A bit over a week ago a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX crashed while operating a domestic flight within Indonesia. Tragically, 189 people died in the crash, which is heartbreaking. Flying is such a safe form of transportation, and it’s easy to take that for granted, but events like this remind you of just how fragile life is, and how quickly things can go wrong.
As usual, it takes a while for investigators to figure out the exact cause of a crash. What made this incident even more surprising is that it involves a brand new Boeing 737 MAX, which is Boeing’s latest technology. The 737 is the most popular and one of the safest commercial aircraft in the world, so it’s particularly concerning when a brand new plane crashes.
On one hand you’d think a brand new plane would be the safest plane imaginable (in the same way you’d probably expect a new car to be safe and in perfect condition). On the other hand, a new plane also doesn’t have the experience of an older plane, and there’s no doubt that aircraft manufacturers learn things over time.
In this case it’s also possible that the aircraft as such had nothing to do with the crash, since there are plenty of other factors at play, including the potential for pilot error.
While we don’t yet know for sure that this is directly correlated to the crash, Bloomberg is reporting that Boeing is about to issue a safety warning regarding the 737 MAX, which comes in response to an investigation of last week’s crash.
According to an anonymous source, erroneous readings from a flight-monitoring system on the 737 MAX can cause the plane to abruptly dive. Under certain circumstances (including when pilots are manually flying), the 737 MAX will try to push down the nose automatically if it detects a stall is possible. It uses a variety of factors to determine this, including the plane’s angle of attack.
With this bulletin, Boeing will warn pilots to follow an existing procedure that allows them to continue flying in the event that there are erroneous angle of attack readings.
This seems like it will just be an intermediate bulletin, and like I said, we’re not yet sure if this is the cause of the Lion Air 737 MAX crash. However, it seems they recognize this is an issue, and in the interim it’s important that they have a proper procedure for pilots to follow. We’ll have to wait and see if more changes are made.
With around 200 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in the skies around the world (and counting), this has the potential to impact quite a few planes.
Personally I’d feel comfortable flying a 737 MAX (though I’d feel comfortable flying just about any plane), but this does seem like an issue.
I’ll be curious to see how this unfolds further…
Would you have any qualms flying a 737 MAX in light of this news?