think that in those two crashes the MCAS system reacted to faulty information
by pushing the nose down. In one instance, the MCAS reacted to a faulty sensor
reading a too low airspeed, and in the other to a false report that the plane
was in a "nose up" attitude because of a jammed elevator (which controls the
nose-up-down position of the plane in flight). In both cases, the MCAS did what
it was designed to do, pushing the noses of the planes down -- unfortunately to
the earth below. In its preliminary findings, the NTSB didn't fault the plane
or the MCAS. Rather, it found that the pilots were confused by what the MCAS
was doing and couldn't effect proper countermeasures. https://www.popularmechanics.com/flight/airlines/a29256058/737-max-lessons/
Which is another way of saying the pilots weren't properly trained, and that
takes us back to Boeing.
In order to make the 737MAX
affordable to beleaguered airlines, Boeing needed to ensure that pilots already
certified in the 737NG could transition to the MAX with only a couple of hours
of computer-based training -- the mere modern equivalent of my old MS Flight
Simulator. It is striking how vehemently Boeing wanted to avoid real simulator
training. "I want to stress the importance of holding firm that there will
not be any type of simulator training required to transition from the NG to the
MAX," wrote one senior guy. "Boeing will not allow that to happen.
We'll go face-to-face with any regulator who tries to make that a
requirement." "There is absolutely no reason," it told
its airline customers, "to require your pilots to require a MAX simulator
to begin flying the MAX."
it worked. The airlines bought it. "We're almost at the point we can say
zero dollars in crew salary costs for off-line time," crowed one
employee. And so did the regulators. "It was like dogs watching TV . . .
-- curves, slopes, graphs, blah blah blah stuff non-engineers and test pilots
can't really understand other than the lines all line-up between the MAX and the
NG, which is supposed to prove they fly the same." It was, as one
Boeing executive termed it, a Jedi mind trick. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ethiopia-airplane-faa/faa-turns-over-emails-from-former-boeing-737-pilot-idUSKBN1WX2LE
yet, Boeing engineers knew better. One engineer working on the desktop training
simulator admitted as much when faced with a control issue that seems similar
to that affecting the Ethiopia Air flight. "I suck at flying jammed
elevator without DLC," he told a colleague. "I crashed big
time my first few times, that's what scares me about showing any of this to
[the regulators]." DLC apparently stands for "downloadable
content," and refers here to a software upgrade that Boeing
offered as a safety option but that neither Lion Air nor Ethiopia Air bought.
Another was quite eloquent in laying out the problem and predicting how it