American Airlines pilots angrily confronted a Boeing official just months before a second deadly crash of a Boeing 737 Max airplane. The meeting between the pilots and Boeing happened in November, regarding a computerized anti-stall system, audio obtained by CBS News reveals.
A Boeing official can be heard on the audio telling pilots that software changes were in the woodwork and could come in as little as six weeks, though the company didn’t want to rush the process.
The pilots claimed they weren’t aware of the 737 Max’s computerized stability program — the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS.
“We flat out deserve to know what is on our airplanes,” a pilot is heard saying.
“I don’t disagree,” the unidentified Boeing official answered.
“These guys didn’t even know the damn system was on the airplane,” a pilot says, seemingly referring to the Lion Air pilots. “Nor did anybody else.”
“I don’t know that understanding this system would have changed the outcome of this,” the Boeing official says. “In a million miles you’re going to maybe fly this airplane, and maybe once you’re going to see this ever.”
The Dallas Morning News and the New York Times reported that the pilots were quite frustrated that Boeing didn’t disclose the presence of the MCAS system, which has been implicated in both deadly wrecks.
Boeing’s 737 Max 8 and 9 planes were grounded worldwide following the Ethiopian Air crash in March. 346 people were killed due to the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes.
Preliminary reports on both crashes implicated a flight-control system that Boeing designed to operate in the background, making the 737 Max fly like earlier versions of the workhorse jetliner. By maintaining similarities between the planes, it avoided costly pilot training programs.
However, the MCAS received faulty sensor readings in both the Lion Air and Ethiopian jets, causing the planes’ noses to be repeatedly pushed downward, which resulted in steep dives. Attempts to overcome this issue were unsuccessful, causing the planes to crash.
Boeing says pilots should rely on the emergency flight procedure when the system malfunctions, though it has not been substantially updated since the 1960s. CNN recently reported that the emergency flight procedure is now under FAA review.
Boeing didn’t perform a flight test of a scenario where the system malfunctioned, while it also admitted that its software could have been improved to break what it described as links in the chains of events that ended in the crashes.
The company revealed that it was aware an indicator linked to the sensors was not functional in many 737 Max aircraft as early as 2017 and planned to fix it in a regularly scheduled software update. A person familiar with the matter told CNN last week that the company had not deployed the fix, even after the Lion Air crash.