Boeing Engineer Claims Additional Design Flaws With 737 MAX

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A Boeing engineer who has raised concerns regarding the 737 MAX asserts that there are systemic problems with the design of the narrowbody aircraft. Last week, The Seattle Times obtained a letter written by engineer Curtis Ewbank, which alludes to ‘other known flaws’ that need to be fixed.

From problematic flight control software to foreign object debris discovered in fuel tanks, the 737 MAX has had its fair share of issues. Photo: Getty Images

“I have no doubt the FAA and lawmakers are under considerable pressure to allow the 737 MAX to return to service as quickly as possible and as soon as the public MCAS flaw is fixed…However, 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.” -Curtis Ewbank, Boeing Engineer (via a letter to US Senate and published by The Seattle Times)

The letter to Senate

Ewbank sent the letter to the US Senate earlier this month, which argues that more work needs to be done on the 737 MAX, beyond its Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).

Boeing 737 MAX
The 737 MAX has been grounded worldwide since March 2019. Photo: Boeing

Ewbank’s letter also discusses some interactions FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), which suggests that these allegations are being considered by the US Department of Justice (DOJ). Investigations by the FBI and DOJ would suggest an examination into wrongdoing or negligence at a criminal level.

Ewbank’s attempt to ‘fix’ the MAX

The recent Seattle Times report reveals that in 2014, during MAX development, Ewbank worked to have Boeing upgrade the MAX’s flight-control systems by adding a new data measurement system. Called “Synthetic Airspeed,” this system would have served as a check on multiple sensors.

Ewbank believes that the installation of this system might have prevented the fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. However, efforts were unsuccessful, with Ewbank alleging that safety upgrades were rejected due to management’s focus on schedule and cost considerations.

737 MAX production
MAX jets are stored at Boeing facilities, even taking up space in employee car parks. Photo: Getty Images

Boeing’s response

Simple Flying reached out to Boeing to address the letter. As the letter has not been made fully public, the manufacturer is unable to address the claims thoroughly. A spokesperson for the company issued to the following statement:

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“We have not seen the letter. As you know, Boeing offers its employees a number of channels for raising concerns and complaints and has rigorous processes in place that ensure complaints receive thorough consideration and protect employee confidentiality. Accordingly, Boeing does not comment on the substance or existence of such internal complaints.”

The statement adds that Boeing will continue to work closely with the FAA and other regulatory authorities towards certification and a safe return to commercial service of the 737 MAX. “When the MAX returns to service, it will be one of the most thoroughly scrutinized aircraft in history, and we have full confidence in its safety,” the statement concludes.

Do you think Ewbank’s letter will reveal anything groundbreaking? Let us know in the comments.

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