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Boeing’s 737 MAX takes its next step to re-enter commercial service

Thaiger

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The US Federal Aviation Administration has approved the next step for the beleaguered Boeing 737 MAX to resume commercial flights after a 20 month grounding. But the factors that partly contributed to the plane’s grounding have not been addressed leaving the plane reliant on software to control its flying characteristics.

The plane, a fourth generation makeover of 50 year old design, was the best-selling jet in the Boeing fleet. All 737 MAX jets were grounded in March 2019 after 2 fatal crashes killing 346 people, including all passengers and crew on the fateful flights. The MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) software, which have been added as a safety feature to stop the plane from climbing too fast and stalling, had acted contrary to its design and ended up forcing the nose of the plane down, giving the pilots no hope of controlling it.

The software had been added to the development of the new model as the new, larger engines had to moved forward on the wing to still allow enough ground clearance… the end result being that plane’s critical flight balance had been altered. You can identify a Boeing 737 MAX easily with its large twin winglets at the end of each wing.

Boeing's 737 MAX takes its next step to re-enter commercial service | News by Thaiger

The grounding of the 737 MAX has cost Boeing more than $20 billion. Lost orders for the plane, alone, could make it among the most expensive mistakes ever made by a corporation. The cost to Boeing’s reputation is incalculable as it dodged and weaved to avoid taking blame for the crashes in the early phases of the investigation.

But the US FAA action is only the first step in permitting the 59 airlines, which already own and fly the 387 grounded planes, to get them off the ground again with paying customers. Before any of the jets can be flown with passengers again there are a number of steps the airlines must undertake. All the alterations to the software deign has to be installed and checked, in every plane. FAA officials must inspect each plane and the pilots will have to complete additional training.

When the 737 MAX first took to the air, one of the marketing plusses was that existing 737 pilots wouldn’t need retraining – an expensive part of any new plane. But the pilots weren’t told about this new MCAS software that had the potential to wrest control from the pilots. When matched with faulty data from the airspeed tube, the MCAS would erroneously keep pointing the nose of the aircraft down. And it would keep doing it without the confused pilots knowing how to turn it off.

Boeing removed a description of MCAS in the MAX flight manuals during certification, leaving pilots unaware of the system when the airplane entered service.

Will you be happy to fly on a Boeing MAX jet? Comment below.

On November 10, 2018, 12 days after a Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the sea off Jakarta, Boeing publicly revealed MCAS in a discussion with airline operators. Yet, although Boeing and the FAA were now aware of the possible software conflicts on the model, they failed to prevent the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. The second crash led to the global grounding of all 737 MAX aircraft.

The process to bring all existing planes and pilots up to speed could take between a few weeks up to a few months, depending on the airline.

Family members of the passengers who died in the crashes have objected to the return to service for the 737 MAX. They claim Boeing made mistakes in the design of the 737 MAX, which made their version dangerous. They also cast doubt on the FAA who made mistakes approving the original version and, now, allowing it to fly again.

An investigation into how to fix the 737 MAX’s problems was expected to be finished by September 2019, but stretched on and on as new problems were found.

Even US FAA Administrator Steve Dicksons said that the path to this point was long and grueling.

“But we said from the start that we would take the time necessary to get this right. We were never driven by a timeline, but rather following a methodical and deliberate safety process. During this time FAA employees diligently worked on the fixes that were necessary.”

As part of the review process Dickson flew the plane himself in September, and went through the training pilots will have to complete.

“I can tell you now I am 100% comfortable with my family flying on it.”

The recertification situation in the US could be matched by other aviation authorities around the world who will likely follow suit and begin the process of allowing the international MAX fleet back into the sky. Most of the 387 grounded planes are outside of the US.

In Thailand, only Thai Lion Air have received 3 of the planes although Nok Air have also ordered 6. Regionally, VietJet Air have ordered 200 of the model, but not received them yet. Silk Air ordered 37 and have received 6. Malaysian Airlines ordered 25. Lion Air (Indonesia) ordered 250 and have received 14 so far. Some of these orders may be altered as airlines re-evaluate their needs and financial situation in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Denis

    Thursday, November 19, 2020 at 10:08 am

    I will never put my butt in a 737 Max, despite all the certifications in the world. Here in Thailand, it is mainly LION AIR which has a large fleet of 737 Max. If Lion Air put them back in service, it would be bye bye Lion Air;)

    • Avatar

      SG666

      Thursday, November 19, 2020 at 2:11 pm

      Totally agree.

    • Avatar

      RA

      Thursday, November 19, 2020 at 2:33 pm

      But I bet you would put your butt on a motorbike here in Thailand.

  2. Avatar

    Khun plastic

    Friday, November 20, 2020 at 9:37 pm

    people nowadays only care about price,if it’s cheap enough you will get bums on seats.

    Most do not know or care about aircraft type.

    i will wait for 6 months before I board one.

    other folks can be the canaries in the cage.

    They said the same things about the dc-10 but people have very short memorys.once it was fixed they were pretty good,will be same deal here probably..

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Phuket

Phuket may ditch light rail and build smart bus system instead

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: A Smart bus plan may replace Phuket light rail plans. (via MRTA)

A proposal to drop the light rail planned for Phuket and replace it with a smart bus system is under an in-depth review as ordered by Phuket Transport Minister. Advocates for the smart bus – automated driverless buses on city streets – say that the project would bring mass transportation to Phuket Island for 15.2 billion baht cheaper than a light rail would.

The analysis was ordered Thursday in a phone meeting to check progress on regional transport projects. The Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand has suggested changing the plan in Phuket from light rail to a smart bus system. The MRTA had been dead set on the light rail system but have now launched preliminary research on a driverless bus system.

HERE’S a previous story with more details about how the bus system would work, instead of a light rail.

But critics say the planned light rail system was almost unworkable with its routing not going through the main population centres and its complete avoidance of the tourist areas, was doomed from the start. The 5 years it was expected for construction would have caused major traffic snarls on the main island arteries and then reduced traffic flow on those arteries for the life of the light rail project.

Initial investigations show that an automated rapid transit bus system would shave about 9 months off the construction time and 15.289 billion baht from the budget. Cost-saving measures like precast concrete and launching gantries will further reduce construction expenses.

As a result, the bus system could be run with lower passenger fares than a light rail train would. The project was considering 3 bus fares… local in Phuket Town, local outside of Phuket Town, and transport between towns around the island.

The MRTA and the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning have coordinated with the Expressway Authority in Thailand to consider the smart bus plan and its effect on traffic. Unfortunately, the group is worried that building the smart bus system plan to be ready by 2026 while working on the Patong tunnel project scheduled to open in 2028 would create long-term detrimental traffic jams. They’re considering a postponement to a 2030 launch (the Patong tunnel project has been in ‘planning’ mode for 20 years and will never happen).

The Transportation Minister has requested proposals for 2 different timelines to be delivered within the next 2 weeks, and plans to have the MRTA and EXAT come to Phuket for public hearings after Covid-19.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

CAAT sets restrictions and guidelines for air travel to prevent the spread of Covid-19

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Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok

With the new wave of Covid-19 infections hitting record highs, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand is tightening disease control measures for air travel and has requested that airlines abide by guidelines to help contain the outbreak. Those who test positive for Covid-19 are refrained from travelling and can face penalties for doing so under the Communicable Disease Act.

CAAT has asked that airlines restrict services from 11pm to 4am to align flights with public transportation and reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission involving passengers travelling to and from airports. Airlines are also told to inform passengers when there are flight changes, cancellations, or consolidations.

All passengers must wear a face mask. Airport staff must properly screen passengers at the entrance and exit of the airport and before they board the aircraft, checking for signs of infection by checking body temperatures with an infrared thermometer that does not come in contact with someoneโ€™s body. Those with a body temperature higher than 37.3 degrees Celsius will be prohibited from entering the airport. If a passenger has respiratory symptoms, such as cough, sore throat, runny nose, or shortness of breath, airport staff are advised to inform health officials immediately.

Airlines are also advised to take social distancing into consideration when arranging the seating to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

CAAT sets restrictions and guidelines for air travel to prevent the spread of Covid-19 | News by Thaiger

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thailand’s airlines getting airport fee waivers to help with rehabilitation

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Stock photo via Flickr

Thailand’s airlines are getting airport fee waivers to help with rehabilitation efforts until March 31 of next year. The latest aid is part of a slew of measures to boost the aviation industry after Covid-19 left it in shambles. The Civil Aviation Board is also letting the airlines claim refunds for airport fees previously paid before the new measures were enacted. They are also extending the time given to pay bills from 90 days to 180.

Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob instructed the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand to implement the measures quickly but quickly and to work with the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration. He instructed the CAAT to reevaluate safety while promoting air transportation to ready for the nation’s reopening and economic recovery.

The CAAT is also tasked with monitoring the progress of Yala province’s Betong Airport as it prepares to open. The CAAT boosted 8 domestic airlines last month, who were rated as being in critical financial health. The authority said it believed the airlines could survive the tough times and they were not on the brink of bankruptcy. The 8 airlines include Nok Air, AirAsia X, VietJet, and Thai Smile.

Currently, Thailand is mulling its reopening plans as the third wave of Covid has been the worst yet, causing hospitals to become overwhelmed. Daily infections have been in the thousands, with deaths also mounting daily. Today, Thailand’s Public Health Ministry’s Department of Disease Control reports 1,583 new Covid-19 infections and 15 deaths. Since the start of the pandemic last year, a total of 65,153 Covid-19 infections and 203 coronavirus-related deaths have been reported in Thailand.

Recently, Thailand’s PM Prayut Chan-o-cha was given full control over the handling of the Covid pandemic, causing critics to question whether he could use those powers to increase his authoritarian rule over the Kingdom. Already, he was under scrutiny for the handling of the pandemic, with many blaming the government for the virus’ third wave.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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