EL DORADO HILLS -- While it is too early to determine what brought down an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8, killing 157 people, there is still international speculation as to what caused the tragedy.
John Gorczyca, vice president of the Retired Airline Pilots Association, says he’s in contact with active and retired airline pilots who care deeply about airline safety. They can’t help but share their own thoughts.
"We suspect that it was a runaway stab trim situation," Gorczyca said.
A former United Airlines pilot, Gorcyzca flew an earlier version of the Boeing 737 that crashed in Ethiopia.
The stabilizer trim is composed of the small flaps at the tail of the airplane that automatically keep it flying level and smoothly for fuel efficiency. If it acts up, pilots can override the system for manual flight.
Whether the pilots of the Ethiopian flight did that or not is not yet known.
An earlier crash involving the same Boeing model, which killed 189 people in Indonesia, was linked to another automated system that was supposed to keep the airplane from climbing too steeply, but apparently kept causing the nose to dive instead.
It’s unknown why the pilots in that crash didn’t or couldn’t turn the system off.
"I believe in automated systems, but sometimes there can be computer glitches," Gorcyzca said.
He says the evidence and data haven’t been gathered and analyzed. However, he said in cases with past crashes involving newer airplanes, investigators have found the problem and fixed it.
He’s received many questions since the crash from those who wonder if the plane is safe. He's answered that it’s safer to fly than it is to drive down the road in a vehicle.