In an era where flying has been safer than ever before and over 4.3 billion passengers taking to the sky, it was almost impossible to imagine two birds mysteriously falling out of the sky in just a span of over four months. The first was on October 29, 2018, when Lion Air Flight 810 crashed into the sea moments after takeoff. This was followed by March 10, 2019, when Ethiopian Airline Flights 302 crashed shortly after taking off from Addis Ababa. The first crash in its earlier stages was dismissed as a human error on behalf of the Captain, and the second crash made it clear something way more serious was going wrong.
“If It’s not Boeing, I’m not going!”
The Boeing Company rose to its ranks and became an industry-dominating legend in the field of aviation. The company built its brand to be synonymous with “Safe flying.”
However, in recent years claims have been made against the company, questioning and pointing out their disregard for safety procedures and placing importance on building the company’s stock price over its safety. All this surfaced to be more evident when two of their most promising birds of the company fell off the skies killing 346 souls.
737’s Get a New Look
To compete with its major competitor, Airbus, and their latest addition to the fleet, the Airbus A320s Neo which was stealing away the market shares from the company, Boeing decided to revamp its almost 50-year-old plane the 737, and give it new and more fuel-efficient engines.
The new 737 max was a big success for the company with orders coming from all across the globe. However, a few modifications had to be made to the flight to accommodate the new changes.
Issues with the 737 Upgrade
Coming in from its parent 737, the new fuel-saving engines had to bring in some new system modifications to the flight. The new engines were larger and hence had to be placed more forward and above their initial position.
However, the engineers were worried that this could cause the plane to get into too much of a nose-up and even lead the aircraft to stall.
To compensate for this problem, a new MCAS(Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) system was installed. So if the plane starts to pitch up then the new MCAS software would help ease the pilot to level the plane out.
If its Boeing, you’re not going?!
Post the Ethiopian Airline crash. There were calls from all across the world to ground the 737 Max. However, Boeing would not consider something was wrong with the design of the airplane.
Safety is at the core of who we are at Boeing.
The FAA also did not take any action and said that they were waiting for data. However, across the globe, the Chinese were the first to take action and ground the plane the very next day. This started a whole series of moves with Australia, Malaysia, the UK, Ireland, and many more countries grounded the bird on their soils.
When on further investigation, it became clear it was the MCAS system that failed, within 30 minutes the then American President Donald Trump took to television to ground the bird.
When Airbus came out with its A320 Neos, the company had to react quickly to fight in the market. They hurriedly came up with the new 737 Max design and sold it off to the world, claiming the new flight wouldn’t require any additional pilot training. This was a major sell-off, and Boeing rained in with orders the following year.
However, sticking to its claim, the company did not inform the pilots nor the aviation governing bodies about the new MCAS system.
The pilots of the Lion Air flight didn’t even know what was causing the problem and couldn’t regain control of the flight.
The Ethiopian Airlines pilots were able to turn off the MCAS system but it was too late and the plane was already on its way back to the Earth.
The New Skies
After almost 2 years of being out of service, in November of 2020, the FAA and a few other regulators cleared the 737 Max to be back in the skies. The company came up with new software fixes to make the MCAS system less aggressive and additional pilot training was mandated.
2 months after the senate hearing the then CEO Dennis Muilenburg stepped down as the CEO
In January 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Boeing with criminal conspiracy to defraud the FAA.
Boeing agreed to pay 2.5 billion dollars in fines and compensation.
This arrangement has allowed the company to avoid criminal prosecution.
Author: Pratham Bhonge ( Instagram: @prat.the.brat )
Poster Credits: Aditya Kurande ( Instagram: @_thatblueboy__ )
Get to know us more at:
- The Wall Street Journal: https://www.wsj.com/graphics/boeing-max-tale-of-two-crashes/ https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-four-second-catastrophe-how-boeing-doomed-the-737-max-11565966629
- Simple Flying: https://simpleflying.com/boeing-737-original-vs-max/
- The New Republic: https://newrepublic.com/article/164981/737-max-crashes-got-lost#:~:text=The first was on October,346 people in total — died.
- The Boeing Company: https://www.boeing.com/737-max-updates/ https://www.boeing.com/737-max-updates/official-statements/
- flight global: https://www.flightglobal.com/737-max-two-years-on/which-airlines-have-returned-the-boeing-737-max-to-service/142791.article