The B737-MAX saga illustrates a most unusual – and unfortunate – series of mishaps within the Boeing company which seems to affect many different dimensions of this important company.
It questions the wisdom of extending one more time the B737 line, which was the last airplane designed by Boeing before the advent of the electronically controlled airplane and the fly by wire concept. It is surprising to see that the important safety-related MCAS software designed to prevent low speed stall relied uniquely on one sole sensor, contrary to the usual practice that such a safety-related system must rely on at least two sensors. It is difficult to understand that a second sensor was optional, and offered at a price!
The seemingly excessively confident position of the commercial team in convincing clients of the easy introduction of this model compared to the previous B.737 line, coupled with insufficient training, more particularly on the MAX version, has resulted in over-confidence by airlines in the ease of introducing the new model in their fleet.
The apparent reaction of management to the first crash of the B737-MAX of Lion Air appeared to minimise the importance of that first accident. The company failed to recognize the importance of the circumstances that led to that crash and as a result appeared to show a lack of concern. Some observers could conclude that this was an attempt by management to minimise the importance of that first accident.
The highly questionable mishandling of the communications crisis following the second crash further indicated the inability of management to react appropriately. Some observers felt that the company was reluctant to accept the responsibility.
The shoddy work and poor morale which was reported to be surfacing at the more recently established Boeing plant in the southern part of the US.A. also suggests questionable management capabilities.
It is most disappointing that the FAA has only recently discovered some difficulties with a mini processor on the new airplane, and this appears to have been overseen during the initial approval. This is a further indication of the lack of rigor by management in introducing the new model. But it also points to questionable oversight by the FAA.
This string of incidents appears to be indicative of a lack of professionalism, discipline and rigor throughout the management of the company. It is unusual in today’s company oversight practices to have the CEO of a large corporation also allowed to be the Chairman of the Board.
The role of the Board is to oversee management and to ensure that it is held accountable at all times.
When the Chairman is the same as the CEO, it is difficult to see how this process of oversight can be carried out efficiently. This also calls into question the role of the Board of that company.
Pierre J Jeanniot, O.C., C.Q.
Montreal, 31 July 2019