‘Boeing had 737 Max software written by inexperienced external programmers’

Boeing had at least some of the software for the 737 Max aircraft written by external, relatively cheap and inexperienced programmers. Bloomberg writes this on the basis of statements by former Boeing programmers.

Mark Rabin, a former Boeing software developer who worked on the 737 Max, says work was outsourced to Indian software company HCL Technologies, Bloomberg writes. According to him, new graduates were appointed there to write code based on Boeing specifications. “It was controversial, because it was much less efficient than Boeing engineers who wrote the code. It took several rounds back and forth because the code was not written correctly,” Rabin said. HCL was probably partly responsible for the software for the flight monitors.

Several Indian companies are said to have been involved in the development of the Boeing 737 Max software. This would have been done to save costs. “Boeing tried a lot of things, everything you can imagine, to cut costs,” said Rick Ludtke, a flight control technician fired from Boeing in 2017. According to the ex-Boeing employee, this had to do with the fact that the Boeing technicians were becoming too expensive. As a result, more and more jobs disappeared and Boeing’s facilities in Seattle gradually lost the capacity to design. Rabin recalls a meeting where it was said from above that Boeing no longer needed experienced technicians because the products were already mature. Rabin says that conference room was packed with hundreds of experienced technicians who, according to Boeing, were unnecessary.

Two Boeing 737 Max aircraft from TUI, which are required to be grounded at Schiphol until further notice.

Software issues are likely behind the two deadly crashes involving the 737 Max. In October last year, a plane of this type crashed in Indonesia and in March another 737 Max crashed into the ground, this time in Ethiopia. For the time being, this is attributed to the MCAS, which probably pushed the nose of the aircraft down strongly based on erroneous data. This is an anti-stall system implemented to prevent the aircraft from leaning too much backwards and thus losing speed and falling from the sky. Boeing says it did not use HCL employees to develop the MCAS.

It now appears that the US Department of Justice has extended its criminal investigation into the certification and design of the 737 Max to another relatively new Boeing aircraft. This concerns the 787, better known as the Dreamliner. The Seattle Times reports that sources familiar with the investigation have confirmed this. During the production of the 787 Dreamliner, quite a few things would have been rushed in the factory in the South Carolina. With the 787, there were previously problems with the lithium-ion batteries overheating and catching fire. The American regulator had to intervene and decided in January 2013 to ground the entire fleet for a few months. These problems are basically separate from the specific problems with 737 Max.