Boeing expresses regret over ex-pilot’s 737 MAX messages, faults simulator

SEATTLE/WASHINGTON: Boeing Co said it understood the outcry over leaked messages from a former test pilot over erratic software behaviour on its 737 MAX jet two years before recent crashes, and added it was still investigating what they meant.
The world’s largest planemaker, under growing pressure to explain what it knew about 737 MAX problems before it entered service, said it had not been able to speak directly to former employee Mark Forkner but echoed his lawyer’s subsequent claims that the problems were linked to a faulty simulator.
The role of the simulator has emerged as a crucial issue since the 2016 messages surfaced on Friday, since investigators will want to know whether erratic movements reported by the pilot meant Boeing was aware of problems on the aircraft itself or only in the artificial cockpit.
The FAA on Friday ordered Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg to give an “immediate” explanation for the delay in turning over the “concerning” document, which Boeing discovered some months ago.
In the messages from November 2016, then-chief technical pilot Forkner tells a colleague the so-called MCAS anti-stall system — the same one linked to deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia — was “running rampant” in a flight simulator session.
At another point he says: “I basically lied to the regulators (unknowingly).” The messages prompted a new call in Congress for Boeing to shake up its management as it scrambles to rebuild trust and lift an eight-month safety ban of its fastest-selling plane.
“We understand entirely the scrutiny this matter is receiving, and are committed to working with investigative authorities and the US Congress as they continue their investigations,” Boeing said in its statement on Sunday.
Boeing said it informed the FAA about its decision to expand MCAS to low speeds. The FAA also observed MCAS operation in the low-speed configuration during certification flight testing, from August 2016 through January 2017, Boeing said.
The instant messages prompted harsh reactions from several Democratic lawmakers in Washington, with Representative Peter DeFazio saying, “This is no isolated incident.” “The outrageous instant message chain between two Boeing employees” suggests “Boeing withheld damning information from the FAA,” DeFazio, who chairs the US House Transportation Committee, said on Friday.
Muilenburg, who was stripped of his chairman title by the company’s board nine days ago, is set to testify before the committee on October 30.
DeFazio’s committee also obtained details of a 2016 Boeing survey that found nearly 40 per cent of 523 employees handling safety certification work perceived “potential undue pressure” from managers, such as bullying or coercion. — Reuters