SECRET recordings have revealed that the American pilots union confronted US aircraft manufacturer Boeing about the safety of their bestselling 737 Max 8 plane months before the same aircraft crashed in Ethiopia killing all 157 passengers and crew.
The recordings were made of a closed door meeting in November between representatives of the Allied Pilots Association and Boeing executives where the pilots urged the company to take immediate action after the first fatal crash of the 737 Max 8 in Indonesia the previous month.
This crash cost the lives of all 189 on board after the pilots could not regain control of the newly installed ‘stall prevention’ system (MCAS) which drove the plane straight into the ground.
At this meeting the pilots’ demand for urgent changes to the plane’s MCAS was resisted by Boeing executives with Boeing vice-president Mike Sinnet saying that it was ‘unclear’ whether the anti-stall system was the sole cause of the Indonesian crash.
He said: ‘No one has yet to conclude that the sole cause of this was this function on the airplane.’
Another Boeing official told the pilots: ‘We don’t want to rush through and do a crappy job of fixing the right things, and we also don’t want to fix the wrong things.’
This refusal to make changes to the software that the pilots believed was responsible for the first crash meant that no fixes to the stall prevention system had been made by the time the second 737 Max crashed in Ethiopia.
Even after two crashes caused by identical loss of control by pilots killing 346 people, Boeing are still denying responsibility, insisting that the MCAS system met its ‘design and certification criteria’ and suggesting that pilot error played a role.
Boeing had previously denied reports that it had not even informed pilots that this new system had been added to the plane but according to one pilot who attended the meeting Boeing executives told them: ‘Look, we didn’t include it because we have a lot of people flying on this and we didn’t want to inundate you with information.’
The pilots union president, Captain Daniel Carey, said in a press statement: ‘Boeing did not treat the 737 Max 8 situation like the emergency it was, and that’s why we took swift legal action demanding years of records relating to the model and are working with lawmakers in Washington to ensure proper oversight of Boeing, the FAA, Airbus, American Airlines and all carriers.’
Oversight of safety on these planes has certainly been compromised as it emerged after the crash in Indonesia that the Federal Aviation Authority which is responsible for safety tests on aircraft had allowed Boeing to certify its safety themselves.
One Boeing engineer would test the system while another Boeing engineer would act as the FAA representative and sign it off as compliant with federal safety regulations. This self-certification was approved by the US government.
The picture that is emerging out of these tragic crashes is one where the drive for profit overrules any other consideration including the lives of ordinary people.
The MCAS system was introduced to try and overcome the inherent instability to the 737 when Boeing shoe-horned in more seats and bigger engines as a cheap alternative to designing and building a new short-haul plane and ensure their dominance of this lucrative market.
Pilots weren’t even told about the modifications let alone made to undergo expensive training in the system which would have meant planes being grounded for the duration hitting the profits of Boeing and the airlines.
With its massive 737 fleet grounded worldwide, its shares collapsing and facing multiple inquiries, the once mighty Boeing is desperately attempting to cover its backside by spreading blame around.
The lesson for the working class from this tragedy is that under capitalism human lives count for nothing. Only profit matters. Advances in computer technology are not used to improve the lives of people but only as a means to increase profits for companies like Boeing.
Only by ending capitalism through a socialist revolution, expropriating the giant monopolies, and then advancing to workers power and socialism, will advances in science and technology be used for the benefit of humanity, not for the super profits of the capitalist class at the expense of workers’ lives.