Actually Boeing sent out a memo to the pilots of the MAX after Lion Air crash explaining what may have caused it and what to do. Here is basically what is happening. Upon climb out the pilot will engage the autopilot with it in NAV mode. At this time flaps are still extended for climb out and the aircraft maintains the climb as indicated on the FMS to the assigned altitude. Once the flaps are fully retracted the MCAS engages. At this point the MCAS looks at several things but one being the Vertical Pitch Indicator to either adjust the trim up or down as needed for climb or possibly level flight if needed at this point. The Vertical Pitch Indicator is reading on some MAX 8's 10-20 degrees higher than what the aircraft actually is pitched at. This engages the MCAS to lower the Trim to level the aircraft as needed. Well at this point the plane over pitches nose down because the Vertical Pitch Indicator is saying the plane is pitched up, which it is not. The pilot then will use the Trim on the yoke to trim up also pull back on the yoke and both the MCAS and the pilot are fighting to keep the plane level. Once the pilot stops with the trim adjustment the MCAS goes to full trim down due to adjust for the 10-20 degree increase in the Vertical PItch Indicator it was getting, which is incorrect. At this point the aircraft is sadly most likely in downward angle and unable to recover from it. Boeing did say in a memo what could be done to help stop this during flight. The pilot's can manually override all autopilot functions including MCAS, either first or at that point put the Flaps extended one notch to disengage the MCAS.
However, the incident of B737 diving into the ground has been observed before, eg: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flydubai_Flight_981 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatarstan_Airlines_Flight_363 , on aircraft not equipped with MCAS. In those cases a possibility of a mechanical malfunction of elevator controls has been raised (but not confirmed) as a possible cause of the crashes.
(You can see a video of this procedure from a few years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pPRuFHR1co&t=154)
Although, truth be told, I imagine every 737 pilot is keenly aware of that button's location now...
I mean, if a plane crashes, doesn't every pilot in the world inquire about what caused it? I wouldn't think that would escape a single pilot. Or do I have it wrong? Do they not perceive crashes the same way the general public does?
Knowing that some new mechanism exists that can mess your flight doesn’t necessarily help much:
The truth is that the plane even with that new device turned off behaves differently than the plane for which you trained!
The cause is Boeing’s lie that it’s “just more efficient old plane” when in fact it is a new plane with different and worse flying behavior. The device was implement to hide that fact.
So even if you as a pilot know about it, until you diagnose it and turn it off the plane can already be in the almost unrecoverable state. But once you turn the device off you‘re supposed to save the plane for which you weren‘t trained and in the alteady hard-to-save state!
Perhaps so, but with alarms blaring and potentially misleading data on the flight displays and the aircraft bucking around near the terrain at 400 knots... Things might be difficult to put into context.
That tends to mean a lot of issues re-occur multiple times before they're resolved.
Of course, it didn't help if Boeing blamed the pilots (if it was true?). This would imply to other pilots that everything is ok with the planes.
Ground a few planes, and the extra car journeys caused by people choosing to drive due to disruption to their travel plans easily causes more deaths.
Humans are particularly bad at handling unlikely events (such as the risk of a plane crash), and in those cases, their 'gut reaction' frequently is the wrong one.
If my cars engine has issues, I can pull over. If a plane's engine has issues, there's a good chance its going to kill everyone on board
A 'plane with a bunch of faults' could range from a non-issue to an imminent crash, a typical journey by car tends to do what it is supposed to do, it is the 'exceptional journeys by car' that are the problematic ones.
Air travel is safer statistically because most planes do not have 'a bunch of faults', when you start out with faulty planes the stats will rapidly turn against you.
> Following the [lion air] crash, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency directive warning that faulty AOA data could trigger a dive, and requiring pilots be made aware of a "runaway stabiliser" checklist.
I meant it more as in I don't know how these things propagate internationally. I couldn't find a mention if the European EASA also put out a notice, or if the FAA one gets distributed worldwide (directly to pilots? airlines? via local regulators?), or how it works. You say they get notices from the FAA since they fly to the US, does that mean e.g. all airlines that fly to Japan also get Japan air safety notices? The Japan regulator wouldn't put out their own notice on the 737?
I'm honestly trying to understand how the notices get categorized, prioritized, "deduplicated" and distributed to everyone who needs to know without overwhelming pilots with unrelated stuff.
> I'm honestly trying to understand how the notices get categorized, prioritized, "deduplicated" and distributed to everyone who needs to know without overwhelming pilots with unrelated stuff.
Any international organization that has to abide by laws/regulations in different jurisdictions has to be competent at this. There will be bureaucrats and infrastructure to deal with the bureaucracy: country reps, lawyers, former pilots, endless mailing lists, etc.
So now you have an aeroplane with its flaps ripped off, perhaps asymmetrically for additional control challenges. Next step?
Though I also have to agree, as soon as this sensor's input became crucial to determining operational boundary conditions, the system needed some rather stringent hardening. It's a bit like leaving your auto-scaling load balancing infrastructure exposed and getting upset at your AWS bill the first time someone DDoS's it to inflate your hosting footprint.
Norwegian Air was the first out of the gate with compensation demands on Boeing. They've recently been in a perilous financial condition, so I'm sure this situation is hurting them more than some.
Boeing or their insurer/s will eat a large payout to victims and I'd expect a bunch of airlines to receive some manner of compensation for the mass groundings.
They can afford it. $9.5 billion in cash and $11.8 billion in operating income the last four quarters.
It's really the reputation damage that hurts a lot more than the direct liability. That damage can last a decade or more and spur long-term erosion (lost sales also obviously hit the service business, which Boeing has worked to expand). They've seen their market value go from ~$80 billion to a recent high of ~$250 billion over just 30 months. That puts them among the elite global corporate giants in valuation. That's based on the way they've been outperforming Airbus the last few years and the improvements in their business that took profitability from $5b to $10b+ per year. Especially with China's state-made 737 competitor inbound, now is a very bad time to be screwing up in that segment. China would love nothing more than to use an opportunity like this to replace Boeing and launch their competing Comac C919 into the market (set to go on sale soon). China can effectively throw a state switch and force all domestic airlines to buy the C919 when it becomes available; the mess with the 737 just makes it that much easier to justify.
Meanwhile the Russians, who have significantly more experience with airliners, released the SSJ-100 to fairly positive reviews. Unfortunately the after sales support was trash and airlines struggled to keep it flying. Selling a competitive airplane is far more than just the plane itself. There's no way Airbus or Boeing see Comac as a threat.
The real threat was Bombardier. Their C-series was an extremely competitive offering and Bombardier has the support infrastructure in place to sell it. Both Swiss and airBaltic seem to love it. Of course, Airbus bought a majority stake in the program.
The question came up of why not drop from 4 engines to 2 (on the A380)? Someone answered that as soon as you change the engines you have to redesign the wing. As soon as you do that you have to redesign the fuselage. At that point you may as well just design a brand new plane.
So, my understanding of the 737 Max design is essentially that Boeing recycled the aging 737 design by putting more powerful engines on it. To make this work, they had to move the engines (and maybe the wings) forward? Is that right?
So the MCAS system seems, at least to me, designed to compensate for an engine, wing and frame configuration that was never designed for.
Add to that that Boeing _seems_ to have cut corners here and given what I think is called a common rating to the 737 Max (with existing 737 models) and not really educating pilots on what MCAS is, why its necessary, when it might kick in and how to override that if the plane is behaving incorrectly.
So, complete non-pilot and non-aeronautical engineer that I am, that seems... bad.
What's more, Boeing's reaction to the two crashes seems woefully tone deaf. Two crashes of new aircraft within 6 months of each other in perfect weather... caution would seem to dictate to ground them. I mean they grounded early 787s when they found an issue causing batteries to catch fire. What's different now and then? That issue I don't believe led to any total loss of the aircraft and those board, not even once let alone twice.
Add to that that the AOA sensor (from what I've read) doesn't have any redundancy and it just seems like a bad time is inevitable.
Could Boeing really have cut corners in this way? If so, that seems woefully shortsighted.
It’s insane. There must be some despondent folks at the FAA right now. Years of trust squandered.
Can you imagine the real workers, now some idiot Trump named to be deputy director and currently is the acting FAA director wiped out so much of their work... oh dear.
Even if they had been 100% sure the plane is sound, just to keep the larger status quo they should've acted in accordance with the EASA.
Everyone was trying their hardest and did their best, everything was built to spec but there were organisational and communication problems. The message that the dreaded O-rings weren't good for a cold weather launch was not heard or understood. No malice was involved but, when you have a schedule and deadlines with lots of large organisation hubris these things happen.
In only the broadest strokes is the current Boeing situation analogous to the sad fate of the Space Shuttle, however, just because a lot of testing has gone on and just because there is a lot of regulation does not mean that the layman appreciation of the situation is wrong. The layman understanding can be big picture rather than bogged down by intricacy of details.
Making decisions based on fear is a fools errand. It is how you spend trillions of dollars waging wars combating terrorism when the risk of a terror related death is the US is lower than getting struck by lightening.
The second space shuttle crash was the same problem again. Falling chunks of ice and foam. Since nothing major had happened previously, it was assumed everything would be fine.
These failure and problems were the warning signs that something was wrong. There was no design spec for acceptable o-ring burn through or a leading edge heat shield damage threshold spec.
I bet we will find that Boeing and the FAA talked themselves into believing that
Seems like not everything was built to spec
I also have noticed that everyone seems to want to pile on Boeing, as if all these other factors don't exist and Boeing is the one employing, training and supervising the pilots and maintenance people.
While this is supposed to be a site for hackers, I would somewhat expect that an engineering problem, which this largely is, would be dealt with like an engineering problem. But the commentary on this issue seems to largely be driven by emotional responses. Noone is considering the potential and now actual impact of grounding aircraft. Grounding aircraft may actually cost more lives than letting them fly, because of the higher mortality rate for other modes of transportation.
In the case of the Ethiopian crash we know very little about what actually happened, what we do know not only looks similar to the Lion Air crash, but also looks similar to the last Ethiopian crash, which did not involve a 737 MAX aircraft at all.
Many people also criticize Boeing's reaction without realizing that there is a lot of money riding on exactly what they say and do. No they will not ground a while aircraft type just because two crashed, especially when there is no official data to go on for the second crash. They will be very reluctant to admit fault, since every time they admit something is wrong customers demand money and people sue.
The way it happened with the FAA making the call its less on Boeing to compensate airlines for the inactivity of their aircraft. Which is not what Boeing wants, but is less shitty.
I think the focus was on the engines being more efficient, not more powerful. See for example the wiki page 
"In summer of 2011, the objective was to match the A320neo 15% fuel burn advantage, but the initial reduction was 10–12%; it was later enhanced to 14.5%: the fan was widened from 61 inches to 69.4 inches by raising the nose gear and placing the engine higher and forward, the split winglet added 1–1.5%, a relofted tail cone 1% more and electronically controlling the bleed air system improves efficiency."
So if we're both right, responsibilities should be cleared. IMO the person/team that didn't prepare for sensor redundancy should be even criminally liable, and the authorities that were calling for not grounding the plane yet, should be dismissed, for complete disrespect to cautionary safety.
Just a quick Google there. Do note that the intent behind most NTSB reports being inadmissible in a trial is to secure cooperation from all parties in order to get an accurate representation of the problem that caused the disaster in the first place.
That's not to say lawsuits or criminal charges won't happen, but those proceedings will not be able to use NTSB investigatory results to make their case. They will have to independently prove their case through other means.
NTSB is not in the blame and punish game, and any civil case against Boeing will have a he'll of a time. Never mind that a criminal case will still be required to be levied against an individual at the company, and would have to prove criminal intent.
There will not likely be a terribly satisfying legal remedy to this. Taking VW and the financial industry as a starting point for successful pushback against industry, I'm not expecting a terribly satisfying legal conclusion on this one. There will probably be a review of corporate culture, maybe some extra scrutiny for Boeing for a while, some token legislation, and maybe a charity fund for victims.
Least that's what my magic 8 ball expects.
Of course, we could just ground every plane when another plane of that type crashes, and be "100% certain" of no repeats.
No, it is what you normally find in laws. Doctors who perform poorly at their job are liable. Engineers who disregard basic safety measures established for decades (such as sensor redundancy) should be too (or the managers that approved the cost cut to not include redundancy).
The concept of a variant of an existing plane model should not be the focus of concern IMO.
A normal flight (https://flightaware.com/live/flight/QFA804) goes up smoothly. This one very much does not, and the patterns shown bear a resemblance to a layman like me to the published flight patterns of the Lion Air flight.
Note the very steep climb on this flight also. Who knows what that means.
People who know way more than I do, please step in!
The actual time to reach 6 km was around 6.5 minutes in the "typical flight" and around 5 minutes in the "test flight", as can be seen by scaling both graphs to the same proportions. (I've done it quickly with Paint here: https://i.imgur.com/IZyYoCl.png)
Is that 1.5 minute difference really that high? Honest question, I really don't know anything about this topic.
EDIT: Sorry, this should have been a reply to @rkagerer's comment.
But no doubt they would be flight testing the reputed MCAS changes at this time so it’s a reasonable guess.
I'm just... gonna go back to my office job, I think.
WHY has not Boeing turned every single aircraft of theirs into a drone-capable device?
They should have a person, like we have with air traffic control, sitting monitoring all planes in flight, but that person is sitting in a pit on the ground.
They have to monitor X number of craft - and in the event of any anomolous data.... be ready to take over control of the machine in the air.
Imagine if all pilots had a life sensor on them, and should they fail - control of the craft auto switches to ground control.
We can already kill millions of people with dron pilots in nevada. Why not make drone pilots fly airliners.
Heck, in a few years - you just need a few technicians in the cock pit to be sure there are not physical issues - and let the ground pilots do all the work - but the air pilots can take over if the ground connection is lost...
1. Lack of low-latency communication. The Ethiopian Airlines crash flight occurred when flightradar24 couldn’t see the plane. Two-way communication is even harder than just receiving transponder signals.
2. How, exactly, is a random Boeing employee going to help? They’re thrown into a situation in which sensors are faulty and they can’t see out the windshield.
It is very rare for crashes to occur because the pilots both become incapacitated. I do remember a crash that occurred because the pilots allowed the cabin to become depressurized and failed to diagnose the problem. Eventually everyone, including the pilots, fell unconscious and the plane circled on autopilot until it ran out of fuel.
With planes you could argue that the additional complexity of implementing something like this would be a safety liability in itself. It's not 100% clear what problem it would solve. On the other hand, plenty of people would pay to not have to do the driving themselves.
Pay disabled people to GTA 5 you home....
(aside: japanese cafes are employing disabled-driven robots....)
“Data released by the Sweden-based service suggested the aircraft had climbed almost 1,000 feet after taking off from Addis Ababa, a hot and high-altitude airport whose thinner air requires extra effort from an aircraft's engines.”
Reduced air density just means the engines don't produce as much power and the wings don't generate as much lift; a double-whammy of lower available engine thrust and greater speed required for the same takeoff roll.
I don't think it is anymore - not with noise abatement rules. You can take off in X meters with 100% throttle, or 2X with 80% - but the runway is 4X meters, so you takeoff with reduced throttle to make things quieter for the neighbors.
(not that any of this confirms that the MAX has issues or this is what they were actually testing)
Canada's two largest carriers, Air Canada and Westjet, have a combined 37 Max 8s in their fleets, so I'm sure this wasn't a position Garneau took likely.
Not disputing your point, or even criticising his actions (I don't know enough about the situation to do so, aside from having a stake by being booked on an affected flight). Just filling in a bit more of the story.
I don’t understand this ridiculous burden we place on our politicians. Why can’t they change their opinion on things when new facts come to light? I am not saying changing principles but opinions.
Like someone asked “I see new facts and change my opinion. What do you do?”
But two brand new planes falling out of the sky for no obvious apparent reason? I'd have expected him to be a bit more cautious in his response.
Isn't this just classic Gell-Mann amnesia? All HN threads are like this. (Probably all threads everywhere on the internet are like this.)
The next time you read a thread on [to skim the current front page] Facebook data, consensus protocols, Google hardware, facial recognition, death metal, or the British coastline...before reading the comments remind yourself
"this is just another opportunity for HN 'experts' to pontificate about [X] using mostly incorrect armchair analysis"
Yesterday it was just an overload because we must have had a half dozen 737MAX threads in the previous 24 hours. And the quality of the commentary was going down, not up, as time went on.
Totally agree with your advice to keep in mind that this applies to all topics. A little part of me keeps whispering that I should avoid looking at the comments altogether. I rationalize that on HN I am getting good quality commentary and the first few contrary arguments will help me see the article/news/whatever in an objective light, but then I totally get sucked in.
My favorite-thing about the Gell-Mann amnesia effect is that the coiner of the term himself, in the very speech where he coined the term, fell victim to that effect.
To Michael Crichton's great credit, in the 2002 talk where he defines the term, he gives us an extremely specific, testable hypothesis we can use to evaluate his idea.
He says that the "effect" is as follows: it is not worth your time to read the newspaper and all newspaper stories which contain any kind of "speculation" or "predicting" have no predictive value.
The example he chooses is the 2002 United States steel tariffs. Most mainstream newspapers he reads have quoted experts whose consensus is that the then-contemporary 2002 tariffs will negatively affect GDP. His hypothesis is as follows: we will find in retrospect that these predictions were useless and US GDP will not clearly be damaged by the 2002 tariffs.
Was he right? Well... Years later, there is consensus among experts that US GDP was in fact negatively affected by 2002 steel tariffs (links to sources at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_United_States_steel_tarif... ).
Driven to attack the idea of trusting any experts who predict the future, Crichton's key example was readily disproven.
I have often re-read Crichton's talk and have found myself wanting to project extra layers of meaning on top of his ideas; I find myself arguing on his behalf to try to change what he is saying to make it "more true". The words he uses are carefully chosen and seem like they add up to an interesting idea.
It is true that people seem to believe information without factual basis when it's presented in the "news" format; it's also true that people seem to believe opinions they already agree with when presented to them in any format; and it is certainly true that people asked to make predictions with incomplete information sometimes guess wrong, yet their "best guess" predictions are sometimes presented without robust explanations of the uncertainty and what it means.
All that is true. But it doesn't change the fact that the "Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect" was introduced by saying that the untrustworthy lamestream media needs to stop yammering already about those steel tariffs hurting GDP, which there is no way they could predict. (It appears the media was right on that one.) Worse than relying on anecdata, though, his talk does not propose a robust way of actually measuring whether media predictions are accurate -- he doesn't even try to measure that, let alone present results.
(I have giggled at this before - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18005236 )
To me, "no predictive value" is consistent with sometimes being right, possibly by chance. It means being wrong enough that you can't assume either positive or negative correlation with the truth. It's easy to hide statements which are true and should be obvious in a sea of confusing nonsense.
Obviously the black box data will be more granular, but this "preview" is pretty useful. I remember some initial articles referring to witnesses who claimed seeing  "smoke and debris", which would imply a different situation than the Lion Air flight.
"Planes like the Boeing 737 oscillate naturally, he said, because of turbulence and and other effects. But those swings have different time spans: either between five and eight seconds, or a minute or longer. The variations in the intermediate range of 15 or so seconds have no other obvious explanation, he said."
Both planes porpoised with periods of~20 seconds during their flight.
On March 13, 2019, the investigation of the ET302 crash developed new information from the wreckage concerning the aircraft's configuration just after takeoff that, taken together with newly refined data from satellite-based tracking of the aircraft's flight path, indicates some similarities between the ET302 and JT610 accidents that warrant further investigation of the possibility of a shared cause for the two incidents that needs to be better understood and addressed. Accordingly, the Acting Administrator is ordering all Boeing 737 MAX airplanes to be grounded pending further investigation.
I’m curious about “the wreckage concerning the aircraft's configuration just after takeoff“ part as that’s the first I’ve heard about aircraft configuration having been recovered from the crash site. Maybe something about the horizontal stabilizer positon when the crash occurred?
One thing to note is that this flight is very similar to the previous Ethiopian crash.