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tv   Boeings Killer Planes - Panorama  BBC News  July 31, 2019 3:30am-4:01am BST

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a criminal investigation and what into what it calls mass unrest in moscow. three criminal cases have been opened into violence against the police, with potentially 15 year jail sentences. of those on board. it is 3:30am, you are up—to—date on the headlines. time now for panorama. two deadly plane crashes have left more than 300 people dead... 346 people died. can you answer a few questions about that? ..boeing's fastest—selling plane has a terrifying design flaw — a computer system that can force it to the ground. for a system which can have such a catastrophic effect runs contrary to everything in aircraft design. so, did boeing put this is bbc news. profit before safety? welcome if you're watching certainly what i saw was a lack here in the uk, on pbs in america of sufficient resources to do or around the globe.
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thejob in its entirety. i'm mike embley. our top stories: and why were boeing's killer planes ever allowed to fly? north korea fires two short—range ballistic missiles. the system is swift, the south korean military says viole nt and terrifying, and you didn't inform me? they landed in the sea of japan. that's beyond shame on you. the democratic party's 2020 presidential hopefuls start a second round of debates on the road to the white house. the haunting image of a child clinging on for life in war—ravaged syria and her remarkable escape. we hear from her family. russia launches a criminal last october, 189 investigation into saturday's free election protests in moscow. people boarded a plane in the indonesian capital, jakarta. anyone found guilty could face up to 15 years injail. denny maulana was one of the stewards onboard. translation: i had a feeling on that day. my mum also felt the same. my mum told me that, all of a sudden,
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she couldn't stop thinking about my brother. "0h, denny's at work." i told her, "denny's making money." 27—year—old sandy ramadhan was one of the passengers. he had just shared a big announcement with his family. translation: he said he had a surprise. that his wife is pregnant. his voice was trembling. he said, "dad, you're gonna be a grandpa soon." that was the last time we heard shandy's voice. the plane was a brand—new boeing 737 max. butjust two minutes into
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the flight, the crew had a problem. when the — when the pilot wants to climb, the plane commanded the nose to go down. and when they were in low altitude, "go down" meant hit the ground. each time the pilots tried to gain height, something forced the plane back down. it happened more than 20 times. i think the panic in the cockpit indicates that maybe the pilots knew that they were about to die. the hardest part of the investigations is when we heard the, uh, voice recorder. epecially on the last part of the flight, when the pilots knew
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that they about to crash. the scream, the... uh, pray and everything, that's the scariest part of the investigation. just 11 minutes after take—off, lion air flight 610 crashed into the java sea at more than 500mph. no—one survived. 189 victims. so many families broken by grief. translation: the one thing that surprised me about him — he has a foster child.
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an orphan. he was taking care of them. i just found out lately, after he passed away. translation: i miss him all the time. he always hugged me and gave me a kiss. not any more. ijust thought, did he suffer? even just a little wound would be painful. but he was destroyed. to understand the crash, you have to go back in time.
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boeing is an iconic american company. it's been making safe aircraft for more than a century. the 737 took to the skies 50 years ago. it is the biggest—selling passengerjet of all time. you've probably flown on one for your holidays. but, by 2011, boeing urgently needed a replacement to keep up with more fuel—efficient competitors. boeing decided against developing a whole new plane. instead, they put bigger, more modern engines on the old airframe. the boeing 737 max was born. it was an instant success.
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the max has become boeing's fastest—selling plane ever. 5,000 have been ordered. but the plane has a design problem. the new, bigger engines can make the plane tilt upwards. they discovered very early in the development that, with these bigger engines tilted high up on the wing, that tends to pitch the plane upwards. and it's going to feel different for the pilot. and they... they tried various means, uh, to counter it. finally, they decided to introduce this software which has the effect of swivelling the horizontal tail. this new software was called
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manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system, or mcas. it used a single sensor to work out the angle the plane was flying at. if it was flying too steeply, mcas automatically moved the tail to bring the aircraft back on course. but the system had a fatal flaw. if the single sensor wasn't working properly, then mcas could force the plane downwards, even though it was on the correct course. if you look in a flight deck, there's actually two of everything and there's two of everything for — for a damn good reason — that if one fails, you've got another one. for a system which can have such a dramatic, significant and catastrophic effect on the aircraft, to take its input from one source i’ui'is contrary to everything in aircraft design. and i am staggered that boeing
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designed it that way. to make matters worse, mcas was designed to reactivate every few seconds. that's why the indonesian crew were forced downwards more than 20 times. each time they began to get the plane back on course, mcas kicked in again. the mcas flight control system on the 737 max is what caused the crash. there were other things that went wrong. but, the fact is, the mcas flight control system was going wrong and was pushing the nose down repeatedly. and they struggled with it and fought with it in the lion air crash. until it, it overcame them. boeing says there was a way to override mcas — a standard
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procedure that pilots should know from flying the old 737. but pilots had never been told about mcas or what it did. before the lion air crash, mcas meant nothing to us. it might as well be just you're grabbing four letters out of the alphabet and throwing them onto a table. it was not known to us. in this series of modules, we will discuss the difference between the boeing 737... dennis tajer did the training for pilots moving on to the 737 max. a 56—minute course on an ipad. it is genuinely terrifying, isn't it? it is. a few minutes on this and then you're up there. knowing what we know now? yes. which is why we were so angry. how could you have done this? what were you thinking? mcas wasn't even included
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in boeing's1600—page manual. what do you think about that, given what mcas is capable of doing? what do you think about that? it's horrid. the system is swift, violent and terrifying. and the fact that you didn't inform me? that's beyond shame on you. within a week of the indonesian crash, boeing knew that a fault in this single sensor could force a 737 max down. the company issued a guidance note to pilots, telling them what to do if mcas malfunctioned. but boeing didn't change the aircraft. there was no suggestion of grounding the plane. there was no admission that there might be something wrong with the design. they didn't even ramp up training. boeing's response was straightforward — keep the flawed plane in the sky and shore up sales.
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critics say boeing put profit before safety. the crash occurred october 29th, 2018. december 17th — less than two months later — the boeing board increased the dividend by 20%, as if nothing happened. top management is not really focused on building air—aircraft, they're focused on making money. four weeks after the crash in indonesia, american pilots asked boeing executives to fix mcas as a matter of urgency. the meeting was secretly recorded. why — why, due to the severity of the issue, it killed 186 people, uh, would this not fall under an emergency ad process, which would give you a much shorter turnaround time?
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it wouldn't fall under an emergency ad process because no—one has yet concluded that the sole cause of this was dysfunction of the aircraft. my question to you, as boeing, is why wouldn't you say this is the smartest thing to do? we're gonna do everything we can to protect the travelling public. we want to make sure we are fixing the right things. yes. that's the important thing, we'll make sure we're fixing the right things. boeing suggested fixing mcas would take around six weeks. but, four months after the meeting, the problem still hadn't been sorted out. every day, thousands of passengers were boarding a plane with a deadly flaw. hindsight‘s 20/20. but i see clearly the moment that they spoke to us that they did not want to have that aeroplane not flying. and either they talked themselves into the odds, the modelling of it, i don't know. but if that aeroplane had been fixed, even in the six—to—eight—week timeframe that they spoke of,
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i don't know that we'd be doing this interview. butl... the question i have for you is do you, do you feel comfortable that the situation is under control today before any software fixes are implemented? absolutely. it is feared that an unknown number of people have died after an ethiopian airline plane destined for nairobi crashed this morning. in march of this year, another brand—new boeing 737 max came down. we are following breaking news out of ethiopia, where a plane went down just outside the capital, killing everyone on board. 157 people from 35 different countries were killed. 25—year—old sam pegram from lancashire was one of those on board. he was just a wonderful young man.
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he was full of life, always smiling, and dedicated his life to helping other people. sam was working for a refugee charity. he was on his way to help train colleagues in kenya when the plane came down. basically, our world turned upside down. from then — and even now — it'sjust a case of living day to day and trying to get through each day as best we can. you know, we have not so good days and we have terrible days. you know? adrian toole's daughter joanna was also on the plane. she was 36. she was the star of the family, and really the star in any environment she moved in. she was a loving, supportive person
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to all manner of people. we've got 100 sympathy cards sitting there. and so many people have said how joanna supported them through their own crises. joanna worked on animal welfare for the united nations. the hardest bit for me has been sorting out photographs ofjoanna. she was always ready to pose for a camera, and i've had to sort thousands of pictures of joanna over the years. and that, at times, has been very upsetting. just like the lion air disaster five months before, the plane crashed
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within minutes of take—off. it hit the ground just over an hour's drive from the ethiopian capital, addis ababa. today, a crater marks the spot where157 people died. this is where the aircraft came down. there is actually still bits of debris knocking around, but most of the site has been cleared, and now there'sjust a hole in the ground. once again, it was boeing's mcas system that had forced the plane down.
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that plane had crashed in a similarfashion. yeah. five months before. what do you think about that? ijust think it makes itjust such a needless loss of life. i mean there were clearly problems that boeing knew about, but still the planes were flying. you know, people had been told everything's all right. in your worst moments, do you blame boeing for the death of your son? yeah. the 737 max has been grounded since the ethiopian crash. it's the biggest crisis in boeing's history. but the company's ceo, dennis muilenburg, refused to be interviewed for this programme. right, thank you. we feel the immense gravity of these events and we recognise the devastation to the family and friends of the loved
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ones who have perished. there's nothing more important to us than the safety of people who fly on our aeroplanes. mr muilenburg admitted mcas contributed to both crashes. but he tried to blame other factors, too. there's a chain of events. there are multiple contributing factors. would the accident have happened without mcas, though? you call it a link? it's a chain of events. there's no singular item. it's a chain of events. boeing says it wasn't relying on a single sensor, because the pilots were there as back up. it says when things went wrong the pilots didn't completely follow the correct operating procedures. boeing have suggested that they didn't follow the right procedure. is that fair? it is unfair. it's absolutely unfair. if you're going to design and certify an airliner with such a complicated, obscure failure mode as happened to that crew,
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it's no wonder that your average crew aren't able to deal with it. while boeing hasn't accepted responsibility for the two crashes, it's now planning to use two sensors on the max. it says a software update will prevent an mcas—related accident from ever happening again. boeing have spent months working on the grounded 737 maxs, trying to improve the mcas system. but the question is, how on earth was this aircraft approved in the first place? the federal aviation administration is responsible for ensuring
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american—made planes are safe. but the faa left boeing to assess the safety of some of its own designs — including mcas. boeing does the design, boeing does the analysis of how that design could fail in various ways. boeing tests it, and then boeing sends the paperwork to the faa, which is supposed to be looked at by engineers. many of those engineers are former boeing engineers, but now they work for the faa. very few boeing insiders have spoken out publicly. but one has agreed talk to us. adam dickson ran a team
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of engineers working on the max. he says they were pressured to downplay new features. and by classifying them as minor, rather than major changes, boeing would face less scrutiny from the faa. differences on the max, the goal was to show that those differences were so similar to the previous design that it would not require a major design classification in the certification process. there was a lot of interest and pressure on the certification — and analysis engineers in particular — to look at any changes to the max as minor changes. when you drive a change in classification from major to minor, that reduces the scrutiny of the system in some ways that could impact safety. insiders at the faa
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were so concerned they sounded the alarm before the second crash in ethiopia. they told journalist dominic gates that boeing had misinformed the faa about the power of mcas. i had the story all written and ijust wanted comment from boeing, can you tell me about what you want to say about these flaws in this system? what did they say? well, they didn't get back to me. i actually was pushing them to give me an answer when the second crash happened. boeing says the faa concluded that mcas met all certification and regulatory requirements. it says it's important to avoid speculating before investigations are complete.
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but boeing had a financial motive for keeping the max in the skies. its record sales had created a cash bonanza. since taking charge four years ago, dennis muilenburg has been paid more than $70 million. in the case of the current ceo, muilenburg, it's been about $2 million per month by selling planes that now we know are unsafe. the max was also good for shareholders. since 2013, boeing has paid out $17 billion in dividends and has spent a further $113 billion buying its own shares. it's a spending spree that's helped treble boeing's share price in five years. critics say the company's top executives were too focused on making money. if you supercharge the incentives
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of top executives and tell them that theirjob is to get the stock price up, they're not going to pay the kind of attention they need to pay to ensuring they produce a safe plane. boeing says it "balances investment in our core businesses and value to shareholders." it's focusing on "rebuilding trust with customers and ensuring that the max is one of the safest aircraft ever to fly." boeing may have been awash with cash. but former insiders say they were still under constant pressure to cut costs on the production line.
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certainly what i saw was a lack of sufficient resources to do thejob in its entirety. the culture was very cost—centred, incredibly pressurised. engineers were given targets to get certain amount of cost out of the aeroplane. the employees on the 737 max understood that they had to get this cycle time and cost out or it would likely result in performance deficiencies or negative ratings in their performance management. boeing says its former engineer's comments are incorrect — "it did not cut corners or push the 737 max out before it was ready." "boeing always held true to values of safety, quality and integrity." but the company still won't even accept that it was responsible
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for the two crashes. can you admit that the design was flawed? now, in this case again, as in most accidents there are a chain of events that occur. it's not correct to attribute that to any single item. we will continually look for opportunities to improve safety. that's our responsibility and that's part of re—earning that trust that i talked about earlier. but sir, was there simulator training? thank you. sir, could we have a few more questions? wait a minute, 346 people died. can you answer a few questions here about that? boeing is facing criminal investigation and numerous lawsuits. no—one knows when the 737 max will return to the skies. but after two deadly crashes, trust in boeing is in short supply.
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my family won't fly on a 737 max. it's frightening to see such a major incident because of a system that didn't function properly or adequately. if i have to hear another talking point that "safety is our numberone priority", i get that. how about you change the system? boeing sold a plane with a fatal flaw — a computer system that could kill all the passengers. 00:28:33,186 --> 4294966103:13:29,430 and 346 people paid the price.
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