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US regulator failed to ground Boeing 737 Max despite risks

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Old December 13th 19, 01:18 PM posted to rec.aviation.piloting
Larry Dighera
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Default US regulator failed to ground Boeing 737 Max despite risks


US regulator failed to ground Boeing 737 Max despite risks
FAA’s analysis showed aircraft was more accident-prone than others

Ed Pierson, a former senior manager on the 737 production line: 'Right
now all my internal warning bells are going off' © Bloomberg

Kiran Stacey in Washington DECEMBER 11 2019
The US aviation regulator failed to ground Boeing’s fleet of 737 Max
aircraft even after its own analysis showed it was far more
accident-prone than most aircraft.

A study commissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration following
the first of two fatal accidents involving the Max showed that the
aircraft was likely to crash much more than would normally be
expected, a congressional committee revealed on Wednesday.

The findings were revealed during the latest in a series of hearings
into the two accidents, which have caused one of the biggest crises in
Boeing’s history

Following the study — which predicted that, without changes, the
aircraft could be involved in a fatal accident every two or three
years — the FAA issued an emergency notice telling pilots what to do
should the anti-stall system fail, as happened in the Indonesia Lion
Air crash in October 2018. But it only ordered a complete grounding of
the aircraft after a second accident in March 2019, involving a Max
jet operated by Ethiopian Airlines.

Peter DeFazio, the Democratic chair of the House transportation
committee, criticised the FAA for failing to act sooner. “Despite its
own calculations, the FAA rolled the dice on the safety of the
travelling public and let the 737 Max continue to fly,” he said.

Stephen Dickson, the head of the FAA, defended his organisation’s
actions, saying they had acted according to the best analysis they

An FAA spokesperson said separately: “A Transport Aircraft Risk
Assessment Methodology is one of several safety tools regularly used
by the FAA to analyse safety issues. The FAA’s Corrective Action
Review Board relied on Taram results — as well as information from the
ongoing investigation into the accident of a Boeing 737 Max in
Indonesia — to validate the agency’s immediate decision to issue an
Emergency Airworthiness Directive.”

At Wednesday’s hearing, a Boeing employee told the committee that he
was rebuffed by the company after repeatedly warning about safety
problems with its aircraft before two 737 Max jets crashed within
months of each other, killing 346 people.

Documents published by the committee
showed that Ed Pierson, a former senior manager on the 737 production
line, sent a series of emails and letters to the company’s leadership
urging them to shut down production.

“I witnessed a factory in chaos and reported serious concerns about
production quality to senior Boeing leadership months before the first
crash,” he said in written testimony. “I formally reported again
before the second crash. No action was taken in response to either of
my reports.”

In both crashes, sensors on the 737 Max jets appeared to have failed,
triggering a fault in the anti-stall system.

Mr Pierson said: “[Angle of attack] sensors have a long history of
reliability. No one has asked why two brand-new AOA sensors on two
brand-new planes inspected, installed, and tested by Boeing at the
Renton plant during the summer of 2018 failed.”

For the first time in my life, I’m sorry to say that I’m hesitant
about putting my family on a Boeing aeroplane

Ed Pierson, former senior manager on the 737 production line
He added that production errors might also have plagued other models
of aircraft. “No one has investigated whether the hundreds of other
planes manufactured during the summer of 2018 at Renton — including
the currently flying 737 Next Gen aeroplanes and P-8 military
aeroplanes — have faulty AOA sensors or other production quality

Mr Pierson sent the first of his email warnings in June 2018, four
months before the first of the two accidents. In a message to Scott
Campbell, who was head of the 737 programme, Mr Pierson wrote:
“Employees are fatigued from having to work at a very high pace for an
extended period of time. This obviously causes stress on our employees
and their families. Fatigued employees make mistakes.

“My second concern is schedule pressure (combined with fatigue) is
creating a culture where employees are either deliberately or
unconsciously circumventing established processes.”

He added: “Right now all my internal warning bells are going off. And
for the first time in my life, I’m sorry to say that I’m hesitant
about putting my family on a Boeing aeroplane.”

Boeing continued to run the 737 production line despite Mr Pierson’s
warnings, as the company raced to keep up with its European rival

Boeing denied Mr Pierson’s suggestion that production faults could
have caused the two Max accidents.

A company spokesperson said: “The suggestion by Mr Pierson of a link
between his concerns and the recent Max accidents is completely
unfounded. Mr. Pierson raises issues about the production of the 737
Max, yet none of the authorities investigating these accidents have
found that production conditions in the 737 factory contributed in any
way to these accidents.”

The company added: “Mr Pierson did the right thing by elevating his
concerns, and the fact that he was able to personally brief the head
of the programme and the company’s general counsel demonstrates
Boeing’s commitment to safety and to hearing employee concerns.”

Mr Pierson retired later in 2018, but even after his retirement, he
continued to write to Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s chief executive, as
well as the company’s board, urging them to close down 737 production
because of the safety concerns he identified. The documents show that
while he had several conversations with senior Boeing managers, he did
not consider their responses adequate.

Mr Dickson said on Wednesday that the Max, which was grounded across
the world following the second accident in March, would not be cleared
to resume service until 2020.

He told CNBC: “There are a number of processes, milestones, that have
to be completed. If you just do the math, it’s going to extend into


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