Semantron 23 Summer 2023

The Boeing 737 Max crisis

converts the mechanical movements into a digital signal. Processed by nine flight computers, the signals are converted to actual mechanical movements in actuators, after ‘ checking ’ that the pilot-input does not endanger flight safety, while sending additional signals to counteract the pilot manoeuvre if necessary. 28 On 1 st December 2010, 29 Airbus announced the A320neo (new engine option) project. Apart from being fitted with new CFM LEAP-1A or Pratt & Whitney PW1000G engines which are 15% more fuel-efficient, and a 2.4-metre-tall wingtip device (Sharklets TM ) installed to further reduce fuel burn by 4%, noise reduction by 50% compared to previous models, the A320neo cockpit is exactly the same as previous models. 30 Thus, minimal pilot (re)training is required, which further lowers operational costs . Boeing ’ s ‘ Yellowstone 1 ’ project, started in 2005, and designed to produce a 20-25% improvement in operating costs, was put on hold in 2008. 31 It wasn’t until July 2011, 8 months after Airbus announced their ambitious A320neo project, that Boeing announced their 737 MAX project, in which ‘ airlines will benefit from a 7% advantage in operating costs over competing aeroplanes (A320neo) ’ . 32 However, unlike Airbus where the cockpit of the new aircraft is the same as the previous models, the Boeing cockpit had significant changes. Instead of retaining a B737 cockpit, the B737 MAX cockpit was based on the B787 cockpit. Despite this huge change, the aircraft was sold phenomenally well – 5,049 orders from 2011 to 2017, 33 compared to Airbus’ 5,964 orders in the same perio d. 34 The B737 MAX clearly attracted many airlines and leasing companies. The number continued to grow, eventually overtaking the A320neo orders. Boeing filed a certification request in January 2012, and the FAA certified the aircraft in March 2017, 35 followed by other aviation authorities, including the EUASA. Note that FAA only issued an Amended Type Certificate (ATC) to the aircraft, meaning that the FAA recognized the MAX aircraft as a modification rather than as a brand-new aeroplane, despite the difference in cockpit design, engine types and various changes. Therefore, it only took 5 years to certify the aircraft, as opposed to the usual 5-9 years for a new aircraft type. The first B737 MAX passenger flight took off on 22 nd May 2017, operated by Malindo Air in Indonesia. 36 Figure 6: Market Shares between A320neo (blue) and B737 MAX (red)

28 Captain Joe 2021, How does FLY-BY-WIRE work?: 13:40. 29 Clark et al. 2010, Airbus to Update A320 With New Engines and Wings .

30 CFM [n.d.], Utilization, Defined ; Airbus [n.d.], A320neo ; Lufthansa Group [n.d.], Airbus A320neo . 31 Wikipedia 2021: Boeing Yellowstone Project ; Brady 2021, The Boeing 737 Technical Guide, 83 rd ed : 24. 32 The Boeing Company 2011, Boeing Introduces 737 MAX With Launch of New Aircraft Family. 33 The Boeing Company [n.d.], Orders & Deliveries . 34 Wikipedia 2022, Airbus A320neo Family . 35 Federal Aviation Administration 2021, Airworthiness Certification . 36 Slotnick 2020, The first Boeing 737 MAX crash was 2 years ago today. Here’s the complete history of the plane that’s been grounded since 2 crashes killed 346 people 5 months apart.


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