Commentary: Boeing’s Tylenol moment and the need for radical transparency

By Judson Rollins

March 13, 2019, © Leeham News: The traveling public’s faith in Boeing – and that of regulators in dozens of countries – has clearly taken a beating.

The 737 MAX has now been grounded or banned in nearly every jurisdiction in which it was operating just a few days ago.

Sunday’s tragic accident in Ethiopia bears an uncanny resemblance to the circumstances of the October crash of Lion Air 610, a fact which Boeing has tried to downplay by arguing that both accidents are still under investigation. The earlier accident is widely believed to have been caused by repeated nose-down trim responses driven by the MAX’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which in turn may have been influenced by inputs from a faulty angle-of-attack (AOA) sensor.

Passenger avoidance, pilot concerns

Prior to Wednesday’s belated decision by the White House and FAA to ground the MAX, social media was inundated with passengers asking airlines to move them off flights scheduled to be operated by the model. A Dallas Morning News review of pilot filings to a NASA safety reporting system revealed that pilots have been complaining for months about MAX handling issues believed to have brought down the ill-fated Lion Air flight.

One pilot wrote, “Now we know the systems employed are error-prone – even if the pilots aren’t sure what those systems are, what redundancies are in place and failure modes. I am left to wonder: what else don’t I know?”

Reports of a phone call between Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg and US President Donald Trump reportedly imploring the latter not to allow the FAA to ground the MAX provides additional reason for doubt. To wit, why lobby the White House to override the FAA if the technical evidence is clearly on Boeing’s side? This flies in the face of any Boeing public statements about putting safety first.

Gravity of the situation

Boeing’s own announcements have also shown an appalling ignorance to the gravity of the situation. A Monday release touted a MAX software update that would “make a safe airplane even safer” – which is more than slightly uncomfortable when set alongside the fact that more than 150 people just died in an accident involving that same airplane.

Boeing has long been known for a secretive, buttoned-up culture that rarely admits bad news. After the 1994 crash of USAir 427, Boeing repeatedly and publicly insisted the accident was caused by a pilot’s poor response to wake turbulence. It relented only when the National Transportation Safety Board requested flight data directly from 737 and 747 operators proving that uncommanded rudder reversal was the likely cause.

A more recent example was the 2007 rollout of a “fake” production 787 with plywood wing panels and doors, no cockpit, and no interior bulkheads. Boeing also repeatedly downplayed production and certification delays to the 787 program. The company’s apparent PR approach of “move along, nothing to see here” has become so de rigueur that its denials have come to feel more like implicit confessions.

Following the Lion Air accident, Boeing essentially blamed the pilots – causing the CEO of the airline to threaten to cancel orders for more than 150 MAXes.

A better way: Johnson & Johnson’s response to Tylenol poisoning

For an example of how to manage a full-blown crisis of confidence, Boeing would do well to look at how US consumer giant Johnson & Johnson managed a 1982 scandal involving its market-leading Tylenol painkiller. Seven people in Chicago were reported dead after taking Tylenol capsules. Police eventually discovered that the victims died from cyanide poisoning. The suspect – who has never been identified – removed Tylenol bottles from store shelves, injected them with cyanide, and returned them to the shelves.

In a concerted effort to reassure the public, Johnson & Johnson distributed warnings to hospitals and distributors and halted Tylenol production and advertising. In October 1982, it issued a nationwide recall of Tylenol products, costing the company more than US $100M ($273M in 2019 dollars). They also halted all advertisement for the product, and even issued national warnings urging the public not to take Tylenol.

Remaking the product

When Tylenol was brought back to market, each bottle came with triple-seal tamper-resistant packaging. Johnson & Johnson also began to promote the purchase of caplets, which are more resistant to tampering. The company tasked more than 2,000 sales representatives with delivering presentations to the medical community to restore confidence in Tylenol products.

Before the cyanide scandal, Tylenol accounted for 37% of US painkiller sales. Within the first 12 months, that market share had fallen to just 7%. Marketers predicted that the Tylenol brand, which accounted for 17% of J&J’s net income in 1981, would never recover from the sabotage. However, by 1983 it had recovered to a 30% share.

Although Johnson & Johnson management knew the company was not responsible for the tampering of the product, they assumed responsibility by putting public safety first and recalling all affected products from the market. Herein lies an essential lesson for Boeing: When your reputation depends on safety, it does not matter what has been proven or who is at fault. What matters is that you are seen taking the lead to protect the safety of the public – at all costs.

Radical transparency is essential to restore the 737 MAX’s reputation

Now that the decision of whether to ground the airplane has been taken out of Boeing’s hands, it is time for management to put a full-scale effort into restoring trust in the company’s products and approach to safety issues.

The top priority should be full public disclosure of all known problems with MCAS and AOA sensors to regulators, operators, pilots … and yes, even the traveling public. Ninety-nine percent of travelers will not understand (or even care) how MCAS works, but just seeing Boeing offer full disclosure of what it knows and how it intends to implement potential fixes will go a long way. The goal must be to restore the public’s confidence that Boeing is solely focused on identifying and addressing any technical issues – not avoiding bad publicity or maintaining its stock price.

Whether Boeing management likes it or not, perception is reality. Any public perception of a less-than-honest approach to safety will have implications on operators’ fleet selections for years to come. Even in a world where Boeing is one of only two choices for most commercial aircraft purchases, the buyers of those aircraft (airlines) know they must offer a product to their end customers (passengers) that the latter instinctively know to be safe and reliable.

The public’s confidence in Boeing has already been severely shaken, and damage to the company’s brand will only grow every day it continues to deny the existence of a problem it cannot disprove.

Judson Rollins formerly worked at Air New Zealand, Boeing, Continental Airlines, and Eos Airlines. He currently is a senior consultant for Leeham Co., a contributor to Leeham News and managing partner of Propel Revenue Solutions, a pricing and revenue management consultancy.

199 Comments on “Commentary: Boeing’s Tylenol moment and the need for radical transparency

  1. Very good summary . It seems that within Boeing the 737Max was ‘too big to fail’ . Yet we all know that the 777 and 787 have leading cockpit assistance aids in their fly by wire derived systems and an outstanding safety record.

    • FBW or the lack of it is the background to this disaster. To develop a new commercial aircraft in 2015 without it is beyond foolish.

      • FBW or no FBW decides how you have to cope with the effects of “breast augmentation” applied to the 737.
        What stands out here is the absolutely lackadaisical attitude towards a technically acceptable solution.
        It was obvious that thick layers of lipstick would never lift that excess amount of “silicone” .
        AND it is a reflection of the dilettante attitude towards designing and integrating those LiIon batteries on the 787.

        • Duek: I think that is a trite statement.

          Boeing simply never admits its wrong. What drives that is probably for someone with a PHd in the Corporate Psyche, I just know its there. Arrogance may be right but maybe something more convoluted than that. Trump like as well, even a verbal faux paux he denies.

          Not the first time and unless the earth moves, it wo’t be the last time.

          Its not a modern era thing, same with the 737 rudder, 767 thrust reverse and more recently the auto throttle.

        • Who was Boeing’s last real “Boeing CEO”? Wasn’t it Phil Condit?

          Everyone that came after him was the aftermath of a reverse takeover of Boeing by McDonnell Douglas, engineered such that too many board seats were given away to the MD side of the operation. Did corporate governance improve? I think you can reach your own conclusion on this one.

          And what was Boeing’s last real “Boeing airplane”? Wasn’t it the 777!?!

  2. If this is a similar incident it brings into question the certification process for upgraded aircraft and where the line is. It would be interesting to know if the AoA sensor was a new design given that the 737 aircraft basic design has been flying for so many hours as a fleet. Where the pilots aware on how to switch MCAS off and trained to fly without AoA post Lion Air disaster?

    Whilst it is hard, my experience in industry has been Honesty is the best policy to regain trust. Just like with a certain President, its hard later to know if your being given the truth because past actions suggest otherwise.

    • You’re right. Nobody will ever trust somebody, who was (proven) not honest in the past. To restore trust, Boeing would have to change the CEO. And the FAA would have to do the same. But I guess neither Muilenberg nor elwell are willing to go.

      • I disagree.

        This is not Tylenol.

        I think the correct response is valid but to compare it to an over the counter product that is easily replaced is not.

        Boeing now has to publicity fix this and eat dirt but nothing will change.

        They will put statements out that hint it was someone down in the organization that did this, the mgt was snookered and possibly get away with it.

        A low level sacrificial goat may have to be tried, maybe a mid and then time has moved on, its back in the air and all is forgotten.

        And nothing at all against Leeham, you see reporting above this, they will touch back on it as things develop but it will fade.

        • “I disagree.
          This is not Tylenol. ”
          correct! proper reference would be
          Thalidomid, aka Contergan scandal.
          a manufacturer self designed problem.

          The Contergan scandal was NOT handled nicely.
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thalidomide
          The victims are my age group. We grew up together. A rather visible admonition.

  3. The response to the 787 grounding after its battery issues was a much more relevant and recent example of Boeing transparency on safety issues than the ones you described. Why didn’t you mention it?

    • The 787 battery groundings didn’t involve loss of life and so are not relevant (other than that Boeing evidently learnt no lessons from the 787 grounding on how to avoid future catastrophes in new jets). To quote the Seattle Times, one has to go back many decades to find the introduction of a commercial jet that has caused such a staggering loss of life. https://www.seattletimes.com/business/737-max-crashes-make-it-the-most-troubled-airliner-debut-in-modern-aviation/

      • I need to ccorrect myself. I wrote “caused”, but the article says “involved”, such a staggering loss of life.

        • The 787 rollout didn’t involve loss of life either, so it’s an inconsistent comparison. This makes it seem like the author was reaching to find instances that fit a prescribed narrative of Boeing being secretive, without discussing its handling of the resolution to the 787 battery issues.

          • Well, wait a second.

            Who led the grounding of the 787?

            It certainly wasn’t Boeing. Indeed, if I recall correctly, it wasn’t the FAA either.

            ANA had to voluntarily ground their own aircraft to knock over the first domino.

            Another example of Boeing putting the $ before lives.

          • I think Japan AHJ made the first move.

            May have been ANA that lead it, but it was for sure not FAA or Boeing.

            Same as this time.

          • That’s a pretty bold accusation for someone who (I assume) lacks firsthand knowledge of the situation. If that’s a poor assumption I apologize, but please stop wasting time on the internet and go help fix the problem so the airplanes get back in the air! 🙂 I don’t recall the details of the 787 grounding’s beginnings, but I do recall numerous publicized reviews of the proposed solutions. The complete omission of the entire incident from this article seems suspicious in today’s era of intentionally slanted journalism, but maybe it was just careless. That’s all.

          • @ William

            I am confused, complete admission of what please? You are being indignant but it is not clear to me exactly what your indignation relates to

          • Re the 787 grounding it was always obvious from the outset that battery fires was a manufacturing & design defect and did not implicate any fault on the part of the airline or the flight crew in any way whatsoever. However, when Boeing can find someone else potentially to blame, they will instinctively try to pass the buck. Take a look at Boeing ceo’s interview on Fox business after lion air where he absolved Boeing of any fault in the disaster.

          • Sigh. Re-read the thread please. *Omission* – meaning the article doesn’t mention the 787 battery issue at all in favor of (IMHO) less relevant anecdotes. My initial question was asking why that was the case.

            Other commenters took the opportunity to state the opinion that Boeing favors cash over the safety of the flying public, which I thought was unnecessarily pejorative speculation from – and as I said, I apologize if I am incorrect in this assumption – an armchair aviation expert with presumably no better information than anyone else.

            Take a look back at A380 uncontained engine failures and stress cracks in the wing several years ago. I’d bet you’ll see that neither Airbus nor EASA immediately called for grounding the fleet, but at least one airline did. (Sources welcome if you have them.) No fatalities there, thankfully, so it’s a technical footnote in aviation history and that’s all.

            In any case, gathering facts/data before jumping to conclusions isn’t necessarily bad practice. How timely and appropriate corporate and regulatory reactions are to incidents and accidents may be an issue to discuss, but I would say that’s across the entire industry, not just one company.

            Now, if not immediately jumping in to beat up on Boeing makes me indignant to you fine folks, I guess there’s not a lot I can do about that. Have a great rest of your day!

          • William, Boeing didn’t adequately disclose the existence of MCAS to its customers, and the result has been devastating loss of life. That’s Exhibit A which demonstrates that Boeing in the present day will gloss over safety matters in favour of marketing considerations. In that context, the author of the article was being exceedingly polite in characterising Boeing’s conduct merely as “secretive”.

  4. Ethiopia’s decision to send the recorders to France despite the NTSB’s insistence on having it, and being in the home country of the manufacturer, is basically giving a GIANT MIDDLE FINGER to the US given how badly they handled the aftermath.

    When the rest of the world grounded the aircraft out of abundance of caution with reasons to do so, the FAA/Boeing’s prolonged insistence that the aircraft was airworthy and safe to fly was pretty much telling ET “you guys screwed up somewhere and that’s why the aircraft crashed”. ET likely felt betrayed by this. I wonder how many others’ trust the FAA and Boeing have eroded.

    • With the FAA having lost most, if not all of their credibility, regulatory agencies worldwide are likely not to automatically follow the FAA’s lead on a lifting of the MAX grounding.

      EASA, CAAC (etc) might demand a full recertification of the 737 MAX — something that would take at least 18 months to complete.

      • With Boeing doing self certification of aircraft, the job and responsibility of the FAA as the independent regulatory body is a joke. The problems with the lithium batteries on the B787 is a classic case of total failure in their task The FAA Certificate of Airworthiness for the B787 is questionable and putting the travelling public lives in danger!!!!Forget about the crew flying it!!!!

        • Most government agencies (Federal and State) with oversight of industry were gutted years ago. “I’m from the government and I’m here to help;” Ronny. “Let’s let business do what business does best – make money,” Barack. Joe SixPack unfortunately bought into this. One of the hallmarks of the Affordable Health Care Act, was to get rid of oversite – those regulators! Please excuse me, I have to go pick-up my $300 statin prescription. What’s this have to do with aerospace? – See earlier FAA discussion.

  5. years ago when BA and FAA decided to change- reroute how DER types worked, etc to save money, the stage was set.

    How anyone approved a single sensor control over a flight control issue is beyond belief.

    What is everyones duty /responsibility is no ones duty/responsibilty

    heads should roll at many levels in BA

  6. Full disclosure is perfectly fine. If you can afford it. But it could also be Pandora’s box.

    From how the situation has been handled so far, I have the impression that there could be similar “MCAS” type cases on how certification and issues have been done. Is that a systematic issue or just an isolated one? I truly wonder. Johnson & Johnson at least could argue it was a malicious external cause. Boeing only can wish it could blame somebody else.

    Possibly and hopefully, all professionals in the industry step up and ask Boeing and the FAA questions for more detailed information in all aspects to also keep confidence in their other products.

    Besides, I wonder for how long can Boeing keep up the production of the 737 before they run out of parking spaces? How to manage that massive production and supply chain challenge?

    • Johnson & Johnson at least could argue it was a malicious external cause. Boeing only can wish it could blame somebody else.

      The point of Judson’s post is that Johnson & Johnson only stood a chance because they opted for measures that already showed clear determination to put safety first precisely at a point when it was not clear that external factors were to blame. Also, even though the issue was eventually found to be external, they still went ahead and improved their product (well, its packaging) to avoid reoccurrences.

      That sort of approach is the only way you’re going to stand a chance if you find there actually *is* a big issue with the product itself or your processes/procedures.

      Think about these things less in terms of “blame” and more in terms of “responsibility”.

      I work in IT and the approach some Boeing folks are showing reminds me of fanboyism/blinkers/silos in IT: “If you don’t understand how this software/OS/documentation/Excel sheet works that us geniuses have set up for you, you’re simply too stupid and shouldn’t be in IT to begin with.” Not a direct quote, but sort of a conglomerate of attitudes and quotes I’ve compiled over the years.
      I’ve grown to be a fan of the exact opposite approach: Design stuff for an average user having a bad day. Because the more everything is moving towards 24/7 online, you really want your core business functions to always, always work. And we’re talking “only” money at stake here, not lives.

      It seems fair to use that same approach in aviation, to be honest. Even if a crash is found to be caused by human error, how can we avoid that error being in the future? Hence the triple-tamper-proof packaging.

    • If fixing the MAX means full recertification of the programme, we might be looking at significant hardware changes. Keeping the production going — as if nothing has happened — could therefore cost the Boeing company additional billions if hundreds of stored MAX planes would require significant re-work.

      • OV: Thats why I have to thread needles with you.

        This is not going to happen

        The issue is so out of context with a fully certified aircraft with an issue that has nothing to do with the whole aircraft despite the lethal results.

        Sadly its happened before and it will happen again.

        To Engineer is Human. That also means we screw things up.

        • “Fully certified aircraft” — yeah, right!

          Boeing effectively self certified the MAX with the blessing of the FAA. Thanks to the actions — or rather, inactions — by Boeing during the last couple of days, they have managed to cement their reputation as a company that shamefully puts money and corporate interests above safety.

          As for the FAA — they’re a joke. They’ve embarrassed themselves in front of the whole world. Even if the FAA were to lift the grounding by June, or earlier, it’s not certain that regulatory agencies worldwide would want to follow suit.

          The roots of this crisis can be found in a major change the agency instituted in its regulatory responsibility in 2005. Rather than naming and supervising its own “designated airworthiness representatives,” the agency decided to allow Boeing and other manufacturers who qualified under the revised procedures to select their own employees to certify the safety of their aircraft. In justifying this change, the agency said at the time that it would save the aviation industry about $25 billion from 2006 to 2015. Therefore, the manufacturer is providing safety oversight of itself. This is a worrying move toward industry self-certification.

          Before this policy was instituted, the agency selected these airworthiness representatives, who may have worked for the manufacturer but were chosen and supervised by the agency. These experts were responsible for guiding the agency’s decisions about whether to ground an aircraft for safety concerns.

          Unfortunately, the problems of the 737’s latest model, the Max 8, show that those responsible for ensuring the safety of our skies have strayed from this successful path, and lives have been unnecessarily placed at risk. The F.A.A.’s oversight of aircraft safety needs to be examined by Congress, which should act to make sure the agency names independent experts to determine the airworthiness of an aircraft.

          The American public should expect no less. The F.A.A. used to lead the world in air safety; today it is bringing up the rear.

          https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/13/opinion/boeing-737-grounded.html

  7. “Whether Boeing management likes it or not, perception is reality.”

    You hit the nail on the head.

    It’s too bad, really, that reality isn’t reality, but this is the world we live in, even more in this era where ignorant and emotional rantings of anyone with a keyboard can be read, believed, and regurgitated by others likely ignorant of the complex issues about which they’re ranting. However, it’s pretty obvious, at least from the Lion Air crash, that the MAX flight control system need changes. And, the Ethiopian crash closes the case, even though the cause has not yet been shown to be related to aircraft flaws.

    Boeing does indeed need to take responsibility, regardless of their level of culpability. There is plenty of blame to go around, at least with the Lion Air crash, but ultimately Boeing’s name is on the aircraft and Boeing’s reputation is on the line. At the very least the families and loved ones of those who died deserve that, but Boeing employees deserve at least that also. Their reputation on the line too. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of Boeing workers who feel much differently about what happened than Boeing’s public face has indicated.

    As for full public disclosure, it’s a no-brainer for the regulators, operators and pilots. Disclosing technical issues to the public, however, is very ticklish and will need to be done carefully. The vast majority of the public is ignorant of this subject, and some even fearful. Lot’s of people just don’t want to know how the sausage is made, so to speak. Boeing will have to walk a bit of a tightrope between restoring confidence and causing more fear with how they share the info. I hope they are up to the task. They better be up to the task.

    • An excellent comment all around!

      I live and work in Germany but have friends who work at Boeing.
      I’ve been in aerospace for 30 years and have worked at/for all of the big commercial OEMs (Airbus, Bombardier, Boeing, Embraer) at one time or another.

  8. Excellent article.

    We also need to fully understand the underlying stability of the airplane. More specifically, when changes are made to the FCC, manual flying will mean manual flying. This must always be an option for pilots. Pilots will need to know the underlying stability of what they are flying!

    My own view is that it must remain grounded until at least next year. In the mean time:

    Boeing must disseminate all information to regulators throughout the world and then allow them to come to their own conclusions.

    And

    Put whatever changes they make through a rigerous testing procedure, the procedure along with all other information disseminated to regulators throughout the world.

    Once trust is lost, you are done. It’s a long way back for Boeing and the FAA. But if they are to return, they must act impeccably.

    I want competition between Boeing and Airbus, as well as others. So I want Boeing to return.

    • Phillip:

      It will be back in the air as soon as its tested and the world will go on as it did before. Guess at 3 months MAX (bad pun intended)

      If Scott is willing I would have him hold $100 on that prediction.

      Either one to be given to charity of his choice.

  9. It might take several months to fix the design flaws.

    Will Boeing halt 737 MAX production, produce hundreds of 737 MAX gliders, or try to convert production back to the 737NG-series?

    One thing is for sure, there will not be any delay getting CFM LEAP engines going forward. CFM will catch up and might even offer Airbus additional LEAP engines for the A320neo family.

    • It may take several months to fix the design flaws to the satisfaction of the FAA.

      That might not satisfy regulators elsewhere in the world. Or it could take years.

      This is probably the *minimum* price they’ll pay for having mishandled the Lion Air tragedy. Had they grounded then, done their software fix, relaunched, it could have been over and done with in a few months. Now it won’t be. They’re now going to have to explain to the whole world why pitch instability masked with software is acceptable. Many would argue it’s not, and most would argue it has to be triple redundant.

      Or they’re going to have to hope that the world decides to trust the FAA again. That’s far from certain – they have to justify it to their own politicians and populations which they serve.

    • I would be surprised if slowing production on one variant of the LEAP would allow higher production on the other. I seem to remember there are two lines and relatively little interchangeability, could be wrong

      • Meg:

        Probably 3 months or a bit less, Boeing will crank em out, disruption the production line over a fixable item is a zero optional

        It cost vastly more to shut it down and restart than keep it going

        Hype is this is such a crisis and flaw its not fixable. It is fixable (better done) and its a matter of software in the main.

        What the issue is with how the AOA signal is going whacky is a part no one is talking about.

        If its cross referenced you can likely live with that as to date not two AOA have done whacky.

        • If you have only 2 signals, and both are sending in-range values – tell me which one is faulty…

  10. All too late in my view. I was very willing to give Boeing a break. They’Re NG was a great frame.
    Sadly They have not been serious. How can we believe a quick software fix is all that is needed. The first fix is not. I am very sad.

    • Any new MCAS whence conceived (how long will that take ?) would need re-flight testing and re-certification, a cycle that could normally take months. But maybe Boeing will surprise the world pulling the rabbit out of their systems engineering top-hat, exhibiting a retrofittable new ready-to-go MCAS 2.0 overnight, if eg they’ve been aware since long (?) of the flaws of the original system through the 737 MAX Product Support feedback, ie from the Lion Air accident or other MCAS incident reports fed to Boeing from the MAX operator community ?? So in the line of “transparency”, once they come forward with their MCAS 2.0, Boeing need to answer this question : WHEN did you guys start working on this system update and WHY ??

  11. For 2 days American airlines operated the plane despite telling the cabin crew they didn’t have to fly on it.This is amazing, what did they tell the pilots?

    • The Pilots had the training and felt they were fully capable of handling any issue.

      Per an interview on NPR

      • These are the self same pilots who made a significant number of comments to the FAA about the concerns they had about the pitch control of the aircraft I believe

  12. The FDR and CVR are on their way to Paris. No press conference scheduled by the BEA, all the communication will be managed by Ethiopian authorities.
    A lot of work for engineers but also for PR people and managers. It takes more time to restore confidence than to fix a bug.

    • This is not a bug. This is a full sized catastrophy.

      Besides, this is also a scandal. Does anybody here really believe that the test pilots did not notice any of this before certification?

      This is an un-stable plane without a full fly-by-wire system. It should never have been certified! The MCAS has the same quality as the Diesel trickster software. (The tech won’t deliver what the management is asking for? Well, let’s just twist it and assume nobody will ever notice. We are the greatest anyway, and how is the stick price today, by the way?)

      Will the Boeing management get away with 350 dead for free? Can those who decided to bring this Frankenplane into service sleep in peace?

  13. Reality is reality. I see Boeing trying to play with perception.

    Who came up with the strategy to downplay / buy time by arguing that both accidents are still under investigation? The LionAir handling looks really alarming. All ethics bla bla seems no more than window dresssing. Did Muilenberg even read it?

    I think most definetely the position of Muilenberg & his communication chief should be reviewed.

      • This interview is truly damning of the CEO. He doesn’t answer questions but instead attempts to give a politician approach of stating his message. Very troubling and in view of the result personally devastating to his career in my view.

  14. Like others the organisation I am concerned for is the FAA.It is this body in whom the consumer invests his trust.These are the experts,the guru’s,the best of the best.When they certify an aircaft consumers can have confidence – until they can’t.

    Many people have spoken about the extraordinary way they handled the serious 787 battery problem ( put it in a bigger box).During that period it became known they didn’t have the relevant experience on the new battery chemistry involved.
    Thus relying on the company desperately trying o maintain its reputation and continue selling their aircraft.

    Now it’s advanced software.Are we going to find out they don’t know much about this either thus relying on the manufacturer’s coders to say ‘it’s fine -really’.

    It is correct Trump got involved,its correct he pointed out the increasing complexity of aircaft.He needs to reassure the American and Global public that the FAA is -or will be in the future ‘fit for purpose’.
    Many must be doubting this right now,which in turn could undermine consumer confidence in the industry as a whole.

    • Phil:

      I agree Boeing hosed up the 787 battery. You should note that Airbus uses that type of battery now on the
      A350 and was going to certify with it until t Boeing mucked it up.

      Airbus was using SAFT though and I have the utmost faith in them. They are Aviation gold standard battery and a world wide deeply respect firm that France can be very proud of .

      But, the FAA did not simply allow them to put in a bigger box. False information is as bad as totally fake.

      The problem was handed over to the RTC who came up with standards (there were none before)

      Then all those standards were approved and implemented.

      I followed it closely as batteries are a significant part of my world (and my brothers world which is indeed Avionic tech)

      1. Fire proof and vented box
      2. Upgraded monitor boards and sensing
      3. Better battery pack deign so cells can cascade into triggering each other off
      4. Factory inspected and found filthy for a clean room environment need, that was stopped.
      5. Quality control put in to deal with hand formed piece in the battery (done prior by a hammer over a mandrel.
      6. NDT testing of each battery.
      7. Physical testing of each batter

      • Yes, the FAA & other certifying agencies did not have the Technical knowledge enough for the initial certification of Li-ion Aircraft batteries at that time. Even after a fire destroyed part of the factory it was not stopped and certification criteras refined, the solution was to skip testing as that part of the factory was fire damaged…
        Even the new 797 batteries have on occation overheated and vented but its protective box and its exhaust worked fine. Li-ion batteries can not be shipped as cargo anymore on passanger Aircrafts as the risk is there and increased volumes makes it more common with sort Circuit overheating incidents.

  15. This situation is now likely not solvable with current management in place. Personal phone calls to the president trying to get an override of the FAA? Ooops. Kinda hard to explain to a safety conscious travelling public.

    In the same way the decision to ground was taken out of Boeing’s hands, so the recovery may be taken out of the management’s hands by the shareholders, once the financial cost starts becoming clear.

    A rough totting up of that will include loss of revenue, redesign costs (which might turn out to be a whole new aircraft), compensation costs of many kinds and amounts, disruption to other programmes as staff are sucked into the effort, costs to those programmes, cancelled orders all over, multiple recertification costs given that the whole world seems to have decided that the FAA isn’t to be trusted, costs of reaching a universally accepted design… It’s going to be expensive.

    That last one illustrates the true value to Boeing of a universally accepted FAA. Try getting a plane into the sky when FAA isn’t trusted… At the very least you can see Boeing having to directly engage with the Chinese, Japanese and European authorities. Not so bad for domestic routes, there’s only one authority to placate, but a potential nightmare on international routes.

    Setting aside the MAX redesign costs, I wonder if the final bill will come to more than what it would have cost to have designed a whole new aircraft instead of updating the MAX?

    • Perhaps we need a supranational body to certify aircraft. At present the FAA fulfils that role with a small amount of deference to Europe and European countries. It cannot be good for world aviation for the whole apparatus to be brought into question

      • Totally agree !

        We’re in a global economy, a supranational body certifying new aircraft would be able to command the confidence of the flying public.

        Perhaps the same should apply for air accident investigation, totally objective, and neutral.

        In fact one body doing both of these tasks would be a good idea, if you have a good background in understanding the causes of accidents, you’d probably be quite good at helping prevent them in the first place.

          • …but one could argue The FAA who had that role before does not command sufficient respect on the world stage to carry on as before…

        • You can easily get into a situation where somone like ICAO certifying Aircrafts with x10 as many staff, takning x10 longer time and x100 the cost of today. Together with massive political influence and in-fighting. Maybe better to more clearly specify the FAA/EASA certification work in-house and how they shall double check the designs/calculations/material data/testing and software. Hence they need their own software/supercomputers/material data and Failure mode effect analysis Tools and skills. Don’t know if NASA/ESA works more like this?

  16. Boeing, FAA vs customers, a fully elastic collision. each time, every time.

    Independent of their cause the recent crashes show
    that the exposed certification process still shows that the FAA is deeply embedded at Boeing working towards their partisan task and having lost most interest in supervision for safety.

    This apparently has not changed a jota since 2013 when essentially the same setup was exposed during the burning battery grounding and aftermath.

  17. Excellent summary of the PR debacle this has been.
    Two points I’d like to add, though.

    Firstly, if Boeing’s reputation has taken a beating, what about the FAA’s?
    For me, certifying a critical system like MCAS with only single-sensor input, no mandatory indication of AoA disagreement in the cockpit, and no tie-breaker mechanism in place that turns off MCAS in case AoA sensors readings diverge by more than x°, plus agreeing with Boeing that MCAS should be in the manuals, but not in the pilot training (something which EASA objected to before eventually falling in line), shows a terrifying lack of diligence.

    Secondly, here’s a quote from Boeing’s statement:
    “Boeing has determined […] to recommend to the FAA the temporary suspension of operations of the entire global fleet of 371 737 MAX aircraft.”

    So the manufacturer makes a recommendation to ground the fleet to the authority that’s supposed to regulate that manufacturer.
    That, to me, perfectly illustrates the degree to which Boeing and the FAA are just way too cuddly with each other, as – if NYT reports are to be believed – the line between OEM’s roles and tasks and regulator’s roles and tasks became increasingly blurry over the last decade or so.

    In fairness – this probably brings us back to my first point again, i.e. trust and confidence in the FAA.
    Unless organisational changes are put in place at the FAA, I would expect more aviation regulatory bodies to in the future not just go “what the FAA said” when it comes to certifying new types.

  18. What surprised me mostly is the logic to damage the credit of authourity so quickly while considering following implement actions to take will also require the approval and certification by it.

  19. Here’s Scott H. being interviewed outside his new house: 🙂

    https://komonews.com/news/local/boeing-analyst-believes-grounding-planes-will-have-no-effect-on-production-lines

    Scott H:

    I wouldn’t expect that we would see a grounding for any more than six weeks, at the outside.

    The problem here is that even if the FAA would lift the MAX grounding by the end of April, it’s not given that regulatory agencies worldwide would follow suit.

    What happens if EASA, CAAC (etc) would demand a full recertification of the 737 MAX?

    • Exactly my thoughts. I don’t see airlines companies accepting new planes until the models get an all clear. For this this would require completion of current investigations and enforcement of eventual fixes.

      I fear that Boeing is facing a major crisis!

      • The foreward mounted engines render the stable window of operation too small for commercial operation around the world. This means the 737 Max needs a full fly-by-wire system. How long will it take to develop, test and certify?

        • Gundolf & Sowerbob.

          This is something I need to look up, but I don’t think Civil airplanes are allowed Military style FBWs were the airplane has reduced natural stability or is even unstable. I do think Civil airplanes need to be natually stable.

          All Airbus airplanes are natually stable, allowing the FCC to be turned off. If turned off, signals from the cockpiy controls are sent directly to control surfaces without any software algorithm intervening. It is known as direct law. Direct law is always used at the start of testing, then a progressive switch to normal law follows.

          Larger engines on the A320neo/A330neo were matched by other modifications to maintain natural stability.

          I don’t know much about the A320neo, but with regard to the A330neo, new winglets and a wing retwist were the big items to return natual stability.

          With regard to both the A320neo and A330neo they still have a carefully designed pylon to prevent wing interference from the engine.

          The 737 MAX doesn’t really have a pylon anymore, which means the engine is interfering with the wing. This appears to be the central issue with regard to stability.

          I know I’ve said this before, moving the CofG foward reduces pitch sensitivety, so it’s not the issue. The engine/wing mounting is playing havoc with the CofL. That’s causing pitch sensitivety. In doing so, natural stability has been compromised. The question is by how much. It now appears to be a lot.

          • When you are talking about the engine wing interface- look at what GE had to do with its LEAP-1B engines , its not just a smaller fan than the Airbus version but a smaller diameter core and increased core efficiency – all because the undercarriage isnt long enough to give adequate ground clearance. The smaller diameter fan led to other more expensive changes to the Max to get back a few % in fuel efficiency.

            Yet the answer all along was done by Concorde when the had to engineer an undercarriage which shortens when it retracts. Boeing limited its Max 10 stretch again because even with a more complicated retraction its rotation angle on takeoff is still limited.
            All because they didnt want the expense ($0.5bill ?)of a full undercarriage redesign to give more ground clearance

          • There is a trend to munge issues. again.

            At the moment I see three separate problem tracks ( chronological order of being visible):
            1
            Lion Air maintainance procedures ( this could actually vanish if there is a randomly working bug in the data processing path)

            2
            MCAS used to cloak uncertifiable airframe properties/behavior.

            3, NEW
            Strange errors produced in the sensor data path. “synthetic air data” sets fed to MCAS
            and other data sinks.

          • “I don’t know much about the A320neo, but with regard to the A330neo, new winglets and a wing retwist were the big items to return natual stability.”

            Do you mean the “winglets” concept / design that Airbus blatantly ripped off / re-engineered from Boeing?

            Airbus is just as guilty, (if not more) of tweaking older designs and “calling it new”.

    • Well, the acting head of the FAA itself is being quoted as saying the grounding could last for months, rather than weeks.

    • Knowing that the US in general has thing for being massively vindictive seeking revenge for perceived slights …
      … this could turn unpleasant. ( compare to the trade war runing.)

      • Uwe:

        Hopefully we can set Trump aside as a one off moron.

        I would like to point out WWI, WWII, Cold War and NATO where we stood by devastated countries in a War we had nothing to do with (and the Marshall Plan)

        We at least had people of vision like Truman and Marshall who saw that the disaster of WWI repartitions was beyond insane.

        We changed that dynamic. We were NATO until NATO could stand on its own. We did fail to mandate NATO countries pick up their share of the tab as they recovered (that is our fault, we allowed them to become Co- dependent to the point this rupture could occur)

        The US is far from perfect (Trump being a good bad example)

        We are better as well.

        • entry to WWI, WWII and the aftermath that enabled dominating the western world were all strongly self serving. No altruism around. ( Even the direct Marshall Plan credit lines were linked to extremely extortionate conditions. ( carefully kept out of public view. Why was Hitler bankrolled by the US Bankers ?)
          so you better step down from that “AA” soap box.

          • I’m German. And I think we have to agree that we disagree.
            My father says after six million Jews six million Germans would have been next. Accordingly he would never accept a critical word against America from me. His love somewhat lessened with Bush.

            ” Frequent trips to Europe—he made his first excursion at the age of two and went with his parents every year from the ages of seven to fifteen—helped Roosevelt become conversant in German and French. At age nine he attended public school in Germany.”
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_D._Roosevelt#Childhood_and_education
            Churchill after WW I was against Versailles. Any earlier war in Europe where the winner didn’t demand compensation?
            Therefore my favorite German national heroes are Napoleon, Roosevelt, Churchill and Ludwig Erhard.

        • What about a share of refugees?
          Germany cares of about 1.5 million refugees mainly caused by US wars: Iraq and Syria. How many refugees are within the US? By including costs for refugees Germany already is far other its 2 % obligation.

          • Mhalblaub:
            Hate to break it to you, but the nearly 1m Syrian refugees (mostly young single men of fighting age) that Merkel let more or less walk into Germany without sufficient background checks or documentation was not caused by, nor the fault of, the US.

      • Uwe stated:
        “Knowing that the US in general has thing for being massively vindictive seeking revenge for perceived slights …
        … this could turn unpleasant.

        Oh, you can take that to the bank, Uwe. In particular, the excessively mercantile European governments are next in line for some “shock and awe”…

  20. Let’s assume that Boeing will sort the matter out to everyone’s satisfaction within 3 months, a distinct possibility in my view. Where does this leave the MAX?

    Will it continue to have cross compatibility with the NG for pilots? Will it require a more comprehensive recertification? Are the grandfathering rights going to still be intact?

    Both Boeing and the FAA have put themselves in a very difficult position and will have to ‘prove’ their engineering and inspecting respectively.

    Note that the boxes are going to France, it is almost as though Ethiopia does not trust the FAA to be impartial in their findings…

    Boeing’s games of recent times, B787 launch, B787 battery, Cseries, MAX seem to suggest a company run on testosterone and not intellect.

    • Note that the boxes are going to France, it is almost as though Ethiopia does not trust the FAA to be impartial in their findings…
      …nor the NTSB.
      But the NTSB and FAA are both providing assistance, as is Boeing so I doubt it’s a case of “BEA will do the work and then confront FAA/NTSB with it”.
      But yeah, it seems to show a certain levek of distrust, although France being within 2 hours of Ethiopia’s time zone probably doesn’t hurt, either.

      • Someone remember the 777/RR fuel intercooler problem were the US institutions absolutely had to release information bypassing the investigation leading British group. Usually a no go.

  21. Humbleness, open communication and honesty were required from Boeing after the crashes.

    The stock price driven/ rewarded defense guy on the top decided to fight back with everything they could come up with. Ethics tumbled way down the priority list.

    The CSeries lawsuit, the stock price growth, huge tax cuts, blind support in congress, strategic importance for DoD (KC46). They must feel they can get away with anything!

  22. We’ve had more than 50 years of accidents/investigations/changes since the first flight of the 737 to get to the regulations we have now.

    I think “grandfathering rights” will need to change, if you couldn’t certify the aircraft under the current regulations, I think it’s hard to justify risking peoples lives in an aircraft just because they certified the basic design in the 60s.

    If I have this correct, it’s a safety first industry, you don’t want to have any single point of failure.

    MCAS is dependent on one AOA sensor (not redundant, cross check, or triple redundant) ? One sensor that could fail, or give false readings after say a bird strike during takeoff.

    The AOA indicators that American Airlines have on their primary flight displays, and those that Southwest were looking to implement are optional extras ?

    Since when should safety be an optional extra, how much does it cost BA to have AOA indicators on the PFD by default ? Are these PFD indicators present in the software upgrade due in April ? If not, why not ? (Refund AA, and Southwest if you have to).

    MCAS is there to protect against stall at high angles of attack ? But if it kicks in just after take off when you really need altitude, and it prevents the pilots from having elevator authority over the stabiliser you have a serious problem.

    Is the autopilot controlling pitch when the engines are in high thrust mode, pushing the nose down to avoid the AOA increasing too rapidly ?

    Switch off autopilot at this point, and the nose rises quickly, perhaps too quickly, flaps have just been retracted, so MCAS kicks in to push the nose down. If you are short of altitude, you don’t want to be nose down, so you get the nose up, and add thrust (you probably need flaps, which would turn off MCAS, but you don’t extend the flaps), adding thrust causes the nose to rise quickly again, MCAS pushes nose down…

    I’m sure I read somewhere that the -800 series had some issues with the nose pitching up hard under high levels of thrust. If you place bigger engines further forward, and higher up on the MAX, do you make an issue (if such an issue exists) with pitching up under high thrust worse ?

    On the “grandfathering rights” issue, the 737-100, and -200 had up to 73kN of thrust available, we now have 130kN on the MAX, nearly double, and it’s in a different position. Some cool heads need to look objectively at this to understand what the implications are.

    About Ethiopian sending the black boxes to France, BA should have been ahead of the game on this, if they’re really all about safety, they should have suggested that the boxes are read by some neutral authority, with all interested parties as observers. As has been pointed out in the article “perception is reality”, any perceived lack of transparency will only generate more conspiracy theories than would be created anyway.

    The only way to counter conspiracy is to be able to point to unadulterated fact.

  23. To me the sky fell in with these words from Boeing, as reported by Flight Global:

    “This includes updates to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals and crew training. The enhanced flight control law incorporates angle of attack (AOA) inputs, limits stabiliser trim commands in response to an erroneous angle of attack reading, and provides a limit to the stabiliser command in order to retain elevator authority,” it details, adding that the upgrade is designed “to make an already safe aircraft safer”.”

    The words “retain elevator authority” are the key words.

    When those words appeared, country after country started grounding the 737 MAX.

    I don’t think anybody outside of Boeing and the FAA had any idea that elevator authority was in question. I certainly didn’t.

    This is going to take a long time. Even if the FAA lift the grounding, nobody else will until they are sure they have been given all the information, analysed it and are happy the modifications have made the airplane safe.

    A year at least.

    • Philip:

      Authority is nothing more than an engineers word for leverage

      The stabilizer will always have more potential than the elevator

      Its trimmed close to neutral to allow the elevator to do it thing if the pilot if flying. Auto pilot uses the stab for trim and fine tune of the desired attitude.

        • Phillip: I hate to tell you this I am.

          I am not however an aeronautical engineer or any way shape or form.

          Hopefully that will allow you to sleep better at night.

          Now that Russian bear to the East, maybe no so much.

      • Sorry, but I would say “authority” is an aerospace engineers word for “control”.

  24. I commend LNA for this article and its readers for mature reflection on both FAA and Boeing roles. The former seems no longer up to the job and the later reveals its customary arrogance. My view in London.
    IWC

    • Agreed but nothing new , FAA has done this before and will do again unless reformed.

  25. A technical question: MCAS was implemented as a way to circumvent handling issues arising from changes in the 737’s center of gravity after installing heavier LEAP engines.

    But Airbus has also certainly dealt with changes in the A320’s CG, as the LEAP 1A and PW GTF are heavier than the engines they replace.

    How has Airbus managed to compensate for the change in CG on the A320neo? Has Airbus implemented something similar to MCAS? Has Airbus changed engine mounting points?

    • CG change is not the issue.
      The issue is nacelle drag up/forward of the normal center of lift. self amplifying pitch up moment is the result.
      The MAX should really like stall and persist in sitting in it.

    • Airbus is FBW, in theory the plane dosnt intervene when you do something silly, it won’t let you do it in the first place.

    • @BernardP

      A few key differences between the 737 MAX, and A320 NEO.

      The A320 has had full fly-by-wire since it was initially developed. The 737 does not.

      The A320 has taller landing gear, and was thus able to mount the larger engines in pretty much the same place as the first A320. The CofG I would imagine has not changed significantly, nor the CofL.

      The MAX has the larger engines mounted further forward, and higher, ahead of the CofG, and possibly ahead of the CofL.

      Bjorn has an excellent discussion here https://leehamnews.com/2018/11/23/bjorns-corner-pitch-stability/

      @Gundolf
      I’d be uncomfortable with an unstable commercial airliner needing fly-by-wire to make it fly. We leave that to the airforce fast jets with an ejection seat.

      I see no need for an unstable commercial airliner, quite the opposite. By all means use fly-by-wire to improve fuel economy, passenger comfort, emissions etc. But when you turn that all off what you need in a passenger airliner is a stable, safe aircraft.

      Perhaps the final solution might involve making the MAX-7,8,9 landing gear taller (MAX-10 landing gear solution), and putting the engines back where they were on the NG.

      I recall seeing an article some time back on the 737 replacement study, somewhere it mentioned ‘relaxed stability’. If that was to become part of a BA NSA, then I would definitely be in the “If it’s a Boeing NSA I aint going” camp.

      • The CoG must be ahead of the CoL or it’s unstable. The further ahead the more stable the less manueverable. But, the stabilser must exert enough force to prevent the CoG from dropping the nose.

          • CoL = Centre of Lift.

            The problem with the MAX is, that the CoL moves forward dramatically with increased angle of attack as those big nacelles only really generate additional lift when the angle of attack becomes significant.

            So its non-linear, and non-linear in an unstable mode. Not a good combination.

            MCAS should *never* have been allowed near a commercial aircraft. If I were a higher up in EASA (or similar), I’d be really pondering whether to stop automatically mirroring FAA certification.

        • Thanks to all for helping me give TransWorld an education. Some people, many people, are saying exactly the right things

      • @JakDak
        I completely agree with you that a subsonic airliner should not be unstable. But appears the 737 is. Or at least it looks like the stable operational window is too small, which is why the MCAS was invented. What I’m saying is that without a full fly-by-wire the 737 in its existing shape can not become a decently safe plane.

        But I see this as the only solution to avoid scrapping them.

        If you think it through and look at the alternatives, maybe the best solution for Boeing would be to license the MC-21.

        • Gundolf:

          You are badly mistaken stability with extreme edge of envelop handling.

          The MD-11 is a so called relaxed stability aircraft

          The 737 is not.

          None of those have to do with handling at the extreme edge.

          A 737 is not tested for barrel rolls because it does not do them. A 707 was. they at least publicly never allowed it again. It also was not test with a load.

          It might very well have failed. So what?

          It is not tested for loops either.

          An A320 has the same reasons as the 737 to have software change the stabilizer behavior at the varying modes of flight.

          Its not a hazard either.

          • You don’t understand the problem Transworld.

            As you near stalling AoA in the 737MAX – the extra lift generated by the nacelles is ahead of the “nominal” CoL (or aerodynamic centre for the more pedantic aerodynamicists here) – which shifts the CoL forward – and reduces elevator pitch authority – right when you need it most to push the aircraft’s nose back down.

      • @Philip Agree CofG must be ahead of CofL, just saying that on the A320 NEO, AB didn’t move them around very much if at all, on the MAX they have changed.

        @OV-099 The basics are there, they have a landing gear that is over 9″ longer, and still fits into the existing wheel well.

  26. The question may well be that improvements need not be to the satisfaction of the FAA, which appears to be far more friendly to Boeing (it remains to be seen if this remains the case), but to EASA and others. I have seen mentioned elsewhere that allegedly EASA were far more skeptical of the MCAS and other aspects of certification, but followed the lead of the FAA out of deference.

    It would be very interesting should the FAA approve the ‘fix’, yet the EASA/ others demand larger, more extensive changes.
    Would US based airlines accept this to get their planes in the air, with the public aware other regulators don’t believe enough has been done? We’ve seen public reaction to this already.

  27. That is the result of an engineering highly sofisticated company run by the “Wall street traders” and similar.
    That is why they do HUGE byuback of shares and not spend enough on R/D.

    How is it possible they do have outstanding costs in manufacturing processes in billions and are allowed to do byubacks ?

    • As Ex City CEO Charles Prince said:
      “As long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance,”

      Roosevelt in 1933 enacted the Glass-Steagall act. Till Clinton repealed it in 1999 banking in America was safe and boring.
      Why would self-regulation for Boeing work any different than for banks?

      If Boeing had to advise the grounding of the Max after the Lion Air crash, how would that have affected the profit and therefore boni (bonus payment for great performance) of Boeing managers?

      Any news about the Lion Air blackboxes? I wonder why the authorities didn’t want to release any information before the final report.
      https://www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia-crash-idUSKCN1PG08R

  28. This shows how careful you need to perform your safety analysis. Basically, in order to define your architecture, you identify a failure condition and together with analysis with pilots and flight dynamics engineering you define the criticality of the failure. Depending on the achieved level, according to 14CFR 25.1309, it is not required to employ redundancies. The issue is that usually the pilots which evaluate the failures in the safety analyses are top gun ones, not the average joe.

    • Max:

      Pilots do not evaluate it. It is the engineers and the administrators that determine what its critical level is and then design to the agreed on level.

      Test pilots test it and report back (or the data goes back) It may undergo another review if not satisfactory.

      FAA pilots then test it as well.

      Any AHJ can run those tests if they choose.

      Few if any do, you are at such an extreme point of the flight envelope you can loose an aircraft. Most are not going to do that when they have the data to see what happened and hopefully disagree if they don’t like it.

      • Hey TransWorld, engineers can only propose the safety level. They need to be validated by analysis or in simulation environment by pilots. They evaluate the failure and propose the safety measures for it, like training, procedures, etc. this is how we currently do in our company.

      • Initially engineers propose an architecture and an initial safety level. This initial safety level is prevalidated, where flight mechanics engineers determine the effect of the identified failures in the aircraft, and flight test pilots determine the effect in flight crew and occupants. Then, after aircraft models and prototypes are mature enough, you do the final validation with certification authorities.

  29. It may be useful to recall how B737 Max was launched. Boeing kept insisting that it would not offer an updated B737, but a new clean-sheet design as replacement for its popular, but rather antiquated (60’s design, with low ground clearance and no FBW) 737 series. That is, until Airbus came up with the re-engined A320-neo and it started selling like hot cakes. Only when one of its loyal customers ordered the A320-neo did Boeing realize the magnitude of the disaster they were facing. If they had continued on the clean-sheet approach, Airbus would have monopolized the single-aisle market. So they had to also reluctantly and hurriedly take the re-engined approach, even though hanging an even larger engine underneath the wing created huge problems with ground clearance and as it now appears clear, the basic pitch stability.

    Granted, they had to do what they had to do, namely introduce MCAS. But the way they did it is what has caused all the problems. If they had been upfront about MCAS, instead of “hiding” it to make the MAX look the same as NG to prevent recertification, retraining etc., they would have been fine.

    So the fault lies with the management more than the engineers. Also, if they had owned up to the MCAS “flaws” after the Lion Air disaster, and had grounded the fleet until they had come up with a fool-proof fix (software or hardware), Boeing would have retained its credibility. Instead, they tried to blame the dead pilots and maintenance people and played for time, until the EA disaster. Now they are in real trouble. Also, a basic tenet of any engineering design is that it should be compatible with the least skilled people who may operate it, not the aces. Also, in critical systems like an aircraft or a rocket, one never builds a single-point failure into any subsystem. That is inviting a disaster down the road. How could Boeing engineers allow for elevator authority critical to flying the aircraft to be overridden by trim control? Does not make any sense whatsoever. As such, Boeing engineers have to share some of the blame.

    As for the FAA, our Congress has to share some of the blame. Crucial agencies like FAA must be adequately funded. If not, they cannot do their job in-house and have to outsource at least parts of it. This is probably what happened here. They had to rely partly on the OEMS for the certification process. The outcome was inevitable. So let us not put the blame solely on the FAA. It has a tough job: Regulating AND protecting the interests of Aviation in the US. Our Congress should NOT have put FAA in that untenable position.

    It is time to break up FAA into two parts and fund them both adequately so that the public confidence in the FAA can be restored.

    • So is this the end of the NMA/MOM/797 and the start of a new narrowbody? It would not surprise me if priorities are completely changed after this. It seems to me that developing a successor to the 737 is unavoidable now.

      • @Kant: It looks like the Max doesn’t offer enough stability in a normal flight envelope, so it would not have passed certification. That is why Boeing hid the MCAS system. That’s also why it had to be really small and unobtrusive. I say criminal. Both from managment and engineering. What about the test pilots? Is the word Omerta?

        @NdB: It’s not only unavoidable, but essential for Boeing to develop a 737 successor. And as time is most crucial here there are basically only two options: A) license the MC-21 or B) develop a very conventional full-aluminum A320 copy. Once that bird is in service the next generation single aisles plane has to be developed, probably full carbon and next generation propulsion.

          • J. you got me, damn.

            But you know what? Me in that chair, that’s exactly what I would go for. But if mass production of the carbon parts is not possible soon enough, make it a full aluminum A320 copy with a 787 cockpit.

            What would you do?

          • An MC-21 licensing agreement would be a synallagmatic contract, meaning there are basically two parts to it … and whereas obviously it would represent a life bouy to Boeing, I’m not convinced Irkut would welcome such a move in the present circumstances in deference to MC-21’s better preserved Image&Prestige by keeping clear.

          • Gundolf…also “fully carbon” on replacement? Carbon does not scale well to single-aisle….and “next generation” propulsion is not yet ready.

            You understand, I hope, how long it takes to develop and produce a clean-sheet airplane.

      • My view is that the new narrow body would be an offshoot to the 797 anyway- sharing cockpit, empennage, wing with – with some variations,the fuselage diameter being different. The flight controls and all the other subsystems like undercarriage would be the same where possible.

        • Undercarriage can’t be the same due to different weight.

          Many systems are harder for common (AC) as the 797 is larger.

          The cockpit, computers and others can be the same but the biggest will be the program methods.

          The electrics can borrow stuff from the 787 and the three could share those costs but again in many cases, a relay would only need to be rated for 100 amps vs 400 on a 787. You have to decide if a too large relay and its adder weigh (for all of therm ) is a trade off.

  30. Interesting WaPo reporting:

    As President Trump consulted with administration officials Wednesday over whether Boeing’s 737 Max jetliners should be grounded after a crash killed more than 150 passengers in Ethiopia over the weekend, he shared his pointed opinion of the type of plane in question.
    In his words, it “sucked.”

    The president said Boeing 737s paled in comparison to the Boeing 757, known as Trump Force One, which he owns as a personal jet, according to White House and transportation officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. He questioned why Boeing would keep building the model and opined that he never would have bought a 737 for the Trump Shuttle, the small airline he briefly ran three decades ago that relied on 727s before going bankrupt, the officials said.

    Later in the day, Trump agreed with his aides that the Federal Aviation Administration, as the industry regulator, should formally announce the decision to ground the 737 Max planes, according to two White House officials. But when reporters were brought into the White House for a previously scheduled immigration event, he scrapped the plan.

    “We’re going to be issuing an emergency order of prohibition to ground all flights of the 737 Max 8 and the 737 Max 9 and the planes associated with that line,” Trump announced, catching some industry officials by surprise.

    The chaotic scene capped a harried three-day period in which the United States lagged almost every other major country in deciding how to respond to an Ethi­o­pian Airlines crash early Sunday, highlighting the Trump administration’s close ties to Boeing and its difficulty asserting itself as a global leader in the wake of a tragedy.

    The equivocation reflected an administration that was reluctant to take the step of imposing a nationwide suspension initially opposed by Boeing, the country’s second-largest federal contractor.

    Trump was inclined to announce a grounding on Tuesday, but he received pushback from the FAA, which had not yet reached a decision, according to officials familiar with the deliberations. But Trump also equivocated himself, telling advisers that grounding planes would cause panic and could hurt the stock market, according to two people who spoke to him.

    On Tuesday, as a growing number of countries were grounding the planes, Trump spoke to Muilenburg, who argued in favor of keeping the planes in the sky, according to a senior administration official. Boeing was facing increasing global pressure after reports showed that pilots had complained about the plane’s automation system.

    On Tuesday night, officials said, Trump was given satellite data that indicated the same 737 Max automation system believed to be responsible for a crash in Indonesia last year that killed more than 180 people may have played a role in Sunday’s accident.

    By Wednesday morning, officials said, Trump had also seen information about the crash from the Canadian government, which then announced it was grounding the model, leaving the U.S. as the only major country where the aircraft was being allowed to operate.

    “We were coordinating with Canada,” Trump said Wednesday. “We were giving them information, they were giving us information.”

    Throughout the process, Trump played the role of aviation expert, despite having no formal training in aeronautics. Trump told advisers about the dynamics and equipment of various airplanes, comparing them to his 757.

    “He was very much engaged in this,” one official said.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-disparages-boeing-737s-in-private-before-grounding-the-plane-after-deadly-crash/2019/03/13/8eac7c92-45a3-11e9-8aab-95b8d80a1e4f_story.html?utm_term=.9b63dafa6dd8

  31. Is it proven fact that the MAX is “unstable” in high AOA, more than other aircraft? How does it compare to the 787, A330neo, A320, or 737NG? Maybe some of those aircraft are more unstable at high AOA, they just have a fix that works.

    Do all these aircraft have to be stable in that realm without any fly by wire or auto systems, or are they certified in this realm with FBW, where the MAX has MCAS?

    All these aircraft have engines ahead of the wing, acting as a lifting surface as angle of attack increases, forward of the center of lift, creating a pitch up moment. All these aircraft have a thrust vector below the center of gravity, creating a pitch up moment.

    Short planes, A320, A338, 788, 737-700, how stable are they in the high AOA region compared to the MAX 8? Short aircraft have a shorter moment arm to the tail, which one would assume is the moment counteracting the moment from the offending engines.

    Again, is this a gross instability problem unique to the MAX, or just the one bad fix to that problem?

    • Ted, if I understand the situation correctly it is not only the uniquely foreward position of the engines that’s creating problems, but also their elevatinon. If you look from the front you will recognise that they are “in” the wings. This means they screw up the flow around the entral part of the wings big time. None of the other planes you mention have a similar setup, so none of them suffer from the same destabilizing effect. All the other planes have sufficient stability in all normal flight regimes.

      No sane engineer would design an unstable airliner. The only explanation for this incredible mess that I have is a massive management override.

      • Yes, I definitely see what you are saying, that the engines would block the airflow to the wings at lower AOA than other lower engines. Makes sense intuitively, just like the wings blocking the airflow to a T-tail at the wrong AOA.

        • You are both wrong.

          There is nothing intuitive about it, its all hard data and facts.

          The facts are that none of that is in play.

          Neither one understands the situation. I can accept what they are saying, I could not do the math.

          The math and an aerodynamics is what rules. Not intuitive. Trump goes by his gut, he is always wrong.

    • Hi Ted,

      I think you’re asking good questions. I’ll give answering them a shot, not because I consider myself an expert in aircraft stability & control or flight control systems, but because I have a background (now distant) in these subjects. There is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding being propagated in these comments sections, especially since this latest MAX crash, that I’m certain is not accurate based on my background knowledge and what Bjorn has covered in his recent Bjorn’s Corner: Pitch Stability series. So…

      Your overall question:

      Again, is this a gross instability problem unique to the MAX, or just the one bad fix to that problem?

      This is most certainly not a gross instability problem with the MAX. It is a problematic implementation of a flight control augmentation system that is intended to correct a reduced pitch stability margin issue at high pre-stall AoAs that all aircraft with large engines slung under the wings suffer from to varying degrees. In the case of the MAX, the more forward engine placement relative to the CG means that the reduced pitch stability margin at high AoA is more pronounced than in previous 737 models or other aircraft such as the A320neo. It was pronounced enough that Boeing deemed it necessary to develop a new system, the notorious MCAS, so that the handling qualities would not unexpectedly change at high pre-stall AoAs (I’m aware of the irony of this, believe me).

      It seems that many commenters here are confusing reduced stability margin with unstable. Unstable is a regime where the aircraft is uncontrollable on human reaction timescales, whereas stability margin is a quantifiable measure of how close a given stable aircraft configuration is to the unstable regime for a given flight condition. A smaller or reduced stability margin is not the same as “more unstable”. The term “more unstable” would only apply if the aircraft configuration and flight condition is already in the unstable regime, which the MAX will most certainly never be in, at least when it’s flown within its certified flight envelope.

      For the case of pitch stability, which is the issue at hand, stability margin is directly related to how sensitive the pitch control is to pilot inputs. Boeing determined that at high pre-stall AoAs the pitch attitude of the MAX was uncomfortably sensitive to pilot input. They introduced the MCAS to adjust the pitch trim so that the pitch control sensitivity will be more in line with pilot expectations, meaning that the pilot would have to pull back harder on the column to achieve pitch up attitude changes when the aircraft is at high pre-stall AoAs.

      All modern transport aircraft need systems to make pitch trim corrections over various portions of the flight envelope in order to meet regulator’s controllability standards. Cases in point are pitch trim corrections for various speeds, altitudes, and Mach numbers. I’m sure that other aircraft like earlier 737 versions and A320neo’s suffer from reduced pitch stability margins at high pre-stall AoAs. It’s just that the reductions are small enough that pitch control sensitivity is only minorly increased but still within acceptable limits. With the A320neo, I’m pretty sure that the FBW system in normal mode makes pitch trim corrections at high AoAs to make the pitch control sensitivity feel to the pilot like some sort of defined pitch control sensitivity standard that Airbus came up with. It’s just that Airbus never needs to talk about reduced stability margin in this flight regime because the software to handle it is buried somewhere within the FBW system.

      Make no mistake, in order to be certified by the various regulators, all transport aircraft must have acceptable pitch stability margins (with the associated acceptable pitch control sensitivities) without any augmentation. I’m pretty sure this applies to all areas of the certified flight envelope, meaning that the MAX must have an acceptable level of controllability even at high pre-stall AoAs without the MCAS. The controllability requirements are relaxed, but relaxed minimum standards still must be met. The same can be said of the A320neo in the backup direct mode where the pilot will experience reduced controllability under various conditions but always above a relaxed minimum standard.

      Back to the MCAS problems on the MAX. The fact that the MAX has or needs MCAS is not a problem. The problem is with how it was implemented and that is what needs to change. It is ludicrous to think that the need for MCAS indicates that the MAX is somehow doomed or beyond fixing because it was modified too much from previous versions. However, it is pretty ironic that a system that was intended to reduce surprise by adjusting pitch control sensitivity to meet pilot expectations ended up surprising and confusing pilots because of its poor implementation.

      The best concise summary of the MCAS problems I’ve seen was given by Bjorn in his Bjorn’s Corner: Pitch Stability, Part 9.

      The implementation for the 737 MAX had two problems, however:
      1: The fault checking of the triggering AoA signal was not rigorous enough. This problem has been discussed a lot. No need to add anything.
      2: The judgment the pilots would identify a problem with the augmentation as a trim runaway and shut the trim off was wrong. Why the pilots didn’t see MCAS rouge actions as a trim runaway is poorly understood.

      To introduce MCAS was logical. Its reliance on a single signal trigger was probably accepted because the system covered a remote corner of the flight envelope. The action to counter any faults was deemed obvious. In practice, it wasn’t.

      https://leehamnews.com/2019/02/08/bjorns-corner-pitch-stability-part-9

      Forgive me for the long-winded response, but these issues are complex and require a bit of detail if one wants to be correct and clear. I hope I’ve adequately answered your questions.

      • I agree that civil airplanes need adequate pitch stability margin. The actual terminology is positive static margin, but who cares. I’ll just use the word margin.

        Normal climb out from an airport should not be anywhere near the extreme of the margin unless the margin is inadequate.

        The pilots of these two airplanes were doing a sedate climb to cruise altitude. And yet they went into powered up, high speed dives that were unrecoverabe.

  32. Many readers here argued that Boeing made a mistake introducing the NG instead of a new, modern single aisle. It make some sense now.

  33. The FAA could restore its credibility by mandating the following:
    1. Require either a separate type rating for the MAX, or at the very least, differences training in a MAX simulator.
    2. Require crews flying the MAX should only fly the MAX. No need to repeat the scenario of 737 NG crews occasionally forced to fly a 737 Classic.

  34. The key difference in J&J’s Tylenol response and recovery and Boeing taking a similar path is J&J was the victim of nefarious external acts as compared to Boeing’s apparent complicity in these disasters. The can of worms that real transparency would open to public view and its fallout forclose that option. There will me no openness here I’m afraid.

  35. What is this mysterious satellite data?Was there similar data from lion air?
    If they can get a fix out in less than 2 months, that would confirm to me that they already knew exactly what the problem was that caused the Ethiopian crash and were gambling. I am now virtually certain that Boeing and the FAA have been holding something back.

    • Read Flight Global opinion. They agree with you …the FAA got themself to hole, then invented new satellite data that they claimed was convincing.

      I actually don’t think there was any erroneous flight data this time. So I don’t think it will be possible to blame flight instrumentation.

      In other words, the airplane flew as designed, straight into the ground.

  36. Here’s KING 5’s Glenn Farley (NBC Seattle):

    Glenn Farley: Yet, what we’ve witnessed this week — with individual countries declaring their own groundings, political statements and mega media coverage — the head of the flight safety foundation, this afternoon, said that the approach to this crash has been haphazardous at best, citing the rush on decisions based on conjecture and pressure rather than decisions based on facts and evidence.

    Question: So Glenn, when will we have all of the facts collected?

    Glenn Farley: Well, we may not … we may well wait a year plus to get this — we still don’t have the final report out on Indonesia, much less this which is just starting — but, we … we still don’t have the flight data recorder information, and that which would be crucial to making these kind of short-term decisions in hopefully those .. those black boxes are heading to France to be read-out tonight, which would have been about 10 hrs ago, but then there’s an analysis period, so — there’s a lot of frustration about the boxes….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5IX84rCY-Q

    This really is quite incredible — the sheer arrogance that’s coming out of Seattle. Glenn Farley — the local reporter who seems to be shilling for Boeing — is actually insinuating that the civil aviation regulators — the world over — have grounded the 737 MAX because of “political statements and mega media coverage”.

    What’s interesting, though, is that Glenn Farley seems to be speaking for Boeing; or rather, giving an insight into how Boeing is looking at the situation — and they seem to be very angry and paranoid about the “black boxes” (i.e. the last sentence in the quote above is quite revealing), as if the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Accident Prevention and Investigation Bureau and the French BEA is out to get them (Boeing).

    • The question is more like, why wasn’t it grounded after LionAir?!

      Once it became common knowledge that the MCAS would turn on based on a single bad input, and there is no MCAS alert, and there is no MCAS shutoff, and it takes over the tailplane motor, and leaves the pilots with a handwheel to return it to a non crash setting, right after the flaps are retracted, at low altitude?

  37. I do hate to tell all the new Pundit but Scott has it right.

    Boeing has the patch ready to go or close to it.

    It will be back in full commercial service in under 3 months.

    It does not have stability problems, again its pundit who don’t understand what CG is and what the complexity of lift under varying conditions actually does.

    the 737 is an older architecture (tube engine and delivery clo0se to the ground before jet-ways) design that has been successfully re-vamped (several times) to compete with a much newer design.

    We don’t know what other issues may or may not be in the software or hardware on the AOA/MCAS system.

    American Airlines pilot (Dennis X) was perfectly happy to fly the 737MAX with the full training on the MCAS.

    He fully smacked Boeing for the secrecy and said the cooperation post was as good as you could want (that does not excuse Boeing)

    As I noted before, US Pilot his this issue like a ton of brick and got response. Nothing against anyone else but the US is a cohesive block with a serious group of protected pilot by their union. They are almost uniquely in the world positioned to do that.

    NTSB is not the FAA, its a totally seperate agencyu with full powers to investige.

    It can only recomend

    Its analysis at times can be questioned (as should any agency) its integrity in the Aviation world is not

    It can’t be influenced by a current president as the members are long time appointees byu someone in the past.

    What it cna’t do is make a report on foreign investigations, it can only assist to get the data recovered.

    Note that Indonesian on a extremely critical and 189 dead will not release ANY more information until a year is past.

    You should point at least some of you Ire there, people can die and we do not even know what the AOA part is showing.

    • But you are assuming the world will fall into line. Perhaps the world won’t. Remember the world refused to fall into line with regard to refusing to ground the airplane. America was left isolated.

      This as got a long way to go. In my mind a software patch will just continue to mask a severe stability issue. The root cause will still be there.

      Of course, America can do as it wishes. But the rest of world can do the same. The rest of the world doesn’t need this kind of airplane.

      • Philip:

        From a perspective of being older, you see how these things play out over time.

        The world rightly started to refuse and while I don’t think China is non political, they did do the right actions in trying to determine what in the world the FAA and Boeing were up to first.

        They are a heavy weighty in aviation buying, it then gave cover for others to follow (I agreed with the grounding and I did write very close to the start it should be grounded)

        But as long as its a credible and certified fix and the ohter AHJ agree, it will be back in the air. 6 weeks is now the guess.

        You are wrong in that its a stability issue.

        It is a control issue at an extreme edge of the envelope that the only pilots that see it have lost control of the aircraft already .

        Unfortunately your ignorance (lack of knowledge) on the subject leads you to make wrong conclusions that are not supported.

        All countries do what is in their perceived interests.

        Sometimes they shoot themselves in the foot. The US has done so and will do again.

        While I think the 737 should have been replaced long ago (and I love that airplane in its former settups) that does not mean its not viable and indeed, it is.

        Amazingly Boeing has made it on par with not only a newer aircraft, they did so when newer aircraft had undergone a tech change and knew larger engines would be the wave of the future.

        Ironically the 737 would be safe WITHOUT the MCAS.

        They will correct it, it will be flying in 2 months likely and no more than 3.

        All AHJ will look at it.

        What I hope is not missed is that the AOA aspect and why it went off the rails in the first place.

        We don’t get reports of stick shaker on NG and only on the flights with an issue. The only change is what happens with that single input AOA.

        347 people have lost their lives over this. I don’t dismiss this. As I write previously, on my own small scale I know what that is like.

        The 737 is a safe aircraft. Oddly trying to make it safer they made it worse.

        • Your words:

          “It’s a control issue at an extreme edge of the envelope”

          So you are trying to say a normal climb out of an airport on a calm, clear day with a clear horizon is at the extreme edge of the envelope of this airplane. So what happens if the weather is lousy?

          Whilst you didn’t mean to agree with me you accidently did agree with me for your words translated mean the airplane has severe stability issues.

          You do need to read what you post sometimes, or ask somebody with an education to explain to you what you are posting.

          You have called me ignorent on a number of occasions whilst making a fool of yourself in front of the entire world by using gibberish sentences. Look up Orwellian behaviour and Machiavellian behaviour. You exhibit both.

          A normal climbout from an airport is at the extreme edge of this airplane’s envelope. Yep, I agree, because the airplane as now crashed twice!

        • I agree that it is not a major stability issue until that is a proven fact.
          My conjecture is that the -700 is more unstable than the 8 or 9. It just got grandfathered in. No retroactive MCAS has been asked for, yet.
          How long did 747s fly without inert center tanks?
          How did the 747-8i get certified with no front doors for the front cabin? Somewhat arbitrary rules and calculated risk.

          • I think many of us would argue that it is a proven fact.

            Both crashes occurred because the airplane put itself into a powered up, steep dive that was unrecoverable. In other words, it did clearly go outside it’s envelope.

            We are being told a software patch will prevent it. That needs to be proven.

          • Phillip: Ignorance is a lack of knowledge, its not an insult. Refusing to accept that you don’t know something and then try to discuss it is a different behavior but I have tried to educate you.

            Frankly I can discern if you are getting caught up in idiomatic expressions or simply don’t or do not want to get it?

            I will try again (sigh).

            A normal climb is a normal aspect of flight.

            A STALL is not. In fact its an aspect of flight like a barrel roll or a loop a commercial aircraft want to absolutely totally avoid.

            As a stall is possible (with a 737, an A320 won’t let you under most circumstances) then it has to be tested.

            However, and A320 can be stalled in its alternative control laws, so it too is tested in that extreme edge.

            Did you know that a 727 with full pax did a barrel roll ?

            What you can’t seem to grasp, is that what occured is not anyting to do with normal climb or flight in general.

            The system thought on the basis of a single input that the aircraft was at extreme edge of flight and reacted the way it was programed to.

            We have a saying with computes, Garbage in Garbage out.

            So the Garbage was a single bad reading rather than cross check reading that helps eliminate the garbage.

            It does not matter what flight area the 737 was, it acted like it was at the extreme via the computer, not any other control or stability aspects.

            There in lies you confusion. You don’t understand the difference.

            When you don’t understand then you make assumptions based on bad data.

            Call it your personnel MCAS.

            Now I will remind you that you just called me a fool (which I don’t take personally ) though it is in contradiction of your statements about free speech and being insulted.

            I will take it unto myself as a mission in life to keep trying to educate you. I hold out hope you will thank me someday.

          • I think many of us would argue that it is a proven fact.

            Both crashes occurred because the airplane put itself into a powered up, steep dive that was unrecoverable. In other words, it did clearly go outside it’s envelope.

            We are being told a software patch will prevent it. That needs to be proven.

            Phew, with logic like that…………

            Yes it did go outside its normal envelope, take off however is not outside any aircraft envelope.

            A bad piece of logic caused it to (well actually the pilot failure to act correctly) – bad logic can also be relay logic though not much of that these days.

            So, an aircraft is put outside its envelope by bad logic and therefore the aircraft is unstable ?.

            Does that mean MH17 was unstable because a missile hit it and pout it outside its envelope?

            A stable commercial aircraft should have a cockpit armored to prevent that.

            Well the engines, wings and fuselage, tail surface as well.

            AF447 was put outside its envelope by a pilot. Does that make the A330 unstable?

            Or is unstable just an open place a horse stands?

          • TransWorld

            Again, you need to let somebody read what you are posting.

            Neither airplane were anywhere near what would normally be regarded as a STALL AoA. Normal climb out should never be anywhere near a STALL AoA. To turn it round, if normal climb out is anywhere near a STALL AoA then there is severe stability issues.

            Stop accusing others of a lack of knowledge when it’s you with the lack of knowledge. That insults people.

            I accept that you are a proud American, but your coming across as Custer’s last stand at the Alamo

      • Philip, quite so. I think Boeing have got so used to the FAA’s word being accepted worldwide that it’s come as a complete shock to them that it now seemingly is not.

        Having split with the FAA, the other regulators around the world logically cannot accept the FAA’s findings at face value unless there is something to suggest that the FAA itself has mended it’s ways. They must have that, otherwise a crash after reintroduction of the MAX to service would be blamed on the local regulator, who would be accused of being stupid and naive. I don’t see that the CAA, EASA, etc. have any choice in this, now that they’ve acted independently of the FAA.

        So it’s not in Boeing’s power to get the FAA rehabilitated. They’re going to have to engage directly with the world’s regulators themselves. I’m convinced that this path is fraught with peril; it’s far from certain that any aviation regulator will approve a 60 year old design for commercial flight, irrespective of MCAS. Grandfathered certification doesn’t get carried over to a foreign regulatory body.

        And that would kill the MAX programme stone dead.

        • I think this is the rub, other jurisdictions are mightily unimpressed with the FAA and want answers. They don’t trust the airplane but far more important they don’t trust the process that certified the airplane.

          This is NOT politicking in the sense of national interest it is instead politicking of the respective aviation authorities who will not simply kowtow to the pressure of the FAA. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

          If the FAA has any sense it starts looking to build bridges by being cooperative. Just a thought

        • Mathew: the other regulator agencies in the world should accept FAA – they have the same data and are obligated to analysis it.

          Brazil Clearly d did its own homework.

          If those AJH did just accept then its an in country issue with the integrity of their operations.

          All posters from a foreign country that has an issue with the FAA should be writing to their representatives about that.

          They let you down, they should be held accountable.

          • READ:

            Should Not Accept in place of should

          • You’re reinforcing the point were trying to get across. Having finally concluded that the FAA isn’t to be trusted it’s unlikely they’re going to let the 737MAX back into the air simply because the FAA says it’s fine.

            Were the Indonesian and Ethiopian authorities and everyone else at fault for trusting the FAA’s view on the airworthiness of 737MAX? No.

            Aviation safety relies on everyone, from individuals to entire organisations, to tell everyone else if they’ve screwed up or aren’t doing their job well enough. We trust luggage loaders to say when a door has been damaged. We trust pilots to declare themselves unfit for service when ill. We trust maintenance shops to own up to FOD before an aircraft is returned to flight, not afterwards. We trust airlines to make proper maintenance arrangements, and to not fly if those are not working out.

            So what’s wrong with trusting the FAA, the very pinnacle of aviation safety in the US and which also likes to been seen as that abroad, and which I presume preaches blame free just tell someone safety cultures across the whole industry, to declare it’s own fitness to practise? Nothing at all.

            Except when it’s come to these crashes, they’ve shown themselves unfit to practise, on the technology level of things like MCAS (the approved implementation has effectively already been deemed junk, and dangerous), and on the incident management level (by not recommending grounding 737MAX after the Lion Air crash).

            And it’s everyone else that’s had to point that out to them by grounding 737MAX. That’s how bad a breach of trust this is.

            The FAA has not been practicing what I suspect it preaches, and this is probably a dirty little secret that everyone in the US aviation industry knew all along.

            If we can’t trust the FAA to fess up to being unfit to practice then every single certification or oversight role for which they’re ultimately responsible should be declared null and void.

            For what it’s worth I don’t necessarily blame FAA personnel for this decline in authority, ability, etc. I strongly suspect that like many overhead government agencies around the world it has been starved of funds, bullied by politicians with electoral interests, and been unable to pay adequate salaries to attract the necessary talent. I’ve been amazed to learn this week that the post of Head of the FAA is a political appointment – madness. An ineffectual FAA is the fault of the US administrations down the decades, and the politicians with oversight roles who haven’t been paying enough attention, and every man / women in the industry who knew or thought the FAA was ineffectual and didn’t write a letter to their senator / representative saying so.

            I’m not necessarily saying it’s better anywhere else either… I don’t think the EC225 helicopter debacle was handled at all well, leading to what I think was avoidable deaths.

        • Sowerbob: Agreed.

          The trust has gone. Other countries don’t think the FAA/Boeing are sharing the data.

          They are going to have to or expect the 737 MAX to be grounded permanently outside of America

  38. IMHO- 1) scott h is partly right and partly wrong

    a)Software fixes and extensive tests take time – they would NOT have been reaady “several wseeks ago ” with or without the shutdown – which is the media way of blaming trump within an hour of his speech. Plus the FAA and others have said for this mcas issue it was disagreement over just what needed to be done and how and ???

    b) How Boeing slipped the no redundancy bit by the FAA is at the moment unknow, but an indication of too cozy or related to a certain revolving door between boeing and FAA brass.

    c) Someone(s) in Boeing had already addressed a AOA mistake-bad input on the 787 which had/has essentially a backup system based on inertial navigation and GPS. That was years ago- so why wasn’t it done on MAX ( and others ) /

    D) mullenberg and at least one or more of his ‘support’ staff PR ? should be given a few years time off to be with their families for personal reasons.

    E) check how the old DER system responsibility game has been casterated and fix it !

    • Bubba:

      It is clear how this got to be where it is. Boeing classified the fix as non critical and the FAA agreed. It was not a slip by.

      It was that odd relationship they have. FAA insisted it was needed and then agreed a stupid piece of logic as the answer.

      Equally bizarre is how this took out two aircraft. It was not unsolvable, it was not immediate death dive.

      It says a lot about the state of piloting.

      Boeing is not going to spend any more money than they can avoid, so the 737 was a response to a money costing issue.

      Each add in has a cost and a badly (lethal) implemented one most of all.

      Nothing is going to fix the system.

      The fix is in the works and I am happy to blame Trump for the delay. He has never paid the piper for his action and its more than fair he get hanged for it regardless.

      • ” he fix is in the works and I am happy to blame Trump for the delay. He has never paid the piper for his action and its more than fair he get hanged for it regardless.”

        GEEEZE- Trump overrides FAA and Mullenberg and its his fault for the delay ?

        When both have previously said it had no effect and that it will still take until may to code, install, test and certify and convince the rest of the world.

        Try following a few facts and turn off CNN and MSNBC etc and quit defending the Boeing PR and miss- managemet types . There is and was NO excuse for allowing a single source to take control. And I’ve probably got more years at and around Boeing then you ever will.
        I’ve dealt with great managers and CEO, and also some certified A** holes

        The beating will continue until morale improves has been a daily issue for at least three decades that I know of. One simply has to know when to stand up and when to shut up.

        • I think he means it was Trump who was responsible for the shutdown which supposedly delayed the software fix, which was apparently delayed anyway because of a difference of opinion between Boeing and the FAA as to what the fix should entail/contain.

          • Trump’s overriding Boeing and FAA is an amical shouldertap and eyewink from the Presidency wherefrom Boeing can eventually make the US taxpayers foot the bill for the MAX grounding, once Muilenburg’s “MCAS 2.0” fix is duly retrofitted with FAA approval, say, in a fortnight from now, a proof that paternal but inexpert Trump overreacted in his earnest eagerness to protect the American People.

  39. Why does France hold meeting when the Recorders need to be assessed now?

    DAG all over again saying we are the most important in the world (MH370) while they hold key evidence hostage.

    They need to be reformed, that sort of arrogance is just like Boeing and the FAA.

    • The people in meetings are not the people that work.
      parallel processes.

  40. Where was YOUR AHJ? (Authority Having Jurisdiction)

    There is clearly a great deal of ignorance (lack of knowledge) on how this work so I thought I would try to educate.

    While the FAA is the US AHJ (not NTSB) each country has its own (I believe the EU has a joint one). But within that there is an aviation authority in each country as well.

    Those AHJ have a responsibility to review the FAA decisions and data and approve or disapprove them.

    That is not a rubber stamp procedure (or is not supposed to be, Fiji clearly is not going to have the expertise ) but EU does, Japan do)

    Clearly some of the world uses and often accepts the ones with high standards (US, EU, Japan) I don’t list China or Russia as they are suspect in my book.

    Of all the countries, only Brazil looked at the data and did something about it and insisted that it be in the manual and be trained on.

    So, while the FAA is culpable, where was your AHJ if you are not US and why are you not addressing that?

      • I think so.

        Its easy to cast the blame at the FAA but its not where the problem is fully either.

        They all have the same data so they can draw their own conclusions and should and they should act before not after if they don’t agree.

        Its really a sublet form of deflecting the blame, nasty old US when they have people paid to make sure the nasty old US does not dunk on them.

        Etu Brutei

  41. Worth thinking about If this is right they changed things other than adding MCAS

    “He noted that the control yokes on models with the new technology have a lighter feel than on previous 737 models and can be touchy at high angles of attack. “The idea of the new system is, if it trims a little down, you’ll pull the same [force] as in the old airplanes.” In previous versions of the 737, “When you pull five-pounds of force on the yoke, you get five-degrees of pitch change, and when you pull 10-pounds, you get 10-degrees” of pitch change.

    However, “On the MAX, it only takes about a 10-pound pull to get 15-degrees of pitch” because the aircraft responds quicker to input. “The trim system dials in about 2.5 degrees of nose-down trim in a little less than 10 seconds,” he added. “On the ground it feels different on the nose and the sight picture is a little different” from previous 737 models. “It’s [enough to be] noticeable,” the pilot said. “

    • Since the ‘push/pull ‘ force is artificallly controlled by a semi- automated ‘ feel’ system as this SLF understands it- the noticeable difference may be the result of on the ground versus air versus air speed, etc. maybe another fubar ‘ software’ fix …?

  42. Should the quality of m.c.a.s SW not be questioned? Where was the SW written and what type of QA performed? How rigourous was the testing? What were the known bugs? What do SW release notes say?

    • Actually if you read the discussion, it is and has been discussed.

      Its not the quality, its the logic. There may be quality issues, we know there are logic issues.

      That logic and fail safe or no is made at the highest levels.

      No, we will never see the notes. FAA will.

      • Thanks for the earlier link to Peter Lemme. I had never heard of him, but he does seem to have a good knowledge of aircraft.

        “Removing the aft column cutout feature with MCAS is a most egregious violation of safety culture. Column cutout is a long standing safety feature.”

    • MCAS did what it was supposed to do.
      GIGO garbaage in garbage out.
      The defect is in apparently spending zero effort in validating input data.
      Change of the AoA sensor without remedial effect indicates
      a major bug in the postprocecessing before the data is fed to MCAS and other systems.
      If you look at the data collecting/distribution : MCAS going ballistic is a keyhole event. that selected (from 2) set of sensor data must be tainted with a positive error ( negative, noerror, positive error ) . ( AoA too high )
      The 3/5 other cases are benign.
      Nod to Björn: like to look into how data is processed from sensors to MCAS?

  43. There seems to be a blythe assumption that Boeing will be able to take the financial hit over whatever time is required to get the MAXes flying again.
    Back of the envelope, assume a 4 months hiatus in total, which may be conservative or aggressive.
    Cash impact:
    Say 35 hulls per month @35 MM cost each or 35*4*35~ $ 5 billion or so for 140 not so white tails undelivered in inventory.
    Say 350 hulls idled costing $ 25 k per day or 0.75 MM per month, I.e. 350*4*0.75=$ 1 billion.
    Total $ 6 billion cash.
    There also will be additional costs for retrofitting the fleet, additional pilot training, etc… which cannot but be very material.
    IMHO Boeing would be lucky to get out of this for less than a $ 10 BB cash impact (half or so recoverable once /if douinventory delivers).
    Last question is the potential impact on the backlog as some customers will walk. Boeing is lucky that Airbus is booked way forward and has no nearby slots available on the 320 NEO, and the Russian and Chinese alternatives are not ready.

  44. The whole thing smells to me,the lion air crew was thrown under the bus and Ethiopian crew had the benefit of their bad experience,but still crashed . Just how hard would it be for Boeing to sneak in a software upgrade that addresses another problem unknown to the outside world?I would imagine that it would be very easy but very difficult to keep everyone’s mouth shut.I am anticipating some revelations.

  45. Much of this commentary strikes me as unnecessarily incendiary and irresponsible. Of course you are a blogger and not a professional journalist so if sensational commentary is your wont than who can argue with it. You do live in a free country after all.

    • @Gabriel: In the first place, I am a professional journalist. In the second, the author of the piece is a former airline and Boeing employee. He speaks with insider experience.

      Hamilton

  46. Here is what I do not understand. If it was learnt some time ago as a result of the Lion Air accident that flying with a certain faulty sensor can result in inputs to a certain airplane system that results in enough difficulty controlling the airplane to cause an accident, and that if that certain airplane system for any reason creates difficulty in controlling the airplane it can and is to be shut off a certain way to allow control of the airplane, then how could another repeat accident take place? One would think that knowingly flying with the certain sensor being faulty would be precluded, as well as having the certain airplane system cause difficulty controlling the airplane for any reason for any significant instance also precluded.

  47. Another comparison is the Watergate scandal. Specifically, when power is involved it takes time for the truth to be told and justice to be severed.

    I think it’s fair to say that I was the first person to come on LNA’S site and blame the 737 MAX for the Lion Air crash. The FAA emergency AD suggested the blame lay with the FCC/MCAS, but I now think the FCC/MCAS is masking (covering up) poor pitch stability.

    But why was I so quick to judge? The flight trace showed a powered up, steep dive of ~45 degrees and a speed in excess of 300 knots. Authoritative statements made clear the pilots fought tooth and nail to recover the airplane.

    The flight trace ruled out natural causes; the laws of physics don’t allow it. So it was man or machine.

    This comes to man. It would have to be a deliberate act. The GermanWings tragedy is an example and the huge tragedy of 9/11 is another example. But the pilots fought tooth and nail to recover the airplane. So not man.

    This only leaves machine. Yes, I understand the ‘all ducks in a row’ argument. In other words, wait for the facts to become clear. I would agree with the argument if the airplane was grounded. It wasn’t grounded. So peoples’ lives remained at risk. We know what happened next.

    The behaviour of Boeing and the FAA cannot be justified. Even now they are saying a sofware patch will make a safe airplane even safer. In other words, what’s all the fuss about? Well ~350 have died. That’s what all the fuss is about.

    The 737 MAX needs a thorough scrutiny, especially with regard to pitch stability. It’s clear that the purpose of the FCC/MCAS is to mask (cover up) poor pitch stability. Other countries will have to do it and insist on doing it. Equally other countries must refuse to lift the grounding until it has been done.

    • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euphemism:
      “Commonly, euphemisms are used to avoid directly addressing subjects that might be deemed negative or embarrassing. Euphemisms are also used to downplay the gravity of large-scale injustices, war crimes, or other events that warrant a pattern of avoidance in official statements or documents.”

    • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euphemism:
      ” Commonly, euphemisms are used to avoid directly addressing subjects that might be deemed negative or embarrassing. Euphemisms are also used to downplay the gravity of large-scale injustices, war crimes, or other events that warrant a pattern of avoidance in official statements or documents. “

  48. I actually give a s…. about Boeing, they will recover, they have enough orders.
    But their last 2 products had major flaws. The B787 was close to suffer losses from fire, they were just lucky non did start burning over the Pacific with an Etops of 330 Min. they could have been 5 hours away from any runway.

    Now they got the worse end with the B7M8.

    But for me the question is the FAA, their relationship with Boeing and Boeings way to deal with the issues. MCAS sounds like it’s violating every airplane construction fundamental i learned.
    How could that be certified?
    How could Boeing not tell the pilots?
    How could Boeing not prepare pilots and airlines on this trim issues?

    Overall, Boeing and the FAA did a huge blunder.

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