For decades, Boeing has been a leading light in the aviation industry, with a focus on technological advancement,, efficiency and safety. But in the past six months it has struck a potentially devastating issue with one of its aeroplanes after two fatal crashes that exposed a flaw in its software. While the US president suggested a rebrand of the airplane model itself, the whole saga begs the question – what future does a heavily tainted product have?
Boeing’s 737 is the top selling airplane type in aviation history – it has been in constant production since 1967 and of January this year, 10,478 have been manufactured and sold. Overall the model has a great safety record and is trusted by air crew and passengers. The Boeing 737 Max is the latest variant of the plane and the most fuel efficient yet and in this day and age, planes that can consume less fuel are sought after by airlines looking to cut costs and boost profits.
After a few years of incident free operation, two 737 Max planes have crashed with all on board killed, with all planes around the world now grounded. “On March 10, Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Nairobi, Kenya, faltered and crashed soon after taking off, killing all 157 people on board. The incident came just months after a Lion Air flight of the same model took off from Jakarta, Indonesia, and crashed, killing all 189 passengers. The pair of disasters has called into question the safety of the Boeing 737 Max planes and, specifically, an automated software system (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, ) believed to be at issue in both crashes.” (Source: Vox).
” . . . will the flying public be confident enough to want to fly on a Boeing 737 Max, in the future?
That automated software system has supposedly directed the airplanes in question to lower their noses to avoid stalls when fed faulty information by the plane’s atmospheric sensor. But the whole saga has hurt Boeing – with orders deferred, or cancelled, and future interest in the airplane severely compromised.
“It has a long way to go before it can restore confidence in a plane that seemingly has a mind if its own and overrides inputs from pilots.”
While orders from airlines are curtailed the other, more significant question to ask is – will the flying public be confident enough to want to fly on a Boeing 737 Max, in the future? It’s important to remember that other airplane types in the past have suffered from a public belief that are unsafe and manufacturers were able to remedy safety faults and restore public faith. The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 is a great example of a plane that was almost perceived to be cursed after a number of fatal crashes and ended up being a highly respected airplane by the time that it went out of service.
Boeing has been trading for over 100 years and, along with Airbus, is a leading manufacturer and seller of airplanes. Without doubt, if found culpable it will have to spend significant amounts of money in compensation to those killed in these two crashes. It will also have to spend large amounts of money ensuring the 737 Max is safe and meets all regulatory compliance. It has a long way to go before it can restore confidence in a plane that seemingly has a mind if its own and overrides inputs from pilots. That element is the one that will take the most work to sort out and to convince the flying public was an aberration.