Southwest lays out cost of Boeing groundings

A Southwest Airlines Boeing Co. 737 aircraft
A Southwest Airlines Boeing Co. 737 aircraft

28 March, 2019

A Boeing 737 Max operated by Southwest Airlines was forced to make an emergency landing in Florida after reported engine trouble on March 26.

MCAS is a key focus of the investigations into the Lion Air disaster and the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 flight on March 10 that killed all 157 people on board.

No passengers were aboard the flight, which was being ferried from Orlando International Airport to Victorville, California for storage.

Southwest said the plane experienced an engine problem "shortly after take-off".

But an investigation of the Lion Air flight previous year suggested the system malfunctioned, and forced the plane's nose down more than 20 times before it crashed into the sea killing all 189 passengers and crew.

The FAA said in a statement that the Southwest flight returned to the Orlando airport and landed safely.

Boeing has been under intense scrutiny of USA federal regulators since a Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft crashed near the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

The aircraft was grounded following two deadly accidents involving Ethiopian Airlines earlier this month and Lion Air in October which killed 346 people.

The Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System software is created to prevent stalling by angling the plane downward.

Black box data from the Ethiopian Airlines crash showed "clear similarities" to the Lion Air Crash.

U.S. Transportation Department Inspector General Calvin Scovel disclosed the plan in written testimony ahead of a U.S. Senate panel hearing on Wednesday.

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Boeing chairman and chief executive Dennis Muilenburg later reaffirmed that the company was supporting the investigation. Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges told journalists that a preliminary report would be released within 30 days.

The CEO of Boeing has released an open letter to Ethiopian Airlines and the wider aviation industry, saying his company is "humbled" and "learning", as investigations into two fatal crashes involving its planes zero in on their software.

The FAA - which delegates some certification procedures to Boeing, including for parts of the MAX - was "directly involved" in the safety review of the MCAS, Elwell said.

The planes in the two fatal crashes displayed similar flight profiles - steep dives and recoveries before the pilots apparently lost the ability to override the automated system. The process, he planned to say, has "consistently produced safe aircraft designs for decades".

Asked whether the issue could be related to the software malfunction that might have caused the previous MAX 8 crashes, the spokesperson said, "No connection at all", noting Tuesday's problem was "all engine related".

"In all cases pilots continue to have the ability to manually override MCAS and manually control the aircraft", he said.

DeFazio's committee is investigating the FAA's certification of the plane, including the "roles and responsibilities" of the FAA and Boeing, he said.

The causes of the crashes have yet to be determined.

The Ethiopian transport ministry spokesman explained that Ethiopia has led the investigation into the crash with assistance from US and French investigators as part of the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

USA airlines are allowed to shuttle the planes but can not carry passengers.

The session is set to be followed by a second hearing at a later date with Boeing, airline pilots and other stakeholders.

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