The Guilfordian

Theories surface around Boeing crashes

Boeing has had two 737 MAX aircrafts crash, killing over 300 people in the last two years. Research the company’s response to these crashes and whether the aircraft is causing these tragedies or another source.

On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 departed from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Nairobi, Kenya at 8:38 a.m. local time. There were 157 people aboard the four-month-old Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane at the time of departure. By 8:44 a.m., all 157 were killed as the airplane crashed near Bishoftu, Ethiopia. Those aboard came from four continents and included citizens from Kenya, Canada, Ethiopia, China, France, Great Britain, Italy and the United States.

Over a week after the event, little is known about the origins of the crash. Black boxes from the flight were recovered by investigators at the crash site. Data from the first three minutes of the flight were recently released to the public; however, the last half of the information has not yet been disclosed.

Topical flight data shows significant surges in vertical speed, the measurement of the upward or downward movement of the plane, followed by drastic decreases. This data shows that the plane went out of the control soon after takeoff, with the nose of the plane dipping significantly, resulting in a steep change in elevation and little stability. These issues were also seen in the Lion Air crash in October of last year. Similar to the Ethiopian Airlines crash, the Lion Air crash in Indonesia occurred shortly after takeoff, with both black boxes showing drastic changes in altitude and speed while in the air. Just twelve minutes after takeoff, Lion Air flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 189 people onboard.

Hypotheses for the drastic changes in flight angle and altitude vary. However, one of the more likely causes is a recent Boeing software update for the 737 MAX 8 aircrafts, which is meant to counter the vertical speed and stabilize the plane by adjusting the angle of the rear elevator on the plane. This update can override manual commands by the pilots if data input into the plane’s computer system is entered incorrectly. This means that the pilots would have little to no control over the plane if the software malfunctioned.

In addition to the prospectively faulty software, some pilots’ unions claim that there was very little to no explanation of the use of this new “safety” feature given to 737 MAX 8 pilots. This feature is being investigated by multiple entities as the possible cause behind both crashes.

Since the Ethiopian Airlines crash, dozens of countries worldwide have grounded their fleets of Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircrafts. In the U.S., there has been much commotion around the decision to ground the planes as the Federal Aviation Administration is being requested to reinvestigate the safety registrations and precautions of the planes.

Due to the vast number of Boeing MAX 737 8’s that have been grounded, airlines have struggled with maintenance as many flights have been delayed or cancelled because of decisions to ground the planes.

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