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Boeing whistleblower sounds alarm on putting 737 Max back in the air

Alan Tovey
·3-min read
Grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are seen parked at Boeing Field in Seattle
Grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are seen parked at Boeing Field in Seattle

Boeing’s ill-fated 737 Max has been cleared to return to flight too early and there are still concerns about problems with the airliner, according to a former Boeing employee turned-whistleblower.

Ed Pierson, an ex-Navy captain who worked on the 737 for three years until 2018, claims issues with the jet’s electrics and quality control at the factory need further investigation.

Boeing’s bestselling 737 Max was grounded in March 2019 after two crashes which killed almost 350 people.

Watch: Will travellers be able to trust flying on Boeing 737 MAX?

The crashes have been linked to a system installed in the aircraft called MCAS. It gave the 737 Max the same handling characteristics as earlier models, making it cheaper to train pilots for the new aircraft.

However, MCAS could order the jet to go into a dive if a single sensor failed, and with some pilots unaware of how the system operated, this could cause a loss of control.

Boeing has worked to solve problems with the jet, and introduced more comprehensive training for pilots.

Timeline | Boeing 737 Max
Timeline | Boeing 737 Max

The 737 Max has now been cleared to flight in the US and European regulators are expected to allows return to the skies this week.

In 2019 Mr Pierson, a former senior operations manager in Boeing’s flight test and evaluation unit, testified before the US House transportation and infrastructure committee investigating the crashes.

The committee heard how Mr Pierson raised concerns about the aircraft, emailing Boeing management saying “all my internal warning bells are going off” as factories rushed to build the jet as fast as possible.

He added: “For the first time in my life, I’m sorry to say that I’m hesitant about putting my family on a Boeing aeroplane.”

Now Mr Pierson has produced a new report that claimed the crashed 737 Max aircraft had production defects as they came out of the factory.

He said these included intermittent issues with flight control systems and electrical problems, which he links to the 737 Max’s complicated wiring that could have caused MCAS to trigger and result in a loss of control.

Mr Pierson’s report added that the issues “point back to where these airplanes were produced, the 737 factory".

Investigations and remedial work to get the 737 Max have not covered production defects, his report claimed.

Boeing 737 Max 8
Boeing 737 Max 8

Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who landed an Airbus into New York’s Hudson river in 2009 after its engines failed, has backed Mr Pierson’s report.

The pilot, who now campaigns for aviation safety, said changes made to the 737 Max to get it back in service were insufficient, He called Mr Pierson’s report “very disturbing” as it identified “manufacturing issues in the Boeing factories that go well beyond just the Max”.

Boeing said it “continues to work with the European Aviation Safety, other global regulators and our customers to safely return the 737-8 and 737-9 to service worldwide”.

US regulator the Federal Aviation Authority said the 737 Max was allowed to return to flight after a “comprehensive and methodical safety review process”.

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