The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a continued airworthiness notification, effectively stating publicly that the Boeing 737 Max 8 is airworthy but the reason they have done that is perhaps more telling.
An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after take-off earlier this week killing all , including nine Britons. It was the 2nd accident involving this brand new aircraft type in the space of 6 months and the similarities immediately raised questions, in particular about Boeing’s “ Characteristics Augmentation System” (MCAS).
MCAS was designed by Boeing to counter act the flight characteristics induced by changes to the 737 air frame on the Max variants. Slightly different engine positions needed for the larger engines and some other changes meant the aircraft had a tendency to pitch “nose up” in certain conditions. It is set up that if the pilot enters a manual trim movement, that cuts out any MCAS prompted trim command. Trim is where the elevators are set to a position that means the pilots don’t need to keep on the control yoke to maintain the angle of attack.
Whilst it is too early to say whether the Ethiopian crash was related to the trim or angle of attack of the aircraft, The Lion Air crash in October 2018 has focused on the Angle of Attack sensors which feeds information to the MCAS system.
The similarities of the accidents led many Aviation Authorities and Airlines to ground the type pending further investigations. It has also prompted a flood of questions by passengers about whether the flight they are booked on is a 737 Max, with many trying to cancel if it is.
@SouthwestAir Good morning! I’ll be flying to Vegas in April, and was just checking the app and online to try to find what aircraft I’ll be on, but can’t seem to locate that information. Could you help with that? Hoping it’s not a Max 8, or may have to change my reservation.— Julie (@juliedecker1987) March 12, 2019
This damage to public confidence is potentially devastating for Boeing, whose share price is already seeing the effects (currently down 5.3%), the Boeing 737 is the worlds top-selling airliner and the latest variant, the Max is already in service with many airlines.
In the UK TUI Airways (Formerly Thomson) is the only operator although Scandinavian budget airline Norwegian also operate the type from UK Airports.
Aviation Authorities in China, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Caymans have grounded the type across the country,
Airlines that have grounded the Max 8
- Shenzhen Airlines
- China Eastern Airlines
- Air China
- Aerolineas Argentinas
- Okay Airways
- Kunming Airlines
- Ethiopian Airlines
- Cayman Airways
- Garuda Indonesia
- Lion Air
- Gol Airways
- TUI Airways UK
Airlines that are not grounding the 737 Max 8
- Air Italy (Qatar Airways)
- Southwest Airlines
- Fiji Airways
- LOT Polish Airlines
- American Airlines
Boeing has announced that it plans to roll out a software update for the MCAS system in the coming weeks which Boeing says will “ make an already safe aircraft even safer” – It has been working on the update since the preliminary findings of the Lion Air crash.