Boeing pushed FAA to relax 737 MAX certification requirements for crew alerts
The submission from Boeing then cited an estimate of the cost of full compliance at more than $10 billion
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In 2014, Boeing convinced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to relax the safety standards for the new 737 MAX related to cockpit alerts that would warn pilots if something went wrong during flight, according to documents reviewed by the Seattle Times.
Seeking an exception, Boeing relied on a special FAA rule to successfully argue that full compliance with the latest federal requirements would be "impractical" for the MAX and would cost too much.
"They went through the process and weren't required to step up," said an FAA safety engineer familiar with how the waiver request was handled and who asked for anonymity because he spoke without agency authorization.
Based on lessons learned from past airline accidents, the FAA regulation stipulates precise design details for the warning displays in the cockpit. These are aimed at ensuring that alerts relay clearly to the pilots what's going on when a malfunction occurs, catch attention so that they won't be overlooked, and avert any possible confusion.
During the two fatal MAX crashes that killed 346 people, pilots struggled to understand the cascade of warnings in their cockpits. Last week a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report on those crashes highlighted the crucial role that crew alerting systems play when pilots face an in-flight emergency.
The Seattle Times reviewed the relevant parts of the document that Boeing submitted to the FAA to win its exception. They show the federal regulator struck out four separate clauses that would be requirements for any new jet being produced today.
This meant Boeing avoided having to design a complete upgrade of the 737's aging flight-crew-alerting system.
The underlying design of the 737 was first certified more than five decades ago, and its airframe and systems have been...
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