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Before Fatal Lion Air Crash, Boeing’s New Jet Hit Problem in Tests

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When Boeing pilots were flight testing the new MAX-8 version of the venerable 737 jet they discovered a problem that made the airplane difficult to handle when its speed dropped to a point where it was in danger of triggering an aerodynamic stall, and a loss of control that could lead to a crash. This is revealed in new reporting by Aviation Week. The report suggests that in order to mitigate the problem Boeing introduced a new system to the flight controls – a system called Maneuvering… ( Mais...

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joe johnson 11
Speechless. Even more astounding than Boeings' decision to not disclose this system to pilots is that the aircraft certification branch a FAA apparently concurred.
Billy Koskie 4
Could an experienced pilot explain the issues with this? While I understand some of the impacts of the engine location, why have a system to mitigate a stall problem without training the pilots on the system? Is the breakdown with Boeing or the airlines?
Jim Myers 7
You can hardly blame the airlines since Boeing did not tell them that the system existed. Pretty hard to train on something that you do not know exists.
Dubslow 12
tl;dr is that the minimal ground-engine clearance necessitated mounting the engines even further forward of the wings, causing center of gravity problems in flight tests, which in turn led to the unpublished MCAS system.

Yet another problem precipitated by the shortsighted decision to do a MAX rather than a cleansheet narrowbody a decade ago. That really was a massive strategic blunder on Boeing's part. (Not nearly on the level of the A380 strategic blunder, but it definitely makes the field a lot more balanced, competitively speaking, compared to if Boeing had simply replaced the outdated 737 architecture 10 years ago.)
btweston 5
So... Should we blame Southwest Airlines and Ryanair for existing? They are basically the reason why Boeing keeps releasing their hits on 8-track, right?
Roger Curtiss 3
My understanding is that the augmentation system was designed to operate in an extreme operating environment into which no professional airline crew would allow the aircraft to enter in the first place. Also, it has been reported that the Lion Air aircraft should have been declared not to be airworthy as the reported faults had not been properly addressed so it is not clear at this time what effect the augmentation system may have played in that incident.

Nonetheless, it does no one any good to have a "secret" system on board the aircraft.
Peter Steitz 2
We were all trained to initiate a recovery as soon as the shaker activated. The actual stall was only a demonstration. A well trained pilot should never get into an actual stall. If it happened, the recovery was the same except there will be some altitude loss. Recovery from the shaker only took full power and maybe one notch of flap retraction depending on the aircraft.
As in recovery from a microburst, full power, pitch to the shaker and hang on.
bbabis 3
The 737 MAX has two big trim wheels and audible trim in motion. If the MCAS could move the stab without moving the wheel, that is a big problem. If the wheel moved against what the pilot wants to do, there must be a quick and sure way to disconnect the system. That is taught in every type and training class. I'm having a hard time understanding how a crew could just let it go.
Jeffrey Beaumont 2
As I read these announcements provided by Flight Aware I am increasingly alarmed at the cavalier attitude of the airline manufacturing entities and the inability of the FAA in protecting the flying public. Driving my car is at least under my control. International flights are completely out of the question.
bbabis 0
Everything has risks. Even staying in bed all day to avoid risks has its own risk. Get facts, not hearsay or hyperbole, and decide what risks you want to take.
Phil Knox 1
The article, and warnings, refer to "low speed stalls"...but the Lion Air incidents occurred at relatively high speeds (approx 300 mph or greater) while climbing! Even if the MCAS system caused the planes to pitch down suddenly...trip the autopilot and fly the plane by hand!
Phil Knox 1
On another note...weren't the flight simulators programmed with the new flight management updates? I assume all Max 8 crews are required to be checked out before taking to the air! Blame must be shared by all concerned!
Peter Steitz 1
No Phil Knox, the 737 has a common type rating. Captains get a checkride every 6 months. There is no requirement if only a new system is added. The problem here is one of inaccurate sensors. The flight computers only process what is fed into them. Garbage in--garbage out.
siriusloon -3
It's probably better to wait for the results of the investigation and to see what changes are required as a result before assuming things and assessing blame from the comfort of one's armchair.
Peter Steitz 3
Better for what siriusloon? If we did that, this board and you would dissolve. You would have no board on which to voice your opinion.
siriusloon -3
Remember when Boeing actually meant quality and they didn't do dumb -- or criminal -- things like this, or shooting themselves in the foot with things like their failed complaint about the C Series, the KC-46 fiasco, etc, etc?


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