Boeing's Troubles Could Rise Due to Escalating Scrutiny

A Boeing 737 Max 8 airliner made an emergency landing Tuesday shortly after takeoff from Orlando, Fla., airport officials said.

While investigators have yet to fully determine the cause of the two crashes - Lion Air Flight 610 on October 29, 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019 - anti-stall software added to the 737 Max 8 has become the main point of focus.

Southwest Flight 8701 took off from Orlando International Airport at 2:50 p.m. and returned to the airport just before 3 p.m. after pilots reported an engine problem.

The New York Times reported this week that simulations meant to work out how the Lion Air crash could have taken place found that pilots had less than 40 seconds to override the system and stop a nosedive if it went wrong.

Southwest Airlines flight 1117 from St. Louis lands at Boston Logan International Airport on March 13, 2019.

Airline regulators around the world grounded the model two weeks ago amid concerns the anti-stall system was behind two recent deadly crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia.

China was the first country to ground the 737 Max earlier this month following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight, which killed all 157 on board.

Neither of the planes, operated by Lion Air in Indonesia and Ethiopian Airlines, that were involved in the fatal crashes, carried the alert systems, created to warn pilots when sensors produce contradictory readings.

Among the changes, the MCAS will no longer repeatedly make corrections when the pilot tries to regain control, and will be automatically disconnected in the event of disagreements between the two "angle of attack" (AOA) sensors, the company said. Two of the jets have crashed in the past six months in Indonesia and Ethiopia with deadly consequences, and investigators are examining the role of flight control software that Boeing created to prevent aerodynamic stalls.

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A US Senate panel is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday on the two disasters and federal oversight of air safety.

"While revamping FAA's oversight process will be an important step, continued management attention will be key to ensure the agency identifies and monitors the highest-risk areas of aircraft certification", Scovel wrote in his prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press.

Boeing is expected to roll out a software update meant to give pilots more control over MCAS and make it less likely to malfunction.

The delay has given rise to suspicions of a too-cozy relationship between regulators and the American plane maker, especially since Chinese and European authorities moved quickly to ban the planes as soon as similarities with the Lion Air crash were raised. The process, he planned to say, has "consistently produced safe aircraft designs for decades".

The ongoing investigation is focused on Boeing's anti-stalling system, also known as the "MCAS" (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), which the company uses in its 737 MAX series planes.

A Boeing spokesperson said the company was "aware of the incident and supporting our customer".

During the Lion Air flight's last minutes, pilots searched in a handbook for a way to stop the plane from nosediving, according to a Reuters report.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is part of efforts to test the new software, declined to comment.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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