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A damning new report on the 737 Max blames ‘inexperienced pilots’ and the low-cost airlines who employ them — not Boeing

A damning new report on the 737 Max blames ‘inexperienced pilots’ and the low-cost airlines who employ them — not Boeing

Boeing has lost more than $1 billion since its 737 Max plane was grounded earlier this year, according to the company's most recent earnings report.

That's following the deaths of 346 people, who were killed in two similar, fatal crashes of Boeing 737 Max planes in October 2018 and March 2019.

While many have placed the blame for those crashes on faulty Boeing software, a damning new report from The New York Times Magazine on September 18 points to the inexperience of the pilots in both crashes.

And, moreover, NYT Magazine writer-at-large William Langewiesche, a former national correspondent for The Atlantic, says the push for international, low-cost air travel has allowed newbie pilots to fly international routes — putting at risk the lives of dozens aboard their jets.

As Langewiesche wrote about the Jakarta, Indonesia-based Lion Air, whose October 29, 2018 crash killed all 189 on board:

Lion Air is an aggressive airline that dominates the rapidly expanding Indonesian market in low-cost air travel and is one of Boeing's largest customers worldwide. It is known for hiring inexperienced pilots — most of them recent graduates of its own academy — and for paying them little and working them hard.

The captain, a 31-year-old Indian national named Bhavye Suneja, was put in charge of piloting the 737 sooner than "a more conventional airline" would have, Langewiesche wrote. And, once the 737 was having issues, the Lion Air crew didn't mitigate the failures, according to the article. A few other bizarre happenings communicated Suneja's lack of experience. For instance, he told air-traffic control that he didn't know the plane's altitude.

Read more: Boeing is crowding its employee parking lot with undelivered 737 Max jets, and the company says that's part of its 'inventory-management plan'

NYT Magazine also argued in the report that the pilots directing Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which crashed on March 10, had similarly questionable instincts in controlling the 737 Max. As Business Insider previously reported, the copilot in that flight had just 200 hours of flight experience.

Grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are seen parked in an aerial photo at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, U.S. July 1, 2019.

REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

"Two-hundred hours is extremely low," Ross Aimer, the CEO of the airline consulting and legal firm Aero Consulting Experts, previously told Business Insider. "In an emergency, it becomes a problem.

"If you have a complicated airplane and you basically put a student pilot in there, that's not a good thing," Aimer added. "Even if the guy in the left seat has so much experience, if you have so much imbalance of experience, that can be a problem."

After a heady analysis of the pilots' actions, former professional airline pilot Langewiesche wrote that these crashes showed "a textbook failure of airmanship."

He added, "In broad daylight, these pilots couldn't decipher a variant of a simple runaway trim, and they ended up flying too fast at low altitude, neglecting to throttle back and leading their passengers over an aerodynamic edge into oblivion."

The worrisome conclusion to be drawn from this is that "thousands of similar crews" are flying passengers worldwide — and unusual conditions could lead to a fatal ending.

Read the entire New York Times Magazine article here »

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