Boeing 737 MAX 8 pilots reported their planes nosedived and lost altitude in at least two incidents before the current safety scandal that has seen the aircraft grounded across the world.
As Boeing deals with the fallout of its Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes being banned around the world following two deadly crashes, reports of the aircrafts nosediving have been revealed while other reports cite safety concerns.
Pilots on at least two US flights reported their aircrafts nosedived and lost altitude quickly when using autopilot mode on the 737 MAX 8 in the last few months, according to pilot reports compiled in the Aviation Safety Reporting System database administered by NASA. The data shows there were 11 reports about the Boeing 737 MAX 8 logged between April 2018 and December 2018, USA Today reports.
In one incident, as soon as the captain put the plane on autopilot, the co-pilot said, “Descending,” and a cockpit audio low altitude warning said, “Don’t sink, don’t sink!” The pilots turned off autopilot and the plane stopped descending.
“With the concerns with the MAX 8 nose down stuff, we both thought it appropriate to bring it to your attention,” the captain wrote in the report, in reference to the Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October which killed 189. He guessed that the dip could have been caused by airspeed fluctuation due to a weather system overwhelming the plane’s automation.
The second incident saw an aircraft tipping downwards at a rate of 1,200 to 1,500 feet (365-460 meters) a minute just seconds after autopilot was engaged. The cockpit’s audio warning system issued a warning and the pilot turned off the autopilot mode. The co-pilot said he could not “think of any reason the aircraft would pitch nose-down so aggressively.”
The reports are volunteer safety ones and don’t reveal details of the airlines and pilots involved, or the location of where the incidents took place.
The cause of the Lion Air crash is believed to have been related to the automated anti-stall system. The two reports don’t appear to have been related to that.
The Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 crash last week killed 157 people after it went down minutes after takeoff. The cause of the crash has not been determined, but the pilot reported flight control problems to air traffic controllers before the crash.
At least 40 countries including the US, 28 European nations, Canada, China, Australia, and India have banned the aircrafts over safety concerns.
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