November 13, 2018
Boeing’s engineers came up with an automated system to help pilots keep its new 737 aircraft flying – but when the plane’s robotic system malfunctions it dives the aircraft nose down, straight into the earth. In the case of Lion Air Flight 610, this deadly feature likely overrode the pilots’ input and pitched the plane straight into the water with 189 people onboard just 13 minutes after takeoff on October 29, 2018.
Making matters worse, Boeing didn’t tell pilots that this system was installed in its newest aircraft. So even the most seasoned pilots would wind up in a battle to the death with no procedures to save a malfunctioning airplane. Only after the crash did Boeing urgently update to the plane’s operating manual with warnings about the danger.
The FAA stepped in after the fact with an “emergency” airworthiness directive telling operators that Boeing’s technology may lead to an “unsafe condition.” But the FAA supposedly certified that the technology was safe in the first place! What most people don’t know is that the FAA’s certification of the jet is either recommended or actually performed by Boeing itself. Boeing pays its own engineers to act as FAA certifying officials for airplane features like this deadly one – and the FAA encourages it because they do not have enough staff to sort through all the technology themselves.
According to the Wall Street Journal, a Boeing official said the company decided against disclosing advanced technology details to pilots because it was more information than “they needed or could digest.” How insulting.
But it gets worse. The reason that the pilots were not told about this feature is the airlines wanted an upgraded plane that their pilots could fly with little additional training. After all, the airlines have to pay their pilots to train and they want to maximize time in the cockpit, not the classroom. Boeing sells planes by giving its airline customers what they want. They certainly didn’t want this deadly feature and Boeing didn’t tell them what they were getting.