The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has insisted there was “no basis” to suspend commercial flights on Boeing 737 MAX 8, the model that crashed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Sunday.
The U.S. aviation authorities’ defiance lingers despite several countries grounding the plane amidst fresh revelations that several American pilots had for months lodged complaints that the MAX 8’s manual was insufficient for their understanding, according to the Dallas Morning News in Texas.
The pilots’ complaints, which included a lack of adequate information on how to handle MAX 8’s autopilot during a sudden nosedive, were logged in a public database for in-flight concerns. The pilots’ concerns were similar to the sudden nosing down the preliminary findings blamed for the crash of a MAX 8 operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air last October.
“The fact that this airplane requires such jury-rigging to fly is a red flag. Now we know the systems employed are error-prone — even if the pilots aren’t sure what those systems are, what redundancies are in place and failure modes. I am left to wonder: what else don’t I know?” the Dallas Morning News quoted a pilot as logging in the database.
Countries across the world were alarmed and quickly grounded the plane from their airspace after all the 157 people on the flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya, were killed on Sunday morning.
The accident occurred about six minutes after the flight took off.
The European Union, the United Kingdom, India, Australia, China, South Africa, Morocco, and Ethiopia are amongst at least 30 countries that have grounded the MAX 8 in a wave of safety regulations.
Many of the countries said they took the step as a precaution until actual findings about the crashes are released.
Nigeria’s Air Peace placed an order for 10 MAX 8s in 2018, but the company has not taken any deliveries yet. It, however, disclosed earlier this week that it was not in a hurry to cancel the purchase.
Nigeria lost two citizens in the crash, including Pius Adesanmi, a newspaper columnist and professor.
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 was completed and first tested in 2016 as part of a modern generation of signature 737s built by Boeing, amongst the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers.
The company expressed absolute confidence in the safety of its MAX 8, saying there was no need to ground the plane before final investigations had been concluded. But it showed understanding for the countries that have suspended usage of the plane as a pre-emptive measure against mishaps.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Boeing have since dispatched experts to the crash site for investigations. The plane’s black box has since been recovered, and experts have taken it out of Ethiopia to download and read data it collected prior to the crash.
But several U.S. lawmakers have sided with foreign countries placing a temporary ban on MAX 8. Senators Mitt Romney, Richard Blumenthal and Ted Cruz have all called on the U.S. aviation authorities to ground MAX 8 pending investigation.
President Donald Trump sent out condolences to victims of the crash, but did not openly join calls for suspension of MAX 8 jets. American media reports said the president spoke with the CEO of Boeing on Tuesday morning, during which the company reiterated its confidence in its product because there was no evidence to suggest factory defects.
Although the FAA has not grounded MAX 8 from American airspace, the agency said it had recommended an urgent software upgrade to Boeing, which the company is expected to deliver in the next few weeks. The upgrade was not to correct any defect but to strengthen safety mechanisms, it said.
The FAA was the first aviation regulator to grant permit of airworthiness for MAX 8, but there are claims the agency was trying to protect its integrity and that of Boeing as an American company to maximise profits. Both FAA and Boeing rejected the insinuations.
The Dallas Morning News reported that a transport workers’ union recommended grounding of MAX 8, but pilots under Southwest Airlines, which has the highest number of MAX 8 planes in the world, said the model remained safe and no angle of attack or other errors were observed even in manual operation.