Governments worldwide ground Boeing 737 MAX, mystery “new data” emerges: What do we know so far? UPDATE: Boeing 'pauses' deliveries
Canada has announced a nationwide ban on Boeing 737 MAX flights in its airspace, citing “new data” linking two deadly crashes. Info from the US federal database revealed pilots have long been complaining about the plane’s issues.
In a statement to the press, Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced that the “new data” influencing the decision came from “validated satellite tracking,” and that it suggested similarities between the two crashes involving the new Boeing jet. Although the data was sufficient to justify shutting down Canadian airspace to all flights involving the commercial jet, the minister stressed it was too soon to draw any conclusions.
“This safety notice restricts commercial passenger flights from any air operator, both domestic and foreign, of the Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 aircraft from arriving, departing, or overflying Canadian airspace,” Garneau said.
Around 40 of the aircrafts were in use throughout various Canadian fleets, which has led to canceled and delayed flights across the country in the wake of the ban.
Earlier in the week, Garneau had suggested that grounding the jets would be a “premature” decision, taking a stance similar to the US’ FAA which has still not taken any action against the American-made aircraft. Garneau did not specify precisely what the new details revealed, but investigations into the US federal database show that pilots had already leveled serious complaints about the aircraft.
According to a CNN report, two American pilots reported that they had experienced issues after engaging the Max 8’s autopilot system, including the plane unexpectedly dipping into a nose-dive. The autopilot had to be disengaged for the rest of the flight.
Both the Ethiopian Airlines and the Lion Air pilots reported similar “flight-control problems” to air traffic control shortly after take-off, adding to suspicions that the problem is intrinsic to the aircraft.
Criminally insufficient’ flight manual
Another report complained about the woeful inadequacy of the flight manual, describing it as “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient.” The same report said that it was “unconscionable” that pilots were being expected to fly the plane with insufficient training and limited information.
Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash left 157 people dead, and followed another crash involving the same airplane model just a few months earlier in Indonesia which killed 189. While the crashes raised widespread concerns about the aircraft’s autopilot function, Boeing has repeatedly stated that the vessel is safe and airworthy.
Travel agents add aircraft search filter to address tourists’ safety fears of flying Boeing 737 MAX
Tourist agencies and travel websites have started to adjust search options allowing their clientele to choose the jet type on which they fly amid safety concerns over two deadly crashes involving Boeing planes in recent months.
Kayak, a fare aggregator and travel metasearch engine operated by Booking Holdings, has become the first travel service to announce plans to modify search filters to let their customers to block unpreferable models of aircraft in their queries. The step was reportedly taken amid growing concerns shared by travelers via social media.
“We’ve recently received feedback to make Kayak’s filters more granular in order to exclude particular aircraft models from search queries,” a spokeswoman for the website told Reuters.
“We are releasing that enhancement this week and are committed to providing our customers with all the information they need to travel with confidence,” the firm added.
Amid dozens of flight cancelations, air carriers had to deal with their clients’ fears. Norwegian travel agent Berg-Hansen told Reuters that most of its customers were worried whether their flights were still scheduled to fly and the need to re-book if so.
“We have increased our staff from last night, through the night and now. Remarkably we have less phone calls than we expected, although they are more than usual. We had around 100 phone calls from midnight to 7am this morning and they keep coming,” Berg-Hansen Chief Executive Officer Per-Arne Villadsen said.
India joins the long list of countries banning the planes from entering its airspace:
India bans all Boeing 737 MAX planes from entering its airspace
India’s aviation regulator has banned Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft from its airspace and grounded the nation’s entire fleet of the bestselling jet amid concerns over its safety in the wake of the recent crash in Ethiopia.
The DGCA, the Indian aviation authority, announced the decision to ground all 737 MAX 8 single-aisle aircraft on Tuesday evening, following in the footsteps of numerous regulatory bodies in other countries and certain airlines.
The planes will stay in hangars “till appropriate modification and safety measures are undertaken to ensure their safe operations,” India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation stated on Twitter.
“As always, passenger safety remains our top priority. We continue to consult closely with regulators around the world, airlines, and aircraft manufacturers to ensure passenger safety,” the ministry added.
The order will affect two major Indian airlines, the low-cost SpiceJet, which lists 13 model MAX 8 jets among its fleet, and Jet Airways, which has five.
SpiceJet echoed the aviation authority in its own statement, stressing that the safety of crew and passengers is of preeminent importance to the carrier. On Monday, the airline sought to defend the jet amid a wave of groundings, calling it a “highly sophisticated aircraft.”
The suspension comes a day after the DGCA ordered additional maintenance checks on the planes and instructed the airlines to ensure that the aircraft are flown only by experienced pilots and co-pilots that have clocked in at least 1,000 hours and 500 hours on 737 MAX 8 jets, respectively.
Planes had to be diverted and grounded when the EU announced that its airspace was off-limits for the aircraft on Tuesday, citing safety concerns.
China, Indonesia, Mongolia, Norway, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Singapore and Oman placed a temporary ban on flying the jets. Several European countries, including the UK, France, Germany, Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and Belgium suspended flights in a separate move from the EU. Several individual airlines followed suit of their own will.
Meanwhile the FAA says that, even following 2 serious crashes which resulted in a massive loss of life, they don’t understand the outcry; Trump says planes are just becoming “too complex to fly”, although some US senators disagree and call for them to be grounded until futher investigation:
737 MAX disaster: US senators call for grounding troubled Boeing aircraft, Trump talks with CEO
Senators from both parties have called for grounding the Boeing 737 Max 8 airliner following the fatal crash in Ethiopia that killed 157, but the Federal Aviation Administration insists there is “no basis to order” it grounded.
The 737 Max “shows no systemic performance issues,” the FAA’s Dan Elwell said, adding that a review by the agency “provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft.”
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is the most recent voice calling for the grounding of the 737 Max, saying it would be “prudent” to do so “until the FAA confirms the safety of these aircraft & their passengers.”
The FAA declined to order the grounding of the 737 Max 8. There are currently 74 jets of that model registered to fly in the US, according to FAA records.
“If we identify an issue that affects safety, the FAA will take immediate and appropriate action.”
Boeing referred to that FAA statement to argue that it had “full confidence in the safety of the MAX” and that “based on the information currently available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.”
The possibility a mechanical flaw in the 737 Max 8 might be responsible for the crashes, however, has united Republican and Democrat lawmakers normally at odds over just about everything. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) have all called for grounding the jet immediately, out of abundance of caution.
“The world has now witnessed the second tragic crash of one of these planes in less than six months,” said Warren. “While we do not know the causes of these crashes, serious questions have been raised about whether these planes were pressed into service without additional pilot training in order to save money.”
Even President Donald Trump has chimed in, tweeting on Tuesday that airplanes are “becoming far too complex to fly” and demanding too much of pilots.
“I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better. “
On Tuesday morning, Trump received a phone call from Boeing’s chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg, who reportedly asked him not to ground the fleet.
The controversial airliner remains in service in the US, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Iceland, and Brazil, but has been ordered to be grounded by Australia, China and the EU. Airlines in Russia, Argentina, Singapore, Morocco, Indonesia and South Africa, among others, have also grounded their 737 Max 8s.
It seems at least part of the reason for Boeing’s rush to roll out the aircraft with inadequate training and possible defects in the system was brought about by a competition with Airbus:
The brand-new jet is marketed as more fuel-efficient and technically superior to its direct competitor, the Airbus A320neo family. To beat the European jet, Boeing had installed larger engines that were moved a bit further forward, tilting the balance of the aircraft. To compensate for this, the company altered on-board software and the flight control system, Ross explained.
It’s rather telling that this venture is just the most recent in a calamitous list of faulty products and crashes involving the US:
Update (March 14): Boeing is facing another problem related to their disastrous rollout of the Boeing 737MAX. Airlines are demanding compensation from the airplane manufacturer over revenue losses related to the grounded jet:
“We will seek compensation from Boeing for the grounding of the planes. We will also seek re-compensation for revenue loss and any kind of maintenance or technical overhaul that the aircraft will have to undergo. This is part of the contract, which we signed with Boeing for all the 737 MAX aircraft,” an unnamed senior SpiceJet executive said as cited by CNN.
Pilots for Boeing also reported a number of issues related to the nosediving of the planes associated with the engines being moved forward:
Pilots on at least two US flights reported their aircrafts nosedived and lost altitude quickly when using autopilot mode on the 737 MAX 8 in the last few months, according to pilot reports compiled in the Aviation Safety Reporting System database administered by NASA. The data shows there were 11 reports about the Boeing 737 MAX 8 logged between April 2018 and December 2018, USA Today reports.
In one incident, as soon as the captain put the plane on autopilot, the co-pilot said, “Descending,” and a cockpit audio low altitude warning said, “Don’t sink, don’t sink!” The pilots turned off autopilot and the plane stopped descending.
The FAA has announced that it will take “months” to repair the software issues that have led to the deadly crashes.
UPDATE (March 15th):
Despite the confidence of some, Boeing has “paused” deliveries of the Boeing 737 MAX:
The US based aviation corporation has paused deliveries of the ill-fated Boeing 737 MAX to customers after the aircraft type was grounded around the world following the deadly crash in Ethiopia. Read more Trump grounds troubled 737 MAX aircraft, Boeing stock tumbles
The move was announced by the company on Thursday. No time frame on when the deliveries might be resumed was immediately provided, yet the production itself continues.
“We continue to build 737 MAX airplanes while assessing how the situation, including potential capacity constraints, will impact our production system,” a Boeing spokesman said.