"Boeing 737 MAX: Money, Machines, and Morals in Conflict"



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The Boeing 737 MAX aircraft has been grounded worldwide after two fatal crashes with similar characteristics within five months of each other. In both incidents, pilots could not control the aircraft shortly after takeoff resulting in tragic crashes with no survivors. Due to concerns about financial losses, there is pressure to resume the use of the 737 MAX for commercial passenger flight as soon as possible notwithstanding continued safety concerns. Examination of the many factors that led to these disastrous consequences illuminates disquieting ethical issues of corporate behavior and lack of government oversight. There is a complex web of concerns involved. At the heart is a computer software that controls the aircraft (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MACS) which was a key element in the crashes. This seminar will require students to research and present some of the issues involved in this timely matter. Possible topics to be discussed include physics of flight, aeronautics, avionics, aircraft design, engineering ethics and the social responsibility of engineers, corporate interest and business ethics, the role of responsible government, issues of increased reliance on complex software replacing humans, etc.

Above the Clouds

Lion Air flight 610

Lion Air Flight 610 was scheduled to leave Jakarta on October 29, 2018. On its way to Pangkal Pinang, the Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane crashed into the Java Sea 13 minutes after takeoff. Sadly, all crew members and passengers passed away that day. 
Shortly after takeoff, the pilots realized there was an error in the instrumental system. While in contact with air traffic control, the MCAS system kept malfunctioning and the plane eventually crashed in the sea. 

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Above the Clouds

Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302


Ethiopian Airlines FLight 302 was scheduled to leave Ethiopia on March 10, 2019. On its way to Kenya, the Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane crashed 6 minutes after takeoff. Sadly, all crew members and passengers passed away that day. 
Shortly after takeoff, the pilots reported to the control tower that there was a flight control problem. The MCAS system took over by tilting the nose of the plane into a diving position. As stated in the procedure, the pilots cut off the electrical trim tab, but it was impossible for them to adjust and stabilize the plane. Eventually, the pilots had to turn the electrical system on, but this reactivated the MCAS system and sadly, the plane crashed into the ground.