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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

First Prediction for 2020: Another 737 MAX Fatal Airplane Crash

By: Donald V. Watkins

© Copyrighted and Published January 1, 2020

The December 30, 2019 print edition of the Wall Street Journal published a letter to the editor from Brian T. Wilson, an Atlanta-based corporate pilot and retired airline pilot. This is what Mr. Wilson had to say about the Boeing 737 MAX airplanes that killed 346 passengers and crew members in two separate crashes six months apart -- one in October 2018 and another one in March 2019:

"The Boeing 737 MAX seems to have been a Frankenstein design, quite frankly. And instead of scrapping the design and starting over, Boeing elected to apply a software band-aid, the MCAS, to save the aircraft when the design issues revealed themselves.... Grounding the aircraft was the right decision. Boeing needs to go back to the drawing board and listen to its engineers and test pilots rather than its marketing executives."

In Washington, money talks, especially during an election year. Money trumps airline safety when it flows to the Super-PACs that finance the campaigns of the deregulation candidates, from the President of the United States to members of Congress. Under deregulation, the FAA allowed Boeing to certify the flight safety of the 737 MAX. This role used to be within the exclusive province of the FAA. Despite the airplane’s fatally flawed design problems, Boeing said it was safe to fly. Two crashes later, the world learned that Boeing had lied about the safety of the 737 MAX airplane.

What is more, a secret FAA report prepared after the first crash predicted that fifteen 737 MAX airplanes will likely crash during the life cycle of the airplanes, with a frequency of one crash every two to three years. In reality, the frequency of the crashes is every six months.

Sadly, the 737 MAX cannot be fixed. Its design flaws are structural in nature. Software packages cannot fix structural design flaws in the airframe.

2020 Prediction

Under political pressure from the White House, the FAA will clear the 737 MAX to fly again in 2020, despite its continued flight safety problems. This is an election year. The PAC money from Boeing, its major vendors, and executives will be flowing like water to thirsty Washington politicians.

The next 737 MAX crash will probably occur in America, and the cause of the crash will be the same as the first two crashes. Nearly 200 people on the plane and the ground will die. After this crash, the 737 MAX will be grounded permanently and scrapped for parts.

The political fallout from this predicted crash will be devastating to every official who played a direct or indirect role in facilitating the 737 MAX's to return to the skies.

Unfortunately, this is the ugly side of national politics in America today. Things only change at the FAA when the death toll from airplane crashes reaches an intolerable threshold. For the 737 MAX, that threshold will be reached in 2020.

PHOTO: Parts of an engine and landing gear lie at the crash site of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302

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