Norwegian Air has said that they will be seeking financial compensation from Boeing after the airline suspended all flights involving their eighteen 737-8 MAX aircraft. In a statement, a spokeswoman for Norwegian Air, Tonje Naess, said that the airline could not ‘afford the financial burden of a new aircraft which cannot be used.’
In light of the Ethiopian Airlines disaster and the recovery of the black box, Boeing has issued a statement confirming that they will be updating their 737-8 Max ‘flight control software to make it even safer!’ This, they say will be completed by the April deadline set by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Aware of Boeing’s damaged reputation, the Chief Executive of the company, Dennis Muilenburg phoned President Donald Trump to express his confidence in the new aircraft yesterday. Boeing’s reputation was put under further strain when President Trump aired his concern on Twitter about the ‘excessive technological development of the aircraft’ stating that they were ‘now too complicated to fly. He went on to say that instead of pilots, aircraft needed computer scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to operate them.
Listening to the Jeremy Vine show on BBC 2 this morning, an expert explained what may have gone wrong. Firstly, the aircraft’s engines are much further forward than usual, and in order to compensate for this, Boeing created a computer system that continually monitors whether the plane is level. If not,the system automatically makes adjustments. This little gizmo is known as the Manoeuver Augmentation System (MCAS). The trouble is that the pilots were unaware that this system existed. It would also appear that Boeing’s conversion training was sketchy. Pilots have come forward to say that their training consisted of two 90 minute programmes on an IPad and that no aircraft simulation training was provided. It is thought that Boeing did not want to overtax the poor pilot’s minds and overload them with information! And as someone put it, terrify them into refusing to fly the aircraft.
So, not only were the pilots unaware that they were flying an aircraft that defied the laws of nature, making it particularly vulnerable on take-off. It also contained a computerised system that they knew nothing about, but also that this system was effectively fighting against itself. Evidence was seen on the 7th of March when an 737-8 coming into land recorded speeds of 400 knots which suddenly dropped to 100 knots before accelerating to 300 knots, all within five minutes; showing that there was a fault with the software. Further evidence suggests that the computers are fighting each other and over adjusting the nose pitch to such an extent they are effectively driving the aircraft nose first into the ground or sea.
In response, Boeing said that the pilots all had six minutes to resolve the situation, but if they were unaware of the MCAS software, they would have been frantically trying to save the lives of all onboard without realising that the aircraft was overriding the pilots efforts to control the plane.
At the moment the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is still allowing the 737 Max to fly. However, Ethiopian Airlines has announced that it has suspended all flights using their 737’s as have China, South Korea, Mongolia, Indonesia, South Africa, Morocco, Cayman Islands, Argentina, Brazil and India.