A pair of Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 commercial airliners crashed in the span of just five months between late 2018 and early 2019, claiming hundreds of lives and forcing airlines around the world to ground their own 737 MAX 8 fleets while officials from multiple countries investigate.
Now, as Boeing and its airline partners are working towards the eventual relaunch of the jets and resumption of flights for hundreds of the planes, a report from the Wall Street Journal suggests that the Federal Aviation Administration knew that the 737 MAX was potentially unsafe. Following the first crash, the FAA’s own investigation estimated that 737 MAX jets could crash as frequently as once every two to three years.
The FAA reportedly took limited measures to mitigate the potential dangers the plane posed, but it obviously wasn’t enough. Another Boeing 737 MAX aircraft crashed in Ethiopia in March 2019, and it was that crash that sparked a worldwide grounding of all 737 MAX planes.
Investigations revealed that a software issue may have been to blame for the tragic crashes. A system designed to prevent the plane from stalling may have inadvertently activated, forcing the planes into a dive that it was unable to recover from.
Rather than forcing Boeing to fix all of its planes before allowing them back in the skies, the FAA issued advice to flight crews with tips on how to control the plane if the stall prevention software caused problems.
The FAA has defended its actions throughout the course of the investigations. In a statement to Gizmodo, an FAA spokesperson offered the following:
The FAA is following a thorough process, not a prescribed timeline, for returning the Boeing 737 MAX to passenger service. The FAA’s certification of the Boeing 737 MAX is the subject of several independent reviews and investigations that will examine all aspects of the five-year effort.
In the meantime, Boeing wants its shiny new planes back in the skies, and it’s apparently been working hard to correct the shortcomings with its jets.