Month: March 2019

It seems incomprehensible that American Airlines and Southwest Airlines can refuse to ground their B-737 Max 8’s while the rest of the world grounds theirs in the face of two accidents that have claimed the lives of nearly 350 people.

There would not be enough money in the world to pay the punitive damages claims that either airline would have to pay in the event one of their Max 8’s dived into the ground because the MCAS failed again.

Today Boeing announced a software fix that reduced the control authority of the MCAS so the elevators would still be able to allow the crew to pull out of a dive induced by runaway stabilizer trim and added a comparator so if either Angle of Attack sensor disagreed, the system wouldn’t work. This is a good first step but the airplane should never have been certified by the FAA without those features in place. It has a single point failure, one sensor operated the system at a time, and this emergency system alone created a worse emergency.

Do American and Southwest’s Max 8’s already have the software or some version of it that the International carriers do not have? If so the culpability of Boeing would be worse, if that’s possible, but the FAA would also have to be complicit which would explain why it rushed to defend Boeing and the decision of American and Southwest not to ground their fleets. If American and Southwest have a revised MCAS and they remain silent about it, they are morally corrupt for remaining silent.

There is no evidence that the U.S. carriers’ aircraft are any different than those sold overseas but something is driving this arrogance in the face of certain disaster.

Arthur Alan Wolk

3/12/19

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Boeing has announced and the FAA has agreed to software changes to the MCAS system, the anti-stall system suspected in causing 300 deaths in the last 4 months on the Boeing 737 Max 8.

The Boeing announcement says the enhancements include updates to “the MCAS flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals and crew training. 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.”

Yet just yesterday the FAA issued a certification of continued airworthiness for the 737 Max 8 claiming to the world that in spite of the two recent accidents, the airplane is just fine. That’s funny, an Airworthiness Directive addresses safety of flight issues and one is already issued on an emergency basis and the software enhancements are included in the second to be issued in April. Other changes are likely to be mandated as well.

So the B-737 Max 8 is so safe that over 300 people are dead and it needs to be changed to keep flying yet the FAA hasn’t grounded it until the “enhancements” are introduced.

Other U.S. carriers who operate the Max refuse to take it out of service. What will the FAA say when another one goes down, this time in the U.S., “Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims’ families.”?

This is politics as usual and the FAA is covering up its embarrassment for having certified an airplane with an emergency system that causes its own emergency. The 737 Max 8 will one day be fixed just like the 737 rudder was after six accidents years ago, but right now until it’s fixed it should remain on the ground.

The FAA is useless!

Arthur Alan Wolk

3/12/19

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Two crashes within a few short months of each other, hundreds dead, experienced crews aboard each and a known absent control redundancy? This airplane needs another look by embarrassed regulators.

The Boeing 737 MAX is a further lengthened version of the most popular airliner ever conceived, the 737. But the differences in the MAX are more than just size. The MAX is so stretched that a control intervention system, The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, was included that figured into the crash of the LIONAIR JT 610 crash in Indonesia. In that crash, an angle of attack sensor malfunction was implicated as well as a failure by Boeing to provide adequate differences training materials (documents to advise flight crews how operating the MAX differs from other 737s).

While LIONAIR maintenance and pilot error was charged by Boeing, as it always does after an accident, it turns out that normal emergency techniques for this control system malfunction do not work.

It appears now that absent proof that foul play or a different mechanical malfunction brought this airplane down, this Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX accident must be a trigger for a Special Airworthiness Review to see if the regulations for certification were not given short shrift.

For example, the Federal Aviation Regulations require control system redundancy so no single failure can cause a crash. In the new MAX design, there are two angle of attack sensors but only one supplies the needed critical information to the flight control computer at any one time. That may be a violation of the redundancy requirement and both systems operating properly with a comparator of the health of the two should have been required.

But there appears to be an ugly side to this aircraft. The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System in the MAX pitches the nose down when the a system senses an angle of attack higher than required for normal flight or one that would result in an aerodynamic stall. Since the system is a required control system for dispatch, by making only one angle of attack sensor required and indeed used at a time, Boeing hedged on the likely failure of two AOA’s at the same time and got it certified.

Now the FAA, the agency that certified the aircraft will fall all over itself to deny that the MAX doesn’t meet the regulations but it said the same thing when three B-737s crashed from a rudder control problem that the FAA denied existed. More than 600 people lost their lives while the FAA defended its actions and stood in Boeing’s shadow until the NTSB reluctantly and due in part to the work of Arthur Alan Wolk required a reliably redundant rudder control system.

Until the cause of this latest crash is determined, the MAX should be grounded and a bottom up review made to see how this new band aid system fails, how its failure can be annunciated to the flight crew and how it can be stopped once it runs away.

It is no coincidence that both aircraft crews lost control close to the ground and unless something else is quickly identified as the cause, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System must be a suspect. Something about the MAX’s design required this unheard of mechanical intervention in the normal control of the Boeing 737, literally taking control away from the crew so the airplane doesn’t crash. The fact that it is known that this supposedly lifesaving system may itself cause a crash makes a careful re-examination of it appropriate before 600 people are lost instead of the more than 300 dead already.

Arthur Alan Wolk 3/10/2019

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No lawyer in the world has as much experience with the Boeing G 737 Control System malfunctions as Arthur Alan Wolk of THE WOLK LAW FIRM. The crash of Lion Air Flight JT 610 is beyond a tragedy for the 189 souls aboard. It is a disgrace.

The Boeing 737 MAX is equipped with a flight control system designed to prevent the crew from
accidentally stalling the airplane. It’s called the “Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System” In
this instance stall means aerodynamic stall or the airplane quits flying not engine failure. The incidence of airliner crews accidentally stalling their airplanes is almost non-existent except when in the unlikely
event the flight control system malfunctions and misleads the flight deck crew into mis-handling the emergency. This occurred over the Atlantic during an Air France Flight to Paris from Buenos Aires some
years ago. All aboard were killed so every aircraft manufacturer was on notice that the systems were getting too complex and confusing even for experienced flight crews to master.

Boeing airplanes have traditionally avoided the use of computer interventions which take control of the
aircraft away from the flight deck crew and the Boeing 737 MAX is the first time Boeing has departed
from that control system design philosophy in the Boeing 737 type. The MAX system literally uses two
Angle of Attack sensors which feeds information to a horizontal stabilizer trim system that will force the nose of the aircraft down if the angle of attack (the angle between a line down the middle of the
fuselage and the air it is flying through) gets too steep. This system inexplicably uses only one of the two angle of attack sensors so it has a built in single point failure in the event that the one it is using fails.
The computer senses that at that angle even if incorrectly measured due to a malfunctioning angle of attack sensor, the airplane is approaching or will approach stall and trims the stabilizer nose down to prevent the aircraft from stalling. The problem is that the system won’t allow the crew to disable it in a timely way if at all and it will take control away from the crew all the way into the ground or ocean. In fact since the system only works when the airplane is in manual flaps up condition, lowering the flaps
would have disabled it but nobody in the cockpit knew that because Boeing didn’t tell them.

In the instance of the Boeing 737 MAX, there was nothing in the FAA Approved Flight manual to advise
the crew of this anomaly or how to deal with it and nothing in the differences training (the training of flight deck crews in one type of B-737 to know what’s new or different about the MAX) to cover it.
Therefore the Lion Air crew was stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place trying to figure out what was wrong and what to do about it.

There is no question that Boeing knew about the issue and the potential failure mode because it designed and built the system. It was obligated to create a Failure Modes and Effects Analysis so the various potential failures could be addressed. It also knew it had a responsibility under the Federal
Aviation Regulations to design the system so it could be flown by pilots of ordinary piloting skills, without the use of excessive strength and the system must be able to be overridden by the crew using
ordinary strength and easily disabled it if it malfunctions.

Boeing was required to supply the FAA with a Flight Manual, that only the FAA can approve, which gives the crew all the necessary information to deal with emergencies and abnormal conditions and under no circumstances is one emergency allowed to create an even wors emergency. Clearly the FAA didn’t read it, didn’t understand it, didn’t flight test it and just rubber stamped it.

This Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System was malfunctioning on four flights before the
accident flight. The flight deck crews reported the malfunctions and Lion Air maintenance people claiming they used the manuals that Boeing supplied, troubleshot the squawk and claim they fixed the system as instructed. The problem is that this malfunction could not be effectively troubleshot on the ground as the angle of attack sensors typically fail in the air. That’s why each succeeding flight deck crew had the problem again. In addition the system cannot be effectively troubleshot by the methods the maintenance personnel were given in continuing airworthiness manuals that Boeing was required under the Federal Aviation Regulations to provide with all means necessary to maintain the aircraft safe for flight.

Many other types of jet aircraft have a single switch that will allow the crew to disconnect the entire
trim system. But because this was a stall protection system, often the means to disable it is more complicated so the protection is not lost. Clearly the crew of Lion Air JT610 was unable to disconnect or disable the system and the nose was pitched down in ever increasing amounts such that even tugging as hard as they could the crew could not overcome the dive to eventual oblivion. The very fact that the crew could not disable or override the system makes the system itself a violation of the same Federal
Aviation Regulations.

Arthur Alan Wolk litigated the Boeing 737 rudder malfunction accidents, United 525 in Colorado Springs,
Co. and USAIR 427 in Aliquippa Pa., for nine years successfully settling the cases of the many passengers he represented after proving, in spite of Boeing’s denials, that the rudder control system was flawed. It
has since been redesigned. Wolk proved the rudder control system defective not only to the NTSB which was mesmerized for years by Boeing’s denials but to Boeing and its insurers as well.

The rudder in the Boeing 737 also had a single point failure and there was no mention of a procedure to counter it in the FAA approved Flight Manual. The regulators don’t regulate and the manufacturers do not comply with the regulatory requirements.

No one is more qualified to litigate Lion Air JT 610 than Arthur Alan Wolk and The Wolk Law Firm.


Arthur Alan Wolk can be reached at the office 215-545-4220 or on his cell 610-733-4220.

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