Whistleblower Says MAX Process Flawed


A whistleblower says the FAA should pull Boeing’s production certificate for the Boeing 737 MAX because of the company’s “continued deception and gross errors in the design and production” of the aircraft. Curtis Ewbank, a 34-year-old flight deck systems specialist, wrote a letter to the Senate predicting more fatal crashes if systemic issues with the aircraft’s design are not fixed. “… given the numerous other known flaws in the airframe, it will be just a matter of time before another flight crew is overwhelmed by a design flaw known to Boeing and further lives are senselessly lost,” Ewbank said in his letter, which was obtained by the Seattle Times. He also suggested similar flight control system issues exist with the 777-X, which is not in service yet.

It’s Ewbank’s second attempt to draw attention to issues with the MAX. Last year Ewbank filed an internal complaint with the company and he has also been in touch with the House Committee on Transportation. He has also been interviewed by the FBI concerning the Department of Justice’s investigation of the MAX certification. In the earlier complaint, Ewbank alleged Boeing’s priorities were budget, schedule and avoiding additional pilot training for the MAX and they rejected proposals he alleged would make the aircraft safer. He also criticized the FAA for not providing effective oversight.

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. Really? Max certification was flawed? I think that has been well established. With 400 airplanes sitting on the ground getting lot rot, Boeing Dave is going to do whatever it takes to get MAX in the air regardless of Mr. Ewbank’s whistle-blowing. Mr. Ewbanks is just another whistle in a large orchestra of whistle-blowers. Boeing Dave has a lot of knowledge on how to handle whistle-blowing. I pretty sure Boeing Dave is going to make it difficult for Mr. Ewbank to get his pension or an atta boy.

  2. As a flight deck systems specialist, what is Mr. Ewbanks hand in the manufacturing of the aircraft?

    Is he a programmer of the flight control systems? He would have direct knowledge of that aspect of the aircraft.

    Is he a builder of the air frame or an engineer in the design of the air frame? If he is, he would have direct knowledge of that bit.

    Is he an installer of flight deck instruments? (what it sounds like to me) then he can wire the flight deck, and that is where his expertise lies.

    Mr. Ewbanks is sounding like a disgruntled employee who is overplaying his hand and knowledge.

    Was there a flaw in the flight control software? Yes. Could the aircraft been flown without that software? I think so and would have been fine.

    Why were there no 1st world accidents with the aircraft? Better training. United has stated that run away trim training and effective CRM would have prevented both accidents. They do both very well.

    Keep in mind that Lion Air is not allowed to fly to the United States because of Poor Training and Maintenance procedures.

    The FO in the Ethiopian Air incident had VERY low total flight hours and was most likely no help at all in the accident.

    The 737 has probably reached its end of modification life span. There will likely be a different aircraft to come along next to replace it. This version is fine except for the software. That will be or has been fixed and politics is now delaying the return to flight.

    The DC10, after its crashes, became a safer aircraft to fly.

    The L1011 crash in DFW made all flying safer by finding out about Microbursts and making a push for better detection.

    The 737 Max will be the safest 737 to fly.

    Do you remember when the 737 had a rudder hard over? Led to 2 crashes. Its a safer aircraft because of that.

    1 person making multiple whistle blower complaints is just looking for a way to get paid and not work.

    • “1 person making multiple whistle blower complaints is just looking for a way to get paid and not work.”

      really? So you think that somehow he gets a big reward from someone? Who? Not Boeing and certainly not the Government the way courts work today.

      An engineer found a flaw in a system and reported it to management. Management ignored him and this nation watched Challenger blow up 73 seconds after launch. Honestly, if an engineer or systems specialist raises an issue beyond “I don’t like the way this is designed” to vital flaws, people like you and management really need to pay attention.

      Let’s take the case of another disaster. Engineers reported a serious potential problem and requested an inspection. Management deferred and later, Columbia broke up entering the atmosphere. Maybe engineers are just talking out the side of their mouths.

      Assuming you are a pilot, you walk around an aircraft and discover serious issues in its ability to fly, doy ou report it and if you do, do you still fly even if management has told you you need to or you lose your job?

      Now imagine you see the same problems day in and day out. Maybe you see a culture that puts profit over lives and because you are a pilot, you may not know the whole system, but you can see how bad even a part of it is. Do you leave thankful you are still alive, but not say anything and watch a plane go down or risk your whole career, because other people’s lives are just as important.

      You write only of conjecture and opinion and you certainly do not work at Boeing so you cannot even begin to understand what that man knows. If he is a disgruntled employee making up lies then that will eventually come out, but just for one moment stop seeing Boeing as perfect and look at their track record today.
      Max 737 – Grounded, because of bad software and iffy design
      Starliner – Failed to reach orbit, later discovered program flaw that would have killed a crew
      777 – Frame issues
      KC-46 – design issues

      Not to mention how much crap has been found in fuel tanks.

      Boeing made some of the most amazing planes in this modern-day, but in recent years their track record is less than stellar. At the moment, I’ll take the word of a systems specialist over that of any Boeing executive. The last thing I will do is look down on or make fun of someone who steps up to Goliath and says “you are wrong”. Is that not the right thing to do?