One month after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded the Cirrus SF50 aircraft due to the jet’s stall warning and protection system malfunctioning and forcing the nose downward, all 105 airplanes are back in service. The recall serves as a reminder that systems designed to improve flight safety can have the opposite effect when things go awry. Duluth News Tribune interviewed Dallas Managing Partner Ladd Sanger about the similarities between the Cirrus SF50 and the 737 MAX 8’s angle-of-attack sensor malfunctions and issues with the standard in determining airworthiness.
“Any time you have an automated system that takes control of the airplane and it’s not functioning properly, it creates a safety hazard,” Sanger said. “When you put critical safety functions on one sensor, and you don’t have a backup sensor, you don’t have the interconnect, you don’t have redundant systems, it kind of flies in the face of what we try to do in aviation safety — and that’s to eliminate single-point failures.”
The recent issues with angle-of-attack systems at Boeing and Cirrus prompted Sanger to question whether the FAA is holding new aircraft to a rigorous enough standard in determining airworthiness. He noted that the FAA certification process relies heavily on staff employed by aircraft manufacturers themselves, and suggested that was akin to “the fox guarding the henhouse.”
Sanger believes the FAA’s prompt response to ground all 150 jets stemmed from criticism during the 737 MAX 8 crashes, although the FAA denies this claim.
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