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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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[May 05, 2019] The Left Needs to Stop Crushing on the Generals by Danny Sjursen

Highly recommended!
Pentagon serves Wall Street and is controlled by CIA which is actually can be viewed as a Wall Street arm as well.
Notable quotes:
"... This time, though, the general got to talking about Russia. So I perked up. He made it crystal clear that he saw Moscow as an adversary to be contained, checked, and possibly defeated. There was no nuance, no self-reflection, not even a basic understanding of the general complexity of geopolitics in the 21st century. ..."
"... General It-Doesn't-Matter-His-Name thundered that we need not worry, however, because his tanks and troops could "mop the floor" with the Russians, in a battle that "wouldn't even be close." It was oh-so-typical, another U.S. Army general -- who clearly longs for the Cold War fumes that defined his early career -- overestimating the Russian menace and underestimating Russian military capability . ..."
"... The problem with the vast majority of generals, however, is that they don't think strategically. What they call strategy is really large-scale operations -- deploying massive formations and winning campaigns replete with battles. Many remain mired in the world of tactics, still operating like lieutenants or captains and proving the Peter Principle right, as they get promoted past their respective levels of competence. ..."
"... If America's generals, now and over the last 18 years, really were strategic thinkers, they'd have spoken out about -- and if necessary resigned en masse over -- mission sets that were unwinnable, illegal (in the case of Iraq), and counterproductive . Their oath is to the Constitution, after all, not Emperors Bush, Obama, and Trump. Yet few took that step. It's all symptomatic of the disease of institutionalized intellectual mediocrity. ..."
"... Let's start with Mattis. "Mad Dog" Mattis was so anti-Iran and bellicose in the Persian Gulf that President Barack Obama removed him from command of CENTCOM. ..."
"... Furthermore, the supposedly morally untainted, "intellectual" " warrior monk " chose, when he finally resigned, to do so in response to Trump's altogether reasonable call for a modest troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and Syria. ..."
May 03, 2019 | www.theamericanconservative.com

The two-star army general strode across the stage in his rumpled combat fatigues, almost like George Patton -- all that was missing was the cigar and riding crop. It was 2017 and I was in the audience, just another mid-level major attending yet another mandatory lecture in the auditorium of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

The general then commanded one of the Army's two true armored divisions and had plenty of his tanks forward deployed in Eastern Europe, all along the Russian frontier. Frankly, most CGSC students couldn't stand these talks. Substance always seemed lacking, as each general reminded us to "take care of soldiers" and "put the mission first," before throwing us a few nuggets of conventional wisdom on how to be good staff officers should we get assigned to his vaunted command.

This time, though, the general got to talking about Russia. So I perked up. He made it crystal clear that he saw Moscow as an adversary to be contained, checked, and possibly defeated. There was no nuance, no self-reflection, not even a basic understanding of the general complexity of geopolitics in the 21st century. Generals can be like that -- utterly "in-the-box," "can-do" thinkers. They take pride in how little they discuss policy and politics, even when they command tens of thousands of troops and control entire districts, provinces, or countries. There is some value in this -- we'd hardly want active generals meddling in U.S. domestic affairs. But they nonetheless can take the whole "aw shucks" act a bit too far.

General It-Doesn't-Matter-His-Name thundered that we need not worry, however, because his tanks and troops could "mop the floor" with the Russians, in a battle that "wouldn't even be close." It was oh-so-typical, another U.S. Army general -- who clearly longs for the Cold War fumes that defined his early career -- overestimating the Russian menace and underestimating Russian military capability . Of course, it was all cloaked in the macho bravado so common among generals who think that talking like sergeants will win them street cred with the troops. (That's not their job anymore, mind you.) He said nothing, of course, about the role of mid- and long-range nuclear weapons that could be the catastrophic consequence of an unnecessary war with the Russian Bear.

I got to thinking about that talk recently as I reflected in wonder at how the latest generation of mainstream "liberals" loves to fawn over generals, admirals -- any flag officers, really -- as alternatives to President Donald Trump. The irony of that alliance should not be lost on us. It's built on the standard Democratic fear of looking "soft" on terrorism, communism, or whatever-ism, and their visceral, blinding hatred of Trump. Some of this is understandable. Conservative Republicans masterfully paint liberals as "weak sisters" on foreign policy, and Trump's administration is, well, a wild card in world affairs.

The problem with the vast majority of generals, however, is that they don't think strategically. What they call strategy is really large-scale operations -- deploying massive formations and winning campaigns replete with battles. Many remain mired in the world of tactics, still operating like lieutenants or captains and proving the Peter Principle right, as they get promoted past their respective levels of competence.

If America's generals, now and over the last 18 years, really were strategic thinkers, they'd have spoken out about -- and if necessary resigned en masse over -- mission sets that were unwinnable, illegal (in the case of Iraq), and counterproductive . Their oath is to the Constitution, after all, not Emperors Bush, Obama, and Trump. Yet few took that step. It's all symptomatic of the disease of institutionalized intellectual mediocrity. More of the same is all they know: their careers were built on fighting "terror" anywhere it raised its evil head. Some, though no longer most, still subscribe to the faux intellectualism of General Petraeus and his legion of Coindinistas , who never saw a problem that a little regime change, followed by expert counterinsurgency, couldn't solve. Forget that they've been proven wrong time and again and can count zero victories since 2002. Generals (remember this!) are never held accountable.

Flag officers also rarely seem to recognize that they owe civilian policymakers more than just tactical "how" advice. They ought to be giving "if" advice -- if we invade Iraq, it will take 500,000 troops to occupy the place, and even then we'll ultimately destabilize the country and region, justify al-Qaeda's worldview, kick off a nationalist insurgency, and become immersed in an unwinnable war. Some, like Army Chief General Eric Shinseki and CENTCOM head John Abizaid, seemed to know this deep down. Still, Shinseki quietly retired after standing up to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Abizaid rode out his tour to retirement.

Trump Scores, Breaks Generals' 50-Year War Record Afghanistan and America's 'Indispensable Nation' Hubris

Generals also love to tell the American people that victory is "just around the corner," or that there's a "light at the end of the tunnel." General William Westmoreland used the very same language when predicting imminent victory in Vietnam. Two months later, the North Vietnamese and Vietcong unleashed the largest uprising of the war, the famed Tet Offensive.

Take Afghanistan as exhibit A: 17 or so generals have now commanded U.S. troops in this, America's longest war. All have commanded within the system and framework of their predecessors. Sure, they made marginal operational and tactical changes -- some preferred surges, others advising, others counterterror -- but all failed to achieve anything close to victory, instead laundering failure into false optimism. None refused to play the same-old game or question the very possibility of victory in landlocked, historically xenophobic Afghanistan. That would have taken real courage, which is in short supply among senior officers.

Exhibit B involves Trump's former cabinet generals -- National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, Chief of Staff John Kelley, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis -- whom adoring and desperate liberals took as saviors and canonized as the supposed adults in the room . They were no such thing. The generals' triumvirate consisted ultimately of hawkish conventional thinkers married to the dogma of American exceptionalism and empire. Period.

Let's start with Mattis. "Mad Dog" Mattis was so anti-Iran and bellicose in the Persian Gulf that President Barack Obama removed him from command of CENTCOM.

Furthermore, the supposedly morally untainted, "intellectual" " warrior monk " chose, when he finally resigned, to do so in response to Trump's altogether reasonable call for a modest troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and Syria.

Helping Saudi Arabia terror bomb Yemen and starve 85,000 children to death? Mattis rebuked Congress and supported that. He never considered resigning in opposition to that war crime. No, he fell on his "courageous" sword over downgrading a losing 17-year-old war in Afghanistan. Not to mention he came to Trump's cabinet straight from the board of contracting giant General Dynamics, where he collected hundreds of thousands of military-industrial complex dollars.

Then there was John Kelley, whom Press Secretary Sarah Sanders implied was above media questioning because he was once a four-star marine general. And there's McMaster, another lauded intellectual who once wrote an interesting book and taught history at West Point. Yet he still drew all the wrong conclusions in his famous book on Vietnam -- implying that more troops, more bombing, and a mass invasion of North Vietnam could have won the war. Furthermore, his work with Mattis on Trump's unhinged , imperial National Defense Strategy proved that he was, after all, just another devotee of American hyper-interventionism.

So why reflect on these and other Washington generals? It's simple: liberal veneration for these, and seemingly all, military flag officers is a losing proposition and a formula for more intervention, possible war with other great powers, and the creeping militarization of the entire U.S. government. We know what the generals expect -- and potentially want -- for America's foreign policy future.

Just look at the curriculum at the various war and staff colleges from Kansas to Rhode Island. Ten years ago, they were all running war games focused on counterinsurgency in the Middle East and Africa. Now those same schools are drilling for future "contingencies" in the Baltic, Caucasus, and in the South China Sea. Older officers have always lamented the end of the Cold War "good old days," when men were men and the battlefield was "simple." A return to a state of near-war with Russia and China is the last thing real progressives should be pushing for in 2020.

The bottom line is this: the faint hint that mainstream libs would relish a Six Days in May style military coup is more than a little disturbing, no matter what you think of Trump. Democrats must know the damage such a move would do to our ostensible republic. I say: be a patriot. Insist on civilian control of foreign affairs. Even if that means two more years of The Donald.

Danny Sjursen is a retired U.S. Army Major and regular contributor to Truthdig . His work has also appeared in Harper's, the Los Angeles Times , The Nation , Tom Dispatch , and The Hill . He served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge . Follow him on Twitter @SkepticalVet .

[ Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author, expressed in an unofficial capacity, and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.]

[Apr 30, 2019] Boeing Kept Mum to Customers, FAA About Disabling of 737 Max Warning System

Apr 30, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

... ... ...

This basic fact pattern has been revealed to be worse than it first appeared by virtue of Boeing not having been explicit that the angle of attack sensor alerts had been disabled on the 737 Max. Why should Boeing have cleared its throat and said something? Recall that the sales pitch for the 737 Max was that it was so much like existing 737s that it didn't require FAA recertification or pilot simulator training. But the angle of attack sensor alert had been a standard feature in all previous 737s, meaning buyers would assume it was part of the plane unless they were told otherwise. And on top of that, the non-upgraded 737 Max did have lights in the pilots' controls for this alert. But they didn't work unless the buyer had purchased the package of safety extras.

And the proof that Boeing was playing way too cute with its pointed silence about its deactivation of what had been a standard feature? The biggest customer for the 737 Max, Southwest Airlines, had inaccurate information in its pilots' manual because the airline had mistakenly assumed the angle of attack sensor alerts worked as they had on earlier 737s.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Boeing Co. didn't tell Southwest Airlines Co. and other carriers when they began flying its 737 MAX jets that a safety feature found on earlier models that warns pilots about malfunctioning sensors had been deactivated, according to government and industry officials.

Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors and supervisors responsible for monitoring Southwest, the largest 737 MAX customer, also were unaware of the change, the officials said.

The alerts inform pilots whether a sensor known as an "angle-of-attack vane" is transmitting errant data about the pitch of a plane's nose .

Southwest's management and cockpit crews didn't know about the lack of the warning system for more than a year after the planes went into service in 2017, industry and government officials said. They and most other airlines operating the MAX learned about it only after the Lion Air crash in October led to scrutiny of the plane's revised design.

"Southwest's own manuals were wrong" about the availability of the alerts, said the Southwest pilots union president, Jon Weaks.

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allan , April 29, 2019 at 10:16 am

C-suite still in denial:

Boeing suppliers ramp up schedule for MAX: 52/mo by July, 57/mo by August [Leeham News]

Boeing reduced the production rate on the 737 line in mid-April from 52/mo to 42/mo in response to the grounding of the airplane by regulators worldwide.

The company and others said they didn't know how long the airplane would be grounded.

But Boeing told suppliers to keep producing parts, components and the fuselage at rate 52.

Boeing already had a ramp-up plan in place;

According to the information LNA learned at the, this is the schedule for ramping back up:

• Rate 42/mo, April and May;
• Rate 47, June;
• Rate 51.5, July and August; and
• Rate 57, September.

Boeing originally planned to go to 57/mo in June or July.

Good luck with that. The upside is that this corporate controlled flight into terrain
will someday make a great B-school case study.

Edit: If you Captcha-train an autonomous vehicle not to run into bicycles, and it gets into an accident,
are you legally liable? Asking for a friend.

The Rev Kev , April 29, 2019 at 10:55 am

Oh man, this is bad. Really bad. This story just gets worse and worse over time. It's like one of those Russian Matryoshka dolls – just when you think that you have a handle on what happened, you find that there is a whole new layer of ugliness underneath. When the hell did safety become an optional extra on Boeing aircraft? After reading this, I think that it was a minor miracle that there were no 737 MAX crashes in the continental United States. By the sounds of this article, it would have likely been a Southwest airliner if it had happened. I am wondering what else will come out of this saga that we don't know about yet.

flora , April 29, 2019 at 12:33 pm

+1.

Self-regulation/certification is a sham.
and
Boeing is toast, imo.

Arizona Slim , April 29, 2019 at 1:21 pm

I agree, flora. I also think that the Max is about to become the Chevy Corvair of airliners. As in, unsafe at any speed.

Wyoming , April 29, 2019 at 1:47 pm

I would say that Boeing easily falls into the 'Too big to fail.' category.

So no matter what happened they will be either made whole (more defense contracts, taxpayer bailout if necessary, whatever is needed) or protected in some way tbd. They are a 100 billion a year company with 150,000+ employees and untold numbers of other contractors and jobs depending on their existence. Going away is just not going to happen.

ex-PFC Chuck , April 29, 2019 at 4:02 pm

Never underestimate the MICC's* capability & inclination to look after its own.

*Military Industrial Congressional Complex

737 Pilot , April 29, 2019 at 10:55 am

Okay, Boeing screwed the pooch again, and they should have been more clear in their communications to the airlines. However, let me add some perspective as a 737 operator.

Given the AOA malfunction in either the Lion Air or Ethiopian accidents, an "AOA Disagree" warning annunciation would have possibly been helpful, but not really crucial to the safe recovery of the aircraft. There were plenty of other indications that the AOA's were disagreeing – namely that only one of the stick shakers was activated. Once you get over the initial surprise, it shouldn't have been that hard to determine this fact. The lack of the AOA display and disagree annunciator is not what doomed these crews.

vlade , April 29, 2019 at 11:04 am

I sort of agree and disagree.

I've never had a flight emergency as a pilot, but had a few as a diver. I suspect that for both of those, when they hit, you need to resolve things quickly and efficiently, with panic being the worst enemy.

Panic in my experience stems from a number of things here, but two crucial ones are:
– input overload
– not knowing what to do, or learned actions not having any effect

Both of them can be, to a very large extent, overcome with training, training, and more training (of actually practising the emergency situation, not just reading about it and filling questionairres).

So, if the crews were expecting to see AoA disagree but it wasn't there, they could have easily be misled and confused. The crews weren't (from what I've seen) hugely experienced. So any confusion would have made a bad situation even worse. How big an impact it made is hard to judge w/o any other materials.

marku52 , April 29, 2019 at 3:42 pm

Well it is rarely just one thing that causes an "accident". There are multiple contributors here. But the one basic overarching cause was Boeing's insistence that there-will-not-be-any-additional-training.

Without that management decree, the Max could be flown without the hack of MCAS, just that the pilots be trained on the new pitchup characteristics.

And releasing MCAS into the wild without even alerting pilots to its existence, well, that is manslaughter, if not outright murder.

CraaaaaaaaaazyChris , April 29, 2019 at 4:02 pm

My takeaway from the IEEE article was that the AOA sensor is almost a red herring. The dog that didn't bark was a pitch sensor, and the cardinal sin (from a software perspective) was that the MCAS algo did not consider pitch sensor values when deciding whether or not to angle the plane towards ground.

Synoia , April 29, 2019 at 11:09 am

Blame the pilots then? Is that your point?

Alex V , April 29, 2019 at 1:50 pm

I suggest reading some of the other pieces on the 737 debacle on NC. There's been extensive discussion of the details, and yes the pilots may be partially to blame, but are the least culpable out of all parties involved.

GooGooGaJoob , April 29, 2019 at 12:03 pm

Given that story states that Boeing was more or less silent on the disabling of the sensor alerts, it's is reasonable to posit that any 737 pilot stepping into a 737 MAX would expect the sensor to be active.

I can understand the position that a pilot still needs to be skilled enough to not be 100% reliant on sensors, warning lights etc. to fly the plane. However, if I already assume that a sensor is active and it's not providing a signal that I would be potentially anticipating, it's going to seed doubt in my mind in a scenario where you don't have much time at all to think things through.

flora , April 29, 2019 at 12:44 pm

On the other hand: a safety light that is deactivated without telling the airlines and pilots gives false negatives to pilots at a critical juncture. They assume it's active, check it, and see a false negative they don't realize is false.

Imagine having a 'check engine' or 'oil' light on your car's dashboard that's been deactivated. They never come on. But they're still there. The driver assumes they'll light if there's engine trouble that needs attention.

Boeing's actions don't pass the 'reasonable man' test.

Jim A. , April 29, 2019 at 1:23 pm

Yeah, normally if a mechanical gauge "knows" that it isn't working there will be a little flag that pops up across the display. Leaving the light there but inoperative instead of either removing the light or covering it up with an "inoperative" cover is a really bad idea. It is EVEN WORSE than making safety features optional, and that is bad enough.

John k , April 29, 2019 at 1:30 pm

Let's see
First, they didn't know MCAS existed, so had no idea or training in what to do when it was erroneously engaged by system.
Then, they think both Aos sensors are working properly.
And, Boeing tells everybody plane is just like previous versions, no need for simulations.
I'm glad I'm not one of the dead pilots you're blaming.
By the way, it's apparently just chance that the bad sensors affected foreign and not domestic flights, no public reports that superior domestic pilots had no problem when it hit the fan on their watch although some domestic airlines were told (warned) that bad sensor light was optional extra so possibly a domestic plane cancelled flight on account of bad sensor.
But imagine a really experienced pilot would have saved the day so Boeing should say only really experienced pilots should fly the plane? Maybe simulators help you get really experienced, especially with unexpected emergencies?
Personally, I'll avoid the plane for a few years if simulators aren't required hate to have a pilot not experienced with what we now know is not such a rare event.

Old Jake , April 29, 2019 at 3:22 pm

We seem to be forgetting that, in the Lion Air case, a really experienced pilot did save the day the previous day on the same aircraft . The issue was reported, the airline neglected to repair the issue and nobody seems to have told the new aircrew about the issue. This seems to support 737 Pilot's position. It is also another egregious failure, this time on the part of the airline.

dcrane , April 29, 2019 at 3:42 pm

That pilot was a third set of eyes. Since he didn't have to fly the plane, he was free to observe and fortunately his attention eventually focused on the repeating trim wheel movements. A standard two-person crew doesn't have this luxury. Worth keeping in mind.

That lion crew also seems to have written up the problem incompletely. They didn't mention, for example, that they had the stick shaker going for the entire flight.

JerryDenim , April 29, 2019 at 4:51 pm

Your point is legitimate but without the benefit of a CVR recording I think you may be affording too much credit to the jumpseating pilot who is rumored to have provided the flight crew with the excellent advice of disabling the electric stabilizer trim motor. Even if the story is entirely true it's not like turning off the Stab trim motor was esoteric knowledge, maybe 737 pilot can correct me on this but I thought that procedure was a memory item for trim runaway emergencies, meaning the pilots were supposed to have that bit of knowledge firmly committed to memory and they were supposed to execute that procedure without any checklists or undue delay as soon as the condition was recognized. If not a memory item it was in the 737 QRC or QRH emergency procedures guide that is always present for immediate reference on the flight deck. The most important thing the crew of Lion Air 43(?) did (the flight previous to 610 that managed not to crash) was to simply not let themselves become so frazzled they forgot to pull the thrust levers out of the take-off detent after they reached a safe altitude, and not overspeeding an out of trim airplane making a bad situation worse. Maybe the jumpseating pilot had to scream at the crew to reduce thrust and maybe he had to slap the Captain and reduce the thrust levers himself, but absent a CVR recording to verify this slightly far-fetched scenario I would say the previous crew deserves the Lion's share (sorry couldn't resist) of the credit for landing safely.

You are absolutely 100% correct when you point out the non-crashing Captain was far from exemplary. He laid an absolutely vicious trap for the ill-fated crew of flight 610 by failing to mention a great number of things he experienced, especially the uncommanded and unwanted nose down trimming that necessitated turning off the stab trim motor which he also failed to communicate. Not a shining moment for Lion Air pilots, mechanics or Boeing. Despite the obvious and multiple shortcomings and blunders of the Captain/crew of Lion Air 43, I believe that flight proves what the airline pilot commenters here have been saying all along, which is the 737 Max flaws were serious but survivable with a competent crew. That's not the same thing as calling the airplane safe or airworthy and it's certainly not excusing Boeing. They delivered a death trap. Perhaps a bad analogy, but a professional body guard should be able to easily disarm a five year with a knife, but that doesn't mean a murderous five year with a knife isn't dangerous or isn't capable of killing you. Airplanes are machines which inevitably fail and mechanics are humans who make mistakes which is why pilots need to know how to hand fly airplanes absent automation. Reducing thrust during an emergency to avoid overspeeding your airplane really isn't a tall ask for a professional pilot. Pilots get this, non-pilots don't, and it's a point I've grown quite weary of making.

shtove , April 29, 2019 at 1:32 pm

There's been interesting points made back and forth on NC – what do you make of this from Karl Denninger: basically, "You can't fix the problems the 737Max has with software alone"?
https://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=235578

JerryDenim , April 29, 2019 at 2:27 pm

I made the exact same argument here a couple of days ago, but I will say IF the system was engineered in a way it could have given the Ethiopians a warning prior to eighty knots or V1 (depending on training and pilot judgement) on takeoff, maybe they could have aborted and kept the plane on the ground avoiding the disaster. Having that disagree light or indication immediately after rotation on climbout could have soothed the nerves of the pilots and made them feel more confident trusting the perfectly normal instrumentation on the FO's side of the airplane. But if the high speed clacker, the airspeed tape and the thrust settings aren't enough information to convince a overwhelmed, elevator control fixated pilot that he/she has more than adequate speed to avoid stalling, and they should slow down, then it stands to reason a secondary warning indication would also not break through the mental logjam of two very overwhelmed pilots bombarded by warnings and data. In the case of Lion Air 610 the malfunctioning AOA vane had already caused multiple instrument malfunctions and improper nose down MCAS trimming on three other flights, so it seems like those guys were hellbent on flying that plane no matter what. Even if Lion Air would have had the optional warning system onboard the mechanics most likely would have deferred the warning system as broken. "Ops checks good". They probably would have removed the bulb or stuck a placard on top of it.

And before anyone feels the need to point it out, yes, I'm engaging in speculation, but so is everyone claiming this optional safety system would have made a difference in the two aforementioned tragedies. I'm engaging in speculation as a guy who has reviewed thousands of logbooks and had hundreds, possibly thousands of interactions with airline maintenance technicians. Some of those interactions include contentious debates over what is safe to defer or what can actually legally be deferred so I do have a bit of experience in this department.

Boeing screwed up. They were hasty, they were greedy, they were cavalier, the MCAS trim system with a single point of failure was a terrible design that was most likely criminal. I'm just weighing in on 737 pilot's contention. With a system as poorly designed as the MCAS stall protection trimming, every safety feature available should have come standard from Boeing, but sadly additional fault indications don't always matter in emergency situations. Proper fault diagnosis is only part of any successful emergency outcome. Pilots still have to possess the knowledge and skill required to follow procedures and fly the airplane.

vlade , April 29, 2019 at 10:56 am

The only planes I ever flew you'd fly w/o pretty much any instrumentation (WW2 trainers, hoping to fly a Spitfire or Mustang one day.. ).

But in a modern plane, I'd think that _any_ instrument that is doubled or more (which implies some sort of criticality) should have an automatic "inputs disagree" indicator, which would not be possible to turn off.

Not that you'll have to buy it as a special feature.

JBird4049 , April 29, 2019 at 1:16 pm

I have been thinking about the modern 737. My completely uninformed guess is that the original model, while less "safe" was more informative in a real way than the current one.

In modern cars, especially something like a hybrid, there is not much "feel" to it. In an older old fashion gasoline engine car, there is. I could use the Volkswagen as an example, because it only had some colored lights and the speedometer, and none of the safety features of a modern car. However, I could sense, smell, see just about everything, often subconsciously, even before something went kablowie because there was nothing isolating me from the vehicle and the road. Today, I have to depend on my car's sensors because it has been designed to be quiet and isolating as possible.

John , April 29, 2019 at 11:06 am

The downward slide of corrupt predatory capitalism is not a pretty picture. These cases will continue as long as the responsible executives know they have nothing to lose.

campbeln , April 29, 2019 at 12:30 pm

Just more proof that self regulation works, just look to our favorite sporting events!
There's no need to have refs on the field because everyone involved is a professional and would never cheat, disrespect the sport or do something against the rules because the fans would punish them!
If our sports don't need refs, then surely our markets don't need regulators! Checkmate, big government stooges!

Synoia , April 29, 2019 at 1:20 pm

Absolutely correct. Throw away the huge NFL rule-book, and revert to the rules the of the Roman arena.

It would save the NFL team owners huge amounts of money.

StarryGordon , April 29, 2019 at 12:20 pm

I suppose I am naive, but I am shocked that the behavior of Boeing's management and the FAA are not being treated as a criminal matter. What happened was not a business mistake, it was a crime in which a number of persons deliberately and knowingly decided to risk other people's lives in order to increase profits, as a result of which hundreds of people were killed. I believe the term is 'negligent homicide', upon conviction of which lesser beings than high management and bureaucrats go to jail. In some countries their next of kin would already have received a bill for bullets and services rendered.

Synoia , April 29, 2019 at 1:15 pm

It would be interesting in Ethiopia issues a criminal arrest warrant on these grounds for the Executives of Boeing.

That being the country with jurisdiction for this second crash.

Is there an extradition treaty between Ethiopia and the US?

John k , April 29, 2019 at 1:36 pm

The term used to be criminally negligent homicide, but this no longer applies to those wearing white collars.
Otherwise we would see charges against bankers, opioid pushers, and others.

JBird4049 , April 29, 2019 at 1:30 pm

But Boeing, as part of a duopoly, recognizes that its customers have nowhere to go .at least for the next few years, which might as well be eternity as far as MBAs are concerned.

Even if it meant drastically reducing flights why would any airline buy airplanes that are not guaranteed to be safe? Losing money through fewer paying customers because you are choosing to have fewer flights is better than being boycotted or bankrupted by lawsuits, or arrested and criminally charged.

EoH , April 29, 2019 at 2:00 pm

It is inexplicable that Boeing shut off an indicator system for the Max that had been standard on earlier versions of the 737, when that AoA sensor disagreement indicator was even more important for safe flight.

Turning it on in the Max version was possible but was made part of an extra-cost safety package. How would a purchaser know to buy it when Boeing downplayed its importance so as not to suggest how different the Max was from supposedly similar earlier versions of the 737?

The more that comes out about the conduct of Boeing and its senior management's decisions, the more they look criminally reckless.

WestcoastDeplorable , April 29, 2019 at 4:02 pm

The FAA is mostly responsible for this fiasco because they have a misguided mission. Safety should be their only concern, but over the years that's eroded into a "sort of safety" attitude but mostly being a cheerleader for the aviation industry.
And you can't trust bastards like Boeing to "self-certify" anything, apparently!

Carey , April 29, 2019 at 4:06 pm

Scott Hamilton at Leeham News on Boeing's CEO:

"..It took months before Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg issued a video in which, among other things, he said, "We own it." He was referring to safety of the MAX.

This was widely interpreted as Boeing stepping up and taking responsibility for at least some of the causes of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes.

Last Wednesday, he took it all back.

On the first quarter earnings call, Muilenburg denied there was any "technical slip or gap" in designing the now famous MCAS system. He said "actions not taken" contributed to the crash, a thinly veiled reference once again to pilot error.."

https://leehamnews.com/2019/04/29/pontifications-we-own-it-but/

VietnamVet , April 29, 2019 at 7:03 pm

Boeing and FAA are criminally negligent especially for the Ethiopian Airline crash. The recovered horizontal stabilizer screw jack from the Lion Air crash was found in the full nose down position that forced the plane to dive into the sea. It should have never be in this is flight critical position. Grounding the fleet should have been immediate until the cause and fix were found. On top of all this, it is simply criminal for Boeing to charge Southwest Airlines for additional safety features and then turn them off not telling the airline.

It is tragic that it appears that Americans will have to rely on China to force Boeing to actually fix MCAS and along with Canada to shame the FAA into requiring pilot training on Flight Simulators before flying passengers on the Max.

A Boeing C-Suite executive has to go to jail. If not, there is no chance for the United States of America to survive. With government run by and for profiteers, long term planning is dead. Profit over people. A plague, an economic crash, a world war, a middle-class revolt, flooded coasts, or an autocratic Caesar become inevitable.

[Apr 29, 2019] Let's rename Boeing to BidenAir

Apr 29, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Late Introvert , , April 28, 2019 at 9:19 pm

I noticed that Boeing is incorporated in the great state of Delaware. Ah-hem.

dearieme , , April 29, 2019 at 11:46 am

Oh well, change their name to BidenAir.

[Apr 29, 2019] Ralph Nader Calls Out Boeing for 737 MAX Lack of Airworthiness, Stock Buybacks, and Demands Muilenburg Resign by Lambert Strether

Apr 28, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Ralph Nader has published an open letter to Dennis A. Muilenburg, current CEO of Boeing, which is worth reading in full . There's a personal connection :

[Nader's] niece, 24-year-old Samya Stumo, was among the 157 victims of an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash last month, less than six months after a flight on the same aircraft, the Boeing 737 Max 8, crashed in Indonesia.

Nader comments, in Stumo's obituary in the Berkshire Eagle :

"She was compassionate from the get-go. She'd be 8 years old and she'd get a pail of hot water and go to her great-grandmother and soak her feet and rub her feet and dry them. She was always that way."

Clifford Law has brought suit on behalf of the Stumo family in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. From the complaint :

Blinded by its greed, BOEING haphazardly rushed the 737 MAX 8 to market, with the knowledge and tacit approval of the United States Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA"), while BOEING actively concealed the nature of the automated system defects. Numerous decisions by BOEING's leadership substantially contributed to the subject crash and demonstrate BOEING's conscious disregard for the lives of others, including but not limited to BOEING's role in: designing an aircraft with a powerful automated flight control system [the MCAS] susceptible to catastrophic failure in the event a single defective sensor; failing to properly inform pilots of the existence of the new flight control system and educate and train them in all aspects of its operation; failing to properly address the new system in the aircraft's flight manual; refusing to include key safety features as standard in the aircraft rather than optional upgrades; delivering 737 MAX aircraft with a version of the flight control system that was materially different from the version presented to the FAA during certification; and failing to take appropriate action after BOEING learned that the 737 MAX aircraft was not performing as intended or safety, as was made tragically clear with the crash of Lion Air Flight JT 610.

BOEING's decision to put profits over safety is further evident in BOEING's repeated claims that the 737 MAX 8 is so similar to its earlier models that it does not require significant retraining for those pilots familiar with the older generation of 737s.

All pretty much conventional wisdom at this point! The suit also calls for exemplary (punitive) damages ; I've embedded the complaint at the end of the post, in case any readers care to dig into it. I'm not going to examine the case in this post; rather, I'm going to focus on three items from Naders letter that I think advance the story: His framing for 737 MAX airworthiness; his highlighting of Boeing's stock buybacks; and his call for Boeing CEO Muilenburg's defenestration.

Nader on 737 MAX Airworthiness

From Nader's letter :

Aircraft should be stall-proof, not stall-prone.

(Stalling, in Nader's telling, being the condition the defective MCAS system was meant to correct.) Because aircraft that are aerodynamicallly unstable, llke fighter jets, have ejection seats! Now, a pedant would point out that Nader means commercial aircraft , but as readers know, I eschew pedantry in all contexts. That said, Nader manages to encapsulate the problem in a single sentence (using antithesis , isocolon , and anaphora ). Now, we have pilots in the commentariat who will surely say whether Nader's formulation is correct, but to this layperson it seems to be. From 737 MAX, a fan/geek site, on the business and technical logic of the MCAS system :

The LEAP engine nacelles are larger and had to be mounted slightly higher and further forward from the previous NG CFM56-7 engines to give the necessary ground clearance. This new location and larger size of nacelle cause the vortex flow off the nacelle body to produce lift at high AoA [Angle of Attack]. As the nacelle is ahead of the C of G, this lift causes a slight pitch-up effect (ie a reducing stick force) which could lead the pilot to inadvertently pull the yoke further aft than intended bringing the aircraft closer towards the stall. This abnormal nose-up pitching is not allowable under 14CFR §25.203(a) "Stall characteristics". Several aerodynamic solutions were introduced such as revising the leading edge stall strip and modifying the leading edge vortilons but they were insufficient to pass regulation. MCAS was therefore introduced to give an automatic nose down stabilizer input during elevated AoA when flaps are up.

Nader on Stock Buybacks

From Nader's letter , where he is addressing Muilenberg ("you") directly:

Boeing management's behavior must be seen in the context of Boeing's use of its earned capital. Did you use the $30 billion surplus from 2009 to 2017 to reinvest in R&D, in new narrow-body passenger aircraft? Or did you, instead, essentially burn this surplus with self-serving stock buybacks of $30 billion in that period? Boeing is one of the companies that MarketWatch labelled as "Five companies that spent lavishly on stock buybacks while pension funding lagged."

Incredibly, your buybacks of $9.24 billion in 2017 comprised 109% of annual earnings . As you well know, stock buybacks do not create any jobs. They improve the metrics for the executive compensation packages of top Boeing bosses [ka-ching]. Undeterred, in 2018, buybacks of $9 billion constituted 86% of annual earnings .

To make your management recklessly worse, in December 2018, you arranged for your rubberstamp Board of Directors to approve $20 billion more in buybacks. Apparently, you had amortized the cost of the Indonesian Lion Air crash victims as not providing any significant impact on your future guidance to the investor world.

Holy moley, that's real money! Nader's detail on the stock buybacks (see NC here , here , and here ) interested me, because it bears on Boeing's 2011 decision not to build a new narrow-body aircraft in 2011. I summarized the decision-making back in March:

(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-engined 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.

So, Dennis. How's that workin' out for ya? How does the decision not to build a new plane look in retrospect? Ygeslias writes in Vox, in April:

Looking back, Boeing probably wishes it had just stuck with the "build a new plane" plan and toughed out a few years of rough sales, rather than ending up in the current situation. Right now the company is, in effect, trying to patch things up piecemeal -- a software update here, a new warning light there, etc. -- in hopes of persuading global regulatory agencies to let its planes fly again.

What Nader's focus on stock buybacks shows, is that Boeing had the capital to invest in developing a new plane . From Bloomberg in 2019 :

For Boeing and Airbus, committing to an all-new aircraft is a once-in-a-decade event. Costs are prohibitive, delays are the norm and payoff can take years to materialize. Boeing could easily spend more than $15 billion on the NMA, according to Ken Herbert, analyst with Canaccord Genuity, and Airbus may be forced into a clean-sheet design if sales take off.

The sales force has been fine-tuning the design with airlines for at least five years, creating a "will it or won't it?" drama around the decision on whether to make the plane, known internally at Boeing as the NMA, for new, middle-of-market airplane.

Now, it is true that the "huge and excruciatingly painful near-term obstacles" referred to by the Air Current are sales losses that Boeing would incur from putting a bullet into it's cash cow, the 737, before it turned into a dog (like now?). Nevertheless, Beoing was clearly capable, as Yglesias points put, of "tough[ing]out a few years of rough sales." So what else was "excruciatingly painful"? Losing the stock buybacks (and that sweet, sweet executive compensation). Readers, I wasn't cynical enough. I should have given consideration to the possibility that Muilenburg and his merry men were looting the company!

Nader on Muilenburg

Finally, from Nader's letter :

Consider, in addition, the statement of two Harvard scholars -- Leonard J. Marcus and Eric J. McNulty, authors of the forthcoming book, You're It: Crisis, Change, and How to Lead When it Matters Most. These gentlemen did not achieve their positions by using strong language. That is why, the concluding statement in their CNN article on March 27, 2019, merits your closer attention:

"Of course, if Boeing did not act in good faith in deploying the 737 Max and the Justice Department's investigation discovers Boeing cut corners or attempted to avoid proper regulatory reviews of the modifications to the aircraft, Muilenburg and any other executives involved should resign immediately. Too many families, indeed communities, depend on the continued viability of Boeing."

These preconditions have already been disclosed and are evidentially based. Your mismanagement is replete with documentation, including your obsession with shareholder value and executive compensation. There is no need to wait for some long-drawn out, redundant inquiry. Management was criminally negligent, 346 lives of passengers and crew were lost. You and your team should forfeit your compensation and should resign forthwith.

All concerned with aviation safety should have your public response.

I can't find anything to disagree with here. However, I'll quote from commenter Guido at Leeham News, March 29, 2019 :

What I don't understand: Muilenburg was the CEO when the MCAS code was implemented. Muilenburg was the CEO when Boeing "tweaked" the certification of the B737Max. It was the Boeing management that decided, that the B737Max must under no circumstances trigger simulator training for pilots.

Muilenburg has for sure not written the code for MCAS by himself, but as the CEO he is responsible for the mess. He is responsible, that the first version of MCAS was cheap and fast to implement, but not safe. It was basically Muilenburg, who allowed a strategy, that was basically: Profits and Quickness before safety. Muilenburg has the responsibility for 346 dead people. You can't kill 346 people with your new product and still be the highly paid CEO of the company. There have to be consequences.

Why are there no calls, that Muilenburg must step down?

Nader has now issued such a call. As [lambert preens modestly] did Naked Capitalism on March 19 .

Conclusion

Wrapping up, Muilenberg has plenty of other lawsuits to worry about :

However, a search of court documents and news reports shows the company is facing at least 34 claims from victims' families and one claim seeking class certification on behalf of shareholders. The claims allege Boeing is responsible for losses after installing an unsafe anti-stall system, called "MCAS" (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), on its 737 Max 8 planes, suspected to have played a role in both crashes. Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said it was "apparent" the system had been activated in both crashes.

Added to the uncertainty of potential expenses for Boeing are pending regulator probes. The U.S. Justice Department initiated a criminal investigation into Boeing's Federal Aviation Administration certification, as well as how it marketed its 737 Max 8 planes. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General is also conducting an inquiry.

On April 9, the lawsuit seeking class certification was brought on behalf of shareholders who purchased Boeing stock between January 8, 2019 and March 21, 2019. The proposed class period covers a time frame beginning after the Lion Air crash, and extending beyond the Ethiopian Airlines crash, when Boeing's stock experienced a steep decline.

But then again, Muilenberg may know -- or think -- that Boeing, as a national champion, is too big to fail. So, if Boeing gracefully exits from the commercial aviation business, it may find the warm embrace of government contracting more comfortable. Perhaps that's why propaganda like this suddenly started showing up in my Twitter feed:

me title=

I suppose it's too much to ask that the CEO of a too-big-to-fail company be asked to resign, even if he did kill a lot of people. But if Nader can do with the 737 MAX, at the end of his career, what he did with the Corvair ("a one-car accident") , when he was coming up, everybody except for a cabal of looters and liars in Boeing's Chicago C-suite will be a lot better off. So we can hope.

APPENDIX 1: The Rosy Scenario

From Ask the Pilot :

I keep going back to the DC-10 fiasco in the 1970s.

In 1974, in one of the most horrific air disasters of all time, a THY (Turkish Airlines) DC-10 crashed after takeoff from Orly Airport outside Paris, killing 346 people. The accident was traced to a faulty cargo door design. (The same door had nearly caused the crash of an American Airlines DC-10 two years earlier.) McDonnell Douglas had hurriedly designed a plane with a door that it knew was defective, then, in the aftermath of Paris, tried to cover the whole thing up. It was reckless, even criminal. Then, in 1979, American flight 191, also a DC-10, went down at Chicago-O'Hare, killing 273 -- to this day the deadliest air crash ever on U.S. soil -- after an engine detached on takeoff. Investigators blamed improper maintenance procedures (including use of a forklift to raise the engine and its pylon), and then found pylon cracks in at least six other DC-10s, causing the entire fleet to be grounded for 37 days. The NTSB cited "deficiencies in the surveillance and reporting procedures of the FAA," as well as production and quality control problems at McDonnell Douglas.

That's two of history's ten deadliest air crashes, complete with design defects, a cover-up, and 619 dead people. And don't forget the 737 itself has a checkered past, going back to the rudder problems that caused the crash of USAir flight 427 in 1994 (and likely the crash of United flight 585 in 1991). Yet the DC-10, the 737, and America's aviation prestige along with them, have persevered. If we survived the those scandals we can probably manage this. I have a feeling that a year from now this saga will be mostly forgotten. Boeing and its stock price will recover, the MAX will be up and flying again, and on and on we go.

This is how it happens.

Maybe. But in 1974, the United States was commercial aviation. Airbus had launched its first plane, the A300 , only in 1972. We were also an imperial hegemon in a way we are not now. For myself, I can't help noticing that it was Boeing's takeover of a wretched, corrupt McDonnell Douglas -- the famous reverse takeover -- that ultimately turned Boeing from an engineering company into a company driven by finance. With resulits that we see.

APPENDIX 2: The Stumo Complaint

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ChristopherJ , April 28, 2019 at 4:20 pm

The fact that the CEO and the Board have not resigned just shows everyone that they lack all the essential characteristics of human beings.
Stock buybacks should be illegal. Profits should only be distributed via dividends or reinvested. The fact that companies can do this shows how corrupted our governments are.
The rest of the world may forget this one. I won't and there are millions like me who will never step aboard a boeing plane again.
The only thing that will save this company now is the US govt, which is likely.

JBird4049 , April 28, 2019 at 5:00 pm

Boeing's management is not going to jail and likely will keep their jobs. The deaths of over three hundred people means nothing. They are not even American and probably only middle class so they don't have connections to use. The "American" company Boeing has both money and connections.

Money gives you rights and if you don't have it, you are not even a human being.

Just look at 2008. The Vampiric Octopus called Wall Street was saved by the Feds with almost no one going to jail, or even criminally prosecuted. The exceptions of an innocent small community bank in NYC and some low level employees of a very few loan companies. The entire planetary economy came to with in hours of freezing and then collapsing. Millions of Americans lost homes, often through questionably legal foreclosures, with many millions more losing their jobs.

Nothing going to change and I wish I could believe otherwise.

DHG , April 28, 2019 at 5:33 pm

So I should just fire up my own money press then as should everyone else Money was invented as a limiter by the ancient church then adopted by governments.. Money isnt necessary to live and it will b thrown overboard soon enough.

Plenue , April 28, 2019 at 9:03 pm

"Money was invented as a limiter by the ancient church then adopted by governments"

Er, what?

JBird4049 , April 28, 2019 at 11:42 pm

I think money as a concept arose in Sumer about 6-7 thousand years ago with the clay receipts given by the temple of the local city's patron god for livestock and grain stored there.

But my knowledge of money's history is limited. If anyone wants to correct or clarify, please do.

animalogic , April 29, 2019 at 5:34 am

Might be wrong but think (if my memory of Gerber serves) you refer to credit/debt. Actual money (coin) I think arose along side the use of large scale Armies (armies are both highly mobile & inherently amorphous -- ie people come & go, die, are wounded, loot must be traded etc, all of which is difficult in the absence of currency)

The Rev Kev , April 28, 2019 at 8:37 pm

Stock buybacks were once illegal because they are a type of stock market manipulation. But then Reagan got in and wanted to do his banker buddies a favour-

https://mavenroundtable.io/theintellectualist/news/stock-buybacks-were-once-illegal-why-are-they-legal-now-sHh6HZjtyk2styG-qLgnQg/

To think that Boeing has Ralph Nader of all people on their case. With apologies to Liam Neeson, Nader might be saying to Muilenberg right now: "If you are looking for (forgiveness), I can tell you I don't have (forgiveness). But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you go now, that'll be the end of it."
That sounds like good advice that.

drumlin woodchuckles , April 28, 2019 at 9:03 pm

Re-outlawing the "Stock Buyback" would be one useful reNew The Deal reform. Outlawing compensation in stocks, options, or etc. of any kind except money would be another useful Newer Deal reform. Both together would force-multiply each other's effect.

I hope the four Old Real Democrats have people reading these threads and taking any possibly-good ideas back to headquarters. I hope the New Catfood Democrats and their people aren't spying or eavesdropping on these threads.

JerryDenim , April 28, 2019 at 4:52 pm

Wow. Great post Lambert and nice job Mr Nader!

I love how Nader brings stock buy-backs into his letter and basically connects the dots from a recklessly designed aircraft system full circle to an indictment of our current shareholder value system of capitalism and its perverse incentive structure which includes safety shortcuts and runaway executive compensation. Such a perfect case study for this site!

I think Nader really should beat the drum heavily on the perverse incentive structure at Boeing and how executives shortchanged safety to grab more money for themselves because that's an easy story for a jury to understand. I see where Nader is going with the inherently "stall prone" aerodynamic design stuff, and he's not wrong, but I think he may be treading on dangerous ground. Automatic stabilizer trimming systems designed to overcome the negative aerodynamic attributes of the new 737 Max wing/engine design is a confusing rabbit hole for the lay person. Boeing attorneys and expert witnesses may be able to twist the jury's head into a pretzel on this issue. The debate and discussion here concerning process, decision making, design philosophy etc at Boeing has generally been of very high quality, but has a tendency to go off the rails when the discussion dives too deeply into the subject matter of aerodynamics and aircraft systems. I could see the same dynamic playing out in the courtroom. Nader is the master class-action consumer advocacy attorney not me, but I think he should go heavy buybacks and whistle blower warnings while avoiding unforced errors arguing over the not-so-important point of whether or not the 737 Max crashed because it was stall prone or because it was too stall adverse. Two brand new Boeings crashed, people died, Boeing was greedy, Boeing was hasty, the MCAS trim system was garbage and probably criminal. He's got a slam dunk case arguing the MCAS trim system with a single point of failure was poorly designed and recklessly conceived, I think he should just stick to that and the greed angle and avoid the stall prone vs. stall adverse debate. I wish him luck.

Darius , April 28, 2019 at 10:19 pm

They screwed up the plane design then thought an extra layer of software would ameliorate the problem enough. It sucks but it's probably just good enough. Seems pretty simple.

Darius , April 28, 2019 at 10:40 pm

They effed up the hardware and thought they could paper it over with more software. But at least the shareholders and executives did well.

Alex V , April 29, 2019 at 1:15 am

As JerryDenim touched on, a good defense lawyer would probably be able to defeat this argument in front of a jury. There are too many examples of successful and safe commercial aircraft with aerodynamic compromises (the hardware, as you call it) that use software fixes to overcome these limitations. The focus in this case would need to be on the implementation of that software and how criminal neglect occurred there.

JerryDenim , April 29, 2019 at 3:31 am

Boeing's attorneys are going to try and make any lawsuits a question of why the airplanes ultimately crashed. I hate to spoil it for anyone, but I can tell you Boeing's attorneys are going to blame it all on the pilots. Airlines and airplane manufactures always do. Nothing new. Dead pilots can't defend themselves, their families don't have millions in the bank and they aren't going to be placing any billion dollar aircraft orders in the future. If anyone has read my frequently maligned comments, you already know the line of attack. Not following the runaway trim procedures and overspeeding the aircraft with takeoff thrust set. That's why Nader or anyone else pursuing Boeing would do well to sidestep the "why did two Boeing 737 Max Jets crash" question and stick to the details surrounding the horribly flawed MCAS trim system and the Boeing corporate greed story. Steer clear of the pilots' actions and the potentially confusing aerodynamics of modern jetliners, keep the focus squarely on the MCAS trim system design process and executive greed.

animalogic , April 29, 2019 at 5:55 am

Anyone prosecuting Boeing will have to deal with Boeing's defence, which as noted, will play up the commoness of such technical compromises. I do wonder whether Boeing will go after the pilots, though.
Any pilots argument naturally raises Boeing's negligence re : training, flight manuals & communication. The prosecution case will naturally play up the greed aspect as cause/motivation/
context for the crashes & Boeing's direct responsibility /negligence.

Alex V , April 29, 2019 at 7:49 am

The defense would likely also pull in the airlines and FAA as targets for liability, as both have some responsibility for these matters. Attacking the FAA would be fodder for the de-regulators (Privatize it! Government is incompetent!). The airlines would complain that competition forces them to cut costs, and that they meet all of the (gutted) legal requirements.

Alex V , April 29, 2019 at 1:44 am

I agree with focusing on the greed aspect. Nader's letter has some technical errors such as stating the engines were tilted (they were moved horizontally and vertically, not rotated) that show he hasn't fully understood the details. It doesn't help that many of the changes made to the 737 MAX from previous generations are actually quite subtle, and can't really be discussed individually for this context. It is the sum of these changes that made it an extremely deadly aircraft.

Norb , April 29, 2019 at 8:55 am

The other failure/business feature is the concept of modularity. The software designed to fix the aerodynamic complexities is broken down into modular components, and then sold off as "options". Once again greed sabotages the system. Modularity is a great way to gouge customers and lock in higher profits. The level of technical competence needed to properly evaluate what modules are essential complicates the outcome. But then again, this can be rationalized as a feature not a bug. Blame for failure can be passed around- the customer should have purchased the entire package.

The runaway externalities emanating from the current form of capitalism as practiced in the US must be reigned in. Voluntary compliance to some sort of moral code is useless- worse than useless in that corrupt operators can hide behind lame excuses for failure.

The bigger problem is that Government regulations could solve these problems quickly, as in throwing people in jail and confiscating their property. A strong argument can be made for ill-gotten gains. I surely would vote for that if given the chance. Deal drugs and you can loose your home. What about conscious business decisions
leading to harm?

You need a strong force external to these business concerns for this to happen. The separation of government and business. Business should operate at the will of the government. When the government is run with the wellbeing of the people foremost, then issues like crashing planes can be rectified.

When the interests of business and government merge, then what you have is fascism. American fascism will have a happy face. These unfortunate problems of crashing planes and polluted environments will trundle along into the future. Billionaires will continue to accumulate their billions while the rest of us will trundle along.

But one day, trundling along won't be an option. Maybe only outsiders to the US system can see this clearly.

Ray Duray , April 28, 2019 at 7:07 pm

You ask: "So when the original 737 was designed, did the engineers have the option of using these larger engines? Did they decline to do so because it was a flawed design?"

The larger engines currently in use on the 737 Max 8 were not designed until recently. They did not decline because the current engine wasn't even invented.

Here's an abbreviated design history: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_737#Engines

Edward , April 28, 2019 at 7:31 pm

I guess what I am wondering is if the original designers of the 737 had the option of designing a more powerful engine similar to that used in the 737 MAX but declined to do so. No doubt engine technology has advanced during the 50 years since the first 737's were built. Could the engineers 50 years ago have designed engines like those on the 737 MAX? If so, what were there reasons for not doing so?

I also have a second question. I have been told that stalling can be prevented by placing small wings at the front of an airplane. Would such a design have resolved the problems with the 737 MAX?

Plenue , April 28, 2019 at 9:14 pm

Fifty years of technological improvement, yes. The new engines aren't more powerful, they're more fuel efficient. Airbus had put more fuel efficient engines on its planes, so Boeing rushed new engines of its own into service to compete.

But they're really too large to be mounted on the 737; they mess up the center of gravity. MCAS was a janky software fix to solve a fundamental hardware problem, because Boeing didn't want to design a new plane.

And it didn't want to lose money by requiring airlines to retrain pilots, it sold the plane with the new engines as being exactly the same as the old, a painless upgrade.

Alex V , April 29, 2019 at 4:48 am

Canards, as the small wings at the front of aircraft are sometimes called, would likely not have been a fix in this case. There are some light aircraft that use these for stall prevention by utilizing the aerodynamic properties of the wing. Since a stall (absence of lift) is often caused by the nose of aircraft being too high, you can design the canard so that it stalls before the main wing. Thus it's difficult for the whole plane to stall, since the nose will sink when the canard loses lift first and returns the plane to a more appropriate attitude. An example here:

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

And explanation of canards here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canard_(aeronautics)

In high performance aircraft canards are used to increase maneuverability by providing another control surface.

We generally don't see them in commercial aircraft for a few reasons:

These are of course all very coarse generalizations – engineering is all about making technical and economic trade-offs.

A radical example of what can be accomplished by a combination of aerodynamics and software is the B-2 bomber – only one main wing, no tail or canards. I know, it has ejection seats but I sincerely doubt any aeronautical engineer has ever sat down and thought, "Hm, well, that's a sketchy design, but screw it, they can just eject if I messed up".

Edward , April 29, 2019 at 9:56 am

Thanks for this clear explanation. Would it make sense to locate the canards on the cockpit roof?

Alex V , April 29, 2019 at 10:44 am

Possibly, here's an example, although these fold as well:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tupolev_Tu-144

There have been many concept aircraft that also had them mounted high.

Edward , April 29, 2019 at 1:58 pm

So would Boeing have to design a new plane to use canards? It would probably require the 737 MAX pilots to have new training. Boeing also seemed to want to hide the instability problem and the canards would be visual evidence for the problem.

Synoia , April 28, 2019 at 7:14 pm

The 737 Was designed in the '60. High bypass turbo fan engines had yet to be developed then. Upgrading the 737 is like adding a plug in hybrid engine to a Ford F100.

Alex V , April 29, 2019 at 4:19 am

The original 737 was designed to be quite low to the ground, to allow for easier boarding in an era before widespread jetway use (models have even been offered with integrated pull out boarding stairs), and to allow for more accessible servicing.

This worked well with the engines of the time, which were often low bypass turbofans, and thus smaller in diameter. This combination of height and engines made sense for the market it was designed.

Most modern commercial engines are high bypass turbofans, and therefore larger in diameter. The move to larger fan diameters has been enabled by advances in materials, manufacturing technology, and simulation software, with the goal of increasing engine power and efficiency.

Another factor influencing the engine size that can be used without extensive redesign is the landing gear operation. Because it folds towards the centerline of the plane, and into pockets in the bottom of the fuselage, there is a limit on how long it can be before it becomes too long and each side would collide with the other. And one would need to redesign the wing box structure to accommodate the moved wheels.

VietnamVet , April 28, 2019 at 6:24 pm

Exactly. This is a textbook case of the looting of America.

The $30 billion dollars made by cutting costs including quality inspection, using an existing airframe, tax cuts and ignoring safety went directly to stock buybacks that benefited stockholders and C-suite compensation.

Just like 2008 Boeing is "too big to fail and jailing the executives would cause it to collapse". Unless Americans demand an end to the corruption and the restoration of the rule of law; the plundering will continue until there is nothing left to live on. Boeing could have designed two brand new safe airliners with that cash that would have provided jobs and efficient transportation into the future but instead the money went into the pockets of the connected rich and killed 346 people.

JBird4049 , April 28, 2019 at 8:39 pm

What really gets me is that ultimately that would have given the fools more money because the orders would have kept on coming and probably increase, which would mean more profit and more compensation for everyone. Of course that would have taken a few years instead of immediately. So now the compensation is going to crash. Oh wait! They will just sell again to themselves, strip the company, and sell the nameplate still affixed to some ruin.

I am starting to understand why the Goths had no resistance when in Italy and during the sack the city of Rome. Centuries earlier the Republic and then the Empire routinely raised multiple armies and dealt with catastrophes both natural and man made. At the end, not only could they not readily create an another army, they could not repair the aqueducts. Like we are becoming, Rome became a hollow shell.

drumlin woodchuckles , April 28, 2019 at 9:09 pm

And probably the only stockholders who even benefited would be the individual or family-dynasty rich stockholders who own many thousands to millions of shares of a particular stock at a time. It takes ownership of that many shares for a tiny benefit-per-share to add up to thousands or millions of tiny little benefits-per-share.

People with pensions or 401ks or whatever may well involuntarily "own" 2 or 3 or maybe 10 shares "apiece" of Boeing. But they derived no benefit from the tiny little benefit per share this maneuver gained for the shares.

ChrisPacific , April 28, 2019 at 7:13 pm

Re: appendix 3, over-steer is counter-intuitive as hell. Once it's underway you have to steer left during a right turn and vice versa. I have watched race drivers do it (very skillfully) at the track, but there is no way I would want to be in a car that did that in a pressure or potential accident situation without a lot of training beforehand.

dearieme , April 28, 2019 at 7:19 pm

"your obsession with shareholder value": shareholder value is not being attended to if the company is driven into the ground by virtue of its planes being driven into the ground.

Clearly the definition of "shareholder value" that these bozos use is as defective as their engineering decision-making.

Hang a few of them pour encourager les autres . And hang a few of the regulators who thought it would be a dandy idea to let the firm regulate itself.

drumlin woodchuckles , April 28, 2019 at 9:11 pm

And hang a few of the lawmakers and lawbuyers who legislatively de-budgeted and money-starved FAA into this " turn it over to the plane-makers" corner as well.

Late Introvert , April 28, 2019 at 9:19 pm

I noticed that Boeing is incorporated in the great state of Delaware. Ah-hem.

dearieme , April 29, 2019 at 11:46 am

Oh well, change their name to BidenAir.

oaf , April 28, 2019 at 9:15 pm

There is another case of air disaster often referred to in what is known as *Human Factors* training a L-1011 which *descended* into the glades; while the crew tried to sort out a problem with a light bulb. I suggest familiarizing with it for perspective. (not to exonerate Boeing; just to encourage keeping an open mind)

JerryDenim , April 29, 2019 at 3:09 am

Ahhh, the infamous Captain Buddy. Immortal tyrant of early CRM training fame

Lambert's mention of the DC-10 and it's fatally flawed, explosive decompressing cargo door sent me down a hole of DC-10 disasters and accident reports. Some of those DC-10 incidents like America Airlines flight 96 could have been major tragedies but were saved by level heads and airmanship that by today's standards would be considered exceptional. The AA 96 crew landed safely with no fatalities after an explosive decompression, a partially collapsed floor and severely compromised flight controls. The crew had to work together and use non-standard asymmetrical thrust and control inputs to overcome the effects of a stuck, fully deflected rudder and a crippled elevator. The pilots of the ill fated United flight 232, another DC-10, are celebrated exemplars of the early CRM case studies, both crew members and a United DC-10 instructor pilot who happened to be occupying the jumpseat all worked together to heroically crash land their horribly stricken craft in Sioux City Iowa with only partial aileron control and assymetrical thrust to control the airplane. No elevator, no rudder control. A good number of passengers perished but most lived. Those pilots in the two instances I mentioned were exceptional, and they had to resort to exceptional means to control their aircraft, but in light of airmanship of that caliber from just a few decades ago, it blows my mind that in 2019 the mere suggestion that professional airline pilots should probably still be capable of moving the thrust levers during a trim emergency is somehow controversial enough to expose oneself to charges of racism and bias?! Different times indeed.

Boeing 737 Max aside, airplanes seem to be a lot safer these days than they were in the 1970's and 80's. Widespread acceptance and adoption of CRM/TEM has made personalities like Captain Buddy and many bad cockpit automation practices relics from the past, but automation itself still looks to be increasingly guilty of deskilling professional pilot ranks. In light of that trend, it's a really good thing passenger jets in 2019 are more reliable than the DC-10 and easier to land than the MD-11.

The Rev Kev , April 29, 2019 at 12:53 am

Two more links on the saga of the 737 MAX-

"The Boeing 737 Max crashes show that 'deteriorating pilot skills' may push airlines to favor Airbus" at https://www.businessinsider.com/boeing-737-max-crashes-deteriorating-pilot-skills-airbus-2019-4/?r=AU&IR=T

"Southwest and FAA officials never knew Boeing turned off a safety feature on its 737 Max jets, and dismissed ideas about grounding them" at https://www.businessinsider.com.au/boeing-737-max-safety-features-disable-southwest-grounding-discussions-2019-4

JerryDenim , April 29, 2019 at 3:55 am

Deteriorating pilot skills. Yep. Now you're getting it. Problem is, more automation equals more pilot skill degradation. Everything is just peachy with highly automated "idiot proof" airplanes until something breaks, then who is supposed to fly the plane if the pilots can't? The flight attendants? Whoever is sitting in 1A? Airbus airplanes malfunction too, as documented in a number of well publicized disasters and not-so-well publicized near disasters, so while this may be an effective marketing pitch to an airline executive not able or not willing to pay for highly skilled, experienced pilots, it's not a solution to a pilot skill crisis. Long term, it makes the situation worse.

The Rev Kev , April 29, 2019 at 10:05 am

Personally I believe in training the hell out of pilots because if I get into a plane, I want a pilot at the controls and not an airplane-driver. I would bet that even I could be trained to fly an aircraft where most of the functions are automated but when things go south, that is when you want a pilot in control. Training is expensive but having an ill-trained pilot in the cockpit is even more expensive.

Alex V , April 29, 2019 at 1:09 am

A thought . A completely fresh plane design is not necessarily safer. There is aways a trade off between innovation and proven reliability. It is surprisingly rare for an entirely new aircraft family to be introduced without at least one problem that threatens (but does not always take) lives.

tim , April 29, 2019 at 3:28 am

787 and 737 MAX are not the only problems Boeing have had.

The 737 NG (Next Generation) airplane using composite materials for the aircraft body, was also outsourced, The idea was that the Body parts would be built to exacting specifications, so they could be connected at the stage of final assembly. However, the sub-contractor couldn't live up to the specifications, so Boeing had to manually re-drill holes to connect the fuselage parts.

Not long after we had a series of crashes, where the fuselage broke up into its parts, something almost never seen before in airplanes.

youtube documentary from Australian SBS News:

Alex V , April 29, 2019 at 6:29 am

For clarity, the 737 NG does not have a composite fuselage.

http://www.b737.org.uk/production.htm

skippy , April 29, 2019 at 5:37 am

Umm the investors and market demanded the executive suite too engage in such behavior or suffer the consequences aka hyper reporting et al.

oaf , April 29, 2019 at 9:18 am

There are other Human Factors at play; regarding pilot ability Measuring ability by simply looking at *hours flown* (often referred to as *experience*) is misleading. Relevant details might include just what types of experience. It is possible to get airline positions *ab initio*, or in-house, if you will (with 500 hours, (IIRC) OR:
Prospective pilots from private sector, or military, may be more likely to have diverse backgrounds; including Flight Instructor background, Upset Recovery training; Aerobatic flying; and Glider or sailplane background. These are not necessarily prerequisites for airline hires. Do they make a difference? in emergencies???

The change in Part 135 minimums for non ab-initio applicants has done little or nothing to improve safety. It did financially squeeze some very competent and capable career minded pilots out of the pipeline to the left front seat. (thanks chuck.)(f.u.) His feel-good legislation:*We're doing something about it!*

James McRitchie , April 29, 2019 at 9:22 am

It isn't just Boeing that is using share buybacks to goose CEO pay. Shareholders of American Express have an opportunity to vote to Deduct Impact of BuyBacks on Pay. See American Express 2019 Proxy Vote Recommendations

DJG , April 29, 2019 at 9:25 am

And lest we forget what a good corporate citizen Boeing is now that it has moved to Chicago to take advantage of the many, errrrr, advantages:

https://chicagoist.com/2017/04/28/boeing_pays_just_01_of_its_profits.php

Carolinian , April 29, 2019 at 10:03 am

But, but Nader made Al Gore lose in 2000. Good to see him out of the shadows (he has a podcst BTW).

While Boeing deserves every form of condemnation and Muilenberg should resign I do think the facts that were all laid out in that should-be-Pulitzer-winning Seattle Times series are being stretched a bit. The problem seems to be, not that the plane is prone to fall out of the sky, but that its handling characteristics differ from the earlier, ubiquitous, 737 models. MCAS is the defective part, and Boeing will pay plenty

tempar555510 , April 29, 2019 at 10:22 am

' But, but Nader made Al Gore lose in 2000. ' Please elucidate .

Tom , April 29, 2019 at 12:23 pm

Florida's presidential election in 2000 was expected to be close and likely to be decisive in the electoral college vote. Nader was a fairly popular third-party candidate for president in that election. Many supporters of Gore over Bush pleaded for Nader to exit that race and ask his supporters to vote for Gore. He did neither. In the end the margin of Bush's win in Florida was tiny, if it existed at all, so there was reason to be angry at Nader, as I was at the time, since if he had quit the race in that state, Gore would very likely have become president instead of Bush.

If you're into counterfactual teleology then you might say Nader's stubborn vanity therefore led to the Iraq and Afghan wars. I don't but it's worth being aware that some people do.

GF , April 29, 2019 at 1:52 pm

I can't find the link right now; but, it stated that after close study, most of the voters who voted for Nadar would not have voted for Gore and would have just sat out the election resulting in an even more pronounced victory for Bush. Gore's defeat came from his inability to win his home state of TN.

Carolinian , April 29, 2019 at 12:25 pm

Should have included the /sarc tag.

EoH , April 29, 2019 at 12:24 pm

Concurrence and causation are not the same.

The claim ignores other factors. Gore's lackadaisical campaign, for one, and its poor response to the BushCheney campaign's misuse of the legal system to stop the Florida recount.

It's not Gore's fault the Supreme Court's conservative majority chose to not let the FL supreme court determine what FL law means, and chose to decide the election itself. But his response to the Florida debacle was weak, like his campaign. That might be one reason so many people voted for Nader. That's on Al and on BushCheney.

Nels Nelson , April 29, 2019 at 11:42 am

Some additional information and clarification about the Corvair.

The Corvair had a rear mounted engine and rear wheel drive. This is a poor design from a handling perspective as the rear weight bias produces a pendulum effect making the Corvair prone to oversteer. This tendency was exacerbated by the Corvair's swing axle independent rear suspension with its inherent camber changes as the wheel moved up and down. These characteristics of the Corvair were deadly in that while cornering if you let off the accelerator, the engine brakes the rear wheels creating a condition called "throttle lift oversteer". Under this situation the counterintutive reaction should be to put your foot on the accelerator and not the brakes. Some of you may recall that comedian Ernie Kovacs was killed when his Corvair spun off the road in wet weather and hit a utility pole.

A paradox here is that the Porsche 911 has a design very similar to the Corvair, rear wheel drive, rear mounted engine and rear weight bias and is praised for its handling. The Corvair was sometimes referred to as a poor man's 911. It too was prone to severe and violent oversteer if the throttle was lifted while cornering but in the case of the 911 it was expected that the driver know that while cornering your foot stayed on the accelerator. As the horsepower of 911s increased over the years the tendency to oversteer was tamed by fitting larger tires on the rear wheels. With the advent of technologies like antilock braking systems ,traction control and advanced computers employing torque vectoring to control vehicle stablity, cars today do have their versions of MCAS and the Porsche can be referred to as a triumph of engineering over design.

marku52 , April 29, 2019 at 3:27 pm

The 911 had pivots at both ends of the stub axles. It would lift throttle oversteer (boy would it lift throttle oversteer -lots of fun if you knew what you were doing), but it would not do the jacking rear-end lift that the corvair (pivots only at the differential end of the half shaft) would do.

Oddly, the VW bug had the exact same layout but Ralph never went after it.

EoH , April 29, 2019 at 12:15 pm

Nader is right to point out the design flaws, which seem to have the potential to cascade into failure.

The new engine nacelles create unusual lift. Being placed forward of the center of lift, that causes the nose of the aircraft to rotate vertically upward. If uncorrected, that would cause the aircraft inappropriately to rise in altitude and/or to approach a stall.

The nacelle-induced lift increases with an increase in engine thrust. That increases speed and/or reduces the time the pilot has to react and to correct an inappropriate nose-up attitude.

Boeing seemed unable to correct that design problem through changes in the aircraft's shape or control surfaces. It corrected it, instead, by having the computer step in to fly the aircraft back into the appropriate attitude. Works when it works.

But Boeing seems to have forgotten a CompSci 101 problem: shit in, shit out. If the sensors feeding the computer report bad data, the computer will generate a bad solution. Boeing also seems to have designed the s/w to reset after manual attitude correction by the pilot, forcing a correction loop the pilots would not always win.

Boeing elected not to inform aircraft purchasers or their flight crews of their automated fix to their new aircraft's inherent instability problem. Murphy's Law being what it is – if something can go wrong, it will – the pilots should have been made aware of the recommended fix so that when something went wrong it, they would have a chance of fixing it with a routine response.

Boeing elected not to do that. In the short run, it avoided the need for expensive additional pilot training. In the long run, Boeing would have hoped to increase sales. When hoping for the best, it is normal practice to plan for the worst. Boeing seems not to have done that either.

The Heretic , April 29, 2019 at 4:41 pm

All this talk of CEO and top managment resignation . honestly they probably don't care. They have made millions, if not tens of millions of dollars on bonuses; they can retire once they walk out the door. To change the behaviour of the C-suite you must affect the C-suite directly, charge convict them with at least criminal negligence or worse.. A drunk driver who causes the accident will most likley go to jail if someone dies in the accident, how come a CEO and his mgmt team, can wilfully go against decades of engineering and aviation best practices that are codified, and still only have to resign??

Pat , April 29, 2019 at 7:07 pm

Reality check. Even with all this news . BA closed at:

$379.05 29 April 2019
$342.79 31 August 2018

Yeap the stock price is up from before the crashes. There are good reasons for the Boeing board to be indifferent – there is no punishment.

[Apr 28, 2019] Boeing Didn't Tell Southwest Or FAA That It Had Disabled Critical Safety Alerts On 737 MAX

Notable quotes:
"... The article also discusses how some frontline FAA safety inspectors wanted to ground the MAXes until the "AoA Disagree" indicators were re-enabled, but were overridden by higher-ups who insisted that it was not a primary safety feature. ..."
Apr 28, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

Zachary Smith , Apr 28, 2019 3:58:25 PM | link

Here is a headline from a couple of days ago:

FAA could clear Boeing 737 MAX to fly again within weeks

Yes, the very last country to pull the 737-MAX out of use is going to be the first to put it back. There is some serious money being lost by Boeing and the Airlines, and they want to put a stop to it. This is all about millions and millions of Benjamins, for "they" are taking a shortct to save even more money.

A draft report by an FAA-appointed board of pilots, engineers and other experts concluded that pilots only need additional computer-based training to understand MCAS, rather than simulator time.

Simulators are EXPENSIVE, so the plan is to give the pilots a joystick and a computer, and maybe throw in some lectures and videos of other pilots using a real flight simulator. Are you ready to rush to reserve a flight?

This isn't a bad deal just for the flight crews and passengers, but the pure stench of it is contaminating other arenas. A Denier site I'm not going to link has managed to leverage the lack of regulator oversight by the FAA to lots of other places.

Planes, Automobiles, Bicycles, Homes, Hospitals, Schools, and Sidewalks Can All Be Made Unsafe by Mad Science, Rush to Market, and Corrupt Regulators

They don't include "vaccines" in that list because their readers understand perfectly well that if the FAA is a crap agency, why not the FDA as well? Much as I hate to admit it, the Deniers didn't have to break a sweat to score these perfectly valid points.

Does anyone imagine Volkswagen could have gotten away with all those years of cheating on their emissions if the regulators had been doing their jobs?

How did China get away with shipping that cancer-causing blood pressure medicine to the US for so many years? It's safe to assume some bored "regulator" was just waving the stuff on past without doing a single test.

This is going to cost us. I'm out of links, but here is a headline to consider.

Russia's Irkut aircraft manufacturer has posted the first video of a direct flight by its MS-21-300 airliner from Irkutsk to Ulyanovsk-Vostochny Airfield.

The brand-new Russian passenger craft is designed to transport up to 211 people over a distance of 6,400 kilometres.

There are competitors out there, and they can't be fended off by "sanctions" forever. Allowing unwatched & unregulated companies to run amok is going to hurt us all in the long term.

S , Apr 28, 2019 5:21:07 PM | link

There is a brand new Boeing piece at Naked Capitalism.

Ralph Nader Calls Out Boeing for 737 MAX Lack of Airworthiness, Stock Buybacks, and Demands Muilenburg Resign

Boeing management's behavior must be seen in the context of Boeing's use of its earned capital. Did you use the $30 billion surplus from 2009 to 2017 to reinvest in R&D, in new narrow-body passenger aircraft? Or did you, instead, essentially burn this surplus with self-serving stock buybacks of $30 billion in that period? Boeing is one of the companies that MarketWatch labelled as "Five companies that spent lavishly on stock buybacks while pension funding lagged. "

Feathering the Corporate Nest while stiffing the workers. Just what Wall Street loves. "Ugly" at Boeing isn't a 'skin deep' issue - it's that way clear to the bone!

Zachary Smith | Apr 28, 2019 4:28:00 PM

Boeing Didn't Tell Southwest Or FAA That It Had Disabled Critical Safety Alerts On 737 MAX

The article also discusses how some frontline FAA safety inspectors wanted to ground the MAXes until the "AoA Disagree" indicators were re-enabled, but were overridden by higher-ups who insisted that it was not a primary safety feature.

[Apr 25, 2019] Mish Boeing 737 Max Unsafe To Fly, New Scathing Report By Pilot, Software Designer

Apr 25, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk,

A pilot with 30 years of flying experience and 40 years of design experience rips decisions made by Boeing and the FAA.

Gregory Travis, a software developer and pilot for 30 years wrote a scathing report on the limitations of the 737, and the arrogance of software developers unfit to write airplane code.

Travis provides easy to understand explanations including a test you can do by sticking your hand out the window of a car to demonstrate stall speed.

Design shortcuts meant to make a new plane seem like an old, familiar one are to blame.

This was all about saving money. Boeing and the FAA pretend the 737-Max is the same aircraft as the original 737 that flew in 1967, over 50 years ago.

Travis was 3 years old at the time. Back then, the 737 was a smallish aircraft with smallish engines and relatively simple systems. The new 737 is large and complicated.

Boeing cut corners to save money. Cutting corners works until it fails spectacularly.

Aerodynamic and Software Malpractice

Please consider How the Boeing 737 Max Disaster Looks to a Software Developer . Emphasis is mine.

The original 737 had (by today's standards) tiny little engines, which easily cleared the ground beneath the wings. As the 737 grew and was fitted with bigger engines, the clearance between the engines and the ground started to get a little um, tight.

With the 737 Max, the situation became critical. The engines on the original 737 had a fan diameter (that of the intake blades on the engine) of just 100 centimeters (40 inches); those planned for the 737 Max have 176 cm. That's a centerline difference of well over 30 cm (a foot), and you couldn't "ovalize" the intake enough to hang the new engines beneath the wing without scraping the ground.

The solution was to extend the engine up and well in front of the wing. However, doing so also meant that the centerline of the engine's thrust changed. Now, when the pilots applied power to the engine, the aircraft would have a significant propensity to "pitch up," or raise its nose. This propensity to pitch up with power application thereby increased the risk that the airplane could stall when the pilots "punched it"

Worse still, because the engine nacelles were so far in front of the wing and so large, a power increase will cause them to actually produce lift, particularly at high angles of attack. So the nacelles make a bad problem worse.

I'll say it again: In the 737 Max, the engine nacelles themselves can, at high angles of attack, work as a wing and produce lift. And the lift they produce is well ahead of the wing's center of lift, meaning the nacelles will cause the 737 Max at a high angle of attack to go to a higher angle of attack. This is aerodynamic malpractice of the worst kind.

It violated that most ancient of aviation canons and probably violated the certification criteria of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. But instead of going back to the drawing board and getting the airframe hardware right, Boeing relied on something called the "Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System," or MCAS.

It all comes down to money , and in this case, MCAS was the way for both Boeing and its customers to keep the money flowing in the right direction. The necessity to insist that the 737 Max was no different in flying characteristics, no different in systems, from any other 737 was the key to the 737 Max's fleet fungibility. That's probably also the reason why the documentation about the MCAS system was kept on the down-low.

Put in a change with too much visibility, particularly a change to the aircraft's operating handbook or to pilot training, and someone -- probably a pilot -- would have piped up and said, "Hey. This doesn't look like a 737 anymore." And then the money would flow the wrong way.

When the flight computer trims the airplane to descend, because the MCAS system thinks it's about to stall, a set of motors and jacks push the pilot's control columns forward. It turns out that the Elevator Feel Computer can put a lot of force into that column -- indeed, so much force that a human pilot can quickly become exhausted trying to pull the column back, trying to tell the computer that this really, really should not be happening .

MCAS is implemented in the flight management computer, even at times when the autopilot is turned off, when the pilots think they are flying the plane. I n a fight between the flight management computer and human pilots over who is in charge, the computer will bite humans until they give up and (literally) die . Finally, there's the need to keep the very existence of the MCAS system on the hush-hush lest someone say, "Hey, this isn't your father's 737," and bank accounts start to suffer.

Those lines of code were no doubt created by people at the direction of managers.

In a pinch, a human pilot could just look out the windshield to confirm visually and directly that, no, the aircraft is not pitched up dangerously. That's the ultimate check and should go directly to the pilot's ultimate sovereignty. Unfortunately, the current implementation of MCAS denies that sovereignty. It denies the pilots the ability to respond to what's before their own eyes.

In the MCAS system, the flight management computer is blind to any other evidence that it is wrong, including what the pilot sees with his own eyes and what he does when he desperately tries to pull back on the robotic control columns that are biting him, and his passengers, to death.

The people who wrote the code for the original MCAS system were obviously terribly far out of their league and did not know it. How can they can implement a software fix, much less give us any comfort that the rest of the flight management software is reliable?

So Boeing produced a dynamically unstable airframe, the 737 Max. That is big strike No. 1. Boeing then tried to mask the 737's dynamic instability with a software system. Big strike No. 2. Finally, the software relied on systems known for their propensity to fail (angle-of-attack indicators) and did not appear to include even rudimentary provisions to cross-check the outputs of the angle-of-attack sensor against other sensors, or even the other angle-of-attack sensor. Big strike No. 3.

None of the above should have passed muster. It is likely that MCAS, originally added in the spirit of increasing safety, has now killed more people than it could have ever saved. It doesn't need to be "fixed" with more complexity, more software. It needs to be removed altogether .

Numerous Bad Decisions at Every Stage

Ultimately 346 people are dead because of really bad decisions, software engineer arrogance, and Boeing's pretense that the 737 Max is the same aircraft as 50 years ago.

It is incredible that the plane has two sensors but the system only uses one. A look out the window was enough to confirm the sensor was wrong.

Boeing also offered "cheap" versions of the aircraft without some controls. The two crashed flights were with the cheaper aircraft.

An experienced pilot with adequate training could have disengaged MACS but in one of the crashed flights, the pilot was desperately reading a manual trying to figure out how to do that.

Flight Stall Test

If you stick you hand out the window of a car and your hand is level to the ground. You have a low angle of attack. There is no lift. Tilt your hand a bit and you have lift. Your arm will rise.

When the angle of attack on the wing of an aircraft is too great the aircraft enters aerodynamic stall. The same thing happens with your hand out a car window.

At a steep enough angle your arm wants to flop down on the car door.

The MACS software overrides what a pilot can see by looking out the window.

Useless Manuals

If you need a manual to stop a plane from crashing mid-flight, the manual is useless. It's already too late. The pilot had seconds in which to react. Yet, instead of requiring additional training, and alerting pilots of the dangers, Boeing put this stuff in a manual.

This was necessary as part of the pretense that a 737 is a 737 is a 737.


Swamidon , 2 minutes ago link

In my day Pilot's were repeatedly cautioned not to fly the aircraft to the scene of an accident since nobody survives a high speed crash or a stall. Non-pilots can vote me down but the proper action at the second the pilot lost control of his aircraft that close to the ground should have been to pull power, drop flaps, and make a soft field landing that some passengers would have survived.

wide angle tree , 2 minutes ago link

Sure it's a flying turd, but it will be back in the air soon. The CEO can spew buzzwords at the speed of sound. The FAA will approve any fix Boeing pukes forth cause nobody has the moral courage to stand in the way of making the big money.

I Write Code , 8 minutes ago link

I saw that article in Spectrum and while it makes some points about software development he mixes it up with generic claims way beyond his expertise. Editors at Spectrum should be fired.

Hope Copy , 10 minutes ago link

Cirrus Jet got grounded due to this MACS problem.. This CODE is all over the place and probably in AIRBUS also [(.. I'm betting that it was stolen from AIRBUS] Computer controlled fly by wire is death-in-a-box as it can always be hacked.

arby63 , 17 minutes ago link

Scary stuff there.

paul20854 , 18 minutes ago link

Boeing thinks it will fix the problem with its "MCAS" software. While it may do so on paper, there remains the problem of the weight distribution of engines, cargo and fuel which is placing the center of gravity behind the center of pressure for this modified aircraft during flight near the stall point. That problem is faulty aerodynamics. Any aircraft that is inherently aerodynamically unstable should never be flown in a commercial setting. Ground them all. Fire the stupid fools who allowed this beast to fly, including those at the FAA. And finally, sell your Boeing stock.

N3M3S1S , 12 minutes ago link

Sell your Boeing Stock FIRST

Born2Bwired , 19 minutes ago link

Recommend reading entire missive which was sent to me by a retired Aircraft Captain this morning.

ZH link didn't work for me.

https://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/aviation/how-the-boeing-737-max-disaster-looks-to-a-software-developer.amp.html

The guy is a very clear writer and explains things quite well.

edit: looks like there is now a sign in wall that wasn't there from my tablet.

Scaliger , 20 minutes ago link

Wing fences (see: wikipedia, for photos) are the only solution to the Leading Edge Extension,

that the upwards and wider jet engine cowling imposes.

This extension causes the wing stall problem.

Wing fences improve the longitudinal flow, on the expense of lateral flow,

thus delay border layer separation, thus curb wing stall.

robertocarlos , 38 minutes ago link

There's a picture of a man who jet skied over Niagara Falls. He wore a parachute but it failed to open in time. I think he needed more height.

jewish_master , 42 minutes ago link

Glorified Tesla.

oobilly , 43 minutes ago link

Single point failure designed into the plane isnt much of a business plan.

piavpn , 46 minutes ago link

Just remember to fart well.

Have a nice farty day.

robertocarlos , 49 minutes ago link

It's a POS and they are going to ram it down our throats in July. If you have to fly then you have to take this plane.

Ohanzee , 40 minutes ago link

Not really. Don't fly with Boeing.

Aubiekong , 52 minutes ago link

Hiring engineers for diversity and not for ability has consequences...

bluskyes , 39 minutes ago link

.gov gravy requires diversity

arby63 , 10 minutes ago link

Can you say EEO. That's causing all sorts of issues throughout the economy--especially in manufacturing.

[Apr 22, 2019] Boeing s 737 Max Debacle The Result of a Dangerously Pro-Automation Design Philosophy

Notable quotes:
"... "One of the problems we have with the system is, why put a system like that on an airplane in the first place?" said Slack, who doesn't represent any survivors of either the Lion Air or Ethiopia Airlines crashes. "I think what we're going to find is that because of changes from the (Boeing 737) 800 series to the MAX series, there are dramatic changes in which they put in controls without native pitch stability. It goes to the basic DNA of the airplane. It may not be fixable." ..."
"... But it's also important that the pilots get physical feedback about what is going on. In the old days, when cables connected the pilot's controls to the flying surfaces, you had to pull up, hard, if the airplane was trimmed to descend. You had to push, hard, if the airplane was trimmed to ascend. With computer oversight there is a loss of natural sense in the controls. There is only an artificial feel, a feeling that the computer wants the pilots to feel. And sometimes, it doesn't feel so great. ..."
"... An airplane approaching an aerodynamic stall cannot, under any circumstances, have a tendency to go further into the stall. This is called "dynamic instability," and the only airplanes that exhibit that characteristic -- fighter jets -- are also fitted with ejection seats. ..."
"... The airframe, the hardware, should get it right the first time and not need a lot of added bells and whistles to fly predictably. This has been an aviation canon from the day the Wright brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk. ..."
"... When the flight computer trims the airplane to descend, because the MCAS system thinks it's about to stall, a set of motors and jacks push the pilot's control columns forward. It turns out that the flight management computer can put a lot of force into that column -- indeed, so much force that a human pilot can quickly become exhausted trying to pull the column back, trying to tell the computer that this really, really should not be happening. ..."
"... MCAS is implemented in the flight management computer, even at times when the autopilot is turned off, when the pilots think they are flying the plane. In a fight between the flight management computer and human pilots over who is in charge, the computer will bite humans until they give up and (literally) die ..."
"... Like someone with narcissistic personality disorder, MCAS gaslights the pilots. And it turns out badly for everyone. "Raise the nose, HAL." "I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that." ..."
"... Travis also describes the bad business incentives that led Boeing to conceptualize and present the 737 Max as just a tweak of an existing design, as opposed to being so areodynamically different as to be a new plane .and require time-consuming and costly recertification. To succeed in that obfuscation, Boeing had to underplay the existence and role of the MCAS system: ..."
"... Travis also explains why the FAA allows for what amounts to self-certification. This practice didn't result from the usual deregulation pressures, but from the FAA being unable to keep technical experts from being bid away by private sector players. Moreover, the industry has such a strong safety culture (airplanes falling out of the sky are bad for business) that the accommodation didn't seem risky. ..."
"... The 737 Max saga teaches us not only about the limits of technology and the risks of complexity, it teaches us about our real priorities. Today, safety doesn't come first -- money comes first, and safety's only utility in that regard is in helping to keep the money coming. The problem is getting worse because our devices are increasingly dominated by something that's all too easy to manipulate: software ..."
Apr 22, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Even though Boeing is scrambling to fix the software meant to counter the 737 Max's increased propensity to stall as a result of the placement of larger, more fuel=efficient engines in a way that reduced the stability of the plane in flight, it's not clear that this will be adequate in terms of flight safety or the public perception of the plane. And even though the FAA is almost certain to sign off on Boeing's patch, foreign regulators may not be so forgiving. The divergence we've seen between the FAA and other national authorities is likely to intensify. Recall that China grounded the 737 Max before the FAA. In another vote of no confidence, even as Boeing was touting that its changes to its now infamous MCAS software, designed to compensate for safety risks introduced by the placement of the engines on the 737 Max, the Canadian air regulator said he wanted 737 Max pilots to have flight simulator training, contrary to the manufacturer's assertion that it isn't necessary. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that American Airlines is developing 737 Max flight simulator training .

But a fundamental question remains: can improved software compensate for hardware shortcomings? Some experts harbor doubts. For instance, from the Spokane Spokesman-Review :

"One of the problems we have with the system is, why put a system like that on an airplane in the first place?" said Slack, who doesn't represent any survivors of either the Lion Air or Ethiopia Airlines crashes. "I think what we're going to find is that because of changes from the (Boeing 737) 800 series to the MAX series, there are dramatic changes in which they put in controls without native pitch stability. It goes to the basic DNA of the airplane. It may not be fixable."

"It is within the realm of possibility that, if much of the basic pitch stability performance of the plane cannot be addressed by a software fix, a redesign may be required and the MAX might not ever fly," [aviation attorney and former NASA aerospace engineer Mike] Slack said.

An even more damming take comes in How the Boeing 737 Max Disaster Looks to a Software Developer in IEEE Spectrum (hat tip Marshall Auerback). Author Greg Travis has been a software developer for 40 years and a pilot. He does a terrific job of explaining the engineering and business considerations that drove the 737 Max design. He describes why the plane's design is unsound and why the software patch in the form of MCAS was inadequate, and an improved version is unlikely to be able to compensate for the plane's deficiencies.

Even for those who have been following the 737 Max story, this article has background that is likely to be new. For instance, to a large degree, pilots do not fly commercial aircraft. Pilots send instructions to computer systems that fly these planes. Travis explains early on that the As Travis explains:

In the 737 Max, like most modern airliners and most modern cars, everything is monitored by computer, if not directly controlled by computer. In many cases, there are no actual mechanical connections (cables, push tubes, hydraulic lines) between the pilot's controls and the things on the wings, rudder, and so forth that actually make the plane move ..

But it's also important that the pilots get physical feedback about what is going on. In the old days, when cables connected the pilot's controls to the flying surfaces, you had to pull up, hard, if the airplane was trimmed to descend. You had to push, hard, if the airplane was trimmed to ascend. With computer oversight there is a loss of natural sense in the controls. There is only an artificial feel, a feeling that the computer wants the pilots to feel. And sometimes, it doesn't feel so great.

Travis also explains why the 737 Max's engine location made the plane dangerously unstable:

Pitch changes with power changes are common in aircraft. Even my little Cessna pitches up a bit when power is applied. Pilots train for this problem and are used to it. Nevertheless, there are limits to what safety regulators will allow and to what pilots will put up with.

Pitch changes with increasing angle of attack, however, are quite another thing. An airplane approaching an aerodynamic stall cannot, under any circumstances, have a tendency to go further into the stall. This is called "dynamic instability," and the only airplanes that exhibit that characteristic -- fighter jets -- are also fitted with ejection seats.

Everyone in the aviation community wants an airplane that flies as simply and as naturally as possible. That means that conditions should not change markedly, there should be no significant roll, no significant pitch change, no nothing when the pilot is adding power, lowering the flaps, or extending the landing gear.

The airframe, the hardware, should get it right the first time and not need a lot of added bells and whistles to fly predictably. This has been an aviation canon from the day the Wright brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk.

Travis explains in detail why the MCAS approach to monitoring the angle of attack was greatly inferior to older methods .including having the pilots look out the window. And here's what happens when MCAS goes wrong:

When the flight computer trims the airplane to descend, because the MCAS system thinks it's about to stall, a set of motors and jacks push the pilot's control columns forward. It turns out that the flight management computer can put a lot of force into that column -- indeed, so much force that a human pilot can quickly become exhausted trying to pull the column back, trying to tell the computer that this really, really should not be happening.

Indeed, not letting the pilot regain control by pulling back on the column was an explicit design decision. Because if the pilots could pull up the nose when MCAS said it should go down, why have MCAS at all?

MCAS is implemented in the flight management computer, even at times when the autopilot is turned off, when the pilots think they are flying the plane. In a fight between the flight management computer and human pilots over who is in charge, the computer will bite humans until they give up and (literally) die

Like someone with narcissistic personality disorder, MCAS gaslights the pilots. And it turns out badly for everyone. "Raise the nose, HAL." "I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."

Travis also describes the bad business incentives that led Boeing to conceptualize and present the 737 Max as just a tweak of an existing design, as opposed to being so areodynamically different as to be a new plane .and require time-consuming and costly recertification. To succeed in that obfuscation, Boeing had to underplay the existence and role of the MCAS system:

The necessity to insist that the 737 Max was no different in flying characteristics, no different in systems, from any other 737 was the key to the 737 Max's fleet fungibility. That's probably also the reason why the documentation about the MCAS system was kept on the down-low.

Put in a change with too much visibility, particularly a change to the aircraft's operating handbook or to pilot training, and someone -- probably a pilot -- would have piped up and said, "Hey. This doesn't look like a 737 anymore."

To drive the point home, Travis contrasts the documentation related to MCAS with documentation Cessna provided with an upgrade to its digital autopilot, particularly warnings. The difference is dramatic and it shouldn't be. He concludes:

In my Cessna, humans still win a battle of the wills every time. That used to be a design philosophy of every Boeing aircraft, as well, and one they used against their archrival Airbus, which had a different philosophy. But it seems that with the 737 Max, Boeing has changed philosophies about human/machine interaction as quietly as they've changed their aircraft operating manuals.

Travis also explains why the FAA allows for what amounts to self-certification. This practice didn't result from the usual deregulation pressures, but from the FAA being unable to keep technical experts from being bid away by private sector players. Moreover, the industry has such a strong safety culture (airplanes falling out of the sky are bad for business) that the accommodation didn't seem risky. But it is now:

So Boeing produced a dynamically unstable airframe, the 737 Max. That is big strike No. 1. Boeing then tried to mask the 737's dynamic instability with a software system. Big strike No. 2. Finally, the software relied on systems known for their propensity to fail (angle-of-attack indicators) and did not appear to include even rudimentary provisions to cross-check the outputs of the angle-of-attack sensor against other sensors, or even the other angle-of-attack sensor. Big strike No. 3.

None of the above should have passed muster. None of the above should have passed the "OK" pencil of the most junior engineering staff, much less a DER [FAA Designated Engineering Representative].

That's not a big strike. That's a political, social, economic, and technical sin .

The 737 Max saga teaches us not only about the limits of technology and the risks of complexity, it teaches us about our real priorities. Today, safety doesn't come first -- money comes first, and safety's only utility in that regard is in helping to keep the money coming. The problem is getting worse because our devices are increasingly dominated by something that's all too easy to manipulate: software

I believe the relative ease -- not to mention the lack of tangible cost -- of software updates has created a cultural laziness within the software engineering community. Moreover, because more and more of the hardware that we create is monitored and controlled by software, that cultural laziness is now creeping into hardware engineering -- like building airliners. Less thought is now given to getting a design correct and simple up front because it's so easy to fix what you didn't get right later .

It is likely that MCAS, originally added in the spirit of increasing safety, has now killed more people than it could have ever saved. It doesn't need to be "fixed" with more complexity, more software. It needs to be removed altogether.

There's a lot more in this meaty piece . Be sure to read it in full.

And if crapification by software has undermined the once-vanuted airline safety culture, why should we hold out hope for any better with self-driving cars?


Fazal Majid , April 22, 2019 at 2:11 am

Automation is not the issue. Boeing cutting corners and putting only one or two angle of attack sensors is. Just like a man with two clocks can't tell the time, if one of the sensors malfunctions, the computer has no way of knowing which one is wrong. That's why Airbus puts three sensors in its aircraft, and why Boeing's Dreamliner has three computers with CPUs from three different manufacturers to get the necessary triple redundancy.

Thus this is really about Boeing's shocking negligence in putting profits above safety, and the FAA's total capture to the point Boeing employees did most of the certification work. I would add the corrosion of Boeing's ethical standards was completely predictable once it acquired McDonnell-Douglas and became a major defense contractor.

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 8:08 am

I beg to differ since it looks like you didn't read the article in full, as a strongly recommended. The article has a section on the cost of fixing hardware problems versus software problems. Hardware problems are enormously costly to fix.

The plane has a hardware problem resulting from Boeing not being willing to risk having to recertify a fuel efficient 737. So rather than making the plane higher off the ground (new landing gear, which other articles indicate was a non-starter since it would lead to enough other changes so as to necessitate recertification) and trying to fix a hardware problem with software. That has two knock-on problems: it's not clear this will ever be adequate (not just Travis' opinion) and second, it's risky given the software industry's propensity to ship and patch later. Boeing created an additional problem, as Travis stresses, by greatly underplaying the existence of MCAS (it was mentioned after page 700 in the documentation!) and maintaining the fiction that pilots didn't need simulator training, which some regulators expect will be the case even after the patch.

You also miss the point the article makes: the author argues (unlike in banking), the FAA coming to rely on the airlines for certification wasn't a decision they made, but an adaptation to the fact that they could no longer hire and retain the engineers they needed to do the work at the FAA on government pay scales. By contrast, at (say) the SEC, you see a revolving door of lawyers from plenty fancy firms. You have plenty of "talent" willing to work at the SEC, but with bad incentives.

Susan the other` , April 22, 2019 at 10:57 am

Thank you for reviewing this. 700+ pages! I thought it was paywalled bec. so slow to download. The resistance to achieving fuel efficiency is front and center these days. One thing I relate it to is the Macron attitude of punishing the fuel consumer to change the market. Cart before horse. When the FAA sent down fuel efficiency requirements it might have been similarly preemptive, now in hindsight. There should have been legislation and regulation which adjusted the profitability of the airline industry via better tax breaks or regulations against aggressive competition. The safety of airlines would have been upheld if the viability of the company were protected. So even domestic protectionism when it comes to safety. And in so doing, the FAA/congress could also have controlled and limited airline use which tries to make up in volume for all the new costs it incurs. It's a serious problem when you are so carefree as a legislator that you let the free market do it. What a mess. Quality is the first thing to go.

foppe , April 22, 2019 at 11:41 am

reminds me of what was said about risk departments inside banks -- deliberately lowly paid, so that anyone with skills would move on or easily be hired away. Was it you? Bill Black? Luyendijk? I don't remember. Either way..

Marley's dad , April 22, 2019 at 11:45 am

I did read the article completely and I was an aircraft commander of a C-141A during the Viet Nam war and I am a degreed electrical engineer.

Having flown the C-141A for several thousand hours I am very familiar with the aircraft pitching up almost uncontrollably. A favorite trick that C -141 flight instructors pulled on pilots new to aircraft was to tell the student pilot to "go around" (for the first time during his training) on an approach. The student pilot followed the flight manual procedure and started to raise the nose while advancing the throttles to full power. However, what wasn't covered in the flight manual was the fact that a HUGE trim change occurred when the engines went from near idle to full power. To regain control, it took both hands (arms) to move the yoke away from your chest while running nose down trim. While you were doing this the airplane was trying to stand on its tail. On the other hand none of us ever forgot the lesson.

The C-141 was not fly by wire; however all control surfaces were equipped with hydraulic assist and "feel springs" to mimic control feel without the hydraulics. The feel springs for the elevators must have been selected using a human subject like Arnold Schwarzenegger because (in my opinion) they were much stronger than necessary. The intent was to prevent the pilots from getting into excessive angles of pitch, which absolutely would occur if you weren't prepared for it on a "go around".

What Fazal & V have said is basically correct. The max has four angle of attack vanes. The MAIN problem was that Boeing decided to go cheap and only connect one of the vanes to the MCAS. If they had connected two, the MCAS would be able to determine that one of them was wrong and disconnect itself. That would have eliminated the pitch down problem that caused the two crashes.

Connecting that second AOA vane would not have created any certification issues and would have made Boeing's claim about the "Max" being the "same" as previous versions much closer to the truth. Had they done that we wouldn't be talking about this.

Another solution would have been to disable the MCAS if there was significant counter force on the yoke applied by the pilot. This has been used on autopilot systems since the 1960's. But not consistently. The proper programming protocol for the MCAS exists and should have been used.

I agree that using only one AOA vane and the programming weren't the only really stupid things that Boeing did in this matter. Insufficient information and training given to the pilots was another.

flora , April 22, 2019 at 12:05 pm

Yes.
second, it's risky given the software industry's propensity to ship and patch later.
-this is one of the main themes in the Dilbert cartoon strip.

the author argues (unlike in banking), the FAA coming to rely on the airlines for certification wasn't a decision they made, but an adaptation to the fact that they could no longer hire and retain the engineers they needed to do the work at the FAA on government pay scales.

-That's what happens when you make 'government small enough to drown in a bathtub' , i.e. starve of the funds necessary to do a good job.

My 2¢ . Boeing's decision to cut manufacturing corners AND give the autopilot MCAS system absolute control might have been done (just a guess here, based on the all current the 'self-driving' fantasies in technology ) to push more AI 'self-drivingness' into the airplane. (The 'We don't need expensive pilots, we can use inexpensive pilots, and one day we won't need pilots at all' fantasy.) Imo, this makes the MCAS system, along with the auto AI self-driving systems now on the road no better than beta test platforms And early beta test platforms, at that.

It's one thing when MS or Apple push out a not quite ready for prime time OS "upgrade", then wait for all the user feedback to know where it the OS needs more patches. No one dies in those situations (hopefully). But putting not-ready for prime time airplanes and cars on the road in beta test condition to get feedback? yikes . my opinion.

Anarcissie , April 22, 2019 at 3:31 pm

It is interesting that a software bug that appears in the field costs very roughly ten times as much as one caught in QA before being released, yet most managements continue to slight QA in favor of glitzy features. I suppose that preference follows supposed customer demand.

WestcoastDeplorable , April 22, 2019 at 2:14 pm

It's not only the 737 Max that endangers Boeing's survival; it's this:

https://www.aljazeera.com/investigations/boeing787/

15 workers at their N. Charleston SC assembly plant were asked if they would fly on the plane they build there; 10 said NO WAY!

Alex V , April 22, 2019 at 3:23 am

Boeing, the FAA, and the airlines seriously screwed up the introduction of this aircraft so badly it cost lives. The article by Travis is however written by someone out of his depth, even though he has more familiarity with aircraft and software than the average person. There are numerous factual errors and misrepresentations, which many commenters (with more detailed knowledge of the subjects) on the article point out. One of the principles of aviation safety is to identify and fix failures without finger pointing, in order to encourage a culture of openness and cooperation. The tone of the article takes the opposite approach while trying to argue from (undeserved) authority. I agree with his critique that these incidents are a result capitalism run amok – that should, in my opinion, be separate from a discussion of the technical problems and how to fix them.

Thuto , April 22, 2019 at 4:51 am

If Boeing had adhered to that cardinal principle of openness, there might be no failure to fix via "a culture of openness and cooperation". These catastrophic failures were a result of Boeing not being open with its customers about the safety implications of its redesign of the 737 Max and instead choosing the path of obfuscation to sell the idea of seamless fleet fungibility to airlines.

Knifecatcher , April 22, 2019 at 5:00 am

Looking through the comments the complaints about the article seemed to be in one of three areas-

– Questioning the author's credentials (you're just a Cessna pilot!)
– Parroting the Boeing line that this was all really pilot error
– Focusing on some narrow technical element to discredit the article

The majority of comments were in agreement with the general tenor of the piece, and the author engaged politely and constructively with some of the points that were brought up. I thought the article was very insightful, and sometimes it does take an outsider to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

I'd like to see a reference for your assertion that the "principles of aviation safety" preclude finger pointing. Unless I'm very much mistaken the whole purpose of an FAA accident investigation is to determine the root cause, identify the responsible party, and, yes, point fingers if necessary.

Alex V , April 22, 2019 at 5:57 am

This is one example:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crew_resource_management

The general point I was trying to make, perhaps poorly worded, is that the only goal is to identify the problem and fix it, and not to focus primarily on assigning blame as vigorously as possible. Mistakes occur for many reasons – some of them nefarious, some not. Excessive finger pointing, especially before a full picture of what went wrong has been developed, fosters a tendency to coverups and fear, in my opinion.

Regarding your other points, the technical details are vital to understand clearly in almost any aviation incident, as there is never one cause, and the chain of events is always incredibly complex. Travis' analysis makes the answers too easy.

skippy , April 22, 2019 at 6:23 am

From what I understand the light touch approach was more about getting people to honestly divulge information during the investigation period, of which, assisted in determining cause.

I think you overstate your case.

Alex V , April 22, 2019 at 6:58 am

This "light touch" approach is used throughout the aviation industry, all the way from initial design to aircraft maintenance, as the purpose is to make sure that anyone, no matter the rank or experience, can bring up safety concerns before incidents occur without fear of repercussions for challenging authority. It's likely that this cornerstone of aviation culture was ignored at too many points along the way here.

I am not defending Boeing, the FAA, or the airlines. Serious, likely criminal, mistakes were made by all.

I however take issue with Travis' approach of assigning blame this early and vigorously while making errors in explaining what happened. He especially attacks the the development process at Boeing, since software is his speciality, although he makes no claims as to having worked with real time or avionics software, aside from using products incorporating it. These are quite different types of software from normal code running a website or a bank. He does not, and can not, know what occurred when the code was written, yet makes significant declarations as to the incompetence of the engineers and coders involved.

If he were leading the investigation, I believe the most likely outcome would be pushback and coverup by those involved.

flora , April 22, 2019 at 12:19 pm

It's likely that this cornerstone of aviation culture was ignored at too many points along the way here.

I am not defending Boeing, the FAA, or the airlines. Serious, likely criminal, mistakes were made by all.

I however take issue with Travis' approach of assigning blame this early

I don't disagree with your description of how it used to be. However, since the FAA has reduced its regulatory role, and by extension given aircraft manufactures more leash to run with ideas that shouldn't be followed, we're left with the situation that large, potentially crippling tort lawsuits are one of the only checks left on manufacturer stupidity or malfeasance. Think of the Ford Pinto bolt-too-long-causing-gas-tank-explosions case. If the FCC won't make manufacturers think twice when internal engineers say 'this isn't a good idea, isn't a good design', maybe the potential of a massive lawsuit will make them think twice.

And this is where we get into pointing the finger, assigning blame, etc. I'm assuming there are good engineers at Boeing who warned against these multiple design failure and were ignored, the FCC was see-no-evil here-no-evil, and the MCAS went forward. Now come the law suits. It's the only thing left to 'get Boeing's attention'. I don't know if Travis' is too early. It's likely there's been plenty of chatter among the Boeing and industry engineers already. imo.

charles 2 , April 22, 2019 at 3:35 am

Training a pilot is building a very complicated automation system : what kind of thought process do you expect within the short timeframe (few minutes) of a crisis in a cockpit ? Kant's critique of pure reason ?Somehow people seem more comfortable from death coming from human error (I.e. a bad human automation system) that death coming from a design fault, but a death is a death

The problem is not automation vs no automation, it is bad corner-cutting automation vs good systematic and expensive automation. It is also bad integration between pilot brain based automation and system automation, which also boils out to corner cutting, because sharing too much information about the real behaviour of the system (if only it is known accurately ) increases the complexity and the cost of pilot training.

Real safety comes from proven design (as in mathematical proof). It is only achievable on simple systems because proofing is conceptually very hard. A human is inevitably a very complex system that is impossible to proof, therefore, beyond a certain standard of reliability, getting the human factor out of the equation is the only way to improve things further. we are probably close to that threshold with civil aviation.

Also, I don't see anywhere in aircraft safety statistics any suggestion of "crapification" of safety see https://aviation-safety.net/graphics/infographics/Fatal-Accidents-Per-Mln-Flights-1977-2017.jpg Saying that the improvement is due only the better pilot training and not to more intrinsically reliable airplanes is a stretch IMHO.

Similarly, regarding cars, the considerable improvement in death per km travelled in the last 30 years cannot be attributed only to better drivers, a large part comes from ESP and ABS becoming standard (see https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/811182 ). If this is not automation, what is ?

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 7:57 am

It looks as if you didn't read the piece. The problem, which the author makes explicit, is the "ship now, patch later" philosophy that is endemic in software design.

And it would be better to look at flight safety stats within markets. You have great swathes of the emerging world starting to fly on airplanes during this period. I'm not saying the general trend isn't correct, but I would anticipate it's to a significant degree attributable to the maturation of emerging economy air systems. For instance, I flew on Indonesia's Garuda in the early 1990s and was told I was taking a safety risk; I'm now informed that it's a good airline. Similarly, in the early 1980s I was doing business in Mexico, and the McKinsey partner I was traveling with (who as a hobby read black box transcripts from plane crashes) was very edgy on the legs of our travels when we had to use AeroMexico (as in he'd natter on in a way that was very out of character for a typical older WASP-y guy, he was close to white knuckle nervous).

Marley's dad , April 22, 2019 at 10:28 am

Garuda's transition from "safety risk" to "good airline" was an actual occurrence. At one point Garuda and all other Indonesian air lines were prohibited from flying in the EU because of numerous crashes that were the result of management issues, that forced the airline(s) to change their ways.

Darius , April 22, 2019 at 10:11 am

ABS is an enhancement. MCAS is a kludge to patch up massive weaknesses introduced into the hardware by a chain of bad decisions going back almost 20 years.

Boeing should have started designing a new narrow-body when they cancelled the 757 in 2004. Instead, they chose to keep relying on the 737. The end result is MCAS and 300+ deaths.

Harrold , April 22, 2019 at 11:16 am

I'm not sure Boeing can design a fresh aircraft any more.

Olga , April 22, 2019 at 4:17 am

"There are numerous factual errors and misrepresentations, which many commenters (with more detailed knowledge of the subjects) on the article point out."
Not sure why anyone would mis-characterise comments. The first comment points out a deficiency, and explains it. There was only one other commenter, who alleged errors – but without explaining what those could be. He was later identified by another person as a troll. Almost all other comments were complimentary of the article. So why make the above assertion?

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 7:43 am

We have a noteworthy number of newbie comments making poorly-substantiated digs at the Spectrum IEEE piece. We've also seen this sort of non-organic-looking response when we've put up pro-union pieces when political fights were in play, like Wisconsin's Scott Walker going after unions.

AEL , April 22, 2019 at 9:29 am

Travis does indeed play fast and loose with a number of things. For example, his 0-360 engine does *not* have pistons the size of dinner plates (at a 130mm bore it isn't even the diameter of a particularly large saucer). MCAS is a stability augmentation system not stall prevention system and the 737 MAX wasn't "unstable" it was insufficiently stable. The 737 trim system acts on the stabilizer not the elevator (which is a completely different control surface). etc.

For the most part, it doesn't affect the thrust of his arguments which are at a higher level. However it does get distracting.

Harrold , April 22, 2019 at 11:19 am

"the 737 MAX wasn't "unstable" it was insufficiently stable"

The passengers are not "dead", they are insufficiently alive.

Olga , April 22, 2019 at 12:00 pm

Thank you – I was beginning to wonder what the difference was between unstable and insufficiently stable. Not that this is a subject to make jokes about.

JBird4049 , April 22, 2019 at 1:50 pm

Not that this is a subject to make jokes about.

Yeah, but sometimes the choice is to laugh or cry, and after constantly going WTF!?! every time I read about this horror, even mordantly grim humor is nice.

Walt , April 22, 2019 at 2:30 pm

Yes, stabilizer trim on the 737 acts on the horizontal stabilizer, not the elevator or "pilots' control columns."

As a former "73" pilot, I too find the author's imprecision distracting.

ChristopherJ , April 22, 2019 at 5:21 am

Investigators pipe up, but my understanding of a proper investigation is: a. find out what happened; b. find out why the incident occurred; c. what can be done to prevent.

The public opinion has already sailed I think, against the company. If negligent, adverse-safety decisions were made, the head people should be prosecuted accordingly.

Yet, I feel this isn't going to happen despite the reality that billions of humans never want to fly a boeing jet again. Why would you risk it? Toast and deservedly imho

Ape , April 22, 2019 at 5:35 am

"Agile" "use-case driven" software development: very dangerous, takes the disruptive, crappification approach (under some hands) of trying to identify the minimum investment to hit the minimal requirements, particularly focusing on an 80/20 Pareto rule distribution of efforts.

Which may be good enough for video delivery or cell-phone function, but not for life-critical or scientifically-critical equipment

JeffC , April 22, 2019 at 12:59 pm

Many people here are assuming Boeing uses modern software-development methodology in spite of flaws that make such an approach iffy in this field. Why assume that?

When I worked, many years ago now, as a Boeing software engineer, their software-development practices were 15 years behind the rest of the world. Part of that was sheer caution and conservatism re new things, precisely because of the safety culture, and part of it was because they did not have many of the best software people. They could rarely hire the best in part because cautious, super-conservative code is boring. Their management approach was optimized to get solid systems out of ordinary engineers with a near incomprehensible number of review and testing steps.

Anyone in this audience worked there in software recently? If not, fewer words about how they develop code might be called for. Yes, the MCAS system was seriously flawed. But we do not have the information to actually know why.

False Solace , April 22, 2019 at 1:40 pm

> Anyone in this audience worked there in software recently? If not, fewer words about how they develop code might be called for.

4/16 Links included a lengthy spiel from Reddit via Hacker News by a software engineer who worked at Boeing 10 years ago (far more recently than you) which detailed the horrors of Boeing's dysfunctional corporate culture at length. This is in addition to many other posts covering the story from multiple angles.

NC has covered this topic extensively. Maybe try familiarizing yourself with their content before telling others to shut up.

JeffC , April 22, 2019 at 2:32 pm

Excuse me? Are ad hominem attacks fine now? I didn't tell anyone to "shut up" or contradict the great amount of good reporting on Boeing's management dysfunction.

I just pointed out that at one time, yes way back there, there was a logic to it and that the current criticism here of its software-development culture in particular seems founded on a combination of speculation and general disgust with the software industry.

Whatever else I am or however wrong I may sometimes be, I am an engineer, and real engineers look for evidence.

NN , April 22, 2019 at 5:50 am

Moving the engines in itself didn't introduce safety risks, this tendency to nose up was always there. The primary problem is Boeing wanted to pretend MAX is the same plane as NG (the previous version) for certification and pilot training purposes. Which is why the MCAS is black box deeply hardwired into the control systems and they didn't tell pilots about it. It was supposed to be invisible, just sort of translating layer between the new airframe and pilots commanding it as the old one.

And this yearning for pre-automation age, for directly controlling the surfaces by cables and all, is misguided. People didn't evolve for flying, it's all learned the hard way, there is no natural way to feel the plane. In fact in school they will drill into you to trust the instruments and not your pedestrian instincts. Instruments and computers may fail, but your instincts will fail far more often.

After all 737 actually is old design, not fly by wire. And one theory of what happened in the Ethiopian case is that when they disengaged the automatic thing, they were not able to physically overcome the aerodynamic forces pushing on the plane. So there you have your cables & strings operated machine.

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 7:40 am

I don't see basis for your assertion about safety risks given the counter-evidence in the form of the very existence of the MCAS software. Every article written on it points out it was to prevent the possibility of the plane stalling out when "punching up". And as the article describes, there were two design factors, the placement of the engines and the nacelles, which led to it generating too much lift in certain scenarios.

And your argument regarding what happened when the pilot turned off the autopilot is yet another indictment of Boeing's design. This is not "Oh bad pilots," this is "OMG, evidence of another Boeing fuckup." This is what occurred when the pilots disabled MCAS per instructions.

Have you not heard of purely mechanical systems that allow for the multiplication of force? It's another Boeing design defect that the pilots couldn't operate the flight stabilizer when the plane was under takeoff stresses. That's a typical use case! And it was what Boeing told pilots to do and it didn't work! From Reuters (apparently written before the black box detail revealed that the pilots could not control the stabilizers):

Boeing pointed to long-established procedures that pilots could have used to handle a malfunction of the anti-stall system, regardless of whether the pilots knew MCAS existed.

That checklist tells pilots to switch off the two stabilizer trim cutout switches on the central console, and then to adjust the aircraft's stabilizers manually using trim wheels.

And that's one of they should worry about most, since that's one of highest risk times for flight, and the plane should have been engineered with that scenario in mind. This raises the possibility that the inability of the pilots to handle the plane manually in takeoff also somehow resulted from the changes to the aerodynamics resulting from the placement of the bigger engines.

This is his argument about how the reliance on software has led to undue relaxation of good hardware design principles:

The original FAA Eisenhower-era certification requirement was a testament to simplicity: Planes should not exhibit significant pitch changes with changes in engine power. That requirement was written when there was a direct connection between the controls in the pilot's hands and the flying surfaces on the airplane. Because of that, the requirement -- when written -- rightly imposed a discipline of simplicity on the design of the airframe itself. Now software stands between man and machine, and no one seems to know exactly what is going on. Things have become too complex to understand.

NN , April 22, 2019 at 9:08 am

I'll cite the original article:

Pitch changes with power changes are common in aircraft. Even my little Cessna pitches up a bit when power is applied. Pilots train for this problem and are used to it.

Again, the plane already had the habit of picthing up and the changes didn't add that. The question isn't if, but how much and what to do about it. Nowhere did I read MAX exceeds some safety limits in this regard. If Boeing made the plane to physically break regulations and tried to fix it with software then indeed that would be bad. However, I'm not aware of that.

As for the Ethiopian scenario, I was talking about this article . It says when they tried manual, it very well could be beyond their physical ability to turn the wheels and so they were forced to switch electrical motors back on, but that also turned up MCAS again. In fact it also says this seizing up thing was present in the old 737 design and pilots were trained to deal with it, but somehow the plane become more reliable and training for this failure mode was dropped. This to me doesn't look like good old days of aviation design ruined by computers.

JerryDenim , April 22, 2019 at 5:57 pm

You should read the Ethiopian Government's crash preliminary crash report. Very short and easy to read. Contains a wealth of information. Regarding the pilot's attempt to use the manual trim wheel, according to the crash report, the aircraft was already traveling at 340 knots indicated airspeed, well past Vmo or the aircraft's certified airspeed when they first attempted to manually trim the nose up. It didn't work because of the excessive control forces generated by high airspeeds well beyond the aircraft's certification. I'm not excusing Boeing, the automated MCAS nose down trim system was an engineering abomination, but the pilots could have made their lives much easier by setting a more normal thrust setting for straight and level flight, slowing their aircraft to a speed within the normal operating envelope, then working their runaway nose-down pitch emergency.

none , April 22, 2019 at 6:21 am

I didn't like the IEEE Spectrum piece very much since the author seemed to miss or exaggerate some issues, and also seemed to confuse flying a Cessna with being expert about large airliners or aerospace engineering. The title says "software engineer" but at the end he says "software executive". Executive doesn't always mean non-engineer but it does mean someone who is full of themselves, and that shows through the whole article. The stuff I'm seeing from actual engineers (mostly on Hacker News) is a little more careful. I'm still getting the sense that the 737 MAX is fundamentally a reasonable plane though Boeing fucked up badly presenting it as a no-retraining-needed tweak to the older 737's.

There's some conventional wisdom that Boeing's crapification stems from the McDonnell merger in 1997. Boeing, then successful, took over the failing and badly managed McDonnell. The crappy McDonnell managers then spent the next years pushing out the Boeing managers, and subsequently have been running Boeing into the ground. I don't know how accurate that is, but it's a narrative that rings true.

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 7:20 am

You are misrepresenting the Hacker News criticisms, and IMHO they misrepresent the piece. They don't question his software chops. And if you really knew the software biz, "software executive" often = developer who built a company (and that includes smallish ones). The guy OWNS a Cessna, which means he's spent as much on a plane as a lot of people spend on a house. If he was a senior manager as you posit, that means at large company, and no large company would let an employee write something like this. He's either between gigs or one of the top guys in a smallish private company where mouthing off like this won't hurt the business. Notice also his contempt for managers in the article).

He's also done flight simulator time on a 757, and one commentor pointed out that depending on the simulator, it could be tantamount to serious training, as in count towards qualifying hours to be certified to fly a 757.

They do argue, straw manning his piece, that he claims the big failure is with the software. That in fact is not what the article says. It says that the design changes in the 737 Max made it dynamically unstable, which is an unacceptable characteristic in any plane, no matter what size. He also describes at length the problem of relying on only one sensor as an input to the MCAS and how that undermined having the pilots be able to act as a backup .by looking at each other's instrumentation results.

The idea that he's generalizing from a Cessna is absurd. He describes how Cessnas have the pilot having greater mechanical control than jets like the 737. He describes how the pilots read the instrument results from each side of the plane, something which cannot occur in a Cessna, a single pilot plane. He refers to the Cessna documentation to make the point that the norm is to over-inform pilots as to how changes in the software affect how they operate the plane, not radically under-inform them as Boeing did with the 737 Max.

As to the reasonableness of Travis' concerns, did you miss that a former NASA engineer has the same reservations? Are you trying to say he doesn't understand how aircraft hardware works?

Alex V , April 22, 2019 at 8:02 am

A few points:

He owns a 1978 Cessna 172 , goes for about $70K, so not quite house prices, more like a nice Tesla, whose drive by wire systems he seems to trust far more for some reason.

In regard to "dynamic instability" being unacceptable, this is a red herring. Most modern airliners rely on flight characteristic augmentation systems in normal operation, trim systems being the most common. Additionally, there are aircraft designed to be unstable (fighters) but rely on computers to fly them stably, to greatly increase manoeuvrability.

In regard to Cessnas being single pilot planes, the presence of flight controls on both sides of the cockpit would somewhat bring into question this assertion .? Most 172s do however have only one set of instrumentation. When operating with two pilots (as with let's say a student pilot and instructor) you would still have the issue of two pilots trying to agree on possibly faulty readings from one set of non-redundant instruments.

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 8:27 am

No, it's a 1979 Cessna, and you don't know when he bought it and how much use it had, since price is significantly dependent on flight hours. The listings I show it costs over $100K. A quick Google search says a plane with a new feel is closer to $300K. Even $100K in equity is more than most people put down when buying a house

He also glides, and gliders often own or co-own their gliders.

The author acknowledges your point re fighters. Did you miss that he also says they are the only planes where pilots can eject themselves from the aircraft? Arguing from what is acceptable for a fighter, where you compromise a lot on other factors to get maneuverability, to a commercial jet is dodgy.

Alex V , April 22, 2019 at 9:39 am

According to the registration it became airworthy in 1978, so perhaps that is the model year.

https://uk.flightaware.com/resources/registration/N5457E

Regarding fighters and instability, I'm not the one that stated it's "an unacceptable characteristic in any plane, no matter the size".

I am completely on Travis' side when it comes to the issues with culture and business that brought on these incidents. Seeing however that these affected and overrode good engineering, I believe it's vitally important that the engineering is discussed as accurately as possible. Hence my criticism of the piece.

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 1:08 pm

Had you looked at prices as you claimed to, Cessnsa 172s specify the year in the headline description. 1977 v. 1978 v 1979 on a page I got Googling for 1979.

You are now well into the terrain of continuing to argue for argument sake.

PlutoniumKun , April 22, 2019 at 8:34 am

I agree with you that the article is good and the criticisms I've read seem largely unmerited (quite a few of those btl on that article are clearly bad faith arguments), but just to clarify:

That in fact is not what the article says. It says that the design changes in the 737 Max made it dynamically unstable, which is an unacceptable characteristic in any plane, no matter what size.

My understanding (non-engineer, but long time aviation nerd) is that many aircraft, including all Airbus's are dynamically unstable and use software to maintain stability. The key point I think that the article makes is that there is a fundamental difference between designing hardware and software in synchronicity to make a safe aircraft (i.e Airbus), and using software as a fudge to avoid making hard decisions when the hardware engineers find they can't overcome a problem without spending a fortune in redesigns.

Hard engineering 'fudges' are actually really common in aircraft design – little bumps or features added to address stability problems encountered during testing – an example being the little fore planes on the Tupolev 144 supersonic airliner. But it seems Boeing took a short cut with its approach and a lot of people paid for this with their lives. Only time will tell if it was a deep institutional failure within Boeing or just a flaw caused by a rushed roll-out.

I've personal experience of a catastrophic design flaw (not one that could kill people, just one that could cost hundreds of millions to fix) which was entirely down to the personal hang-ups of one particular project manager who was in a position to silence internal misgivings. Of course, in aircraft design this is not supposed to happen.

Thuto , April 22, 2019 at 6:21 am

I'm reminded of the famous "software is eating the world" quote by uber VC Marc Andreessen. He posits that in an era where Silicon valley style, software led disruption stalks every established industry, even companies that "make things" (hardware) need a radical rethink in terms of how they see themselves. A company like Boeing, under this worldview, needs to think of itself as a software company with a hardware arm attached, otherwise it might have its lunch eaten by a plucky upstart (to say nothing of Apple or Google) punching above its weight.

It's not farfetched to imagine an army of consultants selling this "inoculate yourself from disruption" thinking to companies like Boeing and being taken seriously. With Silicon valley's obsession with taking humans out of the loop (think driverless cars/trucks, operator-less forklifts etc) one wonders whether these accidents will highlight the limitations of technology and halt the seemingly inexorable march towards complex automation reducing pilots to cockpit observers coming along for the ride.

jonst , April 22, 2019 at 6:41 am

so perhaps Trump lurched blindly into the truth?

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/12/trump-says-planes-too-complex-after-crash-of-boeing-jet-in-ethiopia.html

WobblyTelomeres , April 22, 2019 at 7:30 am

"native pitch stability"

Let me guess. The author prolly flies a Cessna 172. [checks article]. Yep.

The 172 is one of the most docile and forgiving private planes ever. Ignore that my Mom flew hers into a stand of trees.

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 8:32 am

Ad homimem and therefore logically invalid. Plus reading comprehension problem. The "native pitch stability" comment was from Mike Slack, a former NASA engineer, and not Travis, the Cessna owner.

Mel , April 22, 2019 at 9:39 am

I think that the point is that there are aircraft that don't take over the controls and dive into the ground. It's possible to have these kinds of aircraft. These kinds of aircraft are good to have. It's like an existence proof.

Octopii , April 22, 2019 at 8:28 am

No, not dangerously pro-automation. More like dangerously stuck in the past, putting bandaids on a dinosaur to keep false profits rolling in. AF447 could be argued against excessive automation, but not the Max.

tegnost , April 22, 2019 at 9:13 am

i think they are real profits. And the automation that crashed two planes over a short time span and it wasn't excessive? Band aids on what was one of the safest planes ever made (how many 737's crashed pre 737 max? the hardware problem was higher landing gear along with engines that were larger and added lift to the plane. MCAS was intended to fix that. It made it worse. I won't be flying on a MAX.

Carolinian , April 22, 2019 at 8:29 am

Thanks for the article but re the above comments–perhaps that 737 pilot commenter should weigh in because some expert commentary on this article is badly needed. My impression from the Seattle Times coverage is that the MCAS was not implemented to keep the plane from falling out of the sky but rather to finesse the retraining issue. In other words a competent pilot could handle the pitch up tendency with no MCAS assist at all if trained or even informed that such a tendency existed. And if that's the case then the notion that the plane will be grounded forever is dubious indeed.

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 8:44 am

This isn't quite correct, and I suggest you read the article in full.

The issue isn't MCAS. It is that MCAS was to compensate for changes in the planes aerodynamics that were so significant that it should arguably have been recerttified as being a different plane. That was what Boeing was trying to avoid above all Former NASA engineer Mike Slack makes that point as well. Travis argues that burying the existence of MCAS in the documentation was to keep pilots from questioning whether this was a different plane:

It all comes down to money, and in this case, MCAS was the way for both Boeing and its customers to keep the money flowing in the right direction. The necessity to insist that the 737 Max was no different in flying characteristics, no different in systems, from any other 737 was the key to the 737 Max's fleet fungibility. That's probably also the reason why the documentation about the MCAS system was kept on the down-low.

Put in a change with too much visibility, particularly a change to the aircraft's operating handbook or to pilot training, and someone -- probably a pilot -- would have piped up and said, "Hey. This doesn't look like a 737 anymore." And then the money would flow the wrong way.

Carolinian , April 22, 2019 at 9:30 am

I think you just said what I said. My contention is that the only reason the plane could ever be withdrawn is that the design is so inherently unstable that this extra gizmo–the MCAS–was necessary for it to fly. Whereas it appears the MCAS was for marketing purposes and if it had never been added to the plane the two accidents quite likely may never have happened–even if Boeing didn't tell pilots about the pitch up tendency.

But I'm no expert obviously. This is just my understanding of the issue.

Darius , April 22, 2019 at 11:48 am

From what I've read at related links in the last week, a significant element is common type rating. Manufacturers don't have to go through expensive recertification if their modifications are minor enough, earning a common type rating. Thus, the successive incarnations of the 737 over the decades.

I'm only a layman, but a citizen who tries to stay informed and devours material on this topic. The common type rating merry go round needs to stop. It seems at least that a new engine with a different position that alters the basic physics of the plane shouldn't qualify for common type rating, which should be reserved only for the most minor of modifications.

barrisj , April 22, 2019 at 12:30 pm

As one who has followed the entirety of the MAX stories as detailed by the Seattle Times aviation reporters, it all comes back to "first principles": a substantive change in aerodynamics by introduction of an entirely new pair of engines should have required complete re-engineering of the airframe. We know that Boeing eschewed that approach, largely for competitive and cost considerations, and subsequently tried to mate the LEAP engines to the existing 737 airframe by installing the MCAS, amongst other design "tweaks", i.e., "kludging" a fix. Boeing management recognized that this wouldn't be the "perfect" aircraft, but with the help of a compliant FAA and a huge amount of "self-assessment", got the beast certified and airborne -- -- until the two crashes, that is. Whether the airlines and/or the flying public will ever accept the redo of MCAS and other ancillary fixes is highly problematic, as the entire concept was flawed from the kick-off.
Also, it should be mentioned in passing that even the LEAP engines are having some material-wear issues:
https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/cfm-reviews-fleet-after-finding-leap-1a-durability-i-442669/

b , April 22, 2019 at 8:46 am

Th IEEE Spectrum piece is somewhat reasonable but the author obvious lacks technical knowledge of the 737. He also does not understand why MCAS was installed in the first place.

For example:
– "However, doing so also meant that the centerline of the engine's thrust changed. Now, when the pilots applied power to the engine, the aircraft would have a significant propensity to "pitch up," or raise its nose.
– The MAX nose up tendency is a purely aerodynamic effect. The centerline of the thrust did not change much.

– "MCAS is implemented in the flight management computer, "
– No. It is implemented in the Flight Control Computer of which there are two. (There is only on FMC unit.)

-" It turns out that the Elevator Feel Computer can put a lot of force into that column -- "
– The Elevator Feel unit is not a computer but a deterministic hydraulic-mechanical system.

– "Neither such [software] coders nor their managers are as in touch with the particular culture and mores of the aviation world as much as the people who are down on the factory floor, "
– The coders who make the Boeing and Airbus systems work are specialized in such coding. Software development for aircrafts It is a rigid formularized process which requires a deep understanding of the aviation world. The coders appropriately implement what the design engineers require after the design review confirmed it. Nothing less, nothing more.

and more than a dozen other technical misunderstandings and mistakes.

If the author would have read some of the PPRUNE threads on the issue or asked an 737 pilot he would have known all this.

Senator-Elect , April 22, 2019 at 10:35 am

This.

Harrold , April 22, 2019 at 11:28 am

And yet the fact remains that the 737MAX is grounded world wide and costing Boeing and airlines millions every day.

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 1:11 pm

Given what has happened with Boeing manufacture (787s being delivered with tools and bottles rattling around in them), you have no basis for asserting how Boeing does software in practice these days.

And you have incontrovertible evidence of a coding fail: relying on only one sensor input when the plane had more than one sensor. I'm sorry, I don't see how you can blather on about safety and coders supposedly understanding airplanes with that coded in.

JeffC who actually worked at Boeing years ago and said the coding was conservative (lots of people checked it) because they were safety oriented but also didn't get very good software engineers, since writing software at Boeing was boring.

johnf , April 22, 2019 at 9:05 am

I still have some trouble blaming the 737 losses, ipso facto, on using automation to extend an old design. There are considerably more complex aircraft systems than MCAS that have been reliably automated, and building on a thoroughly proven framework usually causes less trouble than suffering the teething problems of an all new design.

At the risk of repeating the obvious, a basic principle of critical systems, systems which must be reliable, is that they can not suffer from single point failures. You want to require at least two independent failures to disturb a system, whose combined probability is so low that other, unavoidable failure sources predominate, for example, weather or overwhelming, human error.

This principle extends to the system's development. The design and programming of a (reliable) critical system can not suffer from single point failures. This requires a good many, skilled people, paying careful attention to different, specific stages of the process. Consider a little thing I once worked on: the indicator that confirms a cargo door is closed, or arguably, that is neither open nor unlatched. I count at least five levels of engineers and programmers, between Boeing and the FAA, that used to validate, implement and verify the work of their colleagues, one or more levels above and/or below: to insure the result was safe.

I bet what will ultimately come out is that multiple levels of the validation and verification chain have been grievously degraded ("crapified") to cut costs and increase profits. The first and last levels for a start. I am curious and will ask around.

Darius , April 22, 2019 at 11:58 am

The MAX isn't a proven framework. Boeing fundamentally altered the 737 design by shifting the position of the engines. The MCAS fudge doesn't fix that.

The Rev Kev , April 22, 2019 at 9:10 am

My own impression is that there seems to be a clash between three separate philosophies at work here. The first is the business culture of Boeing which had supplanted Boeing's historical aviation-centric ways of doing things in aircraft design. The bean-counters & marketing droids took over, outsourced aircraft construction to such places as non-union workshops & other countries, and thought that cutting corners in aircraft manufacture would have no long-term ill effects. The second philosophy is that of software design that failed to understand that the software had to be good to go as it was shipped and had little understanding of what happens when you ship beta-standard software to an operational aircraft in service. This was to have fatal consequences. The third culture is that of the pilots themselves which seek to keep their skills going in an aviation world that wants to turn them into airplane-drivers. If there is any move afoot to have self flying aircraft introduced down the track, I hope that this helps kill it.
Boeing is going to take a massive financial hit and so it should. Heads should literally roll over this debacle and it did not help their case when they went to Trump to keep this plane flying in the US without thought as to what could have happened if a US or Canadian 737 MAX had augured in. The biggest loser I believe is going to be the US's reputation with aviation. The rest of the aviation world will no longer trust what the FAA says or advise without checking it themselves. The trust of decades of work has just been thrown out the door needlessly. Even in the critical field of aircraft crash investigation, the US took a hit as Ethiopia refused the demands that the black boxes be sent to the US but sent them instead to France. That is something that has flown under the radar. This is going to have knock-on effects for decades to come.

Susan the other` , April 22, 2019 at 11:56 am

Beginning to look like a trade war with the EU. airbus, boeing, vw, US cars; but haven't seen Japan drawn into this yet. Mercedes Benz is saying EV cars are nonsense, they actually create more pollution than diesel engines and they are recommending methane gasoline (that sounds totally suicidal), and hydrogen power. Hydrogen has always sounded like a good choice, so why no acclaim? It can only be the resistance of vested interests. The auto industry, like the airline industry, is frantically trying to externalize its costs. Maybe we should all just settle down and do a big financial mutual insurance company that covers catastrophic loss by paying the cost of switching over to responsible manufacturing and fuel efficiency. Those corporations cooperate with shared subsidiaries that manufacture software to patch their bad engineering – why not a truce while they look for solutions?

voislav , April 22, 2019 at 9:34 am

The whole 737 development reminds me of a story a GM engineer told me. Similarly to the aviation industry, when GM makes modifications to an existing part on a vehicle, if the change is small enough the part does not need to be recertified for mechanical strength, etc. One of the vehicles he was working on had a part failure in testing, so they looked at the design history of the part. It turns out that, similarly to 737, this was a legacy part carried over numerous generations of the vehicle.

Each redesign of the vehicle introduced some changes, they needed to reroute some cabling, so they would punch a new hole through the part. But because the change was small enough the engineering team had the option of just signing off on the change without additional testing. So this went on for years, where additional holes or slits were made in the original part and each change was deemed to be small enough that no recertification was necessary. The cumulative change from the original certification was that this was now a completely different part and, not surprisingly, eventually it failed.

The interesting part of the story was the institutional inertia. As all these incremental changes were applied to the part, nobody bothered to check when was the last time part was actually tested and what was the part design as that time. Every step of the way everybody assumed their change is small enough not to cause any issue and did not do any diligence until a failure occured.

Which brings me back to the 737, if I am not mistaken, 737 MAX is, for certification purposes, considered an iteration of the original 737. The aircraft though is very different than the original, increased wingspan (117′ vs 93′), length (140′ vs. 100′). 737 NG is similarly different.

So for me the big issue with the MAX is the institutional question that allowed a plane so different from the original 737 certification to be allowed as a variant of the original, without additional pilot training or plane certification. Upcoming 777X has the same issue, it's a materially different aircraft (larger wingspan, etc.) that has a kludge (folding wingtips) to allow it to pass as a variant of the original 777. It will be interesting to see, in the wake of the MAX fiasco, what treatment does the 777X get when it comes to certification.

Susan the other` , April 22, 2019 at 12:35 pm

The FAA needs to be able to follow these tweaks. Maybe we citizens need a literal social contract that itemizes what we expect our government to actually do.

Matthew G. Saroff , April 22, 2019 at 9:35 am

There are also allegations of shoddy manufacturing on the 787 at Boeing's South Carolina (union busting) facility .

BTW, I do not believe that the problems are insoluble, or as a result of a design philosophy, but rather it is a result of placing sales over engineering.

There are a number of aerodynamic tweaks that could have dealt with this issue (larger horizontal tail comes to mind, but my background is manufacturing not aerodynamics), but this would require that pilots requalify for a transition between the NG and the MAX, which would likely mean that many airlines would take a second look at Airbus.

Carolinian , April 22, 2019 at 10:37 am

Your link was fully discussed in yesterday's Links.

cm , April 22, 2019 at 10:41 am

Yeah, that was a fascinating (and scary) article. Worth reading!

vomkammer , April 22, 2019 at 9:41 am

We should avoid blaming "software" or "automation" for this accident. The B737 MAX seems to be a case of "Money first, safety second" culture, combined with insufficent regulatory control.

The root of the B737 MAX accidents was an erroneous safety hazard assessment: The safety asessment (and the FAA) believed the MCAS had a 0.6 authority limit. This 0.6 limit meant that an erroneous MCAS function would only have limited consequences. In the safety jargon, its severity was classifed as "Major", instead of "Catastrophic".

After the "Major" classification was assigned, the subsequente design decions (like using a single sensor, or perhaps insufficient testing) are acceptable and in line with the civil aviation standards.

The problem is that the safety engineer(s) failed to understand that the 0.6 limit was self-imposed by the MCAS software, not enforced by any external aircraft element. Therefore, the MCAS software could fail in such a way that it ignored the limit. In consequence, MCAS should have been classifed "Catastrophic".

Everybody can make mistakes. We know this. That is why these safety assessments should be reviewed and challenged inside the company and by the FAA. The need to launch the MAX fast and the lack of FAA oversight resources surely played a greater role than the usage of software and automation.

oaf , April 22, 2019 at 9:46 am

Yves: Thanks for this post; it has (IMO) a level-headed perspective. It is not about assigning *blame*, it is about *What, Why, and How to Prevent* what happened from re-occurring. Blame is for courts and juries. Good luck finding jurors who are not predisposed; due to relentless bombardment with parroted misinformation and factoids.

YY , April 22, 2019 at 10:13 am

I wonder how often MCAS kicked in on a typical 737MAX flight, in situation where the weather vane advising of angle attack was working as per normal. Since we are excluding the time when auto-pilot is working and also the time when the flaps are down, there is only a very small time window immediately after take off. I would venture to guess that the MCAS would almost always adjust the plane at least once. This is once too many, if one is to believe that the notion of design improvement includes improvement in aerodynamic behavior. The fact that MCAS could only be overridden by disabling the entire motor control of the trim suggests that the MCAS feature is absolutely necessary for the thing to fly without surprise stalls. There is no excuse in a series of a product for handling associated with basic safety becoming worse with a new model. Fuel efficiency is laudable and a marketable thing, but not when packaged together with the bad compromise of bad flight behavior. If the fix is only by lines of code, they really have not fixed it completely. We know they are not going to be able to move the engines or the thrust line or increase the ground clearance of the plane so the software fix will be sold as the solution. While it probably does not mean that there will be more planes being trimmed to crash into the ground, it does make for some anxiety for future passengers. Loss of sales would not be a surprise but more of a surprise will be the deliveries that will be completed regardless.

Alex V , April 22, 2019 at 10:34 am

MCAS was intended to rarely if ever activate. It is supposed to nudge the aircraft to a lower angle of attack if AoA is getting high to cause instability in certain parts of the flight envelope. An overly aggressive takeoff climb would be an example. Part of the problem is that a faulty AoA sensor resulted in the system thinking it was at this extreme case, repeatedly, and in a way that was difficult for the pilots to identify since they had not been properly trained and the UX was badly implemented.

YY , April 22, 2019 at 10:52 am

Yes I've heard that. But do not believe it, given how it is implemented. So I really would like to know how it behaves in non-catastrophic situations. If so benign, why not allow it to turn off without turning off trim controls? Did not the earlier 737's not need this feature?

Alex V , April 22, 2019 at 2:19 pm

In a non-catastrophic situation, and if functioning correctly, it's my understanding it would felt by the flight crew as mild lowering of the nose by the system. This is is to keep the plane from increasing angle of attack, which could lead to a stall or other instability.

It's my understanding MCAS should be treated as a separate system from the trim controls, although they both control the pitch of the stabilator. Trim controls are generally not "highly dynamic", in that the system (or pilot) sets the trim value only occasionally based primarily on things like the aircraft weight distribution (this could however change during a flight as fuel is burned, for example). MCAS on the other hand, while monitoring AoA continuously in flight modes where it is activated only kicks in to correct excessive inputs from the pilots, or as a result of atmospheric disturbances (wind shear would be one possible cause of excessive AoA readings).

Neither trim nor MCAS are required to manually fly the plane safely if under direct pilot control and the the pilot is fully situationally aware.

Earlier 737s did not need this feature due to different aerodynamic properties of the plane. They however still have assistive features such as stick shakers to help prevent leaving the normal flight envelope.

Some technical details here:

http://www.b737.org.uk/mcas.htm

Alex V , April 22, 2019 at 2:47 pm

I've read a bit more in regard to allowing MCAS to turn off without turning off trim, I have no idea why it was implemented as it was, since previous 737s allow separate control of trim and MCAS. More here:

https://feitoffake.wordpress.com/2019/04/06/overview-of-many-failures-by-boeing-in-designing-the-boeing-737-max/

This however still doesn't change the fact that neither is required to fly the plane, given proper training and communication, both of which were criminally lacking.

John , April 22, 2019 at 10:13 am

IBG, YBG corporate decisions by people who will probably never fly in these planes, complete regulatory capture and distract with the little people squabbling over technical details. In China there would probably already have been a short trial, a trip to the river bank, a bullet through the head, organ harvesting for the corporate jocks responsible. Team Amrika on the way down.

Synoia , April 22, 2019 at 10:27 am

On the subject of software, the underlying issue of ship and patch later is because the process of software is full of bad practice.

Two examples, "if" and "new".

If is a poor use of a stronger mechanism, FSMs, or Finite State Machines.
'new' is a mechanism that leads to memory leaks, and crashes.

I developed some middleware to bridge data between maineframs and Unix systems that ran 7×24 for 7 years continuously without a failure, because of FSMs and static memory use.

Anarcissie , April 22, 2019 at 5:14 pm

The problem of poor quality in software, like poor quality in almost anything else, is not technological.

BillC , April 22, 2019 at 10:50 am

In an email to me (and presumably to all AAdvantage program members) transmitted at 03:00 April 17 UTC ( i.e. , 11 PM April 16 US EDT), American Airlines states that it is canceling 737 MAX flights through August 19 (instead of June 5 as stated by the earlier newspaper story cited in this post).

Eliminating introductory and concluding paragraphs that are marketing eyewash (re. passenger safety and convenience), the two payload paragraphs state in their entirety:

To avoid last-minute changes and to accommodate customers on other flights with as much notice as possible before their travel date, we have made the decision to extend our cancellations for the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft through August 19, 2019, while we await recertification of the MAX.

While these changes impact only a small portion of our more than 7,000 departures each day this summer, we can plan more reliably for the peak travel season by adjusting our schedule now. Customers whose upcoming travel has been impacted as a result of the schedule change are being contacted by our teams.

I'm surprised this has not already appeared in earlier comments. Anybody else get this?

Yves Smith Post author , April 22, 2019 at 1:13 pm

Will update, thanks!

Peak BS , April 22, 2019 at 11:24 am

Now do Tesla & their bs Tesla Autonomy Investor Day please.

It appears to have it all from beta testing several ton vehicles on public roads, (like BA's beta testing of the MAX) to regulatory capture( of NTSB, & NTHSA as examples) and a currently powerful PR team.

Apparently they're going to show off their "plan" how one will be able to use their Tesla in full autonomous mode while every other OEM sez it can't be done by the end of this year let alone within a couple decades as the average person perceives autonomous driving.

Watch it live here at 11am PCT: https://livestream.tesla.com

737 Pilot , April 22, 2019 at 2:05 pm

First of all, I didn't read the article, so I'm not going to critique it. There were some comments in the excerpt that Yves provided that I think require some clarification and/or correction.

The 737 is not a fly-by-wire (FBW) aircraft. There are multiple twisted steel control cables that connect the flight control in the cockpit to the various control surfaces. The flight controls are hydraulically assisted, but in case of hydraulic (or electric) failure, the cable system is sufficient to control the aircraft.

In both the 737NG and the MAX, there are automation functions that can put in control inputs under various conditions. Every one of these inputs can be overridden by the pilot.

In the case of the recent MAX accidents, the MCAS system put in an unexpected and large input by moving the stabilizer. The crews attempted to oppose this input, but they did so mostly by using elevator input (pulling back on the control column). This required a great deal of arm strength which they eventually could not overcome. However, if either pilot had merely used the strength of their thumb to depress the stabilizer trim switch on the yoke, they could have easily opposed and cancelled out whatever input MCAS was trying to put in. Why neither pilot took this fairly basic measure should be one of the key areas of investigation.

These comments are not intended in any way to exonerate Boeing, the FAA, and the compromises that went into the MAX design. There is a lot there to be concerned about. However, we are not dealing with a case of an automation system that was so powerful and autonomous that pilots could not override what it was trying to do.

marku52 , April 22, 2019 at 5:13 pm

Bjorn over at Leeham had this analysis:
"the Flight Crew followed the procedures prescribed by FAA and Boeing in AD 2018-23-51. And as predicted the Flight Crew could not trim manually, the trim wheel can't be moved at the speeds ET302 flew."

In other words, the pilots followed the Boeing recommended procedure to turn off the automatic trim, but at the speeds they were flying and the large angle that MCAS has moved the stabilizer to, the trim wheels were bound up and could not be moved by human effort.

https://leehamnews.com/2019/04/05/bjorns-corner-et302-crash-report-the-first-analysis/

They then turned electric trim on to try to help their effort, and MCAS put the nose down again.

Also: Did no one ever test the humans factors of this in a simulator? At HP, when we put out a new printer, we had human factors bring in average users to see if using our documentation, they could install the printer.

It is mind-blowing to me that Boeing and the FAA can release an Air Worthiness Directive (The fix after the Lion crash) that was apparently never simulator tested to see if actual humans could do it.

stevelaudig , April 22, 2019 at 2:50 pm

The bureaucratic decision-making model is the same as that which gifted us with the Challenger 'accident' which was no accident.

ChrisPacific , April 22, 2019 at 4:13 pm

None of the above should have passed muster. None of the above should have passed the "OK" pencil of the most junior engineering staff, much less a DER [FAA Designated Engineering Representative].

That's not a big strike. That's a political, social, economic, and technical sin .

This is the thing that has been nagging me all along about this story. The "most junior engineering staff" thing is not an exaggeration – engineers get this drilled into them until it's part of their DNA. I read this and immediately thought that it points to a problem of culture and values (a point I was pleased to see the author make in the next paragraph). Bluntly, it tells us that the engineers are not the ones running the show at Boeing, and that extends even to safety critical situations where their assessment should trump everything.

One of two things needs to happen as a result of this. Either Boeing needs to return to the old safety first culture, or it needs to go out of business. If neither happens, we are going to see a lot more planes falling out of the sky.

VietnamVet , April 22, 2019 at 7:15 pm

I want to reemphasize that all airplane crashes are a chain of events; if one event does not occur there are no causalities. Lion Air flight should never have flow with a faulty sensor. But afterwards when the elevator jackscrew was found in the full nose down position that forced the plane to dive into the Java Sea, Boeing and FAA should have grounded the fleet until a fix was found. The deaths in Ethiopia are on them. The November 2018 737-8 and -9 Airworthiness Directive was criminally negligent. Without adequate training the Ethiopian Airline pilots were overwhelmed and not could trim the elevator after turning off the jackscrew electric motor with the manual trim control due to going too fast with takeoff thrust from start to finish. With deregulation and the end of government oversight, the terrible design of the 737 Max is solely on Boeing and politicians who deregulated certification. Profit clearly drove corporate decisions with no consideration of the consequences. This is popping up consistently now from VW to Quantitative Easing, or the restart of the Cold War. Unless the FAA requires pilot and copilot simulator training on how to manually trim the 737 Max with all hell breaking loose in the cockpit, the only recourse for customers is to boycott flying Boeing. Ultimately the current economic system that puts profit above all else must end if humans are to survive.

[Apr 22, 2019] Claims of Shoddy Production Draw Scrutiny to a Second Boeing Jet

Apr 22, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , April 21, 2019 at 01:21 AM

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/20/business/boeing-dreamliner-production-problems.html

April 20, 2019

Claims of Shoddy Production Draw Scrutiny to a Second Boeing Jet
By Natalie Kitroeff and David Gelles

Workers at a 787 Dreamliner plant in South Carolina have complained of safety lapses, echoing broader concerns about the company.

Boeing is facing questions about rushed production on another jet, the 737 Max, which was involved in two deadly crashes.

ilsm -> anne... , April 21, 2019 at 04:02 AM
The Air Force has delayed delivery of new KC 46's, a B767 rigged to refuel other airplanes for "quality" issues.

[Apr 16, 2019] Boeing has called its 737 Max 8 'not suitable' for certain airports

Apr 16, 2019 | www.latimes.com

Before last month's crash of a flight that began in Ethiopia, Boeing Co. said in a legal document that large, upgraded 737s "cannot be used at what are referred to as 'high/hot' airports."

At an elevation of 7,657 feet -- or more than a mile high -- Addis Ababa's Bole International Airport falls into that category. High elevations require longer runways and faster speeds for takeoff.

[Apr 15, 2019] Trump Says You cannot break the laws of physics and then fix them with software.

Apr 15, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

remove Share link Copy Trump would have been better off Tweeting something like...

"The safety of the flying public worldwide is of the utmost importance to all of us. I have been in constant contact with Boeings CEO and have complete confidence that the improvements they are making will make the 737MAX one of the safest planes ever built. No 737 MAX will take to the skies that I would not put my own family member on".

Not everything is about BRANDING

play_arrow 4 play_arrow 3 Reply Report

DrBrown314 , 22 minutes ago link

See the problem with the max is it will never be safe. What boeing did was try and put a square peg in a round hole. To save costs both in certification and pilot training boeing decided to just take the 737 airframe and put bigger more fuel efficient engines on it so they wouldn't loose market share to airbus. That was a stupid mistake. The bigger engines hung so low they had to mount them higher and more forward thus creating aerodynamic issues. The new engine mounting causes air flow disruption over the inner wing during climb out. That is why they messed with the mcas. You cannot break the laws of physics and then fix them with software. Sorry that will never work.

Cobra Commander , 40 minutes ago link

Boeing is still delivering the 73NG and should make an offer to the airlines to replace each MAX order 1 for 1 with a 737-800 or -900 at cost. The traveling public will have immediate confidence, the airlines can fill schedules, and Boeing can clean house on the MAX "leadership" team.

Cobra!

[Apr 10, 2019] Boeing Sued For Defrauding Shareholders After Fatal Crashes

Notable quotes:
"... Boeing "effectively put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty" by rushing the 737 MAX to market without "extra" or "optional" safety features - a practice that has outraged the company's critics - as it feared ceding market share to Airbus SE. Moreover, Boeing failed to disclose a conflict of interest surrounding its 'regulatory capture' of the FAA, which was revealed to have outsourced much of the approval process for the 737 MAX to Boeing itself. ..."
"... Of course, this shareholder lawsuit is only the tip of the legal iceberg for Boeing. The company will likely face a blizzard of lawsuits filed by family members of those killed during the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes, the first of which has already been filed. ..."
Apr 10, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Boeing shareholders who lost money selling their stock after the Ethiopian Airlines crash are suing the company for concealing unflattering material information from the public, defrauding shareholders in the process, Reuters reports.

The class-action lawsuit, filed in Chicago, is seeking damages after the March 10 crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 wiped $34 billion off Boeing's market cap within two weeks. But if true, the crux of the lawsuit might have broader repercussions for the company as it tries to convince regulators to lift a grounding order that has kept the Boeing 737 MAX 8 grounded since mid-March.

In essence, the suit alleges that the company concealed safety concerns about the 737 MAX and its anti-stall software following the Lion Air crash in October that killed 189 people, but did nothing to alert the public or correct the issue.

Boeing "effectively put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty" by rushing the 737 MAX to market without "extra" or "optional" safety features - a practice that has outraged the company's critics - as it feared ceding market share to Airbus SE. Moreover, Boeing failed to disclose a conflict of interest surrounding its 'regulatory capture' of the FAA, which was revealed to have outsourced much of the approval process for the 737 MAX to Boeing itself.

Lead plaintiff Richard Seeks bought 300 Boeing shares in early March and sold them at a loss after the shares dumped more than 12% in the weeks after the second crash, which would have left him with a loss between $15,000 and $20,000. The lawsuit seeks damages for Boeing investors who bought the company's shares from Jan. 8 to March 21. Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and CFO Gregory Smith have also been named as defendants.

Of course, this shareholder lawsuit is only the tip of the legal iceberg for Boeing. The company will likely face a blizzard of lawsuits filed by family members of those killed during the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes, the first of which has already been filed.

Though its shares have recovered from their post-grounding lows, they have hit another bout of turbulence this week after the company announced that it would slash production of the 737 MAX by 20%, before announcing that its aircraft orders in Q1 fell to 95 from 180 a year earlier.


Know thy enemy , 2 hours ago link

Having grown up in Seattle within 15 miles of Plant 2 on Boeing Field, I know a lot about The Boeing Company. I went to private high school with Bill Boeing III and during college had a great summer job at Troy Laundry delivering shop towels and uniforms to all of the Boeing plants in the region.

I used to laugh because, when I drove the laundries 20ft UPS style box van through those enormous sliding doors into Everett's 747 Plant to deliver fresh laundry and pickup soiled's, I would spend the next 4-hours driving around 'inside' the building. I got to know dozens of workers by name, who 'worked the line'.

After college, more than 20% of my graduating class went to work at 'the lazy B' as it was commonly known. Not me. I went into sales and started selling computers.....to Boeing and the FAA.

As the size my computer sales territory was increased to include the entire West Coast I began to fly Boeing aircraft almost everyday for 10-years. and on-board those aircraft I met and flew with many Boeing executives.

One day I happened to sit next the 'current' Boeing HR director, and after getting to know him confided that I frequently smoked marijuana after work. To which he replied, "I would gladly have the 15% of our work force that are alcoholics, or into hard drugs smoke pot because it's effects are short-term but when people come to work 'hung-over or jacked-up' that is when bad **** happens and mistakes are made".

Even though, I had been 'on the line' and met many Boeing employees I had not realized until that moment the seriousness of what he was saying. The HR guy went on to say, that they 'had to have redundancy at every step in the construction process to ensure bad workmanship didn't make it into the final product'.

Fast forward 20-years; and Boeing airplanes are falling from the sky......and it's not a surprise to me.

IronForge , 3 hours ago link

BA are better off ending the 737MAX; and replacing Orders with another Model Line.

Shockwave , 2 hours ago link

The legacy 737 "NG" is a solid aircraft, and its still being produced down the same build lines as the MAX. Just the previous generation. That plane drove the vast majority of Boeings sales. It woulndt be hard to scale down MAX production and just go back to producing the NG, but they wont do that.

They'll fix the MAX and move on, and as long as no more crashes occur, eventually the public will forget.

JustPastPeacefield , 56 minutes ago link

Thats a hard sell to airlines when the competing plane has a 15% lower operating cost.

silverer , 3 hours ago link

The FED can't let the stock price fall on a company of that size, so the FED trading desk will lend assistance. There is a certain evil in this, because the stock deserves to fall, and when it doesn't, it has the effect of vindicating the company for the events that occurred. This is why free markets should never be meddled with. It's actually immoral.

CatInTheHat , 3 hours ago link

This is utterly predictable and something I've already said repeatedly: Boeing did not tell pilots or its customers about the mechanism. Boeing is criminally liable for the MURDER of 300+ people. Families will sue and cancellations will follow.

Then this:

"In essence, the suit alleges that the company concealed safety concerns about the 737 MAX and its anti-stall software following the Lion Air crash in October that killed 189 people, but did nothing to alert the public or correct the issue.

Boeing "effectively put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty"

Pilots complained about the problem and were IGNORED.

This is good to see. Boeing needs to be held accountable for MURDER. But instead Trump slaps tariffs on the competitor, AIRBUS, to pay for Boeing's criminality.

This will not stop companies choosing AIRBUS and its good safety record over a bunch of psychopathic murderers. If Boeing had put safety first, it's competitor would not be picking up business..ironic...

3-fingered_chemist , 3 hours ago link

I still don't understand the point of the MCAS. Clearly it causes the plane to do a face plant into the ground. However, like in that one situation where the jump seat pilot knew to turn it off, the plane flew fine. Boeing says the MCAS is to prevent the plane from stalling at steep angles of attack, but the plane seems to stay in the air better without it. So which is it? The fact is the Boeing neglected to put it in the manual suggests it was done on purpose. The fact that they sold a version with no redundancy to the AOC sensor seems to be have done on purpose. Since Boeing is basically an arm of the DOD, the question should be who was on the flights that crashed? That's the missing link in this debacle.

ArtOfIgnorance , 3 hours ago link

Check out " moonofalabama.org ", very good explanation, plus some further links to pilot forums.

From what I understand, the pilots get into some sort of "catch 22"....even if they switch of the MACS, they are doomed.

I'm not I anyway in the flying biz, but work in power generating control systems, and funny enough, use quite a lot of Rosemount sensors in ex areas. They are good sensors, but always use two in mission critical operations.

Why Boeing opted for just one, really blows my mind.

What would an extra sensor cost, 10.000USD?, altogether with new software..bla-bla.

Now look what this is costing them.

Well, this is what happens when MBA bean counters take over a former proud engineering company.

Tragic.

Urban Roman , 3 hours ago link

From what I understand, the pilots get into some sort of "catch 22"....even if they switch of the MACS, they are doomed.

Sort of like that. The flight surface is controlled by a big screw. Normally an electric motor spins the nut that drives the screw up and down. The switch cuts out the motor, and they have hand cranks to move the screw. But in this last crash, the too-clever-by-half software system had already run the screw all the way to the 'nose down' end, and it would have taken them several minutes of hand cranking to get it back to the center position. They didn't have several minutes, and the motor is capable of driving the screw the other way. Since the problem was intermittent (software kicks in on a time interval), they were hoping it would behave for a few seconds, and switched the motor back on. It didn't.

On a side note, the Airbus does not have these hand-crank controls. Everything is run by the computer -- so if anything goes wrong, the pilot must 'reason' with the computer to correct it. . . "Sorry Dave, I can't do that".

Well, this is what happens when MBA bean counters take over a former proud engineering company.

This reminds me of Feynman's analysis of what went wrong with the Space Shuttle Challenger. The engineers said the O-rings would be too stiff and brittle, and the launch should wait until it warmed up a bit. But a delay was costing the shuttle program a million dollars a minute, or whatever.

Feynman explained that the early space program was run by the pocket-protector guys with slide rules. And it worked. But over time the management had been replaced by people whose careers depended on influencing other people and not on matter, energy, and materials.

Shockwave , 2 hours ago link

Another thing, the pilots had commanded full throttle and never throttled back during the whole ordeal. So when they killed the trim motor, they couldn't overcome the aerodynamic force on the stab to move the trim screw back into position.

Apparently they could have got the trim corrected ENOUGH to make a difference if they could have moved it more easily, but at the speeds they were going, the airspeed over the stab was too high to manually move the screw fast enough to make a difference.

jerry-jeff , 1 hour ago link

another interesting point is that the system is deactivated when flaps are selected...only works when aircraft is in 'clean' config.

Shockwave , 1 hour ago link

Interesting. Did not know that.

Shockwave , 2 hours ago link

Sort of. When you kill the electric trim motor, you have to use a manual wheel to adjust trim. The issue came that their airspeed was so high that the load on the stab made it nearly impossible to move without the electric motor.

They had been at full throttle from rotation until they hit the dirt. The pilot had told the copilot to throttle back but it got lost in the chaos somewhere and never happened.

So when they killed the trim motor and tried to move it manually, they had to overcome all the aerodynamic force on the stab, and they just couldnt do it at those airspeeds without the electric motor to overcome the force.

MilwaukeeMark , 3 hours ago link

The bigger the fuselage the bigger the engines needed. The bigger the engines needed the more forward on the wing they go to keep from scraping on the ground. The more forward on the wing the more unbalanced then plane became. They've stretch a frame which was developed in the 60's beyond its original design.

MilwaukeeMark , 4 hours ago link

The executives who oversaw the fiasco that is now Boeing, long ago parachuted out with multi million dollar pensions and stock options while their Seattle workers had their pensions slashed. They're now assembling Dreamliners in NC with off the street non unionized labor, former TacoBell and Subway workers. They moved their Corp headquarters to Chicago away from where the actual work was being performed to pursue the "work" of stock buy backs and cozying up to the FAA. All the above a recipe for disaster. A perfect mirror of how the 1/10th of 1% operate in the Oligarchy we call America.

thunderchief , 4 hours ago link

Boeing is in full on crisis mode because of the 737 Max fiasco.

Anything else they say or do is pure show and fraud.

The are not to far from losing the entire narrowbody airline market, pretty much the meat and bones of Airline production.

Today Airbus still has the A-320 neo, and Russia and China are chomping at the bit with the MC21 and C919, all far more advanced and superior than a 1960's designed stretched pulled and too late 737 .

If Boeing loses market share and the narrow body airline market, shame on the USA.

This will become a text book expample of the fall of a nation and empire.

How can a Company like Boeing have technology like the B2 and everything the DOD gives them and lose the international market for narrowbody airliners..

To call this a national disgrace is a compliment to Boeing and the US aerospace industies complete disregard and hubris in such an important component of worldwide aviation.

This in not a sad chapter for Boeing, its sad for the USA

south40_dreams , 4 hours ago link

Boeing is headquartered in Shitcago, how fitting

wally_12 , 3 hours ago link

Don't forget K-Cars, Vega, Pinto, Aztec etc. Auto industry has the type of idiots as Boeing.

Government bailout on the horizon.

south40_dreams , 3 hours ago link

Not bailout, coverup and lots and lots of lipstick will be applied to this pig

IronForge , 2 hours ago link

BeanCounters, Parasitoids, and Bells-WhistlesMktg Types Running an Aerospace/Aviation Engineering and Defense Tech Conglomerate into the Ground - Literally.

Civil Aviation Div "Jumped the Shark" the moment they passed on a redesigned Successor to the 737 Base Model in the mid 2000s and decided to strap on Larger Engines and GunDeck the Revision and Certifications.

So Sad Too Bad. No Sympathies for BA.

Catullus , 4 hours ago link

Failure to disclose regulatory capture is a tough one. Do you issue an 8K on that one? Maybe bury it in the 10K in risk statements

"We maintain several regulatory relationships that will rubber stamp approvals for our aircraft. In the event of a major safety violation, those cozy relationships could be exposed and we be found to not only be negligent, but also nefariously so through regulatory capture."

You bought an airline manufacturer that had a malfunction. There's plenty of people to blame, but it's part of the business you own.

boooyaaaah , 4 hours ago link

Question?
Are the millennials too dishonest for freedom

Free markets, free exchange of ideas and information

The truth shall set you free

Arrow4Truth , 2 hours ago link

They have no comprehension of freedom, which translates to, they are incapable of seeing the truth. The indoctrination has worked swimmingly.

haley's_vomit , 4 hours ago link

Nikki 'luvsNetanyahu' Haley is Boeing's 'rabidjew' answer to their "look! up in the sky! it's Silverstein's Air Force"

[Apr 10, 2019] Boeing's 737 Max 1960s Design, 1990s Computing Power and Paper Manuals

Apr 10, 2019 | www.nytimes.com

The 737 Max is a legacy of its past, built on decades-old systems, many that date back to the original version. The strategy, to keep updating the plane rather than starting from scratch, offered competitive advantages. Pilots were comfortable flying it, while airlines didn't have to invest in costly new training for their pilots and mechanics. For Boeing, it was also faster and cheaper to redesign and recertify than starting anew.

But the strategy has now left the company in crisis, following two deadly crashes in less than five months. The Max stretched the 737 design, creating a patchwork plane that left pilots without some safety features that could be important in a crisis -- ones that have been offered for years on other planes. It is the only modern Boeing jet without an electronic alert system that explains what is malfunctioning and how to resolve it. Instead pilots have to check a manual.

The Max also required makeshift solutions to keep the plane flying like its ancestors, workarounds that may have compromised safety. While the findings aren't final, investigators suspect that one workaround, an anti-stall system designed to compensate for the larger engines, was central to the crash last month in Ethiopia and an earlier one in Indonesia.

"They wanted to A, save money and B, to minimize the certification and flight-test costs," said Mike Renzelmann, an engineer who worked on the Max's flight controls. "Any changes are going to require recertification." Mr. Renzelmann was not involved in discussions about the sensors.

... ... ...

On 737s, a light typically indicates the problem and pilots have to flip through their paper manuals to find next steps. In the doomed Indonesia flight, as the Lion Air pilots struggled with MCAS for control, the pilots consulted the manual moments before the jet plummeted into the Java Sea, killing all 189 people aboard.

"Meanwhile, I'm flying the jet," said Mr. Tajer, the American Airlines 737 captain. "Versus, pop, it's on your screen. It tells you, This is the problem and here's the checklist that's recommended."

Boeing decided against adding it to the Max because it could have prompted regulators to require new pilot training, according to two former Boeing employees involved in the decision.

The Max also runs on a complex web of cables and pulleys that, when pilots pull back on the controls, transfer that movement to the tail. By comparison, Airbus jets and Boeing's more modern aircraft, such as the 777 and 787, are "fly-by-wire," meaning pilots' movement of the flight controls is fed to a computer that directs the plane. The design allows for far more automation, including systems that prevent the jet from entering dangerous situations, such as flying too fast or too low. Some 737 pilots said they preferred the cable-and-pulley system to fly-by-wire because they believed it gave them more control.

In the recent crashes, investigators believe the MCAS malfunctioned and moved a tail flap called the stabilizer, tilting the plane toward the ground. On the doomed Ethiopian Airlines flight, the pilots tried to combat the system by cutting power to the stabilizer's motor, according to the preliminary crash report.

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Once the power was cut, the pilots tried to regain control manually by turning a wheel next to their seat. The 737 is the last modern Boeing jet that uses a manual wheel as its backup system. But Boeing has long known that turning the wheel is difficult at high speeds, and may have required two pilots to work together.

In the final moments of the Ethiopian Airlines flight, the first officer said the method wasn't working, according to the preliminary crash report. About 1 minute and 49 seconds later, the plane crashed, killing 157 people.

Steve Lovelien Waukesha,WI 25m ago

The Seattle Times published what I consider a devastating article a few Sundays ago. It highlighted the depth to which Boeing and the FAA cut corners on the certification of the Max, more specifically the characterization of the impact of a failure of the new MCAS system. This allowed them to utilize the cheaper single sensor AOA vane instead of 2 or 3. The aircraft also got delivered with the MCAS system applying many more nose down units of trim than what was published in the certification process. Topping it off was the failure of Boeing to disclose to its customers that the MCAS system was installed or what abnormal or emergency procedures would accompany the system.


Catalin Iasi 2h ago

True, there are two kinds of pilots, and some are better. BUT no pilot should be put in a critical situation by bad and rushed design. What was Boeing thinking? `Yes, there is slight chance that things can go wrong... but if the pilot is experienced, if the weather is fine, if the FO is focused (and so on...) they will surely make it.' Why taking that risk? They should design a plane that even a drunk pilot can handle.
AeroEngineer Toronto 2h ago
The MCAS moves the entire horizontal tail (aka horizontal stabilizer) not just "a tail flap called the stabilizer". Normal stabilizer trim also moves the whole horizontal stabilizer. Presumably the "flap" being referred to here, incorrectly, is the elevator, a flight control surface on the trailing edge of the horizontal tail, which is control by pulling and pushing the flight control column. Both horizontal stabilizer trim and elevator affect the pitch (nose up, nose down) of the aircraft. Typically, horizontal stabilizer trim is used to maintain a particular attitude (e.g. level flight in cruise) without requiring the pilot to continously apply significant forces to the control column, which is tiring. When MCAS engages it effectively is attempting to "cancel out" the pilot's elevator command (pulling back on the control column to bring the nose up by ) by moving the horizontal stabilizer to counteract the pilots action (rotating the the horizontal stabilizer so that it's leading edge points down).
Tony Boston 2h ago
Boeing should have gone with a clean sheet of paper design. Look at the Airbus A220, previously known as Bombardier C Series. It has nearly similar seating, yet it carries less fuel, but has a longer range than the MAX8. Modern wing design. Heck, Boeing should have just bought Bombardier 10 years ago. Now they are in the arms of Airbus.
Ed N Southbury,CT 2h ago
Why doesn't BA just trash the entire max8 program and become a subcontractor for A320s instead? After all there is a demand for 5000 aircraft that now will not be fulfilled. Boeing management should be put on trial for criminal negligence.
Jim Mooney Apache Junction, AZ 2h ago
Finally, a comprehensive report that doesn't go on and on about software. The problem was a mechanical and training one, and instead of fixing the problems, the Bean Counters took over and went on the cheap.

[Apr 09, 2019] Boeing's 737 Max 1960s Design, 1990s Computing Power and Paper Manuals - The New York Times

Apr 09, 2019 | www.nytimes.com

Pilots start some new Boeing planes by turning a knob and flipping two switches.

The Boeing 737 Max, the newest passenger jet on the market, works differently. Pilots follow roughly the same seven steps used on the first 737 nearly 52 years ago: Shut off the cabin's air-conditioning, redirect the air flow, switch on the engine, start the flow of fuel, revert the air flow, turn back on the air conditioning, and turn on a generator.

The 737 Max is a legacy of its past, built on decades-old systems, many that date back to the original version. The strategy, to keep updating the plane rather than starting from scratch, offered competitive advantages. Pilots were comfortable flying it, while airlines didn't have to invest in costly new training for their pilots and mechanics. For Boeing, it was also faster and cheaper to redesign and recertify than starting anew.

But the strategy has now left the company in crisis, following two deadly crashes in less than five months . The Max stretched the 737 design, creating a patchwork plane that left pilots without some safety features that could be important in a crisis -- ones that have been offered for years on other planes. It is the only modern Boeing jet without an electronic alert system that explains what is malfunctioning and how to resolve it. Instead pilots have to check a manual.

The Max also required makeshift solutions to keep the plane flying like its ancestors, workarounds that may have compromised safety. While the findings aren't final, investigators suspect that one workaround, an anti-stall system designed to compensate for the larger engines, was central to the crash last month in Ethiopia and an earlier one in Indonesia.

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The Max "ain't your father's Buick," said Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the American Airlines pilots' union who has flown the 737 for a decade. He added that "it's not lost on us that the foundation of this aircraft is from the '60s."

Dean Thornton, the president of Boeing, with an engine on the first 737-400 in 1988 in Seattle. The larger engines for Boeing's new Max line of jets prompted a number of design issues. Credit Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times, via Associated Press
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Dean Thornton, the president of Boeing, with an engine on the first 737-400 in 1988 in Seattle. The larger engines for Boeing's new Max line of jets prompted a number of design issues. Credit Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times, via Associated Press

[Boeing was "go, go, go " to beat Airbus with the 737 Max.]

The Max, Boeing's best-selling model, with more than 5,000 orders, is suddenly a reputational hazard. It could be weeks or months before regulators around the world lift their ban on the plane, after Boeing's expected software fix was delayed . Southwest Airlines and American Airlines have canceled some flights through May because of the Max grounding.

The company has slowed production of the plane, putting pressure on its profits, and some buyers are reconsidering their orders. Shares of the company fell over 4 percent on Monday, and are down 11 percent since the Ethiopia crash.

"It was state of the art at the time, but that was 50 years ago," said Rick Ludtke, a former Boeing engineer who helped design the Max's cockpit. "It's not a good airplane for the current environment."

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The 737 has long been a reliable aircraft, flying for decades with relatively few issues. Gordon Johndroe, a Boeing spokesman, defended the development of the Max, saying that airlines wanted an updated 737 over a new single-aisle plane and that pilots were involved in its design.

"Listening to pilots is an important aspect of our work. Their experienced input is front-and-center in our mind when we develop airplanes," he said in a statement. "We share a common priority -- safety -- and we listen carefully to their feedback." He added that American regulators approved the plane under the same standards they used with previous aircraft.

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Boeing introduced the 737 Max as a reliable fuel- and cost-efficient solution to air travel in the 21st century. After two fatal Max crashes, all of the Max aircraft in the world are believed to have been grounded. Credit Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

[ Boeing announced that it was going to cut production of the 737 Max. ]

Boeing's chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg, said in a statement on Friday that the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia appeared to have been caused by the Max's new anti-stall system. "We have the responsibility to eliminate this risk, and we know how to do it," he said.

At a factory near Seattle on Jan. 17, 1967, flight attendants christened the first Boeing 737, smashing champagne bottles over its wing. Boeing pitched the plane as a smaller alternative to its larger jets, earning it the nickname the "Baby Boeing."

Early on, sales lagged Boeing's biggest competitor, McDonnell Douglas. In 1972, Boeing had delivered just 14 of the jets, and it considered selling the program to a Japanese manufacturer, said Peter Morton, the 737 marketing manager in the early 1970s. "We had to decide if we were going to end it, or invest in it," Mr. Morton said.

Ultimately, Boeing invested. The 737 eventually began to sell, bolstered by airline deregulation in 1978. Six years later, Boeing updated the 737 with its "classic" series, followed by the "next generation" in 1997, and the Max in 2017. Now nearly one in every three domestic flights in the United States is on a 737, more than any other line of aircraft.

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Each of the three redesigns came with a new engine, updates to the cabin and other changes. But Boeing avoided overhauling the jet in order to appease airlines, according to current and former Boeing executives, pilots and engineers, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the open investigations. Airlines wanted new 737s to match their predecessors so pilots could skip expensive training in flight simulators and easily transition to new jets.

Boeing 737 Max: What's Happened After Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air Crashes

Boeing has come under intense scrutiny after its best-selling 737 Max jet was involved in two deadly crashes in five months.

Boeing's strategy worked. The Federal Aviation Administration never required simulator training for pilots switching from one 737 to the next.

"Airlines don't want Boeing to give them a fancy new product if it requires them to retrain their pilots," said Matthew Menza, a former 737 Max test pilot for Boeing. "So you iterate off a design that's 50 years old. The old adage is: If it's not broke, don't fix it."

It did require engineering ingenuity, to ensure a decades-old jet handled mostly the same. In doing so, some of the jet's one-time selling points became challenges.

For instance, in the early years of the 737, jet travel was rapidly expanding across the world. The plane's low-slung frame was a benefit for airlines and airports in developing countries. Workers there could load bags by hand without a conveyor belt and maintain the engines without a lift, Mr. Morton said. In the decades that followed, the low frame repeatedly complicated efforts to fit bigger engines under the wing.

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By 2011, Boeing executives were starting to question whether the 737 design had run its course. The company wanted to create an entirely new single-aisle jet. Then Boeing's rival Airbus added a new fuel-efficient engine to its line of single-aisle planes, the A320, and Boeing quickly decided to update the jet again.

The 737 Max 8 at Boeing's plant in Renton, Wash. Nearly one in every three domestic flights in the United States is on a 737, more than any other line of aircraft. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
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The 737 Max 8 at Boeing's plant in Renton, Wash. Nearly one in every three domestic flights in the United States is on a 737, more than any other line of aircraft. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

"We all rolled our eyes. The idea that, 'Here we go. The 737 again,'" said Mr. Ludtke, the former 737 Max cockpit designer who spent 19 years at Boeing.

"Nobody was quite perhaps willing to say it was unsafe, but we really felt like the limits were being bumped up against," he added.

Some engineers were frustrated they would have to again spend years updating the same jet, taking care to limit any changes, instead of starting fresh and incorporating significant technological advances, the current and former engineers and pilots said. The Max still has roughly the original layout of the cockpit and the hydraulic system of cables and pulleys to control the plane, which aren't used in modern designs. The flight-control computers have roughly the processing power of 1990s home computers. A Boeing spokesman said the aircraft was designed with an appropriate level of technology to ensure safety.

When engineers did make changes, it sometimes created knock-on effects for how the plane handled, forcing Boeing to get creative. The company added a new system that moves plates on the wing in part to reduce stress on the plane from its added weight. Boeing recreated the decades-old physical gauges on digital screens.

As Boeing pushed its engineers to figure out how to accommodate bigger, more fuel-efficient engines, height was again an issue. Simply lengthening the landing gear to make the plane taller could have violated rules for exiting the plane in an emergency.

Boeing 737 engines at the company's factory in 2012. By 2011, Boeing executives were starting to question whether the 737 design had run its course. Credit Stephen Brashear/Associated Press
Image
Boeing 737 engines at the company's factory in 2012. By 2011, Boeing executives were starting to question whether the 737 design had run its course. Credit Stephen Brashear/Associated Press
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Instead, engineers were able to add just a few inches to the front landing gear and shift the engines farther forward on the wing. The engines fit, but the Max sat at a slightly uneven angle when parked.

While that design solved one problem, it created another. The larger size and new location of the engines gave the Max the tendency to tilt up during certain flight maneuvers, potentially to a dangerous angle.

To compensate, Boeing engineers created the automated anti-stall system, called MCAS, that pushed the jet's nose down if it was lifting too high. The software was intended to operate in the background so that the Max flew just like its predecessor. Boeing didn't mention the system in its training materials for the Max.

Boeing also designed the system to rely on a single sensor -- a rarity in aviation, where redundancy is common. Several former Boeing engineers who were not directly involved in the system's design said their colleagues most likely opted for such an approach since relying on two sensors could still create issues. If one of two sensors malfunctioned, the system could struggle to know which was right.

Airbus addressed this potential problem on some of its planes by installing three or more such sensors. Former Max engineers, including one who worked on the sensors, said adding a third sensor to the Max was a nonstarter. Previous 737s, they said, had used two and managers wanted to limit changes.

The angle of attack sensor, bottom, on a Boeing 737 Max 8. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Image
The angle of attack sensor, bottom, on a Boeing 737 Max 8. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

"They wanted to A, save money and B, to minimize the certification and flight-test costs," said Mike Renzelmann, an engineer who worked on the Max's flight controls. "Any changes are going to require recertification." Mr. Renzelmann was not involved in discussions about the sensors.

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The Max also lacked more modern safety features.

Most new Boeing jets have electronic systems that take pilots through their preflight checklists, ensuring they don't skip a step and potentially miss a malfunctioning part. On the Max, pilots still complete those checklists manually in a book.

A second electronic system found on other Boeing jets also alerts pilots to unusual or hazardous situations during flight and lays out recommended steps to resolve them.

On 737s, a light typically indicates the problem and pilots have to flip through their paper manuals to find next steps. In the doomed Indonesia flight, as the Lion Air pilots struggled with MCAS for control, the pilots consulted the manual moments before the jet plummeted into the Java Sea, killing all 189 people aboard.

"Meanwhile, I'm flying the jet," said Mr. Tajer, the American Airlines 737 captain. "Versus, pop, it's on your screen. It tells you, This is the problem and here's the checklist that's recommended."

Boeing decided against adding it to the Max because it could have prompted regulators to require new pilot training, according to two former Boeing employees involved in the decision.

The Max also runs on a complex web of cables and pulleys that, when pilots pull back on the controls, transfer that movement to the tail. By comparison, Airbus jets and Boeing's more modern aircraft, such as the 777 and 787, are "fly-by-wire," meaning pilots' movement of the flight controls is fed to a computer that directs the plane. The design allows for far more automation, including systems that prevent the jet from entering dangerous situations, such as flying too fast or too low. Some 737 pilots said they preferred the cable-and-pulley system to fly-by-wire because they believed it gave them more control.

In the recent crashes, investigators believe the MCAS malfunctioned and moved a tail flap called the stabilizer, tilting the plane toward the ground. On the doomed Ethiopian Airlines flight, the pilots tried to combat the system by cutting power to the stabilizer's motor, according to the preliminary crash report.

Advertisement

Once the power was cut, the pilots tried to regain control manually by turning a wheel next to their seat. The 737 is the last modern Boeing jet that uses a manual wheel as its backup system. But Boeing has long known that turning the wheel is difficult at high speeds, and may have required two pilots to work together.

In the final moments of the Ethiopian Airlines flight, the first officer said the method wasn't working, according to the preliminary crash report. About 1 minute and 49 seconds later, the plane crashed, killing 157 people.

Correction : April 8, 2019

An earlier version of this article transposed the death tolls in two crashes involving Boeing's 737 Max jets. In the Lion Air crash in Indonesia last year, 189 people died, not 157; 157 people were killed in the Ethiopian Airlines crash last month, not 189. Rebecca R. Ruiz and Stephen Grocer contributed reporting. Kitty Bennett contributed research. A version of this article appears in print on April 9, 2019 , on Page A 1 of the New York edition with the headline: Boeing's 737 Max: '60s Design Meets '90s Computing Power. Order Reprints | Today's Paper | Subscribe

[Apr 08, 2019] Trump deadly deregulation

Apr 04, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne , April 05, 2019 at 01:50 PM

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/04/opinion/trump-deadly-deregulation.html

April 4, 2019

Donald Trump Is Trying to Kill You: Trust the pork producers; fear the wind turbines. By Paul Krugman

There's a lot we don't know about the legacy Donald Trump will leave behind. And it is, of course, hugely important what happens in the 2020 election. But one thing seems sure: Even if he's a one-term president, Trump will have caused, directly or indirectly, the premature deaths of a large number of Americans.

Some of those deaths will come at the hands of right-wing, white nationalist extremists, who are a rapidly growing threat, partly because they feel empowered by a president who calls them "very fine people."

Some will come from failures of governance, like the inadequate response to Hurricane Maria, which surely contributed to the high death toll in Puerto Rico. (Reminder: Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.)

Some will come from the administration's continuing efforts to sabotage Obamacare, which have failed to kill health reform but have stalled the decline in the number of uninsured, meaning that many people still aren't getting the health care they need. Of course, if Trump gets his way and eliminates Obamacare altogether, things on this front will get much, much worse.

But the biggest death toll is likely to come from Trump's agenda of deregulation -- or maybe we should call it "deregulation," because his administration is curiously selective about which industries it wants to leave alone.

Consider two recent events that help capture the deadly strangeness of what's going on.

One is the administration's plan for hog plants to take over much of the federal responsibility for food safety inspections. And why not? It's not as if we've seen safety problems arise from self-regulation in, say, the aircraft industry, have we? Or as if we ever experience major outbreaks of food-borne illness? Or as if there was a reason the U.S. government stepped in to regulate meatpacking in the first place?

Now, you could see the Trump administration's willingness to trust the meat industry to keep our meat safe as part of an overall attack on government regulation, a willingness to trust profit-making businesses to do the right thing and let the market rule. And there's something to that, but it's not the whole story, as illustrated by another event: Trump's declaration the other day that wind turbines cause cancer.

Now, you could put this down to personal derangement: Trump has had an irrational hatred for wind power ever since he failed to prevent construction of a wind farm near his Scottish golf course. And Trump seems deranged and irrational on so many issues that one more bizarre claim hardly seems to matter.

But there's more to this than just another Trumpism. After all, we normally think of Republicans in general, and Trump in particular, as people who minimize or deny the "negative externalities" imposed by some business activities -- the uncompensated costs they impose on other people or businesses.

For example, the Trump administration wants to roll back rules that limit emissions of mercury from power plants. And in pursuit of that goal, it wants to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from taking account of many of the benefits from reduced mercury emissions, such as an associated reduction in nitrogen oxide.

But when it comes to renewable energy, Trump and company are suddenly very worried about supposed negative side effects, which generally exist only in their imagination. Last year the administration floated a proposal that would have forced the operators of electricity grids to subsidize coal and nuclear energy. The supposed rationale was that new sources were threatening to destabilize those grids -- but the grid operators themselves denied that this was the case.

So it's deregulation for some, but dire warnings about imaginary threats for others. What's going on?

Part of the answer is, follow the money. Political contributions from the meat-processing industry overwhelmingly favor Republicans. Coal mining supports the G.O.P. almost exclusively. Alternative energy, on the other hand, generally favors Democrats.

There are probably other things, too. If you're a party that wishes we could go back to the 1950s (but without the 91 percent top tax rate), you're going to have a hard time accepting the reality that hippie-dippy, unmanly things like wind and solar power are becoming ever more cost-competitive.

Whatever the drivers of Trump policy, the fact, as I said, is that it will kill people. Wind turbines don't cause cancer, but coal-burning power plants do -- along with many other ailments. The Trump administration's own estimates indicate that its relaxation of coal pollution rules will kill more than 1,000 Americans every year. If the administration gets to implement its full agenda -- not just deregulation of many industries, but discrimination against industries it doesn't like, such as renewable energy -- the toll will be much higher.

So if you eat meat -- or, for that matter, drink water or breathe air -- there's a real sense in which Donald Trump is trying to kill you. And even if he's turned out of office next year, for many Americans it will be too late.

ilsm -> anne... , April 05, 2019 at 03:56 PM
"uninsured" in the for profit system is a terrible measure!

US health outcomes in relation to OEDC remains sad.

point -> anne... , April 05, 2019 at 07:19 PM
One wonders how when expected deaths are 1/x and activity is x, then the product does not mean 1 expected death, and then ordinary legal consequences.
mulp -> anne... , April 06, 2019 at 03:25 AM
Trump does not want to go back to the 50s when government policy was to greatly increase costs by paying more workers more, while driving down prices, and elinimating rents and scarcity profits.

Trump wants to kill jobs that are paid, but force work that is unpaid.

Well, if you means 1850, by the 50s, that's when Trump would have excelled by raping his slaves to create more workers he would force to work, probably Brazil style, worked to death to cut costs, based on continued enslavement of slaves, ie, no ban on slave imports after 1808.

JohnH -> anne... , April 06, 2019 at 03:39 PM
Trump may be trying to kill us...but do Democrats have a plan to save us? So far, I can discern no coherent message or plan from corrupt, comatose Democrats other than 'Trump is guilty [of something or other.]
mulp -> JohnH... , April 07, 2019 at 03:11 PM
You are simply rejecting Democrats calls to reverse policies since 1970 to MAGA as failed liberal policies because its not new, never tried before, and not free.

The growth of the 50s and 60s was too costly, requiring people to work, save, and pay ever rising prices, taxes, and living costs.

You want economics where you can buy a million dollar home for $50,000 and have schools funded by modest property taxes on million dollar homes, but with low tax rates on houses assessed at $40,000.

TANSTAAFL

The only way working class families get better off is by paying higher costs.

Zero sum.

Christopher H. said in reply to anne... , April 07, 2019 at 11:00 AM
The Jungle was written about Chicago and Chicago just elected 5 (possibly 6) socialists to the City Council (which is made up of 50 total alderman).

Chicago also elected a black lesbian mayor but she's not that progressive.

I guess Krugman would dismiss this all as "purity" politics.

https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/andre-vasquex-democratic-socialist-pat-oconnor-40th-ward-aldermanic-election/

04/05/2019, 05:37pm

Meet the democratic socialist who sent Rahm's floor leader packing

By Mark Brown

There's never been a Chicago politician who quite fits the profile of Andre Vasquez, the former battle rapper and current democratic socialist who just took down veteran 40th Ward Ald. Patrick O'Connor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's city council floor leader.

That probably scares some people.

But those folks might want to nod to the wisdom of the 54 percent of voters in the North Side ward who waded through an onslaught of attack ads and concluded they have nothing to fear from the 39-year-old AT&T account manager, his music or his politics.

I stopped by Vasquez's campaign office to satisfy my own curiosity about this new breed of aldermen. Vasquez will be part of a Chicago City Council bloc of at least five, probably six democratic socialists who, if nothing else, will alter the debate on a range of issues.

Vazquez said he understands democratic socialism as "just injecting a healthy dose of democracy in a system we already have.

"Where we see the influence of big money and corporations in our government, where we see the corruption in the council, where we see elected officials as bought and paid for, to me, democratic socialism is providing a counterbalance," he said.

Vasquez also reminded me that generalizing about democratic socialists is as foolish as generalizing about Democrats.

"I think even within democratic socialism there's such a spectrum of different folks, right? I tend to be a counterbalance to some of the louder stuff, the louder hardcore, what some would view as extreme," said Vasquez, noting that he sometimes takes flak within democratic socialist circles because he's never read Marx and doesn't "bleed rose red."

"Everyone's got their part to play," he said. "Somebody's going to be the loud one in the room because you need that kind of impetus to move things forward. And someone's got to be the one who's making deals on legislation. You can't have ideological fights and think you're going to come up with solutions."

Though Vasquez prefers the dealmaker role, his background suggests he also could get loud if the occasion demanded.

Until he decided it was time to do something else with his life around 2010, Vasquez was a battle rapper who performed under the stage name Prime. He had enough success to pay the bills for a while, touring nationally and appearing on MTV's "Direct Effect" and HBO's "Blaze Battle."

For old people like me who are unclear on the concept (begging the pardon of the rest of you), battle rapping involves performers trading insults in rhyme put to music.

"Then, imagine you have a crowd around you," Vasquez explained. "And now people are cheering you on, and the insults are getting more vicious and intricate, and it becomes a sporting match. Right? So, in that arena, you're getting heralded for how well you can insult the person in front of you while rhyming and improvising all as this stream of consciousness is coming out."

I suggested a battle rap might occasionally be just the antidote to the drudgery of a council meeting, but Vasquez wasn't amused.

The problem with battle rapping, as 40th Ward voters were reminded ad nauseam during the runoff campaign, is that the genre relies heavily on crude insults invoking disrespectful terms for women and LGBTQ individuals.

"The issue is toxic masculinity plagues everything," said Vasquez, who obliquely fronted an apology for his past verbal misdeeds early in the campaign -- and more directly when hit with a barrage of negative mailers detailing a greatest hits of his transgressions.

A lesser candidate would have been toast at that point, but Vasquez had girded himself in advance through his door-to-door organizing.

By then, enough 40th Ward residents knew who Vasquez really was -- the son of Guatemalan immigrants, a city kid from the neighborhoods who had become a family guy with two young kids and a late-discovered talent for politics -- that they couldn't be scared off.

Vasquez, who lives in Edgewater, was introduced to politics when he felt the Bern in 2014 and volunteered for Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. A left-leaning community group, Reclaim Chicago, then recruited Vasquez to expand upon his organizing talents -- and taught him how to build a classic grassroots campaign.

The result is a new Latino alderman in a ward where fewer than one-fifth of the voters are Latino. And a Democratic Socialist representing a ward previously ruled by Emanuel's floor leader.

"I'm not trying to plant a flag," Vasquez said. "I'm trying to make sure that people can live here and not be forced out."

Christopher H. said in reply to Christopher H.... , April 07, 2019 at 11:02 AM
"Vasquez, who lives in Edgewater, was introduced to politics when he felt the Bern in 2014 and volunteered for Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. A left-leaning community group, Reclaim Chicago, then recruited Vasquez to expand upon his organizing talents -- and taught him how to build a classic grassroots campaign."

I like the centrists like Krugman and liberals here like EMike who dismiss Bernie as a cult of personality. No he's spurring local organizing which doesn't revolve around him.

mulp -> Christopher H.... , April 07, 2019 at 03:34 PM
Will Bernie as president build walls around big cities like Chicago, build iron Curtains, to keep the rich inside these cities where all their wealth is taxed away every year, and they are prevented from moving to the towns outside Chicago city limits?

[Apr 08, 2019] A320 series vs B737 Max 8

Notable quotes:
"... In fact Airbus 320 series never had the same issue as it was properly designed from scratch and not like Max 8 retrofitted to carry bigger engines by that changing distribution of balance of the Aircraft and hence requiring steeper ascending angle and faster speed (for the same wing design) and hence by design more prone to stalling while in takeoff phase. ..."
"... So what is the same in B737 Max and A320 was response of AI software to sensor failures and specific external conditions of flight. In both cases such scenarios were never trained in simulators. ..."
Apr 08, 2019 | www.wsws.org

Kalen4 days ago

Thanks for the report but I may add that AI auto pilot systems on Airbus are not same or similar to MCAS as they are all integrated in autopilot on A320 series while on B737 Max 8 they are completely separate from one another not communicating at all.

In fact Airbus 320 series never had the same issue as it was properly designed from scratch and not like Max 8 retrofitted to carry bigger engines by that changing distribution of balance of the Aircraft and hence requiring steeper ascending angle and faster speed (for the same wing design) and hence by design more prone to stalling while in takeoff phase.

The problem with A320 crash over Atlantic was failure of one or two of two sensors and while in cruise phase of flight autopilot AI software response was just inappropriate in fact detrimental as pilots were blinded disoriented during night over the ocean trying to figure out where they are as conflicting data was coming in.

It seems by some accounts they trusted autopilot decisions and suggestions and simply descended, hit into ocean almost horizontally.

So what is the same in B737 Max and A320 was response of AI software to sensor failures and specific external conditions of flight. In both cases such scenarios were never trained in simulators.

[Apr 08, 2019] Why aren't Boeing executives being prosecuted for the 737 Max 8 crashes

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Evidence has mounted implicating in both crashes an automated anti-stall system, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which was installed by Boeing in response to the new plane's tendency to pitch upward and go into a potentially fatal stall. On a whole number of fronts -- design, marketing, certification and pilot training -- information from the black boxes of the two planes points to a lack of concern for the safety of passengers and crew on the part of both Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration, reaching the level of criminality. ..."
"... Despite the presence on the plane of two angle-of-attack sensors, which signal a potential stall and trigger the automated downward pitch of the plane's nose, MCAS relied on data from only one of the sensors. This means the standard redundancy feature built into commercial jets to avert disasters resulting from a faulty sensor was lacking. Boeing's main rival to the 737 Max, the European-built Airbus A320neo, for example, uses data from three sensors to manage a system similar to MCAS. ..."
"... Pilot certification for a commercial plane typically requires hundreds of hours of training, both in simulators and in actual flights. Boeing itself is now mandating at least 21 days of training on new Max planes. ..."
"... There is no innocent explanation for these obvious safety issues. They point to reckless and arguably criminally negligent behavior on the part of Boeing executives, who rushed the new plane into service and marketed it against the Airbus A320neo on the basis of its cost-saving features. ..."
"... This is highlighted by a press release the day of the Ethiopian Airlines crash in which Boeing stated that "for the past several months and in aftermath of Lion Air Flight 610," the company "has been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX." ..."
"... In other words, both Boeing and the FAA were aware, possibly even before the October 2018 Lion Air crash and certainly afterward, that a system critical to the safe operation of the aircraft needed to be fixed, and still allowed the plane to continue flying. The wording also suggests that the plane shouldn't have been certified for flight in the first place. ..."
"... This was aided and abetted by the Trump administration, which shielded Boeing as long as it could by not ordering the FAA to ground the plane immediately after the Ethiopian Airlines crash. There were no doubt immense concerns that such a move would cut into Boeing's multibillion-dollar profits and affect its stock price, which has nearly tripled since the election of Trump in November 2016, accounting for more than 30 percent of the increase in the Dow Jones index since then. ..."
"... The relationship between Trump and Muilenburg is only a symptom of the much broader collusion between the airline industry and the US government. Starting in 2005 and expanded during the Obama administration, the FAA introduced the Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) program, which allows the agency to appoint as "designees" airplane manufacturers' employees to certify their own company's aircraft on behalf of the government. ..."
"... This is the logical end of the deregulation of the airline industry as a whole that was spearheaded by the Democratic Carter administration, which passed the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978. With the help of liberal icon Edward Kennedy, the legislation disbanded the Civil Aeronautics Board, which up to that point treated interstate airlines as a regulated public utility, setting routes, schedules and fares. ..."
Apr 04, 2019 | www.wsws.org

It is nearly a month since the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which slammed into the ground only six minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa airport, killing all 157 people on board. That disaster came less than five months after the fatal crash of Lion Air Flight 610 only 13 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta airport, killing all 189 passengers and crew members.

Both crashes involved the same airplane, the Boeing 737 Max 8, and both followed wild up-and-down oscillations which the pilots were unable to control.

In the weeks since these disasters, there have been no calls within the media or political establishment for Boeing executives to be criminally prosecuted for what were evidently entirely avoidable tragedies that killed a total of 346 people. This speaks to the corrupt relationship between the US government and the aerospace giant -- the biggest US exporter and second-largest defense contractor -- as well as the company's critical role in the stock market surge and the ever-expanding fortunes of major Wall Street investors.

Black box recordings and simulations show that in the 60 seconds the pilots had to respond to the emergency, faulty software forced the Lion Air flight into a nose dive 24 separate times, as the pilots fought to regain control of the aircraft before plunging into the ocean at more than 500 miles per hour.

Evidence has mounted implicating in both crashes an automated anti-stall system, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which was installed by Boeing in response to the new plane's tendency to pitch upward and go into a potentially fatal stall. On a whole number of fronts -- design, marketing, certification and pilot training -- information from the black boxes of the two planes points to a lack of concern for the safety of passengers and crew on the part of both Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration, reaching the level of criminality.

The most recent revelations concerning the March 10 Ethiopian Airlines crash, based on preliminary findings from the official investigation, show that the pilots correctly followed the emergency procedures outlined by Boeing and disengaged the automated flight control system. Nevertheless, the nose of the plane continued to point downward. This strongly suggests a fundamental and perhaps fatal flaw in the design of the aircraft. Numerous questions have been raised about the design and certification process of the 737 Max 8 and MCAS, including:

Despite the presence on the plane of two angle-of-attack sensors, which signal a potential stall and trigger the automated downward pitch of the plane's nose, MCAS relied on data from only one of the sensors. This means the standard redundancy feature built into commercial jets to avert disasters resulting from a faulty sensor was lacking. Boeing's main rival to the 737 Max, the European-built Airbus A320neo, for example, uses data from three sensors to manage a system similar to MCAS.

Boeing Vice President Mike Sinnett admitted last November that cockpit warning lights alerting pilots of a faulty angle-of-attack sensor were only optional features on the Max 8. The MCAS system was absent from pilot manuals and flight simulators, including for the well-known flight training program X-Plane 11, which came out in 2018, one year after the first commercial flight of the 737 Max 8. Pilot training for the 737 Max 8, which has different hardware and software than earlier 737s, was a single one-hour computer course.

Pilot certification for a commercial plane typically requires hundreds of hours of training, both in simulators and in actual flights. Boeing itself is now mandating at least 21 days of training on new Max planes.

There is no innocent explanation for these obvious safety issues. They point to reckless and arguably criminally negligent behavior on the part of Boeing executives, who rushed the new plane into service and marketed it against the Airbus A320neo on the basis of its cost-saving features.

Threatened with a loss of market share and profits to its chief competitor, Boeing reduced costs by claiming that no significant training on the new Max 8 model, with the money and time that entails, was necessary for pilots with previous 737 experience.

Such imperatives of the capitalist market inevitably downgrade safety considerations. This is highlighted by a press release the day of the Ethiopian Airlines crash in which Boeing stated that "for the past several months and in aftermath of Lion Air Flight 610," the company "has been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX."

In other words, both Boeing and the FAA were aware, possibly even before the October 2018 Lion Air crash and certainly afterward, that a system critical to the safe operation of the aircraft needed to be fixed, and still allowed the plane to continue flying. The wording also suggests that the plane shouldn't have been certified for flight in the first place.

This was aided and abetted by the Trump administration, which shielded Boeing as long as it could by not ordering the FAA to ground the plane immediately after the Ethiopian Airlines crash. There were no doubt immense concerns that such a move would cut into Boeing's multibillion-dollar profits and affect its stock price, which has nearly tripled since the election of Trump in November 2016, accounting for more than 30 percent of the increase in the Dow Jones index since then.

Trump himself received a call from Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg two days after the Ethiopian Airlines crash, during which Muilenburg reportedly continued to uphold the Max 8's safety. The FAA finally grounded the plane on March 13, after every other country in the world had done so.

The relationship between Trump and Muilenburg is only a symptom of the much broader collusion between the airline industry and the US government. Starting in 2005 and expanded during the Obama administration, the FAA introduced the Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) program, which allows the agency to appoint as "designees" airplane manufacturers' employees to certify their own company's aircraft on behalf of the government.

As a result, there was virtually no federal oversight on the development of the 737 Max 8. FAA Acting Administrator Dan Elwell told Congress, "As a result of regular meetings between the FAA and Boeing teams, the FAA determined in February 2012 that the [Max 8] project qualified [a] project eligible for management by the Boeing ODA." This extended to the MCAS system as well.

This is the logical end of the deregulation of the airline industry as a whole that was spearheaded by the Democratic Carter administration, which passed the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978. With the help of liberal icon Edward Kennedy, the legislation disbanded the Civil Aeronautics Board, which up to that point treated interstate airlines as a regulated public utility, setting routes, schedules and fares.

In a rational world, the ongoing Senate hearings and Department of Justice investigations would have already brought criminal charges against Muilenburg, Sinnett, Elwell and all those involved in overseeing the production, certification and sale of the 737 Max 8. This would include the executives at Boeing and all those who have helped to deregulate the industry at the expense of human lives.

Under capitalism, however, Boeing will get little more than a slap on the wrist. Experts estimate the company will likely be fined at most $800 million, less than one percent of the $90 billion Boeing expects in sales from the Max 8 in the coming years. As in Hurricane Katrina, the Wall Street crash in 2008, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 and Hurricanes Harvey and Maria in 2017, the brunt of this disaster will be borne by the working class.

The Boeing 737 Max 8 disasters point to the inherent incompatibility between safe, comfortable and affordable air transport and private ownership of the airline industry, as well as the division of the world economy between rival nation-states. These catastrophes were driven by both the greed of Boeing executives and big investors and the intensifying trade conflict between the United States and Europe.

The technological advances that make it possible for travelers to move between any two points in the world in a single day must be freed from the constraints of giant corporations and the capitalist system as a whole. Major airlines and aerospace companies must be expropriated on an international scale and transformed into publicly owned and democratically controlled utilities, as part of the establishment of a planned economy based on social need, not private profit.

Bryan Dyne

[Apr 07, 2019] The rejection of the USSA version of neoliberalism with its rampant deregulation and corruption has already started

Apr 07, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

To Hell In A Handbasket , 2 hours ago link

Too many hooray, we are the USSA, America is the best cheerleaders, have no idea of the gravity of the situation they will face, when the dollar and by extension the Petrodollar implodes.

The rejection of the USSA has already started, but the average Yank hasn't noticed. When Ethiopia, can reject a direct request from Uncle Scam and send the Black-Boxes to Europe, because the USSA cannot be trusted, says it all. It is the little things we miss, things that seem small and insignificant, that actually reveals a lot and the Ethiopian rejection was one.

The world has simply had enough of USSA diktats and subsidising them. The USSA is merely 4% of the worlds population, that consumes 24.8% of the worlds resources and this situation is totally untenable. A nation of exceptionalists. 5%? Yes. The rest? lol

[Apr 06, 2019] MAXimized danger Are 200+ new Boeing 737s plagued with glitch that led to crash in Indonesia -- RT World News

Apr 06, 2019 | www.rt.com

A technical issue that Boeing flagged in a safety warning after the deadly 737 MAX 8 crash in Indonesia could happen to any other aircraft, and it's "not unlikely" that the manufacturer knew about it, aviation experts told RT. Earlier this week, Boeing issued a safety update to pilots flying its newest 737 MAX airliner, warning of a possible fault in a sensor that could send the aircraft into a violent nosedive.

That sensor measures air flow over a plane's wings, but its failure can lead to an aerodynamic stall.

Boeing's new 737 MAX may 'abruptly dive' due to errors – media Boeing's new 737 MAX may 'abruptly dive' due to errors – media

International aviation experts told RT that a problem of this kind could doom aircraft of any type. The tragedy that happened to Lion Air's Boeing 737 MAX is not the first of its kind to involve a faulty

"Pitot tube" – a critical air-speed sensor that measures the flow velocity – explained Elmar Giemulla, a leading German expert in air and traffic law.

"This is not unusual in the way it happened before," he noted, mentioning incidents similar to the Lion Air crash. Back in 1996, a Boeing 757 operated by Turkey's Birgenair stalled and crashed in the Caribbean because of a blocked pitot tube. Likewise, erroneous air-speed indications, coupled with pilot errors, led to the crash of an Air France Airbus A330 over the Atlantic in 2009.

While the problem is not entirely new, it is unclear how Boeing had tackled it, according to Giemulla. "It is not very unlikely" that Boeing knew about the problem, he said, warning that "more than 200 planes are concerned and this could happen tomorrow again."

There is so much experience with [using Pitot tubes] that it surprises me very much that this could happen to a newly developed plane.

However, the expert doubted that there has been any cover-up of the issue, instead suggesting that "obviously gross negligence" had been involved.

A 737 MAX 8 servicing Lion Air flight 610 last week ploughed into the waters of the Java Sea shortly after take-off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board. Investigators say there is a possibility that inaccurate readings fed into the MAX's computer could have sent the plane into a sudden descent.

#FAA statement on the Emergency Airworthiness Directive (AD) for all @Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. The AD can be found at https://t.co/FoRI5vOeby . pic.twitter.com/JDGdPfos6g

-- The FAA (@FAANews) November 7, 2018

[Apr 06, 2019] The MC-21 will safely handle passengers in the 140 to 160 passengers and is a mid range plane that can go as far as 4,000 miles.

Apr 06, 2019 | peakoilbarrel.com

Hightrekker x Ignored says: 04/06/2019 at 9:27 am

If markets were truly free and there was real capitalism then airlines would be looking at the new and excellent Russian MC-21 which does what Boeing was trying to do with the 737 Max. The MC-21 will safely handle passengers in the 140 to 160 passengers and is a mid range plane that can go as far as 4,000 miles.

Instead – Boeing lobbies the corrupt U.S. AIPAC Congress to keep a Boeing monopoly of death traps like the 737 Max allowing some Airbus sales. They also blocked a nice Bombardier mid range jet from Canada.

I've flown in the Bombardier in South America– it is a fine aircraft.

[Apr 06, 2019] 'Blinded by its greed' Boeing sued by family of passenger in Ethiopian Air 737 crash

Notable quotes:
"... "Sadly, these two entirely preventable airline crashes demonstrate that the FAA is ill-equipped to oversee the aerospace industry and will downplay serious hazards and safety risks to the public rather than sound the alarm about safety concerns, problems, issues and hazards that pose substantial, probable, and/or foreseeable risks to human life," attorneys for Stumo said in the lawsuit. ..."
"... "Boeing, and the regulators that enabled it, must be held accountable for their reckless actions." The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee said this week that whistleblowers have come forward to report that FAA safety inspectors, including those involved with approvals for the 737 Max, lacked proper training and certifications. ..."
"... But legal experts have said the second disaster could prove even more damaging for the company. That's because plaintiffs will argue the manufacturer was put on notice by the earlier tragedy that there was something dangerously wrong with its planes that should have been fixed. ..."
Apr 06, 2019 | smh.com.au

The parents of Samya Stumo, 24, alleged Boeing was "blinded by its greed" and rushed the 737 Max 8 to market with the "knowledge and tacit approval" of the FAA, while hiding defects in its automated flight-control system. The suit also cites a similar flaw in the Lion Air flight of a 737 Max 8 jet that crashed into the Java Sea on October 29 , killing 189.

Earlier on Thursday, the Ethiopian transport minister called on Boeing to review the 737 Max flight-control system before allowing planes to be used, after a preliminary government report showing the doomed jetliner couldn't recover from an uncommanded and persistent nose dive shortly after takeoff.

The complaint alleges that decisions by Boeing leaders contributed to the crash and "demonstrate Boeing's conscious disregard for the lives of others," including designing an aircraft with a flight-control system that is "susceptible to catastrophic failure" in the event of a single defective sensor made by Rosemount Aerospace.

'Ill-equipped'

"Sadly, these two entirely preventable airline crashes demonstrate that the FAA is ill-equipped to oversee the aerospace industry and will downplay serious hazards and safety risks to the public rather than sound the alarm about safety concerns, problems, issues and hazards that pose substantial, probable, and/or foreseeable risks to human life," attorneys for Stumo said in the lawsuit.

"Boeing, and the regulators that enabled it, must be held accountable for their reckless actions." The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee said this week that whistleblowers have come forward to report that FAA safety inspectors, including those involved with approvals for the 737 Max, lacked proper training and certifications.

Senator Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican, said those claims prompted him to investigate potential connections between training and certification shortcomings and the FAA's evaluation of the airliner.

The Senate panel's probe is the latest in a string of investigations by US officials and lawmakers into how the FAA cleared the 737 Max as safe to fly. The Transportation Department's inspector general is reviewing the FAA's process for approving the airworthiness of new jets and aiding a Justice Department criminal probe.

Criminal probe

A grand jury convened by US prosecutors last month subpoenaed a former Boeing engineer demanding he provide testimony and documents related to the 737 Max.

FAA Acting Administrator Dan Elwell has said the agency "welcomes external review of our systems, processes and recommendations." Boeing faces the prospect of substantial payouts to the families of passengers if it's found responsible for both the Ethiopia Air and Lion Air crashes.

But legal experts have said the second disaster could prove even more damaging for the company. That's because plaintiffs will argue the manufacturer was put on notice by the earlier tragedy that there was something dangerously wrong with its planes that should have been fixed.

[Apr 06, 2019] Ethiopian Airlines Abandons Boeing Orders Due To Stigma From 737 Max Crash

Apr 06, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Posa , 2 hours ago link

The company failed itself by replacing engineers with Wall Street accountants.... typical US corporation destroyed from withing by asset strippers, chiselers, deregulators... the complete gamut of "free enterprise" vampires leaving the US economy in shambles.

Shockwave , 5 minutes ago link

Agree with that, theres been a serious drive to focus on bean-counting and bringing in "mainstream" business leadership from companies like GE/Toyota/3m (think outsourcing/stock buybacks/automate/layoff type)

Its one of the few companies that has a real hard time getting rid of skilled labor, because building an aircraft is an incredibly huge undertaking, with lots of hand fitting and a wide array of technical skills, so getting rid of the labor hasnt worked to this point.

But they're trying hard to get inline with the typical "modern" business model, and it hasnt been great for morale.

[Apr 06, 2019] When Will The Boeing 737 MAX Fly Again - Simple Flying

Apr 06, 2019 | simpleflying.com

Boeing has been working on a fix to the anti-stall software for some time now. However, Reuters today reported that regulators including EASA knew that the MAX's trim control was confusing.

[Apr 06, 2019] Boeing Will Face A Skeptical Flying Public When It Fixes the 737 Max Jets OvationMR

Apr 06, 2019 | www.ovationmr.com
How much do you trust each of the following to determine whether the fixes to the Boeing 737 Max make it safe to fly? The pilot's union The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airlines (e.g. American, United, Southwest) The Trump Administration Boeing Congress
Completely trust 33% 32% 30% 29% 25% 22% 21%
Mostly trust 34% 33% 30% 36% 22% 30% 23%
Somewhat trust 22% 26% 29% 26% 16% 28% 28%
Do not trust 11% 9% 10% 9% 37% 20% 28%

[Apr 06, 2019] Would you fly Boeing 737 Max 8 ever again - Quora

Notable quotes:
"... No. Possibly Boeing & the FAA will solve the immediate issue, but they have destroyed Trust. ..."
"... It has emerged on the 737MAX that larger LEAP-1B engines were unsuited to the airframe and there is no way now to alter the airframe to balance the aircraft. ..."
"... Boeing failed to provide training or training material to pilots or even advise them the existence of MCAS. There was a complex two step process required of pilots in ET302 and JT610 crashes and their QRH handbook did not explain this: ..."
Apr 06, 2019 | www.quora.com

Would you fly Boeing 737 Max 8 ever again? Update Cancel

Simon Gunson , PPL aviation enthusiast Answered Mar 25, 2019 · Author has 141 answers and 981.7k answer views

No. Possibly Boeing & the FAA will solve the immediate issue, but they have destroyed Trust.

Other brands of aircraft like Airbus with AF447 established trust after their A330 aircraft plunged into the Atlantic in a mysterious accident.

With Airbus everyone saw transparency & integrity in how their accidents were investigated. How Boeing & FAA approached accident investigation destroyed public Trust.

By direct contrast in the mysterious disappearance of MH370, Boeing contributed nothing to the search effort and tried to blame the pilot or hijackers.

With the 737MAX in Lion Air and Ethiopian crashes Boeing again tried to blame pilots, poor training, poor maintenance and then when mechanical defect was proven, Boeing tried to downplay how serious the issue was and gave false assurances after Lion Air that the plane was still safe. ET302 proved otherwise.

It is no longer possible to trust the aircraft's certification. It is no longer possible to trust that safety was the overriding principle in design of the Boeing 737 MAX nor several other Boeing designs for that matter.

The Public have yet to realize that the Boeing 777 is an all electric design where in certain scenarios like electrical fire in the avionics bay, an MEC override vent opens allowing cabin air pressure to push out smoke. This silences the cabin depressurization alarms.

As an electrical failure worsens, in that scenario another system called ELMS turns off electrical power to the Air Cycle Machine which pumps pressurized air into the cabin. The result of ELMS cutting power means the override vent fails to close again and no new pressurized air maintains pressure in the cabin. Pilots get no warning.

An incident in 2007 is cited as AD 2007–07–05 by the FAA in which part but not all of this scenario played out in a B777 at altitude.

MH370 may have been the incident in which the full scenario played out, but of course Boeing is not keen for MH370 to be found and unlike Airbus which funded the search for AF447, Boeing contributed nothing to finding MH370.

It has emerged on the 737MAX that larger LEAP-1B engines were unsuited to the airframe and there is no way now to alter the airframe to balance the aircraft.

It also emerged that the choice to fit engines to this airframe have origins in a commercial decision to please Southwest Airlines and cancel the Boeing 757.

Boeing failed to provide training or training material to pilots or even advise them the existence of MCAS. There was a complex two step process required of pilots in ET302 and JT610 crashes and their QRH handbook did not explain this:

Boeing pilots had less than 40 SECONDS to over-ride automated system

The MAX is an aerodynamically unbalanced aircraft vulnerable to any sort of disruption, ranging from electrical failure, out of phase generator, faulty AOA sensor, faulty PCU failure alert, digital encoding error in the DFDAU.

Jason Eaton Former Service Manager Studied at University of Life Lives in Sydney, Australia 564k answer views 50.7k this month Answered Mar 24, 2019 ·

No I wouldn't. I'm not a pilot or an aerospace technician but I am a mechanical engineer, so I know a little bit about physics and stuff.

The 737–8 is carrying engines it was never designed for, that cause it to become inherently unstable. So unstable in fact, that it can't be controlled by humans and instead relies on computer aided control to maintain the correct attitude, particularly during ascent and descent.

The MCAS system is, effectively, a band aid to fix a problem brought about by poor design philosophy. Boeing should have designed a new airframe that complements the new engines, instead of ruining a perfectly good aircraft by bolting on power units it's not designed to carry, and then trying to solve the resulting instability with software. And if that isn't bad enough, the system relies on data from just the one sensor which if it doesn't agree with, it'll force the aircraft nose down regardless of the pilots' better judgement.

That might be ok for the Eurofighter Typhoon but it's definitely not ok for fare paying passengers on a commercial jetliner.

So, no. I won't be flying on a 737–8 until it's been redesigned to fly safely. You know, like a properly designed aeroplane should. 4.8k Views · View 36 Upvoters

[Apr 06, 2019] Boeing's effort to get the 737 Max approved to fly again, explained - 3420634 Promediapost

Notable quotes:
"... Under the circumstances, Boeing's best option was to just take the hit for a few years and accept that it was going to have to start selling 737s at a discount price while it designed a whole new airplane. That would, of course, be time-consuming and expensive, and during the interim, it would probably lose a bunch of narrow-body sales to Airbus. ..."
"... As late as February 2011, Boeing chair and CEO James McNerney was sticking to the plan to design a totally new aircraft. ..."
"... Committing to putting a new engine that didn't fit on the plane was the corporate version of the Fyre Festival's "let's just do it and be legends, man" moment, and it unsurprisingly wound up leading to a slew of engineering and regulatory problems. ..."
"... The problem is that an airplane is a big, complicated network of interconnected parts. To get the engine under the 737 wing, engineers had to mount the engine nacelle higher and more forward on the plane. But moving the engine nacelle (and a related change to the nose of the plane) changed the aerodynamics of the plane, such that the plane did not handle properly at a high angle of attack ..."
"... But note that the underlying problem isn't really software; it's with the effort to use software to get around a whole host of other problems. ..."
"... Looking back, Boeing probably wishes it had just stuck with the "build a new plane" plan and toughed out a few years of rough sales, rather than ending up in the current situation. Right now the company is, in effect, trying to patch things up piecemeal -- a software update here, a new warning light there, etc. -- in hopes of persuading global regulatory agencies to let its planes fly again. ..."
"... That said, on March 27, FAA officials faced the Senate Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Aviation and Space at a hearing called by subcommittee Chair Ted Cruz (R-TX). Regulators committed at the hearing to revamp the way they certify new planes , in light of the flaws that were revealed in the previous certification process. ..."
"... a central element of this story is the credibility of the FAA's process ..."
Apr 06, 2019 | www.promediapost.com

Claiming responsibility was part of an attempt to get the planes approved to fly again. Boeing was trying to say that it now understands why the planes crashes -- flawed software -- and has a plan in place to replace it with new software that will eliminate the problem and persuade regulators to get the planes off the ground. But then Friday morning, the company announced that it had found a second, unrelated software flaw that it also needs to fix and will somewhat delay the process of getting the planes cleared to fly again.

All of which, of course, raises the question of why such flawed systems were allowed to fly in the first place.

And that story begins nine years ago when Boeing was faced with a major threat to its bottom line, spurring the airline to rush a series of kludges through the certification process -- with an underresourced Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) seemingly all too eager to help an American company threatened by a foreign competitor, rather than to ask tough questions about the project.

The specifics of what happened in the regulatory system are still emerging (and despite executives' assurances, we don't even really know what happened on the flights yet). But the big picture is coming into view: A major employer faced a major financial threat, and short-term politics and greed won out over the integrity of the regulatory system. It's a scandal. The A320neo was trouble for Boeing

Jet fuel is a major cost for airlines. With labor costs largely driven by collective bargaining agreements and regulations that require minimum ratios of flight attendants per passenger, fuel is the cost center airlines have the most capacity to do something about. Consequently, improving fuel efficiency has emerged as one of the major bases of competition between airline manufacturers.

If you roll back to 2010, it began to look like Boeing had a real problem in this regard.

Airbus was coming out with an updated version of the A320 family that it called the A320neo , with "neo" meaning "new engine option." The new engines were going to be more fuel-efficient, with a larger diameter than previous A320 engines, that could nonetheless be mounted on what was basically the same airframe. This was a nontrivial engineering undertaking both in designing the new engines and in figuring out how to make them work with the old airframe, but even though it cost a bunch of money, it basically worked. And it raised the question of whether Boeing would respond.

Initial word was that it wouldn't. As CBS Moneywatch's Brett Snyder wrote in December 2010 , the basic problem was that you couldn't slap the new generation of more efficient, larger-diameter engines onto the 737:

One of the issues for Boeing is that it takes more work to put new engines on the 737 than on the A320. The 737 is lower to the ground than the A320, and the new engines have a larger diameter . So while both manufacturers would have to do work, the Boeing guys would have more work to do to jack the airplane up. That will cost more while reducing commonality with the current fleet. As we know from last week, reduced commonality means higher costs for the airlines as well.

Under the circumstances, Boeing's best option was to just take the hit for a few years and accept that it was going to have to start selling 737s at a discount price while it designed a whole new airplane. That would, of course, be time-consuming and expensive, and during the interim, it would probably lose a bunch of narrow-body sales to Airbus.

The original version of the 737 first flew in 1967, and a decades-old decision about how much height to leave between the wing and the runway left them boxed out of 21st-century engine technology -- and there was simply nothing to be done about it.

Unless there was.

Boeing decided to put on the too-big engines anyway

As late as February 2011, Boeing chair and CEO James McNerney was sticking to the plan to design a totally new aircraft.

"We're not done evaluating this whole situation yet," he said on an analyst call , "but our current bias is to move to a newer airplane, an all-new airplane, at the end of the decade, beginning of the next decade. It's our judgment that our customers will wait for us."

But in August 2011, Boeing announced that it had lined up orders for 496 re-engined Boeing 737 aircraft from five airlines .

It's not entirely clear what happened, but, reading between the lines, it seems that in talking to its customers Boeing reached the conclusion that airlines would not wait for them. Some critical mass of carriers (American Airlines seems to have been particularly influential) was credible enough in its threat to switch to Airbus equipment that Boeing decided it needed to offer 737 buyers a Boeing solution sooner rather than later.

Committing to putting a new engine that didn't fit on the plane was the corporate version of the Fyre Festival's "let's just do it and be legends, man" moment, and it unsurprisingly wound up leading to a slew of engineering and regulatory problems.

New engines on an old plane

As the industry trade publication Leeham News and Analysis explained earlier in March, Boeing engineers had been working on the concept that became the 737 Max even back when the company's plan was still not to build it. In a March 2011 interview with Aircraft Technology, Mike Bair, then the head of 737 product development, said that reengineering was possible. "There's been fairly extensive engineering work on it," he said. "We figured out a way to get a big enough engine under the wing."

The problem is that an airplane is a big, complicated network of interconnected parts. To get the engine under the 737 wing, engineers had to mount the engine nacelle higher and more forward on the plane. But moving the engine nacelle (and a related change to the nose of the plane) changed the aerodynamics of the plane, such that the plane did not handle properly at a high angle of attack . That, in turn, led to the creation of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). It fixed the angle-of-attack problem in most situations, but it created new problems in other situations when it made it difficult for pilots to directly control the plane without being overridden by the MCAS.

On Wednesday, Boeing rolled out a software patch that it says corrects the problem, and it hopes to persuade the FAA to agree.

But note that the underlying problem isn't really software; it's with the effort to use software to get around a whole host of other problems.

1of x: BEST analysis of what really is happening on the #Boeing737Max issue from my brother in law @davekammeyer , who's a pilot, software engineer & deep thinker. Bottom line don't blame software that's the band aid for many other engineering and economic forces in effect.

-- Trevor Sumner (@trevorsumner) March 16, 2019

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Recall, after all, that the whole point of the 737 Max project was to be able to say that the new plane was the same as the old plane. From an engineering perspective, the preferred solution was to actually build a new plane. But for business reasons, Boeing didn't want a "new plane" that would require a lengthy certification process and extensive (and expensive) new pilot training for its customers. The demand was for a plane that was simultaneously new and not new.

But because the new engines wouldn't fit under the old wings, the new plane wound up having different aerodynamic properties than the old plane. And because the aerodynamics were different, the flight control systems were also different. But treating the whole thing as a fundamentally different plane would have undermined the whole point. So the FAA and Boeing agreed to sort of fudge it.

The new planes are pretty different

As far as we can tell, the 737 Max is a perfectly airworthy plane in the sense that error-free piloting allows it to be operated safely.

But pilots of planes that didn't crash kept noticing the same basic pattern of behavior that is suspected to have been behind the two crashes, according to a Dallas Morning News review of voluntary aircraft incident reports to a NASA database:

The disclosures found by the News reference problems with an autopilot system, and they all occurred during the ascent after takeoff. Many mentioned the plane suddenly nosing down. While records show these flights occurred in October and November, the airlines the pilots were flying for is redacted from the database.

These pilots all safely disabled the MCAS and kept their planes in the air. But one of the pilots reported to the database that it was "unconscionable that a manufacturer, the FAA, and the airlines would have pilots flying an airplane without adequately training, or even providing available resources and sufficient documentation to understand the highly complex systems that differentiate this aircraft from prior models."

The training piece is important because a key selling feature of the 737 Max was the idea that since it wasn't really a new plane, pilots didn't really need to be retrained for the new equipment. As the New York Times reported, "For many new airplane models, pilots train for hours on giant, multimillion-dollar machines, on-the-ground versions of cockpits that mimic the flying experience and teach them new features" while the experienced 737 Max pilots were allowed light refresher courses that you could do on an iPad.

That let Boeing get the planes into customers' hands quickly and cheaply, but evidently at the cost of increasing the possibility of pilots not really knowing how to handle the planes, with dire consequences for everyone involved.

The FAA put a lot of faith in Boeing

In a blockbuster March 17 report for the Seattle Times, the newspaper's aerospace reporter Dominic Gates details the extent to which the FAA delegated crucial evaluations of the 737's safety to Boeing itself . The delegation, Gates explains, is in part a story of a years-long process during which 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."

But there are indications of failures that were specific to the 737 Max timeline. In particular, Gates reports that "as certification proceeded, managers prodded them to speed the process" and that "when time was too short for FAA technical staff to complete a review, sometimes managers either signed off on the documents themselves or delegated their review back to Boeing."

Most of all, decisions about what could and could not be delegated were being made by managers concerned about the timeline, rather than by the agency's technical experts.

It's not entirely clear at this point why the FAA was so determined to get the 737 cleared quickly (there will be more investigations), but if you recall the political circumstances of this period in Barack Obama's presidency, you can quickly get a general sense of the issue.

Boeing is not just a big company with a significant lobbying presence in Washington; it's a major manufacturing company with a strong global export presence and a source of many good-paying union jobs. In short, it was exactly the kind of company the powers that be were eager to promote -- with the Obama White House, for example, proudly going to bat for the Export-Import Bank as a key way to sustain America's aerospace industry.

A story about overweening regulators delaying an iconic American company's product launch and costing good jobs compared to the European competition would have looked very bad. And the fact that the whole purpose of the plane was to be more fuel-efficient only made getting it off the ground a bigger priority. But the incentives really were reasonably aligned, and Boeing has only caused problems for itself by cutting corners.

Boeing is now in a bad situation

One emblem of the whole situation is that as the 737 Max engineering team piled kludge on top of kludge, they came up with a cockpit warning light that would alert the pilots if the plane's two angle-of-attack sensors disagreed.

But then, as Jon Ostrower reported for the Air Current , Boeing's team decided to make the warning light an optional add-on, like how car companies will upcharge you for a moon roof.

The light cost $80,000 extra per plane and neither Lion Air nor Ethiopian chose to buy it, perhaps figuring that Boeing would not sell a plane (nor would the FAA allow it to) that was not basically safe to fly. In the wake of the crashes, Boeing has decided to revisit this decision and make the light standard on all aircraft.

Now, to be clear, Boeing has lost about $40 billion in stock market valuation since the crash, so it's not like cheating out on the warning light turned out to have been a brilliant business decision or anything.

This, fundamentally, is one reason the FAA has become comfortable working so closely with Boeing on safety regulations: The nature of the airline industry is such that there's no real money to be made selling airplanes that have a poor safety track record. One could even imagine sketching out a utopian libertarian argument to the effect that there's no real need for a government role in certifying new airplanes at all, precisely because there's no reason to think it's profitable to make unsafe ones.

The real world, of course, is quite a bit different from that, and different individuals and institutions face particular pressures that can lead them to take actions that don't collectively make sense. Looking back, Boeing probably wishes it had just stuck with the "build a new plane" plan and toughed out a few years of rough sales, rather than ending up in the current situation. Right now the company is, in effect, trying to patch things up piecemeal -- a software update here, a new warning light there, etc. -- in hopes of persuading global regulatory agencies to let its planes fly again.

But even once that's done, Boeing faces the task of convincing airlines to actually buy its planes. An informative David Ljunggren article for Reuters reminds us that a somewhat comparable situation arose in 1965 when three then-new Boeing 727 jetliners crashed.

There wasn't really anything unsound about the 727 planes, but many pilots didn't fully understand how to operate the new flaps -- arguably a parallel to the MCAS situation with the 737 Max -- which spurred some additional training and changes to the operation manual. Passengers avoided the planes for months, but eventually came back as there were no more crashes, and the 727 went on to fly safely for decades. Boeing hopes to have a similar happy ending to this saga, but so far it seems to be a long way from that point. And the immediate future likely involves more tough questions.

A political scandal on slow burn

The 737 Max was briefly a topic of political controversy in the United States as foreign regulators grounded the planes, but President Donald Trump -- after speaking personally to Boeing's CEO -- declined to follow. Many members of Congress (from both parties) called on him to reconsider, which he rather quickly did, pushing the whole topic off Washington's front burner.

But Trump is generally friendly to Boeing (he even has a former Boeing executive, Patrick Shanahan, serving as acting defense secretary, despite an ongoing ethics inquiry into charges that Shanahan unfairly favors his former employer), and Republicans are generally averse to harsh regulatory crackdowns. The most important decisions in the mix appear to have been made back during the Obama administration, so it's also difficult for Democrats to go after this issue. Meanwhile, Washington has been embroiled in wrangling over special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, and a new health care battlefield opened up as well.

That said, on March 27, FAA officials faced the Senate Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Aviation and Space at a hearing called by subcommittee Chair Ted Cruz (R-TX). Regulators committed at the hearing to revamp the way they certify new planes , in light of the flaws that were revealed in the previous certification process.

The questions at stake, however, are now much bigger than one subcommittee. Billions of dollars are on the line for Boeing, the airlines that fly 737s, and the workers who build the planes. And since a central element of this story is the credibility of the FAA's process -- in the eyes of the American people and of foreign regulatory agencies -- it almost certainly won't get sorted out without more involvement from the actual decision-makers in the US government.

This article was originally published by Vox. Read the original article here .

[Apr 06, 2019] Ralph Nader Boeing 737 Max 'should never fly again' - Chicago Tribune

Apr 06, 2019 | www.chicagotribune.com

Ralph Nader, the noted consumer rights advocate, called for a recall and consumer boycott of the Boeing jet grounded by regulators across the globe after two deadly crashes.

His niece, 24-year-old Samya Stumo, was among the 157 victims of an Ethiopian Airlines flight crash last month, less than six months after a flight on the same aircraft, the Boeing 737 Max 8, crashed in Indonesia.

"Those planes should never fly again," said Nader, speaking by phone at a news conference after Stumo's family filed a lawsuit against Chicago-based Boeing, one of its suppliers and Ethiopian Airlines. The family also filed a claim against the Federal Aviation Administration .

Stumo's family's lawsuit is one of several filed by relatives of passengers killed in the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes. All those families have "such huge holes" because of the aircraft's problems, said Nadia Milleron, Stumo's mother, who said she had met others who lost loved ones in Ethiopia.

"As someone who's lost the dearest person in my life, I want her death not to be in vain. I don't want anybody else to die," she said at the news conference in Chicago.

"Those in charge of creating and selling this plane did not treat Samya as they would their own daughters," said Milleron, who was visibly emotional as she spoke about her daughter.

"This could have been prevented, and that's what makes me cry," she said.

Nader's book "Unsafe at Any Speed" helped bring about a series of auto safety laws , including the creation the federal agency that became the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which oversees the auto industry. He later turned his attention to various consumer protection efforts related to food, drug and workplace safety and clean air and water.

On Thursday, he took aim at Boeing, blaming the crashes on design problems that he argued were the result of the company's focus on getting the plane on the market quickly to compete with its rival manufacturer Airbus.

He also criticized the relationship between Boeing and the federal agency tasked with overseeing aviation industry safety.

"If we don't end the cozy relationship between the patsy FAA and the Boeing company, 5,000 of these fatally flawed planes will be in the air all over the world with millions of passengers," Nader said.

Boeing said Thursday it is reviewing a preliminary report on last month's crash from Ethiopian authorities that said the same anti-stall system that came under scrutiny in the Lion Air crash was activated on the Ethiopian Airlines flight.

Most accidents are the result of a chain of events, but when that system is activated in error, it adds to "what is already a high-workload environment," Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in a video released by the company on Thursday.

"It's our responsibility to eliminate this risk. We own it, and we know how to do it," he said.

Boeing said it is still working with the FAA and regulatory agencies to develop and certify a software update designed to keep the system from being activated unintentionally, along with additional training for pilots.

Nader said he doesn't think the software fix is enough to make the plane safe since it can't predict all potential problems with a plane that is "prone to stall."

While Boeing has worked to show it is taking steps to address safety concerns, the FAA is planning changes to its oversight of airplane development, which delegates some authority for certifying new aircraft to their manufacturers, the Associated Press reported .

lzumbach@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @laurenzumbach

Copyright © 2019, Chicago Tribune

[Apr 06, 2019] Ethiopian Airline Crash - Boeing Advice To 737 MAX Pilots Was Flawed

Notable quotes:
"... [We] can now reveal how it's possible the aircraft can crash despite using the Cut-Out switches. To verify, we ran it all in a simulator together with MentourPilot Youtube channel over the last days. ..."
"... Nowhere is it described the trim could be impossible to move if the Cut-Out switches were cut at the slightest miss-trim at the speeds flown. And there is no warning on when to move the Cut-Out switches, the checklist says "Cut, then trim manually." This is not the whole truth . ..."
"... The high speed of 340kts indicated airspeed and the trim at 2.3 units causes the Stabilator manual trim to jam, one can't move it by hand. The crew is busy trying to hand trim the next two minutes but no trim change is achieved. ..."
"... It's easy to say "Why didn't they trim then?". Because they are going down at 20 degrees nose down (which is a lot, a normal landing approach is 3°) and at 400kts. Then you just pull for all you have. And the aircraft is not reacting to the largest Control Column displacement since takeoff. This makes them pull even harder, the aircraft is unresponsive and they are fighting for theirs and all the passenger lives. ..."
"... Moreover their description of the MCAS was incomplete . It is only now known that the MCAS trims the stabilizer at a speeed of 0.27 units (degrees) per second while the pilots electric trim moves the stabilizer at only 0.18 units per second: ..."
"... If MCAS keeps tripping, and if pilots do not shut off electric trim entirely, the result is what Tajer describes as a two-steps-back, one-step-forward scenario, with MCAS maintaining an edge. ..."
"... "The MCAS knows but one speed, which is 0.27, which is the most-aggressive speed," Tajer says. "If you look at the balance sheet on it, MCAS is winning, and you are losing." ..."
"... That additional problem pertains to software affecting flaps and other flight-control hardware and is therefore classified as critical to flight safety, said two officials with knowledge of the investigation. ..."
"... This is not about sensor failure. It is about the profit of cheap parts and greed. The insiders at Boeing tipped off the Big Boys that they needed more than the gizmos installed on export versions if they were going to survive. ..."
"... Engineering Manufacturing company with a sales division works alright. But a Sales Company with a manufacturing subsidiary does not, as we see. Boeing is typical for end-stage Imperial Corporations - all show, no go, and get the money quick... ..."
"... A mistake is one or two errors. This was one horrible string of deliberate corner cutting, about 7-8 totally disastrous decisions by the management, that could have only led to deaths of people uninformed enough to purchase the travel risk from this plane supplier. ..."
Apr 06, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org
< to include the new system into training material for the pilots which Boeing, for commercial reasons, did not do.>

After the Lion Air crash the Federal Aviation Administration issued an Airworthiness Directive 2018-23-51 which adviced 737 MAX pilots how to handle an MCAS failure.


full picture

The FAA told 737 MAX pilots to use the Stabilizer Trim Cutoff switches to interupt the power supply for the system's actuator, a motor driven jackscrew in the back of the airplane. The pilots should then use the manual trim wheels in the cockpit, which move the jackscrew and stabilizer via steel cables, to righten the aircraft.

On March 10 a 737 MAX flown by Ethiopian Airline crashed shortly after take off. 157 people died. Radar data and debris found showed that the cause was likely a similar MCAS failure as had happened on the Indonesian Lion Air flight.

All 737 MAX planes were grounded with the U.S. being the last country to order it.

Some U.S. pilots, as well as some commentators here, publicly blamed the darker skin pilots for not using the simple procedure the FAA had put out: "Why didn't they just flip the switches? Stupid undertrained third-world dudes."

It now turns out that the well trained and experienced pilots on the Ethiopian Airline flight did exactly what Boeing and the FAA told them to do. From the Ethiopean Airlines press release (pdf):

The preliminary report clearly showed that the Ethiopian Airlines pilots who were commanding Flight ET 302/10 March have followed the Boeing recommended and FAA approved emergency procedures to handle the most difficult emergency situation created on the airplane. Despite their hard work and full compliance with the emergency procedures, it was very unfortunate that they could not recover the airplane from the persistence of nose diving.

The procedure Boeing and the FAA advised to use was insufficient to bring the aircraft back under control. It was in fact impossible to recover the plane. The possibility of this to happen was discussed in pilot fora and on specialized websites for some time.

The MCAS system moves the front of the stablizer up to turn the nose of the airplane down. The plane then decends very fast. The aerodynamic forces (the "wind") pushing against the stabilizer gets so strong that a manual counter-trim becomes impossible.

Avionics engineer Peter Lemme details the physics involved in this.


via Seattle Times - full picture

Lemme concludes:

With the 737MAX cutout switches, MCAS runaway is stopped by throwing both switches, losing electric trim altogether. In this case, the flight crew must rely on manual trim via turning the trim wheel/crank. As discussed above, the manual crank can bind up , making flying much more difficult.

Bjorn Fehrm, a senior engineeer and pilot now writing at Leeham News , came to a similar conclusion :

[We] can now reveal how it's possible the aircraft can crash despite using the Cut-Out switches. To verify, we ran it all in a simulator together with MentourPilot Youtube channel over the last days.
...
At a miss-trimmed Stabilator, you either have to re-engage Electric trim or off-load the Stabilator jackscrew by stick forward, creating a nose-down bunt maneuver, followed by trim.

Stick forward to trim was not an option for ET302, they were at 1,000ft above ground. According to The Wall Street Journal, the ET302 crew re-engaged electrical trim to save the situation, to get the nose up. It was their only chance. But too late. The aggressive MCAS kicked in and worsened the situation before they could counter it.

On the FAA's Airworthiness Directive Fehrm writes:

Nowhere is it described the trim could be impossible to move if the Cut-Out switches were cut at the slightest miss-trim at the speeds flown. And there is no warning on when to move the Cut-Out switches, the checklist says "Cut, then trim manually." This is not the whole truth .

An detailed analysis of the flight recorder data as documented in the preliminary crash report confirms the conclusions :

The high speed of 340kts indicated airspeed and the trim at 2.3 units causes the Stabilator manual trim to jam, one can't move it by hand. The crew is busy trying to hand trim the next two minutes but no trim change is achieved.

via Leeham News - bigger

The pilots then do the only thing possible. They reengage the electric stabilizer trim to righten the aircraft.

But the aggressive MCAS, trimming with a speed 50% higher than the pilot and for a full nine seconds, kicks in at 8 with a force they didn't expect. Speed is now at 375kts and MCAS was never designed to trim at these Speed/Altitude combinations. Dynamic pressures, which governs how the aircraft reacts to control surface movements, is now almost double it was when last MCAS trimmed (Dynamic pressure increases with Speed squared).

The Pilots are thrown off their seats, hitting the cockpit roof. Look at the Pitch Attitude Disp trace and the Accel Vert trace. These are on the way to Zero G and we can see how PF loses stick pull in the process (Ctrl Column Pos L). He can barely hold on to the Yoke, let alone pull or trim against.

His reduced pull increases the pitch down further, which increases the speed even more. At 05.45.30 the Pilots have hit the seats again (Accel Vert trace and Ctrl Columns force trace) and can start pulling in a desperate last move. But it's too late. Despite them creating the largest Control Column movement ever, pitch down attitude is only marginally affected.

The pilots and their passengers lose the fight:

It's easy to say "Why didn't they trim then?". Because they are going down at 20 degrees nose down (which is a lot, a normal landing approach is 3°) and at 400kts. Then you just pull for all you have. And the aircraft is not reacting to the largest Control Column displacement since takeoff. This makes them pull even harder, the aircraft is unresponsive and they are fighting for theirs and all the passenger lives.

A diligent safety anlysis would have predicted this outcome. Neither Boeing nor the FAA seems to have done such after the first 737 MAX crashed. They provided an Airworthiness Directive with procedures that were insufficiant to correct the system induce misbehavior.

Moreover their description of the MCAS was incomplete . It is only now known that the MCAS trims the stabilizer at a speeed of 0.27 units (degrees) per second while the pilots electric trim moves the stabilizer at only 0.18 units per second:

"It's like a Tasmanian devil in there," says Dennis Tajer, a 737 pilot and communications chair for Allied Pilots Association, which represents American Airlines' pilots.
...
If MCAS keeps tripping, and if pilots do not shut off electric trim entirely, the result is what Tajer describes as a two-steps-back, one-step-forward scenario, with MCAS maintaining an edge.

"The MCAS knows but one speed, which is 0.27, which is the most-aggressive speed," Tajer says. "If you look at the balance sheet on it, MCAS is winning, and you are losing."

The insufficient advice to pilots given after the first crash only adds to the long list of criminal mistakes Boeing made and which the FAA allowed to pass.

Today the Washington Post reports of another software defect which the FAA demands to have fixed:

Boeing confirmed to The Washington Post that it had found a second software problem that the Federal Aviation Administration has ordered fixed -- separate from the anti-stall system that is under investigation in the two crashes and is involved in the worldwide grounding of the aircraft.

That additional problem pertains to software affecting flaps and other flight-control hardware and is therefore classified as critical to flight safety, said two officials with knowledge of the investigation.

The criminals at Boeing again offer no explanation and play down the issue:

In a statement, Boeing called the additional problem "relatively minor" but did not offer details of how it affects the plane's flight-control system. "We are taking steps to thoroughly address this relatively minor issue and already have the solution in work to do that," it said.

What other 'features' were secretly implemented into the 737 MAX without sufficiant analysis about their side effects and consequences?

---
Previous Moon of Alabama posts on the 737 MAX crashes:

Posted by b on April 5, 2019 at 05:53 AM | Permalink

Jen , Apr 5, 2019 6:27:26 AM | link

"... The Pilots are thrown off their seats, hitting the cockpit roof ..."

I should think that at that point in the narrative, one of the flight crew must either have fallen unconscious or ended up too injured to be able to do anything, let alone fight a rogue MCAS system.

I presume the pilots would still have their seatbelts on, unless the forces generated by the constant battle to stabilise the aircraft while fighting the MCAS system were too strong and broke the seatbelts or dislocated the seats themselves.

As for other "features" that were secretly placed into the 737 MAX jets that Boeing "neglected" to tell FAA or its clients about, what about the "features" that should have been made compulsory but which Boeing decided were optional at the clients' own expense?


jared , Apr 5, 2019 6:42:51 AM | link

I imagine Boing would be worried if they were not prime military contractor. They will be protected.
Tom Welsh , Apr 5, 2019 6:57:06 AM | link
As a layman, my main question at this stage is: "Who is going to prison and for how long?" Everyone involved in the decision to sell those flying death traps should be tried for manslaughter at the least. The guilty ones should serve prison sentences appropriate for criminals who caused hundreds of people to die for their own profit.

How long a sentence does a poor man get, who kills a well-off tourist for the money in his wallet - or even for his shoes?

Now multiply that by several hundred - adding on, of course, extra years to allow for the Boeing executives' privileged lives, top-flight education, and (above all) the generous sufficiency they already enjoy.

In China such people are routinely shot, which seems the right course. In the USA, while poor people are executed all the time, apparently the wealthy and privileged get a free pass.

b , Apr 5, 2019 6:59:17 AM | link
@Jen - I don't read that "hitting the cokpit roof" as literal description.

@all - I have added a new Washington Post report of an additional software defect at the end of the above piece.

jared , Apr 5, 2019 7:01:57 AM | link
Is a direct result of Boing monopoly - they are division of the military. And why did european agency roll-over? Will this warrant cancellation of orders?
Tom Welsh , Apr 5, 2019 7:09:05 AM | link
Oh, and the people at the FAA need to be tried in a criminal court too. Not only were they criminally negligent - they did it while being generously remunerated by the taxpayer. Perhaps a few years as galley slaves would be appropriate punishment - to teach them not to be lazy.
Ger , Apr 5, 2019 7:34:32 AM | link
This cheap seat Boeing export death trap was doomed from the beginning. Once these planes nose 'up' it is heading to a crash. Any engineer with a basic understanding of aero dynamic/physics knows this. This is not about sensor failure. It is about the profit of cheap parts and greed. The insiders at Boeing tipped off the Big Boys that they needed more than the gizmos installed on export versions if they were going to survive.

Tom @3 makes note the Chinese have a great quality control program. Boeing execs will up their kickback slop to US politicians and the final report will say, 'well accidents will happen'.

Taffyboy , Apr 5, 2019 7:59:26 AM | link
You can be sure that if this was Airbus, and two were crashed in the USA, that there would be hearings, threats, congressional investigations, lawsuits, calls for criminal investigations, Wall Street shorting the company, ...and on and on until the company would be disbanded.

Criminal, well yes but so what! Peons do not matter, right.

Walter , Apr 5, 2019 8:14:29 AM | link
Engineering Manufacturing company with a sales division works alright. But a Sales Company with a manufacturing subsidiary does not, as we see. Boeing is typical for end-stage Imperial Corporations - all show, no go, and get the money quick...

Sorta like GE's BWR's and Fukushima, fake it on the cheap and run with the money to retirement.

b , Apr 5, 2019 8:36:24 AM | link
The full 33 pages Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau Preliminary Report from the Ethiopian Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau.
donkeytale , Apr 5, 2019 8:59:32 AM | link
Now we learn (from Krugman, but still) the American meat industrial complex is also now self-regulating thanks to the Donald.

"Donald Trump Is Trying to Kill You
Trust the pork producers; fear the wind turbines."

I'm reaching for the broccoli...oh wait....the organic broccoli

Hoarsewhisperer , Apr 5, 2019 9:01:05 AM | link
The Pilots are thrown off their seats, hitting the cockpit roof ..."
Posted by: Jen | Apr 5, 2019 6:27:26 AM | 1

My interpretation is the same as yours. It's an incident report which is supposed to be bland statements of fact - neither overstated nor understated. If the report says the pilots hit the roof then that's what happened (airliner cockpits don't have cathedral ceilings so only inches clearance when standing erect).

OTOH I find it hard to believe that the pilots would unbuckle before they had achieved cruise status and given passengers the OK to do the same.

Seat belts can break but not under the relatively mild stresses generated by violent flight maneuvers of an intact aircraft.

Kiza , Apr 5, 2019 9:14:57 AM | link
When I purchase an airline ticket I purchase the risk profile of the airline and the risk profile of the plane manufacturer, because either can kill me.

A mistake is one or two errors. This was one horrible string of deliberate corner cutting, about 7-8 totally disastrous decisions by the management, that could have only led to deaths of people uninformed enough to purchase the travel risk from this plane supplier.

Uninformed just like I was before I recently saw some old investigative footage about Boeing's disregard for elementary quality in the earlier 737 hull manufacturing and the company's treatment of the whistleblowers trying to help the company by exposing such wrong doing: "Just put a coat of paint on it".

Intentionally (spin) or unintentionally, there is too much talk about detail such as software, pilot capability and decisions, training and the lack of it and so on. This only hides the big picture of an utter disregard for the value of human life, traded off for management bonuses and stock holder dividends. It is a complete reversal of the original engineering-focused Boeing which made Boeing an icon that it used to be. Perhaps, somewhere in the Washington lobbying swamp the dividing line between the engineering for killing people and the engineering for transporting people became too blurred. As the profit strategy, on MIC business overcharge, on airliner business underdeliver, and ruthlessly so on both: rip-off money from the tax-payers and lives from the travellers.

Please convince me that this is not a symptom of the rot of the whole society, when an icon such as Boeing sinks deep into nastiest morally debased profiteering. I posit that the society which so easily kills people using bombs, rockets and drones cannot make good quality products any more. This is because killing and destroying is just too easy compared with creating something good . Without the good will of the people in a society to morally rebalance, the societal endeavours for creation can never compete against the endeavours for destruction. In other words, US had become too much about destruction to be still capable of creation.

Finally, there would be one way to get back on the right track - life-in-jail for both Boeing and FAA involved. It is ultimately ironic that in the highly criticised China the shitbags would probably be put in front of a firing squad for corruption. In US, they will receive bonuses and continue on to the next killing enterprise. Until they finally launch nuclear tipped missiles against the creation oriented foreign competitors. Do they still know of any other way to win?

Avid Lurker , Apr 5, 2019 9:33:24 AM | link
Touching and informative press conference with the Stumo family (Ralph Nader's grandniece, Samyo Stumo, was killed on the 737 MAX crash in Ethiopia) and two law firms that filed a lawsuit against Boeing and others. At @ 28 min one lawyer displays an anonymous email from a 737 MAX pilot detailing how the MCAS system can thwart a pilot's ability to recover control of the jet. This email was posted to a pilots' forum/aviation network after the Lion Air crash in Indonesia last October.

Attorneys file suit for family of woman killed in Ethiopian plane crash

Ric G , Apr 5, 2019 9:34:15 AM | link
Boeing has solved all their problems with the 737 Maxxx.

They are opening a fast food franchise and bolting the planes to concrete blocks. No problemo!

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/peoplesdaily/article-3781574/Not-usual-plane-meal-look-inside-China-s-4-million-fine-dining-restaurant-converted-retired-Boeing-737.html

Walter , Apr 5, 2019 9:45:44 AM | link
@Steve...if you say it, then it's true. Of course, if you knew more about it, then you would say something else.

But real expert Gundersen says differently. I worked with some of the GE engineers, and I know what they said.

You are 100% incorrect about the diesels, the problem included primary, ultimate heat sink loss due to the elevation of the pumps, and the pressure vessels we know to be unsafe.

GE BWR's designed in the US by US GE engineers, some of whom quit rather than sign off on the design..."fuze was lit for Fukushima in 1965" >see fairewinds, amigo.

b4real , Apr 5, 2019 9:52:06 AM | link
They're in for it now... Remember when GM CEO Maria Barra went to jail for those faulty ignition cylinders ?

/sarc

This is a feature of capitalism. If left unfettered, it will consume itself.

In a just world, Syria would shoot down an F35 with an S300.

b4real

Kiza , Apr 5, 2019 9:57:26 AM | link
@SteveK9 12
As far as I understand, the main Fukushima problem was the concrete reactor encasing design which did not cater for the possibility of excessive hydrogen release from the reactor. It worked well when not in trouble, but in an accident situation (who would have expected an accident) the concrete encasing without a release valve became a pressure cooker filled with flammable hydrogen. What a surprise that it went boom!?

What you write here about the water cooling system generators you probably believe in but it resembles the pilot blaming spin of Boeing. The truth has a nasty tendency to end up owned by those with most money.

I always remember how our old friend pharaoh Ramses paid hundreds of stone masons to go around Egypt and chisel out the achievements of all the previous pharaohs and chisel in his. Then even several thousands of years later, when the archeologists finally learned to read hieroglyphs, they only had propaganda and spin left to read. Thus nothing less than the son of the supreme Egyptian deity the sun god Ra, the propaganda paying Ramses became the greatest pharaoh of all time.

bevin , Apr 5, 2019 9:58:50 AM | link
"As a layman, my main question at this stage is: 'Who is going to prison and for how long?'"
The first to go should obviously be the individuals in charge of the FAA. These people, I imagine, were appointed by Obama. When we look at the regulatory system in the US bear in mind that the current irresponsibility arose in a long descent-since the days of Nixon I suspect-into neo-liberal corporate capture.
Just recently the deceits practised in the fake science which allowed the licensing of Round Up were revealed. The entire system is rotten and nowhere is it more corrupt than in the United States.
Pft , Apr 5, 2019 10:04:18 AM | link
" They reengage the electric stabilizer trim to righten the aircraft"

That's the problem. While the plane may have remained unstable due to the lack of rapid response of the manual trim control and difficulties turning.the wheel at high speed low altitude flight,the planes altitude was still increasing. They should have either returned to the airport or continued ascent in the hope they could restore trim at high altitude and low air pressure.

Altitude immediately plummeted when they rengaged the MCAS and the plane was not recoverable at that point.

Such mistakes should be made in flight simulators . Hence it's lack of training at fault here, and the blame for that is still on Boeing.

Not sure even the flight simulator training will solve this mess
TBH

J Swift , Apr 5, 2019 10:22:12 AM | link
This whole business is sickening and infuriating. What is especially infuriating is that the FAA is extremely onerous in enforcement of ancient regulations with respect to general aviation. The owner of a small plane is actually prohibited from casually upgrading any of the antiquated instruments, even radios, on his Made in 1975 private plane, and must stick with what was originally certified by the manufacturer as originally constructed--unless he is willing to expend huge amounts of money to find an updated, certified (e.g., "safe") upgraded component from someone willing to go the lengthy and expensive process of having the FAA certify that product, then have a certified mechanic install the certified part and certify it was done according to the precise procedures established. In effect, the FAA actively discourages safety improvements of the general aviation fleet by unthinking resistance to technological change.

Unless you're Boeing.

Having experience with the "other" FAA, this is what's especially dumbfounding to me. While there may be some justification in permitting a trusted manufacturer to establish and certify as safe minor details, anything involving the actual flight characteristics of the plane should NEVER be delegated, and doubly so with respect to commercial airliners. And how could any regulator be anything but incredulous if a manufacturer says "Well, we've decided to make this commercial airliner INHERENTLY UNSTABLE, but we have a whole box of bandaids which should do a bang-up job of keeping it in the air!" WTF!! "Fail-safe" isn't actually a fix or a mechanism, the term is supposed to describe a design philosophy, in which if there is a failure, the resulting condition is still safe (well, at least not less safe). Ditto redundancy, which is why it is unheard-of that such an apparently vital bandaid relied on only one sensor.

It's one thing to build a fighter that is inherently unstable (although even that is perhaps questionable), but an airliner filled with passengers? Ludicrous. And the FAA and Boeing both know it, and knew it from the start. In a just world heads would literally roll, but sadly, nothing real is likely to happen.

Piotr Berman , Apr 5, 2019 10:31:04 AM | link
I already thought that the whole setup had faulty logic. If the plane could be adequately controlled by pilots, "manually", then extra training would be cheaper than introducing an automatic system. If the plane could not be adequately controlled by the pilots, "switching to manual" is futile.

I have a minor experience with "automatic control" when the chip of my car went wrong. In old, old times one has to add a bit of extra gas to start the car engine, and as a result one could flood the engine, then wait a few minutes for the gasoline to evaporate and try again. In contemporary cars you do not press gas at all when you start, and the chip regulates how much gasoline should be injected to the engine based on its temperature. Then after 10 years of happy use the chip "noticed" that the engine is cold when it is actually hot. So I am driving on a windy narrow road and the car accelerates going 40 mph without pressing the gas (65 kmh), 15 mhp above the legal speed limit, and did I mention that the road had curves? Frankly, it happened few times before that, but on a straight road you just get the feel of cruise control. Anyway, brakes remedied the situation, luckily, they could overcome the engine and the chip was replaced for mere 800 dollars.

Here it seems that Boeing designers entered the kludge road and kept compensating for this or that and lost the total picture. Isn't it suspicious that the automatic trim was so aggressive? I also do not understand at all what "manual" means, seem impossible that actual muscle force of the pilot was applied to the tail? Should there be an emergence procedure in which a cabin steward under voice control of the captain adjusts the tail with a crank, or perhaps something like a capstan that could be moved by the entire cabin crew? That would be a true manual system.

My conclusion is that once you rely on automatic solutions because the crew cannot do it in some situations, you must crank up the reliability to something "average million years without failure or more". It is not a ship that can drop anchors, giving a few days to figure out the problem etc. (although this is something that should be avoided too). Boeing setup was something that should flunk students in Industrial Engineering (they have courses on control systems). For example, an internal device with a gyroscope could track the speed and its three-dimensional angle, so if one of external sensors malfunction the system can automatically decide which reading makes more sense. External sensor measure speed in respect to air which is important too, but if the plane approaches the ground, that should be noted to,. With few gismos you could get sufficient redundancy with some "voting scheme" or a "decision tree".

J Swift , Apr 5, 2019 10:41:56 AM | link
Just use logic for a moment. Boeing: We're presenting this new (redesigned) plane for certification, and it comes with it's very own MCRASH system. FAA: MCRASH system...what's that? Boeing: Well, the plane has a pronounced tendency to go into stalls and fall out of the sky. FAA: That's an interesting feature. Are pilots going to be able to handle these aggravated power-on stalls (the worst kind, incidentally)? Boeing: Oh, no. There's no way pilots would be able to detect the condition and react quickly enough to save the plane, so we've devised an automated system that is faster than a human can react to save the day. We present MCRASH.

I mean, seriously!

Piotr Berman , Apr 5, 2019 10:43:43 AM | link
From annals of idiocy in design. Some time in the 1st decade of this century the Polish state rail road decided to embrace modernity and introduced automatic ticketing system. It would fabulously till the end of that year when it shut down. Apparently, there was a "sanity check" disallowing tickets to have arrival before the departure, someone forgot about the pesky case of arrival after New Year following departure in December, and the system could not cope with a wave of "illegal requests". Luckily, because the system did not operate that long prior to collapse, there were still people who could manually write the tickets until the bug was removed.
Piotr Berman , Apr 5, 2019 10:46:06 AM | link
would -> work, I must say that the setup not allowing to correct the post after it is made is also an example of a "suboptimal" design, many sites give you 10-15 minutes with a permission to edit or delete.
Uncoy , Apr 5, 2019 10:57:41 AM | link
Berman, you wrote:
would -> work, I must say that the setup not allowing to correct the post after it is made is also an example of a "suboptimal" design, many sites give you 10-15 minutes with a permission to edit or delete.

B hosts Moon of Alabama on Typepad. Typepad costs $15/month, including hosting and support (best value in web hosting for a busy weblog). Typepad apparently doesn't have a post-comment grace period editing option or B would have added it.

I used to be an advocate of MoA moving over to WordPress (I'm a full time software architect/designer who builds WordPress driven web application and a pro video player). There's lots of nice bells and whistles which could be added including comment editing and a much more attractive and innovative design.

Having seen the endless security issues and silly site breaking updates which Matt Mullenweg and Automattic have pushed out over the last four years, B would be wise to stay put on Typepad. Typepad is clunky, it's a bit ugly but it works reliably and is inexpensive. Maintaining and updating a WordPress site costs either lots of man hours or lots of money (good IT help is not cheap).

terrorist lieberal , Apr 5, 2019 11:37:47 AM | link
Tom @ 5,

Obviously you know no one will ever be prosecuted or lose anything. This country is in the hands of the rich and powerful, just note how the great Obama couldn't jail one crooked banker and they all got to keep everything they stole at the expense of millions and millions of people, lives ruined, and they live the high life as some exceptional people, yeah right, God Bless America, home of the biggest terrorist organization the world has known.

terrorist lieberal , Apr 5, 2019 11:39:09 AM | link
Sorry, meant for Tom at comment 3
james , Apr 5, 2019 11:54:53 AM | link
thank you b! who is going to be held accountable? i say no one...

@13 donkeytale.. that sounds about right... i imagine it's happening in any industry where money is involved in the usa - which is basically every industry.. get rid of the mechanisms for protecting people and just make sure to protect the moneyed interests..

capitalism devoid of morals and ethics is just peachy..

Pnyx , Apr 5, 2019 12:02:42 PM | link
Thanks for the comprehensive account of what happened. I really hope this will result in a hefty judicial price tag for the cynicals and greedies at Boeing.
b , Apr 5, 2019 12:33:03 PM | link
@taffyboy

You can be sure that if this was Airbus, and two were crashed in the USA, that there would be hearings, threats, congressional investigations, lawsuits, calls for criminal investigations, Wall Street shorting the company, ...and on and on until the company would be disbanded.

There were two Boeing MAX crashes outside of the U.S. and there ARE now hearings, threats, congressional investigations, lawsuits and even a criminal investigation. Boeing's stock price fell by some 10% since the second crash.
-
@Hoarsewhisperer @14

It's an incident report which is supposed to be bland statements of fact - neither overstated nor understated. If the report says the pilots hit the roof then that's what happened (airliner cockpits don't have cathedral ceilings so only inches clearance when standing erect).

The phrase "the Pilots are thrown off their seats, hitting the cockpit roof" is not from the incident report but from an interpretation at the Leeham News site. It is not meant literally.

It is based on a suddden change on g-force in the plane which goes from around 1g to 0g when MCAS again kicks in. This has the effect that the pilots are suddenly weightless and no longer have power to pull the yoke back.

Source and effect of this are visible in the diagram.
-

Peter AU 1 , Apr 5, 2019 1:14:13 PM | link
Do airline pilots wear seatbelts on take off. I take it there would be some rules and regulations on this. I have always taken it for granted the pilots would be wearing seatbelt on take off and landing, also if expecting turbulence during a flight.
Impossible to control anything if you're getting tossed around.
ritzl , Apr 5, 2019 1:26:26 PM | link
Unless the EU and other governing bodies divorce themselves from our seemingly privatized FAA, expect more of this. Unless, of course, ALL flight safety orgs, globally, are equally corrupted.

I have no idea if global corruption is the case/or worse, but there is now pretty strong evidence that the US FAA is not the unassailable leader in certification protocols that the whole planet has depended upon - up to now.

karlof1 , Apr 5, 2019 1:29:56 PM | link
Hmmm.... Proper retribution. Load Boeing's Board of Directors, senior engineers that signed off on the entire MAX project, senior accountants, any others tied to the entire boondoggle, all FAA "regulators" who approved boondoggle, and all others who helped cause the fatalities into several MAX airplanes designed to fail just as the ill-fated jets did manned by the Boeing pilots who approved the faulty design and force them to takeoff with flight paths over water. Yes, proper retribution for the crime. Cruel and unusual objections? No. Proper retribution.

The entire Neoliberal philosophy must suffer a similar fate along with its promoters and their Neocon allies. The Class War has always been deadly. It's high time elites began taking casualties. Too radical? Take a good look at the world and the circumstances of those besieged by Neoliberals and Neocons and try to argue against.

ritzl , Apr 5, 2019 1:31:55 PM | link
And, Jeez, if you want to get into the whole "death of empire" thingy, this FAA failure would be among the top tier of exhibits.

Thanks b, and all posters here. This is a truly GREAT site. I recommend it whenever I talk politics in personL

Meshpal , Apr 5, 2019 1:41:34 PM | link
Zerohedge has an article that says the pilots should have reduced engine power.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-04-05/experts-say-ethiopian-air-pilots-failed-do-one-thing-could-have-prevented-deadly

That is a true statement, but with so many things going wrong – you need to understand that it is a basic instinct of pilots to keep engine power up so you can climb and get out of trouble.

Very basic: Power = Good and No-Power = Bad.

So they should have reduced power and done a slight nose down to unload the jack screw and re-trimmed manually. The problem was they had no altitude to work with, just 1000 ft or so.

So the end story is that not only did the pilot do well, but the low-hour co-pilot was also surprising competent. It was team work all the way.

So the bottom line is that our Western system has become so corrupt that it is no longer even safe to fly. And this is just the beginning. It is all downhill from now on. More gender studies and who needs engineers anyway?

deal with it , Apr 5, 2019 2:41:14 PM | link
Boeing Max 8 was a flying design mistake.
Boeing, You Ain't no Airbus!
You can' t just slap some heavier bulkiet engines on a tinny single body crap that barely flew straight at the first time and expect everything to be right, slapping some hiden software autocorrections on just in case.. and sell this crap all over the world. Enjoy the torrent of lawsuits now!
You ain't no European aircraft maker. They tend to think 2 to 3 design steps ahead in to the future.
You guys at the US cant even barrely ellect a pres. who is right in the head.
SteveK9 , Apr 5, 2019 3:26:36 PM | link
Apologies to everyone for the thread hijack, but nuclear power nonsense annoys me.
@Walter 18

Gundersen is a very well-known anti-nuke fanatic and a liar. His qualifications are BS. At this point I think you and I can leave it and either of us can read more if we are so inclined.

@Kiza 20

Hydrogen release was an effect from the overheating and meltdown, caused by the lack of emergency cooling. There were no hydrogen recombiners present in these reactors, although they had been installed in every BWR in the US long before.

As I mentioned the reactor nearest the quake suffered no damage, because its emergency generators continued to operate, as they were not flooded. I forgot the plant name ... you could look it up ... it actually served as a shelter during the flood. As a consequence there was no release of hydrogen there (this happens when the zirconium cladding on the fuel reacts with water at high temperature to release hydrogen).

I'm not an expert in reactor design (although I have a PhD in Chemical Physics). I reached my own conclusions a very long time ago, and am not really interested in digging up evidence or providing explanations. There is a mountain of information out there if one wants to look ... and I don't mean Greenpeace (although the founder, Patrick Moore is currently a supporter of nuclear power).

deal with it , Apr 5, 2019 3:34:13 PM | link
Oh and btw, about United States aviation related products leading the race in global aviation...

Struggling to produce an effective design for an airframe for the Martian atmosphere (planet Mars) back in the earlier decade, using the top of the line comercial aviation simulation products with aircraft design options bundled in, as a way of researching a NASA info web campaign about flying vehicles on Mars, managed after much trying to produce a somehow reliable generic airframe for that very thin atmosphere and low gravity environments, which it would generaly resemble a mix of U2's and Predator drones frames (twice large than a U2 wing span) but with major tail wings modifications and you would get adequate performance if you flew it inside the enormous Martian cannyons which have a higher atmosphere pessure than rest of Martian surface. Mil air force drones were generally non existant as information back then. The software was the only product FAA approved a license for actual comercial aviation simulation training hours for training of real pilots...End of story, this design came third ...and the actual algorithms in the software decided that an actual UFO shaped craft would be behaving much better in Martian wind/atmosphere... We incorporated the solution of small rockets for generating initial lift for take off and emergency altitude.
FAA and the leading edge researchers decided that the ALIENS WOULD WIN!
I was almost sure that even Nasa people (which names was on the program approval credits) used same software without noticing anything strange before the Aliens stole the win...

Bart Hansen , Apr 5, 2019 3:51:35 PM | link
So the jack screw that manually controls the stabilizer did not work due to high speed. Isn't that what hydraulics are for?

After all, Slim Pickens managed to kick that bombay door open in Strangelove

Hoarse, I also was confused by the reasoning in the Seattle paper. But then again, I learned all I know about the affect of air flowing over a surface in flight by sticking my hand out the car window as a kid.

تابلو چلنیوم , Apr 5, 2019 4:32:53 PM | link
To avoid such crashes, training is needed more professionally and, in addition, the worn-out parts of the planes should be removed and replaced with new ones. In the vast majority of aircraft, due to high costs, little importance is given to worn parts, which causes people to fall and get dead.
Scotch Bingeington , Apr 5, 2019 4:44:34 PM | link
@ Meshpal | 38
More gender studies and who needs engineers anyway?

I think you're barking up the wrong tree there. I wholeheartedly agree with the second (sarcastic) bit, no doubt about that. But the guy who had overall responsibility for the 737 MAX desaster holds a "degree" in "Business Administration". James McNerney, B.A. from Yale, MBA from Harvard, member of Delta Kappa Epsilon - Chairman, President and CEO of The Boeing Company 2005-2016. I have a strong feeling that gender studies wouldn't exactly be his cup of tea. Just an ordinary, boring, utterly predictable, Pavlovian, run-of-the-mill business tosser. He thought he could do it all, and so off he went, again and again. From British United Provident Association (healthcare) to G.D. Searle (pharmaceuticals) to Procter & Gamble to McKinsey to General Electric to 3M. And what the heck, let's add Boeing into the mix with a pay of 30 million USD in 2014 alone. What a spec-taaaa-cular career!

jayc , Apr 5, 2019 5:29:21 PM | link
Easy to anticipate a consumer boycott of this plane. I wouldn't buy a ticket on a Max 8 flight, and began double-checking the airliner after the crash last October.
bbbar , Apr 5, 2019 6:04:28 PM | link
Horsewhisperer @ 7

In horizontal flight the stabilizer exerts a moderate amount of downward force to keep the tail level (so as to balance the torques on the airplane). When the infographic says "a small downward force pushes the nose down" it is merely saying the downward force on the tail was now less than that required to keep the plane level, so the tail rose and the nose fell.

S , Apr 5, 2019 6:33:36 PM | link
@تابلو چلنیوم : I suggest you read the article first, then comment.
Kiza , Apr 5, 2019 6:41:32 PM | link
@SteveK9 40

With respect for your PhD in Chemistry Physics, you are obviously not an engineer. In most societies, it is around the third year of study that engineers learn about redundancy and contingency planning. Therefore, not thinking trough all the possible disaster scenarios when designing life-critical contraptions is simply criminal: Fukushima nuclear power plants.

Perhaps Boeing should have hired a couple of engineering interns to tell them that they must not:
1) slap unsuitable new engines on an obsolete old air frame,
2) try to fix a serious hardware problem using software,
3) override pilots with their lives on the line by the decisions of some software cretin paid by the hour with no skin in the game,
4) hang lives of 180 people on a single sensor unavailable for replacement on an airport in Timbuktu,
5) play the no-training-needed tune when the structure of the product was substantially changed and operator training was essential and so on.

The engineers are blue collar workers, the more so the closer they are to the assembly floor. They have no decision power, they do what they are told. Yet, it is a society in deep moral crisis when the engineers keep silent whilst virtually all basic tenants of the proper design are broken by the profiteers managing them. Doing all the wrong things and expecting the right result? No, not really, just grab the money and run. Après nous le déluge.

BTW, I heard from a Lockheed lobbyist that Lockheed would never do something like this. They only rip off the US tax payers for godzillion of dollars whilst making the best killing machines that money can buy.

ken , Apr 5, 2019 6:50:29 PM | link
God,,, What humans will do to save little pieces of paper loosely called money. This is criminal. The entire board should be charged with murder or at least manslaughter. But it won't happen. Corpgov will step in to save them as they're to big to jail.
S , Apr 5, 2019 7:01:44 PM | link
Absolutely heartbreaking.

It is my understanding, and please correct me if I'm wrong, that the only thing the pilots could have done was to realize -- by a pure miracle -- that the captain's AoA sensor has failed and switch to the first officer's flight computer, which was connected to another, working AoA sensor. Of course, if Boeing had installed their "mismatching AoA data" indicator as a standard feature, the pilots wouldn't really need a miracle.

VietnamVet , Apr 5, 2019 7:38:26 PM | link
Boeing is slowing the production rate of 737 Max by 20%. Another chicken has come home to roost. To safely fly the aircraft with passengers, a new flight control system is required with multiple sensors including gyroscopes plus triple redundant electronics. Not just two position sensors as proposed by Boeing which is the pilot flipping a coin in the chaotic 40 seconds to do the right thing while the plane is trying to kill you. Pilot and co-pilot training on flight simulators is also required. If the FAA approves anything less, sooner or later, another 737 Max will crash. Similarly, the Trump Administration is turning over pork inspection to the slaughter houses. A million Chinese pigs were culled to attempt to stop the spread of African Swine Fever but the deadly pig disease continues to spread through Asia. One day soon the contagion will be fatal to humans. Climate change is here. The forever wars continue. The bottom line is that public safety which is the basic function of government is collapsing. Oligarchs are getting rich on the bodies of the dead.
Yeah, Right , Apr 5, 2019 8:00:58 PM | link
@38 Meshpal "Zerohedge has an article that says the pilots should have reduced engine power."

From the report: "At 05:39:42, Level Change mode was engaged. The selected altitude was 32000 ft. Shortly after the mode change, the selected airspeed was set to 238 kt."

Then a minute later: "From 05:40:42 to 05:43:11 (about two and a half minutes), the stabilizer position gradually moved in the AND direction from 2.3 units to 2.1 units. During this time, aft force was applied to the control columns which remained aft of neutral position. The left indicated airspeed increased from approximately 305 kt to approximately 340 kt (VMO). The right indicated airspeed was approximately 20-25 kt higher than the left."

Note that the pilots were getting conflicting airspeed readings (the difference would eventually grow to around 50 kt).

There is nothing in the report that suggests that either of the pilots opened the throttles, and by the time the "overspeed clacker" started its warning the pilots had rather more pressing problems to deal with.

I don't quite understand why this isn't addressed in the report: the pilots set the speed to 238 kt, and if they then opened the throttles the report should have said so (it doesn't). But if they didn't touch the throttle then what accounts for the speed being at 305 kt (rather than 238 kt) when the plane started its first dive?

Ghost Ship , Apr 5, 2019 8:07:11 PM | link
>>>> SteveK9 | Apr 5, 2019 3:26:36 PM | 40
There is a mountain of information out there if one wants to look ... and I don't mean Greenpeace (although the founder, Patrick Moore is currently a supporter of nuclear power).

No, Patrick Moore was not the founder of Greenpeace :

Patrick Moore Did Not Found Greenpeace
Patrick Moore frequently portrays himself as a founder or co-founder of Greenpeace, and many news outlets have repeated this characterization. Although Mr. Moore played a significant role in Greenpeace Canada for several years, he did not found Greenpeace. Phil Cote, Irving Stowe, and Jim Bohlen founded Greenpeace in 1970. Patrick Moore applied for a berth on the Phyllis Cormack in March, 1971 after the organization had already been in existence for a year.
karlof1 , Apr 5, 2019 8:07:43 PM | link
Vietnam Vet #@51--

Thanks for confirming that the retribution I prescribe @36 is right and proper as is what must follow. Only one quibble with your comment, the death trap MAXs should never, ever again be certified as airworthy as they clearly are not .

UnionHorse , Apr 5, 2019 8:12:05 PM | link
Meme Change, consider speaking of the

Pentagon Complex.

MIC is unknown. Link to Ike's Farewell early and often.

Speak the names of every contractor, not just Lockheed, etc... Get the list out of them...

Cheers to naming the Pentagon Complex

My very best regards to all,

Arioch , Apr 5, 2019 8:27:33 PM | link
> I forgot the plant name ... you could look it up

@SteveK9 | Apr 5, 2019 3:26:36 PM | 40

It was all the same. Fukushima Dai-Ichi (Number One) was the Nuclear Power Plant consisting of 6 "Reactor Buildings"

#1 was relatively small, US-designed US-built one. It had passive residual cooling - gravity-powered water flow from the tank.

#2 was larger reactor in the same Mark-1 containment, US-designed and US-buit. The residual cooling though could not be gravity-driven. It required the pump (or maybe there was a way to set temperature-driven convection, if valves could be put right - i heard it but did not dig into it)

Obviously, USA does not care about tsunami-driven floods: USA has enough soil to build NPPs away from sea shores.

#3 and #4 were those larger reactors in more modern containment, US-designed but build by Japanese companies. Japanese did know what tsunami is, but they dared not to deviate from USA designs until they make succesfulyl working verbatim coopies.

#5 and #6 were Japanese-built after they got experience with #3 and #4 and proived they can do verbatim copies. Those latter blocks were altered: for #1 to #4 shore ground was removed to almost ocean sea levelm as close to the shorelines earth was considered wet and unreliable, but #5 and #6 were instead moved away from the sea enough to earth be stable even on elevation.

When the wave came, blocks #1 to $4 were flooded (with their electric circuits probably located in basements a la Americana, thus immediately got short-circuited with salted sea water), and diesels were located immediately at water edge with all the consequences for the communications. Blocks #5 and #6, located away from the sea shopre and on elevated grounds, and their diesels located near them, were not reached by the tsunami.

P.S. but people still repeat old propaganda about Chernobyl being sabotaged by suicidal operating crew, what do you want... When people read MSM they do not care much what exactly happened, so they just swallow it without labour of critical acclaim. If much later they suddenly grow interested in some issues - their "point of view" is already long internalized, so they do search relentlessly now - but for ideas supporting their pre-formed cognitive bias.

P.P.S. I agree though that hi-jacking Boeing-related thread for in-depth discussion of NP issues would be not proper to do.

Arioch , Apr 5, 2019 8:33:40 PM | link
> it is merely saying the downward force on the tail was now less than that required

Posted by: bbbar | Apr 5, 2019 6:04:28 PM | 46

That was what i settled upon too, in the end.
But the way infographics worded it was baflfing at least.

They probably simplified words to keep the mdigestible for laymen? But well, they overdid, greatly.

karlof1 , Apr 5, 2019 8:39:49 PM | link
Ralph Nader on "Boeing's Homicides . Why is it that only he and I seem to understand:

"THE BOEING 737 MAX MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO FLY AGAIN." {Emphasis original]

The discussion here resembles that being conducted by Boeing to exonerate itself. The MAX was purposely designed to be unsafe. Nader puts it thusly:

" The overriding problem is the basic unstable design of the 737 Max. An aircraft has to be stall proof not stall prone . An aircraft manufacturer like Boeing, notwithstanding its past safety record, is not entitled to more aircraft disasters that are preventable by following long-established aeronautical engineering practices and standards." [My Emphasis]

Trying to fix something so fundamentally broken that people with priceless lives are jeopardized if the fix(es) fail is so utterly immoral words fail to detail just how deep that immorality is. It's not just Righteous Indignation or even Righteous Indignation on Steroids--it goes well beyond that to the utterly dysfunctional immorality of placing profit over the safety of something money cannot buy or replace-- PEOPLE'S LIVES .

james , Apr 5, 2019 8:55:15 PM | link
i agree with nader.... thanks karlof1..
psychohistorian , Apr 5, 2019 9:15:44 PM | link
@ karlof1 with the Nader quote

You know that I and others agree as well with your strong sentiments.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out as a telltale of empire's demise or resilience.

It is not just the 737 Max that I would stay off. Think about the profit mentality that built/allowed the Max to go forward and extrapolate that to the replacement parts for all the other Boeing planes. Do people not understand that the same mentality of profit over safety that brought down the 737 Max is putting other, considered more reliable, Boeing planes at risk....for a few pennies more

Americans are brainwashed into believing that profit belongs between them and good health care so it could be described as a slippery slope to write of 99% of humans not valuing their lives very highly......because brainwashed by TV is my observation

So , Apr 5, 2019 9:26:33 PM | link
There are people in Boeing that need to see the inside of a prison cell forever.
I remember in 2008 during the recession depression seeing an idiot at the beach wearing a Goldman Sachs t shirt. I looked at the idiot in disbelief saying nothing. The next time I see an idiot in SC/Georgia I will not be holding my tongue. "Relentlessly focused on safety" my ass. The crapification continues.
So , Apr 5, 2019 9:31:35 PM | link
Their money and profits are more important than our lives. That's where we are and its all we need to know
S , Apr 5, 2019 9:31:37 PM | link
And the "AoA Disagree" indicator is not even a physical light indicator, as I initially thought, but a purely software feature for the primary flight display ! Unbelievable! 346 people had to die because someone decided to charge an exorbitant fee for a few lines of code that basically consist of two conditionals, a timer variable, and a bitmap blit call.
dh-mtl , Apr 5, 2019 9:35:14 PM | link
On March 12, in a comment posted on MOA, I wrote:

'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'.'

This is pretty much in agreement with (Posted by: karlof1 | Apr 5, 2019 8:39:49 PM | 58).

I fully agree with the sentiment that this plane should never fly again. I can't imagine any thinking person volunteering to get on to such a fundamentally flawed aircraft.

Zachary Smith , Apr 5, 2019 9:57:18 PM | link
@ Meshpal #38
That is a true statement, but with so many things going wrong – you need to understand that it is a basic instinct of pilots to keep engine power up so you can climb and get out of trouble.

Very basic: Power = Good and No-Power = Bad.

This is what I've heard for as long as I've been reading about airplanes. A search turned up some "sayings" popular with pilots.

It's best to keep the pointed end going forward as much as possible.

The only time you have too much fuel is when you're on fire.

Speed is life, altitude is life insurance. No one has ever collided with the sky.

If you're gonna fly low, do not fly slow! ASW pilots know this only too well.

I've just visited a West Australian newspaper - the one where the brand spanking new Aviation Editor spoke of stupid pilots and unbearably wonderful Boeing. They have a new essay about the Report, but 1) the jackass troll for Boeing has been given a minder in the form of a co-author, and 2) the article plays it straight this time.

Boeing admits 737 software was factor in crashes

The Ethiopian crew performed all of the procedures provided by Boeing but was unable to control the aircraft.

ben , Apr 5, 2019 10:02:06 PM | link
Just more death by deregulation. What's a few hundred deaths compared to Trillions in profits?

This equation extends through most of the U$A's corporate mindset...

Bob , Apr 5, 2019 11:03:17 PM | link
Now with Ralph Nader aboard lets hope that Boeing will have to pay a very high fine https://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-thursday-edition-1.5084648/ralph-nader-lost-his-grandniece-in-the-ethiopian-airlines-crash-now-he-s-taking-on-boeing-1.5084655

In case nobody came up with this information up to now, also the US Military doesn't let their pilots fly the new delivered KC-46 tankers https://www.stripes.com/news/loose-tools-and-debris-left-during-manufacturing-led-to-grounding-of-kc-46-tankers-1.570889

The problems of the B737 Max are not a disaster for Boeing, but for the over 300 fatalities.
They lost no shareholder value or return, they lost their lives.
They are also certainly not represented by expensive top lawyers like Boeing itself, who can then mitigate, delay or even completely avert the consequences of Boeing's decisions.
They, the people (who had confidence in American technology/products), crashed on the ground, burned or plunged into the sea without ever having had the slightest chance of averting the disaster.

Grieved , Apr 6, 2019 12:01:45 AM | link
@66 ben

"death by deregulation"

Perfect description.

~~

@67 Bob

Interesting story you linked on the Boeing KC-46. The Air Force pilots won't fly it because the loose tools and debris they found in the planes raised doubts about the planes manufacturing integrity. The crisis was/is one degree (of four graduated degrees of seriousness) away from shutting down the production line completely.

What's key is how Boeing proceeded to address the problem: by taking employee time away from production in order to perform final inspection, i.e. quality control. Which makes it clear where the original quality control was lost, by being absorbed into production, to make more product per employee hour.

And this is just one, visible part of the process, where we can observe concrete examples of inadequate QC.

Commenters here who point to these plane crashes as a failure in the integrity of Boeing itself are exactly correct. The flawed plane built by the flawed company was an inevitable fruit of the poisoned tree.

And I agree that one would be mad to trust anything bearing Boeing's name ever again. One would be wise also to look for similar poisoned trees in all fields, and thread one's way cautiously though this perilous, neoliberalized world.

stuart dodd , Apr 6, 2019 12:25:48 AM | link
Posted by: Bart Hansen | Apr 5, 2019 3:51:35 PM | 42

So the jack screw that manually controls the stabilizer did not work due to high speed. Isn't that what hydraulics are for?

By design.

The screw is designed to work within certain criteria.
1.Load,caused by thick or thin air pressure depending on altitude, on the moving part.
2. Speed, which again increases the load depending on the planes speed through the air, on the moving part.

The speed and altitude are known from the panes onboard sensors.

Great load will possibly damage or break away the moving part, leading to an uncontrollable crash.

Hence use of the jack screw adjustment, by the hydraulic system, will only be available within its design envelope of load and speed.

james , Apr 6, 2019 12:53:13 AM | link
yeah ben... perfect description as grieved notes...

"@66 ben

"death by deregulation"

Perfect description."

no one will be held accountable...

[Apr 05, 2019] Ilargi Meijer Boeing's Problem Is Not Software

Apr 05, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Ilargi Meijer: Boeing's Problem Is Not Software

by Tyler Durden Thu, 04/04/2019 - 20:45 65 SHARES Authored by Raul Ilargi Meijer via The Automatic Earth blog,

We had already been told that in the Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 crash which killed all 157 people on board, the 4-month old 737 MAX 8's anti-stall software reengaged itself four times in 6 minutes as the pilots struggled to straighten the plane post-takeoff. In the end, the anti-stall software won and pushed the plane nose-down towards the earth. Now, Ethiopia -finally?!- released its report in the March 10 crash:

Minister of Transport Dagmawit Moges said that the crew of the Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi on 10 March "performed all the procedures repeatedly provided by the manufacturer but were not able to control the aircraft." As result, investigations have concluded that Boeing should be required to review the so-called manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system on its 737 Max aircraft before the jets are permitted to fly again, she said.

The results of the preliminary investigation led by Ethiopia's Accident Investigation Bureau and supported by European investigators were presented by Ms Moges at a press conference in Addis Ababa on Thursday morning.

Ethiopia is being kind to Boeing. However, though the anti-stall software played a big role in what happened, Boeing's assertion (hope?!) that a software fix is all that is needed to get the 737MAX's back in the air around the globe rests on very shaky ground (no pun intended whatsoever).

737 MAX 8. The angle-of- attack (AOA) sensor is the lower device below the cockpit windshield on both sides of the fuselage. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

The Seattle Times did an article on March 26 that explains a lot more than all other articles on the topic combined. The paper of course resides in Boeing's backyard, but can that be the reason we haven't seen the article quoted all over?

If the assertions in the article are correct, it would appear that a software fix is the least of Boeing's problems. For one thing, it needs to address serious hardware, not software, issues with its planes. For another, the company better hire a thousand of the world's best lawyers for all the lawsuits that will be filed against it.

Its cost-cutting endeavors may well be responsible for killing a combined 346 people in the October 29 Lion Air crash and the Ethiopian Airlines one. Get a class-action suit filed in the US and Boeing could be fighting for survival.

Here's what the Seattle Times wrote 9 days ago:

Lack Of Redundancies On Boeing 737 MAX System Baffles Some Involved In Developing The Jet

Boeing has long embraced the power of redundancy to protect its jets and their passengers from a range of potential disruptions, from electrical faults to lightning strikes. The company typically uses two or even three separate components as fail-safes for crucial tasks to reduce the possibility of a disastrous failure. Its most advanced planes, for instance, have three flight computers that function independently, with each computer containing three different processors manufactured by different companies . So even some of the people who have worked on Boeing's new 737 MAX airplane were baffled to learn that the company had designed an automated safety system that abandoned the principles of component redundancy, ultimately entrusting the automated decision-making to just one sensor -- a type of sensor that was known to fail.

That one paragraph alone is so potentially damaging it's hard to fathom why everyone's still discussing a software glitch.

Boeing's rival, Airbus, has typically depended on three such sensors. "A single point of failure is an absolute no-no," said one former Boeing engineer who worked on the MAX, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about the program in an interview with The Seattle Times. "That is just a huge system engineering oversight. To just have missed it, I can't imagine how." Boeing's design made the flight crew the fail-safe backup to the safety system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS. The Times has interviewed eight people in recent days who were involved in developing the MAX, which remains grounded around the globe in the wake of two crashes that killed a total of 346 people.

The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was already a late addition that Boeing had not planned for initially. They wanted a plane that was so like older ones that no training would be needed, but did put a much heavier engine in it, which was why MCAS was needed. As I wrote earlier today, they cut corners until there was no corner left. On hardware, on software, on pilot training (simulator), everything was done to be cheaper than Airbus.

The angle-of-attack (AOA) sensor of the 737 MAX is the bottom piece of equipment below just below the cockpit windshield. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

A faulty reading from an angle-of-attack sensor (AOA) -- used to assess whether the plane is angled up so much that it is at risk of stalling -- is now suspected in the October crash of a 737 MAX in Indonesia, with data suggesting that MCAS pushed the aircraft's nose toward Earth to avoid a stall that wasn't happening. Investigators have said another crash in Ethiopia this month has parallels to the first.

Boeing has been working to rejigger its MAX software in recent months, and that includes a plan to have MCAS consider input from both of the plane's angle-of-attack sensors, according to officials familiar with the new design. "Our proposed software update incorporates additional limits and safeguards to the system and reduces crew workload," Boeing said in a statement. But one problem with two-point redundancies is that if one sensor goes haywire, the plane may not be able to automatically determine which of the two readings is correct , so Boeing has indicated that the MCAS safety system will not function when the sensors record substantial disagreement.

The underlying idea is so basic and simple it hurts: safety come in groups of three: three flight computers that function independently, with each computer containing three different processors manufactured by different companies , and three sensors. The logic behind this is so overwhelming it's hard to see how anyone but a sociopathic accountant can even ponder ditching it.

And then here come the clinchers:

Some observers, including the former Boeing engineer, think the safest option would be for Boeing to have a third sensor to help ferret out an erroneous reading, much like the three-sensor systems on the airplanes at rival Airbus. Adding that option, however, could require a physical retrofit of the MAX.

See? It's not a software issue. It's hardware, and in all likelihood not just computer hardware either.

Clincher no. 2:

Andrew Kornecki, a former professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University who has studied redundancy systems in Airbus and Boeing planes, said operating the automated system with one or two sensors would be fine if all the pilots were sufficiently trained in how to assess and handle the plane in the event of a problem. But, he said, if he were designing the system from scratch, he would emphasize the training while also building the plane with three sensors.

The professor is not 100% honest, I would think. There is zero reason to opt for a two-sensor system, and 1001 reasons not to. It's all just about cost being more important than people. That last bit explains why Boeing went there against better judgment:

[..] Boeing had been exploring the construction of an all-new airplane earlier this decade. But after American Airlines began discussing orders for a new plane from Airbus in 2011, Boeing abruptly changed course , settling on the faster alternative of modifying its popular 737 into a new MAX model. Rick Ludtke, a former Boeing engineer who worked on designing the interfaces on the MAX's flight deck, said managers mandated that any differences from the previous 737 had to be small enough that they wouldn't trigger the need for pilots to undergo new simulator training.

That left the team working on an old architecture and layers of different design philosophies that had piled on over the years, all to serve an international pilot community that was increasingly expecting automation. "It's become such a kludge, that we started to speculate and wonder whether it was safe to do the MAX," Ludtke said. Ludtke didn't work directly on the MCAS, but he worked with those who did. He said that if the group had built the MCAS in a way that would depend on two sensors, and would shut the system off if one fails, he thinks the company would have needed to install an alert in the cockpit to make the pilots aware that the safety system was off.

There you go: A two-sensor system is fundamentally unsound, and it's therefore bonkers to even discuss, let alone contemplate it.

And if that happens, Ludtke said, the pilots would potentially need training on the new alert and the underlying system. That could mean simulator time, which was off the table. "The decision path they made with MCAS is probably the wrong one," Ludtke said. "It shows how the airplane is a bridge too far."

Kudos to the Seattle Times for their research. And yeah, we get it, at over 5000 orders for the plane, which costs $121 million each, there's big money involved. Here's hoping that Boeing will find out in the courts just how much.

[Apr 05, 2019] Additional Software Issue Discovered In Boeing 737 MAX

Apr 05, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

The preliminary report contains flight data recorder information indicating the airplane had an erroneous angle of attack sensor input that activated the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) function during the flight, as it had during the Lion Air 610 flight.

To ensure unintended MCAS activation will not occur again, Boeing has developed and is planning to release a software update to MCAS and an associated comprehensive pilot training and supplementary education program for the 737 MAX.

As previously announced, the update adds additional layers of protection and will prevent erroneous data from causing MCAS activation. Flight crews will always have the ability to override MCAS and manually control the airplane.

Boeing continues to work with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and other regulatory agencies worldwide on the development and certification of the software update and training program.

Boeing also is continuing to work closely with the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as technical advisors in support of the AIB investigation. As a party providing technical assistance under the direction of investigating authorities, Boeing is prevented by international protocol and NTSB regulations from disclosing any information relating to the investigation. In accordance with international protocol, information about the investigation is provided only by investigating authorities in charge.

* * *

Update (1100ET) : Ethiopian investigators have called on Boeing to carry out a full review of the anti-stall system on its 737 Max aircraft after finding pilots of a plane that crashed near Addis Ababa last month had followed the stipulated emergency procedures but were unable to save the aircraft.

Key highlights from the report make it very clear this is Boeing's problem...

As The FT reports, Ethiopian minister of transport Dagmawit Moges called on the embattled aircraft manufacturer to carry out a full review of the anti-stall system on its 737 Max aircraft before they are allowed to fly again , after finding that the pilots were not to blame for the crash last month.

Boeing stock is higher somehow on the back of all this??

Presumably trade hype/hope trumps crash liabilities.

Read the Full Report here...

[Apr 05, 2019] U.S. lawsuit filed against Boeing over Ethiopian Airlines crash - Reuters

Apr 05, 2019 | www.reuters.com

A lawsuit against Boeing Co was filed in U.S. federal court on Thursday in what appeared to be the first suit over a March 10 Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX crash that killed 157 people.

The lawsuit was filed in Chicago federal court by the family of Jackson Musoni, a citizen of Rwanda, and alleges that Boeing, which manufactures the 737 MAX, had defectively designed the automated flight control system.

Boeing said it could not comment on the lawsuit.

"Boeing ... is working with the authorities to evaluate new information as it becomes available," it said, adding all inquiries about the ongoing accident investigation must be directed to the investigating authorities.

The 737 MAX planes were grounded worldwide following the Ethiopian Airlines disaster, which came five months after a Lion Air crash in Indonesia that killed 189 people.

Boeing said on Wednesday it had reprogrammed software on its 737 MAX to prevent erroneous data from triggering an anti-stall system that is facing mounting scrutiny in the wake of two deadly nose-down crashes in the past five months.

The planemaker said the anti-stall system, which is believed to have repeatedly forced the nose lower in at least one of the accidents, in Indonesia last October, would only do so once per event after sensing a problem, giving pilots more control.

The crash of Boeing's passenger jet in Ethiopia raised the chances that families of the victims, even non-U.S. residents, will be able to sue in U.S. courts, where payouts are much larger than in other countries, some legal experts have said.

Wednesday's complaint was filed by Musoni's three minor children, who are Dutch citizens residing in Belgium.

The lawsuit says Boeing failed to warn the public, airlines and pilots of the airplane's allegedly erroneous sensors, causing the aircraft to dive automatically and uncontrollably.

Ethiopian officials and some analysts have said the Ethiopian Airlines jet behaved in a similar pattern as the 737 MAX involved in October's Lion Air disaster. The investigation into the March crash, which is being led by the Ethiopian Transport Ministry, is still at an early stage.

[Apr 03, 2019] Bad News For Boeing Preliminary Report Shows Anti-Stall Software Sealed Flight ET302's Fate

Apr 03, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Bad News For Boeing: Preliminary Report Shows Anti-Stall Software Sealed Flight ET302's Fate

by Tyler Durden Wed, 04/03/2019 - 08:06 251 SHARES

Thought it hasn't been publicly released yet, a preliminary report on the circumstances that caused flight ET302 to plunge out of the sky just minutes after takeoff was completed earlier this week, and some of the details have leaked to Reuters and the Wall Street Journal. And for Boeing shareholders, the findings aren't pretty.

Appearing to contradict Boeing's insistence that procedures for deactivating its MCAS anti-stall software were widely disseminated, and that pilots at airlines around the world had been trained on these procedures, WSJ reported that the pilots of ET302 successfully switched off MCAS as they struggled to right the plane after the software had automatically tipped its nose down. As they struggled to right the plane, the pilots ended up reactivating the software, while trying a few other steps from their training, before the plane began its final plunge toward a field outside Addis Ababa, where the ensuing crash killed all 157 people on board.

Though the pilots deviated from Boeing's emergency checklist as they tried to right the plane, investigators surmised that they gave up on the procedures after they failed to right the plane. But when MCAS reengaged, whether intentionally, or on accident, it pushed the nose of the plane lower once again.

The pilots on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 initially reacted to the emergency by shutting off power to electric motors driven by the automated system, these people said, but then appear to have re-engaged the system to cope with a persistent steep nose-down angle. It wasn't immediately clear why the pilots turned the automated system back on instead of continuing to follow Boeing's standard emergency checklist, but government and industry officials said the likely reason would have been because manual controls to raise the nose didn't achieve the desired results.

After first cranking a manual wheel in the cockpit that controls the same movable surfaces on the plane's tail that MCAS had affected, the pilots turned electric power back on, one of these people said. They began to use electric switches to try to raise the plane's nose, according to these people. But the electric power also reactivated MCAS, allowing it to continue its strong downward commands, the people said.

Reuters , which was also the recipient of leaks from investigators, offered a slightly different version of events. It reported that MCAS was reengaged four times as pilots scrambled to right the plane, and that investigators were looking into the possibility that the software might have reengaged without prompting from the pilots.

After the Lion Air crash that killed 189 people back in October, Boeing and the FAA published a bulletin reminding pilots to follow the emergency procedures to deactivate the software if a faulty sensor - like the one that is believed to have contributed to the Lion Air crash - feeds erroneous data to the system.

The data show the pilots maneuvered the plane back upward twice before deactivating the software. But between the two reports, one detail is made abundantly clear. The software's reengagement is what doomed everybody aboard. That is an unequivocally bad look for Boeing, which has been deflecting questions about the software's bugs, and gaps in the dissemination of its training materials, while working on an update that the company says will make the software less reliant on automated systems.

ersl , 3 hours ago link

The aviation industry has been trying to make the human pilots obsolete, just as in so many industries. But they all do their, these days, their R & D on the job. Recall the Amazon Robot that went berserk recently. The idea is to rid all industry of people progressively so that they can end up not needing people at all. They'll end up with nothing. Some how they think that if they take people out then profits will be assured, which is actually psychotic. They have had remote auto pilot for 7 decades now. They can bring down any aircraft at will, and do so regularly. They can shut down or affect engines remotely, or alter the actions as is imbedded into just about all new machinery, other than knives, forks and spoons. Yet they still need consumers and workers to create hedged exchange to profit from. That is the dilemma industry owners are facing, that without pesky people they are doomed as much as the doom they are creating for even their own off spring = psychosis.

[Apr 02, 2019] In 737MAX the pilot simply cannot take full control the aircraft when he needs to do so. Hence the pilots in the 737MAX cases scrambling to work through the problem by checklist, if you're doing this something is going wrong and will be wrong.

Apr 02, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

Gravatomic , Apr 1, 2019 11:23:03 AM | 66 ">link

The 757 and 767 are a more obvious airframe to build upon, as a response to the Airbus the new 737MAX design was very poorly thought out, it's airframe vs. engine placement and thrust. Having trained on Boeing 767-300ERs myself a pilot becomes very in tune with it's quirks and it does have them, speed bugs and so on.

When you watch certain aircraft taking off in routine operations, unreasonable angles of attack V-speed, now many pilots will engage 1 autopilots minutes after take off while flaps are partially extended still(it stabalizes a positive rate of climb), this is so that the aircraft is more efficient, cost effective and reaches it's crusie altitude and destination on time.

The 767 has 3 autopilot computers, 2 of them receive data as to angle of attack and speed when the stall warning activates as the stick shakes, the autopilots are off, period, no more input from the computers other than warnings - these too can often lead to confusion and sometimes with fatal results.

Sometimes you will re-engage one after you've corrected the airspeed (nose down) and stall to regain and maintain a efficient airflow lift. Although in some cases the pitot tubes malfunction to due ice, so trusting what the machine was telling the pilots can be fatal.

[In 737MAX] The pilot simply cannot take full control the aircraft when he needs to do so. Hence the pilots in the 737MAX cases scrambling to work through the problem by checklist, if you're doing this something is going wrong and will be wrong.

Ever notice the difference between a soft smooth landing and a 'rough one' that shakes passengers - note these are totally normal landings, the computer assisted ones in clear blue skies and calm winds are not.

That's the pilots on a VFR or visual landing which the computer usually tries to interfere with, if a hybrid semi-assisted landing, especially on an ILS glideslope in bad weather.

A pilot should know these skills but many now do not. They have to rely on the input from the computers and Boeing tried unsuccessfully to introduce this new MCAS system seamlessly, when you've got 3 autopilots why is only 1 receiving the flight data of angle of attack and v-speed?!

[Mar 31, 2019] EU Agency Said to Have Skipped 737 Max Meeting in Snub to Boeing

Mar 31, 2019 | www.bloomberg.com

There was a prominent no-show among the 200 regulators, pilots and airline managers that Boeing Co. invited to preview a crucial software update for the 737 Max this week, said people familiar with the matter: European safety officials.

The planemaker is sending a team across the Atlantic to brief the European Union Aviation Safety Agency on the proposed changes after two of the jetliners plunged to the ground within five months, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Representatives of EASA didn't return requests for comment.

Intentional or not, EASA's snub points to the delicate politics Boeing faces in convincing regulators the Max is safe as the company seeks to restore confidence in its best-selling jet, which has been grounded for more than two weeks. The reputation of U.S. regulators has taken a hit in the scrutiny of the 737 Max's approval process, and foreign agencies are less likely to rubber-stamp aircraft certifications simply because they have been cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration.

EASA is expected to play an influential role in determining how long and complicated the review of the Max will be, while safety officials from China to Canada have vowed to conduct their own rigorous analysis.

"EASA's determination should be important for the rest of the world, given its sophistication and perceived independence," Seth Seifman, analyst with JPMorgan Chase & Co., said in a note to clients.

A spokesman for the FAA declined to comment.

'Productive' Sessions

"We had productive information sessions this week and continue to work closely with our customers and regulators on software and training updates for the 737 Max," Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman said by email.

As of late Friday, the Chicago-based planemaker was still finishing up paperwork needed to certify a software upgrade and revised pilot training for the 737 Max. One prominent pilots union criticized the proposed training as insufficient.

The software changes, intended to prevent stall-prevention software from engaging in normal flight, have been in the works since the system pointed a Lion Air jet's nose downward about two dozen times before pilots lost control Oct. 29. That accident killed 189 people, while 157 died when an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max 8 crashed March 10.

While certifying the software upgrade is the first step toward returning the Max to flight, it doesn't assure the grounding will be speedily lifted by the FAA or its counterparts around the world. The EU, China and Canada all grounded the 737 Max more quickly than the FAA in the wake of the Ethiopian crash.

Software Changes

The break between FAA and overseas authorities on the initial decision to ground the plane, combined with worldwide public furor and a U.S. criminal probe of the Max certification, "all make it hard for us to see how foreign regulators can avoid coming back with their own questions and doing some of their own due diligence," Seifman said in his report.

Crash investigators suspect that a damaged or malfunctioning sensor triggered anti-stall technology in the Ethiopian Airlines plane, Bloomberg reported Friday. Investigators think that caused the plane's nose to point downward, and the pilots struggled to counteract the software-based system, according to people familiar with the crash probe. That scenario would be similar to the crash that brought down the Lion Air flight last year in Indonesia.

Click here to read Bloomberg's report on the sensor investigators are focusing on.

Boeing is planning software revisions that restrict the number of times the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, kicks in to a single interaction. The update is also designed so that MCAS can't command the horizontal stabilizer to push a plane's nose down with more force than what pilots can counter by pulling back on the steering column.

The enhancements appeared to work as billed, said pilots who viewed demonstrations of the upgrades by company test pilots in flight simulators at the event March 27 in Renton, Washington.

"We were confident flying the aircraft in its present state," said Roddy Guthrie, American Airlines Group Inc. 's 737 fleet captain, who was at the Boeing briefings. The improvements "were needed. They've put some checks and balances in the system now that will make the system much better."

Simulator Demonstrations

Still, Boeing representatives faced caustic comments from some at the Wednesday session, said one of the people familiar with the discussions. As Boeing test pilots demonstrated old and new versions of MCAS, attendees were especially interested in re-enacting the sequence of events leading to the Lion Air crash, the person said. Pilots also demonstrated how the 737 Max would behave if an angle-of-attack vane was sheared off by, say, a bird strike.

Click to read how Boeing rival Airbus is treading carefully with the 737 Max grounded.

One pilot group walked away from the event feeling that Boeing needs to do more work on a new 30-minute iPad course, followed by a test, that is intended to help pilots of the older generation of 737 planes prepare for the Max. The newest version of Boeing's workhorse single-aisle jet debuted less than two years ago.

Pilots who saw the preliminary version of the training "characterized it as nice for an elementary level of understanding, but pilots will definitely need a more textured and layered instructional piece," said Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, which represents pilots at American. "That was the hands-down consensus."

Boeing was receptive to the comments, Tajer said.

-- With assistance by Alan Levin

[Mar 29, 2019] Boeing Doubles Down on 737 Max, Rejects Need for Simulator Training naked capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... Boeing compromised on sound engineering with the 737 Max . Recall the origins of the problem: Boeing was at risk of losing big orders to a more fuel-efficient Airbus model. Rather than sacrifice market share, Boeing put more fuel-efficient, larger engines on the existing 737 frames. The placement of the engine created a new safety risk, that under some circumstances, the plane could "nose up" at such a steep angle as to put it in a stall. The solution was to install software called MCAS which would force the nose down if the "angle of attack" became too acute. ..."
"... Merriam-Webster defines kludge -- sometimes spelled kluge -- as "a haphazard or makeshift solution to a problem and especially to a computer or programming problem." Oxford defines it as, in computing, "A machine, system, or program that has been badly put together, especially a clumsy but temporarily effective solution to a particular fault or problem." ..."
"... In the case of the 737 Max, it's the combination of how two separate problems interacted -- a plane whose design introduced aerodynamics issues and what now appears to have been a poorly designed anti-stall system -- that seems to be drawing many to turn to Granholm's term. The problems were compounded in many ways, including by the fact that pilots were not told of or trained for the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) before the Lion Air crash, which killed all 189 on board. ..."
"... "My concern is that Boeing may have developed the MCAS software as a profit-driven kludge to mitigate the Max 8's degraded flight characteristics due to the engine relocation required to maintain ground clearance," commented Philip Wheelock on a New York Times story about the plane's certification process this week. "Not convinced that software is an acceptable solution for an older design that has been pushed to its inherent aeronautical design limits." ..."
"... "Indeed, it seems the 737 MAX was a kludge to an existing design, and that MCAS was a kludge on top of that," said a commenter on Hackaday . ..."
"... Boeing has long embraced the power of redundancy to protect its jets and their passengers from a range of potential disruptions, from electrical faults to lightning strikes. The company typically uses two or even three separate components as fail-safes for crucial tasks to reduce the possibility of a disastrous failure. So even some of the people who have worked on Boeing's new 737 MAX airplane were baffled to learn that the company had designed an automated safety system that abandoned the principles of component redundancy, ultimately entrusting the automated decision-making to just one sensor -- a type of sensor that was known to fail. ..."
"... That no one who wrote the MCAS software for the 737 MAX seems to have even raised the issue of using multiple inputs, including the opposite angle of attack sensor, in the computer's determination of an impending stall is mind-blowing. ..."
"... As a lifetime member of the software development fraternity, I don't know what toxic combination of inexperience, hubris, or lack of cultural understanding led to this. But I do know that it's indicative of a much deeper and much more troubling problem. The people who wrote the code for the original MCAS system were obviously terribly far out of their league and did not know it. How can we possibly think they can implement a software fix, much less give us any comfort whatsoever that the rest of the flight management software, which is ultimately in ultimate control of the aircraft, has any fidelity at all? ..."
"... And we're giving short shrift to how Boeing compounded the problem, for instance, by making it an upcharge to have the 737 Max have a light showing that its angle of attack sensors disagreed (the planes did have two, but bizarrely, only one would be giving data to the MCAS system on any day), or hiding the fact that there was a new safety automated safety system in two paragraphs after page 700 in the flight manual. ..."
"... It's about an airplane manufacturer that put engines on an airframe they weren't designed for, having to add a flight control override to guard against said airplane's new tendency to nose up, and then adding insult to injury by driving that system with a single sensor when two are available. Oh – and charging airlines extra for the privilege of their pilots being told when one of those sensors is providing bad data. ..."
"... Officials investigating the fatal crash of a Boeing Co. BA 0.06% 737 MAX in Ethiopia have reached a preliminary conclusion that a suspect flight-control feature automatically activated before the plane nose-dived into the ground, according to people briefed on the matter, the first findings based on data retrieved from the flight's black boxes. ..."
"... Boeing is doubling down on its mistakes . The lesson of the Tylenol poisoning is that if a company has a safety problem, even if it isn't its fault, it needs to do everything it can to rectify the defects and protect customers. If there is any doubt, the company needs to err of the side of safety. ..."
"... Here, unlike with Johnson & Johnson, the failings that led to 737 Max groundings all originated with Boeing. Yet rather than own the problems and go overboard on fixing them to restore confidence in the plane and in Boeing, Boeing is acting as if all it has to put in place are merely adequate measures. ..."
"... [Former Boeing engineer Mr. [Rick] Ludtke [who worked on 737 MAX cockpit features] recalled midlevel managers telling subordinates that Boeing had committed to pay the airline $1 million per plane if its design ended up requiring pilots to spend additional simulator time. "We had never, ever seen commitments like that before," he said. ..."
"... I hope the pilots in our readership speak up, but as a mere mortal, I've very uncomfortable with pilots being put in a position of overriding a system in emergency conditions when they haven't even test driven it. When I learn software, reading a manual is useless save for learning what the program's capabilities are. In order to be able to use it, I have to spend time with it, hands on. Computer professionals tell me the same thing. It doesn't seem likely that pilots are all that different. ..."
"... Boeing does not seem to comprehend that it is gambling with its future. What if international flight regulators use the Max 737 as a bloody flag and refuse to accept FAA certifications of Boeing planes, or US origin equipment generally? Do you think for a nanosecond that the European and Chinese regulators wouldn't use disregarding the FAA as a way to advance their interests? Europe would clearly give preference to Airbus, and the Chinese could use Boeing to punish the US for going after Huawei. ..."
"... And yet we do not see anyone suggesting the obvious solution to this problem; eliminating the 737 MAX type of aircraft altogether. ..."
"... I don't think that Boeing can afford to drop the 737 MAX. This aircraft was in response to the Airbus as they did not have any new aircraft designs on the boards to take it on. So they modified a 1970s design as a profitable stopgap solution. ..."
"... Boeing were designing a follow-on to the 737, but panicked when the A320Neo came and went for the MAX instead as they could deliver it much quicker and cheaper than a new aircraft. ..."
"... If its true that they are another example of a once great engineering company enslaved to the quarterly results, then it may well be that all work on the replacement stopped when they put their engineers to work on the MAX line. If that's the case, then they really are screwed. Ten years is an absolute minimum to get a brand new aircraft delivered to customers from a standing start. ..."
"... The newer versions of the 737 have nearly twice the max takeoff weight of the original, but with the same landing gear and nearly the same wing area. ..."
"... Airbus probably can't produce enough Neo to make up for the shortfall, but they essentially own the Bombardier C-Series now (ironically, made in Mobile, Alabama and relabelled the Airbus 220) which could prove an excellent investment by Airbus. ..."
"... Regarding the FAA I have read in Spanish press that Daniel Elwell declared in the congress (translated from Spanish) that "I can't believe that airline companies tried to save a few thousand dollars on a feature that increases safety". This is a bad try to shift blame from Boeing to airline companies and if anything will reduce (eliminate) the international confidence on FAA regulations. ..."
"... Managers telling this to engineers before a plane is designed is one thing. Telling it to them after the plane been designed but while its user interface is being designed is outrageous. ..."
"... And I think the plane actually has two (one on each side) , but for some reason, their inputs weren't combined. There's a slight subtlety that the air flow is 3 dimensional, so when the plane is turning, and particularly turning+climbing, the readings of the two might vary slightly – but that's for the software to sort out. They reportedly didn't hook both of them up to both flight computers – why is an interesting question. There's probably a practical reason, but ..."
"... What the folks at Boeing may not realise is that the more they double-down on this bizarre tactic of using spin-doctoring as a crisis management tool aimed at an audience that is rapidly losing trust in the company ( and frankly may no longer believe anything coming out of the corporate communications department at Boeing), the harder it's going to be to reverse course by coming out and saying "we screwed up and will do whatever it takes to fix this". This debacle has all the makings of a large scale cover up and the continued mala fide attempts to deflect focus away from taking ownership of and accountability for this crisis will only result in continued assault on an already battered reputation. ..."
"... As an aside, the malaise at the FAA has been much documented on these pages and elsewhere recently, from the egregious abdication of its regulatory responsibilities to Boeing to having a top position go unfilled for over a year, my question to US readers is whether a comparable level of capture by corporate interests has similarly defanged the FDA? ..."
Mar 29, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Boeing compromised on sound engineering with the 737 Max . Recall the origins of the problem: Boeing was at risk of losing big orders to a more fuel-efficient Airbus model. Rather than sacrifice market share, Boeing put more fuel-efficient, larger engines on the existing 737 frames. The placement of the engine created a new safety risk, that under some circumstances, the plane could "nose up" at such a steep angle as to put it in a stall. The solution was to install software called MCAS which would force the nose down if the "angle of attack" became too acute.

Before getting to today's updates, experts have deemed the 737 Max design to be unsound. For
The word "kludge" keeps coming up when pilots and engineers discuss Boeing's 737 Max , from Quartz:

Again and again, in discussions of what has gone wrong with Boeing's 737 Max plane in two deadly crashes within five months, an unusual word keeps coming up: kludge.

Merriam-Webster defines kludge -- sometimes spelled kluge -- as "a haphazard or makeshift solution to a problem and especially to a computer or programming problem." Oxford defines it as, in computing, "A machine, system, or program that has been badly put together, especially a clumsy but temporarily effective solution to a particular fault or problem."

In the case of the 737 Max, it's the combination of how two separate problems interacted -- a plane whose design introduced aerodynamics issues and what now appears to have been a poorly designed anti-stall system -- that seems to be drawing many to turn to Granholm's term. The problems were compounded in many ways, including by the fact that pilots were not told of or trained for the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) before the Lion Air crash, which killed all 189 on board.

"My concern is that Boeing may have developed the MCAS software as a profit-driven kludge to mitigate the Max 8's degraded flight characteristics due to the engine relocation required to maintain ground clearance," commented Philip Wheelock on a New York Times story about the plane's certification process this week. "Not convinced that software is an acceptable solution for an older design that has been pushed to its inherent aeronautical design limits."

"Indeed, it seems the 737 MAX was a kludge to an existing design, and that MCAS was a kludge on top of that," said a commenter on Hackaday .

Lambert found more damning takes, which he featured in Water Cooler yesterday. First from the Seattle Times :

Boeing has long embraced the power of redundancy to protect its jets and their passengers from a range of potential disruptions, from electrical faults to lightning strikes. The company typically uses two or even three separate components as fail-safes for crucial tasks to reduce the possibility of a disastrous failure. So even some of the people who have worked on Boeing's new 737 MAX airplane were baffled to learn that the company had designed an automated safety system that abandoned the principles of component redundancy, ultimately entrusting the automated decision-making to just one sensor -- a type of sensor that was known to fail. Boeing's rival, Airbus, has typically depended on three such sensors. "A single point of failure is an absolute no-no," said one former Boeing engineer who worked on the MAX, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about the program in an interview with The Seattle Times. "That is just a huge system engineering oversight. To just have missed it, I can't imagine how."

And the second, from software developer Greg Travis who happens also to be a pilot and aircraft owner:

That no one who wrote the MCAS software for the 737 MAX seems to have even raised the issue of using multiple inputs, including the opposite angle of attack sensor, in the computer's determination of an impending stall is mind-blowing.

As a lifetime member of the software development fraternity, I don't know what toxic combination of inexperience, hubris, or lack of cultural understanding led to this. But I do know that it's indicative of a much deeper and much more troubling problem. The people who wrote the code for the original MCAS system were obviously terribly far out of their league and did not know it. How can we possibly think they can implement a software fix, much less give us any comfort whatsoever that the rest of the flight management software, which is ultimately in ultimate control of the aircraft, has any fidelity at all?

Ouch.

And we're giving short shrift to how Boeing compounded the problem, for instance, by making it an upcharge to have the 737 Max have a light showing that its angle of attack sensors disagreed (the planes did have two, but bizarrely, only one would be giving data to the MCAS system on any day), or hiding the fact that there was a new safety automated safety system in two paragraphs after page 700 in the flight manual. As Wall Street Journal reader Erich Greenbaum said in comments on an older article, How Boeing's 737 MAX Failed :

No – this isn't about "planes that fly by themselves." It's about an airplane manufacturer that put engines on an airframe they weren't designed for, having to add a flight control override to guard against said airplane's new tendency to nose up, and then adding insult to injury by driving that system with a single sensor when two are available. Oh – and charging airlines extra for the privilege of their pilots being told when one of those sensors is providing bad data.

The 737 Max has gotten a bad name not just for itself but also for the airlines that were big buyers. Southwest had taken the most 737 Max deliveries, and American was second. I happened to be looking at American for flights last night. This is what I got when I went to aa.com:

I came back to the page later to make sure I hadn't hit the 737 Max message randomly, by loading the page just when that image came up in a cycle .and that doesn't appear to be the case. I landed on the 737 Max splash a second time.

This result suggests that American has gotten so many customer queries about the 737 Max that it felt it had to make providing information about it a priority. If you click through, the next page explains how all 737 Max planes have been grounded, that American is using other equipment to fly on routes previously scheduled for those planes, but it has still had to cancel 90 flights a day.

Evidence is mounting that the MCAS system was responsible for the Ethopian Air crash in addition to the Lion Air tragedy . From the Wall Street Journal this evening :

Officials investigating the fatal crash of a Boeing Co. BA 0.06% 737 MAX in Ethiopia have reached a preliminary conclusion that a suspect flight-control feature automatically activated before the plane nose-dived into the ground, according to people briefed on the matter, the first findings based on data retrieved from the flight's black boxes.

The emerging consensus among investigators, one of these people said, was relayed during a high-level briefing at the Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday, and is the strongest indication yet that the same automated system, called MCAS, misfired in both the Ethiopian Airlines flight earlier this month and a Lion Air flight in Indonesia, which crashed less than five months earlier. The two crashes claimed 346 lives.

Boeing is doubling down on its mistakes . The lesson of the Tylenol poisoning is that if a company has a safety problem, even if it isn't its fault, it needs to do everything it can to rectify the defects and protect customers. If there is any doubt, the company needs to err of the side of safety.

Here, unlike with Johnson & Johnson, the failings that led to 737 Max groundings all originated with Boeing. Yet rather than own the problems and go overboard on fixing them to restore confidence in the plane and in Boeing, Boeing is acting as if all it has to put in place are merely adequate measures.

Reuters, which has a bias towards understatement, has an atypically pointed farming Boeing's refusal to recommend pilot simulator training for the MCAS:

Boeing Co said it will submit by the end of this week a training package that 737 MAX pilots are required to take before a worldwide ban can be lifted, proposing as it did before two deadly crashes that those pilots do not need time on flight simulators to safely operate the aircraft.

In making that assessment, the world's largest planemaker is doubling down on a strategy it promoted to American Airlines Group Inc and other customers years ago. Boeing told airlines their pilots could switch from the older 737NG to the new MAX without costly flight simulator training and without compromising on safety, three former Boeing employees said.

Specifically, the Wall Street Journal reported that Southwest, which is the biggest buyer of the 737 Max, got Boeing to agree to a financial penalty if the new plane required additional simulator training :

The company had promised Southwest Airlines Co. , the plane's biggest customer, to keep pilot training to a minimum so the new jet could seamlessly slot into the carrier's fleet of older 737s, according to regulators and industry officials.

[Former Boeing engineer Mr. [Rick] Ludtke [who worked on 737 MAX cockpit features] recalled midlevel managers telling subordinates that Boeing had committed to pay the airline $1 million per plane if its design ended up requiring pilots to spend additional simulator time. "We had never, ever seen commitments like that before," he said.

I've never flown Southwest and now I will make sure never to use them.

I hope the pilots in our readership speak up, but as a mere mortal, I've very uncomfortable with pilots being put in a position of overriding a system in emergency conditions when they haven't even test driven it. When I learn software, reading a manual is useless save for learning what the program's capabilities are. In order to be able to use it, I have to spend time with it, hands on. Computer professionals tell me the same thing. It doesn't seem likely that pilots are all that different.

In other words, Boeing's refusal to recommend simulator training looks to be influenced by avoiding triggering a $31 million penalty payment to Southwest. This is an insane back-assward sense of priorities. Boeing had over $10 billion in profits in 2018. A $31 million payment isn't material and would almost certainly be lower after tax.

Boeing does not seem to comprehend that it is gambling with its future. What if international flight regulators use the Max 737 as a bloody flag and refuse to accept FAA certifications of Boeing planes, or US origin equipment generally? Do you think for a nanosecond that the European and Chinese regulators wouldn't use disregarding the FAA as a way to advance their interests? Europe would clearly give preference to Airbus, and the Chinese could use Boeing to punish the US for going after Huawei.

Boeing's comeuppance is long overdue. The company's decision to break its union, outsource, and move to Chicago as a device for shedding seasoned employees was a clear statement of its plan to compromise engineering in the name of profit. Something like the Max 737 train wreck was bound to happen.


ambrit , March 29, 2019 at 4:51 am

And yet we do not see anyone suggesting the obvious solution to this problem; eliminating the 737 MAX type of aircraft altogether.

The crashes of the early de Havilland Comet commercial jet aircraft all but destroyed English commercial jet production. Boeing should suffer a similar fate as de Havilland. Indeed, since the Comet crashes were the result of a previously unsuspected design flaw, and Boeing's problems are self inflicted, Boeing should suffer a more drastic punishment.

The Rev Kev , March 29, 2019 at 5:12 am

I don't think that Boeing can afford to drop the 737 MAX. This aircraft was in response to the Airbus as they did not have any new aircraft designs on the boards to take it on. So they modified a 1970s design as a profitable stopgap solution.

If they dump the 737 MAX then they have nothing good to go for years. In that space of time Airbus would move in and take over many of Boeing's markets and there would be new aircraft from Russia and China coming online as well.

I do not think that it would destroy Boeing as the US government would bail it out first, but it would be a colossal setback. I doubt that they would end up on this list-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Defunct_aircraft_manufacturers_of_the_United_States

Jon D Rudd , March 29, 2019 at 9:05 am

I understand that it can take up to ten years to develop a new aircraft, but the basic design of the 737 has been around since the Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" (!). Given that Airbus, like Avis, was going to be trying harder for more market share, was it totally beyond Boeing's capacity to develop a follow-on for the 737 over the past, say, 20 years?

PlutoniumKun , March 29, 2019 at 9:39 am

Boeing were designing a follow-on to the 737, but panicked when the A320Neo came and went for the MAX instead as they could deliver it much quicker and cheaper than a new aircraft. What I don't know is if they are still working on a replacement or if they shelved the plans entirely.

If its true that they are another example of a once great engineering company enslaved to the quarterly results, then it may well be that all work on the replacement stopped when they put their engineers to work on the MAX line. If that's the case, then they really are screwed. Ten years is an absolute minimum to get a brand new aircraft delivered to customers from a standing start.

scott 2 , March 29, 2019 at 7:51 am

The 737 was designed to be low to the ground because it was to serve small airports where the passengers had to climb stairs to enter (which I remember doing at Burbank and Ontario years ago) The 737 Max is what you would get if the 757 and 737 had a child. The newer versions of the 737 have nearly twice the max takeoff weight of the original, but with the same landing gear and nearly the same wing area.

Perhaps a shorter version of the 757 would have been the correct move, but Southwest would have screamed bloody murder.

Pilot and aircraft owner here.

John A , March 29, 2019 at 4:56 am

The problem for airlines is the need to have more energy efficient aircraft for both cost and environment pressure reasons. The 737 max is a response to the airbus 321neo, but as I understand it, Airbus does not have the capacity to takeover cancelled orders for the 737 max.

Do airlines stick with older 737 or brazen it out with Boeing that the max problems have been resolved? And passengers. I imagine they will fall into the brackets I will never fly on a 737 max, or I trust Boeing/airline, or a fatalistic if my number is up, my number is up'.

I regularly fly with Norwegian in Europe. However I for one will never fly a max and will now prefer SAS with the 321neo. As for Ryanair, that has max on order, if they take delivery, bye bye them.

Maybe the new Russian and Chinese versions can be an option? Or will Trump sanction any airline brave enough to order them instead of Boeing?

PlutoniumKun , March 29, 2019 at 5:34 am

Airbus probably can't produce enough Neo to make up for the shortfall, but they essentially own the Bombardier C-Series now (ironically, made in Mobile, Alabama and relabelled the Airbus 220) which could prove an excellent investment by Airbus.

There are four other potential competitors –

The French have a significant input to the Sukhoi, while Bombardier were involved with the Comac. None of those are direct replacements (they are generally smaller and shorter range), but they might suit many airlines who need aircraft quickly but won't touch the Max.

None of the above can match the Boeing or Airbus for state of the art engineering, but they are cheaper to buy, so they may well now be more attractive to budget airlines and third world airlines. The big one to look out for is Ryanair – they've long been Boeings biggest customer outside the US and have stuck with 737's consistently.

They will do their usual tactic of demanding huge discounts every time Boeing look weak, and no doubt they will do the same now. But they may decide to look elsewhere (especially as they don't really need the longer range as they operate exclusively in Europe). If they opt for something like the A220 or the Irkut, then that will be an enormous blow to Boeing, because others will follow Ryanairs lead.

The Rev Kev , March 29, 2019 at 5:49 am

PK, you said that the Sukhoi Superjet had significant French input. Does that mean physical components as well? If so, I would be surprised after the Mistral amphibious assault ships fiasco. On this topic, I saw this week how the French were taking out German components out of joint French-German weapons systems and replacing them with French ones as the Germans are wary about arming countries like Saudi Arabia and so have a say in these joint systems much to the disgust of the French, hence the swap-out so the French can continue to sell these systems.

PlutoniumKun , March 29, 2019 at 6:43 am

I was thinking of the engines , which are a joint project between a French and Russian company. Ironically, the core of the engine for the Sukhoi is the M88, the engine the French developed for the Rafaele fighter. The French are exceptionally good at using military research to help their commercial companies, and vice versa.

The French are also very ruthless (i.e. immoral) when it comes to export sales. This is why they usually only partner with the British, as they know the British share their rather loose definition of ethical policy in weapons sales. And they insist on Frenchifying their systems as much as they can so there is nobody to interfere with sales.

Ignacio , March 29, 2019 at 6:04 am

Kludge translates in spanish into "chapuza" and in my view expresses very well the "solution" that Boeing brougth to the 737 Max.

Regarding the FAA I have read in Spanish press that Daniel Elwell declared in the congress (translated from Spanish) that "I can't believe that airline companies tried to save a few thousand dollars on a feature that increases safety". This is a bad try to shift blame from Boeing to airline companies and if anything will reduce (eliminate) the international confidence on FAA regulations.

Ignacio , March 29, 2019 at 6:15 am

Boeing is doubling down on its mistakes. The lesson of the Tylenol poisoning is that if a company has a safety problem, even if it isn't its fault , it needs to do everything it can to rectify the defects and protect customers. If there is any doubt, the company needs to err of the side of safety.

And that might, precisely the difference between the Tylenol and the 737 MAX affairs. Boeing knows it is their fault and the blame feeling prevents them to act as rationally as Johnson&Johnson did.

allan , March 29, 2019 at 6:53 am

The Reuters article also says the following, which seems incredibly damning:

At Boeing's factory in Renton, Washington, managers told engineers working on the MAX, including its anti-stall system known as MCAS, their designs could not trigger Level C or D training designations from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the three former Boeing employees and a senior industry executive with knowledge of MAX development told Reuters. Otherwise, pilots would have to spend time in simulators before flying the new planes.

Managers telling this to engineers before a plane is designed is one thing. Telling it to them after the plane been designed but while its user interface is being designed is outrageous.

Ptb , March 29, 2019 at 7:56 am

Good review.

Certainly a relatively delicate sensor with external moving parts is a super obvious point of failure that any engineer would flag down instantly.

And I think the plane actually has two (one on each side) , but for some reason, their inputs weren't combined. There's a slight subtlety that the air flow is 3 dimensional, so when the plane is turning, and particularly turning+climbing, the readings of the two might vary slightly – but that's for the software to sort out. They reportedly didn't hook both of them up to both flight computers – why is an interesting question. There's probably a practical reason, but

Sometimes in industry what happens is you are updating a system or product, you don't want to re-certify your electronics (to make schedule or cost) , but you used all the input capacity on your logic systems/comms/wiring and still need more. So you have to "get creative" squeezing functionality into your legacy electronics. I really hope it wasn't something like that.

Jim A , March 29, 2019 at 8:11 am

ISTR that there was a crash in South America a few years back because both artificial horizons were getting info from a single pitot tube that had been taped over when the plane was being washed. The thing is, there was a switch in the cockpit to select whether the dual instruments were both using the left pitot, both the right one, or one on each. Using two sensors is not a new idea.

Jim A. , March 29, 2019 at 9:02 am

I mingled two accidents in my mind.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copa_Airlines_Flight_201
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aeroper%C3%BA_Flight_603

John Beech , March 29, 2019 at 8:12 am

As a business owner who also happens to be a pilot and aircraft owner, I've been following this fiasco with great care. While not widely reported, Boeing submitted a software update to the FAA back in January. They're still dragging their feet and as a consequence, folks needlessly died the EA crash. To those who would say, "Nope, this is all on Boeing and the FAA for letting them run roughshod over the regulations!", let me share a bit of news with you to help you grok what dealing with the FAA is like.

Did you know AVGAS (aviation gasoline, e.g. the fuel used in the entire piston-powered fleet) still has lead in it? This, decades after MOGAS (motor vehicle gasoline, e.g. what we buy for our automobiles) was banned from using tetraethyl lead (TEL) as an antiknock compound!

Yet there's a drop in replacement available. Drop in meaning, refiners like Shell, Mobile, et al can begin mixing and distributing it using existing pipelines and trucks without so much as having to first clean the equipment or change anything whatsoever. So why isn't it used? It's because the FAA has been dragging their feet on approval. Put another way, the FAA would rather people continue being adversely affected by lead in the environment than fast tracking this.

http://www.gami.com/g100ul/news.php

Source? I know the owner of the company, and stand up guy if ever there was on, plus I've got friends who have flown with this fuel – extensively to help with testing. Bottom line? It works!

And while there's speculation this has to do with big oil not wanting to pay the patent holder and thus lobbying the FAA to obstruct permission, I'm not going down that rabbit hole. Suffice to say this stuff has been available for years and the patent clock is running down so you figure it out. Me? I do believe it's all about the Benjamins and am greatly saddened we're still damaging the environment when a replacement fuel is available we could begin using by next week! I kid you not.

Carolinian , March 29, 2019 at 8:59 am

Just to confirm, my town is on the Colonial pipeline that runs up the east coast and one of the local terminal's operators told me that they do add the lead for avgas here at the distribution facility. Switching to a different octane booster would be quite possible.

On the other hand I'm not sure the limited amount of leaded gas used by prop planes should be considered that big an environmental hazard (perhaps as someone who hangs around airports you feel differently).

Jim A. , March 29, 2019 at 8:14 am

–I'm guessing that sort of safety practice wasn't inculcated into the software engineers in the same way that it was for old school aerospace engineers. Software is often a poorly documented, partially tested black box.

oaf , March 29, 2019 at 8:17 am

Trim systems have been a part of airplanes from the earliest experiments with powered flight. They can be as simple as a bungee cord pulling on a stick, or as complex as multiple computers interacting in a *fly-by-wire* scenario. Pilots have to demonstrate more than awareness of these systems; they must demonstrate competency in their operation and oversight.They have been trained in how to identify, override, and compensate for malfunctions in any misbehaving flight control system in the aircraft for which they receive authorization. One big unknown here (in my mind) is whether a malfunctioning trim system would (or should) have been obvious to the flight crew. Another other big question is whether means of deactivation (not speaking of *override*) of the system was the same as in the previous 737 variants. Typically; this might involve pulling a labeled circuit breaker to remove power, and then manually adjusting a trim wheel on the console; or near the flight controls.

"an aircraft is a mechanical device; any component of which can fail" which I remember but increasingly; a COMPLEX electrical-mechanical device .with input from multiple people's minds and hands

The history of aircraft design and flight testing is full of unanticipated complications; frequently addressed by tweaks to details of structure and/or operational limits. The goal is to cover all possible permutations of problematic interactions of aircraft; environment, and human beings. There is a great deal of precedence in this topic.

the phrase *due diligence* comes to mind .

Thuto , March 29, 2019 at 8:17 am

What the folks at Boeing may not realise is that the more they double-down on this bizarre tactic of using spin-doctoring as a crisis management tool aimed at an audience that is rapidly losing trust in the company ( and frankly may no longer believe anything coming out of the corporate communications department at Boeing), the harder it's going to be to reverse course by coming out and saying "we screwed up and will do whatever it takes to fix this". This debacle has all the makings of a large scale cover up and the continued mala fide attempts to deflect focus away from taking ownership of and accountability for this crisis will only result in continued assault on an already battered reputation.

As an aside, the malaise at the FAA has been much documented on these pages and elsewhere recently, from the egregious abdication of its regulatory responsibilities to Boeing to having a top position go unfilled for over a year, my question to US readers is whether a comparable level of capture by corporate interests has similarly defanged the FDA? I only ask because I see a lot of supplements and other medicinal products sold here in South Africa with the "Approved by the US FDA" seal of approval and wonder whether deferring to US regulators by international regulatory bodies is still a good idea under the current climate.

oaf , March 29, 2019 at 8:32 am

The following statistical categories might generate interesting numbers.

#1: Total flight operations of all 737 types since introduction. (wheels up to wheels down)
#2: Same for Max variant in question.
#3: Difficulty reports filed for all 737 (flight related)
#4: Difficulty reports filed for Max (flight related)

TG , March 29, 2019 at 9:11 am

Boeing is, sadly, not making a 'mistake.' Boeing is too big to fail. Why should Boeing care?

EoH , March 29, 2019 at 9:30 am

Flight simulators are expensive and scheduling will likely be backed up, given the large number of existing and planned 737 Max aircraft. It's an important problem to fix, but not with the current workaround, which seems to be to use a tablet computer instead.

One would think a tablet computer would be a poor platform for a computer game, let alone to simulate flying a commercial aircraft with new s/w or h/w, the flight conditions under which they fail, and how to respond to them. All a tablet computer could simulate is turning the pages in the flight manual.

EoH , March 29, 2019 at 9:34 am

Your note should be a useful reminder to the current generation of executives at Johnson & Johnson.

They and their peers at other companies seem to have discarded the crisis management gold standard established by J & J during the Tylenol scare. It is cheaper, it seems, and provides fewer avenues of attack for the tort bar, to substitute scripts provided by the apology industry, which can trace its origins to that same Tylenol scare.

[Mar 29, 2019] Boeing Anti-Stall Software Mistakenly Activated Before Deadly Crash, Investigators Believe

Notable quotes:
"... All this is ignoring the real issue with complex aircraft today. To save money airlines pushed to eliminate the Flight Engineer. ..."
"... As the MCAS system has such authority to cause the plane to crash, a system like this should be quadruple-redundant to prevent a single source of bad data from causing a catastrophic loss of life. ..."
Mar 29, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Lysander Spooner , 2 minutes ago link

All this is ignoring the real issue with complex aircraft today. To save money airlines pushed to eliminate the Flight Engineer.

The one time this scenario was avoided was when a jump seat pilot saw what was going on. Both the captain and the co pilot had tunnel vision just trying to fly the damn plane. It's a myth modern aircraft are less complex the older generation aircraft that required a Flight Engineer. The computers work fine when everything is ok or the issue is straight forward but when complexity enters during an emergency its far more complex than any old piston or early jet aircraft.

None of these crashes would have occurred if a flight engineer was onboard. They have the big picture on the air-frame and train to know that air frame backwards an forwards. The pilots fly the aircraft while the flight engineer operates the systems.

Ask any qualified pilot these questions. You will get the same answer as above.

PriceAction , 4 minutes ago link

As the MCAS system has such authority to cause the plane to crash, a system like this should be quadruple-redundant to prevent a single source of bad data from causing a catastrophic loss of life.

This is compounded by the fact the pilots were unable to easily override the system and unable to know _why_ they could not control the plane when MCAS malfunctioned.

There should be outrage that this was allowed to go into production.

crazytechnician , 7 minutes ago link

These aircraft would be impossible to fly without automation. You would need at least 3 or 4 pilots and 15 engineers to keep on top of everything. There are hundreds of systems running in the background. Airbus A series for example have anywhere between 80 to 120 million lines of code depending on the type and configuration. Pilot's these days are computer terminal operators. Errors are unavoidable in software until they fail.

The trick is simulation , clearly Boeing did not simulate any of this , this aircraft should not have been certified.

olibur , 13 minutes ago link

All families on behalf of 350 victims must sue the lying Boeing.

terrific , 13 minutes ago link

The solution is less reliance on automation, at least not until AI is actually able to intervene when sensors and software malfunction, and ESPECIALLY not with aircraft, for God's sake.

pismobird , 13 minutes ago link

One H1b to anotherH1b, "I thought you were supposed to fix those 297 stubbed out error conditions on the MCAS stall sensor?" "No, I fixed the stubbed out error conditions on the SQUALL sensor!"

"It's right there on the assignment schedule."

"What's the matter can't you read English?"

( The H-1B is a visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H) that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. )

I got out of the coding business when they started putting these MFturkeys in charge!

Mactruck , 17 minutes ago link

This tragedy is as much about government corruption (FAA approvals) as it is about a POS company, it's shitbag execs, or third world pilots for that matter.

Rusticus2.0 , 19 minutes ago link

Without cross limiting; where 2 or more inputs cross reference each other and limit output if the variation exceeds a predetermined setpoint; Boeing employed a control system with a single point failure.

Analogous to a cars cruise control speeding up if the speedometer failed and registered zero mph.

Not if_ But When , 23 minutes ago link

I read that the Operator's Manual for this aircraft is 1400 pages. Is that possible? And if so, is this MCAS system info just hidden on page 419 like in a financial document? 1400 pages is almost as long as the cautions in a new drug advertisement. And I'm sure the technical translations for Indonesian and Ethiopian pilots are perfectly done and readily understood.

ScratInTheHat , 14 minutes ago link

That is why commercial pilots get paid high wages to do their jobs and know the aircraft they are flying. They just don't walk into a new aircraft cold turkey. This issue is covered in the manual and it is an issue that any pilot would note as a big deal. In 1965/66 the well-loved 727 had 4 crashes because pilots didn't know the aircraft. This is the same thing.

PriceAction , 3 minutes ago link

As the MCAS system has such authority to cause the plane to crash, a system like this should be quadruple-redundant to prevent a single source of bad data from causing a catastrophic loss of life.

This is compounded by the fact the pilots were unable to easily override the system and unable to know _why_ they could not control the plane when MCAS malfunctioned.

There should be outrage that this was allowed to go into production.

N0TME , 26 minutes ago link

So the MCAS doesn't take into account speed, just the AOA?

thomas.thomas73 , 27 minutes ago link

I g­­­­e­­­­t p­­­­a­­­­i­­­­d o­­­­v­­­­e­­­­r $­­9­­0 p­­­­e­­­­r h­­­­o­­­­u­­­­r w­­­­o­­­­r­­k­­­­i­­­­n­­­­g f­­­­r­­­­o­­­­m h­­­­o­­­­m­­­­e w­­­­i­­­­t­­­­h 2 k­­­­i­­d­­­­s a­­­­t h­­­­o­­­­m­­­­e. I n­­­­e­­­­v­­­­e­­r t­­­­h­­o­­­­u­­­­g­­­­h­­­­t I­­­­'­­­­d b­­­­e a­­­­b­­­­l­­­­e t­­­­o d­­­­o i­­­­t b­­­­u­­­­t m­­­­y b­­­­e­­­­s­­­­t f­­r­­i­­e­­n­­d e­­a­­r­­n­­s o­­v­­e­­r 1­­0­­k a m­­o­­n­­t­­h d­­o­­i­­n­­g t­­h­­­­i­­­­s a­­­­n­­­­d s­­­­h­­­­e c­­­­o­­­­n­­­­v­­­­i­­­­n­­­­c­­­­e­­­­d m­­­­e t­­­­o t­­r­­y. T­­h­­e p­­o­­t­­e­­n­­t­­i­­a­­l w­­i­­t­­h t­­h­­i­­s i­­s e­­n­­­­d­­l­­e­­­­s­­­­s. H­­­­e­­­­r­­­­e­­­­s w­­­­h­­­­a­­­­t I'v­­­­e b­­­­e­­­­e­­­­n d­­­­o­­­­i­­­­n­­­­g,

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bluskyes , 29 minutes ago link

Somebody turned off airplane mode on their phone.

DrBrown314 , 29 minutes ago link

The FAA had the final call on this and they failed to do their job. The MCAS was never designed to mask the airflow issues created by hanging over sized engines on an airframe designed for smaller nacelles. These bigger engines had to be mounted higher and more forward creating airflow disruption over the wing during critical climb out conditions. This bird should never have flown! It was flawed from the get go and the FAA let it slide. Now hundreds of people are dead!

archie bird , 33 minutes ago link

lol their shares are going to go down faster than one of their planes when all the lawsuits start happening

beemasters , 29 minutes ago link

If the US government doesn't intervene, all would be very easy lawsuits to win. But I suspect there will be political pressure placed to limit the liability of Boeing or a deal struck to have US taxpayers bail them out.

OliverAnd , 33 minutes ago link

I do not believe this story or any other story of how the Boeing 737 crashed. On a private jet the engines are set in the tail. If the angle of attack is high, little to no air will flow into the engines as the wings block sufficient air movement thus stalling. Hondajet has improved this by placing the engines on the wing. The engines of a Boeing 737 are placed in front of the wing, thus there should be very little effect to the airflow, unless of course the angle of attack is approaching a very large attack angle of over 70 degrees.

HRClinton , 20 minutes ago link

70° ? WTF r u smoking?

Commercial planes typically stall at AOA = 17°

If the AOA is too great, you have more drag than lift, causing the stall.

bogbeagle , 20 minutes ago link

We are talking about an aerodynamic stall of the flying surfaces.

Different thing from compressor stall.

boattrash , 18 minutes ago link

With power settings reduced to lower fuel consumption aka costs, it doesn't really make a damn where the engines are mounted.

Fed-up with being Sick and Tired , 33 minutes ago link

The question is thus begged: did this NEW Anti-Stall System replace one that had caused issues in the past? WAS THIS NEW SYSTEM needed? Are pilots not trained to invoke changes to NOSE ATTITUDE when stall indicators, in the past, were alarmed?

William Dorritt , 35 minutes ago link

Who wrote the software ?????

Cruise Control in my 16 year old car

Deactivates when I touch the gas or brakes

Boeing should buy some used cars as

reference models for their automated features.

Who wrote the software

Indians or Chinese who have never owned a car ?????

reddpill , 36 minutes ago link

The "let's assassinate some peps" system, through which remote control access and false data injection into a so called "closed" system exists. The public are done being played as fools, Boeing. How much did you sell the encryption keys for access into that closed system to 3rd parties? Why did that northern Scandinavian country spend millions removing this very system from their purchased Boeing planes? Was it because they knew? The CEO of Lion Air knows also.

beemasters , 37 minutes ago link

New ads for Boeing now include: "Safety features sold separately."

Seal Team 6 , 38 minutes ago link

This makes a big assumption, that being the AOA was faulty and MCAS came on for no reason. That's a big assumption and probably very wrong. MCAS comes on in stalls or high bank turns which we know the ethiopian pilot executed a high bank turn. The likely scenario is that the inexperienced third world pilot with his 0 hours of training on the Max miscalculated the weight of the plane on takeoff and stalled it in a turn right after he put the gear up and took the flaps off. MCAS came on as it was supposed to do, and would be the right thing to do to save the plane. If he had taken his hands off the yoke and gone to have a pee, all those people would still be alive as the computer, which is much smarter than the third world pilot, would have flown the plane. Not understanding his plane, the 28 year old pilot fought the MCAS at 1000 feet and bought the farm. The next shoe to drop will be the more interesting one. They have already released the innuendo, next to come will be the hard facts. Let's see.

bogbeagle , 29 minutes ago link

Interesting.

Wouldn't be the first stall initiated by a change of configuration. See:BA 548, Stansted, circa 1970.

HushHushSweet , 38 minutes ago link

The sensor could also have been remotely triggered to cause the crash.

XBroker1 , 39 minutes ago link

Ok, now hold up that piece of metal and pose for the camera. Let's make this look like the real thing. -Boeing

richsob , 41 minutes ago link

The only winners in this will be the lawyers. My Dad frequently told me that lawyers were bleached souls in tan suits. I didn't understand at the time but I do now.

crazytechnician , 42 minutes ago link

The MCAS will be easily fixed but the real question is why did they install this in the first instance ? Is it a bandage over something else ?

Ignorance is bliss , 43 minutes ago link

BA stock is up pre-market. I guess this story is another nothin burger that can be fixed with software.

jewish_master , 38 minutes ago link

we now exist in idiocracy : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Leyn-oS5ASI

Wahooo , 43 minutes ago link

These planes are simply too complex anymore. If they can't be flown by a drunk pilot, they should be grounded.

Dormouse , 45 minutes ago link

We know that's not exactly what happened because Trump called them out with his double meaning "737 killers" talking about CA death penalty and this obvious deep state distraction murder.

PeteMMM , 46 minutes ago link

Surely this will mean the plane has to be 're-certified' after maybe modifications like additional sensors, software updates and extra pilot training have been factored in. Increasingly looking like there will be no 'quick fix', and admitting MCAS was at fault is going to open Boeing up to tons of lawsuits, not to mention cancelled orders. They'll need to drop the 737 MAX name too I would guess, it's too tarnished now.

Shatzy48 , 47 minutes ago link

I'm very surprised that a responsible company like Boeing would put out such a bad system. The program should have used readings from both sensors to ensure accuracy, and the cockpit warning mechanism should not have been optional equipment given the critical nature of the system.

Wahooo , 45 minutes ago link

Yeah it's puzzling. Someone in India fucked up big time.

beemasters , 34 minutes ago link

If they were responsible, they would have halted and recalled all productions by now.

not-me---it-was-the-dog , 47 minutes ago link

i stopped flying boing when they started producing self-immolating plastic planes.

(so that's where elon stole the idea!)

[Mar 29, 2019] Boeing (BA) 737 Stall Prevention System On in Ethiopia Air Crash

Notable quotes:
"... The stall-prevention system on the Boeing Co. 737 Max jet automatically switched on before the crash in Ethiopia this month, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing preliminary findings from data on the aircraft's black boxes. ..."
Mar 29, 2019 | www.bloomberg.com

The stall-prevention system on the Boeing Co. 737 Max jet automatically switched on before the crash in Ethiopia this month, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing preliminary findings from data on the aircraft's black boxes.

The conclusion was relayed at a briefing at the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday and is the strongest indication yet that the same system malfunctioned in both the Ethiopian Airlines flight and the Lion Air disaster in Indonesia in October, the newspaper said.

[Mar 29, 2019] Regulators Knew Of 737 MAX Trim Problems - Certification Demanded Training That Boeing Failed To Deliver

Notable quotes:
"... The MCAS system is poorly engineered and the design should never have been certified in the first place. But the issue is even worse. The certification that was given relied on false data. ..."
"... The first MCAS design, on which the safety analysis and certification was based, allowed for a maximum trim movement by MCAS of 0.6 degree of a maximum of 5 degree. Flight tests proved that to be too little to achieve the desired effects and the maximum movement was changed to 2.5 degree. ..."
"... No safety analysis for the much greater movement was conducted. The FAA and foreign regulators were not informed of it. Their certification of the 737 MAX was based on misleading data. ..."
"... But even those certifications were only conditional. They required from Boeing to include relevant training material that explained the MCAS trim system and its potential problems to the pilots. ..."
"... The original certification for the 737 MAX was issued by the U.S. regulator FAA. The European regulator EASA based its certification on the one the FAA provided but it added several of its own requirements. There is now documentary evidence that Boeing neglected to fulfill at least one of those requirements. ..."
"... The FAA is as regulator far too cozy with lobbyists and aircraft manufacturers. It outsources too much of the certification testing to the manufacturers. It should not have allowed Boeing to install a MCAS that depended on a sole sensor. ..."
"... "It's become such a kludge, that we started to speculate and wonder whether it was safe to do the MAX," Ludtke said. ..."
"... MCAS was not the only change that made the 737 MAX a 'kludge'. The design errors were inexcusable . Boeing did not inform the regulators when it quadrupled the maximum effect the MCAS system could have. These changes had side effects that were not properly analyzed. Failure of the system was hazardous and extremely difficult to handle . Indicators lights showing that the system may have failed, a safety feature, were sold as extras . ..."
"... It will take quite long to certify the changes Boeing announced for the 737 MAX. Lawsuits were filed against the company. Orders were canceled . The company is under criminal investigation. The commercial damage to Boeing will likely be larger than currently estimated. It comes on top of a recent WTO ruling that Boeing illegally received billions of dollars in subsidies and will need to compensate its competition. ..."
"... The development and production of the 787 Dreamliner, announced in 2003, was outsourced all over the world. That led to years of delays and billions in development cost overruns. In 2010 Airbus announced the A-320 NEO as a better alternative to the 737 NG. Boeing was still busy to get the 787 into the air. It had neither the engineering capacity nor the money to counter the NEO with a brand new plane. It hastily revamped the 737, a design from the 1960s, into the 737 MAX. It promised to airlines that the new plane would not require to retrain their pilots. MCAS was specifically designed to allow for that. It was a huge mistake. ..."
"... Boeing once was an engineering company with an attached sales department. It 2001, when it moved its headquarter to Chicago , it became a dealership with an attached engineering wing. The philosophical difference is profound. It is time for the company to find back to its roots. ..."
Mar 29, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

Regulators Knew Of 737 MAX Trim Problems - Certification Demanded Training That Boeing Failed To Deliver

A recently discovered document proves that Boeing ignored requirements international regulators made when they certified Boeing's 737 MAX airplane.

After the recent Boeing 737 MAX incident in Ethiopia we explained why it happened. Even before the plane type was grounded by the FAA we wrote:

Boeing, The FAA, And Why Two 737 MAX Planes Crashed

Our early take was confirmed by the reporting of other media which we also discussed:

Flawed Safety Analysis, Failed Oversight - Why Two 737 MAX Planes Crashed

The basic problem:

For commercial reasons Boeing wanted the new 737 version to handle like the old ones. But changes in the new version required an additional system to handle certain flight situations. The development of that system and the safety analysis of its implications were rushed through. Pilots were not informed of it and not trained to counter its failure.

The added 'maneuver characteristics augmentation system' (MCAS) depended on only one sensor. When the sensor provided false data MCAS engaged and pointed the planes towards the ground. Manual trim using the plane's trim wheel was required to regain flight stability. The pilots were not aware of that. The regulators who certified the plane as safe were unaware of the extend of the problem:

The MCAS system is poorly engineered and the design should never have been certified in the first place. But the issue is even worse. The certification that was given relied on false data.

The first MCAS design, on which the safety analysis and certification was based, allowed for a maximum trim movement by MCAS of 0.6 degree of a maximum of 5 degree. Flight tests proved that to be too little to achieve the desired effects and the maximum movement was changed to 2.5 degree.

No safety analysis for the much greater movement was conducted. The FAA and foreign regulators were not informed of it. Their certification of the 737 MAX was based on misleading data.

But even those certifications were only conditional. They required from Boeing to include relevant training material that explained the MCAS trim system and its potential problems to the pilots.

The original certification for the 737 MAX was issued by the U.S. regulator FAA. The European regulator EASA based its certification on the one the FAA provided but it added several of its own requirements. There is now documentary evidence that Boeing neglected to fulfill at least one of those requirements.

The one page document, first described by Reuters , is included in the Explanatory Note Issue 10 (pdf) to the EASA Boeing 737 type certification which was issued in February 2016.

Page 15 of the Explanatory Note discusses "Longitudinal trim at Vmo". Vmo is the maximum operational speed. The trim sets the nose of the plane up or down, independent of other pilot input. Too high up and the plane with lose lift and stall, too low down and the plane will hit terrain.

A failure of the MCAS system could trim the nose down. As a countermeasure the pilots would have to switch the trim system off. They would then manually trim the plane back into a level flight. This was a concern. The EASA note says:

Subsequent to flight testing, the FAA-TAD expressed concern with compliance to the reference regulation based on an interpretation of the intent behind "trim". The main issue being that longitudinal trim cannot be achieved throughout the flight envelope using thumb switch trim only.

EASA considered the need to use manual trim "unusual". But it allowed it to pass because the required training material would "clearly explain" the issue:

The need to use the trim wheel is considered unusual, as it is only required for manual flight in those corners of the envelope.

The increased safety provided by the Boeing design limits on the thumb switches (for out-of-trim dive characteristics) provides a compensating factor for the inability to use the thumb switches throughout the entire flight envelope. Furthermore, the additional crew procedures and training material will clearly explain to pilots the situations where use of the trim wheel may be needed due to lack of trim authority with the wheel mounted switches.


Full document

While the EASA was convinced (by Boeing?) that those situations would be discussed in "additional crew procedures and training material", Boeing did not include it in the training materials for the airlines that bought the planes:

Those situations, however, were not listed in the flight manual, according to a copy from American Airlines seen by Reuters.

Without the additional procedures and training material the 737 MAX would not have been certified. By providing the plane without the required training material Boeing essentially handed incomplete planes to its customers.

The FAA is as regulator far too cozy with lobbyists and aircraft manufacturers. It outsources too much of the certification testing to the manufacturers. It should not have allowed Boeing to install a MCAS that depended on a sole sensor.

But the bigger culprit here is clearly Boeing. The plane was developed in a rush . Even its own engineers doubted that it was safe:

Rick Ludtke, a former Boeing engineer who worked on designing the interfaces on the MAX's flight deck, said managers mandated that any differences from the previous 737 had to be small enough that they wouldn't trigger the need for pilots to undergo new simulator training.

That left the team working on an old architecture and layers of different design philosophies that had piled on over the years, all to serve an international pilot community that was increasingly expecting automation.

"It's become such a kludge, that we started to speculate and wonder whether it was safe to do the MAX," Ludtke said.

MCAS was not the only change that made the 737 MAX a 'kludge'. The design errors were inexcusable . Boeing did not inform the regulators when it quadrupled the maximum effect the MCAS system could have. These changes had side effects that were not properly analyzed. Failure of the system was hazardous and extremely difficult to handle . Indicators lights showing that the system may have failed, a safety feature, were sold as extras .

And today we learned that Boeing did not even provide its customers with the "clear explanations" the certifications required it to deliver.

These were not 'mistakes' by some lowly technicians. These were breaches of legal requirements and of trust.

It will take quite long to certify the changes Boeing announced for the 737 MAX. Lawsuits were filed against the company. Orders were canceled . The company is under criminal investigation. The commercial damage to Boeing will likely be larger than currently estimated. It comes on top of a recent WTO ruling that Boeing illegally received billions of dollars in subsidies and will need to compensate its competition.

All these are consequences of bad management decisions.

The development and production of the 787 Dreamliner, announced in 2003, was outsourced all over the world. That led to years of delays and billions in development cost overruns. In 2010 Airbus announced the A-320 NEO as a better alternative to the 737 NG. Boeing was still busy to get the 787 into the air. It had neither the engineering capacity nor the money to counter the NEO with a brand new plane. It hastily revamped the 737, a design from the 1960s, into the 737 MAX. It promised to airlines that the new plane would not require to retrain their pilots. MCAS was specifically designed to allow for that. It was a huge mistake.

Boeing once was an engineering company with an attached sales department. It 2001, when it moved its headquarter to Chicago , it became a dealership with an attached engineering wing. The philosophical difference is profound. It is time for the company to find back to its roots.

Posted by b on March 29, 2019 at 09:29 AM | Permalink

[Mar 25, 2019] When psycho automation left this pilot powerless

When it works it's great; when it not it can lead to a disaster. They make computer No.1 and the pilot No.2.
Mar 24, 2019 | www.youtube.com

D Jaquith , 1 year ago

Lesson learned all AI must have an OFF switch.

Komputar , 2 days ago

This happened at 37,000 feet, if this was triggered while taking off at 3,700 feet - none would be alive to tell the story.

[Mar 24, 2019] This aviation expert says Boeing made 'disastrously bad decision' on training for 737 MAX

Mar 18, 2019 | www.youtube.com

The recent Ethiopian Airlines crash led to the grounding of Boeing's 737 MAX planes across much of the globe. But as new details emerge about the cause of the model's second crash within five months, questions are being raised about how the plane's safety was approved in the first place. John Yang talks to Jeff Wise, a pilot and author of a book about MH370, the flight that vanished in 2014.


Kellie Hickman , 1 day ago

Hundreds of lives lost...because of nothing more than corporate greed and its enablers at the FAA.

Ray Quinn , 1 day ago

World to Boeing. Safety features are not optional! SMH😑

Zemli Drakona , 1 day ago

The warning light should be always on and should say "This plane sucks!"

die Macsmannschaft , 23 hours ago

No wonder Airbus become the new prince on the air! No wonder european produce luxurious goods, not the US!

LA's Totally Awesome , 1 day ago (edited)

So it was like driving a car while the "check engine" light is on X1000

K Me , 22 hours ago

Imagine buying a car with ABS, but the ABS failure light was an "optional extra".

CK Man , 1 day ago

$80,000 for a safety warning light! It should have been standard. How could they justify charging $80,000 for a warning light? It's like Ford charging $800 for Brake Fluid warning light, they would never have gotten away with that!

Africanknight88 , 19 hours ago

LAWSUIT and CRIMINAL CHARGES NEED TO BE FILED!!!! ....Now take that "optional".....my lord 😤🤬

Brandon E. Smith , 23 hours ago

It took only 346 lives to "improve" safety. 🙄 Boeing has always been a horrible, horrible company.

GNegasi , 1 day ago

How design or structural problems can be solved in a software update???

Jenny Kevin , 1 day ago

please don't hide the true, and don't the victim,

numbersix100 , 18 hours ago

I'll never fly on a 737 max, it's inherently unbalanced with its engines so far forward

Armando D'SOUZA , 20 hours ago

First make plane stable in flying mode when engines are producing force to move forward.

[Mar 24, 2019] Boeing 737 Max approval documents subpoenaed by fraud unit - YouTube

Mar 24, 2019 | www.youtube.com

Published on Mar 21, 2019

With the 737 Max still grounded after last week's deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash, the focus turns to Boeing. The company offered a warning system that -- for a price -- might have helped prevent the crashes. Kris Van Cleave reports.


Edmund Ming Yip Kwong , 2 days ago

This is so evil. Very disappointed at this multi-billion corporation

Arun K P , 2 days ago

I didn't know safety features were optional on planes 😂 wtf.

Suprianto , 2 days ago

$80 thousand for a warning light??? Unbelievable.... How much money can an indicator light cost? Software for detecting sensor malfunction should've been there in the first place.... For such a critical sensor, those safety systems should've been built into the systems in a $120 million dollar plane in the first place.

Ester F , 2 days ago (edited)

Why charge more for safety? It should be included by default. Then they kept saying it was safe for flight but excluded a crucial piece. It's all for profit... smh. 🧐 they are trying to deflect blame on the airline. Those planes should have never been sold in the first place.

Schmoo , 2 days ago

WOW! An add-on safety feature? Are you kidding me? That's just pure evil!

Rust belt McCLanahan Crawling , 2 days ago

Actually they should be charged with manslaughter for both plans ! Enough playing games with just a public court hearing then a fine ! Some Big People need to be held accountable by full law ! Jail time !

Crude Rude , 2 days ago (edited)

Wow.... just wow.... So they're releasing a flawed, unfinished product that requires glitchy software they have to patch and are also offering DLC?

Wenderz 26 , 1 day ago

That is like selling cars with no brakes, airbags, or seat belts, expecting the consumer to pay extra for necessary safety equipment . UNBELIEVABLE!

The Watchful Hunter , 2 days ago

I bet Boeing has been frantically shredding and wiping documents off hard drives for a week.

Mr. Sarcastic , 2 days ago (edited)

To bad all Airlines didn't buy the Super Deluxe "I really want to Live Package" from Boeing.

Hermes Trismegistus , 2 days ago

Once again, profit over safety! Those Boeing executives are money hungry demons! What a bunch of egotistical beasts!

Ryan Davis , 2 days ago

I would bet that the actual labor and materials are less than $2000. The engineering had already been completed as it is an option. Why then would safety be optional? Criminal greed, or a low value placed on human lives. Whomever is responsible has no moral or social compass and should be punished. Not with a fine but a lengthy prison term in Leavenworth.

Joseph Holland Pontes , 2 days ago

Oh no DLC is also optional to airplanes.

Dr Evil , 2 days ago

They should never have extra charge on safety features . Evil company

jaja smile , 2 days ago

80K just cost them billions ......

george movies , 1 day ago

Boeing and FAA, GUILTY! MASS KILLING . FIRST DEGREE MURDERERS.

David L , 1 day ago (edited)

I never thought capitalism was evil. Boeing: our planes were NOT safe to fly unless you pay extra.

Q & A , 2 days ago

That's one expensive bulb. 😳

105 Wonky , 1 day ago

You can have these 2 safety features which could potentially save lives, but your gonna have to pay 🤦‍♂️

Henry kirya , 1 day ago (edited)

if we can have recalls for cars, why cant we have the same for aircraft and force those chaps to install foolproof sensors in triplicate, complete with warning inidicators at no additional cost to the airlines!

[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

FAA rep is a clown! It is not FAA fault and Boeing was under pressure. If one of your family was in one of those crashes, you would never shill for those corporate murders.
Mar 24, 2019 | www.youtube.com

Leon Eldarion , 5 days ago

He is a clown! It is not FAA fault and Boeing was under pressure. If one of your family was in one of those crashes, you would never shill for those corporate murders.

gtud65 cutting , 2 days ago

If BOEING company is from another country, then USA 🇺🇸 Boeing air plane ✈ crashed The Boeing company will be closed immediately

Sammy Woo , 2 days ago

Ex FAA employees have come out and say FAA doesn't have the expertise and have to rely on Boeing for aspects of the certifications, why? because dumb Americans buy politicians ever selling lower taxes. Hey dudes, u gotta spend money to hire good people duh! something gotta give. Cheap government, cheap results. U deserve what u paid for America.

Robert May , 13 hours ago

The MCAS system was not revealed to the first receivers of the Max 8's, nor was it in the Manuals. Boeing thought it would quietly do it's job in the background, but they were wrong. After the first accident from Lion Air, out of Indonesia, then all airliners were informed of this. The pilots in Ethiopia may or may not have been aware of this, and if they were they lacked insufficient training on how to deal with this problem. The MCAS system works to bring the nose of the plane down so it can fly at a level flight. MCAS get's it's information from AOA sensors that send info to the plane as to what angle the plane is flying at. Pilots have reported that the AOA sensors are faulty and sending "wrong information" and "activating" the MCAS system when it shouldn't have, causing the planes nose to point downward, and causing the plane to go into a nose dive, and this is what happened. Basically the MCAS was needed because Boeing redesigned the engines, that were bigger, and were mounted differently -- more forward and up on the wing, throwing off the center of gravity of the new 737 Max 8.The old 737 does not have this problem. AOA sensors, stands for Angle of Attack, to make sure air flow is right both over and under the wings, to make the plane aerodynamic. According to reports from pilots, you can "disengage" the MCAS SYSTEM, buy pulling back on the yoke, and this will do it. At the same time there are wheels by the throttle that you turn manually, to trim the planes stabilizer manually by yourself. This was done many times by well trained American pilots, who averted crashes with this jet. So, proper training and awareness could have saved a lot of lives. Let's not forget these MAX 8 jets have been flying for a couple years, with thousands of flights in North America and developed countries with "no" accidents, and pilots say the plane flies beautifully. They say it's a very smooth flying aircraft, and a pleasure to pilot. So, who's responsible for this -- well it's Boeing, for non disclosure of the MCAS system, and what to do, if it functions in error, and how to manually disengage the system. In my opinion, all pilots should know how to manually take a plane from takeoff, and land it smoothly with no automation, or computers to help them -- just like in the old days. Over the last 20 years, there have been so very few major aircraft go down. I'm all for automation, but I fully support proper pilot training should some of this automation fail -- like faulty sensors. It's completely crazy to rely on robots or Artificial Intelligence ( AI ) to fly planes, if you don't understand how the computers work, and how they fly the plane, and in the event of a failure of the computer, you can then shut it off, and have "no problem" , and take control of the aircraft yourself,- "manually" with a lot of confidence. I SHOULD ADD - this MCAS system and it's AOA sensors, should all be mandatory on a plane, and not be sold as extras, same as brakes on a car. You don't play around with peoples lives, to make a few extra dollars, selling "options." These features "must be standard equipment", on all these aircraft sold, PERIOD. This is why I'm "very against" self driving cars'. Can you imagine all the accidents that will happen from "faulty sensors." WOW , it will be a nightmare. Faulty sensors could be caused by snow, ice, extreme heat or cold. Are we getting so lazy that we need to have Artificial Intelligence driving our cars. No thanks for me, I'll drive my own car, and hope that people will rebel against this idea, and the makers of these cars, won't sell any of them, and thus, taking them off the market.This Boeing Max 8 should send a good example, of things to come if we allow driverless cars. Not for me, and I hope the general public will agree with this.

You Tube , 2 days ago

Terrorists aren't needed to bring down airliners and frighten the public. Boeing and a failed Trump policy, that won't staff FAA department with a permanent and qualified leader, are managing the same thing through their fashionable neglect and arrogance.

Jackyboy335 , 3 days ago (edited)

The word Federal is part of this....right ? Profit is king...right ? "...we are a country of laws.."....right ?

Armando D'SOUZA , 3 days ago

Just look at the investigation of sinking and tilting Mellilium Tower in sanfransico. Building concrete Foundation and glasses are cracking and investigators are still studying what caused the two glass windows to crack. Similar investigation is going on how these two Boeing max crashed.

AJJ Against Jihadi Justin , 5 days ago

The FAA is in Boeings pocket book. Search... problems with Boeing 737 next generation with structural dangers reported on sbs datline australia

Vic Chavez , 5 days ago

Trump privatized the faa and this is what happens.

Wizkin Li , 5 days ago

No no no, this time it's all A320 neo 's fault

osidartaha2 , 4 days ago

Deadly strategie from Boeing for quick profits and market shares . Airliners are built to be operated for at least a couple of decades Boeing was providing worldwidely flying coffins made by mixing new technologies (leap engine ) with cheap and old technologies (1/2 century old airframe).A new well designed aircraft is stable, well-balanced without extra software's help.

barrych mak , 4 days ago

Check also the Boeing 767-300 nosedive crash on 23 Feb 2019 ! 3 Boeing nosedive crashes in 5 months !!!

I.P. Knightly , 3 days ago

Trump nominated his personal pilot to head up the FAA. After 2 years, they still have an "acting" director. Tim Boeing shows up at Mar-a-lago every weekend. What could possibly go wrong?

Peter Wexler , 1 day ago

I dissented this.

yin ng , 5 days ago

Same as to Ask Wall Street to regulate Wall Street and the Bankers to regulate themselves. Or ask the committed criminals to jail themselves.

Paradigm , 5 days ago

Byproduct of revolving doors.

Paul Forester , 3 days ago

This been a long time coming. Who cut the FAA? BOTH PARTIES DID! The system is gonna fall apart because too much damage has been done. Just keep paying people peanuts and have them try to do a skilled job. My cousin quit the airline industry because they don't want people to be able to pay for the education needed for these jobs. Like who program these systems.

roxar69 , 19 hours ago

So the merica is not really a saint..so now it not america dream but america dreaming..

Marcus Coyle , 5 days ago

Looks like I'll be getting that 🚲 sooner than later. I won't be traveling by plane for a few Give it time for all the smoke to clear and heads to roll😳

[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 juggerna