From ExtremeTech: The Boeing 737 Max flew for the first time yesterday since the FAA grounded the aircraft in the wake of crashes by Lion Air 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. Bloomberg reports that a Max 7 landed at 2:16 PM in Seattle with an FAA pilot sharing a cockpit with a crew member from the company.
Originally, the 737 Max was supposed to be back in the air in a matter of months (or at least, that was Boeing’s line). Once investigators started pulling the plane apart, additional problems began to surface. After the twin crashes, the source of the problem was isolated to the MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System). When Boeing designed the 737 Max, it was facing steep competition from Airbus in the medium-range, mid-sized jet segment. Rather than building an all-new aircraft, the company opted to once again refresh the aging 737, which originally debuted in the 1960s.
But in order to bring the 737’s efficiency up to par with Airbus, Boeing had to fit the aircraft with much larger engines than it was designed to carry, and change the aircraft design to compensate. These changes left the aircraft with a tendency to pitch upwards in certain circumstances, potentially causing a stall. Boeing decided to design a system intended to keep this from happening. MCAS was the result.
What we know now is that the system as designed was riddled with failures, some of which Boeing absolutely knew about and deliberately brushed under the rug. The MCAS system depended on a single point of failure. Boeing changed the design in significant ways after receiving FAA approval to modify it, leaving the FAA under the impression that the system operated differently than it actually did in the field.
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