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737 Max Second Deadly Crash / China Grounds Plane / Others Follow Suit / FAA Finally Grounds Jet

edited March 2019 in Off-Topic
There are eerie similarities between November’s crash and today’s - both of which involved Boeing’s new 737 MAX. Apparently both planes encountered problems shortly after takeoff and both crews requested permission to return to the airport before falling off the radar. The first incident in November was eventually attributed to issues with pilot training. But there’s another deeper issue of whether the upgraded autopilot / software on this jet is unnecessarily confusing / counterintuitive. The 737 was introduced in the late 1960s. It has an enviable safety record. But the plane has been upgraded and resized so many times it bears little, if any, resemblance to the original.

“It was too soon to tell on Sunday whether the causes of the Ethiopian Airlines crash were the same as or similar to those of the Lion Air crash in Indonesia last year. But there are some initial similarities ... “

More Recent Article with more details on the 737 Max and control issues

Related MFO Discusdion thread from November. This crash also involved Boeing’s new 737 Max.

There are financial and investment related issues for Boeing and (indirectly) for its largest competitor Airbus. Likely Boing’s stock (BA) will suffer Monday. However, the human tragedy outweighs those at this time.

Update March 10 - China First to Ground 737 - Max 8

Here’s the latest from Reuter’s - China has now temporarily suspended use of the 737 Max

Update 12:00 PM March 12 - UK joins wave of countries grounding the 737 Max

“In a move that was welcomed by British pilots, the CAA said the directive would remain in place until further notice.
In a statement, it said it took the decision because it did not currently have "sufficient information" from the flight data recorder about the fatal crash. Tui Airways and Norwegian both operate the Boeing Max 8 in the UK as part of their fleets. One Turkish Airlines flight to Birmingham turned around and returned to Istanbul.”

“In the aftermath of the accident, Ethiopia, Singapore, China, France, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia have all temporarily suspended the 737 Max.” ... “The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has declared the 737 Max 8 airworthy.”

“But the largest operator of 737 Max 8s in America, Southwest Airlines, is offering passengers scheduled to fly on one of the Boeing planes the chance to change their bookings. Rival American Airlines said its "standard policies for changes still apply".

Update 12:00 PM March 13

Canada has now grounded the 737 Max:

As of noon Wednesday more than half of the 737 Max fleet worldwide had been grounded either by the airline or local civil aviation authorities.. The FAA (U.S.) is a notable holdout. I’d expect that by end of day we should have at least a few bits of information from the analysis of the doomed aircraft’s voice and data recorders. Depending on the results, this may prompt the FAA to act. Bloomberg reports that BA has fallen about 10% this week.

Comprehensive list of groundings:

Trump claims planes have become too complicated to fly. Senators Cruz, Romney, Warren among those urging temporary grounding:



  • @MFO Members: BA is down 7% in after market trading, but is an excellent long-term investment. I'm sure a number of fund managers will be adding BA to their portfolios today.
  • edited March 2019
    Update March 13, 2:30 PM Bloomberg is reporting that President Trump has just announced that the FAA is grounding the 737 Max pending a review of air worthiness. It’s about time! This is more than two days after China and some other nations grounded the plane.

    This is Breaking News (so sketchy) - From NBC^google|twcamp^serp|twgr^author

    Boeing’s stock (BA) has already lost nearly 11% over the past 3 days. This won’t help. Southwest Airlines, American and others who depend on the plane are also suffering falling stock prices.
  • @hank: Get off my toes !!!!!!!!!!
  • @Ted: Stuff it.
  • This has nothing to do with you @Ted. I’ll post what I fricken think is relevant to MFO readers. Anyone who flies commercially or has loved ones who do has an interest in air safety. Now - You’ve posted about 25 new threads just in the past 24 hours. Ought to be enough to satisfy your greatly inflated ego.
  • @Old_Joe & hank: Stop piggy-backing the news items I link first. Find your own material, led ,follow, or get out of the way
  • @Ted- I guess you don't hear too well: STUFF IT !!
  • edited March 2019
    Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao (Mitch McConnells wife) was finally FORCED to get off her do-nothing Republican ass and take care of public safety. What a total farce!
  • BA is my largest position and have owned it since 1978, 40 years, Very upset about it all, so much loss of life. I am confident in them coming out of this.
  • Eye whitnesses at the seen commented before the crash parts were falling off the plane and heard a lot of abnormal noise from the plaine.
  • @MFO Members: Old_Joe has to make a political statement out of a tragedy when over 300 lives were lost. "Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao (Mitch McConnells wife) was finally FORCED to get off her do-nothing Republican ass and take care of public safety. What a total farce!" You are a real loser !!!!!!!!!!
    :(:(:( :(
  • edited March 2019
    @Ted: You may not like it, but facts are what facts are. It took more than the loss of 300 lives for Chao to do anything at all: it took the worldwide agreement of all responsible aviation administrators OTHER THAN CHAO. If you have some info to the contrary let's see it.
  • In November 2018 I made the following comments regarding the Lion Air disaster. Unfortunately they are still valid, except that all 737 commercial pilots should now be well aware of the potential need for an emergency override of Boeing's ill-designed automation.

    When I was in my 20s I obtained my instrument & commercial rated pilots licenses. That training qualified me to work as an FAA air-traffic controller, which I did for a few years. I mention this only to establish that I have some residual knowledge in this area.

    Naturally I've followed this Boeing situation with great interest, as I try to follow all major aircraft accidents and air-traffic control incidents. All I can say at the present time, based on the information released so far, is that Boeing must have been completely out of their minds on this one.

    "Let's make some major changes in automation, allow the aircraft to override pilot control during critical maneuvers, and let's not tell anyone about all of this. Pilots don't need to know about this stuff- we know a lot more about this airplane than they ever will, and besides, these changes are designed to compensate for poor piloting anyway and our computers are better than a lot of pilots."

    Total hubris. Total negligence. Terminal stupidity.
  • edited March 2019
    Dear Sirs: @Old_Joe @Ted- did you pick up BA stocks...thx bought few of them yesterday; hopefully they will be ok long term

    NO MuCHO DINERO...PAY TOO MUCH TAXATIONS 2018 lol..waiting until next paycheck & 3/16 [Think Ted know what this date means lots Divs coming in]:)
  • @johnN: I'm no longer in the market, however if I were I'd be a buyer of BA. It has an excellent long-term stock returns and earnings.
  • I would have a hard time trying to make a profit buying BA stock right now. Seems almost immoral to me. I couldn't profit over someone else's loss, someones loss of loved ones. But, that's just one guys opinion I guess.
  • edited March 2019
    @MikeM- You read my mind. I imagine that folks like Linker Sr. & Jr. think we're just fools, but that's OK too.
  • edited March 2019
    The time stamps show @Ted posting a new thread on this existing topic 2 minutes before I updated my thread with the same news. This would be funny if Ted weren’t the one who constantly berates others for posting stories he’s already posted - often from completely different sources and with different takes on the same issue.

    FWIW: I first posted this obvious safety issue with Boeing’s new 737 MAX back in November. That’s the thread OJ generously shared his experience in aviation on. And I posted again last Sunday after hearing of the same plane and same crash scenario just 5 months later. (The November thread is referenced in my post on Sunday.) There are huge investment questions here. Boeing is a big chunk of the DJI. Others who buy and sell individual equities can comment on that issue. (@JohnN has already mentioned buying some BA Monday.)

    Here’s my take as an admittedly avid follower of aviation / aviation news all my life. The 737 was a great aircraft (dating back to the 60s). You’ve heard the joke about a camel being “a horse designed by committee”? To some extent that’s what’s going on here. Today’s 737 bears only faint resemblance to the original. For starters, it’s much larger and can carry up to twice the number of passengers as the 1960s bird. It’s been remade over and over. Generally over the years larger and larger engines were added. These resulted in significant structural changes. To accommodate those newer, heavier (and better) engines landing gears needed to be increased in height (for ground clearance). Enlarging and strengthening wings, fuselage and tail section became necessary both to accomodate the added weight of heavier engines and landing gear and allow the plane to hold more passengers, cargo and (importantly) fuel.

    The 737 MAX was belatedly developed only in response to arch competitor Airbus’s outgunning the 737 in the all important fuel-burn category with a new Airbus A320 Neo. Fearing loss of business to the more efficient plane Boeing committed to one more makeover for the 737. The problem was the highly efficient new “LEAP” engines selected were (again) far heavier and larger than the previous ones. Boeing was forced to place the new heavier engines even farther foreward of the wings (wouldn’t fit underneath). The weight and foreward position adversely affected the critical center of gravity (CG). If you’ve ever been asked to change your seat on a smaller plane prior to takeoff for “weight and balance” you are aware of how important this balance issue is. So now Boeing has a problem with a badly out of balance aircraft.

    Enter modern computers. There are no longer cables or other physical links to the aircraft’s controlling surfaces (ailerons, rudder, etc.) on modern jets. Instead, there are electrical wires leading to them which engage electric motors on these surfaces to activate / control them. It’s called “fly by wire.”. And it’s easy to connect all this crap to computers. Yes - properly controlled by a computer even pigs can fly. So Boeing chose to get around the issue of poor CG by allowing computer software to compensate for the problem and keep the plane in the air. The automatic “pitch down” OJ and others have noted was apparently programmed into the software as a precaution in an attempt to keep pilots from running into issues related to balance that might cause them to loose control under adverse circumstances. Pitching the nose down is the accepted practice for increasing airspeed and (therefore gaining altitude) when the aircraft’s speed drops too low to sustain flight.

    It appears from both of these crashes that the safety measures programmed into the software became confused by faulty airspeed sensors (mounted outside an aircraft) or (as OJ pointed out) faulty angle of attack sensors. Likely the pilots recognized the faulty data and tried to keep the craft flying straight and level. But, for whatever reason, the “failsafe” software failed them and continued to push the nose down trying to build airspeed and denying them the ability to pull the plane out of the dive. (Take a look at that impact sight.) This is all conjecture of course. Don’t sell your BA. They’ll get this straightened out. Fly-by-wire is the way all these new jets operate. Back to the drawing boards for Boeing along with improved training for crews, The 737s days (50 years of service) are numbered. Likely Boeing will come out with an entirely reengineered replacement in a few years instead of repeatedly upgrading the old work horse.
  • @hank- Earlier today I read some interesting information from NPR.

    • "In two cases, pilots flying in the U.S. late last year had their planes pitch down unexpectedly after departures. Both times, the crew disengaged the autopilot and were able to keep flying safely," NPR's Russell Lewis reports. "In a third report, a pilot complained that the Boeing 737 MAX's flight manual was inadequate and 'almost criminally insufficient.' "

    • "While the [American Airlines] union endorsed the continued use of the 737 Max, it added, "The flying public should also be aware that American Airlines' Boeing 737 Max planes are unique."

    "The two dozen 737 Max aircraft in the American Airlines fleet are the only ones equipped with two AOA [Angle of Attack] displays, one for each pilot, providing an extra layer of awareness and warning," the union said.

    What isn't said is whether the two Angle of Attack displays are completely independent, or whether they share a common AOA sensor input. Additionally, if the issue is the autopilot erroneously pushing the nose down, it doesn't take two displays to realize that something very bad is happening.
  • In the other running thread on the 737, Hank responded:

    Thanks OJ. I didn’t realize I’d posted my extensive ramblings under @Ted’s thread. So I have now moved it to my original thread (Territorial:))

    Interesting. AOA is new to me. But yes - I heard that recently as well. “Air speed sensors” (outside the craft) are known to ice-up and suffer other problems that can confuse the computers or crew. That was the initial problem with the Air France jet flying from Brazil to Paris a decade ago. Led to the crew actually flying the thing into the Atlantic with loss of all aboard at night. Transcripts reveal they never had a clue.

    Your post makes me think that at altitude they might have resolved the problem (disengaged). As you know the cockpit is a very busy place during climb out. Last thing they need is to be hit with something like that at low altitude in congested air space.
  • And then, also in that other thread, I replied:

    @hank- Yes, exactly. And evidently Boeing didn't either, when they designed this bastardized autopilot system.
  • @hank- OK, I hope that everything (threadwise) is under some degree of control now. Please don't do that anymore.:)
  • edited March 2019
    And in “the other” (unnamed) thread I posted “DITTO.”

    It amazes me how most folks today seem to accept that it’s an easy feat hurtling 77 tons of metal, flesh and fuel into the air at near the speed of sound at 40,000 feet. Than bringing it all back down safely. This really is rocket science.

    Too many threads. LOL
  • Yes, every time I'm up close to one of the big ones I just marvel that the thing can even get airborne.

  • I always had a fondness for the 757 or A319/20s myself. Never really liked flying in the 37s for some reason....they just seemed more like flying cattle cars. But want to really feel like you're in a smoothly lumbering steel tube? Take a trip on an A-380 ... which makes the gorgeous 747 (RIP!) feel like a Sopwith Camel.

    And not only do I hold a very large holding in BA that I have no intention of touching, since there are a few others here, I solo'd in a Cessna at age 16 up in Pennsylvania...but sadly haven't flown PIC in over 20 years now due to life getting in the way. :/ Tha said, whenever I fly United, I do pop on Channel 9 ATC and can just zone out for the entire flight --- which is particularly great when there's bad weather reported b/c you can hear about it first and get in/out of the bathroom before the seat belt light comes on....seatmates are like, "how'd you do that?" :)

    And politically speaking, it's about time the GOP-run DOT got involved. Even the right-leaning WSJ was burning their inactivity on anything to do with commercial aviation since Jan '17 this week, so you know you're in trouble then.
  • edited March 2019
    A wildcard in this one is the eyewitness report regarding "smoke coming from the tail" as the aircraft descended.

    Lord knows that I don't put a lot of faith in supposed "eyewitness" testimony, unless backed up by multiple witnesses or other factual information. But the aircraft pitch is controlled by the horizontal stabilizers, which are in fact part of the tail control assembly. And the stabilizers themselves are controlled by electric motors and positioning sensors which in turn are controlled by the pilots (and in the case of the 737 "Max", by the autopilot, should it decide to override the pilots).

    This one could get very interesting. Thank goodness they have recovered the flight recorders, especially the flight data recorder.

    Horizontal Stabilizers (per Wickipedia):

  • edited March 2019
    @rforno - Nice.

    Neither the 380 or 747 for me (much as I hoped and tried). Most everything else. Several Beach 1900s while traveling in Florida. With under 20 seats they weren’t legally required to close the cockpit door. Always enjoyed seat 1A and a look at the action. Out of Detroit my first was on a DC 8 mid-70s. Later had several rides on half-empty L1011s and DC 10s.

    Wildest ride was the 727. So many had fallen out of the sky on approach that they eventually decided to come in pretty hot. Really could hear the engines winding up as they neared the runway. Noisy bird to start with anyhow.

    Of course in the 70s folks would have scoffed at the thought of a twin engine 737 flying to Hawaii or Europe. Now reliability is such that it’s common pracrice.

    Yes - I agree 100%. The Fed regulators didn’t want to oppose Boeing. Every other major country jumped to take the plane out of service. Money over safety I’m afraid.
  • @hank- Oh, my... now you've gone and done it. @Ted says that you are "making a political statement out of a tragedy". Don't you realize that you are supposed to ignore reality in cases like this?
  • @rforno: I have found the WSJ aviation coverage to be pretty well-informed. They also run "The Middle Seat" column which treats flying from the passenger's POV most of the time.
  • edited March 2019
    Yep - Resembles a 7-3. Not sure what your point there is except to make us motion sick.:)

    What doesn’t become politicized nowadays? I’d say the Prez picked up a couple points in the polls with his announcement today.

    Re the image: I can tell it’s not a 737 Max - which has the split wingtips. They were needed to maintain necessary lift while keeping the plane within boarding gate Class C limitations.

    BTW - Agree on the eye witness thing. May be an explanation for the apparent smoke. But likely not the primary issue.
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