The US has Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has now recertified the Boeing 737 MAX, so the plane can return to the US skies. Well, the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, has this week published its report on the 737 MAX, and my goodness…
While I do think the 737 MAX is ultimately safe to fly again, there’s no denying that so much respect has been lost for both Boeing and the FAA throughout this process, as we’ve learned just how cozy the company and the regulator were with one another.
While the report is over 100 pages in total, there are some sections that are especially noteworthy, which will make you shake your head. There are a lot of problematic findings, though arguably these two are the worst, showing the extent to which Boeing tried to influence the FAA test pilots, and the extent to which the pilots were complicit:
During 737 MAX recertification testing, a Boeing employee inappropriately influenced FAA human factor simulator testing of pilot reaction times involving a Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) failure.
FAA Aircraft Certification Office (ACO) test pilots were complicit in skewing human factor simulator testing to support erroneous pilot reaction time to runaway stabilizer reaction time assumptions of Boeing.
As the report goes on to explain in more detail:
Based on corroborated whistleblower information and testimony during interviews of FAA staff, the Committee concludes FAA and Boeing officials involved in the conduct of this test had established a pre-determined outcome to reaffirm a long-held human factor assumption related to pilot reaction time to a runaway stabilizer. Boeing officials inappropriately coached test pilots in the MCAS simulator testing contrary to testing protocol. This test took place over a year after the second 737 MAX crash and during recertification efforts. It appears, in this instance, FAA and Boeing were attempting to cover up important information that may have contributed to the 737 MAX tragedies.
The whistleblower alleges Boeing officials were present for the testing and encouraged the test pilots to “remember, get right on that pickle switch” immediately prior to the exercise, which they acknowledged. “Pickle switch” refers to the stabilizer trim control switches, which adjust the horizontal stabilizer via electrical controls, enabling the pilot to quickly counter the MCAS action. According to the whistleblower, the FAA ACO test pilot reacted in approximately four seconds in accordance with the assumed reaction time. The AEG pilot reacted in approximately sixteen seconds, or four times longer than the accepted assumption of four seconds.
Unfortunately there’s not much that will surprise me anymore when it comes to Boeing and the FAA. It would appear that Boeing essentially tried to “coach” FAA pilots to get the results they wanted, and the FAA pilots went along with it. It’s disheartening that all of this happened during the recertification process after two 737 MAXs had crashed, but hey…
Are you surprised by these revelations?