A Brief History of Everything Wireless

How Invisible Waves Have Changed the World

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737 MAX is coming back

2020-10-13 [Petri]

I’ve followed the grim saga of 737 MAX in multiple earlier blog entries.

To summarize, the 737 MAX was a hastily cooked-up version by Boeing, in response to Airbus’ NEO series. The plane was inherently unstable in certain conditions, and a special Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was added to counteract this “feature".

Unfortunately evidently corners were cut in order to ensure that the airlines were not forced to do any expensive training for pilots that would transition to MAX from earlier 737 planes. The mention of an “additional electronic co-pilot” in the form of MCAS was pretty much painted over.

So when the MCAS started acting up, the pilots were not equipped with the necessary practice to cope with the situation. As a result, two planes crashed, with the loss of all crew and passengers.

All MAXes around the world were grounded and a grueling re-certification process was initiated.

When MAX now finally gets a new stamp of approval, apparently every pilot migrating to this latest model, as well as the ones who already have flown it, will need additional MCAS-oriented training in a simulator, plus recurrent training as time goes by.

So some of the advertised cost benefits are gone, which would easily turn the tables in favor of Airbus: they ensured that non-NEO and NEO models share the same type rating, and existing Airbus pilots need minimum adaptation course when migrating to a NEO version.

But thanks to COVID, things are very different now.

Air travel has plummeted: we are seeing two thirds of the volume of international passengers being evaporated in the COVID turmoil. Four-engine planes like Boeing 747 and Airbus 380 that were relying on ~500 passengers per leg are being retired in droves, and their production lines are shut down.

What is left is the push towards absolutely minimum costs structures at airlines which are already teetering on the brink of bankruptcies. In many cases, though, as air travel can be seen as an essential business, they will get tens of billions' worth of government help to survive. At least those deemed worth saving, that is.

And for these companies, finding the cheapest alternatives for continued operation is the key. This means that anyone who has ordered Airbus’ NEO series planes is going to cling on to their deliveries. These planes have the lowest operating costs, and will continue to be in the highest demand. You will not want to give up those orders, meaning that Airbus has no spare capacity for new, immediate deliveries.

For those airlines hooked up with the Boeing product line, the only way to go down in costs is to bite the bullet caused by the new crew training requirements, and migrate to MAX as much as possible. Changing the fleet to Airbus would need huge immediate funding, which simply is not an option in this new world order, even if the planes were available.

Whatever negative customer perception the MAX accidents may have caused is now moot: if you want to have even a remotely affordable stint in places like the Canary Islands or Florida, you will find yourself flying on a MAX sooner or later.

And it is not a scary thing: the highly public accidents have ensured that the re-certification process has been performed thoroughly: idiotic design decisions, like relying on a single Angle-of-Attack sensor as the input for the MCAS system, have been remedied. And the now enforced pilot re-training is going to do the rest.

The new MCAS is much less likely to malfunction, and if it does, the pilots know what to do with it.

Post COVID, the impoverished customer base is going to vote even harder with their purses. And getting NEOed or MAXed is the only way out for the airlines to match this shrinking source of income.

The days when you could start an airline by purchasing a set of 15-year old jets and repainting them with new livery are over. Only those with the necessary financial power to renew their fleet to the very latest hardware will remain in the game.

The positive side effect of this is that air travel is going to have a huge shift towards being much less polluting that it has been, both due to the reduced amount of relatively unnecessary twenty dollar “joyflights”, as well as due to the newest most energy-efficient engine technology available.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

Permalink: https://bhoew.com/blog/en/130

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You will fly a MAX sooner or later, whether you like it or not [Boeing]

You can purchase A Brief History of Everything Wireless: How Invisible Waves Have Changed the World from Springer or from Amazon US, CA, UK, BR, DE, ES, FR, IT, AU, IN, JP. For a more complete list of verified on-line bookstores by country, please click here.

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You can purchase A Brief History of Everything Wireless: How Invisible Waves Have Changed the World from Springer or from Amazon US, CA, UK, BR, DE, ES, FR, IT, AU, IN, JP. For a more complete list of verified on-line bookstores by country, please click here.

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