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NTSB: Boeing’s 737 Max flight tests from 1988 weren’t adequate

Christian Fernsby |
Boeing’s evaluation of the 737 Max system during development used an oversimplified test, U.S. investigators concluded.

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Topics: NTSB    BOEING    737 MAX   

That didn’t anticipate the cacophony of alarms and alerts that actually occurred during a pair of deadly crashes.

In the first official finding from a U.S. government review of the crashes that grounded Boeing’s best-selling airliner, the National Transportation Safety Board on Thursday issued seven recommendations calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to update how it assumes pilots will react in emergencies and to make aircraft more intuitive when things go wrong.

“We want them to step up how they certify these airplanes with regard to the human interface,” said Dana Schulze, the director of NTSB’s Office of Aviation Safety.

The NTSB, which is assisting inquiries in Indonesia and Ethiopia where the two crashes occurred, included some of the first details of how Boeing and the FAA certified the system that led to both crashes. Final reports listing the accident causes in those nations haven’t been completed. Under U.S. law, the NTSB has no regulatory authority and relies on its recommendations to improve safety.

The agency’s 737 Max recommendations don’t call for any specific updates to the plane or other aircraft, but could lead to sweeping and costly changes.

The way Boeing designed its flight tests was permitted under existing rules. But the NTSB concluded those standards dating back to 1988 weren’t adequate and it called on the FAA to require more realistic assessments of complex emergencies during certification testing. Schulze said that it should be done before the Max flies again.

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