On August 30, 2011 Boeing announced 737 Max, the narrow-body twin-engine airliner. Boeing shares on August 26, 2011 at the market close was $62.80. Today, May 31, 2019, Boeing shares closed at $341.61. Since the announcement the stock value has almost increased by six fold. In 2018 Boeing earned $101.1 billion, perhaps largely to its bestselling passenger jet 737 Max.
In 2006 after Airbus announced the A320 Enhanced program, Boeing began considering a replacement for its 737 airliner. On December 1, 2010, Airbus launched its A320neo “New Engine Option.” Boeing followed with its own announcement of 737 Max program on August 30, 2011, however Boeing decided to instead re-engine the 737 while adding split-tip winglets with some airframe modifications, thereby abandoning a newly designed aircraft with a clean-sheet like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This decision may have allowed Boeing to increase its revenue substantially by catching up to Airbus A320neo program. The companies were in a race to produce a more fuel efficient passenger aircraft. In fact A320neo was received by Lufthansa on January 20, 2016 as Airbus’ first of its deliveries while Boeing made its first delivery to Malindo Air on May 16, 2017. By October of 2017, Airbus had delivered 90 aircrafts missing its 200 plane delivery target largely due to Pratt & Whitney’s difficulties in timely delivery of the new engines.
The first commercial flight of 737 Max took place on May 22, 2017. Since its first flight 737 Max has had two fatal crashes, first crash in October of 2018 and then again in March 2019, Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 and Lion Air flight 610. Consequently, the aircraft has been grounded worldwide by nations’ regulatory authorities.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg on CBS said this week “we apologize for what happened, we are sorry for the loss of lives in both accidents…we apologize to the families…we are taking responsibility… we clearly fell short and the implementation of this angle-of-attack disagree alert was a mistake, right, we did not implement it properly. We're confident in the fundamental safety of the airplane….”
Boeing intentionally chose not to disclose the existence of MCAS, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, which was installed (arguably to address a design flaw) in the 737 Max aircraft. The Washington Post reports that Dennis Tajer, spokesman for Allied Pilots Association said the pilots were not told about the new plane's software,…”they (Boeing) describe a system in the aircraft that we have never heard of before called MCAS…, that for us was a shock because that’s not in our book.”
Allegedly the angle-of-attack (AOA) on a Boeing 737 Max is distorted by the its large engines and their placement in an elevated position, in essence violating the flight safety zone. To address this issue, i.e. the increased angle of attack, Boing installed the automated MCAS which takes control of the stabilizers to push the nose of aircraft down, thus preventing the plane to stall, avoiding a possible a crash.
The New York Times reported that according to an aeronautical engineer Bjorn Fehrm: MCAS utilizes one of the two available sensors which calculate the angle of attack and “that’s not a good engineering system,…that’s where they screwed up royally.”
Thus far the consensus seems to be that the information provided by the MCAS system was flawed, causing the demise of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 and Lion Air flight 610. On both flights the MCAS system unreasonably and dangerously pushed the nose of the aircraft down resulting in the crash of both airliners.
Boeing knew in 2017 that the angle-of-attack disagree alert was not functional in most of its 737 Max, yet it kept this information from the pilots and FAA. Boeing claims that the alert was not necessary for the safe operation of its aircrafts thus obviating the need to disclose. Boeing engineers found that AOA was mistakenly designed to only work with the AOA indicator which was only made available as an option, and was installed in only 20% of its aircrafts. The remaining 80% of Boeing 737 Max sold were not equipped with this option, i.e. AOA indicator. The Ethiopian Airline flight 302 and Lion Air flight 610 were among the 80% of the planes which were delivered by Boeing without the AOA indicator.
Most probably Boeing will attempt to resolve the wrongful death claims of the families of these crash victims swiftly to curb negative publicity. CNN reports that Boeing has suffered first of its official cancellation notice of 737 Max order from Garuda, an Indonesian carrier, which had a pending order at a list price of $4.9 billion.
In total 346 lives were lost. Boeing may be subject to punitive damages, perhaps in billions of dollars, if any of these wrongful death cases end up being tried before a jury in the United States courts.
Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 and Lion Air flight 610 crash victims families
For information regarding lawsuit against Boeing for the 737 Max crashes contact the Majlessi Law Firm in California, USA.