737 MAX disaster pushes Boeing into crisis mode

Boeing was criticized for failing for react more decisively following the second deadly crash in less than five months involving
Boeing was criticized for failing for react more decisively following the second deadly crash in less than five months involving its 737 MAX aircraft

After a second air disaster involving the 737 MAX 8, aviation giant Boeing swung into crisis mode, losing $25 billion of market capitalization and suffering a severe hit to its reputation.

That was made worse by the company's response, according to industry experts, who described their efforts variously as "terrible," and "rough."

The tragedy of the Ethiopian Airlines flight on Sunday, in which all 157 people on board perished, renewed fears about the safety of the plane, and led to it being grounded worldwide—although the US decision was not made for three days.

"It's been a rough week for them," said Matt Yemma, a crisis communication specialist at Peaks Strategies, based in Connecticut.

Boeing—which in the first days after the accident said the MAX was reliable and safe—could have announced it was voluntarily grounding the planes on Sunday to restore confidence and ensure the flying public they were on top of the problem, he said.

"Instead they just kind of let things dragged on and they end up losing a lot of market cap and a lot of business."

It was not until Wednesday after many governments and airlines worldwide had already banned the plane, that Boeing followed suit "out of an abundance of caution."

The ban on Boeing 737 MAX aircraft spread worldwide after the US joined other countries in grounding the plane
The ban on Boeing 737 MAX aircraft spread worldwide after the US joined other countries in grounding the plane

This was the second tragic accident in less than five months involving this model, which has been in service since May 2017, after the crash of a Lion Air flight in October which killed 189 people.

A malfunction of the new MCAS stall prevention system on the MAX was implicated in the Lion Air accident in Indonesia.

And the Federal Aviation Administration said evidence at the crash site in Ethiopia and new satellite data showed similarities and warranted "further investigation of the possibility of a shared cause for the two incidents."

And despite the growing use of the MAX worldwide, in China and Europe in particular, Boeing only issued brief statements, and meanwhile appeared to be attempting to prevent the US authorities from grounding the plane.

Two days after the accident, the company's CEO Dennis Muilenburg spoke on the phone with President Donald Trump, who had complained on Twitter that modern airplanes were becoming too complex for pilots to handle.

'American arrogance'

And it didn't help that the FAA announced it had ordered Boeing to make a software fix to the MCAS flaw, which some American pilots also encountered, raising questions about whether the manufacturer was diligent about getting the word out.

Chart showing changes to Boeing shares over five days following the Ethiopian Airlines crash
Chart showing changes to Boeing shares over five days following the Ethiopian Airlines crash
"It's the American arrogance," a source close to the told AFP, which is "dangerous because it shows that the work was not done properly" due to overconfidence.

Others said the company should have moved more quickly to get out in front of the problem.

"Typically in a situation like this, you want to give as much information as you possibly can," especially given how quickly news whips around the globe, Yemma said.

"You want to make your clients, passengers and the public feel at ease about wanting to fly your planes. And the market and investors need to know there is nothing wrong and if there is something wrong that it's going to be fixed."

Michael Priem of communications firm Modern Impact in Minneapolis, agreed Boeing should have moved faster to reassure the general public.

The public expects "very quick responses and I think Boeing didn't engage in the conversation soon enough," he told AFP.

Two industry sources told AFP on Friday that the company will be rolling out a software upgrade for the MCAS in the next 10 days, which helped boost its , but the lag since the October crash in Indonesia is troubling.

The Ethiopian Airlines crash was the second tragic accident in less than five months involving the Boeing 737 MAX 8
The Ethiopian Airlines crash was the second tragic accident in less than five months involving the Boeing 737 MAX 8

And Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger—noted for his safe landing of a damaged plane on the Hudson River in New York without loss of life— questioned Boeing's response as well.

"It has been obvious since the Lion Air crash that a redesign of the 737 MAX 8 has been urgently needed ... and the announced proposed fixes do not go far enough," he said on .

The issue has drawn the scrutiny of Congress, with key oversight committees planning hearings to look into the aircraft and flaws.

"I continue to have serious concerns about key decisions made in the FAA's certification of the 737 MAX, and what was, and was not, disclosed to pilots," said Representative Peter DeFazio, head of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

"I will be conducting a rigorous investigation to make sure that FAA is carrying out its critical safety mission."

Boeing may have to roll out a public relations campaign to try to restore confidence in its aircraft.

The company will have to provide a sincere "mea culpa" because "the damage is done," a source close to the aircraft manufacturer told AFP.


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Ethiopian Airlines crash: What is the MCAS system on the Boeing 737 Max 8?

© 2019 AFP

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Mar 17, 2019
Sophistication, A recipe for disaster

What is the sensor this over complicated plane
is using to detect a stalling plane on take of
as
a pitot tube used to measure air flow
is notorious for blockages
this is just one of these antiquated strange practices of these overly complicated planes
their antique sensors
connected to sophisticated electronics
these pitot tubes get blocked by dust, ice, rain the list of problems is endless
it would not be surprising
these planes
measuring elevation with atmospheric air pressure sensors
another recipe for disaster
antiquated planes with antiquated sensors
dressed up in sophisticated electronics
that these pilots
can no longer fly manually
Just what the doctor ordered

Mar 17, 2019
granville, you know those Pitot tubes are what enable you to fly in what pilots call the "Coffin Corner." Go look it up. The biggest hazard is that they might freeze over. So there are heaters installed in them. But those instruments are NOT what caused these accidents.

The problem was that these aircraft were both equipped with a SINGLE Angle of Attack (AoA) sensor. If that sensor goes bad, the MCAS system responds accordingly. But there are ways to override and disable the autopilot. Furthermore, other models of the same 737 MAX series have two AoA instruments, such as those flown by Southwest Airlines.

Keep in mind that without automation, airliners used to require five people in the cockpit: A pilot, a copilot, an engineer, a navigator, and a radio systems operator. Even then, with five people doing this work, mistakes were more frequent.

It's not the sophistication, it's the nature of the automation and the training that people have to use it and monitor it properly.

Mar 18, 2019
If it is the angle of attack sensor
ab3a> The problem was that these aircraft were both equipped with a SINGLE Angle of Attack (AoA) sensor. If that sensor goes bad, the MCAS system responds accordingly. But there are ways to override and disable the autopilot. Furthermore, other models of the same 737 MAX series have two AoA instruments, such as those flown by Southwest Airlines

The question is - does Boeing regularly have problems with these sensors
individual sensors are no more complicated than on Boeings other planes
as this is measuring air flow, there is no harm in having one on each wing
but as it is measuring the angle from the horizontal
so does liquid in a sphere
because
a float in liquid always remains level
since before Archimedes day

Apr 28, 2019
Late response: It turns out that the AoA sensor may be the problem. The Cirrus Jet also uses this AoA instrument and they've been seeing problems with AoA instruments too. Of course, you don't hear about this because the CJ is a smaller aircraft that can be hand-flown without all the problems that a 737 might face. If the AoA sensor starts misbehaving there all the pilot has to do is to disable the autopilot and hand fly the jet to a convenient airport where this problem can be dealt with.


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