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Is the Second Antonov AN-225 Close to Completion?



From Aviation Tribune

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By Aviation Tribune

The Antonov AN-225 is known to be the largest cargo aircraft in the world. Developed in the 1980’s, so far just one model has been introduced onto the market. However, a second Antonov AN-225 which has been in development since the cold war, is now speculated to be near to completion.

So, just how close to completion is the second Antonov AN-225 and why has the aircraft generated such a huge reputation?

What is the Antonov AN-225?

The original Antonov AN-225 first took to the skies in 1988. The manufacturer named the plane “Mriya”, which translates to “Dream” in Ukrainian. It is the largest cargo plane ever to be built and has remained in service since its launch.

It was originally created to transport spacecraft as the United States and the Soviet Union were interlocked in a space race at the time. There wasn’t any aircraft large enough to transport the large equipment and spacecraft, so Antonov was tasked with building one.

It took just three years to build Mriya, and she successfully completed her original mission of delivering a Buran spacecraft over to Baikonur. Even decades later, Mriya remains the heaviest and largest cargo plane ever built. As it is so large, the pilots flying the plane need to undergo specialist training. This ensures they can successfully deal with the challenges which come from trying to manoeuvre the aircraft.

 

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As the first AN-225 was successful, the Soviet Union planned to build an additional three models. Work began on the second in 1989 but was doomed when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Although work continued on the aircraft, it eventually came to a stop in 1994.

What is the current state of the second Antonov AN-225?

The second AN-225 has sat half-built in a Ukraine warehouse for decades. However, in 2016, China signed a deal with Antonov to restart the second plane production. The initial goal was to complete the construction of the second plane by 2019. So, now we’ve reached that milestone, is the plane any closer to completion?

As of September 2018, the second AN-225 remains incomplete. It is thought to be around 70% completed, but additional funding is required. Antonov is hoping to secure from £190 million to £270 million in order to finalise the build.

The benefits and specifications of the AN-225

The AN-225 boasts extraordinary benefits and specifications. With just one operational model in the world, it’s unsurprisingly gathered interest from some of the biggest plane charter companies such as Chapman Freeborn.

Powered by six turbo engines, the plane is capable of traveling 9569 miles with a full fuel tank. Considering its huge size, it’s surprisingly fast too. It benefits from a maximum speed of 528mph, and a cruising speed of 497mph. One of its most impressive specifications is the fact it can carry a massive 250 tonnes of weight.

 

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The Antonov AN-225 is certainly an impressive model. If the second plane is finalized, it offers a lot of potential in the cargo sector. Being able to move large loads would reduce the need for multiple trips, in turn benefitting the environment. All of the parts of the second plane have been manufactured. It just needs the additional funding to finish the build. Experts claim that once there is a demand for this type of carrier, it won’t take long to finalize it and get it in the air.

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FAA Says No Timetable For MAX Return

From Airline Ratings

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By Steve Creedy

There is no timetable to return the Boeing 737 MAX back to flight and the decision will depend solely on whether or not the jet is deemed to be safe, a senior US Federal Aviation Administration official has said.

The comments came as the FAA and representatives of other global regulators met in an attempt to get a co-ordinated response to the grounding of the 737 MAX fleet after two fatal accidents.

Elwell was asked whether airlines that had taken the MAX out of their schedules would need to revise their plans to take into account a longer wait.

“No they don’t need to make any changes to their plans,’’ FAA acting head Daniel Elwell told CNBC. “But they just need to know there isn’t a timetable for bringing the 737 MAX back to flight.

“There are only one criteria: when we’re done without analysis and it’s safe to bring let the 737 MAX fly again.”

Elwell said it could be a month, two months or longer but it would depend on the FAA’s analysis of a software fix for the aircraft’s flight control software.

The FAA would prefer the lifting of the grounding to be global but there has been pushback from some regulators, including the Europeans.

Elwell would not be drawn on whether pilots needed to take simulator training before flying the jet again and said training was still under review.

Elwell said it was the FAA’s responsibility to make the approval and it would be the first to do so regardless.

“And if the rest of the world agrees with our analysis, which is why we have 33 countries here today, then that is the goal,” he said.

Four audits and investigations are underway into the FAA’s certification processes but Elwell said the MAX had been certified in the same way every aircraft had been certified and had made aviation the safest mode of transportation.

“We rely on those processes but we don’t sit still on those processes,’’ he said.

“We’re constantly learning how to refine them. The American public and the world will see that the 737 MAX is safe when we return it to flight and they’ll get back on the MAX and fly it again.”

“Our team, our airline customers, and regulators place the highest priority on the safety of the flying public,’’ Boeing said in a statement.

“Once we have addressed the information requests from the FAA, we will be ready to schedule a certification test flight and submit final certification documentation.”

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Did The FAA Drop The Ball While Certifying Boeing Anti-Stall Software Suspected In 2 Deadly Crashes?

From Zero Hedge

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By Tyler Durden

It seems like barely a day goes by without the Wall Street Journal or some other news organization publishing some alarming scoop about oversights or unexplained lapses at Boeing or the FAA during the certification process of the 737 MAX 8.

We've already learned that Boeing didn't realize until after the Lion Air crash back in October that a warning system meant to alert pilots when MCAS - the anti-stall software suspected in contributing to two deadly crashes - was malfunctioning had been made an optional feature on all of the 737 8s it sold to Southwest, its largest customer. And neither did the FAA.

Now, ahead of a hearing before a House Transportation subcommittee on Wednesday, WSJ is reporting that senior FAA officials weren't involved in the agency's review of MCAS, despite the unprecedented power delegated to the system in the new generation of 737s, because the agency viewed the system as a "non-critical safety risk."

Asked how it arrived at this conclusion, the agency told WSJ that Boeing hadn't designated MCAS as a critical system, and the agency simply took the aerospace company at its word.

  • The results, these officials said, also indicate that during the certification process, Boeing didn’t flag the automated stall-prevention feature as a system whose malfunction or failure could cause a catastrophic event. Such a designation would have led to more intense scrutiny. FAA engineers and midlevel managers deferred to Boeing’s early safety classification, the inquiry determined, allowing company experts to conduct subsequent analyses of potential hazards with limited agency oversight. Boeing employees who served as designated agency representatives signed off on the final design, according to people familiar with the findings.
  • The people who described the report didn’t specify what information and safety data Boeing shared with the FAA during the approval process, a topic that is a major focus of various ongoing investigations. Also at issue is whether agency officials performed any assessment on their own about the system’s initial safety classification, according to aviation industry officials, pilot unions and others tracking the investigations.

According to the report details leaked to WSJ, it's not clear why Boeing didn't designate MCAS as a 'critical system', though the FAA doesn't believe the company intentionally violated any certification rules. It's also unclear what kind of oversight process, if any, the FAA exercised over Boeing's decision. Boeing, in turn, said that it didn't feel the system was 'critical' - and that relying on a single sensor for flight data was appropriate - because pilots could simply switch MCAS off. Though that didn't pan out in practice, as the pilots of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights both tried, and failed, to disable MCAS before the system forced their planes into a deadly downward dive.

  • The FAA’s administrative review, launched in March in the wake of the second fatal crash, didn’t uncover efforts by Boeing to flout certification rules or intentionally provide faulty data to the FAA, according to people familiar with the findings. But it remains unclear what formal processes the FAA had in place to conduct an assessment independent of the initial determination by Boeing—that MCAS wasn’t critical to safety and therefore didn’t warrant close FAA scrutiny.

Still, the FAA doesn't really have an explanation for why it delegated so much authority to Boeing.

  • In testimony to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee two months ago, Mr. Elwell said detailed safety assessment and approval of the suspect system was "delegated," or handed over, to Boeing relatively early in the approval process under standard procedures. But he didn’t tell senators how that initial decision was reached or exactly what role FAA officials played in subsequent safety assessments.

The revelations come as Congress has subpoenaed representatives from pilots unions and the major airlines to testify. The DOT is also ramping up its own investigation. One thing is becoming increasingly clear: Before the grounding of the 737 MAX 8 is lifted, lawmakers are going to want answers to why these lapses in oversight occurred.

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Why Boeing’s emergency directions may have failed to save 737 MAX

From The Seattle Times

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By Dominic Gates

The pilots of the Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX that crashed last month appear to have followed the emergency procedure laid out by both Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration — cutting off the suspect flight-control system — but could not regain control and avert the plunge that killed all 157 on board.

Press reports citing people briefed on the crash investigation’s preliminary findings said the pilots hit the system-cutoff switches as Boeing had instructed after October’s Lion Air MAX crash, but couldn’t get the plane’s nose back up. They then turned the system back on before the plane nose-dived into the ground.

While the new software fix Boeing has proposed will likely prevent this situation recurring, if the preliminary investigation confirms that the Ethiopian pilots did cut off the automatic flight-control system, this is still a nightmarish outcome for Boeing and the FAA.

It would suggest the emergency procedure laid out by Boeing and passed along by the FAA after the Lion Air crash is wholly inadequate and failed the Ethiopian flight crew.

A local expert, former Boeing flight-control engineer Peter Lemme, recently explained how the emergency procedure could fail disastrously. His scenario is backed up by extracts from a 1982 Boeing 737-200 Pilot Training Manual posted to an online pilot forum a month ago by an Australian pilot.

That old 737 pilot manual lays out a scenario where a much more elaborate pilot response is required than the one that Boeing outlined in November and has reiterated ever since. The explanation in that manual from nearly 40 years ago is no longer detailed in the current flight manual.

Just a week after the Oct. 29 Lion Air crash, Boeing sent out an urgent bulletin to all 737 MAX operators across the world, cautioning them that a sensor failure could cause a new MAX flight-control system to automatically swivel upward the horizontal tail — also called the stabilizer — and push the jet’s nose down.

Boeing’s bulletin laid out a seemingly simple response: Hit a pair of cutoff switches to turn off the electrical motor that moves the stabilizer, disabling the automatic system — known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS. Then swivel the tail down manually by turning a large stabilizer trim wheel, next to the pilot’s seat, that connects mechanically to the tail via cables.

Boeing has publicly contended for five months that this simple procedure was all that was needed to save the airplane if MCAS was inadvertently activated.

 

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In a November television interview on the Fox Business Network, Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg, when asked if information had been withheld from pilots, cited this procedure as “part of the training manual” and said Boeing’s bulletin to airlines “pointed to that existing flight procedure.”

Vice president Mike Sinnett repeatedly described the procedure as a “memory item,” meaning a routine that pilots may need to do quickly without consulting a manual and so must commit to memory.

But Lemme said the Ethiopian pilots most likely were unable to carry out that last instruction in the Boeing emergency procedure — because they simply couldn’t physically move that wheel against the heavy forces acting on the tail.

“The forces on the tail could have been too great,” Lemme said. “They couldn’t turn the manual trim wheel.”

The stabilizer in the Ethiopian jet could have been in an extreme position with two separate forces acting on it:

  • MCAS had swiveled the stabilizer upward by turning a large mechanical screw inside the tail called the jackscrew. This is pushing the jet’s nose down.
  • But the pilot had pulled his control column far back in an attempt to counter, which would flip up a separate movable surface called the elevator on the trailing edge of the tail.

The elevator and stabilizer normally work together to minimize the loads on the jackscrew. But in certain conditions, the elevator and stabilizer loads combine to present high forces on the jackscrew and make it very difficult to turn manually.

As the jet’s airspeed increases — and with nose down it will accelerate — these forces grow even stronger.

In this scenario, the air flow pushing downward against the elevator would have created an equal and opposite load on the jackscrew, a force tending to hold the stabilizer in its upward displacement. This heavy force would resist the pilot’s manual effort to swivel the stabilizer back down.

This analysis suggests the stabilizer trim wheel at the Ethiopian captain’s right hand could have been difficult to budge. As a result, the pilots would have struggled to get the nose up and the plane to climb.

If after much physical exertion failed, the pilots gave up their manual strategy and switched the electric trim system back on — as indicated in the preliminary reports on the Ethiopian flight — MCAS would have begun pushing the nose down again.

Boeing on Wednesday issued a statement following the first account, published Tuesday night by The Wall Street Journal, that the Ethiopian pilots had followed the recommended procedures.

“We urge caution against speculating and drawing conclusions on the findings prior to the release of the flight data and the preliminary report,” Boeing said.

However, a separate analysis done by Bjorn Fehrm, a former jet-fighter pilot and an aeronautical engineer who is now an analyst with Leeham.net, replicates Lemme’s conclusion that excessive forces on the stabilizer trim wheel led the pilots to lose control.

Fehrm collaborated with a Swedish pilot for a major European airline to do a simulator test that recreated the possible conditions in the Ethiopian cockpit.

A chilling video of how that simulator test played out was posted to YouTube and showed exactly the scenario envisaged in the analysis, elevating it from plausible theory to demonstrated possibility.

The Swedish pilot is a 737 flight instructor and training captain who hosts a popular YouTube channel called Mentour Pilot, where he communicates the intricate details of flying an airliner. To protect his employment, his name and the name of his airline are not revealed, but he is very clearly an expert 737 pilot.

In the test, the two European pilots in the 737 simulator set up a situation reflecting what happens when the pre-software fix MCAS is activated: They moved the stabilizer to push the nose down. They set the indicators to show disagreement over the air speed and followed normal procedures to address that, which increases airspeed.

They then followed the instructions Boeing recommended and, as airspeed increases, the forces on the control column and on the stabilizer wheel become increasingly strong.

After just a few minutes, with the plane still nose down, the Swedish 737 training pilot is exerting all his might to hold the control column, locking his upper arms around it. Meanwhile, on his right, the first officer tries vainly to turn the stabilizer wheel, barely able to budge it by the end.

If this had been a real flight, these two very competent 737 pilots would have been all but lost.

The Swedish pilot says at the start of the video that he’s posting it both as a cautionary safety alert but also to undercut the narrative among some pilots, especially Americans, that the Indonesian and Ethiopian flight crews must have been incompetent and couldn’t “just fly the airplane.”

Early Wednesday, the Swedish pilot removed the video after a colleague advised that he do so, given that all the facts are not yet in from the ongoing investigation of the crash of Flight 302.

More detailed instructions that conceivably could have saved the Ethiopian plane are provided in the 1982 pilot manual for the old 737. As described in the extract posted by the Australian pilot, they require the pilot to do something counterintuitive: to let go of the control column for a brief moment.

As Lemme explains, this “will make the nose drop a bit,” but it will relax the force on the elevator and on the jackscrew, allowing the pilot to crank the stabilizer trim wheel. The instructions in the old manual say that the pilot should repeatedly do this: Release the control column and crank the stabilizer wheel, release and crank, release and crank, until the stabilizer is swiveled back to where it should be.

The 1982 manual refers to this as “the ‘roller coaster’ technique” to trim the airplane, which means to get it back on the required flight path with no force pushing it away from that path.

“If nose-up trim is required, raise the nose well above the horizon with elevator control. Then slowly relax the control column pressure and manually trim nose-up. Allow the nose to drop below the horizon while trimming (manually). Repeat this sequence until the airplane is trim,” the manual states.

The Australian pilot also posted an extract from Boeing’s “Airliner” magazine published in May 1961, describing a similar technique as applied to Boeing’s first jet, the 707.

Clearly this unusual circumstance of having to move the stabilizer manually while maintaining a high stick force on the control column demands significant piloting skill.

“We learned all about these maneuvers in the 1950-60s,” the pilot wrote on the online forum. “Yet, for some inexplicable reason, Boeing manuals have since deleted what was then — and still is — vital handling information for flight crews.”

Aviation safety consultant John Cox, chief executive of Safety Operating Systems and formerly the top safety official for the Air Line Pilots Association, said that’s because in the later 737 models that followed the -200, what was called a “runaway stabilizer” ceased to be a problem.

Cox said he was trained on the “roller coaster’ technique” back in the 1980s to deal with that possibility, but that “since the 737-300, the product got so reliable you didn’t have that failure,” said Cox.

However, he added, the introduction of MCAS in the 737 MAX creates a condition similar to a runaway stabilizer, so the potential for the manual stabilizer wheel to seize up at high airspeed has returned.

Cox said the failure of both Boeing and the FAA to warn pilots of this possibility will be “a big issue” as the Ethiopian crash is evaluated.

“I don’t think Boeing realized the complexity of the failure,” he said.

The procedure Boeing recommended to airlines after the Lion Air crash, which was repeated in an airworthiness directive issued by the FAA, includes a line near the bottom that “higher control forces may be needed to overcome any stabilizer nose-down” position. The instructions add that the pilots can use the electric system to neutralize the forces on the control column before hitting the cut-out switches.

But there’s no indication whatever in the wording that this is essential, and that heavy forces could render the manual stabilizer wheel almost immovable if the control column is not relaxed.

It’s possible the Ethiopian pilots, hyper alert after the Lion Air accident to the possibility that MCAS had activated, jumped straight to the end of the procedure checklist and hit the cut-off switches before attempting even to counter the nose-down movement with the thumb switches on the control column.

That would have subjected them almost immediately to the high tail forces that could have made recovery impossible.

The good news for Boeing is that the proposed software fix announced for MCAS should prevent the failure that led to this scenario in the cockpit.

“I think the MAX will be safe with the improved MCAS,” said Fehrm of Leeham.net.

On Wednesday, CEO Muilenburg joined Boeing test pilots aboard a 737 MAX 7 flight out of Boeing Field for a demonstration of the MCAS software fix and a test of various failure conditions. “The software update worked as designed,” Boeing said.

The bad news for Boeing is twofold, according to Fehrm. First, the original MCAS design was badly flawed and appears to be the principal cause of the Lion Air crash. Second, the procedure Boeing offered after that accident to keep planes safe now appears to have been woefully inadequate and may have doomed the Ethiopian Airlines jet.

On Wednesday the FAA , facing worldwide skepticism of its oversight, announced that it is establishing a team including foreign regulators to conduct a “comprehensive review of the certification of the automated flight control system on the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.”

The Joint Authorities Technical Review, chaired by former NTSB Chairman Chris Hart and including experts from the FAA, NASA, and international aviation authorities, will evaluate all aspects of MCAS, including its design and pilots’ interaction with the system.

The preliminary investigation report into the Ethiopian crash is expected early Thursday and should offer definitive detail on what happened in the cockpit.

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Boeing Suppliers Headed For Pain Amid Max Crisis

From Zero Hedge

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Last month, we reported that Boeing slashed production of the troubled 737 Max from 52 to 42 airplanes per month. Now, a new report from the Financial Times shows how production cuts are set to drive some of the company's suppliers into financial hardship.

Spirit AeroSystems, a 737 Max supplier that produces 70% of the plane's aerostructure, pulled its 2019 financial guidance, warning that past guidance is no longer valid because of the production cuts and no visible timeframe of when the planes will be back in the air.

Financial Times notes that Spirit AeroSystems is for right now, insulated from the cuts because it worked out a deal with Boeing to continue producing at the old rate (52 planes). The supplier is quickly building inventory at its facilities. They're only a few of the suppliers that are producing at the old rate, while others have transitioned to 42 per month, a 20% decline from the old rate.

Safran, a French multinational aircraft engine company with a joint venture with General Electric that produces engines for the Max, expects a $224 million hit in the next quarter.

GE's new chief executive Henry Culp recently confirmed a similar view: "We probably have something in that same range as a headwind with respect . . . to our own side of the [CFM joint venture] in the second quarter."

 

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Woodward, a Max supplier that produces avionics, seats and engine covers, said its production hadn't been affected by the Max slowdown, though it said the company holds no contractual agreements with Boeing that guarantees a specific production rate. "We are contracted to flex with them," chief executive Thomas Gendron told investors on an earnings call. Gendron said like many other suppliers in the Max supply chain, the downtime has been used to catch up on previous production delays.

He warned about "uncertainties and some risks in the second half" due to limited guidance from Boeing about production and ungrounding of the planes.

We reported that Boeing plans to coordinate with customers and suppliers to blunt the financial impact of the slowdown, and for now it doesn't plan to lay off workers from the Max program.

"When the Max returns to the skies, we've promised our airline customers and their passengers and crews that it will be as safe as any airplane ever to fly," Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said in an April statement.

Boeing had planned to hike output of the Max, a workhorse for budget carriers, about 10% by midyear, to meet the backlogs.

 

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As we noted, suppliers who provide the 600,000 parts needed for each plane had already started moving toward a 57-jet monthly pace under a carefully orchestrated schedule set in place long before the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines disasters, and it seems those suppliers could be hit with production declines in 2Q or possibly sometime in the 2H.

The bigger question, as we previously detailed, is what effect a 20% cut to Boeing's production will have on US GDP in Q2?

...a recessionary catalyst may be the fiasco involving the Max, which according to JPM economist Michael Feroli, could begin impacting the economic dataflow. According to the biggest US bank, the issues affecting the Max should have no short-run impact on GDP, as the production of this airplane is continuing, but will affect the composition of GDP, implying more growth in inventories and less growth of business investment and gross exports.

However, if the issues are not resolved in a timely manner and production of the Max needs to be halted for an extended period of time, it would send many of Boeing's suppliers into financial stress and could even shave off about 0.15% off the level of GDP, or about 0.6%-point off the quarterly annualized growth rate of GDP in the quarter in which production is stopped.

 

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Boeing Admits 'Mistakes Were Made' During Development Of 737 MAX 8

From Zero Hedge

737assembly_519By Tyler Durden

Following a series of conflicting reports claiming that Boeing didn't inform the FAA or Southwest, the largest buyer of its 737 MAX 8 planes, that a safety alert warning pilots that an 'angle-of-attack' sensor on the planes might be feeding the system erroneous data, risking a misfire of the plane's anti-stall software, had been made an 'optional' safety feature, Boeing has admitted that it wasn't aware that the alerts had been disabled when it initially delivered the planes, and that it waited more than 13 months, until after the Oct. 29 crash of a 737 MAX 8 owned by Indonesia's Lion Air, to inform its regulator that it had inadvertently disabled the alerts.

A series of reports by the Wall Street Journal over the past two weeks uncovered the fact that Boeing had made the alerts - which it insists were not a critically important safety feature - optional. Shortly after that initial report, WSJ published a follow up suggesting that Boeing's decision to disable the alerts was inadvertent, though a spokesman declined to elaborate about how this happened.

Finally, on Sunday, Reuters and WSJ confirmed that the decision was, in fact, unintentional, but Boeing still waited to inform its regulator and its customers that the alerts had been disabled on planes that didn't include an 'optional' package of additional safety figures.

This is the first time since the crash of the Lion Air flight and a subsequent deadly crash on March 10 that Boeing has admitted doing something inadvertently during the development of the 737 MAX 8.

However, as we noted in our prior coverage, Boeing's insistence that the alerts weren't critical to safety appears to conflict with the preliminary findings from an investigation into the Ethiopian Air crash, which determined that the pilots of the doomed flight were taken by surprise when MCAS - the slight's anti-stall system - activated and started pushing the nose of the plane down. Their efforts to deactivate the system were unsuccessful, and after manually raising the nose of the plane four times, the plane plunged out of the sky and crashed into a field outside Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board.

 

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Some analysts have argued that if the pilots of the doomed Lion Air and Ethiopian Air flights had been alerted to the misfire, that more than 350 lives could have been saved.

  • Boeing has said the feeding of erroneous Angle of Attack data to a system called MCAS that pushed the planes lower was a common link in two wider chains of events leading to both crashes, but has stopped short of admitting error on that front.
  • The angle of attack measures the angle between the air flow and the wing and helps determine whether the plane is able to fly correctly. If the angle becomes too steep, the flow of air over the wing is disturbed, throwing the plane into an aerodynamic stall. That means it starts to fall instead of fly.
  • Although the angle itself is key for onboard systems, the industry has debated for years whether such data should be included in already crowded cockpit displays because it is directly related to airspeed, which pilots already scrutinize.
  • Some analysts and academics say having the AOA Disagree alert installed would have helped Lion Air maintenance crew diagnose a problem on the penultimate flight of the 737 MAX jet that crashed in October, killing all 189 on board.

Boeing blamed the mistake on software delivered by a third-party vendor. The company was let off the hook by the FAA after it came clean, with nothing more than a stern warning.

  • Boeing said a Safety Review Board convened after a fatal Lion Air crash in Indonesia last October corroborated its prior conclusion that the alert was not necessary for the safe operation of commercial aircraft and could safely be tackled in a future system update.
  • The FAA backed that assessment but criticized Boeing for being slow to disclose the problem.
  • Boeing briefed the FAA on the display issue in November, after the Lion Air accident, and a special panel deemed it to be “low risk,” an FAA spokesman said.
  • "However, Boeing’s timely or earlier communication with the operators would have helped to reduce or eliminate possible confusion," he added.
  • Boeing attributed the error to software delivered to the company from an outside source, but did not give details.

Boeing is working on a software update for the 737 MAX 8 to make MCAS less powerful and also ensure that two sensors are always feeding flight data to both the plane's internal systems and the cockpit. The company has said the update could be finished as early as this week, after it completes a final series of test flights.

However, Boeing's apparent lack of awareness about the functionality of the safety features on its jets is simply staggering. What's more amazing is that the market has been unwilling to punish the company's shares even after this latest batch of revelations that appeared to suggest that Boeing misled the FAA (shares were down Monday, but the move was appeared to be triggered by the broad-based selloff inspired by Trump's tariff threats).

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Boeing Didn't Tell Southwest Or FAA That It Had Disabled Critical Safety Alerts On 737 MAX

From Zero Hedge

737max_419By Tyler Durden

It was a bad enough look for Boeing when reporters uncovered the company's decision to make some safety features optional on its 737 MAX 8s. Worse still that this decision was only made public after the deadly crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 just minutes after takeoff on March 10 - the second deadly crash involving the plane in six months, which spurred regulators around the world to ground the planes, erasing billions of dollars of Boeing market cap.

But a report in the Wall Street Journal published on Sunday that neither Southwest Airlines nor the FAA (Boeing's primary federal regulator) were aware that a safety feature intended to alert pilots to a potentially malfunctioning 'angle of attack' sensor - in other words, a feature that might have prevented both the crash of ET302 and the Oct. 29 crash of a 737 owned by Lion Air - had been disabled on the new 737s is simply staggering.

Not only did Boeing disable the alerts, which would notify pilots when the two sensors on the new 737 MAX 8s were reporting dramatically different data, and make them part of a new 'premium' package of safety features, but the manufacturer somehow neglected to tell the airline and its regulator that the alerts had been disabled. The result was that Southwest never updated its safety manuals for pilots to reflect the fact that the alerts had been disabled.

This is particularly egregious because the 737 MAX 8s featured the new MCAS anti-stall software which could be inadvertently triggered by erroneous data being reported by a malfunctioning sensor. Indeed, the preliminary findings from the investigation of the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 found that the misfire of the MCAS system effectively doomed all 157 people on board that day.

Pilots at Southwest and regulators at the FAA didn't learn that the alerts had been disabled until after the crash of the Lion Air flight, more than a year after the new jets had gone into service.

Plane maker Boeing Co. didn’t tell Southwest Airlines Co. when the carrier began flying 737 MAX jets in 2017 that a standard safety feature, found on earlier models and designed to warn pilots about malfunctioning sensors, had been deactivated.

Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors and supervisors responsible for monitoring Southwest, the largest MAX customer, were also unaware of the change, according to government and industry officials.

Boeing had turned off the alerts which, in previous versions of the 737, informed pilots if a sensor known as an “angle-of-attack vane” was transmitting errant data about the pitch of a plane’s nose. In the MAX, which featured a new automated stall-prevention system called MCAS, Boeing made those alerts optional; they would be operative only if carriers bought additional safety features.

Southwest’s cockpit crews and management didn’t know about the change for more than a year after the planes went into service. They and most other airlines operating the MAX globally learned about it only after the fatal Lion Air crash last year led to scrutiny of the plane’s revised design. The FAA office’s lack of knowledge about Boeing’s move hasn’t been previously reported.

"Southwest’s own manuals were wrong" about the status of the alerts, said Southwest pilots union president, Jon Weaks. Since Boeing hadn’t communicated the modification to the carrier, the manuals still reflected incorrect information.

Perhaps most stunning of all, once the FAA and Southwest learned that the feature had been disabled, it set off a furor at the FAA that nearly pushed it to recommend that all 737 MAX 8s be grounded until the alerts had been turned back on. If the regulator had followed through, it's possible that the crash of ET302 might have been averted.

Following the Lion Air crash, Southwest asked Boeing to reactivate the alerts on planes already in its fleet. This move, along with questions about why they had been turned off, prompted FAA inspectors overseeing Southwest to consider recommending that the airline’s MAX fleet be grounded while they assessed whether pilots needed additional training about the alerts. Those internal FAA discussions, however, were brief and didn’t go up the chain, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

[…]

Less than a month after the Lion Air jet went down, one FAA official wrote that AOA-related issues on 737 MAX jetliners “may be masking a larger systems problem that could recreate a Lion Air-type scenario."

Roughly two weeks later, other internal emails referred to a “hypothetical question” of restricting MAX operations with one message explicitly stating: “It would be irresponsible to have MAX aircraft operating with the AOA Disagree Warning system inoperative.” The same message alluded to the FAA’s power: “We need to discuss grounding [Southwest’s] MAX fleet until the AOA Warning System is fixed and pilots have been trained” on it and related displays.

The email discussions, previously unreported, were fleeting red flags raised by a small group of front-line FAA inspectors months before the Ethiopian jet nose-dived last month. The concerns raised by the FAA inspectors never progressed up the agency. Within days, they were dismissed by some involved in the discussions who concluded that the alerts provided supplemental pilot aids rather than primary safety information, and therefore no additional training was necessary. During that stretch and beyond, Boeing and the FAA continued to publicly vouch for the aircraft’s safety.

Boeing has never explained exactly why it decided to make these features optional. In the wake of the second crash, the company apologized profusely for this decision, and said that all safety features would be made available on all jets once it finished the software update to make MCAS less powerful, widely seen as an important prerequisite for FAA and other regulators to lift their grounding order.

Without a doubt, Sunday's report is the most damning news about the federal oversight of Boeing since reports that surfaced immediately after the March 10 crash revealed just how much of the approval process for the 737 MAX 8 had been delegated to Boeing itself.

But will either the FAA or Boeing be held accountable for this neglect? That remains to be seen...

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Boeing Hits Back at New York Times’ “Inaccurate” Reporting

From Airline Ratings

AirTahiti787_419By Geoffrey Thomas and Steve Creedy April 22, 2019

Boeing has hit back at a New York Times’ article about the production quality of the 787s being built at the company’s South Carolina plant.

The NYT’s article, which has been distributed widely, claimed that Boeing’s factory in Charleston, South Carolina, has been plagued by shoddy construction and weak oversight.

Citing internal emails, corporate documents, federal records as well as interviews with former and current employees, the story claimed Boeing pushed its workforce to quickly turn out Dreamliners while ignoring issues raised by some employees.

It said safety lapses at the plant had drawn the scrutiny of airlines and regulators, while workers had filed nearly a dozen whistle-blower claims and safety complaints with federal regulators.

The workers, a number of whom are involved in legal action against Boeing, described issues such as defective manufacturing, debris left on planes and pressure not to report violations.

The story acknowledged there was no evidence that the problems had led to any major safety incidents.

The North Charleston plant is one of two producing the 787 Dreamliner and started operations in 2011.

The non-unionised factory has been a big boost to the local economy but has been the subject of rancorous disputes with organized labor that some observers blame for the adverse publicity.

While the NYT claims are not new — similar allegations were raised by Al Jazeera in 2014 and dismissed by the company — they come at a bad time for Boeing as it grapples with the fallout of two Boeing 737 MAX crashes.

This message from Brad Zaback, Vice President and general manager of the 787 Program, was sent to all Boeing South Carolina teammates Saturday, April 20.

Team,

The 787 program has a lot to be proud of these days. Our transition to Rate 14 continues to be the most seamless rate transition in the program’s history, and our Boeing South Carolina 787 manufacturing operations are the healthiest they’ve ever been. More importantly, our quality metrics show that we are performing at all-time high levels as well. That is a testament to each of you, demonstrating your pride and your ongoing commitment to excellence with respect to both safety and quality.

A story that posted in today’s New York Times, however, paints a skewed and inaccurate picture of the program and of our team here at Boeing South Carolina. This article features distorted information, rehashing old stories and rumors that have long ago been put to rest.

I want all BSC teammates to know that we invited the New York Times to visit Boeing South Carolina once they contacted us, so that they could see first-hand the great work that is done here. They declined this invitation.

The allegations of poor quality are especially offensive to me because I know the pride in workmanship that each of you pours into your work every day. I see the highest quality airplanes – airplanes that meet rigorous quality inspections and FAA standards – deliver on time on a regular basis from Boeing South Carolina, where they perform exceptionally well in service for our valued airplane customers around the world. Our customers feel the same way, and shared their own thoughts with the New York Times:

American Airlines said it conducted rigorous inspections of new planes before putting them into service. “We have confidence in the 787s we have in our fleet,” said Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for the airline.

In a statement, Qatar Airways said it “continues to be a long-term supporter of Boeing and has full confidence in all its aircraft and manufacturing facilities.” Note that only a portion of their quote was included in the story, and we wanted to ensure you had their full perspective: “Qatar Airways continues to be a long-term supporter of Boeing and has full confidence in all its aircraft and manufacturing facilities as a strong commitment to safety and quality is of the utmost importance to both our companies. We have over 100 Boeing aircraft in our fleet, manufactured in both Everett and Charleston, with many more to join in the coming years as part of our significant, long-term investment in the US economy.”

In fact, we also heard from Suparna Airlines and Norwegian in response to the story, and here’s what they told us:

 

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Suparna Airlines: “The entire process of the aircraft delivery was very smooth. We want to thank the Boeing team in South Carolina who worked diligently with the Boeing standard and discipline to make the delivery a pleasant experience for us. The airplane has carried out more than 200 scheduled flights with total flight hours up to 500 at operational reliability of 99.99%. We are happy with the performance of our first Dreamliner.”

 

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Norwegian: “We are very satisfied with the quality and reliability of all our 33 Dreamliners, regardless of where they have been assembled.”

The inaccurate picture the New York Times paints is also offensive to me because they are counter to our company’s core values. Quality is the bedrock of who we are. That’s why we relentlessly focus on quality improvements and FOD elimination at all Boeing locations. No matter how good we are today, we always believe we can be even better tomorrow. That drive to be the best will never change at Boeing as we continue to strive to be a Global Industrial Champion and the leader in quality.

It’s unfortunate and disappointing that the New York Times chose to publish this misleading story. This story, however, does not define us. Our company and our customers recognize the talent, skill and dedication of this excellent Boeing South Carolina team that works together to assemble and deliver incredible airplanes. I want to leave you with a word from Kevin McAllister, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO, which was not included in full from the New York Times:

“Safety and quality are at the core of Boeing’s values – there is nothing more important than that. The 787 program has delivered 823 airplanes to more than 76 customers since its launch. As Boeing marks 10 years in North Charleston, our more than 7,000 Boeing South Carolina teammates are producing the highest levels of quality in our history. And, we are seeing this translate across our work and the in-service performance with our customers. We test our airplanes and verify components are fully operational, and when we find a component that is not, it is replaced and tested again. This is core to our quality system, as it is for the industry. I am proud of our teams’ best in-process quality of production and stand behind the work they do each and every day.”

This is a team that I am very proud to be a part of, and I’m thankful for all that you do every day.

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Boeing's Nightmare Continues

From Zero Hedge

787Plant_419Boeing's Nightmare Continues: Dreamliner Workers Warn Of Defective Manufacturing, Dangerous Quality Lapses

By Tyler Durden

Just as it looked like the fallout from the Boeing 737 MAX crashes was finally fading into the background, the New York Times is raising new questions about an entirely different Boeing plane, the Dreamliner 787. Workers at a Boeing plant in South Carolina are complaining about "defective manufacturing, debris left on planes and pressure to not report violations".

An investigation that incorporated reviewing hundreds of emails and documents, as well as interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees, has arrived at the conclusion that Boeing pushed speed over quality when it came to its Dreamliners - a story similar to the 737 MAX, which we reported faced similar critiques. This has lead to the question whether the issues at Boeing are limited to the 737, or if they are systemic.

According to the report, Boeing's North Charleston plant has come under fire for safety lapses, and the facility has also drawn the scrutiny of airlines and regulators. In fact, Qatar Airways even stopped taking planes from the factory after "manufacturing mishaps damaged jets and delayed deliveries".

On top of that, there have been nearly 12 whistleblower claims about the plant with regulators. They describe issues like manufacturing, debris left on planes and pressure to not report violations. Additional whistleblowers have skipped that step and gone right to suing Boeing, claiming that they were victims of retaliation for bringing up manufacturing mistakes.

Joseph Clayton, a technician at the North Charleston plant claimed he often found debris dangerously close to wiring beneath cockpits. He said: "I’ve told my wife that I never plan to fly on it. It’s just a safety issue."

Kevin McAllister, Boeing’s head of commercial airplanes, said in a statement: "Boeing South Carolina teammates are producing the highest levels of quality in our history. I am proud of our teams’ exceptional commitment to quality and stand behind the work they do each and every day."

Among other things, employees have claimed that faulty parts have been installed in planes, tools and metal shavings have routinely been left inside jets, often near electrical systems, and aircraft have taken test flights with debris in an engine and a tail, risking failure.

John Barnett, a former quality manager who worked at Boeing for nearly three decades said that he found metal slivers hanging over the writing that commands the flights controls. Barnett said if the sharp pieces penetrated the wires, it would be "catastrophic". He was so concerned that he filed a whistleblower complaint with regulators. He said he had repeatedly urged his bosses to remove the shavings, but they refused and then transferred him to another part of the plant.

 

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An FAA spokesman said the agency conducted inspections on several plans certified by Boeing as free of debris, but found the same metal slivers. It is a problem that can lead to electrical shorts and cause fires. Officials also believe the shavings may have been the cause of damage for an in-service airplane on an occasion in 2012. The FAA wound up issuing a directive in 2017 that Dreamliners needed to be cleared of shavings before delivery.

Barnett said: "As a quality manager at Boeing, you’re the last line of defense before a defect makes it out to the flying public. And I haven’t seen a plane out of Charleston yet that I’d put my name on saying it’s safe and airworthy."

But wait there's more: another issue popped up right after the 2nd 737 MAX crash: customers were finding random objects in new planes.

The North Charleston plant called a meeting to discuss the issue, where a Senior Manager urged the team to check more carefully, stating: “The company is going through a very difficult time right now.”

Employees are supposed to clean the aircraft as they manufacture it so they don’t contaminate the planes with shavings, tools, parts or other debris. But it has still been a problem in SC. Brad Zaback, the head of the 787 program, reminded the North Charleston staff in an email this month that debris “can potentially have serious safety consequences when left unchecked.”

Customers like the Air Force have also been turned off by the manufacturing sloppiness. In March, they stopped deliveries of the KC-46 tanker after finding a wrench, bolts and trash inside new planes.

Will Roper, an assistant secretary of the Air Force, said: “To say it bluntly, this is unacceptable. Our flight lines are spotless. Our depots are spotless, because debris translates into a safety issue.”

Workers at the SC plant said debris is a continual issue.

Rich Mester, a former technician who reviewed planes before delivery said: “I’ve found tubes of sealant, nuts, stuff from the build process. They’re supposed to have been inspected for this stuff, and it still makes it out to us.” Mester has been fired and a claim on his behalf was filed with the National Labor Relations Board.

He continued: "Employees have found a ladder and a string of lights left inside the tails of planes, near the gears of the horizontal stabilizer. It could have locked up the gears.”

Dan Ormson, who worked for American Airlines said he used to "regularly" find debris when inspecting Dreamliners. The debris included loose objects touching electrical wiring, rags near the landing gear and once finding a piece of bubble wrap near the pedal the co-pilot uses to control the plane’s direction. He also once saw that a bolt was loose inside one of the engines, which could have caused it to malfunction.

Another Dreamliner built for American Airlines suffered a flood in the cabin so bad that ceiling panels, seats and electronics had to be replaced.

One current technician at the plant recently found chewing gum holding together a door’s trim. He said: “It was not a safety issue, but it’s not what you want to present to a customer.” Several former Boeing employees also told the NYT that managers pushed quality inspectors to stop recording defects.

Cynthia Kitchens, a former quality manager, said: “It was intimidation. Every time I started finding stuff, I was harassed.”

Mester concluded: "They’re trying to shorten the time of manufacturing. But are you willing to sacrifice the safety of our product to maximize profit?"

You can read more troubling details in the extended NYT report here.

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Nine regulators join Boeing 737 MAX review

From Airline Ratings

737max_419

By Steve Creedy

Regulators from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China and Europe are among the nine authorities that have confirmed they will participate in the Boeing 737 MAX Joint Authorities Technical Review due to begin at the end of the month.

The US Federal Aviation Administration announced the list Friday US time and said the first meeting is due to take place on April 29.

The review is expected to take 90 days and is being chaired former national transportation safety Board chairman Chris Hart.

“The team will evaluate aspects of the 737 MAX automated flight control system, including its design and pilots’ interaction with the system, to determine its compliance with all applicable regulations and to identify future enhancements that might be needed,” the FAA said.

Confirmed participants are:

Australia
Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA)

Brazil
Agencia Nacional de Aviação Civil (ANAC)

Canada
Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA)

China
Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC)

European Union
European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)

Japan
Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB)

Indonesia
Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)

Singapore
Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS)

United Arab Emirates
General Civil Aviation Authority (UAE GCAA)

The review is one of several being undertaken into the certification of the MAX following the crash of two aircraft in less than five months.

Boeing is working on modifications to a controversial software linked to both crashes, the maneuvring augmentation characteristics system, MCAS.

Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg tweeted on April 16 that the company was making steady progress towards certification of the software and related training changes.

The company had just completed the last official engineering test flight of the updated software prior to a certification flight with the FAA.

Muilenburg said this had involved 120 MAX flights totaling more than 203 hours of flying time.

He had completed a demonstration flight and had seen first hand the software in its final form “operating as designed across a range of flight conditions”.

However, potential differences emerged between Canada and the US on whether training for the new software should be in a simulator or be computer-based.

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More Boeing Backlash: China Suspends $6 Billion Order For 100 737s

From Zero Hedge

737max_4819

Dealing another blow to public confidence in Boeing's ability to swiftly reassure regulators that its 737 MAX 8 can be made safe for passenger travel, the South China Post on Monday reported that China Aircraft Leasing Group Holdings has put an order for 100 new 737s on hold, until it can be assured of the aircraft's safety.

This follows a decision by Indonesia's national carrier to cancel a $6 billion 737 MAX order. The airline had been planning to order 49 planes. Boeing last week said it would cut its pace of production by 20% to just 42 a month.

China was the first country to ground the 737s after Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 crashed just minutes after takeoff - the second deadly incident involving the planes in just 5 months. A preliminary report from investigators found that the pilots followed Boeing's safety procedures, but were still unable to right the plane.

Boeing is working on an update of its MCAS anti-stall software, which is believed to have contributed to both the crash of ET302 and a deadly Lion Air crash that occurred just five months earlier, but the fix is taking longer than anticipated.

Per its original delivery schedule, the first 737 was supposed to be delivered to the aircraft lessor in Q3 of this year. Originally, the lessor signed its contract with Boeing in June 2017, ordering 50 aircraft, then increasing it by 25 with an option for another 25. The order for the initial 50 aircraft was valued at $5.8 billion.

The company said it has stopped paying installments on the planes it has ordered.

The Hong Kong-listed lessor, controlled by the state-owned conglomerate China Everbright Group, placed an order for 50 aircraft in June 2017. CALC then increased it by another 25 in December with an option for 25 more as part of its plan to grow its overall fleet from 133 in 2018 to 232 by 2023. According to the original schedule, the first MAX jet was expected to be delivered to CALC in the third quarter of this year and continue up to 2023.

"The purchase has been suspended and we have stopped paying the installments," said Chen Shuang, chairman of CALC and chief executive of China Everbright, the financial arm of China Everbright Group.

Airlines around the world have grounded the 737s, and last week, the FAA set up a joint review task force that is expected to include other aviation regulators, including possibly China's, which has been invited to join.

Most of the deliveries weren't expected until 2021, so the hold won't impact the lessor's operations, its spokesman said.

A CALC spokeswoman said that since most of the deliveries to the company were to be made from 2021, "so we see little or no impact on our operations."

Chen said that they have received assurances from Boeing that “a better solution will be submitted to CALC within two months”, adding that they have not yet discussed compensation.

Chen said both sides are actively seeking a solution to the problem.

"One option being considered is to replace it with other aircraft. But there aren’t too many options," said Chen.

Of course, the last thing Boeing shareholders wanted to hear after last week's string of negative headlines was more bad news, particularly after the late-Friday announcement of its production cut, which the company had clearly hoped to sneak by the market. And following the revelation that Boeing might soon have a second large cancellation on its hands, Boeing's shares - already lower - have sunk even further in premarket trading, weighing on the Dow.

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Whistleblowers Claim FAA Inspectors Not Properly Trained On Boeing 737 Max 8

From Zero Hedge

737max_4219

Multiple whistleblowers have come forward claiming that Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety inspectors were not properly trained and did not hold valid certifications on the Boeing 737 Max aircraft, according to a letter to FAA Acting Administrator Daniel Elwell from Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS).

"Allegations from these whistleblowers include information that numerous FAA employees, including those involved in the Aircraft Evaluation Group (AEG) for the Boeing 737 Max, had not received proper training and valid certifications," the letter reads.

"Some of these FAA employees were possibly involved as participants on the Flight Standardization Board (FSB)," a group formed to evaluate the 737 Max 8 to determine requirements to rate pilots, develop minimum training recommendations, and to ensure "initial flightcrew member competency."

Two Boeing 737 Max 8s were involved in similar crashes within a five month period, while investigators are pointing to sensor failures connected to an anti-stall system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).

Of note, an off-duty pilot flying in the jumpseat on a Lion Air 737 Max 8 last October was able to talk pilots through disabling the MCAS system on the same plane that crashed a day later off the coast of Indonesia, killing all 189 on board.

The FAA whistleblowers also claim that the FAA may have been informed of the 737 Max 8s deficiencies as early as August 2018, two months before the Lion Air crash.

As we noted last month, several Pilots repeatedly warned federal authorities of safety concerns over the now-grounded Boeing 737 Max 8 for months leading up to the second deadly disaster involving the plane, according to an investigation by the Dallas Morning News. One captain even called the Max 8's flight manual "inadequate and almost criminally insufficient," according to the report.

***

"The fact that this airplane requires such jury-rigging to fly is a red flag. Now we know the systems employed are error-prone — even if the pilots aren't sure what those systems are, what redundancies are in place and failure modes. I am left to wonder: what else don't I know?" wrote the captain.

 

737maxletter_4219

 

At least five complaints about the Boeing jet were found in a federal database which pilots routinely use to report aviation incidents without fear of repercussions.

The complaints are about the safety mechanism cited in preliminary reports for an October plane crash in Indonesia that killed 189.

The disclosures found by The News reference problems during flights of Boeing 737 Max 8s with an autopilot system during takeoff and nose-down situations while trying to gain altitude. While records show these flights occurred during October and November, information regarding which airlines the pilots were flying for at the time is redacted from the database. -Dallas Morning News

One captain who flies the Max 8 said in November that it was "unconscionable" that Boeing and federal authorities have allowed pilots to fly the plane without adequate training - including a failure to fully disclose how its systems were distinctly different from other planes.

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Investigators Believe MCAS Involved In Both Boeing Crashes

From Airline Ratings

737max_4119

By Steve Creedy

Investigators believe the controversial software update implicated in the crash of a Lion Air Boeing 737MAX was also involved in the March 10 destruction of an Ethiopian Airlines jet.

Quoting sources familiar with a high-level briefing to the US Federal Aviation Administration, The Wall Street Journal reported that an emerging consensus among investigators was that the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, was involved in both crashes.

The two crashes claimed a total of 346 lives and plunged manufacturer Boeing into crisis.

The newspaper warned that that preliminary finding from the flight data and cockpit voice recorders was subject to revision and said a preliminary report from Ethiopian investigators was due “within days”.

The global Boeing 737 MAX fleet remains grounded because of worries about similarities between the two crashes.

The FAA, which is facing several investigations into the certification of the plane, was the last agency to ground the MAX on March 13.

It defended the delay by arguing hard data suggesting a link between the two flights was not available until just prior to the decision.

That new information included a newly refined satellite data of the aircraft’s flight path and evidence found on the ground, believed to be a jackscrew that moves the horizontal stabilizer.

Boeing was already working on changes to MCAS and pilot training when the second crash occurred and this week released details of the changes.

It said it had complete confidence in the safety of its new software fix.

MCAS activates in manual flight when the flaps are retracted and is part of the speed trim system that automatically commands changes to the horizontal stabilizer to trim the plane so there are no net forces on the control column.

Erroneous data from an angle of attack (AoA) sensor prompted MCAS to repeatedly push down the nose of aircraft in the Lion Air crash, something the pilots fought instead of deactivating the system. The angle of attack measures the position of the aircraft nose in relation to airflow.

The original version of MCAS took information from just one Angle of Attack sensor but there are two on the aircraft and the new version will compare inputs from both.

If the sensors disagree by 5.5 degrees or more with the flaps retracted, MCAS will not activate and an indicator on the flight deck display will alert the pilots.

If MCAS activated in abnormal conditions, the new software will only provide one input for each elevated AoA event instead of resetting itself repeatedly.

It will also not be able to apply more force to the horizontal stabilizer than can be counteracted by the flight crew pulling back on the column.

Boeing is also making standard an AoA disagree alert that will tell the pilots if the two AOA sensors disagree by more than 10 degrees for more than 10 seconds.

“We’re going to do everything we can to ensure that accidents like these never happen again,’’ Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice product of product development Mike Sinnett told reporters this week.

“We are working with customers and regulators around the world to restore faith in the industry and to reaffirm our commitment to safety and to earning the trust of the flying public.”

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Broken Dreams: The Boeing 787

From aljazeera.com

787_31719

This is a major project by the Al Jazeera Investigative Unit focusing on the 787 “Dreamliner”, the flagship passenger jet of the Boeing Company.

Our journalism reveals the deeply-held safety concerns of current and former Boeing engineers, who in some cases fear to fly on the 787, the plane they build.

We uncover allegations of on-the-job drug use, quality control problems and poor workmanship.

We explore the roots of the battery problems that led to the plane’s grounding due to safety concerns for three months from January 2013.

Credits: Senior Producer/Director: Marc Shaffer, Producer/Director of Photography/Editor: Colin McIntyre, Producer: Kevin Hirten, Reporter/Producer: Will Jordan, Music: Ryan Whittier, Additional Music: Sean Hirten.

 

 

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737 Max: Finally The Scrap from Seattle Has To Stay On The Ground

From AnderweltOnline.com

737max_31619

By Peter Haisenko

The B 737 MAX is a faulty design from the beginning. Anyone who knows anything about aerodynamics will recognize it immediately if they only look at the aircraft.

The example of the Boeing 737 and especially the latest development stage MAX 8/9 shows how fatal it is when it is not engineers who make the decisions, but merchants. No engineer in his right mind would have built the 737 MAX like this if he hadn’t been forced to do so by greedy managers. The nearly 400 deaths in two crashes were caused by Boeing’s board of directors, as well as the threatening bankruptcy of the entire company.

Boeing’s B 737 was a crutch right from the start. When Boeing planned the B 737-100 in the early 1960s, a seat configuration of 2/3 was planned, as with the DC 9. Lufthansa, as the largest first customer for the “City-Jet”, wanted a 3/3 version, as with the B 727 and the B 707. However, the construction was already advanced and so the tinkering began in order to save costs. Boeing simply left the already planned cockpit as narrow as it was and so the pilots still have to squeeze themselves into a cockpit for all versions of the 737 for which you actually need a shoehorn to get in. But this mini cockpit is of course lighter than an ergonomically sensible one and so the merchants are happy.

But that wasn’t the only cost-saving (lazy) compromise.

In order to save costs, Boeing has designed flying crutches

The nose and main landing gear were not designed for the now larger hull from the beginning. Our flight engineers told me that during their studies of aeronautical engineering in the 1960s the nose landing gear of the 737 was presented to them as a negative example of how not to do it. Nevertheless, the B 737-100 became a successful model, which was mainly due to a lack of competitor models. In the 1970s, the B 737 was modernised for the first time with the model B 737-200. The more powerful JT-8 engines were still small in size and fitted under the low wings. Boeing responded to the contemporary requirements for bad weather conditions with an autopilot construction that was a crutch from the beginning but is still used in all B 737 models today.

This led, for example, to the crash of the “Fly Dubai” in Rostow in April 2016.

Boeing introduced the 737-300 model in the mid-1980s. It had a “glass cockpit” like the Airbus A 310 (with screens instead of a “clock shop”) and modern engines with a large front rotor. Boeing would have had to carry out a new design already here, because the engines no longer fit under the low wings. In order to save the costs for a new construction and above all the complex approvals for it, the next crutch came. The engine was placed a bit higher and further forward and the intake of the engine was flattened at the bottom so that it wasn’t too close to the ground and so absorbed every stone from the ground, which would have destroyed the engine.

In the further years Boeing has “drilled” the 737 more and more with the models up to -800. Boeing has not changed anything about the basic construction from the 1960’s with its deficits. It is simply inexpensive for the production to continue using already certified units.

At the end of the 1980s Airbus introduced the A 320, which was a completely new design and Airbus set standards in terms of flight guidance systems and design. The A 320 became a direct and successful competitor for the B 737. Boeing came under pressure, but was able to win more customers for its crutch 737 because of the favourable purchase price. This was also because Airbus could not deliver as many aircraft as the worldwide demand was. Here we are faced with a fundamental problem in international aviation: enormous growth, especially in Asia and Africa. There is a lack of qualified junior pilots and mechanics with sufficient experience. Airbus had anticipated this problem and designed the A 320’s flight guidance systems to provide meaningful support for even less experienced pilots. Boeing is trying to catch up, but is not able to reach the A 320, which was designed more cleverly from the start. Airbus has once again set new standards with the A 320-neo.

Now we have to look at the markets for this class of aircraft. They are not just now in areas where other qualities are desired than in Europe. Even in the USA, airlines do not have the capacity to land in extremely poor visibility. To date, there are only a few airports in the USA that offer the ground-based conditions for a landing according to “Category III”, i.e. for visibility below 100 metres. These conditions are expensive, on the ground and in the air. In Africa or Southeast Asia they practically do not exist at all, simply because the demand is not there. This also explains why Boeing never set about bringing its crutch from an autopilot to a decent level. An estimated 90 percent of customers have no need.

With high oil prices, the demand for fuel-saving models has increased. Airbus has once again set standards with the A 320-neo and its particularly efficient engines. Boeing was in a tight spot. But the super engines of the A 320 simply did not fit under the wings of the old B 737 anymore. But instead of finally constructing a completely new model, the Boeing merchants decided to build the ultimate crutch beyond all aerodynamic rules. The engines that were too big for the 737 were moved even further forward and upwards.

During the first test flights it turned out that the physics cannot be outwitted so simply. The airflow of the engine now passed directly under the wing, which must have several negative effects. Once the lift is influenced negatively, but the biggest problems were in the extreme slow flight, that is shortly before the stall, which can lead to a crash.

In this situation, the airflow from the engine of the 737 MAX is located under the entire lower outer wing, which puts the aircraft in an uncontrollable state. Instead of finally redesigning the aircraft, Boeing’s managers opted for the worst crutch: they had a system installed that takes full control of the aircraft at this limit. If a sensor, and only one sensor, detects this limit, the attached computer causes the aircraft to move the tailplane trim to “nose down”. That wouldn’t be wrong in principle, but it would overshoot the mark.

The fact that this deadly system has no control system, which as such should not occur in aviation, has now proved fatal twice. This means that if this single sensor gives an error message, pilots have little chance of preventing their aircraft from flying into the ground without being pointed. The hole in Ethiopia’s ground speaks for itself.

It’s not the engineers who are responsible, it’s the managers.

Now you should know that the tailplane trim of all smaller Boeing models has always been a prone crutch. It’s a motor-spindle unit that tends to “run away” or jump out and jam if a relay fault occurs. For this reason there was a prominently placed emergency switch on the B 727 with which the trim motor could be switched off. This was practiced in the simulator. The newer 737 models no longer have this emergency shutdown device.

So the pilots can’t switch off the trim motor and save the plane even if they recognized the error. They would have to switch off the entire busbar on which the trim motor hangs. But this would shut down other elementary systems and it is a process that cannot be carried out in a fraction of a second. So if the only sensor for the angle of attack sends a wrong signal to the only computer, then this aircraft can no longer be saved, at least if it flies at low altitude.

The B 737 MAX is a faulty design right from the start. Anyone who knows anything about aerodynamics will recognize it immediately if he only looks at the aircraft. It forms the tip of a series of crutch constructions that run through the entire history of B 737 development. It is not engineers who are responsible for this, but the managers who force the engineers to build crutches against their better judgement.

The fact that this better knowledge is actually happening again is proven by the fact that there is an e-mail from summer 2018, i.e. before the first crash, in which Boeing employees already document what effects this design error can have. Boeing’s board of directors did not react and accepted so approvingly that exactly what happened twice within a few months happens – with almost 400 dead.

Ethiopia trusts neither the manufacturer, nor the US licensing authority FAA

In addition to Boeing’s managers, the heads of the FAA, the American regulatory authority, must of course also be called to account. They certified the airworthiness of the 737 MAX, although they had to know what kind of crutch it was. So it is not surprising that the FAA was the last to ban the 737 MAX from flying. It is already a unique event in the history of aviation that individual countries all over the world first had to rush ahead with flight bans, before the authority actually responsible for them desists to do so. However, this was preceded by a unique process.

It was not the FAA or the manufacturer Boeing that banned the 737 MAX from flying in the USA. It was Donald Trump who pulled the emergency brake with a decree. After that, the FAA and Boeing could no longer help but to follow the step that would have been due by summer 2018 at the latest. Also interesting is the next procedure, which is again unique: Ethiopia did not leave the accident investigation to the FAA or Boeing.

Contrary to standard procedures, the investigation was transferred to the French BEA and the flight recorder was sent to Paris for investigation. This is almost a declaration of war on the American aircraft industry, but at least a demonstration of how little trust remains in the integrity of American institutions. This is probably also a consequence of the fact that in expert circles a large number of deliberately falsified results are known which the American authorities have delivered on aircraft accidents. Let us just think of the TWA 600, which was downed by an American rocket and which was concealed from the public and even from us pilots with all its criminal methods.

The history of the B 737 MAX and all 737 models shows the state of the USA and its (aircraft) industry. For even short-term profit, all rules are set aside that have been developed for decades out of bitter necessity. What role do a few hundred deaths play when it comes to saving profit? The FAA itself is obviously corrupted through and through and here comes the next interesting aspect.

Donald Trump obviously knows this, because he wanted to put his personal chief pilot on the FAA’s executive chair, but this met with massive resistance. There we have the next point, why the American establishment hates Trump so much. He obviously wants to dry up the swamp at all levels. If he had his way, it’s not unlikely that the 737 MAX in this configuration wouldn’t have been approved and 400 people wouldn’t have been crushed. Another piquant detail is that from the beginning warnings came from Russia regarding the airworthiness of the 737 MAX.

Turbo-capitalism cannot persist in the long run

The disasters with the B 737 MAX have put the entire aviation industry in great distress. There will also be bottlenecks in Europe in the charter summer of 2019. But for Boeing itself it can mean the end. After all, several hundred copies of the 737 MAX have already been delivered and will probably have to be scrapped, because a simple retrofit with software cannot solve the basic problem of the faulty design. Simply resuming production of the old models of the 737 is no solution. It’s not that simple and who would want to have an airplane that can’t survive next to the A 320 neo?

The 737 MAX case makes it clear that turbo capitalism cannot exist in the long run. The whole world cannot function “sustainably”, and aviation certainly cannot, if only profit is the determining element. Not only the “diesel scandal” shows this, now drastically Boeing.

So what we need is a radical rethink. Capital and its managers and profiteers must be deprived of power and given back to reason and public spirit. This applies not only to the aircraft and car industries, but above all to the pharmaceutical industry, which does not want to heal people at all, but pursues the primary interest of selling more and more medicines to healthy people.

However, in order for an improvement to be possible, and in order to prevent thousands of people from continuing to lose their lives because of profit-seeking, the entire system must be fundamentally overhauled. This must be radical and must not leave out anything that should have been questioned long ago.

In this sense we have developed “The Human Market Economy” from scratch and I don’t think it is excessive to say that exactly this revolutionary system according to Haisenko/von Brunn has the potential to solve all, repeat all, the problems under which humanity suffers under the religious-capitalist dictatorship.

Peter Haisenko was a pilot with Lufthansa and flew for 30 years in worldwide service as a co-pilot and captain. Since 2004 he has worked as a freelance author and journalist. He is the owner and publisher of the online portal www.anderweltonline.com

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737 MAX 8 Software Update Coming, Calls For Ground Intensify

From AvWeb

737max_31219

By Marc Cook

Amid a rising chorus of calls for the FAA to ground the Boeing 737 MAX 8 after this weekend’s crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, Boeing announced that software updates are being readied ahead of an expected Airworthiness Directive “no later than April.” Meanwhile, two US Senators have demanded the FAA ground the airplane.

The FAA has not moved toward grounding the 737 models, stating that it is working with the NTSB and local accident investigators, and "will take appropriate action if the data indicates the need to do so."

Senators Dianne Feinstien (D-Calif.) and Richard Bluemthal (D-Conn.) have written to FAA Acting Administrator Daniel Ellwell asking that the agency ground the 737 MAX 8 “until their safe use has been confirmed,” wrote Feinstein. “Continuing to fly an airplane that has been involved in two fatal crashes within just six months presents an unnecessary, potentially life-life-threatening risk to the traveling public.”

Boeing issued this statement regarding the software changes. “For the past several months and in the aftermath of Lion Air Flight 610, Boeing has been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX, designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer. This includes updates to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals and crew training. The enhanced flight control law incorporates angle of attack (AOA) inputs, limits stabilizer trim commands in response to an erroneous angle of attack reading, and provides a limit to the stabilizer command in order to retain elevator authority.”

Boeing says it has been working closely with the FAA on the software changes, and that they “will be deployed across the 737 MAX fleet in the coming weeks. The update also incorporates feedback received from our customers.” The expected AD follows AD2018-23-51 issued in December that called for revisions to the 737-8 and 737-9’s operating procedures. “This AD [2018-23-51] was prompted by analysis performed by the manufacturer showing that if an erroneously high single angle of attack (AOA) sensor input is received by the flight control system, there is a potential for repeated nose-down trim commands of the horizontal stabilizer.”

Focus on the 737 MAX’s MCAS continues as a possible explanation for the Ethiopian Airlines crash based on initial reports of its flight path, with a rapid descent that is eerily similar to the Lion Air 737 that crashed last November. However, Reuters is reporting that witnesses saw the Ethiopian aircraft “making a strange rattling noise and trailing smoke and debris” just before impact.

Accident investigatgors from the NTSB and Boeing are due at the crash scene today. As we reported earlier, both the Cockpit Voice Recorder and Flight Data Recorder have been recovered from the crash site.

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New Bill Pushes for Secondary Security Door to Protect Cockpits

From Travel Pulse

doorlock_219

By Alex Temblador

Last year, Congress passed a law that required future, newly-manufactured commercial airplanes to be installed with secondary security doors between the cabins and cockpit so as to prevent terrorists from attacking pilots who took bathroom breaks or meals.

The legislation did not address existing aircraft, so some lawmakers have introduced a new bill, called the Saracini Enhanced Aviation Safety Act after the pilot Victor Saracini who was killed in the 9/11 attacks. It would require this new security measure on all passenger jets, currently in operation or otherwise.

Airplane hijackings are extremely rare these days, with only one occurring in 2018, none in 2017, and seven in total in the last five years, all without casualties according to the Aviation Safety Network.

However, Democrats Andre Carson and Josh Gottheimer and Republican Brian Fitzpatrick and Peter King, who are leading the new bill, said that hijackings remain a threat and secondary barriers would allow pilots to close a cockpit door before opening another to the rest of the plane.

Carson said, “This is a critical next step, ensuring that all passengers, no matter which plane they fly on, are protected against cockpit incursions. I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address this security gap and make certain American skies remain the safest in the world.”

He was echoed by Rep. Josh Gottheimer: "Securing the safety of our skies is absolutely critical to preventing another terrorist attack like 9/11. I was proud to cosponsor bipartisan legislation last Congress requiring secondary barriers on new commercial aircraft to help stop terrorists on airplanes. Now that it’s law, we need to go a step further to protect our country by requiring all commercial aircraft to have secondary cockpit barriers. We must do everything we can to prevent all terror attacks on our country, and that includes in our skies."

Rep. King argues that such a bill would protect more than just pilots: “We must do all that we can to ensure the attacks of September 11th are never repeated. I am proud to cosponsor this measure which will go a long way to protecting not only the pilots and flight crews but the passengers as well.”

Perhaps, they’re right. A study by the Federal Aviation Administration found that secondary doors would be the most efficient, cost-effective form of protection for pilots, who are vulnerable when they step out of the cockpit.

The barrier would be a lightweight, wire-mesh door that costs only $5,000 per aircraft.

According to the Daily Mail, Airlines for America, an industry trade group that represents airlines like United and American, argues that carriers should take the lead on whether to install such systems or not.

Ellen Sarcini, the widow of Captain Sarcini, is among many who are pushing for this new bill:

“It is unacceptable that, more than 17 years after terrorists breached the cockpit of my husband’s airplane on September 11, 2001, our skies are still susceptible to repeat this act of terrorism. It is my mission to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect the flight deck aboard our nation’s airliners because, without secondary barriers, we are just as vulnerable today as we were on that fateful day.”

She added, “We need to call on the FAA to act swiftly on legislation passed last Congress to implement a secondary barrier on newly manufactured aircraft for delivery. I’m pleased that a bipartisan group of leaders in the 116th Congress are wasting no time to address retrofitting the remaining aircraft with secondary barriers and continue protecting all who travel in the skies above us.”

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Tornado Tosses Airliners In Turkey

From AvWeb

oops1_119

By Russ Niles

A tornado ripped through the airport at Antalya Turkey on Saturday, injuring 12 people and causing millions of dollars in damage as it marched down a line of airliners parked on the ramp. None of the injuries are considered life threatening. The wind knocked over buses and service vehicles on the ramp and pushed equipment into the airliners. Large pieces of debris also struck the planes and the terminal building. Officials said three buses and several pieces of ground equipment were toppled.

The twister was one of as many as five that touched down in Antalya, which was just recovering from a tornado and major storm that hit the region on Thursday. The same storm brought heavy rain to the coast and snow to the mountains of the Balkan region and Turkey.

 

 

 

 

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727 Ends Scheduled Passenger Service

From AVWeb

iran727_119By Russ Niles

The last scheduled passenger flight of a Boeing 727 was reportedly conducted Jan.12 by Iran Aseman Airlines. The aircraft, a relatively new Boeing 727-200 Advanced (it was built in 1977), flew as EP851 on a domestic flight from Zahedan to Tehran. The low-key final flight marked the end of a remarkable 55-year run for the tri-engine jet that was a state-of-the-art improvement in speed and efficiency when it was introduced in 1962.

Although a few 727s remain in freight and even executive service, most of the 1,831 produced until 1984 were retired by early in this century because they’re noisy and gobble fuel. When the 727 entered service with Eastern Airlines in 1964, it carried as many passengers as four-engine airliners but flew higher and went faster. It became a fixture on domestic routes but was eventually eclipsed by twin-engine short-haul models. Thanks to decades of trade sanctions, Iran hasn't been able to buy new airliners or spare parts for the legacy airliners it operates.

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Police Arrest 2 Suspects In Bizarre Gatwick Airport 'Drone Shutdown'

From Zero Hedge

drone_1219

By Tyler Durden

Police have arrested two suspects - a 47-year-old man and 54-year-old woman from Crawley - believed to be the perpetrators of a bizarre incident that brought air traffic at Sussex's Gatwick airport to a grinding halt for 36 hours this week when drones were spotted flying over the airport's runway, according to the BBC.

Due to the risks of a collision between the drones and commercial aircraft, departing and arriving flights at Gatwick were cancelled for 36 hours, impacting the travel plans of some 140,000 people and leaving some stranded in the airport for more than a day. If found guilty of violating laws prohibiting the piloting of drones within one kilometer of an airport, the couple could face up to 5 years in jail - not to mention the enduring ire of the British people. Though delayed passengers are still in the process of being accommodated, Gatwick said Saturday it aimed to run "a full schedule" of 757 flights carrying some 125,000 passengers. During the disruption, some 1,000 flights were cancelled.

According to the Sun, the couple was arrested after a cyclist was spotted "frantically" packing a drone into a bag near the airport.

Sussex Police said today: "A 47-year-old man and a 54-year-old woman, both from Crawley, were arrested in the town on suspicion of disrupting services of civil aviation aerodrome to endanger or likely to endanger safety of operations or persons."

"They remained in custody at 11am on Saturday."

A witness who said he spotted one of the suspects described the scene to the Sun:

It comes as driver Paul Motts, 52, told The Sun how he spotted the man "in this 30s and in hi-vis clothing" in a country lane four miles from the runway on Thursday night.

The EDF Energy manager said: "I was delivering a parcel and drove past a suspicious man in fluorescent cycling gear crouching over a large drone which was all lit up."

"It was a big thing with lights on its arms and roughly 4ft across."

"He had a smaller drone, about 2ft across, next to him."

"He was leaning over and doing something to it. He was totally focused and did not look up when I drove past."

"It looked like he was packing the drones away. Two minutes later we turned around and came across him cycling away."

"I expect he wanted to disassemble the drone as quickly as possible and get away as fast as he could."

"It was pretty weird considering what had happened at the airport during the day."

Police said the arrests were made following raids "in the Gatwick area". Though they added that the investigation into the incident is ongoing.

Sussex Police confirmed last night they had arrested a man and a woman after raids were carried out "in the Gatwick area".

Police Superintendent James Collis said: "As part of our ongoing investigations into the criminal use of drones which has severely disrupted flights in and out of Gatwick Airport, Sussex Police made two arrests just after 10pm on 21 December."

"Our investigations are still ongoing, and our activities at the airport continue to build resilience to detect and mitigate further incursions from drones by deploying a range of tactics."

"We continue to urge the public, passengers and the wider community around Gatwick to be vigilant and support us by contacting us immediately if they believe they have any information that can help us in bringing those responsible to justice."

The runway at Gatwick reopened this morning but passengers are urged to check their flights before travelling as as delays and cancellations are set to enter a fourth day."

To bring about an end to the chaos, the Army employed "drone killer" technology used in the fight against ISIS to try and disable the drones, though it's unclear how effective the technology was (particularly after the drone made at least one return appearance after flights resumed on Friday). The technology uses radio-jamming frequencies to crash the drones. The Israeli-made tech has been used in the fight against ISIS in Mosul last year.

Ruling out the possibility that the drone activity was some kind of accident, a spokesman for Gatwick said the flight patterns suggest the drone flights were a deliberate attempt to paralyze traffic on the busy holiday weekend. At one point, the drone was flown close to Gatwick’s control tower and even flashed its lights at police officers in what the Sun described as a deliberate taunt.

Now that the incident is (hopefully) resolved, here's a timeline of events that showcases just how disruptive the incident was. Given the relatively high ROI in terms of disruption compared with the cost and difficulty in pulling this off, airports around the world are on high alert for copy cat attacks that could prove even more disruptive.

 

drone1_1219

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