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Fatal flight plan

Downfall: Boeing’s 737 MAX killed 346


Fatal flight plan
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Grief chokes Michael Stumo’s words as he talks about his daughter, Samya, in the new Netflix documentary Downfall: The Case Against Boeing. In 2019, Samya and everyone else aboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 perished when the 4-month-old Boeing 737 MAX jet dove into the ground at almost 700 miles per hour.

Five months earlier, no one survived when Lion Air Flight 610 went down in the Java Sea under similar circumstances: A faulty sensor fed bad data to a new anti-stall system called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which overrode the pilots’ strenuous efforts to stabilize the planes. “Boeing had never told pilots” MCAS was on the 737 MAX, says journalist Andy Pasztor in the film.

Downfall (rated PG-13 for some strong language) pieces together expert testimony and Boeing’s internal emails and documents—much already publicly reported. Evidence shows the company was aware in 2013 that MCAS, installed on its 737 MAX fleet—then in production—was problematic. But retraining pilots is expensive, so Boeing made “no flight simulator required” a “strong selling point” of the 737 MAX.

The documentary pins Boeing’s “downfall” on its 1996 merger with McDonnell Douglas and on competition with European airplane manufacturer Airbus. Under new leadership, Boeing became a “financially driven company,” according to one interviewee, and “safety was compromised.” Former Boeing quality manager John Barnett says, “Boeing quit listening to their employees.”

Samya and 345 others died as a result.

Bob Brown

Bob is a movie reviewer for WORLD. He is a World Journalism Institute graduate and works as a math professor. Bob resides with his wife, Lisa, and five kids in Bel Air, Md.



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