We at Boeing are sorry for the lives lost in the recent 737 accidents and are relentlessly focused on safety to ensure tragedies like this never happen again.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg has said “it’s apparent” that the 737 MAX 8’s MCAS maneuvering system contributed to two fatal air accidents. Investigators had long suspected the system’s role in the disasters.
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 plunged into a field shortly after takeoff in March, killing all 157 people on board. Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610 nosedived into the sea last October, killing all 189 passengers and crew. Investigators noted “clear similarities” between both accidents.
“The full details of what happened in the two accidents will be issued by the government authorities in the final reports,” Muilenburg said in a video posted Thursday. “It’s apparent that in both flights the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, known as MCAS, activated in response to [the] erroneous angle of attack information,” he continued.
The MCAS system reads the 737 MAX’s angle of attack (the angle of the plane’s nose) through a nose-mounted sensor. If the nose drifts too far upward, it manipulates the tail to keep the plane level and avoid a stall. However, investigators and Boeing whistleblowers claim that the sensors can deliver false readings, and the system can overcompensate, throwing the aircraft into a dive.
The Boeing jet that crashed in Ethiopia wasn't airworthy and I'm still angry that some media blame of the Ethiopian pilots ("They're Africans; it's a great American company" was the tone). We learned today pilots fought heroically to save lives as the faulty plane self-destructed pic.twitter.com/FYFaAJ21Co
— James Hall (@hallaboutafrica) April 4, 2019
The 737 MAX 8 is grounded worldwide following the Ethiopian Airlines disaster, and Boeing is currently previewing a software update that Muilenberg said will “eliminate the possibility” of a similar accident happening again. The update will need to be approved by air regulators worldwide before the 737 MAX will take to the sky again.
A group of Boeing engineers told the Seattle Times last month that pilots were unaware of how to override the MCAS system, and Boeing has promised to rectify this too by providing “additional educational materials.” In addition, two critical safety features that could have warned pilots of an impending dive were sold as optional extras by the manufacturer. One of these – a warning light – will now be fitted as standard.
Investigators found that the flight crew of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 had performed all the procedures recommended by Boeing but were still unable to control the plane before it crashed, killing all 157 people aboard. @tomforemancnn reports. https://t.co/0Y2u9yUopG pic.twitter.com/uiTMYUq45k
— CNN (@CNN) April 4, 2019