Famous crash investigator lashes media over MAX coverage

October 22, 2019
Greg Feith

Famous, and highly respected, crash investigator Greg Feith has lashed media over the recent MAX coverage saying the majority of stories took information out of context.

Mr Feith was formerly a senior investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board and we have reproduced his comments, in full, with permission.

These comments relate to messages, from a Boeing test pilot, first reported by Reuters and published on The New York Times website, outlining a conversation between the MAX’s then-chief technical pilot Mark Forkner and a colleague about problems on a simulator with the MCAS software linked to two fatal accidents.

READ: Boeing says MCAS pilot messages involved simulator under test

The following are Mr Feith’s comments.

“It is interesting to see all of the headlines and twists written into stories about the “newly identified” email messages that discussed issues with the MCAS. Once again information has been taken out of context and stories written to attract attention, including that of the FAA administrator.

“All the words of a document have meaning and context. My take on this is simple –
I’m sure that once the appropriate people do the research they will find that these “documents” were provided early in 2019 to government investigators. In addition, I have stated numerous times in previous posts and on my podcast that any and all information developed during an investigation has to be discussed “in context” as it relates to other factual information. If people really read the email string they would have noticed that Mr. Forkner’s comments related to the behavior of the “MCAS” in the SIMULATOR and not the actual airplane! The emails also discussed the simulator was not functioning properly, and that testing was ongoing.

“During my time at the NTSB we often used simulators to try and understand the behavior of an airplane based on data collected AFTER an accident. The simulator, especially an engineering simulator that has more fidelity than a pilot training simulator, did not always replicate the actual operations of flight control systems or movements of the actual airplane even though there was a lot of operational data collected through in service use. However it did provide an understanding to investigators and engineers as to system operations and context for pilot reactions and flight control inputs.

“Conversely, Mr. Forkner’s emails were discussing, as I understand them, 737 MAX simulator issues that were likely predicated on very limited operational data and engineering data during the development and testing phases of the airplane. Like all other things associated with the development of a complex machine, testing and data collection usually identify issues that need to be corrected.

“Bottom line – many of the stories written thus far are misleading and imply Mr. Forkner was talking about the actual airplane when in fact he was talking about the flight simulator. I would hope that when the dust settles, this information along with other information is presented in context and understood in context.”