"The Hidden Crime"
College Writing 2, Dr. Wallace Ross
I felt inspired to write about this topic because I myself am studying in the Aviation department and planning to become a Commercial Airline Pilot. For this very reason, I felt that this topic affected me in many ways. It revealed that while we all would love to believe that every company has our safety in its best interest, we may be shocked by certain circumstances such as this one. More importantly, it showed that not only are the traveling public affected by this, but even flight crew members themselves. Furthermore, even the airlines themselves were unaware of such design flaws. The betrayal was felt on every level by everyone.
Excerpt from "The Hidden Crime"
“Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for takeoff,” said the captain. The CFM engines came to life, forcing your body against the seat. The engines roared louder and louder, while the aircraft’s speed increased and increased. The aircraft accelerated down the runway with forces like no other. Until finally the pressure on your body eases and the overwhelmingly loud roar of the engines calmed. You look out the window and realize that the plane is now airborne. It should be a smooth and calm flight now that the hard part is over. Until, the aircraft suddenly jolts. The g-forces are sealing your body against the seat with such power that you can barely turn your head. You finally are able to look out of your window and see that the aircraft is diving nose first. All you can see out of the window is blue. You have no hope. All you can think of is that this is it. This is how you are going to die. Until you feel the g-forces begin to ease on your body. Now moving your head and body is much easier. Outside of the window, you can see the plane had recovered from its nose dive and is now flying straight. You begin to think that maybe there is some hope. Little did you know...it was false hope. The nose pitched down and the aircraft began to dive once again. This time, the ocean is much closer and is approaching the plane quicker than one can count. As the plane neared the ocean, it pulled out of its dive once more. At this point, you don’t know what to think or expect. All that is thought of is, “what happens next?” Soon after, the plane entered its third nosedive. Only this time, you knew that this was it. It was just a waiting game for the ocean and the aircraft to merge into one. These were the final moments that every passenger on board Lion Air flight 610 endured shortly before their aircraft nosedived into the Java sea just 12 minutes after takeoff.
The Hidden Crime
by Ahmad Salah
“Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for takeoff,” said the captain. The CFM engines came to life, forcing your body against the seat. The engines roared louder and louder, while the aircraft’s speed increased and increased. The aircraft accelerated down the runway with forces like no other. Until finally the pressure on your body eases and the overwhelmingly loud roar of the engines calmed. You look out the window and realize that the plane is now airborne. It should be a smooth and calm flight now that the hard part is over. Until, the aircraft suddenly jolts. The g-forces are sealing your body against the seat with such power that you can barely turn your head. You finally are able to look out of your window and see that the aircraft is diving nose first. All you can see out of the window is blue. You have no hope. All you can think of is that this is it. This is how you are going to die. Until you feel the g-forces begin to ease on your body. Now moving your head and body is much easier. Outside of the window, you can see the plane had recovered from its nose dive and is now flying straight. You begin to think that maybe there is some hope. Little did you know...it was false hope. The nose pitched down and the aircraft began to dive once again. This time, the ocean is much closer and is approaching the plane quicker than one can count. As the plane neared the ocean, it pulled out of its dive once more. At this point, you don’t know what to think or expect. All that is thought of is, “what happens next?” Soon after, the plane entered its third nosedive. Only this time, you knew that this was it. It was just a waiting game for the ocean and the aircraft to merge into one. These were the final moments that every passenger on board Lion Air flight 610 endured shortly before their aircraft nosedived into the Java sea just 12 minutes after takeoff. This chilling recollection of the final moments of the flight was the unfortunate reality that they had all known was coming from the first nosedive. While we can just wake up from a horrifying nightmare like this, these passengers could not wake up from it. This same exact situation was also the reality for the passengers on board Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 just 5 months later. Intense investigations took place and lots of questions were asked. However, as soon as the cause of the crash was identified, it all traced back to one company, Boeing. Shocking truths were revealed about Boeing and the manufacturing of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft. Much was questioning Boeing’s ideals and values. The most important question brought up by all, “Has safety fallen from the top priority of Boeing?” The 737 Max investigations as well as other previous accidents have much to say regarding the question at large. The evidence supporting this revelation is more shocking than anyone had thought. It has become evident that Boeing is more concerned with revenue than the safety of the traveling public due to competition with their rival, Airbus, lack of Government oversight by the FAA, and significant cost cutting.
To begin, the main drive that caused Boeing to design and manufacture the 737 MAX was competition with its European rival, Airbus. Boeing would have never had a reason to rush or cut corners in any part of the designing and manufacturing process of any aircraft if they did not have competition to worry about. However, that just is not the case. Boeing feels as though their profits are being threatened by Airbus. For this reason, they are willing to make some shortcuts to re-establish themselves as the leading aircraft manufacturer. Airbus created a new fuel efficient aircraft called the A320 NEO and won over a large variety of the major airlines operating both Airbus and Boeing aircraft within the U.S. Airbus had a big influence on American Airlines in particular and received a large order of the new A320 NEO from the airline. As a result, Boeing felt the need to quickly come up with an aircraft design and “expedited” the manufacturing process. In this case, it was the Boeing 737 MAX. This is extremely important because competition with Airbus caused Boeing to cut corners in many areas of the manufacturing process which ultimately cost the lives of hundreds of innocent people.
Competition amongst businesses is all around us today. Usually, it is a normal occurrence. However, sometimes the desire for more revenue than the opponent distorts other more important factors such as safety. According to the Wall Street Journal, Boeing did not “even wait for its board of directors to approve the design before offering it to American Airlines, which was on the cusp of buying [A320neo craft] from Airbus. Boeing’s board didn’t formally sign off on the MAX until a month later" (Pasztor). The fact of the matter is that Boeing was in such a rush to release a new aircraft to market. However, the question is, why? The answer is very simple, Boeing offered the new aircraft to American Airlines before its design was even approved by the board of directors. It most definitely is not a coincidence that Boeing made such a move with the same company that was just about to purchase the new Airbus aircraft. According to Forbes, “Through February 2019, Boeing had 5,012 orders for the plane and had delivered 376—including 31 to Southwest and 26 to American Airlines” (Cohan). Boeing received and delivered thousands of orders for the new aircraft to multiple airlines, including American Airlines. Finally, Boeing had gotten what they wanted. They managed to move American Airlines’ and many others’ attention from the new Airbus aircraft, and refocus that attention to their new 737 MAX. As we know, business can push people to do the unthinkable. Unfortunately, large companies and corporations are not immune from such a thing. Boeing may have fallen for this common occurrence in the corporate industry.
Moving on, evidence of significant cost cuts prove that Boeing’s priorities of safety have changed for the worse. Boeing has made major cost cuts in the previous years in areas that they felt were “unnecessary.” As you could probably infer, one of those areas is safety. Specifically, the safety equipment that is installed in Boeing’s aircrafts. Unfortunately, safety is an area that many companies tend to overlook. For some odd reason, safety just isn’t the top priority for every company. It is an issue that has dominated all industries, not just aviation. Adam Dickson, a manager of fuel systems engineering for the 737 Max says that he retired after 30 years at Boeing, in part due to “dismay over performance targets that risked sacrificing safety for profits. It was engineering that would have to bend” (Dickson). Studies show that Boeing cut over 7% of its workforce as a result of cost cuts. According to Bloomberg News, “Ludtke was laid off just after the Max was certified in March 2017. Employment on his team, known as flight crew operations, had been cut in half, from 30 to 15, he says” (Robison). This raises many concerns because the “Flight Crew Operations” team at Boeing is in charge of “Managing how pilots interact with the plane’s software and controls the very issue suspected of flummoxing the crews in the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines tragedies”(Robison). Why would Boeing cut costs and the workforce for the Flight Crew Operations team if they had probably one of the most important tasks of all: training the pilots to fly the aircraft. It all goes back to the same reason: The less time and money that airlines have to spend on training their pilots, the more aircraft orders Boeing would receive. Part of Boeing's advertising was that it would take little to no extra training for the pilots of the previous 737-800 to fly the new 737 MAX. In fact, Boeing made the training of the pilots on the new aircraft a simple one hour iPad course. For many airlines, not having to spend extra time or money on training their pilots in a new aircraft would be the difference between purchasing an aircraft or not. In the case of Boeing, it was the difference between airlines purchasing 737 MAX from Boeing or the A320 neo from Airbus.
In accordance with cost cuts, many studies have shown a direct link between competition with Airbus and cost cuts. According to a report made by Senator DeFazio’s committee, “There was tremendous financial pressure on Boeing and the 737 Max programme to compete with Airbus’ new A320neo aircraft. Among other things, this pressure resulted in extensive efforts to cut costs, maintain the 737 Max programme schedule, and avoid slowing the 737 Max production line”(Jolly). This evidence shows that Boeing felt very pressured to release the 737 MAX to market as quick as possible. In order to do so, Boeing felt the need to make drastic changes in the cost to manufacture the aircraft. However, the pressure that Boeing felt was the result of a direct link to their rival, Airbus. According to The Guardian, Senator DeFazio found that “The committee’s investigation has identified several instances where the desire to meet these goals and expectations jeopardised the safety of the flying public” (Jolly). Boeing was so focused on releasing the 737 MAX quickly and on time without any blockades getting in their way. This caused Boeing to lose focus of the most important aspect of an airplane: safety.
Next, a lack of Government oversight by the Federal Aviation Administration contributed to Boeing’s shift in priority from safety to revenue. Ensuring the safety of the flying public is not only in the hands of the aircraft manufacturers, but also the Federal Aviation Administration. According to Skybrary.aero, the FAA is “responsible for the regulation and oversight of civil aviation within the U.S., as well as operation and development of the National Airspace System. Its primary mission is to ensure safety of civil aviation.” The safety culture of the aviation industry is a joint effort between the FAA, as well as the aviation professionals themselves such as manufacturers, pilots, aircraft mechanics, etc. In fact, in order for an accident involving a passenger airliner to occur, both sides would have to neglect their responsibilities. This major regulatory issue became very clear following the two 737 MAX crashes. The accidents should have never occurred in the first place had the FAA done their job properly. As I said earlier, it is a joint effort and it takes both sides to lack on their ends for such deadly disasters to occur. How is it that the FAA let such a major design flaw make it to the outside world?
In the past decades, the FAA was very strict on regulations, which is the way it should be. However, in recent years, the FAA has moved to a much more loose regulation policy. According to Slate, studies show that the FAA has “embraced a policy of letting aircraft manufacturers like Boeing self-certify that their systems meet safety requirements”(Wise). This is indeed a very foolish philosophy, especially for a Government agency whose job is to enforce regulation in this industry. What is the benefit of having the FAA if they are going to allow the manufacturers to do their job for them? If large companies like Boeing tend to cut corners in many important aspects such as safety when it comes to making profits, then it is a logical conclusion that they would cut corners in the certification aspect as well if given the authority to self-certify their own aircraft. One of the most controversial issues regarding these accidents was a result of self-certification rules. According to Forbes, “Most shocking of all, airlines that paid extra got better protection from a faulty MCAS than those who did not” (Cohan). Very interesting... Airlines that paid extra got the privilege of not dying while others who did not pay were at higher risk of dying. The FAA has not been enforcing aviation safety regulations as much as they should be. As a result, this has also contributed greatly and allowed for manufacturers like Boeing to take advantage of this opportunity to make profit at the risk of the flying public. Forbes states, “The problem is: Regulation has gone out of fashion. As well as being tedious, regulations are also expensive. They require the commitment of money, material, and labor” (Wise, J). Regulation that is meant to keep every soul within the aviation industry safe, whether it be a professional in the field or a passenger, should never be looked at as a “fashion.” Although they may be expensive, regulations have an important purpose. The FAA exists for that very reason: to enforce aviation safety regulations because we know that the companies and manufacturers will never do it. Adding safety equipment and technology to aircraft costs companies like airlines and manufacturers a large amount of money, which is why many corporations attempt to cut back in safety. However, the FAA is supposed to ensure that they do not cut back in safety. As soon as you give that role to the billionaires seeking profits, safety culture is completely thrown out the window. Had the FAA regulated the manufacturing process and approval of the 737 MAX into service properly, none of these tragedies would have happened. If just one side had done their job, whether it be the manufacturer themselves or the FAA in ensuring proper safety, these tragedies would have been avoided. However, both sides are to blame for the rise of corruption in Boeing.
Furthermore, many have argued that the 737 MAX crashes were just a single failure, technical mistake, and a mismanaged event. However, that is not true in any way, shape, or form. According to a report released by the House Transportation Committee, “The Max crashes were not the result of a singular failure, technical mistake, or mismanaged event. They were the horrific culmination of a series of faulty technical assumptions by Boeing's engineers, a lack of transparency on the part of Boeing's management, and grossly insufficient oversight by the FAA'' (H.T.C). First, the accidents could not have possibly been a singular failure for the very obvious reason that two accidents occurred, not just one. The same aircraft was involved in two crashes within just 5 months of each other. Not only that, but both accident aircrafts flew strikingly similar paths leading up to the crash. Both planes took off from their departure airport and crashed within the first 15 minutes of flight. Blackbox data from both planes reveal that they entered a rapid nose-dive like descent a number of times, creating a roller coaster-like flight path, before finally impacting terrain. But wait, there is more...The blackbox data from both aircraft also revealed that the MCAS system, Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System which pushes the plane’s nose down in the case of a stall, had faulty sensors providing inaccurate readings. All of this evidence plus much more is too much to conclude that the accidents were “singular failures.” In fact, they were far from a simple “singular failure.”
Secondly, the accidents could not have been a “technical mistake” either. After officials took a closer look into Boeing, their findings revealed major flaws in Boeing’s safety culture, priorities, and responsibility, thus proving that there is much more to the accidents than just a “technical mistake.” One of the most mind boggling situations regarding the production of the 737 MAX was the fact that FAA-designated engineers, sent to oversee the production of the 737 MAX, reported to the FAA that the aircraft was not safe. However, of course, Boeing engineers said otherwise. In the end, the FAA decided to side with Boeing’s engineers over their very own engineers! That is absolutely absurd and quite concerning. Also, Boeing was already aware of the potential dangers of the MCAS system in the new aircraft. However, Boeing decided that they could provide customers with “extra protection” from the faulty MCAS system if they “paid extra.” Personally, I did not know that the airlines had to pay extra to make sure that their employees and customers don’t die on their planes...The evidence is overwhelming. To label these accidents a “technical mistake” would be a complete lie.
Finally, it is very important that we recognize all of the pain and suffering that Boeing has put the families of the victims on Board Lion Air flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 through. We must recognize the gravity of the situation... Boeing’s complacency and greed cost the lives of 346 innocent people and ruined the lives of the victim’s families. A man named Paul Njoroje lost his entire family on board the Ethiopian Airlines flight. Paul states, “I lost my wife Carole, my three children Ryan, Kelly and Ruby, and I also lost my mum-in-law. I feel so lonely. I look at people. I see them with their children playing outside, and I cannot have my children— I'll never be able to see their faces again or hear their voices." Paul now lives between friends' houses because he feels as though he cannot return to his home. He cannot bear to see his kids’ shoes in the halls anymore. No one should have to go through this pain. There should have never even been a first crash, let alone two. Paul was just one family member of a few of the victims on board. Just imagine how many more people are suffering like Paul is. Another unfortunate situation is that of the families of the pilots. The deceased pilots gave their life doing their job. They gave their lives trying to save the lives of those on board the suicidal aircraft. The pilots had absolutely no training for such a situation. The pilots of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 only had about 6 minutes to save the aircraft and the pilots of Lion Air flight 610 only had about 12 minutes. It takes great skill for pilots to stop a suicidal aircraft from flying into the ground with just a few minutes to do so without having any training for that kind of situation. Anyone with a mind and a heart would commend the pilots for bravery. However, Boeing is trying to take the blame off of themselves and deem the accidents as “pilot error.” Now, the families of the pilots are not only left to cope with the pain resulting from their loss, but they are also left with the task of clearing the name of their lost loved one.
To wrap up, the 737 MAX crashes revealed that safety has fallen from the top priorities of Boeing. The accidents revealed numerous years of negligence and a large shift downward in Boeing’s safety culture. Evidence has proven that Boeing is more concerned about revenue than the safety of the flying public. Business competition, massive cost cuts, and a lack of government oversight are all supporting factors of this claim. In order to maintain dominance in the aircraft manufacturing industry, Boeing rushed the production process. Ironically, this only led to their demise.
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