Bad news continues for Seattle-based Boeing Co. with regard to its newest commercial aircraft, 737 Max. Not only have two Boeing 737 Max planes fallen out of the sky in recent months, the company is now being sued by the Southwest Airlines pilots union for withholding key information about a feature that may have contributed to the crashes. Here is what you need to know about the issue, the expected effects and how to stay safe when you take to the skies.
This all began last October when a commercial flight ended in tragedy off the coast of Indonesia. Then, in March 2019, another plane went down in Ethiopia, bringing the combined death toll to 346 people. The connection? Both planes were Boeing 737 Maxs.
The second crash led to a grounding of all Boeing 737 Max planes while investigations took place. There is also a review underway into the certification of the aircraft by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. This grounding resulted in serious financial loss for Boeing and airline companies, including Southwest. In fact, Southwest is the largest operator of the 737 Max, with 34 of them in its fleet.
The two crashes, aviation experts say, can be traced to a system failure—and the lawsuit charges that Boeing rushed a product that had not been properly tested and reviewed in the face of stiff competition from a similar aircraft being introduced by French-owned Airbus.
According to Bloomberg, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association suit states, “Boeing made a calculated decision to rush a re-engined aircraft to market to secure its single-aisle market share and prioritize its bottom line.” The suit alleges that “Boeing abandoned sound design and engineering practices, withheld safety critical information from regulators and deliberately misled its customers, pilots and the public about the true scope of design changes.”
Both 737 Max crashes were due to uncontrolled steep dives after the malfunction of a new feature called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). It is this MCAS system that airlines and pilots had not been notified of. Boeing, it’s alleged, downplayed the amount of training needed on the new aircraft.
Boeing told Bloomberg it believed the lawsuit is “meritless.” The company also said it would “continue to work with Southwest Airlines and its pilots on efforts to safely return the Max to service.”
Boeing 737 Maxs remain grounded for now. As the software is fixed and new pilot training is created, the reviews will be extensive. If and when the 737 Max returns to the skies, it will be in the best interests of all concerned—Boeing, airlines and passengers—that it is 100 percent fault-free.