August 17, 2019

The tragedies of the Ethiopian Airlines crash last month and the Lion Air crash in October 2018 were unprecedented. Never before has a brand-new passenger jet been at the centre of such devastation within such a tight time frame.

After two similar crashes involving the Boeing 737 Max 8 that killed all passengers and crew, the aircraft is now grounded until investigations involving the Max 8 come to a close.

Even more concern was sparked on March 26, as Southwest Airlines Flight 8701 was being ferried from Orlando International Airport to Victorville, Calif., for storage during the grounding.

The two pilots flying the plane reported a “performance issue with one of the engines shortly after takeoff,” the airline said. The crew followed protocol and managed to safely land the aircraft. In both the Ethiopian Air and Lion Air incidents, complications began shortly after takeoff.

It’s not clear whether that emergency landing was related to the alarming incidents with the same type of aircraft in the previous tragedies. The investigations into both the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes are focusing on an automated anti-stall system. It’s safe to say that the trust between passengers and the Max 8 diminished.

The confidence and trust between Boeing and pilots has also been severely damaged. Boeing failed to include a detailed description of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) — the flight control software that has been linked to both crashes.

The new automated system was solely based on the design of the aircraft which naturally causes the plane to nudge skyward. To ensure this would not happen, Boeing, installed MCAS, a system that essentially takes all power away from the pilot. Many pilots learned the new features of the Max 8 on iPads and were not originally informed of the automated system. Boeing decided pilots did not need new training to understand to new computerized software and failed to provide details in flight manuals.

How will pilots be able to trust Boeing? How will passengers be able to trust Boeing and its aircraft in the future? What else is Boeing not telling the industry? Pilots are responsible for transporting over 8 million people each day; it is essential they are equipped to understanding the aircraft model they are flying.

The commercial aviation industry enjoys a high level of trust among its passengers and pilots. The objective fact is that flying is by far is the safest form of transit. In 2017, airlines reported zero accidental deaths on passenger jets. When two crashes of the same aircraft model occur in fairly quick succession, is that a ghastly coincidence or a malfunction in the manufacture or computerization of the aircraft?

With hundreds of Max 8s being grounded worldwide until the problems with the aircraft are fixed, it’s safe to say crew will not climb into the aircraft until they feel their plane is safe for passengers. China has decided to ditch their investment in Boeing’s Airbus 300 aircraft. Is this a trend that will grow or will Boeing be able to regain what it has lost?

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