The 737-MAX8 – Exactly What Is Going On?

So what’s going on with Boeing’s replacement for the next generation of 737?  One crash of a brand new airplane is an anomaly.  But two?  Isn’t that a bit more than a coincidence?  First came the Lion Air Flight 610 crash in October 2018 that happened within 20 minutes of takeoff.  And this weekend brought us the crash of Ethiopian Air Flight 302, which crashed just minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa.  The first flight had 189 souls aboard, the second 157.  And neither crash left any survivors.

Airline crashes have become fewer and farther between thanks to newer, safer aircraft, as well as better trained flight crews, as well as crew resource management.  So what is it about these brand new aircraft crashing after takeoff?

In the case of the first crash, it took a while to get the black boxes.  But in the case of the crash this weekend, both black boxes were retrieved almost immediately.

Yes, these planes are supposed to be safe.  But two crashes tell a story – and not a particularly good one.  In response, airlines around the world have chosen to ground their fleets of 737-MAX8 aircraft.  But not so in the United States.  Both Southwest and American, who have sizeable fleets that include the 737-MAX8 aircraft have said they are standing behind their maintenance people and declaring the planes perfectly safe for flying.

But what seems to be worse is the flying public, justifiably is nervous.  People want to avoid the 737-MAX8 if at all possible.  But carriers like American have told people that they have non-refundable tickets, and therefore cannot change their plans.  Bad PR, American!  Even United is ahead of you on this.  And while United doesn’t fly the 737-MAX8, but rather flies the sister aircraft, the 737-MAX9, they are even offering to adjust people’s itineraries to keep them off the 737-MAX9 if they want.  Seems American Airlines needs to take its collective head out of its tuchus and recognize that people have legitimate concerns, whether they want to stand behind the plane or not.  And Southwest?  Their boilerplate “Our planes are fine” statements that I’ve seen on Twitter don’t quite inspire confidence.

So here’s to hopefully getting to the bottom of the problem with the 737-MAX8 and sister aircraft as soon as possible.  Waiting 11 years, like the issue with the Airbus A300/A310 rudder problem, isn’t really an option.

The Dupont Plaza Hotel fire of 1986, and the Humberto Vidal Building Explosion of 1996

Today’s podcast is a Puerto Rican ‘two-fer’ that goes over the Dupont Plaza Hotel fire of 1986, and the Humberto Vidal Building explosion of 1996, both of San Juan, Puerto Rico.  I have a little personal history with the Dupont Plaza Hotel, at least in its new incarnation, and have decided to return this year to see how the island has fared since my last visit before Hurricane Maria, which hit the island in September 2017.

As always, you can download the podcast from here, find us on iTunes, find us on Stitcher, or listen to the episode from the embedded player below.

Sources for the podcast are:

The Dupont Plaza Hotel Fire of 1986

The Humberto Vidal Building Explosion of 1996

The Crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 on December 29th, 1972

Today’s podcast goes into the circumstances around Eastern Airlines flight 401, and how that crash brought about big changes to the field of aviation once the findings came out.  Like other catastrophes, there were a series of issues that led to the crash, including some that could have solved the problem without further issue.  But today we each feel the legacy of Flight 401, and the 101 people who were killed that night either in, or because of, the crash into the Florida Everglades.

As always, you can download the episode here, find us on iTunes, or listen to the podcast on the embedded player below.

Sources for the podcast include:

A couple notes.  I know that in several articles, it’s mentioned that it was found during the autopsy that the captain of the plane had a golfball sized tumor that possibly pushed against the vision center in his brain.  I left this out, because it was documented that it likely didn’t have any impact on the accident.

And a final note from me.  I tend to talk with my hands, something that I’ve developed with age, and didn’t realize at the time but at the 20ish minute mark, you may hear my hands on my desk, trying to accentuate my point with a bit of a bang.  My apologies for that.  Being back in the habit of recording regularly will work that out of me.

An Observation Regarding the Southwest Engine Explosion Flight

I’ll preface this by saying it is the inner-geek/NTSB agent in me that realized this, as it’s a bit morbid.

If you haven’t heard, there was a recent Southwest Airlines flight, #1380 that operated from New York, Laguardia to Dallas Love Field on April 17th of this year. However, soon after takeoff, the left engine exploded, sending shrapnel inside the fuselage of the aircraft, and sucking one person out of a broken window. The passenger, a woman named Jennifer Riordan, was not only partially sucked out of the plane, but severely injured by flying debris caused by the engine explosion. Though the crew were able to pull her back in, she succumbed to her injuries.

Here’s the thing. This is the first passenger on Southwest to die due to accident/incident. Of course, AirTran, which was acquired by Southwest, had their own accidents (especially when they operated as ValueJet; the incident in the Everglades would make a good podcast subject!). And Southwest itself had a runway overrun where one person was killed, though it was a child in a car that the airplane hit. And another person tried to break into the cockpit, was restrained, and then later died of the injuries received during the scuffle. But Southwest has never had, until now, a death due to accident. Until now.

When you think of traditional carriers like Alaska (Flight #261), American (Flight #587), United (Sioux City, Iowa), and Delta (wind shear in Dallas on an L-1011), it’s unfortunately easy to pick out an accident with the loss of life. So it’s a somber moment for Southwest, and a club no airline sets out to join.

The Crash of American Airlines Flight 587 on November 12th, 2001

Today’s podcast goes back to the world just after the events of September 11th, 2001, and digs into the crash of American Airlines flight 587 which happened just over two months after that fateful day.  And what was thought of as terrorism, turned out to be so very, very different – but tragic nonetheless.

As always, you can download the podcast from here, find us on iTunes, find us on Stitcher, or listen to the episode from the embedded player below.

Sources for the podcast include:

A Rundown of the Airport Films

If you’re into catastrophes and disasters like me, knowing about them, figuring out what happened and such, then you may also like disaster films. And there was absolutely no better decade for disaster and catastrophe films than the 1970s. From The Hindenburg to Earthquake, the 70s hold the crown, at least in my mind, for the best disaster films of all time.

That’s what makes the write up on the Airport films that cnet just published a must-read article. They discuss not just the films themselves, but who starred in them as well as different bits of trivia. For example, of the four real airplanes that were used in the filming, only ONE of them did not end its service in a crazy? Yes, three of the four airplanes crashed, including the Concorde. Yes, it was that Concorde!

Link to the article is here:

The Link Between Minamata, Japan in the 1950s and Mosul, Iraq in the 1970s

Today’s podcast takes an international turn, and we go back in time to visit the small town of Minamata, Japan in the 1950s to see what they went through due to a chemical factory’s bad practices.  And then we turn to the sprawling mecca of Mosul, Iraq in the 1970s, and how the citizens of Mosul and the surrounding cities suffered the same disease that tore through Minamata, though because of very different circumstances.

As always, you can download the podcast from here, find us on iTunes, or listen to the episode on the embedded player below.

Sources for the podcast include

A Recap of Select 2016 Catastrophes

In this special podcast that went live last night, I talked about twelve different catastrophes that occurred during 2016.  The list of twelve catastrophes included natural, man-made, and man-caused incidents that had an impact on the year that we just closed out.  And while some may be considered controversial to add to the list, I felt that they should all be discussed in some way.

As usual, you can download the podcast from here, find us on iTunes, or listen to the player below.

Here’s a list of the incidents that are listed in the Podcast.

And update on a podcast

So I normally get an email from Google when bigger stories use either “Disaster” or “Catastrophe”, and today’s took me down a rabbit hole of a past podcast. It’s the Boston Molasses Disaster of 1919, and believe it or not, there’s a new article from Smithsonian about the incident. If you’re interested, you can click here for the article.

Good read!

The Crash of Air New Zealand Flight 901 from November 29th, 1979

Today’s podcast goes into the incident that led to what’s been called “the loneliest air crash”, which was Air New Zealand flight 901, which crashed into Mount Erebus on Antartica back in 1979.  It’s another podcast that’s been inspired, this time by my friend Ethan, who lives and works on Antarctica.  As always, you can download the podcast from here, find us on iTunes, or listen to the player below.

Sources for the podcast include: