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Boeing 737 MAX Safety System Development ‘Wasn’t a Mistake’, Former Planemaker Exec Claims: Report

© REUTERS / Jason Redmond / A Boeing 737 MAX returns from a flight test at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington
A Boeing 737 MAX returns from a flight test at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington - Sputnik International
Boeing 737 MAX jets were grounded in the US and many countries across the world after two deadly crashes in October 2018 and March 2019. Both tragedies were blamed on malfunctions of the automated fight control system that forced the planes to nosedive shortly after take-off.

Two senior Boeing executives have defended the company's decisions on the 737 MAX’s key cockpit system that was linked to the plane’s two fatal crashes, according to the officials’ congressional testimony, seen by Reuters. Boeing has not commented on the matter yet.

The testimony took place in May, when US House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee investigators separately questioned Michael Teal, then-737 MAX chief product engineer, and Keith Leverkuhn, who served as vice president and general manager of the 737 MAX programme at the time.

Leverkuhn reportedly said that he doesn’t consider “the development of the [Boeing 737 MAX] airplane to be a failure”.

He upheld a decision to tie the jet’s new safety system to a single sensor, saying that he thinks, “based upon our understanding and our assumptions of flight crew actions, that it wasn’t a mistake”.

“Clearly what was in error was our assumptions regarding the human machine interaction. Because the process relied on the industry standard of pilot reaction to a particular failure. And what was clear post accidents was that assumption was incorrect”, the executive, who retired earlier this year, added.

Teal, for his part, argued that the planemaker has revised some pilot assumptions in the aftermath of the 737 MAX crashes, adding, “it’s a learning that we are now putting forth on the new aircraft”.

The testimony came as Boeing announced earlier in May that it had resumed production of the 737 MAX passenger jet at a low rate at its Renton plant in Washington, with plans to gradually ramp up output in the months to come.

A Boeing 737 MAX airplane lands after a test flight at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, U.S. June 29, 2020 - Sputnik International
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In December 2019, Boeing announced that it was suspending production of the model after two fatal 737 MAX accidents — a Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October 2018, and the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March 2019 — caused the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other regulators to ground the aircraft.

Researchers suggested that errors in the plane’s new flight controls, also known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), could have been among the reasons for the crashes, which killed a total of 346 people on board.

Boeing confirmed that the erroneous activation of the MCAS function could have contributed to the incidents and said it had updated the technology.

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