Introduction: Case Study of the Crash of one Ethiopian Airline Boeing 737 Max owing to Mechanical Failure of AI based Mechanism.
The objective is to understand how crucial an AI mechanism can be in terms of areas such as Civil Aviation.
A relevant study is done, which demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt how important keeping up to date with new technology is.
The study as well provides how nascent we are in terms of AI technology & how rapidly developing the field is.
The study also shows how much personnel need to be aware & trained.
A doctrinal approach is taken to achieve the aforementioned objectives.
Before we go into details of what happened in this particular case, how Artificial Intelligence works in Airline industries needs to be explained. When the crash happened the airline was using the Boeing 737 Max which has a Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) which is a flight control law implemented on the 737 MAX to improve aircraft handling characteristics and decrease pitch-up tendency at elevated angles of attack. MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) is implemented on the 737 MAX to enhance longitudinal stability characteristics with flaps up and at elevated Angles of Attack (AoA). The MCAS function commands nose down stabilizer to enhance pitch characteristics during steep turns with elevated load factors and during flaps up flight at airspeeds approaching stall. MCAS is activated without pilot input and only operates in manual, flaps up flight. The system is designed to allow the flight crew to use column trim switch or stabilizer aisle stand cutout switches to override MCAS input this was bought after 2 crashes of Boeing 737 Max crashed. The function is commanded by the Flight Control Computer (FCC) using input data from sensors and other airplane systems. The MCAS function becomes active when the AoA exceeds a threshold based on airspeed and altitude. After AoA falls below the hysteresis threshold (0.5 degrees below the activation angle), MCAS commands nose up stabilizer to return the aircraft to the trim state that existed before the MCAS activation. This system are generally placed near the engine where there are sensors to detect if the angle of attack is more than needed and which would cause the plane to stall, these new types of engines are called The LEAP-1B engine using which the Boeing wanted to make a comeback to aviation industry These system were bought by the boeing to prevent stall from happening. A stall is when the tilt of planes is so great that a plane can no longer increase it’s height and it is bound to fall.
Now coming back to the case of accident of Ethopian Airlines, in this case a Boeing 737 Max was being flown which took off from Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa at 08:38 local time (05:38 GMT) on 10 March for a two-hour flight to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Six minutes later, at 08:44, it crashed 30 miles southeast of the airport, near the town of Bishoftu. The impact was so great, both engines were buried at a depth of 10m (32ft), in a crater 28m wide and 40m long. The preliminary report into the accident, by Ethiopia's Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau, said the plane's take-off appeared normal. However, a short time later two sensors that measured the angle of the plane's flight began to record different readings This happened because the sensors which were installed in these aircrafts gave false readings which caused the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System to be activated and push down the nose of the aircraft which led to the plane going into landing mode. The pilots of the plane tried to pull up the plane but the system is made in such a way that it would override any human input. This is similar to the Lion Air Flight 610 which also crashed immediately after take off. These two were similar as the graphs which were recorded showed that in both the cases the pilots of the planes tried to pull up the nose of the plane but the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation system falsely detected that the Angle of Attack is greater than normal and it would stall the plane and it caused both the planes to crash despite pilot action the system overrode its input and crashed. After this incident all the Boeing 737 Max aircrafts were grounded all over the world due to the safety issue and a notice was issued to Boeing about how to turn off the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation system, it said that there is a red button on the flight control which has to be pressed then CPU should turned off and then RPM then should be adjusted manually. After this notice an improvement was bought by Boeing Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation system, in this the MCAS software had been modified and now uses two AoA sensors, not one. The MCAS also now only activates once, rather than multiple times, when a potential stall is signaled by both the AoA sensors. Pilots are provided with an “AoA disagree warning” which indicates that there might be an erroneous activation of MCAS. This warning was not standard equipment at the time of the two accidents – it had to be purchased by airlines as an option. Further the pilots will now be trained in the operation of the MCAS and management of its problems however the pilots were not trained or even told that Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation system existed So These actions have improved the quality of the airplane and increase its security and we can hope that there would no more such kind of accident of Boeing aircrafts in future due to failure of A.I.
It's of the utmost importance that no expense be spared by body corporates regarding keeping up with emerging technology for the sake of not only their businesses but the sake of the personnel they employ as well.
Research & Development along with Spreading of Awareness & Training needs to be taken into consideration at each & every juncture of integrating new technology & each time newer technologies that can have wider implications on the field/ industry in question come about.
Name of Author: Ansh Kumar.
Date of Publication: 08 April, 2021.
Indicative Code: ILAIL-0000-CS-08-04-2021-00004
Style of Case Study: Typical; Most Similar;
 Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), sky brary, ( Mar. 25, 2021, 19:36) https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Maneuvering_Characteristics_Augmentation_System_(MCAS)#:~:text=MCAS%2C%20or%20Maneuvering%20Characteristics%20Augmentation,at%20elevated%20angles%20of%20attack  Ibid  Supra at 2  Supra at 1  Supra at 2  737 Max updates, The latest Information, updates and statement on the 737 Max, Boeing, (Mar. 25, 2021, 19:47) https://www.boeing.com/commercial/737max/737-max-software-updates.page  Supra at 2  Supra at 1  6 Minutes of Terror: What Passengers and Crew Experienced Aboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, Jeff Wise, New York Intelligencer, (Mar. 25, 2021, 20:14) https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/04/what-passengers-experienced-on-the-ethiopian-airlines-flight.html  Ibid  Boeing 737 Max: why was it grounded, what has been fixed and is it enough?, the conversation, ( Mar. 25, 2021, 20:38) https://theconversation.com/boeing-737-max-why-was-it-grounded-what-has-been-fixed-and-is-it-enough-150688  Supra at 1  Supra at 12  Supra at 12