Following a second disaster with a Boeing 737 MAX 8, all countries but 1 ground the aircraft. Eventually, the USA does the same as the very last. Not the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) makes the decision, but rather president Trump. This is one of the rare good decisions he made since taking office.
Two federal agencies, the US Department of Justice and the US Department of Transportation, are conducting a criminal probe of Boeing, according to The Washington Post. The question is whether Boeing fully disclosed to the FAA the engineering of the 737 Max 8’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) during the plane’s certification process. If Boeing did not, it may be called fraud.
But what is the role of the FAA? The approval process for the MCAS was delegated to Boeing, according to The Seattle Times. Thus, the question comes up whether the FAA's oversight is really independent or partly dependent on Boeing.
This reminds us to the introduction of the Boeing 787 (Dreamliner). In the beginning, frequent emergency landings and battery fires question the 787's airworthiness. Later on, mid-flight engine shutdowns become also an issue. Those problems raise the impression that the aircraft's certification process has not been adequate.
It seems that the FAA is partly dependent on Boeing. It is very hard for an underfunded agency to oversee a very large company like Boeing. In fact, the FAA doesn't have the expertise to independently judge the plane maker's products.
Boeing 737 MAX 8
Exactly the same problem occurs with the MAX 8. The FAA may assume that Boeing has provided all necessary information on the MAX 8. But even if that would be true, given its limited funding it is questionable whether the FAA is capable of overseeing the plane maker adequately.
Well before the crashes, pilots already complain about the scanty information Boeing provides. According to the Dallas Morning News one captain calls the flight manual before the crashes "inadequate and almost criminally insufficient." The newspaper discloses that there are at least 5 complaints about the Boeing model in a federal database. Pilots can voluntarily report there about aviation incidents without fear of repercussions.
The Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes may not have occurred if action would have been taken and pilots would have been trained adequately. That is, more than the 56 minutes flight training simulated on an iPad they received.
Moreover, some experts disagree with Boeing and the FAA, that a supplemental certification for the MAX 8 is sufficient. They consider the MCAS a substantial enough departure from the earlier generation 737 model, that a new aircraft certification should have been required.
Related: "Unsafe at any altitude?"
Tags: Boeing 737 MAX 8, FAA, airworthiness, flight manual