So says Dennis Muilenburg, CEO of The Boeing Co.
As stories drip, drip, drip out in The Seattle Times, New York Times, Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and other media about Boeing’s development process of the 737 MAX, one can’t help but wonder otherwise.
Pilots weren’t told of MCAS. Switch functions were changed. Warning lights were inoperative, but the pilot manuals indicated otherwise. Boeing discovered one problem but didn’t tell the FAA for a year. A single point of failure. The absence of information about the MCAS in the pilot manual. A second software glitch is found in the flight control system. Boeing said it didn’t want to “inundate” pilots with information. Blaming the pilots for the accidents.
But nothing is Boeing’s fault. There was no failure, no gap, no technical problem. Or so says Muilenburg.
Yet within one week of the Lion Air accident, in which Boeing pointed the finger at the pilots, Boeing was diving into the MCAS design.
It goes on and on.
If “safety is our top priority,” it’s time for Boeing to man up and do the right thing, regardless of the legal liabilities.
It’s time to back simulator training on MCAS before pilots can fly the MAX.
The drip, drip, drip of damning stories as well as Boeing’s own communications bungling (which I attribute more to corporate lawyering than to corporate communications) has left Boeing’s credibility in tatters.
“Boeing” and “safety” used to be synonymous. Now it’s “Boeing” and “corporate greed trumps safety.”
This is an unfair characterization, but the foundation is certainly there to argue when the process of the MAX development is viewed. And, for all we know, there is more to come, either through investigative reporting or through the several investigations underway.
It’s been disastrous for Boeing.
Muilenburg’s own statements haven’t helped.
In what seemed to be a refreshing break from Boeing’s finger-pointing, he declared Boeing “owns it” and will correct it, referring to the single-point of failure of MCAS’ link to the one Angle of Attack sensor.
This didn’t last long. By the time the annual shareholders meeting at the end of April, Muilenburg was back to implying the crashes wouldn’t have happened but for pilots who didn’t follow procedure—Boeing’s MCAS wasn’t at fault.
Muilenburg announced April 5 he asked the Board of Directors to appoint a committee of four of its members to look into the Boeing processes.
“The committee will confirm the effectiveness of our policies and processes for assuring the highest level of safety on the 737-MAX program, as well as our other airplane programs, and recommend improvements to our policies and procedures,” the CEO said.
Not to determine whether there is a problem—but to “confirm” the processes. This is an insider committee. No mention was made whether outside experts, such as former NTSB investigators or other independent experts, will assist this committee.
Perhaps it was just a poor choice of words, but appointing a bunch of insiders to “confirm” the process taints the credibility before work begins.
As Boeing prepares to send its MCAS software upgrade to the FAA for review and, it hopes, approval, there is debate over whether simulator training should be required.
Boeing wants training to be confined to the iPad, or similar computer-based review.
The FAA’s Flight Safety Standards Board already concluded it’s not necessary, although it continues to accept comments through May 15 on this matter.
Transport Canada wants simulator training. So, apparently, American Airlines pilots. Those at Southwest Airlines seem fine with the iPad, while United Airlines pilots haven’t said much. The US Air Line Pilots Assn, of which United’s pilots are a member, says sim training isn’t needed.
But an unidentified US airline used a 737NG simulator to replicate the Ethiopian Airlines accident events, but starting at 10,000 ft. (ET302’s event started at 8500 ft.) The pilots were barely able to avoid a simulated crash.
With conflicting desires and simulations, one thing now seems abundantly clear: Boeing should support sim training worldwide before MAX pilots are qualified to return to the air or NG pilots transition to the MAX.
The FAA should mandate this for US pilots.
Why doesn’t Boeing and the FAA mandate training? This is a good question. But here’s something I learned over the weekend (and which I am adding at the last minute to this article): the NG and MAX simulators are not the same. There are differences between them.
Given what we now now of Boeing’s series of failures, this doesn’t surprise me. The regulators need to sort this one out.
“Safety is our responsibility, and we own it,” Muilenburg said in an April 5 statement. “When the MAX returns to the skies, we’ve promised our airline customers and their passengers and crews that it will be as safe as any airplane ever to fly.”
It’s time to stop pussy-footing around on sim requirements. It’s time for Boeing to support it. This is taking responsibility for and owning safety, liabilities be damned.