The aviation industry is definitely not alone in its obligation to protect life safety. Many other critical industries come to mind including automotive, pharmaceuticals, and energy. Crashes may have had something to do with a new automated anti-stall system, known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). Boeing is facing accusations that it failed to properly inform airlines and train pilots on the MCAS, which does not bode well as it seeks to increase aircraft automation. Two fatal crashes of Boeing 737 Max airplanes within five months took the lives of 346 people and grounded the fleet. “The fallout from the crashes reveals a potentially too-cozy relationship between Boeing and the FAA when it came to certification of the Max and its new fly-by-wire Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) as well as Boeing’s decision to keep pilots in the dark about MCAS.” (Bedell, 2019)
The MCAS – Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation system is activated without the pilot’s knowledge which causes sudden descent when the faulty sensors are erroneously activated. Both jets that crashed lacked the safety features that could have provided crucial information to the crew on why the plane was suddenly descending and detect erroneous readings. “One of them is called the “angle of attack indicator” and displays the readings of the two sensors that determine whether the plane’s nose is pointing up or down, relative to the oncoming air. The other, a “disagree light,” turns on if those sensors contradict each other. They were missing from the cockpits of both the planes.” (Jee, 2018)
Edsger Dijkstra wrote that “Program testing can be used to show the presence of bugs, but never to show their absence.” We can’t show that a system doesn’t have bugs which means we have to assume that even our highly tested and certified systems have defects. This should change the way every developer thinks about how they write software. “Instead of trying to expose defects on a case-by-case basis, we should be developing defect strategies that can detect the system is not behaving properly or that something does not seem normal with its inputs.” (Beningo, 2019) By doing this, we can test as many defects out of our system as possible. But when a new one arises in the field; a generic defect mechanism will hopefully be able to detect that something is amiss and take corrective action. (Beningo, 2019)
Every company experience crisis it’s an unavoidable reality about being in business. How leaders manage these crises is what counts. Many leaders are accustomed to a decision-making process that requires extensive data and analysis, consideration of all options, consultation with both internal and external experts, examining the risks and benefits of each alternative, etc. While this approach may work in normal situations, it clearly does not work in a crisis. “The incidents will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on Boeing as well as many airlines not least Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air, and most especially on the families of those whose lives were lost”. (Cohan, 2020) The aviation industry is facing a tough challenge ahead. The broader business lesson is that the worst can happen, and it can happen tomorrow. (Cohan, 2020)
Bedell, P. A. (2019, August 1). OPINION: LESSONS FROM THE 737 MAX DEBACLE. Retrieved from AOPA: https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2019/august/flight-training-magazine/opinion-lessons-from-the-737-max-debacle
Boeing sold two safety features on its 737 Max planes as “extras” Jee Charlotte // MIT Technology Review – https://www.technologyreview.com/2019/03/22/136505/boeing-sold-two-safety-features-on-its-737-max-planes-as-extras/.
Beningo, J. (2019, 02 May). 5 Lessons to Learn from the Boeing 737 MAX Fiasco. Retrieved from DesignNews: https://www.designnews.com/electronics-test/5-lessons-learn-boeing-737-max-fiasco/132367532460732
Cohan, P. (2020, Apr 20). 3 Key Leadership Lessons From Boeing’s 737 Max Crisis. Retrieved from Inc: https://www.inc.com/kevin-j-ryan/small-business-loans-town-hall-320-billion-additional-ppp.html
The two crushes for Boeing aircraft, 737 Max 8 model, continues to raise a lot of questions. Most questions revolve around the safety of the model and whether it is air-worthy. The first crash involving this model happened in Jakarta, Indonesia, where all 189 passengers on board lost their lives. The second crash with a similar model occurred within four months later, where the plane owned by Ethiopia Airlines crashed after shortly after it took off. Just like in the first crash, nobody survived the crash. Again, it is reported that the complications that arose prior to accidents were similar in both cases. Even before investigations could be completed for the second case, different countries began ceasing operations with the model. The US government also canceled all productions of the model until a thorough investigation was done on what caused the crashes. The model Max 9, which happens to share on crucial technology, have also been affected by the above moves. The orders that were under manufacturing have ceased indefinitely. The Boeing Company has suffered significant losses, although it continues to back its claim that the model is still safe. The company has changed its leadership to try and repair its reputation. What will happen to the model is still unknown, but one thing is certain that there was a problem.
The problem cited to be the problem with the 737 Max 8 model is its design, and the technological upgrade installs within it. To ensure that the aircraft was stable, a safety software MCAS was installed. The software was designed to correct imbalances on the plane. “The MCAS automatically nudges the nose of the plane down if sensors detect an imminent stall” (Rivero, 2019). In case the sensor is faulty, the software misbehaves and causes the plane to dive repeatedly. And this is cited as one of the reasons why the aircraft’s crushed. Individually, for the Indonesia case, the sensor was not working.
Further, Boeing Company made a mistake on the manuals, and the training offered to pilots on operating the Max 8 model. “Boeing installed the software on planes without fully informing the regulators or pilots about how it works” (Stewart, 2019). The absolute lack of training and guidance on how the software was supposed to work was another factor for the crashes. The company assumed that a one hour trained through an iPad was enough. “Boeing treated the Max as another 737 version, rather than a completely new airplane” (German, 2020). At least before the occurrence of the first crash, there was no comprehensive guidance on MCAS software. Again there was a detailed application on flight manuals, especially on the new technology. In-flight crew training was also absent on the MCAS. Lastly, the plane lacked warning lights that could raise a warning that the sensor was faulty.
All of the above issues are connected to a single application. The MCAS technology was and is an ingenious feature a served an important role in operating Max 8. However, it was adopted carelessly. Firstly, a new computer technology needs a follow up all through to ascertain its workability. Redundancies are also necessary to ensure that complications are noted easily. It is also necessary to have a system override that Max 8 aircraft lacked. If there had been an override mechanism, for instance, the pilots might have had a chance to assume full control. System updates are also necessary, noting the first problem, Boeing should have assessed and stressed on changes that needed to be made. The last and most important thing is training and guidance on using new computer systems. This is especially so for a sensitive field like aviation. With full know-how on how MCAS worked the pilots would have been better equipped.
German, K. (2020). As new Boeing CEO takes over, it’s unclear when the 737 Max will fly again. CNET. Retrieved from, >https://www.cnet.com/news/boeing-737-max-8-all-about-the-aircraft-flight-ban-and-investigations/>
Rivero, N. (2019). Everything we know about the Boeing 737 Max 8 crisis. Quartz. Retrieved from, <https://qz.com/1578227/everything-we-know-about-the-boeing-737-max-8-crashes/
Stewart, E. (2019). The Boeing 737 Max 8 crashes and controversy explained. Vox. Retrieved from, < https://www.vox.com/2019/3/12/18262359/boeing-737-max-controversy-faa-trump>