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Boeing 737 Max: FAA says no fixed timetable for grounding to be lifted

23 May 2019

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-48371100?fbclid=IwAR249QkM0UKiV4UFXpJbNVuPbmrhC7ZbWx3xmOMZ0Rt84QMRIZDUPG5fn84

The US aviation regulator has indicated that the Boeing 737 Max might return to service later than airlines had hoped.

US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) acting director general Dan Elwell said if it took a year for the grounding order to be lifted "so be it".

International aviation regulators are meeting on Thursday to discuss the 737 Max's return to service.

The plane was grounded in March after two crashes in five months in which 346 people died.

Once the order is lifted, it will take between 100-150 hours of preparation before the grounded 737 Max planes will be ready for flying, say officials for American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary said earlier this week that he expected the 737 Max to receive approval by late June or early July.

Mr Elwell was asked by reporters whether it was realistic that the 737 MAX could be flying again by the summer.

"If you said October I wouldn't even say that, only because we haven't finished determining exactly what the training requirements will be.

"If it takes a year to find everything we need to give us the confidence to lift the [grounding] order so be it."

He said discussions with Boeing over approving the safety update were "a constant give and take until it is exactly right. It's taking as long as it takes to be right. I'm not tied to a timetable".

One decision the FAA has yet to make is whether or not to require pilots to undergo simulator training for the safety update.

Safety analysis

Aviation regulators from 33 countries, including the UK, Europe and China, are meeting in Texas.

The meeting, led by the FAA, could set out a timetable for when the aircraft can return to service.

The regulator said it would provide its "safety analysis that will form the basis for our return to service decision process".

The FAA also said it "will provide safety experts to answer any questions participants have related to their respective decisions to return the fleet to service".

Boeing has developed a software update for the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (Mcas) on the 737 Max - a new feature on the jet designed to improve the handling of the plane and to stop it pitching up at too high an angle.

Mcas has been linked to both the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March, which killed 157 passengers and crew, and the Lion Air disaster in Indonesia at the end of October, in which 189 people perished.

However, Boeing has not formally submitted the software fix to the FAA

The FAA is expected to conduct a certification flight in the coming weeks.

The executive chairman of the International Pilot Training Association, Captain Tilmann Gabriel, told the BBC: "The FAA current acting director general has made it very clear that he is not committing to October, which was the real date [for the reintroduction], but there is so much to do.

"The credibility of the FAA and Boeing is at stake here. I'm convinced that there is a fix found, but this has to be now properly introduced.

It is also not clear when regulators outside the US in other countries will allow the plane back in the air.

China was the first country to ban the 737 Max from its skies following the Ethiopian Airlines crash. Other nations including the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union soon followed suit.

The US was one of the last countries to ground the 737 Max in March following the Ethiopian Airlines crash. Southwest Airlines and American Airlines are the biggest operators of the 737 Max globally.

The FAA has said that the issue of whether to make pilot training on 737 Max simulators a requirement before the plane can return to service is "still under review".

The New York Times recently reported that the simulators - which Boeing provides the software for - were not able to accurately replicate conditions similar to those which played a part in both the Ethiopians Airline and Lion Air disasters.

Boeing said it "has made corrections to the 737 Max simulator software and has provided additional information to device operators to ensure that the simulator experience is representative across different flight conditions".

It added that it was working with both the manufacturers of the simulators and regulators "on these changes and improvements and to ensure that customer training is not disrupted".

Mr Gabriel told the BBC: "The big thing is that the simulators had not anticipated the Mcas. Pilots didn't know about it and if the authorities decide that all pilots have to be trained in a simulator that [could] cause a very big delay."

Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) will also hold a meeting on Thursday with airlines that have grounded the 737 Max.

Alexandre de Juniac, the IATA's director general and chief executive, said the gathering was designed to assess what the airlines "expect from the manufacturer and from the regulatory authorities".

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I read this elsewhere, but if the 737 MAX simulators were unable to simulate the force required to manually trim the MAX until changes were made to the software, has anybody trained on the 737 really been trained on what they would face should the need arise? It was something to do about simulating the loads on the stabilizer and the resultant force required to crank the wheel manually. The forces generated weren't able to be simulated when they tried to replicate the two crash scenarios, so I believe that they had to make changes to the software to make it so. Were any of the previous simulator versions limited in this way as well? If so, should there not be more training/sim time involved for every airline and pilot of every 737 worldwide that accurately reflects how difficult it would be to turn that crank?

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Yes!!!

Plus, I would like a third AOA vane installed.

Was shown , “roller coaster” technique in sim last month, works great, but when at low altitude , (as shown with US pilots in sim recently, they lost 8000 feet!!!!) it may not be enough.

Good grief!!

 

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Of course simulators are also not designed to replicate flight outside the normal flight regime. 

 

In the case of using manual trim when the forces are so great that it is close to or impossible to move you are again outside the normal flight regime. Which is why attempting the ‘roller coaster’ in the sim will not come close to replicating the actual aircraft. 

 

The NY Times article mentioned above discusses the sims not ‘accurately reflecting the aircraft’ but that had to do with indications the pilots (Lion and Ethiopian) were dealing with (such as sticker shaker and other earnings) which could not be duplicated in the sim. 

 

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24 minutes ago, Trader said:

Of course simulators are also not designed to replicate flight outside the normal flight regime. 

 

In the case of using manual trim when the forces are so great that it is close to or impossible to move you are again outside the normal flight regime. Which is why attempting the ‘roller coaster’ in the sim will not come close to replicating the actual aircraft. 

 

The NY Times article mentioned above discusses the sims not ‘accurately reflecting the aircraft’ but that had to do with indications the pilots (Lion and Ethiopian) were dealing with (such as sticker shaker and other earnings) which could not be duplicated in the sim. 

 

This is the article I was thinking of. Apologies if it was already posted, and again if I'm over-simplifying. I'm just a Stew, after all 😉

If the simulators cannot replicate how difficult it is to turn the wheel when the horizontal stab has such a load, have all 737 pilots been trained that to correct runaway trim with this wheel is an easy task because the simulator doesn't simulate the true force required?

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/17/business/boeing-737-max-simulators.html?module=inline

Boeing 737 Max Simulators Are in High Demand. They Are Flawed.

  • May 17, 2019

Since the two fatal crashes of the Boeing 737 Max, airlines around the world have moved to buy flight simulators to train their pilots.

They don’t always work.

Boeing recently discovered that the simulators could not accurately replicate the difficult conditions created by a malfunctioning anti-stall system, which played a role in both disasters. The simulators did not reflect the immense force that it would take for pilots to regain control of the aircraft once the system activated on a plane traveling at a high speed.

The mistake is likely to intensify concerns about Boeing, as it tries to regain credibility following the crashes of Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights. In the months since the disasters, Boeing has faced criticism for serious oversights in the Max’s design. The anti-stall system was designed with a single point of failure. A warning light that Boeing thought was standard turned out to be part of a premium add-on.

“Every day, there is new news about something not being disclosed or something was done in error or was not complete,” said Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the American Airlines pilots union and a 737 pilot.

The training procedures have been a source of contention. Boeing has maintained that simulator training is not necessary for the 737 Max and regulators do not require it, but many airlines bought the multimillion-dollar machines to give their pilots more practice. Some pilots want continuing simulator training.

The flight simulators, on-the-ground versions of cockpits that mimic the flying experience, are not made by Boeing. But Boeing provides the underlying information on which they are designed and built.

“Boeing has made corrections to the 737 Max simulator software and has provided additional information to device operators to ensure that the simulator experience is representative across different flight conditions,” said Gordon Johndroe, a Boeing spokesman. “Boeing is working closely with the device manufacturers and regulators on these changes and improvements, and to ensure that customer training is not disrupted.”

In recent weeks, Boeing has been developing a fix to the system, known as MCAS. As part of that work, the company tried to test on a simulator how the updated system would perform, including by replicating the problems with the doomed Ethiopian Airlines flight.

It recreated the actions of the pilots on that flight, including taking manual control of the plane as outlined by Boeing’s recommended procedures. When MCAS activates erroneously, pilots are supposed to turn off the electricity to a motor that allows the system to push the plane toward the ground. Then, pilots need to crank a wheel to right the plane. They have limited time to act.

On the Ethiopian flight, the pilots struggled to turn the wheel while the plane was moving at a high speed, when there is immense pressure on the tail. The simulators did not properly match those conditions, and Boeing pilots found that the wheel was far easier to turn than it should have been.

Regulators are now trying to determine what training will be required.

When the Max was introduced, Boeing believed that pilots did not need experience on the flight simulators, and the Federal Aviation Administration agreed. Many pilots learned about the plane on iPads. And they were not informed about the anti-stall system.

The limited training was a selling point of the plane. It can cost airlines tens of millions of dollars to maintain and operate flight simulators over the life of an aircraft.

After the first crash, Boeing gave airlines and pilots a full rundown of MCAS. But the company and regulators said that additional training was not necessary. Simply knowing about the system would be sufficient.

In a tense meeting with the American Airlines pilots union after the crash, a Boeing vice president, Mike Sinnett, said he was confident that pilots were equipped to deal with problems, according to an audio recording review by The New York Times. A top Boeing test pilot, Craig Bomben, agreed, saying, “I don’t know that understanding the system would have changed the outcome of this.”

[Before Ethiopian crash, Boeing resisted pilots’ calls for aggressive steps on 737 Max.]

Since the Ethiopian Airlines disaster in March, lawmakers and regulators are taking a closer look at the training procedures for the 737 Max, and whether they should be more robust. At a congressional hearing this week, the acting head of the F.A.A., Daniel Elwell, testified that MCAS should “have been more adequately explained.”

Boeing said on Thursday that it had completed its fix to the 737 Max. Along with changes to the anti-stall system, the fix will include additional education for pilots.

The company still has to submit the changes to regulators, who will need to approve them before the plane can start flying again. The updates are not expected to include training on simulators, but the F.A.A. and other global regulators could push to require it.

“The F.A.A. is aware that Boeing Company is working with the manufacturers of Boeing 737 Max flight simulators,” a spokesman for the agency said in an emailed statement. “The F.A.A. will review any proposed adjustments as part of its ongoing oversight of the company’s efforts to address safety concerns.”

Airlines have already been pushing to get more simulators and develop their own training.

Pilots at American Airlines, which began asking for simulators when they started flying the planes, ratcheted up their requests after the Lion Air crash. Regardless of what the F.A.A. requires, the union believes pilots should get the experience. A spokesman for the airline said it had ordered a simulator that would be up and running by December.

“We value simulators in this situation,” said Mr. Tajer. “It’s not a condition of the Max flying again, but it is something we want.”

 

 

Edited by moeman

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Maybe they should add a checklist item .... when airspeed approaches 400 Kias....retard thrust levers.

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This will be interesting to follow.

SEC probe added to Boeing woes over 737 Max jetliner

 

  •  
  • 25 May 2019
  • BEN BAIN AND MATT ROBINSON

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether Boeing Co. properly disclosed issues tied to the grounded 737 Max jetliner, according to people familiar with the matter, as regulators intensify their scrutiny of the company following two deadly crashes.

Officials in the SEC’s enforcement division are examining whether Boeing was adequately forthcoming to shareholders about material problems with the plane, said the people who asked not to be named because the probe isn’t public. The agency is also reviewing the aircraft manufacturer’s accounting to make sure its financial statements have appropriately reflected potential impacts from the problems, the people said.

The SEC inquiry is in its early stages and the regulator’s investigations often don’t lead to allegations of misconduct. Still, the probe deepens the crisis facing Boeing since a 737 Max crashed in Ethiopia March 10. That wreck, which followed a deadly October crash in the waters off Indonesia, prompted regulators around the world to ground the jet.

Spokesmen for Boeing and the SEC declined to comment.

Boeing slipped as much as 0.56 per cent to US$353 in New York trading after Bloomberg News reported on the SEC investigation. The shares rose 1.24 per cent to close at US$354.90 on Friday.

Boeing has already faced questions about its level of disclosures. It revealed in a May 5 statement that it knew a cockpit alert wasn’t working properly for more than a year before the company shared its findings with airlines or the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. Boeing made the disclosure to customers and the FAA after the October crash, according to the statement.

Federal authorities have been conducting a criminal probe of Boeing related to the crashes. While that investigation is looking into the certification process for the new 737 Max planes, the SEC’s probe is focused on whether Chicago-based Boeing fulfilled its reporting obligations to investors as a public company.

U.S. securities rules require that companies inform shareholders about issues that could have a material impact on their finances, typically by filing statements with the regulator.

The problems associated with the 737 Max centre on a piece of flight control software that may have contributed to the planes’ sudden and deadly descents in Ethiopia and near Indonesia. Both crashes occurred shortly after takeoff. Boeing said earlier this month that the Max had successfully performed more than 200 flights with a software upgrade.

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https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-02/emirates-predicts-boeing-s-max-won-t-fly-until-after-christmas?srnd=premium-canada

Boeing Co.’s 737 Max will likely not be back in the skies before the end of this year because of a fall-out in cooperation between the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and other national regulators, according to Tim Clark, president of Emirates.

“You’re going to have a bit of a delay in terms of regulators, Canada, Europe, China,” Clark told reporters at the IATA annual meeting in Seoul. “It’s going to take time to get this aircraft back in the air. If it’s in the air by Christmas I’ll be surprised.”

Tim Clark

Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

Should Clark be right, the plane will be grounded longer than what at least one customer said Boeing has told them -- that the aircraft could fly again as soon as July. Emirates, the world’s biggest long-haul airline, itself doesn’t operate the 737 Max, but it has partnerships with low-cost carrier FlyDubai, which has more than a dozen Max planes in its fleet and many more due to be delivered.

Boeing “should accept that unless they get all regulators on board, irrespective of how good or how well they think they’ve fixed the aircraft, it’s not going to work,” Clark said. “It’s going to antagonize a lot of people if they insist that this aircraft is safe to fly.”

The 737 Max, a two-year-old model that has racked up thousands of orders, was grounded in March after a second crash triggered a wave of no-fly orders that started in China and ended with the U.S. Airlines are now calling on aviation regulators worldwide to work together to get the jet back in the skies and to prevent the regulatory response from splintering and slowing its return.

Read More: Airlines Plead for Regulators to Unite on 737 Max’s Return

Beyond a regulatory approval for plane improvements Boeing is working on, changes in pilot-training requirements may cause further delays, Clark said. Regulators are likely to make training on 737 Max simulators mandatory, and there are just a few such machines available globally, he said.

Clark also said regulators are now set to take a more stringent view on Boeing’s next plane, the 777X, which is targeted to begin commercial flights in 2020. Boeing is seeking regulatory approval for the jet which, just like the 737 Max, is an update of an existing model.

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More faulty parts on 737's.  Makes one wonder how deep the problems at Boeing really are.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/02/business/boeing-faa-737-slat-track-assemblies/index.html

New York (CNN Business)Boeing on Sunday said some of its 737 planes, including many 737 Max aircraft, may have faulty parts on their wings. It's the latest problem Boeing faces as it tries to get its most important and popular airplane, the grounded 737 Max, back in the air.

Working with the Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing said it has reached out to airlines that fly 737 planes, advising them to inspect their slat track assemblies on Max and NG aircraft. The 737 NG series includes the 737-600, -700, -800 and -900 planes.

Leading edge slats are an aerodynamic control surface that extend from the front of the wing. Some the tracks may not meet manufacturing standards and may need to be replaced, Boeing and the FAA said. They said if the parts are found to be defective, airlines should replace them before returning the planes to service.

The faulty parts could fail prematurely or crack. The FAA said a part failure would not bring down a plane, it could damage an aircraft while in flight.

Boeing has sent out a service bulletin and the FAA will issue an airworthiness directive requiring airlines to inspect and repair its slat track assemblies within 10 days.

The company discovered the problem Friday, when Boeing was meeting with the parts supplier. Boeing employees noticed some of the parts were not heat treated, which led them to believe there might be a safety issue.

Boeing desperately needs to get the 737 Max back in the air. Getting it approved will be hard

The development comes as Boeing seeks to get the 737 Max back in the air. The plane was grounded worldwide after a fatal crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet in March, which followed a fatal crash of a Lion Air jet in Indonesia in October. Crash investigators have focused on an automatic safety feature on the jet as a possible contributor to the crashes.

The newly discovered issue affects 148 slat tracks produced by a single supplier, Boeing said. The company said it believes 20 737 Max and 21 737 NG planes may have defective slat tracks. But the FAA advised airlines to check an additional 179 Max planes and 133 NGs to determine if there parts are also faulty. Of the group that needs to be inspected, 33 Max and 32 NG planes are in the United States.

The company and the FAA said it has not been notified of any incidents related to the tracks on operating flights, and the fix should take a couple days to complete.

"We are committed to supporting our customers in every way possible as they identify and replace these potentially non-conforming tracks," said Kevin McAllister, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, in a statement.

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Note the 10 day window.

FAA says more than 300 Boeing 737 jets could have parts ‘susceptible to premature failure’

Published 3 hours agoUpdated Moments Ago
Key Points
  • The FAA said Sunday an investigation with Boeing found that up to 148 leading edge slat tracks manufactured by a supplier are affected by the problem.
  • The agency said 33 NG and 33 Max aircraft are affected in the U.S. Worldwide, 133 NG and 179 Max planes are affected.
  • “The affected parts may be susceptible to premature failure or cracks resulting from the improper manufacturing process,” the FAA said.

More than 300 Boeing 737 jets, including the Max, may have wing parts that could have been improperly manufactured and may not meet regulatory requirements for strength and durability, the Federal Aviation Administration said Sunday, following a joint investigation with the aircraft manufacturer.

The FAA plans to order airlines to remove and replace the parts if their aircraft are affected, the agency said.

 

As many as 148 parts made by a Boeing supplier could be “susceptible to premature failure or cracks,” the FAA said in a statement about the slat tracks.

 

Slats are pieces on the front of the wing and move along a track to create lift and are important during take-off and landing.

The FAA said that while “the complete failure of a leading edge slat track would not result in the loss of the aircraft, a risk remains that a failed part could lead to aircraft damage in flight.”

Worldwide, 133 NG and 179 Max planes are affected and of those, 32 Boeing 737 NG and 33 Boeing Max planes are in the U.S.

Boeing said it found that a lower number of planes likely have the suspect parts installed but that it recommended that dozens of others be checked “to ensure a thorough assessment.“

The FAA said it will issue an airworthiness directive mandating service actions to remove the parts and that airlines will have to comply within 10 days. The agency said it has alerted international civil aviation authorities of the issue as well.

 

The requirement to remove the parts in question on certain 737 NGs within 10 days creates a new wrinkle for some airlines that are scrambling to ensure they have enough aircraft during the peak summer travel season. Airlines that fly the 737 Max have had to cancel thousands of flights through August as the planes remain grounded.

Boeing said it is planning to provide replacement parts for its airline customers affected by the slat track issue “to help minimize aircraft downtime while the work is completed,” a process it said should take a day or two.

The 737 NG is the model that preceded the 737 Max, which Boeing first delivered to airlines in 2017.

Boeing’s CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, last week said the company had to regain the public’s trust and apologized to the relatives of victims in the two recent crashes. Executives at some carriers that operate the 737 Max, including United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, said they would not charge travelers who are booked on a Max change fees or fare differences to switch to a flight on another type of plane.

Aviation authorities worldwide, including the FAA, grounded the Boeing 737 Max in the wake of the fatal crash in Ethiopia in March, which killed all 157 people on board. The crash in Ethiopia came less than five months after another Boeing 737 Max plunged into the Java Sea shortly after takeoff from Jakarta, Indonesia, in October killing all 189 people aboard.

The 737 Max’s automated anti-stall system is being investigated as a factor in those crashes. Boeing said last month that it has completed a software update for the system to give pilots greater control but the FAA and other regulators need to sign off on its changes before airlines can resume use of the planes.

The crashes have strained relationships between Boeing and some pilots, many of whom said they did not know the system, known as MCAS, existed on the 737 Max until after the Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October. Boeing is also under fire over a cockpit alert that wasn’t working aboard 737 Max planes because it told the FAA about it more than a year after it detected the issue.

American Airlines’ 737 NGs are not affected by the slat track issues, spokesman Ross Feinstein said. 

Dennis Tajer, a Boeing 737 captain and spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, which represents about 15,000 American Airlines pilots, said because of the surprise of the anti-stall system on the 737 Max, its pilots plan to ask Boeing when and how the newly reported issue of the slat tracks was discovered and when Boeing disclosed it to the FAA.

“We’re in a new space now,” he said. “These are questions we may not have asked before.”

Boeing has about 4,400 orders for the 737 Max planes, the manufacturer’s fastest-ever selling jet. After the grounding, it paused deliveries and cut production from 52 a month to 42.

The FAA has not given a timeline for when it plans to certify the 737 Max to fly again.

“The last thing I want is to put a date out there for lifting the grounding,” said Dan Elwell, acting administrator for the FAA.

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This is the kind of thing that happens when work from third party vendors goes to the lowest bidder and they quality practices are not closely monitored

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More fallout from the Max Grounding.

 

 

Determination No. A-2019-97

May 31, 2019
 

APPLICATION by Air Canada also carrying on business as Air Canada rouge and as Air Canada Cargo (Air Canada), on behalf of itself and Qatar Airways Group (Q.C.S.C.) carrying on business as Qatar Airways and as Qatar Airways Cargo (Qatar Airways), pursuant to section 60 of the Canada Transportation Act, S.C., 1996, c. 10, as amended (CTA), and section 8.2 of the Air Transportation Regulations, SOR/88-58, as amended (ATR).

 
Case number: 
19-02075
 

APPLICATION

Air Canada, on behalf of itself and Qatar Airways, has applied to the Canadian Transportation Agency (Agency) for an approval to permit Air Canada to provide its scheduled international services between Canada and France and between Canada and Spain using two aircraft with flight crew provided by Qatar Airways, beginning on June 15, 2019 to September 30, 2019.

Air Canada is licensed to operate scheduled international services in accordance with the Agreement on Air Transport between Canada and the European Community and its Member States, signed on December 18, 2009.

In its application filed on April 24, 2019, Air Canada states that it had 190 aircraft on its Air Operator Certificate (AOC) at the time of application.

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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/01/business/boeing-737-max-crash.html?utm_source=pocket-newtab

Boeing Built Deadly Assumptions Into 737 Max, Blind to a Late Design Change                                                                                                        

SEATTLE — The fatal flaws with Boeing’s 737 Max can be traced to a breakdown late in the plane’s development, when test pilots, engineers and regulators were left in the dark about a fundamental overhaul to an automated system that would ultimately play a role in two crashes.

A year before the plane was finished, Boeing made the system more aggressive and riskier. While the original version relied on data from at least two types of sensors, the final version used just one, leaving the system without a critical safeguard. In both doomed flights, pilots struggled as a single damaged sensor sent the planes into irrecoverable nose-dives within minutes, killing 346 people and prompting regulators around the world to ground the Max.

But many people involved in building, testing and approving the system, known as MCAS, said they hadn’t fully understood the changes. Current and former employees at Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration who spoke with The New York Times said they had assumed the system relied on more sensors and would rarely, if ever, activate. Based on those misguided assumptions, many made critical decisions, affecting design, certification and training.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said a former test pilot who worked on the Max. “I wish I had the full story.”

While prosecutors and lawmakers try to piece together what went wrong, the current and former employees point to the single, fateful decision to change the system, which led to a series of design mistakes and regulatory oversights. As Boeing rushed to get the plane done, many of the employees say, they didn’t recognize the importance of the decision. They described a compartmentalized approach, each of them focusing on a small part of the plane. The process left them without a complete view of a critical and ultimately dangerous system.

The company also played down the scope of the system to regulators. Boeing never disclosed the revamp of MCAS to Federal Aviation Administration officials involved in determining pilot training needs, according to three agency officials. When Boeing asked to remove the description of the system from the pilot’s manual, the F.A.A. agreed. As a result, most Max pilots did not know about the software until after the first crash, in October.

“Boeing has no higher priority than the safety of the flying public,” a company spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, said in a statement.

He added that Boeing and regulators had followed standard procedures. “The F.A.A. considered the final configuration and operating parameters of MCAS during Max certification, and concluded that it met all certification and regulatory requirements,” Mr. Johndroe said.

At first, MCAS — Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System — wasn’t a very risky piece of software. The system would trigger only in rare conditions, nudging down the nose of the plane to make the Max handle more smoothly during high-speed moves. And it relied on data from multiple sensors measuring the plane’s acceleration and its angle to the wind, helping to ensure that the software didn’t activate erroneously.

Then Boeing engineers reconceived the system, expanding its role to avoid stalls in all types of situations. They allowed the software to operate throughout much more of the flight. They enabled it to aggressively push down the nose of the plane. And they used only data about the plane’s angle, removing some of the safeguards.

The disasters might have been avoided, if employees and regulators had a better understanding of MCAS.

A test pilot who originally advocated for the expansion of the system didn’t understand how the changes affected its safety. Safety analysts said they would have acted differently if they had known it used just one sensor. Regulators didn’t conduct a formal safety assessment of the new version of MCAS.

The current and former employees, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the continuing investigations, said that after the first crash, they were stunned to discover MCAS relied on a single sensor.

“That’s nuts,” said an engineer who helped design MCAS.

“I’m shocked,” said a safety analyst who scrutinized it.

“To me, it seems like somebody didn’t understand what they were doing,” said an engineer who assessed the system’s sensors.

MCAS Is Born

In 2012, the chief test pilot for the Max had a problem.

During the early development of the 737 Max, the pilot, Ray Craig, a silver-haired retired Navy airman, was trying out high-speed situations on a flight simulator, like maneuvers to avoid an obstacle or to escape a powerful vortex from another plane. While such moves might never be necessary for the pilot of a passenger plane, the F.A.A. requires that a jet handle well in those situations.

But the plane wasn’t flying smoothly, partly because of the Max’s bigger engines. To fix the issue, Boeing decided to use a piece of software. The system was meant to work in the background, so pilots effectively wouldn’t know it was there.

Mr. Craig, who had been with Boeing since 1988, didn’t like it, according to one person involved in the testing. An old-school pilot, he eschewed systems that take control from pilots and would have preferred an aerodynamic fix such as vortex generators, thin fins on the wings. But engineers who tested the Max design in a wind tunnel weren’t convinced they would work, the person said.

Mr. Craig relented. Such high-speed situations were so rare that he figured the software would never actually kick in.

To ensure it didn’t misfire, engineers initially designed MCAS to trigger when the plane exceeded at least two separate thresholds, according to three people who worked on the 737 Max. One involved the plane’s angle to the wind, and the other involved so-called G-force, or the force on the plane that typically comes from accelerating.

The Max would need to hit an exceedingly high G-force that passenger planes would probably never experience. For the jet’s angle, the system took data from the angle-of-attack sensor. The sensor, several inches long, is essentially a small wind vane affixed to the jet’s fuselage.

Adding More Power

On a rainy day in late January 2016, thousands of Boeing employees gathered at a runway next to the 737 factory in Renton, Wash. They cheered as the first Max, nicknamed the Spirit of Renton, lifted off for its maiden test flight.

“The flight was a success,” Ed Wilson, the new chief test pilot for the Max, said in a news release at the time. Mr. Wilson, who had tested Boeing fighter jets, had replaced Mr. Craig the previous year.

“The 737 Max just felt right in flight, giving us complete confidence that this airplane will meet our customers’ expectations,” he said.

But a few weeks later, Mr. Wilson and his co-pilot began noticing that something was off, according to a person with direct knowledge of the flights. The Max wasn’t handling well when nearing stalls at low speeds.

In a meeting at Boeing Field in Seattle, Mr. Wilson told engineers that the issue would need to be fixed. He and his co-pilot proposed MCAS, the person said.

The change didn’t elicit much debate in the group, which included just a handful of people. It was considered “a run-of-the-mill adjustment,” according to the person. Instead, the group mostly discussed the logistics of how MCAS would be used in the new scenarios.

“I don’t recall ever having any real debates over whether it was a good idea or not,” the person said.

The change proved pivotal. Expanding the use of MCAS to lower-speed situations required removing the G-force threshold. MCAS now needed to work at low speeds so G-force didn’t apply.

The change meant that a single angle-of-attack sensor was the lone guard against a misfire. Although modern 737 jets have two angle-of-attack sensors, the final version of MCAS took data from just one.

Using MCAS at lower speeds also required increasing the power of the system. When a plane is flying slowly, flight controls are less sensitive, and far more movement is needed to steer. Think of turning a car’s steering wheel at 20 miles an hour versus 70.

The original version of MCAS could move the stabilizer — the part of the tail that controls the vertical direction of the jet — a maximum of about 0.6 degrees in about 10 seconds. The new version could move the stabilizer up to 2.5 degrees in 10 seconds.

Test pilots aren’t responsible for dealing with the ramifications of such changes. Their job is to ensure the plane handles smoothly. Other colleagues are responsible for making the changes, and still others for assessing their impact on safety.

Boeing declined to say whether the changes had prompted a new internal safety analysis.

While the F.A.A. officials in charge of training didn’t know about the changes, another arm of the agency involved in certification did. But it did not conduct a safety analysis on the changes.

The F.A.A. had already approved the previous version of MCAS. And the agency’s rules didn’t require it to take a second look because the changes didn’t affect how the plane operated in extreme situations.

“The F.A.A. was aware of Boeing’s MCAS design during the certification of the 737 Max,” the agency said in a statement. “Consistent with regulatory requirements, the agency evaluated data and conducted flight tests within the normal flight envelope that included MCAS activation in low-speed stall and other flight conditions.”

‘External Events’

After engineers installed the second version of MCAS, Mr. Wilson and his co-pilot took the 737 Max for a spin.

The flights were uneventful. They tested two potential failures of MCAS: a high-speed maneuver in which the system doesn’t trigger, and a low-speed stall when it activates but then freezes. In both cases, the pilots were able to easily fly the jet, according to a person with knowledge of the flights.

In those flights, they did not test what would happen if MCAS activated as a result of a faulty angle-of-attack sensor — a problem in the two crashes.

Boeing engineers did consider such a possibility in their safety analysis of the original MCAS. They classified the event as “hazardous,” one rung below the most serious designation of catastrophic, according to two people. In regulatory-speak, it meant that MCAS could trigger erroneously less often than once in 10 million flight hours.

That probability may have underestimated the risk of so-called external events that have damaged sensors in the past, such as collisions with birds, bumps from ramp stairs or mechanics’ stepping on them. While part of the assessment considers such incidents, they are not included in the probability. Investigators suspect the angle-of-attack sensor was hit on the doomed Ethiopian Airlines flight in March.

Bird strikes on angle-of-attack sensors are relatively common.

A Times review of two F.A.A. databases found hundreds of reports of bent, cracked, sheared-off, poorly installed or otherwise malfunctioning angle-of-attack sensors on commercial aircraft over three decades.

Since 1990, one database has recorded 1,172 instances when birds — meadowlarks, geese, sandpipers, pelicans and turkey vultures, among others — damaged sensors of various kinds, with 122 strikes on angle-of-attack vanes. The other database showed 85 problems with angle-of-attack sensors on Boeing aircraft, including 38 on 737s since 1995.

And the public databases don’t necessarily capture the extent of incidents involving angle-of-attack sensors, since the F.A.A. has additional information. “I feel confidence in saying that there’s a lot more that were struck,” said Richard Dolbeer, a wildlife specialist who has spent over 20 years studying the issue at the United States Department of Agriculture, which tracks the issue for the F.A.A.

A Simple Request

On March 30, 2016, Mark Forkner, the Max’s chief technical pilot, sent an email to senior F.A.A. officials with a seemingly innocuous request: Would it be O.K. to remove MCAS from the pilot’s manual?

The officials, who helped determine pilot training needs, had been briefed on the original version of MCAS months earlier. Mr. Forkner and Boeing never mentioned to them that MCAS was in the midst of an overhaul, according to the three F.A.A. officials.

Under the impression that the system was relatively benign and rarely used, the F.A.A. eventually approved Mr. Forkner’s request, the three officials said.

Boeing wanted to limit changes to the Max, from previous versions of the 737. Anything major could have required airlines to spend millions of dollars on additional training. Boeing, facing competitive pressure from Airbus, tried to avoid that.

Mr. Forkner, a former F.A.A. employee, was at the front lines of this effort. As the chief technical pilot, he was the primary liaison with the F.A.A. on training and worked on the pilot’s manual.

“The pressure on us,” said Rick Ludtke, a cockpit designer on the Max, “was huge.”

“And that all got funneled through Mark,” Mr. Ludtke added. “And the pushback and resistance from the F.A.A. got funneled through Mark.”

Like others, Mr. Forkner may have had an imperfect understanding of MCAS.

Technical pilots at Boeing like him previously flew planes regularly, two former employees said. “Then the company made a strategic change where they decided tech pilots would no longer be active pilots,” Mr. Ludtke said.

Mr. Forkner largely worked on flight simulators, which didn’t fully mimic MCAS.

It is unclear whether Mr. Forkner, now a pilot for Southwest Airlines, was aware of the changes to the system.

Mr. Forkner’s attorney, David Gerger, said his client did not mislead the F.A.A. “Mark is an Air Force veteran who put safety first and was transparent in his work,” Mr. Gerger said.

“In thousands of tests, nothing like this had ever happened,” he said. “Based on what he was told and what he knew, he never dreamed that it could.”

The F.A.A. group that worked with Mr. Forkner made some decisions based on an incomplete view of the system. It never tested a malfunctioning sensor, according to the three officials. It didn’t require additional training.

William Schubbe, a senior F.A.A. official who worked with the training group, told pilots and airlines in an April meeting in Washington, D.C., that Boeing had underplayed MCAS, according to a recording reviewed by The Times.

“The way the system was presented to the F.A.A.,” Mr. Schubbe said, “the Boeing Corporation said this thing is so transparent to the pilot that there’s no need to demonstrate any kind of failing.”

The F.A.A. officials involved in training weren’t the only ones operating with outdated information.

An April 2017 maintenance manual that Boeing provided to airlines refers to the original version of MCAS. By that point, Boeing had started delivering the planes. The current manual is updated.

Boeing continued to defend MCAS and its reliance on a single sensor after the first crash, involving Indonesia’s Lion Air.

At a tense meeting with the pilots’ union at American Airlines in November, Boeing executives dismissed concerns. “It’s been reported that it’s a single point failure, but it is not considered by design or certification a single point,” said Mike Sinnett, a Boeing vice president, according to a recording of the meeting.

His reasoning? The pilots were the backup.

“Because the function and the trained pilot work side by side and are part of the system,” he said.

Four months later, a second 737 Max crashed in Ethiopia. Within days, the Max was grounded around the world.

As part of the fix, Boeing has reworked MCAS to more closely resemble the first version. It will be less aggressive, and it will rely on two sensors.

 

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21 hours ago, Marshall said:

Note the 10 day window.

FAA says more than 300 Boeing 737 jets could have parts ‘susceptible to premature failure’

Published 3 hours agoUpdated Moments Ago
Key Points
  • The FAA said Sunday an investigation with Boeing found that up to 148 leading edge slat tracks manufactured by a supplier are affected by the problem.
  • The agency said 33 NG and 33 Max aircraft are affected in the U.S. Worldwide, 133 NG and 179 Max planes are affected.
  • “The affected parts may be susceptible to premature failure or cracks resulting from the improper manufacturing process,” the FAA said.

More than 300 Boeing 737 jets, including the Max, may have wing parts that could have been improperly manufactured and may not meet regulatory requirements for strength and durability, the Federal Aviation Administration said Sunday, following a joint investigation with the aircraft manufacturer.

The FAA plans to order airlines to remove and replace the parts if their aircraft are affected, the agency said.

 

As many as 148 parts made by a Boeing supplier could be “susceptible to premature failure or cracks,” the FAA said in a statement about the slat tracks.

 

Slats are pieces on the front of the wing and move along a track to create lift and are important during take-off and landing.

The FAA said that while “the complete failure of a leading edge slat track would not result in the loss of the aircraft, a risk remains that a failed part could lead to aircraft damage in flight.”

Worldwide, 133 NG and 179 Max planes are affected and of those, 32 Boeing 737 NG and 33 Boeing Max planes are in the U.S.

Boeing said it found that a lower number of planes likely have the suspect parts installed but that it recommended that dozens of others be checked “to ensure a thorough assessment.“

The FAA said it will issue an airworthiness directive mandating service actions to remove the parts and that airlines will have to comply within 10 days. The agency said it has alerted international civil aviation authorities of the issue as well.

 

The requirement to remove the parts in question on certain 737 NGs within 10 days creates a new wrinkle for some airlines that are scrambling to ensure they have enough aircraft during the peak summer travel season. Airlines that fly the 737 Max have had to cancel thousands of flights through August as the planes remain grounded.

Boeing said it is planning to provide replacement parts for its airline customers affected by the slat track issue “to help minimize aircraft downtime while the work is completed,” a process it said should take a day or two.

The 737 NG is the model that preceded the 737 Max, which Boeing first delivered to airlines in 2017.

Boeing’s CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, last week said the company had to regain the public’s trust and apologized to the relatives of victims in the two recent crashes. Executives at some carriers that operate the 737 Max, including United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, said they would not charge travelers who are booked on a Max change fees or fare differences to switch to a flight on another type of plane.

Aviation authorities worldwide, including the FAA, grounded the Boeing 737 Max in the wake of the fatal crash in Ethiopia in March, which killed all 157 people on board. The crash in Ethiopia came less than five months after another Boeing 737 Max plunged into the Java Sea shortly after takeoff from Jakarta, Indonesia, in October killing all 189 people aboard.

The 737 Max’s automated anti-stall system is being investigated as a factor in those crashes. Boeing said last month that it has completed a software update for the system to give pilots greater control but the FAA and other regulators need to sign off on its changes before airlines can resume use of the planes.

The crashes have strained relationships between Boeing and some pilots, many of whom said they did not know the system, known as MCAS, existed on the 737 Max until after the Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October. Boeing is also under fire over a cockpit alert that wasn’t working aboard 737 Max planes because it told the FAA about it more than a year after it detected the issue.

American Airlines’ 737 NGs are not affected by the slat track issues, spokesman Ross Feinstein said. 

Dennis Tajer, a Boeing 737 captain and spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, which represents about 15,000 American Airlines pilots, said because of the surprise of the anti-stall system on the 737 Max, its pilots plan to ask Boeing when and how the newly reported issue of the slat tracks was discovered and when Boeing disclosed it to the FAA.

“We’re in a new space now,” he said. “These are questions we may not have asked before.”

Boeing has about 4,400 orders for the 737 Max planes, the manufacturer’s fastest-ever selling jet. After the grounding, it paused deliveries and cut production from 52 a month to 42.

The FAA has not given a timeline for when it plans to certify the 737 Max to fly again.

“The last thing I want is to put a date out there for lifting the grounding,” said Dan Elwell, acting administrator for the FAA.

This AD they’re about to issue with the 10-day window for compliance is a pretty big deal.  I think a slat-track replacement is not a minor task, and will certainly disrupt everybody’s maintenance schedule.  May as well get it done while they’re grounded though.

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1 hour ago, conehead said:

This AD they’re about to issue with the 10-day window for compliance is a pretty big deal.  I think a slat-track replacement is not a minor task, and will certainly disrupt everybody’s maintenance schedule.  May as well get it done while they’re grounded though.

I would think the 10 day window was more aimed at the NG, given that the MAX is grounded. But yeah, get it done now.

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Boeing 737 Max Seen as ‘Airplane Non Grata’ by Wary Travelers

U.S. airlines have their work cut out for them in trying to coax frightened travelers back onto Boeing Co.’s 737 Max once a worldwide grounding ends.

At least 20% of U.S. travelers say they will definitely avoid the plane in the first six months after flight resume, according to a study led by consultant Henry Harteveldt. More than 40% said they’d be willing to take pricier or less convenient flights to stay off the Max. A separate UBS Group AG survey found that 70% would hesitate today to book a flight on Boeing’s best-selling jet.

“Travelers aren’t merely scared of the 737 Max, they’re terrified of it,” Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group, said in the report, which was released Tuesday. “The 737 Max is, for now, an ‘airplane non grata’ -- a plane passengers do not want to fly.”

The surveys underscore the challenge looming for Boeing as it seeks to regain public trust after two deadly crashes and a global flying ban that’s nearing the three-month mark. Boeing is finalizing a software fix for a flight-control system malfunction linked to the accidents, as well as proposed new pilot training. Regulators in the U.S. and other countries say there’s no timeline for when the plane will resume flights.

Nader Says Boeing 737 Max Is Flawed And Should Never Fly Again

Only 14% of U.S. passengers would definitely fly on a 737 Max within six months of its return, according to the online study for Atmosphere of 2,000 U.S. airline passengers from April 27 to May 1.

Participants in the 38-question survey had to have taken at least one round-trip flight for business or personal reasons during the previous 12 months. They were selected at random in the U.S. by a third-party market-research firm that operates a global consumer panel of more than 100 million people.

Boeing declined to comment on the Atmosphere and UBS reports, but pointed to recent remarks by Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg.

Rebuilding Trust

“We’ll do everything possible to earn and re-earn that trust and confidence from our airline customers and the flying public in the weeks and months ahead,” Muilenburg said. “We take the responsibility to build and deliver airplanes that are safe to fly and can be safely flown by every single one of the professional and dedicated pilots all around the world.”

Southwest Airlines Co., the largest operator of the Max, and United Continental Holdings Inc. have said they will let fearful passengers switch from the Max to flights on other aircraft with no fee. The CEOs of both carriers also have said they plan to be on initial Max flights once it returns to service. The companies, along with American Airlines Group Inc., haven’t commented further on how they will convince potential travelers that the Max is safe to fly.

Responses to the Atmosphere survey showed passengers have lost confidence in Boeing since the crashes, and were 10 times more likely after the grounding to describe the Chicago-based planemaker as irresponsible, arrogant and unsafe.

The survey showed 63% of business travelers and 65% of leisure passengers aren’t sure if they would want to fly the Max a year after its return to service. But in a positive sign for Boeing, that indicates most travelers will eventually consider boarding the plane if the manufacturer and the airlines succeed in restoring traveler confidence, Harteveldt said.

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http://newsinflight.com/2019/06/03/azerbaijan-airline-azal-has-cancelled-boeing-737maxs-on-order-valued-1billion/?fbclid=IwAR39CiGW5_2PJPH4msYzpQOMjQmzbkV5KSz_CpgOu96IarclnsVNTl6TNX0

 

Quote

Azerbaijan airline AZAL has canceled 10 Boeing 737MAXs on order worth $1 billion.

According to AZAL spokesman, Pasha Kesaminsy the airline cancelled the contract due to “safety reason”

 

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Boeing wanted to wait 3 years to fix safety alert on 737 Max

Boeing planned to wait three years to fix a non-working safety alert on its 737 Max aircraft and sped up the process only after the first of two deadly crashes involving the planes.

The company acknowledged that it originally planned to fix a cockpit warning light in 2020 after two key lawmakers disclosed the company's timetable on Friday.

U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio of Oregon and Rick Larsen of Washington wrote to Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration and asked why the company took more than a year to tell the safety agency and airlines that the alert did not work on Max jets.

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Photos

 

An Air Canada Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft arriving from Toronto prepares to land at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

The feature, called an angle of attack or AoA alert, warns pilots when sensors measuring the up-or-down pitch of the plane's nose relative to oncoming air might be wrong.

The sensors malfunctioned during a Lion Air flight in Indonesia in October and an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa in March, causing anti-stall software to push the planes' noses down. Pilots were unable to regain control, and both planes crashed. In all, 346 people were killed.

It is not clear whether either crash could have been prevented if the cockpit alert had been working.

A Boeing spokesman said that based on a safety review, the company had originally planned to fix the cockpit warning when it began delivering a new, larger model of the Max to airlines in 2020.

"We fell short in the implementation of the AoA Disagree alert and are taking steps to address these issues so they do not occur again," said the spokesman, Gordon Johndroe.

All Max jets will have the alert as standard equipment before returning to service, and newly built planes will have it too, Johndroe said. Boeing delivered about 370 of the planes before they were grounded around the world in March.

Both Boeing and the head of the FAA say that the alert is not critical for safety. Boeing says all its planes, including the Max, give pilots all the flight information -- including speed, altitude and engine performance -- that they need to fly safely.

The pilots' union at American Airlines expressed unhappiness about the matter, however, and said Boeing's assurance about the cockpit alert was a factor in the union standing behind Boeing after the first Max crash, in October.

Jason Goldberg, an American Airlines pilot and union spokesman, said Boeing told pilots that the alert could pinpoint a faulty sensor even on the ground, before takeoff.

"That is one of the things that made us confident initially to make the statement that we were happy to continue to fly the aircraft," he said. "It turned out later that that wasn't true."

Boeing admitted in May that within months of the plane's 2017 debut, engineers realized that the sensor warning light only worked when paired with a separate, optional feature.

Boeing is revising its software, called MCAS, so that it will rely on readings from two sensors instead of one, and will be easier for pilots to overcome if it malfunctions. It is unclear when the FAA will approve the changes and allow the Max to fly again. Regulators in other countries could take longer.

DeFazio and Larsen are leaders of a House committee that is investigating the crashes and the FAA's regulation of Boeing. They said Friday that Boeing decided in November 2017 to defer a software update to fix the sensor alert feature until 2020 but accelerated that timeline after the Lion Air crash.

Larsen questioned why Boeing didn't consider the problem critical to safety.

The FAA on Friday repeated a statement it made last month that Boeing briefed the agency's Seattle office about the non-working alert in November, and the matter was forwarded to an FAA review board which considered the matter to be "low risk."

Last month, acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell told DeFazio's and Larsen's committee that he wasn't happy Boeing waited 13 months to tell the agency about the problem.

"We will make sure that software anomalies are reported more quickly," he said.

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https://aviationweek.com/commercial-aviation/american-airlines-pilots-boeing-max-crews-need-better-mcas-training?NL=AW-05&Issue=AW-05_20190607_AW-05_913&sfvc4enews=42&cl=article_1&utm_rid=CPEN1000009553792&utm_campaign=19906&utm_medium=email&elq2=bca6637cfa314ec4a4a9bc94ab3d128c

American Airlines Pilots: Boeing MAX Crews Need Better MCAS Training

WASHINGTON—American Airlines pilots are emphasizing detailed instruction on the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) and revamped emergency procedures as key elements to ensuring a safe return to service for the grounded Boeing 737 MAX fleet, adding that simulator training should be introduced, but not necessarily as a condition to getting the MAX back flying.

In comments to FAA on the Flight Standardization Board (FSB) draft report that will update 737 training standards, the Allied Pilots Association (APA) tracked closely with what colleagues from the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) said. Among both groups’ recommendations: the MCAS modules being introduced must go beyond basic computer-based training (CBT) and provide pilots with real-world scenarios to help them understand the system and related failure scenarios.

“A [computer-based] training (CBT) module that only discusses system knowledge regarding [the new MCAS software] will not provide a level of confidence for pilots to feel not only comfortable flying the aircraft but also relaying that confidence to the traveling public,” APA told FAA. “At a minimum the CBT should include videoed simulator sessions explaining MCAS and its operation along with Runaway Stabilizer demo, Unreliable Airspeed Demo, [Angle of attack (AOA)] Disagree Demo, and manual [stabilizer] trim demo at both low and high-speed scenarios. Both [737 MAX] accidents had all of these situations happening at once and looking at each of them will provide a level of training to bring confidence to the pilot group.”

While both pilot groups emphasized the importance of detailed MCAS training, APA specifically called for a higher level of instruction for pilots transitioning from the 737 Next Generation (NG) to the MAX than FAA has proposed.

“APA believes that a Level B coupled with Level C training should be mandatory,” the union said. “When pilots visually experience the failure modes and then apply them, the lesson is cemented in their minds.”

Level B training—which FAA approved as the NG-to-MAX differences training standard—is computer-based, but does not require video or training aids. Level C training integrates more interactive learning, including training devices, but stops short of Level D’s full-flight simulators.

The MCAS and related training are being revamped based on lessons learned from  the October 2018 crash of a Lion Air 737-8 and the March 2019 Ethiopian Airlines 737-8 accident. The second accident led to the country-by-country worldwide grounding that remains in place.

A more reliable MCAS system and better training are two of the requirements that FAA has put on removing its MAX operations ban. Other regulators are taking FAA’s work into account, but also are conducting their own evaluations of Boeing’s changes, which still have not been finalized. The result: the 370-aircraft in-service MAX fleet will almost surely be cleared to fly in phases, with U.S. operators likely to fly first. The exact timeline remains unclear.

The key issue where regulators will differ is expected to be training. While the FAA has said it will not finalize its FSB update until it reviews its final training package, it is not expected to require full-flight simulator sessions as a condition of allowing pilots to fly the MAX again, while other countries have signaled their intent to consider immediate simulator time.

FAA is however expected to mandate new simulator sessions during recurrent training—a move that would place far less burden on operators. APA and ALPA in have signaled their tentative endorsements for FAA’s approach, so long as the baseline training is “robust,” as ALPA said in its FSB comments. Both APA and ALPA emphasize that their comments were filed without the benefit of reviewing Boeing’s final training package, and their views could change.

Among the issues FAA is reviewing is the runaway stabilizer trim emergency procedure that Boeing positioned as key to overcoming an MCAS failure. Neither the Lion Air nor Ethiopian flight crews followed the checklist, information released by investigators shows. The Lion Air crew never recognized the MCAS failure as a runaway stabilizer issue. The Ethiopian crew apparently did, and followed some of the checklist’s steps. But they were unable to pull the aircraft’s nose up after the MCAS, acting on erroneous angle-of-attack data, directed it downward by moving the horizontal stabilizer. They deviated from the checklist in several ways, including not reducing the aircraft’s speed enough and re-engaging the automatic stabilizer motors that MCAS uses to trim the aircraft. The pilots also were not able to manually move the stabilizer to counter-act the MCAS inputs.

Boeing and FAA have said that a misfiring MCAS’s uncommanded stabilizer movement should be recognized as runaway stabilizer. But unlike classic runaway stabilizer, MCAS moves the flight-control surface intermittently, which could make it more difficult to diagnose. An MCAS failure also triggers other flight-deck warnings, adding to the pilot’s workload.

APA and other pilot groups have pointed out that Boeing’s runaway stabilizer checklist is neither clear nor detailed enough when applied to an MCAS failure scenario, and should be revamped. Among the issues: the 737 flight crew operations manual (FCOM) on does not explain that moving the stabilizer manually may require both pilots, or that aerodynamic loads on the stabilizer may have to be reduced—such as by pushing the nose down—before trimming the aircraft manually. These details are included in supplemental training documents, however, and APA wants to see more of them in the FCOM. FAA is reviewing the checklist, and is likely to require changes.

Despite MCAS’s improvements, APA believes the revamped checklist—which would also apply to the 737 Next Generation—should be in place before the MAX is approved to fly again.

“[The runaway stab trim checklist] is related to the MCAS, even the new software,” APA spokesman and American 737 captain Dennis Tajer said. “It’s still what I’m left with to recover the aircraft if the MCAS misfires.”

American Airlines management has signaled that it is willing to adopt whatever APA believes is needed to ensure its 4,000 737 pilots are comfortable operating the MAX, Tajer said. That means APA’s FSB comments will likely become American’s training standard.

“We’re getting additional computer-based training because there are things that we all agree need to be added” even if they are not in the final FSB, Tajer said. “We’re going to be comfortable with what we have—American [management] has been very responsive.”

APA’s push, Tajer said, is about ensuring that MAX training standards are set as high as possible, as not every airline will go beyond the minimum requirements.

“We want one global standard of safety and training, and we’re pressing hard on this,” he said. “If there’s a problem with the MAX anywhere in the world, it’s a problem for all of us.”

 

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FAA says has no timetable for Boeing 737 Max's return to service

The Federal Aviation Administration said on Wednesday it does not have a specific timetable on when Boeing Co's troubled 737 Max jet would return to service after two fatal crashes led to the airplane's worldwide grounding in March.

Troubled aircraft has been grounded since March following 2 fatal crashes

Thomson Reuters · Posted: Jun 12, 2019 12:21 PM ET | Last Updated: 2 hours ago
boeing-orders.jpg In this March 27 file photo, a Boeing 737 Max 8 airplane is shown on the assembly line of Boeing's assembly facility in Renton, Wash. The Federation Aviation Administration said Wednesday it has no clear timeline on the trouble aircraft's return to service. (Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press)

The Federal Aviation Administration said on Wednesday it does not have a specific timetable on when Boeing Co's troubled 737 Max jet would return to service after two fatal crashes led to the airplane's worldwide grounding in March.

FAA spokesman Greg Martin said the agency has "no timetable" for allowing the 737 Max to resume flying and will act "only when it is safe to return to service."

Bloomberg reported earlier that the troubled 737 Max aircraft will be back in the air by December, citing a top Federal Aviation Administration safety official.

Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and has not given a timeline on when the planes would be back in service.

Boeing is not expected to submit its formal software fix to the FAA this week or conduct a certification test flight that is required before it can submit the fix and training upgrade for approval, two people briefed on the matter told Reuters.

westjet-20190507.jpg Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline's facilities in Calgary on May 7. WestJet's schedule is adjusted through August 3 to accommodate the grounding and a spokesperson said Wednesday the airline was in close touch with regulators. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

A battered aviation industry has been speculating on when Boeing will win regulators' approval to put the plane back in the air along with a batch of software upgrades and training.

A spokesperson for WestJet told CBC News that its schedule is adjusted through August 3. "We continue to monitor the situation and will adjust our schedule as required," said Morgan Bell.

"WestJet remains closely in contact with our partners at Boeing, Transport Canada and other regulators to understand how and when to safely reintroduce the Max aircraft into service."

Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said that because the timeline for the plane's return to service is unknown, the airline has removed all 737 Max aircraft from its schedule until at least September 2.

"Through various measures we have maintained enough capacity to operate 96 per cent of previous planned flights and customers can plan and book their travel with Air Canada with full confidence."

American Airlines Group Inc. said on Sunday it was extending cancellations of about 115 daily flights into September due to the grounding.

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https://www.thestar.com/business/opinion/2019/06/15/why-the-737-max-should-never-fly-again.html

Why the 737 Max should never fly again

The Paris Air Show next week is the most important sales event of the year for the world’s aircraft makers. But the talk won’t be dominated, as usual, by who’s selling the most planes.

Industry officials gathered in Paris will instead speculate on wrenching changes to global aviation made necessary by Boeing Co.’s ill-conceived 737 Max, and the questionable decisions of regulators and airlines in believing it was safe to fly.

The global fleet of 737 Max, numbering 393 aircraft, has been grounded since March, after the second of two fatal crashes, in March, of the new aircraft within two years of its first entering commercial service.

The two crashes claimed the lives of all aboard each aircraft – a total of 346 fatalities, including 18 Canadians.

One crash of a new flagship airliner in commercial service is rare. Two crashes are unimaginable.

Boeing and its chief regulator, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, are under investigation on Capitol Hill. U.S. legislators want to know why Boeing built a faulty plane, and why the FAA certified the 737 Max as safe to fly.

Boeing denies allegations of improper conduct, and says its culture of safety is among the best in the world. And “when the Max returns to the skies,” Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg said in April, it will be “as safe as any airplane ever to fly.”

But the accident investigations – at the crash sites, in legislative testimony, and at the 737 Max assembly plant near Seattle – have revealed grievous faults in global aviation.

What the faults amount to is that the global industry and the passengers it serves have become overly reliant on the duopoly of Boeing and Airbus SE in the supply of large commercial airliners; on an industry-friendly regulator (FAA); and on one aircraft type, the aging 737 family, of which the Max is the fourth generation.

To see why that is so requires a brief review of events.

 

In 2011, Boeing chose to modify a then 44-year-old 737 over the costlier and more time-consuming option of designing a new “clean-sheet” aircraft from scratch.

“We all rolled our eyes, the idea that ‘Here we go, the 737 again,” Rick Ludtke, a former Boeing engineer who worked on the 737 Max’s cockpit design, told the New York Times in April.

“Nobody was quite perhaps willing to say it was unsafe, but we really felt like the limits were being bumped up against.”

Boeing was bumping up against the fundamental aerodynamics of the 737. It gave the Max larger engines, to provide greater fuel efficiency and longer range. But Boeing insisted on retaining the 737’s low-slung profile, popular with airline buyers because it made the plane easy to unload and resupply.

That meant, however, that the Max’s larger engines would have to mounted further forward on the wings to achieve ground clearance. And that, in turn, gave the Max a tendency to fly with its nose too high in the air, risking an irrecoverable stall, in which the plane crashes.

Boeing engineers conceived a software patch that automatically corrected for the nose-up tendency, called MCAS (Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System).

But in the two crashes, in October and March, the MCAS system failed. Acting on erroneous data fed to it by a malfunctioning angle-of-attack sensor (AOA), which monitors the plane’s angle of climb or descent, the MCAS mistakenly believed the planes’ noses were too high.

The MCAS repeatedly forced the planes’ noses down soon after takeoff, just when they needed to instead to climb to gain altitude.

 

The pilots in the two crashes had not been trained on the MCAS and did not even know it existed. And so, they were unable to wrest control of their aircraft from an MCAS that had gone “haywire.”

As Marc Garneau, the Canadian transport minister and former astronaut, later said of the March 10 crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302: “The pilots lost their battle with the technology.”

Boeing has since developed a software fix for the MCAS – a patch on a patch, as it were – to take data from two, rather than just one, angle-of-attack sensor.

A question for investigators is why Boeing designed the original MCAS to rely on just one sensor, and why the FAA approved that. Sensors and other externally mounted devices are vulnerable to bird strikes, scrapes with equipment at airport terminals, and other damage.

An FAA that is under investigation for why it certified the original Max is dragging its heels in certifying Boeing’s re-engineered MCAS software fix.

At Boeing’s annual meeting in April, Muilenburg declared, “We do not make safety features optional.”

But Boeing has more than one definition of safety, and so do regulators and airlines.

Some safety features are deemed essential. Others are “noncritical.”

Air Canada, the only North American carrier with its own flight simulator, bought two optional safety features for its 24 Max planes, deeming them essential. Calgary’s WestJet Airlines Ltd. was of the same mind, buying an optional safety feature it believes to be mission-critical.

But most cost-obsessed airlines bought none of the optional safety features, including operators of the fatal Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights.

The standard equipment on previous 737s included an “AOA Alert” that warns pilots that one or more AOA sensors are malfunctioning. But on the 737 Max, that feature was ornamental, activated only with the purchase of an optional display.

The crash investigations are still underway, but have already concluded that a malfunctioning AOA sensor, feeding faulty data to the MCAS, caused the two planes to crash. There was no optional AOA Alert on those aircraft to warn of a malfunction.

The FAA tests new airplanes, but it did not test the MCAS. For the past decade, the U.S. agency has been outsourcing an ever-larger portion of its inspection work to the aircraft makers, which mostly means Boeing. U.S. lawmakers accuse the FAA of simply taking Boeing’s word on safety and quality issues.

The European Union’s aviation regulator overcame initial reservations it had about the 737 Max and effectively rubber-stamped the FAA’s certification. So did Transport Canada.

As to the airlines, which so far in this crisis have been spared criticism, they were enticed by Boeing’s promised cost savings with the 737 Max.

For instance, flight-simulator training, which can cost tens of millions of dollars over the life of an airplane, would not be required for Max pilots, Boeing said.

Such training wasn’t necessary, Boeing said, for pilots already experienced in flying the 737 family, since the Max flew the same way as previous generations of 737s did.

But at best, that was a shading of the truth, since previous 737s didn’t have a MCAS that could go haywire.

Most airlines chose not to inform their 737 Max pilots of the MCAS. Doing so might have triggered pilot demands for costly simulator training. And Boeing made only passing reference to the MCAS in pilot manuals.

“MCAS should have been more thoroughly explained [to pilots],” Daniel Elwell, acting head of the FAA, testified to the U.S. Congress in May. But Elwell’s agency made no such requirement of Boeing and airlines in certifying the plane.

That chain of disastrous decision-making – at Boeing, the regulators and the airlines – suggests that profit has inordinate influence on aviation practices.

So, what to do?

Antitrust action to split up the Airbus-Boeing duopoly would mark an end to airlines having only the Max and the Airbus A320neo to choose from in the big market for narrow-body medium-haul flights.

The FAA is compromised by its dual roles as an industry-friendly promoter of air travel and as an industry watchdog. The latter function could be handed to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), with its superb record of global air-accident investigations and enhanced-safety recommendations.

Finally, the 737 family is due for retirement. In its basic design, the Max is unchanged from the original 737 that first went into service 52 years ago.

The 737, based on 1960s technology, is the only major aircraft type still using “fly-by-cable” controls, an archaic system of wheels, pulleys, pneumatics and cables that requires pilots to perform multiple, manual functions.

Most of the world’s large jet airliners, including those made by Boeing, use “fly-by-wire,” the fully electronic system by which Chesley Sullenberger was able to land his Airbus in the Hudson River with an absolute minimum of instruction to his plane.

There is urgency here. The already crowded skies will soon become much more so. Global air travel is forecast to roughly double in 20 years, from a current 4.3 billion travellers, according to the International Air Transport Association.

And the accelerating pace of climate change promises challenging new flying conditions, for which aircraft makers, regulators and airlines appear unprepared. It’s difficult to think otherwise, given their dubious assessment of a known quantity like the latest variant of the 737, which has been in commercial service since Expo 67.

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