The crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 is certainly the most important event being discussed in the aviation industry today.
Having read the just-released investigation report, I now see several pieces of new information that will profoundly change the direction of this discussion. For my part, I am making an armchair analysis of a preliminary, though official, report. My expertise in some areas of aviation should not be taken as authoritative nor anything more than added speculation toward a very large media frenzy.
Critique of the Report Summary
While the latest Executive Summary seemed careful to avoid drawing conclusions, I was dismayed about the focus on details such as the Angle of Attack values and the crew’s request to return for landing.
Here was an opportunity to accurately summarize the content of the report while still remaining impartial. For example, the summary simply stated, “The crew lost control of the aircraft,” but this is hardly an accurate summary of the reported data. In fact, it appears the crew was struggling but did have control of the aircraft during the first four minutes of the emergency.
Similarly, the summary mentions stick shaker activation and, vaguely, “flight control problems”, when the only glaring control problem in the flight data recording was a series of Automatic Trim Down Commands that created a heavy control bias for the pilots to fight against.
The Elephant in the Room – Missed Opportunities
In retrospect, the Boeing Max fleet should not have been in operation after the previous Lion Air crash. I can’t say this is easy for the aviation industry to accept, even now. Before the second crash, there was simply not enough attention on the design flaws in these aircraft, and those in the industry who should have been made aware of the underlying risk were not made aware. Possibly worse, the traveling public had no idea the severity of the problem. I am not immune from this lack of oversight, as I found myself on the flight deck of one of these aircraft hitching a ride to work a few months ago. Knowing what I know now, I would not have taken that flight.
Continue reading On the Ethiopian Crash Report