by Lim Kit Siang - Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong
in Petaling Jaya
on Sunday, 19 January 1997

MAS should ask Boeing Co. to give it top priority to modify the rudder system of its fleet of 51 Boeing 737 aircrafts for the safety of the passengers

The services of Malaysia Airlines System (MAS) has definitely deteriorated in the past year and more, with many flight delays as well as unsatisfactory handling of customer inquiries and complaints.

One strong indication of growing public dissatisfaction with the MAS services is the returning to vogue of the old appellation of MAS - “Mana Ada Sistem” among MAS travellers.

There is an urgent need for an overall review to inquire into the causes for the deterioration of MAS services to improve on customer satisfaction - including the salaries and working conditions of MAS pilots, stewards and stewardesses.

In this connection, MAS should also demonstrate that it is fully conscious of the need to maintain the highest standard of safety and airworthiness for its aircrafts.

On November 3 last year, I had called on the Ministry of Transport and MAS to take seriously reports on the safety of Boeing 737 aircraft, as following two explained fatal crashes in the United States, Boeing had admitted that the plane’s rudder control could jam when subjected to unusually extreme temperatures. If the rudder power control unit had a jamming problem, the airplane could roll to one direction and possibly go out of control if the pilot reacted incorrectly or if the plane was too close to the ground.

On 12th November 1996, Business Times reported that MAS had certified that all its B737-400s and B737-500s were in satisfactory and safe condition following inspections upon the recommendation of Boeing.

However, the United States Federal Aviation authorities have decided otherwise, and last Wednesday, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered Boeing Co. to modify the rudder system of its 737 jet to prevent inadvertent rudder movement which could throw the plane into a sudden and uncontrolled roll.

FAA officials said Boeing 737 rudder components were to be refitted to prevent jamming and uncommanded rudder movement and a modification would be made to help a pilot control the jet in case of a sharp rudder movement, known as a hardover.

The FAA said the actions were part of its overall review, with Boeing, of the flight control system of the widely used 737. They are to be included in new 737s and to be retrofitted in the 2,700 now flying worldwide. The retrofitting is to be done over three years.

As MAS, with 51 737-400s and 737-500s in its fleet, is the biggest user of the B737 outside the United States, it should ask Boeing to give it top priority to retrofit all its Boeing 737 with the modified rudder system for the safety of all MAS passengers.

The MAS travelling public have a right to public when its entire fleet of Boeing 737s would be retrofitted with the modified rudder system.