Saturday, January 11, 2020

Regulators 'morons', DGCA 'even stupider': Boeing staff

Mumbai: Employees of US aircraft manufacturer Boeing, in their internal communications pertaining to the design and certification of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, had ridiculed airline officials and various countries' regulators, including the Indian aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), two years ago. According to reports published on Friday, after calling regulators of other countries "morons", a Boeing employee went on to say that India's DGCA "is apparently even stupider".

The revelations came after Boeing sent the documents - over 100 pages of internal communication by Boeing pilots and engineers on email and instant messaging - to the US House committee on transportation that has been probing the design and certification of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. The aircraft was involved in two fatal accidents in 2018 and 2019 that claimed 326 lives.

Responding to a TOI query about the statements made against the DGCA, Boeing said, "These communications do not reflect the company we are and need to be, and they are completely unacceptable. We regret the content of these communications, and apologise to the DGCA, SpiceJet (which flies Boeing aircraft), and to the flying public for them." Boeing added that it had "made significant changes as a company to enhance our safety processes, organizations, and culture".

The company said the language used in these communications, and some of the sentiments they express, are inconsistent with Boeing values, and the company is taking appropriate action in response. "This will ultimately include disciplinary or other personnel action, once the necessary reviews are completed," the statement added.

DGCA chief Arun Kumar said he was aware of the comments made by Boeing employees. "They had made it in 2018," he said.

Boeing had equipped its 737 MAX aircraft with a software that overrides pilots to push the aircraft nose down when it senses, correctly or erroneously, that the nose is pitched dangerously high. But the company had wilfully stayed silent about this software and the fatal role it could play till the first accident occurred.

The internal communications released this week revealed how Boeing employees convinced airline officials and regulators that there was no need for simulator training pertaining to the software. In several messages, Boeing employees insulted FAA officials who were certifying the plane. In one of the exchanges, an employee says the Boeing presentation to FAA on the Boeing 737 MAX was so complicated that for the agency officials "it was like dogs watching TV". In another message, sent in February 2018, an employee wrote, "Would you put your family on a MAX simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn't."

Both crash investigations, Lion Air in October 2018 and later Ethiopian Airlines in March 2019, zeroed in on the controversial software and its malfunctions that caused the aircraft nose to pitch down, leading to the crashes. A month after the Lion Air crash, Boeing issued a safety bulletin to airline pilots that gave information on how to handle the software malfunction
11/01/20 Manju V/Times of India

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