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You Need a Human Pilot When the Airplane’s Computers Fail

Boeing will fix the automation issues with the 737 MAX soon enough, but there will always be times when human pilots will be called on when computers and automation systems have failed them.

Regarding Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.’s “Boeing vs. Pilots?” (Business World, June 1): Without question, the failure of the pilots to deal with a malfunction was a major factor in both 737 MAX accidents. But in the accident chain, and it is almost always a chain of events that cause an airliner to crash, the root cause of both crashes was the failure of the automated flight-control system. As good as automation gets, it will never be flawless and there will be times when a properly trained and competent flight crew will be all that prevents disaster.

There are many examples in aviation history of pilot intervention averting catastrophe, but the most timely and profound is the “miracle on the Hudson.” The miracle was the skill, experience and coolly executed perfect judgment of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. All the automation in world could not have pulled off ditching an Airbus A320 in the Hudson River. Boeing will fix the automation issues with the 737 MAX soon enough, but there will always be times when human pilots will be called on when computers and automation systems have failed them.

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Korean Air to Operate Boeing 737 MAX When Regulators Clear Plane

The carrier was due to receive the first of 30 MAX planes in May before the crashes led to a global grounding of the MAX

SEOUL— Korean Air Lines Co.’s new Chairman Walter Cho said the carrier still plans to introduce the Boeing 737 MAX into its fleet after two fatal crashes that have idled the fleet.

Mr. Cho said Korean Air would start operating the Boeing plane as soon as regulators clear it to fly again. The carrier was due to receive the first of 30 MAX planes in May before the crashes led to a global grounding of the MAX.

Mr. Cho, who took over as chairman after the death of his father in April, said he also was looking to move forward with the planned replacement with fleet modernization plans. Purchase announcements could be “imminent,” he said, without specifying what aircraft he wants to replace. He also said Korean Air could buy additional Airbus A220 planes. The carrier has ordered 10 of the planes and started flying the aircraft last year.

Mr. Cho said the airline was happy with the performance of the plane, though the repair and maintenance support for the aircraft in Asia could use improvement.

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Inside the Effort to Fix the Troubled Boeing 737 MAX

An exclusive look inside a Boeing flight simulator with two American Airlines pilots trying to help correct the software flaw believed to be behind two crashes

After takeoff, the Boeing 737 suddenly warns pilots that the plane is about to lose lift and stall, an erroneous signal from a bad sensor. The control column shakes, loudly. Pilot Roddy Guthrie diagnoses the problem—and then the plane’s nose suddenly pitches down, on its own. Emergency No. 2.

He pulls back on the control column to keep climbing and gets the airplane back to the proper orientation, nose up. But it happens again, with more force. And then a third time, with even more force, so that he’s looking almost straight down at the ground—the most terrifying sight for any pilot.

The episode, a repeat of the system failure suspected in two Boeing 737 MAX crashes, takes place in a Boeing full-motion flight simulator Wednesday morning. A few minutes later, Capt. Guthrie and another pilot try again, this time with Boeing’s proposed software fixes installed—software that’s critical to Boeing, airlines and travelers world-wide.

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Boeing’s MAX Grounding Lifts Firms That Rent Out Airplanes

During busy summer season, carriers seek to fill holes created by grounded aircraft

The global grounding of Boeing Co.’s 737 MAX jetliners has upended air travel, but one little-noticed corner of the aviation industry is benefiting from the problems: companies that rent out planes and staff.

Regulators in March stopped MAX planes from flying because of safety concerns following two fatal crashes in less than six months. Almost overnight, airlines parked more than 370 planes. Boeing was forced to stop delivering the MAX, which it had been producing at a rate of around 50 each month.

Airlines that had ordered the MAX, the newest version of the 737, suddenly faced the busy summer travel season with hundreds fewer planes available than they had expected to operate.

In other industries, customers might turn to a competing supplier. But tapping Boeing’s European rival Airbus SE wasn’t an option. Even if airlines were able to manage all the pilot training and logistical complexities of switching between jetliner brands—a feat few carriers can handle—Airbus couldn’t supply the planes. Its production lines are booked for several years.

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