After initially expressing support for Boeing, President Donald Trump reversed course and ordered the grounding of the 737 Max 8 jets. When China and other countries started grounding the 737 Max 8 planes, some worried that governments were more interested in punishing the United States than assuring safety. However, as details continue to emerge, there are serious concerns that something might be wrong with the Max 8.
The 737 has long been regarded as one of the safest jets to ever take to the skies. When Boeing unveiled the updated Max 8, most assumed it’d be even safer. The Max 8 is more fuel efficient than its predecessors. However, tweaks in engine placement and other characteristics led Boeing to change up the autopilot software.
Now, pilots are alleging that Boeing failed to disclose these changes. And many speculate that the autopilot software may have been the cause of the two deadly 737 Max 8 crashes over the past six months.
After the Lion Air crash back in October, members of the Allied Pilots Association confronted Boeing. Members of the association claim that Boeing didn’t want to “overwhelm” pilots with details about the new software. Boeing disputes this account.
Multiple pilots have lodged complaints with the FAA that the Super Max can be difficult to control. In particular, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) can override pilot input in some cases. As a result, pilots find themselves unable to raise the plane’s nose by pulling back on the yoke.
Both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airline crashes showed similar flight patterns and both went down shortly after take-off. While investigators are still trying to figure out what happened in both cases, the autopilot has emerged as a primary “suspect.”
Boeing has pledged to update training manuals, software, the pilot’s display, and other things to improve safety. Some wonder, however, if Boeing has been too slow to respond.