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Boeing and FAA issue safety alert for 737 Max 8

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  • #16
    Hi Captain Tom. I was wondering if you had any thoughts a month on now that it's been determined that the pilots did everything that Boeing had told to do in the Ethiopian crash, and the company itself it taking responsibility for this and the Lion Air crash. As someone who pretty routinely flies 787s, I'm not exactly happy with how the story has been unfolding.


    • #17
      They may have done what Boeing told them to do, but if you wait and wait and wait to do it, that doesn't count. The procedure has to be done immediately. Or at least promptly. That didn't happen. And then the pilot trying to turn the trim wheel by hand was not strong enough. So they turned the system back on. That is NOT what Boeing told them to do. And they crashed.


      • #18
        That is well and good but I do feel that the stubbornness to refuse to admit that there is a systematic issue on the Max software does a disservice to the users of this page. Of course the press is hyperbolic in its response to this and to all air travel issues, but there is a reality that lies somewhere in-between. This is not a problem you specifically encountered or trained for during your tenure as it is a new system (obviously the broader scenario is nothing new, I am referring to the new MCAS logic and the specific work arounds - which may or may not be completely effective). It is also not a bogeyman that fliers should fear, as the aircraft with the issues have been grounded and will not fly again until the system and processes are revised to address any possible issues. Just as every other safety issue in the industry has been addressed, providing us the safest form of transport known to mankind. But that accomplishment didn't come to us via stubbornness and presumption. It came through honest and open evaluation of issues.


        • Brmc22
          Brmc22 commented
          Editing a comment
          While this is my first post on the “new” board I was on the old one and graduated SOAR 15 years ago, so I feel like I can comment on this last post with some knowledge. When these kind of events happen people come to Capt Tom with concerns. He always gives his honest opinion and it usually causes an uproar no matter what he says. This is why I trust him when it comes to these kinds of events. If you follow this story then pretty much everything Tom has said about it has been confirmed by other pliots that aren’t part of the political system. This isn’t stubbornness, it’s experience. Whether this plane should have been grounded isn’t the issue with me, that’s politics. If you choose an airline wisely using SOAR’s guidelines, than this software issue was never a problem to your actual safety. Properly trained pliots know what to do and would refuse to fly if they didn’t feel safe. If these things don’t make you feel better then do the whole SOAR course to get relief.

      • #19
        With the worldwide grounding of the 737 MAX, and the likely link between the two crashes, and the fact that Boeing is changing the software for the MCAS system--after acknowledging the issues--it sure seems like this is a plane issue more than a pilot/crew issue. Countless 737 MAX's have taken off and landed safely, but that doesn't mean the software, as it was initially written (in addition to the fact that differing inputs from the sensors lead to MCAS kicking on when it shouldn't) doesn't mean the plane is safe.


        • #20
          Hi Oneant.

          My perspective is based on this: every Boeing pilot in the U.S. (and I would have thought ALL countries) memorize a procedure the name of which is "Runaway Stabilizer Trim," which means the stab trim motor is running, changing the stab trim setting, and it is not supposed to be doing that. It is a very simple two-step procedure, so it is easy to memorize. Also, it is logical, which makes it even easier to memorize.

          And every pilot performs the procedure in the simulator. The performance is repeated some years in yearly recurrent training in the simulator.

          It is a "no-brainer." If the trim motor is operating when you are hand flying the plane, and you are not commanding it by using the trim switches under your left thumb, you know it should not be operating. THE SOURCE OF THE MALFUNCTION IS NOT RELEVANT. You don't need to know why the trim motor is operating. You only need to turn it off.

          It takes no more than three seconds.

          So I have this very odd point of view that pilots must memorize the procedures they are supposed to memorize. Now, hopefully, it is easy to see that the problem is (a.) the pilots for not memorizing the required procedures, and (b.) with the airline for not making sure the pilots have memorized the procedures they are supposed to memorize, (c.) the government for not making sure the airline is checking the pilots as well as making its own checks of pilots, (d.) the airline's maintenance for repeatedly not fixing the angle-of-attack sensor, and (e.) repeatedly certifying the plane was airworthy when it was not fixed.

          The problem is Lion Air is Boeings best customer. So Boeing is in a difficult position. If they tell it like it is, they will say what I just said. They tried that. The CEO of the airline made a stink and threatened to cancel orders if Boeing didn't take the blame.

          So what happened? Boeing "sort of" took the blame saying the 737 MAX is a safe plane and we will make it safer." And guess what. Lion Air canceled their orders anyway.

          Boeing got sucker-punched. They have to "fix" the software that doesn't need to be fixed to pacify everyone.


          • #21
            If it was just Lion Air, I would lean your way. But Ethiopian added to the problem. Regardless of how Boeing--politically?--came to the decision to change the software for MCAS, it seems that if there is something better they can do then the software wasn't really as good as it could have been to start with. Based on what I've seen, neither were the manuals for the MAX, nor the proper training for the MCAS software added to the MAX from previous 737 models.

            Even one crash is too many for something like this.


            • #22
              Then explain to me how, when the pilots - of both airlines - never bothered to memorized required memory items, it is Boeing's fault. There was no reason for EXTRA runaway stabilizer trim training because EVERY BOEING PILOT - from the 707 to the 727 to the 737 to the 747 to the 757, etc., etc. was REQUIRED to (a.) memorize the procedure and (b) practice it in the sim long beforekthe 737 MAX was ever built. I learned the procedure in 1966. It hasn't changed. If I had been in the cockpit, I could have neutralized the problem in three seconds.

              Obviously, these airlines never trained their pilots in the most basic procedures for flying a Boeing. Is Boeing expected to build a plane that is incompetent pilot proof? If they make it even more incompetent pilot proof, then pilots will be even more incompetent. The level of incompetence will always rise to the level necessary to crash the most idiot-proof plane.

              Look at for another example of an incompetent airline operation. Your doctor or lawyer who flies little planes on the weekend is not a professional pilot. Yet, he or she can land a plane by visual reference. Not the pilots that crashed at SFO. They had never been trained to fly by eye. When the ILS was not operating, they couldn't get the plane on the runway by eye.

              We had a similar crash in the U.S. Total incompetence caused Colgan Air Flight 3407 to crash. The pilot got a stall warning and didn't even know what the warning was. See


              • #23
                From what I've read, Boeing did not see any need to augment the Sims or even put specific data in the manuals to properly compensate for the, arguably, big change due to MCAS. In my view, that is a huge failure on Boeings part.

                There have been, are, and always will be, substandard pilots. Just a fact of the 10% factor. SEAL teams have a lower 10%. Every group has the same thing.

                Airline crashes are never one thing; they're a culmination of multiple (small) things. These two crashes, however, are different, IMO. If MCAS was a culprit in either or both, then it deserves to be dug into and augmented. Whether that's software changes, pilot training, sim updated, manual updates...

                I cannot agree that this is just pilot error, plain and simple.


                • #24
                  I completely disagree. The MCAS is not a big deal. The big deal is unqualified pilots. Why do you see the real culprit? Would you take your car to a mechanic who didn't know what a wrench was? Or a doctor who didn't know how to check blood pressure.

                  It is THAT simple. Complete and utter incompetence. The only fault with Boeing is that they have failed to produce a cockpit door that will not let unqualified pilots pass through.

                  Perhaps the answer is to change the entry code for opening the cockpit door to: "unwanted stabtrim operation - flick thumb switch - motor switch off"


                  • #25
                    With all the recent news, I still believe that Boeing failed as much as the pilots. There is never a single thing that causes a crash; it's multiple things. New aircraft are introduced all the time, and pilots get trained. The 737-MAX is the only one, recently (given "recent" being what it is in aviation), that had two issues in short order apparently with similar issues.

                    So, while I agree that incompetent pilots happen, this is different. If it was just pilot error, I find it hard to believe that Boeing would take this long to "fix" the software and have it tested and certified.


                    • #26
                      As I've already said, there is nothing wrong with the 737 MAX. People have a hard time understanding how incompetent some airlines are in some areas of the world. You point to two 737 MAX accidents within a few months. But if you look at the record of Lion Air, you will see a dozen accidents during a time when ALL the airlines in the U.S. were accident-free.

                      What Boeing needs to do is increase trust in the plane by coming up with something that will do that. Since there is nothing wrong in the first place, I don't know what that "fix" might be, but for the public to buy the fix, the FAA - and all foreign versions of the FAA - have to buy it.