Boeing acknowledges its software’s role in plane crashes that killed hundreds

Boeing investigation finds new software problem with 737 MAX
Boeing investigation finds new software problem with 737 MAX(GIM)
Published: Apr. 5, 2019 at 8:52 AM MDT
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Boeing admitted its equipment played a role in two plane crashes that killed a combined 346 people.

CNN obtained a 33-page preliminary report from Ethiopian investigators. It details how pilots fought the plane's automated anti-stall software for nearly the entire 6-minute flight.

The captain and the first officer walked through a series of procedures as the software forced the nose of the plane down. The captain called out "pull up" three times to tell to tell the first officer to raise the nose.

They tried to pull the nose up together, but they couldn't gain control. In total, the anti-stall system pushed the nose down four times.

Dennis Muilenburg, the CEO of Boeing, made a rare admission accepting blame for two of its airliners that crashed.

“It’s apparent that in both flights, the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system known as M-CAS activated in response to erroneous angle of attack information,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to eliminate this risk. We own it. And we know how to do it.”

The video message from Boeing comes after a devastating preliminary report stated a software issue apparently caused the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight last month.

The report also suggested the same issue may have caused a Lion Air flight to go down last year.

The preliminary report finds the pilots did everything required to try to bring the plane back safely but ultimately couldn't control it. Former Boeing operations analyst Rick Ludtke says during development of the 737 Max, the company had a mandate to make sure any changes to the plane would not require additional pilot training in a simulator, something he called "unprecedented."

"(That's) never happened in the past that I'm aware of. We were very uncomfortable with this," he said.

Ludtke says Boeing managers told him they even sold the plane to Southwest Airlines with a guarantee a rebate of $1 million per plane if simulator training was required.

The flight control analyst says the demand to avoid simulator training known as Level D took over design of the aircraft.

"Throughout the design iteration, all the status meetings with managers, that was something that was always asked. You know, 'Are we threatened or are we risking Level D?'" Ludtke said. "'And if you are, you've got to change it.' I think philosophically it was the wrong thing for the company to do, to mandate such a limitation.

"To strongly avoid it makes sense, but to prevent it - I think you can see the line from that to these accidents."

Federal investigators are trying to determine if Boeing's cost saving moves could somehow lead to criminal charges. Boeing and Southwest refused to comment on their business deal.

There also has been delay in getting a Boeing software fix to the FAA. It was supposed to be sent last week but CNN learned there was a glitch in integrating the software with other Boeing programs.

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