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Trump announces US grounding of all Boeing 737 MAX planes

Boeing

The US has grounded all Boeing 737 MAX aircraft while the Federal Aviation Administration investigates new evidence there may be similarities between two fatal crashes involving the aircraft in less than five months.

President Donald Trump announced the grounding of all US Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 737 MAX 9 aircraft Wednesday US time, saying authorities had received new information from the Ethiopian crash site “and other locations”.

Boeing subsequently announced it had recommended that the global MAX fleet be grounded “out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety”.

The US  is one of the last countries to ground the type in the wake of the fatal crashes of Lion Air Flight JT610 last October and Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 on Sunday. All 189 passengers died in the Lion Air crash, while 157 died in the Ethiopian tragedy.

READ: Pilot of fatal Ethiopian flight reported technical difficulties.

Citing the safety of Americans as a paramount concern,  Trump said the grounding meant any plane currently in the air would go to its destination and be grounded until further notice.

“The FAA is prepared to make an announcement very shortly regarding the new information and physical evidence we’ve received from the site and from other locations and through a couple of other complaints,” he said.

“We’ve had a very, very detailed group of people working on the 737-8 and the 737- 9 new airplanes. We’re going to be issuing an emergency order of prohibition to ground all flights of the 737 Max 8 and the 737 Max 9 and planes associated with that line.”

Trump said he had spoken with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, acting Federal Aviation Administration head Dan Elwell and Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg and they were in agreement with the action.

“Airlines have been all notified, airlines are agreeing with this,” he said. “The safety of the American people, and all people, is of paramount concern.”

The US president expressed sympathy for the Lion Air crash last October and Sunday’s crash of Ethiopian Flight 302, which klilled157 people.

“Boeing is an incredible company, they are working very, very hard right now,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll come up with the answer but until they do the planes are grounded.”

In its emergency order of prohibition, the FAA said the new information related to the aircraft’s configuration just after takeoff and refined data from satellite-based tracking of the aircraft’s flight path.

Taken together, it said, these indicated some similarities between The Lion Air and Ethiopian accidents “that warrant further investigation of the possibility of a shared cause for the two accidents that needs to be better understood and addressed”.

“The agency made this decision as a result of the data gathering process and new evidence collected at the site and analyzed today,” the FAA said in a statement.

“This evidence, together with newly refined satellite data available to FAA this morning, led to this decision.

“The grounding will remain in effect pending further investigation, including examination of information from the aircraft’s flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders.

“An FAA team is in Ethiopia assisting the NTSB as parties to the investigation of the Flight 302 accident.”

The FAA  had been under increasing pressure to ground MAX aircraft amid increasing public concern about their safety.

READ: Europe, US at odds over 737 MAX groundings

Its decision came after Canada decided to ground its MAX aircraft, joining other countries around the world ordered operators to take the new 737 variants out of the air.

The FAA had previously argued there was not sufficient evidence to take the action and media reports in the US claimed Boeing’s Muilenburg had lobbied against the grounding.

Boeing said in a statement that it continued to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX.

But it had decided after consultation with the FAA and the US National Transportation Safety Board to recommend to the temporary suspension of the entire global fleet of 371 737 MAX aircraft.

“We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution, ” Muilenburg said.

“Safety is a core value at Boeing for as long as we have been building airplanes and it always will be. There is no greater priority for the company and our industry.

“We are doing everything we can to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements and help ensure this does not happen again.”

US airlines reacted quickly to comply with the grounding. American Airlines, which has 24 737 MAX aircraft, said it operated 85 flights a day using the plane out of 6,700 daily departures.

It said it regularly monitored its aircraft,  including extensive flight data collection, and this gave it confidence in the safe operation of all its aircraft while contributing to its exemplary safety record.

“American has flown more than 2.5 million passengers — during 46,400 operating hours encompassing nearly 18,000 flights — safely on our MAX 8 fleet since the first one was delivered on Sept. 2017 and began commercial service later that November,” it said.

Southwest Airlines said its 34 MAX aircraft accounted for less than 5 percent of its daily flights.

“While we remain confident in the MX 8 after completing more than 88,000 flight hours accrued over 41,000 flights, we support the actions of the FAA and other regulatory agencies and governments across the globe that have asked for further review of the data — including information from the flight data recorder — related to the recent accident involving the MAX 8,” it said.

Meanwhile, an Ethiopian Airlines spokesman said the crashed plane’s black boxes were heading to Europe to speed up the analysis of the crucial information they contain.

While investigators have yet to determine the cause of the Ethiopian crash, it has been revealed that one of the pilots told air traffic controllers the plane had “flight control problems” while requesting permission to return to Addis Ababa.

The Wall Street Journal reported Ethopia had asked France’s Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses  for assitance in analyzing the flight recorders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cathay expects to weather tough times after profit turnaround

Cathay expects to weather tough times
Cathay Pacific A350 on finlas to Perth through thick fog. Credit Richard Kreider

Cathay Pacific expects tough times to continue but remains confident in its long-term sustainability after reversing two years of losses to post a 2018 annual profit of $HK2.35 billion ($US300m).

The previously flagged profit turnaround saw Cathay transform a 2017 group loss of $HK1.26 billion in an environment where it faced intense competition from low-cost and Chinese carriers.

The Hong Kong carrier benefited in 2018 from robust freight demand, rising yields and a transformation program aimed at cutting costs and boosting revenue.

READ: Mahathir warns shutting down Malaysia Airlines is an option

Chairman John Slosar said competition remained intense during the year as fuel prices increased and the US dollar strengthened.

“However, our transformation programme remains on track and had a positive impact,’’ he said.

“We focused on finding new sources of revenue, building our network and strengthening the Hong Kong hub, delivering more value to our customers and improving productivity and efficiency.”

Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon reported an attributable profit of $HK1.15 billion in the second half of 2018, compared to a loss of $HK904 million in the first half and a loss of $HK1.54 billion in the second half of 2017.

Passenger revenue for 2018 rose just over 10 percent to $HK73.12 billion and yield increased 6.7 percent. The airline said this reflected increased premium class passenger demand, fuel surcharges and revenue management.

It also expanded its footprint during the year, introducing passenger services to 10 destinations while dropping two.

READ: US, Europe at odds over 737 MAX groundings.

A big boost came from the cargo business, which produced an 18.5 percent increase in group revenue to $HK28.32 billion on the back of robust demand.

Looking ahead,  Slosar said the business was expected to remain challenging in 2019 with a strong US dollar and uncertainty due to geopolitical discord and global trade tensions dampening passenger and cargo demand.

“Competition will remain intense, especially in economy class on long haul routes,’’ he said

“Operational constraints will impose additional costs. These factors will affect both the passenger and the cargo business.’’

However, the Cathay chairman remained confident in the ability of the airline’s transformation programme to deliver sustainable long-term performance.

“In 2019, we will continue to reorganize our nine core business processes, to benefit from associated underlying structural initiatives and to build a culture of continuous improvement,’’ he said.

“We will compete hard by extending our route network to destinations not currently served from Hong Kong, by increasing frequencies on our most popular routes and by operating more fuel-efficient aircraft.

“We will focus upon, and continue to invest in, customer service and productivity.”

Europe, US at odds over 737 MAX groundings

Boeing orders
Photo: Boeing

Boeing’s latest versions of the 737 have been dealt a new blow with the European Union  Aviation Safety Agency banning all flights within, to or from Europe but US authorities have hit back.

The Europeans say say further action may be necessary to ensure the continued airworthiness of the B737 MAX 8 and MAX 9.

EASA justified its decision by saying it was taking every step necessary to ensure the safety of passengers in the wake of the tragedy involving Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302, which slammed into the ground on Sunday with 157 people on board.

With Gulf airlines also grounding the MAX aircraft, the US and Canada are now the only countries still flying substantial numbers of the planes.

But Boeing said it had full confidence in the planes and there was no basis to issue further guidance at this stage.

And the US Federal Aviation Administration reiterated its view that there was so far no evidence to warrant grounding e planes.

“The FAA continues to review extensively all available data and aggregate safety performance from operators and pilots of the Boeing 737 MAX,” it said.

“Thus far, our review shows no systematic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft.

“Nor have other civil aviation authorities provided data to us that would warrant action.

“In the course of our urgent review of data on the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash, if any issues affecting the continued airworthiness of the aircraft are identified, the FAA will take immediate and appropriate action.”

EASA published an airworthiness directive (AD) suspending all operations of Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 aircraft in Europe.

It also suspended commercial flights performed by third country operators of the planes “into, within or out of the EU”.

The move comes after the number of countries banning the plane expanded Tuesday to include Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Turkey, Holland, Germany, Iceland, France and the UK.

In its AD, The EU noted that a previous crash involving Lion Air in October had prompted the US Federal Aviation Administration to issue an emergency directive, later replaced by a final rule, requiring certain changes to the aircraft manual regarding runaway horizontal stabilizer trim limitations and procedures.

“ Since that action, another fatal accident occurred,’’ it said.

“ At this early stage of the related investigation, it cannot be excluded that similar causes may have contributed to both events.”

The FAA issued a notice to the international aviation community Tuesday outlining what it and Boeing have been doing in recent months to address some of the issues that arose from the Lion Air crash but EASA said further action may be necessary.

“Based on all available information, EASA considers that further actions may be necessary to ensure the continued airworthiness of the two affected models,’’ it said.

“For the reasons described above, pending the availability of more information, EASA has decided to suspend all flight operations of the two affected models.”

There is still no hard evidence of a link between the incidents in Ethiopia and Indonesia but the industry and media have been spooked by similarities between the two.

Ethiopian airline chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam told CNN’s Richard Quest that the pilots of ET302 told air traffic control they were having flight control problems before the crash.

He said the pilots were aware of the AD issued after the Lion Air crash in October and had additional training.

He also revealed the flight data and cockpit voice recorders were being sent overseas to be read but did not specify where.

GebreMariam said he believed the similarities between the Lion Air and Ethiopian crash were “substantial” given that both incidents featured brand new airplanes of the same model and both flights lasted for just minutes.

The FAA has not banned the plane at this stage and US carriers, which operate 74 of the global fleet of 383 MAX aircraft, are still flying it.

The crisis hit Boeing’s share price again seeing it close down more than 6 percent Tuesday after dropping more than 5 percent on Monday.

It has even attracted the attention of US President Donald Trump who expressed the opinion that planes are becoming too complex to fly.

“Pilots are no longer needed but rather computer scientists from MIT,” he said. “I see all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further when often old and old and simpler is far better.”

The tweet prompted a phone call from Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg who reiterated the company’s position that the MAX aircraft is safe.

Boeing’s statement said safety was its number one priority and it had “full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX”.

“We understand that regulatory agencies and customers have made decisions that they believe are most appropriate for their home markets.

“We’ll continue to engage with them to ensure they have the information needed to have confidence in operating their fleets.

“The United States Federal Aviation Administration is not mandating any further action at this time, and based on the information currently available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.”

The FAA said in a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community issued Monday that it did not have information that would prompt it to draw conclusions or take action but it would do so if it identified a safety issue.

It has been working with Boeing for some time on changes arising from the Lion Air crash and expects to issue an airworthiness directive about flight control enhancements no later than April.

Boeing said the changes included updates to MCAS, pilot displays, operations manuals and crew training.

READ: Ethiopian Flight recorders found as more 737 MAX 8s grounded

But it said it was important to note the FAA was not mandating any further action at this time and the actions in its earlier AD continued to be appropriate.

It said a flight control law known as MCAS that is part of the debate on the 737 MAX was put through flight testing as part of the certification process and does not control the aircraft in normal flight, only abnormal situations.

Its flight crew operations manual already outlined a procedure to safely handle “the unlikely event of erroneous data coming from an angle of attack sensor,” it said.

Mahathir warns shutting down Malaysia Airlines is an option

Malaysia shut down mahathir

Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad says his government needs to move urgently to decide the future of Malaysia Airlines and has warned that could include shutting down the national flag carrier.

Malaysian was privatized in 2014 after it suffered two fatal crashes in less than five months, the still unsolved loss of Flight MH370 and the downing of MH17 in a missile attack over Ukraine by Russian separatists.

READ: Ethiopian 737 trailing smoke before impact

The tragedies came after a string of losses by the then Malaysia Air System Bhd and it was de-listed after majority investor and state-run company Khazanah Nasional paid 1.4 billion ringgit ($US340m) to take over the shares it did not own.

A recovery plan included cutting about 6000 jobs and the transfer of the airline in 2015 to a new company, Malaysia Airlines Berhad. It was supposed to be profitable by 2019.

However, Khazanah reported a loss of more than 6 billion ringgit last year, 3 billion of which was attributed to the failure of Malaysia Airlines to return to profitability.

It said the government needed to decide the level of support for the airline.

“It is a very serious matter to shut down an airline,’’ Mahathir told reporters at the  Malaysian parliament in Kuala Lumpur Tuesday.

“We will nevertheless be studying and investigating as to whether we should shut it down or we should sell it off or we should refinance it. All these things are open for the government to decide.”

Malaysia recently marked the fifth anniversary of the loss of MH370, which remains aviation’s enduring mystery.

Read: Can a deal be reached to renew the search for MH370.

There is pressure for a renewed search for the missing Boeing 777 and transport Minister Anthony Loke appeared to soften his stance on restarting the operation by declaring he would entertain new proposals if there was new technology.

The fifth anniversary of MH17, also a Boeing 777,  is coming up in July.

 

 

Ethiopian 737 trailing smoke before impact; Aussies suspend planes

Ethiopian Airlines
Ethiopian Airlines' hub at Addis Ababa. Photo: Andreas Spaeth

The Ethiopian 737 MAX that crashed Sunday was trailing smoke before impact according to a Reuters report.

Flight 302 was on a flight from the Ethiopian capital to Nairobi with 157 passengers and crew. All perished.

READ: Virgin Australia pilots defend the 737 MAX

Reuters says it interviewed “half a dozen witnesses in the farmland where the plane came down” and they all reported, “smoke billowing out behind, while four of them also described a loud sound.”

“It was a loud rattling sound. Like straining and shaking metal,” said Turn Buzuna, a 26-year-old housewife and farmer who lives about 300 meters (328 yards) from the crash site.

“Everyone says they have never heard that kind of sound from a plane and they are under a flight path,” she told Reuters.

These revelations would appear to rule out any link to the Lion Air crash last October which involved the same type of aircraft.

Many media have linked the two crashes and Boeing appears to be losing the public relations battle, at least for now.

It has a technical team at the crash site as does the US National Transportation Safety Board and the US Federal Aviation Administration.

An important breakthrough has been the discovery of the flight data and cockpit voice recorders which will help shed light on the events that overtook the aircraft.

Aviation authorities in China and Indonesia moved quickly to suspend 737 MAX operations and the jurisdictions temporarily banning the plane widened Tuesday to include Australia and Singapore.

Regulators in both countries suspended 737 MAX operations to and from their airports.

Only two foreign airlines fly the MAX to Australia: Singapore-based SilkAir and Fiji Airways

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority said the temporary suspension was in the best interests of safety in light of the two recent accidents involving MAX aircraft.

CASA said it was closely monitoring the situation and the suspension would be reviewed as relevant safety information became available from Boeing, the FAA and accident investigators.

“This is a temporary suspension while we wait for more information to review the safety risks of continued operations of the Boeing 737 MAX to and from Australia.” CASA boss Shane Carmody said.

“CASA regrets any inconvenience to passengers but believes it is important to always put safety first.”

Fiji Airways said it had suspended its Boeing 737 MAX operations to and from Australia in compliance with the CASA directive.

The airline has three 737-800s and a 737-700 it can use as replacements as well as widebody A330s.

“While Fiji Airways is confident in the airworthiness of our Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft and our robust training programme, we respect CASA’s position,” the airline said..
“As such, we will be changing the aircraft type operating to/from Sydney, Brisbane. Melbourne and Adelaide until further advised. Some schedule changes are likely and affected customers will be notified.”

SilkAir parent Singapore Airlines had temporarily withdrawn its six Max 8’s from service before the CASA announcement, saying the safety of its customers and crew was its highest priority.

“As of this morning, all six aircraft have been grounded in Singapore and will not be returned to service until further notice,” spokesman Karl Schubert said. “Our 17 Boeing 737-800NGs are not affected.

“The withdrawal from service of the 737 MAX 8 fleet will have an impact on some of the airline’s flight schedules. Customers who may be affected by flight disruptions will be contacted for reaccommodation.”

The Australians said they were working with Fiji Airlines to minimize any disruptions and allow it to replace its 737 Max aircraft with other types.

Also Downunder, Virgin Australia took a more cautious approach to its upcoming deliveries of the plane that fueled speculation it may be wavering on its decision to take 30 MAX aircraft starting later this year.

The airline reiterated its commitment to the MAX after the Lion Air crash but his been more circumspect in the wake of the second crash.

It said it was watching the situation closely and monitoring any updates from Boeing and investigating authorities.

“There are currently no Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in our fleet and it is too early for us to make comment on our order,” it said in a statement.

“With our first aircraft delivery not due until November this year, we believe there is sufficient time to consider the outcome of the investigation and make an assessment.

“We will continue to work with Boeing and the relevant authorities as more information becomes available.”

 

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UPDATED: Ethiopian flight recorders found as more 737 MAX 8s grounded

Ethiopian Airlines
Ethiopian Airlines' hub at Addis Ababa. Photo: Andreas Spaeth

The flight data and cockpit voice recorders have both been recovered from the crash site of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 as the number of airlines grounding Boeing’s latest version of its workhorse 737 has increased to more than 20.

The deadly crash on Sunday of the Ethiopian plane with 157 people on board was the second involving a new Boeing 737 MAX 8 since October.

The “black boxes” will be crucial in determining what happened to the Ethiopian aircraft and if there is a link to a Lion Air 737 MAX 8 crash shortly after take-off from Jakarta last October.

In what is proving to be a widening crisis for Boeing that saw its share price close down by more than 5 percent Monday,  aviation authorities in China and Indonesia ordered that Boeing 737 MAX aircraft be grounded.

Ethiopian Airlines also ordered its remaining 737 MAX fleet out of the air as a precautionary measure.

Blue chip carrier Singapore Airlines has also temporarily withdrawn six Boeing 737 Max 8’s from service, saying the safety of its customers and crew were its highest priority. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore also suspended the operation of MAX aircraft into and out of the city-state.

Other operators to ground the planes include Aeromexico, Royal Air Maroc and Cayman Airways.

But the US Federal Aviation Administration, noting that the investigation has just begun, says it does not have information to draw conclusions or take any action.

The FAA continually assesses and oversees the safety performance of US commercial aircraft and said it would take “immediate and appropriate action” if it identified a safety issue.

It outlined in a Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community how it had been monitoring design changes being made to the 737 MAX in the wake of the Lion Air crash.

Boeing has been developing these over the past several months and says they are designed to make the 737 MAX “even safer”.

“Safety is a core value for everyone at Boeing and the safety of our airplanes, our customers’ passengers and their crews is always our top priority,” the company said.

“The 737 MAX is a safe airplane that was designed, built and supported by our skilled employees who approach their work with the utmost integrity.”

US carriers, which operate 74 of the global fleet of 387 737 MAX aircraft,  are continuing to fly the planes but Transportation Secretary Elaine Cho also told reporters that the FAA would “take immediate and appropriate action” if it identified an issue which affected safety.

Other airlines such as Norwegian, LOT Polish Airlines flydubai, Smartwings, S7 Group and Oman Air are also continuing to fly pending further information.

What is known about the Ethiopian crash so far is the pilots reported technical difficulties and asked to return to Addis Ababa during a flight to Nairobi.

READ: Pilot of Fatal Ethiopian flight reported “technical difficulties”.

The plane took off from runway 27R at Bole Airport at 8:38 am local time and contact was lost six minutes later at 8:44 am.

Weather at the time was fine with a visibility of more than 10kms, with a few clouds at 2500ft, according to the Aviation Safety Network.

The Aviation Herald said the last transponder data received from the plane indicated it was flying at just over 9000ft above sea level when contact was lost. Addis Ababa airport is just over 7600ft above sea level.

It noted that photographs of the crash site indicated the plane had been in a deep dive.

Ethiopian fatal crash
Ethiopian’s group chief executive at the crash site. Photo: Ethiopian

Flightradar 24 data shows the 737 MAX 8 was climbing normally with constant speed and altitude lines when suddenly all radar and systems contact is lost. However, it points out that its ADSB coverage is limited in the area.

There is so far no hard evidence that the Ethiopian and Lion Air crashes are linked but the latest tragedy has sparked intense debate about the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and the fact that a two of the new planes have crashed in less than six months.

Questions have also been raised about the disparity in experience between the co-pilot and captain on the Ethiopian aircraft.

The captain had 8000 total flying times, although it is not clear how much of that was on 737s, while the first officer had just 200 hours.

Boeing and the US National Transportation Safety Board have both sent teams to the crash site to work with Ethiopian authorities to try and determine a probable cause.

A preliminary report in the October 28 Lion Air crash pointed to a sequence of events that started with aircraft maintenance and ended with the pilots failing to follow a procedure that could have saved the plane.

READ: Indonesians retrieve data from second Lion Air black box.

A faulty angle of attack sensor caused automated systems on the plane to push down the nose and the flight crew was still fighting this when the plane plunged into the sea with 189 people on board. The sensor measures the pitch of the aircraft and whether the nose is too high.

The crash sparked a debate about a new feature on the plane, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). MCAS is not engaged when the flaps are extended so some pilots believe it is unlikely to have been a factor in the Ethiopian crash.

This is software known as a flight control law that was added to the MAX to compensate for design changes and help pilots cope with a stall by improving aircraft handling characteristics and decreasing the pitch-up tendency at elevated angles of attack.

It essentially helps push down the nose if the aircraft’s computers detect a high angle of attack but there has been controversy among US pilots about whether Boeing flagged the feature sufficiently.

However, it is disabled if the crew follow runaway stabilizer protocols by flicking two switches and US authorities issued an emergency directive after the crash urging pilots to do this.

The FAA said in Monday’s Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community that it continues to monitor pending changes in the MCAS system, angle of attack sensor signal improvements and MCAS maximum command limits.

It is also monitoring changes to training associated with MCAS.

The US regulator expects to issue an airworthiness directive about the flight control system enhancements, which it says would reduce reliance on procedures associated with required pilot memory items, no later than April.

It said it had validated that the aircraft maintenance and functional check instructions for the angle of attack vane replacement were adequate and conducted simulator sessions to verify the operational procedures in its earlier AD.

It had also looked at angle-of-attack vane calibration and reviewed Boeing’s production processes related to the angle-of-attack vane and MCAS.

Boeing said the changes included updates to MCAS, pilot displays, operations manuals and crew training.

“The enhanced flight control law incorporates angle of attack (AOA) inputs, limits stabilizer trim commands in response to an erroneous angle of attack reading, and provides a limit to the stabilizer command in order to retain elevator authority,” it said.

Boeing said it was important to note the FAA was not mandating any further action at this time and the actions in its earlier AD continued to be appropriate.

It said MCAS was put through flight testing as part of the certification process and does not control the aircraft in normal flight, only abnormal situations.

Its flight crew operations manual already outlines a procedure to safely handle “the unlikely event of erroneous data coming from an angle of attack sensor”.

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Virgin Australia pilots leap to the defence of 737 MAX.

Virgin Australia pilots have leapt to the defense of Boeing and the 737 as the world’s largest planemaker comes under pressure to calm the nerves of travelers in the wake of the Ethiopian disaster on Sunday.

Yesterday China grounded all its new 737 MAX aircraft as questions are raised about the similarities of Sundays’ crash and the loss of a similar Lion Air aircraft last October despite that accident apparently maintenance and pilot-related.

While no 737 MAX aircraft operate in Australia Virgin Australia will start taking delivery of the first of an order for 30 later this year to be operated across its network including Perth and on intrastate routes.

See our Concorde 50 years coverage

Yesterday, the Virgin Independent Pilots Association (VIPA), president Captain John Lyons (ret) said: “VIPA continues to have the utmost confidence in the Boeing 737 and the rigorous training that Virgin Australia provides its pilots.”

“We look forward to its introduction at Virgin Australia as it brings outstanding commercial advantages to the airline and enhanced customer appeal,” said Captain Lyon

“Boeing has delivered more than 10,000 737 aircraft since it first flew in 1967, accumulating nearly 300 million flight hours.”

The fallout from the two crashes has forced the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer to cancel tomorrow’s global unveil of its flagship Boeing 777X.

The challenge now for Boeing is to get answers quickly to either exonerate the 737MAX or install a fix to rectify any problem.

But that is not going to be easy as the 737 was disintegrated on impact and the plane’s two black boxes may be severely damaged.

However, after the Lion Air crash Boeing and the US regulator, the FAA, conducted a review of the 737MAX and its system and have made no changes other to remind pilots about existing procedures.

After the Lion Air crash, one of the world’s largest airlines United pointed the finger at Indonesian airline.

Oscar Munoz United’s chief executive said that his pilots don’t need any additional training on the new MAX because its pilots are prepared to respond to problems that might surface with automated systems on modern planes.

“When any trouble arises, our pilots are trained to fly the damn aircraft, period,” Munoz told reporters in December.

He added that pilots are taught to disconnect automated systems, fly the plane by hand, and gain altitude to buy time while they troubleshoot problems.

Mr. Munoz added that the Boeing 737 MAX “is safe and reliable.”

 

Pilot of fatal Ethiopian flight reported “technical difficulties”

Boeing US grounded
Ethiopian's group chief executive at the crash site. Photo: Ethiopian

The pilot of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302 reported technical difficulties and asked for clearance to return to Addis Ababa shortly before the plane slammed into the ground, killing all 157 on board.

Some 35  nationalities were on the aircraft headed to Nairobi including United Nations staff members thought to have been headed to the UN Environment Assembly stating March 11.

The passengers included 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, nine Ethiopians, eight Italians, eight Chinese, eight Americans, seven Britons, seven French citizens, six Egyptians, five Dutch citizens, four Indians, four Slovakians, three Austrians, three Swedes, three Russians, two Moroccans, two Spaniards, two Poles and two Israelis.

READ:  No survivors as Ethiopian 737 crashes with 157 aboard.

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam told reporters at a press conference that the pilot was given clearance to turn back.

He said the senior Ethiopian Airlines pilot, with more than 8,000 flying hours under his belt, had an “excellent flying record”.

A maintenance check on February 4 had not revealed any problems.

“As I said, it is a brand new airplane with no technical remarks, flown by a senior pilot and there is no cause that we can attribute at this time,” CNN reported GebreMariam as saying.

Ethiopian is understood to have four other Boeing 737 MAX 8’s in service and the airline on Monday morning Ethiopian time announced they would be grounded until further notice as a precautionary measure.

“Although we don’t yet know the cause of the accident, we had to decide to ground the particular fleet as (an) extra safety precaution,” the airline said in a statement.

Manufacturer Boeing said a technical team would be traveling to the crash site to provide assistance under the direction of Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau and the US National Transportation Safety Board.

Boeing also canceled the public rollout of its new Boeing 777X as a result of the crash.

The priority of investigators will be to find the “black boxes”, the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, that will shed light on what happened to the aircraft.

READ: 2018 safety hit masks overall improvement

The plane took off from runway 27R at Bole Airport at 8:38 am local time and contact was lost six minutes later at 8:44 am.

Weather at the time was fine with a visibility of more than 10kms, with a few clouds at 2500ft, according to the Aviation Safety Network.

The Aviation Herald said the last transponder data received from the plane indicated it was flying at just over 9000ft when contact was lost.

It noted that photographs of the crash site indicated the plane had been in a deep dive.

Flightradar 24 data shows the 737 MAX 8 was climbing normally with constant speed and altitude lines when suddenly all radar and systems contact is lost. However, it points out that its ADSB coverage is limited in the area.

The 737 was delivered four months ago and its first flight was on October 30, 2018.

The fact that it was a Boeing 737 MAX has already prompted speculation about whether there are similarities with the crash last October of a Lion Air plane of the same type shortly after take-off from Jakarta.

Flightradar 24 has pointed to the Ethiopian aircraft’s unstable vertical speed after take-off and the Civil Aviation Administration of China has ordered Chinese carriers to ground their 737 MAX  8s.

The CAAC said it made the decision because there was “some degree of similarity” between the two crashes given they involved newly-delivered Boeing 737-8 planes and happened during the take-off phase.

Cayman Airways grounded its two 737 MAX 8s pending further information but other major regulators such as the US Federal Aviation Administration do not appear to be moving on the issue.

That Lion Air crash raised questions about the aircraft maintenance and a preliminary report suggested the pilots did not follow the correct procedures.

It prompted US authorities to issue an emergency directive warning that an erroneous high angle of attack sensor input received by the flight control system could result in repeated nose-down trim commands of the horizontal stabilizer.

The directive told pilots to follow the runaway stabilizer procedure in the Boeing operating procedures manual.

However, there is no evidence that the crashes are linked at this stage.

Ethiopian has been moving in recent years to establish itself as one of Africa’s top airlines.

ASN’s accident database show its most recent fatal accident was in January 2010, when 90 people were killed when a plane crashed in the Mediterranean Sea after taking off from Beirut.

READ: Can a deal be reached to new the search for MH370?

An investigation found probably causes included the flight crew’s mismanagement of the aircraft’s altitude, speed, altitude, headings and attitude through inconsistent flight control inputs resulting in a loss of control.

The flight crew also failed to abide by crew resource management principles.

Two other fatal accidents — one in 2002 and one in 1996 —  involved hijackers.

Interference from hijackers in the 1996 incident famously saw a Boeing 767 run out of fuel and 125 people die as the flight crew ditched in the sea off the Comoros Islands.

Ethiopian currently has an IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certification that is due to expire in May.

In 2018, the all accident rate for airlines on the IOSA registry was more than two times lower than that of non-IOSA airlines.

 

 

No survivors as Ethiopian 737 crashes with 157 aboard.

Boeing US grounded
Ethiopian's group chief executive at the crash site. Photo: Ethiopian

An Ethiopian Airlines’ Boeing 737 MAX 8 has crashed shortly after take-off on a flight between Addis Ababa and Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, killing all 157 people on board.

Ethiopian’s group chief executive, Tewolde GebreMariam,  said he had visited the site and confirmed there were no survivors.

He expressed his profound sympathy and condolences to the families of the passengers and crew “who lost their lives in this tragic accident”.

This was echoed by Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed who said: “The Office of the PM, on behalf of the Government and people of Ethiopia, would like to express its deepest condolences to the families of those that have lost their loved ones on Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 on a regularly scheduled flight to Nairobi, Kenya this morning.”

The airline said there were 149 passengers and eight crew members on board ET302, a Boeing 737 MAX 8.

The passengers included: 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, nine Ethiopians, eight Italians, eight Chinese, eight Americans, seven Britons, seven French citizens, six Egyptians, five Dutch citizens, four Indians, four Slovakians, three Austrians, three Swedes, three Russians, two Moroccans, two Spaniards, two Poles and two Israelis.

READ: 2018 safety hit masks overall improvement

The plane took off from runway 27R at Bole Airport at 8:38 am local time and contact was lost at 8:44 am.

Weather at the time was fine with a visibility of more than 10kms, with a few clouds at 2500ft, according to the Aviation Safety Network.

The Aviation Herald said the last transponder data received from the plane indicated it was flying at just over 9000ft

Flightradar 24 data shows the 737 MAX 8 was climbing normally with constant speed and altitude lines when suddenly all radar and systems contact is lost. However, it points out that its ADSB coverage is limited in the area.

The BBC reports that the pilot had reported difficulties and had asked to return to Addis Ababa.

Here is the Flightradar24 data for the first 3 minutes of the flight.

Here is the first statement from Ethiopian Airlines.

The 737 was delivered four months ago and its first flight was on October 30, 2018.

Manufacturer Boeing said it was deeply saddened to learn of the crash.

“We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew on board and stand ready to support the Ethiopian Airlines team,” it said.

“A Boeing technical team is prepared to provide technical assistance at the request and under the direction of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.”

Ethiopian has been moving in recent years to establish itself as one of Africa’s top airlines.

ASN’s accident database show its most recent fatal accident was in January 2010, when 90 people were killed when a plane crashed in the Mediterranean Sea after taking off from Beirut.

READ: Can a deal be reached to new the search for MH370?

An investigation found probably causes included the flight crew’s mismanagement of the aircraft’s altitude, speed, altitude, headings and attitude through inconsistent flight control inputs resulting in a loss of control.

The flight crew also failed to abide by crew resource management principles.

Two other fatal accidents — one in 2002 and one in 1996 —  involved hijackers.

Interference from hijackers in the 1996 incident famously saw a Boeing 767 run out of fuel and 125 people die as the flight crew ditched in the sea off the Comoros Islands.

Ethiopian currently has IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certification that is due to expire in May.

In 2018, the all accident rate for airlines on the IOSA registry was more than two times lower than that of non-IOSA airlines.

 

 

 

 

American joins ban on kittens, puppies, but small horses allowed

American emotional support animals
Guide dogs are good to go on American. Photo: Aneeli Salo/Wikicommons.

American Airlines has become the latest carrier to further crack down on emotional support animals and limit them to cats and dogs older than four months.

The move follows similar restrictions on puppies and kittens introduced by United Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

But those with a legitimate need for a trained service animal will still,  in some limited circumstances, be able to bring a miniature horse on board.

Examples of service animals include seeing-eye or hearing assist dogs specially trained to assist a disabled person.

READ:  American offers chopper transfers at JFK, LAX

Emotional support animals fall into a  looser category of an animal, not necessarily trained,  used to assist the emotional well-being of a passenger.

Under US Department of Transportation regulations, these animals fly free of charge and American found that the number of emotional support animals it was carrying grew by 48 percent from 105,155 in 2016 to 155, 790 in 2017.

More than 70 percent of these in 2017 were dogs and just 3 percent were cats..

US carriers moved in 2018 to exclude a range of emotional support animals after an increase in the number of incidents where people were bitten or animals defecated in the cabin.

Cabin crew also reported aggression between some animals and questions were raised about the impact of untrained animals on evacuations.

People were also increasingly bringing on board animals other than dogs and cats and United Airlines moved to introduce restrictions after a woman tried to bring a peacock on to a flight as an emotional support animal.

Other instances in recent years have involved a turkey, a pig and a duck.

A survey by American of 18,000 people found 58 percent believed that only trained service dogs should be permitted in the cabin.

READ American-BA tp be under one roof at JFK

Nine out of 10 said passengers should be limited to just one emotional support animal and 96 percent said the animals should have up-to-date vaccinations.

American said on its website that it would introduce the new guidelines from April 1 but did not elaborate on the circumstances in which a miniature horse may be brought on board.

It said the ban on kittens and puppies extended to both emotional support and service animals.

“Animals under this age usually have not received the necessary vaccinations that protect team members and customers,’’ it said.

Customers may only bring one emotional support on board and the airline will require documentation to include a veterinary health form as well as immunization details.

“American supports the rights of customers, from veterans to people with disabilities, with a legitimate need for a trained service or support animal,’’ the airline said.

“Unfortunately, untrained animals can lead to safety issues for team members, customers and working service and support animals onboard aircraft.”

 

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