Stories by Lawani Mikairu
Nigerian airlines who intend to buy the controversial Boeing 737 MAX 800 have been advised by the public to suspend the idea as the safety confidence on the aircraft type has been badly eroded following the two successive fatal crashes involving B737 Max 800. According to some of the frequent fliers who spoke with Saturday Vanguard, Aviation business is built around safety confidence.
The same aircraft type, B-737-800MAX, had been ordered by two Nigerian airlines. Air Peace placed order for 10 and the other, Green Africa Airways, who is just processing its AOC, has been reported to have placed order for tens of the same planes valued at $11.7 billion dollars.
However, Mr Chris Iwarah, Corporate Communications Manager, Air Peace, while clarifying the position of their order said: “It is imperative for the Management of Air Peace Airline to clarify that we recently placed a firm order for 10 brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft. We are, however, yet to take delivery of the aircraft as we are still at the design and configuration stage of the order”.
Air travelers who spoke with Saturday Vanguard were unanimous in their comment, saying any Nigeria airline who had placed order for the aircraft type should not take delivery again but rather, replace the order to another type of plane. The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, has categorically stated that no Nigerian airline currently has the B737 MAX 800 in its fleet.
Recall last Sunday, Ethiopian Airline plane ,B737 MAX 800, crashed in Addis Ababa in the early hours of Sunday Six minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa, Bole International Airport, Ethiopia . There was no survivor among the 149 passengers and 8 crew on-board the flight. About 35 countries had nationals aboard the ill fated plane, with Kenya having the highest casualties of 32, followed by Canada 18, and Ethiopia with 9 people.
While announcing the crash, the airline issued a statement saying : “Ethiopian Airlines regrets to confirm that its flight ET 302/10 March on schedule service from Addis Ababa to Nairobi was involved in an accident today ( Sunday) around Bishoftu (Debre Zeit).The aircraft B-737-800MAX with registration number ET- AVJ took off at 08:38 am local time from Addis Ababa, Bole International Airport and lost contact at 08:44am. It is believed that there were 149 passengers and 8 crew on-board the flight but we are currently confirming the details of the passenger manifest for the flight”.
Similar crash incident happened in Indonesia in October, 2018, six month ago when B737 MAX 800 aircraft operated by Lion Air crashed .The Lion Air JT610 with 189 people aboard went down off the coast of Indonesia, killing all 189 people on-board. That the crash followed the same pattern is what has kept aviation watchers worried and apprehensive.
Lion Air Flight 610 took off from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport at 6:20 a.m. Oct. 29 in clear conditions. Just 12 minutes into its journey to Depati Amir Airport in Pangkal Pinang, it crashed into the sea off the coast of Java.
Many countries have reacted by grounding all the B737 MAX 800 in the fleet of all the airlines operating in their countries. As the time of writing this report, more than ten countries have taken similar decision.
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika speaking to newsmen on the development in Abuja recently, stated that directives have been issued to that effect.
He said : “Regardless of the enormous safety records of this machine, it has caused concern in the world of aviation. You know aviation is universal, there is no aviation A or B.
“We have issued directives that no operator with Boeing 737 Max aircraft should operate into or out of the country’s airports.”
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation in India on Monday issued additional safety instructions to two Indian carriers that operate the Boeing 737 Max aircraft. Pilots of SpiceJet and Jet Airways should have at least 1,000 hours of flying experience to command these planes, PTI reported.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump of United States of America, grounded the type of aircraft involved in both crashes — Boeing 737 Max — following the European Union and more than a dozen other nations that took action earlier in the week.
The USA Federal Aviation Administration’s order to ground the planes states that the similarities between the two crashes “warrant further investigation of the possibility of a shared cause for the two incidents that needs to be better understood and addressed.”
After the Indonesia crash , air accident investigators and experts discovered that the less than three months old plane had a new software in it. They called it “MCAS or Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentations System. MCAS was a system that didn’t exist in any of the Boeing 737’s before. However, when they built the 737 MAX version, in layman’s term, they built the plane with a larger and more efficient engine”.
“However, this larger engine, which delivered a further 14% fuel efficiency had to be fitted further forward under the low wings of the 737. This potentially may cause the plane to stall. Stalling is bad. It is basically when a plane stops flying and starts falling. In order to avoid this, Boeing installed the new MCAS software. This software is designed to tell the plane to move its nose down to increase its speed and avoid it from stalling”.
“On the plane there is a sensor called the Alpha Vane which measures the Angle of Attack (AOA) of the plane. It looks like a small little wing, and they have two of it, one on the pilot side, and the other on the co-pilot’s. The sensor’s job is to tell the computer the angle the plane is flying at. And if the AOA of the plane is too high, this will result in the plane stalling. Typically the AOA is below 15 to 20 degrees, and the new MCAS software will push the plane’s nose down if it thinks that the AOA is too high”.
“With flight JT610, the Alpha Vane sensor measuring the AOA on the Captain’s side was reported to be faulty. So they changed it. That fault was reported from the equally harrowing flight from Bali to Jakarta. On the fateful final flight, the plane which arrived from Bali the night before, had the sensor changed, and then it took off in the morning”.
“No one knew what was really wrong with the plane, or about the new MCAS software. No one. Not the maintenance folks, and in fact not even the pilot. He apparently wasn’t trained on it yet. And once in the air, the faulty sensor told the computer that the plane is stalling. The computer then, without the pilot ever knowing pushed the nose of the plane down further, while the pilot was trying to raise the plane”.
“In this battle between the pilot and the computer, the computer won. And the pilot, the crew, and the passengers lost and they died. The plane was too low, and the pilot didn’t have enough air to raise the plane and fly it. The computer literally flew the plane into the ocean”.
A few weeks later, Boeing issued an update on the plane, and informed that should the plane have an issue with it’s AOA sensors, one of the ways to stop the computer was to switch it off!