Aviation

Pilots pressured Boeing to review 737 Max before Ethiopian Airlines crash

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

A damning report published by The New York Times has revealed that Boeing resisted calls by American Airlines’ pilots and aviation experts to review the 737 Max.

This was following Lion Air flight 610 that killed 189 people but between the interim of the Indonesian disaster and Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, where a further 157 people lost their lives.

Weeks after the first fatal crash of the 737 Max, pilots from American Airlines reportedly urged Boeing’s executives to press the Federal Aviation Administration for an ‘emergency airworthiness directive’.

Boeing resisted and said they expected pilots to be able to handle problems related to MCAS – the 737 Max anti-stall system – having been made aware of it, after initially not being informed of the new feature.

Shortly after the Lion Air tragedy, Boeing vice president Mike Sinnett reportedly acknowledged that the manufacturer was assessing 737 Max design flaws, including MCAS.

However, Sinnett urged caution in acting too quickly by rushing to have the jet’s software updated, reminding pilots, professionals and union members in attendance at the meeting that “rightly or wrongly” the design criteria reflected the assumption that flight crews had been trained to deal with situations where the plane’s tail moves in an uncontrolled way due to a malfunction.

A few months later, another Boeing 737 Max crashed, with its entire cabin and crew lost in the disaster, prompting an on-going worldwide grounding of the jet and a review of the fatal system that was found to have caused both disasters.

The future of the jet has been up-in-the-air ever since, with Boeing pledging its absolute support to ensuring the safety of its updated jet, which it claims will be one of the safest ever to fly, but reportedly continuing to face scrutiny over the initial certification of the 737 Max.

After initially backing Boeing with his full support for the re-certification of the jet, Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam back flipped on his initial support by telling NBC News he could not confirm the 737 Max would return to the airline’s line-up.

“At this stage I cannot, I cannot fully say that the airplane will fly back on Ethiopian Airlines. It may, if we are fully convinced and if we are able to convince our pilots, if we are ever to convince our traveling public,” Gebremarian said.

It has also been revealed that Boeing received no new orders for planes in April, including no new orders for 737 Max aircraft since its grounding in March, or the 787 Dreamliner and 777.

Boeing did report some orders for the other jets in late March. Lufthansa ordered 20 of the 787 jets on 15 March, and British Airways ordered 18 of the 777X on 22 March.

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