Boeing Rejected 737 MAX Safety Upgrades Before Fatal Crashes, Whistleblower Says (excerpt)
(Source: The Seattle Times; published Oct. 2, 2019)
By Dominic Gates, Steve Miletich and Lewis Kamb
SEATTLE --- Seven weeks after the second fatal crash of a 737 MAX in March, a Boeing engineer submitted a scathing internal ethics complaint alleging that management — determined to keep down costs for airline customers — had blocked significant safety improvements during the jet’s development.
The ethics charge, filed by 33-year-old engineer Curtis Ewbank, whose job involved studying past crashes and using that information to make new planes safer, describes how around 2014 his group presented to managers and senior executives a proposal to add various safety upgrades to the MAX.
The complaint, a copy of which was reviewed by The Seattle Times, suggests that one of the proposed systems could have potentially prevented the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people. Three of Ewbank’s former colleagues interviewed for this story concurred.
The details revealed in the ethics complaint raise new questions about the culture at Boeing and whether the long-held imperative that safety must be the overarching priority was compromised on the MAX by business considerations and management’s focus on schedule and cost.
Managers twice rejected adding the new system on the basis of “cost and potential (pilot) training impact,” the complaint states. It was then raised a third time in a meeting with 737 MAX chief project engineer, Michael Teal, who cited the same objections as he killed the proposal. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the Seattle Times website.
Boeing 737 Max Safety System Was Vetoed, Engineer Says (excerpt)
(Source: New York Times; published Oct. 02, 2019)
By Natalie Kitroeff, David Gelles and Jack Nicas
A senior Boeing engineer filed an internal ethics complaint this year saying that during the development of the 737 Max jet the company had rejected a safety system to minimize costs, equipment that he felt could have reduced risks that contributed to two fatal crashes.
Boeing has provided the complaint, which was reviewed by The New York Times, to the Department of Justice as part of a criminal investigation into the design of the Max, according to a person with knowledge of the inquiry, who requested anonymity given the active legal matter. Federal investigators have questioned at least one former Boeing employee about the allegations, said another person with knowledge of the discussions, who similarly requested anonymity.
It is unclear what, if any, assessment investigators have made of the complaint.
The complaint, filed after the two crashes, builds on concerns about Boeing’s corporate culture, as the company tries to repair its reputation and get the planes flying again.
Many current and former Boeing employees have privately discussed problems with the design and decision-making process on the 737 Max, outlining episodes when managers dismissed engineers’ recommendations or put a priority on profits. The engineer who filed the ethics concerns this year, Curtis Ewbank, went a step further, lodging a formal complaint and calling out the chief executive for publicly misrepresenting the safety of the plane.
During the development of the 737 Max, Mr. Ewbank worked on the cockpit systems that pilots use to monitor and control the airplane. In his complaint to Boeing, he said managers had been urged to study a backup system for calculating the plane’s airspeed. The system, known as synthetic airspeed, draws on several data sources to measure how fast a plane is moving.
Such equipment, Mr. Ewbank said, could detect when the angle-of-attack sensors, which measure the plane’s position in the sky, were malfunctioning and prevent other systems from relying on that faulty information. A version of the system is used on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, a new plane model.
Mr. Ewbank did not respond to requests for comment. (end of export)
Click here for the full story, on the New York Times website.