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Monday,  June 24, 2024 1:28 PM 

Boeing denies MAX 8 software outsourcing; Air Canada, WestJet remain loyal

Boeing denies MAX 8 software outsourcing; Air Canada, WestJet remain loyal
Christine Hogg

Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch:

It’s been more than six months since two separate Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes crashed, killing a combined total of 346, but the public isn’t forgetting the tragedy of either event any time soon.

Boeing made headlines earlier this week after several reports, including one from Bloomberg claim that Boeing outsourced its software development on the 737 MAX 8 series for roughly $9 an hour to engineers in India, as opposed to using its own team of in-house senior engineers.

Two Boeing 737 MAX 8s were involved in fatal crashes last year; flight JT 610 operated by LionAir, and flight ET 302, operated by Ethiopian Airlines.

A Boeing spokesperson strongly denies the Bloomberg story, telling PAX there was cause for concern with what the company referred to as “sensationalistic reporting.”

“Boeing has many decades of experience working with supplier/partners around the world,” Paul R. Bergman, a Boeing spokesperson for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, wrote in a company statement to PAX. “Our primary focus is on always ensuring that our products and services are safe, of the highest quality and comply with all applicable regulations. Boeing did not rely on the Indian companies noted for any MCAS or AOA Disagree software development.”

light JT 610, operated by Lion Air out of Indonesia crashed 13 minutes after take-off, killing all 189 on board. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Not a good week for Boeing

News surfaced again last week, when CBC News reported that Boeing falsified maintenance records on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner sold to Air Canada back in 2014.

The aircraft developed a fuel leak just 10 months into service, the story claims.

Air Canada currently has 36 787s in its fleet, comprised of 28 787-9s and eight 787-8s.

While Boeing admits to PAX a problem was identified at that time, the company asserts appropriate steps were taken to correct the “isolated” incident.

In a statement, Boeing wrote:

“Following the report from the operator, Boeing self-disclosed this occurrence to the FAA. Boeing then conducted a follow-up audit both internally and with operators and concluded that this was an isolated event. Immediate corrective action was initiated for both the Boeing mechanic and the Boeing inspector involved. Boeing also initiated long-term corrective action, including formal training and communication on personal accountability in the manufacturing process, stressing the importance of complying with all regulatory requirements. The company also strengthened its Employee Corrective Action procedure for improper acceptance of work.”

Air Canada & WestJet respond

On June 26, 2019, Boeing admitted again that the 737 MAX 8 software update still needed work, citing that after a review conducted by the FAA, an additional requirement was identified.

PAX contacted both Air Canada and WestJet, who, prior to Transport Canada’s grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX 8, were expecting deliveries of the new aircraft to enhance their respective fleets.

Peter Fitzpatrick, media spokesperson for Air Canada, told PAX that following the latest allegations towards Boeing, regarding both the falsified records and the allegations over outsourcing its 737 MAX 8 software, its fleet plans have not changed.

Fitzpatrick declined to comment on CBC’s story about the 2014 incident involving the 787 Dreamliner.

Recent reports claim that Boeing falsified maintenance records on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner sold to Air Canada back in 2014. Pictured: Air Canada 787-9 Dreamliner

Air Canada was supposed to receive another 12 aircraft for a total fleet of 36 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in July. The delivery schedule changed after the planes were grounded in March.

Next year, the airline hopes to add 14 more Boeing 737 MAX 8, for a total of 50 by Dec. 31, 2020.

WestJet, with 13 of the 737 MAX 8 aircraft, is also sticking with the aircraft once Transport Canada reverses the decision to ground them.

“As the duration of the MAX grounding remains unknown, WestJet will review future deliveries when the aircraft is approved for re-entry into service by all relevant regulatory bodies,” said Lauren Stewart, media spokesperson, WestJet.

“We have remained closely in contact with Transport Canada and other regulators to understand how and when to safely reintroduce the MAX aircraft into service. We remain unrelenting in putting safety at the forefront and will thoroughly evaluate processes, procedures and any further required training before our MAX aircraft once again take to the skies.”

WestJet, with 13 of the 737 MAX 8 aircraft, is also sticking with the aircraft once Transport Canada reverses the decision to ground them. Pictured: WestJet's Boeing 737 MAX 8

A timeline of events

Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 aircraft were involved in two fatal plane crashes just five months apart.

Back in October, Flight JT 610, operated by Lion Air out of Indonesia crashed 13 minutes after take-off, killing all 189 on board.

Five months later, Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 from Addis Ababa heading to Nairobi, Kenya, crashed six minutes after take-off, killing 149 passengers and eight crew, totalling 157 fatalities. Both planes were only a few months old.

Following extensive analysis of both planes’ black boxes, evidence that was recovered from the crash site of ET 302 showed similarities between Flight ET 302 and Lion Air crash JT 610.

Both pilots had logged more than 6,000 and 8,000 hours of flight time, respectively, leaving no room for speculation that human error was to blame.

Investigators in both cases began to suspect that a faulty angle of attack sensor on the outside of the plane sent incorrect data, ultimately forcing automated flight software - called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS - to kick into overdrive, which eventually forced the plane's nose down.

MCAS is a kind of safety system intended to keep a plane from stalling once airborne. However, in both the fated Ethiopian Airlines ET 302 crash, and Lion Air Flight JT 610, the MCAS completely failed, with the MCAS overriding human control, and ultimately forcing the plane’s nose downwards.

Boeing delivered 89 Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes in the first quarter of 2019 as part of its Commercial Airplane Programs.

After the Ethiopian Airlines crash, on Mar. 13, 2019, Transport Canada ordered the aircraft grounded indefinitely until further notice. In just five short months, 346 lives were lost aboard the 737 MAX 8 series, prompting cause for concern.

Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302, operated on a Boeing 737 MAX 8, crashed six minutes after take-off, killing all 157 on board.

On Apr. 5, 2019, Boeing admitted to being at fault for the untimely fate of flights ET 302 and JT 610, citing that faulty MCAS software was the cause.

On May 16, 2019, the company said it had “completed development of the updated software for the 737 MAX, along with associated simulator testing and the company’s engineering test flight. To date, Boeing has flown the 737 MAX with updated MCAS software for more than 360 hours on 207 flights.”

Yesterday (July 3), Boeing announced that it would provide $100 million in funds to address family and community needs of those affected by the tragic accidents of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

Reactions across social media were swift, with many decrying the gesture, saying the money was nowhere close to being enough, with many pointing out that most families would receive less than $10,000 each.

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