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Trump's National Shutdown Delayed 737 Max Update Fix

Updated on March 14, 2019

Many news outlets including the Wall Street Journal have now reported that President Trump's tantrum over the funding of his wall that shutdown the U.S. government in January, 2019, contributed to the two 737 Max airline crashes. This was unforeseen consequences, yet, some will blame Trump for the delay.

Boeing has been working on a software fix and enhancement since late October, after the first deadly 737 crash, but the FAA and Boeing had different goals and opinions as to the extent of the issue and fix. Then, Trump forced the shutdown of the U.S. government for five weeks because he did not get money for his wall, a placebo fix for immigration issues. Work on the critical fix stalled during January and one of the agencies shutdown was the FAA, which recalled all their inspectors and made consultation with Boeing about the fix, non-existent. This was fine with FAA because the agency did not think anything was seriously wrong with the aircraft.

Boeing continued to work on the update and knew of the problem with both sensors and the software, Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight control law, which will be rolled out in April. It was found that in the Lion Air Flight crash in October, 2018, pilots sought to override the MCAS that was providing faulty sensor readings about the angle of the nose of the plane. In that crash, the pilot tried to pull the nose downward some 24 times. The computer would not allow human intervention.

The second deadly crash still did not convince the FAA or Boeing anything was wrong, even though, we now know they knew of the faulty software. Even though several countries including China, grounded all of them, the FAA did not. Was this a political decision because Boeing has a large influence on the appropriations committee? Was this a business decision knowing how their bottom line might be impacted? Was Boeing and the FAA just trying to cover-up a serious flaw in software?

Finally, Trump did force all American 737's grounded. In a way, he saved face for his silly shutdown but it did make him look good, like a hero. Who knows, maybe he even called Boeing and found out the truth and launched into one of his tirades. Good for Trump, in this case. Still, had their been no shutdown, the updates would have not been delayed five weeks and maybe the second deadly crash would not have occurred.

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