March 12, 2019, © Leeham News: Australia and the United Kingdom today joined a growing list of countries banning the Boeing 737 MAX from operating in or through their airspace.
The UK’s decision to ban the MAX is, up to now, the most important development in the growing crisis of confidence in the safety of the MAX.
The UK and continental Europe’s regulators, EASA, are considered tough regulators who usually work in concert with the USA’s Federal Aviation Administration. That the UK authority is now ahead of the FAA is crucial. If EASA follows suit, the blow to the FAA and to Boeing will be huge.
China was the first country to ground the MAX, where nearly 100 MAXes were in service—more than any other place in the world.
There were some suggestions the move was politically motivated—a view LNA rejected, given the impact the grounding has on the airlines, including some that are state-owned. China also has been a supplier for decades to Boeing and Boeing last year opened a 737 completion center there.
In an interview published yesterday in 21 Century Economic Times of China, The CAAC deputy chief Li Jian said, in Mandarin, “CAAC has communicated with Boeing and the US FAA and tried to learn their intention of any potential regulatory actions before making the decision to ground the 737 MAX.
“From what we have learnt, the current problem with MCAS is very difficult to resolve without autopilot, as it would be too late to engage autopilot after the MCAS is activated.
“While there are solutions being proposed, the inability to engage in autopilot or disengage the MCAS without decimating the original protection feature make the situation very complex.”
The FAA is waiting for definitive information from the Ethiopian Airlines crash Sunday before making any decisions about the near-term fate of the MAX. The black boxes have been recovered; initial read out of the data is pending.
The FAA said yesterday it will issue an order next month about software upgrades to MCAS, the stall protection system in the MAX that is believed to be at the heart of last October’s Lion Air crash and which is already suspected in the Ethiopian accident. LNA reported early Monday morning that the upgrade had not been implemented. By the end of the day, the FAA made its announcement and Boeing confirmed the upgrade will be made.
But with more than 40% of the world’s MAX fleet already grounded or banned from entering airspace, and now with the action by the UK and Australia, pressure is mounting on the FAA to move now rather than wait.
When did we last see national/Internation grounding of an in service aircraft?
(Thus not 787)
The most recent fleet-wide grounding was Concorde, grounded for a little over a year (mid 2000 to late 2001). Then it flew for another two years.
As for the grounding/ban of the 737 MAX, does anyone know if it covers both in service models, 737-8 and 737-9? Or just the former?
Are these MAXs even allowed to ferry home to their bases?
It will be all MAX as they all have the same setup.
Very likely the AIJ will grant waiver for ferry flights, done all the time for damaged birds.
Restrictions will apply.
I know of a damaged MD-11 that was patched and then flown 2500 miles for full fix, had to go under 10k.
What about the 787?
@CBL, I think @Airboe was asking about groundings that happened other than the 787, but more recently than the DC-10.
This is… devastating. How can Boeing get out of this now?
The usual way. Deny, fix, move on.
Keep in mind there are underlying non resolved issues
Why is one of the AOA’s going wacky? How can you not see (or why is it not displayed) an AOA that is conflicted with the opposite AOA?
It is showing on the ground or not? Is the procedure to resolve this on the ground wrong?
What is the issue with Air Speed in the Indianian Crash?
If not for AOA the MCAS would not even be kicking in.
MCAS is the surface but there are underlying aspects that cause it to surface int he first place.
BTW, where is Muilenburg?
This might have the potential to bankrupt Boeing, if the 737MAX is eventually deemed uncertifiable no matter what mods are made to MCAS.
The only things I can see being viable is to make MCAS properly triple redundant, or get the need for it removed from the certification requirements. The former is something they can do, but it will take years. The latter is now going to need world wide agreement – difficult in the current situation. Both are commercially ruinous.
The cheapest option might be to ditch the entire MAX programme, buy their delivered customers a load of A320neos, cancel undelivered orders, and exit the market.
After this I don’t think the MAX can keep its same-type rating with NG, which will make it much more expensive to operate. Boeing will have to eat the difference. Airbus can up the production to 70 now.
However I think Boeing will never be bankrupted, too big to fail.
They may indeed be too big to fail, but it may be very tough to keep them alive in their present form without some very obvious subsidies.
Airbus management must be feeling slightly sick; no one wants to gain a big market advantage this way. There probably wouldn’t be any complaints about subsidies clearly designed to get US civil aviation manufacturing back to a healthy state
@Tuan: It’s an interesting idea to yank the common type rating and consider the 737NG and MAX different fleets. It would mean pilots could no longer intermingle these types in a given schedule. For instance, this kind of schedule would be disallowed for cockpit crew:
– leg 1: 737-800
– leg 2: 737-8 MAX
– leg 3: 737-900er
I assume pilots need to accumulate hours in simulator training to switch from one fleet to another. Maybe some pilots contracts have clauses like fleet-based seat locks, etc.
They could instead continue withe the 737NG, offering it at a discount to their MAX customers.
Forget about the NMA and instead go full speed ahead, all hands on deck with a cleans sheet NSA.
Get help from Embraer too to realise it faster.
No it wonb’t bankrupt Boeing, hurt them yes, this has occurred before and they go on.
Some sanity should prevail here.
They will patch the software, disable it, decide its not needed but will do whatever it takes to get it back in the air.
Being lost is the needs to find out why the AOA is imputing bad data and in Indonesians case why the Speed was mucked up.
I worry that a software patch won’t suffice when it comes to the rest of the world’s regulators. Disabling it or removing it may work, but it seems clear that the type rating would then be different, even if only marginally. It also might be hard to justify given that someone previously decided it was necessary.
Boeing can’t force it back into the air; only regulators, airlines and passengers can make it fly again. If they’re unpersuaded, 737MAX stays on the ground and Boeing loses a very large fortune.
Examples of what constitutes a more persuasive argument includes a thorough re-engineering of MCAS introducing proper redundancy, or building a whole new aircraft design that doesn’t need it.
A big very obvious “Off” button for it is an idea, but that’d have to have redundancy to be safe. Two separate buttons?
I agree, this will not kill Boeing but likely heads will roll. It is a bugger how life comes and smacks you in the face just when things are looking good. Here are the issues:
Product bandaid: must be possible if the problem is obvious but will take time as I am guessing regulators the world over will want to be convinced
Testing: a comprehensive testing of any new solution will take time
Retrofit: the existing fleet will need updating, a messy business
Recertification: can they retain the similar type rating? This looks uncertain
Public acceptance: Will the flying public forget? They normally do
Industry acceptance: what does Boeing really stand to lose in a duopoly with order books running out 5+ years
Reputation: yet more tarnish to the Boeing crown, especially given the knowledge that it is in part down to Boeing’s desire to produce the MAX on a shoestring
It definitely doesn’t sound like something that can be fixed within a few weeks like the FAA wants us to believe.
Sometimes a quick fix to something can actually make things worse. Booked on a MAX? Nope nope nope, I’ll take the train to F-thatville, thanks.
Boeing is limited by what information it wants to convey.
Boeing can’t talk about MCAS and its issue at all?
“Mel,” is that the new slur that you’re using?
OV-O99: I assume you are one of those people that takes anything as a slur?
Please look it up, ref as noted before is Bill Cosby.
Its an expression of disagreement. Sheese
Oh, you were “disagreeing” with the WaPo article that I quoted from — yeah, right!
“the new model would sometimes show that the aircraft was climbing steeply even though it was climbing by 10 degrees”
How many AOA errors have turned on MCAS since the MAX EIS? A good thing for the FAA and the public to know.
I noted that, its not been reported before. I am skeptical of that as I would be an eye witness.
Model vs a single aircraft?.
I have not seen reports its widespread.
That does not mean its not and the AOA is one of the critical issues (along with speeds)
AOA issue has to be resolved (even understood)
This is an area Indonesia is hosing the world as we need a detailed report on what they did, why it did not work so that if this is not an AOA issue but in bad data issue (software?)
WHAT IS CAUSING A FALSE READING IN THE SYSTEM?
What is different (if any) on the 737NG AOA (you still would get stick shaker and stall scream)
The answer to what is causing a false reading in the system can easily lie in the cabling to the AOA transducer.
This guy at: https://www.satcom.guru/2018/12/angle-of-attack-failure-modes.html knows what he’s talking about (I think Scott himself put this link up a while back). Resolver is very similar to Synchro, which I have a fair bit of experience with (Synchro has a third phase). I know well the very weird effects that you can get from wiring faults (shorts, polarity reversals, etc).
To get Synchro (or Resolver) working properly, you either have to do a thorough mechanical calibration of the system to verify that your transducer position is indeed being read properly, or you have to do a complete wiring integrity check of the transducer / cable / receiver. One should also go looking for damage to insulation along the whole cable length, to be confident that wiring faults won’t develop in service.
In my experience, not doing these things is asking for hard-to-diagnose trouble in the future. I’ve had synchro servos spin at non-constant RPM over a revolution, go backwards, you name it, all due to wiring problems that the system itself couldn’t detect.
Satcom Guru doesn’t know whether or not the MAX is the same as the NG w.r.t. the AOA transducer. If it is the same, the true technical answer as to what went wrong may to be found in the wiring loom of the Lion Air 737, but I doubt it’s in a condition from which actual conclusions can be reached.
I can easily see that line replacement of an AOA sensor is the place where maintenance would start trying to fix a problem, and simply twiddling the AOA vane may indeed result in the aircraft saying “yep, it’s moving”. But I bet one person can’t easily twiddle the AOA vane and see the sensed angle reported by the aircraft (if it indeed has a means of showing it). Without that it might be very easy for a two person maintenance crew to think, “job done”, and not go looking for other problems such as wiring faults.
What the world’s aviation bodies seems to be concluding at some pace is that the safety management within the design of the 737MAX is inadequate. My own view is that if the MAX’s AOA sensor really is the same as the NG’s, then it’s a design where it’s actually quite difficult to be sure on the ramp that everything on the aircraft is as it should be (caveat – I’ve only the high level block diagram on SatCom Guru’s website to go by; there may be more diagnostics capability on the aircraft than I’m aware of). Coupling that with a nearly safety critical system such as MCAS frightens me.
A more modern transducer interface, e.g. something digital, and perhaps use of CAN bus, is much more robust to wiring faults, etc. with CAN bus you can short a line to ground and it still works just fine.
Are MCAS ‘events’ logged and downloaded from any affected flights? Now days tons of engine health and other data are aggregated as part of maintenance monitoring.
If Boeing isn’t tracking MCAS engagements, they’re bloody negligent. The data has to be crunched and understood.
“It’s not hard to be ahead of the FAA,” Hansford said. “If this had been an Airbus plane, the FAA would’ve been all over it.”
After I chewed on it a bit, I had to disagree with Scott that it was a non issue.
Again, nothing against Scott, I think its a perspective and my take was (and continues to be) without a direct obvioy7u cause (terrorism , wind shear) you have to ground it.
None of those are obviously present.
One poster wrote asking what was EA record really and flight global as the article where it was total denial in another crash.
We have yet to hear from EA what they did about the MAX MCAS system (so you wonder if its word of mouth and do we have a pilot who did not get it?)
Granted its jumping to a conclusion.
But the signature elements are there and we have no information to clear up what EA actions were.
So Boeing screwed this up big time and they will pay a price, Airlines will pay a prices and some have certainly paid the price with their lives with an to be determined more.
Eastern Airlines or ET?
This is a very concerning move from the UK. It is obvious that the FAA needs to react to all of the groundings.
FAA needs to quickly defend its position and take assertive actions. Once the dust will have settled it will also have to explain its (too) close relationship with the OEM.
Well they don’t HAVE to do anything, what they explain or not will be a political issue.
Been around too long to say how it goes.
I suspect the US House will have something to say about this.
That is where a solution lies (political pressure) and passage of a the FAA split bill.
Why would the FAA consider its job to be resisting pressure?Even if they are correct the notice they put out was spectacularly unconvincing.
They do have a dual role – regulator, and enabler. A regulator that constantly gets in the way, never lets anything fly is not fulfilling that second role.
The trick, which the FAA seems to have dropped the ball on, is exactly knowing when to block and when to get out of the way. You’d have thought mass loss of life would have been a good indicator, but seemingly not.
There’s US citizens among the dead in this most recent crash. There may be law suits. I would not want to be a senior FAA manager at the moment…
Even if FAA approved the MCAS system as a solution no non-linear pitch at high alfas it puzzles me that EASA did not react when reviewing the certification documentation and test results.
That one single probe failure together with another failed probe can tip the Aircraft and control yoke force is not enough to fly as intended. The pilots have the cut out switches they should use but at low altitude and during the confusion to identify what is happening.
It is easier on a fly by wire Aircraft when most sensors, GPS and gyros are on the databus to make a digital Twin in the computers and quickly determine what sensor is wrong and use the calculated values from the other sensors. On a old systems design hard wired Aircraft it is more dependent on single sensor readings.
It is hard to grasp all the technical stuff reported about the MAX, but is it fair to sum it up like this: The function of the MCAS is to establish a virtual reality for the pilot of a MAX that it has the same characteristics as a standard 737, even if a MAX has completly different characteristics from the real aerodynamics?
not really, it is to mitigate a decreased resistance to pitch departure in high AOA circumstances which was a new/increased risk on the Max due to the larger and farther forward engine nacelles.
it is but one of several flight control behaviors that are intended to make the Max fly as much like the NG as possible.
Boeing has done similar things with the 747-8 and is doing similar things with the 777x
Airbus uses FBW to make all their planes handle the same so you can common type rate across the whole family in much the same way.
The CAACs’ statement gives great insight to the human factors aspect of how MCAS and it’s working/association with manual/auto-flight during a work-heavy time in the cockpit was not very well thought out. It’s an essential aspect of the MAX flight control, but seems to be a bolt-on to the more tried and tested auto-flight control system… Needing an unfamiliar break in work flow and manual work, at a work heavy time for cockpit crew as they climb and communicate their way from busy airspace. MCAS needs to be more fully integrated into autopilot and supports feedback. I have a feeling that the MAX could be grounded UNTIL there is a working solution. Chaos should not be allowed.
Sad China was automatically assumed to be politically motivated by some (not this wonderful site). People lives matter.
Last to First: Giving China a warm and fuzzy for being concerned is a bit much.
Of course its political. They have an airliner they want to sell. They play the long game and while you can contend they shoot themselves in the foot, long term its no loss as the people at the top don’t pay the price, its the ones at the bottom.
Any time China can cover up something, they do. Thousands die in China each year due to poisonings each year via adulterated stuff.
And don’t get me wrong, we have Flint Michigan on our side.
But saying its not political under any government let alone a dictatorship is foolish.
Keep in mind these are the same people who claim the entire South China sea because someone drew a line on a map and it was not even the current government – it was the one they over threw.
Well then we suddenly have a lot of political acts happening Mr TransWorld Trump
Oh give me a break.
I detest Trump, so China does it for their own reasons that regardless of MOTIVE, I agree with.
I agree with everyone else grounding it.
I was one if not the first to say IT SHOULD BE GROUNDED.
I also said the same thing about the 787.
It still does not mean China does not have a political motive even if they are right.
Are you truly going to tell me that China cares less about the populace other than if they piss enough of em off they are toast?
Granted that true of a great many governments including our wonderful democracies.
Most action are politically expedient and few if any on government level have anything to do with morale.
Agreed (there is no thumbs-up button here so need to post so that).
“I was one if not the first to say IT SHOULD BE GROUNDED.”
And it appears you called that one correctly.
“I was one if not the first to say IT SHOULD BE GROUNDED”
Wow, congratulations, good for you!
Even in today’s fractious geopolitical environment, it’s overstepping a mark to say that China’s ban on 737MAX flights is purely politically, or commercially, motivated.
And when it comes to them selling their own aircraft design, consider this; Boeing’s global commercial success is due largely to the fact that the FAA’s word on safety has, until now, been reliable. Now that’s seemingly not the case.
What if China moves to fill that apparent void? Ok, it might take years before other nations actually start trusting Chinese aviation safety regulatory standards. But if they do, and the FAA doesn’t do enough to restore their own reputation, that’s it for Boeing’s presence in the world market.
It is all political no matter who and where.
In this case they can make a great case its not, but that too is Political.
You can and do have the right call for the wrong reasons.
It certainly is a complex blend of technology, duty, domestic and international politics.
Even in China the aviation safety body (is it called CAAC?) has to be seen to be taking positive action to see to the safety of aviation. It’s their job. There’s some fairly nasty precedents as to what happens to Chinese officials who can be blamed for having failed to prevent large scale deaths in, for example, a transport accident (they had a spate of high speed rail crashes, didn’t end well for those that could be blamed). I’m pretty sure that focuses their thinking somewhat.
So the people making the call made it for the right reasons. It’s not their fault that doing so potentially aligns with a long term geopolitical goal of communist party leadership, who might use the consequences for the wrong reasons.
Although, if the FAA is going to cease to be considered a worldwide respected aviation safety body (which is seemingly what’s happened today), is there anything especially wrong with the Chinese filling the gap (so long as they do it effectively)? I mean, someone’s got to, unless we leave it all up to the EASA.
Looked at this way, it’s in the long term strategic interests of the USA for the FAA to be more robust with situations like this, to keep its companies at the very pinnacle of the industry, a position achieved by a lot of hard work by previous generations of very good engineers and regulators. I for one would hate to see all that undone. It is distressing seeing an avoidable sequence of events result in fatalities, and that also risks bringing on that undoing, no matter how small that risk actually is.
Plus, I’ve gotta go fly places, and I don’t want to get on a MAX.
MCAS is not an essential piece of the FCL.
Jon Ostowaer wrote it was a miner pitch issue.
You could take it out and nothign would change.
The FAA will defend it to the death and likely Boeing because they implemented it and they never back down no matter how wrong.
Boeing wont remove the Auto Throttle drop out in FLCH mode as that admits they mucked it up and that is not allowed.
Big entities don’t like to admit anything, they can be forced to but freely admit ——– never .
Without MCAS the pitch stability curve does not meet certification requirements. You can argue that the divergence from the requirement is small and in a remote part of the flight envelope rarely encounter during commercial flight. But the requirement is there. So either the longstanding requirement would need to be changed, an exception granted or some other way found to meet the requirement. It is that simple.
Lets flip this around. The A380 wing broke at 147% not the 150 it was supposed to go to (and they shoot for a tad more)
What was the end result? Yep, a Waiver.
How was it justified? (and I agreed with it)
It broke where they predicted it would break. So the model was off a bit on when, but it was the spot they said it would.
Beef it up a bit and off they went and nary a broken wing on the A380 has occurred.
If Jon is right, this is pretty miner. Its not remotely close to the end of the world.
Clearly you could turn it off and tell pilots to be more aggressive at the stall recovery (not that they would not be anyway
Its not like the 737 is going to flip upside down.
My take was that Boeing felt no issue, FAA said it was enough, Boeing said, ok, here is the fix.
It seems that, if Boeing and the FAA are planning to make a modification in the MAX, after the Ethiopian crash, the best way is to GROUND the entire fleet untill such modification is ready, and being supplied to the customers.
Geramny closes airspace for 737-MAX(-8)
Norwegian has put all their Boeing 737 Max on the ground, after the UK closed its airspace for the aircraft type.
Norwegian that they temporarily suspend all flights with Boeing 737 Max on the recommendation of European aviation authorities
Norwegian has 18 aircraft in his fleet .
Icelandair and TUI have also chosen to suspend the 737 Max aircraft on Tuesday.
Norwegian has been dealing with a shortage of lift already due to their 787s. An extended grounding of the MAX may be very damaging to the carrier. Where will it find enough wet-lease aircraft for the capacity shortfall?
Trump has unsurprisingly chimed in with an unbelievably stupid comment.
All too true, nice you can count on some things not changing, his stupidity will be his doom even as it was his success.
Keeping in mind a rock is above his technical level of comprehensions.
“The FAA is prepared to make an announcement very shortly regarding the new information and physical evidence we’ve received from the site and from other locations and through a couple of other complaints,” he said. “We’ve had a very, very detailed group of people working on the 737 8 and the 737 9 new airplanes. We’re going to be issuing an emergency order of prohibition to ground all flights of the 737 Max 8 and the 737 Max 9 and planes associated with that line.”
Wow, how way stupid!
Keep losing your heads over him.
Flight DY4545 from Arlanda to Tel Aviv has turned over Moldova and is returning to Stocholm
“It’s not hard to be ahead of the FAA,” Hansford said. “If this had been an Airbus plane, the FAA would’ve been all over it.”
Not me saying it this time, competitive regulating at its best by the FAA.
And Germany joins the party
France joins in – DGAC has banned the 737MAX 8 from French skies.
UK, France, Germany… Is there anyone actually in the EASA office today?
Guess so. Assume there was back+channelling going on between national administration to ensure enroute aircraft could get somewhere reasonable.
The Netherlands joined
Well Scott, I would be very interested on hearing your steer on where this leaves the MAX programme when the dust settles… am really looking forward to the next 6 pontifications
@Sowerbob: Like the 7878, Boeing will fix the MAX and life will go on. No long-term effect.
I would be enjoying this if people hadn’t died.
This has to go down with the lack of a slat lock on the DC-10.
Scott, what do you think of the long-term effect on the FAA? Will we see a split?
Scott, that will surely happen but there will be fallout from this. You don’t often see the aviation authorities publically at loggerheads with each other. At least hopefully this means no more incidents
With the caveat that no determninations have yet been given and the 2 incidents aren’t yet black box linked, the simple fact that people have died makes this way more serious than the 787 issue.
Public perception matters so much in this. If Boeing identifies the causes quickly, acts quickly, openly and responsibly and the fixes are seen to be effective then Boeing’s damage could be limited to cases brought on behalf of those who died and by airlines with grounded fleets. But if the crashes do prove to be due to sub-standard design, if Boeing isn’t very open and quick in fixing things, if cases go forward in full media glare etc. (constantly reminding travelling public), the costs to Boeing could be very significant.
Unfortunately, they’re looking at a potential 2 in a row bad uns after the 787 and with only the 777X offering possible redress.
3: 787 748 737MAX
“748 wing flutter fixed by A310 level fbw” probably is the same kind of patchover the MAX got. Only not enough frames in the “wrong” hands around.
maybe some blow back on the next super grandfathered design? 777X
As I noted, US Politicos are piling in.
Will we see some real reform?
ROFLMAO. your are quite the dear.
Oooh ‘life goes on’? Nope lives have been lost -twice.How can you possibly compare this to the 787 debacle.Sorry don’t mean to sound harsh but.
Phil: I lost my dad when I was young. He was gone and we went on.
So yes it sounds harsh, it is harsh, but life does go on for those alive. Not go on good, it goes on, world keeps turning
Each of those 346 lost has a huge impact on those who are still there. Lives are shattered, some are shattered permanently and in turn are gone.
For the most part the world does not care.
346 lives in the world are a blink of an eye, many are deliberately killed as opposed to negligence that this was in one case and may be in the other.
Most of the world does not bat an eye, its someone else’s loss and not their and that too is reality.
Big money is involved in this one and as Scott noted, they fix it and move on despite what they cause.
If you are lucky you live in a more decent part of the world. If not you can get run over like a Armadillo in the South West US.
IT is quite the difference to loose people to bad luck versus to someones excessive lust on profits posturing as complete error free entity sitting on a high hill.
Seems like a really unfortunate choice of words, Scott.
Great blog, excellent insights, but we all should keep in mind the loss of life in the two crashes.
Automobile crashes kills tens of thousands yearly. Smoking has killed unknown many millions. The same with alcohol.
Life goes on
EASA suspends all Boeing 737 Max operations in Europe.
Perhaps the FAA should call Seattle/Chicago and ask what’s next?
No, at this point a Bureaucracy protects itself, Boeing gets thrown out (rightfully ) on its own.
Very shortly one or both at the same time will throw in the towel.
Yea I know it sounds callous, but the reality of government and business is it is callous.
How many AOA faults happened on the NG? All it takes MCAS to activate in error is take off with a bad AOA sensor and retract flaps? And then not know it has activated.
If that is true, they should probably ground it until they get a little more redundancy in the AOA sensing.
I will remind people that this is not the first time Boeing has done something like that (fortunately did not) turn a miner issued into a crash.
I think in depth was it was a single signal from a thrust cowl position switch .
You can wire in logic that stops that in the takeoff mode but not done. Insane but true.
“As the 747’s engines wound up to high power, and the aircraft accelerated, sensors monitoring the cowl positions transmitted incorrect ‘reverser’ signals. The slats retracted because of a logic process designed to prevent them being struck by efflux air from activated reversers.
Boeing subsequently developed a safety bulletin for Rolls-Royce-powered 747-400s to disable this reverser-based automated stowing.”
The OP has my complete respect, simply from selection of content title:
“UK bans MAX; China checked with Boeing, FAA before grounding”….