On evenings when I’m especially tired, I curl up on the couch and turn on the TV. I got onto an ABC 20/20 kick a few weeks back, and since then I’ve been watching old episodes of the show when I’m feeling like watching something with a little variety.
If you’ve never seen ABC 20/20, it is a show that includes interviews and insights on stories that have been popular in the news and politics. They have episodes on serial killers, murders, and other notable stories within the news.
Last night I turned it on and an episode about airplanes was on. Now, I’m not an avid traveler and I have only been on a plane a handful of times, but I have always been curious about how air travel works, what the inside of the cockpit looks like, and what a pilot’s life is like. So I found great interest in an episode from November of 2020. This particular episode’s focus was on the Boeing 737 Max, an airplane that was created by Boeing in 2014 in order to compete with another aerospace company, Airbus. I won’t pretend to be an expert on aerodynamics, but I did want to push out this information to others, since the warnings expressed in this episode were truly daunting. You can find this episode of ABC 20/20 here.
Lion Air flight JT 610 took off from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia on October 29, 2018. Less than 13 minutes later, it crashed into the Java Sea at 450mph, killing 189 people. The plane? The new Boeing 737 Max.
This plane was relatively new, but within minutes after takeoff, pilots were alerted that the nose of the plane was forced down. They pulled and fought the plane, trying to pull the nose up, but the automatic system of the plane ultimately won.
The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) is a flight control system built into the Boeing 737 Max’s computer, designed to help pilots keep the plane steady. There are angle-of-attack sensors on the front of the plane that work with the horizontal tails at the back of the plane. If the angle-of-attack sensors sense that the plane is about to stall, MCAS automatically activates and sends the nose of the plane downward.
But did the pilots know about MCAS?
No. Boeing never informed pilots about automatic augmentation system.
Was anything about MCAS noted in the plane’s handbook?
No. Only an abbreviation of MCAS could be found at the back of the book. No further information was given in the guide or taught to pilots.
Did pilots get simulation training on how to fly the new Boeing 737 Max and what to do if MCAS failed?
No. Usually, pilots go through simulation training when learning to fly a new plane. Boeing claimed that the simulation training was not needed on the 737 Max since it was ‘similar enough’ to other styles of the plane. Pilots of the 737 Max were given training on iPads and that is it. If pilots didn’t even know that MCAS existed, how could they possibly know what to do if the sensors were wrong?
This is actually VERY infuriating to me. How can you keep the people flying the planes in the dark about the programming that you install on the plane?
What is MCAS and what went wrong on Lion Air flight JT 610?
On Lion Air flight JT 610, the angle-of-attack sensors were improperly aligned, meaning that the sensors were telling the tail that the plane was about to stall. Therefore; MCAS was activated automatically forcing the nose of the plane down.
I won’t go into a ton of details on this crash, because the information can be found if you are interested in further investigation. I encourage you to watch the ABC 20/20 episode that I linked above. After this crash, Boeing and the FAA determined that the Boeing 737 Max was still SAFE. They released information on what to do if MCAS failed and continued to allow the plane to take to the skies. It wasn’t until ANOTHER deadly crash of a 737 Max took place before the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing decided to ground all Boeing 737 Max airplanes.
Just five months later, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 took off from Addis Ababa in route to Nairobi, Kenya. Six minutes after the plane took off, it slammed into the ground at nearly 700mph. All 157 passengers and crew members were killed.
All 737 Max airplanes were grounded within the next two days. When Lion Air flight JT 610 crashed, instructions to disable the system that MCAS used were pushed out. Boeing claimed that flipping the switch to turn off this system was substantial, but information gathered after the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 revealed that the pilots did, in fact, try this method and failed – resulting in another deadly crash.
Plenty of the information I learned in the ABC 20/20 episode points all fingers to Boeing and their attempts to cover up the safety of the Boeing 737 Max. Emails from Boeing employees later revealed that some KNEW the plane was not safe and that they continued with use anyway. They did not take responsibility for the loss of these lives and it is SICK.
Today, the Boeing 737 Max is STILL BEING USED. Profits are more important than safety in the eyes of a CEO. My heart breaks for the families of the loved ones lost in these senseless crashes that could have been prevented if Boeing cared about the safety of their customers. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE review the choices of your plane tickets when buying them. I, for one, WILL NOT be getting onto one of these 737 Max planes. For the safety of you and those you love, please pay attention when booking your flights in the future. I encourage you to look into this topic and do your own research.
Thanks for reading and stay safe!!