Concerns grow over 737 MAX 8’s anti-stall system

Boeing’s automated anti-stalling system in the 737 MAX 8 fleet has come under scrutiny in the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash on Sunday in which 157 people died.

The anti-stall system, designed for safety, uses the plane’s exterior to measure how high the nose sits. It is suspected to have malfunctioned, hastily drawing the plane’s nose down when there was no need.

The US Federal Aviation Authority temporarily grounded all 737 MAX 8 and 9s yesterday following indications that the Ethiopian Airlines flight track behaved similarly to the Lion Air flight which crashed into Indonesia’s Java Sea in October last year.

When implementing the Ai system, Boeing experienced problems fitting a larger and heavier engine in the 737 MAX 8 configuration, which meant that the engine had to be placed higher and a little forward on the wing.

This meant the MAX 8 had different performance characteristics which made it necessary for an anti-stall patch to be installed into the control system.

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebre-Mariam said that pilots had received additional training following the Lion Air crash.

“We were given extra training by Boeing. We have installed the additional training procedures in our manuals and in our simulations,” said Gebre-Mariam.

According to Ethiopian Airlines, the jet’s last service was on 4 February, having just flown 1 400 hours, and there was no indication of a fault with the anti-stall device. The jet passed all safety tests whereas the Lion Air pilots had previously reported problems with the system responding.

The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder arrived in Paris this morning to be analysed by the Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety.

Boeing grounded the entire fleet of 371 737 MAX 8 aircraft yesterday.

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