Boeing’s Unsafe to Operate 737 MAX 8
After flying for the first time in summer 1956, a choppy experience I remember well, I remarked to a friend on a subsequent flight that I hoped the laws of aerodynamics would remain in force while I was airborne.
Thankfully, I flew incident-free for many years, never on an unsafe to operate Boeing 737 MAX 8, endangering passengers because of its flawed design, needing resolution before permitting future use of these planes.
Their record is self-explanatory. On October 29, 2018, a Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang, Indonesia Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed 13 minutes after takeoff, killing all 181 passengers and eight crew members, including the pilot and co-pilot.
On December 14, 2018, the same model aircraft made an emergency landing in Shiraz, Iran en route from Dubai, UAE to Oslo, Norway, reportedly for failure in one of its engine’s oil system.
On March 10, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 en route from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Nairobi, Kenya crashed six minutes after takeoff, killing all onboard. It’s believed a serious MCAS autopilot design flaw exists, maybe others as well.
In response, most governments worldwide ordered these aircraft grounded until proved safe to operate, the US following suit belatedly after the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) reversed its original position that these planes were safe to fly.
It let Boeing conduct its own safety analysis. According to engineers, was riddled with flaws.
The company cut costs and corners to rush the aircraft into service before it was safe to fly – a foolhardy move to preserve and gain market share as things turned out, a short-term gain for big trouble its management is dealing with now, jeopardizing current and future orders for new aircraft, along with passenger safety.
Boeing’s 737 series is the best-selling commercial passenger plane in aviation history, over 10,000 produced, first entered into service in February 1968.
According to one pilot, 737 MAX 8 training was little more than a one-hour iPad session, no flight simulator hours, the equivalent of test-flying the aircraft on the ground, discovering potential problems before experiencing them when airborne.
Reportedly, pilots complained about not being fully informed about the plane’s new features. Its software was completed shortly before deliveries to customers began.
Boeing promised software updates to correct problems. According to the FAA, it make take months to complete the process, including time needed to more accurately test for safety.
According to Southwest Pilots Association training and standards chair Greg Bowen, “(t)hey were building the airplane and still designing it. The data to build a simulator didn’t become available until about when the plane was ready to fly.”
As of January, the company received over 5,000 737 MAX 8 orders, around 350 delivered so far, virtually all effectively grounded indefinitely.
Boeing’s safety review process is undergoing scrutiny by the Transportation Department’s inspector general, as well as Justice Department prosecutors for possible criminal wrongdoing.
Reportedly, a grand jury subpoenaed at least one individual, documents, correspondence, emails, and other materials related to the aircraft’s development and performance.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “(t)he Justice Department probe involves a prosecutor in the fraud section of the department’s criminal division,” adding:
“In the US, it is highly unusual for federal prosecutors to investigate details of regulatory approval of commercial aircraft designs, or to use a criminal probe to delve into dealings between the FAA and the largest aircraft manufacturer the agency oversees.”
“Probes of airliner programs or alleged lapses in federal safety oversight typically are handled as civil cases, often by the (Transportation Department’s) inspector general.”
In business and everyday life, the maxim haste makes waste applies, notably for Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 mismanagement – 346 lost lives and countless thousands more endangered need no elaboration.
A Final Comment
Despite 737 MAX 8 troubles likely to cost Boeing millions of dollars to correct, potentially much more in lost, cancelled or delayed orders, as well likely expensive law suits – from customers and/or families of individuals killed in two deadly crashes because the 737s were unsafe to operate, company chairman and CEO Dennis Muilenburg’s pay increased substantially year-over-year.
Company financial filings showed he earned $23.4 million last year – compared to $18.5 million in 2017. With stock options, he earned around $30 million.
Despite rushing the unsafe to operate 737 MAX 8 into production and delivery to customers, nor provide pilots with proper training to avoid fatal crashes, Muilenburg was rewarded, not punished.
After most nations ordered the new 737s grounded until design flaws are corrected, he insisted the planes are safe to operate.
After the second of two deadly 737 crashes, he emailed employees, saying the following:
“I know this tragedy is especially challenging…While difficult, I encourage everyone to stay focused on the important work we do. Our customers, business partners and stakeholders depend on us to deliver for them.”
He urged Boeing staff not to speculate or discuss the crashes, saying doing it “without all the necessary facts is not appropriate and could compromise the integrity of the investigation.”
My newest book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."