After preliminary reports into the investigation of the Ethiopian Airlines crash which killed all 157 people on board showed that the fated airline's crew did everything right, Boeing has broken its silence on the matter.
In a press release issued Apr. 5, Boeing acknowledged, for the first time, that there was a direct link between Ethiopian Airlines crash ET 302, and Lion Air's JT 610; both flights were operated on a Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane, less than five months old, and both crashes had no survivors.
"We now know that the recent Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accidents were caused by a chain of events, with a common chain link being erroneous activation of the aircraft's MCAS function. We have the responsibility to eliminate this risk, and we know how to do it. As part of this effort, we're making progress on the 737 MAX software update that will prevent accidents like these from ever happening again," Boeing said in a statement.
Adjusting 737 production systems
On Apr. 3, Boeing sent out a Tweet that showed its CEO, Dennis Muilenburg testing out the MCAS software during a 737 MAX 7 demo flight.
The Tweet came hours before reports were released on the initial findings from the Ethiopian Airlines crash, and many people took to Twitter to express how the move by Boeing was done in poor taste, given the timing of the events.
What happens is this software updates does not work and the plan nose dives all over again? The damage has been done guys.— Brian Ondari (@brian_curlix) April 4, 2019
RT:— Christian Jorgensen (@chrisjorg_1) April 4, 2019
Amazingly poor form to pull this stunt just ahead of the Ethiopian crash report. #hubris
So, @BoeingCEO, what you're saying is the MCAS works fine right on up until it doesn't work fine. Thanks for the update. How's about an update on the corporate culture at @Boeing which got us to this point?— Dan Yo (@Go_Dan_Go) April 6, 2019
To recap, MCAS, short for Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, is a type of automated flight software used by Boeing, which is intended to keep a plane from stalling once airborne.
However in both the fated Ethiopian Airlines ET 302 crash, and the Lion Air Flight JT 610, where all 189 passengers were killed, MCAS failed.
Return of the 737 MAX 8?
Boeing says it is currently adjusting the 737 production system temporarily to accommodate the pause in MAX deliveries, which will allow the company to prioritize additional resources to focus on software certification and return the MAX to flight.
"We have decided to temporarily move from a production rate of 52 airplanes per month to 42 airplanes per month starting in mid-April," the statement read. "At a production rate of 42 airplanes per month, the 737 program and related production teams will maintain their current employment levels while we continue to invest in the broader health and quality of our production system and supply chain."
Boeing says it will work directly with its suppliers on their production plans to minimize operational disruption and financial impact of the production rate change.
Air Canada, which had 24 Boeing 737 MAX 8 in its fleet, and was expecting six new aircraft in March and April, has taken steps to minimize impact to its customers travel plans. The carrier anticipates it will cover 98 per cent of previously planned flying for the month through a series of mitigation measures, schedule changes and temporary route suspensions, even partnering with fellow airline Air Transat for some routes.
WestJet, which had 13 Boeing 737 MAX 8 in its fleet, continues to work closely with Boeing, Transport Canada, and other regulators since the grounding of the MAX-8, and says that 93 per cent of its planned flying will be unaffected by the groundings.
Muilenburg said in the statement that he has asked the Boeing Board of Directors to establish a committee "to review our company-wide policies and processes for the design and development of the airplanes we build. The committee will confirm the effectiveness of our policies and processes for assuring the highest level of safety on the 737-MAX program, as well as our other airplane programs, and recommend improvements to our policies and procedures."
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