The FAA, Boeing, And US Airlines Are Starting To Look Ridiculous

Filed Under: Misc.

Just over 48 hours ago a Boeing 737 MAX crashed in Ethiopia, making it the second of the aircraft type to crash in a few months. We don’t know exactly what happened, though we know there are similarities between the two crashes, and we also know that some software updates will be released soon, later than initially promised.

There are nearly 400 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, operated by nearly 60 airlines. Over the past 48 hours we’ve seen country after country ground them, and we’ve also seen many airlines voluntarily ground them.

At this point every major Boeing 737 MAX operator outside of North America has grounded these planes, either voluntarily or by request from the government. Every. Single. One.

Yet none of the US or Canadian operators of the plane — American, Southwest, United, Air Canada, and WestJet — have grounded their planes, voluntarily or involuntarily (it’s debatable whether United should or not, given that they operate the -9, and the -8 was involved in both accidents).

The airlines that have grounded their planes presumably haven’t taken the decision lightly, as it’s going to be very costly. They haven’t done this because they absolutely know something is wrong with the plane. Rather, they’ve grounded the 737 MAX because they don’t absolutely know that something isn’t wrong with the plane.

Modern aviation is so incredibly safe, so to see two of the same types of new planes crash so close together should be concerning, if nothing else.

But at some point doesn’t the US (and to a lesser extent, Canada) come out of this looking ridiculous? Boeing is standing behind their plane. The FAA is standing behind Boeing. American and Canadian airlines are standing behind the plane. It’s the US and Canada against the world, it seems.

Are they actually 100% certain that there’s nothing systematically wrong with the 737 MAX, including the way pilots are trained to fly it? Do they think the concerns of every other relevant aviation authority in the world are unfounded? If they even have the slightest concern about the integrity of the plane, shouldn’t they put lives ahead of profits?

Even if they stand behind the plane, I’d be willing to bet that public opinion will otherwise cause these planes to be grounded.

Just look at the news, it’s constantly being talked about.

Just look at the Twitter timelines of these airlines, and you’ll see that almost every single question is from people asking if they’re scheduled to fly a 737 MAX, and if they can change flights.

Just go to an airport. I’ve heard a countless number of reports today of people at airports overhearing questions about whether they’re flying one of those “bad planes.”

The US FAA has long been the gold standard for aviation safety, and has been the organization that others have followed. How much credibility do they lose when dozens of other authorities temporarily ground the plane, and they do nothing?

I also don’t understand how US airlines think they’re going to win in this situation. Unions at American and Southwest are calling for the planes to be grounded.

This isn’t just going to fade away, and in my opinion the longer US airlines and/or the FAA wait, the worse they look in all of this. I’d say American looks especially bad here — at least Southwest is letting people rebook onto different planes, while American isn’t.

What do you guys think — do you think US/Canadian airlines and the FAA will eventually be forced to change their tune here, or do you think they’re sticking to their guns?

Comments

  1. IMAGINE if this was Airbus. The FAA and the Federal Government would be creaming their pants at the opportunity to big up Boeing. It’s all about trade, and quite frankly sad and pathetic – much like the U.S. Government in general in 2019.

  2. To be fair, grounding such a large amount of aircraft, especially for operators like southwest, will lead to a crazy amount of cancellations/delays. My guess is people would be a lot more upset if their flight was cancelled.

  3. Totally agree. I just called SW to change our flights for tomorrow – they were very helpful and didn’t charge the difference in price, and luckily there was another non-stop 2 hours later with 5 open seats.
    Glad I checked today because last night we were on a 737-800 and today it switched to a 737-MAX8. You better believe I’m watching my new flight for the next 24 hours to make sure it doesn’t also change.

  4. Given the propensity to be sued in the US – the idea that its being left to fly is more surprising. Can’t help but think if Delta were int he game they would have made the call already…

    Props to Southwest. AA need to get a grip.

  5. Yes, I think they’re going to stick to their guns. I’ll be shocked if the FAA decided to ban the aircraft type, it think will take another one of these to go down for the FAA to change their tune.

  6. IF there’s another accident while so many questions are out there Boeing and the airline in question will go bankrupt paying all of the claims.

  7. We are talking risks to passengers and airlines own crews lives. The slightest risk to human life should be prevented at all times. So for me this is a clear and unfortunate example where money have taken the society – US or no US :(((

  8. No surprise. Boeing has immense lobbying powers, and the FAA is not impenetrable to external influence. As for American putting profit over people’s concerns.. really? Is anyone really shocked? Unions should take action if they feel it’s necessary in the interest of safety of their own employees and passengers alike

  9. I just got off the phone with someone at the Southwest corporate office. I have flights on June 4th and August 16th-both scheduled to be flown on the 737 MAX 8. When I tried to get the fare difference waived and placed on another flight not operated by the 737 MAX, they would not budge. This was at 4PM eastern today.

    I just saw that they seem to be allowing changes until May 27th. I don’t understand why this waiver can’t be extended, especially for those who purchased their ticket prior to the latest crash.

  10. There’s no way the US – who have a vested interest in Boeing, especially on the military side – would ground the 737s unless they absolutely have to. Boeing’s stock is already down nearly $50 in two days, they’ve had to postpone the 777x media event, and there’s no conclusion from the ET crash. The rest of the world can make the decision with relative ease, but this affects more than travelers here

  11. Does Boeing not realize that the next crash of this plane will bankrupt their company? We all know they don’t care about human lives, but you would think they would at least care about money.

  12. What are the airline pilot unions saying?

    To me, that is the bellwether. If the pilots are confident with their own lives on these planes, what does that tell you regarding the pilots’ confidence that they understand the fault and have trained to overcome it?

    Southwest is definitely in a pickle. They account for 30%-40% of all US flight cancellations each day this week. They are operationally challenged as it is. If they have to take their 737Max out of service it will compound the problem.

    I think they will. And I think this weekend, we will see another Southwest operational meltdown that was even worse than last weekend. And its peak Spring Break flying season.

  13. Lucky – perhaps the FAA and/or NTSB knows something that we don’t know. Have you seen the reports of smoke coming from the plane and also of debris coming from the plane before it crashed. I know initial eyewitness accounts can at times be unreliable, but these are multiple eyewitness reports. Perhaps it was a bomb that brought down the plane or a cargo latch not properly closed or a fire in the cargo hold. Perhaps it has nothing to do with the same Lion Air issue. Perhaps it has to do with an inexperienced crew. The co-pilot only had 200 hours (yikes!!) of experience, and the pilot (while he had many more hours) was apparently the youngest pilot flying. A sad tragedy indeed, but perhaps this was just a very tragic coincidence re the Max -8. And, yes, I can completely understand the counter argument (I used “perhaps” several times because we just don’t know what happened). But, “ridiculous” is not a proper way to describe the FAA, Boeing, etc.

  14. While I will always oppose the usual “only a small percentage of MAX flights have crashed” and argue for the safety ahead of everything else (profits, lobbying, cancelations, inconvenience), let me play a devils advocate for just one moment:

    What if all other countries decided to act exactly BECAUSE the plane is from US company? Would EU be so quick to act if it was Airbus was in a similar situation? Isn’t there a current-brewing feud between China and US?

    Yes, please ground them and then investigate at leisure (or let Boeing come up with a fool-proof way of persuading everybody), but the “US against the world” wind might be actually blowing from the opposite side?

  15. I called Southwest today as well. Tried to make changes on one leg of a roundtrip flight happening at end of April. I was told they are only waiving the fare difference for flights in the upcoming two weeks… Maybe they are getting bombarded with requests and changed the rules? Anyone else had this experience?

  16. Humans are irrational and illogical, and you’re not right just because you’re in a majority.

    That’s not to say that the planes shouldn’t be grounded – just that you need something a bit more substantial if you’re going to claim the FAA should be doing so. Not least because you, I and presumably most people here know almost nothing about aircraft safety and they are undeniably experts (albeit with the possibility of a vested interest).

  17. Michael how would they know but the rest of the entire world doesn’t? We look like a damn joke, just as we have the past 2 years.

  18. Only the flight attendant’s unions from AA and Southwest have made noise about grounding the planes from what I’ve read. I value their opinion as much as I would value a stripper’s analysis on the safety of a nuclear reactor. They should get back to focusing on the important things at their pay grade, like how to make sure PDBs of choice are being served efficiently, or in Southwest’s case, how to make charming and witty jokes during the safety demonstration.

    Wake me up when airline CEOs and the pilot’s unions both agree on grounding the plane.

  19. At a minimum the plane should be grounded until a preliminary download and review of the CVR and data recorder. New planes simply do not fall out of the sky. Sadly, the FAA is known as the tombstone agency.

    Thanks for your analysis Lucky.

  20. Every pilot is fully trained on how to fly each aircraft type. It’s black or white here, you either know how to fly a specific airliner or you don’t. There’s no sort of. I am a pilot.

    It is unprecedented that a brand new model and plane fresh out of the factory, in two different companies and continents, would crash within only 5 months of one another and in very similar circumstances! This is not normal at all.

  21. FAA is corrupted. They are in bed with Boeing.

    If this was an Airbus, they will be shutting down the world.

  22. American’s flight attendants union has called for the airline to ‘seriously consider’ grounding the plane, not to ground it. If the pilots were calling for a grounding that would be another matter.

    Regulators are generally cautious. I don’t blame the caution, but it’s not based on knowledge at this point, it’s based on lack of knowledge.

    Hard to blame not grounding the plane, just as it would be hard to ground it upon new information (but sad if it’s just from pressure). At the same time it’s understandable that customers would have concerns and American for its part should be more open to those [travel waiver].

  23. Under Trump, the US has retreated into its shell and fails to lead on any front. No surprise that we are followers in almost every respect at this point.

  24. I certainly understand concern given that two planes of the same model have crashed in a short period of time. It would give me pause before getting on one, although I have flown one a few months ago and lived to tell about it. But we really do not know why the second 737 max crashed. Shouldn’t there be more to go on before we just stop flying the plane “just because?”

  25. While I’m not necessarily condoning it, I can at least understand why Southwest isn’t rushing to ground the MAX 8. Southwest’s Hawaii plan is built on the MAX 8, it’s gonna be damn near catastrophic for them when/if FAA orders grounding of the plane. I know their starting with the 800, but they gotta keep most of those for mainland US flights.

  26. There are other countries and international operators that continue to fly the MAX: Including India (Spicejet and Jet Airways), Brazil (GOL), and Panama (Copa). The place is actually critical for Copa specifically due to its longer-range network utilizing the Max’s increased range.

  27. Just curious has the country ever banned a car when there was something wrong with it? Why should a plane be different?

  28. @raksiam not even close. Boeing has zero risk of going bankrupt from another crash. The airlines would take more of a hit, but they have insurance and reserves to cover claims. Of course it would depend on the split of liability. Even if Boeing was 100% responsible it would hurt them…but to say they would go bankrupt is ridiculous. Honestly the loss of faith in the aircraft is a far greater threat than any death claims. Sounds morbid but it’s true.

  29. Markus – Because the consequences of a car accident are exponentially smaller than a commercial plane crash. Risk Vs Reward.

    But yes, cars get recalled all the time.

  30. India just banned the MAX starting immediately, while flydubai is grounding their fleet (despite previous statements of not doing so).

  31. Many parameters regarding to the two incidents with the 737 Max remind me of the Comet tragedies in the mid 50ies. 4 losses blamed on bad weather conditions, one mid air disruption over the Thyrrenian Sea causing grounding of all remaining planes in service for only two weeks and then another mid air structural failure almost at the same location. Even after finding and eliminating the cause for the sudden depressurisations it was literally the end of the first commercial jet airliner, at least compared to the then succsessfull 707 and DC 8.

  32. Lucky, I don’t need your biased opinion concerning airline operations. You are a passenger. That is all. So keep your thought on that side of the cockpit door! I have operated all variants of the 737 aircraft from the 300, 500,700,800,900 and now the max. Several aircraft types have a stick shackled and pusher operation. Boeing has always used a shacker but no pusher. With the max a pusher type of stall system was introduced. It is nothing you would notice in your daily flight from A to B. There is a certain envelope which it will and will not operate. We have been briefed and trained with this system in place for some while. I know my airline has made us aware of these changes via bulletins and flight manual changes. So go peddle your sky is falling to someone else. Just like the ME3 complaint your love of bashing US airlines knows no bounds. You truely are a classless act!

  33. @Greg – give it time, WN policy may change next week/month, or the aircraft type might change anyway. No-one knows what the situation will be tomorrow, nevermind June. Check your reservation and WN policy again later; you may be covered by then anyway.

  34. If this happened to an American airline, FAA would have jumped on it yesterday…put all things aside, I think they just assume Indonesians and Africans are inferior and less trained/capable..nuff said. Such sad news and pray for the family and friends as all await for the results/findings.

  35. The FAA is a gold standard for aviation safety because they act on facts, not public opinion. They issued the type certificate for this aircraft and have an obligation to investigate thoroughly, because as the issuer of the TC, their decision impacts every one of these aircraft everywhere. You can be confident that FAA, NTSB have been looking very closely at Lion Air for months and know a lot more than anyone else about the causes of the accident. Responsible public authorities try to calm public hysteria not feed it.

  36. It is interesting how we as humans make a simple mistake on who bears the responsibility of proof when it comes to safety regulation. Unlike the criminal persecution that happens after-the-fact in which persecution bears the responsibility to prove beyond reasonable doubt that criminal act DID take place, the safety regulation is the opposite: producer bears the responsibility to prove beyond reasonable doubt that plane/procedure/use is safe BEFORE it is allowed into operation. Same for medication. Same for road-worthiness of cars (or you will not get a cardboard vehicle built in your own garage licensed to sell to general public). Same for food. Even a new process of producing/processing food. Safety regulation is far from perfect, but everything that can endanger humans en-mass has to be proven benign before use.

    I certainly don’t want to see a world in which manufacturing defects for planes are left to an individual to pursue through costly class-suit litigations years later, as it is happening in the car industry lately.

  37. Not sure letting the youngest pilot fly a 737-MAX is a good idea. I think pilots should have at least 5 years of experience on the 737-MAX before being allowed to fly it.

  38. I hate the narrow 737 and I think they should all be grounded based on comfort factors……..

  39. JB says:
    March 12, 2019 at 4:51 pm
    India just banned the MAX starting immediately, while flydubai is grounding their fleet (despite previous statements of not doing so).

    Because UAE told them to do so.

  40. Maybe the difference in treatment by US and CA is due to knowledge of the degree of pilot training required in those two countries in order to fly the MAX. Nonetheless, I’d probably not fly a MAX until more is known about both crashes.

  41. The Pilot set in front, and will not take off unless he feels safe,

    Most could fly the thing with a ball and compass, they are still there,

  42. It should be kept in mind that the Boeing 737 MAX 8 is only a very small subset of the total combined air fleets of B737 variants. Although Southwest flies 737s exclusively, it has taken delivery of 35 MAX 8 aircraft, out of a total operational fleet of 755. American has 24 in operation, Air Canada has 20 and Westjet has 12. Of note, Southwest is reportedly planning to use 737 Max 8 for all of its new flights to Hawaii.

    The grounding orders do not affect the similarly named 737 NG (Next Generation) 800 or any other 737 variant besides the 737 MAX 8.

  43. I think the fact that the rest of the world moved so quickly to ground the aircraft speaks volumes about how isolated America has become from the rest of the world in the last two years, as well as how little influence we exercise in it anymore.

    Having said that, I actually believe the FAA is widely respected because it acts on facts, not hysterical media speculation as others seem to (someone else also pointed this out). There is really no evidence at all yet the crashes are connected – if that were to come to light then the equation changes and it might be time to ground the planes, but I also object to labelling the world’s larget aviation safety agency “ridiculous”.

    Recall that in the case of the 787 as soon as they had a concern about POTENTIAL hazards from batteries, they grounded the entire fleet. The fact they still have not done that now speaks VOLUMES about how little evidence they see that the plane is dangerous. Funny how no one on here who is accusing the FAA and Boeing of corruption remembers that.

    And for those saying Boeing comes across ridiculous – for what, defending their product which they believe is perfectly safe? Against evidence-free accusations that it is not from people who know nothing about aviation safety?

    I agree that the governmental agencies have a duty to CALM the flying public not fan the flames of hysterical speculation.

  44. They might look ridiculous but is relenting to public pressure with very little facts the right thing to do?

    Head over to r/flying and you’ll get a sense of what the aviation community is currently thinking. Lucky as a Pilot I’m sure you’re aware of the AD that was released for the MAX. The information operators have

  45. Question: If the MCAS system can be turned off while in flight using a three step procedure as mentioned in OMAAT, why can’t it be turned off before takeoff until the problem is resolved? Is there a pilot or engineer among us that can answer?

  46. i sort of agree with John. FAA would look more of joke grounding the Max given that it past all of their necessary tests and was issued the type certificate. With aircraft testing getting harder and more vigorous it will be interesting if it turns out there is a fault with the Max.

  47. Ground it ASAP!

    Theres nothing that suggests it is “business as usual” when two brand new planes fall from the sky within minutes of takeoff in a 5 month period. Lets not wait until there are further victims to act!

  48. @SD Ron. I am neither of those but also trying to understand it as well. But from what I can decipher the three step process does disables the runaway trim which in effect disables the MCAS. With that you are now hand flying the plane. Further, the only time the MCAS does not function is when the flaps are extended.

    Here is a quote from a pilot who is contributing to another blog:
    “My understanding (and remember I don’t fly the 737) is that because MCAS uses the stabilizer trim to push the nose down the counters are the same as for a trim runaway event. The most prominent of those counters (and there may be more than one) are the two stab trim cut out switches on the center console. Pull those and because stab trim is disabled MCAS is effectively disabled.”

  49. The FAA and the North American airlines are essentially saying they are going to risk more people’s lives while the investigation is going on, which will take months.
    So so so disappointed…I agree with Lucky on this post.

  50. Toyota went through a similar situation in 2009. National hysteria lead to massive recalls of Toyotas. In the end, nothing was ever found to be wrong with any Toyota. Turns out the problem was between the seat and the steering wheel and hysteria on a massive scale.

    I recommend everyone listen to Malcom Gladwell’s Podcast titled the, “Blame Game”. http://revisionisthistory.com/episodes/08-blame-game

  51. i sort of agree with John. FAA would look more of joke grounding the Max given that it past all of their necessary tests and was issued the type certificate. With aircraft testing getting harder and more vigorous it will be interesting if it turns out there is a fault with the Max.

    Not disagreeing per se but I think it’s not uncommon for teething problems to emerge only after a while that the plane has been in service.

    Also , despite these unfortunate crashes, there’re have been thousands of 737 MAX flights that have not. I’d be curious as to whether other pilots have experienced similar situations and how they’ve recovered from them.

  52. As of right now Fiji Airways has only suspended 737-8 MAX services to Australia due to CASA banning them from Australian airspace. The aircraft are still expected to serve NZ and Pacific destinations for the time being.

  53. This whole debacle reeks of the DC-10 “gentlemen’s agreement” between the FAA and McDonnell Douglas over the so-called fix for the bulk bin compartment door that had a deadly habit of popping open inflight. Let’s hope that’s not the case here.

  54. Three big factors here from my point of view:
    1. The economic impact would be huge for some US and Canadian airlines.
    2. The US government doesn’t want Boeing to come off as untrustworthy or weak In this case, given how much the US relies on this company.
    3. The Commercial Aviation safety in North America is among the best in the world, if not the best. Pilot training is incredibly strict for US pilots, requiring a lot more experience than most countries.

  55. I personally believe American airlines will rebound from this and find a way to get more $ gUaP $ ! 🙂

  56. @Ken I agree with all other than #1. The Max accounts for 4% and less of the respective US and Canadian carriers fleet who operate it. The disruptions and losses would be minimal. Less than WN is experiencing now with its current labor problems.

  57. Ben, Can you confirm if LOT Polish has grounded, I’ve got 2 flights with them this month, curious if they will ground them or not. You mentioned “At this point every major Boeing 737 MAX operator outside of North America has grounded these planes, either voluntarily or by request from the government. Every. Single. One.” But didn’t see any update from Lot Polish

  58. A business ‘Core Values’ always sound fantastic but they can be tricky in times like this. Safety is very important and a great core value and Insurance is very expensive. 1% movement is worth $m’s to companies. Am I being a little to cynical?
    Values from
    FAA
    No.1-Safety is our passion. We work so all air and space travelers arrive safely at their destinations………….
    Boeing
    No.3 – Safety
    We value human life and well-being above all else (except for Values No 1 &2) ………
    United
    No.2 – Nurturing
    Ensure we care for and protect our people and our customers, ….Safety First! It’s All About You!

    Risk v’s reward v’s living your values is a risk they think is worth taking in Nth America and questions another value – Integrity. Personally, regardless of values, I really hope they know they are right.

  59. Oh, Jeeeeezzzzzzus….where to start??? In random order….

    @Jack & @Nate —> I cannot speak to any alleged corruption between the FAA and Boeing, but I completely agree that had these accidents occurred on a new model of a Airbus A320-series neo, US regulators would be screaming bloody murder.

    /\/\/\/\/\

    @Eli —> From https://aviationglossary.com/mcas/ “MCAS is a FAA Acronym for: Marine Corps Air Station.” Can we *not* assume that we (passengers) know each and every acronym? So…the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System…I’ve seen nothing to suggest the pilots onboard the Ethiopian plane did *not* know how to operate the MCAS; as for Lion Air, the only thing I’ve read is along the lines of this from the New York Times, “Boeing has taken the position that the pilots of the Lion Air flight should have known how to handle the emergency despite not knowing about the modification. The company has maintained that properly following established emergency procedures — essentially, a checklist — long familiar to pilots from its earlier 737s should have allowed the crew to handle a malfunction of the so-called maneuvering characteristics augmentation system, known as M.C.A.S., whether they knew it was on the plane or not.” How could a pilot(s) NOT know it’s on the plane? Wouldn’t that make the pilot(s) NOT certified to fly that model? (Probably not, but IMHO it should.)

    /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

    @Kemp —> I want to thank you for — as a 737 pilot — your contribution to the discussion (despite the evident and obvious hostility). For those of us who are *always* on the pax side of the cockpit door, I *do* appreciate your input, though it does little to make me feel safe flying a MAX at this moment. I will continue to “err on the side of caution” and avoid flights on a MAX until we have more definitive facts, and the FAA/NTSB reports.¹

    /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

    @Gary Leff —> While in the calm light of day, it’s easy to say that the knowledge is lacking FOR THE POWERS TO BE to make an informed decision re: grounding MAX aircraft, it is also easy to understand why passengers would feel nervous about flying on a MAX at this point…not only does the legroom suck; not only do the lavs suck; but you have an increased fear (rational or not!) of dying in one… ALL the airlines, not just AA, need to understand that, and extend fee waivers for changing flights to non-MAX aircraft until such time as the safety questions are resolved.

    /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

    All of this is just my own 2¢, and worth far less, no doubt. But I’m doing my best to make sure all my AS flights are on ex-VX A320s, or fly more on jetBlue, or….

    _______________
    ¹ This presumes they are invited in to investigate these incidents.

  60. Idiot American logic:
    “who cares if China grounds the plane! Its a third world country. Wake me up when first World countries do something”

    (European countries ground 737M)

    “who cares if European countries ground the plane! American pilots are the best!”

  61. Ben, you’re just feeding the hysteria. I know you don’t drive, but if you did, and two of the type of car you drove crashed, would you stop driving your car until they figured out if there was a defect? Probably not. I trust the professional in the FAA way more than their counterparts in, say, India.

  62. @Glenn

    India? How about Germany, UK, France, Netherlands, fine…the entire EU, Australia, Singapore, China….the list goes on. Stop trying to distort the optics into India being the one country. In fact, the U.S. and Canada are the outliers here. We are isolated in this. Why? Because Trump took a call from Dennis A. Muilenburg, the CEO of Boeing, right after his odd tweet today. How do you think that went?

  63. The MCAS software is essentially non-redundant: it relies on a single AoA sensor and has no cross-check capability. The plane itself has multiple AoA sensors, MCAS just doesn’t use their inputs. AoA sensors fail. A failure shouldn’t lead to a literal crash of the airplane.

    The fact that Boeing is rushing to rewrite the MCAS software to compare all of the available AoA inputs before acting seems to be their admission of this fact.

    I’m avoiding the MAX8 until this is fixed.

  64. HOW WE LOOK???? Really? I could appreciate the premise of your article were it to articulate a concern you have about safety, but, to make the headline, “How we might look to other nations”, is some of the same old tired verbiage used in so many other reasons as to why the US is supposed to do something.
    Please don’t take me wrong, I have checked if I am booked on the plane! But I did it out of my own concern for safety, NOT, what I thought others would think about it!
    Again, I value your OPINION on so many things about travel, but you “missed the ship” on how you covered this matter.
    I’ve written my praise and compliments to you several times, but, I felt I wanted to share my frustration on why you wrote the article.

  65. @Eli you hit the nail right on the head.
    @ Lucky stick to what you know and that sadly is not airplane tech stuff. I really like your down to earth style on soft product but this is just cheap sensationalist journalism.
    The 7M8 hit a perfect storm. Who was the first country to ban it? China who is involved in a nasty trade dispute with the US – political pawn anyone? The second country to ban it was Indonesia who have one of the worst air safety records on any country. They were upset at Boeing because they dared imply that it was their abysmally trained pilots that were at least partially to blame for not doing what the manual told them to do. Disconnect the system and fly the aircraft manually. Canadian and US pilots are trained well enough that they should be able to cope with anything any airplane throws at them.
    Alos for those saying this is a US thing go back to the early days of the 320 which was falling out of the sky in record numbers because the pilots didnt know how to cope with the airplane’s automation.

  66. dw.com has a very good article explaining what the issue is (it’s very clear and easy to understand) – seems no other media has bothered to report (potential for compressor stall if the angle of attack is too high) – just getting hysterical instead.

    As the 737 was designed by Boeing to meet a Lufthansa spec maybe it’s right to listen to the Germans.

  67. It shows how corrupted FAA is. Not unlike FDA

    I can simply not imagine that any american is going to sit in one of those WMDs

  68. It’s very Similar the the 1954 DeHavilland Comet Crash, when the British Goverment grounded the Comets, The were just about forced to let them fly again, which was followed by another crash.

    It is prudent to ground the 737 Max until they are 100% sure of their safety.

  69. Lucky, no. This post had no substance. I have been following this blog for some time and posts like this are becoming frequent. How many times will you write about the Ethiopian 737 MAX?

  70. Commercial air travel is incredibly safe. In the last six months there have been two crashes of brand new 737 Max aircraft killing over 350 men, women and children including Americans. Just coincidence?

    Unless they have a dog in the fight, safety professionals don’t believe in coincidence. The FAA seems to be out to protect Boeing despite these crashes and having other information that the 737 Max is unsafe. Today’s Dallas Morning News reports the FAA has received several complaints from 737 Max pilots. The story is worth a read.

    https://www.dallasnews.com/business/airlines/2019/03/12/boeing-737-max-8-pilots-complained-feds-months-suspected-safety-flaw

    The story states in part:

    “The News found at least five complaints about the Boeing model in a federal database where pilots can voluntarily report about aviation incidents without fear of repercussions.

    The complaints are about the safety mechanism cited in preliminary reports about an October plane crash in Indonesia that killed 189.

    The disclosures found by The News reference problems during Boeing 737 Max 8 flights with an autopilot system, and they all occurred while trying to gain altitude during takeoff — many mentioned the plane turning nose down suddenly. While records show these flights occurred during October and November, the information about which airlines the pilots were flying for is redacted from the database.”

  71. I wonder what the airlines will do if the FAs decide they no longer feel safe flying in it? I bet the union will back them up

  72. Unfortunately the US has been looking ridiculous now for over 2 years, with a corrupt, traitor, and incompetent occupying the White house and destroying everything Americans fought hard to build and protect.

  73. @Randy, the article you cite also quotes Senator Ted Cruz calling for the planes to be grounded. He chairs a subcommittee overseeing aviation, according to the paper. Given Republicans’ usual anti-regulation stance, color me surprised.

  74. Human error is a strong possibility……… a young inexperienced pilot does not inspire confidence. Also, I am a person who hates to fly, any turbulence and I SILENTLY freak out. I do fly fairly regularly though because I like seeing the planet on my feet.

  75. The FAA is looking like a third world puppet agency. With the 2 current accidents and the number of flight hours flown you are 2500 times more likely do die in a 737 max accident vs a car accident. Normally you are twice as likely to die in a car accident vs a commercial jet accident.

  76. This is reminding me of the stance of Boeing and the FAA after US 427 in 1994 and the reports of rudder malfunctions were coming out. Rather than address them Boeing and the FAA basically said the NTSB was wrong and it took political pressure to finally get the redesign on the rudder through. This is not acceptable by Boeing or the FAA or AA.

  77. This is reminding me of the stance of Boeing and the FAA after US 427 in 1994 and the reports of rudder malfunctions were coming out. Rather than address them Boeing and the FAA basically said the NTSB was wrong and it took political pressure to finally get the redesign on the rudder through. This is not acceptable by Boeing or the FAA or AA.

  78. Of only around 350 frames delivered so far worldwide, and two years into service, already two frames have crashed with no survivors, in a seemingly very similar situation. This is unprecedented since Comet and accident rate is higher than almost all “notorious” aircraft types. Also note that the accident rate is higher than those “notorious” third-world airlines. Higher than China Airlines of 90s, Korean Air of 90s, Lion Air, Orient Thai, and so on.

    It is highly likely that something is seriously wrong with 737 Max…

  79. The CEO of Boeing, who called Trump today after his tweet to beg him not to ground the MAX, should be forced to meet this family and look at their photos. Not as a responsibility for what happened. But as a responsibility for the lives of other families waiting to be taken from this world far too soon because money and corporate image came first.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/12/world/canada/ethiopian-plane-crash-canadian-families.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

  80. @Kemp – since you fly these and are probably the only one qualified could you answer a few questions?

    1. How easy is it to turn off the angle of attack sensor that Boeing said the Lion Air pilots should have turned off? How much time does it take and how many steps?
    2. Would you feel comfortable doing that shortly after takeoff?
    2. Why do you feel that the aircraft is safe an this is not a problem at all?

    Thanks. Hope you see this and answer.

  81. I would not fill my IRA with Boeing or AA shares. The way those two companies are playing this could be a short sellers dream.
    Bad management and company culture will kill any company.
    Too bad about all the collateral damage and deaths of real people.

  82. Do you really think anyone cares if YOU think the FAA (et al) is starting to look ridiculous?
    Stick to the facts instead of pandering to alarmists.
    Isn’t there a overdue post on amenity bags you need to get to?

  83. @Tom You really want to ask Kemp your rational and clear questions? Seems like he mostly wants to throw down on Ben and use exclamations points. If he is actually a pilot he is certainly not the pilot I want answering questions. Or flying a plane that either myself or my daughter is on.

  84. You have a routine surgery next week that is safe 99.999% of the time.

    Twice in the last five months, a patient dies after that surgery from what appears to be the same complication.

    If you are a patient scheduled for that surgery, are you going to assume something is up and just ignore two very rare things happening so closely together?

    If you are a hospital executive, are you going to assume something *isn’t* up?

    This is basic game theory. If you are Boeing, you can either err on the side of caution or bet that there is no connection. If you are wrong in erring on the side of caution, investors will feel short term pain but almost everyone else will understand. If you are wrong in assuming there isn’t a connection and it turns out there is, your investors will have your head and people’s trust will take a very long time to win back.

  85. “Starting to look ridiculous”?… They already are ridiculous! This simply proves what we all know.

  86. Since the Ethiopian Government is going to thoroughly clean up the debris field before reading the black boxes (something that is reprehensible given the urgency of the situation), I believe that AA and Southwest will yield to public pressure and ground their planes. Can you imagine the fallout if another tragedy were to happen in the interim?

  87. A few weeks ago, a flight from New Zealand to China turned back half way along its journey just because someone didn’t tick a box. That’s what aviation is now. Most likely, there is nothing wrong with the plane. But “most likely” is not good enough in the world of aviation and until the investigation indicates otherwise, a precautionary grounding is the only course of action.

  88. @PetaPeter, you’re spot on, but in the USA, all these words are meaningless marketing exercises. Just read Lucky’s review of his United Airlines flight from Tahiti to San Francisco to get one simple example. After living in the US for 2 years, I can truly see that money is a ruler there, sadly.

  89. Solution: Marcus Lemonis buys 1 percent of each airline and is ” 100 percent in charge.”

    I’ll fly the damn plane. But only in first class because I wanna die in style

  90. After Boeing and the Trump admin tried to put Bombardier out of business, you would think Canada would isolate the US. What goes around sometimes dives straight down to the ground.

  91. Lucky, while I think you are quite smart on collecting points and manipulating airline and hotel programs, this really does go beyond your area of expertise. Simply because the EU, UK, and other regulators took an action, does not make that action based on fact. You say the Ethiopian and Indonesian crashes are similar, yet we know very little yet on the most recent tragedy. Yes, they both occurred on take-off and both pilots radioed problems controlling the plane, but there is not a whole lot more yet known and what is there differs between the two incidents. It is difficult to know if there is a systemic problem beyond the needed system update already identified as likely a contributor on the Lion Air aircraft – an aircraft not properly maintained. In an industry run on facts, it is difficult to make a decision on lack of facts. The media has pumped these two crashes up in hysteria – perhaps in a good way to push Boeing to double down their efforts to re-cross-check all possibilities. There is no such thing as a completely safe aircraft – hence all the redundancies built into them. Each country and airline needs to decide what is best for them. But while I share everyone’s concern over what on the surface seems to be a problem, I would not go so far as to state that there is a known issue beyond what was already identified. And with what was identified, there has been both communication and additional training provided to the pilots on how to work around the known issue.

  92. Tom, the Boeing 737 has been around since the late 60s. It is the most popular and most produced aircraft ever. If anything the main design and the way we fly the plane has remained unchanged. You can hop in a -300 round dial analog gauge aircraft or a -8 max with avionics similar to he 787 but the plane still flies the same.
    While I appreciate your questions, I am not inclined to answer because:
    (A) our union has specifically asked not to
    (B) our company has specifically asked not to
    I will say I have no problem flying or having my family riding on this aircraft in the US. I preface that because I have 30 years of FAA training and standards knowledge..

    To Stuart, Yes I take exception to Ben’s pellucid vendetta against US carriers. It is well documented and not warranted. Everyone with a social media platform and a frequent flyer number is now an aviation expert. This is what aggravates me. Let the system work. Let the FAA and NTSb do their work. To come out and have a title of “The FAA, Boeing, and US airlines are starting to look ridiculous” after the longest stretch of accident free aviation in the busiest area of the world is nothing more than disingenuous at best But really is just click bait. None of these were with American carriers. Is everyone trained to the same level? No and if you think that, you are wrong. You can have a pilot with a few hundred hours. In most parts of the world actually, UK included. Not in the US. I can provide data if needed. Ben can hate all he wants and he does resent US Airlines because they don’t pander to him. Fact is the US aviation is the safest it has ever been.
    I think Ben’s mileage run has run its course and now he has to promote all these click bait stories to keep the lights on. Hopefully they are getting dimmer each month.

  93. @David. And when was the last time you saw two newly designed aircraft of the same variant crash within a few months in nearly identical circumstances? Sorry, your comment was correct a few months ago, maybe. We all put our lives and the lives of our families on these aircraft. And this is too much to risk. I mean, c’mon, even Trump agreed. Well, that was until the Boeing CEO called him after his tweet. Hmm.

  94. @ Kemp ..you are an arrogant person , you will be proved wrong . Two similar events and many regulators grounding planes and many airlines voluntarily grounding planes and passengers trying to change flights . Can so many people be wrong ? Sounds to me like FAA and Boeing in collusion to protect American jobs and reputation , well bad luck , the damage is done to their reputation already .

    @David – this is a very relevant subject for Lucky to report on , thanks Lucky , good work.

  95. Don’t jump all over the FAA – they were quick enough to ground the 787 when the battery problems caused minor and containable fires.

    The suspicion is that because the MCAS disable procedure is not included in the manual and there are only 4 simulators to train pilots in this event that the natural suspicion is that it is indeed “pilot error” – in quotes because the problem appears to be improper training, improper documentation of the system by Boeing or lack of simulator training. Don’t blame the pilot for lack of training or documentation.

    So grounding is not necessarily necessary if the problem has a fix and by now anyone flying a 7M8 should be extremely aware of the problem and how to get around it.

    It appears that Boeing and the FAA are confident that education of all pilots by all airlines will prevent any further crashes.

    I certainly hope they are correct.

    The plane has been flying for more than two years without incident so one must wonder “why now” if there is an inherent problem.

    But BOEING had better FIX THE PROBLEM immediately.

  96. Anybody listened to the Rachel Maddow Show last night? Interesting and not really made to calm concerns about the plane and the FAA dealing with the matter.

  97. @callum hit it on the head. This article is a bit of clickbait. I love Lucky’s posts on travel, but appearantly his knowledge of aircraft, aviation and the systems that govern the industry are limited. The FAA is extremely professional as evidenced by the outstanding safety record US aviation enjoys, and by extension the rest of the world. So if they don’t have reasonable cause to ground the Max yet, then that’s fine with me for the time being. I would not doubt that a significant portion of the blame for the two accidents is pilot error, and may also lay with how the pilots were trained outside the US.

  98. @Spaceman Spiff

    Lol at any of your morons who think that the FAA gives a fuck about safety. If these were Airbus problems, these planes would have been grounded yesterday. Good think Boeing and Trump are cozy.

  99. People seem to forget the FAA has grounded American made planes more than once before. They grounded the DC-10 after AA191, and the 787 in 2013. In both cases it took less than two crashes for thr FAA to ground plane, so if there was something serious with the MAX, they would have been the first to ground it. The fact that they haven’t tells me they haven’t found enough evidence of inherent safety risks in the plane.

    Also, I agree that the many countries grounding are because of the hysterical public, but imagine how more hysterical they will become when they find out their flight has been cancelled en masse.

  100. Like everything aviation-related, this is overblown. I know many people died, which saddens me, but many times we hear about safety recalls from car manufacturers, yet we keep driving their cars? Two tragic accidents among thousands of daily flights are a statistical drop in the ocean. An investigation and a remedy is necessary – but I side with the FAA here.

  101. I’ve flown 2.6 million miles in 25+ years of flying and am typically the “go 2 guy” for family, friends and business associates for aviation,where to fly etc. Panic is not in my MO, but safety always comes first.

    My reasoning for grounding is very simple. There are 371 delivered planes. We have 349 paying passengers and crew which perished in two incidents which are unexplained, yet FAA was very clear about instructions what might happen without an update.

    Pilots were not informed of MCAS prior to Nov 7 Emergency Airworthiness notification from FAA and I will not requote what my friends pilots said about that, since it’s not PG-13. Words starting with “cluster” come to mind. Unions we’re very clear on what they think.

    This is the reason why the aircraft has to be grounded, nothing more and nothing else.

  102. Are the Max flights banned in Europe? Right now (13 March almost noon) there are 3 flights in progess that took off from UK, one in Italy soon to land in Milan, one in Finland and two in from Sweden.
    15 flights are in China and 4 in India.

    Is this not in contradiction with all the news regarding the ban ?

  103. @AI: Are you looking at the list of airborne 737 Max 8 on Flightaware? This list seems to be wrong, if you search for the individual flights on Flightradar24, you see that they are in fact operated by 737-800.

  104. Yes, I was watching Flightaware, so their information is not reliable. Is it possible to track correctly all the Max flights for today ?

  105. @Stuart – the most similar was the Colorado Springs and Pittsburgh 737-300 crashes. It was not until after Pittsburgh that the rudder issue was confirmed. Similar to now, re-training on how to handle the plane was implemented and appropriately the FAA forced replacement of the rudders with an upgraded version. I have concern over what is going on here too – hopefully the data recorder and voice recorder will yield critical information to isolate what is going on – or – what different cause brought down the Ethiopian plane. Again, each country and airline needs to decide how they wish to handle this situation – back then there were calls for grounding – did not happen and no further crashes occurred, though I believe there were documented replications at least in part.

  106. Flights that have taken off are not passenger flights. Repositioning i.e. getting back to the base, but the pax have been moved to legacy planes.

  107. @Lucky Absolutely agree with you on this 100%. I’m curious how you see this unfolding from here? Every single country where the 737 Max flies has now grounded it bar the US and Canada. So what happens next? They keep them on the ground indefinitely? They’re not likely going to lift the ban without some kind of remedial measures having been taken. Meanwhile Boeing ignores there is a total ban on their aircraft? Something’s got to give. Who backs down?

  108. What’s with the Lucky bashing.? If you don’t like the article or the premise.. just leave… and shut up.

    Every time you step on an airplane you place your life on the line and trust that everyone from the engineers, designers right up to the crew know their stuff and that’s it’s safe. Modern safety systems are designed to ensure no single failure leads to a catastrophic outcome.
    Something ain’t right here folks.

    300 plus people dead and we don’t know why.. coincidence? Maybe… more likely a design flaw…

    Oh and for all the people blaming the pilots… that’s just uncool… blaming dead people who did their best is just wrong.

  109. Good morning. You’re absolutely right. They look terribly ridiculous and ineffective, beholden to spurious commercial interests. The FAA’ s reputation will take a bit hit worldwide. Funny that Chinese authorities, once the bellwether of corporatist corruption, took the lead. C’est la vie!

  110. I have a few questions and observations for those who believe the MAX should be grounded.

    First an observation. We know exactly what caused the Lion Air crash and measures have been taken which if properly followed by crews will prevent further incidents. Of course if a crew isn’t doing what they are supposed to that’s not the airplanes fault.

    Now a couple of questions. Since we know why Lion Air crashed is it two crashes in 5 months or the fact that a crash happened period that concerns you? Do you view the Lion Air crash as indicating a defect with the aircraft or a defect with the crew and or their procedures? Should any airplane that crashes lead to a world wide grounding of that type until the cause is known? Should 767’s be grounded based on what happened with Atlas 3591? Should the A330 have been grounded after AF447 until a cause was determined?

    Should aircraft be grounded based on public hysteria or should a fleet type only be grounded when their is evidence that they type may not meet its certification requirements?

  111. With airplanes these days, a lot of the instrument readings are fed live back to their respective companies. For example, engine company can read the performance of any engine live. I suspect Boeing and whoever the engine company have some data on that fatal flight already. FAA should certainly be informed about them. Ultimately, the data recorder and voice recorder have the most data (and they should have some preliminary analysis of them very soon), but like some have said before, the eyewitness accounts of smoke coming out of the plane suggests a different cause for this crash versus the Lion Air crash last year. I like to make decision fact-based. So, would I fly the 737MAX today? Yes, I would, and I’ve flew them twice already in the past with no issues.

  112. @121Pilot.

    Nothing you say makes sense or is correct.
    1. The final report is almost six months out for Lion Air. We know what happened – but don’t know the cause yet.

    2. Concern is simple. Brand new aircraft type, only ariund 350 delivered and in service for 18 months. Out of relatively low number of flights for a modern aircraft twpe, we already have two fatal crashes with very similar circumstances. Assuming six flights a day(which is a lot more than an average 737), this is 30 times higher than average aircraft accident rate.

    Furthermore, 737 MAX accident is now much higher than almost that of every third-world airlines, including Lion Air.
    Statistically, it is now far more likely that something is wrong with 737 MAX than anything else with Lion Air or Ethiopian Airlines.

    You mention 767 and A330, two aircraft types with more than twice number of frames and more than ten times of service history.

    767 is now close to four decades old, with 1000+ frames delivered worldwide. This is first fatal 767 accident in more than a decade, out of many more times of flights 737 MAX have ever made.

    A330 when AF447 happened, was a 15 year old program with 600+ deliveries, and AF447 was the first fatal accident of the program. Still, authorities seriously considered grounding for the latter, which had far LOWER accident rate than 737 MAX.

    Given the above facts, it is extremely reasonable to ground 737 MAX, at least until we decipher ET CVR and FDR, and get to know that ET and JT accidents are two independent accidents, or so-called “black swan.” If anything, defending FAA and Boeing position is a MAGA hystery.

  113. @David. The fundamental differences of the rudder issue on the earlier generation 737’s, and why there was no immediate public outcry and concern (though I was concerned for years) was that those accidents took place three years apart. One was a rather old 737-200. The other a 300 variant that had some years under its belt as well. Yes, this an issue that Boeing finally addressed. But the profile and timeline were completely different than today.

    This is two brand new aircraft of the same type crashing within months of each other.

  114. I’m not sure why some people think about this conspiracy of FAA and Boeing. When FAA found out about 787 battery issue, they grounded the entire fleet. I think FAA acts of facts, and try not to be pressured by public pressure or government,

  115. @Jack: If they wanted they could have grounded the a330s after AF447, but they didnt because they’re much smarter than you give them credit for.

    They INSTEAD GROUNDED their “own” 787 because they KNEW those batteries were real hazards.

  116. @Jamie

    Your analogy with the surgery isnt correct. With the 737 Max you can avoid the plane and still accomplish your goal. A better analogy would be a surgery is 99.9999% safe, a new way of doing the surgery has been found, however it seems more people die during the procedure. Would you elect to have the surgery done the old way or the new way? It could be that the new procedure has just been unlucky statistically or theres an issue with it that hasn’t been discovered.

    I personally wont fly the Max and have family members in the industry who wont either. Even though the procedure to overcome the MCAS is well known I don’t want the extra risk that comes along with it. You’re relying on the split second reactions of a pilot being correct in a stressful situation that they shouldn’t be put in. Dont get me wrong, our US pilots are great, but I just dont see the point in taking the extra risk when other planes are an easy alternative.

  117. Prayers to the dead all those grieving for the tragedy.
    As an old boy, I can’t help to think of the D-10, so I have a couple questions about parallells between the two aircraft.
    Which aircraft was more fatal, at this point into its launch?
    When was the DC-10 grounded, and at what point into the contreversy that it might not be airworthy?
    I know it’s a different world, and the industry has accordingly changed, but am curious if anyone has some facts/observations here.

  118. A good read on what likely caused the Lion Air accident.
    https://www.seattletimes.com/business/boeing-aerospace/black-box-data-reveals-lion-air-pilots-struggle-against-boeings-737-max-flight-control-system/

    Why didn’t they turn off the center console switches? Maybe the voice recorder will tell. It was picked up in January–should hear something soon.
    https://www.seattletimes.com/business/boeing-aerospace/black-box-data-reveals-lion-air-pilots-struggle-against-boeings-737-max-flight-control-system/

  119. Just because a bunch of third world countries grounded their aircrafts doesn’t mean the US is required to follow suit

  120. Interesting to see all commenters died after POTUS called Boeing CEO and ordered immediate grounding. Sorry folks, but safety has and will always have to come first when it comes to public transportation.

    787 was grounded, problem was fixed and the bird has had how many tens of thousands of flights without an incident since? Sensible minds prevailed, with 43 countries taking the lead in safety over USA and Canada, and now let’s leave corporate beancounters in Chicago to let their own engineers to find a fix which was for one or another reason hidden from the training manual. I’m 100% sure the fix will be found and that MAX 8 and 9 will be in service for decades to come.

    Sadly, that safety will be achieved on the account of 349 people that died when 371 planes were flying in the air (371 minus JT610 and ET302). May their souls rest in peace.

  121. It may not be just a software fix to resolve the issue.

    From what I read, MCAS is used because the aircraft is inherently unstable due to the new engine on the old airframe changing the center of gravity.

    So, would you take the aircraft when a “fix” is issued, assumming there are completely no bugs in the fix and all situations are taken into account…

  122. After almost a month, preliminary report points to MCAS.

    To all those idiots who stood by Boeing and FAA thinking that grounding is overreacting, shame on you.

    Shame of WN, AA, UA, you really put profit before people, even your own pilots and crew.

    Shame on FAA, you completely lost the public trust.

    Tip hat to CAA in China for being proactive and put safety first. Funny how I now trust Chinese carriers more than US carriers (if DL had them, they would still fly them).

  123. The FAA does not belong in federal government. It is an industry trade association at best. Completely owned by industry, shown time and time again at the cost of human lives. Eliminate FAA, give regulation to NTSB for safety and EPA (to develop sound and pollution limits on the hell that Americans on the ground are paying for all of you jet setters to have your NextGen superhighways). The defense industry, Boeing in particular, is too powerful and needs to be broken up. They should not be running government agencies, it’s ultimately to the destruction of American freedom and civil rights.

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