Regulators challenge Boeing to prove its Max jets are safe

Two grounded American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 are seen parked at Miami International Airport on March 14, 2019 in Miami, Florida. The Federal Aviation Administration grounded the entire United States Boeing 737 Max fleet. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 15 March 2019
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Regulators challenge Boeing to prove its Max jets are safe

  • Regulators had new satellite evidence that showed the movements of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 were similar to those of Lion Air Flight 610
  • At a minimum, aviation experts say, the plane maker will need to finish updating software that might have played a role in the Lion Air crash

NEW YORK: Aviation regulators worldwide laid down a stark challenge for Boeing to prove that its grounded 737 Max jets are safe to fly amid suspicions that faulty software might have contributed to two crashes that killed 346 people in less than six months.
In a key step toward unearthing the cause of the Ethiopian Airlines crash, flight recorders from the shattered plane arrived Thursday in France for analysis, although the agency in charge of the review said it was unclear whether the data could be retrieved. The decision to send the recorders to France was seen as a rebuke to the United States, which held out longer than most other countries in grounding the jets.
Boeing executives announced that they had paused delivery of the Max, although the company planned to continue building the jets while it weighs the effect of the grounding on production.
In Addis Ababa, about 200 angry family members of crash victims left a briefing with Ethiopian Airlines officials, saying that the carrier has not given them adequate information. Officials said they have opened a call-in center that is available 18 hours a day to respond to questions. There were 157 people from 35 countries who died in the crash.
The US Federal Aviation Administration grounded the planes Wednesday, saying regulators had new satellite evidence that showed the movements of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 were similar to those of Lion Air Flight 610. That flight crashed into the Java Sea off Indonesia in October, killing 189 people.
The Max jets are likely to be idle for weeks while Boeing tries to assure regulators around the world that the planes are safe.
At a minimum, aviation experts say, the plane maker will need to finish updating software that might have played a role in the Lion Air crash. Regulators will wait for more definitive evidence of what caused both crashes. Some industry officials think the plane maker and US regulators may be forced to answer questions about the plane’s design.
Boeing said it supports the grounding of its planes as a precautionary step, while reiterating its “full confidence” in the safety of the 737 Max. The company has previously characterized the software upgrades as an effort to make a safe plane even safer. Engineers are making changes to the system designed to prevent an aerodynamic stall if sensors detect that the jet’s nose is pointed too high and its speed is too slow.
Satellite-based data showed that both the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air planes flew with erratic altitude changes that could indicate the pilots struggled to control the aircraft. Both crews tried to return to the airport but crashed, killing everyone on board.
How long the planes stay grounded depends largely on what investigators find on the cockpit voice and flight data recorders, said Peter Goelz, a former managing director for the National Transportation Safety Board.
If the recorders indicate a manufacturing problem or a software glitch in the anti-stall system, the planes could stay on the tarmac for a long time. But if the crash was caused by pilot error, then the problem could be corrected by training, and the grounding could be short, Goelz said.
Ethiopian Airlines says its pilots received special training on how to deal with the Max’s anti-stall software.
The French air accident investigation authority, known by its acronym BEA, said Thursday that it will handle the analysis of the flight recorders, often referred to as a plane’s black boxes. The US National Transportation Safety Board sent three investigators to help.
Ethiopian investigators likely avoided sending the data to the US because the FAA certified the airworthiness of the Max and has a relationship with manufacturer Boeing, said Goelz, who is now an aviation consultant.
“I think Ethiopia wanted to choose an investigative partner that clearly didn’t have a dog in the fight,” Goelz said.
Key congressmen say they will investigate why the FAA approved the Max without requiring more training for pilots.
At the crash scene in Hejere, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Addis Ababa, growing numbers of family members arrived, some wailing or beating their chests as a bulldozer navigated piles of debris. Blue plastic sheeting covered the wreckage of the plane.
Moshi Biton, brother of Israeli victim Shimon Daniel Re’em Biton, asked Ethiopia’s prime minister to allow Israeli investigators to help recover remains. Two Israelis were killed in the crash, and members of an emergency response team from the country said they are frustrated because they have not been able to access the crash site.
“Big families, a lot of people and the full Israeli nation is waiting for these remains, and we will not go out of Ethiopia until we find the remains to bury them,” Biton said.
The Max is the latest upgrade to the Boeing 737, which has been flying since the late 1960s. Because its engines were larger and heavier than on previous 737s, they were placed higher and farther forward on the wings. That created concern that the plane might be slightly more prone to an aerodynamic stall if not flown properly, so Boeing developed software to prevent that.
Investigators looking into the Indonesian crash are examining whether the software automatically pushed the plane’s nose down repeatedly, and whether the Lion Air pilots knew how to solve that problem by throwing toggle switches and canceling the automated nose-down commands.
The grounding was expected to cause minimal disruption for travelers, in part because the Max is so new that that it accounts for a small percentage of flights.
In the US, Southwest is likely to be most affected. The airline, which has 34 of the 72 US-based Max planes that were in operation, canceled 39 flights Thursday due to the grounding.


Kashmir parties question the crackdown on dissidence

Indian paramilitary troopers stand guard as Kashmiri women walk past during the enforcement on restrictions of movement in Srinagar on March 10, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 1 min 31 sec ago
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Kashmir parties question the crackdown on dissidence

  • In 2001, Malik was part of the dialogue process with the BJP government under the leadership of Atal Behari Vajpayee

NEW DELHI: Political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have questioned the wisdom of a ban on the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and called the crackdown on civil society groups and political activists an election gimmick.
“For four-and-half years Yasin Malik (the head of the JKLF) isn’t a threat, Jamaat-e-Islami isn’t a threat, and Pakistan National Day is a function that must be attended. Now suddenly once an election is announced an immediate U-turn is executed,” says Omar Abdullah, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir state and leader of the National Conference (NC).
The president of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mehbooba Mufti, who headed Kashmir as chief minister for close to two years in alliance with the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), says that “detrimental steps like these will only turn Kashmir into an open-air prison. Yasin Malik renounced violence as a way of resolving the Jammu and Kashmir issue a long time ago.”
She added: “He was treated as a stakeholder in a dialogue initiated by the then-PM (of India) Vajpayee ji. What will a ban on his organization achieve?”
Kashmiri leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq denounced the ban: “Such anti-Kashmir tactics will not change the reality of the Kashmir issue nor the urgency to resolve it.”
On Friday evening, the Indian government banned the JKLF under the anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba told the media that “the murders of Kashmiri Pandits by the JKLF in 1989 triggered their exodus from the Valley. Yasin Malik was the mastermind behind the purging of Kashmiri Pandits and is responsible for their genocide,” Mr. Gauba said.
The decision followed a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Two cases, including in the murder of Indian Air Force personnel, were registered by the Central Bureau Of Investigation. The National Investigative Agency has also registered a case which is under investigation. It is evident from these that JKLF continues to be actively engaged in supporting and inciting secessionism and terrorism,” he said.
The JKLF, which began as a militant organization in 1970 seeking independence for Kashmir, declared an indefinite cease-fire under the leadership of Malik in 1994.
He declared that he would pursue the Gandhian way of peaceful struggle.
His organization is part of Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), a separatist alliance in the valley.
In 2001, Malik was part of the dialogue process with the BJP government under the leadership of Atal Behari Vajpayee. In 2006, the JKLF was also part of the delegation of the separatist leaders who met Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to start the peace process with Pakistan.
“The Indian government is not concerned about Kashmir but only about the election. All this crackdown is to show to the voters in the mainstream that the Modi government is serious about containing terror,” says Professor Sheikh Showkat Hussain of the University Of Kashmir.
“The JKLF abdicated violence and has been following the peaceful resistance movement. Indian people should question the government why they pursuing this kind of destructive politics in the valley,” Hussain told Arab News.