|To me the big red flag was when the CEO was stripped of the Chairmanship to 'focus' on the 737 problem a short time ago. A strong signal that things were going to get more ugly. In addition to the lives lost, these 'shortcuts' are going to cost the company a LOT of money and imo result in a pretty significant stain on it's reputation.|
Boeing Pilot Complained of ‘Egregious’ Issue With 737 Max in 2016
A Boeing 737 Max 8 plane. The 737 Max was grounded earlier this year after crashing twice in five months.CreditCreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times
By David Gelles and Natalie Kitroeff
Oct. 18, 2019Updated 2:58 p.m. ET
A Boeing pilot working on the 737 Max said in messages from 2016 that a new automated system was making the plane difficult to control in flight simulators, more than two years before it was grounded after two deadly crashes.
The pilot, Mark Forkner, complained that the system, known as MCAS, was causing him trouble. “It’s running rampant in the sim,” he said in a message to a colleague, referring to the simulator.
“Granted, I suck at flying, but even this was egregious,” he went on to say, according to a transcript of the exchange reviewed by The New York Times.
The 737 Max was grounded this year after crashing twice in five months, killing 346 people. In both cases, MCAS malfunctioned because of erroneous data, sending the planes into unrecoverable nose dives.
Mr. Forkner, the chief technical pilot for the plane, went on to say he had lied to the Federal Aviation Administration.
“I basically lied to the regulators (unknowingly),” Mr. Forkner said in the messages.
Boeing provided the transcript to lawmakers in Capitol Hill over the past day, in advance of hearings this month at which Boeing’s chief executive, Dennis A. Muilenburg, will testify about the crashes for the first time. Boeing had provided the transcript this year to the Department of Justice, which is conducting a criminal investigation, according to two people familiar with the communications, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the exchange was not yet public.
“This is the smoking gun,” Representative Peter DeFazio, Democrat of Oregon, said in an interview. “This is no longer just a regulatory failure and a culture failure. It’s starting to look like criminal misconduct.”
Boeing 737 Max: The Latest on the Fallout After 2 Deadly CrashesBoeing remains under intense scrutiny nearly one year after the first Max jet was involved in a fatal accident.
Mr. DeFazio is chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and his office is overseeing the House investigation into the crashes.
“Boeing cannot say this is about one person,” Mr. DeFazio said. “This is about a cultural failure at Boeing under pressure from Wall Street to just get this thing out there and make sure that you don’t open the door to further pilot training.”
Eight months before sending the messages, Mr. Forkner asked the F.A.A. if it would be O.K. to remove mention of MCAS from the pilot’s manual. The F.A.A., which at the time believed the system would activate only in rare cases and wasn’t particularly dangerous, approved Mr. Forkner’s request.
The F.A.A. administrator, Stephen Dickson, sent Mr. Muilenburg a letter Friday morning demanding that the company account for why it did not provide the messages to the agency earlier.
“I expect your explanation immediately regarding the content of this document and Boeing’s delay in disclosing the document to its safety regulator,” Mr. Dickson wrote.
Reuters was first to report on the existence of the messages.
A lawyer for Mr. Forkner played down the importance of the messages, saying Mr. Forkner was talking about issues with the simulator.
“If you read the whole chat, it is obvious that there was no ‘lie’ and the simulator program was not operating properly,” the lawyer, David Gerger, said in a statement. “Based on what he was told, Mark thought the plane was safe, and the simulator would be fixed.”
Mr. Forkner, who is now a pilot for Southwest Airlines, and Mr. Gustavsson did not reply to requests for comment.
Gordon Johndroe, a Boeing spokesman, said the company was “voluntarily cooperating” with the congressional investigation and provided the messages to lawmakers as part of that process.