'It was a bad enough look for Boeing when reporters uncovered the company’s decision to make some safety features optional on its 737 MAX 8s. Worse still that this decision was only made public after the deadly crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 just minutes after takeoff on March 10 – the second deadly crash involving the plane in six months, which spurred regulators around the world to ground the planes, erasing billions of dollars of Boeing market cap.
But a report in the Wall Street Journal published on Sunday that neither Southwest Airlines nor the FAA (Boeing’s primary federal regulator) were aware that a safety feature intended to alert pilots to a potentially malfunctioning ‘angle of attack’ sensor – in other words, a feature that might have prevented both the crash of ET302 and the Oct. 29 crash of a 737 owned by Lion Air – had been disabled on the new 737s is simply staggering.
Not only did Boeing disable the alerts, which would notify pilots when the two sensors on the new 737 MAX 8s were reporting dramatically different data, and make them part of a new ‘premium’ package of safety features, but the manufacturer somehow neglected to tell the airline and its regulator that the alerts had been disabled. The result was that Southwest never updated its safety manuals for pilots to reflect the fact that the alerts had been disabled.
This is particularly egregious because the 737 MAX 8s featured the new MCAS anti-stall software which could be inadvertently triggered by erroneous data being reported by a malfunctioning sensor. Indeed, the preliminary findings from the investigation of the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 found that the misfire of the MCAS system effectively doomed all 157 people on board that day.'
Read more: Boeing Didn’t Tell Southwest or FAA that It Had Disabled Critical Safety Alerts on 737 MAX
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