The FAA issued its proposed order on the Boeing 737 MAX for public comment and review. The comments from a number of sources have been somewhat scathing, focusing beyond MCAS to a number of other problems that also need to be addressed to improve the safety of the aircraft. While Boeing’s may claim that the airplane will be one of the most investigated planes in history and will as a result have a great safety record and become one of the safest aircraft flying, we find that hard to swallow given the issues that have emerged.

Several issues have emerged during the comment period on the FAAs proposed modifications to the 737 MAX that include the MCAS system, wiring, and flight computers on the MAX. Most of the comments illustrate further deficiencies in this aircraft, which utilizes a number of older and newer technologies that do not integrate well and also would not meet the requirements for new aircraft, being grandfathered under the original 1967 type certificate.  

These include:

  • Crew alerting flaws have emerged that could impact pilot workload and safety of flight and the aircraft lacks a modern EICAS system;
  • The trim system may still be difficult to operate at high speeds, requiring heavy force;
  • The information from faulty AoA indicators impacts systems other than MCAS that have not been corrected;
  • There is no way for the crew to override annoying alerts, including the stick shaker and overspeed clacker, to turn them off to avoid distraction;
  • Procedures in an emergency may require two pilot intervention rather than the traditional one fly the airplane and one fix the problem mode normally used;
  • The airplane lacks “synthetic airspeed” software that could decide between an operating and failed sensor to determine which to believe;
  • The rudder cables do not meet current requirements and could be subject to damage should an un-contained engine failure occur;
  • The fuselage for the MAX is the same as the NG version, which tends to break into three pieces after hard landings, with 5 similar instances recorded;

Should those flaws also be addressed before the MAX returns to service?

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