Two brand new planes took off in clear weather piloted by skilled pilots. Within minutes after takeoff the pilots detected something wrong with their plane. They asked permission to return to the base they just left. Permission was granted. They never made it back. They plunged straight down into the ground.
That never should have happened. New planes are not supposed to crash. Oh, perhaps a freak accident could happen that would cause one to tumble out of the sky; but not two. Has it ever happened before that two new passenger jets being operated in favorable weather conditions crashed into the earth from a high height as they attempted to return to the safety of their airport. I suggest not.
Obviously Boeing is to blame. But the fault also attaches to others. The Federal Aviation Administration which is supposed to ensure planes do not fall out of the sky also must accept blame. It let Boeing short cut safety measures so it could save money. Over three hundred individuals have gone through the horror of being on a plane as it plummets toward the grounds; thousands more through the horror of losing a loved one in such a tragic manner.
I’m no expert in aviation but I arrived at these conclusions after reading about the history of the Boeing aircraft that crashed. It is here. Judge for yourself. And if you want to know a little more about the history of the 737 Max you might want to read this.
Here’s my take. The Boeing 737 has been around since the 1960s and has been updated as time passed. In 2010 that Airbus announced it would put into production a a more fuel-efficient version of its best-selling A320. Boeing knew it had to respond to this because it was the direct competitor to its 737. It set about to do this.
Its plan was to keep the 737 but to make the engines more fuel efficient. It called its new plane the 737 Max. When it decided upon these new engines it found they were bigger than the ones presently on the 737. Here’s what the article said about them: “But Boeing’s engineers had a problem. Because the new engines for the Max were larger than those on the older version, they needed to be mounted higher and farther forward on the wings to provide adequate ground clearance. Early analysis revealed that the bigger engines, mounted differently than on the previous version of the 737, would have a destabilizing effect on the airplane, especially at lower speeds during high-banked, tight-turn maneuvers,” according to Rick Mr. Ludtke a flight crew operations engineering analyst.
It was believed that if that happened the nose of the plane would be pushed up at low airspeeds which could cause the plane to get closer to the angle at which it stalls, or loses lift. To avoid that problem Boeing added a new computer coding program to the plane’s flight control system called M.C.A.S. That program changed the way the stabilizers on the plane operated. Boeing insisted that the changes were not such that expensive training for the pilots on the new plane would be necessary. The FAA went along.
Pilots then flying the 737 were not made aware of the significance of the M.C.A.S. changes specifically that “pulling back on the yoke, or control column, one of which sits immediately in front of both the captain and the first officer, would cut off electronic control of the stabilizers, allowing the pilots to control them manually. That feature was disabled on the Max when M.C.A.S. was activated — another change that pilots were unlikely to have been aware of. After the crash, Boeing told airlines that when M.C.A.S. is activated, as it appeared to have been on the Lion Air flight, pulling back on the control column will not stop so-called stabilizer runaway.”
A second decision Boeing made was to have only one of two angle of attack sensors, vanelike devices on either side of the fuselage that measure how much the plane’s nose is pointing up or down activated at a time. This increased the chances of a faulty reading on the plane.
The 737 might have been the same plane but the bigger engines and new operating system made it dramatically different. Only Brazil regulators recognized the change was significant enough to require its pilots to undergo training before operating the 737 Max. To save money Boeing did not want to train pilots on the new system hoping that it would never malfunction. Two planes have been lost. Will it still insist training is not necessary?