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Following the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 crash on March 10th and the Indonesian Lion Air 737 MAX 8 crash on October 29th 2018, I discuss the safety of the Boeing 737 Max plane. I also speak with a pilot who shares his insights about the airplane's Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).

Learn more about the build process of the Boeing 737 Max along with it's interior and cockpit features in this video.

Special thanks to The Air Current for providing images.

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The tragic demise of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on 10 March 2019 has sent shockwaves around the world and made headline news. The horrific accident has claimed the lives of 157 people; 149 passengers and 8 crew. It is the deadliest aviation incident that Ethiopia has ever experienced and has once again called in to question the safety of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, for which this is the second fatal accident, the first being the crashing of Lion Air Flight 610 in to the Java Sea, just 12 minutes after take-off from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 29 October 2018.

We must wait for the results of the official investigation but there is already speculation that the MCAS – Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System – may have been at least partially to blame. Both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airline flights showed unstable and erratic vertical altitude shortly before crashing and it is possible that the sensors on the side of the plane fed false information to the flight computer, indicating wrongly that the angle of attack of the plane was too steep and causing the flight computer to automatically try to compensate by adjusting the back, horizontal tail, lowering the nose of the plane and fighting against the pilots trying to keep the aeroplane in the air.

The short gap between these two incidents, of only about five months, has led to calls for the grounding all of all Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft and the Civil Aviation Administration of China have already ordered all their domestic airlines to cease using the aircraft pending the results of the investigation in to the incident, already grounding almost 100 aircraft. The Cayman Islands and Morocco have taken similar action.

The financial consequences for Boeing are likely to be severe. The share price of Boeing has fallen by more than 10% in the immediate aftermath of the event and the Boeing 737 MAX 8 generates almost one third of Boeing’s annual operating profit. Chinese Airlines accounted for 20% of 737 MAX deliveries across the world in January of this year and big Chinese airlines such as China Southern Airlines, with 34 of the planes on order, may very well consider cancelling their order as fear and concerns surrounding the safety of the aircraft grow, leading to multi-billion dollar losses for Boeing in what is another terrible reputational hit to the aeroplane manufacturing firm.

Boeing are preparing to send their own team of experts to Ethiopia to assist in the investigation of this latest incident and the launch of the new Boeing 777X has been postponed. Since the aeroplane in question was delivered brand new to Ethiopian airlines in November 2018, making the aeroplane four or five months old at the time of the crash, a similar age to the age of the aeroplane involved in the Lion Air crash, Boeing will be intent on showing that there is not an innate fault with one of its most popular aircraft models; the reputation of one of the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers is well and truly at stake. 

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