Anonymous company insiders at Boeing now allege two safety features offered as options were not aboard the two crashed 737 MAX-8 aircraft. The upgrades include an angle of attack indicator and a disagreement light, which lights up when the angle of attack sensors report different data. One of those could soon become standard on future 737 MAX aircraft.
Whistleblowers inside Boeing now accuse the company of upselling two safety features on the 737 MAX aircraft, both of which were not found aboard Lion Air Flight 610 or Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. Speaking under anonymity to The New York Times, company employees allege the aircraft did not have an angle of attack indicator or disagreement light on board, which were both sold as add-ons by the Chicago-based manufacturer.
The two products offer additional information for pilots of the 737 MAX aircraft to aid them in decision making. The angle of attack indicator shows readings from the angle of attack sensors, while the disagreement light turns on when the two sensors report different readings. The anonymous employees claim neither of the doomed aircraft had either option on board, which they say could have helped the pilots in correcting flight issues prior to the crash.
The practice of selling safety features as add-on equipment is not new for Boeing. In a SEC filing dating back to 2003, Brazilian airline Gol was charged over $500,000 in extras, including $18,400 for floor-mounted emergency path lighting, $6,700 for oxygen masks with smoke goggles for the pilots and $37,800 for passenger chemical oxygen generators.
In comments to The New York Times, both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines say they purchased the disagreement light with their aircraft. American also included the angle of attack indicator, while Southwest has it in a separate display above the pilots. The company insiders claim Boeing will include the disagreement light as standard equipment for future Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, while Boeing is committed to updating the MCAS software systems.
Boeing has not commented directly on the accusations, but in an open letter to the public from earlier in March, company chairman, president and CEO Dennis Muilenburg reassured that safety was the manufacturer’s first priority.
“Boeing has been in the business of aviation safety for more than 100 years, and we’ll continue providing the best products, training and support to our global airline customers and pilots,” Muilenburg wrote. “Soon we’ll release a software update and related pilot training for the 737 MAX that will address concerns discovered in the aftermath of the Lion Air Flight 610 accident.”
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