Is the Boeing 737 MAX safe now?

The Boeing 737 MAX has had its share of bad press, though not much has been heard about them since their global grounding in the wake of two highly publicised tragedies.

Once a highly touted evolution in aerodynamic engineering, a malfunctioning flight control system caused two new 737 MAX aircraft to crash in Indonesia and Ethiopia, killing all 346 people on board.

One would be hard-pressed to have not heard about these incidents, but equally as hard-pressed to have heard anything about the fourth generation of the Boeing 737 since.

They have gone through rigorous testing and recertification regimens and have been cleared to fly since November 2020.

But are they safe? Some critics still say ‘no’, according to a Travel Talk report.

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Former senior manager at Boeing’s 737 plant Ed Pierson has published a report highlighting the increase of inflight technical issues with the Boeing 737 MAX.

In it he says pilots reported at least 42 inflight malfunctions on the 737 MAX in the US since being re-cleared for take-off.

More than half of the incidents still involve the now infamous flight control system.

“[I]nflight malfunctions on the 737 MAX are occurring at a higher rate now, after the FAA’s 20-month recertification, than they were before the start of the recertification,” states Mr Pierson’s report.

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Former senior safety engineer at the US Federal Aviation Administration Joe Jacobsen is concerned about the reports, saying issues at the point of manufacturing are most likely to blame.

“If they are not manufacturing-related, then we have a problem with the system safety analysis, as I don’t believe we would have predicted this number of failures is such a short time span with such a small fleet of aircraft,” says Mr Jacobson.

However, chief executive of the UK Flight Safety Committee Dai Whittingham doesn’t think “it’s an unreasonable rate of occurrences”.

“With a fleet that size, it’s not an unexpected level of problems, for the length of time,” he said.

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According to Yahoo Finance, “between March 2017 and March 2019, the global fleet of 387 aircraft operated 500,000 flights and experienced two fatal accidents, having an accident rate of four accidents per million flights.

“The previous Boeing 737 generations averaged 0.2 accidents per one million flights.”

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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