Monday, March 11, 2019

Ethiopian Airlines, Boeing 737-8 MAX, ET-AVJ: Fatal accident occurred March 10, 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

NTSB Identification: DCA19RA101 
14 CFR Non-U.S., Commercial
Accident occurred Sunday, March 10, 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Aircraft: BOEING 737, registration:
Injuries: 157 Fatal.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

The government of Ethiopia has notified the NTSB of an accident involving a BOEING 737 that occurred on March 10, 2019. The NTSB has appointed a U.S. Accredited Representative to assist the government of Ethiopia's investigation under the provisions of ICAO Annex 13 as the State of Manufacturer of the airplane.


United States, Ethiopian Investigators Tussle Over 737 MAX Crash Probe

Tension over access to and interpretation of data comes ahead of a preliminary report on what happened to the Boeing plane

By Andy Pasztor and Gabriele Steinhauser
March 31, 2019 7:09 p.m. ET

Tension is simmering between U.S. and Ethiopian officials as investigators prepare to release in the coming days an interim report about the Boeing Co. 737 MAX jetliner that nose-dived after takeoff from Addis Ababa on March 10, according to people from both countries.

U.S. investigators, according to people familiar with their thinking, have privately complained that Ethiopian authorities have been slow to provide data retrieved from the black-box recorders of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which went down minutes into a flight to Nairobi, killing all 157 people on board.

American air-safety officials also have described what they view as an aloof attitude among the Ethiopians toward other investigators and say the Ethiopians have provided often limited access to relevant crash information, these people said.

A spokesman for the Ethiopian transport minister didn’t respond to requests for comment Sunday. Ethiopians involved in the probe, for their part, have chafed at what they see as American efforts to exert control over the preliminary report, according to other people familiar with the investigation.

The behind-the-scenes maneuvering, according to people from both countries, has impeded but not prevented the international investigators from working together.

The preliminary crash report, according to people briefed on the details, is expected to say that data analyzed so far indicates the Ethiopian accident bears important similarities to the crash of a Lion Air 737 MAX plane that went down in Indonesia less than five months earlier, including activation of an automated stall-prevention system and related features.

Boeing is in the process of rolling out a software fix and enhanced training related to the automated feature, called MCAS.

Publicly, U.S. officials have expressed satisfaction with the sharing of information. Last Wednesday, Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is leading U.S. participation in the probe, told a Senate subcommittee his experts have gotten the data they need.

On Sunday, a Boeing spokesman said: “We have great respect for the Ethiopian government. As a party to the investigation, we’re following all international protocols and conduct all our work through” the U.S. safety board.

From the outset, though, Ethiopian officials have kept tight control of the probe, carefully guarding the recorder data and pushing back at what they view as efforts by Boeing investigators to influence and speed up release of the preliminary report on the crash, according to people familiar with the matter. 

The Boeing spokesman said it was “absolutely not true” that the company’s investigators are trying to influence or speed up the preliminary report.

Safety experts have also tussled over the interpretation of certain data and their presentation in the report, according to people from both countries.

Ethiopian officials asked the French aviation accident investigation bureau BEA, which downloaded data from the black boxes, to permanently delete that information from its servers once it had been transmitted to Ethiopian authorities. The BEA has confirmed complying with the request.

Frequently, probes of airline crashes that occur outside the U.S. in which American investigators play a role prompt friction and outright disagreements between U.S. government and industry experts and local investigators leading the probes.

In the case of Ethiopia, the tension is exacerbated by the country’s limited staff and experience investigating major airliner crashes, according to industry and safety experts tracking the probe.

Officials in Addis Ababa, for their part, are still smarting from the results of an investigation into the deadly 2010 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane shortly after takeoff from Beirut. That probe, led by Lebanese authorities, found that the airline’s pilots failed to respond adequately to stormy weather during the aircraft’s ascent. Ethiopia at the time disagreed with the findings of the investigation, attributing the crash to bad weather.

“With this investigation, we are the ones who are in charge,” the chief of Ethiopia’s civil aviation authority, Col. Wosenyeleh Hunegnaw, said in a March 20 interview.

Another potential point of friction, according to some people familiar with the details, is the role played by experts from state-owned Ethiopian Airlines, which also faces scrutiny in the probe. The airline’s engineers have been providing technical support to officials from Ethiopia’s transport ministry.

Original article can be found here ➤ https://www.wsj.com

Captain Yared Getachew, a veteran with 8,000 flight hours, fought to climb and correct the Boeing jet’s glide path.


First Officer Ahmednur Mohamed, seen here on his brother’s phone, radioed the control tower to report a ‘flight-control problem.’


The Final Minutes of Ethiopian Airlines’ Doomed Boeing 737 MAX

New details paint a picture of a catastrophic failure that quickly overwhelmed the flight crew

The Wall Street Journal 
By Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Yonathan Menkir Kassa
March 29, 2019 12:18 p.m. ET

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia—It took less than six minutes to deepen one of the gravest crises in the history of Boeing Co.

At 8:37 a.m. on March 10, Captain Yared Getachew and First Officer Ahmed Nur Mohammed were accelerating an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX along runway 07R of Addis Ababa’s highland airport.

The flight conditions were perfect—warm and cloudless—at 8:38 as the jet lifted above the hills to commence the one hour and 40 minute shuttle to Nairobi.

Something almost immediately went wrong. At 8:39, as the jet reached an altitude of 8,100 feet above sea level, just 450 feet above ground, its nose began to pitch down.

Mr. Mohammed radioed the control tower, his crackling voice reporting a “flight-control problem.” The tower operators asked for details as Mr. Getachew, a veteran with 8,000 flight hours, fought to climb and correct the glide path. By 8:40, the oscillation became a wild bounce, then a dive.

“Pitch up, pitch up!” one pilot said to the other, as the Boeing jet accelerated toward the ground. The radio went dead.

At 8:44, the airliner crashed into a field just 30 miles from the runway. All 157 people on board were killed instantly.

This reconstruction of the final moments of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302, described in new detail by people close to the crash investigation, airline executives and pilots, paints a picture of a catastrophic failure that quickly overwhelmed the flight crew.

It appears to support a preliminary conclusion reached by Ethiopian officials and international investigators, who believe an automated flight-control feature activated before the plane nose-dived into the ground, according to people familiar with the matter.

This emerging consensus—relayed during a high-level briefing at the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday and reported soon after by The Wall Street Journal—represents the first findings based on data retrieved from the flight’s black boxes. It is the strongest indication yet that Boeing’s misfiring system was at the heart of both the Ethiopian Airlines crash earlier this month and a Lion Air flight in Indonesia, which crashed less than five months earlier. Both doomed jets were Boeing 737 MAXs. The two disasters claimed 346 lives. A report from Ethiopian authorities is expected within days.

The Justice Department and other U.S. federal agencies are investigating whether Boeing provided incomplete or misleading information to regulators and airline customers about the 737 MAX aircraft to get the jetliner certified as safe to fly. The focus on disclosures is part of a broader investigation into how the plane was developed and certified.

Pilots flying the 737 MAX around the world were alerted to the stall-prevention system only after the Lion Air crash, and saw almost no mention of it in manuals, according to the pilots and industry officials. Most didn’t have visible cockpit warnings that would have alerted pilots to a malfunctioning sensor, and they had no access to simulators that could replicate the kinds of problems that doomed Lion Air Flight 610.

In that crash, the stall-prevention system, based on erroneous sensor information, repeatedly pushed the plane’s nose down and, according to a preliminary report, the pilot battled the flight controls while facing a cacophony of alarms before losing control and plunging into the Java Sea, killing all 189 people on board.

Boeing said it is updating the MCAS software and making safety alerts that had been optional a standard feature. The fix has been undergoing flight trials since Feb. 7, Boeing said, before the Ethiopian airliner crashed.

Ethiopian Airlines—Africa’s largest carrier—is fighting to defend its record. Across this vast nation of 105 million people, the state-owned airline has in recent years become emblematic of, and indispensable to, Ethiopia’s ascent from one of the world’s poorest countries to a regional powerhouse. The closely linked fates of carrier and country are now under the spotlight, raising the stakes for the airline to effectively manage the fallout of the accident.

Minutes after the plane crashed, Ethiopian Airlines’ chief executive officer felt a buzz in his pocket. Tewolde Gebremariam was attending Sunday service with his family at the Medhane-Alem Cathedral close to the airport when his phone rang.

It was the number for the airport’s “collaborative decision-making system,” a task force of airline, air-traffic control and airport officials who work together to ensure flight traffic is managed efficiently.

“We’ve lost ET302 from the radar,” the voice on the other end of the line said in Amharic, Ethiopia’s national language.

By the time Mr. Gebremariam reached the airport, it was becoming clear the plane had crashed.

“Right there, immediately,” Mr. Gebremariam thought of the Lion Air crash, he said in an interview. “The similarities were very striking. The impact, both were brand-new airplanes, both were MAX, and [they both crashed] in a short time, quickly after takeoff.”

As two air force helicopters prepared to lift off to search for ET302, pilots on the airport runway were getting restless.

Lazarus Kuol was in line for departure, preparing to take off on his single-engine turboprop aircraft on a medevac flight to the southwestern city of Jinka. He was due to collect two Chinese patients and bring them back to Addis Ababa for treatment.

The waiting pilots, listening to the control tower’s shared frequency, heard the operators discuss an emergency and order all aircraft to remain grounded, while two incoming planes were told to delay landing. The tower had lost contact with ET302. Maybe it was a communication problem, Mr. Kuol thought, or maybe they made an emergency landing on the flat farmlands southeast of the capital.

The minutes passed with no word from the missing aircraft or the search-and-rescue mission, and Mr. Kuol began to fear the worst.

He was given clearance to take off at 9:50, the second aircraft to depart Bole International Airport after ET302 went missing, and began to listen to the exchange between two radio frequencies, “Addis Center,” the main control-tower, and “Harar Meda,” the air force base.

“We can’t see it in the lowland,” said one of the two air force helicopter pilots dispatched to search for ET302. “We’ll climb on the highlands to look.”

In fact, the helicopters were circling over the crash site without realizing. The dive had been so fast and so steep that the aircraft had bored a crater into the ground and fractured into thousands of pieces. It was hardly visible from air.

“When I went to the site, the plane was completely below ground,” said Mr. Gebremariam, the CEO. He took off in another helicopter as soon as the crash site had been identified. “At that time, we knew there were no survivors.”

He notified the country’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, who first tweeted about the crash in Amharic at 10:48 a.m. local, just over two hours after the doomed flight had taken off.

At 10:50 a.m., the news broke abruptly into the quiet Sunday mornings of the families of the 157 on board, and the rest of the world.

“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 regular scheduled flight to Nairobi, Kenya this morning,” a tweet from his official account said.

Original article can be found here ➤ https://www.wsj.com

Ethiopian Airlines Chief Executive Tewolde Gebremariam said he immediately thought of the previous Lion Air crash after his airline’s jet went down. 


Boeing Company needed the redesign of its crucial 737 jetliner to go swiftly and smoothly, so it pursued a path that reduced regulatory scrutiny and accommodated its biggest customer by requiring as little new training for pilots as possible.

Many pilots now say Boeing’s choices for the 737 MAX left them in the dark about a new feature whose malfunctioning has been implicated in one deadly crash and is under scrutiny for a possible role in a second—disasters that claimed 346 lives.

Pilots flying the 737 MAX, which entered service in 2017, received no training on a new stall-prevention system and saw almost no mention of it in manuals, according to the pilots and industry officials. Most would get no visible cockpit warnings when a sensor used to trigger the system malfunctioned, and they had no access to simulators that could replicate the kinds of problems believed to have downed Lion Air Flight 610 in October.

Following the second crash, in Ethiopia this month, a picture is emerging that suggests Boeing, as it hurried to get the plane on the market, put too much faith in its design and engineering, particularly of the automated stall-prevention system that was supposed to make the plane safer, according to interviews with safety experts, industry officials, former Boeing employees and former regulators.

Many questions remain about Boeing’s handling of the redesign and what went wrong. The Justice Department and other federal agencies are investigating whether Boeing provided incomplete or misleading information to get the airliner certified as safe to fly.

Ethiopian investigators have yet to detail their preliminary findings, although authorities have cited similarities between both crashes. Ethiopian Airlines’ chief executive has said the stall-prevention system, called MCAS, appears to have played a role.

The first of what is expected to be a series of congressional hearings looking at the decisions of both Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration began on Wednesday.

Boeing has said it would overhaul the flight-control system and make safety alerts that had been optional a standard feature. The fix has been undergoing flight trials since Feb. 7, Boeing said, before the Ethiopian airliner crashed.

A Boeing official said Wednesday the software change didn’t mean the original MCAS design was inadequate, but that the company “found a way to make it more robust.” He also said Boeing was conducting reviews of other MAX flight-control systems but hadn’t uncovered any potential problems.

There are indications that Boeing was aware that some 737 MAX models in the air lacked all the possible safety features available.

On Nov. 27, about a month after the first crash, Boeing executive Mike Sinnett told American Airlines ’ pilot union that their pilots wouldn’t experience the sort of problems that doomed the Lion Air flight, according to Dan Carey, union president. That's because American paid for an additional cockpit warning light that would have alerted them to the problem, while Lion Air and most other airlines didn’t.

Cockpit indicators

“This wouldn’t have happened to you guys,” Mr. Carey recalled Mr. Sinnett saying during the meeting. The cockpit indicators would have directed pilots to have the potential problem checked out on the ground. A Boeing spokesman said Mr. Sinnett didn’t recall making that statement, and was unavailable for an interview.

The Boeing spokesman said the company followed “established and accepted assumptions and processes” in designing and certifying the new stall-prevention system. He said Boeing “determined that a pilot would be able to counteract erroneous system input” by following established procedures for which pilots have received training previously.

Boeing said the FAA considered the system’s final design during its certification of the aircraft and concluded that it met all regulatory requirements.

One senior Boeing official said the company had decided against disclosing details about the system that it felt would inundate the average pilot with too much information—and significantly more technical data—than he or she needed or could realistically digest.

Troubled Jet

Boeing’s 737 MAX jetliner entered service in 2017.

It is Boeing’s biggest crisis in years. The 737 has been the centerpiece of Boeing’s business for decades, and the MAX was intended to carry that on. Now the entire 737 MAX fleet is grounded. Industry executives and former regulators say it could take years for the company to rebuild trust among airlines, pilots and foreign regulators. The fallout could affect the way the FAA monitors the development and approval of new aircraft essential for airlines to meet soaring global demand for air travel.

Boeing needed the MAX to offer a fuel-efficient option for customers to avoid losing market share to chief rival Airbus SE . Boeing didn’t even wait for its board of directors to approve the design before offering it to American Airlines, which was on the cusp of buying planes from Airbus. Boeing’s board didn’t formally sign off on the MAX until a month later.

“Design, development and certification was consistent with our approach to previous new and derivative airplane designs,” Boeing said.

New Demands for an Old Plane

Competition from rival Airbus spurred Boeing to add new engines to its workhorse 737 rather than create a new single-aisle jet.




Boeing engineers realized the MAX needed engineering changes from the existing 737s to accommodate its larger, fuel-efficient engines. The engines made the new plane tougher to fly in certain conditions than the 737s already in service, according to people familiar with the plane’s development. To help pilots manage that, Boeing decided to add the MCAS stall-prevention system.

In the Lion Air crash, the stall-prevention system, based on erroneous sensor information, repeatedly pushed the plane’s nose down. According to a preliminary accident probe, the pilot battled the flight controls while facing a cacophony of alarms before losing control and plunging into the Java Sea.

Some former Boeing engineers, safety experts and pilots said that while the system was conceived to enhance safety, the design fell short.

How MCAS Works

The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was installed in the new Boeing 737 MAX to compensate for the extra pitch up produced by its larger engines at elevated angle-of-attack (AOA).




Minimizing changes

Throughout the MAX’s development, Boeing was intent on minimizing design changes that could require extra pilot training, said Rick Ludtke, a former Boeing engineer who worked on 737 MAX cockpit features but not the MCAS system. Extra training could have added costs for airlines introducing the MAX into service.

The company had promised Southwest Airlines Co. , the plane’s biggest customer, to keep pilot training to a minimum so the new jet could seamlessly slot into the carrier’s fleet of older 737s, according to regulators and industry officials.

Mr. Ludtke recalled midlevel managers telling subordinates that Boeing had committed to pay the airline $1 million per plane if its design ended up requiring pilots to spend additional simulator time. “We had never, ever seen commitments like that before,” he said.

Southwest, which has ordered 280 MAX aircraft, declined to comment on the issue, as did Boeing. A Southwest spokeswoman has said the airline developed its 737 MAX training based on Boeing’s information and was a recipient of, not a driver of, the training mandates.

It was difficult for Boeing to figure out what changes it could make without triggering the need for more training, Mr. Ludtke said, in part because of the FAA’s approval process.

According to Mr. Ludtke and a U.S. government official, the agency would evaluate the entire plane only after it was complete, and wouldn’t give step-by-step guidance on what would or wouldn’t lead to additional training demands. That added pressure on Boeing’s engineers to keep changes to a minimum, he said.

The FAA has said that the 737 MAX was approved as part of the agency’s standard certification process.

The MAX planes entered service before the first flight simulators were even ready for use by airlines, according to airline executives, and the few that have now been introduced can’t replicate the malfunction the Lion Air crew faced. The simulators are set to be enhanced to allow pilots to practice dealing with such failures, though the upgrade could be months away.

Following the Lion Air crash, Boeing said that pilots are routinely trained to respond to erroneous automated nose-down pushes regardless of the cause and turn off related systems. The company has told pilot groups and others that the system behaves similarly to the ones in an earlier generation of 737s. It said it discussed the MCAS system’s functions at several airline conferences in recent years and wrote manuals to include information it believed pilots needed to operate the aircraft safely.

Numerous pilots and safety experts interviewed by The Wall Street Journal said that in practice, amid the chaos of an aircraft lurching into a steep dive with emergency warnings blaring, it is unrealistic to expect pilots to recognize what is happening and respond almost instantaneously.

Bryan Lesko, an airline pilot who wrote an article last year for his union’s magazine about the 737 MAX, repeatedly asked Boeing officials if there were any major new systems. The answer was no, according to a person who recently discussed the matter with him. The union declined to make Mr. Lesko available for comment.

Since the stall-prevention system emerged as a potential factor in the Lion Air crash, industry and government officials around the world have learned that the system can in certain situations push the plane’s nose down repeatedly, undercutting the pilot’s ability to regain control manually.

A software overhaul Boeing is set to distribute to airlines in the coming weeks will address that problem.

An earlier design decision by Boeing engineers was intended to make the stall-prevention system simple. It relied on data from a single sensor, rather than two, to measure the angle of the plane’s nose, Boeing said.

Safety experts, pilots and some former Boeing engineers say it is rare for aircraft to rely on just one sensor for almost any system whose failure could cause a crash. A sensor malfunction was implicated in the 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447, when an iced-up airspeed sensor triggered a series of events that caused the plane to plunge into the Atlantic.

“If your airplane needs such a Band-Aid, then it is incumbent on you to make sure it’s a good Band-Aid,” said Frank McCormick, a former Boeing flight-controls engineer who became a consultant to regulators and manufacturers before retiring.

The Boeing spokesman said the plane maker’s analysis determined that a pilot would be able to address the flight-control system misfiring with switches to counteract it or turn it off. “Single sources of data are considered acceptable in such cases by our industry, and additional changes to the system were not deemed warranted,” he said.

An FAA-sponsored panel of international safety experts years ago concluded that crew training tended to stress that computers typically handle unusual situations more smoothly and effectively than the pilots. “There is a natural reluctance to turn [systems] off, because it’s not clear what else is being turned off,” said Ray Valeika, a retired senior maintenance and engineering official at Delta Air Lines Inc.

Boeing is changing its approach to provide pilots with information about the sensors that measure the angle of a plane’s nose.

Boeing has long argued that such angle-of-attack information wasn’t necessary for crews to safely operate aircraft, and that other data such as altitude and airspeed were more relevant. Over the years, a few carriers, such as American Airlines and Delta, have pushed Boeing to provide its pilots additional angle-of-attack information, according to an airline official.

In the wake of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Air crashes, Boeing now is making the alerts standard on the MAX, rather than as a paid option.

The promised software fixes for the 737 MAX amount to reversal of key Boeing design decisions in developing the plane. With the new software in place, the stall-prevention system will rely on data from two sensors, not one, and won’t activate if the data from those angle-of-attack sensors doesn’t match.

Original article can be found here ➤ https://www.wsj.com


Officials believe a suspect automated flight-control system activated before a Boeing Company737 MAX nose-dived into the ground in Ethiopia, according to people briefed on investigators’ preliminary conclusion from data captured by the doomed flight’s black boxes.

The emerging consensus among investigators, one of these people said, was relayed during a high-level briefing at the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday, and is the strongest indication yet that the same automated system, called MCAS, misfired in both the Ethiopian Airlines flight earlier this month and a Lion Air flight in Indonesia, which crashed less than five months earlier. The two crashes claimed 346 lives.

The preliminary finding from the “black box” recorders of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 is subject to revisions, according to the people briefed on the matter. U.S. government air-safety experts have been analyzing details gathered from Ethiopian investigators for the past few days, according to one of the people. A preliminary report from Ethiopian authorities is expected within days.

Investigators have been homing in on the MCAS as a potential cause in both of the recent crashes. Ethiopia’s Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges previously said earlier readings from black-box data showed “clear similarities were noted” between both fatal flights.

Earlier this week, federal transportation officials during hearings defended the government’s response to the two crashes, even as questions grew about how the jet was certified for commercial use. Acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell told a Senate panel that there had been no flight tests of the 737 MAX to gauge how pilots would react in the event that a malfunctioning sensor triggered the automated system.

In the Lion Air crash, the new stall-prevention system, based on erroneous sensor information, repeatedly pushed the plane’s nose down and, according to the preliminary report, the pilot battled the flight controls while facing a cacophony of alarms before losing control and plunging into the Java Sea.

Boeing on Wednesday outlined its planned overhaul of the MCAS system to make it less aggressive and more controllable by pilots. The changes include an added layer of protection: Instead of relying on a single sensor indicating the angle of the plane’s nose, MCAS will rely on data from both of the plane’s sensors. As part of the fix, the FAA also will mandate certain cockpit alerts about incorrect sensor data.

While Boeing has noted investigators haven’t reached final conclusions about what caused either crash, Mike Sinnett, vice president of product strategy, said Wednesday the plane maker had “complete confidence that the changes we’re making would address any of these accidents.”

Roddy Guthrie, the 737 fleet captain for American Airlines Group Inc., said that with the MCAS fix, “They’ve put some checks and balances in the system now that will make the system much better.”

However, Boeing’s 737 MAX will remain grounded around the world until the FAA and other aviation regulators certify the software fix and crews are trained on the revised system. That process could stretch for months in some countries, regulators and safety officials have said.

The fallout for customers from the MAX grounding has continued to spread. TUI AG, one of Europe’s biggest MAX owners, on Friday cut its earnings outlook to cover costs from the grounding. The airline, which has 15 MAX aircraft parked, expects a €200 million ($225 million) hit if the fleet remains idled until mid-July. It could face another €100 million impact if it needs to rent replacement planes through September. Shares in the travel group fell more than 10%.

Indonesian flag carrier PT Garuda Indonesia on Thursday reiterated plans to walk away from an order for 49 MAX planes, though the company committed to sticking with Boeing as a supplier.

Original article can be found here ➤ https://www.wsj.com



Federal investigators are looking into whether Boeing Co. provided incomplete or misleading information about the 737 MAX aircraft to U.S. air-safety regulators and customers, people familiar with the matter said.

The focus on disclosures to regulators, which hasn’t been previously reported, is part of a broader investigation into how the jetliner was developed and certified, some of these people said.

The criminal investigation, which is in early stages, began last year, weeks after a 737 MAX operated by Lion Air crashed in Indonesia on Oct. 29, according to one of these people. The same model plane, flown by Ethiopian Airlines, crashed less than five months later.

Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Transportation Department’s inspector general’s office are working in tandem under the direction of federal prosecutors, the people familiar with the matter said. The agents involved are from offices in Seattle, Chicago and elsewhere, these people added. Boeing is based in Chicago but manufactures the 737 MAX at its facility in Renton, Wash., near Seattle.

Boeing hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing.

“The 737 MAX was certified in accordance with the identical FAA requirements and processes that have governed certification of all previous new airplanes and derivatives,” Boeing said.

The Federal Aviation Administration said previously the 737 MAX, which entered service in 2017, was approved to carry passengers as part of the agency’s “standard certification process.” It said its safety-review procedures “are well established and have consistently produced safe aircraft.”

The agency is conducting its own inquiry into how the jet model was certified and whether various agency offices properly oversaw technical analyses prepared by Boeing and submitted to the FAA, according to a person familiar with the details. A Senate Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday is expected to kick off what is likely to be a series of congressional hearings on both sides of Capitol Hill exploring these and other matters.

The Transportation Department said earlier this week its inspector general is conducting a separate administrative audit to determine precisely what actions the FAA took in approving the safety of the jet.

Some of the investigators’ questions have related to information and safety reports Boeing provided to the FAA during the agency’s certification of the aircraft, one of the people familiar with the matter said. Other subjects the investigators have asked about include the aircraft’s design, how training was devised, disclosures in pilot manuals, and whether safety was compromised in favor of business concerns, people familiar with the matter said.

Investigators have asked FAA officials about Boeing’s disclosures related to a stall-prevention system in the MAX and what was disclosed to airlines and pilots, one of these people said. The FAA offices involved with certifying the plane and approving training requirements have been told by the inspector general’s office to retain all electronic documents and email related to the 737 MAX, The Wall Street Journal has previously reported.

The Journal also previously reported that the Justice Department’s criminal division issued a grand jury subpoena to at least one person involved in the 737 MAX’s development. The broad demand for documents sought information about the aircraft, including correspondence such as email.

A prosecutor in the department’s fraud section was listed as a contact in the March 11 subpoena. Senior prosecutors in the fraud section have notched experience in major cases in recent years involving automobile giant Volkswagen AG and air bag maker Takata Corp., both manufacturers accused of misleading regulators and consumers.

The document-retention directive applies to internal FAA communications, as well as electronic communications between Boeing and the agency, people familiar with the matter said.

Agents with the FBI and DOT inspector general’s office are looking into whether there were potential irregularities in the FAA’s safety-review process for the aircraft, some of these people said.

Original article can be found here ➤ https://www.wsj.com

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why cannot Boeing ask all 737 MAX to be grounded and carry on a transparent investigation in a swift and decisive manner? Why do they keep on harping the same note "we are investigating and no need for any changes now"? People are dying for heavens sake! Are they playing politics here?

Anonymous said...

^^^^. Boeing can ask all they want. However, in the US it takes the FAA to issue an Emergency Airworthiness Directive to ground the planes. Having said that, Boeing contends that there is no reason to ground the plane.

Anonymous said...

Given that it’s a new plane, my guess is that there’s something wrong with the software. Boeing should immediately ask that all these planes be grounded. If these two crashes had happened in the United States that would already have happened.

Anonymous said...

^^And that's just it. They did NOT happen in the US (or any other Western nation for that matter). Indonesian based airlines were banned from flying in EU nations due to safety concerns up until a few years ago. This safety included a crash of an Airbus A320 due to pilot error not following correct procedures to the aircraft's flight computers as they were supposed to.

For every Ethiopian and Lion Air 737-MAX flying, there are 150 more Western and Chinese MAX's flying with no reported problems. That's a red flag right there, and the investigation should expand beyond the aircraft itself as a failure point. In other words, training and maintenance should be looked at as well by these two airlines. And they are.

Regarding the Lion Air crash, some are looking at the possibility of a malfunctioning flight data sensor may have led the stall prevent system (MCAS) to trigger - which overrides the pilot's inputs. Possible causes are improper maintenance as basic as not covering all sensor ports on the aircraft's nose. It would not be the first time this type of loss of control crash from computer flight data mismatch occurred if that is indeed a contributing factor in the accident.

In any event, as one who regularly flies on Southwest as do family and friends, we need to get to the root cause of this issue.

Anonymous said...

End of April?!!!! What about the end of today? Those two planes did not just fall from the sky. How many more have to die before the Federal Aviation Administration does its job? There was a lot of gibberish after the first crash indicating safety changes recommended by Boeing had not been implemented properly. So what excuse is being used now? If Boeing believes the software fix will prevent further crashes, at least ground the planes until that is installed.

Anonymous said...

Apparently the countries that grounded this aircraft have no confidence in their aircrew to follow the correct procedures.

Anonymous said...


One more Max 8 crash and Boeing is done fur. The lawsuits will force them into receivership.

Anonymous said...

Co-Pilot had 200 hrs that was reported don't know if it was TT or time in type. Once again everybody's trying to run with pure speculation. These planes were first delivered in 2017, There are a lot of newbys trying to fly and maintain these new aircraft, if you don't want to fly drive its your choice. Even crazy politicians have now become self proclaimed experts on aviation........Aeroflot is ready to book your next flight....go with them.

Anonymous said...

Co-Pilot had 200 hrs that was reported don't know if it was TT or time in type. Once again everybody's trying to run with pure speculation.

^^^ Yes, everyone is speculating!
Until the relevant investigations are complete, there will be no way to know what went wrong on the two fatal flights. Until now there is a lot of speculation and educated guessing, which is normal and very human.

Jim B said...


Reported as trailing smoke, cargo items falling out and loud rattling (or banging) sound.

Does not act like a MCAS software issue.

Does not appear to be a pilot proficiency issue.

FAA is interested in facts but there is investigative contamination of the wreck site.

I would be inclined to look into a cargo door opening up or perhaps one of the wheel fairing doors got loose and ended up hitting the elevator.

It is always possible a cargo conveyor was driven into the latch mechanisms.

Time to inspect the existing fleet.

Anonymous said...

Hysteria in all quadrants, on all continents in both hemispheres ...

Anonymous said...

The Federal Aviation Administration is currently doing great harm to the safety reputation of the United States aviation industry. There is a reasonable suspicion worldwide that the 'independent' Federal Aviation Administration is in fact in bed with Boeing and profit comes before lives. Worrying and also counterproductive as the 737 Max will be de facto grounded in any case.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a computer tech geek or an aircraft designer but I am a private pilot. I have a theory for some of these recent large plane crashes that I would like to hopefully have individuals in the know respond to the feasibility of such a scenario. It seems that the majority of these crashes have occurred with Boeing built aircraft. MH370 was a 777, Amazon crash a 767, this crash a 737. Do they all use a similar computer system for the flight deck? Is it possible for a computer hacker to gain access to the system and override the controls from the pilots? Could this be a new form of terrorism? Is it possible to do this from a laptop in the passenger compartment or even from the ground? Obviously if it is possible(I think anything is possible if one puts their evil mind to it),the airlines would never want this info getting out to the public as it would bring an end to the airline industry as we know it. I stick to my Piper Arrow & Cessna 172 with cables & pulleys and me giving the inputs to the flight control surfaces thank you very much!

Anonymous said...

Incredulous that a flight control system would have a single point of failure. As a retired aeronautical engineer, I am extremely concerned for the state of my beloved profession.

Anonymous said...

Having a system that pushes the nose down, and that must be turned off in case of malfunction because it can't be overridden by a pilot's control inputs -- in what universe is that consistent with keeping pilots at the center of cockpit control?

Anonymous said...

Not all computer safety systems on the new jets are all bad, like the time the crew of a 787 full throttled the handles at the end of the runway for takeoff and nothing happened, elev trim was set at full deflection either up or down.....Oooops!.

Anonymous said...

Computer Science majors without flight experience should not be coding for flight control system. It should be a mandate that learning to fly is a pre-req for all coders that work on flight control system. And the underlying assumption to trust the sensors. I have CS degree and PPL. Some of the decisions made by CS majors who doesn't care about flying is to blame. A lot of CS majors have this ego that they can separate all use cases into buckets to be handled by the code. And that pilots are not be trusted..... Because Sensors > Humans is the motto. Oh and don't get me started with sensor fault detection(trust 2 out of 3, but what happens when 2 out of 3 sensors fail at the same time)?

This is speaking from experience working on coding projects and even my own experience.

RIP.

P.S. I won't get into a self driving car either.

Anonymous said...

Claiming these planes are safe while simultaneously saying the cause of these crashes is unknown seems inherently contradictory and untrustworthy. As a layperson with no expertise in these matters, I find it hard to believe that no one outside the United States, someone "without a dog in the hunt" is capable of providing accurate unbiased data download. In the meantime why not value life beyond commerce and ground the Max fleet worldwide until the cause is determined?

National Transportation Safety Board = An independent agency who often criticizes the Federal Aviation Administration.

Anonymous said...

Just like A&P need to be qualified, code monkeys off of computer science schools shall not be allowed unless thy have relevant work experience and pass qualification exams and specific procedures, starting with accountability.
If a major bug is found... how will the (outsourced) dev team be punished and held accountable?

Who are the imbeciles who didn't take into account the more powerful engines that the 737 Max has in the autopilot software, as reported by outlets now as the root cause of both crashes?

I hope the NTSB comes down hard on software development for aeronautical uses and emits procedures and recommendations. As for the relatives of the 300+ dead because of ineptitude in the software industry, I do hope they sue and sure all the software companies even in India and China for this egregious criminal behavior. There's no 2 ways around it.

Software for planes shall be made the same way it was made for the Space Shuttle... almost perfect.

"What makes it remarkable is how well the software for the space shuttle works. This software never crashes. It never needs to be re-booted. This software is bug-free. It is perfect, as perfect as human beings have achieved. Consider these stats : the last three versions of the program — each 420,000 lines long-had just one error each. The last 11 versions of this software had a total of 17 errors. Commercial programs of equivalent complexity would have 5,000 errors."

Anonymous said...

I am a pilot and my father was a pilot for Delta Air Lines. In the old school of flying pilots were taught “no matter what happens in the cockpit, fly the airplane”. What that meant was that the responsibility to keep the aircraft flying is job one, even if there is a fire in the cockpit or every warning in the aircraft systems are chiming away. Every good pilot knew exactly what this meant. It meant that the Pilot in Command could never delegate the safe flight of the aircraft to anyone or anything - including the aircraft itself.

That was before software and the “self-driving” culture that invaded cockpits many years before reaching automobiles. But the principle still applies. It has become more difficult to implement, perhaps too much so.

Anonymous said...

The FAA is a wholly owned subsidiary of Boeing and other big aviation corps. They would have turned a blind eye had trump not made a spectacle of it. The rest of the world made a good call. Capitalism over safety, the FAA seems cool with that.

Anonymous said...

How wonderful for Ethiopian Air that the WSJ writes about how they are the shining star of this poverty stricken African nation. They have a $100M facility with a pool for training.

The plane crashed and there isn't a single sentence about the pilots, their training, or their qualifications to handle an in flight emergency.

Anonymous said...

The plane is aerodynamically flawed and requires constant computer or human intervention to keep it stable during takeoffs. No amount of software or pilot training can fix this fundamental flaw ... a plane needs to be inherently stable, as it needs to fly not just in perfect circumstances, but in a variety of weather and other challenging conditions.

Boeing took an old plane body and added a larger heavier engine to it, rather than designing a new plane. The engine had to be moved forward and the front of the plane lengthened and and made higher to fit the engine so that it would not hit the ground. Yet the plane did not go through approval as a new plane, but just as a derivative of an older approved plane, even though aerodynamically it's dramatically different, as Boeing rushed to deliver planes competitive with Airbus. Astonishing that this happened!

Anonymous said...

Boeing tried to sell the 737MAX as being essentially the same as the 737NG series (models 600. 700. 800, and 900) despite the LEAP engines being mounted quite differently than the CFM56 engines on the NG series, resulting in a pronounced tendency for the nose to pitch up.

There is only one 737MAX simulator in the United States, and Boeing argued that specific MAX simulator training was not necessary. Boeing also argued that it did not want to inform pilots of the new MCAS system because it did not want to "overload" them.

The cost argument was that because the MAX was similar to previous models, extensive training was not required.

The events of the past few months indicates that perhaps this was unwise.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Boeing has brought this on through their obstinate tone-deaf insistence that they are right in the face of a public relations disaster. It is obvious that the 737 MAX is not the same plane as previous models. No doubt in the hands of a highly trained crew flying well maintained aircraft, there would probably never be a problem with the 737 MAX. In the hands of poorly trained crews and poorly maintained aircraft, which is a large part of the world, the 737 MAX fails where older models had no problem. In the world of sales "perception is reality" and world opinion perceives the 737 MAX to be unsafe and Boeing in their hubris to be unreliable.

Anonymous said...

Look for more airlines to cancel orders unless Boeing can quickly allay safety concerns and maybe slash prices. There will be a hit to Boeing's bottom line since the 737 MAX was their cash cow. Shows that skimping on safety is penny wise and pound foolish!

Anonymous said...

When I joined a major airline 20 years ago after a career as a Navy fighter pilot- I was astounded to discover that airliners had no angle of attack (AOA) indicator in the cockpit.

In the Navy (I flew FA-18's) - the AOA indicator was the single most important indicator in the cockpit. During carrier landings, where airspeed is critical - it was the ONLY indicator we looked at.

Every carrier pilot learns the mantra - "Meatball, Lineup, Angle of Attack". (the meatball shows you your glide slope, lineup is the centerline of the landing area and AOA is your speed).

The AOA is so important because it tells you exactly what your wing is doing and what it is capable of at any moment.

A wing can stall at any airspeed but will always stall at the same AOA. To not have it AOA prominently displayed in the pilots field of view has been a titanic mistake and resulted in many mishaps over the years.

My single best advice for Boeing is this:
INSTALL AOA indicators in all cockpits NOW!

Anonymous said...

A safety feature was a paid option? The size of the bathroom is an option, the width of the seats is an option and the color of the carpeting is an option... But safety features are not options.

Anonymous said...

Well done, Navy fighter pilot! A superb explanation!
Seems like it should be considered for MAJOR prominence in all commercial aircraft panels!
By the way, AOA devices are now starting to be added small civilian planes.
Thank you for your service, sir.

Anonymous said...

Pilot training.....

Anonymous said...

We don't need no stinkin' AOA indicators, smart flight computers can handle all the flying duties and more. How are we ever to get to fully automated cars and planes if we still require a "human" to monitor an AOA? It all boils down to greed for the airlines & shareholders. Automation doesn't require overtime,sick & vacation pay. This is just me being sarcastic.

Anonymous said...

The only place a 300 hour pilot belongs on a turbojet flight deck is in one of the jump seats. Period.

Anonymous said...

The re-design is aerodynamically flawed. Not possible that the exact same two sensors on NEW aircraft fed "incorrect" information to the MCAS causing the aircraft to crash. That is total BS. What Boeing has done is create an unstable airframe that they have attempted to control with a computer that can react to aerodynamic forces faster than a human. Problem is that the aerodynamic forces become exponential leading to even greater feed back loops to the computer that then kicks in even larger control surface forces that overwhelm the pilots. Both crashes demonstrate this scenario of events. If the aircraft cannot be flown safely without the computer, then it should be scrapped because the design is demonstrably unstable. I'd never knowingly fly on one of these.

Jim B said...


As one who programs control systems on non-life critical motion systems I am rather appalled that a rather simple and customary engineering tool/procedure called "fault tree analysis" [appears] to have not taken [major absolute consideration in the design] of the MCAS system.

Excitation to, and sensor outputs can be dead, quiet, noisy, resonant, out of calibration, biased, mixed with other signals (RF) and then there is the contamination factor with time including corrosion, the impalement of bird guts, a great big grasshopper on one or more probe(s) or perhaps a truck or service ladder or washing system having bent the mechanism. Mud dauber insects often make a quick visit to just about anything and deposit their cement.

The other consideration is that one cannot go innocent when such a single point of critical failure is capable of, and has proven repeatedly to generate a multiple confusion of conflicting alarms and dangerous distractions.

Some pilots might get past this. I for one, decidedly not.

Do not set me up for failure. If you do, I [will fail] at some point.

Millions of flight hours were successfully conducted without MCAS.

Take MCAS out. Now. Quietly or otherwise, I do not care.