The National Transportation Safety Board has released the results of its review of potential lapses in the design and approval of Boeing’s (NYSE: BA) 737 Max plane. The report come after a months-long federal investigation into the 737 Max after the jet was involved in two fatal crashes. The safety board faulted the company for making erroneous assumptions during the development of the jet and said more weight needed to be given to how multiple, simultaneous alerts could affect pilots’ responses to emergencies.
In a span of less than five months, the Max was involved in two crashes that killed 346 people. On both the crashed Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights, a faulty sensor triggered a system known as MCAS, which automatically moves the Max’s tail and pushes its nose down. The MCAS activation produced a cascading number of warnings that the pilots had to react to. According to the report, Boeing did not fully inform pilots about how MCAS functioned until after the first accident.
The safety board found that Boeing was too confident the average pilot could easily recover from a malfunction of the new software. Boeing had repeatedly asserted that pilots should have been able to easily handle a malfunction by simply running a standard emergency procedure. However, the company had tested for an MCAS failure only in isolation, leading it to underestimate the effect the malfunction would have on the environment in the cockpit.
The company and regulators are now facing multiple federal investigations into how the plane was built and certified. A task force composed of several international regulators is expected to submit a report on the matter this month. The accidents caused regulators around the world to ground the plane. The Max remains grounded while Boeing works on a software update and other changes intended to make it safer. While the safety board’s suggestions are not binding, the Federal Aviation Administration has generally accepted its recommendations in the past. Lynn Lunsford, an F.A.A. spokesman, said the agency “will carefully review these and all other recommendations as we continue our review of the proposed changes to the Boeing 737 Max.”