Not to slam Boeing or the FAA in particular*, but this is how [some] enterprises make decisions, and it’s terrible.
*Although they are eminently slammable in this case.
«But then in August 2011, Boeing announced that it had lined up orders for 496 re-engined Boeing 737 aircraft from five different airlines.
It’s not entirely clear what happened, but, reading between the lines, it seems that in talking to its customers Boeing reached the conclusion that airlines would not wait for them. Some critical mass of carriers (American Airlines seems to have been particularly influential) was credible enough in its threat to switch to Airbus equipment that Boeing decided it needed to offer 737 buyers a Boeing solution sooner rather than later.
Most of all, decisions about what could and could not be delegated were being made by managers concerned about the timeline, rather than by the agency’s technical experts.
The light cost $80,000 extra per plane and neither Lion Air nor Ethiopian chose to buy it, perhaps figuring that Boeing would not sell a plane (nor would the FAA allow it to) that was not basically safe to fly. In the wake of the crashes, Boeing has decided to revisit this decision and make the light standard on all aircraft.
Now to be clear, Boeing has lost about $40 billion in stock market valuation since the crash, so it’s not like cheating out on the warning light turned out to have been a brilliant business decision or anything.»