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Is Boeing Shifting The Blame – The Boeing 737 MAX

Last updated on October 5, 2019

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Boeing Company had its best-selling 737 Max grounded in March following two fatal crashes in less than five months one in Indonesia and by the in Ethiopia. 

The initial investigation has found a bug in the software that is supposed to warn the pilots if the flight is heading to potential stall situation due to malfunctioning MACS. However, the company does not expect to submit a new software fix to the US Federal Aviation Administration until September. 

A stall can occur when the nose of the plane is elevated, so a new system that pushes the nose down could make sense, but pilots weren’t trained on how to recover the Boeing 737 MAX from this event. Previous 737s lacked this feature. Illustration by Wikipedia.

This weekend news a broke in the Bloomberg that Boeing had outsourced the software development and testing work of the anti-stall system to the cheap contract employees with Indian Software Developer HCL Technologies. And it blames the poor quality software for the crash. The news story also highlights the lack of domain expertise in those engineers.

The coverup

All of a sudden the whole issue of the fatal flight crash has turned into a debate on the quality of the software services from the countries with cheap labor like India. What is being comfortabl forgotten in the whole debate is the initial design flaw as explained by Mish in the article.

How MCAS works

Boeing’s safety analysis of the flight control system called MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) understated the power of this system, the Seattle Times said, citing current and former engineers at the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Last Monday Boeing said it would deploy a software upgrade to the 737 MAX 8, a few hours after the FAA said it would mandate “design changes” in the aircraft by April.
A Boeing spokesman said 737 MAX was certified in accordance with the identical FAA requirements and processes that have governed certification of all previous new airplanes and derivatives. The spokesman said the FAA concluded that MCAS on 737 MAX met all certification and regulatory requirements.

The design flaw was a major one. But, the Boeing management decided to go ahead with the design and add an additional software component in the control loop. Furthermore, Boeing also marketed the 737 MAX as an aircraft that could be flown by a pilot with knowledge of other Boeing aircraft without any additional training. In order to keep this selling story intact, Boeing did not disclose the existence of MACS to pilots and it was not part of the manual as well.

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