Boeing defends ‘fundamental safety’ of 737 MAX after crash report

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg on April 4, 2019 said the company remained confident in the "fundamental safety" of its 737 MAX aircraft, which has been grounded worldwide following two deadly accidents. (AFP / Ben Stansall)
Updated 05 April 2019

Boeing defends ‘fundamental safety’ of 737 MAX after crash report

WASHINGTON: Embattled US aviation giant Boeing on Thursday insisted on the “fundamental safety” of its 737 MAX aircraft but pledged to take all necessary steps to ensure the jets’ airworthiness.
The statements came hours after Ethiopian officials said pilots of a doomed plane had crashed last month after following the company’s recommendations, leaving 157 people dead.
The preliminary findings released Thursday by transportation authorities in Addis Ababa put the American aircraft giant under even greater pressure to restore public trust, with nearly 350 people dead in crashes involving its formerly top-selling 737 MAX aircraft in less than five months amid mounting signs the company’s onboard anti-stall systems were fault.
“We remain confident in the fundamental safety of the 737 MAX,” CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in a statement, adding that impending software fixes would make the aircraft “among the safest airplanes ever to fly.”
Muilenburg also acknowledged, however, that an “erroneous activation” of Boeing’s so-called Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System had occurred. The system is designed to prevent stalls but may have forced the Ethiopian and Indonesian jets into the ground.
In an earlier statement, the head of the company’s commercial aircraft division had said Boeing was ready to perform “any and all additional steps” to enhance the safety of the 737 MAX.
A report by Ethiopian investigators on Thursday said the crew of the Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed last month, killing 157 people, repeatedly followed procedures recommended by Boeing, but were unable to regain control of the jet.
The initial probe appears to confirm concerns about MCAS, with data echoing that from the crash of the Indonesian Lion Air 737 MAX 8 flight in October last year which killed 189 people.
Ethiopian authorities’ full report has not been publicly released, but according to a draft copy seen by AFP, shortly after take-off a sensor recording the level of the plane began transmitting faulty data, prompting the autopilot system to point the nose downwards.
“The crew performed all the procedures repeatedly provided by the manufacturer, but was not able to control the aircraft,” said Ethiopian Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges, unveiling results of the preliminary probe into the crash.
The report recommends “the aircraft flight control system shall be reviewed by the manufacturer,” Dagmawit said.
“Aviation authorities shall verify that the review of the aircraft flight control system has been adequately addressed by the manufacturer before the release of the aircraft for operations,” she added.
Boeing now says it plans to release a software fix to the anti-stall system used aboard the 737 MAX aircraft in the coming weeks.
US regulators this week demanded further improvements to a proposed fix before it could be submitted for review and announced a review of the certification of the automated flight control system on the 737 MAX.
The Ethiopian Airlines flight was headed to Nairobi on a clear morning on March 10 when so-called Angle of Attack sensors on either side of the nose of the plane began sending conflicting information to the auto pilot system shortly after take-off.
According to report AFP saw, the nose of the plane pointed down four times without pilot input.
The autopilot was switched off at some point and the captain called out “pull up” three times to his first officer as the pair battled to gain control.
Three minutes after takeoff and three minutes before the crash, the captain asked the first officer to try the manual trim system, which changes the level of the plane. He replied that it was not working.
They asked to turn back, but it was too late. The plane pitched down at a 40-degree angle, smashing into a field outside Addis Ababa at about 500 knots (920 kilometers/575 miles per hour).
Both engines were buried at a depth of 10 meters (32 feet), in a crater 28 meters wide and 40 meters long, with fragments of debris found within a radius of about 300 meters.
“This accident was not survivable,” said the report.
Citizens from over 30 countries were on board.
Shortly after the Lion Air crash last year, Boeing issued a bulletin reminding operators of emergency guidelines to override the anti-stall system, amid indications it had received erroneous information from Angle of Attack sensors during that disaster.


UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

Updated 18 August 2019

UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

  • Johnson will travel for talks with German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron
  • Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit

LONDON: UK's Boris Johnson will visit European capitals this week on his first overseas trip as prime minister, as his government said Sunday it had ordered the scrapping of the decades-old law enforcing its EU membership.

Johnson will travel to Berlin on Wednesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on to Paris Thursday for discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron, Downing Street confirmed on Sunday, amid growing fears of a no-deal Brexit in two and a half months.

The meetings, ahead of a two-day G7 summit starting Saturday in the southern French resort of Biarritz, are his first diplomatic forays abroad since replacing predecessor Theresa May last month.

Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit or warn that it faces the prospect of Britain's disorderly departure on October 31 -- the date it is due to leave.

European leaders have repeatedly rejected reopening an accord agreed by May last year but then rejected by British lawmakers on three occasions, despite Johnson's threats that the country will leave then without an agreement.

In an apparent show of intent, London announced Sunday that it had ordered the repeal of the European Communities Act, which took Britain into the forerunner to the EU 46 years ago and gives Brussels law supremacy.

The order, signed by Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay on Friday, is set to take effect on October 31.

"This is a landmark moment in taking back control of our laws from Brussels," Barclay said in a statement.

"This is a clear signal to the people of this country that there is no turning back -- we are leaving the EU as promised on October 31, whatever the circumstances -- delivering on the instructions given to us in 2016."

The moves come as Johnson faces increasing pressure to immediately recall MPs from their summer holidays so that parliament can debate Brexit.

More than 100 lawmakers, who are not due to return until September 3, have demanded in a letter that he reconvene the 650-seat House of Commons and let them sit permanently until October 31.

"Our country is on the brink of an economic crisis, as we career towards a no-deal Brexit," said the letter, signed by MPs and opposition party leaders who want to halt a no-deal departure.

"We face a national emergency, and parliament must be recalled now."

Parliament is set to break up again shortly after it returns, with the main parties holding their annual conferences during the September break.

Main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to call a vote of no confidence in Johnson's government after parliament returns.

He hopes to take over as a temporary prime minister, seek an extension to Britain's EU departure date to stop a no-deal Brexit, and then call a general election.

"What we need is a government that is prepared to negotiate with the European Union so we don't have a crash-out on the 31st," Corbyn said Saturday.

"This government clearly doesn't want to do that."

Britain could face food, fuel and medicine shortages and chaos at its ports in a no-deal Brexit, The Sunday Times newspaper reported, citing a leaked government planning document.

There would likely be some form of hard border imposed on the island of Ireland, the document implied.

Rather than worst-case scenarios, the leaked document, compiled this month by the Cabinet Office ministry, spells out the likely ramifications of a no-deal Brexit, the broadsheet claimed.

The document said logjams could affect fuel distribution, while up to 85 percent of trucks using the main ports to continental Europe might not be ready for French customs.

The availability of fresh food would be diminished and prices would go up, the newspaper said.