"The triple fault of Boeing"

The two crashes of the device have their origin in an excessive confidence in the product, the company and the control system. A lesson to remember, and not only by the competitors of the American manufacturer, believes Philippe Escande, economic editorialist in the "World".

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Boeing 737 MAX stalled at Grant County International Airport, Moses Lake, Washington State, northwestern United States, 23 October.
Boeing 737 MAX stalled at Grant County International Airport, Moses Lake, Washington State, northwestern United States, 23 October. David Ryder / AFP

Losses and profits. "We are ordinary people and we do not understand the technical terms they use, but if you ask me, I will say that the mistake is in the production plant. " Epi Samsul Komar, the father of one of the victims of the Boeing 737 MAX crash of the Indonesian airline Lion Air, quoted in the New York Times, evokes the real subject. Just one year after the accident, the responsibilities are clear. And, as in most major technological accidents, it can be read at three levels: those of the product, the system and the company. With hyphenated trust.

Trust in the machine, first. At a time when it is said that the computer is the only real pilot of a plane, this case recalls that men hide behind the robots, and that the negligence of a programmer can lead to hundreds of deaths . In this case, the aircraft's automatic stability maintenance program relied only on data from a single sensor, whereas the aircraft had two and did not give the same data. tilting of the device.

While Boeing has been manufacturing aircraft since 1916, the company still has a lot to learn from cockpit ergonomics and pilot psychology. How to react instantly in case of bankruptcy of the machine and in full panic? Considering that the device was only a new version of the old 737, simulator training was neglected because it was considered too expensive.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also The 737 MAX fiasco has already cost Boeing $ 10 billion

Arrogance of the first of the class

Excessive confidence in the system, then. The US Federal Aviation Agency, the FAA, has also not done its certification work properly. Due to lack of resources, she delegated the controls to Boeing engineers, reducing the problem to the company level, while she is there to guarantee the objectivity of the exam. As in all regulated economic domains (pharmacy, nuclear, telecoms, banking, transport …), the control body is populated by experts necessarily close to the industrialists. This bias is well known and the means to fight it, too. The FAA will have to review its procedures.

Too much confidence of the company itself, finally. With its rivalry with Airbus and its desire to satisfy its shareholders with tremendous results, it has continued to favor the track of savings, certain to be the world champion of its sector. The arrogance of the first class and his obsession with speed and performance led him to neglect all the improvements, considered too expensive, and the signals sent by the pilots who tested the aircraft. Rejecting the fault of the first accident on the competence of the pilots.


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