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Report: Crews Filed FAA Complaints About 737 MAX 8

Report: Crews Filed FAA Complaints About 737 MAX 8
Jeff Edwards

A troubling new report from Politico reveals that flight crews filed at least five separate reports with the FAA, complaining about issues with the controls of Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft. Pilots who reached out to the regulatory agency described technical issues remarkably similar to the problems reportedly described by the captains in the final moments of two ill-fated flights in less than six months.

Prior to a late-breaking announcement from the White House, Boeing officials, U.S. airlines and federal regulators had been holding firm to an insistence that calls to ground the 737 MAX 8 in response to two back-to-back air disasters were overblown. A new report, however, sheds light on a number of official complaints to the FAA by flight crews regarding the suspect controls of the next generation Boeing aircraft.

According to documents obtained by Politico’s Kathryn Wolfe, pilots in the U.S. reported problems controlling Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft on no fewer than five occasions. Details of the disconcerting in-flight events, all self-reported by flight crews, can be found in the FAA incident database. The five incidents were reported to the regulatory agency under a program that allows crew members to anonymously report flight safety issues. While all of the reported problems are said to have occurred in the U.S, no other location or airline information was included in the documentation.

The reports appear to voice similar concerns as those alarmingly raised by the crews of two ill-fated 737 MAX 8 flights just prior to the near back-to-back catastrophes. This week, Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam told CNN that the pilot of the 737 MAX that crashed immediately following takeoff on Sunday, reported “flight control problems” moments before losing contact with air traffic control. Indonesia National Transport Safety Committee (NTSC) Deputy Chief Haryo Satmiko said that a faulty airspeed monitor caused pilots to struggle to control the aircraft on the penultimate flight of the doomed Lion Air 737 MAX in October, just hours before the plane, passengers and crew were lost in a crash moments after takeoff the very next day.

In a November 2018 report to the FAA, a 737 MAX captain reported an issue with autopilot which caused the aircraft to pitch nose down during takeoff, triggering alerts and forcing the crew to disengage some automated systems. Weeks later, another 737 MAX crew reported that the aircraft’s auto-throttle features failed to function properly during takeoff, forcing crews to disable the system in order to climb safely. In three other reports from 2018, captains complained of remarkably similar issues with automated and semi-automated flight controls.

“I think it is unconscionable that a manufacturer, the FAA, and the airlines would have pilots flying an airplane without adequately training, or even providing available resources and sufficient documentation to understand the highly complex systems that differentiate this aircraft from prior models,” one unnamed pilot wrote in a recent incident report. “The fact that this airplane requires such jury-rigging to fly is a red flag. Now we know the systems employed are error prone — even if the pilots aren’t sure what those systems are, what redundancies are in place, and failure modes. I am left to wonder: what else don’t I know? The Flight Manual is inadequate and almost criminally insufficient.”

[Image Source: Shutterstock]

View Comments (10)


  1. diamantaire

    March 14, 2019 at 6:29 am

    Could this lead to a class action law suit??

  2. lorenberg

    March 15, 2019 at 5:42 am

    Am I the only one that read Gary Kelly’s (Southwest CEO) message?

    “Southwest® has a long history with the 737 and a stellar safety record. Our experience with the MAX, along with the other U.S. operators, has been phenomenal. We’ve operated over 40,000 flights covering almost 90,000 hours. There is a ton of data collected, which we continuously monitor. In all of our analysis since our first flight in 2017, or that by our U.S. counterparts or the FAA; nothing has presented any flight safety concerns.”

    What am I missing? Those numbers are way greater than the testing hours for a completely new airplane. Hell, you could get 5 negative reports if you gave away $100.00 bills.

  3. PepeBorja

    March 15, 2019 at 5:51 am

    Another example of Fake News. First of all… it is not an FAA database… it is kept by ASA as a self reporting and anonymous database for research purposes. The FAA has proper channels for crews to file incident reports… which will rrsult in action.

    Any Tom, Dick, or Harry can post in thst database. The media just cant be trusted to do a decent job. Just lazy to do good reporting.

  4. FlyBitcoin

    March 15, 2019 at 6:45 am

    Correct the “787” typo in the third paragraph

  5. alexmyboy

    March 15, 2019 at 7:08 am


  6. KRSW

    March 15, 2019 at 7:12 am

    The NASA ASRS reports are also a great CYA for pilots. As long as you report, no harm, no foul. Sometimes pilots will blame other things for mistakes they’ve made.

    Are there problems with the 737 Max? In the Lion Air crash, yes. In the most recent one, we still don’t know until they get the data off the recorders. Everything until then is speculation.

  7. ednumrich

    March 15, 2019 at 7:24 am

    There is blood on the hands of several “parties” in everything to do with the 737 MAX. Including it is more than obvious “government” (that includes you, FAA) dances to the tune of corporate America. Of course, comprehensive pilot training is essential. But with Boeing management acting like those at Wells Fargo Bank opening phony accounts, how do you train for what is kept hidden?

  8. chrisboote

    March 15, 2019 at 8:04 am

    So very similar to the FADEC scandal which killed so many troops onboard Chinooks in the ’90s

    And who wrote that software, ah yes, the same company that wrote the software for the 737 Max

    Boeing should OF COURSE be subject to a class action lawsuit

  9. PepeBorja

    March 15, 2019 at 10:24 am

    What really bothers me about the whole thing is how bad the reporting has been. The media goes out of its way to give credibility to 5 reports from anonymous sources by stating (falsely) that the reports come from “flight crews” entered into an “FAA database.” None of that is factually accurate but achieves their objectives. Some cable news outlets are foaming at the mouth to connect this with the FAA, Admin, and even the Govt shutdown. We the people are left with no one to trust for good news that inform.

    Responsible Journalists would seek to interview experienced 737MAX captains and ALPA reps to get their impressions and balance the anonymous reporting from the NASA database, which for all we know could have been entered by competitors or people with a beef. Does the 737MAX has an issue? Maybe, but that is not an excuse for sloppy journalism or hidden agendas publishing gossip from a research database as being “reported incidents on an FAA database by flight crews” .

    I hope the issue is resolved promptly and confidence is restored to Boeing and the 737MAX aircraft. The media has long way to go to restore the much lost confidence it once had.

  10. tjtex

    March 15, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    So maybe both of these are pilot error – I’m just saying:

    An airline pilot with 737 MAX-8 flying experience who wished to remain anonymous explained to AOPA that the new augmentation system affected the stabilizer trim but noted several ways to defeat it. “It doesn’t move any primary controls,” and MCAS doesn’t function when the autopilot is active. “When the autopilot is on, it isn’t even a player,” the pilot added. Switching off the electric trim overrides the system and cut-off switches are located on the center pedestal “near the red fire cutoffs between the pilot and first officer and both of them” can access the switches. The pilot also noted MCAS doesn’t work if flaps are extended in the aircraft’s normal takeoff configuration.

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