In a shocking twist to the tragedy of Boeing’s beleaguered 737 Max airplanes, a spate of damning emails were leaked on Thursday. The emails include employees mocking the aircraft and questioning the entire certification process.
The 737 Max was ordered decommissioned after two fatal crashes. It was later revealed that the design and training techniques were tragically flawed.
In one email, an employee asked another if they would feel comfortable letting their family fly on the 737.
“Would you put your family on a MAX simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn’t”
Another emailer wrote:
“This airplane is designed by clowns, who in turn are supervised by monkeys,”
The emails also reveal seeming deception from the start.
Many of the emails and other communications focus on the development of the flight system blamed for the two crashes, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS. The computer program worked in the background, allowing the Max to fly like generations of previous 737s. It counteracted a tendency for the plane to pull upward under some conditions because it had heavier engines that were repositioned on the wings.
As early as 2013, employees at a Boeing meeting were urged to treat MCAS as merely an add-on to an existing stability feature, not something entirely new. “If we emphasize MCAS is a new function there may be greater certification and training impact,” according to an internal email.
To summarize, while the MCAS was a completely new feature which would have necessarily classified the Max as a totally new aircraft, Boeing officials did not want to navigate the bureaucratic process for launching a new aircraft design. Instead they simply “hid” the guidance system as an added feature rather than a completely new product.
Had it been a new aircraft, pilots would have been required to do simulator training. If that had happened they would have been trained to respond to the MCAS in the appropriate manner. Instead, pilots were simply given written lessons on tablets or personal computers. The MCAS is what ultimately caused the two plane crashes after pilots mistakenly responded to the guidance system instead of letting it do what it was supposed to do. They simply didn’t know what the MCAS could and would do.
While Boeing claims simulator training is not necessary, they have since announced they will be recommending pilots do simulator trainings in the future.
Boeing continues to claim the aircraft is safe to fly, even as Congress moves to investigate in the wake of the emails.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon, is leading the House investigation into Boeing and released a statement on the emails.
“These newly-released emails are incredibly damning. They paint a deeply disturbing picture of the lengths Boeing was apparently willing to go to in order to evade scrutiny from regulators, flight crews, and the flying public, even as its own employees were sounding alarms internally,” wrote DeFazio.
Boeing may well have found a way to fix the problems, but at this point will anyone ever fly on the aircraft again?