Category Archives: Transportation

European, Canadian Regulators To Do Own Review Of Boeing Jet

(AP) — Boeing’s grounded airliners are likely to be parked longer now that European and Canadian regulators plan to conduct their own reviews of changes the company is making after two of the jets crashed.

The Europeans and Canadians want to do more than simply take the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s word that alterations to a key flight-control system will make the 737 Max safer. Those reviews scramble an ambitious schedule set by Boeing and could undercut the FAA’s reputation around the world.

Chicago-based Boeing hopes by Monday to finish an update to software that can automatically point the nose of the plane sharply downward in some circumstances to avoid an aerodynamic stall, according to two people briefed on FAA presentations to congressional committees.

The FAA expects to certify Boeing’s modifications and plans for pilot training in April or May, one of the people said. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the briefings.

A Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft lands at an airport. (Source: Boeing)

But there are clear doubts about meeting that timetable. Air Canada plans to remove the Boeing 737 Max from its schedule at least through July 1 and suspend some routes that it flew with the plane before it was grounded around the world last week.

American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, which are slightly less dependent on the Max than Air Canada, are juggling their fleets to fill in for grounded planes, but those carriers have still canceled some flights.

By international agreement, planes must be certified in the country where they are built. Regulators around the world have almost always accepted that country’s decision.

As a result, European airlines have flown Boeing jets with little independent review by the European Aviation Safety Agency, and U.S. airlines operate Airbus jets without a separate, lengthy certification process by the FAA.

That practice is being frayed, however, in the face of growing questions about the FAA’s certification of the Max. Critics question whether the agency relied too much on Boeing to vouch for critical safety matters and whether it understood the significance of a new automated flight-control system on the Max.

The FAA let the Boeing Max keep flying after preliminary findings from the Oct. 29 crash of a Lion Air Max 8 in Indonesia pointed to flight-control problems linked to the failure of a sensor. Boeing went to work on upgrading the software to, among other things, rely on more than one sensor and limit the system’s power to point the plane’s nose down without direction from the pilots.

The FAA’s assurance that the plane was still safe to fly was good enough for the rest of the world until an Ethiopian Airlines Max 8 crashed. Satellite data suggests both planes had similar, erratic flight paths before crashing minutes after takeoff.

Patrick Ky, the executive director of the European regulator, said his agency will look “very deeply, very closely” at the changes Boeing and the FAA suggest to fix the plane.

“I can guarantee to you that on our side we will not allow the aircraft to fly if we have not found acceptable answers to all our questions, whatever the FAA does,” he said.

The message was the same from Canada’s Transport minister, Marc Garneau.

“When that software change is ready, which is a number of weeks, we will in Canada — even if it is certified by the FAA — we will do our own certification,” he said.

Other countries could also conduct their own analysis of how much pilot training should be required on the Max. Ky noted that one Lion Air crew correctly disabled the plane’s malfunctioning flight-control system, but not the crew on the next flight, which crashed. He said pilots under stress might have forgotten details of a bulletin Boeing issued in November that reminded pilots about that procedure.

The FAA’s handling of issues around the Max jet have damaged its standing among other aviation regulators, said James Hall, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

The FAA will have to be more transparent about its investigation, and it should require that pilots train for the Max on flight simulators, Hall said, because “that is how pilots train today, not on iPads.”

John Hansman, an aeronautics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and chairman of an FAA research and engineering advisory committee, said separate approvals by Canada and the Europeans will reassure the public because those countries are seen as having no vested interest in the plane.

“It’s unfortunate because it will probably cause a delay, but it may be the right thing in the long haul,” Hansman said. He expects that the FAA will wait until other regulators finish their reviews before letting the Max fly again.

FAA spokesman Greg Martin would not comment on whether the agency’s reputation has been hurt by its approval of the Max, the crashes or the agency’s initial hesitation to ground the planes after the second crash.

Meanwhile, the FAA is getting a new chief. The White House said Tuesday that President Donald Trump will nominate former Delta Air Lines executive and pilot Stephen Dickson to head the agency. Daniel Elwell has been acting administrator since January 2018.

Boeing too is shifting personnel. This week, the company named the chief engineer of its commercial airplanes division to lead the company’s role in the investigations into the Oct. 29 crash of the Lion Air jet and the March 10 Ethiopian Airlines crash. The executive, John Hamilton, has experience in airplane design and regulatory standards.

From 2013 until early 2016, Hamilton oversaw the use of Boeing employees to perform some safety-certification work on behalf of the FAA. That program has come under criticism from critics including members of Congress.

The Justice Department is investigating the FAA’s oversight of Boeing, and a federal grand jury issued a subpoena to someone involved in the plane’s development. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao formally directed her agency’s inspector general to audit the FAA’s handling of that process. Congressional committees are looking into the matter as well.

A Senate subcommittee will hold a hearing on Max and aviation safety on March 27.

The company declined to comment. The Max, the latest and most fuel-efficient version of the half-century-old 737, is Boeing’s best-selling plane, with more than 4,600 unfilled orders.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP Source: Justice Dept. Probing Development Of Boeing Jets

(AP) — U.S. prosecutors are looking into the development of Boeing’s 737 Max jets, a person briefed on the matter revealed Monday, the same day French aviation investigators concluded there were “clear similarities” in the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Max 8 last week and a Lion Air jet in October.

The Justice Department probe will examine the way Boeing was regulated by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the inquiry is not public.

A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., sent a subpoena to someone involved in the plane’s development seeking emails, messages and other communications, the source told The Associated Press.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the probe on Sunday and also said the Transportation Department’s inspector general is looking into the plane’s anti-stall system. It quotes unidentified people familiar with both cases.

The anti-stall system may have been involved in the Oct. 29 crash of a Lion Air jet off of Indonesia that killed 189 people. It’s also under scrutiny in the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet that killed 157.

The Transportation Department’s FAA regulates Chicago-based Boeing and is responsible for certifying that planes can fly safely.

The grand jury issued its subpoena on March 11, one day after the Ethopian Airlines crash, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press.

Spokesmen for the Justice Department and the Inspector General said Monday they could neither confirm nor deny the existence of any inquiries. The FAA would not comment.

“Boeing does not respond to or comment on questions concerning legal matters, whether internal, litigation, or governmental inquiries,” Boeing spokesman Charles Bickers said in an email.

The French civil aviation investigation bureau BEA said Monday that black box data from the Ethiopian Airlines flight showed the links with the Lion Air crash and will be used for further study.

Ethiopian authorities asked BEA for help in extracting and interpreting the crashed plane’s black boxes because Ethiopia does not have the necessary expertise and technology.

The Ethiopian Accident Investigation Bureau intends to release a preliminary report within 30 days.

The United States and many other countries have grounded the Max 8s and larger Max 9s as Boeing faces the challenge of proving the jets are safe to fly amid suspicions that faulty sensors and software contributed to the two crashes in less than five months.

Both planes flew with erratic altitude changes that could indicate the pilots struggled to control the aircraft. Shortly after their takeoffs, both crews tried to return to the airports but crashed.

Boeing has said it has “full confidence” in the planes’ safety. Engineers are making changes to the system designed to prevent an aerodynamic stall if sensors detect that the jet’s nose is pointed too high and its speed is too slow.

Investigators looking into the Indonesian crash are examining whether the software automatically pushed the plane’s nose down repeatedly, and whether the Lion Air pilots knew how to solve that problem. Ethiopian Airlines says its pilots received special training on the software.

Dennis Tajer, an American Airlines pilot and a spokesman for their union, said Boeing held a discussion with airlines last Thursday but did not invite pilots at American or Southwest, the two U.S. carriers that use the same version of the Max that crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

Tajer said airline officials told the unions that Boeing intends to offer pilots about a 15-minute iPad course to train them on the new flight-control software on Max jets that is suspected of playing a role in the crashes. He called that amount of training unacceptable.

“Our sense is it’s a rush to comply — ‘let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,’” Tajer said. “I’m in a rush to protect my passengers.”

A spokesman for the pilots’ union at Southwest Airlines also said Boeing representatives told that union they expected the upgrade to be ready the end of January.

The spokesman, Mike Trevino, said Boeing never followed up to explain why that deadline passed without an upgrade. Boeing was expected to submit a proposed fix to the FAA in early January.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

DATS users claim Edmonton transit service is getting worse: ‘I feel like we’re second class citizens’

Aleem Jaffer relies on DATS to get around in Edmonton. He uses a wheelchair and needs the transit service every day to get to work. While Jaffer says DATS has always been imperfect, he now calls the system broken. “I’ve been taking DATS for a long time but this is the worst it has ever…

Underground Line Could Carry Iowa Wind Power To Chicago

(AP) — The company behind a proposed underground transmission line that would carry electricity generated mostly by wind turbines in Iowa to the Chicago area said Monday that the $2.5 billion project it could be operational in 2024 if regulators approve it.

Direct Connect Development Co. said it has lined up three major investors to back the project. It plans to bury the transmission line in land that runs along existing Canadian Pacific railroad tracks, hopefully reducing the disruption to landowners.

It’s not unusual for pipelines or fiber optic lines to be buried along railroad tracks in the land the railroad controls.

CEO Trey Ward said he “believes that the SOO Green project will set the standard regarding how transmission lines are developed and constructed in the U.S.”

A similar proposal from a different company for an overhead transmission line was withdrawn in 2016 after landowners raised concerns. That $2 billion Rock Island Clean Line was supposed to run from northwest Iowa into Illinois.

The new proposed line , which was first announced in 2017, would run from Mason City, Iowa, to Plano, Illinois. The investors announced Monday were Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, Jingoli Power and Siemens Financial Services.

The underground line would also connect two different regional power operating grids, which would allow the transfer of renewable energy back and forth between customers and producers in the two regions.

More than 36 percent of Iowa’s electricity comes from wind turbines across the state.

Jingoli Power CEO Karl Miller said the line would improve the reliability of regional power operators and benefit utilities and corporate customers in Chicago.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Single Computer Switch Failure Triggered Saturday’s BART Shut Down

OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The failure of a switch within BART’s complex computer system triggered Saturday’s three-hour shut down of the massive transit system, stranding thousands of commuters, officials announced Monday.

BART Spokeswoman Alicia Trost said the failure was not related to crews working overnight on BART’s uninterruptible power supply in Oakland, as was originally believed.

“The failure was software related at one switch that is part of a complex computer network,” she said in a release. ” As a result, trains were not dispatched between 6 am and 9 am Saturday morning. There was no maintenance being done on the system at the time of the failure. Therefore, we know the cause wasn’t contributed to work being done overnight.”

Trost said the BART staff was waiting for failure analysis results from Cisco to understand the exact cause of the failure.

“Once we understand the exact cause we can determine any next steps needed,” Trost said.

She added that since the shutdown “all train systems have performed as designed without failure.”

The service problem originated at 2:45 a.m. Saturday with a computer network failure that impacted the system’s traction power supply system and train control routing system.

Thousands of commuters were forced to scrambled for other means of public transportation. Among those was Tammara Dozier who described her thwarted morning commute to KPIX 5’s Da Lin at the Powell Street station in San Francisco.

“Horrible. It’s cold and raining and since BART opened up at 6 a.m. it’s not been working and it’s about to be 9. I’m trying to go to Warm Springs so I can go to work. I clean houses and so I have a client … in Santa Clara. My client’s understandable, thank God, but still — it’s annoying!”

© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report

Boeing Stock Falls Sharply As Crisis Mounts Over 737 MAX Crashes

 (CNN) — The tragic Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday is raising doubts on Wall Street about Boeing.

Boeing’s stock declined 9% on Monday morning in the aftermath of the second deadly crash of its bestselling 737 MAX 8 jet in five months. All 157 people on board the Ethiopian Airlines flight were killed when the plane fell out of the sky shortly after takeoff.

The sharp selloff is a sign that Chicago-based Boeing has a serious crisis on its hands. Almost three-quarters of Boeing’s 2018 deliveries were 737 planes. And Boeing plans to build 59 new 737s each month in 2019.

The loss of life in the Sunday crash poses serious safety questions for Boeing and regulators investigating the incidents. China, Indonesia and several other airlines have already grounded the 737 MAX 8, raising the pressure on Boeing.

Boeing declined as much as 13.5% on Monday before recovering somewhat. If Boeing closes down more than 10.4%, it would be its worst day since September 17, 2001, the first day of trading following the 9/11 terror attacks.

The stock’s decline on Monday played an outsized role dragging down the 30-stock Dow Jones Industrial Average. Boeing is the index’s most expensive stock — and the index is price-weighted.

The Ethiopian Airlines crash comes after a 737 MAX flown by Lion Air crashed off the coast of Indonesia in late October. All 189 passengers onboard the Lion Air flight died.

Boeing said in a statement on Sunday that it is “deeply saddened” by the crash and extends its “heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew on board.” The company said a technical team will beat the crash site to provide assistance.

The Boeing selloff may be exaggerated by the fact that the stock had been vastly outperforming the broader market. As of Friday’s close, Boeing was up 44% since Christmas Eve.

Southwest Airlines, which operates the largest fleet of 737 MAX 8 jets, fell 2% on Monday. The company said in a tweet that it remains “confident in the safety of our fleet,” including its 34 Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes.

Boeing suppliers also retreated. Spirit AeroSystems lost 8%, while United Technologies dipped 1%.

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