Pilots voiced safety concerns about the Boeing 737 Max 8 to federal authorities months before the fatal Ethiopian Air crash, The Dallas Morning News reports. At least five complaints were reportedly found about the model in a federal database, all of them concerning a “safety mechanism” which was cited in the preliminary investigative reports of the Lion Air plane crash in Indonesia that killed 189 late last year. More specifically, the complaints reportedly referenced issues pertaining to a takeoff “autopilot system” and situations where the plane is “nose-down” while trying to gain altitude. One pilot reportedly wrote that it was “unconscionable” that Boeing and federal authorities allowed pilots to fly the planes without fully describing how the 737 Max 8 was different than other planes. “The fact that this airplane requires such jury-rigging to fly is a red flag,” the same pilot wrote. U.S. regulators have mandated that Boeing upgrade the plane's software by April, but have not ordered the planes to be grounded—unlike China, Australia and the European Union.
The Federal Aviation Administration told the newspaper that it was still “collecting data” on the plane and would take action if warranted. In a statement later Tuesday, the FAA said their review thus far showed “no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft.”