A senior Boeing engineer has accused the aircraft manufacturer of cutting corners during the development of the troubled 737 MAX jet, alleging the company decided against a safety system to minimize costs.
According to The New York Times, Boeing sent the internal ethics complaint, which was filed this year, to the Department of Justice as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into the aircraft’s design in the wake of two fatal crashes, the second of which prompted the grounding of the aircraft in March.
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Curtis Ewbank, who worked on the cockpit systems during the development of the 737 MAX, said managers were urged to study synthetic airspeed, a backup system for calculating a plane’s airspeed that relies on several data sources to measure how fast a plane is flying. The system could possibly prevent the plane’s other systems from relying on incorrect data in the event that the angle-of-attack sensors malfunctioned.
A version of the system is used on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, the Times reported. However, a former senior Boeing employee speaking on the condition of anonymity said it was unclear how or whether the 737 MAX could calculate synthetic airspeed because it has fewer sensors compared to the larger 787 Dreamliner.
“I was willing to stand up for safety and quality, but was unable to actually have an effect in those areas,” Ewbank said in the complaint, adding that “Boeing management was more concerned with cost and schedule than safety or quality.”
The aforementioned anonymous former senior Boeing employee stood behind Ewbank’s claims, confirming that executives discussed the system but ultimately deemed it too difficult given the 737 MAX’s tight development schedule.
Ewbank also called out Boeing chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg, accusing him of publicly misrepresenting the plane’s safety following the crashes involving Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which killed a combined 346 people.
“Safety, quality and integrity are at the core of Boeing’s values,” Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in a statement responding to Ewbank’s complaint via the Times. “Boeing offers its employees a number of channels for raising concerns and complaints and has rigorous processes in place, both to ensure that such complaints receive thorough consideration and to protect the confidentiality of employees who make them.”
Southwest Airlines pilots recently warned that the 737 MAX may stay grounded until March 2020 while American Airlines pilots have sought compensation over lost pay due to the plane’s grounding.