If it is "obvious", you should be able to point to evidence of that fact in the emails that Boeing released or the Joint Authorities Technical Report or the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General Report.
The timeline of events does not support your unsubstantiated assertions.
The facts are that MCAS was a robust design relying upon two dissimilar sensors--angle-of-attack and g-sensor--throughout all the initial certification discussions with the FAA, e.g. the General Familiarization meetings, resulting in release of the G-1 issue paper which dictates how Boeing and FAA will certify the airplane. MCAS would only be functional for a remote corner of the flight envelope in the initial design under a high-speed wind-up turn. The decisions to remove the description of MCAS from the FCOM occurs well before first flight on January 29, 2016. The draft FCOM reviewed in September 17-18, 2015 includes a brief description indicating that it would only activate at high speed and high load factors. The final version of the FCOM is released March 2016 based upon this initial description of functionality.
MCAS Revision D is released on March 30, 2016 which changes the function of to a low speed regime. Released emails and instant messages from the Mark Forkner, the Chief Technical Pilot, indicates that this change in functionality was not communicated to the technical pilots. It is only in November 2016 that Forkner uncovers in a simulator session that the functionality has been revised to the low-speed portion of the flight envelope.
The Office of Inspector General finds that it was a fault in the certification process that caused the FAA to be not informed of the changes in MCAS functionality:
"... Boeing did not provide internal coordination documents for Revision D, noting the increased MCAS range, to FAA certification engineers. Because these revision documents were not required certification deliverables, the company did not submit them to FAA for review or acceptance."
-- U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL, Timeline of Activities Leading to the Certification of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 Aircraft and Actions Taken After the October 2018 Lion Air Accident, June 29, 2020.
The explanation by the DOT OIG office is the reason why there are no criminal charges against Boeing for actions which occur before November 2016. Boeing can only be held criminally responsible if it does not follow the regulations and guidance from the FAA. Boeing provided all certification documents, as required by the FAA. Boeing cannot be held criminally responsible for determining that a MCAS was a "Hazardous" failure mode when that finding was consistent with past practice and
the FAA had provided insufficient guidance on how to evaluate human factors.
It was a failure of the certification process that permitted a change in functionality occurring during flight test to fall through the cracks.
We know what they did, but more important than that is the why. The motive.
The committee on transportation held that:
This report concludes the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s 18-month long investigation of the design, development, and certification of the 737 MAX aircraft, and related matters. The Committee’s investigation has revealed multiple missed opportunities that could have turned the trajectory of the MAX’s design and development toward a safer course due to flawed technical design criteria, faulty assumptions about pilot response times, and production pressures. The FAA also missed its own opportunities to change the direction of the 737 MAX based on its aviation safety mission. Boeing failed in its design and development of the MAX, and the FAA failed in its oversight of Boeing and its certification of the aircraft.
After Boeing redesigned MCAS in 2016 to increase its authority to move the aircraft’s stabilizer at lower speeds, Boeing failed to reevaluate the system or perform single- or multiple-failure analyses of MCAS.
The why is
Although Boeing assumed that the FAA would approve Level B (non-simulator) training for the MAX, that was a tremendous and risky gamble given the multiple new features on the MAX and the company’s business strategy to sell the MAX to customers as not requiring simulator training years before the FAA had made a determination on this issue. In December 2011, Boeing entered into a contract with Southwest Airlines, its U.S. launch customer, that laid out financial terms and
conditions if Boeing failed to obtain a Level B pilot training requirement from the FAA.
Southwest’s first 737 MAX began scheduled service on October 1, 2017.877 As part of the contract, Boeing agreed to pay Southwest $1 million per MAX airplane that Boeing delivered to Southwest if its pilots were unable to operate the 737 NG and 737 MAX “interchangeably” “due to any reason.”878 On top of that, Boeing agreed to reimburse Southwest for any training expenses that exceeded 10 hours if the FAA required more than 10 hours of pilot training and/or required flight simulator training.879 That agreement left Boeing with significant financial exposure if it failed to obtain Level B (non-simulator) training requirements from the FAA.
This was further expounded by others on the same report:
In a set of safety recommendations issued following the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines accidents, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board observed that Boeing failed to account for the multitude of seemingly unrelated cautions and warnings, including an attention-getting stick shaker, when assessing that only four seconds would be needed for pilots to successfully respond to an erroneous MCAS activation. Moreover, a University of North Dakota researcher concluded in his dissertation in 2016 that pilots don’t regain their full cognitive abilities for 30 to 60 seconds after a “startle” event. The conspicuous omission from the Boeing OMB of information relevant to the role of the startle factor in the Lion Air accident is consistent with Boeing’s failure to establish realistic assumptions regarding the time necessary for pilots to successfully respond to an erroneous MCAS activation.
One of the fundamental canons for engineers is that they hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public. Or as Texas State University Engineering Professor Karl Stephan says, “A good engineer both does things right, and does the right thing.” In the case of the 737 MAX, unfortunately, Boeing failed to meet both criteria. It did not do things “right” when it designed MCAS, for instance. It failed to build in essential redundancies by permitting MCAS to rely on a single AOA sensor. It allowed MCAS to activate repetitively, although at least one Boeing engineer had raised concerns about that capability. And it did not appropriately address the question of faulty AOA data and the negative implications for MCAS because a Boeing engineer falsely assumed that MCAS would not allow that to happen and “shut down.” That did not happen in either of the MAX crashes.
Furthermore, Boeing did not do the “right thing” when it removed references to MCAS from the pilot’s Flight Crew Operations Manual (FCOM). Without question, it was not right for Boeing to fail to share with the FAA Boeing’s own test data showing that it had taken a test pilot more than 10 seconds to respond to uncommanded MCAS activation, and the test pilot believed the condition was “catastrophic[.]” Nor did Boeing do the “right thing” when it became aware that the AOA Disagree alert was not functioning on more than 80 percent of the 737 MAX fleet and then failed to alert the FAA, its customers, and MAX pilots while it continued to both manufacture and deliver an estimated 200 airplanes with this known nonfunctional component.
From JATR, which was there to review FAA practices, we found out that;
With adequate FAA engagement and oversight, the extent of delegation does not in itself compromise safety. However, in the B737 MAX program, the FAA had inadequate awareness of the MCAS function which, coupled with limited involvement, resulted in an inability of the FAA to provide an independent assessment of the adequacy of the Boeing proposed certification activities associated with MCAS. In addition, signs were reported of undue pressures on Boeing ODA engineering unit members (E-UMs) performing certification activities on the B737 MAX program, which further erodes the level of assurance in this system of delegation.
This was a huge failure first on the lawmakers because it is their deregulation and lowered funding of the FAA compared to what they are asked to deliver, and the dual mandate that the FAA has to ensure safety but also expand aviation. There is blame on the FAA for being incompetent; they were so incompetent that external experts were brought in to see just how much they had messed up, and to give recommendations as to what should happen next.
The biggest failure though, was Boeing. This is their bread and butter jet and the only thing they managed to do 'right' was get it to market early.
This is an enthusiast forum, and we can go through all technical talk and what not. The reality is that there are 346 lives lost and the humanity in us must always recognize that it is the loss of those lives that led to the grounding of this jet.
If Boeing had their way, the jet would have never been grounded because they were still singing out how safe the plane was, coming off as tone deaf. It got so bad that they were stalling on documents and eventually the CEO had to go. I have always harbored the thought that amateur hour FAA would have done nothing had other regulators not made the move. Most of those big regulators were simply 'let us try and figure out if there is something wrong with this jet before letting it fly' while some people in the US of A were singing how the jet was safe, or how they were data driven. To date, I think that this is the best thing that could have happened because Boeing was going to have a plane that they could not ship anywhere, and they were so blind they could not see it.
I do not think that a design flaw, implemented so that a company would avoid simulator training, a company that went out of its way to dissuade clients from having sim training, one of which was Lion Air should simply end with some software engineers bearing all the blame.