Going Direct: The Most Tragic Detail From The Ethiopian 737 Max Crash Yet

Investigators are looking into abnormalities found with the new 737 Max 8s’ MCAS system as a possible cause of two fatal crashes. Pictured: A 737 Max 8. (photo courtesy: photomatika /

A preliminary report from investigators on the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, as you doubtless have heard, looks to be another case of a new flight control augmentation system responding to bad data from an angle of attack sensor and putting the aircraft out of control. That system, as you surely know by now, is called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, MCAS for short. The system is new on the 737 Max. It was developed to give the new mode handling characteristics that would allow it to meet FAA standards after the addition of new, larger and differently positioned fuel-efficient engines that were the raison d’étre behind the Max.

The report holds a couple of hugely upsetting details, the first being that the MCAS apparently once again created a flight condition the crew was unprepared to deal with. MCAS activates when the AOA sensor detects a too-high reading and, thinking the airplane is on the verge of stalling, uses the electric trim system to aggressively trim the nose down, repeatedly. In the case of the Lion Air crash of a 737 Max 8 in late October, in which the same dynamic is suspect as the cause, the crew seemed baffled by what  was happening as the plane trimmed itself repeatedly more and more nose down until the point the pilots couldn’t outmuscle the controls and the airplane crashed into the sea killing all aboard.

Some observers were quick to blame the crew, but it soon became clear that 737 Max pilots had no idea what MCAS was or how to deal with a malfunction in the sensors driving it. How could they? Apparently in an attempt to simplify crew training and sweeten the cost savings airlines buying the new Max would enjoy Boeing didn’t point out the new system or how to disable it.

By the time the Ethiopian crash occurred, pilots of the new planes knew what MCAS was, at least that’s the assumption, though the details on how well the pilots of Flight 302 were trained on the new system is unclear or, in some cases, contradictory.

This detail now seems crucial, as the preliminary report indicates that the pilots flying the EA 302 737 Max initially disabled the MCAS system before, and this is the tragic part, re-enabling it, after which they were predictably unable to regain control of the plane, resulting in MCAS continuing its mischief with the unthinkable results that are hard not to think about.

Now, here’s the speculation: Why did the pilots re-enable MCAS after at first correctly turning it off by killing the electric trim? Some analysts have called the move “inexplicable,” but it’s not. In training we learn that pilots are really bad at doing anything the first time they do it. Things such as flying a twin with one engine shut down or landing in a stiff crosswind are things pilots nearly always fail at doing before they have a chance to practice it again and again. In jets, you do that in a simulator. In Lou Churchville’s terrific series on getting a helicopter rating in a Robinson R-22 Beta II, the author, a long time, highly experienced commercial fixed-wing pilot is terrible at flying helicopters at first because, well, because it’s hard to learn to fly them at all, never mind really well. Read Lou’s stories to get some insights into how that process went and you’ll get some insights into why pilots fail at doing something new and counterintuitive.

In the case of the 737 Max EA 302 crash, the pilots apparently knew what to do, turn off the electric trim. What they didn’t do next is what very possibly doomed the flight. They didn’t use the manual trim wheels to correct MCAS’s previous nose-down trimming of the elevator. Had they ever used the manual trim? It’s second nature to many of us little airplane drivers, but in the case of transport category aircraft pilots, such is not always the case. Did one of the pilots reactivate MCAS in order to use the electric trim to get the airplane back under control? If so, it was a move that spelled the end for all aboard.

You can blame the pilots all you want, but the bottom line is that the manufacturer and the airline are responsible to enacting training systems that assure that pilots won’t ever have to do something crucial that they’ve never done before. In the case of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, it’s a near certainty that that is precisely what was expected of those pilots, with predictably horrifying results.

The post Going Direct: The Most Tragic Detail From The Ethiopian 737 Max Crash Yet appeared first on Plane & Pilot Magazine.

Fire on a Boeing 767 forces evacuation, sends five to hospital

MONTREAL – Seven people arriving on a Boeing 767 operated by Royal Air Maroc were treated for smoke inhalation Monday evening – after a fire on a baggage belt adjacent to an open cargo door in the aircraft’s belly triggered a full-scale emergency evacuation of 250 passengers and eight crew.

The incident took place on the tarmac at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Dorval, airport public-relations spokesperson François Asselin said, with the fire reported at 4:47 p.m.

Three people suffered lower-body injuries “consistent of the type sustained in a sliding fall,” after they used the plane’s emergency exit slides, Marc-André Gagnon, operations chief at Urgences-Santé, said.

Five of the injured, all women, were treated on the scene and were then taken to a hospital, he said.

The other two injured, both men, refused to be hospitalized.

Asselin said the aircraft, operating as Flight 206 on a direct flight from Casablanca, Morocco, had touched down about 4:30 p.m.

“I can confirm there was smoke. I can’t confirm whether there was smoke inside the aircraft,” Asselin said.

The evacuation, he suggested, was “more of a precautionary measure.”

Asselin, who has spent about 15 years in the aviation business, said that “this is the first time I can recall such an incident at Montreal-Trudeau,” with emergency-slide deployment.

No dollar estimate of the monetary damages was immediately available.

The plane remains out of service, pending the arrival of investigators “first thing in the morning” from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, Asselin said.


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Boeing restructures some commercial airplane unit functions

Boeing Co. said on Thursday that it is restructuring its commercial airplane strategy and marketing functions, a move that comes just days after the company lost a $9.5 billion order in Japan, previously its most secure market.

The action, announced in a memo by Boeing Commercial Airplane Chief Executive Ray Conner obtained by Reuters, comes after Japan Airlines Co Ltd on Monday picked Airbus planes to replace its Boeing 777s, rather than the next-generation Boeing 777X model.

“You probably wouldn’t have seen this happen if they had won JAL,” said Ron Epstein, an analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

“Boeing is looking at their sales strategy” following the Japanese loss, he added.

Conner linked the shifts to the retirement of Boeing veteran Mike Bair, who he said would step down Nov. 1. Bair oversees the marketing and strategy groups.

In the new structure, marketing functions under Bair would be shifted to the sales group and led by marketing Vice President Randy Tinseth, who would report to global sales chief John Wojick.

Strategy and business development functions will shift to the finance group, and will be led by Kevin Schemm, who will be head of finance and strategy.

Boeing confirmed the memo is accurate but declined to comment further.


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Bonne Nouvelle : Boeing revoit à la hausse les besoins mondiaux de pilotes de ligne

D’ici à 2032, Boeing estime qu’il faudra former 498.000 pilotes de ligne et 556.000 mécaniciens pour faire face au développement de la flotte mondiale du transport aérien.

Selon une récente estimation de Boeing, le transport aérien aura besoin de plus d’un million de nouveaux pilotes de ligne et de nouveaux mécaniciens dans les vingt ans à venir.

Cette prévision s’appuie sur les ventes record qu’enregistrent les avionneurs. D’ici à 2032, c’est donc, précisément 498.000 pilotes et 556.000 mécaniciens qu’il va falloir former, soit 25.000 pilotes et 28.000 techniciens par an.

Besoins mondiaux de pilotes et techniciens 2013-2032
Regions Pilotes Techniciens
Asie-Pacifique 192.300 215.300
Europe 99.700 108.200
Amérique du Nord 85.700 97.900
Moyen-Orient 48.600 47.600
Amérique Latine 40.000 53.100
Afrique 16.500 15.900
Russie et CEI 15.200 18.000

Dans la plupart des régions du monde, les prévisions sont à la hausse, sauf en Europe.

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