Embraer Malfunction Reminiscent of 737 Max Issue Being Probed

By Alan Levin | January 30, 2020

Pilots on a Republic Airways Services Inc. flight leaving Atlanta in November lost the ability to raise and lower their Embraer SA EMB-175’s nose, a failure reminiscent to what helped lead to the two 737 Max crashes, investigators said on Wednesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued 10 recommendations to Brazil, where the jet was made, and U.S. aviation regulators.

One of the issues was the emergency procedures followed by the pilots, who were operating the flight for American Airlines Group Inc., didn’t seem to immediately stop the problem, the NTSB said. The failure was also difficult for pilots to detect, which occurred in the 737 Max crashes that killed 346 people.

The regional jet carrying six passengers and four crew members had just lifted off when the captain noticed the plane was trying to aggressively pull the nose up into a climb.

The captain and copilot followed an emergency procedure they’d memorized for the problem, but it didn’t stop the malfunction, the NTSB said. They reported they both needed to push the control column with two hands to maintain control of the plane, preventing them from reaching for their emergency checklists.

Eventually, the copilot was able to use a thumb switch to help keep the jet’s nose level and they returned for a safe landing, NTSB said.

While the Boeing Co. 737 Max crashes involved a separate failure, it also caused what is known as the pitch trim system on the plane to go haywire. In those cases, it was driving the nose down and pilots weren’t able to diagnose the issue and disconnect the motor that was malfunctioning.

Investigations into those crashes also raised concerns about emergency procedures.

In the Atlanta incident, NTSB said it found evidence of chafed wires, which caused a short circuit that appears to have triggered the issue.

The safety board called on Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration to mandate inspections for similar wiring problems and to examine whether the plane’s emergency checklist needs to be revised.

It applies to several similar models, the EMB-170, EMB-175, EMB-190 and EMB-195.

–With assistance from Mary Schlangenstein.

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