Boeing’s 737 Max airplane was billed as the ultimate passenger plane. Airlines around the world had ordered thousands of these jets. However, two disasters involving the same model in less than five months raised a lot of concerns. Despite this, Boeing took its time before finally openly admitting that faulty control software may have played a role in the two disasters. The admission, in fact, came weeks after the second 737 Max crashed in Ethiopia. Boeing CEO noted in a press briefing that the company was aware of the software bug adding that it was their responsibility to “eliminate this risk.”
Nonetheless, most critics feel that Boeing took too long to finally come clean. Questions about the safety of the 737 Max started to emerge on October 29 last year when the Lion Air plane fell into the Java Sea shortly after taking off. The circumstances that led to the crash remained a mystery. At the time of the crash, the weather was good and the plane was also recently ordered from Boeing. The crash killed 189 people on board. Boeing released a statement shortly after expressing its regret on the accident and sending its “heartfelt sympathies to the families of the deceased.”
However, an initial investigation into the crash revealed that faulty sensory data may have led to the accident. Boeing tried to absorb itself of any blame arguing that the same plane had flown with the same sensory technology a day before and that the crew had managed to control it. According to many analysts, this response was meant to actually portray pilots as the problem. Boeing wanted to show the world that its planes had no issue and the accident in Indonesia was likely caused by pilot error as opposed to issues with the plane itself.
Boeing also released a manual shortly after the crash that explained what pilots must do in case there is a sensor failure. What the company failed to mention is that the sensors, which were blamed for the Lion Air crash, actually feed an automated flight control, software known as MCAS. Initial investigation showed that faulty sensory data fed into the MCAS software may have made the plane to nosedive from the air into the sea. Even more interesting, the FAA, against tradition and protocol, certified the 737 Max without requiring pilots to undergo simulated training on the new automated flight control software.
After the Lion Air crash, things went quiet. Normal business was resumed and the 737 Max remained on course to become the best-selling plane in the world. However, barely five months later, another 737 Max from Addis Ababa to Nairobi crashed shortly after takeoff. Initial investigation showed striking similarities between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air crash in Indonesia. Analysts started to seriously question the safety of the plane and shortly after, a number of countries announced they were grounding all 737 Max airplanes until the issue was resolved. But Boeing didn’t respond. The company failed to admit that there could be an issue with the plane until weeks later. The company noted that it was updating the software finally admitting that it may have led to the two fatal crashes.