FAA Brass Overruled Engineers On MAX Grounding


So-far-unnamed senior FAA officials overruled their own engineers who called for the immediate grounding of Boeing 737 MAX after the second fatal crash in five months in Ethiopia in March of 2019. The Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General issued its report on the decision chain within the agency on Friday. It said the engineers immediately noticed the similarities between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and one in October of 2018 involving a Lion Air MAX off Indonesia and urged immediate grounding. “Yet agency officials at headquarters and the Seattle (Aircraft Certification Office) opted not to do so.”

The U.S. was the last country to ground the type, which it did on March 13, three days after the Ethiopian crash. A total of 346 people died in the two crashes when pilots were unable to control their aircraft after bad data from an angle of attack sensor caused the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System to ultimately force the aircraft into high-speed dives. The grounding lasted 20 months and resulted in changes to MCAS and the angle of attack systems.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. after the single point radar alt/ auto throttle incidents, one would think Boeing might have learned something…as well, that MCAS system should have been in the elevator circuit , not the powerful stab…any Merlin or Cheyenne pilot will tell you that…

  2. And, as it turned out, the brass were correct.
    Oh, that probably wasn’t the implied narrative, was it? Sorry.

  3. It’s interesting that the mcas system activated with a number of US pilots flying, and they immediately recognized it as a trim runaway, and disconnected it immediately.
    They then retrimmed manually,[ the big black and white wheel], and flew on to their destinations.

    Non-US pilots…not so well trained or ‘lucky’….sad.!

    • not all, not even most, the pilot who brought the max on arrival noted to the outbound crew the anomaly with the system, and advised how he addressed the problem with no issues,