The crash of the 737 MAX 8 jet in Ethiopia has rocked the world and apparently spelled hard times for Boeing. The incident itself – as well as its aftermath – has also raised some questions that need to be answered.
In the wake of the tragedy, the US manufacturer struggles to contain the fallout as more than 40 nations have decided to ground its aircraft following the crash. Meanwhile, an informal consensus is forming around the idea that it is the airliner’s flight control software that is highly likely responsible for Sunday’s catastrophe.Посмотреть изображение в Твиттере
‘Don’t sink! Don’t sink!’ Pilot reports reveal at least 2 incidents of Boeing 737 MAX 8 nosedivinghttps://on.rt.com/9q5t
The media are increasingly reporting about the similarities between the Ethiopian crash and the one that occurred in Indonesia less than six months ago and also involved a 737 MAX 8 model. Some other reports have revealed that pilots flying the troubled series have also repeatedly complained about the planes’ autopilot making it nosedive and lose altitude on several occasions.
Most recently, it was reported that a jet piece found at the Ethiopian crash site indicated that the airliner was set to dive before the catastrophe happened.ALSO ON RT.COMBoeing pledges to roll out software upgrade for 737 MAX in ‘coming weeks’ after FAA push
The reaction of Boeing, which recently vowed to upgrade its software for the 737 MAX series, also indicates that the jets do have a problem with software. However, as the world tries to figure out what exactly happened there still seems to be more questions than answers.
What has gone wrong?
While it increasingly seems that it is one of the flight control systems known as Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) that is the most likely culprit behind both the Ethiopian and the Indonesian incidents, it still remains unclear what exactly caused both crashes.
The system was designed specifically to prevent the new aircraft from stalling and eventually falling, but it seems that it did quite the opposite. The jets were equipped with some new engines, which could possibly prompt the plane to climb too high too soon and eventually stall, independent international affairs and aerospace industry analyst Alessandro Bruno explained.
To avoid this, Boeing has programmed flight control computers to stabilize the aircraft’s nose, Bruno told RT. However, due to some malfunction, this somehow forced the aircraft to nosedive under certain circumstances.
The pilots, in turn, were apparently sometimes unable to correct this AI failure due to what is now called an “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient” flight manual, which barely mentioned the new system and only did so on some of the last pages, according to the analyst.
The incident shows the limitations of artificial intelligence in vehicles. Older versions of 737 would have never had such problems because there was nothing wrong mechanically with the airplane, it was an electronic problem, a software problem and the problem of awareness.
Did Boeing know about this issue?
Even if the existence of such a problem was not clear from the very beginning, the first fatal crash involving a 737 MAX in Indonesia should have certainly rung an alarm bell. And it apparently did.
Boeing did issue a warning and a training advisory to all 737 MAX operators, urging them to avoid letting the MCAS send the plane into a nosedive. However, it also clearly hesitated to investigate the matter further and also defended the manual by saying that it describes the MCAS as a “relevant” function.
Why did Boeing let it happen?
If one assumes that the company knew about the problem long ago, then this question really becomes one of the most pressing ones. One possible answer might be that the silence was all about quick profit.