 8 among airlines from advanced, mature aviation markets like the U.S., Japan and Europe that a grounding is not warranted. Rather, they note that the two MAX 8 crashes in the last five months both involve carriers (one well-regarded but small, Ethiopian, the other not-so-well-regarded and even smaller, Lion Air based in Indonesia) from less sophisticated and/or smaller markets. That, in turn points to potential problems with training and/or maintenance capabilities at such carriers that are highly unlikely to exist with top-tier airlines like the three U.S. operators of MAX 8s. As for the question of experts’ bias, with the possible exception of Boeing experts concerned about their company’s reputation, the real experts largely are unbiased. Essentially they are forensic scientists who will go where the evidence takes them – once they have that evidence in hand and analyzed. But what about the pseudo-experts (including this writer)? Well, the truth is that our “expertise” and $1.69 will buy you a 20 oz. soda at the corner convenience store. We don’t really know. Now, we can make reasonably educated guesses better than most other people. But they’re still guesses as to whether there’s really anything to be concerned about with the MAX 8. Good P.R. and legal practice tells us that it’s better to be safe than sorry. So from those perspectives grounding the MAX 8s makes sense, especially since there are relatively few of them in service so far. But many of us, especially those coming from the world of journalism, should know from experiences covering crime and trials or doing investigative work on many different subjects that while we often start an investigation because similarities between two or more events those events quite often turn out to be loaded with many important differences in facts and contributing factors. Those investigative experiences would argue against grounding the MAX 8s based on the paucity of hard facts known thus far about the crash of Ethiopian 302. Do politicians know what they’re talking about in these cases? In nearly every case, no. Politicians are hair-triggered to “do something” in response to citizens’ expressed concerns. Being accused - even without conviction - of inaction or indifference in the face of a problem that has captured the public’s attention is almost certain political death. So it’s quite predictable that they would call for grounding the MAX 8s in response to citizens’ comments in news stories that they’re worried. Of course, it is theoretically possible for politicians to actually know a little something about the subjects on which they express opinions. But in this case, it just ain’t so. Whether it’s Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein or Republican Senator Mitt Romney addressing the issue, both of who have said publicly they support grounding the MAX 8, there’s no one in elected federal office who knows diddly about aviation safety. There have been over the years a number of members of Congress who are themselves private pilots, and more than a few who flew in the military. But that doesn’t make any of them aviation safety experts or omniscient about the facts of the Ethiopian 302 crash. Several even were astronauts (former Senators John Glenn, Jake Garn, Harrison Schmitt and Bill Nelson, plus Apollo 13 survivor Jack Swigert, who was elected to the Senate from Colorado but died before taking office). Yet even they wouldn’t qualify as real aviation safety experts. Beyond that, President Donald Trump, who once owned his own eponymous airline, exposed his lack of aviation safety expertise on Tuesday when he Tweeted about the “problem” of modern airliners having become too complex for pilots to fly without an MIT-trained engineer’s help. True, modern airlines are very complex, and their technology can be overwhelming in crisis situations. But that’s been the case since at least the early 1980s. And it’s why commercial pilots receive training worth several millions dollars over their careers. Plus, since at least the mid-1990s much of the training that pilots at U.S. airlines receive emphasizes that the first thing a pilot must do when encountering an issue is to turn the technology off and “fly the plane” by hand rather than getting distracted troubleshooting the technology issues. They’re also trained to work as teams, with one pilot flying the plane manually while the other works on the technology issues, when and if time allows. Furthermore, the data show rather conclusively that while adding technology to modern commercial aircraft has added lots of complexity to pilots’ jobs, U.S. airlines have shown amazing improvement in their safety performance since all that technology began appearing in cockpits. U.S. carriers did not have a single fatal crash 2010 and 2018. Excluding the 500 or so killed aboard the four planes high jacked by terrorists on 9-11, fewer than 300 people have died in crashes of U.S. commercial planes in the entire 21st century. Thus, flying continues to be, by awide margin, the safest way to travel for Americans, and pretty much everyone else in the world. To be sure, no one wants to discount the real concerns raised by the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines MAX 8 crashes involving MAX 8 aircraft. But within just a few days we should know whether there’s anything so wrong with the MAX 8, the world’s newest and most advance aircraft with nearly two years of otherwise non-eventful service, that it warrants immediate grounding. That evidence will be obtained and adequately analyzed over the next day or two, after which a well-informed decision about the MAX 8’s short-term airworthiness can be made. In the meantime, travelers – and politicians - in this country should take some degree of comfort from the fact that the three U.S. carriers that fly the MAX 8 currently – American, United and Southwest – all have strong reputations for hiring and training excellent pilots, for aircraft maintenance and for safe operations.
  14. Suspending ops with its four 737 MAX 8s because of destination restrictions https://twitter.com/TomPodolec/status/1105663577225158657
  15. Here's another overview of the entire 737 MAX controversy, a little heavier on useful detail Sorry, couldn't cut and paste. But it's worth reading https://theaircurrent.com/aviation-safety/the-world-pulls-the-andon-cord-on-the-737-max/