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Boeing Didn't Want to Ground the 737 MAX Even After Pilots Urged Them To

Audio from a November meeting revealed American Airlines pilots confronting Boeing executives over a lack of aggressive action to fix the planes.

by Tim Marcin
May 15 2019, 3:24pm

Pilots were pushing Boeing to fix the 737 Max last fall, but they resisted.

In a confrontational call with Boeing officials a few weeks after the deadly Lion Air crash, pilots pushed Boeing to take an emergency measure that might ground all its 737 Max planes, according to a report Tuesday from the New York Times.

The Boeing execs resisted and said they didn’t want to “rush” out a fix. In March another 157 people died in the Ethiopian Air crash in the same plane.

Audio from the closed-door meeting on Nov. 27 revealed American Airlines pilots confronting Boeing executives over a lack of aggressive action to fix the planes. A pilot named Michael Michaelis argued that the company should push the FAA to issue an emergency airworthiness directive that would update the 737 Max’s anti-stall software known as MCAS.

“We're the last line of defense to being in that smoking hole,” another pilot said, according to a report from the Dallas Morning News.

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which crashed in Addis Ababa on March 10 shortly after takeoff and killed all 157 people on board, seemed to have issues with the same anti-stall software that played a role in the Oct. 29 Lion Air crash into the Java Sea shortly after takeoff.

The pilots from the American Airlines union also reportedly expressed frustration about not being informed of the anti-stall software and its exclusion from the training manual for the plane.

According to the Times, when the pilots pushed for the emergency measure to fix the software, Mike Sinnett, a vice president at Boeing, responded: “We don’t want to rush and do a crappy job of fixing the right things and we also don’t want to fix the wrong things.”

The president of the Allied Pilots Association, the group that recorded the meeting and shared the audio, outlined the union's ongoing actions in a statement emailed to VICE News Wednesday. “American Airlines pilots have been pressing Boeing for answers because we owe it to our passengers and the 346 people who lost their lives to do everything we can to prevent another tragedy," said Captain Daniel F. Carey. "Boeing did not treat the 737 Max 8 situation like the emergency it was, and that’s why we took swift legal action demanding years of records related to the model and are working with lawmakers in Washington to ensure proper oversight of Boeing, the FAA, Airbus, American Airlines and all carriers.”

The Times report marks another part of the intensifying scrutiny in past months that has dented the manufacturer’s reputation over the 737 Max and its response to the tragic crashes.

Earlier this month, for instance, it was revealed the company knew there was an issue with a warning system in the 737 Max but didn’t share that information until after the second crash.

Predictably, sales of the 737 Max — its best-selling plane ever — have plummeted since the plane was grounded in March. But sales of its other aircrafts have tanked as well. CNN reported that the company did not sell a single new airplane in April. A backlog of already placed orders could be another potential factor in the slow sales as could airlines potentially waiting for a discounted price from Boeing.

But more revelations about the 737 Max could soon be coming. Daniel Elwell, the FAA’s acting administrator, was scheduled to appear before Congress on Wednesday to talk about the regulatory body’s role in approving the 737 Max for flight.

Cover: Workers walk past a Boeing 737 MAX 8 TUI fly airplane being built for TUI Group at Renton Municipal Airport next to Boeing's assembly facility in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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