A former senior Boeing engineer has today admitted his own family would not travel on a 737 Max jet – even though he helped design it.
Adam Dickson led a team who worked on the plane, which has been grounded since March after 346 people were killed in separate crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia.
Mr Dickson, who worked at Boeing for 30 years, also claims there was a ‘lack of sufficient resources’ to properly manufacture Boeing’s controversial plane.
He said: ‘My family won’t fly on a 737 Max. It’s frightening to see such a major incident because of a system that didn’t function properly or accurately.’
In both tragedies involving the 737 Max, pilots wrestled with their controls in vain to save their crew and passengers when anti-stall software and a faulty sensor caused their planes to nosedive.
Engineers were pressured to classify new features as minor rather than major changes so Boeing faced less scrutiny from US regulator the Federal Aviation Administration, Mr Dickson has now said.
He told BBC’s Panorama: ‘Certainly what I saw was a lack of sufficient resources to do the job in its entirety. The culture was very cost-centred, incredibly pressurised. Engineers were given targets to get certain amount of cost out of the aeroplane’.
American engineer Adam Dickson worked for Boeing for 30 years and helped lead a team involved in making the 737 Max and has admitted his own family wouldn’t fly on one
Hundreds of Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft sit parked at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington as airlines around the world have been forced to ground the model involved in two air disasters
Boeing’s 737 MAX maneuvering characteristics augmentation system. It was introduced on the 737 MAX 8 because its heavier engines changed the aerodynamic qualities of the jet and can cause its nose to pitch up in certain conditions during manual flight
Boeing 737 pilot, Chris Brady, also told the programme: ‘If you’re going to design and certify an airliner with such a complicated obscure failure mode as happened to that crew, it’s no wonder that your average crew aren’t able to deal with it’.
Boeing 737 Max: What went wrong?
Pilots had less than 40 seconds to correct a fault with Boeing’s automated system that investigators suspect caused the two disastrous plane crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, according to tests.
An Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max crashed killing all 157 on board less than five months after a Lion Air plane of the same type came down in Indonesia claiming 189 lives.
Both planes were fitted with the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) – an automated safety feature designed to prevent the plane from entering into a stall, or losing lift.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), while noting the similarities between the accidents, said it was too early to draw any conclusions. But the jets experienced similarly erratic steep climbs and descents and fluctuating airspeeds before crashing shortly after takeoff.
MCAS was introduced by Boeing on the 737 Max 8 because its heavier, more fuel-efficient engines changed the aerodynamic qualities of the workhorse aircraft and can cause the plane’s nose to pitch up in certain conditions during manual flight.
Angle of attack sensors on the aircraft tell the MCAS to automatically point the nose of the plane down if it is in danger of going into a stall.
This is done through horizontal stabilizers on the plane’s tail which are activated by the aircraft’s flight control computer.
According to the flight data recorder, the pilots of Lion Air Flight 610 struggled to control the aircraft as the automated MCAS system repeatedly pushed the plane’s nose down following takeoff.
The pilots of the Ethiopian Airlines plane reported similar difficulty before the aircraft plunged into the ground shortly after takeoff.
A preliminary report on the Lion Air Flight 610 accident blamed it in part on a faulty angle of attack sensor that triggered the MCAS system and automatically forced the plane’s nose down.
Pilots flying the same Lion Air plane the previous day had managed to override the automated flight control system.
Boeing’s 737 MAX is not expected to return to service until January 2020.
Boeing told the BBC that its former employee’s comments were not correct.
A spokesman said: ‘We did not cut corners or push the 737 Max out before it was ready. We have always held true to our values of safety, quality and integrity and those values are complementary and mutually reinforcing with productivity and company performance.’
Despite the safety concerns British Airways parent company IAG last month revealed plans to buy 200 Boeing 737 MAX jets in a huge £19billion deal.
Last week US aviation giant Boeing posted its largest ever quarterly loss after taking a huge write-down over the 737 plane crisis.
The US firm sank nearly £2.3bn into the red during the second quarter after its best-selling aircraft remained grounded worldwide.
It has been unable to deliver any 737 Max planes since March after two were involved in crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed hundreds of people.
Boeing revealed the total cost of the crisis now exceeds £6.4bn, including around £3.9bn it will have to pay airlines for delayed deliveries.
The company reduced production of the jets earlier this year and has not ruled out halting it altogether if regulators do not allow it to resume deliveries in the fourth quarter of this year.
In another blow, the world’s largest plane maker also admitted its wide-body 777X program had been hit by fresh delays because of engine problems.
Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s chief executive, said; ‘We are committed to working with these regulators to satisfy all of the requirements and to ensure the 737 MAX’s safe return-to-service.
‘We’ve been in constant contact with our customers to support them during this difficult time.’
Boeing has been attempting to devise a patch for the software which downed the jet in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
Airlines have made advanced purchases on the plane since 2011, with its first passengers taking to the air in 2017.
Boeing has admitted that the planes may not reinstated until next year, as they scramble to fix the design flaws that led to the deadly crashes.
The first disaster happened in October 2018 in Indonesia, when the plane fell into the Java Sea 15 minutes after taking off from Jakarta.
All 189 aboard the plane died reported CNN, including 180 Indonesians, one Italian and one Indian.
The second occurred in March this year when a 737 Max took off from Bole International Airport in the Ethiopian capital.
Pilots are angry the company didn’t tell them about the new software that’s been implicated in the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people (Ethiopia crash in March pictured)
Boeing has dismissed its former employee´s comments (Richard Drew/AP)
The plane lost contact six-minutes into its journey and went down near to Bishoftu, Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board, including eight Americans.
Boeing was found to have known of issues with one of the plane’s safety features as early as 2017, NPR reported. But it did not disclose this information to airlines or regulators until after the first crash.
The known problem was the ‘angle of attack disagree alert,’ which warns pilots if the planes sensors are transmitting contradictory data about the direction of the plane’s nose.
At one point the 737 Max planes were the best selling aircraft for Boeing, but for now they will remain on the ground – and some believe they will never take to the skies again.
US President Donald Trump has said the US aerospace giant should consider re-branding.
‘If I were Boeing, I would FIX the Boeing 737 MAX, add some additional great features, & REBRAND the plane with a new name,’ he tweeted. ‘No product has suffered like this one. But again, what the hell do I know?’
Panorama: ‘Boeing’s Killer Planes’ will be broadcast tonight at 8.30pm on BBC1
COUNTRIES THAT HAVE GROUNDED BOEING 737 MAX
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and United Kingdom
Middle East and North Africa:
Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, and United Arab Emirates
China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Mongolia
Australia, New Zealand
United States, Bermuda, Canada