Famous quote ‘If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going’ overshadowed

Boeing has more than a decade of strong historical background and safety records. The giant aircraft manufacturer based in the United States holds an incredible reputation in the aviation industry.

At present, over 10,000 Boeing aircraft are in operation in more than 150 countries across the globe. The company is widely known for producing highly reliable and safe aircraft that fulfil the optimum demand of airline companies.

But lately, we have been hearing news of the Downfall of one of the giant aircraft manufacturers in the world. A documentary was released recently on Netflix titled ‘Downfall: The Case Against Boeing’ directed by Rory Kennedy. This documentary film is based on the history of the Boeing Company and its failure to retain trust in the aviation industry.

Downfall (2022) primarily focuses on the faulty production of the Boeing 737 MAX jets that led to the Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashes resulting in 346 casualties in the span of 5 months.

We will discuss the summary, analysis, investigation report and other important information regarding the case against Boeing in this article. So, let’s get started. 

Downfall The Case Against Boeing Summary

‘Downfall: The Case Against Boeing’ was released on Netflix on 18th February 2022. The documentary film runs for 1 hour and 29 minutes and shows the strong history of Boeing, 737 MAX failure, investigation report and overall scenario of Boeing’s Downfall.

The documentary begins with Lion Air Flight 610 which crashed minutes after taking off from Jakarta, Indonesia killing 189 people and crews on board. The aircraft was the brand-new Boeing 737 MAX 8 (the updated version of the Boeing 737). This deadly crash alarmed pilots, airline companies, passengers, aviation authorities and everyone in the aviation industry.

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Lion Air Flight 610 crash (Downfall The Case Against Boeing)

Everyone was shocked why a brand-new aircraft manufactured by a trusted company crashed erroneously just after takeoff. Indonesian aviation, airline company and pilots were blamed for this incident.

Former NTSB Chairperson Mark Rosenken said, “The airline probably needed to do a better job of making sure its pilots understood exactly what to do in case the aircraft was performing in a unique, unusual way and how to get out of the problem.”

When asked ‘should passengers getting on the MAX aircraft be concerned?’, Mr Rosenken answered, “I don’t think so. Certainly in the United States, they understand how to operate this aircraft.”

The Boeing company stated that it was deeply saddened by the loss of Lion Air Flight JT 610 and the company extends heartfelt sympathy to the families and the loved ones of those on board.

Andy Pasztor (former Journalist with The Wall Street Journal) began questioning Boeing company about the aircraft design rather than the aircraft operation. He and other critics started believing the crash occurred due to faulty aircraft design.

Boeing was still hesitant to answer questions or release a complete statement on what had happened with Lion Air B737 MAX. After repeated pressure from the media house, the company came out with the statement claiming Lion Air 737 MAX had an inaccurate MCAS activation.

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MCAS System on Boeing 737 MAX 8 (Downfall The Case Against Boeing)

And this term ‘MCAS’ shattered everyone as nobody (even pilots) knew about this system installed on the new 737 MAX jets. MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) is a computerized flight stabilizing system that prevents 737 MAX from exceeding the highest angle of attack and stalling. Read detailed information about MCAS here.

Boeing in the statement said the Lion Air Flight Crew didn’t switch off the MCAS system, however, it came out that Boeing hadn’t informed pilots or airlines operating MAX jets about the MCAS system.

A senior Boeing Executive was questioned about the MCAS and he replied, “Boeing has never informed the pilots about MCAS. We never explained or trained.” With this statement, the case went viral and everyone started accusing the Boeing company of making such a huge mistake.

A meeting with the pilot’s union was conducted shortly and the Boeing Company assured to fix MCAS software in 6 weeks. But nothing happened later on! Neither the MCAS software was fixed nor MAX jets were grounded. Due to this delinquency, another 737 MAX deadly crash happened in Ethiopia under similar conditions as Lion Air 737 MAX.

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Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Crash (Downfall The Case Against Boeing)

On March 10, 2019 (19 weeks after the Lion Air crash), Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed shortly after taking off from Addis Ababa. 157 passengers and crew were the victims on the brand-new Boeing 737 MAX jet.

Two major crashes sharing the same nature in the span of 5 months killed 346 people. As modern aviation prospered through 2018, there were no major jet crashes but two brand-new planes fell off in the gap of 5 months alarming the safety in the flying industry.

Though 2 fatal crashes occurred with the 737 MAX jets, the Boeing Company was still in the confidence of their aircraft. Everyone finally knew the problem with the new 737 MAX jets was the faulty MCAS system. 

Due to increasing pressure, former US President Donald J. Trump immediately issued an order to ground all Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 jets until further notice. This statement was a huge blow for Boeing and 737 MAX owners.

As we come to the grounding part of the documentary, the film shows the history of the Boeing Company. Boeing was the market leader and the producer of the world’s safest and most reliable aircraft until it merged with McDonnell Douglas company in 1997. The merger resulted in operational deficiency and the company started job cuts. In addition, the company didn’t value staff and started neglecting their complaints.

The downfall of Boeing initiated and the European competitor Airbus started gaining momentum. In 2003, the Airbus Company overtook Boeing Marketshare and became the most-selling aircraft. With the increasing momentum, Airbus started producing Airbus A320neo jets with remarkable efficiency and it became a favourite among major airlines quickly.

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A320neo vs 737 MAX (Downfall The Case Against Boeing)

Boeing was still reluctant to compete with Airbus A320neo however, it started producing 737 MAX jets with some updates on the existing 737s. Boeing played a smart game by assuring the airline companies that they don’t have to spend a penny for pilot training and simulator exercises as the MAX was just an updated version of the currently operated 737.

737 MAX jets are updated with efficient engines, cockpit systems, fuel-efficient performance, reduced carbon emissions, advanced winglets and various other technological advancements. Furthermore, pilots flying 737 jets can easily familiarize themselves with MAX jets so, no extra cost is applicable for airlines. Due to this advantage, Boeing received huge orders and demands for its 737 MAX jets. However, the story didn’t go well due to the 2 fatal crashes resulting from the faulty MCAS system.

The U.S. Senate Hearing was conducted in 2019 on the case against Boeing. Former president and CEO of The Boeing Company Dennis A. Muilenburg was asked about the update but he didn’t speak anything. With increasing pressure, Muilenburg resigned at the request of Boeing’s Board of Directors and received stocks and pension awards worth US$62 million.

The Conclusion 

Boeing 737 MAX jets remained grounded for 20 months. In November 2020, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) approved the jet to fly again following the software updates and numerous successful test flights conducted by the Boeing Company under the supervision of the safety authority.

After 20 months, an American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 began commercial flight operation. With that, the new president and CEO Dave Calhoun said, “We don’t want to hide anything because we’re proud of what we do. The products that we make are incredible. They’re good for humanity.”

Calhoun added, “And I’m very proud of our team and I’m very proud of that aeroplane. It is a remarkable machine and as safe as anything…anything in the air.” 

Due to the attempt of Boeing to defraud the FAA, the United States Department of Justice charged Boeing with criminal conspiracy in 2021 due to which Boeing agreed to pay US$2.5 billion in fines and compensation.

This is how the documentary ‘Downfall: The Case Against Boeing’ ends.

Downfall The Case Against Boeing Analysis

Downfall (2022) largely focuses on the reluctant behaviour of the Boeing Company to realize the mistake on the Boeing 737 MAX jets that cost the life of 346 innocents. The film depicts Boeing’s strong and reliable history and exposes the failure of the company to retain trust in the modern aviation industry.

The victim’s family members, pilots, Boeing staff and other relevant personnel are interviewed to demonstrate the factual information. Captain Sully Sullenberger is also present in the documentary during the Senator Hearing and discussion where he says, “We shouldn’t be blaming the pilots, and we shouldn’t expect pilots to have to compensate for flawed designs.”

Captain Sully on 737 MAX Discussion (Downfall The Case Against Boeing)

After Lion Air Flight 610 crash, there was a blame game going on for pilots and flight crews. The Boeing Company released a statement saying the Lion crews didn’t properly follow the MAX procedures. But the second crash on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 made it clear the reason behind the crash was the faulty MCAS system installed on the MAX jets.

In a nutshell, MCAS was the real reason behind the 2 major crashes in 2019 due to which MAX jets were grounded for almost 20 months. The Boeing Company was reluctant during the initial phase and showed confidence in its aircraft but later realized the mistake. 

One of the giant aircraft manufacturers that ruled the aviation industry for more than a decade couldn’t maintain the same reputation and standard. 

Final Verdict on Downfall The Case Against Boeing

More than a decade of strong history got devastated due to a system failure in the production of new Boeing 737 MAX jets. The Boeing Company was not expecting such a huge letdown because it was confident in what have been produced. But, things don’t go perfect as always.

As shown in the documentary, The Boeing Company and aviation authorities were unwilling to ground 737 MAX after Lion Air Crash. If it had been done, 157 passengers and crews could be saved from Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash.

Lots of 737 MAX jets were being flown by various airlines around the world after Lion Air Crash and only one crashed. It was a major issue but got neglected by Boeing and major aviation authorities. The aircraft is now back in the skies after Boeing made significant MCAS software updates and conducted numerous test flights.

This incident is a crucial lesson to the aircraft manufacturer and aviation safety monitoring authorities. Safety must always be the first priority when flying and it is the responsibility of the manufacturer and governing authorities to maintain it.

Some Frequently Asked Questions on Downfall The Case Against Boeing(FAQs)

When did Downfall The Case Against Boeing?

Downfall: The Case Against Boeing was released on February 18, 2022 on Netflix.

Who narrated downfall The Case Against Boeing?

Mark Bailey and Keven McAlester are the narrators of the Downfall: The Case Against Boeing.

What is Downfall on Netflix about?

The downfall is all about The Boeing Company which includes its strong history and downfall due to faulty 737 MAX jets that led to the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

Is Boeing safe to fly?

After 2 major Boeing 737 MAX crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, people lost trust in Boeing. One of the world’s most reliable aircraft manufacturers failed to retain trust among the passengers. Boeing made significant changes in MCAS software and conducted numerous successful test flights due to which FAA provided a green signal to re-operate 737 MAX jets.

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Suman Karki
Suman Karki is the founder of the AviaTech Channel blog and YouTube Channel. He is a passionate aviation enthusiast and holds experience working as a Ground Operations Officer for Swissport International. He is currently serving as a Flight Data Feeder for FlightAware (a US-based company for Flight Tracking). Besides, he has worked as an aviation content editor for various aviation media.


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