Boeing Tried To “Coach” FAA Pilots On 737 MAX

Filed Under: Misc.

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.

Bottom line

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?

  1. Boeing & FAA are also likely very guilty of negligence with regards to fume events. There’s a very detailed LA Times report about that. Airbus is likely just as guilty

  2. @Ray
    At least Boeing has introduced a new system with the Dreamliner that no longer relies on contaminated engine air but uses fresh air.

    Airbus did not follow suit with their newer A350.

  3. Boeing used to be the best in the business. They have unfortunately grown in to something that can not be trusted anymore. Hopefully they will have a good cleanup in the management section, so we can return to having a US airplane producer that makes planes that we all want to fly with. Because right now, they are a sad sad shitheap of a company.

  4. A once-great company with a flawed culture that just doesn’t get it. What is wrong with these people? How tragic on so many levels. Anyone involved in this training coverup/manipulation should be immediately exposed, shamed, and terminated. SMH

  5. Boeing and the FAA have already killed 346 people. Its mind boggling not one person has been charged with a crime. In Germany they arrested the president of VW for faking emission results.

  6. That is the same action that any Boeing pilot should be intimately familiar with for an uncontrollable pitch down be it a 777 or a 737 classic or a Max. Doing those memory items which are drilled into your head would have prevented the two Max crashes because those switches from the beginning were mean to cut the MCAS out among multiple other systems that might cause a pitch trim runaway (which this essentially was). But you need to get to the quickly once recognizing the situation. If the FAA pilots (assuming they were 737 type rated) needed coaching that is a separate issues.

  7. Sadly too many in society now put money above all else. They seem willing to put friends, family, etc. in harm if it means making a buck.

    Companies, CEOs and the board of directors too often only care about stock price and their bonuses.

    I knew some people were like that but now it has gotten to the point where too many are and the penalties are too infrequent and low to be a disincentive. Put some people in a max security jail for this and it may scare others straight.

  8. Yes, but suddenly Boeing and the FAA are ethical, and the MAX is the safest plane in the sky…? Give me a break. Decisions will always be made in the interest of money.

  9. Beancounters have corrupted every corner of Boeing, from aircraft to spacecraft. The McDonnell-Douglas merger destroyed everything that was worthwhile there.

  10. I have some bad news for you. The cozy FAA-Boeing relationship developed for one reason: because the US government and taxpayers don’t want to pay for a separate, truly independent engineering organization to evaluate aircraft manufacturers designs and processes.

    You want cheap seats, companies want profits. This is the degree of safety you’re willing to pay for.

    Companies now self-certify their products. Because there’s no government agency that has enough staff, time and resources to police any of the aircraft manufacturers. If you wanted to really police the designs in detail, you would need large engineering staffs on hand, even when there are no major new airplanes being introduced. That’s expensive.

    If you want a large, well-trained engineering organization staffed with competent professionals that can oversee Boeing and Airbus and anyone else, you will have to pay for them. But you don’t want to. You want low taxes, you want $29 tickets to Orlando. So you get companies “self-certifying” their airplanes.

  11. Weren’t we told by Trump supporters that capitalism was good and private enterprise was above everything? Why did one of America’s blue chip companies turn out to be so corrupt then?

  12. Why have there not been any criminal prosecutions of Boeing and senior executives of Boeing? Where is DOJ? And don’t think the new DC crew will prosecute; they let all the banksters off the hook after the financial crisis.

    Recall Dennis Muilenburg left Boeing only a year ago with an $80M package. Crime pays. The corruption is endemic with the elites, we’re third world in so many respects.

  13. 16 seconds!!

    Good God was he asleep?

    There is a giant, noisy trim wheel running uncommanded next to your thigh and you don’t notice for 16 seconds?

    You’re fired.

  14. I’m not surprised by this at all, this is the sort of thing one expects from Boeing these days. The Max is a flawed design and should never have been allowed to return to service. It is just a matter of time before there is another crash due to an uncontrollable event. Will these people ever be held responsible for what they did? I’m not so sure. I have seen the world traveling on Boeing aircraft but I will continue to plan my trips around routes and airlines operating Airbus aircraft. We only have one life and it is short, I for one will not trust Boeing ever again.

  15. This could be bad or it could be ok.

    If coaching were part of teaching and that part of teaching is incorporated by the airlines, that is ok. It may be like telling student drivers “make sure you check behind you before you change lanes”.

    Is it possible that the AEG pilot is an idiot who cannot get an airline job? Or the AEG didn’t study the required manuals.

    This article doesn’t give a clue though that could be the fault of the whistleblower.

  16. Just as I predicted, as evil Boeing can knowingly ‘make’ 2 tragedies happen, more inhuman acts may follow because they don’t have a human heart anymore. Hence, I have been trying to avoid Boeing AMAIC, and will never fly on a 737max.

  17. Absolutely scandalous and disgraceful. They tried very hard to spin the 2 crashes as incompetent third-world airlines and pilots, trotting out the ‘fully confident it couldn’t happen here’ ‘expert’ sleazebags . Now we know (at least some of) the truth.

  18. This is yet another example of how big business (our Oligarchs) control the US government, regardless of which party is in charge!

    Where’s Mr. “clean the swamp”? All this BS is happening on his watch!

  19. As a short term solution, why not have all trials recorded on video? I know this doesn’t solve the problem but it would be a very good deterrent. Especially if these recordings were released to citizen watchdog committees.

  20. This supposed coaching sounds more like necessary training to me. I would assume the pilots need to be aware of emergency protocols specific to that aircraft?

  21. @Teo: In the quoted paragraph it says:
    “Boeing officials inappropriately coached test pilots in the MCAS simulator testing contrary to testing protocol.”

    This doesn’t sound like an instruction session, but a simulation, during which the pilots were supposed to be on their own. Like the real deal where you do not have a Boeing employee holding your hand either.

  22. Boeing should be force to send all of the hobbled together 737-MAX airframes to the junkyard. Recycle the raw material and go with a new designed plane. They cut a lot of corners and they need to pay the cost. Reforms need to happen at the FAA.

  23. You know that nothing can ever really change with Boeing. Since they are the airline manufacturer for the United States military, government let’s them off the hook.

    And that’s not counting the freebie the military is giving. 882 million that was withheld for non compliance of 33 kc46 refueling aircraft that won’t work as stated in the contract until 2023.

  24. This aircraft has been proven to be a Frankenstein. An very old airframe that has has been modified way too many times in an effort to save a buck over competent engineering. This abortion should be grounded permanently.

    The rampant deregulation of corporations, coupled with the insane strangulation of consumer safety agencies and protocols, since Reagan has led directly to this. Corporations, whose only, singular allegiance is to profit, can NEVER, EVER, be trusted to do the right thing. Gutting the regulatory system that kept consumers safe was the stupidest move ever undertaken, and the disgusting party responsible should be forever scorned. But the USA NEVER learns and will elect the next, ever worse, republicon that promises a “tax cut” the average person will never see. The wanton stupidity is amazing.

    The FAA and Boeing BOTH deserve to be destroyed – the FAA rebuilt into, once again a respectable regulatory agency, Boeing, a corporate death sentence.

  25. A demonstration of genuine decency would be the only surprise here for me.

    Immorality has become a dangerous norm.

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