Boeing 737 MAX: At the crisis meeting pilots demanded a no-fly


The meeting took place behind closed doors at Dallas Fort Worth Airport. On November 27, 2018, American Airlines' aviation union had summoned several Boeing representatives to report in a windowless room.

Only by the crash of the Lion Air Flight 610 with 189 dead four weeks earlier, the pilots had learned of the existence of automatic trim MCAS. This new software is designed to prevent a too steep climb angle and the impending stall. American Airlines is one of the largest customers of this type of aircraft, with more than 20 Boeing 737 MAX 8s delivered.

Boeing's development chief Mike Sinnett, test pilot Craig Bomben and corporate lobbyist John Moloney attended the meeting. On the other side of the table were union representatives and Michael Michaelis, American Airlines' flight captain and security expert. He demanded that “Boeing obtain an urgent airworthiness directive from the F.A.A.,” writes the New York Times. The air traffic control authority in Washington must impose a flight ban if necessary.

However, according to the tape record from which the newspaper quoted, the Boeing representatives rejected the proposal. The role of the MCAS software was not sufficiently clarified when the 737 MAX crashed in Indonesia. However, Sinnett admitted “that the manufacturer was evaluating a possible potential aircraft design flaw, including the new trim software.”

The second disaster

The one-hour conversation must have taken place in a relaxed atmosphere. The pilots complained that they were neither informed nor familiarized with the installation of MCAS software in the new MAX Series aircraft working in the background in retraining training. “I would think that it is a matter of course, to explain things that can be deadly,” said pilot Todd Wissing from the crisis talk.

Mike Sinnett, Boeing VP of Product Strategy, at a press conference in Renton, Washington

Mike Sinnett, Boeing VP of Product Strategy, at a press conference in Renton, Washington

At the end of the exchange, a union representative asked if the aircraft manufacturer had control of the situation before a software update was implemented. “Absolutely,” Sinnett replied. But he also said, “You must understand that our commitment to safety is as great as theirs, and the worst thing that can ever happen is a tragedy like this, and the worst of it would be another.”

Not three months after the Dallas meeting, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed by Ethiopian Airlines shortly after the start in Addis Ababa. All 157 people on board were killed on March 10, 2019. Three days later, the worldwide flight ban was imposed on the 371 aircraft delivered to date for this type of aircraft.

High additional costs for airlines

According to a report by the “Wall Street Journal”, the flight ban, limited to three months so far, should be extended. First of all, the revised software has to be taken down by the aviation authorities, implemented in the jets on the ground, and the pilots trained. Before mid-August, these machines were not operational.

The affected airlines will probably not be able to fly in the summer season 2019 with these machines. This applies in Europe to Norwegian, Turkish Airlines, Icelandair and Tui Travel.

The holiday flier has announced that leases for replacement aircraft will have to be extended for the remainder of the summer should their Boeing 737 Max aircraft not be allowed to withdraw by the end of May. The Group expects additional costs of EUR 300 million resulting from grounding.

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Also read:

737 MAX crash: Relatives sue Boeing


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