To cut costs, Boeing rejected MAX safety system: Engineer
Asenior 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 minimise costs, equipment that he felt could have reduced risks that contributed to two fatal crashes.
Boeing has provided the complaint to the US department of justice as part of a criminal investigation into the design of the Max, according to a source who requested anonymity. Federal investigators have questioned at least one former Boeing employee about the allegations.
It is unclear what assessment investigators have made of the complaint. Many current and former Boeing staffers have privately discussed problems with the design and decision-making process on the 737 Max, outlining episodes when managers dismissed engineers’ recommendations or prioritised profits. The engineer who filed the ethics concerns this year, Curtis Ewbank lodged a formal complaint and calling out the CEO for misrepresenting the safety of the plane.
In his complaint, Ewbank said managers were 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 flying. Such equipment, 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.
In two MAX crashes, an angle-of-attack sensor is believed to have failed, sending bad data to automated software designed to help prevent stalls. That software then activated erroneously, sending the planes into irrecoverable nose dives. Throughout the development of the Max, Boeing tried to avoid adding components that could force airlines to train pilots in flight simulators, costing tens of millions of dollars over the life of an aircraft. A Boeing spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, said, “Safety, quality and integrity are at the core of Boeing’s values.”