Belgium Has Banned The 737 MAX Until 2020 At The Earliest

Civil Aviation authorities in Belgium have banned the 737 MAX until 2020 at the earliest according to Air Transport World.

Four TUIfly 737 MAX are grounded at Brussels Airport. Photo: Wikipedia.

The watchdog for civil aviation in Belgium, the BCAA has decided to extend the ban on the 737 MAX flying in Belgium airspace until the end of the year. This decision is in line with the worldwide ban on the plane after the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 in October of 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March of this year.

In total 346 passengers and crew perished after both planes appeared to nose dive into the ground shortly after takeoff. Investigations are still underway, but both crashes are thought to have been caused by software that was designed to stop the plane from stalling.

Early testing revealed problems with the 737 MAX

Back in 2012, during the early days of testing the new 737 MAX, engineers working in Boeing’s transonic wind tunnel noticed that the model they were using had a tendency to lift its nose up during certain extreme maneuvers.

Boeing 737 MAX
Boeing’s 737 MAX MCAS solution. Photo:Boeing

Realizing there was an issue, they analyzed the data and came up with what they thought was a solution. This first fix failed, so the answer they came up with was a piece of software called Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).

The way MCAS works is that when data sent from the angle of attack sensor to the plane’s flight computer suggests the aircraft is in danger of stalling, MCAS automatically swivels the aircraft’s horizontal tail to lower the nose.

Boeing’s solution for the 737 MAX

After the worldwide grounding of the 737 MAX, the Seattle Times interviewed many people involved with the program and reported that Boeing came up with the MCAS software as a simple solution to prevent the plane from stalling.

Boeing is now weighing up what new training pilots may need before the 737 MAX can fly again. Photo: Boeing

They even go so far to say that Boeing did a safety study and concluded that there was little risk of an MCAS failure. This assumption was based partly on the FAA-approved notion that should the MCAS activate unexpectedly, pilots would be able to respond within seconds.

Rather than requiring the input from two sensors, as was in the original design of the MCAS, they opted to go with just one as they calculated the probability of a malfunction to be unimaginable.

Boeing agreed not to tell pilots about the MCAS

In the rush to get the plane into production Boeing agreed not to tell pilots about the MCAS system in manuals. This was despite the fact that pilots were expected to take action should the MCAS activate unexpectedly.

Southwest Airlines says 737 MAX will not fly before October. Photo: Mark Finlay/Flickr

Now we have all seen what can happen when the MCAS activates and pilots have not been trained to deal with it. Yet Boeing is still defending the MCAS, and refusing to accept the blame for the two deadly crashes.

As work continues to fix issues with the MCAS to ensure that there will be no more accidents, the Seattle Times is reporting that Boeing is now weighing up what new training pilots may need before the 737 MAX can fly again.

Following on from the news out of Belgium saying the 737 MAX is grounded until next year,  CNBC is saying that Southwest Airlines are extending their October 1st deadline for the jet’s return. This was in response to Boeing’s assessment last week, which said that it will take at least until September to fix the 737 MAX software issues.

According to the American business television network Southwest Airlines Chief Executive Gary Kelly said in an internal update,

“I’m sure this will cause us to have to take the MAX out of the schedule beyond Oct. 1,” adding that Southwest would also see “what other modifications we might need to make our plans for this year because it’s obviously extending well beyond what I had hoped.”

As the 737 MAX problem exacerbates, airlines operating the MAX have to wonder what this is doing to the public psyche. I for one will not fly on a MAX until the plane has been back in service for at least six months, and I know that pilots have received the proper training needed to fly the plane safely.

Let us know what you think about flying on the 737 MAX in the comment section below.