June 14, 2024
NTSB Says Flawed Assumptions Doomed Boeing 737 MAX Flights
One common trait of both crashes is that pilots faced multiple cockpit alarms and alerts at the same time, confusing and distracting them at the very moments when clarity and concentration were most needed.
One common trait of both crashes is that pilots faced multiple cockpit alarms and alerts at the same time, confusing and distracting them at the very moments when clarity and concentration were most needed.

Aviation has become dependent on technology with the net benefit of an increase in safety. But tragedy can strike when there’s a lack of communication between pilots and their sophisticated airplanes.

This seems to be the case in the two Boeing 737 MAX airline crashes since December 2018, which killed 346 people. Investigators in both accidents say that cockpit confusion contributed to both. In response, today the National Transportation Safety Board took issue with the way that those who build and certify airplanes for flight failed to ensure that the airplane and pilot could work together in a safe way. The board issued seven recommendations to increase safety by bridging the gap between human and autopilot brains.

“We saw in these two accidents that the crews did not react in the ways Boeing and the FAA assumed they would,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt in a release. “Those assumptions were used in the design of the airplane and we have found a gap between the assumptions used to certify the MAX and the real-world experiences of these crews.”

One common trait of both crashes is that pilots faced multiple cockpit alarms and alerts at the same time, confusing and distracting them at the very moments when clarity and concentration were most needed.

It is Boeing’s job to make sure that the airplane can be flown safely in any circumstance. It’s also the FAA’s to ensure that human and machine can coexist in emergency scenarios. But in the case of the 737 MAX crashes, the NTSB says that FAA guidance lacked “clear direction about the consideration of multiple, flight-deck alerts and indications in evaluating pilot recognition and response.”

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