A Boeing engineer filed an internal complaint alleging that company managers rejected a backup system that might have alerted pilots to problems linked to two deadly crashes involving the 737 Max jet, according to published reports.
Boeing declined to comment on the reports, which raise fresh concerns about the safety culture at the aircraft manufacturer.
The Seattle Times and The New York Times reported Wednesday that an engineer who worked on the Max said managers were urged to consider a backup system for determining speed that could also detect when sensors measuring the direction of the plane’s nose weren’t working.
Faulty data from those sensors triggered an automatic nose-down push that pilots were not able to overcome before crashes in Indonesia last October and in Ethiopia in March that killed 346 people.
The engineer said others wanted to study whether to equip the Max with the backup system, which is on the larger Boeing 787 jet, but a Boeing executive rejected the advice because it could increase costs and training requirements for pilots.
The engineer is not sure that the backup speed-measuring system would have prevented the crashes, but he said in his complaint that Boeing management was more concerned with costs and keeping the Max on schedule than on safety. The employee, identified as Curtis Ewbank, filed the complaint after the second crash.
Boeing declined to confirm the existence of the internal complaint, but a spokesman said safety is at the core of the company’s values.
“Boeing offers its employees a number of channels for raising concerns and complaints and has rigorous processes in place, both to ensure that such complaints receive thorough consideration and to protect the confidentiality of employees who make them,” Gordon Johndroe said.
The Max is the newest and most fuel-efficient version of the Boeing 737, a plane that dates to the 1960s. Earlier this decade, Boeing tried to push the Max into production and service as quickly as possible because rival Airbus was already selling a similarly economical plane called the neo. Requiring additional pilot training on new cockpit systems could have further delayed Boeing’s ability to start selling the Max.