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Peter Principle

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In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.


Some have observed that individuals perform worse after being promoted. The Peter Principle, which states that people are promoted to their level of incompetence, suggests that something is fundamentally misaligned in the promotion process. This view is unnecessary and inconsistent with the data. Below, it is argued that ability appears lower after promotion purely as a statistical matter. Being promoted is evidence that a standard has been met. Regression to the mean implies that future ability will be lower, on average. Firms optimally account for the regression bias in making promotion decisions, but the effect is never eliminated.

Rather than evidence of a mistake, the Peter Principle is a necessary consequence of any promotion rule. Furthermore, firms that take it into account appropriately adopt an optimal strategy. Usually, firms inflate the promotion criterion to offset the Peter Principle effect, and the more important is the transitory component relative to total variation in ability, the larger the amount that the standard is inflated.

The same logic applies to other situations. For example, it explains why movie sequels are worse than the original film on which they are based and why second visits to restaurants are less rewarding than the first.

Edward Lazear, Stanford University
in
The Peter Principle: A Theory of Decline

The Peter Principle

by Laurence J. Peter, Raymond Hull (Contributor)
Library Binding (October 1996)
Buccaneer Books; ISBN: 1568491611

Along with Parkinson's Law by C. Northcote Parkinson this is a "satirical sociology" masterpiece. And despite being written before programmers became a mass profession it is perfectly applicable to programming. It's a rather short and easy-to-read book that consists of fictional stories about results of promotions in a typical administrative and business hierarchies. Must read for any programmer or system administrator with more than two year experience :-). Originally published in 1969 it coined the famous "The Peter Principle"

In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.

The concept is pretty universal and is related to the regression to the mean. As authors aptly states "Competence, like truth, beauty and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. " In reality the performance always has a transitional (random) component.

The end result is that stable companies are more likely to have incompetent managers at many levels of the organizational structure whereas younger and fast growing companies may avert some implication of this principle at least temporary. "Employees", as the author points out, "do not want to be incompetent", but when management offers promotions that put the employees closer to their level of incompetence, the employees have no way of knowing that ahead of time. After all, if the offer is made. it is because management "knows" the employee can do the job competently on his/her present level. But an interesting side effect observable in large and old organizations is that such decision might be made by managers who are already at their level of incompetence (Dilbert's PHBs). This effect can be called large organization Catch 22.

Another related phenomenon is called Negative selection - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In politics, negative selection is a process that occurs in rigid hierarchies, most notably dictatorships.

The person on the top of the hierarchy, wishing to remain in power forever, chooses his associates with the prime criterion of incompetence - they must not be competent enough to remove him from power. The associates do the same with those below them in the hierarchy, and the hierarchy is progressively filled with more and more incompetent people.

If the dictator sees that he is threathened nonetheless, he will remove those that threaten him from their positions - "purge" the hierarchy. Emptied positions in the hierarchy are normally filled with people from below - those who were less competent than their previous masters. So, over the course of time, the hierarchy becomes less and less effective. As this happens relatively often, once the dictator dies, or is removed by some external influence, what remains is a grossly ineffective hierarchy.

The Politburo of CPSU of the USSR was the impressive example of negative selection. If Khrushchev was just marginally incompetent, inaptness of Gorbachyov was legendary and his inability to master Russian language rivaled Bush II. Like Bushisms, "Gorbachvisms" make him a laughing stock for most of the population.

Some of the short stories in the book are not only funny, they might well be based on true events. Actually the message of some stories is dead serious: pyramid climbing is a dangerous sport and that's is exactly true in computer programming. Incompetent managers is too serious problem to ignore. This book also served as a cornerstone for Dilbert series which became a cartoon classic (but generally overstayed its welcome: you can't milk the same cow for decades and expect a stellar result).

The book might helps students, who just joined the large enterprise environment to withstand the pressure and the absurd of the software development and large corporate IT in general.

4 of 5 stars Finally understand the roots of incompetence in higher ranks, February 10, 2000
Reviewer: A reader from USA

The author hit the nail on the head when he discovered this principle! After years of pondering whether it's just me or if there really is such a thing as companies with huge percentages of incompetent managers, I finally feel relieved to know that I was not 'just imagining' things. The book made me take a hard look at myself and question whether I had reached my own level of incompetence, and based on the case studies in the book I started analyzing what WOULD make me reach my level. One thing I would have like to read more about is how those of us who have not yet reached their level of incompetence, can better manage the struggle with those who have reached their level and make our work days miserable.

4 of 5 stars Understanding why we as a nation fail so much, January 22, 2000
Reviewer: Jimmy P Ledbetter (see more about me) from Ridgecrest USA

I read the Peter Principle years ago and have read through it frequently ever since. My first time was while still in the military and it explained to me, a great deal of the things I saw go wrong. It left an impression upon me that lasted throughout my career and which still helps me today. It explained clearly why I was so frustrated with the way things had begun to deteriorate so badly once I was into the second half of my career. And it helped me to make certain career choices that I still believe to day were the most beneficial decision I could have made at the time, and I was glad I had that knowledge to consider.

Dr. Laurence and his associates hit the nail right on the head in describing the failing principles, due to the Peter Principle of our Political system, our Judicial System, and much more. On the whole we do promote to incompetence and it is our number one failing.

From the military point of view there are quite a few additional contributing factors, all Peter Principle related, which resulted in a decline in the American Military. Which include the radical feminist movement, promoting for gender rather than merit, the radical quota promotions, promoting by race, rather than merit, and our leader's failure to stand firm for core values.

The up or out policy is the epitome of the Peter Principle, as is the guaranteed promotion policy, and the reenlistment bonus program which has been a great failure. Of course this book applies to all walks of life and even applies to our Present White House occupant and many of our congressional members. And will apply to many of those running for political office today.

The Peter Principle is a must read for the student of our American social, political and judicial decline and what horror is in store for us in the twenty first century if we do not recognize the beast and kill it before it becomes unstoppable, which it may already be. A great read.

On a negative side the book promotes too simplistic understanding of corporate bureaucracy. Unlike its portrait in the book corporate bureaucracy is first and foremost a political coalition, aimed on preserving and maintaining power of members.


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[Mar 24, 2019] Ethiopian Airlines crash 'It seems amazing that Boeing have not provided the proper training' - YouTube

Notable quotes:
"... Profit before people. Computer says no! Failsafe failed. No manual over ride. Sorry folks. Say Your prayers. The problem maybe rebranded. Best case scenario. Impeccable flying from technical progress made. ..."
"... Totally unnecessary crash that was caused by cutting corners and greed. ..."
Mar 24, 2019 | www.youtube.com

leemsy lazy , 1 week ago

Imagines if Airbus was crashing in America like that.

Mulya hadi purnama , 1 week ago

Very Clearly, Unsafety... " Recall " and Grounded all Boeing Type 737 Max 8...Most Dangerous aircraft, almost 400 people's dead in 6 Months !!!

rocco decrescentis , 4 hours ago

No resignation! Like dumbbell n.45 used to say: You are fired!!

Robert Stephens , 1 day ago

When you see documentary of broken dreams. You'll be surprised as i was is that Boeing is using lithium batteries on these aircraft.

Zelalem Zemene , 1 week ago (edited)

Ethiopian Airlines is one of the best known safe reputation. Of course Indonesian Airlines is the best too. The crash was very similar after take off and dive into the ground. Boing is just protecting itself for its market.

Global Solutions , 6 days ago

Boeing needs to be sued for $2 billion for each victim of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines plus $300 billion in punitive damages, and jail time for some executives ~ they knowingly put up unsafe planes. In its early days, the 737 also had several cashes.

QECHEW , 4 days ago (edited)

Obviously Boeing knew about the shortcomings of their design in earlier stages and instead of fixing their design they chose to use a software to fix it without informing the airlines or giving pilots adequate training in order to save costs.

GH1618 , 1 week ago

What is more surprising is that the angle-of-attack sensor system is not fail-safe.

Al Bundy , 6 days ago

Did the pilot's do the mandatory operating system Flash Player updates before takeoff?

Andy Roo , 16 hours ago

Profit before people. Computer says no! Failsafe failed. No manual over ride. Sorry folks. Say Your prayers. The problem maybe rebranded. Best case scenario. Impeccable flying from technical progress made.

Kamau Phillip , 1 week ago

The American pilots complained of the same issues with the same plane model but Boeing did nothing to correct the situation why????? ???

globalvillager700 , 3 days ago

Totally unnecessary crash that was caused by cutting corners and greed.

B M , 1 week ago

Prediction: Director of the FAA will resign!

Shinrin Yoku , 1 week ago

The MC-21300 is a much better plane anyway. Why do airlines not order it I wonder.

[Mar 24, 2019] Flying the Boeing 737 Max 8 A pilot's view from inside the cockpit - YouTube

Mar 24, 2019 | www.youtube.com

Probir Ghosh , 5 days ago

Its a shame that Boeing didn't tell this little piece of information to the rest of the world.

Ed Estrella , 5 days ago

You're telling me that lack of knowledge is what got over 300 people killed.... Beyond disturbing..

KimsonJohn , 5 days ago

Ipad course GTFOH! This is no cooking recipe. ..it's people's lives!

Weez naz , 5 days ago

56 minutes with an iPad lesson... Jesus Christ

sando wando , 1 day ago (edited)

PR stunt proudly paid by Boeing after being in bed with the WP. 😤

John S , 5 days ago

This piece of PR brought to you by Boeing!

Carl Johnson , 5 days ago

Nice ad after two crashes in less than six months

David Njabia , 5 days ago (edited)

Boeing must be lobbying really hard and it's a shame that a respectable entity like Washington Post is helping the narrative to shift the blame to pilots who are now dead. If it's a Boeing, I'll have second thoughts.

Tewoflos Telahun , 5 days ago

This video is brought to you by Boeing ! Please, Washington Post, be less biased next time.

lucius1976 , 5 days ago

1:39 MCAS = Mass Coffin Automation System

Jason L , 2 days ago

'commitment' OH PLEASE.....america was the last to ground their 737s.

Ab Xarbi , 15 hours ago

I tried to show this video to an Ethiopian, and he almost killed me.

MrXperx , 4 days ago

1. Boeing wanted a new plane with larger enginers but without spending money on a new fuselage. 2. Sold their planes to customers saying that Max type is same as the NG and that no cost is involved for retraining pilots. 3. Make the MCAS system so that the new and plane and old plane feel theoretically same to the pilot. 4. Not tell pilots about MCAS or hide critical details about the system. 5. 300+ people dead. I hope the Boeing management can sleep well knowing they have blood on their hands.

Stephen Courton , 5 days ago

Sounds like they created a dangerously unstable craft that requires a computer system to keep from stalling. Even if pilot turns off plane may have already got in situation hard to recover from manually especially near ground. Two planes found this out.

scrimmo , 21 hours ago

Time for Boeing and FAA officials to be locked up

ludovicoC , 2 days ago

To paraphrase Dr. Strangelove: "The whole point of the [MCAS] is lost IF YOU KEEP IT A SECRET! WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL THE [PILOTS], EH

[Mar 24, 2019] US Transport Department Looks Into Boeing 737 Max 8's Approval

Mar 20, 2019 | www.youtube.com

US Transport Department Looks Into Boeing 737 Max 8's Approval | al Jazeera English

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ge8v5cIxm0

New investigations are starting into the certification of the Boeing 737 Max 8 after two fatal crashes in less than six months.


Damon Reynolds , 3 days ago

At the root of almost every problem today is 'cost cutting' for short term profits to satisfy roaming vulture capitalist greed. Why is the FAA 'under funded'? Why is it 'too expensive' to give pilots the sim time they need even after hundeds of people are dead??

Ardhi Adhary Arbain , 3 days ago

Ask manufacturer's engineers to check the plane for their own certification? That's crazy.

srinivas reddy , 3 days ago

I think boeing, FAA and US are working for each other I feel no surprise if they find no wrong doing

MVE , 3 days ago

profit over safety, that's what it is all about

DJ DA VINCI , 3 days ago

Did u know that when u turn off the MCAS it reset itself back on. Victims family should sue Boeing and the FAA till their last dime.

MegaTriumph1 , 3 days ago

Engines too far forward wings too swept back computer and pilot can't find center of balance and it piledrives into earth, its not a mystery. If I wanted to take a perfectly good 737 and turn it into an unflyable plane, well they did it.

Major Skies , 3 days ago

Just fix the auto pilot issue. Also, what in all of God's green earth? Pilots only learned about flying this new model with just textual information? No simulation? No wounder pilots of both airlines were confound by the conflicting warnings blaring at them in the cockpit.

GreenStorm01 , 3 days ago

First.

dinesh prabhu , 3 days ago

Ha ha ha there is no money for the faa, but the government had enough money to go on a bombing run around the world. So now who is responsible ? Boeing faa or other aviation authorities like the icao or others ? Who is going to be jailed for this mass murdering? Since they have accepted it so the faa chief should be put behind bars for lying about the inspection and the certificate !!!!!!

[Mar 24, 2019] FAA 'dropped ball' on Boeing 737 Max 8 - official - YouTube

Mar 24, 2019 | www.youtube.com

MseeF , 5 days ago

I'm amazed that this hasn't been blamed on Russia or China yet?

MRod , 5 days ago

All government agencies in the U.S. answer to the Corporations.

Juniper lane , 5 days ago (edited)

The pilots made the complaints about the problems these planes are facing but FAA choose to ignore them. When money and stocks is involved than these parasites don't care about human lives. This lead to two deadly crash in five months. They know if another plane crash happened than the media will tear them apart with bare hands.

sex slave Pete , 5 days ago

Profits over lives, gotta make that $$$ no matter how many people die.

punchdogggy , 5 days ago (edited)

FAA Is complicit with Boeing the system drops the ball INTENTIONALLY

Tj Smyth , 5 days ago

Follow the money!!!

clarence midgett , 5 days ago

It's called keeping Boeing's stock's from doing the same thing as their planes do, crashing, know this, it's all about the Almighty Dollar, know that

MseeF , 5 days ago

A country of laws; can those laws be blind?

00Billy , 5 days ago

Amazing that a plane with single point failure is certified.

Sean Yee , 4 days ago

America is a country of law? FAA has been holding this up and denying any fault about this 737 max 8 issue. If not more and more countries around the world grounding Boeing 737, FAA will still side Boeing that the plane is 100% safe. And look at the Huawei case, America have no evidence yet they still can extradite out of an international zone to their country with this Canadian crook gang up together and Australia and New Zealand.

Simon Sea , 5 days ago

Plane crashes are a favourite weapon of the deep state to wipe out any threat someone on board has information on it.

R Coyote , 2 days ago

FAA is directly to blame.... They are the people that certify an aircraft to be airworthy! There are many aircraft that can't fly without computer assist... FAA's job is to deem them safe as designed, they are the last line of defence!

Peter Plantcity , 5 days ago

Questions about Boeing you will never hear on MSNBC .

Edilberto Lopez , 2 days ago

It appears that Boeing in their efforts to compete and tonmodernxe it's 737 fleet has produced a kamikaze passenger planes driven not by pilots but by mcas and suicidal computers

Janet Baker , 5 days ago (edited)

It's not the FAA fault? Are you blind as well as deaf as well as choked on the government Kool-Aid? Of course the FAA is to be accused as well as Boeing. If Boeing lied to them then the FAA needs to take them to court. Otherwise it is complicit in this matter.

Aero FPV , 2 days ago

Aero FPV 21 hours ago I think its worse than Boeing has us believing. An unbalanced aircraft requiring a secretive software to fly normal oh and don't tell the pilots about it. Hmmm

jbcomics , 5 days ago (edited)

Dave Rubin- " just let the airlines regulate themselves brrruuhh! Free Markets bruhhh!"

Dwayne Munar , 5 days ago

The Trump administration is inept and criminal!

IAF Jaihind , 2 days ago

Corporate greed was the outcome of 737 max 8 to compete with a320neo. Shortcuts taken by Boeing cost 400 lives. So decision makers of this aircraft type must cost them their jobs!

None Ya , 2 days ago (edited)

That "The FAA doesn't have the resources" line doesn't sell for me. I think it has much more to do with corporate influence in government. This country has gone soft fascist. The corporate tail is wagging the government watch dog. Could you imagine the outcry if the public found out about The TWA Flight #800 coverup? And, that's just one example. Corporations want to keep the public spending and confident in air travel. And, no terrorist act or software design defect is going to stop the government, media and corporations from selling air travel.

george movies , 1 day ago

Boeing and FAA, the are Criminals for certified it. Guilty of first degree murder. MCAS = Mass Crash Automatic System

WA9KZY , 3 days ago

The quality control issues go back to the 737 NG. Dropped the ball or turned a blind eye?

Richard Petek , 14 hours ago

3:55 It stops where? At the president's desk?And not at the desk of the manager of FAA? It should have been a professional question, not a political one! This shows even more that not only the FAA is in the bed with Boeing, the whole government, including the president is!

don brassco , 2 days ago

Great wording:Fox guarding the hen house😈

Tubmaster 5000 , 3 hours ago

When industry is allowed to regulate itself.

Jeff Bell , 3 days ago

FAA didn't drop the ball, they didn't even turn up for the match.

Todd Clay , 5 days ago

We all know this is a result of Wall St pressure because Airbus released a new plane.

Agape Aman , 2 days ago

To think a formula 1 car is more safer than a commercial public transport.

K. A. P. , 5 days ago

The FFA didn't drop the ball someone was paid off and knew the plane was not safe. That's the American way nowadays.

Min Wong , 5 days ago

how the hell the MCAS was not included in the flight manual to begin with? Who signed the Type Certificate?

steve wong , 5 days ago

the expertise doesnt seem that good after all

Sihar Tobing , 3 days ago

With Respecful Sir, Public Voice Just Wont Boeing Have Good And Safety Passenger Flight Not To Discredit Boeing Airline Company, Before I" Thank You Sir, ..... Cherrio02*.

James Vibzs Abba , 5 days ago

It's not the FAA faults really...u sound a dicky

Dexter Haven , 1 day ago

A computer override system is necessary to overcome a serious design flaw. That is, engines too large for the old 737 frame. Does any other plane by any manufacturer have this kind of problem?

DJ Goggy , 1 day ago

Ex Boeing execs gotta keep the door open to those cushy FAA jobs. One hand scratches the other.

V Philip , 3 days ago

Fox guarding hen house 🤣 killing people.

brian niziol , 2 days ago

It is a Boeing and FAA problem. Not airbus or anyone else. The FAA is tilting the playing field for American manufactures. That is the impression here.

christopher hennessey , 3 days ago (edited)

Remember, whistle blowers are subject to retaliation ,and everything is done to discredit them.

Shaune Huolohan , 3 days ago

Once a design get a certain age, with many modifications should they have to be reevaluated ? Certified to fly?

tesfu tewoldberhan , 17 hours ago

boeing have a blood in their hand...innocent victems of the ethiopian and indonesian crash has to blamed on greedy boeing company ,, may their soul rest in peace..rip victems of both max 8 crash ...

[Mar 23, 2019] Boeing Crapification 737 MAX Play-by-Play, Regulatory Capture, and When Will CEO Muilenburg Become the Sacrificial Victim by Lambert Strether

Notable quotes:
"... By Lambert Strether of Corrente . ..."
"... "It's a very, very serious investigation into basically, was there fraud by Boeing in the certification of the 737 MAX 8 ?" Arthur Rosenberg, an aviation attorney who is representing six families whose relatives died in the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes, explained. ..."
"... Rosenberg expects the criminal probe to question whether Boeing fully disclosed to the FAA the engineering of the 737 Max 8's MCAS flight control system, called MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), during the plane's certification process. The flight control system was designed to prevent the plane from stalling. ..."
"... Unfortunately for Boeing and the passengers its crashed aircraft were carrying, the MCAS system was very poorly implemented. ..."
"... The single sensor was the result of regulatory capture, not to say gaming; see below. ..."
"... Black box data retrieved after the Lion Air crash indicates that a single faulty sensor -- a vane on the outside of the fuselage that measures the plane's "angle of attack," the angle between the airflow and the wing -- triggered MCAS multiple times during the deadly flight, initiating a tug of war as the system repeatedly pushed the nose of the plane down and the pilots wrestled with the controls to pull it back up, before the final crash. ..."
"... Regulatory Capture : Commercial aircraft need to be certified by the FAA before launch. The Washington Post labels today's process "self-certification": ..."
"... In practice, one Boeing engineer would conduct a test of a particular system on the Max 8, while another Boeing engineer would act as the FAA's representative , signing on behalf of the U.S. government that the technology complied with federal safety regulations, people familiar with the process said. ..."
"... (Note that a 10-year-old process would have begun in the Obama administration, so the regulatory process is bipartisan.) I understand that " safety culture " is real and strong, but imagine the same role-playing concept applied to finance: One bankers plays the banker, and the other banker plays Bill Black, and after a time they switch roles . Clearly a system that will work until it doesn't. More: ..."
"... The process was occurring during a period when the Transportation Department's Office of Inspector General was warning the FAA that its oversight of manufacturers' work was insufficient. ..."
"... The FAA, citing lack of funding and resources, has over the years delegated increasing authority to Boeing to take on more of the work of certifying the safety of its own airplanes. ..."
"... Alert readers will note the similarity to the Neoliberal Playbook , where government systems are sabotaged in order to privatize them, but in this case regulatory capture seems to have happened "by littles," rather than out of open, ideological conviction (as with the UKs's NHS, or our Post Office, our Veteran's Administration, etc.). ..."
"... Several FAA technical experts said in interviews that as certification proceeded, managers prodded them to speed the process. Development of the MAX was lagging nine months behind the rival Airbus A320neo. Time was of the essence for Boeing . ..."
"... In this atmosphere, the System Safety Analysis on MCAS, just one piece of the mountain of documents needed for certification, was delegated to Boeing . ..."
"... It should be clear at this point that the central claims of Muilenburg's letter are false. ..."
"... The self-certification debacle that allowed MCAS to be released happened on Muilenburg's watch and is already causing Boeing immense reputational damage, and a criminal case, not to mention the civil cases that are surely coming, will only increase that damage. Mr. Market, the Beltway, and even Trump, if his trade deals are affected, will all soon be bellowing for a sacrificial victim. Muilenburg should recognize the inevitable and gracefully resign. Given his letter, it looks unlikely that he will do the right thing. ..."
"... Beyond that ultimate problem is the ultimate regulatory problem: regulatory capture of the FAA by the airline companies. As a result, the FAA represents "its customers" the airplane makers, not the public users and customers. This is like the banks capturing the Fed, the Justice Dept. and Treasury to promote their own interests by claiming that "self-regulation" works. Self-regulation is the polite word for fraudulent self-indulgence. ..."
"... I would be surprised if the European Airbus competitors do not mount a campaign to block the 737-Max's from landing, and insisting that Boeing buy them back. This gives Airbus a few years to grab the market for these planes. ..."
"... This probably will throw Trump's China trade fight into turmoil, as China was the first country to ground the 737-Max's and is unlikely to permit their recovery without a "real" federal safety oversight program. Maybe Europe, China and other countries henceforth will each demand that their own public agencies certify the plane, so as to represent users and stakeholders, not only stockholders. ..."
"... The moral: Neoliberalism Kills. ..."
"... Rule #2 of Neoliberalism: Go die. ..."
"... > "Maybe Europe, China and other countries henceforth will each demand that their own public agencies certify the plane." ..."
"... As if the 737 MAX were the chlorinated chicken of aircraft. ..."
"... "This gives Airbus a few years to grab the market for these planes." ..."
"... Regulatory capture is rampant throughout the economy. Boeing self-certification being delegated by the FAA is not unlike the situation with electric transmission utilities. ..."
"... that is subject to both FERC and NERC regulation. ..."
"... In hindsight Boeing would have perhaps been better off to leave off the MCAS altogether and depend on pilot retraining to cover the altered handling. ..."
"... Reports I've read indicates that Boeing ignored even the clearly inadequate certification. "Documentation provided to the FAA claims that the MCAS system can only adjust the horizontal tail on the plane by 0.6 degrees out of a maximum of five-degrees of nose-down movement. But that limit was later increased to 2.5-degrees of nose-down movement. Boeing didn't communicate the change from 0.6-degrees to 2.5-degrees until after Lion Air." ..."
"... Boeing could also be liable for damages due to 737 groundings and due to delays in delivery of contracted planes. ..."
"... The analogy has been made between this the 737 MAX story and the Tylenol story. J&J got out in front of the problem and saved the product (and their company). Boeing's problem is of that order, and Muilenberg -- that letter! -- seems incapable of understanding that; insular, arrogant. One more reason to fire the dude toot sweet. If he comes out of his next review with a raise -- Everything Is Like CalPERS™ -- consider shorting Boeing ..."
"... Allowing this to happen seems the ultimate in short term thinking by Boeing. US manufacturers have always had an advantage over competitors because the FAA was held in such high regard worldwide that it was the de facto world safety regulatory body – every country followed its lead. But this chipping away of its authority has led to a near fatal loss of faith, and will no doubt lead to European and Asian regulatory authorities being strengthened. And no doubt commercial realities will mean they will look much more closely at US manufactured aircraft if there is some benefit to their own manufacturers. ..."
"... The Times thinks Boeing is too big to fail. Without a blockbuster Max, I don't see how Boeing maintains its current status in the industry. ..."
"... I also think they have been completely afflicted by the defense contractor mentality. ..."
"... Yes, the famous McDonnell-Douglas reverse takeover , where financial engineers inserted their sucking mandibles into an actual ..."
"... Note that Muilenberg came up through the defense side of the company not the commercial aircraft side. He may simply not have been equipped to understand FAA regulation at any deep level, hence the rot that finally surfaced. ..."
"... The tragedy is that corporate media in pursuit of profits will keep us up to date but will never mention the 6 or 8 minutes of terror for the 346 souls aboard the two flights. They will cover the criminal negligence trial if there are ever indictments. But, the news reports never will say that neoliberalism, deregulation, and privatization are the root causes of the deaths. ..."
"... Boeing also clearly did not know its customers . It should be engineering for the sort of pilots who are going to be hired by Lion Air, or any rapidly expanding airline in what we used to all the Third World. Hegemony, it seems, makes you insular and provincial. ..."
"... "The FAA, citing lack of funding and resource": I don't suppose I'll survive to see any arm of government not blame lack of funds for its boneheaded or corrupt incompetence. ..."
"... That's how I feel. The tech doc department at Boeing sounds like a horrible place to work; MBAs or their goons telling you all the time to do stuff you know is wrong. It's not surprising people were willing to talk to the Seattle Times; I bet there are more people. (Hey, Seattle Times! How about people testing the 737 MAX in simulators (assuming this is done)). ..."
"... Interestingly, and maybe relevant to the problem of confusion for the pilots, is that Boeing has had another automatic trim-modifier operating on its 737s for some time, the speed-trim system (STS): ..."
"... This system also modifies the stabilizer position during manual flight. Like MCAS, it was brought in to improve stability under certain flight conditions (the reasons for which are far beyond my knowledge). There is an indication that the pilots on the flight before the Lion Air crash misinterpreted MCAS actions for STS behavior. ..."
"... authority would revert to the pilot ..."
"... How many years ago did Wall Street take over the fortunes of the company? Why did they move their headquarters from their birthplace of Seattle to Chicago? Why did they start assembling planes in South Carolina and China? Was it to improve aviation safety? Or, to allow the profiteering parasites to feed off the carcass of the company? ..."
"... President Trump, here's a reelection tip: "Today I am declaring that all American registered aircraft flying in American airspace must be maintained in the U.S." ..."
"... Amazingly, Trump seems to have done OK on this. First, he didn't cave to Muilenberg's (insane, goofy, tone-deaf) request to keep the 737 flying; then he frames the issue as complexity (correct, IMNSHO), and then he manages to nominate a Delta CEO as head of the FAA . ..."
"... we're seeing signs that a crapification process has begun on the safety side in this industry. (It has been proceeding for years on the service/amenities side.) ..."
"... Considering the fact that all these 737s are grounded as no airline trust them to not kill a plane load of passengers and crew, this is a really big deal. Putting aside the technical and regulatory issues, the fact is that the rest of the world no longer trusts the US in modern aviation so what we have here is a trust issue which is an even bigger deal. ..."
"... Loss or at least wobbliness of imperial hegemony, like. It's not just the aircraft, it's US standards-setting bodies, methods, "safety culture," even -- dare we say it -- English as the language of aviation. French is no longer the language of diplomacy, after all, though it had a good run. ..."
"... Because markets. Neoliberalism puts everything up for sale. Including regulation. Oversimplifying absurdly: And so you end up with the profit-driven manufacturer buying the regulator, its produce killing people, and the manufacturer canceling its future profits. That's what the Bearded One would call a contradiction.* ..."
"... know your customer ..."
"... Like you, I am a retired software engineer, so I have followed an aviation blog discussion of this issue quite closely since it emerged as a probable software and system design failure. As the blog is open to all, its signal-to-noise ratio is pretty low, but it seems not too difficult for any technically-minded person to separate the wheat from the chaff. My current understanding, which I believe others here are in a position to correct, if necessary: ..."
"... this story is really fascinating and seems to be true a sign of the times. ..."
"... The Post's article on the FAA and Regulatory Capture is incomplete. The process for the FAA (and probably MANY government agencies) started under Reagan, did not revert to safety under Clinton (make government smaller and all that), and then accelerated under Bush II in 2005 (not a bi-partisan time). In particular, big changes to the FAA were made in 2005 that were executive in nature and did not require Congressional approval. CF: https://www.seattletimes.com/business/delegating-aircraft-safety-assessments-to-boeing-is-nothing-new-for-the-faa/ ..."
Mar 20, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

By Lambert Strether of Corrente .

At some point in the future, I'd like to do failure matrix for the pathways to misfortune ( example of such a matrix here ) that precipitated two deadly Boeing 737 MAX crashes on take-off in five months , but I don't feel that I have enough information yet. (I'm not unsympathathetic to the view that the wholesale 737 MAX grounding was premature on technical grounds , but then trade and even geopolitical factors enter in, given that Boeing is a "national champion.") We do not yet have results from the cockpit voice and flight data recorders of either aircraft, for example. But what we do know is sufficiently disturbing -- a criminal investigation into Boeing had already been initiated after the Lion Air crash, but before the Ethiopian Airlines crash -- that I think it's worthwhile doing a play-by-play on the causes of the crashes, so far as we can know them. About that criminal investigation :

According to the Wall Street Journal, a Washington D.C. grand jury issued a March 11 subpoena requesting emails, correspondence, and other messages from at least one person involved in the development of the aircraft.

"It's a very, very serious investigation into basically, was there fraud by Boeing in the certification of the 737 MAX 8 ?" Arthur Rosenberg, an aviation attorney who is representing six families whose relatives died in the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes, explained.

"Nobody knows the answer to that yet," Rosenberg cautioned, adding that he had not yet seen the Justice Department's subpoena and therefore could not know its full scope.

Rosenberg expects the criminal probe to question whether Boeing fully disclosed to the FAA the engineering of the 737 Max 8's MCAS flight control system, called MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), during the plane's certification process. The flight control system was designed to prevent the plane from stalling.

Bloomberg comments :

A possible criminal investigation during an aircraft accident investigation is highly unusual . While airline accidents have at times raised criminal issues, such as after the 1996 crash of a ValuJet plane in the Florida Everglades, such cases are the exception.

Before we get to the play-by-play, one more piece of background: CEO Dennis Muilenburg's latest PR debacle, entitled " Letter from Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg to Airlines, Passengers and the Aviation Community ." The most salient material:

Safety is at the core of who we are at Boeing, and ensuring safe and reliable travel on our airplanes is an enduring value and our absolute commitment to everyone. This overarching focus on safety spans and binds together our entire global aerospace industry and communities. We're united with our airline customers, international regulators and government authorities in our efforts to support the most recent investigation, understand the facts of what happened and help prevent future tragedies. Based on facts from the Lion Air Flight 610 accident and emerging data as it becomes available from the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident, we're taking actions to fully ensure the safety of the 737 MAX. We also understand and regret the challenges for our customers and the flying public caused by the fleet's grounding.

Boeing has been in the business of aviation safety for more than 100 years, and we'll continue providing the best products, training and support to our global airline customers and pilots. This is an ongoing and relentless commitment to make safe airplanes even safer .

Soon we'll release a software update and related pilot training for the 737 MAX that will address concerns discovered in the aftermath of the Lion Air Flight 610 accident.

Fine words. Are they true? Can Boeing's "commitment to everyone to ensure " safe and reliable travel" really be said to be "absolute"? That's a high bar. Let's see!

I've taken the structure that follows from a tweetstorm by Trevor Sumner (apparently derived from a Facebook post by his brother-law, Dave Kammeyer ). However, I've added topic headings, changed others, and helpfully numbered them all, so you can correct, enhance, or rearrange topics easily in comments (or even suggest new topics). Let me also caveat that this is an enormous amount of material, and time presses, so this will not be as rich in links as I would normally like it to be. Also note that the level of abstraction for each topic varies significantly: From "The Biosphere" all the way to "Pilot Training." A proper failure matrix would sort that out.

* * *

(1) The Biosphere : The 737 MAX story beings with a customer requirement for increased fuel efficiency. This is, at bottom, a carbon issue (and hence a greenhouse gas issue , especially as the demand for air travel increases, especially in Asia). New biosphere-driven customer demands will continue to emerge as climate change increases and intensifies, and hence the continued 737 MAX-like debacles should be expected, all else being equal. From CAPA – Centre for Aviation :

The main expected impacts of climate change on aviation result from changes in temperature, precipitation (rain and snow), storm patterns, sea level and wind patterns. In addition, climate change is expected to lead to increased drought, impacts on the supply of water and energy, and changes in wildlife patterns and biodiversity. Consequences for aviation include reduced aircraft performance, changing demand patterns, potential damage to infrastructure, loss of capacity and schedule disruption.

All of these factors will affect aircraft design, manufacturing, maintenance, and use, stressing the system.

(2) Choice of Airframe : The Air Current describes the competitive environment that led Boeing to upgrade the 737 to the 737 MAX, instead of building a new plane:

Boeing wanted to replace the 737. The plan had even earned the endorsement of its now-retired chief executive. We're gonna do a new airplane," Jim McNerney said in February of that same year. "We're not done evaluating this whole situation yet, but our current bias is to not re-engine, is to move to an all-new airplane at the end of the decade." History went in a different direction. Airbus, riding its same decades-long incremental strategy and chipping away at Boeing's market supremacy, had made no secret of its plans to put new engines on the A320. But its own re-engineered jet somehow managed to take Boeing by surprise. Airbus and American forced Boeing's hand. It had to put new engines on the 737 to stay even with its rival .

Why? The earlier butchered launch of the 787:

Boeing justified the decision thusly: There were huge and excruciatingly painful near-term obstacles on its way to a new single-aisle airplane. In the summer of 2011, the 787 Dreamliner wasn't yet done after billions invested and years of delays. More than 800 airplanes later here in 2019, each 787 costs less to build than sell, but it's still running a $23 billion production cost deficit. .

The 737 Max was Boeing's ticket to holding the line on its position "both market and financial" in the near term. Abandoning the 737 would've meant walking away from its golden goose that helped finance the astronomical costs of the 787 and the development of the 777X.

So, we might think of Boeing as a runner who's tripped and fallen: The initial stumble, followed by loss of balance, was the 787; with the 737 MAX, Boeing hit the surface of the track.

(3) Aerodynamic Issues : The Air Current also describes the aerodynamic issues created by the decision to re-engine the 737:

Every airplane development is a series of compromises, but to deliver the 737 Max with its promised fuel efficiency, Boeing had to fit 12 gallons into a 10 gallon jug. Its bigger engines made for creative solutions as it found a way to mount the larger CFM International turbines under the notoriously low-slung jetliner. It lengthened the nose landing gear by eight inches, cleaned up the aerodynamics of the tail cone, added new winglets, fly-by-wire spoilers and big displays for the next generation of pilots. It pushed technology, as it had done time and time again with ever-increasing costs, to deliver a product that made its jets more-efficient and less-costly to fly.

In the case of the 737 Max, with its nose pointed high in the air, the larger engines "generating their own lift" nudged it even higher. The risk Boeing found through analysis and later flight testing was that under certain high-speed conditions both in wind-up turns and wings-level flight, that upward nudge created a greater risk of stalling. Its solution was MCAS , the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System control law that would allow for both generations of 737 to behave the same way. MCAS would automatically trim the horizontal stabilizer to bring the nose down, activated with Angle of Attack data. It's now at the center of the Lion Air investigation and stalking the periphery of the Ethiopian crash.

(4) Systems Engineering : Amazingly, there is what in a less buttoned-down world that commercial aviation would be called a Boeing 737 fan site, which describes the MCAS system in more technical terms :

MCAS was introduced to counteract the pitch up effect of the LEAP-1B engines at high AoA [Angle of Attack]. The engines were both larger and relocated slightly up and forward from the previous NG CFM56-7 engines to accomodate their larger diameter. This new location and size of the nacelle causes it to produce lift at high AoA; as the nacelle is ahead of the CofG [Center of Gravity] this causes a pitch-up effect which could in turn further increase the AoA and send the aircraft closer towards the stall. MCAS was therefore introduced to give an automatic nose down stabilizer input during steep turns with elevated load factors (high AoA) and during flaps up flight at airspeeds approaching stall.

Unfortunately for Boeing and the passengers its crashed aircraft were carrying, the MCAS system was very poorly implemented. Reading between the lines (I've helpfully labeled the pain points):

Boeing have been working on a software modification to MCAS since the Lion Air accident. Unfortunately although originally due for release in January it has still not been released due to both engineering challenges and differences of opinion among some federal and company safety experts over how extensive the changes should be.

Apparently there have been discussions about potentially adding [A] enhanced pilot training and possibly mandatory [B] cockpit alerts to the package. There also has been consideration of more-sweeping design changes that would prevent [C] faulty signals from a single sensor from touching off the automated stall-prevention system.

[A] Pilot training was originally not considered necessary, because MCAS was supposed to give 737 MAX the same flight characteristics as earlier 737s; that's why pilots weren't told about it. (This also kept the price low.) [B] Such alerts exist now, as part of an optional package, which Lion did not buy. [C] The single sensor was the result of regulatory capture, not to say gaming; see below.

(The MCAS system is currently the system fingered as the cause of both the Lion Air and Ethiopian crashes; we won't know for sure until the forensics are complete. Here, however, is the scenario for an MCAS-induced crash :

Black box data retrieved after the Lion Air crash indicates that a single faulty sensor -- a vane on the outside of the fuselage that measures the plane's "angle of attack," the angle between the airflow and the wing -- triggered MCAS multiple times during the deadly flight, initiating a tug of war as the system repeatedly pushed the nose of the plane down and the pilots wrestled with the controls to pull it back up, before the final crash.

(5) Regulatory Capture : Commercial aircraft need to be certified by the FAA before launch. The Washington Post labels today's process "self-certification":

The FAA's publication of pilot training requirements for the Max 8 in the fall of 2017 was among the final steps in a multiyear approval process carried out under the agency's now 10-year-old policy of entrusting Boeing and other aviation manufacturers to certify that their own systems comply with U.S. air safety regulations.

In practice, one Boeing engineer would conduct a test of a particular system on the Max 8, while another Boeing engineer would act as the FAA's representative , signing on behalf of the U.S. government that the technology complied with federal safety regulations, people familiar with the process said.

(Note that a 10-year-old process would have begun in the Obama administration, so the regulatory process is bipartisan.) I understand that " safety culture " is real and strong, but imagine the same role-playing concept applied to finance: One bankers plays the banker, and the other banker plays Bill Black, and after a time they switch roles . Clearly a system that will work until it doesn't. More:

The process was occurring during a period when the Transportation Department's Office of Inspector General was warning the FAA that its oversight of manufacturers' work was insufficient.

Four years after self-certification began, fires aboard Boeing's 787 Dreamliner jets led to the grounding of the fleet and a wave of questions about whether self-certification had affected the FAA's oversight.

Why "self-certification"? Investigative reporting from the Seattle Times -- the article is worth reading in full -- explains:

The FAA, citing lack of funding and resources, has over the years delegated increasing authority to Boeing to take on more of the work of certifying the safety of its own airplanes.

Alert readers will note the similarity to the Neoliberal Playbook , where government systems are sabotaged in order to privatize them, but in this case regulatory capture seems to have happened "by littles," rather than out of open, ideological conviction (as with the UKs's NHS, or our Post Office, our Veteran's Administration, etc.).

(6) Transfer of Authority to Boeing : In the case of the 737 Max, regulatory capture was so great that certification authority was transferred to Boeing. In order to be certified, a "System Safety Analysis" for MCAS had to be performed. The Seattle Times :

The safety analysis:

Understated the power of the new flight control system, which was designed to swivel the horizontal tail to push the nose of the plane down to avert a stall. When the planes later entered service, MCAS was capable of moving the tail more than four times farther than was stated in the initial safety analysis document.

Failed to account for how the system could reset itself each time a pilot responded, thereby missing the potential impact of the system repeatedly pushing the airplane's nose downward. Assessed a failure of the system as one level below "catastrophic."

But even that "hazardous" danger level should have precluded activation of the system based on input from a single sensor -- and yet that's how it was designed.

So who certified MCAS? Boeing self-certified it. Once again The Seattle Times :

Several FAA technical experts said in interviews that as certification proceeded, managers prodded them to speed the process. Development of the MAX was lagging nine months behind the rival Airbus A320neo. Time was of the essence for Boeing .

"There wasn't a complete and proper review of the documents," the former engineer added. "Review was rushed to reach certain certification dates."

In this atmosphere, the System Safety Analysis on MCAS, just one piece of the mountain of documents needed for certification, was delegated to Boeing .

(I'm skipping a lengthy discussion of even more technical detail for MCAS, which includes discrepancies between what Boeing self-certified, and what the FAA thought that it had certified, along with the MCAS system acting like a ratchet, so it didn't reset itself, meaning that each time it kicked in, the nose was pitched down even lower. Yikes. Again, the article is worth reading in full; if you've ever done tech doc, you'll want to scream and run.)

(7) Political Economy : This tweet is especially interesting, because even I know that Muddy Waters Research is a famous short seller:

MuddyWatersResearch ‏ Verified account @ muddywatersre Mar 18

What's the result? Two $ BA planes have been grounded: 787 and Max. Last FAA grounding of a type of plane was 1979. In the case of the Max, FAA outsourced more than planned bc BA was 9 months behind Airbus 320neo 3/4 2 replies 4 retweets 19 likes

This is a great example of real short-termism by a corporate. It's clearly in $ BA LT interest to have robust cert system, but those chickens come home to roost years later, allowing mgmt to meet ST expectations. BTW, semi-annual reporting would do NOTHING to fix this mentality. 4

And here we are! There are a myriad of other details, but many of them will only prove out once the black boxes are examined and the forensics are complete.

* * *

It should be clear at this point that the central claims of Muilenburg's letter are false. I understand that commercial aviation is a business, but if that is so, then Muilenburg's claim that Boeing's commitment to safety is "absolute" cannot possibly be true; indeed, the choice to re-engine the 737 had nothing to do with safety. Self-certification makes Boeing "a judge in its own cause," and that clearly contradicts Muilenburg's absurd claim that "safety" -- as opposed to profit -- "is at the core of who we are."

The self-certification debacle that allowed MCAS to be released happened on Muilenburg's watch and is already causing Boeing immense reputational damage, and a criminal case, not to mention the civil cases that are surely coming, will only increase that damage. Mr. Market, the Beltway, and even Trump, if his trade deals are affected, will all soon be bellowing for a sacrificial victim. Muilenburg should recognize the inevitable and gracefully resign. Given his letter, it looks unlikely that he will do the right thing.


John A , , March 19, 2019 at 4:34 pm

Maybe they should have appointed aviation expert Nikki Haley to the Boeing board earlier.

Yikes , , March 19, 2019 at 4:35 pm

Sacrificial Victims were spread over land and sea in Kenya and Indonesia. Muilenburg and Obbie The Wan both are the criminals who profit.

dcrane , , March 19, 2019 at 4:36 pm

That should be "five months" not "five weeks" in the first sentence. Lion Air crashed on 29 October 2018.

Howard Beale IV , , March 19, 2019 at 4:39 pm

IIRC, one of the big constraints that was leveled was the need to keep the 737, regardless of version, into the same height relative to all other generations of the 737, whereas Airbus kept their height a lot higher than the 737.

If you look at many 737's over the years, some of the engine's nacelles were flat at the bottom to accommodate larger engine. Why? Boeing kept the height the same in order to maintain built-in stairs that, with virtually all airports having adjustable jetways, was basically redundant.

When you compare an A320xeo against a B737, you'll find that the Airbus rides higher when it comes to the jetways.

Michael Hudson , , March 19, 2019 at 4:42 pm

It seems to me that the Boeing 737-Max with the heavier, larger fuel-saving engines is so unbalanced (tilting over and then crashing if not "overridden" by a computer compensation) that it never should have been authorized in the first place.

When Boeing decided to add a much larger engine, it should have kept the airplane in balance by (1) shifting it forward or backward so that the weight did not tip the plane, and (2) created a larger landing-gear base so that the large engines wouldn't scrape the ground.

The problem was that Boeing tried to keep using the old chassis with the larger engines under the wings – rather than changing the wings, moving them forward or aft, and expanding the plane to permit a more appropriate landing gear.

The computer system has been blamed for not being a "smart enough" workaround to tell the plane not to plunge down when it already is quite close to the ground – with no perception of altitude, not to mention double-checking on the wind speed from both sensors.

Beyond that ultimate problem is the ultimate regulatory problem: regulatory capture of the FAA by the airline companies. As a result, the FAA represents "its customers" the airplane makers, not the public users and customers. This is like the banks capturing the Fed, the Justice Dept. and Treasury to promote their own interests by claiming that "self-regulation" works. Self-regulation is the polite word for fraudulent self-indulgence.

I would be surprised if the European Airbus competitors do not mount a campaign to block the 737-Max's from landing, and insisting that Boeing buy them back. This gives Airbus a few years to grab the market for these planes.

This probably will throw Trump's China trade fight into turmoil, as China was the first country to ground the 737-Max's and is unlikely to permit their recovery without a "real" federal safety oversight program. Maybe Europe, China and other countries henceforth will each demand that their own public agencies certify the plane, so as to represent users and stakeholders, not only stockholders.

The moral: Neoliberalism Kills.

Lambert Strether Post author , , March 19, 2019 at 5:13 pm

Rule #2 of Neoliberalism: Go die.

> "Maybe Europe, China and other countries henceforth will each demand that their own public agencies certify the plane."

As if the 737 MAX were the chlorinated chicken of aircraft.

* * *

I'm not sure about redesigning the wing and the landing gear. That might be tantamount to designing a new plane. (I do know that the landing gear is so low because the first 737s needed to accommodate airports without jetways, and so there may be other facets of the design that also depend on those original requirements that might have to be changed.)

Synoia , , March 19, 2019 at 7:45 pm

Correct – redesign the wing = new plane.

Cal2 , , March 19, 2019 at 7:45 pm

Rule #3 of Neoliberalism:

Their profits = Your cancer, which presents even more profit taking. I.e. Bayer makes the carcinogenic pesticides AND the chemotherapy drugs.

Carey , , March 20, 2019 at 10:19 am

Precisely this. Thank you.

John Zelnicker , , March 19, 2019 at 7:46 pm

@Michael Hudson
March 19, 2019 at 4:42 pm
-- -- -

"This gives Airbus a few years to grab the market for these planes."

That would be great for Mobile as the Airbus A320neo is assembled here.

Octopii , , March 20, 2019 at 7:38 am

And provides time for the A220 to ramp up in Mobile as well. Not a direct competitor for the 737 but a very good airplane developed by Bombardier.

Carey , , March 20, 2019 at 11:20 am

Also, the MC-21 is in final testing now; still using Western engines, for the moment. One to watch, maybe.

Which is worse - bankers or terrorists , , March 20, 2019 at 4:17 am

Engineering logs seem to indicate that larger landing gear cannot be added without re-engineering the plane.

115 kV , , March 20, 2019 at 8:15 am

Regulatory capture is rampant throughout the economy. Boeing self-certification being delegated by the FAA is not unlike the situation with electric transmission utilities.

After the 2003 northeast & Canada blackout, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005. It directed FERC to create an "electric reliability organization". Previously there were voluntary organizations set up after the 1966 blackout to establish operating standards in the industry. One of them was the North American Electric Reliability Council which morphed into the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) in 2006.

NERC is headquartered in Atlanta and employs hundreds of people. The standards setting generally takes place in NERC Committees and Subcommittees and sometimes from FERC itself. These are typically packed with industry people, with a patina of diversity that includes some governmental types and large industrial consumers. Let it suffice to say the electric transmission industry itself largely sets the rules how it operates.

Now consider the article in yesterday's NYT " How PG&E Ignored California Fire Risks in Favor of Profits ". The transmission circuit featured in the article (the Caribou-Palermo line) that caused the destruction of Paradise is a transmission line that is subject to both FERC and NERC regulation. As described in the article the circuit had many previous failures and was well beyond its design life.

However, both FERC and NERC have a laser focus on "market players" (think Enron or JP Morgan) and system operations (e.g., prevent collapses like the blackout of 2003). AFIK, neither FERC or NERC have prescriptive standards for routine maintenance or inspection and replacement (i.e., very expensive capital replacement that was not done on the Caribou-Palermo line), these are left to the discretion of the transmission owner. While substantive information about electric reliability is maintained by industry trade groups and submitted to FERC, what is available to the public is generally useless and subjected to scrubbing and polishing (often under the guise of Critical Energy Infrastructure Information).

We can see how self-policing work, can't we??? Rent-seeking market players can arbitrage markets, inflating prices consumers pay and make billions in profits, while California burns.

The neglectful rot in California is endemic in the industry as a whole.

A little bit of dignity , , March 19, 2019 at 4:47 pm

How about seppuku for the entire top management?

Robert Hahl , , March 20, 2019 at 7:14 am

If an airplane crashes in the forest, and no American were killed, did it make a sound?

Carolinian , , March 19, 2019 at 5:07 pm

That Seattle Times investigative story is indeed very good and a rare instance of newspaper writers troubling to carefully and cogently explain a technical issue.

In hindsight Boeing would have perhaps been better off to leave off the MCAS altogether and depend on pilot retraining to cover the altered handling.

One reason they may not have was that crash several years ago of a commuter plane in upstate NY where the plane started to stall and the confused pilot pulled up on the controls rather than making the airplane dive to regain speed. Still one has to believe that no automation is better than badly designed or malfunctioning automation.

allan , , March 19, 2019 at 5:31 pm

"depend on pilot retraining to cover the altered handling"

IANAP, but maybe the problem is that "nose up" situations can go south very quickly. For those with the stomach for it, there are videos on youtube of the 747 freighter that went nose up at Bagram a few years ago (perhaps due to loose cargo shifting backwards on takeoff). It was over very quickly.

ChrisPacific , , March 19, 2019 at 5:37 pm

Yes, I was impressed with it. Unfortunately the investigation precludes Boeing from responding as they did indicate they would have had something to say about it otherwise. But the analysis looks pretty cut and dried:

  1. Boeing underestimated the risk rating for the sensor, excluding the possibility of a catastrophic failure as occurred in the two incidents to date;
  2. Boeing also failed to implement the redundancy that would have been required even for their lower risk rating;
  3. Manual correction by the pilot as a possible risk mitigation was constrained by the fact that pilots weren't trained on the new system due to commercial factors.

Fixing any one of those three issues would have averted the disasters, although #3 is pretty precarious as you're relying on manual pilot actions to correct what is a clear systems defect at that point.

It sounds like #1 was partly because they failed to account for all the scenarios, like repeat activation raising the risk profile in certain circumstances. This is very easy to do and a robust review process is your best defense. So we could add the tight timelines and rushed process as a contributing factor for #1, and probably the others as well.

XXYY , , March 20, 2019 at 12:08 pm

People who work on accident investigation would probably agree on 2 things:

So while there is much to be profitably learned by investigating everything here, an effective "fix" may be surprisingly (or suspiciously) small in scope. There will be much clamoring for the whole plane to be resigned or scrapped, for better or worse.

anon in so cal , , March 19, 2019 at 6:28 pm

The Colgan crash, whose pilot, Renfrew, was chatting with the co-pilot below the allowed altitude? And who had apparently lied about his background, and had a pay-to-play pilot's license?

I think the Air France Airbus 447 also had a high-altitude stall (due to a faulty air speed sensor) and needed its nose pushed down, not up (which the copilots didn't realize).

Also, very informative article / OP, thanks for posting.

Synoia , , March 19, 2019 at 7:47 pm

MCAS was added to change the behavior of the plane from to tend to stall as speed increases. That is stall and crash, because such a high speed stall makes polit recovery very, very difficult.

In addition the MCAS driven amount of elevator change was initially 0.6 to 2.5, which indicates the 0.6 increment was found to be too low.

Carolinian , , March 19, 2019 at 8:07 pm

Well they are planning to keep it but

According to a detailed FAA briefing to legislators, Boeing will change the MCAS software to give the system input from both angle-of-attack sensors.

It will also limit how much MCAS can move the horizontal tail in response to an erroneous signal. And when activated, the system will kick in only for one cycle, rather than multiple times.

Boeing also plans to update pilot training requirements and flight crew manuals to include MCAS.

–Seattle Times

So apparently the greater elevator setting is not so necessary that they are not willing to reduce it. Also the max power setting would normally be on take off when the pilots are required to manually fly the plane.

Synoia , , March 20, 2019 at 12:12 pm

It is about speed, not power. I presume that MCAS was developed to solve a problem, nose up behaviour.

Carey , , March 20, 2019 at 10:28 am

Yes, that was an excellent Seattle times piece. Surprising to see that kind of truth-telling and, especially, *clarity* in an MSM piece these days. So what's the angle?

voislav , , March 19, 2019 at 5:48 pm

Reports I've read indicates that Boeing ignored even the clearly inadequate certification. "Documentation provided to the FAA claims that the MCAS system can only adjust the horizontal tail on the plane by 0.6 degrees out of a maximum of five-degrees of nose-down movement. But that limit was later increased to 2.5-degrees of nose-down movement. Boeing didn't communicate the change from 0.6-degrees to 2.5-degrees until after Lion Air."

Apparently this was done after simulations showed that 0.6 degrees was inadequate and the new 2.5 degree setting was not extensively tested before the planes were rolled out. IANAL, but this may be a serious problem for Boeing. Boeing could also be liable for damages due to 737 groundings and due to delays in delivery of contracted planes.

Big question is how 737 issues will affect 777X rollout, due at the end of the year. If 777X certification is called into question, this may cause further delays and put it at a further disadvantage against A350.

Lambert Strether Post author , , March 20, 2019 at 3:17 am

The 777 has been a great plane. Let's all pray the MBAs didn't fuck it up, too.

If I were Boeing, I'd have a team looking into the 777 certification process right now. And I'd set up a whistleblower line (so the Seattle Times doesn't get to the story first).

The analogy has been made between this the 737 MAX story and the Tylenol story. J&J got out in front of the problem and saved the product (and their company). Boeing's problem is of that order, and Muilenberg -- that letter! -- seems incapable of understanding that; insular, arrogant. One more reason to fire the dude toot sweet. If he comes out of his next review with a raise -- Everything Is Like CalPERS™ -- consider shorting Boeing

Chris , , March 20, 2019 at 1:35 pm

Thanks, Lambert, for post and comments. I don't know if this angle has been covered or explored: the relatively new way that Boeing now "manufactures" "tests" and "assembles" parts of its planes. I had dinner with new acquaintance, Boeing engineer for decades (I live near a plant in WA state). For the last few years, this engineer is stationed half year in Russia annually to oversee assembly there. In this newish, more profitable manufacturing system for Boeing, the parts come in from around the world with sketchy quality control, are then assembled by Russian workers this engineer (and other Boeing employees sent from States) supposedly oversees. But the engineer doesn't speak Russian and has too little access to translators .Needless to say, this engineer is planning an exit as soon as possible. Having grown up in WA state for 60 years with neighbors/friends who were Boeing engineers, assemblers, line workers, etc it makes me heart sick to see the current decimation of talent, rigor and wages with additional far-flung assembly factories (Russia with few translators?! who knew?). Might these manufacturing/assemblying "improvements" also be a contributing factor in these terrifying woes for Boeing?

PlutoniumKun , , March 19, 2019 at 5:57 pm

Thanks for this Lambert, fantastically informative and interesting post.

Self regulation only works when liability is transferred with it – over example, in construction whereby certification by the engineers or architects designing the building are also taking on liability in the event something goes wrong. It seems unlikely that this is the situation with Boeing.

Allowing this to happen seems the ultimate in short term thinking by Boeing. US manufacturers have always had an advantage over competitors because the FAA was held in such high regard worldwide that it was the de facto world safety regulatory body – every country followed its lead. But this chipping away of its authority has led to a near fatal loss of faith, and will no doubt lead to European and Asian regulatory authorities being strengthened. And no doubt commercial realities will mean they will look much more closely at US manufactured aircraft if there is some benefit to their own manufacturers.

Airbus will no doubt try to take advantage – just as Boeing (with some justification) tried to focus attention on the Air France Airbus loss which was attributed at least in part to excessive automation. China is pushing hard with its new Comac aircraft, but they seem to be poorly regarded worldwide (only Chinese airlines are buying). The Canadians have missed their chance with the Bombadier C-series.

JBird4049 , , March 19, 2019 at 6:07 pm

The more I read of this the more baffling it is. What was there stopping Boeing from just highlighting the changes and installing an easy manual override instead of this hidden change with effectively no way to permanently do so? Especially when in crisis mode? One could make a case of no extra training needed so long as the pilot knows about it and can easily turn it off.

Darius , , March 19, 2019 at 6:30 pm

I didn't see this before I posted my response. A more concise statement of my thoughts. This plus more robust redundant sensors. Penny wise and pound foolish.

The Times thinks Boeing is too big to fail. Without a blockbuster Max, I don't see how Boeing maintains its current status in the industry.

Synoia , , March 19, 2019 at 7:52 pm

One could make a case of no extra training needed so long as the pilot knows about it and can easily turn it off.

That's the expensive re-certification Boeing wanted to avoid.

Robert Hahl , , March 20, 2019 at 7:52 am

That would entail simulator training, that would entail modifying the simulators and the curriculum.

Darius , , March 19, 2019 at 6:22 pm

I am leaning towards thinking the kludgy design of the 727 Max could have been rolled out with no major problems if Boeing had been up front about design changes, made a robust and conservative MCAS, fully at the command of the pilot, and provided ample training for the new aircraft.

They still could have saved billions on the airframe. They would have had to acknowledge the significant modifications to the airlines with the attendant training and other costs and delays. They would have lost some sales. They still would have been far ahead of Airbus and light years ahead of where they are now.

I also think they have been completely afflicted by the defense contractor mentality.

Lambert Strether Post author , , March 20, 2019 at 3:08 am

> I also think they have been completely afflicted by the defense contractor mentality.

Yes, the famous McDonnell-Douglas reverse takeover , where financial engineers inserted their sucking mandibles into an actual engineering culture. The merger took place in 1997, 22 years ago, which is not so long, really. Note also that the finance guys drove the decision to outsource as much 787 manufacturing as possible , which creates headaches for real engineering, so the initial stumble with the 787 that led to the 737 fall is down to them, too.

Note that Muilenberg came up through the defense side of the company not the commercial aircraft side. He may simply not have been equipped to understand FAA regulation at any deep level, hence the rot that finally surfaced.

VietnamVet , , March 19, 2019 at 6:50 pm

The 737 Max crashes and Brexit are the chickens coming home to roost. NC is a treasure for your coverage of both.

Clearly upper management in Chicago only knows short term finance. Boeing stuck with old fashion hydraulic controls in the 737 but faced with an unacceptable flight characteristics of the larger more efficient engines added a fly-by-wire system to compensate for it.

The criminal charges are that besides being a faulty design (it relies on one fragile exposed sensor that if out of position keeps triggering dives until switched off) but Boeing hid it and self-certified that it was safe. Adding a discrepancy warning and position indicator for the two independent flight sensors to the cockpit video display is an extra cost feature.

Neither of the planes that crashed had the added safety display. All are cost saving measures. Finally, if a faulty sensor triggers dives, the pilot at the controls is busy with both hands on the yoke forcing the airplane to stay in the air with stall and proximity warnings are sounding. The second pilot also must realize what's going on, immediately turn off the electricity to the screw jack motor and manually turn the stabilizer trim wheel to neutral.

You can't learn this on an iPad. Both pilots should practice it together in a Flight Simulator. If the co-pilot was experienced, unlike the one in the Ethiopian crash; just maybe, they could have survived the repeated attempts by the airplane to dive into the ground on takeoff.

The tragedy is that corporate media in pursuit of profits will keep us up to date but will never mention the 6 or 8 minutes of terror for the 346 souls aboard the two flights. They will cover the criminal negligence trial if there are ever indictments. But, the news reports never will say that neoliberalism, deregulation, and privatization are the root causes of the deaths.

Lambert Strether Post author , , March 20, 2019 at 3:01 am

> if a faulty sensor triggers dives, the pilot at the controls is busy with both hands on the yoke forcing the airplane to stay in the air with stall and proximity warnings are sounding. The second pilot also must realize what's going on, immediately turn off the electricity to the screw jack motor and manually turn the stabilizer trim wheel to neutral. You can't learn this on an iPad. Both pilots should practice it together in a Flight Simulator. If the co-pilot was experienced, unlike the one in the Ethiopian crash; just maybe, they could have survived the repeated attempts by the airplane to dive into the ground on takeoff.

That's what I mean by horrid UI/UX. Might as well as both pilots to pat their heads and rub their tummies in synch. And since the two pilots have to both understand what's going on, we've multiplied the chances for failure.

Boeing also clearly did not know its customers . It should be engineering for the sort of pilots who are going to be hired by Lion Air, or any rapidly expanding airline in what we used to all the Third World. Hegemony, it seems, makes you insular and provincial.

EoH , , March 20, 2019 at 4:54 pm

Added cost, "mandatory" safety feature. Does not seem to square with the [soon to be former?] CEO's apology-industry written claim to be committed to absolute safety.

You can't make this stuff up.

dearieme , , March 19, 2019 at 7:03 pm

"The FAA, citing lack of funding and resource": I don't suppose I'll survive to see any arm of government not blame lack of funds for its boneheaded or corrupt incompetence.

But the bigger picture: suppose the FAA is to do its job properly. From where is it going to recruit its staff?

Smaller picture: it doesn't really matter whether the cocked-up MCAS killed all those people or not. Even if it's innocent of the charge, the account of its development and application is a horror story.

Bigger picture: what other horrors have been hidden by Boeing?

Lambert Strether Post author , , March 20, 2019 at 2:48 am

> the account of its development and application is a horror story.

That's how I feel. The tech doc department at Boeing sounds like a horrible place to work; MBAs or their goons telling you all the time to do stuff you know is wrong. It's not surprising people were willing to talk to the Seattle Times; I bet there are more people. (Hey, Seattle Times! How about people testing the 737 MAX in simulators (assuming this is done)).

Sounds like the MBAs in Chicago have been busy planting land mines everywhere. Somebody stepped on this one; there are others.

oaf , , March 19, 2019 at 7:05 pm

The unfortunate pilots were made test pilots; the unsuspecting passengers: Guinea pigs. Lab rats. And paid for the privilege. Some others may share this opinion. Change one little thing? Chaos Theory Rules. Same with weather/climate; folks. That rant is for later.

oafstradamus

dcrane , , March 19, 2019 at 7:08 pm

Boeing stuck with old fashion hydraulic controls in the 737 but faced with an unacceptable flight characteristics of the larger more efficient engines added a fly-by-wire system to compensate for it.

Interestingly, and maybe relevant to the problem of confusion for the pilots, is that Boeing has had another automatic trim-modifier operating on its 737s for some time, the speed-trim system (STS):

https://leehamnews.com/2019/02/01/bjorns-corner-pitch-stability-part-7/

This system also modifies the stabilizer position during manual flight. Like MCAS, it was brought in to improve stability under certain flight conditions (the reasons for which are far beyond my knowledge). There is an indication that the pilots on the flight before the Lion Air crash misinterpreted MCAS actions for STS behavior.

Synoia , , March 19, 2019 at 7:55 pm

Safety is at the core of who we are at Boeing

Yes, after money.

drumlin woodchuckles , , March 19, 2019 at 8:08 pm

At what point does "crapification" become insufficient to describe Boeing's product and process here? At what point do we have to speak of " ford-pintofication"?

barrisj , , March 19, 2019 at 8:15 pm

OK, I'm told to resubmit my crib re: "Boeing options" from the ZeroHedge "tweetstorm" by Trevot Sumner, and include a link got it:

Economic problem. Boeing sells an option package that includes an extra AoA vane, and an AoA disagree light, which lets pilots know that this problem was happening. Both 737MAXes that crashed were delivered without this option. No 737MAX with this option has ever crashed

https://mobile.twitter.com/trevorsumner/status/1106934369158078470

Ooops! "Options package"? Wait, a "package" that in the interim corrects a potentially catastrophic mfg. defect and airlines have to pay for it? Whoa, here's your late capitalism in play.

Lambert Strether Post author , , March 20, 2019 at 2:45 am

> Boeing sells an option package that includes an extra AoA vane, and an AoA disagree light

This is one of the details I could not get to (and we don't 100% know this is an issue until the forensics are done. Right now, we have narrative. Truly excellent narrative to be sure -- if only we thought of government the same way as pilots think of their aircraft! -- but narrative nonetheless).

Let me see if I have this right. Pilots, chime in!

"Authority" is one of the big words in this discussion; MCAS takes authority away from the pilot (and can do in such a drastic fashion as to crash the plane). Worse, the default case is that it can do so on the basis of a single sensor reading. In a design appropriate to the consequences for failure (i.e., a different design from that described in the "System Safety Analysis" that Boeing self-certified) MCAS would take readings from two sensors, and if they disagreed, authority would revert to the pilot . That's a general principle at Boeing, and so it's reasonable for pilots to assume that they retain authority of MCAS has not told them they don't have it any more.

Hence, the disagree light, which tells the pilots to take back authority because the sensors are confused. However, I think there are UI/UX issues with that, given that the 737 cockpit is extremely noisy and pilots have a lot to do on take-off. So a light might not be the answer. (The light also strikes me as a kludge; first, MCAS feels to me like a kludge, in that we're making the aircraft flyable only through software.* Fine for fighter jets, which can be inherently unstable, but perhaps not so fine for commercial aircraft? Then we have a second kludge, a light to tell us that the first kludge has kicked in. I dunno.)

NOTE * However, it's also true that automation affects flight characteristics all the time. So I'm not sure how savage to make this indictment.

rowlf , , March 20, 2019 at 6:00 am

The AOA indication is Service Bulletin 737-31-1650 (there may be others) and is on the both Pilot Flight Displays (PFDs). Pilots would likely abort a takeoff if they saw the indication come on before getting airborne.

California Bob , , March 19, 2019 at 8:20 pm

In hindsight, it appears Boeing should have made Mulally CEO. He appears to be competent.

Cal2 , , March 19, 2019 at 8:25 pm

"Boeing has been in the business of aviation safety for more than 100 years, "

How many years ago did Wall Street take over the fortunes of the company? Why did they move their headquarters from their birthplace of Seattle to Chicago? Why did they start assembling planes in South Carolina and China? Was it to improve aviation safety? Or, to allow the profiteering parasites to feed off the carcass of the company?

I want to fly on Boeing planes put together by well paid members of the Seattle Machinists Union, not low wage peons. Let's not even mention the maintenance of American aircraft in China and El Salvador.

https://www.bizjournals.com/chicago/news/2018/04/20/southwest-airlines-should-have-inspected-engines.html

President Trump, here's a reelection tip: "Today I am declaring that all American registered aircraft flying in American airspace must be maintained in the U.S."

Lambert Strether Post author , , March 20, 2019 at 2:32 am

> President Trump, here's a reelection tip:

> "Today I am declaring that all American registered aircraft flying in American airspace must be maintained in the U.S."

Amazingly, Trump seems to have done OK on this. First, he didn't cave to Muilenberg's (insane, goofy, tone-deaf) request to keep the 737 flying; then he frames the issue as complexity (correct, IMNSHO), and then he manages to nominate a Delta CEO as head of the FAA .

And your suggestion is very good one. I wonder if he could do that by executive order? And I wonder how many grey-beards would come off the golf courses to help out? I bet a lot.

oaf , , March 19, 2019 at 8:47 pm

The aircraft is NOT CRAP!!! However. It should have been flown A WHOLE LOT MORE before receiving certification.

*Real* test pilots should have their a–es on the line ; operating for a lot more hours at *the edge of the envelope*, as it is known. Stability should be by design; not software*patch*. Patch this!

What portion of its' MCAS system flight testing was in computer simulation? Like the so-called Doppler Radar; which *magically* predicts what the future will bring; while the experts pitch it as fact? And make life-or-death decisions on the theoretical data???
Rush to market; markets rule. We can die.

dcrane , , March 19, 2019 at 9:19 pm

The aircraft is NOT CRAP!!!

Agreed, but I think we're seeing signs that a crapification process has begun on the safety side in this industry. (It has been proceeding for years on the service/amenities side.)

Lambert Strether Post author , , March 20, 2019 at 2:25 am

> The aircraft is NOT CRAP!!!

Didn't say it was. The headline reads "Boeing Crapification," not "737 Crapification."

That said, the 737 clearly has issues, as Boeing itself knew, since if they'd had their druthers, they would have launched a new plane to replace it. See point #2.

> What portion of its' MCAS system flight testing was in computer simulation?

That is a very good question. If I understand the aerodynamics issues aright, MCAS would be most likely to kick in at takeoff, which raises a host of UI/UX issues because the pilots are very busy at that time. So was MCAS not tested in the simulators? If so, how on earth was a scenario that included sensor failure not included? It may be that there are more issues with Boeing's engineering process than the documentation issues raised by the Seattle Times, though those are bad enough.

Ron D , , March 20, 2019 at 4:18 pm

I say the 737-whatever is a flying Turd, and always has been. It has a bad wing design which means it has to fly nose up compared to other models( I always remember that when going to the restroom while going somewhere on one). And because of its poor design it has to takeoff and land at higher speeds. So when flying into someplace like Mexico City it can be quite a harrowing experience, and the smell of cooking brakes is relatively normal.

Boeing never should have let go of the 757. Now that was a good plane that was simply ahead of its time.

The Rev Kev , , March 19, 2019 at 8:53 pm

Considering the fact that all these 737s are grounded as no airline trust them to not kill a plane load of passengers and crew, this is a really big deal. Putting aside the technical and regulatory issues, the fact is that the rest of the world no longer trusts the US in modern aviation so what we have here is a trust issue which is an even bigger deal.

We now know that the FAA does not audit the work done for these aircraft but the airlines themselves do it. It cannot be just Boeing but the other aircraft manufacturers as well. Other countries are going to be asking some very hard questions before forking over their billions to a US aircraft manufacturer in future. Worse is when Ethiopia refused to hand over the black boxes to the US but gave them instead to a third party.

That was saying that based on how you treated the whole crash, we do not trust you to do the job right and not to change some of the results. It has been done before, ironically enough by France who the Ethiopians gave the black boxes to. And when you lose trust, it takes a very long time to gain it back again – if ever. But will the changes be made to do so? I would guess no.

notabanker , , March 19, 2019 at 9:44 pm

But if the discount foreign airlines had just trained their pilots and paid for the non-crashintothegroundat500mph upgrade, all of this could have been avoided.

The Rev Kev , , March 20, 2019 at 12:55 am

Do you think that there was an app for that?

Lambert Strether Post author , , March 20, 2019 at 2:23 am

> we have here is a trust issue which is an even bigger deal

Loss or at least wobbliness of imperial hegemony, like. It's not just the aircraft, it's US standards-setting bodies, methods, "safety culture," even -- dare we say it -- English as the language of aviation. French is no longer the language of diplomacy, after all, though it had a good run.

Because markets. Neoliberalism puts everything up for sale. Including regulation. Oversimplifying absurdly: And so you end up with the profit-driven manufacturer buying the regulator, its produce killing people, and the manufacturer canceling its future profits. That's what the Bearded One would call a contradiction.*

NOTE * There ought to be a way to reframe contradiction in terms of Net Present Value which would not be what we think it is, under that model.

Synoia , , March 19, 2019 at 10:05 pm

Thank you Lambert, this is very complete.

Can Boeing survive? Yes, as a much smaller company. What is upsetting to me, is that the Boeing management has sacrificed thousands of Jobs.

Lambert Strether Post author , , March 20, 2019 at 2:10 am

> Thank you Lambert, this is very complete.

I wish it were as complete as it should be! There are a ton of horrid details about sensors, the UI/UX for the MCAS system, 737 cockpit design, decisions by the marketing department, and training and maintenance for Asian airlines that I just couldn't get to. (Although most of those presume that the forensics have already been done.) But I felt that dollying back for the big picture was important to. Point #1 is important, in that all the factors that drove the 737 decision making are not only still in place, they're intensifying, so we had better adjust our systems (assuming Boeing remains a going concern -- defenestrating Muilenberg would be an excellent way to show we accept the seriousness of customer and international concern).

Bill Smith , , March 19, 2019 at 10:56 pm

Bloomberg is reporting that : "The Indonesia safety committee report said the plane had had multiple failures on previous flights and hadn't been properly repaired."

And the day before when the same plane had the problem that killed everyone the next day: "The so-called dead-head pilot on the earlier flight from Bali to Jakarta told the crew to cut power to the motor driving the nose down, according to the people familiar, part of a checklist that all pilots are required to memorize."

Lambert Strether Post author , , March 20, 2019 at 2:14 am

There's an enormous expansion of air travel in Asia. The lower end -- not flag -- carriers like Lion Air and also Air Asia are in that business to be cheap ; they're driven by expansion and known to be run by cowboys.

That said, know your customer . I would translate this into an opportunity for Boeing to sell these airlines a service package for training their ground operations. But it seems that cutting costs is the only thing the MBAs in Chicago understand. Pilots, pipe up!

Bill Smith , , March 20, 2019 at 7:13 am

Pilot training and requirements are in the hands of the country, not Boeing. If the story that the copilot of the Ethiopian Airlines plane had only 200 hours of experience that is astounding.

In the US that requirement is 1500 hours. In addition most US airlines would require more than that. And then they slot 'beginning' pilots for flights in good (better) weather as high minimums pilot.

Bill Smith , , March 20, 2019 at 7:17 am

"sell these airlines a service package" That won't help an airline that is in the business to be cheap. The Indonesia airplane was repeatedly reported for problems in prior days/flights that was never fixed.

Basil Pesto , , March 20, 2019 at 2:42 am

indeed I was just about to mention this same story. The link is here: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-19/how-an-extra-man-in-cockpit-saved-a-737-max-that-later-crashed?utm_campaign=news&utm_medium=bd&utm_source=applenews

and this quote makes an interesting follow-on to the thread yesterday with 737 Pilot (which Lambert linked to in the first paragraph here):

"The combination of factors required to bring down a plane in these circumstances suggests other issues may also have occurred in the Ethiopia crash, said Jeffrey Guzzetti, who also directed accident investigations at FAA and is now a consultant.

"It's simply implausible that this MCAS deficiency by itself can down a modern jetliner with a trained crew," Guzzetti said."

Setting aside Mr Guzzetti's background (dismissing his claim here as tendentious right off the bat would strike me as uncharitable), and without wishing to exculpate anyone, it does lend some credence to the idea that Ethiopia Airlines may have some contributory negligence here, staffing the flight with such an inexperienced first officer.

JBird4049 , , March 20, 2019 at 12:25 pm

Setting aside Mr Guzzetti's background (dismissing his claim here as tendentious right off the bat would strike me as uncharitable), and without wishing to exculpate anyone, it does lend some credence to the idea that Ethiopia Airlines may have some contributory negligence here, staffing the flight with such an inexperienced first officer.

One can often point to inexperience, incompetence, stupidity, incompetence or just bad luck when some disaster happens, but Boeing counted on perfect performance from flight crews to successfully work with a workaround needed for other workarounds that needed perfect performance to not catastrophically fail. I know enough about complexity that you cannot depend on perfection because something will always fail.

BillC , , March 20, 2019 at 7:25 am

Your excellent summary lacks some MCAS details that are not widely reported by the general-audience press.

Like you, I am a retired software engineer, so I have followed an aviation blog discussion of this issue quite closely since it emerged as a probable software and system design failure. As the blog is open to all, its signal-to-noise ratio is pretty low, but it seems not too difficult for any technically-minded person to separate the wheat from the chaff. My current understanding, which I believe others here are in a position to correct, if necessary:

A. The requirement for MCAS apparently emerged very late in the MAX's development, when it became clear that the upper cowling around the larger engines, being moved up and forward with respect to earlier 737 versions, adds nose-up force as the angle of attack (AoA) approaches the upper limits of the MAX's operating envelope because at such angles, the cowling itself generates lift beyond that of the wing.

B. As perceived by a pilot flying manually (not on autopilot), this added nose-up force makes it easier to pull back on the control column ("stick"), increasing the AoA further. This is like a car running off the asphalt onto a muddy shoulder: the steering wheel wants to turn the wrong way (toward the ditch) rather than the right way (back on the road).

C. An FAA regulation prohibits certification of an aircraft that presents the pilot with changing stick forces near stall that nudge the pilot toward the wrong reaction, 14 CFR 25.203(a) , IIRC (unfortunately, I can't find the original blog citation).

D. MCAS was put in place to satisfy this certification requirement -- not to automagically correct stalls without pilot action.

E. Other means of meeting this requirement exist, ranging from an airframe redesign that avoids the extra nose-up effect of the larger repositioned engines down to a "stick pusher" that increases the force a pilot would need to pull the stick back further in this situation.

F. Any of the other options would negate one or both of the MAX's chief selling points: little cost or schedule impact to Boeing (in a rush to meet the Airbus 320 NEO challenge) and to its customers ("No new flight crew training necessary, because to the pilot, the MAX feels just like its 737 predecessors.") That is, all the other options introduce new hardware to a completed design and the more fundamental changes could require new type certification.

G. The easiest fix was pure software: at high indicated AoA, under manual control, and with flaps up, automatically rotate the horizontal stabilizer a little bit nose-down, which increases the pressure needed to pull the stick back (nose-up). No need to tell the pilot about this in training or real time, since it's just to make MAX feel like any other 737.

H. The design presented for certification described a single small rotation. Testing showed this was insufficient to provide the tactile feedback necessary for certification in all cases, so the software fix was obvious: if the trigger conditions still hold after a 5 sec. pause, do it again.

I. Apparently nobody asked at that point, "What if the AoA indication is stuck high?" We're under schedule and cost pressure, so who wants to complexify things by (1) adding additional sanity-checking to the aircraft's AoA computations or (2) limiting how many times we add a little bit of nose-down.

J. When these details combine with a consistently erroneous AoA reading, MCAS can -- if not repeatedly countermanded or disabled and manually reversed -- eventually rotate the horizontal stabilizer to its maximum nose-down position, where it was found in both recent incidents, IIRC.

Even if the pilots figure out that's what's happening amid a cacophony of seemingly contradictory instrument readings and warnings (stick-shaker, trim wheel clacking, alarm chimes, and synthesized voices), the pilots still have to (1) cut power to the electrical trim systems and (2) restore the required trim, which may then require as many as 50 manual turns of a trim wheel. If you're near the ground, time is short

A minority of commenting pilots assert that any competently trained cockpit crew should be able to identify MCAS misbehavior quickly and power off automatic trim per the same checklist that was prescribed for "runaway automatic trim" on every 737 variant, MAX included. Most seem to agree that with aircraft control difficulties, multiple alarms, and disagreement among the pilot's and first officer's airspeed and AoA readings almost from the moment of takeoff (not yet officially confirmed), an MCAS-commanded runaway trim event may feel very different from the runaway trim flavors for which pilots have had simulator training, making problem identification difficult even given knowledge of the earlier Lion Air incident.

I imagine most software developers and engineers have seen cost/schedule pressures lead to short cuts. If their life was at stake, I doubt that many would think self-certification that such a project complies with all relevant safety requirements is a good idea.

ShamanicFallout , , March 20, 2019 at 12:59 pm

Thank you for that. And just 'wow'. I don't really know anything about aircraft/flying but this story is really fascinating and seems to be true a sign of the times. I guess we'll know what the current 'temperature' is out there when the fallout (civil liability, criminal liability, plane orders cancelled/ returned, etc) manifests. If Boeing skates, we'll know we've got a long way to go.

Cheryl from Maryland , , March 20, 2019 at 8:15 am

The Post's article on the FAA and Regulatory Capture is incomplete. The process for the FAA (and probably MANY government agencies) started under Reagan, did not revert to safety under Clinton (make government smaller and all that), and then accelerated under Bush II in 2005 (not a bi-partisan time). In particular, big changes to the FAA were made in 2005 that were executive in nature and did not require Congressional approval. CF: https://www.seattletimes.com/business/delegating-aircraft-safety-assessments-to-boeing-is-nothing-new-for-the-faa/

drfrank , , March 20, 2019 at 9:22 am

Yes, but. Part of what we are seeing in this case is a rush to judgement based on less than full evidence and analysis, and so prejudices and ideological positions (which I share actually) are plainly to be seen (and perhaps worth analyzing). "Crapification," says the headline.

Yet, I cannot say that I disagree with BA's business decisions as such in a highly competitive environment as regards the tradeoffs in the development of the MAX and there is a certain absurdity in the idea that Boeing would knowingly take a high reputational risk, in an industry where failure is front page news (contrast banking or pharma failures).

I have no reason to believe that an FAA fully in charge of all aspects of certification would have prevented these crashes, as banking and drug regulators have not kept us safe either. What seems worthy of note is that neither the airlines that buy the product nor the foreign aviation regulators nor pilots' associations do their own testing and certification, in an area where more redundancy would be good. Nor is there any kind of private third party watchdog testing, like a Moody's or S&P, evaluating potentially toxic products and services for a price.

Finally, I suppose we have to ask ourselves why the price of the stock is holding up fairly well even as the news flow on these tragedies is helping the short sellers. Lest we forget that Boeing is the 5th largest defense contractor in the US.

oaf , , March 20, 2019 at 10:01 am

Is engine throttle automated in the flight regime where these accidents occurred? Or are the pilots controlling power? Is the lag in thrust response interacting with the MCAS in an unanticipated way? Aerodynamic lift of nacelles is mentioned several times; there is another lift factor relating to the thrust angle; which is not necessarily aligned with the fuselage axis in flight. Departure procedures often require speed limits and altitude changes; so it is likely multiple power demand levels get set through takeoff and climb until cruise altitude is reached. Does Autopilot/Flight Director integrate with MCAS; or are they independent systems? Even without touching flight controls; power changes affect pitch forces. I am wondering if consequences of manual power changes on an otherwise automated departure were adequately investigated in the certification of the MCAS. Please excuse my ignorance of these details.

oaf , , March 20, 2019 at 11:18 am

Regulatory elements that have been getting attention include the use of *standard* weights for passengers; IIRC, 170 lbs for US (and possibly ICAO) passengers comes to mind . Many aircraft accidents have an element of disregard for proper weight distribution, either accidental, or negligent. For instance: Tail-heavy bad! Intentional loading outside of subsequently approved C.G. and/or max weight limits is a common, if not ubiquitous part of determining certification limits.There is a safety factor in the certificated limits; but banking on this; using estimates; is proven risky or disastrous when actual weights, and distribution thereof, is uncertain. Cargo with false weight values could also occur. One might find incentive to claim lower weights than actual to save on freight charges. How many 170 lb passengers do you know? I am not familiar with scales being used to check aircraft weight and balance before takeoff; only calculations; based on formulas and charts.
Scales ARE USED during certain maintenance procedures; for airworthiness certificates; and following certain modifications.

Jack , , March 20, 2019 at 11:50 am

Here is an interesting article by a professional pilot blogger Patrick Smith. He calls the 737, "the Frankenplane", and traces its history all the way back to the 707 in 1959. According to Smith, "We wonder if the 737 MAX even needed to exist in the first place. Somewhere deep down, maybe the heart of this whole fiasco is Boeing's determination to keep the 737 line going, variant after variant, seemingly forever. I'm not saying this is the reason for what happened in Indonesia or Ethiopia, but the whole 737 program just seems misguided and unnecessary. Instead of starting from scratch with a new airframe, they took what was essentially conceived as a regional jet in the mid-1960s, and have pushed and pushed and pushed the thing -- bigger and bigger engines, fancier avionics and more seats -- into roles it was never intended for. The "Frankenplane," I call it.
See the article here .
As a pilot myslef, I feel the airlines have a lot to answer for as well. Their constant "dumbing down" of pilots, which comes from making pilots work long hours for low pay, results in pilots not being the best of the best. And training is a cost to airlines. Training doesn't result in revenue. Better to have the pilots actually flying, hence Boeing selling this new version of the 737 as not requiring further training. But, training and practice is everything in flying. Flying a plane is actually a relatively easy skill to acquire. Most people can learn to fly a trainer in 5 hours or so. Most people solo (fly the plane without an instructor) with only 10-20 hours of instruction. It takes a lot longer to learn how to drive a car for most people (45 hours is the average). So it really isn't that difficult .until something goes WRONG. That is when the training kicks in. An often quoted flying truism, is that flying is "99% boredom and 1% stark terror". What happened with these two crashes is that you had some inexperienced pilots who were not fully trained on the systems (a lot of that blame goes to Boeing). When things start going wrong, information overload can easily occur if you have not been properly trained, even with two pilots.

Carey , , March 20, 2019 at 1:44 pm

Maybe this is the link mentioned above:

http://www.askthepilot.com/ethiopian-737max-crash/

allan , , March 20, 2019 at 11:57 am

"you had some inexperienced pilots"

The captain, Yared Getachew, had more than 8,000 hours of flying under his belt.
(It is true that the first officer only had 200.)

You have to wonder how the average US commercial pilot would have done under the circumstances.

(Reply to Jack at 11:50 am)

EoH , , March 20, 2019 at 3:15 pm

Thanks for that correction. We can expect a deluge of blame-the-other-guy PR from the aircraft manufacturer and certification agencies. Billions are on the line for Boeing if a cascade of judgments it made materially contributed to these crashes. The usual strategic corporate bankruptcy might follow. I presume Boeing is considered much TBTF by the USG.

JerryDenim , , March 20, 2019 at 12:19 pm

Great job summarizing and connecting dots Lambert. I might add one more bullet point though. Items #5 and #6 were aided, abetted and perhaps somewhat necessitated by 'ye ole NeoLiberal playbook' you spoke of, but more specifically, the current regulatory FAA/Boeing milieu is attributable to years of budget cuts and strategically applied austerity. The old Grover Norquist, ' not destroyed, but small and weak enough to be drowned in a shallow bath' saw. Exact same thing we've witnessed with other formally effective regulators like the EPA, the SEC or the IRS.

I remember having a conversation with an FAA maintenance inspector, an old timer, about ten years ago. He looked to be upwards of seventy, and he told me he was eight years beyond eligibility for a full retirement. He informed me that a few years back he was supervising a team of ten people that was now down to two. Their positions had been cut outright or eliminated after they resigned or transferred when the remaining positions were made miserable by the increased workload and bureaucratic headaches. The inspector said he had not retired yet because he knew he would not be replaced and he felt the work was important. I asked him if his department was atypical and he said it was not. Same thing, across the board, with the exception of the executive level desk jobs in DC and Oklahoma City. Readers can draw their own conclusions but when it comes to funding Federal regulators, I believe you should never attribute anything to incompetence that you could attribute to malice.

No doubt Neo-Liberal ideologues in high places pushing the corrosive "customer/client" model of regulating along with the requisite deference and obsequious to industry played a large role as well.

"Chickens coming home to roost" Indeed.

EoH , , March 20, 2019 at 2:44 pm

I understand the published materials to boil down to this possible scenario:

To remain competitive and profitable, Boeing needed to improve the fuel efficiency and flight characteristics of a mainstay medium-haul aircraft. Instead of designing a new aircraft, it modified an existing airframe. Among other changes, it added more powerful engines, new lift and control surfaces, and enhanced computerized controls.

The modified Max aircraft **did not** fly like the earlier version. That meant Boeing would have to disclose information about those changes. It would need to train pilots in them, in how to integrate new protocols into existing ones, and in what to do if the enhanced computer controls malfunctioned, requiring the pilot to regain manual control.

These steps could have increased cost and time to market, might have involved new certifications, and might have reduced sales. Boeing appears to have relied on enhanced computer flight controls to avoid them.

The newly enhanced computerized controls meant that the computer would do more of the actual flying – the part that was different from the pre-Max version – and the pilot less. It gave the pilot the virtual – but not real – experience of flying the older aircraft, obviating the need, in Boeing's judgment, for additional disclosures and training. That worked except when it didn't. (See, driverless car development.)

One possible failure mode derives from the Max's reliance on a single sensor to detect its angle of attack, the aircraft's nose-up or nose-down deviation from level flight. Reliance on a single sensor would make it harder to detect and correct a fault. (Boeing's version of commitment to "absolute" safety.)

In these two crashes, the sensor may have given a faulty reading, indicating that the aircraft's nose was higher than it should have been for that stage of flight, an attitude that risked a stall. The programmed response was to drop the nose and increase power. A normal reaction to a real stall, this response can become catastrophic when unexpected or when the pilot cannot correct it.

In both crashes, it appears that the pilot did attempt to correct the computer's error. Doing so, however, reset the automated control, leading the computer to reread the faulty sensor to mean "stall." It again dropped the nose and increased speed. The pilot recorrected the error in what would become a deadly loop, a tug of war that ended in a powered dive into the ground.

Seal , , March 20, 2019 at 3:52 pm

This is like #Immelt at #GE

VietnamVet , , March 20, 2019 at 4:17 pm

What is interesting is what comes next. The FAA was drowned in the bath tub along with the EPA, FDA, SEC, etc. It doesn't have the money or staff to recertify the 737 Max. An incompetent Administration that is interested only in extracting resources is in charge. It is clear that Boeing hid the changes to save money and time. Adding a warning indicator that the flight sensors are not in the correct position to the pilot's display, including it in the preflight checklist, plus flight training would have prevented the Indonesian crash. But these changes would have raised questions on the adequacy of the new flight critical system and may have delayed certification overseas. It is easy to overlook problems if your paycheck is at risk. The Boeing managers who pushed this through deserve jail time for manslaughter.

Canada said it will recertify the 737 Max before it flies in their airspace. China won't recertify the Max until the Trump Trade War is over. Also, a delay boosts their replacement airliner. If Chicago and DC paper this over like the 2008 Great Recession; the final nails will have been hammered into the coffin of the hegemon. Trust is gone

[Mar 23, 2019] The Other Recent Deadly Boeing Crash No One Is Talking About - Slashdot

Mar 23, 2019 | tech.slashdot.org

The Other Recent Deadly Boeing Crash No One Is Talking About (nymag.com) 65 Posted by EditorDavid on Saturday March 23, 2019 @01:34PM from the searching-for-answers dept. New York magazine's Intelligencer remembers last month's crash of a Boeing 767 carrying cargo for Amazon and the U.S. Postal Service -- and shares a new theory that its cause wasn't a suicidal pilot or an autopilot malfunction:

In online pilot discussion forums, a third idea has been gaining adherents: that the pilots succumbed to a phenomenon called somatogravic illusion, in which lateral acceleration due to engine thrust creates the sensation that one is tipping backward in one's seat .

The effect is particularly strong when a plane is lightly loaded, as it would be at the end of a long flight when the fuel tanks are mostly empty, and in conditions of poor visibility, as Atlas Air 3591 was as it worked its way through bands of bad weather. The idea is that perhaps one of the pilots accidentally or in response to wind shear set the engines to full power, and then believed that the plane had become dangerously nose-high and so pushed forward on the controls.

This would cause a low-g sensation that might have been so disorienting that by the time the plane came barreling out of the bottom of the clouds there wasn't enough time to pull out of the dive.

It has been speculated that this might have been the cause of another bizarre and officially unsolved accident from three years ago: Flydubai Flight 981, which crashed 2016 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia....

While it's still too early to draw any kind of conclusions about Atlas Air 3591, the possibility exists that a firm conclusion will never be drawn -- and if it is, the cause could turn out not to be a design flaw or software malfunction that can be rectified, but a basic shortcoming in human perception and psychology that cannot be fixed as long as humans are entrusted with the control of airplanes.


BobC ( 101861 ) , Saturday March 23, 2019 @02:26PM ( #58321314 )

Re:Flying by Instruments? ( Score: 5 , Informative)

Yes, commercial pilots are taught to "fly their instruments". General aviation pilots may enjoy more "seat-of-the-pants" flying, but even they are taught to trust instruments over human perceptions, which are easily fooled, as even simple demos will show.

I used to work for an aircraft instrument maker, and our user interfaces, everything the pilot interacts with, got more care and attention than the rest of the instrument. Of course we had to display nothing but totally accurate data, and do so promptly, but we also had to do so in ways that were obvious and clear, so the pilot can take in the most important information with a quick glance.

The pilot's standard "scan" is perhaps the most-trained skill. To look at everything on the instrument panels and outside the windows often enough to not miss anything, yet slow enough to take in all vital information.

When things get hectic, the pilot still does this scan, interrupting it as needed to deal with situations, but still doing it. Because, as the saying goes, "trouble often comes in threes": Stopping everything to handle an initial situation may mask what's really going on, and lead to a cascade of failures.

With ever more data being aimed at the pilot, there is a distinct risk of information overload, especially when tired, or during tense but otherwise normal situations, such as take-off, landing, or flying through turbulence. This overload often encourages the pilot to rely more on signals from the body, which need less conscious processing, rather than focus on all that data.

Here, again, is where commercial pilots receive extra training, but perhaps not often enough. This is one of the factors that keep commercial pilot mandatory retirement ages so low: The risk of overload increases with age, even when all other factors match those of a younger person.

Plus, staying in peak training for decades is fatiguing, and relatively few can do so "naturally". Which is one of the reasons we're running out of commercial aircraft pilots.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but this overload risk is often handled by adding more automation, more automatic systems to "help" the pilot. So much so that actually manually "driving" a commercial aircraft, with hands on the controls, is an increasingly rare part of a normal flight.

Our instruments also tried to take pilot fatigue into account, saving our brightest and loudest alarms only for the most desperate situations, to punch-through that overload to help ensure prompt and correct reactions.

One product I worked on was a TAWS (Terrain Awareness and Warning System) instrument, which basically stayed quiet unless there was a risk of the pilot flying into the ground, to help prevent "CFIT" accidents (Controlled Flight Into the Ground). It has special modes for take-off and landing, though our instrument was designed to actually *avoid* making the pilot depend on it's display: Useful for information as part of the scan, but not to be used to navigate the aircraft. Our main function was to provide visual and audible alerts only when needed.

I believe 100% of US commercial aircraft (and perhaps now even biz-jets) are required to have TAWS on-board and active. Any TAWS-equipped plane approaching the ground outside of an approved approach path for a know airport will give the pilot "Terrain ahead. Pull up! Pull up!" alerts until the hazard no longer exists.

Unfortunately, if a stall is also immanent, the pilot will simultaneously receive an alert to push the nose down. And increase power. And other things as well. An overload of alerts, which a skilled and calm pilot will respond to with the most correct action. But which can overload a stressed or tired pilot, or one with the beginnings of a cold or flu.

The thing is, every alert can be silenced, to reduce the confusion and distractions. But an overloaded pilot can forget even this simple aid to keeping full awareness and control.

This is a big part of why pilots are so often blamed for crashes: Because, for whatever reason, they failed to take the appropriate action demanded by the situation.

As a former aircraft instrument developer, I was always well aware of my instruments' contribution to the pilot's mental load. Our teams agonized over tiny changes to font selection and sizes and colors and contrast. And how many button presses were needed to accomplish a function. And how easy it was to switch modes or silence an alert. Which is why we had a massive alpha test system that got even the earliest versions of our instruments in front of pilots with experimental aircraft and ratings. (Experimental aircraft and the pilots who fly them are rare and precious things to instrument developers, even when we owned and operated our own corporate test aircraft.)

Fortunately, our efforts paid off, and pilots (and the FAA) loved our instruments. Some of our design innovations were adopted into instrument regulations by the FAA, so all manufacturers had to build to our standard. But always hovering over our success was the fear of news of the crash of a plane flying our instruments. And the fear that information overload from our instruments would be shown to be a contributing factor.

Which is why part of our required reading was any and all reports (mainly NTSB and NASA) that even mention pilot overload. Even a decade after leaving that industry, I still read these reports.

rnturn ( 11092 ) , Saturday March 23, 2019 @01:55PM ( #58321174 )
Oh... Are we back to t"pilot error" excuses again? ( Score: 2 )
``...the cause could turn out not to be a design flaw or software malfunction that can be rectified, but a basic shortcoming in human perception and psychology that cannot be fixed as long as humans are entrusted with the control of airplanes.''

On the other hand, we have two recent examples of what can happen when a flight computer is given control of the plane and it is unable to avoid doing something stupid like -- as the old euphemism goes -- `make inadvertent contact with the terrain'.

Until we know more about how this was supposed work and exactly why it didn't , I think I'll trust the human with his hands on the controls more than the flight computer.

(Thankfully, the occasions for my needing to fly are few and far between.)

Futurepower(R) ( 558542 ) writes: < MJennings.USA@NOT_any_of_THISgmail.com > on Saturday March 23, 2019 @01:39PM ( #58321082 ) Homepage
Design errors in the 737 MAX-guidance system ( Score: 2 )

Everything I've been able to learn has indicated that there are major design errors in the guidance system of the Boeing 737 MAX-8

ebonum ( 830686 ) , Saturday March 23, 2019 @02:02PM ( #58321206 )
Artificial horizon? ( Score: 3 )

If you look at it and you are headed down (and you have good airspeed), you don't need to keep trying to nose down - regardless of what your senses are telling you.

What about looking at how the altimeter is changing?

The artificial horizon gives you a lot of information when your sense of direction is playing tricks on you (in the clouds and feeling like you are going up,down, rolling, etc.)

[Mar 21, 2019] The Lives the Free Market Took

Mar 21, 2019 | jacobinmag.com

BY
BRANKO MARCETIC

The people who died in last Sunday's plane crash were not just killed by Boeing. Their deaths stemmed from an ideology that puts business interests above human life.


... ... ...

Boeing is not just a lobbying juggernaut that donates prodigiously to politicians all over the country; it's also a company in which numerous members of Congress are personally invested, and it cultivates mutually beneficial financial relationships with top officials . Meanwhile, as William McGee of Consumer Reports told Amy Goodman , these issues are rooted in the FAA's lax, business-friendly oversight of the very industry it's meant to regulate, a case of regulatory capture that stretches back long before this administration.

Whatever the black box from the Ethiopian Airlines flight reveals, the lives put at risk by lax regulations are not apolitical tragedies; they are caused by an administration that time and again has shown itself to be callous and indifferent to the lives of the people it claims to fight for, whether Puerto Ricans left to fend for themselves in the wake of natural disaster, or federal workers used as bargaining chips in a game of political brinkmanship.

But more than that, they are victims of an ideology that tells us the greatest insult to human life is not the death and misery that comes from unchecked greed, but efforts to democratically control it through public institutions. The real problems aren't unsafe products, pollution, dangerous chemicals, and the like, we're told, but "red tape" and the taxes used to fund the bodies regulating them. Meanwhile, activists like Nader have long been painted as " wacky " extremists in the pursuit of some quixotic ideological crusade simply for trying to do things like prevent people from dying in cars without seat belts .

When social-democratic policies are enacted, wealthy people take less home after taxes, and businesses are inconvenienced by regulations meant to secure the common good. But when neoliberal policies are put in place, people and their families go hungry, they lose their homes, they get injured on the job, they get sick, and, sometimes, they die. The public should be enraged by the actions of governments like Trump's and Trudeau's; but we should also be angry at a political narrative that tells us trying to stop such tragedies is "ideological" instead of common sense. We owe it to the crash victims to create no more of them.


[Mar 21, 2019] The Boeing 737 Max 8- a Case Study in Uncreative Destruction

Mar 21, 2019 | www.counterpunch.org

On May 12, 2010, the New York Times ran an article by economics editor Catherine Rampell titled "The New Poor: In Job Market Shift, Some Workers Are Left Behind"that focused on the largely middle-aged unemployed who will probably never work again. For example, 52 year old administrative assistant Cynthia Norton has been working part-time at Walmart while sending resumes everywhere but nobody gets back to her. She is part of a much bigger picture:

Ms. Norton is one of 1.7 million Americans who were employed in clerical and administrative positions when the recession began, but were no longer working in that occupation by the end of last year. There have also been outsize job losses in other occupation categories that seem unlikely to be revived during the economic recovery. The number of printing machine operators, for example, was nearly halved from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2009. The number of people employed as travel agents fell by 40 percent.

But Ms. Rampell finds the silver lining in this dark cloud:

This "creative destruction" in the job market can benefit the economy.

Pruning relatively less-efficient employees like clerks and travel agents, whose work can be done more cheaply by computers or workers abroad, makes American businesses more efficient. Year over year, productivity growth was at its highest level in over 50 years last quarter, pushing corporate profits to record highs and helping the economy grow.

The term "creative destruction" might ring a bell. It was coined by Werner Sombart in his 1913 book "War and Capitalism". When he was young, Sombart considered himself a Marxist. His notion of creative destruction was obviously drawn from Karl Marx, who, according to some, saw capitalism in terms of the business cycle. With busts following booms, like night follows day, a new round of capital accumulation can begin. This interpretation is particularly associated with Volume Two of Capital that examines this process in great detail. Looking at this material, some Marxists like Eduard Bernstein drew the conclusion that capitalism is an infinitely self-sustaining system.

By 1913, Sombart had dumped the Marxist commitment to social revolution but still retained the idea that there was a basis in Karl Marx for upholding the need for "creative destruction", a view buttressed by an overly positive interpretation of this passage in the Communist Manifesto:

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones.

By the 1930s, Sombart had adapted himself fairly well to the Nazi system although he was not gung-ho like Martin Heidegger or Carl Schmitt. The wiki on Sombart notes:

In 1934 he published Deutscher Sozialismus where he claimed a "new spirit" was beginning to "rule mankind". The age of capitalism and proletarian socialism was over and with "German socialism" (National-Socialism) taking over.

But despite this, he remained critical. In 1938 he wrote an anthropology text that found fault with the Nazi system and many of his Jewish students remained fond of him.

I suspect, however, that Rampell is familiar with Joseph Schumpeter's use of the term rather than Sombart since Schumpeter was an economist, her chosen discipline. In 1942, he wrote a book titled Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy that, like Sombart, retained much of Karl Marx's methodology but without the political imperative to destroy the system that utilized "creative destruction". He wrote:

The opening up of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organizational development from the craft shop and factory to such concerns as U.S. Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation–if I may use that biological term–that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism. It is what capitalism consists in and what every capitalist concern has got to live in. . . .

The wiki on Schumpeter claims that this theory is wedded to Nikolai Kondratiev's "long wave" hypothesis that rests on the idea that there are 50 year cycles in which capitalism grows, decays and enters a crisis until a new round of capital accumulation opens up. Not only was the idea attractive to Schumpeter, it was a key part of Ernest Mandel's economic theories. Unlike Schumpeter, Mandel was on the lookout for social agencies that could break the cycle and put development on a new footing, one based on human need rather than private profit.

Returning to Rampell's article, there is one dimension entirely missing. She assumes that "creative destruction" will operate once again in order to foster a new upswing in the capitalist business cycle. But how exactly will that manifest itself? All the signs point to a general decline in business activity unless there is some kind of technological breakthrough equivalent to the computer revolution that fueled growth for decades. Does anybody believe that "green manufacturing" will play the same role? I don't myself.

One thing does occur to me. Sombart's book was written in 1913, one year before WWI and was even titled eerily enough "War and Capitalism". One wonders if the Great War would be seen as part and parcel of "creative destruction". War, after all, does have a knack for clearing the playing field with even more finality than layoffs. Schumpeter wrote his in 1942, one year into WWII. My guess is that he did not theorize war as the ultimate (and necessary?) instrument of creative destruction but history will record that WWII did introduce a whole rafter of new technology, including aluminum, radar, nuclear power, etc., while bombing old modes of production into oblivion. What a great opportunity it was for capitalism to rebuild Japan, especially after firebombing and atomic bombs did their lovely work.

In my view, there's something disgusting about this "creative destruction" business especially when it is articulated by a young, pro-capitalist Princeton graduate like Catherine Rampell who wrote for Slate, the Village Voice and other such b-list publications before crawling her way up into an editorial job at the NYT. She clearly has learned how to cater her reporting to the ideological needs of the newspaper of record, growing more and more reactionary as the crisis of capitalism deepens.

[Mar 21, 2019] Neoliberalism at 30,000 Feet

Mar 21, 2019 | jacobinmag.com

hen United Airlines flight 1462 made an unexpected landing in Chicago last month, it was not due to mechanical issues, weather conditions, or flight logistics, but a battle over legroom in the aisles. As one passenger tried to recline her seat and another used a $20 device called a Knee Defender to prevent the occupant ahead of him from leaning back, the battle over personal space descended into a scuffle. The pilot opted to make an additional stop to remove the unruly passengers.

Flight 1462 hasn't been alone. Not just the random dispute of irate travelers, similar flights have been diverted because of the airlines' frenzied drive to wring as much money out of customers as possible. Airlines are increasingly cramming more passengers onto each flight, termed "densification," and regularly overbooking flights. Any aspect of a flight that was once provided free of charge -- from a checked bag to a complementary drink to using a credit card to pay for a ticket -- can now be charged à la carte.

So relentless has this nickel and diming been that when news reports claimed the discount airline Ryan Air was about to start charging for in-flight bathroom use, many people took them seriously. But the story wasn't true -- it was all a ploy for free press from a company unwilling to pay for advertising, help disabled passengers, or provide ice for drinks.

Such frugality is only one of the problems wrought by airline deregulation. If the greatest benefit of deregulation has been that more people can afford to fly, it has come at the cost of increased tumult within the industry and reduced pay for workers.

Before the airlines were deregulated under President Jimmy Carter, the Civil Aeronautics Bureau (CAB) maintained flight pricing structures, airport gate access, and flight paths. There were rules that stipulated which airlines could compete in which market and what prices they could charge. Loosening restrictions meant abandoning the CAB and its pricing structures, and allowing an unmediated flow of competition.

With fewer restrictions, upstart fly-by-night airlines could compete against major airlines like American/US Airways, United, Delta, Alaskan, and Hawaiian Airways. Such competition, conservative and liberal advocates claimed, would bring down flight costs, providing more savings and convenience to the customer.

But allowing this level of competition also unleashed chaos. While the discount airlines would win over passengers for a time by offering flights half as expensive, the major airlines would respond by slashing their prices in an attempt to drive the upstarts out of business.

By drastically reducing ticket costs, the major airlines would take on an unsustainable amount of debt that, combined with the loss of business to the new entrants, would lead to layoffs or bankruptcy. Pension funds were then raided and labor contracts voided to pay for the price wars. With each airline company collapse, thousands of employees were laid off, decimating union membership.

To compete, the legacy airlines also drove down the salaries of their pilots, and cut benefits and vacation time. Besides a reduction in compensation, a two-tiered pay system has been set up with decent pay for incumbent pilots and markedly low wages for new entrants. Starting salaries for pilots are now as low as $15,000 a year, even as CEO pay rises inexorably. Remarking on a career in which he had seen his pay cut in half and his pension eliminated, captain Sully Sullenberger told the BBC in 2009 that he did not know "a single professional pilot who wants his or her children to follow in their footsteps."

While unions were still strong in the industry, they were constantly embroiled in bitter labor disputes. Between the voided contracts and the hemorrhaging membership caused by regular bankruptcy, they were left fighting to maintain wage standards in an unnecessarily competitive industry.

The only way discount airlines could offer such low prices was by paying their workers less, using less experienced pilots and sometimes non-unionized labor, offering fewer frills, and running spartan operations that only serviced a handful of routes with a single type of jet liner (thus simplifying pilot and mechanic training). Instead of a single union representing employees across the industry -- typified by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which represented a majority of pilots -- some discount airlines maintained relationships with offshoot unions with smaller membership rolls and less leverage.

The discount airlines also depended on secondary, class-B airports that charged less in landing fees. But those discounts eventually disappeared when the secondary airports no longer needed to cut their fees to attract business.

To maintain their dominance over the market, the major airlines shifted from a direct city-to-city flight standard to the hub-and-spoke system of today. The hub-and-spoke setup allowed large centralized airports like Dallas-Ft. Worth and Atlanta to be ruled by a single company that determines which flights can use which terminals and at what cost.

While the hub-and-spoke system has some benefits, it's largely inefficient, dependent as it is on multi-stage connecting flights. Combined with the need to cut costs, it would also cause longer airport delays as planes were left waiting on the tarmac to make sure all passengers from connecting flights made it aboard. A single delay in a connecting flight could throw passengers' itineraries askew, leaving them stuck in a random airport overnight.

The major airlines used other tricks to keep out nascent airlines. They paid off travel agents and travel reservation sites to give preference to their particular airline. They introduced frequent flier miles to maintain brand allegiance.

Upstart discount airlines like Southwest were able to survive the vicious price wars by leaning on quality of service and direct flights, but most did not. The list of companies that were liquidated, temporarily or permanently, as a result is impressively long considering what it takes to start an airline: America West, PanAm, TransWorld, Western, Piedmont, Frontier, Northwest, National, Texas International, People Express, ValuJet, Air Florida, Eastern, Braniff, Skytrain, Pacific Southwest, Western Pacific, and many more.

Once bankrupt, the major airlines then bought the upstarts, creating an effective oligopoly. So much for competition.

Already on a spending spree during the heady years of the 1990s dot-com boom, buying up failed companies only saddled major airlines with more debt. While most people assume that the airlines had to be bailed out in 2001 because of the decrease in traffic after the September 11 attacks, it was also because the airlines were insolvent from previous financial problems, largely as a result of the price wars.

The actions of the major airlines may seem ruthless, but they were largely protecting their position in a deregulated industry that allowed the discount airlines to undercut labor standards just to offer cheaper prices to customers. They were defending themselves from disruption.

Considering the skill, education, and investment needed to maintain a safe and reliable airline, it is not exactly a business that needs to be disrupted. Running an airline is labor intensive, and it only turns a profit at random intervals. There's little money to be skimmed off.

With profit margins so thin, tickets on a half-empty flight have to cost twice as much as a fully booked one. Which is why, for a time, smaller cities that weren't necessarily travel hubs bore the brunt of deregulation. Routes that weren't fully booked experienced skyrocketing flight costs, which, for small-town travelers, was a huge disincentive to fly.

The bilking of transportation costs to and from smaller cities after a run of chaotic competition is eerily similar to what happened during the railway mania of the 1800s. Investors rushed to build rail lines everywhere and anywhere while money was flush. But once cash became tight, the rail industry used their monopoly power to charge exorbitant prices for anybody trying to ship in and out of smaller towns like Cincinnati. Such predatory pricing is what led to transportation regulation in the first place.

Since the 2001 airline bailout, things have calmed down a bit. It no longer costs $600 to fly from New York to Pittsburgh. Fewer discount airlines are entering the market, and the handful that are still in operation work with the major airlines on various routes (e.g. "flight provided by Frontier"). The price wars have settled to a quiet struggle played out on online travel registration websites like Kayak.com and Hipmunk.com, which have wholly replaced the job of travel agents.

But for airlines, the lower revenue from cheaper tickets has to be made up somewhere, and convenience may be the easiest element to remove. Airlines are pushing petty indignities on passengers and flight attendants by way of a million miscellaneous charges. Half the time, the discounts saved by cheaper tickets from deregulation are recouped in add-on fees. Eventually airlines may just offer extra-saver flights devoid of the most basic accommodations and simply force passengers who can't afford first-class seats to be stacked in the cargo hold like cord wood.

So what's the alternative? The airline industry is close to being a natural monopoly, there's little reason to foster competition. Indeed, the industry would benefit from nationalization or a well-regulated public option. At the very least, more regulation is necessary.

Without subsidization and some rules about flight costs, there is little incentive for the airline industry to provide affordable flights to locations that aren't fully booked. The irony is that we already subsidize airline travel. It just occurs through bailouts and bankruptcies after each airline has fought tooth and nail for market dominance. Public funds wind up paying for a wasteful, inefficient system characterized by irrational, destructive competition.

Through regulation or more aggressive means, it's quite possible to ensure good wages and working conditions and safe, affordable, reliable service -- all without blackout dates, three layovers, or all-out battles for legroom.

[Mar 21, 2019] With Personal Connection to Crash, Ralph Nader Takes on Boeing - WSJ

Mar 21, 2019 | www.wsj.com

He has long been a vocal critic of the Federal Aviation Administration, saying the agency lacks the resources and willpower to aggressively police airlines and manufacturers.

Mr. Nader said Boeing may be exposed to civil and possibly criminal liability. After the first fatal crash in October -- a Lion Air flight that crashed into the Java Sea minutes after takeoff -- company officials "were put on notice about the problem" with an automated stall-prevention system that can misfire and override pilot commands by repeatedly pushing down an aircraft's nose, he said.

The Justice and Transportation Departments are scrutinizing Boeing's dealings with the FAA over safety certifications, people familiar with the matter have said.

... ... ...

Mr. Nader has expressed his concerns to lawmakers and former regulators, and called for congressional hearings. Before the U.S. grounded the planes last week, he championed the idea of a sweeping boycott of all versions of 737 MAX aircraft. He also has stressed the importance of having Mr. Muilenburg, Boeing's CEO, testify on Capitol Hill about safety issues with the fleet.

Criticizing Boeing's original design of the automated flight-control feature, dubbed MCAS, Mr. Nader said it reflected a misguided view driven by engineering overconfidence and called it "the arrogance of the algorithms."

[Mar 21, 2019] Ralph Nader's Grandniece Died in Ethiopian Plane Crash; Now He Is Urging Boycott of Boeing Jet Democracy Now!

Mar 21, 2019 | www.democracynow.org

... ... ...

RALPH NADER : Boeing is used to getting its way with the patsy FAA . And this time, however, it's in really hot water. If it continues to dig its heels in, it's going to expose itself and its executives to potential criminal prosecution, because they are now on notice, with two crashes -- Indonesia and Ethiopia. There's probably a lot more to come out in terms of the technical dissent, in the, what was called, "heated discussions" about the plane software between the FAA , the pilots' union, Boeing. And you can't suppress technical dissent forever. And Senators Markey and Blumenthal are calling for the release of all the relevant information. And while that happens, the planes must be grounded. You see, they're on notice now. This is the future of passenger business for Boeing. They've got orders for over 3,000 planes from all over the world. They've produced and delivered about 350. Southwest is the leading owner and operator of these planes. It's digging its heels in, and so is American Airlines, I believe, and Air Canada. And Boeing is not going to get away with this, because this is not some old DC-9 about to be phased out. This is their future strategic plan. And they better own up. 2013, they grounded the 787 because of battery fires, and they had about 50 or 60 of those planes. So, there's plenty of precedent.

And the most important thing that people can do is: Do not fly this plane, the 737 MAX 8 and 9. Ask the airline, when you book the flight, whether it's that plane. The airline should not dare charge you for reservation changes. And I'm calling for a boycott of that plane. If several hundred thousand air passengers boycott that plane and there are more and more empty seats, that will do more to bring Boeing around than the patsy FAA and a rather serene Congress, which, by the way, gets all kinds of freebies from the airlines that ordinary people don't get. We've sent a survey last year, twice, to every member of Congress, asking them to disclose all these freebies. We didn't get one answer. And that helps account for, over the years, the total reluctance of members of Congress even to do such things as deal with seat size, restroom space and other conveniences, never mind just the safety of the aircraft. So, this is important for consumers. Just don't fly 737 MAX 8 or 9. Make sure that you're informed about it. And for up-to-date information, you can go to FlyersRights.org . That's run by Paul Hudson, who lost his daughter in the Pan Am 103, 30 years ago, and has been a stalwart member of the FAA Advisory Committee. And that's where you get up-to-date information, FlyersRights.org .

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we're also joined by William McGee, who's the aviation adviser for Consumer Reports . Could you give us your perspective on what's happened here? And also, could you expand on what Ralph Nader was talking about, about the use of artificial intelligence in these new planes?

WILLIAM McGEE: Sure, absolutely, Juan. You know, there are so many unanswered questions here, but many of them are focused on the time period between the first crash in late October with Lion Air and the crash on Sunday with Ethiopian. Again, for perspective here, as Ralph noted, we're not talking about old aircraft. This is an airplane that's only been in service since 2017. This is the Boeing 737 MAX 8, a recent derivative of the 737. Now, in that time period, the aircraft that crashed in October was 2 months old; the one that crashed on Sunday was 4 months old. This is really unprecedented in all the years that I've been in this industry. We don't see brand-new airplanes crash on takeoff like this under similar circumstances.

... ... ...

WILLIAM McGEE: Absolutely. And, you know, this goes back many years. Ralph mentioned that the FAA is known throughout the industry, even among some of its own employees and to airline employees, as the "tombstone agency." And that phrase comes from the fact that the FAA has shown time and time again that it is reluctant to act unless there's a tragedy and, unfortunately, unless there are fatalities. Now, we have seen this as recently as last year, when, you may recall, over Philadelphia, a Southwest 737 had a major engine malfunction that punctured a hole in the fuselage and killed a woman who was nearly sucked out of the aircraft. Well, what wasn't as well reported was that two years prior, that same engine type and that same airline, Southwest, same aircraft type, 737, also had an uncontained engine failure. But in 2016, there were no injuries, and there were no fatalities. Instead of the FAA stepping in and saying, "We need to, you know, have all of these engine blades inspected on this engine type, on all the carriers that are operating it," the FAA asked the industry, "What would you like to do? How long would you like to take to look at this?" And the industry dragged its heels, not surprisingly, and said, "We need more time." Two years later, in 2018, there was a fatality. And then, two days after that, last April 2018, two days after that woman was killed, the FAA issued what's called an AD, an airworthiness directive. That's what should have been issued in 2016, where that death wouldn't have happened. So, we have seen this time and again.

And you mentioned Attention All Passengers , my book. Much of the book, about a third of it, is devoted to the issue of the FAA oversight of airline maintenance. We could easily talk about it for two or three more days. But the bottom line is that the entire model of how the airline industry works in the United States has been changed dramatically in the last 15 years or so. All airlines in the United States -- without question, all of them -- in 2019, outsource some or most or just about all of their maintenance, what they call heavy maintenance. Much of it is done outside of the United States -- El Salvador, Mexico, Brazil, China, Singapore. Again, we're talking about U.S. airlines. And although the FAA , on paper, says there is one standard for maintenance of U.S. airlines, the reality is there isn't. There are waivers given all the time, so that when work is done outside the United States, there are waivers so that there are no security background checks, there are no alcohol and drug screening programs put in place. And, in fact, many -- in some cases, most -- of the technicians cannot even be called mechanics, because they're not licensed. They're not licensed as they're required to be in the U.S. So, basically, you have two sets of rules. You have one that's for in-house airline employees and another for the outsourced facilities. And this all leads back to the FAA . I have sat in a room with FAA senior officials and asked them about this, and they say that they don't think it's a problem. It is a problem.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what impact --

WILLIAM McGEE: I've spoken to --

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: What impact have the mergers, of the constant mergers of airlines, had, so we basically have a handful of U.S. airlines now, on all of this?

WILLIAM McGEE: Oh, no question. We have an oligopoly now. And, you know, even just going back as far as 2001, you know, there were four or five major carriers that we don't have anymore: America West, Continental, US Airways, TWA . You know, so what we have now is effectively an oligopoly. And this is unprecedented in the history of the aviation industry here in the United States. And so, you know, even when -- Ralph was talking about boycotts, and, you know, it's an excellent idea. But it's more challenging now than it would have been a few years ago. You know, there might have been more pressure on Southwest and American 10 or 15 years ago, when consumers had more choices. Now it's getting harder and harder for consumers to express their displeasure. We saw this after the Dr. Dao incident, where that passenger was dragged off United. In the long term, it didn't really affect United's bookings. It would have in another time, but so many people are locked in, particularly outside New York, Washington, Los Angeles. They're locked in, where they don't have a lot of choice on carriers.

AMY GOODMAN : Ralph Nader, I wanted to get your response both to this news that they were working on a fix -- they know there's a software glitch, that somehow, when on automatic pilot, when the plane is taking off, it takes this precipitous dive, and the way to deal with it is to take it off automatic and put it on manual. Now, AP has been doing a deep dive into the database of pilots complaining over and over again about this problem and saying they have to quickly switch to manual to prevent the plane from nosediving into the ground. And this latest news from The Wall Street Journal that while they're talking about this glitch being fixed in the next five weeks or so, that five weeks were lost in January because of the government shutdown.

RALPH NADER : Well, that's what Paul Hudson wrote in his press release at Flyers Rights. The focus has got to be on inaccurate or nonexisting information in Boeing's training manuals and inadequate flight training requirements. They sold this plane on the basis, among other things, of having larger engines. It's supposed to be 10 percent more fuel-efficient. But they sold it on the grounds that "You don't have to really train your pilots, airlines. This is really just a small modification of the reliable 737 that's all over the world." The question really comes down to cost cutting. They tantalize the airlines by saying, "This isn't really a new plane. It's very easy to fly, if you can fly a 737." And that turned out to be quite false...

... ... ...

[Mar 21, 2019] Pentagon to probe if Shanahan used office to help Boeing

Mar 21, 2019 | finance.yahoo.com

The Pentagon's inspector general has formally opened an investigation into a watchdog group's allegations that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has used his office to promote his former employer, Boeing Co.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed an ethics complaint with the Pentagon's inspector general a week ago, alleging that Shanahan has appeared to make statements promoting Boeing and disparaging competitors, such as Lockheed Martin.

Shanahan, who was traveling with President Donald Trump to Ohio on Wednesday, spent more than 30 years at Boeing, leading programs for commercial planes and missile defense systems. He has been serving as acting Pentagon chief since the beginning of the year, after James Mattis stepped down.

The probe comes as Boeing struggles to deal with a public firestorm over two deadly crashes of the Boeing 737 Max 8 jetliner within the last five months. And it focuses attention on whether Trump will nominate Shanahan as his formal pick for defense chief, rather than letting him languish as an acting leader of a major federal agency.

Dwrena Allen, spokeswoman for the inspector general, said Shanahan has been informed of the investigation. And, in a statement, Pentagon spokesman Tom Crosson said Shanahan welcomes the review.

"Acting Secretary Shanahan has at all times remained committed to upholding his ethics agreement filed with the DoD," said Crosson. "This agreement ensures any matters pertaining to Boeing are handled by appropriate officials within the Pentagon to eliminate any perceived or actual conflict of interest issue(s) with Boeing."

During a Senate hearing last week, Shanahan was asked by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., about the 737 Max issue. Shanahan said he had not spoken to anyone in the administration about it and had not been briefed on it. Asked whether he favored an investigation into the matter, Shanahan said it was for regulators to investigate.

On Wednesday, Blumenthal said that scrutiny of Shanahan's Boeing ties is necessary. "In fact, it's overdue. Boeing is a behemoth 800-pound gorilla -- raising possible questions of undue influence at DOD, FAA and elsewhere," said Blumenthal.

Shanahan signed an ethics agreement in June 2017, when he was being nominated for the job of deputy defense secretary, a job he held during Mattis' tenure. It outlined the steps he would take to avoid "any actual or apparent conflict of interest," and said he would not participate in any matter involving Boeing.

The CREW ethics complaint, based to a large part on published reports, including one by Politico in January, said Shanahan has made comments praising Boeing in meetings about government contracts, raising concerns about "whether Shanahan, intentionally or not, is putting his finger on the scale when it comes to Pentagon priorities."

One example raised by the complaint is the Pentagon's decision to request funding for Boeing 15EX fighter jets in the 2020 proposed budget. The Pentagon is requesting about $1 billion to buy eight of the aircraft.

Shanahan, 56, joined Boeing in 1986, rose through its ranks and is credited with rescuing a troubled Dreamliner 787 program. He also led the company's missile defense and military helicopter programs.

Trump has seemed attracted to Shanahan partially for his work on one of the president's pet projects -- creating a Space Force. He also has publicly lauded Shanahan's former employer, Boeing, builder of many of the military's most prominent aircraft, including the Apache and Chinook helicopters, the C-17 cargo plane and the B-52 bomber, as well as the iconic presidential aircraft, Air Force One.

This is only the third time in history that the Pentagon has been led by an acting chief, and Shanahan has served in that capacity for longer than any of the others.

Presidents typically take pains to ensure the Pentagon is being run by a Senate-confirmed official, given the grave responsibilities that include sending young Americans into battle, ensuring the military is ready for extreme emergencies like nuclear war and managing overseas alliances that are central to U.S. security.


3 hours ago Why did Trump appoint a former Boeing executive and industry lobbyist to the the Secretary of Defense to replace General Mattis? What in Shananhan's background makes him qualified to lead our nation's military forces? 3 hours ago WITHOUT A DOUBT HE DID., ALSO INVESTIGATE NIKKI HALEY'S APPOINTED ON BOEING'S BOARD TO REPLACE SHANAHAN. FOLLOW THE HOEING KICKBACKS(MONEY), TO DONALD TRUMP'S FAMILY. 3 hours ago Shanahan probably helped Boeing on the promise of a later payback just like Ms. Nikki Haley did while Gov of SC where Boeing built a new plant on her watch. She helped big time to keep the Unions out of the new Boeing plant and now Boeing is going to put her on their board of directors. Nothing like a bit of an obvious payoff. 2 hours ago Reminds me of the Bush Jr days in the White House. During the Gulf War (#2) Vice President #$%$ Cheney awarded oil company Halliburton (Cheney was CEO before accepting the VP job) to deliver meals for the troops. The contract was ?No Bid.? Why was an oil company delivering food to troops with a no bid contract? After Cheney?s Job was over being VP he went back to being CEO at Halliburton and moved Halliburton?s headquarters to Dubai. What an American! 2 hours ago Now we understand why Boeing & the FAA hesitated to ground those planes for few days despite many countries who did grounded those plane which is a precedent for a country to ground & NOT wait for the manufacturer. ONLY after Canada grounded those planes Boeing & the FAA & that's because Canada IS a the #1 flight partner of the US ! 4 hours ago Years ago there was a Boeing procurement scandal and Trump does love the swamp he claims to hate.

[Mar 20, 2019] Reuters natch, are trying to pretend it's somehow the pilot's or airline's fault, but the their own reporters show it ain't

Mar 20, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

FFS , Mar 20, 2019 2:26:33 PM | link

OT: Reuters natch, are trying to pretend it's somehow the pilot's or airline's fault, but the their own reporters show it ain't

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-indonesia-crash-exclusive-idUKKCN1R10F7

[Mar 20, 2019] Was the 737 Max problem just bad software by Stephen Bryen

Mar 18, 2019 | www.asiatimes.com

he crash of the Ethiopian Max-8 Flight 409 on March 10, 2019, resulted in the grounding of all the Boeing 737 Max series aircraft – even the last hold-out, the United States, belatedly grounded them when President Trump acted and overruled the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that opposed any halt to flights.

In the United States, the FAA certifies aircraft as airworthy, puts out bulletins and advisories on problems and fixes and often is the "go to" agency for many aviation flight authorities around the world.

The 737 Max series is a new version of the venerable 737, equipped with new engines and other modifications that have impacted the aircraft's performance in good ways and bad.

Almost every expert today puts the blame for both flight disasters on faulty software that took over running the plane's flight control system. Many have pointed to Boeing's alleged lack of transparency in telling pilots what to do if the software malfunctioned. In addition, there had been at least eight pilot-reported flight control incidents prior to the first Lion Air crash.

Experienced pilots

Three of the pilots on the two doomed planes each had more than 8,000 hours flying experience – quite a lot – and the pilots of the Ethiopian airlines had additional information on the plane's flight characteristics and what to do in an emergency.

While we are still awaiting a final report on last year's Lion Air crash, we do have a quite informative initial report, although it lacks hard findings. In the Ethiopian case, we only have flight track information from ground radar and some incomplete reporting on what the pilots were saying to ground control. More will become available as the flight recorders are analyzed.

Yet despite this, we can understand some of what happened and clearly it is more than a single software glitch. This may help explain why Boeing did not meet its proposed deadline of January for installing updated software. Now in March Boeing says the replacement software will be available in April. But even if it is, there are more issues involving both hardware and software.

The software which so far has received virtually all the attention is called MCAS, for Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System. MCAS was added to the Max-8 series because new, heavier and larger engines replaced the old engines and as a result, the updated Max planes had a strong tendency to pitch nose up.

The new engine, CFM Leap-1B, was selected by Boeing because it was much more fuel efficient than the older models, one of the big reasons customers want the 737 Max.

The new engines forced re-engineering of parts of the 737.

Fitting the new engines meant moving them forward and lengthening the front landing gear to keep the engines from scraping on the ground. In turn, this changed the plane's center of gravity and also altered the air flow on the wings.

MCAS was a band-aid to fix the pitch up problem caused by the relocated and heavier new engines. MCAS is designed to push the nose down and prevent the aircraft from going into a stall. MCAS was intended to deal only with a specific flight risk.

The problems

Here are some of the problems one finds when reviewing the Preliminary Air Accident Investigation Report on the Lion Air crash.

1. MCAS operates by receiving information from a special sensor that measures the flying angle of the plane and takes over the flight controls if the angle is too great – meaning the aircraft could stall. A stall happens when a plane has too low an airspeed and not enough lift and the plane will literally fall out of the air.

There are two sensors that measure the angle of attack or nose-up condition of the Boeing 737 Max, one that provides data to the pilot and another that provides data to the copilot. The sensors are known as Angle of Attack Sensors, or AoA.

In the Lion Air aircraft, the pilot's AoA sensor had been found to be faulty on an earlier flight as reported by the pilot. That AoA sensor was replaced and tested by aircraft maintenance before the fatal flight.

The pilot gets no console or other warnings that his AoA sensor might be faulty. The pilot can ask his copilot what reading he is getting and see if there is a difference. That is exactly what happened on the Lion Air flight.

It would appear that the MCAS software is driven by information from the pilot's sensor. If the sensor itself is not at fault, there could still be wiring and connection problems that could feed bad information to MCAS. These conditions cannot be determined in flight.

If it is true that MCAS relies on information from only one sensor, that could be a design error. Modern aircraft are famous for built-in flight system redundancy, but apparently not in the case of MCAS. In addition, the pilot cannot manually change the MCAS choice of sensor.

2. No one has yet explained why the pilot's stick shaker was running on from the start of the flight and never stopped. The stick shaker is a motor with an unbalanced flywheel that is attached to the pilot's control stick, and another is attached to the co-pilot's stick. The stick shaker is supposed to warn the pilot of a potential stall. But why was it on nearly the whole time? And why was the co-pilot's stick shaker not on?

3. The pilots are supposed to be able to shut down MCAS, which only operates when the aircraft is manually operated, by switching the electronic trim control to off. The trim control is what MCAS uses to change the nose pitch of the 737 Max. But in the Lion Air case, we know the pilots turned off the electronic trim control. But MCAS kept adjusting the trim nose down, against the pilots' wishes. Or possibly something else was driving the trim control nose down, such as a shorted circuit or bad wiring.

4. The pilots also tried turning the aircraft's autopilot on, according to the report. MCAS is only supposed to work when the autopilot is off, that is only when the plane is operated under manual pilot control. The autopilot should have disabled MCAS but apparently it did not – in fact, the Lion Air autopilot would not turn on. There is no explanation for this. Was the autopilot locked out by MCAS? Or was there some other software or hardware foul up?

5. Pilots also had a very difficult time handling the aircraft stick, meaning that the flight control stick required a great deal of force to operate, especially when the pilots were, repeatedly, trying to recover the plane that was headed nose down, gaining speed and losing altitude. Stick force "feel" in 737s is artificial and is controlled by a couple of pitot tube sensors at the rear of the aircraft above the horizontal stabilizer.

There have been repeated problems on older 737s with the planes forward and rear pitot tubes, due partly to icing conditions and to pitot tube heater problems which are supposed to remove ice. Some pitot tubes have failed because of fouling. Pitot tubes detect aircraft speed and they do this by comparing the force of incoming air on the pitot tubes to what are called static ports located elsewhere on the plane. Accidents have been attributed to faulty or fouled pitot tubes.

It is not clear how the flight speed information from the pitot tubes is integrated into the MCAS if it is. But speed information is fed into the flight computer and if it is faulty it could create ambiguities in the MCAS and the flight computer.

6. Would better pilot training have helped pilots avoid disaster? Boeing has been criticized for not initially providing information about MCAS to Max pilots, and only later issuing a bulletin on how to deal with some MCAS anomalies. Boeing also apparently did not offer any additional pilot training, leaving pilots to find their way through a morass of complex problems made worse by possible hardware and software faults.

As it is, it appears the Lion Air pilots acted in the best way they could but were unable to overcome the instability of the aircraft as it headed nose down to disintegrate in the ocean. We don't yet know how the Ethiopian Airline pilots performed, but they had the advantage of advisories from Boeing and the FAA. Still, the same final result.

What is clear is that there is more than one single cause for the two aircraft crashes. And we know that other planes experienced control problems but recovered. These disasters suggest there was a complex of problems that caused the two disasters.

Boeing's engineers need to assess the entire flight control system, the electronics and mechanics, before a satisfactory solution is at hand.

[Mar 19, 2019] Trump Forced to Ban Boeing Poor Quality of American Planes to Affect Russian Airlines the Least! - YouTube

350 planes were grounded.
Notable quotes:
"... The United States held out to the last. Trump personally requested to ground the flagship aircraft of the American company only late evening yesterday, when Canada joined the interdiction. ..."
Mar 16, 2019 | www.youtube.com

Subscribe to Vesti News https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCa8M...

Today, Russia, following Europe and America, banned the flights of Boeing 737 MAX. Dozens of countries have stopped using this aircraft after the Sunday crash in Ethiopia.

The United States held out to the last. Trump personally requested to ground the flagship aircraft of the American company only late evening yesterday, when Canada joined the interdiction.


Putin The Great , 2 days ago (edited)

737 is out of date considering the modern bigger fuel efficient engines don't fit it.They're just applying band aid to fix it's short coming. Airbus A320 has no problems with these new engines as it sits higher.

orderoutofchaos621 , 2 days ago

Sukhoi superjet 100 and MC 21 should be prioritised by Russian airlines.

Richie Blackmore. , 3 days ago

40 countries banned these aircraft from their airspace..... Comparable to the vicious, aggressive, malign, thoughtless, selfish and self aggrandising SANCTIONS the US regime and its vassals slap on innocent countries in attempts to impoverish or/and change their governments!!!!!!!!!

But this is self inflicted!!!!!! I hope the US regime can see the irony in this!!!!

0pTicaL823 , 2 days ago

Boeing should thank China for being the first to ground it's entire fleet, if one of the 96 planes that China operated, god forbid, had gone down, Boeing is done, 3-strikes you're out

statinskill , 2 days ago (edited)

Something is wrong with these planes and it is a good thing that they're being grounded world-wide until the problem is fixed. It is prudent both from the side of Rosaviatsiya and the FAA to not permit these planes to fly in the meanwhile to prevent further potential tragedies. However this is no reason to simply write off the huge fleet of Boeing 737 MAX planes in service world-wide. Right now engineers at Boeing are working on the problem and then those planes will be retrofitted asap. Personally I have no particular concerns flying in a Boeing 737 MAX once the problem is fixed.

[Mar 18, 2019] Boeing (BA) Secures $250M Deal to Support LRSO Cruise Missile

Mar 18, 2019 | finance.yahoo.com

Zacks Equity Research , Zacks March 18, 2019

The Boeing Company BA recently won a $250 million contract to offer weapon system integration for the Long Range Stand-Off (LRSO) Cruise Missile. Work related to the deal is scheduled to be completed by Dec 31, 2024.

The contract was awarded by the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Per the terms of the deal, this aerospace giant will provide aircraft and missile carriage equipment development and modification, engineering, testing, software development, training, facilities and support necessary to fully integrate the LRSO Cruise Missile on the B-52H bomber platform.

Attributes of LRSO

The LRSO is a nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missile, under development. It is set to replace the current AGM-86 air launched cruise missile (ALCM). LRSO, might be up to about 50% longer than Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) and still be suitable for internal carriage by the B-2 and B-52.

Our View

AGM-86 ALCM has been serving the U.S. Air Force quite efficiently. However, with increasingly sophisticated air defense systems developed by America's nemeses, especially Russia, demand for a new stealth nuclear-armed cruise missile capable of either destroying these defenses or penetrating them has been increasing consistently. In this scenario, the LRSO comes as the most credible stealthy and low-yield option available to the United States (according to Strategic Studies Quarterly Report).

Boeing's B-52, which has been the U.S. Air Force's one of the most preferred bombers, is completely dependent on long-range cruise missiles and cannot continue in the nuclear mission beyond 2030 without LRSO. As B-52 is expected to play a primary role in the U.S. nuclear mission for at least next decade and ALCM is already well beyond its originally planned end of life, we may expect more contracts similar to the latest one to usher in from the Pentagon in the coming days. This, in turn, should prove conducive to Boeing.

Price Performance

In a year's time, shares of Boeing have gained about 16.5% against the industry's 2.2% decline.

[Mar 16, 2019] Boeing 737 Crashes Raise Tough Questions on Aircraft Automation - Bloomberg

Mar 16, 2019 | www.bloomberg.com

Tom Enders just couldn't resist the swipe at the competition. It was June 2011, and the chief executive officer of Airbus SE was on a stage at the Paris air show after the planemaker won in a matter of days an unprecedented 600 orders for its upgraded A320neo airliner, while Boeing Co. stood on the sidelines.

"If our colleagues in Seattle still maintain we're only catching up with their 737, I must ask myself what these guys are smoking," Enders blurted out, to the general amusement of the audience, while Boeing representatives at the back of the room looked on.

Boeing had wavered on its decision whether to follow Airbus's lead and re-engine the 737 or go with an all-new aircraft. Customers were willing to wait for "something more revolutionary," as Jim Albaugh, at the time Boeing's head of commercial aircraft, said then.

But the European manufacturer's blow-out success with the A320neo, essentially a re-engined version of its popular narrow-body family, would soon force Boeing's hand.

As the A320neo became the fastest-selling plane in civil aviation history as Airbus picked off loyal Boeing customers like American Airlines Group Inc. , the U.S. company ditched the pursuit of an all-new jet and responded in July 2011 with its own redesign, the 737 Max.

"The program was launched in a panic," said Sash Tusa, an analyst at Agency Partners , an equity research firm in London. "What frightened Boeing most of all was losing their biggest and most important customer. American Airlines was the catalyst."

It turned out that Chicago-based Boeing wasn't too late to the party in the end: While the Max didn't quite replicate the neo's order book, it did become the company's fastest seller as airlines scrambled to cut their fuel bills with new engines that promised savings of 20 percent or more. All told, the Max raked in about 5,000 orders, keeping the playing field fairly level in the global duopoly between Airbus and Boeing.

Close Scrutiny

Now the 737 Max is grounded globally, after two almost factory-fresh jets crashed in rapid succession. As a result, the repercussions of Boeing's response to Airbus's incursion are under the microscope. Getting particular scrutiny are the use of more powerful, fuel-saving engines and automated tools to help pilots control the aircraft.

After the grounding, Boeing said that it "continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 Max, and that it was supporting the decision to idle the jets "out of an abundance of caution." The company declined to comment beyond its public statements.

In late October, a plane operated by Lion Air went down minutes after taking off in Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board. Then on March 10, another 737 Max crashed, this time in Ethiopia en route to Kenya. Again, none of the 157 people on board survived the impact.

There are other similarities that alarmed airlines and regulators and stirred public opinion, leading to the grounding of the 737 Max fleet of more than 350 planes. According to the Federal Aviation Administration , "the track of the Ethiopian Airlines flight was very close and behaved very similar to the Lion Air flight."

How Boeing Safety Feature Became a Suspect in Crashes: QuickTake

After decades of steadily declining aircraft accidents, the question of how two identical new planes could simply fall out of the sky minutes after takeoff has led to intense scrutiny of the 737 Max's systems. Adding to the chorus in the wake of the crash was President Donald Trump, who lamented the complexities of modern aviation, suggesting that people in the cockpit needed to be more like nuclear physicists than pilots to command a jet packed with automated systems.

"Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT," the president said in the first of a pair of tweets on March 12, darkly warning that "complexity creates danger."

Analog Machine

Automation plays a limited role in the 737 Max. That's because the aircraft still has essential analog design and layout features dating back to the 1960s, when it was conceived. It's a far older concept than the A320, which came to market at the end of the 1980s and boasted innovations like fly-by-wire controls, which manipulate surfaces such as flaps and horizontal tail stabilizers with electrical impulses and transducers rather than heavier hydraulic links.

Upgrading the 737 to create the Max came with its own set of issues. For example, the 737 sits considerably lower to the ground, so fitting the bigger new engines under the wings was a structural challenge (even with the squished underbelly of the engine casing). In response, Boeing raised the front landing gear by a few inches, but this and the size of the engines can change the plane's center of gravity and its lift in certain maneuvers.

Boeing's technical wizardry for the 138- to 230-seat Max was a piece of software known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS. It intervenes automatically when a single sensor indicates the aircraft may be approaching a stall. Some pilots complained, though, that training on the new system wasn't sufficient and properly documented.

"The benefits of automation are great, but it requires a different level of discipline and training,'' said Thomas Anthony, director of the Aviation Safety and Security Program at the University of Southern California. Pilots must make a conscious effort to monitor the plane's behavior. And reliance on automation means they will take back control only in the worst situations, he said.

Errant Sensor

With the Lion Air crash, data from the recovered flight recorders points to a battle in the cockpit between the software and the pilots who struggled in vain to keep control. The data showed that an errant sensor signaled the plane was in danger of stalling and prompted the MCAS to compensate by repeatedly initiating a dive. The pilots counteracted by flipping a switch several times to raise the nose manually, which temporarily disabled MCAS. The cycle repeated itself more than two dozen times before the plane entered its final deadly dive, according to the flight data.

With the flight and cockpit voice recorders of the Ethiopian plane now in France for analysis, the interaction between the MCAS system and the pilots will again be under close scrutiny, probably rekindling the broader debate about who or what is in control of the cockpit.

That man-versus-machine conundrum has been central to civil aviation for years. Automation has without doubt made commercial flying much safer, as planemakers added systems to help pilots set engine thrust, navigate with greater precision and even override human error in the cockpit.

For example, automation on modern aircraft keeps pilots within a so-called flight envelope to avoid erratic maneuvers that might destabilize the aircraft. Analyses of flight data show that planes have more stable landings in stormy, low-visibility conditions when automation is in charge than on clear days when they land by sight.

Sully's Miracle Landing

The most daring descent in recent memory, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger's landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River in early 2009, is Exhibit A of how an interconnected cockpit worked hand-in-hand with an experienced pilot. Automatic pitch trim and rudder coordination assisted manual inputs and kept the Airbus A320 steady on its smooth glide into the icy water. The drama showed that automation can play a crucial support function, provided a pilot is fully trained and the aircraft properly maintained.

"Some people are saying modern aircraft such as the 737 Max are too complex," said Dave Wallsworth, a British Airways captain on the Airbus A380 double-decker. "I disagree. The A380 is a far more complex aircraft and we fly it very safely every day. Pilots are capable of understanding aircraft systems so long as the manuals contain the information we need."

Airbus traditionally has pushed the envelope on automation and a more modern cockpit layout, with larger screens and steering by joystick rather than a central yoke, turning pilots into something akin to systems operators. Boeing's philosophy, on the other hand, has been to leave more authority in the hands of pilots, though newer designs also include some computerized limits. Like Airbus planes, the latest aircraft from Seattle -- where Boeing makes most of its jetliners -- are equipped with sophisticated autopilots, fly-by-wire controls or systems to set speed during landings.

"The big automation steps came in the 1980s with the entry into service of the A320 and the whole fly-by-wire ethos," said John Strickland, an independent aviation analyst. "I don't think automation per se is a problem, we see it in wide-scale use in the industry, and as long as it is designed to work hand-in-hand with pilots and pilots understand how to use it, it shouldn't be an issue."

Erratic Movements

But the counter-argument is that increasingly complex systems have led computers to take over, and that many pilots may have forgotten how to manually command a jet -- particularly in a moment of crisis. That criticism was leveled at Airbus, for example, after the mid-Atlantic crash of Air France Flight 447 in 2009 that killed all 228 people on board. Analysis of the flight recorders showed the crew was confused by stall warnings and unreliable speed readings, leading to erratic maneuvers that ended in catastrophe.

>

"I grew up on steam gauges and analog, and the modern generation on digital and automation," said Jon Weaks, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association and a Boeing 737 captain for the Dallas-based airline. "No matter what you grew up on, you have to fly the plane. If the automation is doing something you don't want it to do or that you don't understand, you have to disconnect it and fly the plane."

A 2013 report by the FAA found more than 60 percent of 26 accidents over a decade involved pilots making errors after automated systems abruptly shut down or behaved in unexpected ways. And the 2016 inspector general's report at the FAA noted that as the use of automation increases, "pilots have fewer opportunities to use manual flying skills."

"As a result, the opportunities air carrier pilots have during live operations to maintain proficiency in manual flight are limited and are likely to diminish," the report found.

The grounding of the 737 Max fleet has left Boeing in crisis. The company couldn't get through with its message that the plane was safe to fly, as the group of regulators and airlines idling the jet kept expanding. The 737 program is Boeing's cash cow, accounting for a third of its profit, and Boeing's stock dropped sharply in the days after the disaster.

Get in Line

The Max gave Boeing a relatively cheap path back into the narrow-body game that it was at risk of losing to the Airbus neo. At the time, Boeing had to make a quick decision, as it was still burdened financially by the 787 Dreamliner wide-body that was over budget and behind schedule.

Both manufacturers have said they won't come out with an all-new single-aisle model until well into the next decade, preferring to wait for further technological advancements before committing to massive spending. The success of both the neo and the Max bought the companies that extra time, with orders books stretching years into the future.

Half a century after it was launched almost as an afterthought, the 737 program has become the lifeblood of Boeing that helps finance the rest of the corporation -- the biggest U.S. exporter. It's the one aircraft that Boeing cannot afford to give up.

"The Max was the right decision for the time," said Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst with the consultancy Teal Group . "Yes, there may be an issue with MCAS needing a software patch. Yes, there may need to be some additional training. But these are not issues that cause people to change to the other guys' jet. The other guys have a waiting line, and when you get to the back of that line, you burn more fuel."

-- With assistance by Alan Levin, Benjamin D Katz, Margaret Newkirk, Michael Sasso, and Mary Schlangenstein

[Mar 14, 2019] Boeing 737 Max an artificial intelligence event by James Thompson

Mar 14, 2019 | www.unz.com

Conventional wisdom is that it is too early to speculate why in the past six months two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes have gone down shortly after take off, so if all that follows is wrong you will know it very quickly. Last night I predicted that the first withdrawals of the plane would happen within two days, and this morning China withdrew it. So far, so good. (Indonesia followed a few hours ago).

Why should I stick my neck out with further predictions? First, because we must speculate the moment something goes wrong. It is natural, right and proper to note errors and try to correct them.(The authorities are always against "wild" speculation, and I would be in agreement with that if they had an a prior definition of wildness). Second, because putting forward hypotheses may help others test them (if they are not already doing so). Third, because if the hypotheses turn out to be wrong, it will indicate an error in reasoning, and will be an example worth studying in psychology, so often dourly drawn to human fallibility. Charmingly, an error in my reasoning might even illuminate an error that a pilot might make, if poorly trained, sleep-deprived and inattentive.

I think the problem is that the Boeing anti-stall patch MCAS is poorly configured for pilot use: it is not intuitive, and opaque in its consequences.

By the way of full disclosure, I have held my opinion since the first Lion Air crash in October, and ran it past a test pilot who, while not responsible for a single word here, did not argue against it. He suggested that MCAS characteristics should have been in a special directive and drawn to the attention of pilots.

I am normally a fan of Boeing. I have flown Boeing more than any other plane, and that might make me loyal to the brand. Even more powerfully, I thought they were correct to carry on with the joystick yoke, and that AirBus was wrong to drop it, simply because the position of the joystick is something visible to pilot and co-pilot, whereas the Airbus side stick does not show you at a glance how high the nose of the plane is pointing.

http://www.unz.com/jthompson/fear-of-flying-and-safety-of-gruyere/

Pilots are bright people, but they must never be set a badly configured test item with tight time limits and potentially fatal outcomes.

The Air France 447 crash had several ingredients, but one was that the pilots of the Airbus A330-203 took too long to work out they were in a stall. In fact, that realization only hit them very shortly before they hit the ocean. Whatever the limitations of the crew (sleep deprived captain, uncertain co-pilot) they were blinded by a frozen Pitot air speed indicator, and an inability to set the right angle of attack for their airspeed.

For the industry, the first step was to fit better air speed indicators which were less likely to ice up. However, it was clear that better stall warning and protection was required.

Boeing had a problem with fitting larger and heavier engines to their tried and trusted 737 configuration, meaning that the engines had to be higher on the wing and a little forwards, and that made the 737 Max have different performance characteristics, which in turn led to the need for an anti-stall patch to be put into the control systems.

It is said that generals always fight the last war. Safety officials correct the last problem, as they must. However, sometimes a safety system has unintended consequences.

The key of the matter is that pilots fly normal 737s every day, and have internalized a mental model of how that plane operates. Pilots probably actually read manuals, and safety directives, and practice for rare events. However, I bet that what they know best is how a plane actually operates most of the time. (I am adjusting to a new car, same manufacturer and model as the last one, but the 9 years of habit are still often stronger than the manual-led actions required by the new configuration). When they fly a 737 Max there is a bit of software in the system which detects stall conditions and corrects them automatically. The pilots should know that, they should adjust to that, they should know that they must switch off that system if it seems to be getting in the way, but all that may be steps too far, when something so important is so opaque.

What is interesting is that in emergencies people rely on their most validated mental models: residents fleeing a burning building tend to go out their usual exits, not even the nearest or safest exit. Pilots are used to pulling the nose up and pushing it down, to adding power and to easing back on it, and when a system takes over some of those decisions, they need to know about it.

After Lion Air I believed that pilots had been warned about the system, but had not paid sufficient attention to its admittedly complicated characteristics, but now it is claimed that the system was not in the training manual anyway. It was deemed a safety system that pilots did not need to know about.

This farrago has an unintended consequence, in that it may be a warning about artificial intelligence. Boeing may have rated the correction factor as too simple to merit human attention, something required mainly to correct a small difference in pitch characteristics unlikely to be encountered in most commercial flying, which is kept as smooth as possible for passenger comfort.

It would be terrible if an apparently small change in automated safety systems designed to avoid a stall turned out have given us a rogue plane, killing us to make us safe.


Anatoly Karlin , says: Website March 11, 2019 at 2:36 pm GMT

Pilots are used to pulling the nose up and pushing it down, to adding power and to easing back on it, and when a system takes over some of those decisions, they need to know about it.

I have read that Boeing kept MCAS out of the limelight as otherwise the 737 MAX would need to be certified as a new plane and airlines would need to do $$$ pilot retraining, making their product less competitive.

James Thompson , says: Website March 11, 2019 at 3:09 pm GMT
@Anatoly Karlin Interesting. It is certainly hard to understand why MCAS was shrouded in secrecy, when it was potentially lethal.
Captain 737 , says: March 11, 2019 at 7:38 pm GMT
Interesting response from a "by-stander", who compares a sophisticated aircraft with a new model car !!!

As an experienced captain on 737s (not the MAX) I say, let the investigation begin; and let us not have by-standers giving their penny worth. A normal 737 . is there also an abnormal 747 or 777 or 787, or a 737 ??

Pilots carry the can . but, are the most respected profession in the world. What ever happened, let the investigation decide the outcome, and not the "un-trained" (is there such a term !!!!).

If one takes a look at the (released to date) information about the Lion Air crash – "unreliable airspeeds" (the airspeed indicator is providing erroneous information during a critical phase of flight (like climb out after take-off)) could have been the cause of that aircraft crash – not AI.

A simple explanation – the airspeed indicator is "unreliable", as one moment the indication is under-speed, then overspeed, followed by under-speed, and so it goes; like a yoyo going up and down; the indicated speed is erroneous and the pilots cannot rely on what is presented on the airspeed indicator. Pilots, according to the Boeing Training Manual, are trained to handle unreliable airspeeds – the key is to fly the plane based solely on pitch attitude and thrust (there are memory items for unreliable airspeed occurrences, along with the reference items in aircraft's Quick Reference Handbook – the QRH (Boeing term) is the pilots "bible" for any issues and problems when the aircraft is in the air !! ).

The point of the above paragraph is to enlighten the 'un-trained' as to not speculate too soon with ideas and a "hypothesis" of what may have happened, until the knowledgeable ones – the aircraft manufacturer (probably being the most knowledgable), the country's aviation authority, the engine manufacturer, and (dear I say) the FAA (the Yanks just cannot help themselves delving into other countries' affairs; when for 9/11 not one minutes was spent by anyone (FAA, Boeing, no one) investigating the so-called crashes of four aircraft – on one day, within one and a half hours of each other, and in the most protected airspace in the world (got the hint !!) – I have digressed, though for reason .. have completed their investigations.

I can assure you that no pilot wants to crash a plane we (pilots) all want to live to 100, and beyond.

Humans make mistakes, but technology needs humans to correct technology's mistakes. Boeing build reliable and trustworthy aircraft; pilots undertake their duties in a safe and controlled manner (according to training and aircraft manufacturer stipulated standards); but errors happen – and the investigator is there to establish what happened, so that these do not happen again. Unfortunately, it is just possible that the cause of the first MAX accident is the same as the second. But, let the knowledgable ones determine that fact – and let me, and us, not speculate.

AI in the MAX hhmmmmm – let Boeing release that information, before we start speculating again (on AI – is an auto pilot AI; the B737 I fly has two auto pilots; is that double AI ??).

To the rest of the travelling public – airline travel remains, and has been, the safest form of transport for decades. I am confident that the status quo will remain.

Time will reveal the answers to these two accidents, when the time is right – when the investigators (for both) have concluded their deliberations.

My guess is, the majority of people will have forgotten these two MAX events (but, for those who have lost loved ones), as some other crisis/event will have occurred in their lives and/or in the world.

Dieter Kief , says: March 11, 2019 at 7:38 pm GMT
@Anatoly Karlin

737 MAX would need to be certified as a new plane and airlines would need to do $$$ pilot retraining, making their product less competitive.

Short sighted businessmen – Nothing lasts for long

Joni Mitchell – – – Chinese Cafè on Wild Things Run Fast

The Anti-Gnostic , says: Website March 11, 2019 at 7:45 pm GMT
I think the problem is that the Boeing anti-stall patch MCAS is poorly configured for pilot use: it is not intuitive, and opaque in its consequences.

I think that's the case with a lot of current technology. Human factors and tactileness don't seem to get much weight in current engineering.

Simply Simon , says: March 12, 2019 at 12:26 am GMT
@Captain 737 I respect your analysis especially coming from a seasoned 737 captain. I have over 5,000 flying hours in single and twin-engine, conventional and jet, all military. I have not flown since 1974 so the advances in auto-pilot technology are beyond my comprehension. My question to you is simple–I think. If the aircraft took off in VFR conditions I assume the pilots knew the pitch attitude all during the takeoff phase. Is there no way to manually overpower the auto-pilot once the pilots knew the pitch attitude was dangerously high or low?
kauchai , says: March 12, 2019 at 2:37 am GMT
If this is a made in china airplane, the empire would mobilize the whole world to ground the entire fleet. The diatribes, lies, cruel sick jokes, lawsuits, etc, etc, would fly to the heavens.

But NO, this is an empire plane. Designed, built and (tested?) in the heart of the empire. And despite the fact that more than 300 people had died, IT IS STILL SAFE to fly!

LOL! LOL!

Anonymous [414] Disclaimer , says: March 12, 2019 at 3:41 am GMT
Quite a short and to-the-point article, although the link to "artificial intelligence" is tenuous at best.

What is sold as Artificial Intelligence nowadays is massive statistical processing in a black box (aka as "Neural Network Processing"), it's not intelligent. The most surprising fact is that it works so well.

Neural Networks won't be in high-assurance software soon. No-one knows what they really do once configured (although there are efforts underway to attack that problem ). They are impossible to really test or design to specification. Will someone underwrite that a system incorporating them does work? Hardly. You may find them in consumer electronics, research, "self driving cars" that never really self-drive without surprises and possibly bleeding edge military gear looking for customers or meant to explode messily anyway.

But not in cockpits. (At least I hope).

Check out this slideshow about the ACAS-X Next Generation Collision Airborne Collision Avoidance System. It has no neural network in sight, in fact if I understand correctly it doesn't even have complex decision software in-cockpit: it's all decision tables precomputed from a high-level, understandable description (aka. code, apparently in Julia) to assure safe outcome in a fully testable and simulatable approach.

In this accident, we may have a problem with the system, as opposed to with the software. While the software may work correctly and to specification (and completely unintelligently) the system composed of software + human + physical machinery will interact in interesting, unforeseen, untested ways, leading to disaster. In fact the (unintelligent software + human) part may disturbingly behave like those Neural Networks that are being sold as AI.

Anonymous [414] Disclaimer , says: March 12, 2019 at 4:16 am GMT
A disquieting item on your morning cereal box:

https://www.stripes.com/news/us/boeing-cited-by-pentagon-over-quality-concerns-going-back-years-1.522343

https://www.stripes.com/news/air-force/air-force-won-t-accept-any-more-boeing-tankers-until-manufacturing-process-is-cleaned-up-1.571108

Anonymous [427] Disclaimer , says: March 12, 2019 at 4:46 am GMT
@Anatoly Karlin I'm guessing that it would require a change in the TCDS and possibly a different type rating, which would be anathema for sales.

I'm a little airplane person, not a big airplane person (and the 737 is a Big Airplane even in its smallest configuration) but I know there have been several instances where aircraft had changes that required that pilots of the type have a whole different type rating, even though the changes seemed minor. I'm guessing airlines are training averse and don't want to take crews off revenue service beyond what is statutorily required. The margins in airline flying are apparently much leaner now than in the glory days.

I never approved of allowing fly by wire in commercial airliners, I never even really liked the idea of FADEC engine control (supervisory DEC was fine) because a classical advantage of gas turbines (and diesels) was that they could run in an absolutely electrically dead environment once lit. Indeed, the J-58 (JT11-D in P&W parlance) had no electrical system to speak of beyond the instrumentation: it started by mechanical shaft drive and ignited by triethyl borane chemical injection. The Sled could make it home on needle-ball and alcohol compass, and at least once it did. Total electrical failure in any FBW aircraft means losing the airplane. Is the slight gain in efficiency worth it? I'm told the cables, pulleys, fairleads and turnbuckles add 200 pounds to a medium size airliner, the FBW stuff weighs 80 or so.

The jet transports we studied in A&P school had a pitot head and static port on either side of the flight deck and the captain and F/O had inputs from different ones, though IIRC the altimeter and airspeed were electrically driven from sensors at the pitot head or inboard of it. I have a 727 drum-pointer (why are three pointer altimeters even legal anymore??) altimeter and it has no aneroids, just a couple of PCBs full of TTL logic and op amps and a DB style connector on the back. Do crews not cross check airspeed and altitude or is there no indicator to flag them when the two show something different?

Also, not being a jet pilot myself, my understanding is that anyone with T-38 experience is forever after thinking in terms of AOA and not airspeed per se, because that airplane has to be flown by AOA in the pattern, and classically a lot of airline pilots had flown Talons. Is there no AOA indicator in the 737? Flying in the pattern/ILS would make airspeed pretty dependent on aircraft weight, and on a transport that can change a lot with fuel burn, do they precisely calculate current weight from a totalizer and notate speeds needed? (I presume airliners don't vary weight other than fuel burn, not being customarily in the business of throwing stuff out of the airplane, although they used to fly jumpers out of a chartered 727 at the parachute meet in Quincy)

dearieme , says: March 12, 2019 at 12:00 pm GMT
@Captain 737 Why are you pretending to be a pilot, and a pompous one at that?
dearieme , says: March 12, 2019 at 12:06 pm GMT
Many problems in the world arise because many computing people reckon themselves very clever when they are merely rather clever. And often they combine what cleverness they have with a blindness about humans and their ways. I shouldn't be at all surprised if programmers at Boeing decided that they always knew better than pilots and doomed the planes accordingly.

I saw recently an expression that made me grin: "midwits". It describes rather well many IT types of my acquaintance.

dearieme , says: March 12, 2019 at 12:51 pm GMT
Another human cost of midwittery:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6797193/More-500-village-postmasters-wrongly-hounded-stealing-millions-system.html

Fabian Forge , says: March 12, 2019 at 4:55 pm GMT
@fish And that's the problem, as Mr. Kief also points out. The individuals at the decision making level (let's call them "executives") don't or can't think that far ahead, at least when the corporation they run is concerneed.

It really is a time-preference problem.

Fabian Forge , says: March 12, 2019 at 5:06 pm GMT
@dearieme One corollary is that the Midwits take such joy in their cleverness that they assume their wit has value in and of itself. This is most evident when they design clever solutions to invented problems. Billions of dollars of venture capital have been set on fire in that way, when technical and financial midwittery combine.
Dieter Kief , says: March 12, 2019 at 10:55 pm GMT
@Andrei Martyanov It's almost nitpicking. But – James Thompson says it above: The MCAS in this Boing model 737 MAX 8 is used to cover up a basic construction flaw. This has undoubtedly worked for quite some time – but it came with a risk. And this risk might turn out to have caused numerous deaths. In this case, if it will turn out, that the MACS system didn't do what it was supposed to do and thus caused numerous deaths – will this then be looked upon as a problem of the application of artificial intelligence? Yes, but not only . It was a combination of a poorly built (constructed) airliner and software, which might not have been able to compensate for this flawed construction under all conditions.

It's cheaper to compensate via software – and this might (might) turn out to be a rather irresponsible way to save money. But as I said: Even in this case, the technical problem would have to be looked upon as twofold: Poor construction plus insufficient software compensation. I'd even tend to say, that poor construction would then be the main (=basic) fault. With the zeitgeisty (and cheap!) software-"solution" for this poor construction a close second.

Eagle Eye , says: March 12, 2019 at 11:25 pm GMT
@Captain 737 Curiously, this is "Captain 737″'s first and only comment here.

It's almost as if Boeing hired a high-priced PR firm whose offerings include pseudonymous online "messaging" to "shape opposition perceptions" etc. Note the over-obvious handle. (Just like globalist shills like to pretend to be regular blue-collar guys in small fly-over towns.)

By their words shalt ye know them.

PREDICTION: In 3-4 years, we will "discover" a long paper trail of engineers warning early on about the risk of hastily kludging a half-assed anti-stall patch MCAS onto a system that had undergone years of testing and refinement WITHOUT the patch.

Only somebody PAID not to see the problem could fail to perceive that this means that as so altered, the ENTIRE SYSTEM goes back to being technically immature.

Anonymous [427] Disclaimer , says: March 13, 2019 at 12:00 am GMT
@Dieter Kief What "basic construction flaw" are we discussing here? The 737 airframe is pretty well established and has a good record-there have been incidents but most have been well dealt with.
Dieter Kief , says: March 13, 2019 at 12:39 am GMT
@Anonymous I've read today, that in the aviation world there is a consensus, that what James Thompson says in his article is right:
"Boeing had a problem with fitting larger and heavier engines to their tried and trusted 737 configuration, meaning that the engines had to be higher on the wing and a little forwards, and that made the 737 Max have different performance characteristics, which in turn led to the need for an anti-stall patch to be put into the control systems."

– A German engineer wrote in a comment in the Berlin daily Die weLT, this construction flaw makes the 737 MAX 8 something like a flying traktor . He concluded, that Boing proved, that you can make a tractor fly, alright. But proper engineering would have looked otherwise – and would for sure had come at a higher cost.
(The different performance charactersitics mentioned by James Thompson is an extraordinarily nice way to express, that the 737 MAX 8 is a tad more likely to stall, just because of the very design-changes, the bigger turbines made necessary. And this is a rather nasty thing to say about an airplane, that a new design made it more likely to stall! ).

Sparkon , says: March 13, 2019 at 1:54 am GMT
@Anonymous

What "basic construction flaw" are we discussing here? The 737 airframe is pretty well established and has a good record.

I 'm not so sure about the good record, and I too suspect the underlying problem is the 737 itself – the entire 737 airframe and avionics.

Worst crash record

LET 410 – 20
Ilyushin 72 – 17
Antonov AN-1 – 17
Twin Otter – 18
CASA 212 – 11
DC-9/MD80 – 10
B737-100 / 700 – 10
Antonov 28 – 8
Antonov 32- 7
Tupolev 154- 7

[a/o 2013 – my bold]

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/Least-safe-aircraft-models-revealed/

The 737 family is the best selling commercial airliner series in history with more than 10,000 units produced. However, this airplane in its various configurations has had many crashes since it first entered service in 1968.

[Mar 13, 2019] Boeing, The FAA, And Why Two 737 MAX Planes Crashed

Notable quotes:
"... To implement a security relevant automatism that depends on only one sensor is extremely bad design. To have a flight control automatism engaged even when the pilot flies manually is also a bad choice. But the real criminality was that Boeing hid the feature. ..."
"... The Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed went down in a similar flight profile as the Indonesian plane. It is highly likely that MCAS is the cause of both incidents. While the pilots of the Ethiopian plane were aware of the MCAS system they might have had too little time to turn it off. The flight recorders have been recovered and will tell the full story. ..."
"... The FAA certifies all new planes and their documentation. I was for some time marginally involved in Airbus certification issues. It is an extremely detailed process that has to be followed by the letter. Hundreds of people are full time engaged for years to certify a modern jet. Every tiny screw and even the smallest design details of the hardware and software have to be documented and certified. ..."
"... How or why did the FAA agree to accept the 737 MAX with the badly designed MCAS? How could the FAA allow that MCAS was left out of the documentation? What steps were taken after the Indonesian flight crashed into the sea? ..."
"... That the marketing department has more say than the engineers who design and test the hardware and the software in passenger jets tells us a great deal about the Potemkin-style workplace culture that prevails in Boeing and similar large US corporations. The surface sheen is more important than the substance. The marketing brochures and manuals are no different from mainstream news media in the level of BS they spew. ..."
"... The Indonesian pilots did not have the time to figure out and realise that something else was controlling the plane's flight, much less deactivate what is effectively a second autopiloting system. ..."
"... B is right. This is a criminal act of deception and fraud thats cost hundreds their lives. Boeing executives responsible should be prosecuted and then jailed. ..."
"... while all the technical discussion around how to fly a plane is truly interesting, what's really at issue here is corporate and institutional betrayal of trust. ..."
"... The corporate aspect is Boeing, obviously. The institutional aspect is FAA, which used to lead the world in trust when it came to life and death matters. ..."
"... But now, in what Bloomberg, even while trying to support FAA, has no choice but to report as a "stunning rebuff" to FAA's integrity, countries around the world are grounding this flawed plane. Germany, among others, has closed its airspace to the 737. ..."
"... "Should anyone be flying 737MAXes before the black box data has been evaluated?" ..."
"... Before, the civilian airliners were falling out of the sky because of an immature technology, that is because of the learning curve. Now that the technology involved is fully mature the airliners are falling out of the sky for profit taking. ..."
"... Is it really so hard to connect the secrecy about MCAS and why it was needed in the first place? The lawyers will have a ball of the decade with this: the defendant created a secret software solution to turn a Lego airplane into a real airplane, made the software dependent on a single sensor, and made it difficult to switch the software off. ..."
"... I cannot believe that Boeing shares dropped only 7.5%, this is a statement of how untouchable Boeing is and how protected it will be by the Corrupt. ..."
Mar 13, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

Boeing, The FAA, And Why Two 737 MAX Planes Crashed psychohistorian , Mar 12, 2019 4:55:32 PM | link

On Sunday an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed, killing all on board. Five month earlier an Indonesian Lion Air jet crashed near Jakarta. All crew and passengers died. Both airplanes were Boeing 737-8 MAX. Both incidents happened shortly after take off.

Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are now grounded about everywhere except in the United States. That this move follows only now is sad. After the first crash it was already obvious that the plane is not safe to fly.

The Boeing 737 and the Airbus 320 types are single aisle planes with some 150 seats. Both are bread and butter planes sold by the hundreds with a good profit. In 2010 Airbus decided to offer its A-320 with a New Engine Option (NEO) which uses less fuel. To counter the Airbus move Boeing had to follow up. The 737 would also get new engines for a more efficient flight and longer range. The new engines on the 737 MAX are bigger and needed to be placed a bit different than on the older version. That again changed the flight characteristics of the plane by giving it a nose up attitude.

The new flight characteristic of the 737 MAX would have require a retraining of the pilots. But Boeing's marketing people had told their customers all along that the 737 MAX would not require extensive new training. Instead of expensive simulator training for the new type experienced 737 pilots would only have to read some documentation about the changes between the old and the new versions.

To make that viable Boeing's engineers had to use a little trick. They added a 'maneuver characteristics augmentation system' (MCAS) that pitches the nose of the plane down if a sensor detects a too high angle of attack (AoA) that might lead to a stall. That made the flight characteristic of the new 737 version similar to the old one.

But the engineers screwed up.

The 737 MAX has two flight control computers. Each is connected to only one of the two angle of attack sensors. During a flight only one of two computer runs the MCAS control. If it detects a too high angle of attack it trims the horizontal stabilizer down for some 10 seconds. It then waits for 5 seconds and reads the sensor again. If the sensor continues to show a too high angle of attack it again trims the stabilizer to pitch the plane's nose done.

MCSA is independent of the autopilot. It is even active in manual flight. There is a procedure to deactivate it but it takes some time.

One of the angle of attack sensors on the Indonesian flight was faulty. Unfortunately it was the one connected to the computer that ran the MCAS on that flight. Shortly after take off the sensor signaled a too high angle of attack even as the plane was flying in a normal climb. The MCAS engaged and put the planes nose down. The pilots reacted by disabling the autopilot and pulling the control stick back. The MCAS engaged again pitching the plane further down. The pilots again pulled the stick. This happened some 12 times in a row before the plane crashed into the sea.

To implement a security relevant automatism that depends on only one sensor is extremely bad design. To have a flight control automatism engaged even when the pilot flies manually is also a bad choice. But the real criminality was that Boeing hid the feature.

Neither the airlines that bought the planes nor the pilots who flew it were told about MCAS. They did not know that it exists. They were not aware of an automatic system that controlled the stabilizer even when the autopilot was off. They had no idea how it could be deactivated.

Nine days after the Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610 ended in a deadly crash, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive.


bigger

The 737 MAX pilots were aghast. The APA pilot union sent a letter to its members:

"This is the first description you, as 737 pilots, have seen. It is not in the AA 737 Flight Manual Part 2, nor is there a description in the Boeing FCOM (flight crew operations manual)," says the letter from the pilots' union safety committee. "Awareness is the key with all safety issues."

The Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed went down in a similar flight profile as the Indonesian plane. It is highly likely that MCAS is the cause of both incidents. While the pilots of the Ethiopian plane were aware of the MCAS system they might have had too little time to turn it off. The flight recorders have been recovered and will tell the full story.

Boeing has sold nearly 5,000 of the 737 MAX. So far some 380 have been delivered. Most of these are now grounded. Some family members of people who died on the Indonesian flight are suing Boeing. Others will follow. But Boeing is not the only one who is at fault.

The FAA certifies all new planes and their documentation. I was for some time marginally involved in Airbus certification issues. It is an extremely detailed process that has to be followed by the letter. Hundreds of people are full time engaged for years to certify a modern jet. Every tiny screw and even the smallest design details of the hardware and software have to be documented and certified.

How or why did the FAA agree to accept the 737 MAX with the badly designed MCAS? How could the FAA allow that MCAS was left out of the documentation? What steps were taken after the Indonesian flight crashed into the sea?

Up to now the FAA was a highly regarded certification agency. Other countries followed its judgment and accepted the certifications the FAA issued. That most of the world now grounded the 737 MAX while it still flies in the States is a sign that this view is changing. The FAA's certifications of Boeing airplanes are now in doubt.

Today Boeing's share price dropped some 7.5%. I doubt that it is enough to reflect the liability issues at hand. Every airline that now had to ground its planes will ask for compensation. More than 330 people died and their families deserve redress. Orders for 737 MAX will be canceled as passengers will avoid that type.

Boeing will fix the MCAS problem by using more sensors or by otherwise changing the procedures. But the bigger issue for the U.S. aircraft industry might be the damage done to the FAA's reputation. If the FAA is internationally seen as a lobbying agency for the U.S. airline industry it will no longer be trusted and the industry will suffer from it. It will have to run future certification processes through a jungle of foreign agencies.

Congress should take up the FAA issue and ask why it failed.

Posted by b on March 12, 2019 at 04:39 PM | Permalink

Comments next page " @ b who wrote
"
But the engineers screwed up.
"

I call BS on this pointing of fingers at the wrong folk

Engineers get paid to build things that accountants influence. The West is a world in which the accountants have more sway than engineers.

It is all about the money b and to lead folks in some other direction is not like what I think of you.

The elite that own global private finance and everything else killed those people in the planes because they set the standards that the accountants follow and then force the engineers to operate within

The profit narrative is bad for humanity.


bj , Mar 12, 2019 4:57:15 PM | link

A whistleblower at Boeing would have been nice.
bevin , Mar 12, 2019 5:00:23 PM | link
"Congress should take up the FAA issue and ask why it failed."
If there had been any chance of that happening, the planes would probably still be flying and dead passengers alive.
This, if you are right and I suspect that you are, is symptomatic of an empire dying of corruption. It is no accident that both the new secretary of defence and the neo-con cult itself were born of Boeing. A fact memorialised in the UK where the Blairites rally in the Henry Jackson society.
Lochearn , Mar 12, 2019 5:00:42 PM | link
Last night I wrote on a previous thread:
Over the space of a few months 2 almost new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft have crashed. Rather than going to the expense of designing an entirely new fuselage and normal length landing gear for its larger and much more powerful 737 MAX engines Boeing stuck with the now ancient 737 fuselage design that sits only 17 inches from the ground – necessitating changes to the positioning of the engines on the wing, which together with the vast increase in power, created aerodynamic instability in the design that Boeing tried to correct with software, while not alerting pilots to the changes.
Through the 1980s and early 1990s Boeing executives had largely resisted pressure from Wall Street to cut staff numbers, move plant to non-union states and outsource. The 777 was the last real Boeing, though significant outsourcing did take place – but under the strict control and guidance of Boeing engineers. After the "reverse" takeover of MacDonnell Douglas in 1997 the MDD neoliberal culture swamped Boeing and its HQ was moved from the firm's home near Seattle to Chicago so executives could hobnob with speculators. Wall Street had taken down another giant.
David Park , Mar 12, 2019 5:01:36 PM | link
The story I have most interest in, at the moment, is the state of the power blackout in Venezuela and whether this was a cyber attack by the United States. If it was, it is, in my opinion, a weapon of mass destruction and a very major war crime. The story seems to be fading from the news so I'm hoping b. will be able to gather more information about it.

But I find every story by b, worthwhile!

Ghost Ship , Mar 12, 2019 5:04:07 PM | link
I don't know if this is true by my sister who was an engineer working on military jets said that she'd heard that because of various design requirements, the 737-MAX was inherently unstable but stability was provided by the fly-by-wire system. In military jets, this feature provides greater maneuverability and survivability but has no place on civilian aircraft as the outcome of a system failure would be catastrophic with the pilots being unable to do anything about it. Anyone heard anything similar?
james , Mar 12, 2019 5:09:31 PM | link
b - thanks for addressing this.. subservient canada is also flying them still..) canada is going the same way as the usa-faa - into a ditch long term... it is really sad for the people who have died and for the fact that as @1 psychohistorian notes - the decisions are being put in the hands of the wrong people...
Barbara Ann , Mar 12, 2019 5:11:56 PM | link
Excellent piece b.
karlof1 , Mar 12, 2019 5:13:53 PM | link
Gotta agree with psychohistorian @1, that the engineers aren't totally responsible. Deregulation pukes at FAA, bean counters at Boeing and their managers who approved it all are morally culpable. Airline executives aren't immune either, although many will likely plead ignorance.
mourning dove , Mar 12, 2019 5:17:18 PM | link
If the US were a sane country, a Congressional investigation would follow, but it's not, and Congress is going to be more concerned with Boeing's bottom line than in public safety or the integrity of the FAA. That's probably why the planes haven't been grounded in the US. Congress is much more likely to impede investigation and accountability.
dave , Mar 12, 2019 5:17:28 PM | link

the dreamliner is the plane of the future barack hussein obarmie


The Boeing Broken Dreams Al Jazeera Investigations

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvkEpstd9os

karlof1 , Mar 12, 2019 5:19:49 PM | link
David Park @5--

You'll want to read this !

Steven , Mar 12, 2019 5:26:50 PM | link
You omit important facts: the pilots know by heart how to quickly cut off electronic control of the stabilizers and fly manually. The pilots on the preceding lion air flight had had the same problem, and immediately solved it. The defective sensor should have been immediately replaced, and would have in the United States. On the next flight, the pilots (the copilot being quite unexperienced) spent 10 minutes not doing what they were trained to do in an emergency where the stabilizers are out of control: disable them.

When some flight crews get it right, but others don't, it's not a design flaw but a problem with the flight crews.

I can't agree with your conclusions.

Lochearn , Mar 12, 2019 5:30:48 PM | link
Through the history of Boeing senior executives lived in modest middle-class houses. They traveled on Boeing aircraft to get pilot's responses. But when Phil Condit (Wall Street's man) took over he immediately bought private jets and started living the lifestyle. The difference between productive capitalism and financial capitalism.
Tom Welsh , Mar 12, 2019 5:34:56 PM | link
"How or why did the FAA agree to accept the 737 MAX with the badly designed MCAS?"

Because it would be against the state religion to stop, or delay, a huge corporation earning even more money.

dave , Mar 12, 2019 5:36:39 PM | link
the broken dreams documentary above spells it out very clearly the documentary is from 2014.
it even has undercover folks in the boeing factory saying they would not fly on one.


if you fly you should watch that old al jazeera investigation.
the company does not pay tax and
the head of boeing paid himself 100s of millions of dollars

corporate manslaughter
could be

Zachary Smith , Mar 12, 2019 5:39:20 PM | link
But the bigger issue for the U.S. aircraft industry might be the damage done to the FAA's reputation.

I'd counter this by asking "what reputation?"

I've known for years how it took take a "smoking hole" for the FAA to get off the can and actually do something about a problem with an airplane or airline. But things evolve, and here we have TWO such smoking holes and the FAA still allows it to fly. I'm not trying to pick on the current FAA leader, for the man is utterly typical of the people who are allowed to gain his position. From his wiki:

But the bigger issue for the U.S. aircraft industry might be the damage done to the FAA's reputation.

Elwell joined Airlines for America (A4A) in 2013[3] where he was the Senior Vice President for Safety, Security, and Operations. Elwell left this role in 2015.

(Skipping to the A4A wiki:) Airlines for America
Officially, the A4A has announced five "core elements" of a national airline policy include reducing taxes on the industry, reducing regulation , increased access to foreign markets, making the industry more attractive for investors , and improving the air traffic control system.

I suspect that grounding the 737-MAX would contradict the goal of "making the industry more attractive for investors".

More on the FAA's Tombstone Mentality

About an hour ago I sent out an all-points email suggesting my family members avoid boarding a 737 MAX until the facts are better known and solutions are in place. The FAA may not care about them taking risks, but I sure do.

Tom Welsh , Mar 12, 2019 5:39:22 PM | link
Boeing has a get-out-of-jail-free card.

"Boeing is among the largest global aircraft manufacturers; it is the fifth-largest defense contractor in the world based on 2017 revenue, and is the largest exporter in the United States by dollar value".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing

Jen , Mar 12, 2019 5:39:56 PM | link
I agree with Psychohistorian @ 1 in less forthright terms: the engineers did not "screw up". On the contrary they most likely did what they could with the money and the time deadline they were given to carry out what essentially was a patch-up job that would make Boeing look good, save money and maintain its stock in sharemarkets.

Probably the entire process, in which the engineers played a small part - and that part in which they had no input into whoever was making the decisions - was a disaster from start to finish. The engineers should have been consulted at an early stage in the re-design of the aircraft's flight and safety features. Only when the appropriate re-design has been tested, changed where necessary and given the thumbs-up by relevant pilots' unions and other organisations with regard to passenger safety can the marketing department go ahead and advise airlines who buy the redesigned planes what training their pilots need.

That the marketing department has more say than the engineers who design and test the hardware and the software in passenger jets tells us a great deal about the Potemkin-style workplace culture that prevails in Boeing and similar large US corporations. The surface sheen is more important than the substance. The marketing brochures and manuals are no different from mainstream news media in the level of BS they spew.

One can think of other organisations where the administration has more power in the corporate decision-making process and eats up more of the corporate budget while the people who do the actual work are increasingly ignored in boardrooms and their share of the budget correspondingly decreases. Hospitals and schools come to mind.

Lochearn , Mar 12, 2019 5:45:36 PM | link
@ 19

Boeing got taken over Wall Street, which means cheapest solution to anything. Engineers are stuck with what they are given. What part of that do you still not understand.

viking3 , Mar 12, 2019 5:55:18 PM | link
A mitigating factor to the flightcrew is the take-off to 10,000ft is the busiest time. There is enough going on without having to deal with runaway stab. This is especially true for new crew to a new aircraft. Rode in many cockpits before 9.11.01 when company employees were allowed and the standing rule was no conversations below 10,000 and keep you eyes open for traffic. I also include my Maintenance brethren in that equation. Spent 30 years as a Avionics Tech. on both military and commercial aircraft so I am not really fond of giving flightcrew a break but I might this time.
karlof1 , Mar 12, 2019 5:59:13 PM | link
Jen @19--

Dilbert , the comic strip , from today and yesterday nails the marketing angle. And this isn't the first time Scott Adams has targeted marketers.

ancientarcher , Mar 12, 2019 5:59:44 PM | link
Good point @4 Lochearn

Why is Boeing suffering from this design problem and not A320neo is that 737's wings are much lower to the ground than the A320. Unfortunately, more fuel-efficient engines require a larger air inlet, so the newer generation engines are much larger than the previously installed V2500 or CFM56 (anyone can verify that - the older engines are much, much smaller than the newer ones).

When Airbus introduced the Pratt & Whitney GTF on its A320s (calling it the neo - new engine option), it led to an increase (high single digits %) increase in fuel efficiency. Boeing had to respond to that. If they wanted to increase the height of the wings of the 737 from the ground, they would have had to redesign the fuselage which would have cost billions (and which they should have done, in hindsight). Instead, they listened to the investors and the bean counters as you have called them here and they jiggled the position of the wings a bit and introduced the new automatic stabiliser.

The people at Boeing are good or at least the engineers are. Imagine how many times this problem would have been brought up by someone for him/her to be shut down. It's not like they were not aware of the issue, but they were unwilling to let their bottom line suffer. Instead, they were okay with carrying the risk of killing hundreds of people.

That is what boggles my mind!

dh-mtl , Mar 12, 2019 6:00:43 PM | link
Lochearn | Mar 12, 2019 5:00:42 PM | 4;
Posted by: Ghost Ship | Mar 12, 2019 5:04:07 PM | 6

Agree with both of your comments. It looks like the 55 year old 737 air-frame design, which is very low to the ground when compared to more modern designs, is incompatible with the bigger engines required for fuel efficiency.

Being very low to the ground, Boeing was forced to put the engines out in front, which upset the airplane's balance, making the plane essentially unstable. To counter the instability they added the 'MCAS?' control system.

This solution violates a fundamental tenant of design for safety-critical systems. The tenant of 'fail-safe'. If something goes wrong the system is supposed to fail in a manner that preserves safety. For the 737 Max, when the this stability control system fails, the plane is fundamentally unstable. For this system it is not 'fail-safe'. It is 'fail-crash'.

Why would Boeing do this? Because Bombardier was building a clean sheet design, that would eat the 737's lunch. Boeing (and Airbus) were desperate to do something quick to minimize the 20% fuel burn advantage of the C-series. The more modern Airbus 320 air frame allowed it to re-engine their plane. Boeing's did not. But Boeing went ahead anyway and built an fundamentally unstable airplane, because the alternative was to walk away from their most important market.

To me, this looks like it could be catastrophic for Boeing. It reminds me of G.M.'s 'Corvair' moment (Unsafe at any speed), from the 1960s.

Jen , Mar 12, 2019 6:02:28 PM | link
Steven @ 13: The Indonesian Lion Air jet still crashed with all onboard dying, even after the pilots did as you said. B's post explains why: the MCAS system has to be deactivated separately as it is still active when autopilot is off and the pilots are flying manually. The Indonesian pilots did not have the time to figure out and realise that something else was controlling the plane's flight, much less deactivate what is effectively a second autopiloting system.
james , Mar 12, 2019 6:09:41 PM | link
how is this for reassuring? press release from boeing today... this info is from someone else, and i haven't verified it..

"For the past several months and in the aftermath of Lion Air Flight 610, Boeing has been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX, designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer."

witters , Mar 12, 2019 6:10:37 PM | link
"Boeing got taken over Wall Street, which means cheapest solution to anything. Engineers are stuck with what they are given. What part of that do you still not understand."

Why they colluded with and indeed implemented what they knew to be - and now proven to be - a mass killing system. What do you not understand here?

james , Mar 12, 2019 6:11:02 PM | link
very un- assuring.. https://gizmodo.com/boeing-promises-to-release-software-update-for-737-max-1833224836
Whozhear , Mar 12, 2019 6:15:58 PM | link
Great article B.

There is much more behind the covering up of this "design flaw" from the start. The concept that, in this day and age, sensors used in the aviation field and close to brand new are defective is a stretch of the imagination. The current effort by Boeing to do a software upgrade, I suspect, is cover for something more damaging.

How easy is it these days to access the MAX's operation and flight control computers? Can it be done via WI-fi or Bluetooth from the airfield? We are well aware that in the newer heavies Seattle can take basic control via satellite.

Whozhear , Mar 12, 2019 6:19:12 PM | link
@ 5

You may also find this interesting........ https://colonelcassad.livejournal.com/4837334.html

Steven , Mar 12, 2019 6:24:25 PM | link
@jen @james

You clowns don't understand what you're telling me I'm "getting wrong." MCAS ISN'T part of the autopilot, and I never said it was.

737 pilots have to be able to do about 10 procedures in their sleep. One is when the electrical control of the horizontal stabilizers doesn't work; Aa few steps but basically pull a breaker and revert to manual control only, no power assist.

The crew on the previous flight did this and flew on with zero problem.

It's outrageous that lionair didn't find out why emergency procedures had had to be used and fix them before they let the airplane fly again.

If airlines do not adhere to Minimal safety standards, it's not Boeing's fault if it's planes crash.

Jonathan , Mar 12, 2019 6:35:04 PM | link
@35 Steven,

Is Boeing paying you to miss this part:

"This is the first description you, as 737 pilots, have seen. It is not in the AA 737 Flight Manual Part 2, nor is there a description in the Boeing FCOM (flight crew operations manual)," says the letter from the pilots' union safety committee. "Awareness is the key with all safety issues."
Kadath , Mar 12, 2019 6:41:49 PM | link
Well it's good to know that Canada is still allowing this death trap to fly, I couldn't bare the thought that Boeing might lose more stock value merely because of a defective product that kills! Seriously though, the silence from the Canadian media on this subject is deafening. CBC news didn't even cover the banning of these planes in the rest of the world until an hour ago and even then they seemed more concerned about the impact on Boeing then the you know 300 people killed because of this flawed plane. Eventually (before Friday) I think Canada will be forced to ground it's fleet of 737-8s. With the current corruption scandal, Trudeau is too weak right now to stand up in Question period and claim the 737-8s are safe to fly. Even Trump is getting in on the action and blaming Boeing for the accidents. FAA may end up being the biggest loser from this situations with a huge hit to its' trustworthiness, I remember when the FAA would issue emergency maintenance/inspection orders after any crash suspected to be caused by maintenance issues and ground entire fleets of aircraft if two planes crashed within 2 years. You know, the FAAs behaviour now reminds me of the old Soviet joke, "our planes never crash, their just indefinitely delayed"
Meshpal , Mar 12, 2019 6:46:17 PM | link
These people did not die they were murdered. Long ago, I had worked with Boeing on a computer project and I had the highest respect for the company and engineers. Facts and reality were paramount for Boeing. Things started a slow downhill slope when that TWA flight that was accidentally shot down by a missile. I noticed how uncomfortable the engineers were to talk about it – just a short comment that the fuel tank was not the cause. When politics and management go away from reality and facts, it is just a matter of time. But for the life of me I do not understand how Boeing can come to this:

Fault 1: As B says, it should never have been designed like this.
Fault 2: Don't tell the pilots about MCSA.
Fault 3: Real time flight tracking altitude data show wild swings – red light ignored. No need to wait for a plane to crash.
Fault 4: Lion Air Flight 610 crash showed that this MCSA system is at fault and nothing much was done. The murder of 189 people.
Fault 5: Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 murdering an additional 157 people.
Fault 6: FAA says everything is ok.

Especially the Ethiopian Flight 409 crash should never have happened. This issue became well known to engineers and flight crews world wide after Lion Air. A good question is: was the disable MCSA switch now a memory item or a check list item for the flight crew? Or did Boeing want to wait for the final report of Lion Air?

I noticed that the Ethiopian pilot was not western, but looks like from Indian decent. I would not doubt his abilities, but rather say that he would follow the rules more than a western pilot. Western pilots would network and study this thing on their own and would not wait for Boeing. They would have penciled this into their flight deck routine - just to be safe.

JohnT , Mar 12, 2019 6:51:38 PM | link
David Park #5

I read this yesterday regarding the Venezuela power outages. Possible Stuxnet infestation ala Iran 2010?

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2019/03/11/trump-regime-electricity-war-in-venezuela-more-serious-than-first-believed.html

Alpi57 , Mar 12, 2019 6:54:45 PM | link
One can always find a benefit in the sanctions, albeit coincidental. Iran avoided a lot of damage from Boeing. They had ordered 140 of 737's. All got canceled. Congratulations.
ancientarcher , Mar 12, 2019 6:59:53 PM | link
@40 Alpi57
Iran always has the option of buying the Irkut MC-21 which in my opinion is the best narrowbody plane that anyone can buy now. Fully redesigned body with significantly higher composite percentage and comes with the best engine in the world for narrowbodies - the P&W GTF. And Russia will be happy.

What's not to like

Likklemore , Mar 12, 2019 7:07:19 PM | link
Before you guys and gals bash b, hop over to Zerohedge citing Dallas Morning News revealing FAA database Pilots on Boeing 737Max complained for months...Manual inadequate ...criminally insufficient .just for starters.
karlof1 , Mar 12, 2019 7:10:30 PM | link
james @32--

That Canada didn't is crazy :

"In a remarkable rebuke, nations from the U.K. to Australia have rejected public reassurances from the FAA and grounded Boeing's 737 Max."

Hoarsewhisperer , Mar 12, 2019 7:28:54 PM | link
I was a big fan of the 6-part BBC doco series Black Box from the 1990s. The main conclusion drawn was that the industry is way too fond of blaming as many mishaps as possible on Pilot Error, and way too slow to react to telltale signs that a particular aircraft model might have a fatal flaw. There was a tendency to ignore FAA edicts for inspection of a suspected design weakness. Two cases that come to mind were incorrectly locked DC 9 cargo doors ripping off with a big chunk of the plane plus half a dozen occupied seats, and a tendency of 727s to nose-dive into the "surface" at Mach 0.99.

I'll be very surprised if any part of b's analysis, conclusions and predictions turns out to incorrect.

World 3 - USA 0 , Mar 12, 2019 7:31:57 PM | link
Lights in Venezuela on. US Boeing stocks down. More evidence for the Lockheed f-16 downing. Reports it was a dogfight between an old MiG-21 (with modernised radar and missiles) that brought the modern US Lockheed f-16 down and maybe not from a launch of MiGs modern bvr missile.

Things are looking up.

Zachary Smith , Mar 12, 2019 7:33:32 PM | link
@ ancientarcher @41

The problem with a "new" airplane is the Western Content. Over a certain percentage, the US basically controls the situation. Another issue is servicing the things. If an airplane is sitting in Podunk Airport with a broken widget, the airline wants it fixed right now! Some planes like the 737 have been around for decades and there are probably parts for it - even at Podunk. A new plane will probably be grounded until a new part is transported in - a process which will take many hours even in the best of circumstances. Advantage to the 737 and other 'legacy' airplanes.

Just saw an interesting headline at Reuters - I'd suppose it is some friendly advice from Wall Street disguised as "news".

Breakingviews - Boeing needs to think faster than its watchdog

Change "watchdog" to "lapdog" and that would be about right. It seems to me a sensible proposal, for if Boeing must take a beating out of this, the company ought to at least adopt a pose of "really caring" and "doing the right thing". Try for the brownie points.

psychohistorian , Mar 12, 2019 7:40:55 PM | link
@ Zachary Smith who wrote
"
It seems to me a sensible proposal, for if Boeing must take a beating out of this, the company ought to at least adopt a pose of "really caring" and "doing the right thing".
"

China is coming to teach the West morals which are currently ranked below profit and ongoing private control of global finance

aspnaz , Mar 12, 2019 7:54:05 PM | link
@35 Steven

The Ethiopian airlines flight was an international flight, so the pilots will have been certified to international standards. I don't know the details of international standards for type training, but you are basically saying that the fault is not with Boeing, it is with the type training of international pilot crews. Can you elaborate and does this mean that we are equally in danger regardless of the aircraft model and that it is just coincidence that both these crew failures were on 737 Max models?

EV , Mar 12, 2019 8:07:08 PM | link
The evidences and recognizably legitimate information (there is always a lot of through-the-hat blather-yap from internet-"engineers") suggests thrust angle, not structure or CG destabilization. "larger" engines are not necessarily significantly heavier, but, today, and if more efficient, will be larger diameter for more fan, for more thrust (which in jet and fan engines is more power). Larger diameter nacelles will require modification of placement, higher, lower, larger weight will require modification of placement, forward, backward. Clearance restrictions may require modification of engine thrust-line angle, relative to fuselage, and fuselage-fit control surface lines (which include flight surfaces). Thrust changes with thrust changes, which means thrust-angle change will change thrust-effect at differing thrust amounts: Take-off and climb thrusts are near maximums, wherefore angular component will be near max then (cruise maximums are less, or less effective, or radical, for altitude air thinning).

What this means is that if larger engines on a 737 MAX, for larger bulk are slightly angled for clearance,the angling may have little effect except in specific instances and attitudes, such as take-off and climb. It sounds as if Boeing angled thrust slightly for engine fitting, and assumed a computer control fix could handle the off-line thrust component effect during the short duration times it was sufficient to effect flight characteristics, which, if the thrust-angling was up, would add a nose-up tail-down thrust rotation component, greater at greater power. to compensate which the software would add nose-down control surface counteraction, as incident described.

What it sounds like the pilot in the first, non-crash, case most likely did, that saved the aircraft, was not 'disable' an automatic system he had no information about, for it being not intended for disablement, but was reduce power, reducing the off-line thrust effect, so the auto system backed off. In the other incidents, especially if the airports were get-em-high-fast airports (to 'leave' the noise at the airport) the pilots would incline to not reduce power, and would be more likely to get into a war with the too automated auto-system, the way Tesla drivers can do with their over-automated systems.

All auto-control "AI" systems need human-override options built in, so that human-robot stand-offs to impact cannot occur. The real culprits in stand-off accident situations are the techie-guppies who think robotic control can always do everything better, and fail to think of the situation where the "right" response is wrong.

Jen , Mar 12, 2019 8:19:36 PM | link
Steven @ 35:

Lion Air's engineers had previously identified and tried to fix issues with the jet that crashed in October 2018.

The day before the jet took off from Jakarta airport and crashed, killing all 189 onboard, one of its Angle of Attack sensors had been replaced by engineers in Denpasar. Unfortunately the source I checked (see link below) doesn't say if this replacement AoA sensor was the one linked to the computer running the MCAS on the flight.

https://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=20181029-0

fast freddy , Mar 12, 2019 8:26:15 PM | link
Bean Counters:

Delta once initiated a fuel saving measure whereby aircraft were insufficiently topped off with fuel to prevent pilots from wasting fuel. Once this information began to leak, the measure was ended.

psychohistorian , Mar 12, 2019 8:40:43 PM | link
@ fast freddy with the Bean Counters example

Thanks for Bean Counters! I so much wanted to use Bean Counters in my rant but thought I should stick to their standard appellation....

Bean Counters need to be taken seriously because they are not going to go away in any form of social organization and represent where the rubber meets the road when it comes to social decision making/risk management

Bean Counters (along with their bosses) need to be required to place morals as a higher value than profit and forced to operate with maximum public transparency and input; then, all will be good.

Pnyx , Mar 12, 2019 8:41:19 PM | link
Thank you for the accurate information. The basic problem seems to be that the low-consumption engines protrude too far. A well-designed, reliable aircraft becomes a faulty design. To try to solve this using software is a precarious approach. The FAA should have rejected this in principle. But because to design an aircraft completely from scratch naturally takes longer and would have given the competitor Airbus time to take over the to much market share, this 'solution' was accepted. This type of corruption will cost the u.s. a lot.

But first let's wait for Tronald's tweet, which will certainly be aired by tomorrow at the latest, in which he states that the 737 Max is a great, great aircraft - if not the best ever...

Kiza , Mar 12, 2019 8:49:51 PM | link
There is no doubt that both Boeing and FAA are to blame, but we pay the Government to ensure safety. Businesses have always chased profit, some more ruthlessly than others. But when the real corruption sets in then the Government regulator works for the businesses at the expense of the public . Regarding FAA reputation, there was a time when US was the leader in aviation, military as well as commercial. This means that the best experts were in US and thus FAA had the best and the most knowledgeable people. It is similar with FDA, all countries in the World used to follow the touchstone drug approvals by FDA. Now the "Federal" in any US acronym has become a synonym for "Corruption" (FBI anyone?).

The expertise does not matter any more, only greasing of the hands does. In the old times, anyone from FAA whose signature was on this planes approval to fly would get a life sentence in jail. But 330 people dead is less than a days worth of US global victims - business as usual for US. It is just that these victims are getting much more publicity than the silent victims. We will be lucky if anyone influential from FAA even resigns let alone goes to jail. There will be many more dead before the World understands this new reality.

Would you fly on any Boeing plane designed or delivered after the company was taken over by the Wall Street wizards in the 90s?

Peter AU 1 , Mar 12, 2019 8:53:28 PM | link

Re the engineers - they agreed to build an out of balance aircraft (thrust vs weight and drag) and to try and rectify this with software. What we will do for money. Both the bean counters and engineers are at fault, perhaps the beancounters and shiney butts more so as they did not inform buyers and pilots of the faults.
Hoarsewhisperer , Mar 12, 2019 8:56:22 PM | link
Posted by: fast freddy | Mar 12, 2019 8:26:15 PM | 52
(Fuel 'economy')

QANTAS once decreed that pilots rely on brakes and treat reverse thrust as emergency-only procedure, until a 747 skidded off the end of a runway with the nose-wheel inside the cabin and bruised engines = lots of down-time + very large repair bill.

Clueless Joe , Mar 12, 2019 8:58:46 PM | link
Fast Freddy:

Not just Delta; Ryanair did the same, at least until there was a major storm in Spain (Valencia, I think) and all flights had to be rerouted to other airports. That was fine, with dozens of planes flying around waiting for a window to land, until the handful of Ryanair planes that had been rerouted to Madrid and other places called for emergency landings, because they didn't have enough fuel to fly for even 30 minutes longer than planned flights.

I'm still amazed that the EU regulators and EU fucking commission didn't downright dismantle such a bloody greedy and downright criminal company. That they basically did nothing is proof enough, imho, of the insane level of capitalism-worship and of corruption going on in Brussels (of course it's even worse in Washington DC, but that's basically a given).

bevin , Mar 12, 2019 9:19:41 PM | link
the toronto star is carrying this story
Headline:
"Ottawa exempts Boeing 737 Max jets from standards meant to minimize passenger injuries"

"Air Canada and WestJet are flying the Boeing 737 Max aircraft exempt from regulatory standards meant to limit passenger injuries in the event of an accident, the Star has learned."

What does it mean?

Pft , Mar 12, 2019 9:51:59 PM | link
B is right. This is a criminal act of deception and fraud thats cost hundreds their lives. Boeing executives responsible should be prosecuted and then jailed.

Instead the safety agency regulating them will cover it up, backed by the criminal congress.

We see similar crimes against humanity being committed in many other areas. FDA, CDC, EPA, FCC , USDA, etc covering up for Big Agra, Big Pharma, Big Telecom with dangerous products like vaccines, glyphosate,4G/5G, GMO foods, gene edited livestock, etc. Safety standards are lax and inadequate, safety testing is minimal and in some cases fraudulent or completely lacking. Defects and adverse effects are covered up. A revolving door between these agencies and the industry they cover presents significant conflict of interest. These industries finance congressional members campaigns. Public safety is sacrificed for the greater good (profits and personal gain). Whistleblowers are muzzled, attacked or ridiculed as the MSM are their lap dogs.

That said, the airline industry has had a remarkable safety record over the last 30 years if you can overlook their failure to have adequate locks on cockpit doors in 2001. However, the lack of competition and increasing corruption and continuing moral decay we see in society , government and industry has obviously taken its toll on the industry. This is inexcusable. Heads should roll (dont hold your breath).

El Cid , Mar 12, 2019 9:57:08 PM | link
Congress flies on these aircraft to and fro from Washington to their districts. It is to their interests to have these Boeing 737 permanently grounded.
ben , Mar 12, 2019 10:13:18 PM | link
psycho @1 said;"The West is a world in which the accountants have more sway than engineers."

Case closed, and anyone who thinks senior execs should be prosecuted and jailed are right.

BUT, never would happen in today's pro-corporate U$A mentality..

Profits uber alles!!

Kadath , Mar 12, 2019 10:23:36 PM | link
Re: 59 Bevin, "Ottawa exempts Boeing 737 Max jets from standards meant to minimize passenger injuries"

- what this means is that Washington called Ottawa and ordered little Justin that he had to allow the 737 8's to fly and Justin said yes sir! However, someone at the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, told Justin that the threat these plane pose to travellers was so obvious that they couldn't just ignore it and that they would instead have to issue a waiver to show that they have done due diligence - apparently this person or someone else within the department then called the Star in order to leak the information and embarrass Justin into reversing his decision. I imagine tomorrow at 4:00pm during the question hour, Justin will get raked through the coals over his - Justin's whole defense of his actions during the Lavin scandal has been "I needed to protect Canadian jobs", I imagine the NDP or Conservatives will then retort something along the lines of "you'll break the law to protect Jobs, why won't you obey the law to protect Canadian lives!", I should point out that 8 Canadians were killed in the most recent crash in Ethiopia

paul , Mar 12, 2019 10:28:00 PM | link
Steven @ 35: watch this

from 2014: 32min in john woods aerospace engineer whistle blower https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvkEpstd9os

acementhead , Mar 12, 2019 10:39:09 PM | link
Steven is correct. Totally correct. I suspect that he is an airline pilot, as am I. Everybody else is wrong at least in part and most between 50% and 100%(The description of the cause of the QANTAS hull loss).

Pilots MUST know all about aircraft systems operation. It is crazy for Boeing to have functions not in the AFM.

The system in question is not operative with autopilot engaged. In manual flight if at any time one gets an uncommanded stab trim movement one should immediately disable electrical trim(One switch, half a second, no "procedure" required. In manual flight if the trim wheel moves and you hadn't touched the trim switches you have uncommanded trim. Immediately disable electrical trim.

There is procedure for reestablishment of electrical trim, that does take time. The defeat of the runaway trim does not take time. B737 has provision for manual trim(but it's very slow.

Bob , Mar 12, 2019 10:47:40 PM | link
Also a very interesting read about the JT610 Flight https://www.satcom.guru/2018/11/first-look-at-jt610-flight-data.html
VietnamVet , Mar 12, 2019 10:47:49 PM | link
I grew up reading Boeing's weekly employee newspaper. Times have changed too much since then. Moving the headquarters from Seattle to Chicago and a second 787 assembly line in South Carolina to bust their unions are proof that Boeing is a multinational corporation superior to national governments. The company is the Empire's armorer for profit. It is criminal to design an unstable passenger airplane that must be controlled by fly by wire sensors and computers to stay in the air. The problem is the aircraft industry duopoly and deregulation. Airbus has lost at least three aircraft to problems with the pilot computer interface. I was shocked when NBC put this first last night. I though it would be silenced. I blame Trump Derangement Syndrome. His trade wars and dissing have ticked off the world. When China grounded the 737 Max 8 everybody followed to show what they really think about the North American Empire. This could be devastating to the last manufacturing industry left in the USA.
Deal , Mar 12, 2019 10:58:29 PM | link
Boeing in my view took a cynical decision. That is, there would only be a few crashes within a set period. Thus the insurance companies would pick up the tab for their profits. However the loss of two planes so close together could destroy the company. The aforesaid insurance companies will not pay a single dime if they can stick corporate murder charges onto Boeing.

This smells of the Ford Pinto scandal where Ford knew that there was a problem with the fuel system if the car was rear-ended ( the vehicle burst into flames ) but it was cheaper to pay the compensation than fix the problem.

Kalen , Mar 13, 2019 12:25:40 AM | link
B is missing the point that fitting new engines caused airplane to take off close to stalling horizontal speeds and angles at very low altitude and more steeply ascending to flight altitude and that has left little time for pilots to react. That is very dangerous as much weaker tail wind may confuse pilots and sensors. To remedy that without recertification AI software was installed to react faster and overriding actions of pilot who was assumed not be aware of situation at the moment he had to immediately react at the latest.

Lack of sensor redundancy is also criminal as determination of sensor malfunction is critical for pilot. That is AI application correcting "human" physical mental deficiencies and that is deadly trap.

If it goes to court, interesting case will be, whose error was that as MCAS system acted correctly against pilot based on faulty sensor causing pilot to make mistake recovering from correct but suicidal software actions.

People must be warned of cultish trust in technology and AI which is ultimate guilty party together with greed that killed those people.

Pft , Mar 13, 2019 1:01:16 AM | link
Frances@70

There are unlimited dollars for any intervention they choose, publicly allocated or not. There is a reason 21 trillion in pentagon spending is unaccounted for. This does not count dark money from illicit means used to fund covert operations.

The fact its public just means Trump wants congress to sanction it, which they will. Seized Venezuela assets will serve as collateral for future reimbursement.

Grieved , Mar 13, 2019 1:02:08 AM | link
@65 acementhead - "It is crazy for Boeing to have functions not in the AFM"

No, it's criminal. And while all the technical discussion around how to fly a plane is truly interesting, what's really at issue here is corporate and institutional betrayal of trust.

The corporate aspect is Boeing, obviously. The institutional aspect is FAA, which used to lead the world in trust when it came to life and death matters.

But now, in what Bloomberg, even while trying to support FAA, has no choice but to report as a "stunning rebuff" to FAA's integrity, countries around the world are grounding this flawed plane. Germany, among others, has closed its airspace to the 737.

This situation has only a little to do with how to fly a plane. It has vastly more to do with the face of capitalism we see leering at us as our families live their last few moments, on the way to the ground. It has to do with how the corporate spin departments will attempt to cover up and evade responsibility for these crimes.

And it has to do with how the global consumer market will start to book its flights based not on price or time or seat location but on make of plane.

And despite your claim that "Everybody else is wrong at least in part..." , I doubt very much that most of the commenters here are wrong in their appreciation of the situation.

snake , Mar 13, 2019 1:07:41 AM | link
@68 No Deal

I don't think Boeing made a decision, they had little choice (stockholders were first, the jobs were essential to the politicians, and market share would become competitive if Boeing dropped out), it was the pressure of the system that charted their course.

Capitalism is about competition in a just, fairly well managed government regulated environment. In order for capitalism not to over step the bounds of competitive capitalism; government must remain present, to prevent foul play and to deny all hints of monopoly power...

Capitalism without an honest government becomes organized crime or, worse, it degenerates to allow private enterprise and special interest to dictate how the rule making and military arms of government should be used, against domestic and foreign competition. . Economic Zionism is what I call this last degenerative stage.

Defensively EZ teaches the winner to completely and totally destroy the infrastructure, the resources and the people (including competitive personnel with the brains to develop competition) of those who refuse to conform or those who insist on competing; offensively , EZ teaches the winner to take all and to take-over, own and keep the goodies taken from those destroyed, and in the matter of profit making and wealth keeping EZ teaches only winners are allowed to produce-and -profit everyone else is to be made to feed the monopoly that eliminated competition produced. The residual of eliminated, decimated competitive opposition = monopoly power

It is the king of the mountain monopoly that produces the wealth and power and feeds the corruption that makes the rich richer.

I think this case makes clear, privatization of government responsibility nearly always turns sour . The Government should take over and keep the operation of all of the Airlines strictly in government hands (privatization is proven to be problematic). When I grew up all of the airlines were so tightly regulated they were part of the government; the airlines were investors and operators following government rules and regulations. pricing was based on point to point fixed in price and terms (and the same for all airlines) and that was a time when aircraft design was not so accurate, meals were served and jets were nearly not existent but still there were very few accidents. Same for the Trucking Industry and the railroad.. Why should roads be government obligations, but rail, trucks and planes be privately owned?

I am not a communist or a socialist, I just know that private influence will always find a way to wrongly influence public sector employees when private interest wants something from government.

V , Mar 13, 2019 1:43:43 AM | link
VietnamVet | Mar 12, 2019 10:47:49 PM | 67

Agreed!

For a number issues/reasons, I quit flying in 2007, vowing never to set foot in an aircraft again. Trains or ships, okay. So far so good; the 737 Max just firms my rsolve...

Circe , Mar 13, 2019 2:17:54 AM | link
The aircraft did not undergo piece by piece certification or type certification . It underwent supplemental type certification that shortens the investigative process.

max 8 Certification

This is a potential disaster for Boeing. The stock is falling and it'll go into free fall if decision is made to ground this aircraft. FAA will also face a legal tsunami. If this is the reason they didn't ground the planes yet; it's going to look really damning when the find themselves in court later.

Hoarsewhisperer , Mar 13, 2019 2:21:34 AM | link
This is shaping up to be unnecessarily messy for the industry. Yesterday's Oz edition of PBS Newshour went over most of the topics touched on in b's posting but stopped short of finger-pointing although it insinuated that Boeing had blundered. Today's edition posed a question I was going to pose here...

"Should anyone be flying 737MAXes before the black box data has been evaluated?"

The answer, delivered by a female ex-Inspector General (of precisely what I didn't hear) is "No. Absolutely not!"

james , Mar 13, 2019 2:39:06 AM | link
@35 steven... i will take that as a compliment, referring to me as a clown.. i have high regard for clowns, although i don't think there is anything funny about the topic at hand.. innocent people dying and it being based on a corporation that might be negligent in it's responsibility to it's passengers, is something we will have to wait and find out about.. i am definitely not thinking it is pilot error here, as you suggest.. i saw what the canadian airpilot association said - essentially they don't believe Canada should be flying them either, as i read it..

@43 karlof1.. as i pointed out in the link @7 - the fact canada allows them to continue to be flown makes no sense to me..poor judgment call is what it looks like to me.. the canuck gov't and etc are living in the shadows of what b has described about the FAA.. a lot of credibility is on the line here as i see it..

i apologize for not reading all the comments, as i was out most of the day and just got back..

acementhead , Mar 13, 2019 2:48:25 AM | link

Kalen said

"...fitting new engines caused airplane to take off close to stalling horizontal speeds and angles at very low altitude and more steeply ascending to flight altitude and that has left little time for pilots to react. That is very dangerous as much weaker tail wind may confuse pilots and sensors. ..."

This is absolute garbage. Nothing but a "word salad" it has nothing to do with reality.

The Ethiopian crash is due to a useless pilot. A different crew, on the same plane, the day before had the same problem. They handled it correctly, which is EASY, and completed the day's flying without problem. Third world airlines have HUGE numbers of absolutely incompetent pilots.

Anyone interested in the operational aspects of this should go to an aviation site. PPRUNE has some good discussion of this event. There are a few idiots posting but very few. Most people there are very knowledgeable. I had a look at Airliners.net mostly rubbish.

Peter AU 1 , Mar 13, 2019 3:16:03 AM | link
Kalen 69
Installing the new engines changed the angle of thrust. In a balanced aircraft, engine thrust is pushing centrally on wight and drag.
If the thrust is below center of weight, it will nose up while accelerating. If thrust is below center of drag, the aircraft will be trying to nose up while cruising.

The original aircraft was most likely balanced, with thrust centered to weight and drag. Mounting new engines lower means the aircraft will tend to nose up when accelerating, and nose up during cruise. Relying on sensors and software to keep an unstable aircraft stable is not a good thing. To not notify pilots of this problem is worse than not a good thing.

psychohistorian , Mar 13, 2019 3:24:41 AM | link
@ acementhead with insistence that the pilot was at error.

Without the black box data you are sticking your **ck out a long way. I find it interesting that in both your comments you are insistent that the pilot was the problem. You wrote in your first comment
"
Pilots MUST know all about aircraft systems operation. It is crazy for Boeing to have functions not in the AFM.
"
The 2nd sentence is your only criticism of Boeing but then you spend the rest of the comment describing what the pilot should have done.....before black box data says what happened.

Kiza , Mar 13, 2019 3:45:44 AM | link
When a relative asked me recently why did the new Ethiopian plane crash, I generated a sound-bite like explanation. Before, the civilian airliners were falling out of the sky because of an immature technology, that is because of the learning curve. Now that the technology involved is fully mature the airliners are falling out of the sky for profit taking.

The scariest thing is that 737MAX model was a botched Boeing reaction to the market change towards budget flight. If the plane manufacturer and the approval authority were prepared to cut corners so badly to remain "market competitive", one can only imagine the compromises that budget airlines are making to sell cheap whilst increasing profits. Some airlines must be treating planes worst than buses are treated by the bus companies.

US citizens entrust their wallets to the private bank, The Federal=Corrupt Reserve, which prints money and gives it to the most exceptional among the exceptional (did you think that there was no hierarchy within the exceptionality?). We entrust our heads to the Federal=Corrupt Aviation Administration whose bureaucrats work for the porky revolving door consulting jobs that come after a stint in the Corrupt.

Kiza , Mar 13, 2019 4:01:48 AM | link
@Peter AU 1

As Aussies would say: using software to solve a hardware problem is like putting lipstick on a pig. More than 300 people dead are a terrible testament to this wisdom.

Yet, it is fascinating that you are blaming the engineers and some others are asking in the comments for whistleblowers in Boeing and FAA.

Well, if I were an engineer at Boeing I would probably have resigned if asked to do this design monstrosity of putting unfitting engines on a differently designed plane - creating a Lego airplane, but I never had a home mortgage over my head. Regarding whistleblowing, we all know how suicidal it is, why do supposedly intelligent people expect other to be so dumb to commit one? Before you expect others to self-sacrifice ask yourself if you would do so in their shoes.

b , Mar 13, 2019 4:01:57 AM | link
It seems that the U.S. now wants to manipulate the investigation of the Ethiopian Airlines crash. WSJ U.S., Ethiopia Maneuver Over Crashed Plane's Black Boxes Washington wants NTSB to download data from recorders, while African nation's officials prefer U.K. experts.
U.S. air-safety investigators on Tuesday engaged in intense behind-the-scenes discussions with their Ethiopian counterparts regarding where the black-box recorders found amid the wreckage of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 will be downloaded, according to people familiar with the matter.
Peter AU 1 , Mar 13, 2019 4:15:37 AM | link
Kiza 85 "Before you expect others to self-sacrifice ask yourself if you would do so in their shoes."
"Self sacrifice" ... Most of my life I have been self employed, but for a few years when I was young and then as I got older and ill health slowed me down, I have worked for others.

If told to do a job that I believed was destined to fail, I would pull out. What you call self sacrifice simply comes down to money, and as I put in an earlier comment "what we do for money" Engineers that put this schumozzel together were simply putting in the hours to received their pay check at the end of the week with no thought as to the people hurt or killed when this bodge job failed. The fault is equally with engineers who sell their souls for money and the bean counters who did not inform purchasers or pilots.

Kalen , Mar 13, 2019 4:16:24 AM | link
@aceme..

What you wrote is asinine garbage, my friend. Everybody except for bribed FAA dumped B737 Max 8 until notice. It is simply too dangerous to fly.

It is you who are trolling for Boeing, the problem was discovered five months ago never fixed, blamed pilots despite previous complaints. Now FAA admitted that fact by demanding software fix in April or they will ground the fleet. PILOT ERROR????? Of course not and they know it.

Not only worldwide airlines dumped this model so far but also they closed the airspace for them in EU, China, HK etc.,because the plane is dangerous and may require recertification of plane and pilots since Boeing lied about it and its flight parameters,p the trust was broken, they were cheating with deadly consequences was revealed. Expect hundreds of lawsuits, as American were also onboard.

Interestingly that anti-stalling software cannot be disabled on the ground only in flight in manual mode only after it was engaged exactly for reasons I mentioned about near-stalling dangerous flight parameters.

Peter AU 1 , Mar 13, 2019 4:27:42 AM | link
b 86

US Boeing are very much competing with France airbus and also the coming Chinese Russian airliner. The US is very much batting for the home team (as the mad monk told the Australian Broadcasting Commission to do so).

Kiza , Mar 13, 2019 6:14:40 AM | link
Is it really so hard to connect the secrecy about MCAS and why it was needed in the first place? The lawyers will have a ball of the decade with this: the defendant created a secret software solution to turn a Lego airplane into a real airplane, made the software dependent on a single sensor, and made it difficult to switch the software off.

The networked Western pilots learned how to compensate for the faulty design, but non-networked foreign pilots never got in on the flying tricks needed for this new plane because it was never been in their training. Also, the critical sensor may not be available on an airport in Ethiopia or Indonesia or .....

I cannot believe that Boeing shares dropped only 7.5%, this is a statement of how untouchable Boeing is and how protected it will be by the Corrupt.

[Nov 05, 2018] Management theories for CIOs The Peter Principle and Parkinson's Law

Notable quotes:
"... José Ortega y Gasset. ..."
"... "Works expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." ..."
"... "The time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum of money involved." ..."
"... Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, ..."
"... "It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law." ..."
"... "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong." ..."
"... "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong - at the worst possible moment." ..."
Nov 05, 2018 | cio.co.uk

From the semi-serious to the confusingly ironic, the business world is not short of pseudo-scientific principles, laws and management theories concerning how organisations and their leaders should and should not behave. CIO UK takes a look at some sincere, irreverent and leftfield management concepts that are relevant to CIOs and all business leaders.

The Peter Principle

A concept formulated by Laurence J Peter in 1969, the Peter Principle runs that in a hierarchical structure, employees are promoted to their highest level of incompetence at which point they are no longer able to fulfil an effective role for their organisation.

In the Peter Principle people are promoted when they excel, but this process falls down when they are unlikely to gain further promotion or be demoted with the logical end point, according to Peter, where "every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties" and that "work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence".

To counter the Peter Principle leaders could seek the advice of Spanish liberal philosopher José Ortega y Gasset. While he died 14 years before the Peter Principle was published, Ortega had been in exile in Argentina during the Spanish Civil War and prompted by his observations in South America had quipped: "All public employees should be demoted to their immediately lower level, as they have been promoted until turning incompetent."

Parkinson's Law

Cyril Northcote Parkinson's eponymous law, derived from his extensive experience in the British Civil Service, states that: "Works expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."

The first sentence of a humorous essay published in The Economist in 1955, Parkinson's Law is familiar with CIOs, IT teams, journalists, students, and every other occupation that can learn from Parkinson's mocking of pubic administration in the UK. The corollary law most applicable to CIOs runs that "data expands to fill the space available for storage", while Parkinson's broader work about the self-satisfying uncontrolled growth of bureaucratic apparatus is as relevant for the scaling startup as it is to the large corporate.

Related Parkinson's Law of Triviality

Flirting with the ground between flippancy and seriousness, Parkinson argued that boards and members of an organisation give disproportional weight to trivial issues and those that are easiest to grasp for non-experts. In his words: "The time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum of money involved."

Parkinson's anecdote is of a fictional finance committee's three-item agenda to cover a £10 million contract discussing the components of a new nuclear reactor, a proposal to build a new £350 bicycle shed, and finally which coffee and biscuits should be supplied at future committee meetings. While the first item on the agenda is far too complex and ironed out in two and a half minutes, 45 minutes is spent discussing bike sheds, and debates about the £21 refreshment provisions are so drawn out that the committee runs over its two-hour time allocation with a note to provide further information about coffee and biscuits to be continued at the next meeting.

The Dilbert Principle

Referring to a 1990s theory by popular Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams, the Dilbert Principle runs that companies tend to promote their least competent employees to management roles to curb the amount of damage they are capable of doing to the organisation.

Unlike the Peter Principle , which is positive in its aims by rewarding competence, the Dilbert Principle assumes people are moved to quasi-senior supervisory positions in a structure where they are less likely to have an effect on productive output of the company which is performed by those lower down the ladder.

Hofstadter's Law

Coined by Douglas Hofstadter in his 1979 book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, Hofstadter's Law states: "It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law."

Particularly relevant to CIOs and business leaders overseeing large projects and transformation programmes, Hofstadter's Law suggests that even appreciating your own subjective pessimism in your projected timelines, they are still worth re-evaluating.

Related Murphy's Law

"Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."

An old adage and without basis in any scientific laws or management principles, Murphy's Law is always worth bearing in mind for CIOs or when undertaking thorough scenario planning for adverse situations. It's also perhaps worth bearing in mind the corollary principle Finagle's Law , which states: "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong - at the worst possible moment."

Lindy Effect

Concerning the life expectancy of non-perishable things, the Lindy Effect is as relevant to CIOs procuring new technologies or maintaining legacy infrastructure as it is to the those buying homes, used cars, a fountain pen or mobile phone.

Harder to define than other principles and laws, the Lindy Effect suggests that mortality rate decreases with time, unlike in nature and in human beings where - after childhood - mortality rate increases with time. Ergo, every day of server uptime implies a longer remaining life expectancy.

A corollary effect related to the Lindy Effect which is a good explanation is the Copernican Principle , which states that the future life expectancy is equal to the current age, i.e. that barring any addition evidence on the contrary, something must be halfway through its life span.

The Lindy Effect and the idea that older things are more robust has specific relevance to CIOs beyond servers and IT infrastructure with its association with source code, where newer code will in general have lower probability of remaining within a year and an increased likelihood of causing problems compared to code written a long time ago, and in project management where the lifecycle of a project grows and its scope changes, an Agile methodology can be used to mitigate project risks and fix mistakes.

The Jevons Paradox

Wikipedia offers the best economic description of the Jevons Paradox or Jevons effect, in which a technological progress increases efficiency with which a resource is used, but the rate of consumption of that resource subsequently rises because of increasing demand.

Think email, think Slack, instant messaging, printing, how easy it is to create Excel reports, coffee-making, conference calls, network and internet speeds, the list is endless. If you suspect demand in these has increased along with technological advancement negating the positive impact of said efficiency gains in the first instance, sounds like the paradox first described by William Stanley Jevons in 1865 when observing coal consumption following the introduction of the Watt steam engine.

Ninety-Ninety Rule

A light-hearted quip bespoke to computer programming and software development, the Ninety-Ninety Rule states that: "The first 90% of the code accounts for the first 90% of the development time. The remaining 10% of the code accounts for the other 90% of the development time." See also, Hofstadter's Law .

Related to this is the Pareto Principle , or the 80-20 Rule, and how it relates to software, with supporting anecdotes that "20% of the code has 80% of the errors" or in load testing that it is common practice to estimate that 80% of the traffic occurs during 20% of the time.

Pygmalion Effect and Golem Effect

Named after the Greek myth of Pygmalion, a sculptor who fell in love with a statue he carved, and relevant to managers across industry and seniority, the Pygmalion Effect runs that higher expectations lead to an increased performance.

Counter to the Pygmalion Effect is the Golem effect , whereby low expectations result in a decrease in performance.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger Effect , named after two psychologists from Cornell University, states that incompetent people are significantly less able to recognise their own lack of skill, the extent of their inadequacy, and even to gauge the skill of others. Furthermore, they are only able to acknowledge their own incompetence after they have been exposed to training in that skill.

At a loss to find a better visual representation of the Dunning-Kruger Effect , here is Simon Wardley's graph with Knowledge and Expertise axes - a warning as to why self-professed experts are the worst people to listen to on a given subject.

me title=

See also this picture of AOL "Digital Prophet" David Shing and web developer Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

[Nov 05, 2018] Putt's Law

Nov 05, 2018 | davewentzel.com

... ... ...

Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand. --Putt's Law

If you are in IT and are not familiar with Archibald Putt, I suggest you stop reading this blog post, RIGHT NOW, and go buy the book Putt's Law and the Successful Technocrat. How to Win in the Information Age . Putt's Law , for short, is a combination of Dilbert and The Mythical Man-Month . It shows you exactly how managers of technologists think, how they got to where they are, and how they stay there. Just like Dilbert, you'll initially laugh, then you'll cry, because you'll realize just how true Putt's Law really is. But, unlike Dilbert, whose technologist-fans tend to have a revulsion for management, Putt tries to show the technologist how to become one of the despised. Now granted, not all of us technologists have a desire to be management, it is still useful to "know one's enemy."

Two amazing facts:

  1. Archibald Putt is a pseudonym and his true identity has yet to be revealed. A true "Deep Throat" for us IT guys.
  2. Putt's Law was written back in 1981. It amazes me how the Old IT Classics (Putt's Law, Mythical Man-Month, anything by Knuth) are even more relevant today than ever.

Every technical hierarchy, in time, develops a competence inversion. --Putt's Corollary

Putt's Corollary says that in a corporate technocracy, the more technically competent people will remain in charge of the technology, whereas the less competent will be promoted to management. That sounds a lot like The Peter Principle (another timeless classic written in 1969).

People rise to their level of incompetence. --Dave's Summary of the Peter Principle

I can tell you that managers have the least information about technical issues and they should be the last people making technical decisions. Period. I've often heard that managers are used as the arbiters of technical debates. Bad idea. Arbiters should always be the [[benevolent dictators]] (the most admired/revered technologist you have). The exception is when your manager is also your benevolent dictator, which is rare. Few humans have the capability, or time, for both.

I see more and more hit-and-run managers where I work. They feel as though they are the technical decision-makers. They attend technical meetings they were not invited to. Then they ask pointless, irrelevant questions that suck the energy out of the team. Then they want status updates hourly. Eventually after they have totally derailed the process they move along to some other, sexier problem with more management visibility.

I really admire managers who follow the MBWA ( management by walking around ) principle. This management philosophy is very simple...the best managers are those who leave their offices and observe. By observing they learn what the challenges are for their teams and how to help them better.

So, what I am looking for in a manager

  1. He knows he is the least qualified person to make a technical decision.
  2. He is a facilitator. He knows how to help his technologists succeed.
  3. MBWA

[Nov 05, 2018] Why the Peter Principle Works

Notable quotes:
"... The Corner Office ..."
Aug 15, 2011 | www.cbsnews.com
Why The Peter Principle Works Everyone's heard of the Peter Principle - that employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence - a concept that walks that all-too-fine line between humor and reality.

We've all seen it in action more times than we'd like. Ironically, some percentage of you will almost certainly be promoted to a position where you're no longer effective. For some of you, that's already happened. Sobering thought.

Well, here's the thing. Not only is the Peter Principle alive and well in corporate America, but contrary to popular wisdom, it's actually necessary for a healthy capitalist system. That's right, you heard it here, folks, incompetence is a good thing. Here's why.

Robert Browning once said, "A man's reach should exceed his grasp." It's a powerful statement that means you should seek to improve your situation, strive to go above and beyond. Not only is that an embodiment of capitalism, but it also leads directly to the Peter Principle because, well, how do you know when to quit?

Now, most of us don't perpetually reach for the stars, but until there's clear evidence that we're not doing ourselves or anyone else any good, we're bound to keep right on reaching. After all, objectivity is notoriously difficult when opportunities for a better life are staring you right in the face.

I mean, who turns down promotions? Who doesn't strive to reach that next rung on the ladder? When you get an email from an executive recruiter about a VP or CEO job, are you likely to respond, "Sorry, I think that may be beyond my competency" when you've got to send two kids to college and you may actually want to retire someday?

Wasn't America founded by people who wanted a better life for themselves and their children? God knows, there were plenty of indications that they shouldn't take the plunge and, if they did, wouldn't succeed. That's called a challenge and, well, do you ever really know if you've reached too far until after the fact?

Perhaps the most interesting embodiment of all this is the way people feel about CEOs. Some think pretty much anyone can do a CEO's job for a fraction of the compensation. Seriously, you hear that sort of thing a lot, especially these days with class warfare being the rage and all.

One The Corner Office reader asked straight out in an email: "Would you agree that, in most cases, the company could fire the CEO and hire someone young, smart, and hungry at 1/10 the salary/perks/bonuses who would achieve the same performance?"

Sure, it's easy: you just set the direction, hire a bunch of really smart executives, then get out of the way and let them do their jobs. Once in a blue moon you swoop in, deal with a problem, then return to your ivory tower. Simple.

Well, not exactly.

You see, I sort of grew up at Texas Instruments in the 80s when the company was nearly run into the ground by Mark Shepherd and J. Fred Bucy - two CEOs who never should have gotten that far in their careers.

But the company's board, in its wisdom, promoted Jerry Junkins and, after his untimely death, Tom Engibous , to the CEO post. Not only were those guys competent, they revived the company and transformed it into what it is today.

I've seen what a strong CEO can do for a company, its customers, its shareholders, and its employees. I've also seen the destruction the Peter Principle can bring to those same stakeholders. But, even now, after 30 years of corporate and consulting experience, the one thing I've never seen is a CEO or executive with an easy job.

That's because there's no such thing. And to think you can eliminate incompetency from the executive ranks when it exists at every organizational level is, to be blunt, childlike or Utopian thinking. It's silly and trite. It doesn't even make sense.

It's not as if TI's board knew ahead of time that Shepherd and Bucy weren't the right guys for the job. They'd both had long, successful careers at the company. But the board did right the ship in time. And that's the mark of a healthy system at work.

The other day I read a truly fantastic story in Fortune about the rise and fall of Jeffrey Kindler as CEO of troubled pharmaceutical giant Pfizer . I remember when he suddenly stepped down amidst all sorts of rumor and conjecture about the underlying causes of the shocking news.

What really happened is the guy had a fabulous career as a litigator, climbed the corporate ladder to general ounsel of McDonald's and then Pfizer, had some limited success in operations, and once he was promoted to CEO, flamed out. Not because he was incompetent - he wasn't. And certainly not because he was a dysfunctional, antagonistic, micromanaging control freak - he was.

He failed because it was a really tough job and he was in over his head. It happens. It happens a lot. After all, this wasn't just some everyday company that's simple to run. This was Pfizer - a pharmaceutical giant with its top products going generic and a dried-up drug pipeline in need of a major overhaul.

The guy couldn't handle it. And when executives with issues get in over their heads, their issues become their undoing. It comes as no surprise that folks at McDonald's were surprised at the way he flamed out at Pfizer. That was a whole different ballgame.

Now, I bet those same people who think a CEO's job is a piece of cake will have a similar response to the Kindler situation at Pfizer. Why take the job if he knew he couldn't handle it? The board should have canned him before it got to that point. Why didn't the guy's executives speak up sooner?

Because, just like at TI, nobody knows ahead of time if people are going to be effective on the next rung of the ladder. Every situation is unique and there are no questions or test that will foretell the future. I mean, it's not as if King Solomon comes along and writes who the right guy for the job is on the wall.

The Peter Principle works because, in a capitalist system, there are top performers, abysmal failures, and everything in between. Expecting anything different when people must reach for the stars to achieve growth and success so our children have a better life than ours isn't how it works in the real world.

The Peter Principle works because it's the yin to Browning's yang, the natural outcome of striving to better our lives. Want to know how to bring down a free market capitalist system? Don't take the promotion because you're afraid to fail.

[Nov 05, 2018] Putt's Law, Peter Principle, Dilbert Principle of Incompetence Parkinson's Law

Nov 05, 2018 | asmilingassasin.blogspot.com

Putt's Law, Peter Principle, Dilbert Principle of Incompetence & Parkinson's Law

June 10, 2015 Putt's Law, Peter Principle, Dilbert Principle of Incompetence & Parkinson's Law I am a big fan of Scott Adams & Dilbert Comic Series. I realize that these laws and principles - the Putt's law, Peter Principle, the Dilbert Principle, and Parkinson's Law - aren't necessarily founded in reality. It's easy to look at a manager's closed doors and wonder he or she does all day, if anything. But having said that and having come to realize the difficulty and scope of what management entails. It's hard work and requires a certain skill-set that I'm only beginning to develop. One should therefore look at these principles and laws with an acknowledgment that they most likely developed from the employee's perspective, not the manager's. Take with a pinch of salt!
Source: Google Images
The Putt's law: · Putt's Law: " Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand. " · Putt's Corollary: " Every technical hierarchy, in time, develops a competence inversion. " with incompetence being "flushed out of the lower levels" of a technocratic hierarchy, ensuring that technically competent people remain directly in charge of the actual technology while those without technical competence move into management. The Peter Principle: The Peter Principle states that " in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence." In other words, employees who perform their roles with competence are promoted into successively higher levels until they reach a level at which they are no longer competent. There they remain. For example, let's say you are a brilliant programmer. You spend your days coding with amazing efficiency and prowess. After a couple of years, you're promoted to lead programmer, and then promoted to team manager. You may have no interest in managing other programmers, but it's the reward for your competence. There you sit -- you have risen to a level of incompetence. Your technical skills lie dormant while you fill your day with one-on-one meetings, department strategy meetings, planning meetings, budgets, and reports. The Dilbert Principle The principle states that companies tend to promote the most incompetent employees to management as a form of damage control . The principle argues that leaders, specifically those in middle management, are in reality the ones that have little effect on productivity. In order to limit the harm caused by incompetent employees who are actually not doing the work, companies make them leaders. The Dilbert Principle assumes that "the majority of real, productive work in a company is done by people lower in the power ladder." Those in management don't actually do anything to move forward the work. How it happens? The Incompetent Leader Stereotype often hits new leaders, specifically those who have no prior experience in a particular field. Often times, leaders who have been transferred from other departments are viewed as mere figureheads, rather than actual leaders who have knowledge of the work situation. Failure to prove technical capability can also lead to a leader being branded incompetent. Why it's bad? Being a victim of the incompetent leader stereotype is bad. Firstly, no one takes you seriously. Your ability to insert input into projects is hampered when your followers actively disregard anything you say as fluff. This is especially true if you are in middle management, where your power as a leader is limited. Secondly, your chances of rising ranks are curtailed. If viewed as an incompetent leader by your followers, your superiors are unlikely to entrust you with further projects which have more impact. How to get over it Know when to concede. As a leader, no one expects you to be competent in every area; though basic knowledge of every section you are leading is necessary. Readily admitting incompetency in certain areas will take out the impact out of it when others paint you as incompetent. Prove competency somewhere. Quickly establish yourself as having some purpose in the workplace, rather than being a mere picture of tokenism. This can be done by personally involving yourself in certain projects. Parkinson's Law Parkinson's Law states that " work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion ." Although this law has application with procrastination, storage capacity, and resource usage, Parkinson focuses his law on Corporate lethargy. Parkinson says that lethargy swell for two reasons: (1) "A manager wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals" and (2) "Managers make work for each other." In other words, a team size may swell not because the workload increases, but because they have the capacity and resources that allow for an increased workload even if the workload does not in fact increase. People without any work find ways to increase the amount of "work" and therefore add to the size of their lethargy. My Analysis I know none of these principles or laws gives much credit to management. The wrong person fills the wrong role, the role exists only to minimize damage control, or the role swells unnecessarily simply because it can. I find the whole topic of management somewhat fascinating, not because I think these theories apply to my own managers. These management theories are however relevant. Software coders looking to leverage coding talent for their projects often find themselves in management roles, without a strong understanding of how to manage people. Most of the time, these coders fail to engage. The project leaders are usually brilliant at their technical job but don't excel at management.
However the key principle to follow should be this: put individuals to work in their core competencies . It makes little sense to take your most brilliant engineer and have him or her manage people and budgets. Likewise, it makes no sense to take a shrewd consultant, one who can negotiate projects and requirements down to the minutest detail, and put that individual into a role involving creative design and content generation. However, to implement this model, you have to allow for reward without a dramatic change in job responsibilities or skills.

[Nov 04, 2018] Archibald Putt The Unknown Technocrat Returns - IEEE Spectrum

Nov 04, 2018 | spectrum.ieee.org

While similar things can, and do, occur in large technical hierarchies, incompetent technical people experience a social pressure from their more competent colleagues that causes them to seek security within the ranks of management. In technical hierarchies, there is always the possibility that incompetence will be rewarded by promotion.

Other Putt laws we love include the law of failure: "Innovative organizations abhor little failures but reward big ones." And the first law of invention: "An innovated success is as good as a successful innovation."

Now Putt has revised and updated his short, smart book, to be released in a new edition by Wiley-IEEE Press ( http://www.wiley.com/ieee ) at the end of this month. There have been murmurings that Putt's identity, the subject of much rumormongering, will be revealed after the book comes out, but we think that's unlikely. How much more interesting it is to have an anonymous chronicler wandering the halls of the tech industry, codifying its unstated, sometimes bizarre, and yet remarkably consistent rules of behavior.

This is management writing the way it ought to be. Think Dilbert , but with a very big brain. Read it and weep. Or laugh, depending on your current job situation.

[Nov 04, 2018] Two Minutes on Hiring by Eric Samuelson

Notable quotes:
"... Eric Samuelson is the creator of the Confident Hiring System™. Working with Dave Anderson of Learn to Lead, he provides the Anderson Profiles and related services to clients in the automotive retail industry as well as a variety of other businesses. ..."
Nov 04, 2018 | www.andersonprofiles.com

In 1981, an author in the Research and Development field, writing under the pseudonym Archibald Putt, penned this famous quote, now known as Putt's Law:

"Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand."

Have you ever hired someone without knowing for sure if they can do the job? Have you promoted a good salesperson to management only to realize you made a dire mistake? The qualities needed to succeed in a technical field are quite different than for a leader.

The legendary immigrant engineer Charles Steinmetz worked at General Electric in the early 1900s. He made phenomenal advancements in the field of electric motors. His work was instrumental to the growth of the electric power industry. With a goal of rewarding him, GE promoted him to a management position, but he failed miserably. Realizing their error, and not wanting to offend this genius, GE's leadership retitled him as a Chief Engineer, with no supervisory duties, and let him go back to his research.

Avoid the double disaster of losing a good worker by promoting him to management failure. By using the unique Anderson Position Overlay system, you can avoid future regret by comparing your candidate's qualities to the requirements of the position before saying "Welcome Aboard".

Eric Samuelson is the creator of the Confident Hiring System™. Working with Dave Anderson of Learn to Lead, he provides the Anderson Profiles and related services to clients in the automotive retail industry as well as a variety of other businesses.

[Nov 04, 2018] Putt's Law and the Successful Technocrat

Nov 04, 2018 | en.wikipedia.org

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Jump to navigation Jump to search

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Putt's Law and the Successful Technocrat
Putt's Law and the Successful Technocrat cover.jpg
Author Archibald Putt (pseudonym)
Illustrator Dennis Driscoll
Country United States
Language English
Genre Industrial Management
Publisher Wiley-IEEE Press
Publication date 28 April 2006
Media type Print ( hardcover )
Pages 171 pages
ISBN 0-471-71422-4
OCLC 68710099
Dewey Decimal 658.22
LC Class HD31 .P855 2006

Putt's Law and the Successful Technocrat is a book, credited to the pseudonym Archibald Putt, published in 1981. An updated edition, subtitled How to Win in the Information Age , was published by Wiley-IEEE Press in 2006. The book is based upon a series of articles published in Research/Development Magazine in 1976 and 1977.

It proposes Putt's Law and Putt's Corollary [1] which are principles of negative selection similar to The Dilbert principle by Scott Adams proposed in the 1990s. Putt's law is sometimes grouped together with the Peter principle , Parkinson's Law and Stephen Potter 's Gamesmanship series as "P-literature". [2]

Contents Putt's Law [ edit ]

The book proposes Putt's Law and Putt's Corollary

See also [ edit ] References [ edit ]
  1. Jump up ^ Archibald Putt. Putt's Law and the Successful Technocrat: How to Win in the Information Age , Wiley-IEEE Press (2006), ISBN 0-471-71422-4 . Preface.
  2. Jump up ^ John Walker (October 1981). "Review of Putt's Law and the Successful Technocrat " . New Scientist : 52.
  3. ^ Jump up to: a b Archibald Putt. Putt's Law and the Successful Technocrat: How to Win in the Information Age , Wiley-IEEE Press (2006), ISBN 0-471-71422-4 . page 7.
External links [ edit ]

[Nov 03, 2018] Neoliberal Measurement Mania

Highly recommended!
Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand. -- Archibald Putt
Neoliberal PHBs like talk about KJLOCs, error counts, tickets closed and other types of numerical measurements designed so that they can be used by lower-level PHBs to report fake results to higher level PHBs. These attempts to quantify 'the quality' and volume of work performed by software developers and sysadmins completely miss the point. For software is can lead to code bloat.
The number of tickets taken and resolved in a specified time period probably the most ignorant way to measure performance of sysadmins. For sysadmin you can invent creative creating way of generating and resolving tickets. And spend time accomplishing fake task, instead of thinking about real problem that datacenter face. Using Primitive measurement strategies devalue the work being performed by Sysadmins and programmers. They focus on the wrong things. They create the boundaries that are supposed to contain us in a manner that is comprehensible to the PHB who knows nothing about real problems we face.
Notable quotes:
"... Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand. ..."
Nov 03, 2018 | www.rako.com

In an advanced research or development project, success or failure is largely determined when the goals or objectives are set and before a manager is chosen. While a hard-working and diligent manager can increase the chances of success, the outcome of the project is most strongly affected by preexisting but unknown technological factors over which the project manager has no control. The success or failure of the project should not, therefore, be used as the sole measure or even the primary measure of the manager's competence.

Putt's Law Is promulgated

Without an adequate competence criterion for technical managers, there is no way to determine when a person has reached his level of incompetence. Thus a clever and ambitious individual may be promoted from one level of incompetence to another. He will ultimately perform incompetently in the highest level of the hierarchy just as he did in numerous lower levels. The lack of an adequate competence criterion combined with the frequent practice of creative incompetence in technical hierarchies results in a competence inversion, with the most competent people remaining near the bottom while persons of lesser talent rise to the top. It also provides the basis for Putt's Law, which can be stated in an intuitive and nonmathematical form as follows:

Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand.

As in any other hierarchy, the majority of persons in technology neither understand nor manage much of anything. This, however, does not create an exception to Putt's Law, because such persons clearly do not dominate the hierarchy. While this was not previously stated as a basic law, it is clear that the success of every technocrat depends on his ability to deal with and benefit from the consequences of Putt's Law.

[Sep 10, 2011] A New Look at The Peter Principle By Bob Sutton

March 31, 2009 | BusinessWeek

The Peter Principle came as a revelation to my father, Lewis Sutton. He ran a little company in San Francisco called Oceanic Marine that sold furniture and related equipment, which he installed on United States Navy ships. His livelihood depended on U.S. government bureaucrats and shipyard managers, who often made him miserable. I grew up listening to his tirades about how these "overpaid idiots" insisted that he produce and procure poorly designed furnishings, how they could barely do their jobs, and how pathetically lazy they were. To make matters worse, senior government officials produced an onslaught of absurd procedures that required him to jump through an ever-expanding maze of administrative hoops-which wasted his time, drove up his costs, and made him crazy. He concluded: "The morons at the top must be paid to waste as much taxpayer money as possible."

My father loved The Peter Principle because it explained why life could be so maddening-and why everyone around you seems, or is doomed to become, incompetent. The people who ran the U.S. Navy and the shipyards didn't intend to do such lousy work. They were simply victims of Dr. Peter's immutable principle. They had been promoted inevitably, maddeningly, absurdly to their "level of incompetence." Dr. Peter also taught my father not to expect the few competent bureaucrats and managers he encountered to stick around for long, as they would soon be promoted to a job that they were unable to perform properly. Dr. Peter even showed that such incompetence had pervaded my dad's business for hundreds of years. The book quotes a report from 1684 about the British Navy: "The naval administration was a prodigy of wastefulness, corruption, ignorance, and indolence…no estimate could be trusted…no contract was performed…no check was enforced."

My dad took special delight in the pseudoscientific jargon that Dr. Peter invented to describe the weird and wasteful behaviors displayed by those languishing at their level of incompetence. Peter gave absurd and comedic names to the tragic realities of working life. The root of the entire book, the condition of incompetence that Peter called "Final Placement Syndrome," leads some to develop "Abnormal Tabulology" (an "unusual and highly significant arrangement of his desk"). This pathology is manifested, for example, in "Tabulatory Gigantism" (an obsession with having a bigger desk than his colleagues).

My father's business was especially afflicted with the "Teeter-Totter Syndrome" ("a complete inability to make decisions") and "Cachinatory Inertia" ("the habit of telling jokes instead of getting on with business"). As with so many others who were buoyed by this international bestseller, Dr. Peter's sense of the absurd helped my father combat this tragedy of ineptitude by responding with laughter rather than rage.

I have a soft spot for The Peter Principle because my dad loved it so much. Before revisiting it to write this foreword, I hadn't read it since it was first published in 1969 (when I was fifteen). I expected it would be a quaint curiosity, that Dr. Peter's old book would be largely irrelevant to today's workplace. I presumed that the application of business knowledge developed over the last forty years would have stamped out many maladies described by Dr. Peter, that market forces would have eliminated many or most organizations that were riddled with incompetence, and that subsequent writings on the subject would be more useful and engaging than The Peter Principle. I was wrong on all three counts.

Yes, the book is archaic in some ways, especially in its use of sexist language and examples. Yet the book's main ideas remain as pertinent to running and working in an organization today as they were forty years ago. None of this would have surprised Dr. Peter, who depicted his ideas as timeless and immutable facts of organizational life.

"Incompetence," he argued, "knows no barrier of time or place." Dr. Peter observed that one reason so many employees are incompetent is that that the skills required to get a job often have nothing to do with what is required do the job itself. The skills required to run a great political campaign have little to do with the skills required to govern. There is nothing about being a great surgeon that prepares a doctor to run a hospital. Learning to be a great litigator in no way prepares a lawyer to run a law firm. Many organizations, from hospitals to law firms, use such standards to select new leaders-yet devote little or no attention to their management skills. They often end up with lousy leaders and lose their best individual performers. These observations remain just as true in 2009 as they did in 1969.

Or consider Dr. Peter's counterintuitive claim that "in most hierarchies, super-competence is more objectionable than incompetence." He warned that extremely skilled and productive employees often face criticism, and are fired if they don't start performing worse. Their presence "disrupts and therefore violates the first commandment of hierarchical life: the hierarchy must be preserved." Unfortunately, this pattern persists in many modern organizations. Several fantastic teachers that I know at prestigious universities have been pressured by peers and leaders to do a worse job of teaching because "you are making everyone else look bad." One of these professors insists that he received tenure partly because he worked to earn teaching evaluations that were no better than those of the professors who evaluated his case.

Even the youngest super-competent people in our society still face criticism and ostracism-like nine-year-old Jericho Scott, a star little league baseball pitcher in New Haven, Connecticut. Jericho had never hurt an opposing player with his well-controlled, 40-mile-per-hour fastball. But when his coach refused to stop Jericho from pitching, the league hierarchy responded by barring Jericho from pitching and disbanding his undefeated team. Jericho's coach complained-to no avail-that his young star was punished for being too good. As for Jericho, he told the Associated Press that "I feel sad," and that "I feel like it's all my fault nobody could play." If Jericho wants to play in this league, I guess his choices are to play another position (like second base) where he isn't super-competent or to figure out how to become a mediocre pitcher.

Another reason The Peter Principle has no peer is that it somehow manages to be devilishly silly yet accurate and useful all at the same time. It reads like a first-rate parody of a business book-it reminds me of the best stuff in Mad magazine or the Onion. Yet Dr. Peter applies such silliness to describe how and why incompetence happens with dead accuracy. Satire works when it exposes the truth and upends fallacy. The Peter Principle is so funny because it is so true. It is filled with practical ideas that we can all use to limit the damage that incompetence does to our organizations and ourselves.

One reason the book is so hilarious is that Dr. Peter was not only an incisive thinker but masterfully creative with words. If Dr. Seuss and Peter Drucker had joined forces to write a business book, The Peter Principle might been have been the result. Peter invented dozens of strange, stilted, and pseudoscientific phrases and words. I suggest reading the glossary of over 100 phrases and words from "the science of hierarchiology" in the back before turning to the rest of the book. The translations will help you absorb Dr. Peter's ideas more quickly and more deeply. Plus, the silly pseudoscientific jargon (paired with well-crafted definitions) will get you into the right mindset for entering Dr. Peter's strange and wonderful world. Words he invented, such as hierarchiology, structurophillia, and staticmanship, weren't in any dictionary in 1969, and don't seem to have entered the English language some forty years later.

And I can't find any behavioral science research on terms such as "Percussive Sublimation" ("being kicked upstairs: a pseudo promotion") and "Peter's Circumambulation" ("a detour around a super-incumbent," who is "a person above you who, having reached his level of incompetence, blocks your path to promotion."). All these words sound just like the jargon used in well-developed scientific fields. Yet, unlike experts of who unintentionally develop absurd and often incomprehensible jargon, Dr. Peter meant to be silly when he invented the language for a field that did not (and still does not) exist.

The silliness persists with the names invented for case studies of employees and organizations. People such as J.S. Minion, G. Spender, and Miss T. Totland, or organizations such as the Excelsior City Special Education Department, are given fake names, and it is often difficult to tell if the stories themselves are real or fictional. The boldness of Dr. Peter's claims also somehow mocks the overconfidence that runs through most self-help and business books, while simultaneously making his arguments more convincing.

He states repeatedly that "there are no exceptions to the Peter Principle." This claim is absurd on the face of it because, as he says, "the science of hierarchiology" is based on limited evidence and requires much work to develop. Yet taking such a strong position enabled Dr. Peter to present his ideas in efficient and persuasive ways. I laughed a lot through Chapter III, which argues that all apparent exceptions to the Peter Principle are not exceptions at all. In rapid-fire fashion, he shows that Percussive Sublimation, the Paternal Instep (promoting a family member several steps above his or her level of incompetence), and a host of other apparent exceptions to the principle, in fact, demonstrate the power of the principle. By the end of the chapter, I suspect that many of the most cynical and logical readers will be convinced by his arguments.

That is the wonderful thing about The Peter Principle. It doesn't seem to matter that the jargon, names, and stories are fake. It doesn't seem to matter that many of the assertions are twisted and, at times, seemingly wildly illogical. Somehow, despite (or perhaps because) of all this nonsense, a host of accurate and useful ideas emerge from this masterpiece. The validity of these ideas isn't just supported by Dr. Peter's rhetorical flourish and keen eye. Many of Dr. Peter's ideas are also supported by modern behavioral science research.

Stanford Professor and renowned economist Edward P. Lazear published an academic paper in 2001 called "The Peter Principle: A Theory of Decline." Professor Lazear provides a string of impressive and (to most of us) incomprehensible mathematical formulas to explain why "individuals perform worse after having received promotion." He lends mathematical proof to the truths Peter revealed through close (and cynical) observation. Some of these formulas show that, even if all employees promoted to the next level were competent in their previous jobs, some percentage will be incompetent in their new jobs. Professor Lazear lifts this assertion directly from The Peter Principle. He then calculates-just as Dr. Peter proposed-that this age-old scenario occurs partly because performance standards get tougher as one moves up the hierarchy.

To give you a taste, here is just one of the many intertwined formulas Professor Lazear provides:

A + E(€1 | A + €1 > A*) > A + E(€2 | A + €1 > A*)

Got that? Neither do I. I have no idea what this formula means, but Lazear concludes after this fancy math: "Thus, expected ability falls for promoted individuals from period 1 to period 2."

Not all research that supports Dr. Peter's assertions about hierarchiology is so difficult to understand. Professor Lazear summarizes a host of other, simpler studies suggesting that people with stronger skills tend to be promoted more quickly and that people with weaker skills tend to get stuck in their current jobs after just one or two promotions-as The Peter Principle proposes. Research related to The Peter Principle confirms that many of these ideas aren't just right; they are also useful. Dr. Peter provides advice for employees who strive to rise to their level of incompetence as quickly as possible.

We all fail upwards, though some of us do so sooner than others. Dr. Peter explains, for example, how an employee can use a "patron" to pull him up the hierarchy, along with details about how to motivate the patron, how to get around people who block the way, and ways that multiple patrons can join together to pull an employee up the hierarchy. Much of Dr. Peter's advice about using "pull" echoes Jeffrey Pfeffer's Managing with Power, the main text used in many business schools to teach MBAs how to get ahead in organizations. Pfeffer's analysis and advice is more detailed and sophticated, but the basic ideas are remarkably similar.

The Peter Principle also offers many promising ideas that have yet to be studied carefully. I would be curious, for instance, to see research on Dr. Peter's assertion that ignorance is bliss. Peter contends that many employees never realize they have reached their level of incompetence, which he proposes is good for an employee because "he keeps perpetually busy, never loses his expectation of further promotion, and so remains happy and healthy." This conclusion clashes with numerous experts who exhort employees-especially managers-to face "brutal truths" and "hard facts." The idea behind most employee performance evaluations is that, if you give employees accurate feedback about their strengths and weaknesses, they will be motivated to eliminate the weakness, and thus perform better.

Dr. Peter uses entirely different logic. He asserts that many employees in every organization have risen to their level of incompetence, all will do so eventually, and organizations rarely fire incompetent people. (Sounds right, doesn't it?) Following this logic, performance evaluations given to people who have achieved "final placement" might best be used to fuel their delusions of competence-not to identify weaknesses they are incapable of repairing. I've never heard of a performance evaluation system designed to provoke ignorance and denial, but Dr. Peter's logic suggests that such a system would lead to happier and healthy employees-thus reducing sick days and employee turnover.

Creative incompetence is another idea from The Peter Principle ripe for development. Peter believed that doing things badly, intentionally, and publicly was the best way for an employee to avoid final placement and, if widely applied, the best way to build organizations filled with competent people. Dr. Peter tells a story about "P. Greene," a competent gardener who loved his work and had no interest in promotion to foreman. Rather than taking the risk of being offered a promotion (which would be difficult to decline), "P. Greene" intentionally loses numerous receipts and packing slips, which leads to reprimands from the accounting department and causes his superiors to conclude that he has achieved final placement.

The popular press occasionally writes about this theme, such as in Jared Sandberg's 2007 Wall Street Journal piece on the virtues of "strategic incompetence." Sandberg reports that a manager named Steve Crawley was assigned to organize an office picnic, but was eventually relieved of the job (which he didn't want) by intentionally demonstrating deep confusion and incompetence. As Sandberg concludes, "Strategic incompetence isn't about having a strategy that fails, but a failure that succeeds. It almost always works to deflect work one doesn't want to do-without ever having to admit it."

If creative incompetence is a widespread and effective strategy, we need more research here, but my mind races ahead, regardless. Imagine university classes and management workshops where students learn how to dress in slightly unprofessional ways, or how to give poor and boring speeches (I can hear the professor advising, "mumble more" and "please, please stop looking at the audience"), and how to "forget" to attend scheduled meetings with superiors so they will conclude that you have reached your level of incompetence. If incompetence is inevitable, perhaps we should all learn to master it on our own terms-and stop spending so much time trying to achieve competence, which is, by Peter's definition, elusive.

As strange as Dr. Peter's twisted take on organizational hierarchies may seem, the book's core ideas-and many of the crazy little ideas too-are valid facts of organizational life. After reading this book a few times, I suspect I know why Dr. Peter (and coauthor Raymond Hull) decided to cloak these ideas in such a delightfully weird and perversely funny package. The Peter Principle clashes with piles of serious advice spewed out by an enormous industry of business educators, consultants, and gurus (this was true in 1969 and truer in 2009). Perhaps Dr. Peter realized that these unconventional and contrary ideas wouldn't spread if they were enclosed in the usual, overly somber business book. The success and enduring relevance of this gem suggests that, regardless of Dr. Peter's intentions, writing a serious business book disguised as a parody was a stroke of genius.

Bob Sutton, a management professor at Stanford University, has written a new foreword to The Peter Principle, available in bookstores Apr. 14, 2009. He is also the author of The No Asshole Rule.

[Sep 10, 2011] The Peter Principle Revisited A Computational Study

Authors: Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, Cesare Garofalo

(Submitted on 2 Jul 2009 (v1), last revised 29 Oct 2009 (this version, v3))
Abstract: In the late sixties the Canadian psychologist Laurence J. Peter advanced an apparently paradoxical principle, named since then after him, which can be summarized as follows: {\it 'Every new member in a hierarchical organization climbs the hierarchy until he/she reaches his/her level of maximum incompetence'}. Despite its apparent unreasonableness, such a principle would realistically act in any organization where the mechanism of promotion rewards the best members and where the mechanism at their new level in the hierarchical structure does not depend on the competence they had at the previous level, usually because the tasks of the levels are very different to each other. Here we show, by means of agent based simulations, that if the latter two features actually hold in a given model of an organization with a hierarchical structure, then not only is the Peter principle unavoidable, but also it yields in turn a significant reduction of the global efficiency of the organization.

Within a game theory-like approach, we explore different promotion strategies and we find, counterintuitively, that in order to avoid such an effect the best ways for improving the efficiency of a given organization are either to promote each time an agent at random or to promote randomly the best and the worst members in terms of competence.

[Sep 10, 2011] The generalized Peter Principle

In evolution systems tend to develop up to the limit of their adaptive competence


The Peter Principle was first introduced by L. Peter in a humoristic book (of the same title) describing the pitfalls of bureaucratic organization. The original principle states that in a hierarchically structured administration, people tend to be promoted up to their "level of incompetence". The principle is based on the observation that in such an organization new employees typically start in the lower ranks, but when they prove to be competent in the task to which they are assigned, they get promoted to a higher rank. This process of climbing up the hierarchical ladder can go on indefinitely, until the employee reaches a position where he or she is no longer competent. At that moment the process typically stops, since the established rules of bureacracies make that it is very difficult to "demote" someone to a lower rank, even if that person would be much better fitted and more happy in that lower position. The net result is that most of the higher levels of a bureaucracy will be filled by incompetent people, who got there because they were quite good at doing a different (and usually, but not always, easier) task than the one they are expected to do.

The evolutionary generalization of the principle is less pessimistic in its implications, since evolution lacks the bureaucratic inertia that pushes and maintains people in an unfit position. But what will certainly remain is that systems confronted by evolutionary problems will quickly tackle the easy ones, but tend to get stuck in the difficult ones. The better (more fit, smarter, more competent, more adaptive) a system is, the more quickly it will solve all the easy problems, but the more difficult the problem will be it finally gets stuck in. Getting stuck here does not mean "being unfit", it just means having reached the limit of one's competence, and thus having great difficulty advancing further. This explains why even the most complex and adaptive species (such as ourselves, humans) are always still "struggling for survival" in their niches as energetically as are the most primitive organisms such as bacteria. If ever a species would get control over all its evolutionary problems, then the "Red Queen Principle" would make sure that new, more complex problems would arise, so that the species would continue to balance on the border of its domain of incompetence. In conclusion, the generalized Peter principle states that in evolution systems tend to develop up to the limit of their adaptive competence.

Solving the Peter Principle One Word Darts By Paul Kedrosky

July 3, 2009 | Paul Kedrosky's Infectious Greed

There is a fun new working paper out from some Italian scientists that models the Peter Principle. The principle says, of course, that people climb in an organization until they reach their level of maximum incompetence.

How would that happen? Well, the authors argue it should be expected in any organization where the following two conditions hold:

  1. The best member are rewarded with promotions
  2. Competence in a new position is not highly correlated with competence at a prior level

The authors simulated the preceding in a pyramidal organizational form using a mathematical agent model. Here is the outcome:

Here we show, by means of agent based simulations, that if the [above two conditions] actually hold in a given model of an organization with a hierarchical structure, then not only the "Peter principle" is unavoidable, but it yields in turn a significant reduction of the global efficiency of the organization. [Emphasis mine]

Granted, this shouldn't be surprising news, one would think, to anyone who has spent any time around large organizations. A disproportionate number of the positions always seem filled by people who elicit a WTF? reaction from reasonable-minded observers.

So, do we just live with it? After all, we can hardly get around elevating the best people, and it isn't unreasonable to think that one's experience in a former position doesn't adequately prepare for the new one.

Not necessarily, according to the authors:

...the best strategies to improve, or at least not to diminish, the efficiency of an organization, when one ignores the actual way of competence transmission, are those of promoting an agent at random or of randomly alternating the promotion of the best and the worst members. We think that these results could be useful to guide the management of large real hierarchical systems of different nature and in different fields.

Whoa, it turns out calling someone's promotion "random" is a compliment. Who knew darts could be so handy at promotion time?

Source:

The Peter Principle Revisited: A Computational Study
Authors: Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, Cesare Garofalo

Gregor ·

Sounds like the ratchet, in Parrondo's Paradox. Alternating between winning and losing strategies. Also reminds of AndrewSullivan's recent musings on Hawk, Dove, and Retaliator role-play in game theory. Only the Retaliator alternates strategy.

Admitting we know a lot less than we think we know could turn out to be lots of fun.

Matt

I don't think we spend enough time with people, getting to know them. They are asked to complete a specific set of tasks, and we observe them in that role without further understanding of their abilities. Everyone has underutilized skills and talents that co-workers don't know about: if the time were spent, a complete profile of a person would be integral to maximizing their use to the organization.

Successful promotion relies on knowledge of the unseen talents and latent interests of employees. We have an experience-based business culture that emphasizes the opposite.

fresno dan

Interesting - my own view is that it is an arbitrary construct that a "manager" does something of more skill, or rarer ability, than many of the people the manager oversees. In the sciences, the people being overseen have a lot of knowledge - and typically another scientist ends up managing them. But that scientist manager really has no training, or experience that suits them for that position. I would take it a step further - in most circumstances, the manager should be paid less than the technicians they are managing. Its a holdover from the assembly line that the manager should make more than the workers. They ofter don't have much technical knowledge, and most business theory is too much theory and too little reality.

Carlos666 ·

The problem seems to lay in the fact that many of the entry level hires are incompetent to deliver papers on a newspaper route so the starting level folks are over their competence level from the get go. The Peter Principle is in effect when they walk through the door. Carlos666

Kievite

This is a pretty primitive, abet funny model, that does not capture the reality of the situation. First of all in many cases middle "managers are just a place holders and has very little autonomy being squeezed between despotic higher ups and resentful "people in the trenches". In this case kiss up, kick down" is the most viable strategy and it does not require too much skills just a personal predisposition.

Another problem with that view is that it presuppose that people who are promoted are just passive agents. This is not true in any organization. And this completely opposite of a typical sociopath line of behavior. specifically sociopaths are very actively seeking promotion and that's probably why higher layers on large organization often include them.

I know the case of woman sociopath in IT organization, who threatened to sue the company for discrimination unless promoted.

[May 19, 2003] Talking Shop What the management-level job requires in skills

In his bestseller, The Peter Principle, Dr. Lawrence J. Peter theorized that in a hierarchy, employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence. His view is that you will advance to your highest level of competence and consequently get promoted to a position where you will be hopelessly inept.

If you're a proficient and effective tech support pro, you're most likely demonstrating peak competence in your job right now. Very soon, your boss may commend you for your excellence and valuable contribution to your organization, and, to reward you for your efforts, favorably endorse your promotion to an executive position. But is the managerial level right for you? Or are you getting set up to be a statistic supporting the Peter Principle?

Before you deliberate on which company car will go well with your new upper management title, consider the career shift tips and insights we gathered from three former-techs-turned-managers. Here are the realities you need to consider, along with steps you need to take, to ensure that your promotion from tech to manager doesn't raise you to your level of incompetence.

The Peter Principle Proven

In case you've ever wondered why ignorance rises to the executive level, here is a simple explanation that is also a mathematical proof:

Knowledge is Power.

Time is Money.

And, as every actuary (with some physics training) knows:

Work
---------- = Power
Time

So, if
Knowledge = Power
and
Time = Money

then through simple substitutions,

Work
---------- = Knowledge
Money

Solving for Money, we get:

Work
-------------- = Money
Knowledge

Thus, If Work is held constant as a positive number (no matter how small!) Money approaches infinity as Knowledge approaches zero.

What this means is:

All else being equal, the less you know, the more you make

Magellan's Log The Dick Principle by Harold J. Dick, Ph.D.No. 22 in The Idea Man Series.

In 1969, Laurence Peter set the world of management on its ear by announcing a revelation:

"In a hierarchically structured administration, people tend to be promoted up to their level of incompetence. Thus, every position will eventually be occupied by someone who is not quite capable of doing the job."

The Peter Principle quickly entered the curricula of all with-it MBA programs, but also turned out to have such widespread applicability that it became part of corporate folk knowledge. Everybody immediately grasped the principle because everybody recognized that their own boss was an example of the principle in action.

Careers were made and careers were shattered as people reacted, and overreacted, to Dr. Peter's great insight.

Having acknowledged my debt to the past, I now suggest it is time we update the Peter Principle.

The world that Larry Peter occupied and analyzed so cleverly is one that has come to be labeled the "Old Economy," the world of stable companies creating value the old-fashioned way: they worked for it. Such was the stability in that world that employees could actually expect to spend their careers with one company. It is a world that is still studied as the norm in the degree programs of economics departments and business schools.

That old working world still has applicability, but the time has come to question its pertinence in the brave new world of dot-coms.

For, the Old Economy continues to exist side-by-side with the New Economy, just as various cottage industries hummed along in their quaint medieval ways through much of the 19th century as the Industrial Revolution was rapidly rendering the old ways useless.

Brick-and-mortar we shall not always have with us, but probably for a while yet they will continue, including their legions of careers capped off by the unpleasant reality reflected in the Peter Principle.

The New Economy of the cyberworld requires a new theory of mismanagement, a new statement of the dizzying reality behind the glitzy career life in the dot-coms, the awfulness of careers spent surfing wave after tumultuous wave of IPO's. The New Economy is a world not of slow accretion, of gradual promotions, but of incessant and rapid job-jumping.

I give you, then, the Dick Principle:

In a cyber-economy,
people tend to be RE-hired
at their level of incompetence.

I hasten to explain:

Example No. 1 of the Dick Principle in Action:
Joe makes a software breakthrough at Company A, cashes in as the stock skyrockets. Joe is hot. Company B headhunts and hires Joe to oversee their software development team. Joe is brilliant at writing code but has no talent at nurturing others to write brilliant code. In other words, Joe is a lousy manager. Joe has been hired at the level of his incompetence. Joe has been dicked by the Dick Principle.

Example No. 2 of the Dick Principle in Action:
Jack has a conceptual brainstorm for Company C. The resultant dot-com becomes the overnight darling of NASDAQ. Jack cashes in and is hot. Company D lures Jack to be its CEO. Jack is a solitary, maverick thinker and has no talent at management. Jack has been dicked by the Dick Principle.

Example No. 3 of the Dick Principle in Action:
Mary is a brilliant manager with Company E. She is excellent at nurturing people and rises quickly to V-P for personnel and human resources. Company F makes her a huge offer: Come be our CEO and do for our talented team what you did with Company E. Mary quickly discovers that at Company F she has no time to nurture. The company is under tremendous investor pressure and can think only about what the price of the stock will be five minutes from now. Mary has been dicked by the Dick Principle.

Of course, the difference today is that Joe, Jack, and Mary have no financial worries. By the time they are hired at their level of incompetence, they all come equipped with golden parachutes. Thus, they have no personal need to maintain the pretense of competence in their new jobs any longer than they want to.

They have gained a world of wealth and financial security. All they've lost is meaning in their lives. They're no longer doing what they're good at and what they really enjoy.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. In its effect on people, the New Economy then turns out to be only the Old Economy in dot-com clothing. In moving from the Peter Principle to the Dick Principle, we have exchanged one career dead-end for another, one management foundering in incompetence for another also foundering in incompetence.

On the macro side, the Dick Principle means this: We already know that one price of cyber-technology is instability and rapid change (Moore's Law, etc.). Through the Dick Principle, we can see that the instability and rapid change also include the very people who are supposedly guiding and shaping the brave new world. Structurally, we have traded mid-level, stagnant incompetence for top-level, volatile incompetence.

Steve Jobs, with his successful return to Apple, is the exception that proves the principle. For every Steve Jobs, you have a thousand... Well, I don't want to get into naming names. If you are involved in, employed by, or invested in the cyber-world, you can easily supply your own examples of the Dick Principle at work.

Peter's Principle and Education

In 1994 I applied for and obtained an Excellence in Teaching award. Looking back I don't know how I even had the cheek to apply. In fact I no longer believe in the concept of a Excellence in Teaching award - perhaps a "Facilitator of Learning" award - or a "He was Lucky to have Good Students" award are worth consideration. (No one teaches people, what happens is that under some circumstances people learn - do you believe that you could write a book that "teaches" someone how to ride a bike?)

The education process is a formal application of the Peter's Principle - "People are promoted to the level of their incompetence". In the worst mode the education system just keeps moving a student up the ladder until he fails. There are a number of possible exits from the education system. A good exit occurs when a student achieves a level and chooses not to proceed to the next level. A poor exit occurs when a student fails between levels, at the second year of a four year course, for example. It does not follow that a student who can achieve a pass in first year subjects will be able to achieve a pass in higher year subjects. I know a bloke who with moderate training ran a marathon in 3 hours 18 minutes. The following year with more intensive training he ran it in 2 hours 56 minutes. Had he trained intensely in an attempt to achieve 2 hours 45 minutes on his third run, he would, most likely, have failed and done himself an injury in the process. It does not follow that a person's capabilities are indefinitely extendible with training. Coping with Pascal in first year does not imply the capacity to cope with C++ and Object Oriented Programming in year 3.

Now that students are encouraged to do double degrees, the failure exit is more likely, the hurdles have been raised, there are more of them and they are of greater diversity. This really is Peter's Principle land!

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The generalized Peter Principle in evolution systems tend to develop up to the limit of their adaptive competence


The Peter Principle was first introduced by L. Peter in a humoristic book (of the same title) describing the pitfalls of bureaucratic organization. The original principle states that in a hierarchically structured administration, people tend to be promoted up to their "level of incompetence". The principle is based on the observation that in such an organization new employees typically start in the lower ranks, but when they prove to be competent in the task to which they are assigned, they get promoted to a higher rank. This process of climbing up the hierarchical ladder can go on indefinitely, until the employee reaches a position where he or she is no longer competent. At that moment the process typically stops, since the established rules of bureacracies make that it is very difficult to "demote" someone to a lower rank, even if that person would be much better fitted and more happy in that lower position. The net result is that most of the higher levels of a bureaucracy will be filled by incompetent people, who got there because they were quite good at doing a different (and usually, but not always, easier) task than the one they are expected to do.
[PDF] The Peter Principle: A Theory of Decline File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML

Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-64, October. [Downloadable!]
Other versions:

Fairburn, J.A. & Malcomson, J.M., 2000. "Performance, Promotion, and the Peter Principle," Economics Series Working Papers 9926, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
Other versions:

Baker, George & Gibbs, Michael & Holmstrom, Bengt, 1994. "The Internal Economics of the Firm: Evidence from Personnel Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(4), pages 881-919, November. [Downloadable!]

Joao Ricardo Faria, 2000. "An Economic Analysis of the Peter and Dilbert Principles," Working Paper Series 101, School of Finance and Economics, University of Technology, Sydney. [Downloadable!]

Anderson, Ralph E. & Dubinsky, Alan J. & Mehta, Rajiv, 1999. "Sales managers: Marketing's best example of the peter principle?," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 19-26. [Downloadable!]


Reviews

Book Review - Peter Principle

Peter Principle

Quotes

Random Findings

Just a Bump in the Beltway The Peter Principle

Big Bonuses Still Flow, Even if Bosses Miss Goals
By GRETCHEN MORGENSON

It was the kind of mistake that wage slaves can only dream of. Because of what the company called an "improper interpretation" of his employment contract, Sheldon G. Adelson, chairman, chief executive and treasurer of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, received $3.6 million in salary and bonus last year, almost $1 million more than prescribed under the company's performance plan.

Four more top executives of the Las Vegas Sands, which owns the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino, received more than they should have. The total in excess bonus payments for the five men was $2.8 million.

The compensation committee of the board conceded that it had made an error. But it said that "the outstanding performance of the company in 2005" justified the extra money, and it allowed the executives to keep it.

Shareholders of Las Vegas Sands did not fare as well. The value of their holdings fell 18 percent last year.

As executive pay packages have rocketed in recent years, their defenders have contended that because most are tied to company performance, they are both earned and deserved. But as the Las Vegas Sands example shows, investors who plow through company filings often find that executive compensation exceeds the amounts allowed under the performance targets set by the directors.

Executives of companies as varied as Halliburton, the military contractor and oil services concern; Assurant, an insurance company; and Big Lots, a discount retailer, all received bonuses and other pay outside the performance parameters set by the boards of those companies.

It is the equivalent of moving the goalposts to shorten the field, compensation experts say.

"Lowering the hurdles is especially disconcerting because very often the goals are not set all that high to begin with," said Lucian Bebchuk, professor at Harvard Law School and author with Jesse Fried of "Pay Without Performance." Mr. Bebchuk said shareholders should be especially alert to increases in bonuses because more companies were shifting away from stock options and into cash incentives.

Some employment agreements actually stipulate that they will provide bonuses even if company performance declines. The agreement struck in 2004 by Peter Chernin, president and chief operating officer of the News Corporation, entitles him to a bonus even if earnings per share fall at the company. If earnings rise by 15 percent in any given year, Mr. Chernin's bonus is $12.5 million. But if they fall 6.25 percent, Mr. Chernin's bonus is $4.5 million, and an earnings decline of 14 percent translates to a $3.52 million bonus.

Last year, Mr. Chernin received $8.3 million in salary and $18.9 million in bonus pay. A company spokesman declined to comment on the bonus structure. He confirmed that the company's chief executive, Rupert Murdoch, has a similar bonus arrangement. Company filings show that Mr. Murdoch received a bonus of $18.9 million last year.

The rich really are different than you and me. The culture of the extremely affluent has no accountability. This sort of flies in the face of the American myth that you do well by working hard and doing a good job. Above a certain level, that's a crock. The very wealthy protect each other and create a culture of incompetence that's insulated by money. Our very own W is the product of this culture.

The Peter Principle and the Neocon Coup by Robert Scheer

I'm not referring to the latest attempt to reconquer Iraq, but rather the wholesale political revenge campaign being waged by the hard-liners in the Bush administration against anybody and everybody inside the government who challenged the way the second Persian Gulf war in a decade was marketed and run.

Out: Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose political epitaph should now read, "You break it, you own it" for his prescient but unwanted warning to the president on the danger of imperial overreach in Iraq.

Out: Top CIA officials who dared challenge, behind the scenes, the White House's unprecedented exploitation of raw intelligence data in order to sell a war to a Congress and a public hungry for revenge after 9/11.

Out: Veteran CIA counterterrorism expert and Osama bin Laden hunter Michael Scheuer, better known as the best-selling author "Anonymous," whose balanced and devastating critiques of the Iraq war, the CIA and the way President Bush is handling the war on terror have been a welcome counterpoint to the "it's true if we say it's true" idiocy of the White House PR machine.

Meanwhile, incompetence begat by ideological blindness has been rewarded. The neoconservatives who created the ongoing Iraq mess have more than survived the failure of their impossibly rosy scenarios for a peaceful and democratic Iraq under U.S. rule. In fact, despite calls for their resignations - from the former head of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. Anthony Zinni, among others - the neocon gang is thriving. They have not been held responsible for the "16 words" about yellowcake, the rise and fall of Ahmad Chalabi, the Abu Ghraib scandal, the post-invasion looting of Iraq's munitions stores and the disastrous elimination of the Iraqi armed forces.

BELLACIAO - The Peter Principle and the Bush Administration - villy - Collective Bellaciao

Last night on Frontline they broadcast a biting documentary entitled "The Dark Side", which revealed the truth about how the CIA and the Pentagon were at odds about evidence for going to war in Iraq,etc. These guys emerged as the "Gang that couldn't shoot staight", and reminded me of Lawrence Peters, who created the "principle" IN ANY HEIRARCHY, PEOPLE RISE TO THE LEVELY OF THEIR INCOMPETENCY AND REMAIN THERE.

Nowhere can I find better examples of this rule than in the Bush administration. To wit:

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: She was a talented pianist, an Oil Executive, a Russian studies expert,etc....but when she was made National Security Chief, she was suddenly clueless. Ditto when she "sidestepped" into her current position as Sec. of State.

COLIN POWELL: Despite having committed criminal acts (Iran-Contra Pentagon arms arrangements), Powell was highly respected worldwide until he buckled under and agreed to make the preposterous UN presentation of "evidence" of WMDs. Now he's in disgrace and tyring to find someone to blame for HIS inadequacy.

DONALD RUMSFELD: A highly successful businessman and experienced government "servant" in past administrations, when he joined the Bush gang he suddenly "lost it", and made a series of absurd errors which fouled things up in Iraq beyond belief.....and he's still at it. He refuses to resign.

DICK CHENEY: A long time politician and businessman, he was successful (if not popular) in most undertakings until he became VP (at his own request). He then got caught rigging energy contracts, feeding Halliburton good deals, and making endless false statements about WMDs and Husseins' "connections" to al Qaeda..despite loads of evidence to the contrary. Now he's among the most despised people in the entire world!

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: The neocon with offices in the Pentagon, Asst. Sec. of Defense, and professional liar once in the administration. He "knew" that Iraq's prodigious oil output would "pay for the war", and predicted that we'd be welcomed in Iraq "with flowers and chocolate", and that the war would be a "cakewalk"...NOT!

GEORGE W. BUSH: I must say that Dubya just doesn't fit here, but had to be mentioned, of course.
Bush was never really successful in his own right, having failed with a sports team (although bailed out), an oil company (bailed out) and as governor of Texas (popular, but what did he actully accomplish?). No, he was just a clown who was a part time drunk and alleged drug user who saw the light and straightened up enough to get "selected" as President...twice. Lawrence Peter would be lost when trying to figure out how one of the dumbest and most ignorant of all candidates could ever have achieved what he did.

What does HE know, anyway?

Bushisms "We are ready for any unforseen event which may or may not happen." ...



Etc

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War and Peace : Skeptical Finance : John Kenneth Galbraith :Talleyrand : Oscar Wilde : Otto Von Bismarck : Keynes : George Carlin : Skeptics : Propaganda  : SE quotes : Language Design and Programming Quotes : Random IT-related quotesSomerset Maugham : Marcus Aurelius : Kurt Vonnegut : Eric Hoffer : Winston Churchill : Napoleon Bonaparte : Ambrose BierceBernard Shaw : Mark Twain Quotes

Bulletin:

Vol 25, No.12 (December, 2013) Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks The efficient markets hypothesis : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2013 : Unemployment Bulletin, 2010 :  Vol 23, No.10 (October, 2011) An observation about corporate security departments : Slightly Skeptical Euromaydan Chronicles, June 2014 : Greenspan legacy bulletin, 2008 : Vol 25, No.10 (October, 2013) Cryptolocker Trojan (Win32/Crilock.A) : Vol 25, No.08 (August, 2013) Cloud providers as intelligence collection hubs : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : Inequality Bulletin, 2009 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Copyleft Problems Bulletin, 2004 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Energy Bulletin, 2010 : Malware Protection Bulletin, 2010 : Vol 26, No.1 (January, 2013) Object-Oriented Cult : Political Skeptic Bulletin, 2011 : Vol 23, No.11 (November, 2011) Softpanorama classification of sysadmin horror stories : Vol 25, No.05 (May, 2013) Corporate bullshit as a communication method  : Vol 25, No.06 (June, 2013) A Note on the Relationship of Brooks Law and Conway Law

History:

Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds  : Larry Wall  : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOSProgramming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC developmentScripting Languages : Perl history   : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history

Classic books:

The Peter Principle : Parkinson Law : 1984 : The Mythical Man-MonthHow to Solve It by George Polya : The Art of Computer Programming : The Elements of Programming Style : The Unix Hater’s Handbook : The Jargon file : The True Believer : Programming Pearls : The Good Soldier Svejk : The Power Elite

Most popular humor pages:

Manifest of the Softpanorama IT Slacker Society : Ten Commandments of the IT Slackers Society : Computer Humor Collection : BSD Logo Story : The Cuckoo's Egg : IT Slang : C++ Humor : ARE YOU A BBS ADDICT? : The Perl Purity Test : Object oriented programmers of all nations : Financial Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2008 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2010 : The Most Comprehensive Collection of Editor-related Humor : Programming Language Humor : Goldman Sachs related humor : Greenspan humor : C Humor : Scripting Humor : Real Programmers Humor : Web Humor : GPL-related Humor : OFM Humor : Politically Incorrect Humor : IDS Humor : "Linux Sucks" Humor : Russian Musical Humor : Best Russian Programmer Humor : Microsoft plans to buy Catholic Church : Richard Stallman Related Humor : Admin Humor : Perl-related Humor : Linus Torvalds Related humor : PseudoScience Related Humor : Networking Humor : Shell Humor : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2011 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2012 : Financial Humor Bulletin, 2013 : Java Humor : Software Engineering Humor : Sun Solaris Related Humor : Education Humor : IBM Humor : Assembler-related Humor : VIM Humor : Computer Viruses Humor : Bright tomorrow is rescheduled to a day after tomorrow : Classic Computer Humor

The Last but not Least Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand ~Archibald Putt. Ph.D


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Last modified: February 25, 2019