Documentary Downfall: The Case Against Boeing exposes culture of profit before safety

A new documentary about two notorious Boeing crashes which killed 346 people has raised many questions about how safety was compromised at the world's largest aircraft manufacturer in an effort to increase profits.

Downfall: The Case Against Boeing has been released on Netflix and explores the shortcuts made by Boeing when developing the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

Those shortcuts were brought to light after the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which both involved brand new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft and experienced very similar problems in the moments leading up to the crash.

The documentary producers interview aviation experts, journalists, former Boeing employees, members of the United States Congress, and families of victims, painting an overall picture of a culture of "reckless cost-cutting and concealment at the once-venerated company".

At the centre of the documentary is the MCAS system, a stabalisation program built into Boeing's new MAX aircraft in order to compensate for the change in weight distribution and aerodynamics caused by the larger engines.

The system was installed to lower the nose of the aircraft automatically if it started to pitch up. However, pilots and airlines weren't adequately informed about the new system.

Both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes were caused by the aircraft's noses pointing down, despite the actions of the pilots onboard. 

The pilot famed for successfully landing an aircraft on the Hudson River in New York Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger is on record as saying the MCAS system "was fatally flawed and should never have been approved".

Faced with the growing popularity of its rival Airbus, Boeing looked for ways to bring a more fuel efficient single-aisle aircraft to the market. In choosing a variant of its successful 737, the manufacturer would be able to sell the aircraft to airlines based on the fact no pilot training would be required, so long as there were no major differences between the 737 MAX and previous versions of the 737.

In Downfall: The Case Against Boeing it's shown the company knew MCAS would be categorised as a major difference, so downplayed its capabilities and level of control over the aircraft.

New York Times critic Ben Kenigsberg said the film was "likely to leave viewers shaken".

The documentary also takes viewers on a journey back through Boeing's timeline in an effort to establish when the company changed from an ethos of 'safety first' to being driven by profits.

There's an old saying in aviation: "If it ain't Boeing, I'm not going."

This documentary may lead to less people living by that rule, or even having the old adage rewritten completely.