I went to the nearest Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office to my residence in the US state of Virginia to begin the process of obtaining a US driver’s licence. The licencing process was in two parts. A successful computer test followed by a road test.
After making the statutory payment, I was issued a driving kit which contained a booklet and a CD. I studied both carefully and passed the computer test with ease. I went back to the DMV to schedule a road test.
On the day of the test, I showed up at the DMV office a bit apprehensive, not knowing how rigorous the process would be. I had taught myself how to drive in Nigeria and had OVER 15 years of driving experience. Besides, before travelling, I also obtained a Nigerian “International driver’s licence.”
Looking back now, I wonder which countries actually accepted it as a valid driving document. I did use it to drive initially in the US but I never presented it to anyone. Unlike here, no one stops to ask for your documents there except you are involved in an accident, or you are driving recklessly or you are a suspect in a criminal case.
Right from the moment the woman that was to administer the DMV road test stepped into my car, I knew something was not right. She appeared least interested in the very important process. She just sat there as if she was a statute. Her instructions were at best childish and could have been aced even by somebody that was hitting the road with a car for the first time. Well, I got my licence issued within 30 minutes of returning to the DMV office and went home happy.
But I was bothered about the laxity displayed by the test administrator. That laxity became a national embarrassment when it was discovered that all the 911 hijackers got their driver’s licences from the State of Virginia.
But the laxity in the licencing process was not an exception, I noticed the same laxity in housing inspection, housing loan request investigation, medical claims examination and many other areas. I was really taken aback because the laxity created loopholes that could easily be exploited for personal and corporate advantage. And that is exactly what Boeing has done.
The 737 Max 8 crashes.
When the first crash of this new model of Boeing aircraft happened in Indonesia last year, it was just another crash to many around the world. But to some aviation experts and investigators a few things were troubling. The flight path of the new plane before the crash just after take-off revealed that it may not have been due to pilot error or engine failure. Soon after, fingers began pointing to a new software installed in the Max 8 model. It was supposed to prevent the plane from stalling and falling from the sky. But it appeared the software could perceive a non-existent threat and act in such a way that it enables what it was expected to prevent.
Following the launch of the new plane in 2016, the America’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a training manual which was silent on the need for pilots to learn how to use the new features of the Max 8 including the anti-stalling software.
According to a Washington Post investigation,
“The FAA report suggested pilots would experience nothing surprising in the cockpit of the new Max 8. In a section where FAA test pilots are supposed to list “unique handling performance characteristics” of new planes, they remarked there were none: “no specific flight characteristics.”
Mary Schiavo, a former Transportation Department Inspector told the Washington Post,
“The FAA said nothing about this technology at the critical time- when pilots were learning how to fly the plane. It makes you as the question: How much did the FAA actually know about the technology especially given its history of delegating to industry.”
About the same time the FAA released its training guidelines for the Max 8, their counterparts who came in from Brazil to inspect the aircraft model released a report which listed over 60 operational changes from landing systems to cockpit displays that pilots in their country must learn.
Prominent on that list according to the Post report was that Brazilian pilots must familiarise themselves with the anti-stalling software. In fact, they went further to require a mandatory interactive course for their pilots and recommended two legs supervised flight.
That was back in 2017. Then a crash that took the lives of 189 persons in Indonesia, October 2018. The new software was said to have forced the new plane owned by Lion Air into a dive that resulted in a crash. The issue was brought to the attention of Boeing and they promised an upgrade that will elimination the problem. Yet as at last Sunday, when another plane fell off the sky, that upgrade still had not come, Yet Boeing was unwilling to see the aircraft grounded around the world.
New information now has it
• that the FAA guideline on the new plane was a complete “copy and paste” from Boeing’s own guideline.
• that for years the FAA has allowed Boeing to self-certify its planes and manufactured parts.
Dominic Gates, a Seattle Times aerospace reporter said,
“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 flaws.”
That may have accounted for the FAA refusing to ground the planes when their counterparts around the world were doing so. That may have also accounted for why the Ethiopian aviation authorities sent the black box and voice recorders to France rather than the US.
Besides, Boeing has an outstanding 4,636 unfilled orders of the new plane, running into half a trillion dollars in revenue for the company according to the New York Times. In Nigeria alone, Boeing has 18 orders: 10 for Air Peace and 8 planes for Arik.
May be that was why despite all the damning evidence, Boeing and the FAA continued to drag their feet until President Trump stepped in to ground the planes, perhaps “subtly coerced” by the report and action of the Canadian Aviation authority. What if Boeing acted aggressively to seek a solution to the problem
While Boeing has an impressive safety record. This glaring glitch ought to have been addressed after the first crash or better still at the launch of the new plane? Perhaps, some or all 346 lives now lost would have been saved.