Boeing’s 737 MAX will be one of the safest aircraft in history

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August 30, 2020
737 MAX
The 737 MAX

There is no question that the Boeing 737 MAX when it returns to the skies later year will be one of the safest commercial aircraft in history.

But the question is will the flying public embrace the tarnished 737 MAX.

No commercial aircraft has ever been subjected to such intense scrutiny as the 737 MAX, fueled by extraordinary misinformation in the media both mainstream and social.

Certainly, there was some fault at Boeing in its safety analysis in assuming a level of pilot competence and training that doesn’t exist in some parts of the world. As the FAA said before US Congress, the pilots of both airlines involved in the tragic crashes did not perform as would be expected.

In the case of the Lion Air crash the co-pilot who was flying “didn’t understand the concept of a stall at high or low level,” according to his simulator trainer’s report.

A well-respected retired Airbus training captain, told AirlineRatings.com quite simply that the first officer (co-pilot) “could not fly”.

“The (training) report on the FO is an eye-opener as he is constantly very poor in all phases of operating an aircraft,” the training captain said.

“The report indicates a lot of additional training in standard operating procedures and emergencies and this was repeated on almost every subsequent training session but the problems were never resolved.

“There is a continual mention of a very poor instrument scan which was also never resolved. Even more deeply troubling was that, according to the pilot reports, the first officer didn’t understand and had difficulty handling aerodynamic stalls, a fundamental of flying.”

“That FO could not fly and I wonder why the Lion Air trainers didn’t cull him as his performance at proficiency checks are all fail items.”

Podcasts by the Flight Safety Detectives former NTSB crash investigators Greg Feith and John Goglia are extraordinary in their detail and very sobering and highlight multiple failures of maintenance and serious pilot deficiencies at Lion Air related to the 737 MAX accident.

They are a MUST LISTEN for anyone interested in air safety.  Listen to podcasts 9 13 and 14.

Feith and Goglia are considered among the most respected safety analysts in the industry.

Last year Feith was highly critical of the Indonesian NTSC report and the primary conclusion that the MCAS software caused the crash of LionAir Flight 610 in October 2018.

Feith, said the Indonesian NTSC 322-page report, issued in October, into the LionAir 737MAX tragedy presents an in-depth account of the “factual” information developed during the course of the investigation.

However, Feith said of the report, “there are so many flaws in logic, failures to properly analyze the facts, and failures to hold persons or organizations accountable and much more. They (NTSC) obviously reverse-engineered the “facts” to support their preconceived conclusions that the airplane and MCAS are to blame.”

Lion Air
Greg Feith and John Goglia at Boeing.

“The NTSC stated the pilots, especially the First Officer, had significant training deficiencies and lacked basic flying skills. These same deficiencies occurred during the accident flight. These two pilots had no business being in the cockpit and the airplane should not have been operated because of all the maintenance issues that began at the beginning of October and were not corrected, making the airplane unairworthy,” Feith told Airline Ratings.

The mistake Boeing, and all manufacturers, have made is to assume that the pilots flying their aircraft are well trained and competent and will follow instructions and obey warnings.

A perfect example of this involves the loss of a Pakistan Airlines Airbus A320 flight PK8303 on May 22, 2020, which killed 97.

The pilots made a completely unacceptable approach according to Juan Browne, a 777 pilot (blancolirio on Youtube), who said that the Flighradar 24 data showed that the pilots of the A320 descended at twice the normal rate and went across the runway threshold at 210kts (388km/hr) well above the recommended 140kts (259km/hr).

The pilot also ignored air traffic control instructions to perform orbits to lose altitude and ignored multiple speed and undercarriage warnings to land with the undercarriage retracted.

The A320 bounced twice on its engines before the pilots applied more power and went around only to crash when the damaged engines failed. The question is how does Airbus or Boeing design an aircraft to prevent such utter reckless incompetence.

In the wake of this disaster, it was revealed that in Pakistan 262 pilots have fake pilot licenses. Pakistan International Airlines sacked 150 of its pilots.

Very little of the above has had widespread exposure and the majority of passengers believe Boeing is totally to blame for the 737 MAX crashes.

The whole debate has been muddled by grandstanding politicians, union issues, disgruntled employees, grossly inaccurate reporting not to mention trade disputes.

737 MAX

The 737 MAX itself is virtually a new plane from the perspective of flight control and systems and has been exhaustively tested over the last 18 months.

The US FAA has employed 40 engineers, inspectors, pilots, and technical support staff in 60,000 hours of work to tick off the changes.

Those numbers are however minor compared to the effort Boeing has made to build multiple layers of protection to make the 737 MAX the safest it can possibly be.

Helping to achieve that Boeing has held 20 conferences with over 1,100 participants from 250 organizations and has involved 565 pilots from 141 airlines to gain feedback on design changes.

Both the FAA and the Canadian regulators have test flown the 737 MAX with all the changes and next week the Europan regulator EASA will start its evaluation. The Canadain and Europe approvals are seen as critical.

Boeing then faces a massive advertising campaign to assure the public that the MAX is one of the safest commercial aircraft they can step aboard and the tick off of all aviation regulators and governing bodies is essential.

There are 387 737 MAXs delivered to airlines and stored and Boeing has another 400 built and stored and all these aircraft have to be modified and brought back into service. Beyond that Boeing has orders for another 3,700 but has suffered cancellations of over 700.

NOTE: Steve Creedy and Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey Thomas won Best Safety, Training & Simulation Submission sponsored by CAE for their feature “Pilot training, skills levels and automation come under intense scrutiny” which was published on March 18, 2019, at the Aerospace Media Awards at the Singapore Air Show in February.