The Boeing B-737 Max 8 Smoke Screen - Flight Safety Should Never Be 'Optional'

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  • Author Richard Lucas-Macgibbon
  • Published April 10, 2019
  • Word count 1,318

Why you might ask, is Boeing flooding the airwaves about a ‘software update/fix’ and the stated fact that ‘they were working on a fix prior to the most recent crash.’ SOFTWARE UPDATE, SOFTWARE UPDATE, SOFTWARE UPDATE, the B-737 MAX 8 only requires a QUICK FIX, a minor software update/tweak and nothing more. [1]

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg stated that, ‘work is progressing thoroughly and rapidly to learn more about the Ethiopian Airlines accident,’ and that the Company is releasing a software update and ‘related pilot training’ for the 737 MAX.’ Additionally, Muilenburg stated, ‘Boeing has been in the business of aviation safety for more than 100-years, and we’ll continue providing the best products, training, and support to our global airline customers and pilots.’

Boeing has also repeatedly stated that it 'continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 Max.'

Do you think that is the Boeing engineers that designed the MAX 8 speaking, or the PR & Legal Departments? Do you believe that they are spewing ‘truth’ or attempting to limit Boeing’s liability?

Never the less, this is the Boeing party line, the SCRIPT if you will, that has been generated to deflect a thorough investigation, limit financial exposure/risk, and once again do as little as possible to correct serious safety of flight design issues.

Everyone at Boeing is reading from the same script and towing the well-orchestrated party line. There is a reason for that.


It sounds an awful lot like, look over here – look over here. Pay no attention to the elephant in the room, the one behind that curtain over there. No need to look any further, it just requires a minor software update/fix and nothing more?


Boeing proposes a QUICK FIX; one that does not require any aircraft modification (which would effectively ground the B-737 MAX 8 fleets around the world for a protracted period-of-time); or focused pilot flight and ground training (which would render pilots incapable of flying the B-737 MAX 8 unless and until the required training was accomplished).

The B-737 MAX 8 problems are not going away with a simple ‘software update/fix.’

Introducing an airplane that dramatically changes the aerodynamic and flight characteristics from those that were embodied in the entire B-737 line of aircraft before it (dating back to 1967), without requiring extensive documentation, ground and flight differences training boggles the mind.

This could happen only if (1) the FAA was asleep at the switch, or (2) if the FAA had relinquished critical control and authority over the aircraft design and certification processes directly to aircraft manufacturers. Boeing would then be allowed unfettered design authority to do whatever they pleased, even if choices were made that compromised flight safety. In a nutshell, the manufacturers could choose costs over safety (much like they are doing right now proposing a quick fix software update when much more is required to provide an acceptable level of safety to the flying public). Essentially, Boeing could then include aircraft system (for example MCAS) that departed from long-held safety standards requiring multiple-layers of flight safety (redundancy) and would never have allowed the design or implementation of an aircraft system wherein a single component failure could disable an aircraft or compromise overall flight safety.

Will Boeing get away with it? Will the smokescreen work? Only if the flying public and those in the aviation community allow it. Should they? Absolutely not!


Since when, and under whose watch, did aircraft flight safety become optional?


(1) Designing an aircraft that lacks redundancy [a flight control system that looks or accepts input from a single source or device (angle of attack indicator) (AOA) conflicts with safety and design standards that have been years in the making;

(2) Designing an aircraft that embodies a flight control system that cannot be overridden by the pilot conflicts with safety and design standards that have been years in the making; and

(3) Even though systems were available to deal with issues arising from this flight control system - Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System software (MCAS), Boeing did not make them standard equipment and the FAA overseeing the certification process did not override Boeing and instead allowed the protective systems to remain ‘optional.’ [1] [2]


This story will continue to unfold and Boeing is rapidly losing control of the argument and the ability to ‘frame the issue’ and thereby ‘limit the damage’ caused, as a direct result.

Short-cuts to aircraft safety are almost always extremely costly.

Unfortunately, those that pay the price are ultimately innocent passengers and the price they pay is with their lives.

As you can plainly see, the issues surrounding the similar crashes have deep roots in the aviation industry/community and involve much more than just the pilots and the respective airlines involved.

This B-737 MAX 8 mess is mired in greed, mismanagement, inadequate or nonexistent FAA oversight, inadequate and deficient flight & ground training requirements, an incestuous relationship between manufacturers and government oversight agencies (FAA) (including job opportunities/lateral transfers for federal regulators acting in an official capacity that cooperate and gain 'favor' with Boeing) and 346 people's lives that were cut far too short, as a direct result.


[1] By the end of January, Boeing had delivered 350 of the Max 8 models. They have been in commercial use since 2017. A small number of Boeing's Max 9s are also operating. The Max 7 and 10 models, not yet delivered, are due for roll-out in the next few years.

[2] The New York Times reports that both vehicles lacked an ‘AOA disagree’ light - a warning light that indicates when the aircraft's two AOA sensors provide different readings—and an angle of attack indicator. Since the MCAS system relied only on one of the aircraft's AOA sensors, the disagree light and AOA indicator would have given the flight crew visible evidence of a sensor failure and prompted them to disable the MCAS. But both of these features were sold by Boeing as expensive add-ons. And many discounts and smaller airlines declined to purchase them, as they were not required by FAA regulators (Airline management had no way to know that what they were passing on was critical safety of flight items. Boeing did not tell them and the FAA did not require them. The end result was, that as a cost-saving measure, many airlines simply opted out).

[2] The 737 MAX MCAS is a significant change from the avionics of previous Boeing 737s and is required because of the MAX aircrafts' much larger engines and the resultant change in handling. The MCAS includes a feature that determines when the aircraft is pointed upward relative to the flow of air across its surface at an angle that could lead to the loss of sufficient lift to keep the airplane flying—what's known as a stall. To prevent a stall, MCAS (like other anti-stall systems on commercial aircraft) adjusts the aircraft's tail stabilizers to push the nose of the aircraft down, boosting its airspeed. The AOA sensor is what MCAS relies upon to determine whether the aircraft is close to reaching that stall condition. But even though the 737 MAX has multiple AOA sensors for redundancy, MCAS relied on only one of them at a time for input. That's now being changed in the software update.

Boeing has been taking other measures to correct its own stall. Boeing's lobbyists made $827,000 in political contributions in February. The donations, which were reflected in a recently filed Federal Election Commission report, were the most that Boeing has ever donated in a single month to political campaigns.

The Department of Justice and Department of Transportation are now conducting investigations into Boeing's original safety certification process. Engineers who worked at Boeing reported that the company's analysis of the safety impact of the MCAS system misled Federal Aviation Administration officials about the actual risk associated with the system, and Boeing oversaw most of the aircraft's safety certification itself.

Richard D. 'Rick' Lucas-MacGibbon

BS & AS Degrees in Aeronautics & Business from San Jose State University & Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA

(Retired 7-Year US Air Force Pilot & 37-Year Major Airline Pilot)

8713 E. Lockwood Street

Mesa, AZ 85027-3022

(775) 443-6507,

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Article comments

Richard Lucas-MacGibbon
Richard Lucas-MacGibbon · 4 years ago
Thank you for your kind words Captain 'Billy' Walker. Coming from you that really means a lot to me. CAPTAIN 'BILLY WALKER'S ABBREVIATED BIO' His airline career began in 1967 with Frontier Airlines, where he spent two decades. After two years with the Airline Pilots Association, he became a pilot instructor, check airman and examiner with America West Airlines. He managed the Airbus Training Program for America West, leaving after 11 years to be part of the JetBlue Airways start-up team. He was the senior line captain and one of the first 6 check airmen, FAA designated examiner (Aircrew Program Designee APD), and test pilot for the Airbus A-320. He is rated in numerous transport types and has flown more than 250 varieties of military and civilian aircraft. He is FAA airline transport pilot rated, certified flight instructor (CFII) for both single and multi-engine airplanes, and holds a certified repairman certificate. Your 'BIO' speaks for itself. You have flown it all and done it all, and been an ALPA representative to boot. As an experienced B-737 pilot, senior line captain, line-check airman, simulator instructor and FAA designated examiner (Aircrew Program Designee APD), your comments carry weight and absolutely matter. Thanks again Billy, Rick

Billy Walker
Billy Walker · 4 years ago
Captain Lucas-MacGibbon, EXCELLENT! I like what you've written albeit am saddened by the reason for it. Boiled down it becomes a lack-of-training issue... Also, the first accident was certainly exacerbated by what was a singe pilot operation. 200 hours is simply not enough experience to enable adequate performance especially during an emergency!

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