It seems that both of the Boeing 737 MAX 8s which recently crashed lacked critical safety features. The New York Times reports it is because the manufacturer charged an extra fee for them what the airlines opted not to pay.
Two of the Boeing's newest, most modern aircrafts plummeted right after takeoff in the past six months killing more than 340 people. Since the second disaster, the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, all Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 9 models are grounded by aviation authorities until the end of the investigation.
The first Boeing 737 took off in 1967, and the model has been one of the most successful aircraft ever since. Over the years, it has gone through a multitude of upgrades, of which this most recent one was also the most thorough.
Just after its release, the new MAX models became an instant hit, airlines ordered four hundred of them within the first six months, and today, Boeing has orders for over five thousand jets. As we reported earlier, the manufacturing giant refers to the new MAX 8 model as the next generation of its most popular model.
There has been a couple of major changes implemented, such as the new, more fuel-efficient engine. Not only the power source is new, but Boeing also changed the position of the engines, which might lead us closer to the potential cause of the two tragedies.
Similarly doomed flights
Sources with knowledge of the matter tend to think that one potential reason behind both of the crashes can be linked to the bigger engine, positioned higher up in the body of the plane. This can cause the nose of the plane to pitch up.
There are sensors monitoring all parts of a modern aircraft, and sending information to the core computer. One of them is called angle of attack sensor what reads the aircraft’s angle relative to oncoming air. When that sensor detects a dangerously high angle, it can send signals to the computer to push the nose down to avoid stalling.
Another safety feature is called the disagree light, which turns on when the aforementioned sensors detect discrepancies. Neither of those safety equipments are included in the basic retail price of the MAX 8 and 9. Boeing charges extra for them.
And, since most of the aviation authorities approved that they are not mandatory features, airlines don’t have to pay extra money to install them. The fact that not all the features are included in the basic price of a plane is well-known, some carriers want to please their guests with larger leg room, or fancier lighting.
Although it is a less well-known fact that plane manufacturers often charge extra for navigational, or safety features, as part of their ever-increasing profit goals.
Upon the investigations, Boeing already promised that one of those features, the disagree light will be included in the standard equipment of all MAX 8s and 9s. They have also promised to update relevant software. Aviation lawyer Mark H. Goodrich, who is also a former engineering test pilot said:
‘There are so many things that should not be optional, and many airlines want the cheapest airplane you can get. And Boeing is able to say, “Hey, it was available.”’
Hopefully, in the future, companies will include all safety features in the standard model price and compete for profit where it is less hazardous.