From ExtremeTech: One of the major questions in the wake of the 737 MAX’s two crashes was how much the FAA and Boeing knew about potential problems with the aircraft. Months of investigation into the 737 MAX have painted an ugly story of how Boeing outsourced critical production in a bid to cut costs. The long-term decline of the company’s engineering culture has been covered at length, as has the FAA decision to allow Boeing to self-certify its aircraft.
It turns out the FAA was fully aware that the 737 MAX had a much higher likelihood of crashing than any other aircraft manufactured today and signed off on the plane anyway, the Wall Street Journal reports. After the Lion Air crash in Indonesia, the FAA conducted a review of the 737 MAX and estimated that the jet would suffer a fatal crash every three years over its expected 45-year operating lifetime.
How does that compare to the safety record of other airliners? Here’s the WSJ:
The projected crash total, according to the Journal’s analysis, was roughly comparable to all fatal passenger accidents over the previous three decades—from any cause—involving Boeing’s 757, 767, 777, 787 and the latest 747 models combined. The MAX fleet was eventually anticipated to be nearly 5,000 jets world-wide, while the other fleets together total slightly more than 3,800 aircraft.
According to the FAA, in other words, the risk of dying on a 737 MAX over its lifetime was equivalent to the combined historical risk of dying on five other aircraft, many of which operated at a time when the number of aircraft crashes per year was higher. Rather than pulling the aircraft and repairing the MCAS system’s known deficiencies, Boeing and the FAA decided on a flawed strategy of reiterating education on MCAS recovery techniques in the short-term. Long-term, Boeing was supposed to provide a software solution that tweaked MCAS performance. The FAA decided that doubling down on pilot messaging and the eventual software update would address the problems and allow the aircraft to keep flying.
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