Saturday, 16 October 2021

Why Boeing 737 Max-8 is in trouble

Photo: Boeing

The March 10 Ethiopian Airlines crash has spelt bad news for US aircraft manufacturer Boeing, with countries and airlines around the world opting to ground Boeing’s 737 Max 8 jets. The Ethiopian Airlines crash, in which all 157 onboard were killed, involved a Boeing 737 Max 8.

This was the second such crash involving a Boeing 737 Max 8 in the last five months. A Lion Air 737 Max 8 crashed in October 2018, killing all 189 passengers and crew.

The two crashes have prompted global fears over the safety of the Boeing 737 Max 8. There are concerns that faulty equipment and incorrectly functioning computer systems on the 737 Max 8 may render pilots useless, preventing them from keeping the plane under control.

On March 10, an Ethiopian Boeing 737-800 Max flight to Nairobi crashed with 149 passengers and eight crew members between Addis Ababa and Kenya’s capital, killing all 157 on board. The Boeing 737 flight crashed while it was en route to Nairobi. The Boeing 737 took-off from Bole International Airport on Sunday and lost contact six minutes later before coming down near Tulu Fara village outside the Ethiopian town of Bishoftu.
The victims on board the Boeing aircraft included six members of a family from India in Canada who perished when the Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa. The victims included Pannagesh Vaidya, 73; his wife Hansini Vaidya, 67; their daughter Kosha Vaidya, 37; her husband Prerit Dixit, 45; and their two children – Anushka and Ashka – Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown was quoted as saying by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Following the crash, several countries and airlines have grounded fleets of Boeing 737 Max 8. China, Indonesia, Singapore and Australia are among the countries that have grounded or suspended operations of 737 MAX 8 aircraft. Even the United Kingdom has now banned the aircraft. When the UK announced a ban on all Boeing 737 MAX jets this morning, some of the Max 8 jets were already en route to land at UK airports or travel through UK airspaces. The flights reportedly were asked to turn back.
As more airlines and countries are grounding Boeing 737 Max 8 planes in the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines crash, President Trump tweeted that technology was becoming too complicated. “Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT,” the President tweeted. In a follow-up tweet, Trump said, ” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!”
The pilots of the doomed Ethiopian Airlines flight told air traffic control they were having “flight control problems” before the crash, airline CEO Tewolde GebreMariam told CNN’s Richard Quest on Tuesday (March 12). GebreMariam said the flight data recorders which have been collected from the crash site “will be sent overseas,” since Ethiopia does not have the technical capability to do it. However, he did not say where the recorders would be sent for analysis. Pilots were aware of airworthiness directive issued after the Lion Air crash in October and had had additional training, he said.
Boeing’s 737 Max airplanes are coming under fresh scrutiny for their safety record. But it was only two weeks ago that US President Trump oversaw the sale of 100 of the planes while in Hanoi, Vietnam for a summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un. Boeing said the order was worth $12.7 billion. Now, Vietnam is saying the safety issues must be resolved before the planes can fly.
Despite the crashes, Boeing isn’t grounding its 737 MAX 8s. Boeing has said that it has “full confidence in the safety” of it 737 MAX jets and it is not issuing any new guidance. “It is also important to note that the Federal Aviation Administration is not mandating any further action at this time, and based on the information currently available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators,” the company said in a statement.

India’s Ministry of Aviation has shut down the country’s airspace to all Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft as of Wednesday, the latest country to take action following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302. It followed an earlier decision by the government to ground Indian airlines’ entire Max 8 fleet on Tuesday. The ban will begin at 4 pm on Wednesday (March 13), the ministry said on its official Twitter.

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