Crash of the Boeing 737 Max: Serious allegations against FAA and Boeing

For the sake of profit, has the US aircraft manufacturer Boeing been shaken in the development of the 737 Max - and the FAA has been duped? Former engineers of the company and the agency report gross offenses.

The reporter Dominic Gates of the "Seattle Times" is considered one of the most intimate connoisseurs of the US aircraft manufacturer Boeing. The Group's key production facilities are practically in front of its office door: Nearly 20 miles south of Seattle, near the small community of Renton, the Boeing 737 Max is being built. Gates' contacts in the factory and also to the engineers from the FAA are close. Now he has received highly explosive statements from those in charge of that type of aircraft, a copy of which crashed in Ethiopia last week and another previously in Indonesia.

According to him, gross violations in the development, in particular of the flight control system of the short- and medium-haul aircraft, were discovered that were not recognized by the FAA and its employees. Reason: Large parts of the flight tests and developments seem to have been done without direct supervision by the authorities - and they may have been misinformed by Boeing or have not checked the certification documents accurately enough.

Flawed analysis, failed oversight.
How Boeing and the FAA certified the suspect flight control system on the 737 MAX.
Boeing's System Safety Analysis of MCAS was flawed.https: //

- Dominic Gates (@dominicgates) March 17, 2019

The allegations are self-evident: the statements of the leniency witnesses in the Seattle Times report even suggest that the FAA has been deprived of important information, apparently to save time in developing and certifying the aircraft.

A central system seems to be extremely prone to failure

The core is the so-called Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, MCAS for short; a system that presumably played a central role in both crashes. The first reports of the flight recorder of the Ethiopian Airlines machine have revealed that have recently been made public by the Ethiopian Minister of Transport. The control system on board the 737 Max should actually prevent the aerodynamically complicated aircraft in flight from stalling and falling.

But the system appears to be extremely prone to failure because it depends on information from just one sensor, which measures the plane's position in the airflow. If this sends incorrect values, the flight computers on board the Boeing begin to adjust the elevator and press down the nose of the aircraft. If the pilots do not grasp the situation quickly enough, so the guess of the accident investigators, they are no longer in a position to pull up the plane controlled by the computer incorrectly and to prevent the crash.

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"Seattle Times" reporter Gates apparently spoke days before the crash in Ethiopia with the engineers of FAA and Boeing. According to them, the elevator may be moved much more by the computer than the FAA was officially notified. The safety analysis by Boeing, which became the basis of certification by the FAA in 2017, "stated that the new flight control system was not effective enough," insiders said. And that fourfold. In such a violent rash of the elevator, the aircraft was virtually unmanageable.

In addition, the Boeing engineers are said to have given the relevance of the MCAS in case of a failure for the safety of the aircraft instead of "catastrophic" only with "dangerous". This results in completely different requirements for the reliability of the system. Perhaps the Boeing people deliberately chose this classification because they had to design the flight control system technically less expensive: They probably considered it sufficient to use only the values ​​of a single sensor for measuring the attitude.

This is a gross violation of the safety culture in aviation. Especially since these devices, which measure the so-called attack angle of the aircraft below the cockpit, are very prone to failure. In the case of the Lion Air aircraft, which crashed into the sea in Indonesia at the end of October, the measured value deviated by 20 percent from the value of a second sensor on the outer skin of the aircraft, according to initial analyzes by the accident investigators - but not into the MCAS Calculator found.

"There was no complete and accurate analysis of the documents"

A former FAA engineer told the Seattle Times that officials at the agency did not get a clear picture of the new aircraft's safety architecture, or that Boeing's certification documents had not been studied attentively enough. "There was no complete and accurate analysis of the documents, and the analysis was hasty to meet specific certification deadlines," the person told the Seattle Times reporter.

Presumably, the Boeing people lagged behind Airbus for up to nine months, with the A320Neo about to launch a rival model. According to the insider, the Boeing management is said to have repeatedly influenced this in order to keep examination tasks away from the FAA examiners. "There was continuous pressure to change our initial decisions," the former FAA engineer told the reporter. "And even as we revamped it, there were admonishing discussions by management to delegate even more issues to the Boeing Group." In the end, the FAA probably would not have had a complete picture of whether the security requirements of the 737 Max had also been met.

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The allegations are extremely serious. In addition to the bad light that falls on Boeing, threaten the Group high compensation claims by the bereaved. In addition, there may be compensation payments to the airlines, which can currently not use their 737 Max, because the model is temporarily shut down worldwide. It is also conceivable that airlines cancel their orders because they lose confidence in the reliability of Boeing. The aircraft type has already been delivered almost 380 times and pre-ordered 5000 times.

Pilots did not know about the MCAS system

The mistrust of the pilots in Boeing is likely to be huge, and could play an important role in possible cancellations. For Boeing had initially given the pilots in the manuals no information about the flight control system MCAS. Thus, the training for the pilots on the new aircraft model should be as low as possible, which saves the airlines from the point of view of Boeing many millions of euros in costs. It was not until the crash of the Lion Air plane that pilots around the world were told that MCAS actually exists and how to behave properly in the event of a misbehaving system.

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Boeing is thus suspected of risking the safety of its own aircraft and the lives of passengers for profit. The survivor's lawyers should do everything in their power to bring this evidence to justice and to pay the corresponding sums of compensation for the victims' survivors. In the US, these payments amount to up to tens of millions of dollars per victim.

What Boeing says about the allegations

Last Friday, the FAA did not want to comment on the "Seattle Times" allegations that they had complied with the standard certification process. Incidentally, because of the accident investigations, one is "unable to intensively enter into detailed inquiries". Boeing told the US newspaper that the FAA had "investigated the final configuration of MCAS and concluded that it met all certification and regulatory requirements."

At the request of SPIEGEL, Boeing confirmed that everything was right when it came to approval: "The 737 Max has been certified in accordance with the FAA's identical requirements and processes." The FAA was convinced that the MCAS flight control system met all certification requirements.

This pushes Boeing's responsibility towards the authority.