New questions raised on safety of both Boeing 737 Max and 787 Dreamliner

Dominic Gates, The Seattle Times on

Published in Business News

Legacy 737 design details

The shortcoming in the rudder cable design was cited in a Seattle Times story in May among a list of Max design elements that don't meet the latest FAA requirements.

The story listed a series of legacy design details that have been repeatedly grandfathered into the latest model each time Boeing has updated the 737, which was originally certified more than 50 years ago.

All the issues in the list were flagged by FAA safety engineers as requiring fixes before the Max could be certified. But each was waved through after managers on the Boeing side of certification insisted that these were non-issues and managers on the FAA side agreed to let it move ahead with the requirement unaddressed.

In the case of the rudder cables, Boeing argued that the CFM-56 engine on the prior 737 model had an "excellent" service history and that it expected the new LEAP engines on the 737 Max to have a similarly low rate of uncontained engine failures.

DeFazio and Larsen reject this argument as "nonsensical," since it extrapolates on "the reliability of a then-unproven new engine based on the performance of a completely different older engine."


DeFazio adds that "my staff has been told that it was virtually unprecedented for six or more FAA specialists to jointly non-concur on a single issue, highlighting the gravity of their concerns regarding the rudder cable issue."

End runs around safety

Lightning strikes on aircraft are routine. In certain parts of the world, such as Florida and Japan, they are common.

To highlight the seriousness of the issue for the Dreamliner, DeFazio cites the example of a British Airways 787 struck by lightning two years ago shortly after it departed London's Heathrow airport bound for India.


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