Boeing 737 Max safety fixes fall short, says father of air crash victim from Sheffield

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SHEFFIELD — Michael Stumo isn't satisfied with the Federal Aviation Administration's proposed fixes to Boeing's fleet of 737 Max jets, like the one that crashed in Ethiopia last year, killing his daughter, Samya Stumo, 24.

His and other victims' families also are unhappy that the FAA won't release technical documents about proposed changes, including software and computer system tweaks, so they can be reviewed by a third party.

The FAA has told the victims' families that confidentiality rules bar it from releasing technical documents. The FAA did not respond to messages seeking comment. And while federal legislation that would increase FAA oversight of airplane manufacturing is a step forward, Stumo says it does nothing to address current problems with the Max fleet.

Boeing is struggling to fix software-related problems on the jets so they can fly again after two fatal crashes five months apart grounded them across the world. Stumo says that the FAA's proposed airworthiness directives announced Aug. 3 fall short. In his view, the FAA is continuing to act as a "paper pusher" that allows Boeing to certify its own products.

He said the agency and company failures resulted in two air disasters after they deemed the planes safe.

"The FAA overruled their own engineers and sided with Boeing," Stumo said of certain aspects of the Max manufacturing process.

The FAA's public comment period began Aug. 3 and runs to mid-September. After this, it could take months before the planes can carry passengers again.

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2019 crash

Samya Stumo, a Sheffield native and medical anthropologist, was heading to a new public health job in Uganda on March 10, 2019, when she was killed in an Ethiopian Airlines crash shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

On Oct. 29, 2018, a Lion Air jet crashed into the Java Sea after takeoff from Jakarta, Indonesia. Both crashes, killing 346 people, were linked to the same sensors that failed, causing the planes to nosedive.

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The jets use two sensors to determine a plane's risk of stalling and then how to rectify it. Stumo says the system should be strengthened by adding a third sensor.

This reliance on software also is an issue, Stumo says, since it was added to an airplane body with "ill-fitting" engines that required software to correct aerodynamic instability.

"It's like a 1967 Ford Fairlane that they're putting Tesla software in," Stumo said.

The crashes set off a federal criminal probe, congressional investigations and class action lawsuits.

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Among other problems uncovered was Boeing's avoidance of simulator training, since it is expensive for airline companies, Stumo noted.

Problems came to light from internal Boeing documents released in January to congressional investigators that showed employees trying to evade regulators.

"They were cutting corners everywhere," Stumo said.

The company since has recommended simulator training for pilots of the Max.

Stumo remains frustrated by what the family views as corporate malfeasance to protect profit over safety.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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