As the pilots of Boeing's doomed aircraft in Ethiopia and Indonesia struggled to control their aircraft, they lacked two remarkable security features in their cabs.
One reason: Boeing pays extra. aircraft manufacturers, the practice of charging to upgrade a standard plane can be profitable. The largest airlines around the world have to pay in full to have custom jets fitted with customized supplements.
Sometimes these options include aesthetics or comfort, such as premium seats, fantastic lighting or extra bathrooms. But other features include communication, navigation, or safety systems, and are more important to airplane operations.
Now, after two deadly crashes involving the same reactive model, Boeing will make one of these safety standards as part of a repair to get the airplanes back into the air.
Not yet. It is known what caused the catastrophes of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 on March 10 and Lion Air Flight 610 five months earlier than after unstable take-offs. But investigators are considering whether a new software system has been added to avoid congestion in the Boeing 737 Max series. Incorrect Lion Air sensor data may have caused a malfunction of the system known as MCAS, the authorities investigating this crash suspect. The nose of the airplane is pointing upwards or downwards in relation to the air. When MCAS detects that the airplane is pointing upward to a dangerous angle, it can automatically press down the airplane's nose to prevent the airplane from stalling. find any false testimony. One of the additional upgrades, the angle of attack indicator, shows the readings of the two sensors. The other, called inconsistent light, is activated if these sensors are in conflict with each other.
Boeing will soon be upgrading the MCAS software, and will also make a disagreeable lighting standard for all the new 737 Max planes, according to a person. familiar with the changes they spoke on condition that they were anonymous because they were not public. The angle of attack indicator will remain an option that airlines can buy.
None of these functions has been assigned by the Federal Aviation Administration. All 737 Max airplanes are grounded. "They are critical and do not cost much for airlines to install them," says Bjorn Ferm, an aviation consultant from Lehham. – Boeing charges them because he can. But they are vital to safety. "
Earlier this week, Dennis A. Muylenburg, Boeing's CEO, said the company is working to make 737 Max safer.
"As part of our standard practice after each accident, we look at our design and operation of aircraft and, where appropriate, introduce product updates to further improve safety," he said in a statement.
Additional features can be major profits for airplane manufacturers. When Boeing began marketing its 737 Max 8, an airline would expect to spend about $ 800,000 to $ 2 million for different options for such a narrow aircraft, according to a Jackson Square Aviation, a consulting company in San Francisco. This will be about 5% of the plane's final price.
Boeing charges extra, for example, a spare fire extinguisher in the load compartment. Past incidents have shown that a fire extinguishing system may not be enough to burn the flames that are spreading rapidly over the airplane. Regulators in Japan require airlines to install spare fire extinguishing systems, but F.A.A.
"There are so many things that should not be optional, and many airlines want the cheapest plane you can get," says Mark H. Gurich, aviation attorney and former pilot of engineering tests. "And Boeing is able to say," Hey, it's available. "But what Boeing does not say, he added, is that he has become a" big profit center "for the manufacturer, and Boeing and the airlines have made efforts to keep these opportunities and prices out of the public eye. editing the details of the features they decide to pay – or exclude – from the applications submitted to the financial regulators Boeing declined to disclose the complete menu of safety features it offers as options for 737 Max or how much it costs
But one unrealized filing from 2003 and a previous version of 737 shows that Gol Airlines, a Brazilian carrier, paid an additional $ 6700 for oxygen masks for its crew and $ 11,900 for a control panel for an advanced meteorological system.Gol did not respond immediately to a request for comment
The three American airlines that bought 737 Max took a different approach to cockpit equipment
American Airlines, which ordered 100 airplanes and has 24 in its
Southwest Airlines, which has so far ordered 280 aircraft and numbers 36 in your navy, has already bought the option for a nonsense Lassie as well. an angle indicator is displayed in a display mounted above the drivers' heads. After the Lion Air crash, Southwest said it would change its 737 Max fleet to set the angle of attack indicator on the major computer screens of the pilots.
United Airlines, which ordered 137 of the planes and received 14, did not select the indicators or the incoherent light. A spokesman for the UK said the airline did not include the functions because its pilots used other data to fly the plane.
Boeing makes other changes to the MCAS software. sensor of a flight, leaving the system vulnerable to a fault point. One of the theories in the Lion Air crash is that MCAS receives defective data from one of the sensors, leading to a non-recoverable nose dive. If there is a significant disagreement between readings, MCAS will be deactivated.
Involving the disagreeable light and the angle of attack indicator on all planes would be a welcome move, say safety experts, and warn the pilots – as well as maintenance. staff who serve an airplane after problematic flights – to sensor problems.
The signal would, in particular, draw attention to the sensor malfunction and warn the pilots that they should prepare to shut down the MCAS if it is activated incorrectly, Peter said. Lemme, an avionics and satellite communications consultant and a former Boeing flight control engineer.
"In the midst of the moment it will certainly help," he said.