A former Boeing engineer has claimed that work on the production of the 737 Max aircraft was not adequately funded.
Adam Dickson made the claims in an episode of the BBC’s Panorama programme, which will air on 29 July at 2030. He said engineers were under constant pressure to keep costs down despite the manufacturer earning billions of dollars in sales of the aircraft.
The 737 Max is still grounded following two crashes that killed 346 people, and there is no real estimate on when the plane will be recertified to return to the skies.
During his employment with Boeing, Dickson said he witnessed “a lack of sufficient resources to do the job in its entirety”. He also claimed engineers were under pressure to downplay some of the new features of the 737 Max as a minor change so as to avoid increased scrutiny from the US Federal Aviation Administration, and that this could have impacted the safety of the aircraft.
The 737 Max features the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which was designed to automatically correct the aircraft’s angle of attack on take-off. However, pilots didn’t know about the system because it wasn’t included in training materials or in the 1,600-page manual for the plane, according to the BBC.
Investigators of the fatal Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines accidents have said the system may have malfunctioned and the pilots struggled to regain control. It is believed the single sensor used by the system stopped working properly, causing the problem. Data from the Lion Air incident in Indonesia shows the nose of the plane was forced down more than 20 times before it crashed.
Boeing continues to claim the pilots did not follow the standard procedure to override the MCAS – something it says they should have known from flying the old 737 model.
The 737 Max was announced in 2011, with the first passenger flights taking place in 2017. It became Boeing’s fastest-selling aircraft, with a current order book of 5,000. According to the BBC, some of the money from the sale of the planes has funded pay-outs for company executives and shareholders.
Boeing denied Dickson’s accusations, saying it “did not cut corners to push the 737 Max out before it was ready”. “We have always held true to our values of safety, quality and integrity and those values are complementary and mutually reinforcing with productivity and company performance.”
The manufacturer has taken a financial hit from problems with the Max, taking a £2.7 billion loss in the second quarter. It has even considered temporarily shutting down production of the aircraft to limit its impact on its results.