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UK has banned all Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft from British airspace (businessinsider.com)
92 points by pseudolus 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 69 comments

The actual CAA announcement itself is already on Hacker News at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19368030 .

This is already on the list in the headlined article at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19365108 . Lengthier news coverage can be found at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19367871 .

Why hasn’t the FAA done the same? Are we just better than all these other countries and our decision makers have some insight that everyone else is blind to, or is the FAA helping Boeing’s stock since they’re an American company? Serious question. I’m baffled why the FAA is not acting on this.

The US secretary of defense is also a former 30-year Boeing man.

Secretary of Defense is irrelevant to this subject however. FAA is under U.S. Department of Transportation, run by Elaine Chao. I don't think she's related to Boeing (although she is the wife of Mitch McConnell).

Lobby groups.

Boeing is an American company. I'm not saying it is a factor but...

They were quick to ground the 787 when some of its internal batteries started to catch fire, so let's hope they act with the same speed if this crash turns out to be caused by the same reason as the Lion Air one.

The FAA has spent five months reviewing the 737 Max post Lion Air. They have far more information on the real flight worthiness of the plane than any other agency or organization on the planet outside of Boeing.

What's your premise starting from to claim that the FAA isn't making a better decision, from vastly more first-hand knowledge, than for example the UK or other nations?

> They have far more information on the real flight worthiness of the plane than any other agency or organization on the planet outside of Boeing.

Well, that worked great... until another 737 Max 8 slammed into the ground.

Your assumption is that The cause was the plane, but neither Ethiopian nor Lion Air have great safety records in the first place. Parent’s point is that the FAA is likely to be more aware of whether the cause in the first crash was due to the plane, pilot error, weather, or any number of other factors.

[edit] Apparently I’m incorrect about their safety records - my bad, the one time I trusted a friend and didn’t look into it myself, haha. I still maintain that it isn’t clear yet that it was the plane’s design, but I retract my comments on the safety record. Carry on and please quit the downvoting heh. :)


> But both the airline, and the nation as a whole, have a history of excellent safety on a continent where aviation practices can sometimes be dicey. The US Federal Aviation Administration gives Ethiopia a Category 1 safety rating, the organization’s highest, which means it can operate flights to the US, which it does. The nation also passes muster with the EU’s European Aviation Safety Agency regulations.


> Ethiopian has been regarded as a standard bearer among African airlines, on a continent where aviation safety has lagged behind the rest of the world.

You appear to be right, and I was operating under misinformation. I’ll edit my comment.

You're wrong about their safety records. Ethiopian is the safest and best operator in Africa.

It is possible to be both right and wrong. They are the safest airline in Africa. Their record isn't all that great compared to the rest of the world, however.

Their last 30 years or so looks pretty good. One incident of pilot error in 2010 - I can't really blame them for the hijackings or bird strikes.


Apologies. I was operating under misinformation given to me by a smart friend. You appear to be correct.

I'm sure Borski saw Africa and didn't even bother to look up the safety record.

This comment breaks the site guidelines, such as this one:

"Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith."

Can you please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and take the spirit of this site more to heart? We're trying to prevent discussion from degenerating here.

I agree with this line of thinking, but I think it applies the other way as well. If you assume that the UK and China are making political calculations in addition to safety ones, what makes you think the FAA isn't doing that too?

My premise is generally it seems like all the people appointed by the current administration are corrupt or incompetent or both.

Politics aside, they wised up and finally decided to ground the 737 Max like dozens of other nations.

That may be true. But they have a responsibility to make decisions with the information that is available.

Worth noting that like Australia, which also did it, this affects very very few UK flights, so the cost / disruption is pretty low.

Norwegian appears to be one of the two airlines that fly to the UK with the aircraft, and they have taken the consequence and grounding their 737 MAX-8 fleet as well.

Air Canada flies from Halifax to London on a 737 MAX-8[1]. I flew it in Dec shortly after the Lion Air crash.

1- https://www.routesonline.com/news/38/airlineroute/277713/air...

I believe this will affect Air Canada, which flies 737 Max 8 on several Canada -> UK routes.

That sounds painful for passengers.

Eight hours in a narrow body; uggghhh!

That doesn't seem so much different from a transcon flight in the US, which is mostly no big deal.

Even though a narrow body isn't as conformable, I'd much rather fly direct as generally the alternative is two flights - a narrow body to a hub and then a heavy across the pond.

Long-haul on a narrow body is fine as long as the seats are good. QR used to do an all-J A320 LHR-DOH which was a great way to travel.

It’s banned from UK airspace, so US flights to Europe are affected (at least flights from lower latitudes)

Ethiopia, Singapore, China, South Korea, Malaysia and Australia have also done the same [0].

[0] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-47536502

The wonderful times of software defined aircraft.

Agile methodologies come to life critical software, Boeing will be releasing a patch for the MCAS issue https://gizmodo.com/boeing-promises-to-release-software-upda...

"Just ship it we will fix the bugs in the next iteration!"

I think that farming out so much of the certification to the manufacturers can lead to problems as they work to make things "lean" when the easy gains have dried up.

These times are, indeed, wonderful.

From 1970 to today, air travel has increased tenfold, while fatalities have deccreased by the same factor of 10.

Combined, your risk of dying on any given flight is only 1% of what it was in the hay day of stick-and-rudder pilot bros.

Sources: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aviation_safety

Pretty sure 737-max did nothing to improve on the stats of aerodynamically stable versions 737.

It would be cool if someone published the software on the internet.

No good news for Norwegian, quite impacted by the 787 Trent issue as well. Probably only a matter of time until EASA acts as well and the TATL flights are impacted.

Norwegian approximately at the same time announced they were grounding their 737 MAX 8 fleet: https://media.en.norwegian.com/pressreleases/norwegian-tempo...

But agreed, Norwegian can't be happy with Boeing at the moment.

Apparently Norwegian has a deal with Boeing that more or less says that they don't pay for their jets unless they're in the air. But I'm sure they're not happy. They've had so much problems with their dreamliners as well.

I wonder if they'll try to get compensation (or if they can). Must be having a terrible impact on their business.

How does one properly think about a decision like this? It's easy to go "better safe than sorry", but that sort of thinking leads to the death of playgrounds and people being afraid to walk around at night when it's the safest it's ever been.

How do you balance the small chance of a catastrophe against the guaranteed disruption and inconvenience to huge numbers of people? As a base rate, I understand that there are hundreds of these aircraft safely making thousands of trips, so the probability of a crash seems quite low, though, higher than it should be.

Everyone seems very quick to say the planes should be grounded (I saw a headline on CNN yesterday "FAA still allows Boeing planes to fly despite crashes" or something to that effect), but it seems like a tricky decision to make. It also seems like a technical one probably with a lot more data available and a history of precedent to those who actually have to make it. Frankly, I'm a little surprised at the vigor with which the general media and social media have taken to this situation, with their opinions on the matter.

>How does one properly think about a decision like this?

The three examples I see are some variation on:

a) Don't think about it

b) Proclaim that "better safe than sorry" is the only answer.

c) Keep your mouth shut because you don't fall into either of the former categories and realize that there's no upside to getting involved.

I agree that it is a tricky decision to make. Considering that the data recorders of the most recent crash are in hand and not at the bottom of the ocean somewhere unknown I think that we should probably wait a few days for some preliminary analysis. If they were lost in the ocean somewhere I'd be more supportive of the calls to ground the aircraft.

The temptation is to assume that the most recent crash was caused by the "new MCAS failure mode" that doomed the previous flight. That issue was caused by a lack of training and pilot understanding of the potential for that failure mode (because Boeing didn't want to force airlines to re-train pilots). What's the chance that a 3rd plane will crash now that every pilot not living under a rock is aware of the new failure mode? If the new MCAS behavior is what's causing the crashes then the chances should be very low. Maybe not as low as with proper retraining but still tons lower than before the first crash.

If I were smart I'd have picked option C.

FAA is just putting itself in a very weird situation. They shouldn't be one of the last aviation to follow.

If they give up now just because of pressure, everyone will panic. If they don't give up, but something happens, everyone will blame them. If they don't give up and nothing happens, they still blame them because unlike others they've accepted the risk.

It would be no harm for Boeing considering their safety records and reputation to accept and admit there might be a very low chance of a technical issue. I don't get why don't want to play safe.

Somewhere else I saw posted "two's a coincidence, three's a pattern." Right now we're at two.

I'll be genuinely curious to see what results from the investigation -- if this turns out to be a knee-jerk reactions from politicians wanting to look good (when it really is a coincidence), or if this will turn out to truly have been a failure of the FAA's safety processes, and the US will appear negligent for not also banning.

The results of the investigation can't color the decision on whether or not to ground these planes today. Painting this as a knee-jerk reaction if grounding these planes is wrong and negligent if grounding the planes is right is crazy.

When each instance costs over a hundred lives, you can't afford to wait to establish the pattern for sure. Better to be cautious. The vast majority of planes flying these routes aren't yet the 737 MAX.

Very well could end up being a “Toyota unintended acceleration” type event. Being that it is a newer model operator error is just as plausible as a design or mechanical flaw.


> For the past several months and in the aftermath of Lion Air Flight 610, Boeing has been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX, designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer. This includes updates to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight control law, pilot displays, operation 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.

That they're pushing a software patch for this would seem to indicate there's something in the actual plane worth fixing.

It could also be interpreted as changing the plane because the pilot is harder to fix. Sometimes you have to accept that the user is going to do things their way, and adjust the software to match that expectation.

They purposely minimized the differences so it wouldn't require a new type certification, which saves airlines money and thus makes the plane a more appealing proposition.

It does seem to be partly operator error, and that operator error is Boeing's fault because they did things in a way that maximized the chance of it occurring.

My understanding is that the MCAS was required by the FAA for certification.

The issue is that Boeing added a software layer to make the plane behave like the old 737, so pilots would be able to fly it without any extra training or additional certifications.

If it turns out that the pilots actually need some training to reliably fly the 737 MAX, there could be some nasty consequences for Boeing.

Everyone is quick to assume an MCAS malfunction for the Ethiopian Air crash but eyewitnesses reported smoke and flames coming from the plane, which seems to indicate something else.


> At an airshow in 1952, a supersonic fighter disintegrated in the air causing the death of both crew and 29 spectators (Staff, 1952). Over 100,000 people witnessed the accident. A public appeal was put out for witness accounts and photographs to help solve the mystery, resulting in several thousand letters being collected. Rivas and Bullen (2008) found “many of the accounts are touchingly detailed and well intentioned, but the whole of the vast mail was of little use” (p. 186). The vital clue that led to determination of probable cause was supplied by a cine film. The in-flight breakup happened in less than a second, and almost all the eyewitnesses, including experienced pilots, gave grossly inaccurate accounts when compared to the film record.

There are always witnesses to plane crashes who will tell you it was on fire, whether true or not. The safest assumption is that we have no idea what happened but we trust in the NTSB to be quick with their recommendations.

Not necessarily, IIRC, with a stalled airplane the engines can surge, which pretty much look like a plane on fire from the ground.

I'm not 100% certain however, if someone can say if I'm wrong or not, he is welcome ^^.

I am a fan of the Mayday(Air Crash Investigation) tv series, you can always find eyewitnesses report smoke and fire in any air cash despite the real cause.

I really really hope we never get to three crashes.

Germany also banned them. Source: https://www.deutschlandfunk.de/

Hope more of Europe follows

Agree or disagree they all have to do it now. Because it is happening in many countries and no country will take the risk anymore even if it is very low risk. Peer pressure!

Seems like it happened now

The first few times scrolling up and down the page I missed this article out because my brain has been trained to automatically filter out "UK bans X" as non-news.

I sure hope this second crash turns out to be related to the new MCAS behavior or a lot of people are going to have some explaining to do.

"We prefer to exercise an abundance of caution when hundreds or thousands of lives are at stake" is a short, easy, and accurate explanation.

Will Airlines just move these to US domestic routes? FAA will never ground them. Too big of an employer.

The FAA seems to be rapidly bleeding international reputation. Their loyalty to Boeing shareholders seems even stronger than I cynically expected.

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