Archive for the ‘Aviation’ Category

Boeing made survival an “optional extra” with the B737 Max

April 30, 2019

It does not look good for Boeing (or the FAA).

It seems that a sensor advising of a malfunction of the MCAS was deactivated intentionally and made an optional extra to be bought separately.

“Not fit for purpose” comes to mind.

Boeing de-activated a signal designed to advise the cockpit crew of a malfunctioning of the MCAS system ……. Boeing had opted to make the malfunction alert an optional extra costing more money — and had deactivated the signal on all 737 MAX …….. Neither of the Boeing 737 Max planes in the Lion Air crash in Indonesia or the Ethiopian Airlines crash were equipped with the signal that is supposed to show a malfunctioning of the MCAS

It seems that at some level within the FAA this was seen as a potential problem last year, but the issue was not escalated within the FAA nor was it acted upon.

If surviving a flight is an optional extra an accident is no longer a random event. What somebody at Boeing did may not have been murder but it comes preciously close to manslaughter.

Yahoo News: New York (AFP)US regulators considered grounding some Boeing 737 MAX planes last year after learning of a problem with a system that is now the main suspect in two deadly crashes, a source close to the matter said. Investigators in the Lion Air crash in October off the coast of Indonesia and the Ethiopia Airlines disaster in March have zeroed in on the planes’ anti-stall system, called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS.

Last year, inspectors with the Federal Aviation Administration discovered Boeing de-activated a signal designed to advise the cockpit crew of a malfunctioning of the MCAS system, the source said. The inspectors were in charge of monitoring Southwest Airlines, the biggest user of 737 MAX planes, with a fleet of 34 of them at the time, added the source.

Before the Lion Air crash, which killed all 189 people on board, “the (signals) were depicted as operable by Boeing on all MAX aircraft” regardless of whether the cockpit crew thought they had them turned on or off, said a Southwest spokeswoman. She said after the accident, Boeing told Southwest the signals were “turned off unless they were specifically designated as being turned on” — prompting the airline to choose that option for all its aircraft. It was at that point inspectors learned Boeing had opted to make the malfunction alert an optional extra costing more money — and had deactivated the signal on all 737 MAX delivered to Southwest without telling the carrier. They considered recommending grounding the planes as they explored whether pilots flying the aircraft needed additional training about the alerts, said the source. They decided against that — but never passed details of the discussions to higher-ranking officials in the FAA, the source said, confirming a story in The Wall Street Journal.

……… The Ethiopia Airlines crash left all 157 people on the plane dead and led to all Boeing 737 Max planes all over the world being grounded. In this case too the MCAS is being looked at as a possible cause of the crash.

In times of mid-air distress, the system is supposed to activate on its own and push the nose of the plane down to keep it from stalling. Boeing is working on changing the MCAS so it can get the planes back in the air. The grounding has already cost the carrier a billion dollars, Boeing said last week. But the bill will probably climb because Boeing is expected to pay money to airlines forced to cancel thousands of flights and hire more reservations and services staff. Boeing has suspended deliveries of Boeing 737 Max planes and cut production of them by 20 percent.

Neither of the Boeing 737 Max planes in the Lion Air crash in Indonesia or the Ethiopian Airlines crash were equipped with the signal that is supposed to show a malfunctioning of the MCAS, an industry source told AFP in March. Called “disagree lights” in Boeing parlance, these lights turn on when faulty information is sent from so-called angle of attack sensors to the MCAS. Those sensors monitor whether the wings have enough lift to keep the plane flying. …. 

image – Zero Hedge


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Understanding why two Boeing 737-800 Max planes crashed

April 23, 2019

Understanding why two Boeing 737-800 Max planes crashed.

Trying to use software to compensate for a bad design did not work.

Nice video.


 

Doomed pilots had no chance against Boeing’s deadly software

April 6, 2019

Bad software from Boeing has killed 346 people on Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. What is now becoming clear is that the pilots were doomed. It was not possible for the pilots to circumvent or override the software once it had been engaged in its malicious mode (whether due to a faulty signal or not). 

The preliminary report on the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 has now been released. Ethiopian Airlines released a statement about the preliminary report

Despite [the pilots’ hard work and full compliance with the emergency procedures, it was very unfortunate that they could not recover the airplane from the persistence (of) nose diving,

The President and CEO of Boeing, Dennis Muilenburg, also released a statement:

We at Boeing are sorry for the lives lost in the recent 737 MAX accidents. These tragedies continue to weigh heavily on our hearts and minds, and we extend our sympathies to the loved ones of the passengers and crew on board Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. All of us feel the immense gravity of these events across our company and recognize the devastation of the families and friends of the loved ones who perished.

The full details of what happened in the two accidents will be issued by the government authorities in the final reports, but, with the release of the preliminary report of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident investigation, it’s apparent that in both flights the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, known as MCAS, activated in response to erroneous angle of attack information. ……..

Today it is reported that the B737 Max has other software problems as well.

A day after Ethiopian Airlines released its preliminary report, Boeing has confirmed that the 737 Max 8 has an additional problem in its flight control software that will require more time to fix. These issues are reportedly separate from the anti-stall system failures believed to have caused the loss of Flight 302. The additional issues affect software controlling flaps and other flight-control surfaces. It is not clear if these additional flaws contributed to the loss of Lion Air 610 or Flight 302.

That Boeing has liability for the 346 deaths is apparent. Whether it is to some extent criminal liability remains to be seen. That the US FAA has some liability as well is also evident. If the FAA colluded with Boeing to allow less than fully tested software to go into service then it would surely be criminal liability on both their parts.

In both cases the gut reaction was to imply (if not blame) pilot error. But the pilots had no chance against the killer software.


 

5 years on: MH370 needs to be revisited in the light of Boeing equipment malfunction

March 18, 2019

A week ago (8th March) it was 5 years since Malaysian flight MH370 – a Boeing 777-200ER – vanished without trace, taking 239 passengers and crew to their deaths. The disappearance is still a complete mystery but all the various theories include a sudden steep, fast climb to about 45,000 feet followed by a very sharp dive down to about 23,000 feet. Such an uncontrolled ascent would have caused a very rapid decompression (explosive or rapid) which, in turn, would have incapacitated all aboard.

The altitude excursion about 1 hour into the flight up to 45,000 feet could have rendered everybody on board unconscious. If it was done deliberately or otherwise is still the burning question. – ktwop

The disappearance of Flight 370 has been dubbed one of the greatest aviation mysteries of all time. Relying mostly on analysis of data from the Inmarsat satellite with which the aircraft last communicated, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau proposed initially that a hypoxia event was the most likely cause given the available evidence, although there has not been any consensus concerning this theory among investigators. – Wikipedia

It now looks increasingly likely that both the Lion Air crash in Indonesia (189 dead) and the Ethiopian Air crash (157 dead) were caused by equipment/software faults which ultimately caused rapid, uncontrollable descents.

It seems to me that Boeing’s liability for the deaths on Ethiopian Air is very likely. Boeing may well have liability also for the Lion Air deaths, especially if the unpreparedness of the pilots for sudden malfunction was due to incomplete manuals and/or a deficiency in the training provided.

It is the uncontrolled nature of descents which link the two latest crashes. In both cases the pilots tried to correct for the faulty equipment trying to push the nose down by climbing very rapidly. It begs the question whether this fault of the automatics pushing the nose of the aircraft down – by whatever combination of software and equipment – was what also caused MH370 to change altitude rapidly.

  1. Was an uncontrolled ascent due to the pilots trying to correct the automatics pushing the nose down?
  2. Did hypoxia then incapacitate the crew?

Could it be that the satellite evidence of the flight continuing (which is all interpretations of satellite data rather than clear physical evidence) is a red herring? Did MH370 actually go down soon after the final radar contact (Butterworth Air Base) was lost? Are the remains of MH370 actually lying at the bottom of the Indian Ocean a little to the west of Malaysia.

The Lion Air and Ethiopian crashes make it necessary to re-examine the disappearance of MH370 and including equipment failure possibilities which were considered impossible.

MH370 – Looking in the wrong place?


 

Lion Air / Ethiopian Air similarity (updated)

March 15, 2019

If

  1. the Ethiopian Air crash was due to the same problem which caused the Lion Air crash, and
  2. Boeing was aware of the problem, and
  3. Boeing had not ensured that Ethiopian could handle the problem,

Then

Boeing has to answer for 157 deaths.


Update 1: Reuters reports that “The trim position of the stabilizer, which moves the jet’s horizontal tail, could help determine whether or not it was set nose down for a steep dive. …. …… part of a stabilizer found in the Ethiopian wreckage was in a unusual position similar to the Lion Air plane”.


Zero Hedge:

Boeing put MCAS in its planes as a protection against an aerodynamic stall, but in the case of the October flight, a sensor malfunction signaled that the plane was in danger when it wasn’t, causing it to dive automatically. Rather than switch off the motor triggering the dives, the pilots tried to counteract it with their controls until it dove into the sea.

The Ethiopian flight showed similar “highly unusual descents followed by climbs”. 

Peter Goelz, a former managing director at the NTSB said: “It certainly puts a magnifying glass on the MCAS system. There’s an implication that there were two similar accidents and that it likely involved the interaction of the MCAS system with the flight of the aircraft.”

Kevin Durkin, an aviation lawyer, said: “If you have a defective product and it turns out Boeing knew about it, this could easily expose them to punitive damages. The standard is whether the company engaged in conduct with a ‘conscious indifference to the safety of others’.”


 

Boeing and the “manslaughter” of the 157 killed in the Ethiopian Air crash

March 14, 2019

A few days ago, I commented that:

If the Ethiopian Air crash is a repeat of the Lion Air crash then Boeing has blood on its hands

Well it now seems that Ethiopian crash was indeed a repeat.

And if that is so then there is clearly a case of “manslaughter” possible against Boeing for the 157 lives lost in the Ethiopian crash (though the deaths in the Lion Air crash would be due to “misadventure” rather than “manslaughter”).

BBC:

Dan Elwell, acting administrator at the FAA, said on Wednesday: “It became clear to all parties that the track of the Ethiopian Airlines [flight] was very close and behaved very similarly to the Lion Air flight.”

Up until Wednesday, the FAA position was that a review had showed “no systemic performance issues” and that there was no basis for grounding the aircraft.

Earlier in the day, Canada grounded the planes after its transport minister Marc Garneau said he had received new evidence about the crash.

He said that satellite data showed possible similarities between flight patterns of Boeing 737 Max planes operating in Canada and the Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed.

The flight data is remarkably unstable.

Within the last 12 months I have replaced a phone, a pair of speakers and a router since replacement was cheaper than the diagnosis and repair of a fault. The sophistication of technology in a large number of human appliances (white goods, cars, phones and airplanes) is now such that faults can no longer be rectified by the user. The frequency of faults is declining but when the consequence is the loss of life, that provides no comfort. Specialists – and usually more than one – are needed. In many cases the fault cannot be diagnosed and the faulty appliance is just replaced — with another probably containing the same fault.


 

NASA database shows that pilots have reported issues in US with new Boeing jet

March 13, 2019

NASA compiles a database of voluntary pilot reports (ASRS) and this database contains at least 2 reports by US pilots who experienced problems with the auto-pilot keeping the nose down on B737 Max 8 & 9 aircraft. It is highly unlikely that the FAA does not factor these in.

Canada today also grounded the aircraft. However they have stated that had studied satellite data and found similarities between the Ethiopian and the Lion Air take-offs.

ASRS:

The ASRS database is the world’s largest repository of voluntary, confidential safety information provided by aviation’s frontline personnel, including pilots, controllers, mechanics, flight attendants, and dispatchers. The database provides a foundation for specific products and subsequent research addressing a variety of aviation safety issues.

The US reports are about the autopilot rather than the anti-stall system. The US experiences are reported in PhysOrg.

Airline pilots on at least two U.S. flights have reported that an automated system seemed to cause their Boeing 737 Max planes to tilt down suddenly.  The pilots said that soon after engaging the autopilot on Boeing 737 Max 8 planes, the nose tilted down sharply. In both cases, they recovered quickly after disconnecting the autopilot..

….

The pilot reports were filed last year in a data base compiled by NASA. ……….. It was unclear whether the accounts led to any actions by the FAA or the pilots’ airlines.

In one report, an airline captain said that immediately after putting the plane on autopilot, the co-pilot called out “Descending,” followed by an audio cockpit warning, “Don’t sink, don’t sink!” The captain immediately disconnected the autopilot and resumed climbing. “With the concerns with the MAX 8 nose down stuff, we both thought it appropriate to bring it to your attention,” the captain wrote. “Best guess from me is airspeed fluctuation” due to a brief weather system overwhelming the plane’s automation.

On another flight, the co-pilot said that seconds after engaging the autopilot, the nose pitched downward and the plane began descending at 1,200 to 1,500 feet (365 to 460 meters) per minute. As in the other flight, the plane’s low-altitude-warning system issued an audio warning. The captain disconnected autopilot, and the plane began to climb. The pilots talked it over later, “but can’t think of any reason the aircraft would pitch nose down so aggressively,” the co-pilot recounted.

Preliminary information released by Indonesian investigators suggests they are looking at the possible role of the Max’s new automated anti-stall technology as a factor in a Lion Air crash in October shortly after takeoff from Jakarta. Data indicates that the pilots struggled with repeated nose-down commands from the plane before it crashed into the Java Sea and killed 189 people.

However, that anti-stall system—called MCAS for its acronym—only activates if the autopilot is turned off, according to documents Boeing has shared with airlines and the FAA. “That’s not to say it’s not a problem,” American Airlines pilot Dennis Tajer said of the incidents reported to NASA, “but it is not the MCAS. The autopilot has to be off for MCAS to kick in.”

……….

It is time for Boeing and the FAA, but primarily for Boeing, to ground the aircrafts till they have sorted out the clearly deficient software.

Boeing share price is in a decline if not yet in a nose-dive.


 

Boeing must itself ground its 737 Max 8 aircraft till software update is completed (in April)

March 12, 2019

Boeing put out a statement last night.

For the past several months and in the aftermath of Lion Air Flight 610, Boeing has been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX, designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer. This includes updates to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals and crew training. The enhanced flight control law incorporates angle of attack (AOA) inputs, limits stabilizer trim commands in response to an erroneous angle of attack reading, and provides a limit to the stabilizer command in order to retain elevator authority. 

Boeing has been working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on development, planning and certification of the software enhancement, and it will be deployed across the 737 MAX fleet in the coming weeks. The update also incorporates feedback received from our customers.  

The FAA says it anticipates mandating this software enhancement with an Airworthiness Directive (AD) no later than April. We have worked with the FAA in development of this software enhancement.

Today a number of other countries and airlines have grounded the aircraft. The UK joined the ban following Ethiopia, Singapore, China, France, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia. TUI and Norwegian are among the airlines which have also grounded the aircraft.

It seems to me that instead of getting all their lobbyists to cast doubt on pilots or their training it should be Boeing which itself grounds the aircraft. When Boeing itself is introducing the software enhancement as a result of the Lion Air crash, and possibly has the 157 deaths of the Ethiopian crash on their plate, it is unconscionable for them to allow the planes to fly.They cannot lean back and use the FAA as their backstop. The FAA itself needs to develop a backbone when it comes to US manufacturers.

Boeing cannot just take the position that once was accident, the second merely coincidence and wait for a third crash.


 

If the Ethiopian Air crash is a repeat of the Lion Air crash then Boeing has blood on its hands

March 11, 2019

If the Ethiopian Air Boeing 737 Max 8 crash turns out to be a repeat of the Lion Air crash just four months ago, then it does not matter whether or not Boeing issued new pilot training manuals or not. It would be a repeat of a crash with a new aircraft within 4 months with devastating effects. Boeing cannot wash their hands off how the same error could have been allowed to happen again. I observe that they claim to have issued new training manuals after the Lion Air crash and are said to have quietly introduced some software patches.

Boeing share price was initially hit. But I also observe that some “analysts” are already trying to shield Boeing and suggesting that perhaps Ethiopian Air may not have been up-to-date with training their pilots. Others chip in that Boeing cannot be held responsible for bad or obsolete pilot training. Other technical “experts” are also being deployed across the air waves to claim that there is no fundamental design flaw. The Boeing protection lobby has swung into action and the share price is now recovering.

But if, for whatever reason, it is a repeat crash then it is clear that Boeing did not do enough to make sure that such loss of life never happened again. 

The blood of the 157 who died are then clearly on Boeing’s hands. How far the FAA shares some blame will probably never be revealed.


Related:

Are Boeing and the FAA complicit in two B737 Max 8 crashes and 346 deaths?


 

Are Boeing and the FAA complicit in two B737 Max 8 crashes and 346 deaths?

March 11, 2019

Boeing plays down system flaws as two planes crash and the B737 Max 8 is grounded in China.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that management decisions by Boeing, and lax regulatory oversight to help Boeing in the competition against the A320, have now together contributed to two crashes and 346 deaths.

Any passenger on a B737 Max 8 would be justified in asking – before boarding –  if the pilots knew how to override the MCAS system


In October 2018, a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 flying from Jakarta on a domestic flight crashed 13 minutes after take-off, killing all 189 passengers and crew on board.

Now an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 has crashed, again shortly after takeoff killing 157.

It is highly likely that in spite of much “damage control” publicity aimed at blaming the pilots in the Lion Air case, it was a design flaw in in a little known system which forced both planes to crash.

Lion Air Flight JT610went down shortly after takeoff in October 2018. A little-known system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was suspected to be a factor in the disaster, according to a preliminary report by Indonesian investigators in November. MCAS is an automatic feature that detects if the nose of the plane is pitched up too high and pushes it down to prevent the craft from stalling. The system is needed since the engines on the 737 Max are bigger than previous models of 737s. …… 

In the Lion Air crash, Indonesian investigators suspect a faulty sensor triggered the MCAS system, forcing the nose of the plane down. The preliminary report determined the pilots tried to raise the nose of the aircraft more than 20 times during the 11 minutes it was in the air. Eventually, the pilots told air traffic controllers they were flying the plane manually and couldn’t determine their altitude. The plane plunged into the sea moments later.

The similarities between the two crashes are unlikely to be just coincidence.

  • Both Aircraft Were Boeing 737 MAX 8s
  • Both Crashes Happened Shortly After Takeoff
  • Both pilots Struggled to Maintain A Steady Climb
  • Both were first Flights of the Day

What is of more relevance is that Boeing (allowed by the FAA) decided it was not necessary to inform pilots about software changes to the MCAS system to save on pilot retraining costs. Ways of getting around the design flaw which kept forcing the nose down were not disseminated in the effort to downplay the flaw and to save costs. The NYT reported on 3rd February:

Boeing’s strategy set off a cascading series of engineering, business and regulatory decisions that years later would leave the company facing difficult questions about the crash in October of a Lion Air 737 Max off Indonesia. …….

……. But the tragedy has become a focus of intense interest and debate in aviation circles because of another factor: the determination by Boeing and the F.A.A. that pilots did not need to be informed about a change introduced to the 737’s flight control system for the Max, some software coding intended to automatically offset the risk that the size and location of the new engines could lead the aircraft to stall under certain conditions.

That judgment by Boeing and its regulator was at least in part a result of the company’s drive to minimize the costs of pilot retraining. And it appears to have left the Lion Air crew without a full understanding of how to address a malfunction that seems to have contributed to the crash: faulty data erroneously indicating that the plane was flying at a dangerous angle, leading the flight control system to repeatedly push the plane’s nose down.

…… Those decisions ultimately prompted the company, regulators and airlines to conclude that training or briefing pilots on the change to the flight control system was unnecessary for carrying out well-established emergency procedures.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that management decisions by Boeing, and lax regulatory oversight to help Boeing in the competition against the A320, have now together contributed to two crashes and 346 deaths.

China has now grounded all Boeing 737 max 8 aircraft.


 


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