Boeing 737 Max pilots across world raised fears over aircraft before deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash

'The fact that this airplane requires such jury rigging to fly is a red flag'

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 13 March 2019 11:38
Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) grounds Boeing 737 MAX 8

As anger and confusion over the Boeing 737 MAX 8 grows among airline passengers in North America, evidence has emerged of serious concerns by some pilots about the aircraft type.

On Sunday, an Ethiopian Airlines jet crashed shortly after take off from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 onboard.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, concerns were soon raised about a crash in October 2018 of a Lion Air 737 MAX 8 in circumstances that had some similarities.

More than 40 regulators around the world have banned the jet from their airspace, with the UK Civil Aviation Authority saying it needed more information from the flight data recorder of the Ethiopian Airlines jet.

But the lead regulator for this American plane, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), says: “Our review shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft.”

But the FAA’s Accident & Incident Data, which allows for anonymous reporting, reveals serious concerns about the 737 MAX characteristics.

The Dallas Morning News has trawled through the database for reports on the aircraft type.

One pilot felt the certification of the Boeing was not sufficiently rigorous, saying: “The fact that this airplane requires such jury rigging to fly is a red flag.”

Another captain called the flight manual “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient".

In November, a pilot who flies the Max 8 described Boeing’s lack of disclosure on how the Max 8's system differs from previous models as “unconscionable”.

An Emergency Airworthiness Directive issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shortly after the Lion Air crash warned: “If an erroneously high single angle of attack sensor input is received by the flight control system, there is a potential for repeated nose-down trim commands of the horizontal stabilizer."

It ordered airlines to advise pilots about how to deal with the phenomenon should it arise.

“This condition, if not addressed, could cause the flight crew to have difficulty controlling the airplane, and lead to excessive nose-down attitude, significant altitude loss, and possible impact with terrain,” said the directive.

Boeing’s latest statement insists it has full confidence in the aircraft: “Safety is Boeing’s number one priority and we have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX. We understand that regulatory agencies and customers have made decisions that they believe are most appropriate for their home markets.

“We’ll continue to engage with them to ensure they have the information needed to have confidence in operating their fleets.

“Based on the information currently available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.”

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