Science & Tech

US Regulators Allowed Boeing 737 Max to Keep Flying After First Crash Despite FAA Analysis Predicting More

Aerial photos showing Boeing 737 Max airplanes parked at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, U.S. October 20, 2019. (Gary He/Reuters)

U.S. regulators opted to allow Boeing 737 Max jets to remain in the air after its first fatal crash in Indonesia last year despite a Federal Aviation Administration analysis predicting more fatal crashes.

After the Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October of 2018, the FAA concluded that fatal crashes of Boeing 737 Max jets could have averaged one every two or three years, or 15 similar incidents worldwide in the next 30 to 45 years, a significantly lower prediction than Boeing or regulators stated publicly, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“It was clear from the beginning that an unsafe condition existed,” an FAA spokesman said Tuesday, insisting that the FAA’s analyses usually predict a greater safety risk than the threats represent.

After the second fatal crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet in March, countries and airlines across the world ordered Boeing 737 Max jets grounded. American officials remained reluctant at first to follow suit, the Federal Aviation Administration declining to declare them unfit for use, issuing a “continued airworthiness notification” for the plane. However, as a growing list of other nations — including Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, India, China, and all of Europe — grounded the jets, the U.S. issued an emergency order to Boeing 737 Max 8s and 9s.

The two crashes in five months claimed a combined 346 lives.

Pilots slammed Boeing for neglecting to brief them on a faulty flight control system, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which was installed to prevent the jets from pitching up but had caused some to nosedive instead.

President Trump spoke out after the second crash against what he saw as increasing complexity of aircraft technology.

“Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT,” Trump wrote on Twitter in March. “I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!”

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