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Is Boeing's '737 Max' Safe Now

Published by Slashdot on Sun, 13 Sep 2020

America's Federal Aviation Administration "laid out the proposed fixes for the design flaws in the MAX's automated flight controls," reports the Seattle Times, "starting a clock that could see Boeing get the green light sometime next monthwith U.S. airlines then scrambling to get a few MAXs flying by year end." But the newspaper also asks two big questions. "Is fixing that flight control software good enough' Will the updated 737 MAX really be safe'"Former jet-fighter pilot and aeronautical engineer Bjorn Fehrm is convinced. Though he calls the design flaws that caused the two 737 MAX crashes "absolutely unforgivable," he believes Boeing has definitively fixed them. Fehrm, a France-based analyst with aviation consulting firm Leeham Company, says that with the updated flight control software, scenarios similar to the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes simply cannot recur and the aircraft is no longer dangerous. And Mike Gerzanics, a 737 captain with a major U.S. airline, is ready to fly a MAXdespite a Boeing whistleblower's scathing critique that even with the planned upgrade, the jet's decades-old flight deck systems fall far short of the latest safety standards and in the two MAX crashes created confusion in the cockpit. Gerzanics, a former Air Force and Boeing test pilot and an aviation safety expert, concedes the dated MAX flight deck is far from ideal. "It's basically 1960s technology with some 21st century technology grafted onto it. The overhead panels could be right out of the 707," he said. "But I've been flying it since 1996. I'm used to it. It's safe and it works....." In a statement, the FAA said that in collaboration with three major foreign aviation safety regulators it has extensively evaluated the MAX redesign. "The modified aircraft will be fully compliant with the applicable rules, using the most conservative means of compliance," the FAA said... After a grounding that's stretched now to 18 months and counting, and the close attention of regulators from all over the world, Boeing insists the MAX will be the most scrutinized and safest airplane ever when it comes back. Still, even though the European and Canadian air safety regulators seem set to follow the FAA in green-lighting the MAX's return to service, both are pressing Boeing sometime afterward to make further design changes. And Boeing concedes that the new generation of younger pilots may need more training focused on automation. Test pilots at both Boeing and the FAA "have now conducted extreme flight test maneuvers close to a stall, both with MCAS on and with the system turned off," according to the newspaper. Aeronautical engineer Bjorn Fehrm tells them that "If MCAS is deactivated, you can still fly the aircraft and it is not unstable. The MAX without MCAS is a perfectly flyable aircraft."Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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