The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed a fix on Boeing 737 airplanes in the wake of two fatal airline crashes. According to the FAA, the proposal was submitted to make sure that a faulty altimeter does not cause the auto-throttle system on 737s to cut airspeed unexpectedly.
The altimeter measures altitude. The fix would prevent the altimeter from triggering the auto-throttle and slowing the plane down prematurely during landing, possibly causing pilots to lose control of the aircraft, according to the FAA.
Two recent examples of pilots carrying low airspeed during landing attempts resulted in catastrophe:
In February 2009, a Boeing 737 operated by Turkish Airlines crashed during approach to an airport in Amsterdam. Nine people died and 117 others were injured. An investigation into the crash revealed that a faulty altimeter caused the autho-throttle to reduce engine power during approach. The flight crew didn't notice in time to take appropriate action and the plane went into a stall before it crashed. In the wake of the crash, Boeing installed a warning system on the same model 737s named in this week's FAA proposal. That system's warning is an auditory signal that tells pilots, "airspeed low, airspeed low."
In July 2013, a Boeing 777 operated by Asiana Airlines crashed during approach to San Francisco International Airport. Three Chinese exchange students were killed in the crash and its aftermath, and over 180 were injured. The National Transportation Safety Board has not yet completed their investigation of the Asiana 214 crash, however, preliminary reports have indicated that the pilots failed to realize that they were carrying dangerously low airspeed during approach, even though they had set the auto-throttle system to maintain constant speed. Safety advocates have criticized Boeing for not having the same low airspeed warning for 777s that they have on some 737s.
If the proposal is adopted, nearly 500 Boeing 737s in the U.S. would be affected and roughly 300 more would be affected internationally. The fix will cost only $85 per plane.
The law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman is currently representing fourteen passengers from the Asiana Flight 214 crash. The firm has a tradition of success representing victims from virtually every major airline disaster over the last 30 years in the U.S.