Hundreds of Boeing 737 Max8s remain grounded all over the world following the discovery of defective flight control software that brought down two commercial aircraft in Indonesia and Ethiopia, killing a total of 346 passengers and crew.
There was some indication in July that modifications Boeing had made to the aircraft might finally be approved by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), allowing a possible return to service by the fall at the earliest.
Those hopes might now have been dashed by the release of a new Airworthiness Directive by the FAA which addresses what the regulator views as final essential changes that should be made before the planes are deemed safe for use. Comments by interested parties have been invited by the FAA and must be received by September 21st 2020 at the latest.
To backtrack a little, and to remind readers of what exactly went wrong with the 2 accidents (and problems reported by 737 Max8 pilots), in both accidents, the planes suddenly tilted nose down on a trajectory which led to them eventually crashing. Pilots in both cases were unable to retain manual control of the planes. There was a lot of investigatory work done on the Ethiopian Airlines plane in particular, as more of the wreckage plus the Black Box could be recovered. The main problem was in the design of the computerized flight control system, together with what aviation regulators concluded as inadequate pilot training to deal with the way the planes responded.
The Max8s were a newer, more fuel efficient and larger edition of Boeing’s very successful older 737s, of which at least 10,000 had been built. The Max 8s were Boeing’s answer to the European company, Airbus’s new wide body plane, the A321XLR. It may be that Boeing rushed the design to try and beat the competition, but this ended in disaster. The U.S. airplane manufacturer opted for a poorly tested flight control software system known as MCAS, rather than more conventional versions.
To compound Boeing’s woes, just as the company was about to apply for recertification, a federal inspector general’s report concluded that the company had hid information about the flaws in its flight control computer system from the FAA in the initial approval phase in order to speed up certification.
The FAA’s four point proposal
The new airworthiness directive is quite technical, so for the purposes of this article, the bare bones of the directive will be mentioned here. There are six main changes requested in the directive if it is approved. These are:
- Installation of new flight control computer (FCC) software;
- Installation of new MAX display system (MDS) software;
- Completion of an angle of attack sensor system test;
- Change the horizontal stabilizer trim wire routing installation;
- Revision of the Airline Flight Manual (AFM) to include new flight crew procedures;
- Completion of an operational readiness flight.
Commercial plane crashes like the two involving Boeing 737 Max8s are actually rare. The chance of being killed or seriously injured in an aviation accident is statistically more likely if you fly in a small plane. Aviation accidents involving small planes happen every day across America, but rarely make headlines unless a celebrity or well known individual is killed. Commercial airline crashes of course may lead to hundreds of fatalities and for this reason are much more likely to hit the news.
Whether you, or a loved one, have been involved in a small or commercial plane crash and are injured you have the right to pursue compensation. All aviation accidents have a cause. Passengers do not cause planes to crash. Pilot error, design faults, as in the Boeing case, defective components and poor maintenance are common reasons for crashes. Contact an aviation accident attorney at the Keith Williams Law Group in Nashville for aggressive representation in the event of an aviation accident injury. The office can be contacted at (615) 313-3999.