September 8, 1995 marked the one year anniversary of the crash of USAir Flight 427 in Pittsburgh, and the cause of the crash is still unknown. Yet, an estimated 60,000 - 70,000 people board approximately 2,000 Boeing 737s daily -- planes that have a proven defect, according to nationally known aviation attorney Arthur Alan Wolk, that makes them unsafe.
In 1991, Americans witnessed the fatal crash of United Flight 585 in Colorado Springs and three years later saw haunting similarities in USAir Flight 427 -- both crashes resulted after unexpected rolls. As recent as July 25, 1995, we heard about another incident, but that pilot was fortunate enough to have been able to override his 737's uncommanded roll.
But what the public doesn't know is that these have not been isolated incidents. Actually, there have been hundreds of unexpected rolls reported and documented in the discovery proceedings of 737 legal cases.
Nonetheless, our country's "best" minds in aviation (the FAA and the NTSB) still haven't figured out why 737s roll. Why haven't they identified the cause for the fatal crashes and even more important, why haven't they responded to what the British AAIB identified as the problem? Wolk says this is why: "The FAA is too cozy with the industry it's supposed to regulate. It would rather support Boeing, our country's largest exporter, than protect human lives by forcing Boeing to pay the tremendous amount of money required to fix a significant design flaw."
According to Wolk, the "significant flaw" is in the rudder-control unit. What causes the plane's death roll and dive is called a "rudder hardover" which means the rudder moves as far and as quickly as it can to one side. In a recent Newsweek article, Wolk is quoted as saying, "How Jim Hall (NTSB Chairman) can stand there and say, 'We're still baffled,' is beyond me. Everybody on the inside of the investigation knows -- not believes, knows -- it's the rudder." Wolk, himself, has purchased a Boeing 737 rudder-control unit, has gotten his hands on Boeing's computer data and has incorporated the information into his own computer system, and has done extensive research on the "servo valve," which Wolk believes to be the culprit in faulty rudder-control units.
Some will say the FAA addressed the rudder problem late in 1994, when it issued an airworthiness directive requiring airlines to replace the power control units of their 737s by March 1999. But Wolk says this was done just to pacify the public's fear, and no one in the FAA really knows if this will work. "If the FAA doesn't know what caused the crash, how can they fix the problem?" asks Wolk. "The FAA is telling the airlines to replace the 737 power control units with other faulty units -- the problem is not mechanical, it is one of design. And Boeing hasn't changed that and the FAA hasn't enforced a change."
You may be interested to know that Wolk refuses to be a passenger on 737s. In fact, he has scheduled connecting flights just to avoid boarding what he considers a very dangerous aircraft.