Semantron 23 Summer 2023

The Boeing 737 Max crisis

working in an American airline. 81 The aircraft remained grounded until December 2020, when the first B737 MAX aircraft took off from Brazil, operated by GOL Linhas Aéreas, ending the 22-month grounding.

Flaws: a uthorities’ involvement and flaws in regulations

From the development of the aircraft to the certification, the crashes, the grounding to the ungrounding, the FAA was heavily involved. This led to suspicion of misconduct, and whether or not the authority should bear legal responsibility. FAA’s key role is to regulate, research and develop. In their regulatory role, they are responsible for issuing the ‘ regulations covering manufacturing, operating, and maintaining aircraft. ’ In research and development, they are responsible for developing systems and procedures needed for a safe and efficient system. 82 It is worth mentioning that FAA is one of the largest aviation authorities in the globe, so most aviation authorities from other countries follow FAA’s instructions and decisions. After FAA had certified the B737 MAX aircraft, almost all the other authorities, e.g. EUASA, Transport Canada and others, then certified the B737 MAX aircraft. As mentioned previously, the certification of the B737 MAX took less time than usual, as Boeing was filing it as an Amended Type Certificate, instead of a brand-new aeroplane with new designs and systems: the certification only took 5 years. The major difference between ATC and the original type certificate is that FAA only needs to approve the systems which have been amended. The FAA had also approved Boeing’s request in removing the MCAS system description from the B737 MAX Flight Crew Operating Manual (FCOM). FCOM is the document on aeroplanes that constitutes the primary flight crew reference for normal operations, and it is a company complication (different companies’ FCOM might be different to others), while it provides descriptive information and non-certification related performance data. 83 In B737 MAX’s case, MCAS was not presented as a change in the design impacting control in flight, thus MCAS wasn’t a priority for the FAA in the ATC approval process. Meanwhile, Boeing engineers described the MCAS system to the FAA, while MCAS capabilities were never fully revealed. 84 Without truly knowing MCAS’ capability and actual performance, FAA approved the ATC request for all B737 MAX aircraft. ‘ Revelations emerged that the FAA had delegated aspects of the safety certification process of the craft to Boeing employees to complete themselves. ’ 85 It was also indicated that a former B737 MAX Chief Technical Pilot (Mark Forkner) was arrested on suspicion of fraud, deceiving FAA Aircraft Evaluation Group (AEG) officers during FAA’s evaluation and certification of the B737 MAX aircraft. ‘ Forkner provided the agency with materially false, inaccurate, and incomplete information about a new part of the flight controls (MCAS) . . . In an attempt to save Boeing money, Forkner allegedly withheld critical information from regulators,’ said Acti ng U.S. Attorney Chad E. Meacham for the Northern District of

81 Netflix 2022, Downfall: The Case Against Boeing . 82 Department of Transportation 2018, Federal Aviation Administration . 83 Aviation. StackExchange 2019, Please explain differences between AFM and FCOM manuals? 84 Gipson 2020, The 737 MAX is ready to fly again, but plane certification still needs to be fixed – here’s how. 85 Rogers 2020, Fall from the Sky: The Descent of Boeing and the 737 MAX : 79.


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