Posts Tagged ‘Boeing’

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?


 

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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?


 

FAA requires GE software fault on Boeing 747-8 aircraft to be urgently fixed

March 26, 2014

In the wake of the MH370 disappearance where an aircraft fault – even if considered unlikely – cannot be ruled out, any safety issue on Boeing aircraft takes on a higher profile. Glitches with the Dreamliner contribute to the a slightly more nervous environment than usual. A software fault with some GE engines which could cause Boeing’s 747-8 aircraft to lose thrust while landing and crash into the ground has to be urgently fixed according to an instruction from the FAA. The new directive reads

[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 57 (Tuesday, March 25, 2014)] [Rules and Regulations] [Pages 16173-16175] From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov] [FR Doc No: 2014-06476]

SUMMARY:

We are adopting a new airworthiness directive (AD) for certain The Boeing Company Model  747-8 and 747-8F series airplanes powered by certain General Electric (GE) engines. This AD requires removing certain defective software and installing new, improved software. This AD was prompted by a determination that the existing electronic engine control (EEC) software logic can prevent  stowage of the thrust reversers (TRs) during certain circumstances, which could cause the TRs to move back to the deployed position. We are issuing this AD to prevent in-flight deployment of one or more TRs due to loss of the TR auto restow function, which could result in inadequate climb performance at an altitude insufficient for recovery, and consequent uncontrolled flight into terrain. 

This AD is effective April 9, 2014.

Reuters Wed Mar 26, 2014 

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday ordered an immediate fix to the latest version of Boeing Co’s 747-8 plane, saying a software glitch could cause it to lose thrust when close to landing and fly into the ground. The FAA’s so-called airworthiness directive covers Boeing’s 747-8 and 747-8F planes with certain General Electric Co engines. It calls for replacing defective software with a new improved version. The rule, the fourth such directive involving the 747-8, directly affects seven airplanes in the United States, the FAA said. If adopted internationally, the rule would cover a larger number. Boeing’s website said it had delivered 66 of the four-engine jets, the company’s largest, to customers worldwide since the model was introduced in October 2011. …. …. GE said it owned the software and jointly analyzed it with Boeing, but plane maker decided to recommend the software change to customers. According to the FAA, the risk arises when a plane is changing back into “air mode” while performing a “rejected or bounced landing.” That change halts hydraulic pressure used to stow the engine thrust reversers, which slow the plane on landing, the agency said. Without hydraulic pressure, the reversers may not stow fully and might redeploy, which “could result in inadequate climb performance at an altitude insufficient for recovery, and consequent uncontrolled flight into terrain,” the FAA said. Unidentified business jet/VIP customers own the eight passenger models of the aircraft in the United States, according to Boeing’s website. Air cargo company Atlas Air is the largest U.S. commercial owner of the jet, with a fleet of eight 747-8F freighters. Among passenger carriers, Lufthansa is the largest operator, with 11. It said its planes were unaffected by the directive. “GE has confirmed that all our engines already have the software update that is required by the FAA,” a spokesman said on Wednesday. China’s Cathay Pacific has 13 freighters and Cargolux, based in Luxembourg, has nine. Korean Airlines Co, Nippon Cargo Airlines Co Ltd and Volga-Dnepr UK Ltd also own 787-8F freighters, according to Boeing’s website.

In November 2013 another long running software fault on GE engines for Boeing 787’s and 747’s which caused engine flameout in icy conditions seemed to be finally fixed.

FlightGlobal: 10th Nov. 2011 Reports of eight in-flight and four on-ground unintended shutdowns of General Electric CF6-80C2B wide-body turbofan engines have prompted the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to mandate a change out of the engine’s electronic control unit (ECU). A proposed airworthiness directive, to be published on 14 November, will affect 697 CF6 engines flying on US-registered widebody aircraft. The directive supersedes a 2007 AD requiring a software upgrade (8.2.Q1) on the same ECU to increase the engine’s margin to flameout after several incidents where engines had flamed out due to exposure to ice crystals and ice shedding into the engine. With the new software in place, problems continued. FAA said it received two reports of “ice crystal condition flameouts”, which prompted GE to develop another software upgrade (8.2.R) for the ECU. The new software included “improved inclement weather capability, and enhanced fuel metering valve fault handling logic to reduce the risk of [in-flight shut down] caused by intermittent fuel metering valve feedback signals”, said the FAA. Since that time however, there have been 12 additional engine shutdowns, eight in flight and four on the ground, with engines using upgraded ECU software and other upgrades. The problem was found to be caused by ignition system induced noise that created dual-channel faults in the ECU computer.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner still not out of the woods

March 9, 2014

The Dreamliner woes continue with cracks in the wings found during manufacture and another emergency landing for a JAL Dreamliner. And in the meantime Norwegian Airlines is in rough seas as a consequence of their Dreamliner problems but have still ordered another four aircraft. Their eggs are all in the Dreamliner basket now but Boeing must have provided a great many sweeteners. The Dreamliners are proving not to be as fuel efficient as it was claimed they would be when they were being sold. Air India which has taken delivery of 13 Dreamliners and has a total of 27 on order is also reported to be seeking compensation from Boeing.

JAL Dreamliner makes emergency landing in Honolulu

Japan Airlines said Sunday its Dreamliner flight from Tokyo to San Francisco made an emergency landing in Honolulu, reportedly due to a possible problem with its hydraulic system.

The pilot of flight JL002, carrying 171 passengers and crew, decided to divert to Hawaii after a warning message about falling pressure of lubricant oil in its right engine, according to Japanese national broadcaster NHK.

Boeing Has a New 787 Dreamliner Headache With Wing Cracks

Boeing’s 787 is the airplane program that keeps on giving—problems. The company will inspect about 40 airplanes and delay some 787 deliveries after Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which makes the plane’s carbon fiber wing, discovered small cracks in newly built wings following a change in its manufacturing process, Boeing said Friday.

The cracked area is very small and will require repairs that will take a week or two per airplane, Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said. “We are confident that the condition does not exist in the in-service fleet,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. “We understand the issue, what must be done to correct it, and are completing inspections of potentially affected airplanes.”

Mitsubishi Heavy crafts the wings in Nagoya, Japan, and Boeing flies them to its 787 assembly plants in Everett, Wash., and North Charleston, S.C. About 17 of the 787s being inspected are fully completed, and seven have been undergoing predelivery flight tests, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported news of the cracks.

Profits down after Dreamliner dramas

Norwegian Air reported a profit in 2013 for the seventh year running on Thursday, but takings were significantly down on previous years. Major problems setting up its new long-haul routes with trouble-plagued Boeing 787 Dreamliners led to a huge amount of customer complaints, and the budget carrier angered unions and other airlines over pay conditions and its use of cheaper Asian crews. Norwegian reported its pre-tax profits for 2013 were NOK 437 million (USD 71.5 million), down from NOK 623 million in 2012. The airline lost NOK 283 million in the fourth quarter.

Norwegian orders four more Dreamliners and reports Q4 losses

Norwegian Air Shuttle announced on Thursday the lease of four more Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, despite a series of technical hitches with the planes. The contract, which brings Norwegian’s planned Dreamliner fleet to 14, was signed with the US aircraft leasing company International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC) but no financial details were released.

Boeing Says Air India Unhappy With 787 Dreamliner’s Performance

Boeing Co. said Air India Ltd. is dissatisfied with the performance of its 787 Dreamliner, joining other carriers including Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA in slamming the manufacturer for repeated faults on its marquee jet. “Yes, they are not happy with the reliability portion, neither are we,” Dinesh Keskar, a senior vice president at the Chicago-based planemaker, said in an interview at the Singapore Air Show today. “Over the last few months, we understood which are the components that were causing issues, which software needs to be upgraded.”

…. Air India diverted one of its 787s to Kuala Lumpur this month as a precaution after a software fault on a flight to New Delhi from Melbourne. Boeing is upgrading software and changing some components on Air India 787s whenever the planes can be taken out of service, Keskar said, adding that a 13th Dreamliner will be delivered to the carrier this month. …… Air India, which has ordered 27 Dreamliners, will seek compensation from Boeing after the carrier found that its 787s aren’t as fuel efficient as the planemaker had claimed while selling them ……. Fuel efficiency of the Dreamliner is improving after earlier models didn’t “quite make the mark” on this count, Keskar said.

Leaking fuel from the wing captured by Norwegian Dreamliner passengers

January 24, 2014

Following on from my previous post, Norwegian’s troubles with Boeing Dreamliner planes continue. This report from Nordlys.no is about a cancelled Norwegian Dreamliner flight from Bangkok to Oslo on 19th January where passengers took pictures and video of fuel pouring out of the aircraft’s wing while it was taxiing at take-off! The take-off was aborted and the flight cancelled – fortunately

...

Fuel leaking from the wing of a Norwegian Dreamliner at Bangkok Airport – photo Ann Kristin Balto

Nordlys.no: Ann Kristin Balto of Tromso was one of the 285 passengers waiting 19 hours for the delayed flight from Bangkok to Oslo.

She took the photo which shows how large amounts of fuel flowed out of the right wing of the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft, …..

“When they discovered the error, they asked us not to take pictures because of the explosion hazard. Those who had already taken pictures were asked by the cabin crew if they could delete them”, said Balto.

Lasse Hagerupsen, a bank manager from Harstad was in a group of six and also noticed fuel leaking from the aircraft during taxiing.

“As the plane taxied to the runway and was about to take off, more passengers began to smell gasoline. The passengers alerted flight attendants who in turn reported to the cockpit. When the fuel ran out of the wing a half a meter long puddle of fuel was left by plane”. …. 

The bank manager confirmed that the attendants did not like that it was photographed. It was described by Norwegian as being due to defects in a valve.

The flight was canceled and the nearly 300 passengers were bussed to different hotels.

This one gives me some goose-bumps. I have seen the devastation from fuel-leak explosions and this could have gone really bad.

But all’s well ……

Dreamliner reliability is still short of the mark

January 24, 2014

Whether an aircraft is “available” to fly – whether a flight is scheduled or not –  is a measure – mainly – of the intrinsic soundness of that aircraft and its maintenance. The “dispatch reliability” of an aircraft or a type of aircraft is a composite measure of the performance of both the aircraft and the operator.

Aircraft availability and dispatch reliability and availability are two vital signs of any aviation operation. Availability refers to whether the aircraft is available for a flight, whether scheduled or not. An aircraft in for maintenance cannot be flown, and thus is not available. …. At its most basic, aircraft dispatch reliability accounts for whether the aircraft took-off on time and if not, why? If the dispatch performance and/or reliability of the aircraft is poor, then so is the level of service. …….

(more…)


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