The Chief Executive Officer of Boeing, Dennis Muilenburg, has admitted there was vital information that was not communicated to all Boeing clients, pilots and regulators. This could have prevented the Boeing 737 Max 8 crashes that involved Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air, which killed all passengers onboard.
Boeing had failed to inform airline operators and pilots of a deactivated signal (light) meant to alert pilots of disagreement between the plane’s “angle of attack” sensors. The sensors measure the plane’s angle in regard to oncoming air to warn of impending stalls. The light was supposed to be active in the crashed 737 Max planes, but it was not.
The Lion Air plane had crashed in October 2018, killing everybody onboard. The Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed in March 2019 equally killed everyone. The two crashes happened within the space of six months, leading to a global ban.
Before Now: Boeing had initially admitted being at fault before Muilenberg distanced the company from blame after investigation report faulted Boeing’s software, MCAS. Now, the CEO has admitted a communication gap and mistake in the implementation of the angle of attack. He also said the company has confidence in the safety of the plane.
“The implementation of this angle of attack alert was a mistake. Our communication on that was not what it should have been.
“We’re confident in the fundamental safety of the airplane.”
He also apologised to families who lost loved ones in the crashes, stating the company feels terrible about both accidents.
Cause of the crashes: According to findings by investigators, the MCAS(Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) pointed the plane sharply downward based on a faulty sensor reading, hindering the pilots’ effort to control the aircraft after takeoff, according to preliminary crash investigations.
The sensors provide data to the MCAS, a flight handling system connected to the deadly crashes of Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines MAXs. However, the signal which was meant to signal the pilots about a disagreement between the plane’s “angle of attack” sensors was deactivated by Boeing without proper communication.
The MCAS overruled the Ethiopian Airlines‘ pilot over two dozen times causing the pilots to lose control of the plane. The signal light would have informed the pilots of the situation at hand, but they were lost as to what was causing the malfunction of the plane’s systems.
What you need to know: The disagreement between the sensors was discoveredby Boeing in 2017, even though it was never communicated to the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration until thirteen months later after the Lion Air crash.
When will 737-Max 8 return? The Boeing 737-Max model will be out of service for at least 10 to 12 weeks, the head of the International Air Transport Association(IATA), Alexandre de Juniac disclosed. International regulators have met to design and coordinate the process Boeing is expected to undergo before receiving approval to begin distribution and operation of the Max model.
The FAA will be the first to clear the Max model. The regulator needs other countries to approve the return of the 737 Max models soon after its decision. However, this might prove difficult considering the fact that other regulators work differently to FAA. Nairametrics had in April reported that the Max models will begin operation in the second half of 2019.
Effect of return date on Boeing: Analysts have said the timeframe is worse than expected, as it was believed that the Max model will return earlier than that. But CFRA Research said the timeframe won’t affect orders, as Boeing is well positioned to lift off from the crisis.
Making up for losses: Boeing prefers to compensate its clients through services rather than in cash. Earlier during an investor conference in New York, Muilenburg said Boeing might offer assistance by tweaking plane delivery schedules or offering additional training or services. He, however, said in some cases, cash might be offered.
Note: Nigeria’s domestic airline, Air Peace and Ethiopian Airlines have said they will not rush into faulting Boeing. Instead, they will stick to the aircraft manufacturer despite the public outcry.