Doomed pilots had no chance against Boeing’s deadly software

Bad software from Boeing has killed 346 people on Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. What is now becoming clear is that the pilots were doomed. It was not possible for the pilots to circumvent or override the software once it had been engaged in its malicious mode (whether due to a faulty signal or not). 

The preliminary report on the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 has now been released. Ethiopian Airlines released a statement about the preliminary report

Despite [the pilots’ hard work and full compliance with the emergency procedures, it was very unfortunate that they could not recover the airplane from the persistence (of) nose diving,

The President and CEO of Boeing, Dennis Muilenburg, also released a statement:

We at Boeing are sorry for the lives lost in the recent 737 MAX accidents. These tragedies continue to weigh heavily on our hearts and minds, and we extend our sympathies to the loved ones of the passengers and crew on board Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. All of us feel the immense gravity of these events across our company and recognize the devastation of the families and friends of the loved ones who perished.

The full details of what happened in the two accidents will be issued by the government authorities in the final reports, but, with the release of the preliminary report of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident investigation, it’s apparent that in both flights the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, known as MCAS, activated in response to erroneous angle of attack information. ……..

Today it is reported that the B737 Max has other software problems as well.

A day after Ethiopian Airlines released its preliminary report, Boeing has confirmed that the 737 Max 8 has an additional problem in its flight control software that will require more time to fix. These issues are reportedly separate from the anti-stall system failures believed to have caused the loss of Flight 302. The additional issues affect software controlling flaps and other flight-control surfaces. It is not clear if these additional flaws contributed to the loss of Lion Air 610 or Flight 302.

That Boeing has liability for the 346 deaths is apparent. Whether it is to some extent criminal liability remains to be seen. That the US FAA has some liability as well is also evident. If the FAA colluded with Boeing to allow less than fully tested software to go into service then it would surely be criminal liability on both their parts.

In both cases the gut reaction was to imply (if not blame) pilot error. But the pilots had no chance against the killer software.


 

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