A report delivered to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by a committee of experts could be the “last nail in the coffin” of the Boeing 737 MAX 10 certification attempt still in the year 2022. Although the report was delivered to the government in March , only became public this week thanks to the investigative efforts of Dominic Gates of the Seattle Times.
The document, produced by the MITER group, noted that “The exemption granted to the MAX family contributed to both accidents (Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines) and influenced Boeing’s decision not to disclose information about the MCAS software, the main cause of these”. MITER is a non-profit organization formed by engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) dedicated to producing reports for government agencies.
As reported by Aviacionline, the FAA had (prior to the accidents) exempted the MAX family from complying with some crew alert requirements. MITER analysts concluded that if the FAA had insisted that the MAX meet modern warning standards, the role of the software MCAS in accidents “could have been avoided”.
If the cockpit was upgraded, the MCAS would not be hidden
According to the report, “an upgrade to the crew alert system would require pilots to receive additional training. Boeing would then have no reason to hide the MCAS as it did.” Had this system been part of the development process, the report suggests that FAA engineers could have found the design flaws.
“Additional training would have removed Boeing’s incentive to limit disclosure of the MCAS system, making its existence part of the pilot training process. It is likely that the dependence of MCAS on a single angle-of-attack indicator was detected and corrected during certification.”the report emphatically states.
Between the sword and the wall
If Boeing wants to certify the 737 MAX 10, it must either do so before the end of the year – the date on which the waiver period granted by Congress for the new product to be certified without meeting the cockpit alerts requirement expires – or obtain a new extension.
As the FAA has already pointed out that “model certification is unlikely to be completed this year”Boeing will likely have to resort to the second path, which seems increasingly difficult, as the extension can only be granted by Congress, which is reluctant to back the manufacturer.
If Congress doesn’t grant a new extension on time, Boeing would have only two ways to go with the MAX 10. Either it cancels the program – a drastic and unlikely move, as it has several hundred units on order – or it decides to modify its cabin, making it different from the other MAX.
This second route would require Boeing to invest around US$750 million, and would further delay the model’s entry into service. Furthermore, it would mean an increase in pilot training costs and create a logistical problem for operators as the MAX family cabins would not be uniform.