Two aviation crashes outside the U.S. made headlines this week.
Lion Air crash
An almost-new Boeing 737 Max 8 operated by Indonesian low-cost carrier Lion Air crashed shortly after departing from Jakarta International Airport on Oct. 29. Lion Air had operated the aircraft only since August of this year.
The 737 carrying 189 passengers and crew went down in the Java Sea shortly after takeoff. There were no reports of any survivors.
The crash puts a spotlight on Boeing. The 737 Max 8 has been in operation since only since May 2017. But the plane is big business for the company as analysts estimate it makes up 40 percent of Boeing’s profits. Currently over 4,500 of the aircraft on order. Some of the largest buyers of the Max 8 are U.S. airlines, including American and Southwest.
Investigators in the Lion Air crash are suspecting the plane’s pitot tubes, the pressure-sentitive instruments that measure airspeed. Data from the crash indicated changes in speed and direction that could be attributed to a problem with these sensors.
Pitot tube issues were blamed in the 1996 crash of a Birgenair 757 that killed 189 people shortly after departing Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. Ice clogging the pitot tubes on an Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in June 2009 was found to be a contributing factor in that crash, which resulted in 228 fatalities.
The Lion Air investigation is still very preliminary, and at this point there are no reports of equipment malfunction.
Leicester City helicopter crash 
In England, a helicopter carrying the owner of Leicester City’s soccer team crashedshortly after lifting off from the club’s stadium on Oct. 27. All five people on board, including the pilot, were killed.
Video shows the helicopter having difficulties gaining altitude before spiraling out of control to the ground.
The cause of the crash is under investigation, but pressing concerns about helicopter safety have been raised by FlyersRights.org in the past.
In 2015, FlyersRights.org issued an editorial pressing the FAA to exercise due diligence in regulating helicopters sufficiently. We urged the agency to ensure manufacturers complied with safety regulations put in place decades ago and stop allowing new helicopters to ignore certain air crash safety measures if the choppers were based on older designs or did not require any retrofitting.
This year, we called on the FAA to step up and regulate helicopters after delaying for two years to study the issue. Safety features negated through loopholes included structural elements, impact-resistant seating, and systems to prevent fuel from igniting on impact. FlyersRights.org estimated that 50 lives per year could be saved with the adoption of these changes.
After a lengthy period of inaction, the FAA Reauthorization Bill passed earlier this month is now requiring all new helicopters to be built with crash-resistant fuel systems. It’s a step in the right direction, but we urge Congress to act on the outstanding issues.
At the latest meeting of ARAC, the FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee, Flyersrights.org President Paul Hudson was the sole vote against further delaying action.
However, the issue is certain to come up again when ARAC meets again in December. We urge families and friends to attend and speak on record. For more information contact Paul directly at Paul@flyersrights.org.
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