For hundreds of years, human beings have been fascinated with the concept of flight.
From Leonardo da Vinci’s first drawings of fantastic flight machines, to the first successful flight taken by the Wright brothers in 1903, we have dreamed of all the opportunities flight provides us.
But airline crashes can cause a tragic loss of life in large numbers, and recent incidents with one particular model have sounded the alarm in global proportions.
Hundreds of lives lost…in similar circumstances
In October of 2018, a brand-new Boeing 737 Max 8 flown by Lion Air crashes into the sea shortly after takeoff, leaving 189 dead.
The plane took off from Jakarta, Indonesia and went down just 13 minutes later.
The pilot had almost immediately asked to turn back to the airport, but never made it.
On its previous flight, there had been a report of a technical error made by another pilot, which had apparently “been resolved.”
It was the first crash of the 737 Max 8, and assumed to be an isolated incident… up until now.
Just last week, an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya hit the ground minutes after takeoff, killing all 157 people on board.
The aircraft was a Boeing 737 Max 8, and again, the pilot had reported technical issues and requested to return to the airport.
In less than six months, almost 350 people have been killed, both by eerily similar circumstances – and on the same airplane model.
What’s going on with the 737 Max 8?
When we think of major aircraft manufacturers, perhaps the first that comes to mind is Boeing.
And now their flagship model, the 737 Max 8, has been grounded in over 40 countries, with the U.S. becoming the most recent to ban all flights on this aircraft just this week.
Concern over the model was raised only after the most recent tragedy in Ethiopia. So is it a tragic coincidence, or an intrinsic flaw in this particular model?
U.S. pilots are speaking out – and their reports are frightening.
The 737 Max 8 was first introduced in the U.S. at the end of 2017, used primarily by Southwest and American Airlines.
By the end of 2018, at least five serious complaints had been issued by pilots who had flown the model, with one calling the aircraft’s flight manual “criminally insufficient.”
All of the complaints involved the nose of the aircraft “aggressively” pitching downward minutes after takeoff.
Experts believe the fault lies in the safety system of the Max 8 which allows the aircraft to correct itself if it enters a stall pattern.
Pilots noted that once autopilot was disengaged, the flight remained uneventful.
Unfortunately, that was not the case with the two recent fatal crashes.
One pilot who had filed a complaint stated, “I am left to wonder: What else don’t I know?” according to NBC News.
An undisclosed pattern?
In addition to the reports of issues made by U.S. captains, there were dozens of others that had gone unaddressed.
Aero Inside provides data on aviation incidents and many were related to the 737 Max 8.
In November of 2018, a Sunwing Airlines pilot en route to Canada reported “multiple system failures.”
In December of 2018, an Air Canada pilot reported a hydraulic issue.
In January of this year, an Air Canada flight reported engine issues. The same month, a TUI Airways pilot in China also reported an engine issue.
In February, an American Airlines pilot reported a problem with the hydraulic system.
The list goes on and on.
Will the 737 Max 8 forever have a tarnished reputation?
Twenty thousand flights carrying over three million people take off each day worldwide.
And when compared to other modes of transportation, flying commercial is ranked as one of the safest ways to travel.
The critical concerns involving aircraft lies in the fact that when something goes wrong, hundreds of lives are at risk.
And it appears that Boeing was well aware of the issues with the 737 Max 8, so why did people have to die before the issues were addressed?
It’s a complex matter, one that involves a great deal of money – and a profit that Boeing has bled out to the tune of 25 billion dollars in market value this week alone.
“It’s the most important airplane in the lineup,” says airline analyst George Ferguson, according to Bloomberg.
“If something were to be bad with the 737 program, it would be an extremely serious challenge for the company.”
Boeing’s original 737 was released in 1968, and their safety record had been solid up until this point.
Boeing and the FAA are now taking every precaution to prevent the loss of more lives.
Airlines in the U.S. who employ the 737 Max 8, and its counterpart, the Max 9, are scrambling to assist stranded passengers on alternate flights.
But one thing is clear — the overwhelming consensus from passengers and previous pilots who flew the aircraft is a feeling of relief that all models have been grounded internationally.
Passengers who were quite literally turned around in-flight this week said they were “happy to be on the ground.”
But with so many dead, and in such similar circumstances, will anyone ever feel comfortable traveling on the 737 Max 8 again?
Only time will tell.
Proud American Traveler will keep you updated on any new developments in this story, and we send our prayers to the families of those who perished in these tragic accidents.