Second Boeing 737 MAX crash impacts travel, questions MCAS By Elliot Kaufman '19

Two Boeing 737 MAX airplanes have crashed over the past five months, causing problems for Boeing and many airlines, and influencing countries around the world to ground all 737 MAX aircraft.

On March 10, Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crashed quickly after taking off from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. This followed the Oct. 29 crash of Lion Air flight 610 from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang, which crashed into the Java Sea.

Photo by vob08 on Wikipedia Commons. Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa is Ethiopias only international airport, and hosts over 150 flights per day.

According to USA Today, between Southwest, American, and United, the FAA grounded 72 planes, impacting approximately 290 flights per day. Airlines will utilize other spare planes and underbooked flights on the same routes to minimize the impact that the ban has on travel.

“The MAX 8 is a very new plane, and most major airlines can just substitute the plane losses with older, and probably safer planes at this time,” Ethan Dean ’20, an aviation enthusiast and aspiring pilot, said.

Photo by Alec Wilson. Malindo Air received the first delivery of a 737 MAX 8 in May of 2017.

Boeing delivered the 737 MAX aircraft in the middle of 2017, making it one of the newest airplanes on the market. Many big name airlines, including Southwest, American Airlines, United Airlines, and Air Canada, own and have large orders of the aircraft. Southwest Airlines is known for having a fleet of only 737 planes, including 34 737 MAX 8s, and the grounding of these aircrafts negatively impact the operations of the airline significantly.

Additionally, if the ban causes airlines to cancel flights, they will re-accommodate passengers on other flights, sometimes even with another airline. There is no clear timeline of the ban or the impacts on travel, but the world must wait until the investigations on the most recent crash conclude.

Photo by Cassiopeia Sweet. Southwest flies over 4,000 flights every day, all served by 737 series aircraft.

A few theories regarding what went wrong in the fatal crashes have to do with the height of the engines from the runway causing an intake of debris, poor training about specific functions about the aircraft, and most popularly, the MCAS. According to Politico, if the plane detects an overly steep angle of elevation, which could possibly cause the plane to stall, the Moving Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) takes control of the plane.

If the MCAS senses that a stall is probable, then the MCAS pushes the nose downwards to gain speed and avoid a stall. The only problem is that at takeoff, the angle of the plane can vary, and a flaw in the system hypothetically could push the nose down in the midst of a normal takeoff.

Dean suspects that this system failed for one reason or another during the takeoff, and it caused the pilots to lose control of the plane.

“If someone were to listen to the cockpit voice recordings, it doesn't seem like it's the pilots fault,” Dean said. “They are clearly in destress from something that is out of their control.”

This theory would explain the two most recent 737 MAX crashes happened within 15 minutes of takeoff, but it cannot be confirmed until many investigations take place.

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