Tag Archives: Boeing 737 MAX

WSJ: US to charge ex-Boeing pilot over 737 MAX crashes

Federal prosecutors are reportedly preparing to charge a former Boeing test pilot for misleading aviation regulators over the safety issues concerning the certification of the 737 MAX which lead to two fatal 737 MAX crashes.

From WSJ:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/former-boeing-pilot-expected-to-face-prosecution-in-737-max-probe-11631845255

SMBC Aviation Capital orders 14 Boeing 737 MAX jets

Boeing and SMBC Aviation Capital today announced the lessor is positioning its portfolio for air traffic recovery by ordering 14 additional 737-8 jets, growing its 737 MAX portfolio. The new order comes as airlines prepare for a robust return to air travel and modernize their narrow body fleets to reduce fuel use and carbon emissions.

The new purchase builds SMBC Aviation Capital’s 737 MAX portfolio to 121 jets, expanding their investment in Boeing’s single-aisle family. SMBC Aviation Capital also continues to incorporate new 737 MAX airplanes into the global fleet. In the first quarter of 2021, the lessor delivered 13 737-8s to customers, including 11 planes to Southwest Airlines in the U.S. and two planes to TUI in Europe.

 

Reuters: Boeing to boost 737 MAX production in late 2022

From Reuters:

“Boeing has drawn up preliminary plans for a fresh sprint in 737 MAX output to as many as 42 jets a month in fall 2022, industry sources said.”

Previously Boeing had provided industry guidance that it expected to have a production rate of 31 aircraft a month by early 2022.

Boeing has not yet confirmed the Reuters report.

Boeing 737-8 MAX 8 Slide Show:

Boeing 737-9 MAX 9 Slide Show:

 

Boeing expands partnership with COOPESA to convert more 737-800s to freighters, FAA approves fix for 737 MAX electrical flaw

Boeing has announced a new partnership with a Costa Rica-based maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) provider to create additional conversion capacity for the 737-800 Boeing Converted Freighter.

Boeing will open two 737-800BCF conversion lines with Cooperativa Autogestionaria de Servicios Aeroindustriales (COOPESA) in Alajuela, Costa Rica. The first of the new conversion lines is expected to open in early 2022, with the second anticipated later that year. Boeing forecasts 1,500 freighter conversions will be needed over the next 20 years to meet growing demand. Of those, 1,080 will be standard-body conversions, with nearly 30% of that demand coming from North America and Latin America.

Currently, Boeing converts 737-800 passenger airplanes to freighters at three locations: Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services (BSAS) in Shanghai, China; Guangzhou Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Company Limited (GAMECO) in Guangzhou, China; and Taikoo (Shandong) Aircraft Engineering Co. Ltd. (STAECO) in Jinan, China.

To date, the 737-800BCF has won more than 180 orders and commitments from 15 customers on four continents. In March, Boeing re-delivered the 50th 737-800BCF since entering into service in 2018.

In other news, the FAA has approved Boeing’s fix of the 737 MAX electrical problem. This will pave the way for over 100 impacted aircraft to return to service and   be delivered.

 

Reuters: FAA orders Boeing to fix some 737 MAX electric systems

Boeing is facing new issues with its 737 MAX, this time affecting 109 aircraft worldwide, including 71 in the United States. Boeing is now halting all deliveries of the type.

From Reuters:

“The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Wednesday ordered Boeing Company to fix bonding issues in the electrical systems of some of its 737 MAX planes that could lead to a loss of engine ice protection loss and critical functions on the flight deck.

The FAA said the issue affected 109 airplanes worldwide delivered to airlines, including 71 in the United States and warned the issue if not fixed “could affect the operation of certain systems, including engine ice protection, and result in loss of critical functions and/or multiple simultaneous flight deck effects, which may prevent continued safe flight and landing.”

Read the full article.

 

Boeing recommends operators of some 737 MAX airplanes temporarily remove them from service to address a potential electrical issue

Boeing has issued a recommendation to 16 customers (including American, Southwest and United) to remove and inspect certain Boeing 737 MAX aircraft due to a “potential electrical issue”. This is apparently due to a production issue when the aircraft were built.

The FAA issued this statement:

Boeing recommends operators of some 737 MAX airplanes temporarily remove them from service to address a potential electrical issue. The FAA will ensure the issue is addressed. Passengers should contact airlines about possible flight delays and cancellations.

Boeing issued this statement:

Boeing has recommended to 16 customers that they address a potential electrical issue in a specific group of 737 MAX airplanes prior to further operations. The recommendation is being made to allow for verification that a sufficient ground path exists for a component of the electrical power system.

We are working closely with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on this production issue. We are also informing our customers of specific tail numbers affected and we will provide direction on appropriate corrective actions.

American Airlines has grounded 17 MAX aircraft.

American Airlines Boeing 737-8 MAX 8 N378SC (msn 44471) BFI (Joe G. Walker). Image: 952213.

Above Copyright Photo: American Airlines Boeing 737-8 MAX 8 N378SC (msn 44471) BFI (Joe G. Walker). Image: 952213.

Southwest Airlines has removed 30 of its 58 MAX aircraft for inspections.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-8 MAX 8 N8701Q (msn 42554) PAE (Nick Dean). Image: 953439.

Above Copyright Photo: Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-8 MAX 8 N8701Q (msn 42554) PAE (Nick Dean). Image: 953439.

United Airlines has grounded 16 of its 30 MAX aircraft according to USA Today.

United Airlines Boeing 737-9 MAX 9 N1780B (N27520) (msn 64499) PAE (Nick Dean). Image: 951068.

Above Copyright Photo: United Airlines Boeing 737-9 MAX 9 N1780B (N27520) (msn 64499) PAE (Nick Dean). Image: 951068.

TUI fly Belgium to put the Boeing 737 MAX back into service

TUI fly Belgium (TUI Airlines Belgium) is planning to put its first grounded Boeing 737-8 MAX 8 (OO-MAX) back into revenue service tomorrow (February 17) from Brussels to Malaga and Alicante according to Belgium Airport.

TUI fly Belgium aircraft photo gallery:

TUI fly Belgium aircraft slide show:

UK Civil Aviation Authority clears Boeing 737 MAX for return to service

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has announced that it will allow UK airlines to operate passenger flights with the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, subject to close oversight. The ban on the aircraft operating in UK airspace will also be removed.  The changes come into effect today. It follows similar decisions by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Transport Canada.

The decision follows the approval of design modifications to the aircraft itself, how it is flown, and to pilot training.  This has included modification to the aircraft’s Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) and other key safety changes aimed at preventing further accidents. The CAA has been closely involved in this approval work and the extensive process undertaken by all involved.

The CAA is in close contact with TUI, currently the only UK operator of the aircraft, as it returns its aircraft to service. As part of this we will have full oversight of the airline’s plans including its pilot training programs and implementation of the required aircraft modifications.

The removal of the airspace ban will allow foreign operators to fly the Boeing 737 MAX in UK airspace. All airlines, however, will need to go through the necessary steps to return the aircraft to service, including pilot training, so this may result in flights of the type into the UK not being seen immediately.

The aircraft was grounded following two tragic accidents (Lion Air Flight 610 on October 29, 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019). The UK was one of the first countries to act, preventing the aircraft from using its airspace.

Richard Moriarty, Chief Executive at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: “Our thoughts remain with those affected by the tragic accidents of the Boeing 737 MAX. This is not a decision we have taken lightly and we would not have allowed a return to service for UK operators, or lifted the ban on the aircraft operating in UK airspace, unless we were satisfied that the aircraft type is airworthy and can be operated safely. The international work to return the Boeing 737 MAX to the skies has been the most extensive project of this kind ever undertaken in civil aviation and shows how important the cooperation between states and regulators is to maintaining safety.”

The CAA has based its decision to allow a return to service on detailed information from EASA, the FAA and Boeing, in addition to extensive engagement with airline operators and pilot representative organizations. The CAA worked alongside EASA, as our technical agent, reviewing its work as the validating authority. During this process the UK has been fully sighted on the technical assurance activity conducted by EASA. Additionally, the UK participated in pilot training forums and simulator evaluations.

Notes:

TUI has six 737 MAX aircraft on the UK register.

The main modifications to the aircraft that allow a safe return to service are:

  • Flight Control Computer (FCC) software changes, so that both of the aircraft’s Angle of Attack (AoA) sensor inputs are used by the aircraft systems (rather than previously one)
  • safeguards against MCAS activating unnecessarily, due to a failed or erroneous AoA sensor
  • removal of the MCAS repeat command
  • revised limits on the MCAS command authority
  • revisions to flight crew procedures and training requirements
  • implementation of an AoA ‘disagree’ alert indication that would appear on the pilots’ primary flight displays
  • cross FCC trim monitoring, to detect and shutdown erroneous pitch trim commands

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for the initial type certification (approval) of the Boeing 737 MAX as it is designed in the USA, and it is the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) that validates this certification across the EU.

EASA declares Boeing 737 MAX safe to return to service in Europe

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) gave its seal of approval for the return to service of a modified version of the Boeing 737 MAX, mandating a package of software upgrades, electrical wiring rework, maintenance checks, operations manual updates and crew training which will allow the plane to fly safely in European skies after almost two years on the ground.

“We have reached a significant milestone on a long road,” said EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky. “Following extensive analysis by EASA, we have determined that the 737 MAX can safely return to service. This assessment was carried out in full independence of Boeing or the Federal Aviation Administration and without any economic or political pressure – we asked difficult questions until we got answers and pushed for solutions which satisfied our exacting safety requirements.  We carried out our own flight tests and simulator sessions and did not rely on others to do this for us.

“Let me be quite clear that this journey does not end here,” he added. “We have every confidence that the aircraft is safe, which is the precondition for giving our approval. But we will continue to monitor 737 MAX operations closely as the aircraft resumes service. In parallel, and at our insistence, Boeing has also committed to work to enhance the aircraft still further in the medium term, in order to reach an even higher level of safety.”

The Boeing 737 MAX was grounded worldwide in March 2019 following the second of two accidents within just six months, which together claimed 346 lives. The root cause of these tragic accidents was traced to software known as the MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), intended to make the plane easier to handle. However, the MCAS, guided by only one Angle of Attack (AoA) sensor, kicked in repeatedly if that sensor malfunctioned, pushing the nose of the aircraft downward multiple times. In both accidents, pilots finally lost control of their plane, resulting in a crash with total loss of aircraft.

EASA’s conditions for Return to Service now met

In the days after the grounding, EASA set four conditions for the return to service of the aircraft:

  • The two accidents (JT610 and ET302) are deemed sufficiently understood
  • Design changes proposed by Boeing to address the issues highlighted by the accidents are EASA approved and their embodiment is mandated
  • An  independent extended design review has been completed by EASA 
  • Boeing 737 MAX flight crews have been adequately trained

“These four conditions have now all been met, allowing us to go ahead with the return to service,” Ky said.

To enhance transparency, a closing report released by the Agency explains its approach and the reasoning for its decisions.

While the investigations assessed that the behaviour of the MCAS and related alerting systems were the clear main cause of the two crashes, EASA rapidly realised that a far wider review of the 737 MAX was needed. EASA therefore extended its analysis to the entire flight control system. With a particular focus on the human factors – the actual experience for a pilot of flying the plane.

This extended review, conducted in close cooperation with FAA as primary certification authority, and with Boeing as manufacturer, continued to evolve over the course of the 20-month exercise. Its findings led to the definition of the broad package of actions specified in the Airworthiness Directive.

“The mandated actions need to be seen as a complete package which together ensure the aircraft’s safety,” Ky said. “This is not just about changes to the design of the aircraft: every individual 737 MAX pilot needs to undergo a once-off special training, including simulator training, to ensure that they are fully familiar with the redesigned 737 MAX and trained to handle specific scenarios which may arise in flight. This will be reinforced by recurrent training to ensure the knowledge is kept fresh.”

EASA has also agreed with Boeing that the manufacturer will work to even further increase the resilience of the aircraft systems to AoA sensor failures so as to further enhance the safety of the aircraft. Boeing will also conduct a complementary Human Factor assessment of its crew alerting system within the next 12 months, with the aim of identifying the need for longer term improvements.

Resumption of flights in Europe

The Airworthiness Directive, which details the aircraft and operational suitability changes, including crew training requirements, must be carried out before each individual plane returns to service, gives the green light from the EASA side for a return to service of the aircraft.

However, scheduling of these mandated actions is a matter for the aircraft operators, under the oversight of Member States’ national aviation authorities, meaning that the actual return to service may take some time. COVID-19 may also have an influence on the pace of return to commercial operations.

In conjunction with the Airworthiness Directive, EASA also issued a Safety Directive (SD) requiring non-European airlines which are holders of EASA third country operator (TCO) authorisation to implement equivalent requirements, including aircrew training. This will allow for the return to service of the 737 MAX when the aircraft concerned are operated under an EASA TCO authorisation into, within or out of the territory of the EASA Member States.

Additional information

In summary, the EASA Airworthiness Directive mandates the following main actions:

  • Software updates for the flight control computer, including the MCAS
  • Software updates to display an alert in case of disagreement between the two AoA sensors
  • Physical separation of wires routed from the cockpit to the stabiliser trim motor
  • Updates to flight manuals: operational limitations and improved procedures to equip pilots to understand and manage all relevant failure scenarios
  • Mandatory training for all 737 MAX pilots before they fly the plane again, and updates of the initial and recurrent training of pilots on the MAX
  • Tests of systems including the AoA sensor system
  • An operational readiness flight, without passengers, before commercial usage of each aircraft to ensure that all design changes have been correctly implemented and the aircraft successfully and safely brought out of its long period of storage.

For details, see the text of the Airworthiness Directive (AD).

EASA, and regulators in Canada and Brazil, worked closely with the FAA and Boeing throughout the last 20 months to return the plane safely to operations. These three authorities have already approved the aircraft for the return to service.

The EASA AD requires the same physical changes to the aircraft as the FAA, meaning that there will be no software or technical differences between the aircraft operated by the United States operators and by the EASA member states operators (the 27 European Union members plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). Following the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, the UK Civil Aviation Authority is now responsible for clearing the aircraft to operate to/from and within the U.K as well as for U.K. operators.

However, EASA’s requirements differ from the FAA in two main respects. EASA explicitly allows flight crews to intervene to stop a stick shaker from continuing to vibrate once it has been erroneously activated by the system, to prevent this distracting the crew. EASA also, for the time being, mandates that certain types of high-precision landings cannot be performed. The latter is expected to be a short-term restriction. The mandated training for pilots is broadly the same for both authorities.

Some EASA member states issued their own decision prohibiting the operation of the 737 MAX last year for their sovereign airspace. These bans will need to be lifted before the aircraft can fly again in the airspace of these countries.  EASA is working closely with the relevant national authorities to achieve this.

During the 28-day public consultation, comments on the AD were received from 38 commenters. These have all been responded to in the Comment Response Document published with the AD. For the SD, there were 6 commenters. Responses to these comments can be found on the Comment Response Document published with the SD.  In summary, the comments resulted in some minor changes to the texts, such as corrections to typing errors, updated document references and clarifications required by the commenters. There were no substantive changes made to the actions that need to be implemented.