Update on the Boeing 737 MAX Aviation Disasters

Government Missteps and Lack of Corporate Transparency Endanger the Flying Public

One year ago, a Boeing 737 MAX jet crashed during a domestic flight in Indonesia. The Lion Air flight crashed 13 minutes after takeoff, taking all 189 passengers and crew members to their graves. The catastrophic crash was the first major incident involving Boeing’s 737 MAX, which began commercial flight in 2017. It was the deadliest crash ever involving a 737 aircraft of any type.

Initial investigations into the Lion Air disaster revealed a design flaw in the 737 MAX. Technically, the design flaw at issue involved what is known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System or MCAS. Installed in the craft by Boeing, the system was the creation of Collins Aerospace (previously Rockwell Collins). The MCAS was intended to assist with the safe navigation of the aircraft. In fact, due to the design flaw, the system was prone to receive erroneous data. Consequently, the MCAS would activate certain flight protocols inappropriately, which resulted in the Lion Air crash.

The design flaw of the MCAS was aggravated by the fact that 737 MAX pilots weren’t even aware the system existed. There was not mention made of it in crew manuals. Pilots received no training on the MCAS.

The MCAS had ability to take control of the 737 MAX based on data received. In the case of the Lion Air disaster, the MCAS activated, taking control of the aircraft, based on the design defect that generated inaccurate data. The pilots on a 737 MAX had no ability to override the MCAS. Of course, in the case of Lion Air, the lack of ability to override the MCAS was irrelevant because the pilots didn’t even know such a system existed.

In the case of the Lion Air crash, the MCAS suddenly initiated an automated procedure that caused the aircraft to nosedive. In short speed, the aircraft crashed and all on board were killed.

Boeing, Collins, and the FAA Knew of the Design Defect

What has become clear in the year after the Lion Air catastrophe is that in the immediate aftermath Boeing, Collins, and the Federal Aviation Administration were aware that there was a significant design defect in the MCAS. The prudent move at the time would have been to indefinitely ground all 737 MAX aircraft worldwide. (Grounding is a measure that occurs on a nation-by-nation basis; the United States FAA did not take that course.)

Rather than grounding the 737 MAX, the FAA (in concert with Boeing and individual airlines) issued warnings and training advisories to all pilots who operated this aircraft. The intent behind these advisories and trainings was said to be to avoid an abrupt nosedive like the one that caused the demise of the Lion Air flight and everyone on it.

Second Catastrophic Crash: 157 People Killed

Five months after the Lion Air crash, an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX went down in a nosedive six minutes after takeoff, killing all 157 people board. The second 737 MAX catastrophe occurred as the result of the MCAS system initiating a nosedive that could not be overridden by the pilots. In other words, the same design flaw caused the second aviation accident, an event that almost certainly would not have occurred had certain governmental agencies worldwide, including the FAA in the United States, together with Boeing and Collins (the companies involved in the manufacture of these aircraft), had taken more affirmative action when they became aware of a design defect in the aircraft.

As a result of Boeing not being fully transparent about the design defect, and the FAA not grounding the aircraft when it became aware of the design defect, more people were killed. (FAA grounding decisions are nearly universally followed, particularly when the involve a design defect of a U.S. made aircraft.) Congressional hearings are now underway to examine what did and did not happen in regard to the Boeing 737 MAX as a result of its serious design defect.

As the matter of the Boeing 737 MAX illustrates, assigning responsibility for an airplane crash can prove to be highly complicated. Indeed, a prime undertaking of an aviation accident lawyer at The Doan Law Firm is ascertaining who are all of the responsible parties. If you or a loved one have been injured of killed in any type of airline or aircraft accident, you can reach a skilled, experienced aviation accident lawyer any time of the day or night by calling (800) 349-0000. A nationwide law practice, The Doan Law Firm has offices from coast-to-coast. There is no charge for an initial consultation. The Doan Law Firm has an attorney fee promise: “No fee unless we win.”