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A better world through a systems approach

Enchantment Meeting Speaker: Dr. Ron Carson – Perspectives on the Boeing 737MAX Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS)

  • Date:
    Mar 10, 2021 - 4:45 PM - 6:00 PM
  • Address: Online
  • Venue:
  • Contact: Ann Hodges
  • Email:
  • Phone: 505-951-7067

Abstract. Using publicly available news articles and reports we examine the system design and characteristics of the Boeing 737MAX MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) in the context of two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019. The rationale for the system is explained. The system architecture and operational characteristics are described. Hazard severity classification is examined, along with the required reliability per the regulations. The role of the pilots in compensating for failure is highlighted. The regulatory and business environments are also discussed as contributors. We describe how assumptions regarding pilot responses were apparently not validated, and contributed to the fatal crashes of the two airplanes. The human factors implications for automation, training, simulators and manuals are described. Ongoing modifications to the 737MAX, organizational design, and regulations are described.

The attendees will receive an overview of the MCAS including rationale, architecture, and operations during normal and failure conditions, and understand some consequences of the program and system design assumptions and implementation. Specific implications for the role of systems engineering are discussed.

Biography. Dr. Ron Carson is an Adjunct Professor of Engineering at Seattle Pacific University, an Affiliate Assistant Professor in Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Washington, a Fellow of the International Council on Systems Engineering and a certified Expert Systems Engineering Professional. He retired in 2015 as a Technical Fellow in Systems Engineering after 27 years at The Boeing Company. He is the author of numerous articles regarding requirements analysis, failure modes and effects analysis, and systems engineering measurement. His current interests are in quantitatively incorporating sustainability considerations in systems engineering methodologies and education. Dr. Carson has a PhD from the University of Washington in Experimental Plasma Physics, and a BS from the California Institute of Technology in Applied Physics.