January 29, 2023

The Editor speaks: The Boeing 737 Max 8

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It couldn’t have come at a worse time with Cayman Airways recent announcement they are soon to replace their fleet with the Boeing 737 Max 8.

Just very recently a new Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed in Indonesia and a safety alert was issued from the manufacturer last week.

From Flying Magazine website:

Boeing Company today published an update to the flight crew operations manual for its 737 Max 8, warning of a possible fault in the aircraft’s angle of attack system that could cause the aircraft to violently pitch nose down, according to the FAA. The AOA measures the angular difference between the direction the aircraft is moving and the pitch of the aircraft’s wing. The agency followed the ops manual update with an emergency airworthiness directive against the aircraft, warning operators the pitch-over threat exists even when the aircraft is being hand flown by pilots. The agency said operators have less than 30 days to comply with the AD.

A 737 Max 8 being operated last week as Lion Air flight 610 slammed into the waters of the Java Sea shortly after takeoff from Jakarta, killing all 189 people aboard. Investigators have been cautious however not to claim the AOA issue addressed by the AD is the only cause of the accident. It is also unclear whether today’s AOA warning alters initial concerns last week over the Lion Air aircraft’s airspeed indications.

Concerns are focused on both the angle of attack indicator itself and the software that transmits the AOA’s information to the aircraft. Of concern is whether incorrect data from the AOA, fed to other aircraft systems, may have caused the aircraft to pitch over on its own or whether the cockpit crew may have misinterpreted potentially erroneous flight instrument indications.

The Air Current said the AOA issue is dangerous while the aircraft is being flown manually. “The erroneous AOA input can pitch the aircraft’s stabilizing trim down for up to 10 seconds at a time.” An earlier Wall Street Journal story said Lion Air 610’s crew did revert to manual flying of the aircraft in order to maintain control.

Boeing procedures normally include emergency instructions to pilots in the event of a faulty stabilizer trim system, that may have in this case, have convinced the aircraft its wing was about to stop flying. Whether the Lion Air crew had time to attempt any emergency remedies to regain control of their aircraft is unknown. More than 200 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft have been delivered to date.

SOURCE: https://www.flyingmag.com/faa-emergency-airworthiness-directive-boeing-737-max-8

Cayman Airways issued this statement on the matter:

Cayman Airways addresses operational safety concerns for new Boeing 737 Max 8

In anticipation of Cayman Airways receiving its first Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft later this year, Cayman Airways has been closely monitoring the investigation activities related to the tragic loss of Lion Air’s flight JT610. So far, it is public knowledge that speculative concern has been raised regarding the functioning of the Lion Air aircraft, the maintenance work accomplished on the aircraft and the actions taken in the flight deck during flight, any or all of which, could have possibly contributed in some way to the accident.

While these investigations are still in progress, one of the possible contributing factors that has received attention, is evidence of erroneous Angle of Attack flight data, which if not detected and addressed correctly by the flight deck crew, could result in an unsafe flight situation. Boeing, the aircraft manufacturer, and the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have, accordingly, issued bulletins and directives to emphasize the need for flight crews to carry out a set of previously prescribed procedures contained within the Boeing 737 Max Operating Manuals. Cayman Airways has already incorporated the procedural and training elements necessary to comply with the prescribed Boeing and FAA instructions.

“I can give a full assurance that our new aircraft will not be delivered or accepted unless it is has thoroughly passed all required post production flight and ground tests successfully,” explained Fabian Whorms, President and CEO of Cayman Airways. “Cayman Airways operates within the strict parameters of a comprehensive and robust Safety Management System and our new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft will enter passenger service only after both the aircraft and the Airline are in full compliance with all safety related requirements. Once the new aircraft enters service, it will be operated and maintained to the highest standards, with our usual and unwavering commitment to safety.”

Mr. Whorms further advised that, “The recent accident in Indonesia should not be considered as a reference for comparison with present and future operations at Cayman Airways. Outside of the Lion Air incident, the Boeing 737 Max aircraft model has accumulated hundreds of thousands of hours of safe operations with multiple operators. Today, there are well over 200 Boeing 737 Max aircraft in operation around the world with a large percentage being operated by major North American airlines that operate to and from Grand Cayman. Cayman Airways has had decades of safe operations with Boeing aircraft and we will always have safety as our absolute highest priority.”

The first Cayman Airways Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, currently in production, successfully completed its first major flight tests on November 7, 2018 and is about to have the Cayman Airways livery applied as part of the final production process. Upon delivery, it will be the first Boeing 737 Max aircraft to be operated by any Caribbean-based airline and Cayman Airways is working with the greatest of diligence and care, as we replace our current jet fleet with the most refined Boeing 737 model, starting in December of this year.


Well, they seem very confident. Let’s keep our fingers crossed their confidence is not unfounded.

Safety tests are very strict but never-the-less this new aircraft fell from the sky. And it passed all the safety tests.

I well remember soon after Cayman Airways took possession of its 737 aircraft many moons ago after the 727’s they had been using, had a fright when smoke appeared from one of the engines causing an emergency landing.

MLA, McKeeva Bush, who was leader of the opposition at that time, and had been against the 737’s being used, made a great play calling them the “smoking 737’s”. This caused a mass desertion of passengers for a while.

Let us hope no one starts another rumour like that one. The cause of the smoke was an oil spill. There was nothing wrong with the planes at all.

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  1. Chris Johnson says

    Bush the smoking gun ?


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