clearn.png
Monday October 18th, 2021 4:29AM

FAA clears Boeing 737 Max to fly again

By The Associated Press

After nearly two years and a pair of deadly crashes, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has cleared Boeing’s 737 Max for flight.

The nation’s air safety agency announced the move early Wednesday, saying it was done after a “comprehensive and methodical” 20-month review process.

Regulators around the world grounded the Max in March 2019, after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet. That happened less than five months after another Max flown by Indonesia’s Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea. A total of 346 passengers and crew members on both planes were killed.

Federal Aviation Administration chief Stephen Dickson signed an order Wednesday rescinding the grounding. U.S. airlines will be able to fly the Max once Boeing updates critical software and computers on each plane and pilots receive training in flight simulators.

The FAA says the order was made in cooperation with air safety regulators worldwide.

The move follows exhaustive congressional hearings on the crashes that led to criticism of the FAA for lax oversight and Boeing for rushing to implement a new software system that put profits over safety and ultimately led to the firing of its CEO.

Investigators focused on anti-stall software that Boeing had devised to counter the plane’s tendency to tilt nose-up because of the size and placement of the engines. That software pushed the nose down repeatedly on both planes that crashed, overcoming the pilots’ struggles to regain control. In each case, a single faulty sensor triggered the nose-down pitch.

The new software now requires inputs from two sensors in order to activate the software. Boeing says the software also does not override pilot controls like it did in the past.

The company changed the software so it doesn’t repeatedly point the nose of the plane down to counteract possible aerodynamic stalling. Boeing also must change the way wires are routed to a tail stabilizer bar.

On CNBC Wednesday, Dickson said the design and pilot training changes required by the FAA “makes it impossible for the airplanes to have the same kind of accident that unfortunately killed 346 people.”

In an FAA video, Dickson said that for the time being, the FAA will inspect every new Max before letting the planes fly.

Boeing shares rose 3.5% to $217.38 in early trading Wednesday. That’s about half of the all-time high of $440.62 reached on March 1, 2019, just days before the Ethiopian crash, but well above the $95 trough in March, when the pandemic caused massive disruptions to travel and the global economy.

“These events and the lessons we have learned as a result have reshaped our company and further focused our attention on our core values of safety, quality and integrity,” Boeing CEO David Calhoun said in a statement.

The aircraft maker's redemption comes in the middle of a pandemic that has scared away passengers and decimated the aviation industry, limiting the company's ability to make a comeback. Air travel in the U.S. alone is down about 65% from a year ago.

Boeing sales of new planes have plunged because of the Max crisis and the coronavirus pandemic. Orders for more than 1,000 Max jets have been canceled or removed from Boeing’s backlog this year. Each plane has a sticker price of $99 million to $135 million, although airlines routinely pay less.

John Hansman, an aeronautics professor at MIT, said people typically avoid airplanes for a few months after there are problems. But the Max case is unusual, and were it not for the novel coronavirus, Hansman said he would feel safe flying on a Max.

“This whole thing has had more scrutiny than any airplane in the world,” he said. “It’s probably the safest airplane to be on.”

American is the only U.S. airline to put the Max in its schedule so far, starting with one round trip daily between New York and Miami beginning Dec. 29. United expects to start using the plane early next year, while Southwest said its Max jets won't fly before the second quarter of 2021.

Some consumer groups urged airlines to fully disclose when Max flights are planned. That's usually on an airline's website, although passengers have to know where to click. Advocates are concerned about airlines using the Max in a last-minute switch.

Nearly 400 Max jets were in service worldwide when they were grounded, and Boeing has built and stored about 450 more since then. All have to undergo maintenance before they can fly.

Pilots must also undergo simulator training, which was not required when the aircraft was introduced. Hansman said training for qualified 737 pilots shouldn’t take long because Boeing has fixed software problems.

Relatives of people who died in the crashes aren't convinced the Max is safe. They accused Boeing of hiding critical design features from the FAA.

“The flying public should avoid the Max,” said Michael Stumo, whose 24-year-old daughter died in the second crash. “Change your flight. This is still a more dangerous aircraft than other modern planes.”

Boeing's reputation has taken a beating since the crashes. Its then-CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, initially suggested that the foreign pilots were to blame. However, congressional investigators discovered an FAA analysis — conducted after the first Max crash — that predicted there would be 15 more crashes during the plane’s life span if the flight-control software were not fixed.

After an 18-month investigation, the House Transportation Committee heaped blame on Boeing, which was under pressure to develop the Max to compete with a plane from European rival Airbus, and the FAA, which certified the Max and was the last agency in the world to ground it after the crashes. The investigators said Boeing suffered from a “culture of concealment,” and pressured engineers to rush the plane to the market.

Boeing was repeatedly wrong about how quickly it could fix the plane. When those predictions continued to be wrong, and Boeing was perceived as putting undue pressure on the FAA, Muilenburg was fired in December 2019.

Dickson — a former Air Force and Delta Air Lines pilot — flew the plane personally before it was cleared.

Europe’s aviation regulator, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, said it will take public comment on plans to clear the Max for flight and expects to finalize a plan by early next year. Some EU states will have to lift their own grounding notices as well. Regulators in Canada and China are still doing their own reviews.

Relatives say it's too soon, and they and their lawyers say Boeing and the FAA are withholding documents. Anton Sahadi, who lives in Jakarta, Indonesia, and lost two brothers in the Lion Air crash, said it's too early for the Max to fly again.

“The cases from the incidents are not 100% finished yet," he said. "I think all the victims’ family in Indonesia and Ethiopia will feel the same, so regretful, why it can fly again because we are still in the recovery process for our problems because of the incidents.”

Naoise Ryan, an Irish citizen whose husband died in the Ethiopian crash, said the Max is “the same airplane that crashed not once but twice because safety was not a priority for this company.”

___

Koenig, who reported from Dallas, can be reached at www.twitter.com/airlinewriter. Krisher reported from Detroit. Edna Tarigan in Jakarta, Indonesia, and David Risling in Berlin contributed.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Business
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Home construction up 4.9% in October
The number of newly issued permits to build fresh housing remained steady in October, the Commerce Department said Wednesday
8:45AM ( 9 minutes ago )
People go hungry in Ethiopia's Tigray as conflict marches on
People are going hungry in Ethiopia’s rebellious northern Tigray region as roads are blocked, airports are closed and the federal government marches on its capital in a final push to win a two-week war
8:43AM ( 10 minutes ago )
Global luxury sales forecast to plunge 23% due to pandemic
A study shows that sales of luxury apparel, jewelry and beauty products are set to plunge by nearly a quarter this year as the pandemic wipes out more than six years of growth
8:33AM ( 20 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
The Latest: Pfizer seeks vaccine regulatory review in days
Pfizer announced more results in its ongoing coronavirus vaccine study that suggest the shots are 95% effective
7:45AM ( 1 hour ago )
A rusty Giuliani returns to the courtroom on Trump's behalf
Rudy Giuliani showed some rust returning to a courtroom as an attorney for the first time in decades as he tried to make a stand in Pennsylvania for President Donald Trump
7:34AM ( 1 hour ago )
Berlin police forcefully disperse virus protesters
German police fired water cannons at demonstrators in downtown Berlin protesting coronavirus restrictions after saying the crowd refused to listen to their entreaties to wear masks and keep their distance from one another in line with regulations
6:49AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP National News
EXPLAINER: What's with the confusion over masks?
A lot of the effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus comes down to a seemingly simple concept: Wearing a mask
3:04AM ( 5 hours ago )
As virus hits Italy's south, some flee troubled health care
The coronavirus pandemic has heightened the urgency of the plight of those seeking medical care in public hospitals in Italy’s economically underdeveloped south
2:50AM ( 6 hours ago )
Deadline near for hand tally of presidential race in Georgia
Election officials across Georgia are staring down a deadline to complete a hand tally of the presidential race in the state
1:12AM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Online National News
In court, Giuliani argues to block Biden win in Pennsylvania
President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has gone before a federal judge to accuse Democrats in control of big cities of hatching a conspiracy to steal the election from the Republican even though no such evidence has emerged
8:37PM ( 12 hours ago )
Historic deal revives plan for largest US dam demolition
A new agreement paves the way for the largest dam demolition in U.S. history to try to save salmon that are critical to tribes and have dwindled to almost nothing in recent years
7:37PM ( 13 hours ago )
The Latest: Trump to spend Thanksgiving at White House
President Donald Trump and the first lady will be spending Thanksgiving at the White House instead of attending the annual dinner at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida
6:47PM ( 14 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
EU: Brexit trade talks still have 'substantial work' ahead
A top European Union official said Wednesday that trade talks with the United Kingdom still face “substantial work” that might well spill over into next week, with a perilous deadline drawing ever closer
7:48AM ( 1 hour ago )
Hungary sticks to veto of EU budget over rule-of-law issue
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban says the European Union’s proposed mechanism to link rule of law criteria to budget disbursements for EU nations is a “political and ideological weapon.”
7:35AM ( 1 hour ago )
Global stocks turn higher on more upbeat news about vaccines
Global stock markets are pushing higher after the release of more upbeat data about the coronavirus vaccine being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech
7:24AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
People go hungry in Ethiopia's Tigray as conflict marches on
People are going hungry in Ethiopia’s rebellious northern Tigray region as roads are blocked, airports are closed and the federal government marches on its capital in a final push to win a two-week war
8:43AM ( 12 minutes ago )
Berlin police forcefully disperse protest over virus rules
German police fired water cannons at demonstrators in downtown Berlin protesting coronavirus restrictions after saying the crowd refused to listen to their entreaties to wear masks and keep their distance from one another
8:32AM ( 24 minutes ago )
UN atomic watchdog: Iran now operating Natanz centrifuges
The head of the U.N. atomic watchdog agency says Iran has begun operating centrifuges installed at an underground site, but that they had been moved from another facility so that the country's overall uranium-enriching capabilities have not increased
8:30AM ( 26 minutes ago )
Suburban Milwaukee officer who killed 3 since 2015 resigns
A suburban Milwaukee police officer who has fatally shot three people in the line of duty since 2015, including a Black teenager outside a mall in February, is resigning from the department
8:18AM ( 38 minutes ago )
Thousands protest violence-marred rally at Thai Parliament
Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators are rallying in central Bangkok a day after a chaotic protest outside Parliament was marred by violence that left 55 people injured, including as many as six with gunshot wounds
8:11AM ( 45 minutes ago )