June 4, 2019
Ryan Whitwam

Boeing’s Own Engineers May Have Been Unaware of 737 Max Problems

Boeing is still working to get its 737 Max planes back in the air, but regulators are understandably cautious after a pair of deadly crashes. The company claims it has devised fixes for the aircraft, but no one seems to trust its MCAS anti-stall system. New details of the 737 Max design process, as well as faulty parts on multiple 737 models,  threaten to slow Boeing’s progress even more.

This plane debuted with a new anti-stall system known as MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System). It now seems that many pilots were not even made aware that MCAS was active on their planes, and that may have contributed to the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 in 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 this year. Aviation authorities worldwide grounded the 737 Max 8 following the second incident.

Sources have told the New York Times that Boeing’s overly compartmentalized design process may be to blame for issues with the 737 Max 8. Some of the company’s key engineers and testers were unaware that Boeing had made MCAS more aggressive. They also operated under the assumption that MCAS used two sensors when in reality it only used one.

Because so many people were unaware of how MCAS worked, the FAA allegedly never knew about the changes to the system. It did know about the “safer” version of MCAS and subsequently granted Boeing’s request to remove MCAS documentation from pilot training manuals. This came just as Boeing made major changes to its anti-stall tech that would prove problematic. Had Boeing personnel all been on the same page, the FAA might have caught the issues with MCAS before they became deadly.

As Boeing works toward rectifying problems with the 737 Max 8, it has also been forced to acknowledge a widespread defect in various 737 models. The FAA and Boeing have notified air carriers that the slat track assemblies on 737 Max and NG planes may be faulty. This includes the popular 737-600, 700, 800, and 900 aircraft.

The slat track assemblies are an aerodynamic control surface on the leading edge of the wing. Some of those parts from a specific supplier may not meet manufacturing standards, causing them to crack or fail prematurely. The FAA believes several hundred planes will need inspections to find the defective parts. Boeing expects several dozen will need new slat tracks.

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