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Boeing 737 MAX fiasco: Money before safety

Boeing repeatedly subordinated basic considerations of safety to profit,
aided and abetted by the federal government

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On October 29, 2018, a Boeing 737 Max 8 belonging to Lion Air in Indonesia crashed into the Java Sea 12 minutes after take-off. All 189 passengers and crew members were killed instantly. It is extremely unusual for planes to suffer such accidents in clear weather after having reached their cruising altitude. Flight experts concluded that the pilots were not adequately trained in the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), a robotics technology that lowers the nose of a plane to prevent a stall. Although there is no definitive judgement on exactly what happened, it appears to be a combination of inadequate training for the pilots and a malfunctioning MCAS.

On Sunday, another 737 Max 8 owned by Ethiopian Airlines had the same kind of accident resulting in the death of 157 passengers and crew members. In the aftermath of the tragedy, this has led to Australia, China, Germany, France, Indonesia, Ireland, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom grounding the planes.

Donald Trump produced a good tweet about the airline crash.

"Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly," Trump tweeted. "Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better."

"Split second decisions are needed, and the complexity creates danger," he continued. "All of this for great cost yet very little gain. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!"

The first flight from Indonesia only lasted approximately 12-13 minutes; the second flight from Ethiopia only lasted about 6 minutes. So both occurrences were during the climb-out after departure.  (Ethiopian Airlines has said its pilots had new training for 737 MAX planes after the crash in Indonesia.)

In both cases the aircraft was up and down, up and down, not in a steady controlled fashion. And finally, in both cases the nose dropped and both aircraft went straight into ocean( Indonesia's case, or field (Ethiopia's case).  That makes those two flights very similar.  Also in previous flights pilots had reported problems of a similar nature — the inability to keep the aircraft climbing to prescribed level.

It was like a fight of crazy computer with humans in which the computer prevailed: the software was trying to do something that led to loss of altitude,  while the pilots were trying to correct its behaviour and resume normal climb-out. They were effectively fighting defective software system.

What is know  about the crash

There are several known factor that point to criminal negligence on  the part of Boeing and the corruption of regulators

How computers are setting us up for disaster

Two years before the Indonesian 737 crash, the Guardian published an article titled “Crash: how computers are setting us up for disaster” that it clearly anticipated. Interestingly enough, it was not even a Boeing plane that was discussed in the article. It was an Airbus 330 that had the same kind of systems as the Boeing NCAS.

he Air France pilots “were hideously incompetent”, wrote William Langewiesche, in his Vanity Fair article. And he thinks he knows why. Langewiesche argued that the pilots simply were not used to flying their own aeroplane at altitude without the help of the computer. Even the experienced Captain Dubois was rusty: of the 346 hours he had been at the controls of a plane during the past six months, only four were in manual control, and even then he had had the help of the full fly-by-wire system. All three pilots had been denied the ability to practise their skills, because the plane was usually the one doing the flying.

With pilots much more used to relying on automation than manual control of the plane, they failed to override the system. And this defective system force the airplane to plunge into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009 at about 125 miles an hour. All 228 passengers and crew, died instantly.

While pilots flying to major airports will continue to be highly paid, the wages of those working for regional airlines has fallen drastically due to neoliberalism. In 2010, the Guardian reported on “A pilot’s life: exhausting hours for meagre wages”. Reginal airlines pilots are overworked and underpaid

Many are forced to fly half way around the country before they even begin work. Others sleep in trailers at the back of Los Angeles airport, in airline lounges across the country or even on the floors of their own planes. Some co-pilots, who typically take home about $20,000 (£12,500) a year, hold down second jobs to make ends meet.

If the MCAS system malfunctions, pilots say the prescribed fix is to use manual trim to stabilize the plane, and then disconnect the trim system. There’s a cutoff switch on the center pedestal of the 737, not far from throttles, marked “Stab Trim.” Pilots routinely train to disconnect the automatic trim in the case of runaway trim with autopilot use.

“Boeing, in developing the 737 Max 8, obviously felt intense competitive pressure to get the new aircraft to market as quickly as possible,” wrote Captain ‘Sully’ Sullenberger in a column in MarketWatch this week. Sullenberger is the pilot who safely landed an Airbus A320 on the Hudson River in 2009 and a leading air safety expert.

“When flight testing revealed an issue with meeting the certification standards, the company developed a fix… but did not tell airline pilots about it. In mitigating one risk, Boeing seems to have created another, greater risk,” he wrote.

Sullenberger added,

 “After the crash of Lion Air 610 last October, it was apparent that this new risk needed to be effectively addressed.” But instead of grounding the aircraft and immediately fixing the problem, Boeing did everything it could to conceal the deadly defect and keep the aircraft flying.

In other words, Boeing executives evidently acted in a reckless, negligent manner, contributing to the deaths of 346 people. Sullenberger concluded,

“It has been reported that Boeing pushed back in discussions with the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] about the extent of changes that would be required, and after the second crash, of Ethiopian 302, the Boeing CEO reached out to the US President to try to keep the 737 Max 8 from being grounded in the US.”

Both the FAA and the Trump administration, for their part, were more than willing to run interference for the company.

The close integration between the airline industry and the agency nominally tasked with regulating it is well documented. In 2005, the FAA introduced a new program whereby aircraft manufacturers could choose their own employees to serve as FAA “designees,” charged with certifying the safety of their commercial planes. Since then, there has been virtually no independent oversight of the safety of any new civilian planes, those produced at Boeing or elsewhere.

During the 737 Max 8 rollout, Boeing told its pilots that they could learn all they needed to know about flying a new type of airplane from a 56-minute presentation on an iPad and a 13-page manual.

Both were approved by the FAA and the pilots’ union, and neither included any information about the system likely responsible for the crashes, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmenting System, or MCAS.

US officials have deep connections to the airline industry. FAA Acting Administrator Dan Elwell was an American Airlines executive. US President Donald Trump’s new nominee to head the administration, Stephen Dickson, is a former Delta head.

Boeing is a top defense contractor with extensive ties to the military-intelligence apparatus. Patrick Shanahan, the deputy secretary of defense, has worked for Boeing for three decades. Moreover, the current secretary of transportation, Elaine Chao, is the wife of Mitch McConnell, who has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign financing from Boeing.

Moreover, Boeing is a key part of the US financial elite’s war for control of markets. Since the 737 Max 8 series was released in 2017, the sales of just 350 of the 5,011 orders Boeing has received have accounted for 50 percent of the company’s profits. Boeing itself has maintained its status as the world’s fifth-largest defense contractor and is currently the largest US exporter.

Shares of Boeing have more than tripled since the election of Donald Trump and his promises of further deregulation, making it the highest- priced stock in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The company has accounted for more than 30 percent of the increase of the Dow since November 2016.

The tragic and preventable deaths of nearly 350 people demonstrate certain realities of contemporary social and political life. The capitalist system is based on the maximization of shareholder profit, not the satisfaction of the needs of society. If endangering the lives of hundreds of people will lead to higher profits, such a risk is justified.

Governments, in their turn, serve to protect the interests of the corporations, a reality demonstrated by the Trump White House’s efforts to protect the largest US exporter, and the repeated actions of the FAA to cover up the series of disastrous shortcuts taken by Boeing.

These disasters highlight the need to take the airline industry out of the hands of Wall Street so that air travel can be brought into harmony with human and social needs.

The technological advances that have been made in air travel over the past decades are indisputable. For the first time in world history, travelers can move from any two points in the world within a single day. This technology must be freed from the restraints of giant corporations and of the capitalist system as a whole. This requires the nationalization of the major airlines and aerospace companies, their transformation into publicly owned and democratically controlled utilities to provide for social need, not private profit.

Boeing reaction: too late too little

According to FBI Joins Criminal Probe Into Boeing 737 Max 8 Certification - Report - Sputnik International

On Wednesday, the FAA announced that Boeing is working on a service bulletin with instructions for airlines on how to install new flight control computer operational program software in the Boeing 737 Max 8, Reuters reported.

"Boeing is developing a service bulletin that would specify the installation of new flight control computer operational program software. Boeing has also developed flight crew training related to this software. The FAA's ongoing review of this software installation and training is an agency priority, as will be the roll-out of any software, training, or other measures to operators of the 737 Max," the FAA said in a statement Wednesday.

Investigations

The US Department of Transportation (DoT) requested an audit of how the FAA and Boeing certified the 737 Max 8. In a memo released this week, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao requested that DoT's Inspector General Calvin Scovel conduct "an objective and detailed factual history of the activities that resulted in the certification of the Boeing 737-MAX 8 aircraft," according to multiple reports.

Another, separate investigation is already underway by Scovel and the US Department of Justice's Criminal Division. AP, citing a person familiar with the matter, said a federal jury in Washington, DC, has already issued a subpoena to an individual "involved in the plane's development seeking emails, messages and other communications."

The US Department of Transportation (DoT) requested an audit of how the FAA and Boeing certified the 737 Max 8. In a memo released this week, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao requested that DoT's Inspector General Calvin Scovel conduct "an objective and detailed factual history of the activities that resulted in the certification of the Boeing 737-MAX 8 aircraft," according to multiple reports.

Another, separate investigation is already underway by Scovel and the US Department of Justice's Criminal Division. AP, citing a person familiar with the matter, said a federal jury in Washington, DC, has already issued a subpoena to an individual "involved in the plane's development seeking emails, messages and other communications."

 


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[Jul 19, 2019] Boeing - Sleazy Deal Confirms Downfall By Walrus. - Sic Semper Tyrannis

Jul 19, 2019 | turcopolier.typepad.com

Harry , 17 July 2019 at 03:27 PM

I saw this piece which I think explained what happened at Boeing.

For what little my opinion is worth, many of the problems in the West have originated in our business schools. They are a curse. Its not too late to shut them all down, and redistribute the curricula to other departments.

https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/what-will-it-be-boeing-great-airplanes-that-generate-cash-flow-or-great-cash-flow-period/

semiconscious said in reply to Harry... , 17 July 2019 at 03:27 PM
great article. a quote:

"According to Boeing's annual reports, in the last five years Boeing diverted 92% of operating cash flow to dividends and share buybacks to benefit investors. Since 1998, share buybacks have consumed $70 billion, adjusted for inflation. That could have financed several entire new airplane models, with money left over for handsome executive bonuses..."

John Minehan said in reply to semiconscious... , 18 July 2019 at 09:01 AM
to be a devil's advocate, would doing that have made business sense? Would demand have supported the new models? Was there a technological reason to bring in new models that would create their own demand?
Bill H -> John Minehan... , 18 July 2019 at 09:50 AM
Yes, there was. The 737MAX should have been a new model, rather than bandaids placed on an existing model which is what it was.
John Minehan said in reply to Harry... , 18 July 2019 at 08:58 AM
Graduate Business Schools have emphasized ethics since at least the S&L Scandals in the 1980s.

It is at least arguable if the effort has produced any results.

The Twisted Genius -> Harry... , 18 July 2019 at 12:20 PM
It goes far beyond the schools. It's the overarching Western business philosophy. I had to take one business course for ROTC. The central message from day one was that the business of business is to make money. A lot of us found this sleazy and disconcerting, but we never harbored dreams of being massively rich. This is in line with what semiconscious said below about Boeing maximizing dividends and share buybacks. They may talk about building fantastic aircraft, but that's just talk. They'll build the cheapest product they can in order to maximize profits. It wasn't always this way. The idea of offering a quality product for a fair price was once far more than a marketing slogan. It was a time when craftsmen, manufacturers and service providers stood behind their work as a matter of honor and pride. It is a philosophy of "being a man for others" for the business world.
JJackson said in reply to The Twisted Genius ... , 18 July 2019 at 01:44 PM
"There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: make the best quality goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible." Henry Ford.

"There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: make goods at the lowest cost possible, paying the lowest wages possible." Ver. 2.0 (current)

Eric Newhill said in reply to JJackson... , 18 July 2019 at 02:11 PM
JJackson,
That's just one side of the equation.It's labor's role to negotiate for the highest salary possible.

Consumers make decisions on a matrix of considerations that includes price (lowest possible), but also highest quality.

All of these tensions between and within the different players result in the right mix of quantity, quality, price, etc.

Or we could have AOC deciding what we're going to get and at what price.

Life is messy.

begob said in reply to Eric Newhill... , 19 July 2019 at 12:02 AM
Labour might fill its role better if it wasn't hemmed in by pesky regulations that hinder its right of association.
Eric Newhill said in reply to The Twisted Genius ... , 18 July 2019 at 02:06 PM
TGG,
Then how come cars have been getting increasingly safe (accident survivability), more fuel efficient, better handling, etc?
The Twisted Genius -> Eric Newhill... , 18 July 2019 at 11:21 PM
Eric, government safety and fuel efficiency regulations have something to do with that but that's clearly not the only reason. These companies are improving engineering, designing and manufacturing all the time. Getting the reputation of producing nothing but cheap crap is not good for the bottom line. However, this isn't always for the best. VW made a decision about a decade ago to "cheap out" on its cars in the US market. The difference was noticeable, but it was a marketing success. Most US buyers preferred the cheaper price over better features and materials.
Harry said in reply to The Twisted Genius ... , 18 July 2019 at 02:14 PM
Probably. Boeing's engineering standards were once extremely high. It was the foundation of their long running success. For the last 20 years the management have been extracting value by under-investing. Not building a new aircraft and going with the software solution for the 737 Max saved a huge amount of money, or at least would have if the process hadn't been mismanaged/misconceived. However, making the the product subservient to the business is not a path to longterm success. Its a path to increasingly bad planes.

In many industries, CEOs can can make +USD100mn. When these kinds of sums are involved we shouldnt be surprised if decisions are made which prioritizes the short term over the long term.

VietnamVet , 17 July 2019 at 07:45 PM
Walrus,

My Dad and Brother-in-Law worked at Boeing. I am not disinterested. My Brother-in-law who is also Vietnam Veteran and retired told me that the 737 Max catastrophes are directly due to the takeover of Boeing by McDonnell Douglas executives in 1997. Boeing, just like Intel, U.S. Steel or Toys R Us, was seized by financiers who could care less about the business and milked it of all its value. Money that should have been used designed a new single aisle passenger airliner instead was used to pay executive bonuses and increase shareholder value by stock buybacks. Due to this de-industrialization policy the USA is now an empty shell of the nation that I grew up in. The only thing rising is the number of billionaires up to 680 led by Jeff Bezos.

If Congress had not deregulated aviation and let Boeing employees certify the safety of the aircraft, FAA inspectors, who once were paid by taxpayers, more likely than not would have pointed out that the 737 Max flight control system which could nose dive the airplane into the ground by regulation requires three or more sensors not one.

Boeing in order to survive as North America's aircraft manufacturer must be able to sell single aisle passenger aircraft in East Asia. Dennis Muilenburg should know this. Clearly the Trump Administration doesn't. Boeing's future depends on getting the 737 Max re-certified by the Civil Aviation Administration of China. This will take time and could cost billions of dollars. If not, the US aviation industry will wither away. The new Cold War, unless ended, will force the formation of two global economic blocks, once again, except this time China will have all the manufacturing expertise and industry.

Bill H -> VietnamVet... , 18 July 2019 at 09:53 AM
FAA inspectors would have required a different airplane, one in which flight stability was inherent in the airframe and not faked by means of software.
blue peacock said in reply to VietnamVet... , 18 July 2019 at 12:00 PM
"Boeing, just like Intel, U.S. Steel or Toys R Us, was seized by financiers who could care less about the business and milked it of all its value. Money that should have been used designed a new single aisle passenger airliner instead was used to pay executive bonuses and increase shareholder value by stock buybacks. Due to this de-industrialization policy the USA is now an empty shell of the nation that I grew up in."

VV,

Yes, this financialization of our economy over the past 40 years under both Republican and Democratic administrations and Congresses has hollowed out our economy and financed the technology transfer to China strengthening the totalitarian CCP.

With the focus on financial asset inflation that primarily benefits the top 1% we now have the worst wealth inequality in a century. Even worse the degree of systemic debt and unfunded liabilities are gargantuan. The middle classes and working classes will be further shredded as the debt load continues to depress productivity growth and monetary & fiscal policies become even more extreme. If we thought the political conflict we have seen so far is bad, we ain't seen nothing yet!

Ray Dalio, the Chief Investment Officer of Bridgewater, one of the largest hedge funds recently penned a note on "paradigm shifts", which is well worth a read.

"There's a saying in the markets that "he who lives by the crystal ball is destined to eat ground glass." While I'm not sure exactly when or how the paradigm shift will occur, I will share my thoughts about it. I think that it is highly likely that sometime in the next few years, 1) central banks will run out of stimulant to boost the markets and the economy when the economy is weak, and 2) there will be an enormous amount of debt and non-debt liabilities (e.g., pension and healthcare) that will increasingly be coming due and won't be able to be funded with assets. Said differently, I think that the paradigm that we are in will most likely end when a) real interest rate returns are pushed so low that investors holding the debt won't want to hold it and will start to move to something they think is better and b) simultaneously, the large need for money to fund liabilities will contribute to the "big squeeze." At that point, there won't be enough money to meet the needs for it, so there will have to be some combination of large deficits that are monetized, currency depreciations, and large tax increases, and these circumstances will likely increase the conflicts between the capitalist haves and the socialist have-nots .

The opioid crisis, Trumpism are all symptoms of the deleterious effects of financialization. Demagogues from both the left & right are in our political future as large segments of our population experience significant stress as their standard of living comes under increasing pressure. Note that the bottom 50% only have 1% of the financial assets.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/paradigm-shifts-ray-dalio/

Lars -> blue peacock... , 18 July 2019 at 03:51 PM
Ray Dalio is also looking at some aspects of MMT and if it works, that is wonderful. If it does not, it can make things even worse. Where many agree with Mr. Dalio, is that the current financial system is working less and less. Boeing and others are a symptom of that.

My wife was not sure why I insisted over the last decade that we use paper profits from Wall Street to buy diamonds, gold, silver and such. She does like wearing it now and then.

Jack -> Lars... , 18 July 2019 at 10:24 PM
Lars

We've been living MMT for the past decade. Just look at the scale of monetization in Europe, Japan, Switzerland and the US in that period. Now in the "greatest economy in history" with the stock market at all time highs, see how the yield curve looks with the Fed readying rate cuts and $13 trillion of sovereign debt with negative yields and swap spreads negative. Isn't it incredulous that Italian 10yrs yield less than 10yr Treasuries and Argentina can issue 100yr bonds?

If MMT works, why after trillions in monetization does semiconductor and auto sales on a YoY basis decline and why does Singapore print negative economy and German industrial production decline?

Chiron , 17 July 2019 at 07:54 PM
Boeing buying Embraer regional airliner division and merging with its commercial airliner sector recently looked like as a desperate move, Embraer is world leader in the regional airliner market and is famous for being efficient, Boeing is hoping of being saved by Brazilian engineers.
Lars , 17 July 2019 at 07:55 PM
Thanks for your very informative post. I am not all that surprised that Boeing is in their deserved trouble. Most big US companies have a senior management well removed from reality. Many years ago, when I was in the trucking business, we suddenly got a lot of trips hauling refrigerators back to various GE factories, due to a faulty compressor they had installed. The repair guys in the field soon found them to be faulty. It took one and a half years for that information to reach senior management, resulting in a lot of units made with a problem. Since airplanes are a lot more complicated, what happened should be expected.

It will take more than $100M to remedy this.

adrian pols , 17 July 2019 at 09:43 PM
The 737MAX will probably never fly passengers again. It's Kludge and they knew it. So does the rest of the aviation world. Maybe the earlier 737s will live on, but this Turducken has been thoroughly exposed and other aircraft will fill the niche Boeing tried wedging this into.
James O'Neill , 17 July 2019 at 10:47 PM
In many ways Boeing is a metaphor for modern America. Started out with such promise, reached a peak, and since then steadily downhill while others (competitors) thrive. Part of the tragedy is that the majority fail to see the reality and will continue down the same destructive path.
Mathias Alexander , 18 July 2019 at 02:47 AM
Is it true that executives are legaly required to act in this way because it is in the interests of its shreholders?
John A said in reply to Mathias Alexander... , 18 July 2019 at 04:06 AM
No, that myth was started by Milton Friedman.
John Minehan said in reply to John A... , 18 July 2019 at 09:45 AM
Actually, it is a bit more complex than that.

Yes, executives have a duty of loyalty to the company (and, by extension, to its owners, the shareholders).

More to the point, Boards have a fiduciary duty to the shareholders of a company, which much predates Milton Friedman's 1970 article in the New York Times Magazine. Corporate law is, by and large, state law in the state of incorporation, now mostly Delaware and New York for publicly traded corporations.

Precedents from Michigan from about 100 years ago began to establish that a Board's fiduciary duty involves maximizing corporate profits. Based on this, it became part of the broader legal theory of the corporation that this was a key duty of boards in the 1920s and 1930s. By the 1940s and early 1950s, beginning with closely-held corporations and later OTC traded corporations, lawyers like Joseph Flom and Martin Lipton contended mightily over shareholder derivative suits in the New York courts.

One of the things that came out of these suits is the business judgement rule that presumes that HOW the board maximizes shareholder value is left to the business judgement of the board, who are (ideally) chosen for business acumen and savvy.

With a publicly traded corporation, a shareholder can fairly freely sell their shares if the return is insufficient (portfolio theory). However, most people do not monitor a corporation in which they own stock like they owned the business (even though, legally, they do, or at least a small part of it). Boards have a fiduciary duty to shareholder to protect their interests (largely, but not exclusively, by maximizing return), which makes sense especially because stocks are often held by the endowments of charities, pension funds and other vulnerable parties.

Put in extreme terms, a Board, which concentrates on corporate grand strategy, could put a lot of money into R&D to reap future profits by disrupting the market at cost of current returns. But that COULD be challenged. The more common approach today would be to acquire new technology to disrupt the market by acquiring a smaller company with promising tech but not risking current returns by doing expensive in-house R&D which might not show any return.

LA Sox Fan -> John Minehan... , 18 July 2019 at 03:10 PM
Actually, under Delaware corporate law, directors are required to "maximize shareholder value." That doesn't mean increase profits. It gives directors a lot of discretion under the business judgment rule.

That being said, directors are elected by the shareholders. Shareholders will vote for the directors who will raise the stock price so that those who already own stock will profit. Thus, we have corporations taking out billion dollar loans to purchase stock, which increases the current stock price for current shareholders, but puts future shareholders in debt. In sum, the drive to increase shareholder value leads to the cannibalization of the corporation.

blue peacock said in reply to Mathias Alexander... , 18 July 2019 at 12:15 PM
Executives act in their self-interest. Their compensation packages are tied to stock price which is how they make the real big bucks. Not salary. Hence, why financial engineering is what they do. GE is the poster child and Jack Welch the epitome of the "great" CEO. It doesn't matter if the business survives and if long-term shareholders (the pension funds, 401K plans and mutual funds) lose value. After all it is OPM.
John Minehan said in reply to blue peacock... , 18 July 2019 at 02:20 PM
Welch is an interesting case.

Peter Drucker, the management gaon, used to say that Reg Jones was the greatest CEO he worked with in his long career because Jones could pick someone very different from himself as CEO who better fit the times.

However, those traits were apparently conspicuously absent in Welch, who picked a successor not obviously suited to the times while Welch himself hung on too long even as the world changed around him (he didn't notice, for example, that GE Capital, a major source of GE's profits in the 1980s and 1990s, became a potential liability by the early 2000s).

Not everyone has the self-awareness that Jones had. Not everyone can read the tea leaves well enough to know, " now it's time for something completely different."

Welch was tough, unsentimental and perfectly suited to the demanding business environment of the 1980s and 1990s. He made the changes that had to be made early and voluntarily and GE did far better than other companies like IBM and GM that didn't.

But it seems that Welch didn't realize that being right for one period isn't enough.

LA Sox Fan -> John Minehan... , 18 July 2019 at 09:09 PM
GE became a finance company that had a manufacturing side business under Welsh. He also moved that manufacturing to China and forced GE's subcontractors to move manufacturing there too. That financial business that Welsh created has ruined GE and it currently is close to bankruptcy.
John Minehan said in reply to blue peacock... , 18 July 2019 at 02:26 PM
Which is Friedman's point.

If executives can spend shareholder's money of furnishings and charitable contributions, rather than maximizing shareholder's returns, they will. Keep them from doing so.

The big question is: "How?"

As lord Keynes said, "In the long term, we are all dead." The US, with its short term orientation has generally out performed Japan with its long term orientation. It is possible, but not yet determined, that the same is true of the PRC.

John Minehan , 18 July 2019 at 09:56 AM
I think modern approaches to corporate governance are an improvement on what went before. I also think a less intrusive regulatory structure abets growth and innovations.

However, laws (and things like the business judgement rule) have tended to restrict things like shareholder derivative suits, which I think limits a more effective check on the system.

If anything, it might make sense to take things that boards tend to get wrong (e.g., capitalization decisions by boards of financial institutions, as with the Great Recession and the S&L Crisis) out of the ambit of the business judgement rule and put the burden on the board to prove there decisions were reasonable. It does not tell the Board what decision to make, but pointedly tells them that they bear the liability if they did not consider it carefully.

ex-PFC Chuck , 18 July 2019 at 10:43 AM
The root cause of all this is the out-of-control financial sectors of the western industrialized societies, and most especially that of the USA. The go-to source for understanding this is the life work of economist and economic historian Michael Hudson who, in his 80th year, is still very much at the top of his game. Hudson has studied economic history from ancient Mesopotamia 5,000 years ago to the present, and he asserts that in societies that use money the financial sectors that emerge to do basic, necessary functions such as processing transactions and lending money for short term needs inevitability become ever more parasitic, thus weakening societies from within, unless they develop active measures for preventing this. Many Mesopotamian societies of the 3rd and 2nd millennia BCE accomplished this for extended periods with periodic debt relief programs. This is the topic of Hudson's most recent book . . and forgive them their debts: Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption from Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year.

Two of Hudson's many books are crucial to understanding how this has played out since early in the 20th century. The first is Super Imperialism: The Origin and Fundamentals of U.S. World Dominance, 2003 Edition , which describes the financial aspects of US foreign policy which since the First World War enabled the US to supplant the overt colonialism of the Western European with a more stealthy financial colonialism centered on the USA. The book was originally published in 1972 and substantially updated in 2003. One thing that becomes apparent from this history even though it's not directly brought out by Hudson, is that the refugees who have been so effectively used by Trump to distract his base from the fact he, like all 20th century presidents except Franklin Roosevelt, shy away from confronting the titans and minions of Wall Street. And even FDR limited the scope of his New Deal programs to those that affected the financial sector's domestic predation; he was fully on board with what it did abroad.

The other book at the top of the Hudson must-read list is Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Destroy the Global Economy , published in 2015. In it he discusses how many of the causal factors cited in other comments that have hollowed out Boeing and many other companies can be traced back to the malign imperatives of the financial sectors of the western industrialized countries.

For a convenient introduction to Hudson's thought, below are links to transcripts of two recent interviews of him by Bonnie Faulkner of the Guns And Butter podcast which provide a pretty good overview of his body of work.

https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2019/07/michael-hudson-discusses-the-imf-and-world-bank-partners-in-backwardness.html

https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2019/07/michael-hudson-de-dollarizing-the-american-financial-empire.html

Super Imperialism : https://amzn.to/2XX9cHr

Killing the Host : http://amzn.to/2wuiYEP

John Minehan said in reply to ex-PFC Chuck... , 18 July 2019 at 02:31 PM
"periodic debt relief programs"

"Comes the Jubilee?"

Well, given its Halachic roots hardly a radical or socialist solution, but does it undermine people's willingness to loan money to strangers (which was not the case in Ancient Israel, Ancient Mesopotamia or modern Islamic nations with a Hawiya/Islamic lending system)?

ex-PFC Chuck said in reply to John Minehan... , 18 July 2019 at 07:04 PM
Most of what Hudson writes about in and forgive them their debts - the late 4th through the mid 2nd millennia - predates the coalescence of the Jewish identity and religion. He is said to be working on a sequel to that book that will address attitudes toward periodic debt relief from the late 2nd millennium up through Greek, Roman & early Christian times.

Not all types of debt were relieved in ancient Mesopotamia, only those which if unforgiven posed a threat to the establishment, which in that era was usually the political and religious authority combined in the person of the monarch/high priest. These were typically debts owed by free holders who were available to be called upon to put aside their plows when necessary to defend the city or state. Often the debts were owed directly to the temple/government and were forgiven every 25 or 50 years, or upon the ascent of a new occupant of the throne.

ex-PFC Chuck said in reply to ex-PFC Chuck... , 18 July 2019 at 05:57 PM
I neglected to mention that the full text of the 2003 edition of Super Imperialism is available as a PDF download from Hudson's personal website. Here's the link:

https://michael-hudson.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/superimperialism.pdf

turcopolier , 18 July 2019 at 01:34 PM
TTG

A few things I learned in my ten years in international business. 1. The business of business is making money, not the products. They are just the means for making money.. 2. Resources are not free as they are in government. Someone has to pay for them. 3. Transactions are where you make money if you do. Infrastructure; factories, people, company towns or country clubs, etc. should be taken down as soon as the transactions that they support are no longer making money. 4. There are profit centers and there are cost centers. Remember that. I hated business just like the banker Claude Devereux hated it in my books but like him I was good at it. TTG, you should have been a priest or a crusader warrior monk.

The Twisted Genius -> turcopolier ... , 18 July 2019 at 03:10 PM
For over six years I felt I had a calling to become a Maryknoll missionary priest. I even went to a future priest summer camp at Stockbridge, MA run by the Marionists. Then the hormones kicked in. I became a Special Forces officer instead.
John Minehan , 18 July 2019 at 02:38 PM
COL (R) Lang, well said. As my Corporate Finance Prof put it: "(1) Cash is good; (2) the balance sheet is crap: and (3) their ain't no such thing as a free lunch."

As for your item (4), never forget you can always sell the PPE and mitigate losses to meet new (and, often, reduced) needs, Mitt Romney mastered this in East Coast M&A.

John Minehan , 18 July 2019 at 02:40 PM
Your 4 points are true and concise enough, I'd like to share them with some people, with or without attribution, as you prefer.
johnf , 18 July 2019 at 05:02 PM
Talking of warrior priests, here is a story of unofficial action taken by priests and Catholics in The Philippines to stop the ruinous drug wars between Dutarte and the drug barons:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/18/philippines-rodrigo-duterte-war-on-drugs-catholic-church

turcopolier , 18 July 2019 at 06:31 PM
TTG

I considered being a priest for a about a week when I was ten. Sadly, my long search for universal meaning in the Church came to the end when I realized that the senior clergy that I had long dealt with as an invested member of a papal order of chivalry had always been lying to me about their state of grace with regard to sex.

The Twisted Genius -> turcopolier ... , 18 July 2019 at 07:39 PM
I was lucky to Father James F. O'Dea as the pastor of our Church for as long as I lived there. He grew up in nearby Waterbury and was a Navy chaplain in the Pacific during the war. He was of that rare breed of men of high honor, morals, courage and compassion. We had an abnormally high concentration of that breed in my hometown. Father O'Dea told us the story of how some young seminarians asked him how they could stifle normal sexual urges. Father O'Dea told them he had no idea and that he would love to know if they ever found out how to do so. I didn't become jaded until I saw what caliber of men infest most of the world. Oh well. FIDO.
akaPatience , 18 July 2019 at 10:51 PM
We own Boeing stock. Even though the price hasn't dipped as much as I expected in the wake of the 2 crashes, I've soured on the company and have wanted to sell to cut our losses. But while I'm a worrier, my eternally-optimistic husband wants to hold on especially now that Boeing has announced a $5 billion earnings hit, thereby finally putting a number to its [presumed] liability and thus ending some degree of fear and speculation. He may be right. We shall see.

Besides this, one of his brothers was a Navy pilot and blames poor training for the crashes. He thinks African and Asian pilots (except for Singapore) generally aren't as well trained as American pilots.

turcopolier , 19 July 2019 at 12:36 AM
TTG

You are making excuses for men who have broken their vow of chastity.

turcopolier , 19 July 2019 at 12:37 AM
JM

Feel free to do so.

turcopolier , 19 July 2019 at 12:41 AM
JM

That is true of you want to sell or liquidate the business. I suppose you know that you can sell the business entity with its book, etc. Or, you can sell the assets.

[Jun 29, 2019] Boeing 787 Dreamliner caught in deepening probe into 737 MAX disaster

Notable quotes:
"... Prosecutors are likely concerned with whether " broad cultural problems " pervade the entire company, including pressure to OK shoddy work in order to deliver planes on time, one source told the Seattle Times. The South Carolina plant manufactured 45 percent of Boeing's 787s last year, but its supersize -10 model is built exclusively there. ..."
"... Prosecutors are on the hunt for " hallmarks of classic fraud ," the source said, such as lying or misrepresentation to customers and regulators. Whistleblowers in the Charleston factory who pointed to debris and even tools left in the engine, near wiring, and in other sensitive locations likely to cause operating issues told the New York Times they were punished by management, and managers reported they had been pushed to churn planes out faster and cover up delays. ..."
"... A critical fire-fighting system on the Dreamliner was discovered to be dysfunctional earlier this month, leading Boeing to issue a warning that the switch designed to extinguish engine fires had failed in " some cases ." While the FAA warned that " the potential exists for an airline fire to be uncontrollable ," they opted not to ground the 787s, instead ordering airlines to check that the switch was functional every 30 days. ..."
Jun 29, 2019 | www.rt.com

Federal prosecutors are expanding their Boeing probe, investigating charges the 787 Dreamliner's manufacture was plagued with the same incompetence that dogged the doomed 737 MAX and resulted in hundreds of deaths. The US Department of Justice has requested records related to 787 Dreamliner production at Boeing's South Carolina plant, where two sources who spoke to the Seattle Times said there have been allegations of " shoddy work ." A third source confirmed individual employees at the Charleston plant had received subpoenas earlier this month from the " same group " of prosecutors conducting the ongoing probe into the 737 MAX. Boeing is in the hot seat over alleged poor quality workmanship and cutting corners at the South Carolina plant.

Prosecutors are likely concerned with whether " broad cultural problems " pervade the entire company, including pressure to OK shoddy work in order to deliver planes on time, one source told the Seattle Times. The South Carolina plant manufactured 45 percent of Boeing's 787s last year, but its supersize -10 model is built exclusively there.

Prosecutors are on the hunt for " hallmarks of classic fraud ," the source said, such as lying or misrepresentation to customers and regulators. Whistleblowers in the Charleston factory who pointed to debris and even tools left in the engine, near wiring, and in other sensitive locations likely to cause operating issues told the New York Times they were punished by management, and managers reported they had been pushed to churn planes out faster and cover up delays.

The 737 MAX, too, was reportedly rushed to market amid much corner-cutting in order to beat competitor Airbus' hot new model. Worse, the Federal Aviation Administration allegedly let Boeing conduct many of the critical safety checks itself, and other countries' regulators took the US safety certification as proof they did not need to conduct their own checks, culminating in the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines tragedies in October and March.

A critical fire-fighting system on the Dreamliner was discovered to be dysfunctional earlier this month, leading Boeing to issue a warning that the switch designed to extinguish engine fires had failed in " some cases ." While the FAA warned that " the potential exists for an airline fire to be uncontrollable ," they opted not to ground the 787s, instead ordering airlines to check that the switch was functional every 30 days.

[Jun 29, 2019] Boeing Outsourced Its 737 MAX Software To $9-Per-Hour Engineers

Jun 29, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

The software at the heart of the Boeing 737 MAX crisis was developed at a time when the company was laying off experienced engineers and replacing them with temporary workers making as little as $9 per hour, according to Bloomberg .

In an effort to cut costs, Boeing was relying on subcontractors making paltry wages to develop and test its software. Often times, these subcontractors would be from countries lacking a deep background in aerospace, like India.

Boeing had recent college graduates working for Indian software developer HCL Technologies Ltd. in a building across from Seattle's Boeing Field, in flight test groups supporting the MAX. The coders from HCL designed to specifications set by Boeing but, according to Mark Rabin, a former Boeing software engineer, "it was controversial because it was far less efficient than Boeing engineers just writing the code."

Rabin said: "...it took many rounds going back and forth because the code was not done correctly."

In addition to cutting costs, the hiring of Indian companies may have landed Boeing orders for the Indian military and commercial aircraft, like a $22 billion order received in January 2017 . That order included 100 737 MAX 8 jets and was Boeing's largest order ever from an Indian airline. India traditionally orders from Airbus.

HCL engineers helped develop and test the 737 MAX's flight display software while employees from another Indian company, Cyient Ltd, handled the software for flight test equipment. In 2011, Boeing named Cyient, then known as Infotech, to a list of its "suppliers of the year".

One HCL employee posted online: "Provided quick workaround to resolve production issue which resulted in not delaying flight test of 737-Max (delay in each flight test will cost very big amount for Boeing) ."

But Boeing says the company didn't rely on engineers from HCL for the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, which was linked to both last October's crash and March's crash. The company also says it didn't rely on Indian companies for the cockpit warning light issue that was disclosed after the crashes.

A Boeing spokesperson said: "Boeing has many decades of experience working with supplier/partners around the world. Our primary focus is on always ensuring that our products and services are safe, of the highest quality and comply with all applicable regulations."

HCL, on the other hand, said: "HCL has a strong and long-standing business relationship with The Boeing Company, and we take pride in the work we do for all our customers. However, HCL does not comment on specific work we do for our customers. HCL is not associated with any ongoing issues with 737 Max."

Recent simulator tests run by the FAA indicate that software issues on the 737 MAX run deeper than first thought. Engineers who worked on the plane, which Boeing started developing eight years ago, complained of pressure from managers to limit changes that might introduce extra time or cost.

Rick Ludtke, a former Boeing flight controls engineer laid off in 2017, said: "Boeing was doing all kinds of things, everything you can imagine, to reduce cost , including moving work from Puget Sound, because we'd become very expensive here. All that's very understandable if you think of it from a business perspective. Slowly over time it appears that's eroded the ability for Puget Sound designers to design."

Rabin even recalled an incident where senior software engineers were told they weren't needed because Boeing's productions were mature. Rabin said: "I was shocked that in a room full of a couple hundred mostly senior engineers we were being told that we weren't needed."

Any given jetliner is made up of millions of parts and millions of lines of code. Boeing has often turned over large portions of the work to suppliers and subcontractors that follow its blueprints. But beginning in 2004 with the 787 Dreamliner, Boeing sought to increase profits by providing high-level specs and then asking suppliers to design more parts themselves.

Boeing also promised to invest $1.7 billion in Indian companies as a result of an $11 billion order in 2005 from Air India. This investment helped HCL and other software developers.

For the 787, HCL offered a price to Boeing that they couldn't refuse, either: free. HCL "took no up-front payments on the 787 and only started collecting payments based on sales years later".

Rockwell Collins won the MAX contract for cockpit displays and relied in part on HCL engineers and contract engineers from Cyient to test flight test equipment.

Charles LoveJoy, a former flight-test instrumentation design engineer at the company, said: "We did have our challenges with the India team. They met the requirements, per se, but you could do it better."


Anonymous IX , 2 minutes ago link

I love it. A company which fell in love so much with their extraordinary profits that they sabatoged their design and will now suffer enormous financial consequences. They're lucky to have all their defense/military contracts.

scraping_by , 4 minutes ago link

Oftentimes, it's the cut-and-paste code that's the problem. If you don't have a good appreciation for what every line does, you're never going to know what the sub or entire program does.

vienna_proxy , 7 minutes ago link

hahahaha non-technical managers making design decisions are complete **** ups wherever they go and here it blew up in their faces rofl

Ignorance is bliss , 2 minutes ago link

I see this all the time, and a lot of the time these non-technical decision makers are women.

hispanicLoser , 13 minutes ago link

By 2002 i could not sit down with any developers without hearing at least one story about how they had been in a code review meeting and seen absolute garbage turned out by H-1B workers.

Lots of people have known about this problem for many years now.

brazilian , 11 minutes ago link

May the gods damn all financial managers! One of the two professions, along with bankers, which have absolutely no social value whatsoever. There should be open hunting season on both!

scraping_by , 15 minutes ago link

Shifting to high-level specs puts more power in the hands of management/accounting types, since it doesn't require engineering knowledge to track a deadline. Indeed, this whole story is the wet dream of business school, the idea of being able to accomplish technical tasks purely by demand. A lot of public schools teach kids science is magic so when they grow up, the think they can just give directions and technology appears.

pops , 20 minutes ago link

In this country, one must have a license from the FAA to work on commercial aircraft. That means training and certification that usually results in higher pay for those qualified to perform the repairs to the aircraft your family will fly on.

In case you're not aware, much of the heavy stuff like D checks (overhaul) have been outsourced by the airlines to foreign countries where the FAA has nothing to say about it. Those contractors can hire whoever they wish for whatever they'll accept. I have worked with some of those "mechanics" who cannot even read.

Keep that in mind next time the TSA perv is fondling your junk. That might be your last sexual encounter.

Klassenfeind , 22 minutes ago link

Boeing Outsourced Its 737 MAX Software To $9-Per-Hour Engineers

Long live the free market, right Tylers?

You ZH guys always rally against minimum wage here, well there you go: $9/hr aircraft 'engineers!' Happy now?

asteroids , 25 minutes ago link

You gotta be kidding. You let kids straight out of school write mission critical code? How ******* stupid are you BA?

reader2010 , 20 minutes ago link

Go to India. There are many outsourcing companies that only hire new college graduates for work and they are paid less than $2 an hour for the job.

For the DoD contractors, they have to bring them to the US to work. There are tons of H1B guys from India working for defense contractors.

[Jun 26, 2019] New Software Glitch Found On 737 MAX That Results In Uncontrollable Nosedives

Notable quotes:
"... A series of simulator flights to test new software developed by Boeing revealed the flaw, a source told CNN . In simulator tests, government pilots discovered that a microprocessor failure could push the nose of the plane toward the ground. It is not known whether the microprocessor played a role in either crash. ..."
Jun 26, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

With Boeing's fleet of 737 MAX planes indefinitely grounded after unexpected problems with the MCAS system costs hundreds of people their lives in two fatal crashes, tests on the grounded planes revealed a new, and unrelated safety risk in the computer system for the Boeing 737 Max that could push the plane downward the FAA announced; the discovery could lead to further lengthy delays before the aircraft is allowed return to service.

A series of simulator flights to test new software developed by Boeing revealed the flaw, a source told CNN . In simulator tests, government pilots discovered that a microprocessor failure could push the nose of the plane toward the ground. It is not known whether the microprocessor played a role in either crash.

737 Flight Simulator

While the original crashes remain under investigation, preliminary reports showed that "a new stabilization system pushed both planes into steep nosedives from which the pilots could not recover." The issue is known in aviation circles as runaway stabilizer trim.

"The FAA recently found a potential risk that Boeing must mitigate," the agency said in an emailed statement on Wednesday, without providing any specifics.

While the latest glitch is separate from, and did not involve the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System linked to the two fatal accidents since October that killed 346 people, it could produce an uncommanded dive similar to what occurred in the crashes, Bloomberg confirmed, also citing an unnamed source..

Meanwhile, piling damage control upon damage control, Boeing announced it could break the chain of events that led to both crashes by developing a software fix that would limit the potency of that stabilization system. In other words, for every uncontrolled dive there is a software upgrade... allegedly. The problem is that the broader public is becoming increasingly disgusted by what is a clear culture of cutting corners and rolling out flying coffins that crash to earth the moment there is a BSOD.


motoXdude , 1 minute ago link

... the "nosedives" are the cost accountants cutting what little value remains in any American produced good or service! Once again the end-user is the LAST consideration in Corporate America!

One of these is not like the others.. , 11 minutes ago link

O.K. Boeing, here's your fix.

Given that the screw jack is a bi-directional system: If it's electric you rewire it, if hydraulic replumb it, but essentially you fit an "auto" and a "manual" switch (or valve).

In the "manual" position the pilots have a toggle to set the damn trim wherever they ******* like. In the "auto" position the software can have a go. Clear demarcation of responsibilty.

They are pilots after all, not computer programmers.

You are hereby granted an open licence to use this idea free of Royalties of any kind, but I would like it referred to in the manual as the "Professor Dave" fix..

dlweld , 14 minutes ago link

According to the FAA there are great risks involved, flying the 737 max when pilots aren't physically strong. They will be unable to handle the 737 max when trimming is needed to avoid crashing into the ground. Wall Street Journal: https://www.wsj.com/articles/physical-strength-of-pilots-emerges-as-issue-in-returning-737-max-to-flight-11560937879

MAN2015 , 5 minutes ago link

So Boeing is biased against female pilots ;-) ...

Wannabe_Oracle , 15 minutes ago link

I argue 'Not a glitch - an unintended feature that Boeing knew about'. The new engine design needed an entirely different fuselage and that didn't happen. Why? Likely money. ../

HmanBH , 16 minutes ago link

Washington will fix this problem with "Buy BA planes or face regime change .."

3-fingered_chemist , 32 minutes ago link

At this point, they will be redesigning the plane which is what should have been done from the start. It will never be re-certified. All the immense profits and cost savings went down the drain, and now it's actually costing them money. The CEO will be terminated in the near future.

redrepublic , 30 minutes ago link

Flying Coffins -- what a great descriptor.

Vince Clortho , 46 minutes ago link

Very negative Headline.

Implies that Uncontrollable Nosedives are a bad thing.

[Jun 23, 2019] Hundreds Of 737 Max Pilots Sue Boeing Over Unprecedented Cover-Up

Notable quotes:
"... The lawsuit focuses on the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) anti-stall system , which Pilot X claims gave the aircraft "inherently dangerous aerodynamic handling defects." ..."
"... On the older 737 NG, the right switch was labeled "AUTO PILOT" - and allowed pilots to deactivate the plane's automated stabilizer controls, such as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), suspected to be the culprit in both crashes. The left toggle switch on the NG would deactivate the buttons on the yoke which pilots regularly use to control the horizontal stabilizer. ..."
"... On the 737 MAX, however, the two switches were altered to perform the same function ..."
"... In a rush to bring the plane to customers, Boeing did not alert pilots to the software in a bid to prevent " any new training that required a simulator " -- a decision that was also designed to save MAX customers money. ..."
"... Pilot X, alleges that Boeing "decided not to tell MAX pilots about the MCAS or to require MAX pilots to undergo any MCAS training" so that its customers could deploy pilots on "revenue-generating routes as quickly as possible". ..."
"... The pilots who have joined the lawsuit hope to "deter Boeing and other airplane manufacturers from placing corporate profits ahead of the lives of the pilots, crews, and general public they service." ..."
"... A true classic of cutting corners. Boeing was so much in hurry to introduce a stretched version of 737 that while an airplane frame and an engine were incompatible they organized a shotgun wedding between the two compromising sound aero dynamical characteristics. To override these inconveniences MCAS software was created, but pilots were not informed of this extra feature and most likely why this had to be added. It obviously would have raised uncomfortable questions. (Yes you can also fix hanging panels with ducted tape) ..."
"... Now the bill for this criminal negligence is huge, because the planes are grounded, pilots joining to a class action and 300+ deaths will be settled in court. The situation also exposed corruption in the certification process. It was previously unheard of that a manufacturer was allowed themselves unilaterally decide, what parameters were appropriate, when this MCAS fix was approved. Would be nice to see the both parties´ bank records from that time period. ..."
"... No name changing of the fleet will fix the destroyed reputation of the US corporation. Trying to stay competitive is understandable, but to cut corners on safety is unforgivable. ..."
Jun 23, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Over 400 pilots have joined a class-action lawsuit against Boeing, accusing the company of an "unprecedented cover-up" of "known design flaws" on the company's top-selling 737 MAX, according to the Australian Broadcasting Company.

The MAX, first put into service in 2017, was involved in two fatal crashes over the course of a year; the first off the coast of Indonesia in October 2018, killing 189 - and the second in Ethiopia, killing 157. The lawsuit, filed by a plaintiff who goes by "Pilot X" in court documents out of "fear of reprisal from Boeing and discrimination from Boeing customers," accuses the Chicago-based aviation giant of "an unprecedented cover-up of the known design flaws of the MAX, which predictably resulted in the crashes of two MAX aircraft and subsequent grounding of all MAX aircraft worldwide."

The pilots argue that they " suffer and continue to suffer significant lost wages, among other economic and non-economic damages " since the fleet was grounded across the globe.

The lawsuit focuses on the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) anti-stall system , which Pilot X claims gave the aircraft "inherently dangerous aerodynamic handling defects."

The reason for this handling quirk was by design, as Boeing made the decision to retrofit newer, large fuel-efficient engines onto an existing 737 model's fuselage, in order to create the MAX.

The larger engines caused a change in aerodynamics which made the plane prone to pitching up during flight, so much so, that it risked a crash as a result of an aerodynamic stall.

To stop this from happening, Boeing introduced MCAS software to the MAX, which automatically tilted the plane down if the software detected that the plane's nose was pointing at too steep of an angle , known as a high Angle of Attack (AOA). - ABC

In May, we reported that Boeing designers also altered a MCAS toggle switch panel that could have prevented both of the deadly crashes.

On the older 737 NG, the right switch was labeled "AUTO PILOT" - and allowed pilots to deactivate the plane's automated stabilizer controls, such as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), suspected to be the culprit in both crashes. The left toggle switch on the NG would deactivate the buttons on the yoke which pilots regularly use to control the horizontal stabilizer.

On the 737 MAX, however, the two switches were altered to perform the same function , according to internal documents reviewed by the Times, so that they would disable all electronic stabilizer controls - including the MCAS and the thumb buttons on the yoke used to control the stabilizer. During the October Lion Air flight, pilots were reportedly unaware of how to troubleshoot the MCAS system - while the day before , an off-duty pilot with knowledge of the stabilizer controls helped pilots disable the system on the same plane. Data from the flight revealed that the repeated commands from the MCAS system sent the flight from Bali to Jakarta plummeting into the sea.

In a rush to bring the plane to customers, Boeing did not alert pilots to the software in a bid to prevent " any new training that required a simulator " -- a decision that was also designed to save MAX customers money.

Pilot X, alleges that Boeing "decided not to tell MAX pilots about the MCAS or to require MAX pilots to undergo any MCAS training" so that its customers could deploy pilots on "revenue-generating routes as quickly as possible".

In March, a report from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) found that the system was only mentioned once in the aircraft manual, which was in the glossary, explaining the MCAS acronym -- an omission Boeing did not deny in response to the CBC. - ABC

The pilots who have joined the lawsuit hope to "deter Boeing and other airplane manufacturers from placing corporate profits ahead of the lives of the pilots, crews, and general public they service."


Curiously_Crazy , 1 minute ago link

"a decision that was also designed to save MAX customers money."

Should really read "A decision that was also designed to lower overall purchase price ensuring it was better able to compete".

It had nothing to do with being benevolent and "saving" MAX customers money.

TeraByte , 5 minutes ago link

A true classic of cutting corners. Boeing was so much in hurry to introduce a stretched version of 737 that while an airplane frame and an engine were incompatible they organized a shotgun wedding between the two compromising sound aero dynamical characteristics. To override these inconveniences MCAS software was created, but pilots were not informed of this extra feature and most likely why this had to be added. It obviously would have raised uncomfortable questions. (Yes you can also fix hanging panels with ducted tape)

Now the bill for this criminal negligence is huge, because the planes are grounded, pilots joining to a class action and 300+ deaths will be settled in court. The situation also exposed corruption in the certification process. It was previously unheard of that a manufacturer was allowed themselves unilaterally decide, what parameters were appropriate, when this MCAS fix was approved. Would be nice to see the both parties´ bank records from that time period.

Westcoastliberal , 39 minutes ago link

This is the beginning of the end for Boeing. Take a look at what's going on in their 787 assembly plant in N. Chas S. Carolina. Of 15 workers polled, 9 said they would not step aboard the plane they're building!

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

squid , 1 hour ago link

They are going to win because everything they allege is true.

Like I said a few days back, Boeing either:

1. Takes a 30 billion dollar charge and halts the production line, installs a HW retrofit that allows full disconnection of the MCAS to allow the pilots to fly the plane, offers this retrofit FREE and immediately to all existing customers,

2. Close up shop.

The FAA, who have already fucked up enough on this, must insist on item 1.

As a corollary, the the MBA ***** running the 737Max project team need to be terminated without prejudice with all options, stock, pensions and bonuses forfeited. Sorry you slimy turds, you killed 600 people for your ******* careers.....**** you.

Edit: you MBA pukes, you had a Bsc or MSc in areo-space engineering but went over to the dark side to learn how to commit fraud and feel good about it. You are a disgrace to the engineering profession, again, from the bottom of my heart, **** you.

Squid

MaxThrust , 1 hour ago link

"On the 737 MAX, however, the two switches were altered to perform the same function, according to internal documents reviewed by the Times, so that they would disable all electronic stabilizer controls - including the MCAS and the thumb buttons on the yoke used to control the stabilizer. "

On the B737 NG if a "Runaway Stabilizer" situation occurs the procedure is to turn off both Stabilizer trim switches. This is in effect exactly what the 737Max does as described above in the quotation marks. Therefore the result is the same on both aircraft leading to the pilot having to use manual trim to alleviate aerodynamic forces on the control column.

The question that has yet to be answered is, did the pilots of the two crashed aircraft follow these procedures?

peippe , 1 hour ago link

on one flight they threw both, then reactivated them, no logic as to why.

MaxThrust , 50 minutes ago link

On the Lion air crash I read somewhere the pilots were confused as to why the aircraft was not following their commands. This would suggest the AP was still engaged but as you know, real facts about these two crashes are hard to come bye.

GPW , 1 hour ago link

This is what happens when the ******* bean counters (McDonald Douglas financial pukes) take over from the engineers (Boeing prior to the merger with MD).

Joebloinvestor , 1 hour ago link

No part that has to do with safety of the aircraft should be a ******* "option".

beemasters , 2 hours ago link

No name changing of the fleet will fix the destroyed reputation of the US corporation. Trying to stay competitive is understandable, but to cut corners on safety is unforgivable.

fersur , 3 hours ago link

Reliance on Three independent Computers is no-way to Fly, the shortcutting was Not WindTunnel testing after increasing wing size, increasing engine size that required repositioning forward and attempting to expect Third Computer to reach altitude quicker so that Autopilot could fly !

[Jun 16, 2019] Boeing CEO Admits Mistakes Were Made Before 2 Crashes Killed 346 People

Jun 16, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Speaking on the eve of the Paris airshow, Boeing CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, admitted to reporters that the company made a "mistake" in handling a problematic cockpit warning system in its 737 Max jets before two crashes of the top-selling plane killed 346 people, and he promised transparency as the U.S. aircraft maker tries to get the grounded model back in flight.

In response to FAA faulting Boeing for not telling regulators for more than year that a safety indicator in the Max cockpit didn't work, AP reports that Muilenberg has now admitted that Boeing's communication with regulators, customers and the public "was not consistent. And that's unacceptable."

"We clearly had a mistake in the implementation of the alert," Muilenburg said.

"When I make comments about the previous design and how we followed those processes, that's something we put a lot of thought and depth of analysis into. That doesn't mean that it can't be improved."

Muilenburg went on to call the crashes of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines jets a "defining moment" for Boeing, but said he thinks the result will be a "better and stronger company."

He expressed confidence that the Boeing 737 Max would be cleared to fly again later this year.

Additionally, the embattled CEO confirmed the company is undergoing a multi-faceted review of 737 Max design , noting that regulators are examining the 737 Max software, angle-of-attack disagree alert, and are also studying "every element of training syllabus."


I am Groot , 2 minutes ago link

" We mistaked some people"

ReflectoMatic , 5 minutes ago link

The brains of these CEOs are infected with a virus

John Basilone , 11 minutes ago link

"Mistakes were made."

The understatement of the decade.

flyonmywall , 13 minutes ago link

Back in the old days, the CEO of Boeing usually came through the ranks, and had at least some engineering experience.

Now Boeing (like everything else) is run by Burgstein bean counters.

If you keep letting the Steins and the Burgs handle things, pretty soon you end up with a whole lotta dead people.

Just sayin'

pitz , 17 minutes ago link

Speech the Boeing CEO should make: "At Boeing, we put engineering and safety first. Therefore, I am immediately offering my services, as CEO, at the same all-in pay as an average Boeing engineer. All executives and Board members who want to remain with the company will be required to do the same. Our headquarters is moving to where it belongs, Seattle, Paine Field, so we can focus acutely on our business of building the finest aircraft we can."

SMD , 26 minutes ago link

Muilenberg has implemented in percentage terms the largest stock buyback program in history. This is why he never apologizes for murdering innocent passengers. His job is to borrow money on behalf of the shareholders, use it to buy out the shares of the insiders, then, when repayment time comes around, scream for the taxpayers to give them a bogus defense contract to cover the loans.

Wild Bill Steamcock , 26 minutes ago link

Boeing CEO Admits "Mistakes" Were Made Before 2 Crashes Killed 346 People

Understatement of the century Dennis. You shouldn't be able to sleep comfortably at night you son of a bitch. Yet, you probably see yourself far removed from the process and you'll let your underlings hang. Choke on your next executive bonus! **** you!

Boeing Boy , 34 minutes ago link

Incredible that the guy is still CEO. He still can't properly apologise for what happened on his watch and I am not at all convinced by Boeing's response to this double tragedy. I won't be setting foot in this lousy aircraft even after the software update and pilot retraining it remains a death trap in my view, even if it is flown by steely eyed American airline pilots as opposed to pilots from some "second rate" country.

world_debt_slave , 27 minutes ago link

statistics say most ceos are psychopaths

NotGonnaTakeItAnymore , 49 minutes ago link

If the Boeing Board was doing its job, Muilenburg would be fired for cause. It really is that simple. That he still has a job shows how impotent the Board of Directors truly is. Either impotent or.... maybe, also culpable??

A new Board has to be seated and everyone involved with this fiasco must be terminated. Boeing is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people. That's also a fact. Don't waste years pointing fingers at whose to blame- there is plenty of blame to go around.

1) Fire Boeing leadership.

2) Replace everyone on the BOD who knew anything about the angle of attack indicators and software problems.

3) Replace everyone fired with Boeing people who sounded warnings.

4) Pay every family of the victims 15 million dollars immediately.

5) Put the FAA on the shop floor and make the FAA do all testing and inspections. No self-certifying.

aerofan3 , 1 hour ago link

I have been reading everything I can find on the 737Max. I kept coming to similar conclusions to those of the pilots who have flown it, and I was particularly interested in one of the comments "The airframe with the engines mounted differently did not have adequately stable handling at high AoA to be certifiable".
The things that I have read both from Boeing and others, some of which precede both accidents, seem to point towards the above comment.
So - Boeing literature states that the engine pylons were a new item to handle the extra engine weight, and were forward and higher than the previous ones. I have flown in many 737's over my years of travel and I have noticed how the engines flex on the pylons during take off and climb, power changes, and especially on landing.
If, and you would have to think that it is a big IF, the pylons flexed more than their design limit in the climb, could this cause an unexpected incipient stall situation - enough to get the software to kick in?

What do I know - I'm just a PPL!!

[Jun 11, 2019] Behind Boeing's offer to settle with victims' families in the 737 Max crash is a hardball legal strategy that could leave them with nothing

Notable quotes:
"... Boeing is playing with fire. In a "normal" airliner crash the manufacturer is seldom as obviously guilty as Boeing is in both crashes. Paying huge awards to the families of the victims ought to be part of the punishment for such outrageous corporate misbehavior. ..."
Jun 11, 2019 | www.businessinsider.com

https://www.businessinsider.com/boeing-737-max-cases-worthless-if-moved-indonesia-ethiopia-lawyers-2019-6

Zachary Smith | Jun 11, 2019 11:14:51 AM | 136

Boeing is playing with fire. In a "normal" airliner crash the manufacturer is seldom as obviously guilty as Boeing is in both crashes. Paying huge awards to the families of the victims ought to be part of the punishment for such outrageous corporate misbehavior.

[Jun 10, 2019] FAA's Boeing-biased Officials: Recuse Yourselves or Resign by Ralph Nader

Notable quotes:
"... The FAA has a clearly established pro-Boeing bias and will likely allow Boeing to unground the 737 MAX. We must demand that the two top FAA officials resign or recuse themselves from taking any more steps that might endanger the flying public. The two Boeing-indentured men are Acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell and Associate FAA Administrator for Aviation Safety Ali Bahrami. ..."
"... The FAA has long been known for its non-regulatory, waiver-driven, de-regulatory traditions. It has a hard time saying NO to the aircraft manufacturers and the airlines. After the aircraft hijackings directing flights to Cuba in the 1960s and 1970s, the FAA let the airlines say NO to installing hardened cockpit doors and stronger latches in their planes. These security measures would have prevented the hijackers from invading the cockpits of the aircrafts on September 11, 2001. The airlines did not want to spend the $3000 per plane. Absent the 9/11 hijackings, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney might not have gone to war in Afghanistan. ..."
"... Boeing has about 5,000 orders for the 737 MAX. It has delivered less than 400 to the world's airlines. From its CEO, Dennis Muilenburg to its swarms of Washington lobbyists, law firms, and public relations outfits, Boeing is used to getting its way. ..."
"... Right now, the Boeing/FAA strategy is to make sure Elwell and his FAA quickly decide that the MAX is safe for takeoff by delaying or stonewalling Congressional and other investigations. ..."
"... Time is not on the side of the 737 MAX 8. A comprehensive review of the 737 MAX's problems is a non-starter for Boeing. Boeing's flawed software and instructions that have kept pilots and airlines in the dark have already been exposed. New whistleblowers and more revelations will emerge. More time may also result in the Justice Department's operating grand jury issuing some indictments. More time would let the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, led by Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) dig into the failure of accountability and serial criminal negligence of Boeing and its FAA accomplices. Chairman DeFazio knows the history of the FAA's regulatory capture. ..."
"... The FAA and its Boeing pals are using the "trade secret" claims to censor records sought by the House Committee. When it comes to investigating life or death airline hazards and crashes, Congress is capable of handling so-called trade secrets. This is all the more reason why the terminally prejudiced Elwell and Bahrami should step aside and let their successors take a fresh look at the Boeing investigations. That effort would include opening up the certification process for the entire Boeing MAX as a "new plane." ..."
Jun 10, 2019 | www.counterpunch.org

The Boeing-driven FAA is rushing to unground the notorious prone-to-stall Boeing 737 MAX (that killed 346 innocents in two crashes) before several official investigations are completed. Troubling revelations might keep these planes grounded worldwide.

The FAA has a clearly established pro-Boeing bias and will likely allow Boeing to unground the 737 MAX. We must demand that the two top FAA officials resign or recuse themselves from taking any more steps that might endanger the flying public. The two Boeing-indentured men are Acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell and Associate FAA Administrator for Aviation Safety Ali Bahrami.

Immediately after the crashes, Elwell resisted grounding and echoed Boeing claims that the Boeing 737 MAX was a safe plane despite the deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

Ali Bahrami is known for aggressively pushing the FAA through 2018 to further abdicate its regulatory duties by delegating more safety inspections to Boeing. Bahrami's actions benefit Boeing and are supported by the company's toadies in the Congress. Elwell and Bahrami have both acquired much experience by going through the well-known revolving door between the industry and the FAA. They are likely to leave the FAA once again for lucrative positions in the aerospace lobbying or business world. With such prospects, they do not have much 'skin in the game' for their pending decision.

The FAA has long been known for its non-regulatory, waiver-driven, de-regulatory traditions. It has a hard time saying NO to the aircraft manufacturers and the airlines. After the aircraft hijackings directing flights to Cuba in the 1960s and 1970s, the FAA let the airlines say NO to installing hardened cockpit doors and stronger latches in their planes. These security measures would have prevented the hijackers from invading the cockpits of the aircrafts on September 11, 2001. The airlines did not want to spend the $3000 per plane. Absent the 9/11 hijackings, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney might not have gone to war in Afghanistan.

The FAA's historic "tombstone" mentality (slowly reacting after the crashes) is well known. For example, in the 1990s the FAA had a delayed reaction to numerous fatal crashes caused by antiquated de-icing rules. The FAA was also slow to act on ground-proximity warning requirements for commuter airlines and flammability reduction rules for aircraft cabin materials.

That's the tradition that Elwell and Bahrami inherited and have worsened. They did not even wait for Boeing to deliver its reworked software before announcing in April that simulator training would not be necessary for the pilots. This judgment was contrary to the experience of seasoned pilots such as Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger. Simulator training would delay ungrounding and cost the profitable airlines money.

Boeing has about 5,000 orders for the 737 MAX. It has delivered less than 400 to the world's airlines. From its CEO, Dennis Muilenburg to its swarms of Washington lobbyists, law firms, and public relations outfits, Boeing is used to getting its way. Its grip on Congress – where 300 members take campaign cash from Boeing – is legendary. Boeing pays little in federal and Washington state taxes. It fumbles contracts with NASA and the Department of Defense but remains the federal government's big vendor for lack of competitive alternatives in a highly concentrated industry.

Right now, the Boeing/FAA strategy is to make sure Elwell and his FAA quickly decide that the MAX is safe for takeoff by delaying or stonewalling Congressional and other investigations.

The compliant Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, under Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), strangely has not scheduled anymore hearings. The Senate confirmation of Stephen Dickson to replace acting chief Elwell is also on a slow track. A new boss at the FAA might wish to take some time to review the whole process.

Time is not on the side of the 737 MAX 8. A comprehensive review of the 737 MAX's problems is a non-starter for Boeing. Boeing's flawed software and instructions that have kept pilots and airlines in the dark have already been exposed. New whistleblowers and more revelations will emerge. More time may also result in the Justice Department's operating grand jury issuing some indictments. More time would let the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, led by Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) dig into the failure of accountability and serial criminal negligence of Boeing and its FAA accomplices. Chairman DeFazio knows the history of the FAA's regulatory capture.

Not surprising on June 4, 2019, DeFazio sent a stinging letter to FAA's Elwell and his corporatist superior, Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, about the FAA's intolerable delays in sending requested documents to the Committee. DeFazio's letter says: "To say we are disappointed and a bit bewildered at the ongoing delays to appropriately respond to our records requests would be an understatement."

The FAA and its Boeing pals are using the "trade secret" claims to censor records sought by the House Committee. When it comes to investigating life or death airline hazards and crashes, Congress is capable of handling so-called trade secrets. This is all the more reason why the terminally prejudiced Elwell and Bahrami should step aside and let their successors take a fresh look at the Boeing investigations. That effort would include opening up the certification process for the entire Boeing MAX as a "new plane."

The Boeing-biased Elwell and Bahrami have refused to even raise in public proceedings the question: "After eight or more Boeing 737 iterations, at what point does the Boeing MAX 8 become a new plane?" Many, including Cong. David Price (D-NC), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees the FAA's budget, have already questioned the limited certification process.

Heavier engines on the old 737 fuselage changed the MAX's aerodynamics and made it prone-to-stall. It is time for the FAA's leadership to change before the 737 MAX flies with vulnerable, glitch-prone software "fixes".

Notwithstanding the previous Boeing 737 series' record of safety in the U.S. during the past decade – (one fatality), Boeing's bosses, have now disregarded warnings by its own engineers. Boeing executives do not get one, two, three or anymore crashes attributed to their ignoring long-known aerodynamic engineering practices.

The Boeing 737 MAX must never be allowed to fly again, given the structural design defects built deeply into its system.

[Jun 08, 2019] Boeing delayed fix of faulty 737 MAX alert until 2020, informed FAA only after 1st fatal crash

Jun 08, 2019 | www.rt.com

The majority of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft had a non-working alert for faulty sensor data. The company scheduled the problem to be fixed three years after discovering it and didn't inform the FAA until one of the planes crashed. Two Boeing 737 MAX airliners operated by Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashed five months apart, killing a total of 346 people, and leading to a worldwide grounding of the new model. Both accidents were apparently caused by faulty data from Angle of Attack (AoA) sensors, which made the aircraft software falsely detect impending stalling and pushed the aircraft's nose down.

Pilots were supposed to be alerted about possible problems with the sensors by an AoA Disagree alert, which should light up when data coming from two AoA sensors does not match. But the alert required an optional set of indicators to be installed to actually work, and only 20 percent of the aircraft sold had them. Boeing learned about the situation in November 2017, but considered it a low-risk issue and scheduled a fix for 2020, the company reported to a House committee.

Also on rt.com Some Boeing 737 MAX planes may have 'improperly manufactured' parts that should be replaced - FAA

After Lion Air flight 610 crashed in October 2018, the company decided to accelerate its timeline, Boeing said in response to a letter sent by Representatives Peter DeFazio and Rick Larsen, who head a House committee that is investigating the crashes and possible mismanagement by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding the rollout of the 737 MAX. Boeing first informed the FAA about the faulty alert after one of the planes crashed.

The aviation giant reported the issue earlier in May. Neither the Lion Air aircraft nor Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, which crashed in March, had the optional feature that allows the alert to work, although it was not immediately clear if the pilots could have averted the disasters if they had known that the AoA sensors were failing.

The Lion Air aircraft, however, narrowly avoided a similar incident a day before its final demise thanks to an off-duty pilot who was in the cockpit and instructed the crew to turn off the anti-stalling system.

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[Jun 06, 2019] It is not a silly question to ask if Boeing Commercial Aircraft will survive this event by Babelfish

Notable quotes:
"... I suspect the MCAS was presented as an evolution of the earlier SMYD system on the 737NG, which also uses a single AOA sensor input. The SMYD system had less authority to drive the horizontal stabilizer trim system than the MCAS eventually needed. ..."
"... This is an excellent article. Since I was born and raised in a Boeing family; I've been following this the best I can. To get EU and China's recertification the Max's fix will have to be comprehensive and make the plane safe to fly. Sometime next year? ..."
"... This all started when Boeing merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997 and GE's Jack Welch followers made increasing shareholder value and corporate suite bonuses the priority at Boeing. What killed 346 people was deregulation and the politicians who cut FAA funding and allowed Boeing to self-certify the safety of their aircraft. ..."
"... "To get EU and China's recertification the Max's fix will have to be comprehensive and make the plane safe to fly." ..."
"... So EU and China certifications that previously existing had no inherent value as they simply went along with the US FAA? ..."
"... The Seattle Times has had a good series of articles on the 737 Max. Funds to oversee flight safety were cut by both political parties. The FAA plant representatives who oversee aircraft safety are now paid by Boeing not public servants. ..."
"... My impression is that the political appointees who rotate through government and corporate jobs believe that the greater their income the better it is for them and everyone else. ..."
"... Another example of the toxic work environment at Boeing since the merger was reporting that the staff didn't dare tell the Boeing CEO when they rolled out the 787 it wouldn't be another year before they could fly it. ..."
"... Boeing and Congress shot the American aircraft industry in the foot just to make a little more money for themselves. ..."
"... I would recommend reading Richard Feyman's "What do you care what other people think?" section on his experiences on the Roger's Commission report not so much for the O-ring investigation but on the absurdity of NASA's bizarre risk assessment methodology. ..."
"... It is also an interesting insight into the workings of such commissions - with the other members happily taking the NASA guided tour while he found the techies and grilled them on how risk assessments were calculated. He refused to sign the final report unless he was allowed to add a critical appendix. ..."
"... A few basic questions come to mind. What was the cost of this generation of Max-8s? What was the actual installed cost of the second AOA sensor (not the price they wanted to charge.) That marginal cost just sunk a few billion off the company revenue stream. Who in executive leadership thought that option, only one AOA sensor, was a reasonable design to take to market? In addition who in the pilots union was willing to accept a single hour of training time as valid in transfering to a new airframe? ..."
"... what about the mechanisms to alert Boeing and the airlines that something was seriously amiss? Even before the Lion Air crash pilots were reporting unacceptable incidents with MCAS. As I said, corporate cultures are lethal to anyone who is perceived as messing with the gravy train ..."
"... Fred, this is not a simple engineering failure with a single cause. It is not linear. The failure involves aspects of marketing, pilot training, design, manufacture, operational practice, procedures, documentation regulations and oversight and of course money. There is never one single cause. This truism is encapsulated in Prof. James Reasons "swiss cheese model" of accident causation. ..."
Jun 06, 2019 | turcopolier.typepad.com

A serious development factor with the Max was to get pilots to be able to transfer from the prior generations of 737 to the Max with as minimal a training program as possible. A very big selling point. The competitor jet is more comfortable (IMO), a more modern design so you need a competitive edge. The MCAS system was the key. It allegedly made the Max fly like the older generations, preventing the higher thrust from causing a uncontrollable pitch up. One pilot stated that his transition training was 60 minutes on an IPad. Pilots stated they were not aware it was even there, running the whole time. There is no way to "turn it off".

Things get real technical at this point but the basic system relies on a correct read from a single pitch sensor or AOA (angle of attack) sensor. The jet has two, looking like small vanes on either side of the fuselage, just below the cockpit. Focus on the fact that the safest version of MCAS, using both sensors rather than one, cost more money. And so many airlines did not order it.

image from www.google.com

Now the story starts going very badly. If the one sensor the basic system is looking at goes bad, MCAS does not know the actual nose pitch of the jet and starts to take over trying to fix a problem that isn't there. The pilots can not turn it off. As stated, most didn't even know it was there. Without the sensor working properly it is going to do the wrong things. In Lion Air, the sensor and system was repeatedly found faulty on prior flights. In the Ethiopian crash, there is evidence that a bird strike knocked it off the aircraft. The only thing the pilots can do is turn off the electric motor that controls the horizontal stabilizer (sets pitch or nose angle) and crank the stabilizer by hand. Again, watch the Mentour Pilot video on this.

There is evidence that pilots were reporting issues prior to the Lion Air crash and they absolutely confronted Boeing after it. I have to tell you that this reminds me of the moment after the Challenger accident when we were informed of the outcome of the Rodgers Report and there was undeniable evidence that appropriately placed people knew the infamous O-Rings were leaking all along and were worse as the temperature got colder. We were gutted.

With the Shuttle, IMO, people were allowed to redefine their jobs as "making it fly", not making it fly safely. The word safely got crushed out. I believe Boeing had all the evidence needed to stop this as early as a year ago, if not further back. Corporate cultures, NASA included, create lethal environments for people who scream STOP! See the Columbia accident for a repeat at NASA. It was bad enough that action wasn't taken before the Lion Air accident. I fully believe it's absolutely inexcusable after.

It is not a silly question to ask if Boeing Commercial Aircraft will survive this event. No Lockheed, Douglas or Convair airliners are being manufactured these days. One thing money can't buy is trust. Airlines are cancelling 737 orders. Airbus is selling large numbers of the A320 family and has the financial backing of European countries. The A380 failure (enormous investment and far too few sales) could have taken out a company but not a group of nations. China has a need for some 7,000 regional planes. They are working hard to develop and make their own competent aircraft and to compete internationally. They are a nation, not a private company that has to make a profit.

I (layperson that I am), do not think Boeing Commercial Aircraft will disappear but it may lose its peer status with Airbus. They will fix the Max. That being said, there are serious issues in resolving the correct training to give to pilots. The sales edge of very little training is gone. There are reports that 737 Max simulators, a very big deal in training pilots, need faults corrected in their software. Getting this model back to flying was thought to be a matter of a month or two. Now August may be the earliest qnd the Paris Air Show, where many new sales are usually announced, is nearly at hand.

Boeing has been trying to make a decision on the all new 797, which would replace 757s and 767s now ageing out of usefulness. The market is estimated at 4,000 aircraft on a global basis. Airbus is pitching an A321 variant as the right answer. Their more modern aircraft, the A321, still has room for development. Boeing has to fund, develop, and launch the 797 aircraft. At that point they will be still left with no replacement for the 737.

There is a saying that a commercial aircraft firm bets the company when developing a new airliner. Did Boeing bet the company on not developing a 737 replacement? It looks like we may find out in the next few years.


JohnH , 06 June 2019 at 03:31 PM

How does Embraer factor into the mix? I flew a brand new one on United from Houston to central Mexico, probably an E-175-s. As a passenger, I was impressed. It struck me that Embraer was now getting into Boeing's cash cow business.
BabelFish -> JohnH... , 06 June 2019 at 04:14 PM
John, Boeing saw that one coming and purchased controlling interest in Embraer's commercial airline unit. It was approved this year.

Airbus countered by buying Bombardier's A220 program.

I like Embraer jets. I flew on a lot of turboprops and remember the improvement when the Embraer and Bombardier jets replaced them.

BraveNewWorld , 06 June 2019 at 04:05 PM
After the ban on technology to China there is zero chance that China will buy Boeing and become the next Iran. They might buy Airbus short term if the US doesn't stop them but China and Russia have already reached an agreement to joint produce airliners.

Cold war 2.0 marches on.

BabelFish -> BraveNewWorld... , 06 June 2019 at 04:19 PM
Not thinking the Airbus purchase would ever happen. Airbus has significant national ownership. Fiat was trying to merge with Renault and the French government just stopped that.
Barbara Ann , 06 June 2019 at 04:39 PM
I've not followed this closely, but ever since I discovered that MCAS relied on a single sensor (in the cheaper version) I have wondered about the FAA's role in this. How in God's name did an aircraft with such an obviously dangerous lack of redundancy in a critical system get certified?
BabelFish -> Barbara Ann... , 06 June 2019 at 05:00 PM
Yes. Another post all by itself. Still digging at that but it appears the FAA agreed with Boeing that MCAS would not have to be published in the pilot manuals, or actions were just about to that effect.

I made the comment that this would all become a great business class in how not to do something and how exactly not to respond to a disaster that it caused.

SAC Brat said in reply to BabelFish ... , 06 June 2019 at 08:18 PM
I suspect the MCAS was presented as an evolution of the earlier SMYD system on the 737NG, which also uses a single AOA sensor input. The SMYD system had less authority to drive the horizontal stabilizer trim system than the MCAS eventually needed.
VietnamVet , 06 June 2019 at 05:19 PM
This is an excellent article. Since I was born and raised in a Boeing family; I've been following this the best I can. To get EU and China's recertification the Max's fix will have to be comprehensive and make the plane safe to fly. Sometime next year?

This all started when Boeing merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997 and GE's Jack Welch followers made increasing shareholder value and corporate suite bonuses the priority at Boeing. What killed 346 people was deregulation and the politicians who cut FAA funding and allowed Boeing to self-certify the safety of their aircraft.

Like what already happened to the Rust Belt, taxes will continue to be cut and money transferred to the global rich until the aircraft industry in North America withers away. The next generation single aisle airliner will be assembled in China. Tariffs and war drums will only speed up this process. Both political parties are complicit in the hallowing out of America. They deny their failures or any future risks; let alone, how to address them.

Fred -> VietnamVet... , 06 June 2019 at 06:01 PM
VV,

"What killed 346 people was deregulation and the politicians who cut FAA funding and allowed Boeing to self-certify the safety of their aircraft. "

So engineering design was not a cause? Which specific cut to FAA funding caused this then? Why?

"To get EU and China's recertification the Max's fix will have to be comprehensive and make the plane safe to fly."

So EU and China certifications that previously existing had no inherent value as they simply went along with the US FAA?

VietnamVet said in reply to Fred ... , 06 June 2019 at 08:13 PM
Fred,

The Seattle Times has had a good series of articles on the 737 Max. Funds to oversee flight safety were cut by both political parties. The FAA plant representatives who oversee aircraft safety are now paid by Boeing not public servants.

My impression is that the political appointees who rotate through government and corporate jobs believe that the greater their income the better it is for them and everyone else.

The FAA assumed that Boeing wouldn't design a flight critical system dependent on one sensor that if it went bad would dive the airplane into the ground. But, Boeing did. Boeing did not ground the fleet after the Lion Air crash when the horizontal stabilizer jackscrew was found in the full nose down position making flying impossible. This was all due to pressure to keep pilot training costs down. Another example of the toxic work environment at Boeing since the merger was reporting that the staff didn't dare tell the Boeing CEO when they rolled out the 787 it wouldn't be another year before they could fly it.

Before I retired I sat in on telephone conversations with Canadian and Australian regulators. I assume the foreign aviation authorities had similar sharing agreements with the FAA. After this how can Canada, EU or China trust American aviation oversight? Boeing and Congress shot the American aircraft industry in the foot just to make a little more money for themselves.

JJackson , 06 June 2019 at 05:32 PM
I would recommend reading Richard Feyman's "What do you care what other people think?" section on his experiences on the Roger's Commission report not so much for the O-ring investigation but on the absurdity of NASA's bizarre risk assessment methodology.

It is also an interesting insight into the workings of such commissions - with the other members happily taking the NASA guided tour while he found the techies and grilled them on how risk assessments were calculated. He refused to sign the final report unless he was allowed to add a critical appendix.

The gist of which can be found in the Wikipedia's

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

It is a long time since I read it so my apologies if I have mis-remebered anything.

Fred , 06 June 2019 at 06:22 PM
Bablefish,

As I understand it the design issues revolve around engine size and placement used to avoid redesign, retooling and testing associated with an entire new airframe. To compensate a software system controlled flap position during takeoff/landing and was active during all operations. Added to this was utilization of a single " single pitch sensor or AOA (angle of attack) sensor. The jet has two,..." Thus a single point of failure causes a catastrophic failure of the flap positioning. In addition training for certification was set at as little as one hour?

A few basic questions come to mind. What was the cost of this generation of Max-8s? What was the actual installed cost of the second AOA sensor (not the price they wanted to charge.) That marginal cost just sunk a few billion off the company revenue stream. Who in executive leadership thought that option, only one AOA sensor, was a reasonable design to take to market? In addition who in the pilots union was willing to accept a single hour of training time as valid in transfering to a new airframe?

BabelFish -> Fred ... , 06 June 2019 at 06:49 PM
Fred, it reminds me so much of Challenger. Who in the Astronaut Office was OK with the O-Ring reports? Just collective numbness to the possibility that this was introducing a huge risk factor.

More than that, what about the mechanisms to alert Boeing and the airlines that something was seriously amiss? Even before the Lion Air crash pilots were reporting unacceptable incidents with MCAS. As I said, corporate cultures are lethal to anyone who is perceived as messing with the gravy train.

walrus , 06 June 2019 at 07:16 PM
Thank you so much for your clear description of the Boeing problem. I worked in airline engineering for six years and visited Seattle, Renton and Everett a lot. I watched the 767 prototype being built - large lumps of black painted pine bolted to the airframe representing stuff yet to be delivered.

Vietnam Vets comments regarding the mcdonnell douglas merge are to the point. The Boeing I dealt with was run by engineers with humility. Whenever I dealt with McDonnell Douglas it was always "what would you know? you're just a user. We designed the DC3'. They $5@#ed Boeing management.

Fred, this is not a simple engineering failure with a single cause. It is not linear. The failure involves aspects of marketing, pilot training, design, manufacture, operational practice, procedures, documentation regulations and oversight and of course money. There is never one single cause. This truism is encapsulated in Prof. James Reasons "swiss cheese model" of accident causation.

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

SAC Brat said in reply to walrus ... , 06 June 2019 at 07:16 PM
A characteristic I do not care for with the 737 was that with the 737NG series Boeing, probably due to their larger customers' requests, did not upgrade the avionics package from the earlier architecture. They stayed with two air data systems and no central maintenance system.

Airbus with the A320 family in the 1980s used three air data systems and a maintenance computer. This architecture, seen in all Airbus aircraft since and Boeing 747-400s, 777s and 787s allows the addition of another layer of safety by allowing trend monitoring of aircraft system health from telemetry. The industry is at a point where data storage is large and cost effective, and now analysis tools are being developed to alert accidences. This allows alerting of trends before the flight crews see in-service problems.

https://www.yourprops.com/movieprops/default/yp_50c78a57701b67.58244478/2001-A-Space-Odyssey-A-E-35-Unit-Failure-Prediction-Hardcopy-1.jpg

[Jun 02, 2019] Two reasons why two 737 Max(s) crashed: (1) Boeing's self-certification of the safety of their airplanes and (2) the corporate drive to increase shareholder value and C-Suite Bonuses

Deregulation is the real reason. Neoliberalism and "greed is good" mentality is a contributing factor
Notable quotes:
"... There was no person who didn't risk losing their job and livelihood if they pointed out that MCAS violated the federal commercial flight regulations which prohibits a single sensor on flight critical systems. ..."
"... This is the same as the restart of the Cold War due to "Russian Aggression" or the use of proxy radical forces to instigate regime change. ..."
"... If corporate media does not report factual news but regurgitates propaganda endlessly then nothing will ever be fixed. Out of control systems kill people. ..."
"... Airlines urged regulators on Sunday to coordinate on software changes to the Boeing 737 MAX in a bid to avoid damaging splits over safety seen when the aircraft was grounded in March. ..."
"... I won't be surprised if the EU and China aren't VERY late with their approvals of the 737 'fixes'. They're probably getting tired of being kicked around by the Trumpies and this is a no-brainer way of getting some revenge. ..."
"... Whistleblower tales describe how this sort of thing has been going on for a long time. For now though, the FAA has to pretend to be a real regulatory agency. ..."
"... I took the NYT's article as being the first step by Boeing to set up their chief test pilot as the fall-guy for the entire 737Max fiasco. ..."
"... It certainly reads that way: the feature was initially intended only for high-speed, high-end. Then the test pilot found low-speed handling was iffy, so he decided that it should always be active. ..."
"... Good post! Boeing has already tried to crucify the ignorant/untrained "third world" pilots of the airplanes which went down. Why not try again with another pilot patsy? It might work. If it doesn't, wonder what plan "C" will be? ..."
Jun 02, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

VietnamVet , Jun 2, 2019 4:07:26 PM | 11

The NY Times article misses the whole point of why two 737 Max(s) crashed: 1) Boeing's self-certification of the safety of their airplanes and 2) the corporate drive to increase shareholder value and C-Suite Bonuses.

Both assured that there was no oversight.

There was no person who didn't risk losing their job and livelihood if they pointed out that MCAS violated the federal commercial flight regulations which prohibits a single sensor on flight critical systems.

This is the same as the restart of the Cold War due to "Russian Aggression" or the use of proxy radical forces to instigate regime change.

If corporate media does not report factual news but regurgitates propaganda endlessly then nothing will ever be fixed. Out of control systems kill people.

Zachary Smith | Jun 2, 2019 4:11:51 PM | 14

Regarding the 737 MAX, today's news stories are filled with stuff like this:

SEOUL, June 2 (Reuters) - Airlines urged regulators on Sunday to coordinate on software changes to the Boeing 737 MAX in a bid to avoid damaging splits over safety seen when the aircraft was grounded in March.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), whose 290 carriers account for 80 percent of world flying, said trust in the certification system had been damaged by a wave of separate decisions to ground the jet, with the U.S. last to act.

Airlines are worried further differences between regulators over safety could confuse passengers and cause disruption.

Lot of double-talk there. "Confuse passengers" is another way of saying that if the US lets the airplane fly before anybody else does, hardly anyone will believe the thing is safe. Crazy Trumpies + wet-noodle FAA + indifferent Boeing -- that's not a comforting situation at all.

I won't be surprised if the EU and China aren't VERY late with their approvals of the 737 'fixes'. They're probably getting tired of being kicked around by the Trumpies and this is a no-brainer way of getting some revenge. Who can quarrel with wanting to keep airplane passengers as safe as possible?

Zachary Smith | Jun 2, 2019 5:00:16 PM | 17

Yet another reason to turn off that damned 737 spotlight:

Some Boeing 737 MAX planes may have faulty parts: FAA June 2, 2019 / 3:20 PM

Whistleblower tales describe how this sort of thing has been going on for a long time. For now though, the FAA has to pretend to be a real regulatory agency.

Yeah, Right | Jun 2, 2019 7:05:06 PM | 26

I took the NYT's article as being the first step by Boeing to set up their chief test pilot as the fall-guy for the entire 737Max fiasco.

It certainly reads that way: the feature was initially intended only for high-speed, high-end. Then the test pilot found low-speed handling was iffy, so he decided that it should always be active.

And everyone at Boeing just.... agreed.... without really understanding what they were agreeing to.

Because, you know, nobody dares to argue with a test pilot...

Zachary Smith | Jun 2, 2019 7:17:00 PM | 29

@ Yeah, Right | Jun 2, 2019 7:05:06 PM #26

Good post! Boeing has already tried to crucify the ignorant/untrained "third world" pilots of the airplanes which went down. Why not try again with another pilot patsy? It might work. If it doesn't, wonder what plan "C" will be?

[May 26, 2019] Boeing 737 MAX Crash Reveals A Severe Problem With Older Boeing 737 NGs

Introduction complex software systems in aviation creates a new set of problems. Some of the can be solved by duplication of the equipment like Airbus was doing. Boeing failed to do this in this case there was not the second computer working with the second sensor. Paradoxically it also increates the demand to the relibility of manual operation procedure in case computers malfunction. the issue with trip week -- not sufficient size -- proved to be deadly as pilots were not able to move it in the conditions such need need arise -- it needs to big force to move: clearly blunder in designing this mechanical part of the system.
Notable quotes:
"... The 737 MAX incident also revealed a problem with older generations of the 737 type of plane that is only now coming into light. Simulator experiments (video) showed that the recovery procedures Boeing provided for the case of a severe mistrim of the plane is not sufficient to bring the plane back under control. ..."
May 25, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

The fleet of Boeing 737 MAX planes will stay out on the ground longer than anticipated. Boeing promised a new software package to correct the severe problems with its Maneuver Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). The delivery was supposed to be ready in April. A month later it has still not arrived at the Federal Aviation Agency where it will take at least a month to certify it. The FAA will not be the only one to decide when the plane can come back into the flight line. Other country's agencies will do their own independent review and will likely take their time.

The 737 MAX incident also revealed a problem with older generations of the 737 type of plane that is only now coming into light. Simulator experiments (video) showed that the recovery procedures Boeing provided for the case of a severe mistrim of the plane is not sufficient to bring the plane back under control. The root cause of that inconvenient fact does not lie with the 737 MAX but with its predecessor, the Boeing 737 Next Generation or NG.

This was known in pilot circles for some time but will only now receive wider public attention :

The Boeing 737 Max's return to commercial airline service is reportedly being further delayed by the Federal Aviation Administration.

US government officials told The Wall Street Journal's Andy Pasztor that the FAA is evaluating the emergency procedures for not only the Max but also the older generations of the 737 including the [once] hot-selling Boeing 737 NG.

According to the officials, the broadened evaluation will take a look at how pilots of all 737 variant are instructed to respond to emergency situations.

Here is a detailed explanation why the FAA is now looking into the pilot training for older 737 types.

The 737 NG (-600/-700/-800/-900) was the third generation derivative of the 737 and followed the 737 Original (-100/-200) and Classic (−300/-400/-500) series. The first NG flew in 1997. Some 7,000 were build and most of them are still flying.

Two technical modifications that turned out to be a problem during the recent incidents occurred during the redesign of the 737 Classic into the New Generation series.

In the NG series a new Flight Management Computer (FMC) was added to the plane. (The FMC helps the pilots to plan and manage the flight. It includes data about airports and navigation points. It differs from the two Flight Control Computers in that it has no control over physical elements of the plane.)

The FMC on the NG version has two input/output units each with a small screen and a larger keyboard below it. They are next to the knees of the pilot and the copilot They are located on the central pedestal between the pilots right below the vertical instrument panel (see pic below). The lengthy FMCs did not fit on the original central pedestal. The trim wheels on each side, used to manually trim the airplane in its longitudinal axis or pitch, were in the way. Boeing's 'solution' to the problem was to make the manual trim wheels smaller.


737 NG cockpit with FMC panels and with smaller trim wheels (black with a white stripe)
bigger

737 Original-200 cockpit with larger trim wheels (black with a white stripe)
bigger

The smaller trim wheels require more manual force to trim with the same moment of force or torque than the larger ones did.

Another change from the 737 Classic to the 737 NG was an increase in the size of the rear horizontal flight surface, the stabilizer.

The stabilizer at the rear of the plane can be turned around a central pivot point. The natural nose up or nose down characteristics of an airplane change during a flight depending on the speed at which the airplane flies. The stabilizer can be moved during a flight by a jackscrew (vid) which is turned by either an electric motor, or via cables from the manually hand-cranked trim wheels in the cockpit. Trimming the airplane keeps it level at all flyable speeds.

At the rear end of the stabilizer is the elevator surface (blue arrow in the pic below). The elevator is moved by the column or yoke the pilot uses to control the plane. During a flight the pilot, or an automated stabilizer trim system (STS), will electrically trim the stabilizer so that no additional force on the column is required for the plane to stay at its flight level.

In case of a mistrim of the stabilizer, the plane puts its nose up or down and the pilot will have to push or pull his column to move the elevator to counter the mistrim of the stabilizer. Depending on the position of the stabilizer and the speed of the airplane this can require very significant force. In some cases it might be impossible.


Graphic via The Air Current and Peter Lemme - bigger

The size of the stabilizer increased from 31.40 square meter on the Classic to 32.78 sqm on the NG and MAX. Meanwhile the size of the elevator, the primary control surface the pilot can use to counter a mistrimmed stabilizer, was kept at its original size of 6.55 sqm.

It is therefore more difficult for the pilot of a 737 NG or 737 MAX plane to use the elevator to counter a mistrimmed stabilizer than it was on the earlier 737 Classic series.


In 1961 a mistrimmed stabilizer on a Boeing 707 caused the crash of an airplane. All on board died. The root cause was a malfunction in the electrical switch the pilot normally uses to electrically move the stabilizer. The switch stuck in an ON position and the motor moved the stabilizer to its most extreme position. The plane's nose went up until it aerodynamically stalled. The pilots were unable to recover from the situation.

The type of incident where an electric malfunction drives the stabilizer into an extreme position is since known as a 'runaway stabilizer'.

To get a type rating for Boeing planes the pilots have to learn a special procedure to diagnose and correct a runaway stabilizer situation. The procedure is a so called 'memory item'. The pilots must learn it by heart. The corrective action is to interrupt the electric circle that supplies the motor which drives the jackscrew and moves the stabilizer. The pilots then have to use the hand-cranked trim wheels to turn the jackscrew and to bring the stabilizer back into a normal position.


737 stabilizer jackscrew - bigger

[The MCAS incidents on the crashed 737 MAX were not of the classic runaway stabilizer type. A runaway stabilizer due to an electric malfunction is expected to move the stabilizer continuously. The computerized MCAS operated intermittently. It moved the stabilizer several times, with pauses in between, until the mistrim became obvious. The pilots would not have diagnosed it as a runaway stabilizer. Only in the end are the effects of both problems similar.]


A third change from older 737s to newer types involved the manuals and the pilot training.

If due to a runaway stabilizer event the front end of the stabilizer moves up, the nose of the airplane will move down and the plane will increase its speed. To counter that the pilot pulls on his column to move the rear end of the elevator up and to bring the plane back towards level flight. As the plane comes back to level the aerodynamic pressure on the mistrimmed stabilizer increases. Attempts to manually trim in that situation puts opposing forces on the jackscrew that holds the stabilizer in its positions. The aerodynamic forces on the stabilizer can become so big that a manual cranking of the trim wheel can no longer move the jackscrew and thereby the stabilizer.

Until the introduction of the newer 737 types Boeing's pilot manuals for the 737 included a procedure that described how to overcome the situation. It was counterintuitive. If the stabilizer put the plane in an extreme nose down position the pilot was advised to first pull the column to decrease the speed. He then had to push the column forward to lower the aerodynamic forces that blocked the jackscrew. Then the manual trim wheel could be turned a bit while the plane continued to dive and again increased its speed. The procedure had to be repeated several times: pull column to decrease speed; push column to decrease the aerodynamic force on the stabilizer and its jackscrew; trim manually; repeat. The technic was known as the rollercoaster maneuver.


Excerpt from an old 737-200 manual - via The Air Current - bigger

Recently some pilots used a 737 NG flight simulator to test the procedure. They simulated the runaway stabilizer case at a height of 10,000 feet and use the rollercoaster maneuver to recover from the mistrim. When they finally had the stabilizer back into a correct trim position they found themselves at 3,000 feet height. The maneuver would thus help only when the plane is already at a significant height above ground.

Both of the recent 737 MAX crashes happened shortly after the start. The rollercoaster maneuver would not have helped those flights. But should a runaway stabilizer incident happen on a 737 NG at its normal flight level the maneuver would probably be the only chance to recover from the situation.


The crashes of the two 737 MAX revealed a number of problems with the design of the MCAS system. Several additional issues with the plane have since become known. There may be other problems with its 737 MAX that no one yet learned of. The rather casual FAA certification of the type was clearly not justified.

But the problems described above are 737 NG problems. The 380 or so existing 737 MAX are currently grounded. But some 7,000 737 NG fly about every day. The record provides that it is a relatively safe airplane. But a runaway stabilizer is a well known electrical malfunction that could by chance happen on any of those flights.

The changes from the 737 Classic to the 737 NG make it more difficult, if not impossible, for the pilots to recover from such a situation:

Simulator sessions demonstrate (video) that a runaway stabilizer incident on a 737 NG can no longer be overcome by the procedures that current Boeing manuals describe.

It is pure luck that no NG crash has yet been caused by a runaway stabilizer incident. It is quite astonishing that these issues only now become evident. The 737 NG was certified by the FAA in 1997. Why is the FAA only now looking into this?

The second 737 MAX crash revealed all these issues to a larger public. Except for MCAS the trim systems on the NG and MAX are similar. The Ethiopian Airline flight 302 did not experience a runaway stabilizer, but the multiple engagement of MCAS moved the stabilizer to a similar extreme position. The pilots cut the electricity to the stabilizer motor and tried to re-trim the plane manually by turning the trim wheels. The aerodynamic forces on the stabilizer were impossible to overcome. The pilots had not learned of the rollercoaster maneuver. (Not that it would have helped much. They were too low to the ground.) They switched the motor back on to use manual electrical trim to re-trim the aircraft. Then MCAS engaged again and put them into the ground.

All NG and MAX pilots should learn the rollercoaster maneuver, preferable during simulator training. There are probably some 50,000 pilots who are certified to fly a Boeing NG. It will be an enormous and costly effort to put all of them through additional training.

But it will be more costly, for all involved, if a 737 NG crashes and kills all on board due to a runaway stabilizer incident and a lack of pilot training to overcome it. Such an incident would probably keep the whole NG fleet on the ground.

Pilots, airlines and the public should press the FAA to mandate that additional training. The FAA must also explain why it only now found out that the problem exists.

---
Previous Moon of Alabama posts on Boeing 737 issues:

Additional sources with more technical details:

Posted by b on May 25, 2019 at 05:20 PM | Permalink


JOHN CHUCKMAN , May 25, 2019 6:11:07 PM | 1

I feel as though I've read an expert's analysis on the Boeing 737 problems.

And a very clearly written one indeed.

Thanks.

the pair , May 25, 2019 6:18:40 PM | 2
on the one hand a thorough and impressive look at the subject. on the other hand i'm getting on a 737 next week and this adds to my already profound anxiety about flying. good times.
Walter , May 25, 2019 6:54:14 PM | 3
Very clearly stated description of how "accidents" get engineered, baked-into, into big and complex machines and systems. Wonderful.

Raises material questions about defects in regulation of airplane safety, and how that happens (can you spell "m-o-n-e-y"?) and why (repeat spelling). Regulatory Capture? Geewhiz...yatink?

Feynman's classic report on the Challenger "accident" exposes the same sort of matter.

Feynman also tells a story about Oak Ridge in the building of the plant to separate isotopes - he knew nothing of blue-prints and they showed him reams of paper, he spotted a little rectangle with an X in side..."what happens if this opens" he said (if I recall rightly) Of course he thought it looked like a window, but in the language of blueprints it was, of course, a valve.... Turned out it was a lucky question, well, maybe not for Japan...

When you build stuff or operate it one must always ask, at every junction, what if?... This is true of driving, of motorcycles, airplanes, boats, and probably taking a bath.

psychohistorian , May 25, 2019 7:13:08 PM | 4
Another excellent description of the Boeing profit cancer.

Where are the cost/benefit analysis that were done to justify the profit over safety moves of Boeing? Some people are making big bucks by putting the public more at risk for profit.

Who are they and why are they not in jail?
If corporations are people like Mitt Romney says then why is Boeing not under arrest?
If we can't arrest Boeing then why not the leadership that made the profit over safety decisions? Certainly there is a paper trail.

Boeing is now like Trump by putting a clear face on the sickness that is the West governed by the elite who own global private finance and everything else.

And this sickness is having a hissy fit because it knows it can't compete against China's mixed economy and they won't let the elite own China finance.

Public versus private finance is the war that humanity is waging even though it is presented by the West as all these spinning plates of other things.

Boeing needs to be driven into bankruptcy, just like empire is being driven, to put consequences to the cancer of profit over safety.

Ghost Ship , May 25, 2019 7:24:24 PM | 5
When is Trump going to declare that Airbus is a threat to American national security and sanction it like Huawei?
dh , May 25, 2019 7:26:52 PM | 6
Correct me if I'm wrong but hasn't every single transport-category aircraft made since the Boeing 707, including Airbus, Embraer and Bombardier, used a jackscrew to position the horizontal stabilizer?
dan , May 25, 2019 7:42:54 PM | 7
Ah shit. I'll have to postpone my purchase of 737s now. How on earth will I now jetset the globe?
First world problems, huh...
Walter , May 25, 2019 7:48:28 PM | 8
Jackscrews are, in most older cars and most trucks,and most machine tools the way the controls and steering works. They are ordinary, simple, and nearly foolproof. The article does not blame the jackscrew. Sometimes corrosion and maintenance issues, and rarely, manufacturing defects, can happen...nothing like that at issue in these two failure patters.

I have seen exactly one jackscrew failure, and it still worked ok, and I have had in my hands hundreds of jackscrews torn down for analysis.

The failures at hand have to do with a dead-short between the ears associated with Big Bucks and "fictionalized capitalism" - they faked it, pencil whipped the job...as we used to say when I worked for the Army...

dh , May 25, 2019 7:54:47 PM | 9
@8 Thank you Walter. I'm not an engineer...just trying to pinpoint the stabilizer problem. Faulty electronics? Overloaded trim wheels? Bad design or capitalist greed?

B explained it very well but is the problem unique to Boeing?

Pft , May 25, 2019 8:13:11 PM | 0
Unlike the recent MCAS issues on a new aircraft I suspect runaway trim on 737 NG is a rare event most pilots only experience in the simulator (unlike in the 60's-70's on other models) .In over 20 years of flying (737 NG) has their ever been a crash due to runaway trim? Just asking as I don't know.

This does not mean the procedures should not be corrected and additional training done.

dh , May 25, 2019 8:14:56 PM | 1
Just an exercise.....do not try this at home....

https://youtu.be/aoNOVlxJmow


james , May 25, 2019 8:18:07 PM | 2
thanks b.. that is discouraging to hear... it is interesting seeing the faa's role in all of this.. it reminds me of the role of the opcw and what was, or wasn't shared in the report on douma... at some point these agencies need to be scrutinized more aggressively... the author andersons of enron keep rearing their ugly heads..
james , May 25, 2019 8:19:31 PM | 3
@11 dh... my house isn't that big!!!
Yeah, Right , May 25, 2019 8:27:25 PM | 4
Just curious, but has any airline ever reported a runaway stabilizer on a 737NG?

Obviously no 737NG has crashed from such an event, but if there is a runaway stabilizer incident then the airline is (I assume) obliged to report it to the FAA. Is that data available to the public?

Miss Lacy , May 25, 2019 8:30:25 PM | 5
To b; Thank you. to Walter also thank you for most informative comments. To dh #9. No way is the problem unique to Boeing. Where was that walk way/over pass which collapsed the day after it opened killing several? The Carolina's? Georgia? How about Becktel's Big Dig? The roof tiles fell in the airport tunnel killing how many? Oops no links. Wait wait
What about the atrium walk way in???? City in the US midwest. Undersized bolts. The whole thing fell down at the opening celebration. Deflection won. Cost cutting lost. Scores died. Famous engineering maxims: Two is one and one is none. Keep it simple stupid.

I vote that all airline pilots get a raise and more vacation time.

Sam F , May 25, 2019 8:51:41 PM | 6
Great analysis, thank you B.

Clearly then even the old 737 is unsafe below 7,000 feet and probably higher for unprepared or unsuspecting pilots, because the recovery maneuver causes at least that altitude loss, and the 737 NG is further unsafe in cases where the recovery maneuver does not work.

The problem is skimping on error handling processes, the most costly, critical, and invisible part of critical systems design. Skimping is universal where profit motive governs, and infects regulators via bribes and regulatory capture. Where disasters will result very rarely, the skimping remains invisible, the investors count their gains and donate to the parties that control regulatory agencies, and managers are promoted and retire. The value of a human life is adjusted to zero by sociopathic investors and their preferred corporate managers.

jared , May 25, 2019 9:35:38 PM | 7
So basically the post is stating that boing and the faa have a culture of overlooking safety issues - no blood no foul (until there is blood).

Boing and faa would like to point the finger at pilots, birds, weather, God... etc. Lastly faa and boing will be leaking blame directed at each other and then it will be that you cant actually punish government employees and then boing is major military contractor and strategically important - too big to fail.

Basically, they have both been shown to be unreliable. Fatal to the faa, maybe to boing, maybe to passengers.

snake , May 25, 2019 10:38:15 PM | 8
Unlike the recent MCAS issues on a new aircraft I suspect runaway trim on 737 NG is a rare event most pilots only experience in the simulator (unlike in the 60's-70's on other models) .In over 20 years of flying (737 NG) has their ever been a crash due to runaway trim? Just asking as I don't know. This d\n mean the procedures s\n\b corrected and additional training done. by: Pft @10 <= Re rime and clear ice builds, especially in low altitude (take off and approaches) where icing develops along moment arm @ local positions <= trim becomes a major frantic cockpit issue.. yeah, I know icing is never a problem in a modern life exchanged for profit aircraft..

Psychohistorian seated the hard nail into government protected corporate lumber (weed exterminator Monsanto , bomb makers everywhere and vision, hearing and heart -threatened calcium channel signal corrupting 5G energies come to mind. One drop of corporation greed = the early death for large numbers of expendable humans. but never fear the secret government is at work, protecting the corporate lords and their Oligarch owners from those of you who toil to earn a living.. what you governed humans don't know, those who govern you (the governors) intend to get Assange for telling you, because the corporation lords don't want you to know.

Never has there been a better case for independent of government, independent of corporate influence audits..
The entire flying public should be allowed to audit all of the aircraft designs, construction and management decisions and FAA activities and decisions from start to finish. The life of the passenger depends on the scope and quality of the audit.

There is a safe harbor rule in securities tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, if you fail that requirement you must give the money investors gave you back to the investors. ..humm!

ben , May 25, 2019 10:56:58 PM | 9
Thanks b, for another expose on the current flaws in the U$A's brand of Capitalism.

As snake @ 18 says;"Never has there been a better case for independent of government, independent of corporate influence audits.."

Cyril , May 25, 2019 11:15:18 PM | 0
@Ghost Ship | May 25, 2019 7:24:24 PM | 5

When is Trump going to declare that Airbus is a threat to American national security and sanction it like Huawei?

Probably after he attacks Toyota. Maybe he's starting on the Japanese company .

Toyota Motor Corp. rebuked President Donald Trump's declaration that imported cars threaten U.S. national security, signaling contentious talks are ahead for the White House and America's key trading partners.
Jackrabbit , May 25, 2019 11:36:52 PM | 1
I don't know much about commercial aircraft but even I can see that b has way ahead of other media in reporting about the Boeing/FAA clusterf*ck. Both in terms of timely info and depth of info.

Great work b!

Cyril , May 26, 2019 12:31:56 AM | 2
@Cyril | May 25, 2019 11:15:18 PM | 20

Probably after he attacks Toyota.

Maybe Trump has already started going after Airbus :

The United States wants to put tariffs on $11.2 billion worth of EU goods ... to offset what it says are unfair European subsidies for plane manufacturer Airbus.

How much of Boeing is vulnerable to a European retaliation? I know that the 737 Max uses LEAP-1B

Jen , May 26, 2019 12:33:54 AM | 3
Dear B,

Your post is likely to end up in some pilots' own custom-made manuals for reference if Boeing doesn't amend its current manuals or FAA doesn't mandate appropriate pilot training on the Boeing 737 MAX jets. Get ready to see it reprinted on other websites and blogs!

Cyril , May 26, 2019 12:35:31 AM | 4
Hmm... how did the "Post" button get pushed?

I meant to say...

[If Trump really goes after Airbus,] How much of Boeing is vulnerable to a European retaliation? I know that the 737 Max uses LEAP-1B engines, which are made by a joint venture between Safran (France) and General Electric (US). Anything else?

psychohistorian , May 26, 2019 1:39:08 AM | 5
@ Cyril with the great questions about potential implications of tariffs/sanctions to protect Boeing market

Tariffs and sanctions could be a temporary negotiating tactic or are a slippery slope that those in control of global private finance are willing to let Boeing and other US industry leaders have to endure as long as global private finance stays viable in the world....throwing America under the bus to save the scions of empire.

Is bringing the world economies to a halt via all these "bluffs" meant for some bigger purpose?....war by other means, perhaps?

Wait until the world gets to anguish over nations debt position as part of all the fear mongering to save private finance profit while the public takes the losses in the shorts....it is all about getting and staying ahead of the narrative train....


Hoarsewhisperer , May 26, 2019 1:41:50 AM | 6
Possibly off topic but...

During the 1989 Airline Pilot's Strike in Oz, Labor & Union acolyte, PM Bob Hawke, solved the problem Neo-liberally by removing negotiating principles from the table and declaring a National Emergency. This empowered the airlines to sack all the recalcitrant pilots, thus reducing them to the status of truck drivers. I don't know if this was the beginning of the War On Pilots but I did read that the Captain of the plane which landed an airliner on the Hudson River, saving all on board, was on $19,000-00 p.a. and had a second job to make ends meet.

It seemed a bit short-sighted, to me, to reduce the perceived status of a group of highly-trained, and professional, airline pilots to well below the pay-scale status of qualified tradesmen and even some skilled laborers - possibly to the point of (voiceless) irrelevance?

744748 , May 26, 2019 2:55:06 AM | 7
Small correction, the "NG" stands for NEXT Generation, not NEW Generation.

For once, Wikipedia is correct: wiki/Boeing_737#737_Next_Generation

As a former 737-300 (="Classic") and 737-700 (= "NG") pilot, I vividly remember from during the initial simulator training how difficult it was to manually trim the 737-700.

But hey, the joke in the pilot community is that "Boeing is a law firm that also makes aeroplanes."

BM , May 26, 2019 3:29:11 AM | 8
Boeing needs to be driven into bankruptcy, just like empire is being driven, to put consequences to the cancer of profit over safety.
Posted by: psychohistorian | May 25, 2019 7:13:08 PM | 4

Absolutely and utterly agree! Those at the top of both Boeing and FAA also need to be tried for manslaughter and jailed for life.

The FAA also needs to be sanctioned by regulatory moves in EU, Russia, China and other countries which disallow all FAA certifications until the FAA have proven that the certifications were properly carried out, and validated by non-US agencies at FAA's cost. If they don't fully comply, threaten mass grounding of US-certified aircraft. There also needs to be a wide-ranging international investigation of FAA working practicies and conflicts of interests, with mandatory full disclosure (to all non-US aviation regulators and pilots unions) of all documentation and mandatory access to witnesses, again under threat of grounding of all US-certified aircraft in case of non-compliance. (It won't happen of course! There also need to similar investigations of working practices and conflicts of interest of EU aviation authorities - also won't happen, althought there might be investigations of very limited scope. Likewise for pharmaceuticals, pesticides and environmental hazards.)

744748 , May 26, 2019 3:36:53 AM | 9
p.s. very well written article!
Russ , May 26, 2019 4:13:32 AM | 0
The FMC helps the pilots to plan and manage the flight. It includes data about airports and navigation points....The lengthy FMCs did not fit on the original central pedestal. The trim wheels on each side, used to manually trim the airplane in its longitudinal axis or pitch, were in the way. Boeing's 'solution' to the problem was to make the manual trim wheels smaller.

In addition to the usual greed, we see how technocratic-engineering culture is at work here: A basically worthless "hi-tech" toy (the FMC) is considered far more important than an actual safety mechanism which is manual and therefore stupid from the technocratic POV. Indeed, from this culture's POV it's an absolute value to decrease human agency and action and increase computer agency, without regard to any kind of practicality, let alone something so mundane and boring as the safety of human beings.

744748 , May 26, 2019 5:04:39 AM | 1
By the way, it's NEXT Generation, not NEW Generation.

[Thank you. I have corrected my mistake. - b.]

Edward , May 26, 2019 5:40:41 AM | 2
The trim wheel has a handle that folds out. A possible solution to this problem would be a handle that is extensible, giving a large lever arm, and which functions like a ratchet wrench.
Khin Maung Thwin , May 26, 2019 6:07:59 AM | 3
Very well noted and thank you for find out mistake.
Ghost Ship , May 26, 2019 6:17:37 AM | 4
The worse thing about American politicians is how cheaply they can be bought :
Asking questions and making statements were 39 members of the House – 22 Democrats and 17 Republicans – who during the 2018 election cycle took in a total of $134,749 – or an average of $3,455 each from Boeing in campaign contributions.
Ghost Ship , May 26, 2019 6:32:29 AM | 5
>>>> Edward | May 26, 2019 5:40:41 AM | 32

There isn't enough room , which is why they made the wheels smaller in the first place. Perhaps Boeing should switch to side sticks like Airbus .

Dao Gen , May 26, 2019 7:53:10 AM | 6
The structural defects in the 737 NG described so well by b are also relevant to the recent crashes of the 737 MAX, are they not? Several reports indicated that the pilots of the Ethiopian Airlines plane disconnected the MCAS system and tried to trim the aircraft manually but were unable to do so, and this problem with the manual trim system caused them to turn on the MCAS system again, with deadly results. It seems that the 737 MAX is even more dangerous due to its 737 NG legacy. In addition to all the other necessary changes, the manual trim wheel should be redesigned for the 737 MAX, the input from the pilot's yoke should be increased, and a special pilot training category should be established. All of this should have been mandated by the irresponsible FAA long ago. If the needed changes are not carried out, nationwide boycotts of Boeing and of 737 MAX flights should be organized and carried out.
Edward , May 26, 2019 8:07:01 AM | 7
Ghost Ship,

That is why I suggested it operate like a ratchet in which the handle can be turned in small increments rather then a full circle:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJEU0OKA3EM

Another solution could be to attach something like a car jack to the trim wheel which aids in turning it.

b , May 26, 2019 8:41:57 AM | 8
@Dao Gen - The structural defects in the 737 NG described so well by b are also relevant to the recent crashes of the 737 MAX, are they not?

Yes they are. The MAX crashes revealed that these issues had been 'forgotten'. That is why the FAA is now looking into the NG. I added a paragraph near the end to clarify that.

Walter , May 26, 2019 8:55:24 AM | 9
I once ran "F&E shop, as the Army used to call them. Stands for "fuel and electronic" [repair], sort of a forward operating base shop, these economize the logistics necessary to support fleets. In that context machine parts, subsystems came in and we went through a process of "triage", testing and labeling each unit as it came in. Those units which we judged to be "BER" [beyond economical repair] got labeled as "N.G." (or NFG!) for "no good". Even though the Boeing FUBAR'd 737 is a deadly matter I found the appellation 737-NG to be vastly idiotic and amusing. Similarly amusing when Chevrolet named a car "no va" (doesn't go).

Evidently Boeing ought to have named 737-MAX as 737-NFG.

Walter , May 26, 2019 9:21:31 AM | 0
...upon reflection, "737NG" = "737 No Good", and "737 Max" = 737 "No Fly Good", 'or perhaps "Max" = "Machine Actually eXpired"
steve , May 26, 2019 9:33:30 AM | 1
Does the 777 max have any trim systems similar to the 737? Given the 777 has an aluminum fuselage, does this mean the 787 was a mistake?
sadness , May 26, 2019 9:35:59 AM | 2
Next we'll learn that the 777 is even worse than this thing & that Malaysian Air's losses weren't Israel or the US.Gov's fault at all, just the few incompetent fools running the biz & the FAA
William Gruff , May 26, 2019 9:56:32 AM | 3
snake @18 said: "Never has there been a better case for independent of government, independent of corporate influence audits."

But what kind of organization could conduct those audits? What can exist that is independent of business and its profit motives, which invite corruption, but also be independent of government while having some mechanism for being answerable to the public? Any effort to create such an organization will just recreate government.

We already have the answer: It is government regulation. We just need a deliberate impenetrable wall between government and business interests like we in America used to have between government and religion. We need to adjust our culture such that any politician promising to be "business-friendly" is as shunned as one promising to implement Sharia law. A revolution could probably accomplish this.

Arioch , May 26, 2019 10:04:49 AM | 4
> The trim wheel has a handle that folds out.

...but it extends alonf the rotation axis, thus

1) it does not extend the "lever asm" (in russia it is called "shoulder" :-) ), just makes a better grip
2) like with piston engines, it has two "dead points (centres)". Piston engines solve it by having multiple pistons working in different phases and by having a flywheel. Both options can not be applied to this 737 wheel.
The video show it is exactly "dead points" that cause problems. When the handle-axis is orthogonal to axis-man, then the wheel is more or less rotated. But those "dead points" progressivle become more and more impassable.

> A possible solution to this problem would be a handle that is extensible, giving a large lever arm,

Would not do.

If it extends parallel to axis - it would not increase lever no matter how long it is.

If it extends orthogonal to axis - it would just get stuck against the wall and FMS stand.

> and which functions like a ratchet wrench.

Yep, or a removable stick, with the wheel having 8 or at least 6 wholes through the wheel's reborde.

This all, whoever, would

1) add extra complexcitiy, increasing weight and malfanction probability.

For example, how would electro-motors act, if the wheel is locked by the said ratchet?
For example, where to store the removable lever, so it would not be a nuisance during normal flights, but in emergency would be both easy to take and reliably fixed until being taken?

2) would probably decrease rotating speed yet more. Force-path trade-off....

b , May 26, 2019 10:06:12 AM | 5
@steve Does the 777 max have any trim systems similar to the 737? Given the 777 has an aluminum fuselage, does this mean the 787 was a mistake?

The stabilizer trim via a jackscrew on the 777 is somewhat similar to the 737 though the jackscrew is much bigger.
It can be seen in this video at ~3:00 min: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sy-ARLZXXTA

There are many difference in the trim control. The 777 uses several independent hydraulic circles to run the hydraulic jackscrew motor. The 777 is fly-by-wire. There ar no longer manual trim wheels with long cables running to the stabilizer. All signals from the cockpit are electric to three independent system which then switch the hydraulic circles on/off as needed. There is an electric force feed back to give the pilots some 'feel' for the trim position in their columns.

The aluminum or carbon skin decision is relevant for weight. Carbon is more expensive as special care must be taken for flash impacts and other issues. But it is also a lot lighter that aluminum. The higher price will easily pay off.

ADKC , May 26, 2019 10:10:17 AM | 6
There is rightly a focus on the poor quality of work done by the FAA in authorising the Boeing 737 MAX (and, it now appears, that the same could be said about the authorisation of the NG). As stated by numerous articles the FAA were just relying on Boeing assessments and safety checks. However, these weaknesses in the authorisation process should really have been picked up by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and I fail to see how a competent body would fail to do so. So, the EASA is as useless as the FAA, and aircraft certifications are probably politically based rather than a rigorous safety and airworthiness check.

I would imagine that Boeing still intend to have the 737 MAX re-authorised by the FAA within a few months with the expectation that EASA approval will follow shortly after. The political motive will be to maintain the Boeing and Airbus duopoly (for mutual self-interest they both wish to preserve their respective market shares and not significantly challenge the other) rather than issues of safety. As far as I can see there are no politicians in the UK & Europe that are particularly interested or concerned about the issue (unfortunately).

Arioch , May 26, 2019 10:20:28 AM | 7
> and a special pilot training category should be established

Posted by: Dao Gen | May 26, 2019 7:53:10 AM | 36

But this is marketing disaster, too train pilots.

- Ok, mr. seller, so we need to spend N hours and M thousand USD to make our pilots efficient at most fuel-economic flight and at pressing automatic take-=off and automatic landing buttons. Good. Make sense.
- Oh, not just that, mr. customer, you also need to spend 10x N hours and 10xM monet to train your pilots against emergencies.
- what emergencies
- Oh, you know, it would not ever be your problem, buyt jsut to make government happy, you nkow, those crazy government clerks shifting responsibilities for life, they want it be passed...
- So what exactly they need be protected from??? And why they make me pay for it?
- Well, you know, 100 years ago once in mankind history an aircraft - not Boeing our competitor's jet it was - it got into X and then Y and wheather was Z and they crashed with all people aboard lost. And then, 99 years ago, there was A and sun was like B and then.... and they crashed and 50% on board lost. And then there was K and if rain goes L and ....
- Okay, okay, got it. Your new Boeing is so unreliable shit, that 100 years later it still can get into X, A and K and everyone dies and our business dies too. And you think i am such an idiot you gonna sell me this unreliable gum-n-sticks shit? I will first buy Manhatten bridge, before i start buying Boeings.
- No! No! our new jets are most reliable! no competitor is so reliable as Boeing! Read out booklet! read the testimonies from our customers!
- But you say our pilots must spend ten times time and ten times money to proitext from X and A and K fatal problems in your Boeing jets...
- NO !!! we do not have those problems! It is government, they always go overcautious and extort!
- So you say there is no X, A and K problems in Boeing? Yes or no???
- A.. a... AH! No, there is absolutely no problems in Boeing jets.
- Good, then if there is no problem, there is nothing to overtrain our pilots at overexpensive courses.
- But government...
- You have problems with gov't - you solve them! You better know what you must arrange with clerks, to fix it. And sto imposing your problems with gov't over us customers. Do you want to sell or not?
- But safety...
- You said there is NO PROBLEMS in Boeing, didn't you???
- Yes, but...
- No buts! Give me an official p[aper that there is no X, A and K problems in Boeing ever, and that if some jet crash and burn i am not responsible, and then we pay for those jets. Or we gonna pay those, who will give us those papers!

Meshpal , May 26, 2019 10:24:13 AM | 8
Outstandingly well written B; a most impressive explanation of 737 issues.

Two points I would like to add.

1. From my understanding of the design approach of the MAX, Boeing engineers where told to forget physics and focus on FAA compliance with an eye on quick certification and insure no additional pilot training. Example: This is why only one sensor was used. Had Boeing done the right thing, two would have been used, but then the FAA would have needed a lot more time to test. In addition, even now, Dennis A. Muilenburg, the CEO of Boeing is in denial. Just listening to him makes me cringe, he needs to read this article from B and wake the F up.

2. This is terrible timing for Boeing since both the Chinese and the Russians now have aircraft to compete with the 737 MAX. It is extremely difficult to get market share in the commercial aircraft business, but the timing of this disaster will give the competition a fighting chance. In fact I suspect that Airbus competition was not the only factor that made Boeing want to move fast with the MAX aircraft.

In Silicon Valley, if you screw up a business, then you call in your crisis management consultants to fix things. Like the Intel math error in its CPU chips. It is clear to me that Boeing thought it best to save money and not call these crisis experts and it does show. In this case you get what you pay for.

Arioch , May 26, 2019 10:33:04 AM | 9
> The aluminum or carbon skin decision is relevant for weight..... The higher price will easily pay off.

Posted by: b | May 26, 2019 10:06:12 AM | 45

....and then

> Carbon .... special care must be taken for flash impacts and other issues.

So, safety, right?

But, can one trust FAA and Boeing with safety now?

Also, remember recent crash of Sukhoi SSJ in Moscow.

Turn out, when going away from "just works" metallic bodies with inherent Faradey cage properties, properly assessing all possible "what if" scenarios with full respect to possible magnitudes and safety margins, is VERY hard, especially when marketoids demand cutting costs at all costs are reathing over your shoulder.

There was an interesting presentation how nuclear fuel rods geometry is calculated, to tolerate inevitable fuel curving under load. There were safety margings within safety margins, within... Multi-level reservations. And of course there is an incentive to increase efficiency by cutting off some margin, assigned to your unit, because there are several times a margin in other layers.

....and then one day it becomes the anekdot about rakia barrel in a village.

Michael , May 26, 2019 10:39:06 AM | 0
While not a fan of the new Boeing management culture, I would just like to point out that one possible reason you haven't seen any 737NG crashes due to a runaway trim stabilizer is that fact that there is a legal 250 knot speed limit on aircraft below 10,000 feet. Additionally, the older aircraft design was more stable at lower speeds. Therefore if a runaway trim stabilizer did occur, you would theoretically have not reached a high enough speed to freeze-up the the manual trim mechanisms.

In the case of the Ethiopian 737 MAX crash, the speed of aircraft was in excess of 400 knots, where manual trimming was made impossible. In that case the insidiousness and persistence of MCAS would have led to much higher speeds than would be manageable.

Arioch , May 26, 2019 10:39:37 AM | 1
> This is terrible timing for Boeing since both the Chinese and the Russians now have aircraft to compete with the 737 MAX

Posted by: Meshpal | May 26, 2019 10:24:13 AM | 48

this WAS a terrible timing

China... it seems to have prev-gen much less efficient jet. And one only used with China, so maybe it is equally or yet worse unreliable - there is no 3rd party experience.

Russia... MS-21 is not ready yet. Close reportedly, but just not yet.

SSJ-100 then - talk about timings - just few weeks ago crashed in Moscow after a single lighting strike, with more than a half onboard dead.

So, no, right this vry moment there is no competition from Russia and China.
There were Brasil and Canada - but they were recently bough off by Boeing and Airbus.

There was Ukraine too, but EuroMaidan came and destroyed Antonov corporation as soon as they could.

So, as of this very moment it still is Boeing 737 vs Airbus 320neo duopoly

fastfreddy , May 26, 2019 10:49:08 AM | 2
Excellent work by b. Arioch at 47, That looks like an accurate scenario.

Now would be a good time for the R political party and those among the D Party to repudiate government regulation (as it adversely affects business!) as it relates specifically to the FAA and its "chilling effect" on Boeing. Let business flourish. Let "the market" decide, they say.

The MSM will avoid exposing Boeing issues.

Bart Hansen , May 26, 2019 10:49:43 AM | 3
I'm thinking that at some point the stabilizer on earlier aircraft was not movable with a pivot point. The elevator alone was enough to move the tail up or down.

If so, what made the aircraft manufacturers feel the need for a pivot to move the entire stabilizer?

William Gruff , May 26, 2019 11:06:36 AM | 4
Meshpal @48

Russia's MC-21 and China's C919 are both due to begin revenue flights in 2021. Both of these are significantly more affordable than Boeing's 737 MAX family. If the 737 MAX remains grounded for a significant period, or if it requires new type certification then Boeing could be in big trouble. Doubtless the FAA knows this and are thus (again) rushing through the process of trying to get it in the air.

Hey, it is the FAA's patriotic duty , isn't it?

Edward , May 26, 2019 11:13:34 AM | 5
Arioch,

I wasn't proposing modifying the handle, I was suggesting replacing it with something different, in this case a handle which extends radially and operates like a ratchet.

"how would electro-motors act, if the wheel is locked by the said ratchet?"

The system is designed with a clutch which allows the pilot to manually override the motor.

morongobill , May 26, 2019 11:18:18 AM | 6
Joe Frasier used to say, "kill the body and the head dies."

How many more Frasier like body punches,as in b's news today, can the giant Boeing absorb before it hits the canvas.

William Gruff , May 26, 2019 11:21:48 AM | 7
Bart Hansen @53 asked: "...what made the aircraft manufacturers feel the need for a pivot to move the entire stabilizer?"

The aerodynamics of an aircraft change with speed and also with balance... think ten minutes after the coffee is served and a line forms at the restroom. If the balance was always the same (no changes from burning fuel, for instance) and the plane always only flew at one speed (reaches cruising speed before leaving the runway) then it would be easier to design the aircraft to naturally assume neutral level flight without using trim systems. This isn't very realistic, though. As well, while the elevators can do all of the work of raising and lowering the nose of the aircraft, leaving all of the work to the elevators means the pilot will have to be muscling the nose of the plane up or down 100% of the time, which would probably get a little tiring, to say the least.

Arioch , May 26, 2019 12:08:21 PM | 8
> The system is designed with a clutch which allows the pilot to manually override the motor.

Posted by: Edward | 55

Not a clutch, but a switch. A switch that removes ("cuts off") electric power from motor.

The wheel and the motor and the stabiliser are connected by fixed drive train, no clutches.
It is the electric wire - outside of the train - that is connected or disconnected.

if electric power is there - then it is motor, that rotates the said wheel.
if electric power is off - then human can rotate both the wheel and the motor.

A ratchet physically blocks wheel rotation, in one direction, another, or both.
That, a properly functioning ratcher.
If a ratcher is malfunctioning - and device can break - it may become unpredictable.

Boeing clearly tried to keep this wheel-motor-stabilizer drive train "thick as a brick" and reliable as wooden club. Because it is critical safety system.

Introducing a complex, optionally-engaging machinery, retroactivey, into "overcrowded" (no other place for FMC was found) cabin that was designed to have nothing like that - may in total be more dangerous than now.

Bart Hansen , May 26, 2019 12:34:04 PM | 9
Thanks, William.

Is a severe mistrim of the aircraft due to pilot error or the STS?

Is the difficulty described by b in correcting a mistrim caused by the greatly differing surface areas of the elevator & stabilizer?

b , May 26, 2019 12:47:30 PM | 0
@Arioch @58

Edward at 55 is right. It is you Arioch, who does not know how the 737 trim system works.

There is an automatic clutch between the electrical drive of the jackscrew and the manual drive. In effect the manual over rides the electrical.

There is much more to the total trim system than I wrote down in the above piece. I provided a link at the end to the Stabilizer Trim writeup by the Satguru. It is the best that is out there. Take a few hours to read it and a few days to understand it. Do that before you come here to claim higher knowledge of something you don't know the basics about.

Edward , May 26, 2019 12:55:13 PM | 1
Arioch,

This is what I was told about the clutch on a different blog:

https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2019/05/how-deep-is-boeings-hole.html#comment-3152331

"The spinning disc is the manual trim wheel. It has a stowable handle that the pilot can use to manually trim the stabilizer if the electric trim is not available. The system is designed such that if that wheel does not turn, the stabilizer does not move. There is a clutch in the system between the electric trim motor and the rest of the system, and this clutch mechanism favors the manual trim wheel. If other methods to cutout the electric trim failed, a pilot could simply place his foot firmly on the wheel and stop its motion, thus stopping the stab from moving further. (The checklist actually says to grasp the wheel with your hand, but the foot works much better)."

fastfreddy , May 26, 2019 12:56:50 PM | 2
The effort to computer control and automate aircraft operation serves increased profit motivations. Pilots can be certified with less training. Young pilots work for lower pay as older pilots at higher pay levels retire or quit. As pilots depend on automated computer control, they tend to lose the ability (or were not taught adequately) to react correctly to emergencies.

Look at the difference between the cockpits and instrumentation of the 737 Original and the 737 NG. The NG leans heavily on the dependability of digital LCD computer monitors instead of clusters of independent instruments.

What could possibly go wrong?

ADKC , May 26, 2019 1:24:35 PM | 3
Arioch @51

"So, as of this very moment it still is Boeing 737 vs Airbus 320neo duopoly"

As it was me that mentioned duopoly @46 I hope you don't mind if I point out that it is not Boeing "versus" Airbus; it is Boeing "and" Airbus - effectively a cartel of two.

This means that the "market" is controlled (rigged) with "understood" market shares and, most important of all, the ability to hack and flag old designs and not have to go to the effort and expense of designing new aircraft.

The avoidance of "designing new aircraft" means that new technology is just hacked on to less than optimum designs and software is just used like wallpaper to cover over cracks.

In my view there are 4 parties to the problem that resulted in the Boeing MAX disasters; these are Boeing, the FAA, Airbus and the EASA.

J Swift , May 26, 2019 1:28:11 PM | 4
I recall reading a few years ago about a mine accident in China. The investigators determined that the workers had been complaining about maintenance of the ventilation system having been lax, causing a buildup of explosive dust and gasses, and it was further determined that this had been caused by local mine management determining they could save a few bucks by skimping on maintenance. After the investigation, the "offices" of mine management were ordered moved into the mine, and suddenly safety issues were all promptly addressed. I thought it was an elegant and quintessentially Chinese solution.

Perhaps it should be mandated that all Boeing execs and FAA personnel be restricted to flying only in 737s until these issues become important enough to be addressed.

jared , May 26, 2019 1:43:29 PM | 5
I get the impression that it is being implied that the force required for operation of the manual over-ride is likely to be greater than what a typical pilot might be able to provide and maintain. This would mean that the so called back up system is itself unworkable or unreliable. Such a claim would hsve to be logged and evaluated if there is any serious effort to monitor and maintain design compliance - assuming it is intended to function.
BM , May 26, 2019 2:13:48 PM | 6
Perhaps it should be mandated that all Boeing execs and FAA personnel be restricted to flying only in 737s until these issues become important enough to be addressed.
Posted by: J Swift | May 26, 2019 1:28:11 PM | 64

OK, put the entire board an executive officers of Boeing and the Director General and deputies of the FAA on 10 years full time toilet cleaning duty on 737-MAX. If the 737-MAX ever flies again, that is.

William Gruff , May 26, 2019 2:14:19 PM | 7
The post by jared @65 brought a point to mind: Since men tend to have more upper body strength than women, and given the hypersensitivity to identity in western cultures, this means that the 737 NG and MAX designs are sexist and part of The Patriarchy's plot to keep women down. I wonder why nobody in western corporate mass media has yet noted this vulgar display of white male privilege and prejudice that Boeing has crystallized right into the engineering of their aircraft?
b , May 26, 2019 2:40:45 PM | 8
@jared @65 This would mean that the so called back up system is itself unworkable or unreliable. Such a claim would hsve to be logged and evaluated if there is any serious effort to monitor and maintain design compliance - assuming it is intended to function.

Exactly. If the FAA (and EASA) would go by the book, all 737 NG should stay on the ground until Boeing fixed the issue in a safe matter. Not gonna happen as both assume (too) little risk that a runaway stabilizer could happen.

But as Capt Sullenberger says: Nothing is more expensive (to airlines and plane manufacturers) than an accident.

fastfreddy , May 26, 2019 4:10:30 PM | 9
About 30 years ago, an old guy retired commercial airline pilot told me that female pilots weren't strong enough to operate certain controls manually should particular emergency situations arise. Physical body strength was important for safety considerations.

I wonder if this trim stabilizer was what he was talking about. I don't know if these stabilizers pivoted 30 years ago.

Peter AU 1 , May 26, 2019 4:25:00 PM | 0
b, thanks for looking into Boeing and FAA's coverups. Part, or a large part of the US rise was due to its manufacturing power and ability to manufacture good quality products.
The decadence phase or perhaps nearing the end of the decadence phase in the rise and fall of the US empire.
dh , May 26, 2019 4:55:11 PM | 1
@69 Stabilators or all-moving tailplanes have been around almost since the beginning of manned (and of course womened) flight..


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

VietnamVet , May 26, 2019 5:13:51 PM | 2
This is excellent article on the 737 NG and Max. Ultimately, these aircraft were designed and assembled in a globalized outsourced duopoly. Rosemount Aerospace Inc makes the AoA Sensor. Rockwell Collins built the 737 Max flight-control computer and wrote the software code that contains MCAS. Government was flushed down the toilet. Effective oversight and regulation ended. Self-certification and "pay to play" are the rule today. Buffoons (Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron plus Boris Johnson soon) reign over incompetent diminished western nation states subservient to corporate trade treaties, the Five Eyes Deep State and undemocratic super-state institutions. If there is ever a criminal investigation of Boeing for manslaughter, it will find that in order to increase profits, pilots and engineering safety oversight personnel were fired or retired since the merger of Boeing and McDonnel in 1997. Those few who are left, to keep their jobs, never pass their safety concerns on to upper management. To reverse this, CEOs must be jailed for their crimes.
Arioch , May 26, 2019 5:21:22 PM | 3
> The system is designed such that if that wheel does not turn, the stabilizer does not move.

> this clutch mechanism favors the manual trim wheel.

> pilot could simply place his foot firmly on the wheel and stop its motion, thus stopping the stab from moving further.

Posted by: Edward | May 26, 2019 12:55:13 PM | 61

The question remains though. You propose to augment the wheel with a comples ( = error-prone ) mechanism, which intention is to block wheel rotation one or both directions of the wheel. The very same "foot", but this time made of steel.

One day this ratchet - as everything - would break. In the cabin. Probably, blocking or half-blocking wheel rotation. Without, of course, shouts and fireworks.

Pilots would trust STS or autopilot to move the wheel. So if the wheel does not move, or moves occasinally in one directino then stops - they would consider "this is what STS/autopilot wanted".

STS/AP would issue coimmands at the motor, the commands would be succesflly executed by the motor, but ignored by the drive train, with accordance with Boeing philosophy "human foot is final authority" and "human knows better can always override anything for any reason".

How this situation would develop?
How soon/late pilots would detect it?
How far this would turn stabs before pilots, realising ratchet failure, would hit "trim cut off" and ocntinue flight now unable to turn stabs by neither motors nor wheel?

div> Typo. Boeing's merger was with McDonnell Douglas. Disciples of GE's Jack Welch from that defense company took over. They place profit and increasing shareholder value first. This increases their bonuses, too.

Posted by: VietnamVet , May 26, 2019 5:32:50 PM | 4

Typo. Boeing's merger was with McDonnell Douglas. Disciples of GE's Jack Welch from that defense company took over. They place profit and increasing shareholder value first. This increases their bonuses, too.

Posted by: VietnamVet | May 26, 2019 5:32:50 PM | 4

Walter , May 26, 2019 6:51:26 PM | 5
a reply to > @ Posted by: Bart Hansen | May 26, 2019 10:49:43 AM | 53 about pivoting horiz stabilizer...look at the Wright Flyer... Yup. Pivoting stabilizer.

Videos all of on YT...

Bart wrote:"I'm thinking that at some point the stabilizer on earlier aircraft was not movable with a pivot point. The elevator alone was enough to move the tail up or down.

If so, what made the aircraft manufacturers feel the need for a pivot to move the entire stabilizer?"

As to why, well, it does not add more drag, as well as the several other good reasons.

Edward , May 26, 2019 7:39:59 PM | 6
Arioch,

Of course, the ratchet would need to be reliable and not likely to break or fail, just like everything else on the airplane. A ratchet is a simple device and I am counting on a mechanical engineer to design something dependable. I should add that situations where a pilot resorts to the manual trim, such as the Ethiopian Air flight, are rare.

Cyril , May 26, 2019 8:05:38 PM | 7
@BM | May 26, 2019 3:29:11 AM | 28

Those at the top of both Boeing and FAA also need to be tried for manslaughter and jailed for life.

I would also jail Boeing's previous management (McNerney et al), as they were the ones responsible for the shoddy development of the 737 Max. (Note: McNerney is not an engineer; he studied English and history at Yale, and got an MBA from Harvard.)

The current honchos (Muilenberg etc.) are not innocent, as they did little after the Lion Air crash, and after the Ethiopian Airline crash did all they could to prevent the grounding of the Max -- in spite of hundreds of dead people. So Muilenberg should go to the slammer too.

Of course, some people from the FAA deserve to accompany McNerney and Muilenberg in the ball-and-chain resort.

Cyril , May 26, 2019 8:23:45 PM | 8
A probably revealing insight into Jim McNerney's attitude :
Boeing CEO Jim McNerney apologized Friday in a companywide message for telling analysts this week that he won't retire after turning 65 next month because "the heart will still be beating, the employees will still be cowering."

McNerney was the CEO of Boeing when the 737 Max was designed.

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[May 23, 2019] FAA Won't Say When Boeing 737 Max Might Fly Again; Foreign Regulators Uppity naked capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... So Boeing's 737 Max crashes, and the FAA's complacency about them, have cost the regulator dearly. And there's no way for the agency to regain its authority. The US can't throw its weight around the way it once did. ..."
"... Because they think financial "engineering" is more important than actual engineering. ..."
"... As I pointed out to management, "Any safety device powerful enough to be useful is also going to be dangerous." The device was worse than the problem it was supposed to solve and was removed. ..."
"... Boeing does have a strong incentive to make sure there's not another crash because if there is they are finished. ..."
"... There's no denying that MCAS is a workaround for engines that don't fit the airplane. You don't need an engineering degree to see that's unacceptable. ..."
"... I don't understand how Boeing can avoid at least using a second Angle of Attack sensor with MCAS. Will the MCAS at least be re-classified as a critical system? If so, doesn't that make a second sensor mandatory? ..."
"... Using both sensors has been announced as part of the fix. ..."
"... So there was a second sensor available and MCAS just wasn't using it? I think Boeing wanted a configuration for MCAS that didn't require new training for 737 pilots. Do you know if critical systems are required to have 2 or 3 sensors? ..."
"... Any part of the plane that can cause a crash is supposed to use redundant sensors but the MCAS wasn't so designated which surprised even some Boeing engineers. ..."
"... "For the first time, Boeing admits MCAS is an extension of Speed Trim, which I have long suspected, and why it was designed with a single input. Speed Trim is constantly applying stabilizer trim commands in manual flight. ..."
"... Boeing used to have a rule that managers from the military part of the company were never transferred to the civilian side. Before becoming Boeing CEO, Muilenburg oversaw a pentagon program that wasted $20 billion before being cancelled. ..."
"... "I think I read somewhere that Boeing was resisting altering MCAS to use two sensors because then 737 pilots would need new training." – me too. Two sensors would imply it was a critical piece of hardware, requiring pilot training, so they went with one. ..."
"... A second sensor may not be enough. This system is of the highest criticality. Then there is the question of whether the sensor – which was never intended for direct control is good enough. ..."
"... Aircraft have had artificial horizons port to starboard for decades. Why no artificial horizon device rotated through 90 degrees for front to back? ..."
"... Any future orders would have to be cancelled. Fire the board and CEO and put in new one that will have a safety-first mandate. If the loss of revenue while re-engineering a future version of the 737 is severe enough to threaten Chapter 11, then do a GM-style bankruptcy or break up the company into "good co/bad co" and put all the rotten assets in the bad company and wind it down. ..."
"... My guess is that the Chinese are waiting in the long grass – this is far too juicy a chance for them to strike at the US in retaliation for the tariffs for them to pass up. ..."
"... They will wait until the FAA gives the green light before they say anything. If they refuse to certify it without a complete redesign, then it kills the MAX stone dead – not just in Asia, but everywhere as no leasing agent will touch it, and European budget airlines like Ryanair will also have to give it a pass as they look to Asia for 'resales' for their used aircraft. It would become too risky a purchase for anyone but exclusively US based airlines. ..."
"... China wants rather than needs the planes. It has its own Comac brand and Airbus has a manufacturing plant in China. Its airline industry would survive a shortfall, it just means they'd be running older aircraft longer that they'd want. The damage to China would be minimal compared to what would be inflicted on the US. ..."
May 23, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

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https://c.deployads.com/sync?f=html&s=2343&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nakedcapitalism.com%2F2019%2F05%2Ffaa-wont-say-when-boeing-737-max-might-fly-again-foreign-regulators-uppity.html

https://eus.rubiconproject.com/usync.html <img src="http://b.scorecardresearch.com/p?c1=2&c2=16807273&cv=2.0&cj=1" /> FAA Won't Say When Boeing 737 Max Might Fly Again; Foreign Regulators Uppity Posted on May 23, 2019 by Yves Smith The 737 Max situation has developed not necessarily to Boeing's advantage.

A FAA news conference which presumably had restoring faith in the plane and the agency as a major goal didn't appear to make much progress on either front. And it also appears that the FAA placing way too much trust in Boeing had led to the regulator losing its hegemony in certifications. Nicely played!

Boeing's two largest US customers, Southwest and American Airlines, had made statements that they anticipated returning the 737 Max to service in August. That timetable was almost certainly the result of expectations set by Boeing.

That plan has gone up in smoke. The FAA said it wouldn't give an idea as to when the 737 Max would be deemed airworthy again, and a year was not out of the picture, although commentators seemed to regard that long as highly unlikely.

On top of that, the FAA mentioned that Boeing had missed several deadlines for submitting a software fix for the FAA to evaluate, and was set to get it in this week. Not a good look as far as the airlines with mothballed planes are concerned.

Moreover, while the US press for the most part was putting a positive spin, given the givens, on the FAA's press conference, the Financial Times reported that foreign regulators, who are set to meet with the FAA today (Thursday) are taking a tough line on the 737 Max recertification, including insisting on simulator training as a requirement. This confirms a risk we and others had raised before: that the FAA, by doggedly defending the 737 Max when other regulators were proven correct in grounding it, is no longer fully in charge of the certification process. At best, it is having to negotiate terms with key foreign regulators.

Key bits from the Wall Street Journal :

cting Federal Aviation Administration chief Daniel Elwell appeared to undermine industry expectations that Boeing Co.'s grounded 737 MAX jets would be heading toward a smooth and predictable return to the skies.

Mr. Elwell repeatedly told reporters at a news conference Wednesday that he couldn't predict when the fleet would be back in the air, suggesting instead that the process of approving a proposed software fix for the aircraft remains open-ended and subject to various factors -- many outside his control.

Some of his comments seemed to signal potentially months of additional delay, as Mr. Elwell appeared to distance himself from plans by some U.S. airlines to put the jets back into operation in August

The Journal did mention, but downplayed, the further impediment of winning over foreign regulators. Stunningly, it included but failed to flag the significance of the notion that foreign regulators might not accept the FAA's clean bill of health:

In addition to verifying the revised software, the FAA has to establish new training requirements, create enhanced maintenance standards and -- most important -- persuade foreign regulators to endorse the bulk of the eventual U.S. plan

At Thursday's session, FAA officials will detail progress so far and seek suggestions from foreign participants. Weeks ago, air-safety regulators for Canada and the EU said they planned to conduct separate reviews of changes to the automated flight-control feature, called MCAS, along with a safety assessment of the entire aircraft.

"Other countries and other authorities may take longer" to put the planes back into service, Mr. Elwell said, "and they undoubtedly will." Meanwhile, the FAA is asking foreign regulators "what else they would like to see from us," Ali Bahrami, the FAA's top safety official, told reporters.

The Financial Times account is more pointed, perhaps because the reporters got input on where those foreign regulators stand:

Canada, Europe and Indonesia made clear ahead of the meeting that they would set their own conditions for determining when the plane is safe to fly again, threatening the FAA's goal of building consensus for a co-ordinated plan to put the 737 Max back into action.

At least with the pink paper, the Canadians were mum on their requirements, but per earlier remarks, training is on the list. Undermining the US role in certifying planes overseas, Indonesia said it is considering having Transport Canada or the European regulator EASA give a second opinion.

The Financial Times said that the Europeans had three "prerequisite conditions," which Investors Business Daily listed as :

And China will be even more stringent. Again from the Financial Times:

China, which was the first big regulator to ground the Max and a crucial market for Boeing, could be one of the last countries to lift its ban, aviation sources said.

Chinese regulators are likely to insist on additional checks before they clear the plane to fly. That could erode the existing convention by which nations recognise safety certifications from the manufacturer nation, and someday provide an opening for Beijing to push for easier recognition of the planes it is developing. Chinese airlines and leasing companies account for at least 10 per cent of Boeing's unfilled order book for the Max.

And the list of countries officially not deferring to the FAA includes Brazil:

Brazil, one of the few global regulators that mandated pilot training on the MCAS before allowing the Max to fly, said it continues to conduct "our own evaluations about the aircraft".

So Boeing's 737 Max crashes, and the FAA's complacency about them, have cost the regulator dearly. And there's no way for the agency to regain its authority. The US can't throw its weight around the way it once did.


Fred W , May 23, 2019 at 5:58 am

The problem is not the MCAS software which can certainly be reprogrammed, it is the aircraft itself that is unbalanced and unsafe. Boeing tried to be too clever, hoping that with covering software no aircrew would notice, and their criminal negligence has caught up with them.

Keep making 737 800NGs, and develop a replacement aircraft, otherwise you're stuffed. Why don't they get the message?

divadab , May 23, 2019 at 6:12 am

Because they think financial "engineering" is more important than actual engineering.

fajensen , May 23, 2019 at 7:05 am

Why don't they get the message?

Because Boeing has become a creature of The Money Pit . Congress will now have their backs forever and the regulators can go hang.

John Baker , May 23, 2019 at 7:45 am

Exactly! Software can do a lot of things for you, it can even temporarily mask a mechanical defect, but a workaround isn't a fix and in something as critical as an airplane, workarounds are unacceptable. I suspect even the MBAs are beginning to realize this.

marku52 , May 23, 2019 at 1:54 pm

I once worked on a HW/SW add on for an inkjet printer that was supposed to identify and correct missing nozzles that would cause a print defect. Occasionally the device would misfire (usually due to a hair or spec of dust on the sensor.)

It would then delete entire rows of nozzles causing horrible print defects.

As I pointed out to management, "Any safety device powerful enough to be useful is also going to be dangerous." The device was worse than the problem it was supposed to solve and was removed.

It's clear that without MCAS, these 2 planes would not have crashed.

Carolinian , May 23, 2019 at 7:52 am

the aircraft itself that is unbalanced and unsafe

And yet it has been flying for two years now with the only crashes quite likely tied to broken AOA sensors rather than the balance. To be sure we have every reason to distrust Boeing management at this point–particularly as they won't even admit that they made a mistake. On that basis perhaps all Boeing planes should be grounded. But Boeing does have a strong incentive to make sure there's not another crash because if there is they are finished.

Darius , May 23, 2019 at 12:03 pm

There's no denying that MCAS is a workaround for engines that don't fit the airplane. You don't need an engineering degree to see that's unacceptable.

Carolinian , May 23, 2019 at 12:20 pm

You need to read the serious reports including the Seattle Times investigation. And my reading of that series says that MCAS was a marketing workaround so Boeing could sell the Max as the same plane. The MCAS only kicks in when the airplane is in a near stall and for professional pilots that's supposed to almost never happen -- even if the plane pitches up more than previously on takeoff. If the Max was constantly stalling then we'd be hearing a lot more about it as all sorts of buzzers and verbal warnings and "stick shakers" happen during a stall.

In other words "common sense" also needs accurate information and if any of the above is incorrect then happy to be corrected.

Anon , May 23, 2019 at 1:07 pm

" MCAS was a marketing workaround so Boeing could sell the Max as the same plane."

That is exactly the problem. MCAS was NOT a marketing workaround for occasional aircraft instability. It was a a mild engineering workaround that they marketed to buyers of the 737 Max, so Boeing could make MORE MONEY.

Synoia , May 23, 2019 at 1:22 pm

Engineering v Marketing:

1. You can bullshit Management
2. You Can bullishit the Customer
3. You cannot bullshit the electrons.

Edward , May 23, 2019 at 6:12 am

I don't understand how Boeing can avoid at least using a second Angle of Attack sensor with MCAS. Will the MCAS at least be re-classified as a critical system? If so, doesn't that make a second sensor mandatory?

I tried making this comment yesterday in the Links but it never went through. I sometimes have problems making comments on NC. I used to be able to edit comments.

Carolinian , May 23, 2019 at 7:53 am

Using both sensors has been announced as part of the fix.

Edward , May 23, 2019 at 8:26 am

So there was a second sensor available and MCAS just wasn't using it? I think Boeing wanted a configuration for MCAS that didn't require new training for 737 pilots. Do you know if critical systems are required to have 2 or 3 sensors?

Carolinian , May 23, 2019 at 8:42 am

It was all talked about in the Seattle Times series which can be googled up or was linked here. Any part of the plane that can cause a crash is supposed to use redundant sensors but the MCAS wasn't so designated which surprised even some Boeing engineers. It could be this decision was simply a mistake due to management inattention rather than trying to save money by only using one of the two sensors.

The fact that Boeing won't come clean is their biggest mistake and violates the Tylenol precedent where you try to restore confidence above all else. From what I've read the current Boeing CEO did rise up through the engineering side of the company but came over from their Defense Dept business where mistakes are par for the course and the customer–the Pentagon–doesn't seem to care very much. See the Andrew Cockburn Harper's article that Jerri-lynn linked yesterday.

Edward , May 23, 2019 at 10:08 am

Peter Lemme writes:

https://www.satcom.guru/2019/03/aoa-vane-must-have-failed-boeing-fix.html

"For the first time, Boeing admits MCAS is an extension of Speed Trim, which I have long suspected, and why it was designed with a single input. Speed Trim is constantly applying stabilizer trim commands in manual flight. This masks MCAS trim commands. Further, MCAS trim commands are effectively a slowover and in the case of the Lion Air flights, intermittent.

These factors, combined with the flight deck effects from the high AoA value causing high workload, interfere with the expected human response. There has yet to be any acknowledgement of this, rather the opposite by ignoring it. The FAA repeatedly made the same assertion, the MCAS malfunction is easy to detect."

I think I read somewhere that Boeing was resisting altering MCAS to use two sensors because then 737 pilots would need new training.

Cockburn is also interviewed here: https://scotthorton.org/interviews/5-14-19-andrew-cockburn-on-the-military-industrial-virus/

Boeing used to have a rule that managers from the military part of the company were never transferred to the civilian side. Before becoming Boeing CEO, Muilenburg oversaw a pentagon program that wasted $20 billion before being cancelled.

Ian Perkins , May 23, 2019 at 10:35 am

"I think I read somewhere that Boeing was resisting altering MCAS to use two sensors because then 737 pilots would need new training." – me too. Two sensors would imply it was a critical piece of hardware, requiring pilot training, so they went with one.

Carolinian , May 23, 2019 at 12:22 pm

You'll have to say where you read that because I've not seen it. I don't think the Seattle Times stories said why two were not used–maybe just a mistake?

none , May 23, 2019 at 11:52 am

MCAS was considered non-critical because e.g. if it goes out all of a sudden, the pilot can fly the plane manually, they just have to control the pitch themselves. But for that, they need proper training and a way to turn the MCAS off.

GW , May 23, 2019 at 1:18 pm

A second sensor may not be enough. This system is of the highest criticality. Then there is the question of whether the sensor – which was never intended for direct control is good enough. Then there is the question of whether the sensor is mounted in a protected enough manner. Just think of bird strikes which tend to occur at a time when the sensor is most critical and proximity to ground is a given.

Then there is the question of using trim to do flight control. The several hundred RPMs of the trim wheel when active is imho. alone a safety no-go. And then think about sitting in a plane, not much distance to the ground and the pilots having to rewind under pressure what the automated system just added to their trim. The plane is rapidly gaining speed and after a not so high speed threshold the trim wheel becomes very hard or impossible to move.

And how do these scenarios interact with engine failure during take-off considering the forward mounted engines?

Synoia , May 23, 2019 at 1:53 pm

Simple financial equation : $70k max per passenger.

I believe those were the limits provided by the Warsaw convention agreed just after WW II. When flying, for a very small number of people was quite risky.

I can remember a Shower of Tomato Juice dropping from the ceiling of a plane over the Sahara Desert, me clapping and asking for a repeat performance!

Synoia , May 23, 2019 at 1:29 pm

Why are they mechanical sensors in this day and age, subject to bird shit, and bird strike, and ladder dings?

A spirit level glued (in three places, and with three level tubes) to the aircraft ceiling would work well. Aircraft have had artificial horizons port to starboard for decades. Why no artificial horizon device rotated through 90 degrees for front to back?

ChrisFromGeorgia , May 23, 2019 at 8:12 am

I think the best thing for all here would be for the US to just cut to the chase and bailout Boeing now.

Have the Fed buy up all the Max planes currently sitting in hangars, and have the FAA direct Boeing to turn them into scrap.

Any future orders would have to be cancelled. Fire the board and CEO and put in new one that will have a safety-first mandate. If the loss of revenue while re-engineering a future version of the 737 is severe enough to threaten Chapter 11, then do a GM-style bankruptcy or break up the company into "good co/bad co" and put all the rotten assets in the bad company and wind it down.

Problem solved!

Whoamolly , May 23, 2019 at 9:02 am

Why exactly should taxpayers bail out Boeing? Everything else sounds about right to me.

P S BAKER , May 23, 2019 at 10:04 am

Because it's too big to fail?

Doggrotter , May 23, 2019 at 10:59 am

In civilian aircraft here is only Boeing and Airbus, I can't see the US letting Boeing go out out of business for just this reason. Boeing's military side is safe obviously. If the USA was genuinely a capitalist Boeing would go under.

It's funny how the Commie chinks are better at developing industry the the US running dogs.

doug , May 23, 2019 at 10:34 am

Given the bank bailouts, exactly why would the board and CEO have to be fired? Bank dudes got a raise

PlutoniumKun , May 23, 2019 at 9:16 am

My guess is that the Chinese are waiting in the long grass – this is far too juicy a chance for them to strike at the US in retaliation for the tariffs for them to pass up.

They will wait until the FAA gives the green light before they say anything. If they refuse to certify it without a complete redesign, then it kills the MAX stone dead – not just in Asia, but everywhere as no leasing agent will touch it, and European budget airlines like Ryanair will also have to give it a pass as they look to Asia for 'resales' for their used aircraft. It would become too risky a purchase for anyone but exclusively US based airlines.

Carolinian , May 23, 2019 at 9:36 am

But wasn't there some discussion here that the Chinese need the planes and Airbus production is booked up into the future while Max planes are piling up on storage runways? Also such a move for trade war purposes and not provable safety purposes would kick off the trade war in earnest

PlutoniumKun , May 23, 2019 at 10:52 am

China wants rather than needs the planes. It has its own Comac brand and Airbus has a manufacturing plant in China. Its airline industry would survive a shortfall, it just means they'd be running older aircraft longer that they'd want. The damage to China would be minimal compared to what would be inflicted on the US.

Synoia , May 23, 2019 at 1:49 pm

The Chinese have lots of fast trains, which are much more convenient, and provide shorter end-t-end times for trips < 800km.

Airline trip:
Leave House: 3.5 hours before take off, fight time, Final destination: 3 hours after landing
Overhead 6.5 hours.
Flying at 300 mph (average), Car vs Plane vs High Speed Train

Effective speed door to door
1 hour flight:300/(6.5) = 61 mph.
2 hour flight:600/(7.5) = 80 mph.
3 hour flight:900/(8.5) = 106 mph (Limit of Car's effective speed).
4 hour flight:1200/(9.5) = 125 mph
5 hour flight:1500/(10.5) = 142 mph (Limit of Fast Train's effective speed)

That's why high speed trans are so popular in Europe and Japan and could be in the US.

Matthew G. Saroff , May 23, 2019 at 9:18 am

Given the nature of MCAS, there should be at least 3 AoA sensors (Airbus uses 4) and at least two separate and independent processors running different processors.

Ian Perkins , May 23, 2019 at 10:31 am

I was going to say much the same thing. The best a software fix can do is use data from the two existing sensors. Will foreign airlines and regulators be satisfied with that?

The Rev Kev , May 23, 2019 at 9:29 am

'The 737 Max situation has developed not necessarily to Boeing's advantage.' Hah! I like that. It's like the time that the Challenger Shuttle blew up on takeoff and a controller said 'Obviously a major malfunction'
This is all good information this. I was thinking about all the money that will have to be use to store those 737s, modify & upgrade them, re-certify them and then compensate the airlines for lost revenue. Hoo boy. At the very least it must be in the hundreds of millions. If the Europeans have three "prerequisite conditions" before certifying that plane, namely

EASA must approve and mandate any design changes by Boeing
EASA must complete an additional independent design review
737 Max flight crews must be "adequately trained"

Then that totally blows away the whole justification of the 737 MAX program. The idea of that program was to modify the 737 and tell airlines that it worked same as the old one and needed no training for the pilots and, by accepting the word of the FAA about its certification, the plane was ready to fly upon delivery. Now it is to be treated for what it is – a whole new plane redesign.
The biggest loser from this mess, apart from the dead that is, is the FAA. Instead of nailing their colours to the mast over the airworthiness of the 737 MAX , the FAA nailed their trousers to the mast instead which meant that they can no longer climb down. Their international status is now shot and there may be even more mistrust about sending black boxes to the US for decoding. You only have that in a no-trust situation. And you don't get trust back on this level except after years of hard work.

Carolinian , May 23, 2019 at 9:40 am

What? You think the FAA is going out of business? Distrust of the FAA may hurt the US airplane business but the US has ways to retaliate when it comes to Airbus and others.

Edward , May 23, 2019 at 10:52 am

"The biggest loser from this mess, apart from the dead that is, is the FAA."

What does it take to put the brakes on deregulation? Apparently, more then the 2008 financial crash. It seems like the U.S. will only relent on this when it is forced to with a gun to its head.

Marshall Auerback , May 23, 2019 at 11:47 am

'The 737 Max situation has developed not necessarily to Boeing's advantage.' I believe that is how Emperor Hirohito described the situation when he announced Japan's unconditional surrender to the Allied coalition.

As an aside, when these Boeing articles first started making their appearance in this blog (which was a very good thing), there was pushback from some readers in regard to the prevailing narrative. The implication was that the plane was fine and that this was a case of "pilot error". How odd that virtually none of the aviation authorities around the world view it in those simple terms.

flora , May 23, 2019 at 12:00 pm

Yes, that was the Emperor's description of the situation.

I'll offer this Milton Friedman quote for good measure of just how wrong Mr. Friedman was:

"Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government." – Milton Friedman

No need for regulations to protect public safety. That just gets in the way of the great market god, which is infallible /s

All this deregulation has degraded the "made in the USA" label to the point other governments now question its implied guaranty of safety and soundness. Hard to complain about "cheap Chinese imitations" when Boeing itself is only an imitation of its former self.

Carolinian , May 23, 2019 at 12:27 pm

Who said that? One of our commenters said that the pilots may have made some errors. That's not the same thing.

Boeing is of course to blame if their faulty software is at the root of the crashes. No faulty software, no crashes.

Ian Perkins , May 23, 2019 at 11:20 am

According to Satcom Guru, "Boeing has released a description of the MCAS related changes they are proposing.
1) Flight control system will now compare inputs from both AOA sensors. If the sensors disagree by 5.5 degrees or more with the flaps retracted, MCAS will not activate."
Since MCAS is there because of the Max's tendency to go nose up and stall, won't this mean that if one of the two sensors fails, MCAS won't kick in and the plane may try to go nose up and stall?
Any pilots out there to clarify?
https://www.satcom.guru/2019/03/aoa-vane-must-have-failed-boeing-fix.html

Edward , May 23, 2019 at 11:35 am

I posed this question on an earlier thread and was told by 737 Pilot that

https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2019/05/how-deep-is-boeings-hole.html#comment-3152453

"As a general rule, commercial pilots try not to get anywhere near a stall.

There are circumstances that either from inattention or some environmental effect like windshear, the aircraft may get dangerously close to a stall, but these are decidedly rare events. Assuming that MCAS was designed right in the first place, it is entirely possible that the entire MAX fleet could operate for years before MCAS was ever needed.

There are numerous systems on any commercial aircraft that can malfunction. When that happens, we execute the appropriate procedures and either continue the flight to destination or land short at a suitable airport. In either case, the procedure will provide guidance on any additional precautions that should be taken. When the MAX is returned to service, I suspect that we will have a new non-normal procedure that will provide this guidance. Offhand, it will probably just advise pilots to exercise greater diligence and/or restrict the flight envelope."

MCAS may not be needed at all. Boeing's main motivation for installing this system may been to avoid a training requirement for 737 pilots.

Ian Perkins , May 23, 2019 at 12:28 pm

Pilots may "try not to get anywhere near a stall", but Max pilots were given 2 hours on an iPad and told it behaved like previous 737s. Thus, might they have found themselves unexpectedly going nose up and stalling without MCAS?

Carolinian , May 23, 2019 at 1:08 pm

Apparently the stall tendency is only when the engines are at full power. As anyone who's ever taken a flight knows, that's when you hear those engines start to roar as the plane moves down the runway on takeoff. One of the pilots is always at the controls and manually flying the plane as it lifts off. Also the flaps are down so the MCAS was not even able to come on until fully airborne (as designed it only works when the flaps are up and above 1000 ft). Meanwhile at cruising altitude the autopilot is robotically flying the plane unless there is turbulence or some such and therefore MCAS is irrelevant. When the plane lands the pilot(s) are once again manually flying the plane in case there's an emergency or the airplane has to go around to avoid an obstruction on the runway. And when descending it is slowing down, not speeding up so presumably MCAS is once again irrelevant.

Note in the Edward comment above the result should the now two AOA sensors disagree is to simply turn off the MCAS. You wonder why they didn't simply remove MCAS as the "fix."

JBird4049 , May 23, 2019 at 1:37 pm

Note in the Edward comment above the result should the now two AOA sensors disagree is to simply turn off the MCAS. You wonder why they didn't simply remove MCAS as the "fix."

The death of common sense? Boeing playbook seems to consist of only delay, evade, deny, lie, and if all else fails spew endless amount of bovine excrement over everything with the goal being to make as much money as possible right now .

Stopping, stepping back, and re-evaluating what they were doing would have required some self-awareness, at least a shred of responsibility and a conscience, plus a something beside the next quarter's pay and bonus amounts. It is as they were addicted to money, and like most addicts, could only think on how to get their next ever increasing fix. That is how most addicts destroy themselves by losing any sense of how their actions are affecting others, or worse, actively denying it to others. It is one think to mess up, and be destructive, for we are all human, but it is quite another to almost mindlessly destroy others for that damn fix. Boeing is not making mistakes. It is betraying everyone else.

[May 17, 2019] Shareholder Capitalism, the Military, and the Beginning of the End for Boeing

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Like many of its Wall Street counterparts, Boeing also used complexity as a mechanism to obfuscate and conceal activity that is incompetent, nefarious and/or harmful to not only the corporation itself but to society as a whole (instead of complexity being a benign byproduct of a move up the technology curve). ..."
"... The economists who built on Friedman's work, along with increasingly aggressive institutional investors, devised solutions to ensure the primacy of enhancing shareholder value, via the advocacy of hostile takeovers, the promotion of massive stock buybacks or repurchases (which increased the stock value), higher dividend payouts and, most importantly, the introduction of stock-based pay for top executives in order to align their interests to those of the shareholders. These ideas were influenced by the idea that corporate efficiency and profitability were impinged upon by archaic regulation and unionization, which, according to the theory, precluded the ability to compete globally. ..."
"... "Return on Net Assets" (RONA) forms a key part of the shareholder capitalism doctrine. ..."
"... If the choice is between putting a million bucks into new factory machinery or returning it to shareholders, say, via dividend payments, the latter is the optimal way to go because in theory it means higher net returns accruing to the shareholders (as the "owners" of the company), implicitly assuming that they can make better use of that money than the company itself can. ..."
"... It is an absurd conceit to believe that a dilettante portfolio manager is in a better position than an aviation engineer to gauge whether corporate investment in fixed assets will generate productivity gains well north of the expected return for the cash distributed to the shareholders. But such is the perverse fantasy embedded in the myth of shareholder capitalism ..."
"... When real engineering clashes with financial engineering, the damage takes the form of a geographically disparate and demoralized workforce: The factory-floor denominator goes down. Workers' wages are depressed, testing and quality assurance are curtailed. ..."
May 17, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the corresponding end of the Soviet Empire gave the fullest impetus imaginable to the forces of globalized capitalism, and correspondingly unfettered access to the world's cheapest labor. What was not to like about that? It afforded multinational corporations vastly expanded opportunities to fatten their profit margins and increase the bottom line with seemingly no risk posed to their business model.

Or so it appeared. In 2000, aerospace engineer L.J. Hart-Smith's remarkable paper, sardonically titled "Out-Sourced Profits – The Cornerstone of Successful Subcontracting," laid out the case against several business practices of Hart-Smith's previous employer, McDonnell Douglas, which had incautiously ridden the wave of outsourcing when it merged with the author's new employer, Boeing. Hart-Smith's intention in telling his story was a cautionary one for the newly combined Boeing, lest it follow its then recent acquisition down the same disastrous path.

Of the manifold points and issues identified by Hart-Smith, there is one that stands out as the most compelling in terms of understanding the current crisis enveloping Boeing: The embrace of the metric "Return on Net Assets" (RONA). When combined with the relentless pursuit of cost reduction (via offshoring), RONA taken to the extreme can undermine overall safety standards.

Related to this problem is the intentional and unnecessary use of complexity as an instrument of propaganda. Like many of its Wall Street counterparts, Boeing also used complexity as a mechanism to obfuscate and conceal activity that is incompetent, nefarious and/or harmful to not only the corporation itself but to society as a whole (instead of complexity being a benign byproduct of a move up the technology curve).

All of these pernicious concepts are branches of the same poisoned tree: " shareholder capitalism ":

[A] notion best epitomized by Milton Friedman that the only social responsibility of a corporation is to increase its profits, laying the groundwork for the idea that shareholders, being the owners and the main risk-bearing participants, ought therefore to receive the biggest rewards. Profits therefore should be generated first and foremost with a view toward maximizing the interests of shareholders, not the executives or managers who (according to the theory) were spending too much of their time, and the shareholders' money, worrying about employees, customers, and the community at large. The economists who built on Friedman's work, along with increasingly aggressive institutional investors, devised solutions to ensure the primacy of enhancing shareholder value, via the advocacy of hostile takeovers, the promotion of massive stock buybacks or repurchases (which increased the stock value), higher dividend payouts and, most importantly, the introduction of stock-based pay for top executives in order to align their interests to those of the shareholders. These ideas were influenced by the idea that corporate efficiency and profitability were impinged upon by archaic regulation and unionization, which, according to the theory, precluded the ability to compete globally.

"Return on Net Assets" (RONA) forms a key part of the shareholder capitalism doctrine. In essence, it means maximizing the returns of those dollars deployed in the operation of the business. Applied to a corporation, it comes down to this: If the choice is between putting a million bucks into new factory machinery or returning it to shareholders, say, via dividend payments, the latter is the optimal way to go because in theory it means higher net returns accruing to the shareholders (as the "owners" of the company), implicitly assuming that they can make better use of that money than the company itself can.

It is an absurd conceit to believe that a dilettante portfolio manager is in a better position than an aviation engineer to gauge whether corporate investment in fixed assets will generate productivity gains well north of the expected return for the cash distributed to the shareholders. But such is the perverse fantasy embedded in the myth of shareholder capitalism.

Engineering reality, however, is far more complicated than what is outlined in university MBA textbooks. For corporations like McDonnell Douglas, for example, RONA was used not as a way to prioritize new investment in the corporation but rather to justify disinvestment in the corporation. This disinvestment ultimately degraded the company's underlying profitability and the quality of its planes (which is one of the reasons the Pentagon helped to broker the merger with Boeing; in another perverse echo of the 2008 financial disaster, it was a politically engineered bailout).

RONA in Practice

When real engineering clashes with financial engineering, the damage takes the form of a geographically disparate and demoralized workforce: The factory-floor denominator goes down. Workers' wages are depressed, testing and quality assurance are curtailed. Productivity is diminished, even as labor-saving technologies are introduced. Precision machinery is sold off and replaced by inferior, but cheaper, machines. Engineering quality deteriorates. And the upshot is that a reliable plane like Boeing's 737, which had been a tried and true money-spinner with an impressive safety record since 1967, becomes a high-tech death trap.

The drive toward efficiency is translated into a drive to do more with less. Get more out of workers while paying them less. Make more parts with fewer machines. Outsourcing is viewed as a way to release capital by transferring investment from skilled domestic human capital to offshore entities not imbued with the same talents, corporate culture and dedication to quality. The benefits to the bottom line are temporary; the long-term pathologies become embedded as the company's market share begins to shrink, as the airlines search for less shoddy alternatives.

You must do one more thing if you are a Boeing director: you must erect barriers to bad news, because there is nothing that bursts a magic bubble faster than reality, particularly if it's bad reality.

The illusion that Boeing sought to perpetuate was that it continued to produce the same thing it had produced for decades: namely, a safe, reliable, quality airplane. But it was doing so with a production apparatus that was stripped, for cost reasons, of many of the means necessary to make good aircraft. So while the wine still came in a bottle signifying Premier Cru quality, and still carried the same price, someone had poured out the contents and replaced them with cheap plonk.

And that has become remarkably easy to do in aviation. Because Boeing is no longer subject to proper independent regulatory scrutiny. This is what happens when you're allowed to " self-certify" your own airplane , as the Washington Post described: "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."

This is a recipe for disaster. Boeing relentlessly cut costs, it outsourced across the globe to workforces that knew nothing about aviation or aviation's safety culture. It sent things everywhere on one criteria and one criteria only: lower the denominator. Make it the same, but cheaper. And then self-certify the plane, so that nobody, including the FAA, was ever the wiser.

Boeing also greased the wheels in Washington to ensure the continuation of this convenient state of regulatory affairs for the company. According to OpenSecrets.org , Boeing and its affiliates spent $15,120,000 in lobbying expenses in 2018, after spending, $16,740,000 in 2017 (along with a further $4,551,078 in 2018 political contributions, which placed the company 82nd out of a total of 19,087 contributors). Looking back at these figures over the past four elections (congressional and presidential) since 2012, these numbers represent fairly typical spending sums for the company.

But clever financial engineering, extensive political lobbying and self-certification can't perpetually hold back the effects of shoddy engineering. One of the sad byproducts of the FAA's acquiescence to "self-certification" is how many things fall through the cracks so easily.

[May 17, 2019] Gregory Travis and Marshall Auerback: Anatomy of a Disaster – Why Boeing Should Never Make Another Airplane, Again

May 17, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Yves here. Even thought this critique of Boeing might seem a bit .bloodthirsty Boeing does have blood on its hands and has been astonishingly unrepentant about it.

Given the fact that Boeing is part of a duopoly of makers of large planes, and there is no plausible way that Airbus could take up the new orders slack, predictions of its demise would seem to be premature. But AIG was widely viewed as indomitable until it started its nosedive.

Another way to return Boeing to the community of adequately-behaved major corporations would be a housecleaning of its executive ranks, starting the the CEO, and the board, along with board reforms such as the creation of a safety subcommittee with clout. But the odds of anything like that happening look remote.

Why might Boeing be at much greater risk of serious trouble than it now appears? Huawei. China likely perceives that the US is engaging in hostage-taking, both close to literally with the extradition request for the CEO's daughter, Meng Wanzhou, and the Trump Administration moving towards a blacklisting yesterday. From the Financial Times :

The White House and US Department of Commerce took steps on Wednesday night that would in effect ban Huawei from selling technology into the American market, and could also prevent it from buying semiconductors from suppliers including Qualcomm in the US that are crucial for its production .

The US Department of Commerce said it would put Huawei on its so-called Entity List, meaning that the American companies will have to obtain a licence from the US government to sell technology to Huawei. At the same time, US president Donald Trump signed an executive order declaring the US telecoms sector faced a "national emergency" -- giving the commerce department the power to "prohibit transactions posing an unacceptable risk" to national security .

Paul Triolo, a technology policy expert at Eurasia Group, a risk consultancy, said it was a "huge development" that would not only hurt the Chinese company but also have an impact on global supply chains involving US companies such as Intel, Microsoft and Oracle.

"The US has basically openly declared it is willing to engage in a full-fledged technology war with China," he said.

Huawei has few alternatives for critical semiconductors to Qualcomm, which would likely be denied an export license if the US follows through on its threat of putting Huawei on the "Entity List" (the second most stringent category, but still sufficient for the US to bar licensing). One is Murata, but Japan has joined the US ban on Huawei 5G products, and would presumably fall in line if the US were to ask Japan to tell Murata not to sell semiconductors to Huawei.

The advantages of China going after Boeing, as opposed to making life miserable for US technology companies, would be considerable. Targeting, say, Microsoft would be an obvious tit for tat. By contrast, China was the first country to ground the 737 Max, and its judgement was confirmed by other airline regulators and eventually the FAA. China does not have a credible competitor to Boeing, so it could wrap continued denial of certification of the 737 Max in the mantle of being pro-safety, even if independent parties suspected this was a secondary motive.

On top of that, Ethiopian Air's forceful criticism of the 737 Max gives China air cover. Unlike Lion Air, which is widely seen as a questionable operator, readers who fly emerging economy carriers give Ethiopian Air high marks for competence and safety. One even wrote, "I have flown Ethiopian Air. It's certainly far better than Irish-owned and operated Ryan Airlines (even though the latter has white pilots with nice Irish accents)."

Chinese interests have made large investments many countries in Africa, so it's conceivable it could get other countries on the continent to follow its lead. Admittedly, China plus those countries collectively may not be large enough to do considerable damage to Boeing. But this action would break the hegemony of the FAA as certifier for US manufacturers, and that could prove crippling in the long run.

Another issue that hasn't gotten the attention it warrants is that Boeing appears to lack the stringent software development protocols necessary for "fly by wire" operations. Boeing historically has relied on pilots being able to reassert control over automated functions'; Airbus has "fly by wire" systems as far more prominent and accordingly the expectation and ability of pilots to override these systems is lower.

However, many articles noted that MCAS took the 737 further into a fly-by-wire philosophy than it had been before. Yet Boeing was astonishingly lax, having only two angle of attack sensors, of which only one would be providing input to MCAS, and then on an arbitrary-seeming basis.

By contrast, the Airbus philosophy stresses redundancy, not only in hardware -- they use not three but four angle of attack sensors -- but in software, and even software development. "Two or more independent flight control computing systems are installed using different types of microprocessors and software written in different languages by different development teams" and verified using formal methods (" Approaches to Assure Safety in Fly-By-Wire Systems: Airbus Vs. Boeing ").

By Gregory Travis, a writer, a software executive, a pilot, and an aircraft owner who has logged more than 2,000 hours of flying time, ranging from gliders to a Boeing 757 (as a full-motion simulator) and Marshall Auerback, a market analyst and commentator. Produced by Economy for All , a project of the Independent Media Institute

"If we fly [the Boeing 737] again, we'll be the last airline to fly them again," said Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines.

Almost immediately after the takeoff of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, the first signs of trouble appeared . The Boeing 737's two angle of attack indicators, one on either side of the aircraft, gave inconsistent readings. The left indicator suddenly recorded a dangerous angle of attack of 36 degrees, while the right one showed a benign 11 degrees.

In response to the angle of attack from the left side, the stick shaker on the captain's side (left) activated. The stick shaker vibrated the pilot's control column to warn of an impending stall. The co-pilot's column, however, did not vibrate as it was activated from the right-side angle of attack sensor. This was the first indication to the pilots that the angle of attack sensors disagreed with one another.

In less than a second, after going from 36 degrees, the pilot's left-hand angle of attack (AOA) sensor suddenly jumped to 75 degrees of angle of attack. If it were actually true that the aircraft pitched up that rapidly, the airframe would have broken apart.

It was not true, however. The sensor was faulty. Yet the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) computer software did not disregard this obviously incorrect reading.

Six seconds later, the heater on the left-hand side AOA sensor changed state. Angle of attack sensors are particularly susceptible to malfunction when water from rain or a recent airplane washing gets into their guts. To prevent this, they are fitted with ice-melting heaters.

Two minutes after takeoff, the captain called for the airplane's flaps to be retracted. Because the 737's MCAS function does not activate until the flaps are retracted, the captain has unconsciously summoned his, and his passengers', executioner.

Two minutes and 15 seconds after takeoff had passed. Because it was only reading the faulty left-hand AOA sensor and because that sensor was indicating a dangerous stall, the MCAS software activated for 10 seconds -- spinning the trim wheels 46 revolutions -- and pushed the 737's nose toward the ground.

Ten seconds later, the pilots disabled MCAS by throwing the cutout switches. Next, they attempted to "roll back" those 46 revolutions manually but found that the aerodynamic forces were so great that the trim wheels could not be moved back by hand. Meanwhile, the captain asked his first officer to help him hold the control column back as the nose-down force commanded by MCAS was overwhelming his strength.

In desperation, they turned the trim cutoff switch back "on" so that they could use the electric motor to turn the trim wheel, which they could not move by hand. They were successful for a moment at un-winding it, but MCAS rapidly reactivated and drove the trim back nose-down. The trim wheels were rotating nearly 300 RPM, in the wrong direction, under MCAS command.

The pilots were helpless. The trim reached its nose-down stop, and the control column force necessary to keep the plane level overwhelmed the pilots. The plane eventually plunged into the ground at a 40-degree angle while traveling nearly 600 miles per hour , killing everybody on board.

This mishap is one of the most tragic illustrations of Boeing's decline. It boggles the mind to consider how these issues escaped regulatory review and how the aircraft were deemed airworthy. This could only happen in an industry afflicted by a wholesale collapse of regulation and oversight.

Is the Boeing company even capable of building safe commercial airliners any longer? And should we expect to see the fatally flawed 737 MAX 8 return to service? In regard to the latter, no less than the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines has just said no. The evidence seems to indicate that public-sector regulatory oversight is incapable of reviewing manufacturers' designs and ascertaining their airworthiness.

In short, it looks like the system has collapsed.

Shareholder Capitalism, the Military, and the Beginning of the End for Boeing

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the corresponding end of the Soviet Empire gave the fullest impetus imaginable to the forces of globalized capitalism, and correspondingly unfettered access to the world's cheapest labor. What was not to like about that? It afforded multinational corporations vastly expanded opportunities to fatten their profit margins and increase the bottom line with seemingly no risk posed to their business model.

Or so it appeared. In 2000, aerospace engineer L.J. Hart-Smith's remarkable paper, sardonically titled "Out-Sourced Profits – The Cornerstone of Successful Subcontracting," laid out the case against several business practices of Hart-Smith's previous employer, McDonnell Douglas, which had incautiously ridden the wave of outsourcing when it merged with the author's new employer, Boeing. Hart-Smith's intention in telling his story was a cautionary one for the newly combined Boeing, lest it follow its then recent acquisition down the same disastrous path.

Of the manifold points and issues identified by Hart-Smith, there is one that stands out as the most compelling in terms of understanding the current crisis enveloping Boeing: The embrace of the metric "Return on Net Assets" (RONA). When combined with the relentless pursuit of cost reduction (via offshoring), RONA taken to the extreme can undermine overall safety standards.

Related to this problem is the intentional and unnecessary use of complexity as an instrument of propaganda. Like many of its Wall Street counterparts, Boeing also used complexity as a mechanism to obfuscate and conceal activity that is incompetent, nefarious and/or harmful to not only the corporation itself but to society as a whole (instead of complexity being a benign byproduct of a move up the technology curve).

All of these pernicious concepts are branches of the same poisoned tree: " shareholder capitalism ":

[A] notion best epitomized by Milton Friedman that the only social responsibility of a corporation is to increase its profits, laying the groundwork for the idea that shareholders, being the owners and the main risk-bearing participants, ought therefore to receive the biggest rewards. Profits therefore should be generated first and foremost with a view toward maximizing the interests of shareholders, not the executives or managers who (according to the theory) were spending too much of their time, and the shareholders' money, worrying about employees, customers, and the community at large. The economists who built on Friedman's work, along with increasingly aggressive institutional investors, devised solutions to ensure the primacy of enhancing shareholder value, via the advocacy of hostile takeovers, the promotion of massive stock buybacks or repurchases (which increased the stock value), higher dividend payouts and, most importantly, the introduction of stock-based pay for top executives in order to align their interests to those of the shareholders. These ideas were influenced by the idea that corporate efficiency and profitability were impinged upon by archaic regulation and unionization, which, according to the theory, precluded the ability to compete globally.

"Return on Net Assets" (RONA) forms a key part of the shareholder capitalism doctrine. In essence, it means maximizing the returns of those dollars deployed in the operation of the business. Applied to a corporation, it comes down to this: If the choice is between putting a million bucks into new factory machinery or returning it to shareholders, say, via dividend payments, the latter is the optimal way to go because in theory it means higher net returns accruing to the shareholders (as the "owners" of the company), implicitly assuming that they can make better use of that money than the company itself can. It is an absurd conceit to believe that a dilettante portfolio manager is in a better position than an aviation engineer to gauge whether corporate investment in fixed assets will generate productivity gains well north of the expected return for the cash distributed to the shareholders. But such is the perverse fantasy embedded in the myth of shareholder capitalism.

Engineering reality, however, is far more complicated than what is outlined in university MBA textbooks. For corporations like McDonnell Douglas, for example, RONA was used not as a way to prioritize new investment in the corporation but rather to justify disinvestment in the corporation. This disinvestment ultimately degraded the company's underlying profitability and the quality of its planes (which is one of the reasons the Pentagon helped to broker the merger with Boeing; in another perverse echo of the 2008 financial disaster, it was a politically engineered bailout).

RONA in Practice

When real engineering clashes with financial engineering, the damage takes the form of a geographically disparate and demoralized workforce: The factory-floor denominator goes down. Workers' wages are depressed, testing and quality assurance are curtailed. Productivity is diminished, even as labor-saving technologies are introduced. Precision machinery is sold off and replaced by inferior, but cheaper, machines. Engineering quality deteriorates. And the upshot is that a reliable plane like Boeing's 737, which had been a tried and true money-spinner with an impressive safety record since 1967, becomes a high-tech death trap.

The drive toward efficiency is translated into a drive to do more with less. Get more out of workers while paying them less. Make more parts with fewer machines. Outsourcing is viewed as a way to release capital by transferring investment from skilled domestic human capital to offshore entities not imbued with the same talents, corporate culture and dedication to quality. The benefits to the bottom line are temporary; the long-term pathologies become embedded as the company's market share begins to shrink, as the airlines search for less shoddy alternatives.

You must do one more thing if you are a Boeing director: you must erect barriers to bad news, because there is nothing that bursts a magic bubble faster than reality, particularly if it's bad reality.

The illusion that Boeing sought to perpetuate was that it continued to produce the same thing it had produced for decades: namely, a safe, reliable, quality airplane. But it was doing so with a production apparatus that was stripped, for cost reasons, of many of the means necessary to make good aircraft. So while the wine still came in a bottle signifying Premier Cru quality, and still carried the same price, someone had poured out the contents and replaced them with cheap plonk.

And that has become remarkably easy to do in aviation. Because Boeing is no longer subject to proper independent regulatory scrutiny. This is what happens when you're allowed to " self-certify" your own airplane , as the Washington Post described: "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."

This is a recipe for disaster. Boeing relentlessly cut costs, it outsourced across the globe to workforces that knew nothing about aviation or aviation's safety culture. It sent things everywhere on one criteria and one criteria only: lower the denominator. Make it the same, but cheaper. And then self-certify the plane, so that nobody, including the FAA, was ever the wiser.

Boeing also greased the wheels in Washington to ensure the continuation of this convenient state of regulatory affairs for the company. According to OpenSecrets.org , Boeing and its affiliates spent $15,120,000 in lobbying expenses in 2018, after spending, $16,740,000 in 2017 (along with a further $4,551,078 in 2018 political contributions, which placed the company 82nd out of a total of 19,087 contributors). Looking back at these figures over the past four elections (congressional and presidential) since 2012, these numbers represent fairly typical spending sums for the company.

But clever financial engineering, extensive political lobbying and self-certification can't perpetually hold back the effects of shoddy engineering. One of the sad byproducts of the FAA's acquiescence to "self-certification" is how many things fall through the cracks so easily.

AOA: A Recipe for Disaster

You can see this problem in regard to the AOA sensors in the Boeing 737 aircraft. Historically, these sensors have not been a particularly important metric in regard to commercial flying done by human pilots. Boeing neither put much effort into the AOA system, nor was it regarded as a particularly crucial safety consideration. This is why taking off with inoperative AOA heaters on a Boeing airplane like the 737 was never a big deal -- the worst consequence would be an annoying activation of the stick shaker when it was clear the activation was erroneous.

However, AOA sensors become very important in computer-controlled ("fly by wire") aircraft, which is why the A320 has three AOA sensors and why having heaters working on two of the three is an airworthiness requirement.

When Boeing put MCAS on the new Max 8 737, it did make the AOA sensor a first-line flight-critical item. But it never went back and revised the Master Minimum Equipment List (MMEL) to reflect the AOA system's new importance. And this didn't get caught by the FAA because, as noted earlier, they were allowing Boeing to self-certify under the new rules. There wasn't an independent set of eyes to catch the oversight.

The Cost of Building a Safe Airplane

Since these decisions were largely governed by bottom line considerations , what would it take to quantify the financial implications to Boeing of fielding a "good" 737 MAX? "Good" here means a version of the 737 plane that actually addressed the problems of the current MAX 8 model, whose aerodynamic instability led Boeing to the MCAS software Band-Aid "fix" (a software "solution" that supposedly addressed the problems thrown up by the engine's modifications, but which in reality led to the tragic crashes in Indonesia and Africa).

Making a good 737 MAX would have involved three things:

Fundamental changes to the 737 airframe to raise its height to fit the larger engines. A new aircraft type certificate, reflecting and acknowledging the changes. Costs of training pilots for what is, essentially, a new aircraft.

Let's estimate the total cost of a-c, above, as $5 billion. That's $5 billion more to make a "good" 737 MAX vs. the current "bad" 737 MAX.

These calculations reveal that, deploying the shortcuts that Boeing actually adopted, the "bad" 737 design yielded Boeing a profit margin of 21 percent per aircraft sold. By contrast, a "good" design, which properly incorporated better safety features, yielded a profit of 19 percent per aircraft. (At least according to our calculations.)

That doesn't sound like that much of a decrease. In fact, a 19 percent profit margin, per airplane, sounds pretty good -- especially for an aircraft that no longer has a greater-than-average propensity to dive for the dirt.

But it represents a 2 percent reduction in profit margins. When you evaluate that against the fact that the 737 program accounts for nearly half of all of Boeing's profits and that the wizards astride the corporation have told Wall Street that they can conjure 1 percent to 1.5 percent annual profit increases, company-wide, the actions undertaken by Boeing's senior management begin to make sense.

Boeing's MCAS wizardry, to cast a spell upon the 737 MAX's aerodynamic instability, then, bears all the forensic fingerprints of a panic. It was a cheap financial fix designed to safeguard a 21 percent profit margin. This despite the fact that designing the 737 properly would still have yielded substantial profits. True, Boeing wouldn't have met its profit forecasts, which may have affected the stock price. But we would have avoided a situation whereby Boeing played the equivalent of Russian roulette with the airlines and, by extension, the passengers on those planes.

And here's the likely fallout from this putrid exercise in greed: Boeing is probably done as a credible manufacturing concern. Its credibility has been shattered as the company has repeatedly failed to get out in front of the problem and even today keeps finding itself reacting to yet more damaging disclosures.

It's somewhat difficult to impute motives, but Boeing's upper management arrogantly seems to be making an implicit assumption that it can overcome this problem, on the basis that the flying public has very few alternatives to its increasingly flawed products. That may be true in the immediate short term, but surely Airbus and future competitors out of Asia are licking their proverbial chops thanks to the magnitude of the incompetence displayed here by Boeing.

Ironically, Boeing's increasing resort to offshoring is foaming the runway (pun intended) for its future competitors. For some time now, the company has been engaged in instructing its future competition on how to build commercial airliners. The Chinese have been gobbling up U.S. aviation capacity, everything from Teledyne Continental Motors to Cirrus aircraft, at a breakneck pace. And, like a play out of Hart-Smith's paper on what not to do, Boeing has been teaching the Chinese, in China, how to build commercial airliners.

For students of history, the irony of the capitalists having actually sold the communists the rope with which to hang themselves is, frankly, too much to bear. But the Chinese, like the Airbus consortium, can afford to take a long-term strategic view that a company captured by the disease of shareholder capitalism like Boeing clearly cannot. In China, the planes will be built domestically, and will not be subject to the arbitrary dictates of private portfolio managers; they will not be constrained by strategies that seem largely to be focused on meeting (or beating) an arbitrary quarterly earnings per share figure.

Boeing has no inherent capacity to plan for the future nor is the company's leadership compensated for their strategic vision. Their executives are tactically compensated on the basis of the annual gyrations of the stock price, which constrains the ability to take the long-term risks and investment, much less evince concerns about engineering and safety that are a unique requirement of airliner building. They should be worried more about facing manslaughter charges. The negligence has become even worse since the 2005 regulatory reform that handed all inspection and certification of Boeing's airplanes over to Boeing itself. It was not hard to predict the sad outcome of that denouement: a failed 787 Dreamliner program and, now, a 737 MAX 8 plane with nothing to show but bodies strewn across the desert and beneath the sea.


PlutoniumKun , May 17, 2019 at 5:14 am

Just a point on alternatives to Boeing – there is one alternative 'type' that airlines can choose, and can make sense when oil prices are low – that's to keep older aircraft in the air longer. Most airliners are still fully airworthy and have plenty of air miles in them when they are retired – the reason for retiring and replacing them is that the annualised costs of a new aircraft are usually lower. Even independently of this crash, a number of airlines over the past few years, notably, Ryanair, have slowed down their replacement rate – I'm not sure the reason, although I would guess its that low fuel prices mean the most efficient new models don't pay for themselves on short haul routes.

So the supply bottleneck may not be as severe as everyone thinks, airlines may be willing to hold off for a few years until Airbus can step up or Sukhoi/Tupolev/Mitsubishi/Embraer or Comac start producing competitive products (although I must admit I'd be very worried about flying any of those aircraft if political pressure is on the manufacturers to rush into production, this is precisely what seems to have screwed the Sukhoi Superjet).

I think Yves is quite right that Boeing is a nice fat target for the Chinese. Airbus has long links in China, much longer than Boeing, so could well be working behind the scenes to encourage this. And for the Chinese, the fact that hitting Boeing would also be a blow to the Japanese (who are major subcontractors to Boeing) would be the cherry on top of the cake. And it can't hurt the prospects of Comac either.

Just one point on this:

On top of that, Ethiopian Air's forceful criticism of the 737 Max gives China air cover. Unlike Lion Air, which is widely seen as a questionable operator, readers who fly emerging economy carriers give Ethiopian Air high marks for competence and safety. One even wrote, "I have flown Ethiopian Air. It's certainly far better than Irish-owned and operated Ryan Airlines (even though the latter has white pilots with nice Irish accents)."

Much as I loath Ryanair and everything they stand for (I refuse to use their flights, even when cheaper/faster than alternatives), they do have an impeccable safety record. In terms of service, you can't really compare a national carrier like Ethiopian Air to a budget short haul operator like Ryanair.

EVM , May 17, 2019 at 12:11 pm

Put this up in today "Link's", but seems more relevant here: "Ethiopian pilots raised safety concerns years before fatal crash, records show"

JDM , May 17, 2019 at 12:56 pm

Interesting article. This part was eye-opening:

One pilot accused the airline of employing flight simulator trainers that are not knowledgeable about "aircraft systems, Boeing procedures, or company procedures," and failing to follow a syllabus for a pilot training course.

"Across the board, 737, 767 [and] 777 [flight simulator] instructors not knowledgeable about the aircraft's systems, Boeing procedures, or company procedures," the pilot alleged in the complaint. "Overall, [Ethiopian Airlines] offers substandard training compared to industry norms," the pilot wrote.

The pilot also criticized Ethiopian Airlines' coordination on specific flights, calling its dispatch office "a disgrace" and taking the airline to task for apparent safety oversights.

"Crews never get accurate flight plans, fuel loads, latest weather or up to date information," the pilot alleged.

The pilot also noted that "non-normal checklists in the cockpit are not kept current, including complete omission of certain checklists," referring to documents that instruct pilots on how to respond to "non-normal" equipment behaviors that can become dangerous.

The pilot also harshly criticized the airline's management style, alleging that a pressure to meet deadlines sometimes led flight crews to overlook maintenance requirements.

"If a scheduled flight pushes back due to maintenance, mechanics are punished with a reduction in salary," the pilot wrote. "Leadership style of the company is fear based. This permeates all aspects of the operation and all departments. Nobody wants to be held accountable. Misunderstandings, conflicts, or errors are handled through punishment."

The pilot said the FAA should intervene. The agency regularly evaluates whether foreign countries meet U.S. standards for airline oversight, and has the authority to revoke authorizations given to specific countries.

"It's the duty and moral responsibility of ICAO, the FAA and JCAB to assure this airline is fully competent and compliant before allowing them to expand and continue their international operations," the pilot wrote. "The traveling public deserves much safer air transport. Essentially, [Ethiopian Airlines] doesn't have the infrastructure to support the giant influx of 787′s, A350′s, and 737Max's on order. Safety is being sacrificed for expansion and profit margin."

EVM , May 17, 2019 at 3:48 pm

Also found this one, plane crashed, 90 dead. Bit dated, but similarities are striking . Ethiopian 302 Accident Summary. A Boeing 737-8AS(WL) passenger jet, registered ET-ANB, was destroyed in an accident 6 km southwest off Beirut International Airport (BEY), Lebanon. All 82 passengers and eight crew members were killed.

PROBABLE CAUSES:

1- The flight crew's mismanagement of the aircraft's speed, altitude, headings and attitude through inconsistent flight control inputs resulting in a loss of control.
2- The flight crew failure to abide by CRM principles of mutual support and calling deviations hindered any timely intervention and correction.

CONTRIBUTING FACTORS:

1- The manipulation of the flight controls by the flight crew in an ineffective manner resulted in the aircraft undesired behavior and increased the level of stress of the pilots.
2- The aircraft being out of trim for most of the flight directly increased the workload on the pilot and made his control of the aircraft more demanding.
3- The prevailing weather conditions at night most probably resulted in spatial disorientation to the flight crew and lead to loss of situational awareness.
4- The relative inexperience of the Flight Crew on type combined with their unfamiliarity with the airport contributed, most likely, to increase the Flight Crew workload and stress.
5- The consecutive flying (188 hours in 51 days) on a new type with the absolute minimum rest could have likely resulted in a chronic fatigue affecting the captain's performance.
6- The heavy meal discussed by the crew prior to take-off has affected their quality of sleep prior to that flight.
7- The aircraft 11 bank angle aural warnings, 2 stalls and final spiral dive contributed in the increase of the crew workload and stress level.
8- Symptoms similar to those of a subtle incapacitation have been identified and could have resulted from and/or explain most of the causes mentioned above. However, there is no factual evidence to confirm without any doubt such a cause.
9- The F/O reluctance to intervene did not help in confirming a case of captain's subtle incapacitation and/or to take over control of the aircraft as stipulated in the operator's SOP.

Susan the other` , May 17, 2019 at 12:31 pm

Does Lufthansa make its own planes?

JDM , May 17, 2019 at 12:33 pm

Boeing and Airbus, maybe some regional jets too. I don't think any airline makes their own planes.

d , May 17, 2019 at 12:37 pm

You could keep older aircraft longer, paying more for fuel, and maintenance. Both of which would be much higher. Now the question is will 737 survive this fiasco? And Boeing

Yves Smith Post author , May 17, 2019 at 3:24 pm

American Airlines is still flying some 40 year old 747s, which are fuel hogs. I love that plane.

JDM , May 17, 2019 at 3:54 pm

American retired its 747 quite a while back. Maybe you're thinking Delta/Northwest? They had them until recently. Don't think any U.S. airlines are using 747's anymore.

Yves Smith Post author , May 17, 2019 at 4:29 pm

Qantas is and they code share long haul flights with American. So yes, technically not American. That may be how my colleague saw an "American" flight with a 747.

Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa and Virgin Air are still using 747s.

JDM , May 17, 2019 at 5:07 pm

Ok, that explains it. Hard to tell sometime who you are really flying on when you buy a ticket.

d , May 17, 2019 at 6:23 pm

Now American did fly older md80s, but they have been replacing them, since they were fuel hogs, with guests what?

737s, course most were the previous version. And at the time they retired the md80s, oil was at about $100 a barrel

Titus , May 17, 2019 at 1:32 pm

No, older Airplanes, suffer stress fractures each time they land, every year over 20 years decreases 0.05 the strength of the airframe.

Harrold , May 17, 2019 at 6:02 pm

It is the pressurization and de-pressurization of the fuselage that you need to worry about.

pricklyone , May 17, 2019 at 4:10 pm

How does this figure in? https://airlinerwatch.com/embraer-shareholders-approve-boeing-takeover/

vlade , May 17, 2019 at 5:21 am

If China Boeing certifications (not just Max), and it manages to get a few more states to do so (Iran, Russia, anyone?), it affects, I believe, not just landing and takeoffs, but also using its airspace. That would severely curtail a lof of Asia/Europe flights.

That said, I'd be very very careful saying that politically driven aircraft company in China would be better able to compete with Boeing because the quarterly reports were missing. Political pressure can create the same if not worse outcomes.

Look at Sukhoi SJ-100, the supposed showcase for Russian civilian aviation. And that with Russian having a long history of actually having built commercial planes (Tupolev, Ilyushin, Yakovlev).

PlutoniumKun , May 17, 2019 at 6:10 am

Yes, in all the fuss over the 737, its largely overlooked that the SJ-100 is having very similar problems with possibly similar roots. Sukhoi is of course a primarily military company and I've seen it reported that there was huge political pressure on Sukhoi to get the SJ-100 in production faster than they were comfortable with. While the SJ-100 may be TBTF from the point of view of the Russian government, it is hard to see foreign buyers expressing much enthusiasm for what seems to be such a flawed design.

vlade , May 17, 2019 at 6:55 am

My point is really that political pressure is no better than financial pressure. Both can lead to massive screw up. So betting that China (or whoever) would have a better aircraft just because the party can order it so is naive. I think it's not just about production, but design too. The Moscow incident was after a lightning strike. Somethign has to be badly wrong for a lightning strike to take all electronics on a plane (airframe on its own should do a Faraday's cage, unless it's of course all carbon composite).

As an aside, it is interestign they decided to name it Sukhoi, when Tupolev/Ilyushin names were arguably much more established commercially. I'd not be surprised if some of those were still operating somewhere.

PlutoniumKun , May 17, 2019 at 8:20 am

I agree with that – building airliners is very difficult indeed, as the Chinese and Japanese have shown with their struggles to build viable aircraft.

I don't know how the Russian aircraft industry is organised now, I assume there is a lot of integration between the various historic names (but even in Soviet days, the old bureaus were very competitive against each other). Perhaps 'Sukhoi' was simply considered a sexier name. But certainly there are airliners under development under the Tupolev name.

vlade , May 17, 2019 at 10:12 am

All aircraft companies were nationalised and put into SOE United Aicraft Corporation .

pricklyone , May 17, 2019 at 4:47 pm

I cannot think of any reason save financial motivations why Chinese engineering and design should not be the equal of the West.
The research papers I have seen have Chinese names on them, just as often as not, and we are training their engineers and scientists, as we have done for decades.
The Chinese saw an opportunity to be the low cost manufacturer to the world, and turned it into a powerhouse. Now they only need to start competing on quality instead of price.
If the "CCP" decides to make salaries competitive with the (falling) West, for the necessary talent, in conjuction with a lower cost of living in China, will many return home?
The mode of thought that says the Chinese can only appropriate tech, is a dangerous illusion. Just because they CHOSE to compete on those terms in the past, does not mean they must in future.
When they decide to be the best, instead of the cheapest, and have the political will to fund that choice, how you gonna stop them?
Goldman Sachs?

Adam1 , May 17, 2019 at 7:36 am

A flawed design that Boeing was a partner in making.

Anon , May 17, 2019 at 8:34 am

If Boeing had implemented MCAS correctly from the beginning and there were no accidents to mar its rollout, would you still consider the MAX to be a flawed design?

Synoia , May 17, 2019 at 11:14 am

yes, because of its stall prone flight chateristic.

I'd note a significand difference in large aircraft design between the "English " and "American" schools.

After the B52 and 707, the US school used underslung enginres, whereas the English chose engines buried in the wing root, see De Havilland Comet.

The underslung engine causes nose up on thrust, the wing root engine does not.

The underslung engine is somewhat safer when an enginre bursts, and provides better access for maintenance and replacement.

EVM , May 17, 2019 at 12:18 pm

The Comet may not be the best example given its history, and of course De Havilland is no longer making aircraft and what was left of them was acquired by BAE.

Also should not that pretty much every large commercial airliner built today has pod mounted engines.

Darius , May 17, 2019 at 11:54 am

The MAX is a bridge too far. They used an engine too large for the airframe then papered it over with MCAS. Boeing should have planned for a clean sheet design 15 years ago rather than get jammed up in the competitive situation that produced the MAX.

Carolinian , May 17, 2019 at 12:56 pm

This is a common misconception. The MCAS was added to avoid having to recertify the Max as having different flight characteristics, not to keep it from falling out of the sky. Simulator training that imitated the new tendency to nose up could familiarize pilots with the new handling but Boeing didn't want to do that because it would hurt sales. The reason the MCAS should have been called a critical part that required sensor redundancy–Boeing didn't want to do that either apparently–was because the MCAS itself could cause the plane to fall out of the sky, as we've seen.

At least this is my read of the Seattle Times investigation and they seem to be the ones most plugged in to company insiders.

And this is a critical distinction as a belief that the plane is inherently not airworthy would require Boeing to recall and presumably scrap billions of dollars worth of airplanes.

Darius , May 17, 2019 at 1:23 pm

Then I guess that's Boeing's tough luck.

Darius , May 17, 2019 at 1:30 pm

MCAS shouldn't be the difference between recertification and not.

Carolinian , May 17, 2019 at 2:40 pm

It would burn down Boeing and take all those union machinist jobs with it not to mention a huge blow to the US economy.

And in any case that's not going to happen. The plane will be restored to service. I've seen no serious articles that say differently.

Marshall Auerback , May 17, 2019 at 8:29 am

It's part of China's model. With its Made in China 2025 initiative, the Chinese government has announced a push for Chinese leadership in ten key industries, including advanced information technology, aviation, rail, pharmaceuticals, and others.This preceded the Boeing 737 fiasco. It's a longstanding part of their economic development model.

vlade , May 17, 2019 at 10:13 am

Yes, but it still doesn't mean the resulting design will be any good. There was a lot of "made in SU" drives (for items that they could not import from the west, like semiconducters), including a lot of design stealing (like intel's 8080 chip), but most of them failed miserably.

Yves Smith Post author , May 17, 2019 at 12:16 pm

I never once suggested a Chinese manufacturer would be the beneficiary of this strategy. You are straw manning me. I was explicit that large commercial aircraft manufacture is a duopoly.

In fact, China would have clean-looking hands in going after Boeing because it didn't have a credible national manufacturer as an alternative, unlike the US targeting Huawei.

Ten years out is a different matter. The Chinese think in those terms, the US doesn't.

vlade , May 17, 2019 at 12:56 pm

"In China, the planes will be built domestically, and will not be subject to the arbitrary dictates of private portfolio managers;they will not be constrained by strategies that seem largely to be focused on meeting (or beating) an arbitrary quarterly earnings per share figure."

Emphasis mine.

This is not yours, but it is in the post. It says that the CCP (because stuff like this will be run by CCP, directly or not) will run it better than private ownership, because it will not have the constraints the private ownership has.

Marshall Auerback , May 17, 2019 at 2:30 pm

They've done a pretty good job in other areas which have been state led.

Yves Smith Post author , May 17, 2019 at 4:49 pm

In context, you were linking the idea of the 737 Max losing a lot of appeal immediately if the Chinese and others refused to recertify the plane, with a point made by Marshall about China's long-term ability to compete with Boeing when these were independent arguments. You were creating the impression that I had argued that China could pick up sales from Boeing now, when I had said no such thing and Travis and Marshall took pains to stress that China had long-term, not immediate, potential to be a serious competitor.

PlutoniumKun , May 17, 2019 at 5:27 am

To more directly address the article, this confirms very much the arguments in yesterdays article about industrial policy. The US has an industrial policy for aerospace – basically 'put billions into military and hope some of it benefits civil aviation by way of overspill'. If the US had a real civil aerospace strategy, it would never have allowed McDonald Douglas to be merged into Boeing and the MD series to die. The US is more than big enough for two competing civil airline companies.

There is also I think an increasing problem in that military aircraft are now almost entirely diverged from civil aviation in terms of engineering. Government money to design and build B-52's led directly to the development of 7-series civil aircraft – they are basically the same thing, just different shaped bodies. But in terms of materials construction, electronics, even basic aerodynamics, there is no relationship whatever between a B-2 bomber and a modern airliner. So the 'trickle down' of defence investment is no longer benefiting civil aviation.

A sensible strategy would first of all split Boeing up between defence and civil as the very first item on the agenda.

Lambert Strether , May 17, 2019 at 5:47 am

Unfortunately from a financial perspective, if Boeing's cash cow, the 737, just turned into a dog, the "Good Boeing" would be the military side, and the "Bad Boeing" the civilian side. What then?

PlutoniumKun , May 17, 2019 at 6:06 am

I'm sure some Chinese businessmen would be more than happy to buy up the designs and plant for the existing aircraft. There might be a little question though as to where they'll be built .

PlutoniumKun , May 17, 2019 at 6:14 am

More seriously though, I would see the future of a civil Boeing as a hook up between it and Mitsubishi and Embraer . Between the three of them they could maintain an impressive array of aircraft. There would be quite a cultural clash though.

The Rev Kev , May 17, 2019 at 6:23 am

Maybe the US government can come in and help. In aircraft talk, it would be a bravo-alpha-india-lima-oscar-uniform-tango.

vlade , May 17, 2019 at 6:56 am

Better civilian aircraft maker than a bank IMO.

Olivier , May 17, 2019 at 4:41 pm

Mitsubishi?? In the wake of the Ghosn imbroglio, which western companies and executives in their right mind would want to get deep in bed with a Japanese company? Japan is only slightly less dangerous for foreigners than China.

Kris Alman , May 17, 2019 at 12:44 pm

But when real engineering clashes with financial engineering, the damage takes the form of a geographically disparate and demoralized workforce

The United States has had a delusional view about education and the workforce, which is evidence in a graphic on p. 6 of this 2007 report; "Tough Choices Tough Times: The Report of the new Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce."
http://www.ncee.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Executive-Summary.pdf

The Prototypical U.S. Industry in 10 years if all goes well?

Obviously, with manufacturing outsourced to "less developed countries," the jobs in these countries would amount to routine work done by both people and machines. American workers would then enjoy creative jobs in research, development, design, marketing and sales and global supply chain management.
http://www.ncee.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Executive-Summary.pdf

On p. 5, the report also points out:

In this environment, it makes sense to ask how American workers can possibly maintain, to say nothing of improve, their current standard of living. Today, Indian engineers make $7,500 a year against $45,000 for an American engineer with the same qualifications. If we succeed in matching the very high levels of mastery of mathematics and science of these Indian engineers -- an enormous challenge for this country -- why would the world's employers pay us more than they have to pay the Indians to do their work? They would be willing to do that only if we could offer something that the Chinese and Indians, and others, cannot.

Even Marco Rubio is beginning to smell the rot of corporate greed and the "shareholder primacy theory"

As Rubio says:

At its core, the problem is that, beginning in the 1970s, the primary objective for companies became maximizing return to shareholders, and that came at the expense of investing in new capacities and in innovation. In essence, it's coming at the expense of the things that lead to growth. In key industries that are critical to our national security and our national interests, that's even more problematic.

Lambert Strether , May 17, 2019 at 2:28 pm

Since when did Marco Rubio take out a Communist Party card?

Grebo , May 17, 2019 at 3:38 pm

It appears Rubio has hidden depths: Marco Rubio Puts Out a Paper Citing Obscure Left-Wing Economists

Richard H Caldwell , May 17, 2019 at 7:10 am

An embarassingly-juvenile error right at the beginning of an otherwise-excellent "angle of attack" on Boeing's shareholder capitalism.

A 10% return on a $million is $100K, not 1.1 $million. Eeesh .

DSB , May 17, 2019 at 9:24 am

My thought exactly. Couldn't read the rest after seeing this.

From Investopedia: Example of How to Use RONA

"Assume a company has revenue of $1 billion and total expenses including taxes of $800 million, giving it a net income of $200 million. The company has current assets of $400 million and current liabilities of $200 million, giving it net working capital of $200 million.

Further, the company's fixed assets amount to $800 million. Adding fixed assets to net working capital yields $1 billion in the denominator when calculating RONA. Dividing the net income of $200 million by $1 billion yields a return on net assets of 20% for the company."

boz , May 17, 2019 at 3:44 pm

AKA RoE or Return on Equity:

From the accounting equation: Assets = Liabilities + Equity

Net Assets = Assets – Liabilities

Net Assets = Equity

Lambert Strether , May 17, 2019 at 2:45 pm

Richard, DCB:

Thanks. From an abundance of caution, we've deleted the passage in question, and will restore it with corrected figures as soon as possible.

MickeyZ , May 17, 2019 at 7:20 am

A minor quibble with an otherwise excellent article but is not the math indicating a 110% annual return, not 10%?

Marshall Auerback , May 17, 2019 at 2:22 pm

It was a typo. Unfortunately not caught in time. We were trying to make it visually easier on the eye and screwed up. Mea culpa.

Lambert Strether , May 17, 2019 at 2:45 pm

Thanks. See my comment immediately above.

Adam1 , May 17, 2019 at 7:47 am

To me one of the most damning things about Boeing's implementation of MCAS on the 737-MAX is that it actually knew how to do this properly, but no longer seems to be capable of leveraging what should be institutional memory. I've only seen it mentioned once, but on a Montour Pilot video the guy describes Boeing's deployment of an MCAS system on a military fuel tanker jet it built in the 1980's. They added the MCAS system on that plane to assist the pilots should its cargo fuel suddenly shift unexpectedly changing the plane position. The system had all of the design features that are missing in the 737-MAX MCAS system that brought about the 2 crashes. At the very least one would have expected that they'd just pull the specs off that MCAS system and say here write us a new one using these requirements. The fact that this obviously didn't happen shows how bad things are at Boeing.

ChristopherJ , May 17, 2019 at 7:59 am

I predicted Boeing would be 'toast' 24 hours after the second crash.

You cannot buy trust with a shit product from country that doesn't have any good values or morals that it pursues

John Beech , May 17, 2019 at 8:02 am

Good grief! Calls for Boeing to be dismantled plays right into the hands of the Europeans (Airbus) and China (Comac) plus Brazil (Embraer). E.g. our competitors. Wide dissemination hurts American interests. Especially because they don't have a realistic basis in fact.

– Or have people forgotten Boeing is America's national champion?
– Do folks have a clue how many jobs we're talking about? (+150K before ancillary industries and partners, just direct empl0yment)
– Have you the slightest clue what this would mean for import/export ratios?
– When you look at an Airbus, haven't you realized it looks an awful lot like a Boeing?
– Ditto Embraer.
– Ditto Comac.
– Who in hell do you think invented almost all the technologies we have in large scale aircraft?
– Have you forgotten about Air France 447, an Airbus A330-203 and the crash in the Atlantic?

The last point is especially important to folks pointing at the putative design flaw of the Boeing (Me? I'm awaiting the final report because depending on newsies is downright stupid). Anyway, the A330 crash involved a genuine design flaw.

Finally, t4o all the nervous Nellies fretting about stuff they know jack about . . . chill. And Susan, reprinting this is a disgrace if not outright treasonous to US national interests. Never have I been so glad for the limited reach of an entity like NC because this is akin to shouting fire in a theater. You are raising concerns and fanning flames about which you know squat! For shame.

Ember Burns , May 17, 2019 at 8:35 am

I feel sorry for you, to have lost your moral compass (if you ever had one). Your jingoistic ravings are sickening in light of the reality that hundreds of innocent people were murdered by corporate scum. It is only right and proper that countries such as France, Brazil and China take Boeing's place. Or have you lost your faith in the "Market"?

Peter , May 17, 2019 at 10:04 am

The over the top jingoism and defense of a company that failed to ensure proper functioning of safety equipment led me to believe that this idiotic response can only be meant cynically directed against an industry on the wrong path

Carolinian , May 17, 2019 at 9:10 am

Thanks for your comment. Airbus has indeed had crashes related to their heavy use of automation and fly by wire technology. One should also point out that air crashes used to be far more common than they are today. The truth is that air travel is extraordinarily safe despite the two Boeing crashes and part of that is because computers and automation make planes and air traffic control safer (along with better training and procedures) , but only assuming the same care is taken with the software as the hardware. Clearly that was not the case with Boeing re the Max and their CEO definitely should resign or be forced out to help restore confidence.

Finally if one wants to fret about airline safety then you might be more concerned about scheduled maintenance that is farmed out to low cost Central American companies or other airline cost cutting measures such as hiring poorly paid and relatively inexperienced pilots for the short hop subsidiaries that are now a staple.

Cal , May 17, 2019 at 5:44 pm

Apropos your comment from today's Sydney Morning Herald:

A former Qantas captain who saved a passenger jet after a computer failure twice sent it diving towards the Indian Ocean has warned that pilot training needs to be bolstered to help deal with rogue systems in an era of greater aircraft automation.

Mr Sullivan was captaining a Qantas A330 on a flight from Singapore to Perth in 2008 when an air-data unit sent incorrect information to other systems, leading to a flight-control computer twice commanding the aircraft carrying 303 passengers to nosedive.

And this from the pilot:

"We practise engine failures in the simulator – now we need to practise automation failures," he said.

"These automated failures are more exotic and you can't just read about them in a manual or on an online course. You have to do it; you have to see it; you have to practise it."

The rest here .

cnchal , May 17, 2019 at 8:23 pm

I wonder how many AI chips are on a plane? Ghosts in the machine, put there deliberately.

Joe Well , May 17, 2019 at 9:10 am

You sound like an MSNBC host.

The Rev Kev , May 17, 2019 at 9:19 am

It was just a matter of luck that these two plane crashes happened overseas you know. This could easily have happened in a commercial flight in the US. Would you be saying the same if a 737 MAX came down trying to fly out of Dallas or LAX or O'Hare? Decades ago Ralph Nader came out with his ground breaking book "Unsafe at Any Speed" which led to massive improvements in car safety in American cars. Would you have opposed those safety measures because they would have given foreign car makers a bit of an edge? Think how many tens of thousands of American were never killed because of this change in safety with American built cars. It is the same deal here. And in a bit of irony, Ralph Nader's grandniece was killed in the last 737 crash so you can expect to hear a lot from him before long.

Carolinian , May 17, 2019 at 9:55 am

The Seattle Times story in today's Links gives a good overview of the pilot question. The gist is that foreign pilots often do have less experience than their American counterparts (because of less private aviation availability) but that Boeing knows that too and should not produce planes that real life pilots can't fly.

Emotional reactions to comments like the above from John Beech are missing the point IMO. Saying that the pilots in these crashes may have done better doesn't let Boeing off the hook even if Boeing is trying to wriggle free in a mistaken attempt to evade responsibility. If nothing else the CEO's ostrich like behavior is reason for him to get the boot.

tegnost , May 17, 2019 at 10:13 am

Fine. But I owe zero allegiance to any corporation, indeed imo it's the other way around. The bailout of the worst people who were most responsible for 2008 could have led nowhere else but here, and that said it's likely this is just the tip of the iceberg, If you crapify enough you wind up with crap, no matter how un-crappy things were when you started.

vlade , May 17, 2019 at 2:02 pm

"the pilots in these crashes may have done better doesn't let Boeing off the hook"

This. In fact, I'd argue it makes it WORSE, if it's true what is in a link in a comment above is correct.

In such a case Boeing knowingly sold aircraft with a known significant difference to an airline with bad training practices. Their (the airline) pilots are even asking FAA to intervene – but I guess if it means fewer sales to Boeing, why would they, given how they outsourced the plane safety to B already?

How's that different from selling a gun to a known psychopath? Uh, I guess that's actually ok in the US, so why not.

Carolinian , May 17, 2019 at 2:43 pm

What is damning to Boeing is that they made a dangerous alteration to the plane–the MCAS–for marketing purposes and didn't even bother to make sure it worked right. There's no way they or their insurance don't pay through the nose in lawsuits.

John Zelnicker , May 17, 2019 at 11:09 am

@The Rev Kev
May 17, 2019 at 9:19 am
-- -- -

Ralph Nader has written an open letter to the CEO of Boeing demanding that he resign.

Sorry I don't have time to look up the link. Gotta work.

Arizona Slim , May 17, 2019 at 11:20 am

Here's the link:

https://nader.org/2019/03/12/open-letter-to-boeing-passengers-first-ground-the-737-max-8-now/

Cat Burglar , May 17, 2019 at 11:19 am

Shouldn't your post be addressed to Boeing's management, and not here?

Ian Perkins , May 17, 2019 at 3:36 pm

It should be addressed to the Chinese. I sincerely hope they have read it!

Synoia , May 17, 2019 at 11:27 am

I admit. I know nothing. I've flown over 3 million miles, caused planes in flight to return brcause I noteced defects in the plane, and am an engineer with both a life long curiosotuy about engineering and systems.

I'm a typical engineer. Yes I know swuat. But I can analyze machines, ask questions, and make deductions.

Here is an Engineering question: Why did Boeing management pay for MCAS to be developesd?

d , May 17, 2019 at 2:00 pm

Because of the new engines for the plane, which are much bigger than the old ones,causing the plane's center of gravity to change, which lead to concerns about stalls. And the reason for the new engines, was because they are much more efficient than the previous engines

JBird4049 , May 17, 2019 at 1:02 pm

Good grief.

"Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." -- Samuel Johnson

I might be labeled an American nationalist, but really I have no problem accepting that other countries might not want to buy Boeing's American made flying suicide machines for which the company is wholly at fault for. It is not loyalty, patriotism or even jingoism, but fanaticism to blame others for what the company has done to itself, to them and to us as well.

Darius , May 17, 2019 at 1:33 pm

Question authority.

Lambert Strether , May 17, 2019 at 2:20 pm

This comment is the most extra-ordinary example of pom pom-waving I have ever seen. Kudos.

Carolinian , May 17, 2019 at 2:52 pm

I agree the remarks about NC are inappropriate and even offensive but the stuff about Airbus etc is correct and little noted here. Crusading against Boeing management is one thing, but surely it's not in the US economy's interest for Boeing to go under. Not that I'm an economist, but I believe I've read that elsewhere in NC.

False Solace , May 17, 2019 at 2:41 pm

Boeing is doing a perfectly fine job of self-destructing, NC is merely reporting on and analyzing the flames. Even if we don the patriotic blindfold you suggest and shut up about the mass homicide Boeing's planes have caused, do you really think everyone else in the world is going to do the same?

Besides, Boeing has ginormous defense contracts. Even if their civilian line craters their billions in military subsidies will keep them alive no matter how crappy their planes are.

Stephen Gardner , May 17, 2019 at 4:47 pm

Wow! "Putative design flaw"? Putative?? Really? I put that in the same category as "putative harm from tobacco". And I love this little gem of jingoism: "And Susan, reprinting this is a disgrace if not outright treasonous to US national interests." So 300+deaths are ok as long as we can still chant "USA, USA!". Articles like this are why I read NC. I can get jingoistic nonsense elsewhere. "Treasonous to US national interests." What transparent nonsense! And don't talk about jobs because the executives at Boeing are doing their best to eliminate those American jobs. In the US these days there are no national interests only the interests of the real owners of this country. Hint: that ain't me and probably not you either so cling to the vain hope that our economic system still serves the many.

Edward , May 17, 2019 at 8:17 am

I wonder if a taxpayer bailout is in the cards in the future?

Ember Burns , May 17, 2019 at 8:31 am

I read this post this morning and I am still trying to deal with the monstrosity of it. So upsetting. A group of rich people practically committed mass murder and destroyed the livelihoods of thousands in order to become even richer. I am sickened to my stomach to think of all the people I love putting their lives in the hands of these psychopaths who will get away with (Mass) Murder most foul. Vicious, evil, criminals in suits.

Lambert Strether , May 17, 2019 at 2:33 pm

> A group of rich people practically committed mass murder and destroyed the livelihoods of thousands in order to become even richer.

You say that like it's a bad thing.

Oregoncharles , May 17, 2019 at 2:41 pm

Recently flew Southwest, probably on a 737, so yeah.

As a practical matter, a number of reports detail obviously criminal behavior, like failing to report hazards they knew about. At this point, it's a test of the criminal "justice" system whether Boeing executives are prosecuted.

Admittedly, that may not be saying a lot.

Watt4Bob , May 17, 2019 at 8:41 am

Wide dissemination hurts American interests.

Tell that to the American financial wizards who off-shored our jobs and with them the technologies they are based on, all in furtherance of the narrow interests of the investor class.

Or have people forgotten Boeing is America's national champion?

Like GM was america's national champion until it decided to dump manufacturing, and all those pesky employees, to go into finance?

Have you the slightest clue what this would mean for import/export ratios?

Where were you when China invaded the USA via Walmart to destroy our nations retail capacity?

Who in hell do you think invented almost all the technologies we have in large scale aircraft?

And who might I ask moved aircraft manufacturing to China and taught the Chinese to build American planes?

Slam the barn door all you want, the cows are not only gone, they've been re-branded and all this was pro-actively enabled by America's ownership class, the folks supposedly responsible for protecting American interests.

Watt4Bob , May 17, 2019 at 10:31 am

This comment was intended for Mr. John Beech, whose comment has disappeared.

See the other reply by The suck of sorrow, below.

Yves Smith Post author , May 17, 2019 at 4:53 pm

The John Beech comment is still there. You must have replied without replying specifically to his comment.

Watt4Bob , May 17, 2019 at 5:12 pm

Yes, thanks, noticed that later.

S. Haust , May 17, 2019 at 8:55 am

But they did already start housecleaning their executive ranks.

A couple of weeks ago they put Nikky Haley on the board.

Wasn't that good enough?

JDM , May 17, 2019 at 9:41 am

Descent overview, but forecasts of Boeing's demise as an aircraft manufacturer are way premature.

Watt4Bob , May 17, 2019 at 10:36 am

I don't know, a plane that costs between $100-$135 Million to buy, and $Billions in liability judgements isn't likely to fly off the shelves.

(anymore)

Pun intended.

Randy , May 17, 2019 at 7:46 pm

For Boeing maybe it doesn't matter. They are a member of the MIC with commercial aviation as a sideline (hobby) business?

Peter , May 17, 2019 at 10:07 am

https://youtu.be/QytfYyHmxtc?t=7

The suck of sorrow , May 17, 2019 at 10:12 am

John Beech May 17, 2019 at 8:02 am comment confirms my fears: we do live in a fascist state. How else can one portray corporate management criticism as tantamount to treason? Does Mr Beech place Ralph Nader in the same category on account of composing "Unsafe at any Speed"? At the time of publication the automobile industry was easily twenty percent of domestic economic output.

What might drive Mr Beech's strong emotion is the concern of unemployment for himself, family or friends. I think we, as in this country need to think seriously about providing a real safety net for those afflicted by corporate mismanagement. Like unemployment insurance, Boeing and other large entities can fund a pool for these disasters. Better managed companies will pay a lower rate. (Insert plug for uninversal health care here!) I propose this tax as a means to encourage "do the right thing" corporate mentality. MMT does not apply here as in single payer health.

I close by stating that both we as a nation and Boeing as a corporation can do better. The improvements lie on differing tangents, but are both critically necessary.

Susan the other` , May 17, 2019 at 12:28 pm

It has been said that medicare for all – national health insurance – will, in fact, make our corporations more competitive by eliminating the expense they carry of subsidizing the sleazy medical insurance industry. So that would be a step in the right direction for our corporations. Costcut the sleaze and keep the quality-maintenance expenditures. To that end another good cost cutting measure would be to eliminate the "services" of all the "dilettante portfolio managers" as they are easily as sleazy as health insurance companies.

Randy , May 17, 2019 at 7:49 pm

That has been said since Truman and corporations have been against national health insurance since Truman. They know something everybody else doesn't.

Jim A. , May 17, 2019 at 10:30 am

I'm betting that if you looked at the qualifications of those in the executive suite and the board of directors, you'd find more people whose experience is in financial engineering than aviation engineering. THAT needs to change and quickly.

Ian Perkins , May 17, 2019 at 3:55 pm

That'll no doubt be the reason Nikki Haley's on their board. She has a background in finance and accounting, in addition to her prowess in bullshitting, browbeating and belittling the UN.

Interested Party , May 17, 2019 at 10:55 am

Not sure why you didn't add a discussion of Boeing's KC-46. This is the modified version of the 767 to be used as the latest and greatest version of the Air Force air re-fueling fleet. From what I understand, this adds an interesting dimension to your position that the problems at Boeing are from relentless cost cutting to maximize shareholder profits because the KC-46 is a cost-plus adventure where the taxpayer picks up the cost of Boeing's failures. My information is that the delay in delivery of the KC-46 is quietly causing many unanticipated problems for the Air Force in their efforts to transition to the new aircraft. For example, I understand that there is a regular AF wing somewhere in the midwest where their former aircraft, KC-135s, were transferred to other units in anticipation of the delivery of the KC-46s. But presently the pilots have no planes to fly because the new anticipated delivery date has been pushed back to November. This article briefly describes the problem.

https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2019/04/02/air-force-again-halts-kc-46-deliveries-after-more-debris-found/

Related to this is the fact that Boeing also does considerable other work for the military on a cost plus basis. I am informed that the AF is now taking delivery of modified KC-135s which have been re-fitted with "glass" cockpits virtually identical to the latest 737 cockpits. To my mind, this information begs the question: Can Boeing properly manufacture aircraft regardless of the profits involved?

shinola , May 17, 2019 at 11:33 am

A minor quibble with the article: While reducing the profit margin from 21% to 19% is just a 2 percentage point drop in that headline figure, it represents a bit over 9% cut in the actual margin (19 is @90.476% of 21). I believe that's how it would be seen from the exec. POV.

sd , May 17, 2019 at 11:59 am

Why would China not design and build its own passenger plane?

Lambert Strether , May 17, 2019 at 2:15 pm

They are. It's not easy and it takes time.

oliverks , May 17, 2019 at 12:10 pm

I am not sure the Murata reference is the correct one as you don't really think of them as a big semi player.

There are a number of internal chinese players that could edge out Qualcomm such as MediaTek, Rockchip, and Allwinner. MediaTek is the most advance, but in reality all 3 are mainly using technology from ARM. Another wild card is Samsung. It may license it chipsets to China, and they are very capable.

What the US can do (and does do) is require you to buy chips from certain vendors to join certain networks. So if you want to be on the AT&T network you often have to source your chips from a very limited selection of suppliers.

However, as the US market is relatively small in comparison to Europe and Asia, and because of the difficulty of working in the US market, you may see major vendors do fine by just ignoring the market entirely.

Oliver

Yves Smith Post author , May 17, 2019 at 12:19 pm

The Murata point is straight from the Financial Times yesterday:

Mark Li, an analyst at Bernstein, said alternative suppliers are limited but would include Murata of Japan.

https://www.ft.com/content/21727292-7796-11e9-bbad-7c18c0ea0201

jo6pac , May 17, 2019 at 1:17 pm

I'm not sure how this all turns out but in the long run China will be forced to do what Russia has done, Make it at Home.

https://asia.nikkei.com/Economy/Trade-war/Exclusive-Huawei-stockpiles-12-months-of-parts-ahead-of-US-ban

templar555510 , May 17, 2019 at 1:22 pm

About ten years ago the English economist John Kay produced a wonderful book he called ' Obliquity ' . His thesis, with extensive evidence from all manner of human activity throughout the ages , was that almost any goal pursued directly was unlikely to succeed . The main subject of the book was however the pursuit of profit, which he showed with numerous examples, was most successfully achieved when it wasn't pursued directly, but rather by pursuing first and foremost other objectives ; for example and perhaps most obviously quality with profit flowing from the achievement of that objective. Hence the title of the book . Again with examples he shows how corporations that reject the notion that they have responsibilities to employees and the wider society in favour of ' shareholder value ' simply wither on the vine. The fate of Boeing if it pursues its present stance is unlikely to be anything other than oblivion . Come on Boeing try some obliquity.

Lambert Strether , May 17, 2019 at 2:17 pm

See Naked Capitalism, December 30, 2007 .

montanamaven , May 17, 2019 at 4:27 pm

Has anyone mentioned Andrew Cockburn's Harper's article "The Military-Industrial Virus"? I'm late to this discussion but he talks about Boeing merging with McDonnell Douglas and how everything changed after that.

That began to change in 1997, when Boeing merged with ­McDonnell Douglas, a defense company. In management terms, the merger was in effect a ­McDonnell takeover, with its executives -- most importantly CEO Harry Stonecipher -- ­assuming command of the combined company, bringing their cultural heritage with them. The effects were readily apparent in the first major Boeing airliner initiative under the merged regime, the 787 Dreamliner. Among other features familiar to any student of the defense industry, the program relied heavily on outsourcing subcontracts to foreign countries as a means of locking in foreign buyers. Shipping parts around the world obviously costs time and money. So does the use of novel and potentially risky technologies: in this case, it involved a plastic airframe and all-­electronic controls powered by an extremely large and dangerously flammable battery.

Cockburn goes on to talk about the 737 Max 8 and the Boeing V-22 Osprey which has had multiple crashes.
Seems disturbing that the new Defense Secretary Shanahan headed up Boeing's Missile Defense Systems and the Dreamliner program.
In the same article, he mentions the book "Shattered Minds" about the faulty helmets worn by soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. They amplified the effects of the explosions on the brain and "were found to be dangerously vulnerable to bullets and shrapnel, thanks to a corrupt contractor skimping on the necessary bulletproof material."
I just saw the Broadway revival of the 1947 play "All My Sons" by Arthur Miller. The lead guy let faulty cracked engine parts go into airplanes with 21 WW II pilots crashing and dying.
What's good for business is not necessarily good for you and me.

Christy , May 17, 2019 at 5:15 pm

It was actually linked to on NC under 'Links', 'Imperial Collapse Watch' on 5/13/19.
Yes, it is a good article. Glad you enjoyed it.

TG , May 17, 2019 at 4:41 pm

Yes yes, Boeing did a bad thing. But never build another airliner? You would prefer Airbus to have a monopoly? You would prefer to ride some nice Russian airliner? Yes this a tragedy, and it would be nice if some executives would go to jail, but Boeing nevertheless makes airplanes that let millions of people fly all over the world with risk levels that, while not zero, are very nearly superhumanly good (though to be admitted: this is largely because the public remains intolerant of errors in this area).

Consider the anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx, apparently marketed on misleading claims, that some estimates put at causing "between 88,000 and 139,000 heart attacks, 30 to 40 percent of which were probably fatal, in the five years the drug was on the market" (wikipedia). Of course nobody went to jail and the company is still in business and printing money No it doesn't excuse Boeing in this case. But it should put Boeing's misdeeds in perspective.

bystander , May 17, 2019 at 5:07 pm

Ever heard of "Two wrongs don't make a right"?

Just because Merck got away with even a worse crime doesn't mean Boeing should also get off.

And Boeing has been dishonest (the deliberate effort to avoid recertification, the now-many instances of Boeing's failure to inform or deliberately under-inform key parties like the regulators and customers about not just MCAS but other important changes in the plane) as well as exceptionally unrepentant. They acted in bad faith and show no intention of cleaning up their act.

baldski , May 17, 2019 at 6:55 pm

Well Boeing was sure doing the right thing by returning "shareholder value". Since January its stock shot up 50% until the crashes started. Good job CEO.

[May 14, 2019] Did The FAA Drop The Ball While Certifying Boeing Anti-Stall Software Suspected In 2 Deadly Crashes Zero Hedge

Notable quotes:
"... Trump appointed a bunch of lackeys to DOT, FAA, and various other agencies. He appointed people like Dan Elwell, E. Chao, etc. because he knew they would undermine the agencies' oversight. ..."
"... Regulatory Capture 101 ..."
May 14, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Now, ahead of a hearing before a House Transportation subcommittee on Wednesday, WSJ is reporting that senior FAA officials weren't involved in the agency's review of MCAS, despite the unprecedented power delegated to the system in the new generation of 737s, because the agency viewed the system as a "non-critical safety risk."

Ask how it arrived at this conclusion, the agency told WSJ that Boeing hadn't designated MCAS as a critical system, and the agency simply took the aerospace company at its word.

The results, these officials said, also indicate that during the certification process, Boeing didn't flag the automated stall-prevention feature as a system whose malfunction or failure could cause a catastrophic event. Such a designation would have led to more intense scrutiny. FAA engineers and midlevel managers deferred to Boeing's early safety classification, the inquiry determined, allowing company experts to conduct subsequent analyses of potential hazards with limited agency oversight. Boeing employees who served as designated agency representatives signed off on the final design, according to people familiar with the findings.

The people who described the report didn't specify what information and safety data Boeing shared with t he FAA during the approval process, a topic that is a major focus of various ongoing investigations. Also at issue is whether agency officials performed any assessment on their own about the system's initial safety classification, according to aviation industry officials, pilot unions and others tracking the investigations.

According to the report details leaked to WSJ, it's not clear why Boeing didn't designate MCAS as a 'critical system', though the FAA doesn't believe the company intentionally violated any certification rules. It's also unclear what kind of oversight process, if any, the FAA exercised over Boeing's decision. Boeing, in turn, said that it didn't feel the system was 'critical' - and that relying on a single sensor for flight data was appropriate - because pilots could simply switch MCAS off. Though that didn't pan out in practice, as the pilots of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights both tried, and failed, to disable MCAS before the system forced their planes into a deadly downward dive.

The FAA's administrative review, launched in March in the wake of the second fatal crash, didn't uncover efforts by Boeing to flout certification rules or intentionally provide faulty data to the FAA, according to people familiar with the findings. But it remains unclear what formal processes the FAA had in place to conduct an assessment independent of the initial determination by Boeing -- that MCAS wasn't critical to safety and therefore didn't warrant close FAA scrutiny.

https://www.dianomi.com/smartads.epl?id=4855

Still, the FAA doesn't really have an explanation for why it delegated so much authority to Boeing.

In testimony to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee two months ago, Mr. Elwell said detailed safety assessment and approval of the suspect system was "delegated," or handed over, to Boeing relatively early in the approval process under standard procedures. But he didn't tell senators how that initial decision was reached or exactly what role FAA officials played in subsequent safety assessments.

The revelations come as Congress has subpoenaed representatives from pilots unions and the major airlines to testify. The DOT is also ramping up its own investigation. One thing is becoming increasingly clear: Before the grounding of the 737 MAX 8 is lifted, lawmakers are going to want answers to why these lapses in oversight occurred.


ken , 13 minutes ago link

"Drop the ball?" You mean lie, and cover-up???

Charlie_Martel , 8 minutes ago link

Like ALL three letter agencies.

AHBL , 15 minutes ago link

Trump appointed a bunch of lackeys to DOT, FAA, and various other agencies. He appointed people like Dan Elwell, E. Chao, etc. because he knew they would undermine the agencies' oversight.

But somehow this is the fault of everyone but Trump and his apointees in the eyes of Trumptards.

Charlie_Martel , 9 minutes ago link

ALL three letter agencies are full of IMMORAL life long government bureaucrats whose main purpose in life is to profit from their government job and get power wherever they can.

AHBL , 3 minutes ago link

So, your thesis is that low level bureaucrats forced the FAA not to conduct safety assessments of Boeing because...why exactly?

I have another less absurdly-moronic theory: our corrupt, revolving door system between private companies and agencies has resulted in high-level agency appointees (Trump's in this case) turning a blind eye to regulatory oversight.

youshallnotkill , 16 minutes ago link

Did The FAA Drop The Ball While Certifying Boeing Anti-Stall Software Suspected In 2 Deadly Crashes?

Yes. (This was another edition of simple answers to simple questions).

dustinwind , 29 minutes ago link

You're a special kind of stupid if you have to seriously ask that question. FAA officials and Boeing executives conspired to help Boeing bring a new airplane to market as an established model to save money. Corruption is the norm in big business and government because it is so profitable with little accountability.

cstu7011 , 41 minutes ago link

Because the FAA was bought off by Boeing?

Charlie_Martel , 40 minutes ago link

BINGO! Immoral bureaucrats hungry for money and power.

AHBL , 14 minutes ago link

Wrong. Immoral GOP appointees who don't believe in regulatory oversight. Widely blaming "bureaucrats" doesn't explain the cause.

It's time for partisan lackeys to hold their own parties accountable for their BS

Charlie_Martel , 10 minutes ago link

All bureaucrats are immoral regardless of party BUT non are as immoral as the deprived marxist Democrats whose virtues are openly deception and violence. The most immoral and power-hungry people in our population are drawn to the government.

AHBL , 7 minutes ago link

Funny you chose to blame Democrats when its GOP regulators who are responsible for the death of hundreds in these Boeing crashes. Unquestionably.

That said, I don't care much for Democrats when it comes to this issue as they are also compromised by big business.

Maybe you can blame Trotsky next time you drink lead out of the tap because this EPA has lessened water standards...******* sad idiot

Charlie_Martel , 3 minutes ago link

ALL government bureaucrats are immoral by nature. The most IMMORAL are drawn to government where they can get away with their criminal activities. You're just in denial at how immoral government workers are. Democrats are the worst. Democrats don't even try to pretend to have morals anymore they openly say they want the money and the power. True psychopaths.

Charlie_Martel , 44 minutes ago link

The FAA is just another corrupt three letter agency that takes bribes for rubber stamping.

libfrog88 , 44 minutes ago link

Explanation: CORRUPTION

Charlie_Martel , 38 minutes ago link

Try finding a three letter US Federal agency that ISN'T corrupt! All the immoral power-hungry psychopaths obsessed with money and power are drawn to government like a fly is drawn to ****.

ken , 12 minutes ago link

Sociopaths and psychopaths hire each other, preferentially, for these positions???

Charlie_Martel , 7 minutes ago link

Immoral life long bureaucrats favor other immoral lifelong bureaucrats. This is why they all openly hate Trump. He isn't one of them.

romanmoment , 44 minutes ago link

"Did The FAA Drop The Ball While Certifying Boeing Anti-Stall Software Suspected In 2 Deadly Crashes?"

The 346 people killed in the two crashes this year could not be reached for comment......

enfield0916 , 48 minutes ago link

Another 3 lettered .gov agency which is incompetent and corrupt to the core. So, what's new?

enfield0916 , 38 minutes ago link

I used to work for GE in their NDT department, (non-destructive testing) that manufactured Eddy Current and Ultrasound machines that inspect bolt holes on the fuselage and cracks on wheels of heavy machinery like planes and the wing joints and railroad wheels.

Guess who the private airlines who bought equipment from us, hated the most? 1) TSA and 2) FAA.

romanmoment , 38 minutes ago link

Fifty-years of social engineering hiring results in mediocrity at best.

I grew-up in aviation and was around a lot of FAA types who are guys now in their 80's (and dead). Many of them were around during the boom years for aviation and worked through some tough problems in conjunction with the commercial carriers. These were bad *** dudes, deeply steeped in the faith of 'safety first' and the reputation of the FAA as a ball-busting agency that couldn't be bought, coddled or fucked with.

Again, those guys are either dead or in their 80's. The FAA today has some of these folks but not enough. There are too many bureaucrats, pension hustlers and socially engineered nobody's. And they've outsourced to mercenaries and a mercenary will never be committed to the mission like a soldier of Rome.

End social engineering in government hiring. End social engineering in government contracts (end the 8A program). Quit reducing the standards and quit outsourcing to 3rd parties.

tonye , 50 minutes ago link

**** the lawmakers. They are useless. Boeing should tell the airlines to put up the money, make the dual sensors standard and certify the pilots on the MAX. Fire the free marketing assholes who decided they could keep the costs down...

HillaryOdor , 13 seconds ago link

The craft just isn't airworthy. Stop trying to put lipstick on this pig. I wouldn't fly in one if it had a million sensors.

pitz , 50 minutes ago link

Sounds like they have a problem with watching *********** instead of working at the FAA too....

enfield0916 , 35 minutes ago link

Should be renamed to Fedup ASShat ASSociation.

Angry White Guy , 51 minutes ago link

Um, geez. Doesn't take a aerospace engineer to figure this out. Kickbacks to the corrupted. gov entity, the FAA, given by Boeing, explain all of this.

Same reason 'Dr. Dre's' daughter got into USC....

This country has already hit third world status regarding the corruption. South Americans would acknowledge the familiarity in the air.

BennyBoy , 21 minutes ago link

Fox guarding henhouse.

Crashes ensued.

beemasters , 52 minutes ago link

Let's hope the victims' families will sue the FAA approving personnel individually into bankruptcy....if that's even possible. But most likely, the taxpayers will have to cover for it.

dlweld , 57 minutes ago link

Sure would have been nice if the FAA had been allowed to provide that knowledgable "second set of eyes" to vet the design and implementation.

Of course anyone checking their own product will OK it - because (again, of course) they've done the best they could, so of course it's OK - designed and built to be that way. That's the fatal flaw in self-certifying a product - can't see the flaws because you've done your best and you're too close to it.

Boeing short circuited this "second set of eyes" process out of un-enlightened self interest - to save money - ha!

Joe Davola , 53 minutes ago link

I'm sure they "Covered All the Bases" by using "Best Practices" to ensure a "Safe Harbor" design using an "Agile Development Process" which is "ISO 900x Compliant".

tonye , 49 minutes ago link

Agile Development does not follow DO-178 B/C.

hongdo , 2 minutes ago link

Yes. That is why on gov contracts you have a preliminary design review, critical design review, and testing. Just try to get a govie to sit through a design review. Their eyes glaze over and then they go to lunch and don't come back. So whoever is left signs off.

Testing is the first thing to get cut when it goes over budget. How's that for logic. Buy something but don't worry if it works.

AHBL , 58 minutes ago link

This is what doing away with regulations and weak executive agencies gets you: corporate abuse.

Charlie_Martel , 41 minutes ago link

WRONG! This is what the REGULATORS brought us. Corruption for sale. No morals. Just statists who are hungry for bureaucratic money and power. Virtually EVERY U.S. three letter Federal agency is corrupt and devoid of morals.

AHBL , 18 minutes ago link

Yes, the regulators, in this case, appointed by TRUMP and appointed for the sole purpose of facilitating the shady practices of corporations like Boeing. He did with the FAA, DOT, EPA, etc....he appoints people who don't believe in the agency's mandate to begin with.

I mean, who the **** are you blaming for the work of Trump's appointees if not Trump? Pelosi?

Charlie_Martel , 6 minutes ago link

These are LIFELONG bureaucrats who ONLY serve their masters in the bureaucratic cult class. Their main purpose in life is to profit from their government job and gain power over people wherever they can.

Bunga Bunga , 1 hour ago link

Looks like the FAA is owned by Boeing

High Vigilante , 1 hour ago link

FAA has become just another corrupt TLA agency.

rickv404 , 1 hour ago link

"The FAA doesn't really have an explanation for why it delegated so much authority to Boeing."

Why don't we let the FAA build the planes. See how well that works. The ignorance of people that believe the brute authority of government makes good things happen.

ted41776 , 1 hour ago link

FAA dropped the ball by waiting for hours after the crash to publicly declare them airworthy. They should not have waited hours, an immediate response would have been much better for Boeing stock. There are bonuses at stake here people!

this>>>>

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-03-11/boeing-shares-fall-9-hundreds-737s-grounded-following-2nd-deadly-crash

taketheredpill , 1 hour ago link

Regulatory Capture 101

DisorderlyConduct , 1 hour ago link

MCAS never would have been altered had the airframe been stable after the engine move.

MCAS appears to have done a fine job until it was asked to do something new.

The real question is how they got the engine move certified, and how flight test did not turn up the tendency towards stall. A pilot, without MCAS, would have been applying trim.

taketheredpill , 1 hour ago link

I thought MCAS was only added AFTER engine move altered flight characteristics. MCAS was supposed to make MAX 8 fly just like older 737, reducing pilot training costs. So pilots thought the plane would fly just like 737. Except for the crashing part. That was new.

Giant Meteor , 1 hour ago link

Reminds me of that time the SEC was suppose to be watch dogging the players back in the runup to the last global financial crisis. Other than captured regulators, revolving doors, rubber stamps, and midget ****, things might have worked out differently ..

taketheredpill , 59 minutes ago link

Let the Aircraft Manufacturers regulate themselves. Like the Banks in pre-2008.

spoonful , 1 hour ago link

"But it remains unclear what formal processes the FAA had in place to conduct an assessment independent of the initial determination by Boeing -- that MCAS wasn't critical to safety and therefore didn't warrant close FAA scrutiny." Answer: None. The revolving door goes round and round, and so does Trump's former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, for example, who is joining Boeing's board of directors after leaving the Administration more than two months ago.

Marman , 1 hour ago link

Boeing, in turn, said that it didn't feel the system was 'critical'

If a system that is necessary to prevent a stall at takeoff, but can easily malfunction and cause a crash isn't "critical", then what is?

Solosides , 51 minutes ago link

If you're plane requires any form of computer assistance to be able to fly, it is a useless piece of **** that can't fly.

warsev , 1 hour ago link

What I can't understand is how this wasn't tested. In simulating MCAS operation certainly somebody somewhere doing fault analysis would naturally have simulated the case of a bad AOA sensor. That it wasn't tested leaves me wondering what else important was never tested.

r0mulus , 48 minutes ago link

Thorough testing/QA is bad for profits, doncha know?

Throat-warbler Mangrove , 43 minutes ago link

And, QA is always left as a last step, usually when the project is already late.

Jtrillian , 1 hour ago link

The best government money can buy!

[May 13, 2019] This is not a bug this is feature

May 13, 2019 | neznaika-nalune.livejournal.com

Crash 737-Max did not happen as a result of some software bug that can be corrected with one patch, and not because of the lack of duplication of sensors. The problem seems to be much deeper and speaks to a crisis in engineering culture at least in Boeing, but more broadly in large us companies in General.

The logic of the Boeing 737-Max was something like this. Let's not design a new narrow-body aircraft from scratch, but take a 50-year-old trash (737) with all its mechanics, hydraulics, electronics, etc. almost unchanged and put on it more economical (and larger) engines. And in order to compensate for the somewhat changed aerodynamics, we will introduce a new system for controlling the angle of attack, not really tested, which will be turned on unexpectedly for pilots, at the signal of one sensor, and we will not tell the pilots about it and train them. The main design criterion was not "what should be done to at least not lower the safety of the new model?", and "how to make all the changes so that it was not necessary to undergo a new certification and additional training for pilots?".

Most publications draw attention to two angle-of-attack sensors (relative to airflow), and that the MCAS system was activated by a signal from either of them:
Boeing also designed the system to trust 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 colleages 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.
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/08/business/boeing-737-max-.html

It's not really about three sensors instead of two. Failure of one sensor, or even two if the system has many sensors for different parameters - this is a normal situation and the whole control system as a whole must cope with this. Surprisingly primitive logic MCAS - if two sensors show different data, then believe the one that shows the anomaly. With this logic, adding a third sensor, on the contrary, will only increase the likelihood of misbehavior. In fact, the system should not respond to the sensor that shows the greatest anomaly, but to a set of sensors that do not contradict each other in the description of the state of the object. If a sensor contradicts the totality of the others, it is considered defective, and if it does not completely contradict, but differs from the totality more than others - its readings are taken into account with a reduced weight. These are the main ideas of data fusion, combining data that has long been widely used in engineering Sciences, starting with Kalman filters, etc. Fairly simple algorithms combine the data in full, even use of cheap drones, not in passenger aviation.

The movement of the body of the aircraft as a solid body is not an insanely complicated task, and is described by quite simple equations. In addition to the two sensors of the angle of attack in the aircraft uses many others - thrust, speed, altitude, position and orientation in space, linear and angular acceleration at three coordinates, etc. If one sensor shows an abnormally large angle of attack, if it is a real signal, it must be compatible with changes in other data - height, acceleration and others, otherwise the sensor is defective. To include a key for the safety of the aircraft automatic system in terms of one abnormal sensor is a stupid and vicious logic, but it was followed by Boeing in the design of the 737-Max. That's what he's paying for now.

zigzagzug April 9 2019, 19:38:51 UTC 1 month ago

"The logic of MCAS is surprisingly primitive - if two sensors show different data, then believe the one that shows the anomaly. "

In modern society, more attention is paid to minorities than to ordinary members, so there is nothing unexpected here. On the contrary, the designers were clearly guided by everyday logic ))

dark_beer, April 10 2019, 00:09:49 UTC 1 month ago

On a politically correct Boeing, one sensor should be gay and the other black.

lazy_flyer, April 9 2019, 19:46:09 UTC 1 month ago Edited: April 9 2019, 19:46:21 UTC

Quite simple data matching algorithms

Hardware "OR" nothing more complex there is simply no need to put.

talking about the crisis in engineering culture at least in Boeing

All around us. Every step of the way. The main thing is to release the product to the market as soon as possible. And all the clamps and errors will be corrected as the appearance of indignant reviews from disgruntled consumers. That's only in aviation this leads to disasters.

vdkrav, April 26 2019, 00:01:47 UTC 2 weeks ago

"Everywhere around us. Every step of the way."

But young intellectuals believe that we are on the p[orog unprecedented 3rd NTR.
Read, there every third comment about it.

https://verola.livejournal.com/1067707.html
https://verola.livejournal.com/1067953.html

phase123, April 9 2019, 19:47:50 UTC 1 month ago

In defense of Boeing, we can say that it was not necessary to retrain the requirement of the starting customer. But the lack of a quorum on the sensors it is a complete shame for such a reputable company

alextr98, April 9 2019, 22:56:35 UTC 1 month ago

In a large European company Airbus similar problems. In 2009, crashed flight 447 air France - frozen speed sensors, autopilot disconnected and turned off all protection against jambs, and the pilots were not slow to mess up. Like to determine the speed can also be different ways, but Airbus somehow relied on a single, which is out of order. But no one is talking about the crisis in Airbus ' engineering culture.

zevaka_derevnia, April 9 2019, 22:58:19 UTC 1 month ago

Yeah, to be honest, at the end there was a sense that the system did "fuck off". And it's not that there was a requirement not to be retrained and a desire not to re-certify... Just scored on the software and the interface, deciding, it seems, that "we'll release, and debug and send the patch later." It ended badly. IMHO

prison sentences would be fair.

robustov, April 10 2019, 09:52:20 UTC 1 month ago

Add to that and the fact that using the impact on state agencies, Boeing all this stuff still do self-certification - that's even beyond good and evil.

neznaika_nalune, April 10 2019, 14:04:18 UTC 1 month ago

The FAA is likely Packed full of former employees of the Boeing where they have yet to take experts.

occuserpens, April 14 2019, 18:03:07 UTC 4 weeks ago Edited: April 16 2019, 10:38:14 UTC

This software was needed because the Boeing weighed down the engines and instead of making another car for them, put it on the 737, which is not designed for them. This changed all the aerodynamics that had to be compensated by the software.

But such software should not depend on the serviceability of the sensors, not enough of them, etc. It should either solve the problem automatically, or turn off and transfer control to the pilots. Instead, he did not disconnect and began to interfere with the pilots to control the aircraft.

To talk about any something stupid mistakes here IMO is thus meaningless.. In aviation, almost always work it's not enough, so there should be still a logical branch when the system crashes. The solution, of course, will eventually be found, but alas it's too late.

[May 11, 2019] Boeing Altered Critical MCAS Toggle Switches On 737 MAX Before Deadly Crashes

May 11, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Boeing Altered Critical MCAS Toggle Switches On 737 MAX Before Deadly Crashes

by Tyler Durden Sat, 05/11/2019 - 11:30 2 SHARES

When Boeing transitioned from the 737 NG model to the 737 MAX, designers altered a toggle switch panel that could have prevented both of the deadly crashes over the last year in Ethiopia and Indonesia, killing a combined 346 people, according to an investigation by the Seattle Times .

On the 737 NG, the right switch was labeled "AUTO PILOT" - and allowed pilots to deactivate the plane's automated stabilizer controls, such as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), suspected to be the culprit in both crashes. The left toggle switch on the NG would deactivate the buttons on the yoke which pilots regularly use to control the horizontal stabilizer.

On the 737 MAX, however, the two switches were altered to perform the same function , according to internal documents reviewed by the Times, so that they would disable all electronic stabilizer controls - including the MCAS and the thumb buttons on the yoke used to control the stabilizer.

me width=

(Dimas Ardian / Bloomberg)

Former Boeing flight-controls engineer Peter Lemme, a harsh critic of the MAX design, first raised questions over the switch alteration on his blog , and says he doesn't understand why Boeing made the change.

He said if the company had maintained the switch design from the 737 NG, Boeing could have instructed pilots after the Lion Air crash last year to simply flip the "AUTO PILOT" switch to deactivate MCAS and continue flying with the normal trim buttons on the control wheel. He said that would have saved the Ethiopian Airlines plane and the 157 people on board .

"There's no doubt in my mind that they would have been fine," Lemme said. - Seattle Times

Boeing told the Times that they had historically called for pilots to flip both switches to disable a problematic or "runaway" stabilizer, so the button change matched that procedure, adding that the two switches "were retained for commonality of the crew interface."

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"Boeing strongly disagrees with any speculation or suggestion that pilots should deviate from these long-established and trained safety procedures," the company added.

During the October Lion Air flight, pilots were reportedly unaware of the MCAS system - while the day before , an off-duty pilot with knowledge of the stabilizer controls helped pilots disable the system on the same plane. Data from the flight revealed that the repeated commands from the MCAS system sent the flight from Bali to Jakarta plummeting into the sea.

After that crash, Boeing issued a directive calling for pilots to use the typical runaway stabilizer procedure to deal with MCAS in the event of a problem. Then pilots would be able to swivel the tail down manually by physically turning a control wheel that connects to the tail via cables.

But on the Ethiopian Airlines flight, the pilots appear to have recognized the errant MCAS problem and flipped the cutoff switches as described in the checklist. But then it appears that the pilots were unable to move the manual wheel , likely because the forces on the tail made it physically challenging to turn . - Seattle Times

After they were able to manually control the stabilizer, the Ethiopian Airlines pilots appear to have flipped the cutoff switches back on, reactivating the MCAS system. Shortly after, it entered a fatal nosedive which killed all 157 people aboard.

"When you're pulling on the column with 80-100 pounds of force trying to save your life, your troubleshooting techniques are very weak," said aviation consultant Doug Moss. "You need some gut-level instinctive things to do to solve the problem."

A veteran Boeing 737 test pilot said that all Boeing planes have two such cutoff switches, not just the 737. And both he and American Airlines Captain Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association who flies 737s, said they could think of no existing procedure that called for flipping only one of the switches.

The procedure appears to be designed to prepare for a situation in which the plane's stabilizer motor is for some reason jammed and moving uncommanded in one direction – a classic "runaway stabilizer" situation. That would require shutting off all power to the motor. - Seattle Times

Notably, the FAA did not notify pilots that the functionality of the switches had been altered, simply noting in its documentation the labeling change "Stab Trim cutout switches panel nomenclature."


DisorderlyConduct , 11 minutes ago link

The more you rely upon embedded computers, the more the system behaves like a computer.

For the software people, this was a test anomaly - if it was even tested at all. For others, it was the plane acting like a computer.

Just reboot it. Yeah, right.

south40_dreams , 17 minutes ago link

If I read this correctly, the MCAS stabilizer drive had a higher priority than the pilots, and without flipping those magic switches the pilots simply couldn't win. I thought Airbus was the only one with the philosophy that machine is supreme and humans were just along for the ride? At least thats been the Boeing line of propaganda for many many years.

What else hasn't Boeing told us? This can't be the only example of their lies.....

Bula_Vinaka , 16 minutes ago link

Life is meaningless..... when it comes to profit...

Donald J. Trump , 29 minutes ago link

Auto pilot type features are great huh? Boeing and Tesla are both having smashing success with them.

vienna_proxy , 39 minutes ago link

we need actual names of the engineers/managers responsible for this, and anyone who knew but didnt say anything

you_do , 45 minutes ago link

And was the reasoning behind his change ' the two switches were altered to perform the same function'?

Bounder , 30 minutes ago link

Probably to make up for the fact there was only one sensor? Sorry grim humour alert.

ToSoft4Truth , 46 minutes ago link

Perhaps giant corporations find "sport" in killing people. The CEOs never go to jail so it's plausible.

Serial killers hiding behind Boeing decals.

Lie_Detector , 46 minutes ago link

"He said if the company had maintained the switch design from the 737 NG, Boeing could have instructed pilots after the Lion Air crash last year to simply flip the "AUTO PILOT" switch to deactivate"

If Boeing had been responsible (money vs lives) there would never had been a Lion air crash.

Pathetic. There needs to be jail time for those responsable.

you_do , 46 minutes ago link

I sense a lack of Quality Control...

Marman , 39 minutes ago link

If you haven't read some of the in depth articles, here is my summation:

The new Max engines are so large they had to be moved forward on the wing.

The new engine nacelles THEMSELVES generate lift in addition to the normal wing lift.

The new engine nacelle lift is forward of the wings which produces a large torque and jacks the front of the plane up. Once the plane pitches up, the engine nacelles lift gets STRONGER and leads to a runaway pitch up scenario until a stall occurs.

Since this behavior is illegal in a commercial jet, Boeing hid the issue with poor software and did not tell anyone about it.

Including the pilots, airlines, or the FAA.

Number 156 , 37 minutes ago link

Wow, even worse than my understanding of it.

Criminally negligent.

By the time they get done paying out settlements and suits, the'll find they could've had designed and built a spaceship for cheaper.

Hubbs , 7 minutes ago link

Essentially , putting in an MCAS system to correct a previous design alteration which had now made the aircraft more dynamically unstable was the second mistake.

It is a critical error in the basics of flight itself , which even I as a former low time private pilot could understand. At take off and landing when there angle of attack changes going on all the time, you don't install a system that requires time to deactivate or correct or research in a manual to the correct an error that been introduced into the flight control system. You've only got seconds to act and anything that requires more than a second to allow full unimpeded manual control back to the pilot is a timebomb. In this case, assuming a pilot would have immediately deactivated the angle of attack sensors, the computer program that directed the screw motor to adjust the horizontal stabilizer trim tab, or the power to the screw drive motor itself, it appears that it would have taken a lot of precious time for the pilot to manually undo the motorized screw driven input by the manual trim control wheel by hus seat, which was not enough time when you are that close to the ground.

Number 156 , 50 minutes ago link

I have a feeling that this will turn out to be the most expensive redesign of any airplane ever made. Ever.
Good work Boeing.

[May 06, 2019] Boeing Left Airlines, FAA in Dark on 737 Alert Linked to Crash

May 06, 2019 | www.bloomberg.com

Boeing Co. knew months before a deadly 737 Max crash that a cockpit alert wasn't working the way the company had represented to buyers of the jetliner.

But the planemaker didn't tell airlines or the Federal Aviation Administration of the problem with the warning light until after a Lion Air plane went down off the coast of Indonesia in October, according to a Boeing statement Sunday. The accident occurred after an erroneous reading by a single angle-of-attack sensor triggered software that pushed the jet's nose down until pilots lost control.

The faulty cockpit indicator was supposed to flash when the plane's angle-of-attack vanes, which measure the position of the plane's nose against the oncoming air stream, send conflicting signals. Boeing had told airlines that the so-called AOA disagree alert was standard across the Max fleet, as it had been on a previous generation of 737 aircraft.

But the alert was only working on planes that had a separate angle-of-attack indicator on the cockpit display, the manufacturer said. The additional feature cost extra.

[May 03, 2019] Boeing's Own Test Pilots Lacked Key Details of 737 MAX Flight-Control System by Andrew Tangel, Andy Pasztor

May 03, 2019 | www.wsj.com

A culture of close collaboration between test pilots, engineering staff deteriorated in later stages of aircraft's development

Boeing Co. BA 0.18% limited the role of its own pilots in the final stages of developing the 737 MAX flight-control system implicated in two fatal crashes, departing from a longstanding practice of seeking their detailed input, people familiar with the matter said.

As a result, Boeing test pilots and senior pilots involved in the MAX's development didn't receive detailed briefings about how fast or steeply the automated system known as MCAS could push down a plane's nose, these people said. Nor were they informed that the system relied on a single sensor -- rather than two -- to verify the accuracy of incoming data about the angle of a plane's nose, they added.

[Apr 30, 2019] Boeing Changes Its Story, Admits 'Software Glitch' Disabled Critical Alerts On 737 MAX

Apr 30, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

In a clarification that only created more confusion, Boeing said Monday that an alert intended to notify pilots when the plane might be receiving erroneous data from one of the 737 MAX 8's 'angle of attack' sensors wasn't disabled intentionally, as WSJ reported on Sunday, but that the feature had been disabled because of a previously undisclosed software glitch.

What's confusing is that Boeing had confirmed WSJ's story that the aerospace company had neglected to tell the FAA and Southwest, the biggest customer for the 737 MAX 8, that the alert feature had been disabled because it had been made a new 'optional' safety feature . The alerts would have warned pilots that the plane's MCAS system might be about to misfire.

... ... ...

The company said that it didn't intentionally deactivate the alerts, and that they had only been disabled because of the software issue.

Boeing is now saying that its engineers, as well as safety regulators at the FAA, either missed or overlooked the software glitch that rendered these alerts inoperable, presumably even on planes where the extra safety features had been paid for. The alerts had been standard on earlier models.

The Monday statement suggests Boeing engineers and management, as well as U.S. air-safety regulators, either missed or overlooked one more software design problem when the model was certified two years ago. Before Monday, neither Boeing nor the Federal Aviation Administration had disclosed that an additional software glitch -- rather than an intentional plan by the plane maker -- rendered so-called angle of attack alerts inoperable on most MAX aircraft. The alerts warn pilots when there is a disagreement between two separate sensors measuring the angle of a plane's nose.

Boeing's disclosure comes as the plane maker scrambles to win FAA and international approval of a software fix for MCAS, making it less potent and less likely to misfire. In addition to the challenges already facing the MAX fleet, revelations of the additional software difficulties are likely to be scrutinized by airlines, passengers and regulators world-wide as Boeing strives to restore their trust and return the MAX fleet to service.

The alerts, intended to tell cockpit crews if sensors are transmitting errant data, had been standard on earlier 737 models. Officials at airlines around the globe, including Southwest Airlines Co., the largest 737 MAX customer, assumed the alerts remained standard until details emerged in the wake of the Lion Air crash. At that point, the industry and FAA inspectors monitoring Southwest realized the alerts hadn't operated on most MAX aircraft, including Southwest jets.

Ultimately, Boeing's admission of this glitch could make winning FAA approval to allow the planes to return to the skies even more difficult, and it's also bound to make international regulators more wary of Boeing's updated flight software, which the company has said is being designed to make MCAS less powerful, and more quickly identify when a plane's sensors are feeding it erroneous data.

Despite the bad news, which could further weigh on new 737 orders by prolonging the grounding, Boeing shares traded slightly higher on Tuesday, and remained up on the year.


konadog , 6 minutes ago link

The "glitch": we lined the executives pockets in lieu of reasonable development timelines and adequate testing. Probably outsourced s/w development to some **** hole country where they are "really gonna care" about quality.

greatdisconformity , 17 minutes ago link

A 'software glitch' is a design or coding error not caught by testing that was incompetently designed or performed.

That, or the indication that an error was present was regarded as an acceptable risk.

For others.

For example; a warning that 'you are all going to die if you do not do something' was made an 'optional feature'.

So what are the odds that the 'glitch' was introduced as part of the recode to make an essential feature 'optional'?

Management heads need to roll.

Senior management.

ThunderStruck , 21 minutes ago link

Nothing a few Million $$ under the table to grease the skids of the FAA can't fix. That's how capitalism works...

TheHappyCattle , 42 minutes ago link

Unpossible. Last month there were dozens of "pilots" in here telling us that brown skin caused these accidents. Perhaps those goons were on (((someone's))) payroll all along?

TheManj , 46 minutes ago link

Murderously incompetent.

CRM114 , 42 minutes ago link

"Murder" is a little harsh, it's just manslaughter ;)

Although "incompetent" is quite generous ;)

CRM114 , 52 minutes ago link

The thing is, they've now admitted it's a safety system, which invalidates the certification and shows the deliberate misnaming as a stability augmentation system.

Do these guys have stocks in Caterpillar?, 'cos they are digging themselves a pretty big hole here.

And besides, 'software glitch' doesn't wash - they designed it. It's a design error, one of quite a few just in this one system.

Let's have a listing of the names of the designers, and their H1B status.

Prosource , 1 hour ago link

Of course.

They will always "admit" it was a software problem.

ANYTHING to avoid admitting that it's an "engines are too big" and "wings are too far forward to be stable" (cancel existing orders and recall existing units) - engineering and manufacturing problem.

Amy G. Dala , 54 minutes ago link

The problem is this is a "737" in name only. Aerodynamics are different, critical avionics are different. The question for both Boeing and the FAA is, who decided additional training is not necessary, as this is still a "737"?

Ruff_Roll , 1 hour ago link

The airlines benefit from the competition between Airbus and Boeing so I don't expect the 737 max 8 debacle to lead to the demise of Boeing. That said, it will definitely hurt Boeing's bottom line for awhile while Boeing makes the changes necessary to repair its damaged reputation for safety.

Amy G. Dala , 1 hour ago link

One big change, guaranteed: FAA will no longer be the gold standard in certification for int'l carriers.

Ruff_Roll , 59 minutes ago link

True, the FAA failed to properly evaluate the 737 max 8 before certifying it as airworthy.

[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] 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 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 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
Image
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.

Video

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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 en