Pilots experienced these 6 problems with the Boeing 737 Max 8 in the months before its second deadly crash

BoeingA Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.

  • The Boeing737 Max 8 has come under intense scrutiny after two deadly crashes in five months.
  • The US, the European Union, China, and Australia, among others, have grounded the 737 Max 8.
  • In the months before Sunday’s crash, pilots recorded at least nine complaints about the aircraft, which went into service in 2017, in the Federal Aviation Administration’s incident database.

The Boeing737 Max 8 has come under intense scrutiny after two deadly crashes in five months. An Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday killed all 157 people on board, and an October 2018 crash of a Lion Air flight killed 189 people.

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he is issuing an order to ground all Boeing 737 Max aircraft. The European Union, China, and Australia, among others, have also grounded the Boeing 737 Max 8.

In the months before Sunday’s crash, pilots recorded at least nine complaints about the aircraft, which went into service in 2017, in the Federal Aviation Administration’s incident database. The complaints are anonymous, so it’s unclear if any airlines were affected more than others, but they reveal that pilots had a range of concerns about the 737 Max 8.

Boeing declined a request for comment.

These are six problems pilots experienced with the Boeing 737 Max 8.


Trouble making a descent

In December, a pilot reported an incident in which a 737 Max 8 temporarily failed to descend as planned because of an error from the plane’s flight-management computer. The pilot said the rest of the flight was “uneventful” after the copilot “reprogrammed the approach.”


Autopilot issues

Boeing

In November, a pilot reported that a 737 Max 8’s autopilot system made a brief, unwanted dip. The pilot said they resolved the issue after deactivating the autopilot system.

Another complaint from November mentioned a similar problem. The aircraft dipped for a few seconds after the autopilot system was engaged. The captain immediately disengaged autopilot and returned the plane to its ascent.

The pilot expressed confusion about the incident.

“We discussed the departure at length and I reviewed in my mind our automation setup and flight profile but can’t think of any reason the aircraft would pitch nose down so aggressively,” the pilot wrote.


A fire hazard

Air Italy

In November, a pilot said a gap in the center pedestal of a 737 Max 8’s cockpit allowed flight-related paperwork to fall from the cockpit onto the aircraft’s wiring. Maintenance employees removed the papers from the wiring.

“Severe potential fire hazard!” the pilot wrote.


An incomplete flight manual

Boeing

In November, a pilot criticised the 737 Max 8’s flight manual for failing to include enough information about a system that automatically points the plane’s nose downward if the plane senses it is flying at too steep an incline.

“I think it is unconscionable that a manufacturer, the FAA, and the airlines would have pilots flying an aeroplane without adequately training, or even providing available resources and sufficient documentation to understand the highly complex systems that differentiate this aircraft from prior models,” the pilot wrote. “I am left to wonder: what else don’t I know? The flight manual is inadequate and almost criminally insufficient. All airlines that operate the Max must insist that Boeing incorporate ALL systems in their manuals.”


Problems with autothrottles

Boeing

In October, a pilot reported that a 737 Max 8’s autothrottles, which regulate a plane’s speed, didn’t move into the correct positions during the plane’s ascent, though the pilot noted that they may have made a mistake, rather than the aircraft.

“The FO (first officer) was still on his first month and was not able to identify whether it was the aircraft or me that was in error,” the pilot wrote.


Excessive fuel burn

Boeing

In September, a pilot reported that a 737 Max 8 burnt “significantly more fuel” than expected.

“My concern is that some MAX 8 aircraft are burning significantly more fuel than what is calculated on the Dispatch release. Perhaps the fuel bias on these aircraft needs to be re-evaluated,” the pilot wrote.

The pilot wrote that a maintenance employee said a number of 737 Max 8’s were not burning fuel efficiently. The maintenance employee attributed the phenomenon to Boeing’s recommendation for engine-cleaning frequency, which the maintenance employee said was insufficient.

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