MIAMI — In a recent statement Sunday, the Boeing company maintained that all aircraft manufactured and sold are installed with all imperative flight data on deck displays to operate an aircraft safely.
Boeing claims that the angle of attack (AOA) software related to the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes, is an additional measure of protection and not considered a primary source of flight operation.
“Airspeed, attitude, altitude, vertical speed, heading, and engine power settings are the primary parameters the flight crews use to safely operate the airplane in normal flight,” said Boeing in a statement.
“Stick shaker (stall warming) and the pitch limit indicator (PLI) are the primary features used for the operation of the airplane at an elevated AOA,” said the company.”
According to the planemaker, “neither the AOA indicator nor the AOA Disagree alert are necessary for the safe operation of the airplane. They provide supplemental information only, and have never been considered safety features on commercial jet transport airplanes.”
The company’s stance confirmed, according to a 2012 back-issue of Boeing’s now-defunct Aero Magazine, that AOA indicators were only military-grade aviation tools and had not been used on commercial jets up until the company had decided to add them into the production of then-current models.
As an effort to make the jets more attractive commercially for airlines and pilots, these would potentially enhance flight parameter awareness in combination with other flight data—as industry interest grew incrementally in the premium AOA mechanism.
It wasn’t until 2017 and deliveries of the 737 MAX began, that Boeing engineers discovered there was a discrepancy between the jets’ inflight software and the use of AOA disagree alerts—but maintained that AOA indicators were an optional feature for each airline jet and followed proper review protocol of resolution of the issue.
“That review, which involved multiple company subject matter experts, determined that the absence of the AOA Disagree alert did not adversely impact airplane safety or operation,” the company wrote in a statement.
“Accordingly, the review concluded, the existing functionality was acceptable until the alert and the indicator could be delinked in the next planned display system software update.”
In an effort to maintain non-culpability in the highest ranks of its executive branch, Boeing made clear that senior leadership was not made aware of the software incongruency until after the fatal Lion Air accident, and could therefore not be held liable.
But the question remains, were the planes impacted due to company woeful negligence?
And, more importantly, were the pilots aware of their airline’s opt-in or opt-out option of the device and operating the jets under the assumption the AOA disagree alerts were fully functional?
If that’s the case, who is really at fault? Pilot error and/or lack of proper training or Boeing not being completely forthcoming with the issue until it was fatally too late in some cases?
Reality is, Boeing has grounded 387 active 737 MAX aircraft on a worldwide basis following the two accidents that took the lives of 189 people in Indonesia, and 189 in Ethiopia.
When Boeing does come up with a solution to the glitch, re-gaining credibility and safety perception on its 737 MAX product might be a task too hard to accomplish.