As regulators at the Federal Aviation Administration reviewed designs for Boeing's newest passenger jet, they paid extra attention to several features, including the lithium batteries, the pressure fueling system and the inflatable safety slides. One feature that did not receive exceptional scrutiny: a new software system intended to prevent stalls, which we now know as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).
That same software is suspected of playing a role in two deadly crashes involving the same jet, the Boeing 737 Max 8. Authorities around the world are now taking a closer look at the jet's approval by the FAA, a process that relies heavily on Boeing employees to certify the safety of the plane.
Also, new information has emerged about the crash on October 29 of a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 jet in Indonesia that suggests the flight crew was ill prepared to deal with a problematic new MCAS. Data from the other so-called black box, the cockpit voice recorder, suggests the flight crew didn't even understand what they were fighting and may have had no idea how to override the malfunctioning system. It is reported that the pilots could be heard frantically scouring a quick reference guide to figure out why the nearly-new jet was repeatedly going into a dive. The recording apparently includes audio of the pilots speculating about a problem with the plane's airspeed controls, not the MCAS. Separately, Bloomberg reported Tuesday that the same Lion Air plane that crashed on October 29 may have narrowly avoided a crash the previous day, thanks to a pilot hitching a ride in the cockpit who correctly diagnosed the problem and told the flight crew how to fix it. What's wrong with the FAA process?
So, Wednesday morning, just after midnight on the East Coast, the Walt Disney Company closed its $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets. It is now an entertainment colossus the size of which the world has never seen. The New York Times writes, "The ripple effects may not become clear for years. Analysts say that Disney could force smaller studios to merge as they scramble to compete. It will have greater leverage over theater owners when it comes to box office splits. And Disney's plans to use Fox content to forcefully move into streaming could slow the growth of Netflix."
In terms of the dangers posed by conglomerates and monopolies, we go back to 1911, when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled, in Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States, that Standard Oil of New Jersey must be dissolved under the Sherman Antitrust Act and split into 34 companies. Then we had the breakup of AT&T. There seems to be this cyclical process of break-ups and re-consolidation. As consumers of entertainment and media, should the public be concerned?
Anonymous Guest — Qualified pilot on a number of Boeing 737 airliners, as well as Boeing's 777, 757 and 727 and Lockheed's L1011. He has logged around 100 hours on the Boeing 900 Max; around 10,000 hours in the 737; and nearly 25,000 hours total flying time.
Kim Keenan — Executive vice president of marketing and research at Odyssey Media, co-chair of the Internet Innovation Alliance and senior adjunct professor at George Washington University Law School.
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