It’s Not Just Software. New Safety Risks Under Scrutiny on Boeing’s 737 Max (excerpt)
(Source: The New York Times; published Jan. 5, 2020)
By Natalie Kitroeff and David Gelles
Even as Boeing inches closer to getting the 737 Max back in the air, new problems with the plane are emerging that go beyond the software that played a role in two deadly crashes.

As part of the work to return the Max to service, the company and regulators have scrutinized every aspect of the jet, uncovering new potential design flaws.

At the request of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing conducted an internal audit in December to determine whether it had accurately assessed the dangers of key systems, given new assumptions about how long it might take pilots to respond to emergencies, according to a senior engineer at Boeing and three people familiar with the matter.

Among the most pressing issues discovered were previously unreported concerns with the wiring that helps control the tail of the Max.

The company is looking at whether two bundles of critical wiring are too close together and could cause a short circuit. A short in that area could lead to a crash if pilots did not respond correctly, the people said. Boeing is still trying to determine whether that scenario could actually occur on a flight and, if so, whether it will need to separate the wire bundles in the roughly 800 Max jets that have already been built. The company says that the fix, if needed, is relatively simple.

The company informed the FAA about the potential vulnerability last month, and Boeing’s new chief executive discussed possible changes to the wiring on an internal conference call last week, according to one of the people and the Boeing engineer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The company may eventually need to look into whether the same problem exists on the 737 NG, the predecessor to the Max. There are currently about 6,800 of those planes in service.

The senior Boeing engineer said that finding such problems and fixing them was not unusual and not particular to the Max or to Boeing. (end of excerpt)


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