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Boeing is moving to address potential issues in new 737s as Europe bans its plane

In the wake of the second fatal crash in six months involving Boeing 737 Max 8 airplanes, the European Aviation and Safety Administration is grounding the planes as Boeing said it was taking additional steps to address an issue that may have contributed to the crash.
On Sunday, a Boeing 737 Max 8 plane operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed just minutes after takeoff killing all 157 on board the flight. Last October, a Lion Air flight departing from Jakarta crashed in similar circumstances killing all 189 people on board. The plane involved was also a 737 Max 8.
Responding to the incidents, the European Union Aviation and Safety Administration has banned the plane from operating in European airspace.
Heres the statement from the EASA:
Following the tragic accident of Ethiopian Airlines flightET302involving a Boeing 737 MAX 8, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is taking every step necessary to ensure the safety of passengers.
As a precautionary measure, EASA has published today an Airworthiness Directive, effectiveas of 19:00 UTC, suspending all flight operations of all Boeing Model 737-8 MAX and 737-9 MAX aeroplanes in Europe. In addition EASA has published a Safety Directive, effectiveas of 19:00 UTC,suspending all commercialflights performed by third-country operators into, within or out of the EU of the above mentioned models.
Meanwhile, Boeing has issued a statement saying that it has been developing a software update following the Lion Air crash. This includes updates to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals and crew training.
Essentially, faulty sensors may have been to blame for the Lion Air crash. The enhanced flight control law incorporates angle of attack (AOA) inputs, limits stabilizer trim commands in response to an erroneous angle of attack reading, and provides a limit to the stabilizer command in order to retain elevator authority, Boeing said in a statement about its software update.
Essentially, the sensors think the plane is stalling and they apply an opposite remedial action which trims an airplanes down,Flying Magazine columnist and small-plane pilot Peter Garrison tells me. It then takes enormous force from the pilots to hold the nose up, rendering them unable to address the problem, he adds.
Once you are holding on to the controls for dear life you dont have any hands left to correct the problem, says Garrison. You expect that confronted in an emergency the pilot will analyze whats happening and act accordingly. Human beings dont necessarily panic, but they lose their ability to reason clearly and to weigh alternative hypotheses when they are under basically what is a threat of death. Even though it may seem obvious that all you have to do is interrupt the autopilot, amazingly that may not occur to a pilot who is hundreds of feet off the ground and has to pull back on a control yoke with hundreds of pounds of force.
According to Garrison, the blame on Boeing may be misplaced.
People like to talk about this as the airplane is defective and theyre correcting it with software, he says. Thats all nonsense. Planes today are a mix of automatic systems and by automatic I of course mean digital electronic systems and mechanical ones and the natural aerodynamics of the airplane and you cant separate these.
If Boeing had made any mistakes, Garrison believes it was in the companys inability to adequately communicate the problem to pilots and get them ready for taking action in the event of a malfunction.
Even in perfectly designed systems, the transition from automated controls to manual manipulation is difficult to achieve, says Garrison. Its not that hard to understand that automation does not make a smooth interface with human control. Theres a break there and its a dangerous break, he said.
Heres an explanation from Business Insider over the latest thinking around the Lion Air crash that provide further detail.

At the heart of the controversy surrounding the 737 Max is MCAS, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System. To fit the Maxs larger, more fuel-efficient engines, Boeing had to redesign the way it mounts engines on the 737. This change disrupted the planes center of gravity and caused the Max to have a tendency to tip its nose upward during flight, increasing the likelihood of a stall. MCAS is designed to automatically counteract that tendency and point the nose of the plane downward.
Initial reports from the Lion Air investigation, however, indicate that a faulty sensor reading may have triggered MCAS shortly after the flight took off. Observers fear that a similar thing may have happened in Sundays Ethiopian Airlines flight.

Boeing has been working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on development, planning and certification of the software enhancement, and it will be deployed across the 737 MAX fleet in the coming weeks, the company said in a statement. The update also incorporates feedback received from our customers.
Boeing expects the update to be completed across its fleet by April.
In the interim, U.S. politicians have been pleading with the Federal Aviation Administration to take the same steps that countries including the entire European Union, China, Ethiopia, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the operators Norwegian Air, Aeromexico, Gol Airlines from Brazil, the South Korean airline Easair, the South African airline, Comair, and others from around the globe.
No less an authority on aviation than President Donald Trump has also weighed in on the crashes and attendant controversy.


Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better. Split second decisions are.
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2019
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