What Do We know About the Boeing 737 Max 8 Crashes

Adedoyin Shittu
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Commercial airlines started flying the Boeing 737 Max in 2017 . The crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 was the second devastating and alarming tragedy involving Boeing’s new 737 MAX 8 planes in less than five months.

Read More: Ethiopian Airline Crash: 157 People Onboard Killed As Boeing 737 Crashes Minutes After Tak

These two catastrophic accidents claimed all the lives on board in the plane. The first crash involving the airline was the crash which occurred last year when  Lion Air plane crashed into the sea near Indonesia after take off in Indonesia, killing 189 on board. All 189 passengers and crew aboard were killed when that jet crashed into the Java Sea. Like the Ethio­pian flight, the Lion Air plane went down shortly after takeoff.

Also Read: Ethiopian Airline Crash: 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, 9 Ethiopians, 8 Italians, Others Dead

According to the investigation into the Lion air crash, pilots wrestled with the plane because a faulty sensor and automatic feature sent its nose pointing down while the pilots struggled to lift the plane up. They requested permission to return to the airport shortly before plunging into the Java Sea. The plane crashed about 12 minutes after take off.

Investigation following the Lion Air crash into the sea reported that that plane’s abrupt nose-dive could have been caused by updated Boeing software. This was meant to prevent stalling but it could potentially lead into a fatal fall if the altitude and angle information being fed into its computer system are inaccurate.

Following the Lion Air accident, pilot unions in the United States claimed that Boeing’s update of the flight control system, which can override manual motions, was not explained to pilots, leaving them exposed.

Event similar to the Java Sea plunge also took place last Sunday; during the brief flight, data showed the plane ascending, then descending, then ascending sharply again while accelerating to speeds in excess of what is standard during a takeoff. The instability persisted for the next three minutes and the plane maintained an altitude of 7,500 feet, with a speed of 600 knots (about 1,100km/h) before the tracking site lost its position at 8:42 am. The plane crashed near the village of Tulu Fara outside Bishoftu, some 60km southeast of Addis Ababa, killing all its passengers, two pilots and six crew members. The crash took place six minutes after take off.

The pilot, Mr Yared Getachew, sent out a distress call before the crash to Ethiopian radar control that he was experiencing technical difficulties with the aircraft after take-off and he was cleared to turn back and land at Bole.

There is no question of the experience of the pilot of the ill-fated Boeing 737 Max 800. The Ethiopia-born Kenyan had 8,000 hours of flight time and was the youngest pilot in Ethio­pian Airlines history to captain a Boeing 737. Though young, he was described by the company as a senior pilot.

The Boeing 737 Max 800 aircraft, registration ET-AVJ and serial number 62450, ran its first flight for Ethiopian Airlines in October 2018.

Aviation authorities were investigating how a new plane with an experienced pilot suddenly fell from the sky.

The Boeing 737 is a very popular air plane and the Boeing 737 Max 8 is the most popular and the fastest selling aircraft ever in the history of Boeing. Its fuel efficiency is perhaps the reason behind its commercial success and popularity. The Boeing 737 Max 8 is an upgrade of the earliest 737 though it has very little in common with the earliest version which was popular and safe.

This will not be the first time a new aircraft from Boeing had issues in the market. The 787 from the same company had issues with the battery but this was later resolved.

Officials believed that sensors of the aircraft that senses the speed of the aircraft were reporting faulty information which in turn was causing the aircraft in built system to react thereby automatically pushing the nose of the aircraft downwards. Any automatic reaction which occurs in an aircraft is for safety purpose.

In air travelling, there is something known as “Stall Speed”. This is the slowest speed a plane can fly to maintain level flight or in a lame man language, the slowest speed required by an aircraft in order to get enough lift on its wings to keep it in the air. From the investigation carried out, the air plane was seen to be ascending, then descending and later ascending before finally crashing.

Experts said that a warning is issued by a software in the plane if the “stall speed” sensed by the sensor is too low. The way a pilot is supposed to correct this is by increasing the speed of the plane gradually. Though pilots are trained to put the plane nose down to automatically increase the speed as a result of effect of gravity on the plane and the weight of the plane. This will correct the “stall warning”. Designers of modern air planes have automatically installed that an aircraft points automatically downwards after issuing stall warning. This is in a case where the pilot does not act quick enough to the stall warning issued by the software. What this means is that all the pilots has to do, is increase the speed of the air plane gradually.

When the speed of the plane picks up or recover, the plane is lifted upwards once again. And if the plane does not recover its speed, the plane crashes.

This explains the behaviour of the Ethiopia aircraft shortly before the crash took place. The coincidences of the crash between the Lion Air crash of the Indonesia Airline and the Ethiopia plane crash is too similar to put off and this raises the question whether there is something in the software or mechanics of the air plane that caused the plane to move down and eventually crash. It should be noted that the Indonesia plane and the Ethiopian plane also went almost vertically to the ground before crashing.

In the wake of the Indonesia Lion air crash, the Boeing CEO defended the plane model and in his words; “The bottom line which is very important is that the Boeing 737 Max is safe and they are very confident in that because they have not changed the design of the 737”.

As the investigation into what brought down an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi on Sunday continues, a handful of airlines have announced they are grounding their Boeing 737 MAX 8s, the type of jet that crashed.

China with over 100 of the Doeing Max airplane has issued an order grounding the jets, cited similarities between the two crashes. This will probably disrupt flight operations in the country but there statement said that all planes of that model would be grounded until further notice under Chinese policies allowing “zero tolerance for safety hazards” and risks.

Other airlines and jurisdictions have announced they are temporarily not using the 737 MAX 8, they include; Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, Ethiopian Airlines, Aeromexico, Cayman Airways, South Africa’s Comair Airways, South Korea’s Eastar Jet and Aerolíneas Argentinas.

Also Read: Airlines To Suspend Use Of Boeing 737 MAX 8 Aircraft In China

Singapore and Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has temporarily barred airlines all variants of the 737 MAX from entering or leaving the city-state.

The news has appeared to affect Boeing’s bottom line. The aircraft maker’s stock dropped 8% Monday, with investors voicing concerns about the 737 and Boeing’s future in China.

But at least 12 other carriers, including American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, which are heavy users of the Max 8, continued to fly them on Monday.


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