Boeing under scrutiny
With back-to-back crashes in six months' time involving Boeing 737 Max 8, respective aviation authorities of the world are grounding fleets of the aircraft, USA being the latest to join the group. Initiating the process, however, were the Asian regulators – China and Indonesia – ordering the local carriers to ground their Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft. Singapore even shut its airspace to all variants of the B-737 Max, imposing a temporary suspension against operations by both local and foreign carriers. Australia and the European Union were soon to follow. The move comes after an Ethiopian airline's Boeing 737 Max crashed, killing 157 people, including four Indians. The disaster bore similarities to the doomed Lion Air 737 Max that crashed in October last year, killing a total of 189 passengers, when it took off from Jakarta and shortly went down into the Java Sea. Two fatal crashes in less than six months have raised questions over the safety and security of the aircraft all across the globe. Countries who have banned the aircraft are India, South Korea, Australia, China, France, Germany, Malaysia, Oman, Singapore, United Kingdom, Canada and the USA. President Donald Trump announced the grounding of the aircraft, after (according to reports) 'US officials found themselves nearly alone in allowing the planes to remain in the air'. Soon after the grounding in China, South Korea began a special inspection of the aircraft, while in Europe; regulators said they're in contact with their US counterparts as well as Boeing. While the groundings in China and elsewhere are important, most nations typically wait to act until the US and Europe issue findings on aviation matters. But this time, it was the Asian regulators who called the shots and led the others to a consensus to uphold the safety of all passengers and shed the senseless 'abundance of caution' tag. Reports suggest that at the heart of the 737 Max 8 crash row is a new Boeing-engineered device called MCAS – Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System. Preliminary investigations into both accidents suggest erroneous inputs from MCAS may have contributed to flight crews losing control of the pitch attitude of their jets, as they plunged into unrecoverable high-speed dives. In the recent past, pilots have complained of inadequate training on automation-assisted flying systems, unfamiliarity with the controls, anxiety that prompted them to engage auto¬pilot earlier than normal, and at least two instances where the plane pitched downward or manoeuvred against pilots' inputs. Hence, with similarities of fear exceeding a certain threshold in the minds of those who fly very often with the Boeing, there is an urgent need to measure and review the safety regulations and answer all probable questions concerning the aircraft before it takes off into the sky once again. Till then, safe flying!