Downfall: The Case Against Boeing 2022 Movie Review Poster Trailer Online
Since the birth of commercial aviation, Wall Street Journal reporter Andy Pasztor tells us, The Boeing Corporation held stature in the airline industry and the public’s full trust. And then two of its brand-new 737 Max airplanes crashed within weeks of one another. In October 2018, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed thirteen minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, Indonesia; all 189 people on board were killed. Then, in March 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 drove straight into the ground at 500 miles-per-hour, killing all 157 passengers and crew. Through interviews with Pasztor, the wife of the Lion Air pilot, and aviation experts like Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, Downfall describes how a blame game began soon after the disasters. It was the far-flung locations. It was pilot error. It certainly wasn’t the product. But when black box data from both aircraft pointed to the malfunction of an obscure on-board system known as MCAS, or Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, the blame began to turn squarely back to Boeing.
The flight data was bad enough. It got worse when it was learned that Boeing actively concealed its addition of the MCAS system to the 737 Max, in order to avoid a lengthy FAA approval fight and costly re-training of pilots. Incensed pilot unions were promised that a software tweak was coming, but Boeing was banking on another crash not happening. It also convinced the FAA to keep its domestic 737 fleet flying, even as other countries mandated grounding and safety checks. With the twin air disasters, a federal investigation was convened, and hearings were held. But Boeing kept pushing the blame onto foreign pilots, and its lobbyists orchestrated a PR smokescreen. At the hearing, Sully brought down a hammer. “We shouldn’t expect pilots to have to compensate for flawed designs.”
Downfall takes its time detailing Boeing’s legacy as an engineering-led, quality-driven company, and how that legacy was systematically destroyed after its 1997 merger with McDonnell-Douglas. Safety measures faltered as profits and the price of stocks were emphasized. Cheap shortcuts and a maligned work environment contaminated the factory floor, even as production demands increased. Whistleblowers were ignored, documentation was denied, a “culture of concealment” became the norm, and Boeing’s corporate profits kept flying high while the families of crash victims were ignored.
Downfall is remarkably, damningly one-sided. It comes at Boeing armed with statements from embittered family members of the crash victims, and descriptions of how the company actively ignored them. Journalists detail the company’s systematic coverup of MCAS and its tendency to fail. Aviation experts point to Boeing’s dangerous and purely financial decision to refit an aging airframe instead of designing and building a new plane. And the federal government uncovers internal documents that prove the company’s active deceit. It’s all very one-sided. But the evidence is also glaring and incriminating.
That the biggest commercial aviation company in America would so aggressively choose corporate profit over customer peril is pretty tough to take. But Downfall twists the knife once the post-scripts start. Soon after the federal hearing, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg was forced out, only to float away on a $62 million golden parachute. And while Boeing initially stonewalled the makers of Downfall, it ultimately issued written responses to the filmmakers’ questions, which appear in a string of corporate-ese at the end of the doc. And finally, in 2020, the US Department of Justice charged Boeing with criminal conspiracy to defraud the FAA. The corporation agreed to pay $2.5 billion in fines and compensation, it sidestepped criminal prosecution, and that same year the 737 Max fleet returned to the skies. The corporate skullduggery is enough to make your skin crawl.