What happens when corporations convince the government to cede its regulatory authority and let corporations oversee themselves?
As Boeing hustled in 2015 to catch up to Airbus and certify its new 737 MAX, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) managers pushed the agency’s safety engineers to delegate safety assessments to Boeing itself, and to speedily approve the resulting analysis.
But the original safety analysis that Boeing delivered to the FAA for a new flight control system on the MAX — a report used to certify the plane as safe to fly — had several crucial flaws.
…The safety analysis:
- Understated the power of the new flight control system, which was designed to swivel the horizontal tail to push the nose of the plane down to avert a stall. When the planes later entered service, MCAS was capable of moving the tail more than four times farther than was stated in the initial safety analysis document.
- Failed to account for how the system could reset itself each time a pilot responded, thereby missing the potential impact of the system repeatedly pushing the airplane’s nose downward.
- Assessed a failure of the system as one level below “catastrophic.” But even that “hazardous” danger level should have precluded activation of the system based on input from a single sensor — and yet that’s how it was designed [Dominic Gates, “Flawed Analysis, Failed Oversight: How Boeing, FAA Certified the Suspect 737 MAX Flight Control System,” Seattle Times, updated 2019.03.18].
Two Boeing planes have killed 346 people. Those people died because Boeing lied to all of us, and the government didn’t check to see if Boeing was lying.
The market does not respect human life or human rights. We cannot trust corporations to regulate themselves. Government regulation of the market and the separation of corporate power from government power are vital to human safety.