One of the country's most famous airline pilots talks about the problems with the Boeing 737 MAX jetliner. Pensioner Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger told a congressional subcommittee Wednesday that a 737 MAX automated air traffic control system "was fatally defective and should never have been approved."
Sullenberger, who safely landed a damaged US Airways jet on the Hudson River in New York in 2009 after a bird strike disabled the engines, says he understands how the two 737 Max plane's newly crashed pilots would have been confused as they struggled to maintain control of the aircraft, since an automatic system incorrectly started the plans in the dive dives.
"I can tell you that the starting factor is real and it is huge. It absolutely interferes with its ability to quickly analyze the crisis and take corrective action," he said.
The House Aviation Subcommittee examines the crashes of Boeing 737 Max jets in Indonesia last fall and in Ethiopia in March, killing a total of 346 people. The panel also examines what role, if any, of Boeing's rush to develop the latest version of the popular 737, and the FAA's process of certifying the new model that may have been airworthy in the tragedies.
The plan remains unspoiled as the aviation authorities around the world founded the plans shortly after the second crash. The three US airlines flying MAX-Southwest, American and United have canceled thousands of flights, as they have pulled the MAX plan off their schedules during the busy summer months.
Boeing says it has now completed a software solution for the automated system called MCAS, which investigator says seems to be at least partially blamed in the crash.
"These crashes are evidence that our current airplane design and certification system failed," Sullenberger told lawmakers. "The accidents should never have happened."
Daniel Carey, president of the Allied Pilots Association, representing pilots at American Airlines, noted Boeing's strong security post in general, but he criticized the space giant for making "many mistakes" to reduce costs while developing the MAX planet so that it would feel as much as the previous version of 737. "Boeing design and engineers and manufacturers fantastic aircraft," Carey told. "Unfortunately, in the case of MAX, I have to agree with Boeing's CEO, they released the traveling public in a fatal and catastrophic way."
Carey told the committee that the MCAS flight control system, which was designed to prevent an aerodynamic stall, was incorrect because it had a single point of failure without layoffs. As for both the Lion Air flight in Indonesia and the Ethiopia Airlines plane, a single angle of the attack sensor gave incorrect data to the system, so MCAS forcefully and repeatedly forced the nose to the plane when it would not.
"A major circumstance error was that Boeing failed to reveal the existence of the MCAS system to the pilot community around the world," Carey said. "The final lethal mistake was therefore the absence of robust pilot training in the event of an MCAS failure."
Carey says Boeing's failures have created a "crisis of confidence" between the aircraft manufacturer and pilots.
As Boeing prepares to submit the software for the MCAS system to the FAA for the Agency to conduct test flights and ultimately certify the plan, which may happen in the next few weeks, both Carey and Sullenberger demanded a more robust pilot training as part of the plan to allow 737 MAX jets to fly passengers again, including experiencing a MCAS system error during training on a simulator.
Boeing has suggested that such training can be achieved with one hour session on a laptop or surfing platform. Simulator training was not necessary for pilots transitioning from the previous "Next Generation" version of 737 to MAX.
Sullenberger says he recently experienced scenarios similar to those facing the pilot of the convicted Ethiopian and Lion Air jets in a simulator, saying he understands the difficulties they were trying to keep control of the plan. "Even though I knew what was going to happen, I could see how the crew could have gone out of time and height before they could have solved the problems," he said.
"We would all like pilots to experience these challenging situations for the first time in a simulator, not in flight with passengers and crew on board," Sullenberger told lawmakers and "to read if on an iPad is not even close enough. Pilots need to experience it physically, first hand. "
But where there are few 737 MAX simulators, it is costly and logistically problematic to provide such training for thousands of pilots around the world.
He and Carey declined suggestions that the crashes could not have happened in the United States, where pilots must have a lot of experience and more thorough training before flying commercial aircraft.
"Some (American) crews would have recognized It was time to recover, but some would not have," Carey told. Sullenberger agreed and said that it is unlikely that more experienced pilots would have had different results and added: "We should not have to expect pilots to compensate for defective designs."
"These two new crashes happened abroad," says Sullenberger. "But if we don't address all the important issues and factors, they can and will happen here."