April 19, 2019, ©. Leeham News: Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg yesterday flew with the final version of the updated MCAS software on a 737 MAX. It will now enter certification flights, having completed 120 Boeing test flights.
Here my perspective on MCAS and the overall Boeing 737 safety record.
The Boeing 737 is flying with more aircraft around the world than any other aircraft type except the Airbus A320 series. Both have around 7,500 aircraft in service. And both have good safety records.
For the 737, this has been the case over its 50 years of operational service. The type has no special issues, like deep stall or difficult handling or landing characteristics. It’s a vice-free aircraft compared with many other airliners which have operated the skies.
This shall be remembered when one judges whether the 737 MAX will be safe after the updated MCAS is certified and the MAX enters service again. If only the original MCAS implementation had got a 10th of the attention the now updated function has got. Then we wouldn’t have had two fatal crashes with 346 persons killed.
If the original work with MCAS would have done ONE of the following three things correctly, we wouldn’t have the MAX glued to the ground right now:
The many investigations into the MCAS debacle will reveal how all three of the above conditions could be ignored. If any of them had seen proper action, the accidents wouldn’t have happened.
The introduction of the improved MCAS addresses all three of the conditions, and by it, should ensure we won’t have any more MCAS-related accidents. The 737 MAX can return to be a backbone of our air transportation system. The attention shall make MCAS a problem of the past.
One now ask what else could have fallen victim in the race against the Airbus A320neo? Was any other area of the 737 MAX glossed over like MCAS? Here the ongoing investigations and Boeing’s own soul searching shall make sure anything else which is not a 100% job will be addressed. Will this happen?
We tend to forget issues with our airliners are detected on a daily basis and get fixed by the established system. Our high level of air traffic safety comes from this daily work.
There is a stream of ADs (Airworthiness Directives) from the authorities and SBs (Service Bulletins) from the OEMs which correct and improve our aircraft. The 737 included and this type has not had more issues than any other type. Its track record over the 50 years is good.
If the race against the A320neo caused any other non-perfect MAX solutions to be introduced, Boeing should focus on fixing them ASAP. Any more issues with the 737 MAX and the trust in the type will wear thin. The sound 737 base aircraft does not merit such a fate.
Note: Our partner Mentour Pilot has released a video showing the effect of a miss-trimmed elevator when manually trimming a 737, worth a look. It’s here.