Pontifications: Fluid, dynamic events upend MAX story

Special Edition

By Scott Hamilton

March 20, 2019, © Leeham Co: I’ve been covering or employed in commercial aviation since 1979. I’m an aviation historian buff.

I’ve read all about the groundings of the Douglas DC-6, Lockheed Constellation, Martin 202 and de Havilland Comet. I read about how the Federal Aviation Administration didn’t ground the Lockheed Electra, choosing operating restrictions instead.

I lived through the grounding of the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and Boeing 787. As a reporter, I walked through the debris of the American Airlines DC-10 crash that led to the grounding. I went to the crash scene of the Delta Air Lines Boeing 727 at D/FW Airport and I’ve covered many, many crashes through reporting and as a commentator.

I’ve never seen anything evolve in air accidents as has evolved in the Boeing 737 MAX investigations.

Information flow

A great deal of the evolution is the changing technology in information flow. Social media is far faster than AP, UPI or the network stations were in their heyday. Flight data and cockpit voice recorders have far more information than they did in the 1970s and 1980s, and which were non-existent in the 1940s and early 1950s. Information coming from readouts of the FDRs and CVRs are often released more quickly than in the past.

Even so, the fluidity, the dynamics and the unprecedented nature of information and events surrounding the MAX after the Ethiopian Airlines FT302 crash is stunning—there is just no other word for it.

What is true at 9am may no longer be true at 3pm. What becomes known at 9pm may vitiate what was valid at 7am.

Such was the case on Sunday/Monday when Dominic Gates of The Seattle Times published a comprehensive piece about the development of the stall recovery system on the MAX. Gates, the long-time aerospace reporter for The Times, outlined the internal debates about the MCAS and the conflicts between Boeing and the FAA.

The ink was hardly dry on this when The Wall Street Journal published, on Sunday night, news that the US Department of Transportation launched an investigation about the FAA-Boeing MCAS dynamics. This report included the startling information that the US Department of Justice launched a criminal investigation.

Unheard of in the US

A US criminal investigation, outside of suspected bombing or terrorism, is unheard of in accidents. The only one I can remember is the 1996 crash of a ValuJet DC-9 in which the maintenance company, Sabre Tech, loaded oxygen canisters in the cargo bay, failing to secure the load or cap the canisters. Some triggered on taxi, starting a conflagration that destroyed the airplane as the pilots tried to return to Miami shortly after takeoff.

ValuJet was grounded and, once the cause determined, criminal charges were filed against Sabre Tech and some employees.

Criminal investigations outside the US with air accidents are not unusual. These are also often criticized as inhibiting free flow of information that contributes to aviation safety.

These developments totally blew out of the water my prediction, written Friday and published Monday, that the grounding would be lifted by the end of April. I also concluded the impact to Boeing would be limited.

All bets are off now as a result of these developments.

And then there’s this

On late Monday, Transport Canada announced it wants to do its own evaluation of Boeing’s software upgrade.

This, too, is unprecedented.

Under international agreements, the regulators of one country generally follow reciprocities when certifying the airplanes of another country. They typically follow Service Bulletin and Airworthiness Directive notices. It’s an efficient and timely way to get the job done.

Now, with confidence in the FAA shattered by its slow response to grounding—it was the last agency to do so—Transport Canada said, in essence, it won’t take the FAA’s word the problem is solved.

On Tuesday, Europe’s EASA followed suit; it, too, will conduct its own review of the MCAS software upgrade before lifting the grounding order on the MAX.

There are indications the two agencies may even go one step further and review the very certification of the MAX.

This completely blows up any hope of a global lifting of the grounding by May.

Air Canada said it will be July 1 at the earlier before its MAX fleet returns to the skies.

Paris Air Show

All this raises questions about Boeing’s plans for the Paris Air Show.

The show is June 17-23.

As the MAX grounding rapidly evolves and a greater likelihood of an extended grounded emerges, what will this mean for Boeing at the show? Will it be more or less likely that the NMA gets Authority to Offer (ATO) at the show?

Before the ET302 accident, the market was beginning to think the ATO would be Boeing’s big announcement at the show (with Airbus launching the A321XLR in counter-programming). Assuming the MAX is still grounded by Paris, which seems a possibility, this will grab as much attention, or more, than any ATO announcement.

Or—will Boeing put off the ATO of the NMA altogether?

I’ve been getting this question a lot in recent days. Until Sunday’s developments, my answer was there shouldn’t be any affect. Now, as things evolve, I’m not predicting.

Things are just too fluid to make any calls right now.

146 Comments on “Pontifications: Fluid, dynamic events upend MAX story

  1. It’s a good thing no single national authority has a given right to authorise certification the way they do. They can do, but if other national authorities don’t agree to the process and result, there is a situation. You have to deserve authority.

  2. Well…
    If I was the CEO at Boeing I would delay the NMA indefinitely and instead anounce the replacement of the 737 by a new six abreast airplane with carbon wings, metallic fuselage, possibly 2 meters foldable wing tip to stay within the 36 meter limit but have a 40 meter span in flight, container capability and a geared turbofan, by say 2027 or 2028.

    I think the future accident rate of the 737 vs 320 will gradually become worse for the 737 due to no or less sensor redundancy, no or less FCC redundancy, no true flight envelope protection etc. Couple this with the ever less experienced pilots, especially in asian countries, and it seems clear that the aircraf itself must have ever more intrinsic safety and redundancy in its systems just to keep the current accident rate going into the future.

    Airbus (and Boeing with all its other true FBW aircrafts) can steadily improve the FBW control logic to make the control of the aircraft even safer. This is much more difficult, or even impossible to do on the non FBW 737.

    • Foldable wings! I know, there have been and are Navy fighters with foldable wings. I am a bit worried about what Boeing has done with the new 777. I am not an expert in this area but is uninterupted flexibility secured through the wing outside of the engines? I hope all the worms are cleared.

    • Well, this would mean you basically confess that the 737max is not safe and and old plane and you surrender the entire market to Airbus.

      Scott, 2 technical questions:

      > It is obvious that FAA has lost its credibility in many countries and the public wants their national aviation authorities to run their own certification schemes. Could this lead to a situation where the grandfather rights are no longer accepted, i.e. one country saying: This is too much modification, so you need to entirely re-certify the plane?
      > Do you assume that the MAX will keep its common type rating for pilots with the NG or is that basically gone already?

      • Authorities can ask to flight test and do it’s own review of all reports documentation including safety assessment. Also they could include additional restrictions and requirements based on its own regulations including requiring additional full flight simulator validation for the change. They also can issue special requirements through special conditions or official action items.

      • @ChrisAustria: I don’t see a complete recertification in the cards, but I didn’t foresee events as they have evolved, either. Recertification of the airplane would be the worst possible outcome for Boeing and the customers. I do see a common type rating remaining.

        • The real issue is not that the current MCAS is not safe but that the plane is not safe without the MCAS. Otherwise they would only have suppressed it by patch. A true FBW goal is not to compensate for aerodynamic defincies of a plane but to simplify piloting and to provide envelope protection.

    • We were discussing that already just beofre the crash:

      The 737 has some build in disadvantages compared to the A320, C919, MS21, E2, A220. The most important: ability to take savvy, quiet big geared turbo fans. This MAX drama traces back to it.

      Boeing was on the verge of launching a 737 replacement 9 years ago. But was forced into hastily doing the MAX to save the day. Paris Airshow 2011: 1100 orders for the NEO & AA giving them 4 weeks to respond.

    • IMJ, we are close to a tipping point at which societies begin demanding aggressive actions from their leaders to stave off the most disastrous effects of climate change.

      Air travel is the fastest-growing source of carbon emissions. Aviation is responsible for 5 percent of anthropogenic climate change and its rapid growth puts it on track to consume a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050.

      Hence, the aviation industry is on the brink of an enormous change. If the industry is not going to be far more proactive with respect to carbon emissions, I’m afraid that societies might start putting a stranglehold on the current aviation business model.

      IMJ, Airbus is an excellent position. For the next decade they can just keep on pushing out ever more units (A220s/A320s), while preparing to launch their next single aisle aircraft using hydrogen-electric technology.

      Here’s an interesting design for a LH2 turbo-electric single aisle aircraft:



      So, is Boeing just going to launch an all new NSA — amid the MAX meltdown — with EIS at point in time where the industry might be facing radical transformation and the prospect of diminishing markets for kerosene powered aircraft.

      In fact, the catastrophic MAX situation could lead to a double whammy for the Boeing company, over the next decade: Implosion of the MAX programme today and a NSA programme launched in panic as a response to the MAX situation — i.e. programme imploding a decade due to societal changes not foreseen when the launch decision was made.

      • I am inclined to agree with you, the risk map of the OEMs must have that as their fundamental medium term risk. The addiction to flying is too great for it to stop, but I can see flights being progressively ‘carbon taxed’ out of the reach of many in the relatively near future (next 20 years)

      • I see this as a flash in the Pan, a huge public one, but tipping point?

        Having watched the current political posturing and some of the statements that have come out that would have taken down any other administration?

        Like the Yellow Jackets in Paris, a legitimate grievance that eventually turns in on itself and people get angry with not being able to get on about their lives.

        What is reality is that to change things takes hard work and a lot of effort, posting on Facebook does not do it, just a warm fuzzy feeling.

      • Hydrogen powered cars are a dead end; the overall energy efficiency is terrible. Battery electric vehicles will be the replacement for Petroleum powered cars although petroleum powered cars will continue to have efficiency gains that will extend their life well into mid century.

        Hydrogen will be used for rockets (like the upper stages of the Saturn 5 and the space shuttle main engines) but will be a nonstarter for aircraft because of the terrible difficulty of handling and storing it as well as the aforementioned efficiency issues. Battery aircraft, except for short range, are also a nonstarter because of the energy storage density of batteries compared to petroleum (currently about 60 times less for the best LI battery packs).

        The aviation side of any serious climate change initiative (NONE of which have ever seriously been considered by governments because they would be unacceptable to the people) would necessarily involve more efficient aircraft and less flying (maybe today’s level at mid century). Any remotely serious attempt to curtail CO2 emissions will necessarily require large carbon taxes rendering flying, driving, etc., etc. significantly more expensive in real terms.

        I don’t believe that globally (the only way that counts) any significant reductions in CO2 emissions will occur until it is too late (which it may already be).

        So there won’t be Hydrogen powered airplanes, the well off (globally) will still fly and drive and the world’s poor will suffer mightily and die in large numbers.

        The only plausible way to delay this is geo-engineering in which sunlight blocking chemicals (like from volcanos) are put into the upper atmosphere (by airplanes!). It will be very hard to get global cooperation on this; my bet is that the Chinese government will start it on it’s own given China’s great population, powerful economy, and the vulnerability of agriculture to global warming.

        • @Dan F.

          LH2 powered aircraft have been studied in detail, are very doable, and are the best option for non-carbon aviation.

          LH2 has only around 30 percent as much energy per volume, but Jet-B has only some 30 percent as much energy per mass. LH2 has to be stored in large rounded tanks in a fatter fuselage. The increased tank and fuselage weight, decreased fuel weight, and increased fuselage drag roughly balance out, so range and energy cost are similar to today’s.

          The max flying altitude should be reduced to about 30,000 ft in order to avoid leaving water vapour (and some NOx) in the stratosphere — i.e. leading to only a slight reduction in efficiency.

          LH2 should be produced and liquefied at the airport itself. It should be pointed out that an airport environment is ideal to house massive photovoltaic facilities because airports tend to have a lot of land available (including building roofs). Furthermore, the energy produced is directly consumed at the infrastructure itself and there is therefore no need to ship the LH2 over large distances.

          A couple of links:


          2. On-board Hydrogen Storage Systems

          e) Liquid Hydrogen Storage System

          Boil-Off considerations
          – Example: a tank containing 50 kg of liquid connected to a 100 kW fuel cell
          – Temperature = -253°C; 4 hours of autonomy at full power (400 kWh stored)
          – Wort case boil-off rate: 2% =1kg per day = 0,5 Nm3/h

          3 possible solutions to get rid of this BOG:
          – To vent it: small line; 11mg/s or 0,15 Nl/s of gas; but not really suitable.
          – Catalytic combustion: rejects H2O vapor and 1 5 kW heat : rejects H2O vapor and 1,5 kW heat.
          – Feed the FC at low idle (BOG=700W) to operate the utilities (air compressor,
          intercooler, sensors etc.) in steady state or reload the battery: best solution

          Nota: hybrid systems combining a battery and a FC are preferable.
          – Taxi A320 ~60 / 100 kW@20knts (FC) + runway crossing (600kW few sec., battery).
          – Over a year a car runs 300 h whilst an aircraft flies >3000 h+ ground ops
          – Boil-off is therefore predominant for cars which will not be the case for aircraft

          The Boil-Off Gas (BOG) is therefore permanently re-used

          DSE – The HUULC
          Design of a Hydrogen-powered Unmanned Ultra Large Cargo aircraft


    • They are making planes fly into the ground and you want to add folding wings? After the MAX debacle, and the troubled gestation of the 787 (though ultimately a success), and watching the trials and tribulations on the KC-46 its hard to not believe there is something fundementally wrong at Boeing.

      • 777-X has folding wings

        We can hope the logic is better than MCAS of course.

    • If I were the CEO of Boeing I’d make sure that I’d got a good lawyer lined up, and I’d stop travelling abroad. There’s a fair chance that some legal questions would be headed my way, and I’d not like to be abroad if an international arrest warrant got issued I’d also start transferring assets out of my name.

      NMA? Way down the list.

      As Scott has come to realise these are utterly unprecedented events. BAU is out the window, for now.

      That’s bad for the company.

      There’s a good chance senior shareholders are pretty soon going to be looking for a company survival plan.

  3. Presumably the starting point must be that the MAX will resume operations at some point in the summer. Based on that I guess that Boeing will look long and hard at accelerating the NSA. This should be far more straightforward than looking at the NMA as the issues of sizing, fuselage shape, engines etc etc drop away as the role of the NSA is simple, to be a state of the art A320 killer in every respect. Given the stop start nature of this development over the years there should be a large amount of basic research already in the bank. So getting it up and running should be relatively easy.

    The other thing I hope to foresee for Boeing’s sake is a more co-operative approach to regulation and a considerable amount of humble pie. They are the number 1 but after this debacle, all of their own making, they have to year zero themselves and decide what it means to be a commercial aerospace company. Not rhetoric or bluster but putting the engineers back in the driving seat of development. The flying public forgets but regulators and airlines are severely bruised and need to start believing in the Boeing product again.

    • “Given the stop start nature of this development over the years there should be a large amount of basic research already in the bank.”

      IMU holdovers from the Sonic Cruiser were one enabler for the battery problems. ( and some dumb 777 copy paste ).

      I see lack of good engineering ( as a replacement for sophist orgasmic rules breaking brinkmanship that people at Boeing apparently are so proud of ) at the core of Boeing’s hard product issues.
      The foxus appears to be solely on undermining, cicumventing or otherwise hollowing out the certification frame work. ( While the FAA throws the full book and then some at competitors. )

      I had taken Scott’s announcement of “short shrift” as accepting the basic corruptness of the parties involved.

      • ‘sophist orgasmic rules breaking brinkmanship’

        Uwe please don’t pull your punches, or are you simply trying to improve our elocution?

    • I can’t see this precipitating an early launch of NSA.

      Even with a state-of-the-art, all-new wing and fuselage, the only engines available will be the one currently hanging under the A320neo and 737MAX. At best, Boeing might see 5% better fuel burn than the A320neo.

      Are they really going to spend tens of billions of $$$ to get an incremental improvement rather than the step-change improvement that would justify the expenditure?

      • I think its jumping to the same conclusions Scott just warned about.

        We don’t know what will or won’t come out of it.

        If it focuses on the MCAS that is a quick isolation

        Boeing can argue its fixed and go ahead and review it in the meantime you have to let it back in the air.

        There will be surprises and there will be parts that as it subsides goes on the way it has.

        Like Chess, too many possible options to see other than what is right in front.

    • Summer 2021?

      I don’t think folks realise just how deep this rabbit hole can get!

      • I can see how deep it can get and I have seen how deep it typically goes.

        Yes it could spiral but history says it won’t.

        History tends to win.

        It does not mean there is not shakeups coming, but how much, how soon and what is an open question.

        • There is no entity-with-agency called “history”.
          Things stay the same until they change, and they
          are changing now.

  4. Transport Canada accepted FAA FAR 29 certification of the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter. The subsequent accident investigation and public inquiry into the crash of Cougar Helicopters Flight 91 on March 12, 2009 revealed FAA S-92 certification shortcomings related to loss of oil in the main transmission. The main transmission did not in fact have a 30-minute dry run capability.

    Two years later, Transport Canada and EASA did not immediately endorse FAA certification of the Robinson R66 helicopter but asked for additional data and tests to ensure the R66 actually met FAR CAR27 requirements and they understood them. Transport Canada and EASA finally certified the R66 a couple years after it was certified by the FAA in the US.

    Now the FAA certification of the 737 Max is in the spotlight …

    • Which of course begs questions about the roles of non-USA parties in these MAX deaths. Why did they feel unable to rubber stamp on the R66 yet did feel able to rubber stamp on MAX? What, if anthing, had changed? What pressures were involved? Did all required certifying authorities take similar lines? If not, why not?

      MAX has opened an enormous can of worms regarding certification worldwide (the soundness, the politics) and any relevant agency people with knowedge of any shortcuts, political decisions etc. must be at least a little worried now.

      • I agree basicly buty I don’t think its a can of worms

        Its like opening the Windows and a broth of fresh air.

        Don’t assume, don’t just grant, ask to see the data and underlining supporting informant and then make your own conclusions.

        Safety has many layers if its going to work.

        If you look at the Maconda Oil well disaster, it was not one bad system, the compro09isme something like 4 to 6 safety systems.

        And BP is still here arn’t they?

        • I agree it should eventually be a breath of fresh air, a reaffirmation of proper, professional standards. But to get there (and in the current climate of international trade and political hostilities)……..

          • That is part of what baffles me.

            There should be a difference between rubber stamping and review.

            Review would keep all the AHJs sharper and you can continue flight tests while things like MCAS are discussed.

            It does not have to be all AHJ in the world.
            I know US can do good work. We know EU has good capability. Add in Japan?

            Getting standards common is fine.

            However as we see, you can disagreements on what those standard should be (or which one applies)

            In the end one out of 3 saying I don’t like this and allow a fix (full up dual input stab limit only once MCAS the way it should have been written)

            Or we don’t like this, we will accept it but we are not going to stop talking about it.

  5. Not that it has any direct influence at all, but with all the America first propaganda, probably other nations do become aware, that it’s not always mandatory to blindly follow the bullies. In a way, I even hope the US is taught a lesson here.

    And honestly, I am quite flabbergasted to find out how aircraft get certified in the real world. I was of the assumption that there are true checks and balances in place, especially in the highly sophisticated aviation industry. But yeah, I guess it’s foolish of me to be so naive. As most accidents lead to improvements in safety, I hope we learn a bit something from this episode.

    • I would appreciative it if you would differential the Trump debacle from the rest of the US.

      He did loose the vote by 3 million people (now its not great but its better than winning) and that was with Russian meddling that may well have swung the 70,000 votes that did win the bizzare Electoral College (like trying to explain Cricket to someone in the US)

      Said College was a hold over that worked hand in hand with US Slavery.

      We have moved forward, we are not close to perfect.

      The world should look hard and make their own decisions and analysis on this.

      • Let’s keep Trump, slavery and other non-pertinent issues off this post.


        • Does that apply to terms like Propaganda as well?

          I don’t care to be characterized as a Bully because of the actions of one man.

          And I make no excuses, as a country we did screw up and we need to fix this.

    • bullying and blackmail with a wee bit of sugar has been
      a US MoO for ages. (Read the small print in the Marshall Plan credit contracts ) the difference with Trump and his minions is the change over to public in your face bullying and blackmailing. actually nice. even the dumbest US acolytes in Europe can ignore it anymore.

  6. Here’s the thing I don’t get: All this talk about Boeing doing the NSA sooner now. Why would they do that?
    Nobody really at this point has any doubt that the grounding will be lifted, although we might debate when exactly that’s going to happen.
    Once the grounding is gone, the issues fixed and trust re-established, why would Boeing trash the MAX programme prematurely?

    As for how long the grounding will last – I find that very tricky to tell.
    All talk is about MCAS, which was the system acting on unreliable sensor data, but there may be something lurking downstream from the sensors, given than sensor data disagreed by a certain deviation throughout, but otherwise the readings exactly tracked.
    Then there’s the question of certification process reviews – how contigent on this review and potential changes is the un-grounding of the MAX?
    EASA and the Canadian authorities have already hinted they may want to re-certify at least parts of MAX, and the FAA may be forced to do the same, depending on the findings of the ongoing investigations.

    As Scott wrote – very hard to gauge at this point. If it was *just* MCAS and related training I would imagine a fix plus pilot training changes could be developed and certified by June. It would then take a bit to iplement the updates and get pilots through training, but we’d essentially be looking at the fleet being back in the air by mid-July, and deliveries picking up again from that point. But with additional certification process reviews looking very likely, all of that could easily slip into autumn.

    Three results of this awful mess that I personally am hoping for:
    * The FAA gets relieved of its role as promoter of air traffic. It just doesn’t gel with the reguatory role they have. Never has.
    * The FAA gets the required resources to fulfill its regulatory role
    * The FAA stops depending as heavily as it apparently does (according to Gates’ article and other reports) on having essential certification work done by employees of the companies the FAA is supposed to oversee.

    The aviation world would not only get a lot safer this way, it would also be a good start at trying to regain the trust that has been destroyed.

    • I fully agree with resetting the FAA.

      But why are so many now talking about the NSA? Well, simply put, because the latest generation of high-bypass engines simply don’t fit the 737.

      These big engines sit so high and foreward that they influence the aerodynamics so badly that something like the MCS becomes a necessity. You would actually need a full fly-by-wire system to make sure it can be operated safely worldwide.

      Under the new circumstances it is quite possible that the certificate of the 737 will be revoked. It is even possible that it can not be regained! The billion dollar question here is can Boeing fix the 737 in a way that it is safe to be operated worldwide.

      The only option may be to go back to the NG right now and start development of the NSA with utmost urgency. If Boeing fails to do that now, they might run into an existential problem.

      • Honestly, I don’t beliefe that the only fix to the MCAS issues is to bin the plane itself.
        MCAS as implemented is an incredibly, shockingly, ridiculously bad design that should never even have made it past the first solution design round.
        But based on all I’ve read and heard about it, I do not believe it’s past being rectifiable.

        • Why don’t you ask yourself why there is an MCAS. Try to answer this and you end up with the notion that the Max does not offer sufficient stability without it. Tell me if I’m wrong that commercial airplanes are required to display aerodynamic stability over the entire operational envelope.

          Maybe the FAA will still tollerate a “small” breach of this rule in this case. Or maybe not. Maybe other authorities will tollerate it, but I’d say more probably not. Now picture a 737Max that’s certified only by the FAA. How would it fare in this market?

          • Gundolf: We have. People like you and Phillip keep coming up with off the wall analysis that is not based on facts.

            No one has reported it is not flyable in any other aspect.

            The gross stupidity of the MCAS implementation has become some kind of mindless mantra the sky is falling.

            While this is a grossly ugly example, it happens in software all the time. You write it, you test it, you find it does not work and you install it.

            6 months latter you find a bug (MCAS is beyond a bug)

            You fix it.

            In this case they killed 346 people with their garbage implementation.

            Fix the garbage and logic and its not an issue.

            You can spin it into one, but that is not what the facts say.

            Phillip continues to not believe a larger control surface has more influence than a smaller one.

            Its not a matter of data or facts, its a failure to understand the dynamics.

          • What “the FAA will tolerate” does not matter so much
            any more, because their regulatory legitimacy has been
            greatly diminished with these two MAX crashes.

            Not a good look.

          • Yes, the MCAS is a software patch to compensate for an aerodynamic issue. The patch is also unsafe which lead to the accidents. Nevertheless, the root cause will not be solved with a new safe version of the software patch. And the software patch was hidden from pilots because if Boeing had admitted that the airplane behavior was highly different from the previous version, the pilots should have been retrained in silmulators that are not available anyway.

  7. All these talk about certification boils down to trust that the certification authority eg, FAA, need to do their job independently from the manufacturers eg Boeing. As long as the FAA does not act independently, then there is no check at all. Boeing should never been allowed to do self certification full stop!!!

    • I don’t think anyone disagree with that.

      How we go from here and correcting it remains to be seen (or even if it gets corrected)

      We have a border wall to build you know.

  8. Beancounters and Lawyers at the helm, what’d you expect !? Current strategy priority is for EBIT short term performance to please shareholders, sooner or later always a boomerang policy in a hightech industry. It’s about high time the reins at Boeing Commercial Aircraft are given back to Aeronautical Engineers , ie to craftspeople, with the required deeper technical insight and an incompromised sense of responsability where rightfully belongs. As for FAA, absolute independance – skills- and budget-wise – from OEMs in airworthiness matters must be restored sine die in the best interest of the same OEMs, in the name of air transport safety…

      • Yes, Muilenburg has the (window-dressing ?) profile of an Aerospace Engineer, with 30 years insider experience @ Boeing Group… but since he became CEO from July 2015, his style of Leadership appears weak, permeable to the influence of grey-hatted non-engineers promoting their saddening agendas. Possibly, this trait (or lack) of character could well be the reason why Muilenburg was given the top job in the first place, oder ? Anyway, to Muilenburg’s credit, his competences were not called upon on August 30th, 2011 when Boeing launched the MAX, if my reading of the man’s CV holds : Muilenburg was running the show at Caterpillar in those days, where the prevailing motto goes like this : “a strong machine is a heavy machine” ?

        • Yep, Cat philosophy is if you need a quarter inch bolt, use a half inch bolt.

          Many parts of a Cat is brute engineering, all parts of an aircraft are a finesse.

    • It is project managers that they need to get shot of. Most large companies are the same.

      Clowns with absolutely nothing in the way of technical competence apart from the ability to colour a spreadsheet cell green or red – or move a Gantt chart around a little. They have nothing in the way of knowledge in being able to understand the fallout of **NOT** slipping program schedule – particularly early on in the program when a couple of months well spent there might save years later.

      Give control back to chief and principal engineers and make “project managers” the administrative roll that they are – “project trackers”.

      • Agreed (except in my world its software people who have infiltrated it and made a mess of things, they don’t know anything about the machines they are trying to control but write it they do)

        I have lost count of the time I had to explain to them what the logic tree was, oh, it has a burner?

  9. Thankfully, common sense is emerging. It’s been slow, painful and deadly.

    This all ducks in a row argument where we are told that all facts must be in place before any decision is made must come to an end.

    There was sufficient evidence within twenty-four hours of the Lion Air crash to ground the 737 MAX.

    My own view is that it won’t fly this year. I think more relevations are to come.

    Boeing need to stop paying the shareholders and start investing in it’s people. They need new blood. That takes time, starting with comprehensive support for both under-graduate and post-graduate training but also continuous on the job training.

    To me it’s been obvious for some time that they are having problems with their R&D.

    The simplest example is the KC-46 tanker. $4 billion, and counting, to put a boom under a 767. The A330 MRTT a tenth of that.

    Going back, the 787 cost $50 billion. The A330neo is equivalent, but cost less than $2 billion

    This then comes to the 737 MAX; 5 1/2 years to certify with a new engine. It took Airbus 4 years to certify the A330neo. It would have been less, except Rolls-Royce held them up for more than half a year.

    It does make you wonder how the 777X will turn out. We know the marketing, but will it match the marketing?

    Forget the NMA. Do a NSA. But take time to allow new blood to be introduced.

    • The 777-9 has entirely new wings, engines, tail surfaces, cockpit, landing gears and fuselage dimensions, materials and many new systems. It has a grandfathered certification base in the 77W, which in its case used grandfathered design & requirements of the original 777-200. It uses the original grandfathered certification requirements. I hope the FAA was really rigorous in allowing that to Boeing, because it’s a new aircraft really. But that’s another topic.

      I remember these discussions on the 737NG 25 yrs ago.

      • Philip:

        It would help if you get your facts straight.

        787 was 33 billion.

        Airbus got a Billion bucks for the non KC47.

        Airbus has never made a tanker that meets the KC46 specifications.

        Said non compliant tanker took 5 years to get the bugs out in Australian service and that was a “mature design” that does not match the KC46.

        The Max took longer because it has more changes to it to compete with the A320 (Airbus had a newer design that needed just engines)

        Certainly Boeing shot itself in the foot in many ways by not coming out with a modern A320 competitor when they could.

        Airbus had done their work, Boeing was behind the 8 ball headed to a new aircraft (and panicked)

        • No TrsnsWorld, not going there again.

          For the record my Professor at the University of Manchester where I studied Aeronautical Engineering was an executive consultant for Rolls-Royce and a member of it’s technical board. Unfortunately he is no longer with us, but he would just laugh at you.

          Please get your own facts right. You know nothing!

          • So 33 Billion is wrong for 787 costs?

            737 has no reported stability issues on normal flight?

            Stabilizer don’t have more authority than elevator?

          • The B787 definitely cost considerably more than $33bn, that was just the deferred production cost. Adding in the development costs, and the write offs and $50bn is certainly not out of the question. Remember we are only talking about Boeing’s costs, the programme also cost all tier 1 and 2 suppliers a very considerable development cost.

          • And yes pilots have been reporting stability issues even in normal flight.

            And yes my Prof would laugh at your view on stabilisers.

            Haven’t you read that Boeing are going to stop the stabiliser overpowering the elevators, but my sofware not hardware. It should be hardware.

  10. In these times of Brexit, I always remind myself of ‘one’ of the things I like about being a member state… That is… When my government is doing something stupid, or thinking about it, there are 27 (soon to be 26 – ‘May’be – GET IT 🙂 partner states ready to poke fun at them/us, or remind them/us that’s not okay. This keeps them in line, moreso than if they/we were on our own.

    I always found it odd that the FAA was just believed, and in a time of America retracting and taking care of herself first, it really IS time for EASA et al to have a voice and for that/those voices to be heard. I don’t pay for the FAA in my taxes. I do pay for EASA. I expect them to be my voice.

    Shared responsibility needs to be the regulatory take-away from this disaster. It can’t be just the FAA anymore.

    Will the NMA go ATO at PAS… Lord knows… The bad press is reason enough to not do it IMHO. Don’t think any airline wants their brand splashed around announcements until the MAX is sorted out and unfortunately too quickly forgotten.

    • “I always found it odd that the FAA was just believed, ”

      I’d guess that there always was an invisible “if not then elsewhere” dangling in the face of EASA and sisters.

  11. I agree with Scott’s view that the present situation is too fluid and fast moving to make any concrete projections for Paris.
    (BTW will the 777-9 be far enough down its flight programme to make an appearance?If that were possible clearly it would steal the show.)
    It’s likely that the future of the MAX will rest on whether various national authorities accept that a new software patch will make the aircraft ok or whether they see a more fundamental ( structural) shortcoming with the aircraft when all full facts are known.
    The experience of the various American MAX operators seems to suggest that with the right ( additional) hardware installed and full and proper understanding and training ( of the software) the aircaft can be considered safe to fly.
    But as for future orders beyond the present huge backlog.Thats a different matter.

  12. Unless something surprising and positive for Boeing happens soon I’d say no chance at all of the NMA being launched at Paris. In fact I think the chance it ever being launched is now way less than 50%.

    The problems are simply that a) the authority and reputation of Boeing and the FAA are ebbing away by the day and b) the 737 MAX looks increasingly likely to be forever enormously tainted, even if a simple fix does prove to be all that is required.

    A) means there simply won’t be enough personnel resource to deal with anything but firefighting (bit like Airbus recent corruption issues) near term and so NMA must be delayed.

    B) means that when there is sufficient resource and trust and trust and trust (ad infinitum) Boeing simply must replace the 737. No NMA will ever be important or bread an butter as this.

  13. I think Boeing forgetting the NMA and doing a NSA is beyond compelling. But I do admit I’m not a fan of the NMA as currently envisaged; too big and too narrow a market.

    Putting aside safety, the fact is that in 4 years time the 737 MAX will be the worst performing airplane in what will be an overcrowded market.

    Yes, the 737 MAX is selling but that’s because demand far exceeds supply. In 4 years time that will change. Supply will exceed demand.

    In 4 yeard time, Airbus will be producing 70 A320 series airplane’s a month and still going north to 80 per month and perhaps more. Then add 15 A220 series airplanes a month, and again, still going north. And then the A220-500; Airbus will built it but it will certificate after 2025.

    Then we come to Russia and in particular China. The Irkut MC-21 will be in production as will the Comac C919. Perhaps the MC-21 won’t have a big market. But the same is not true of the C919.

    The Chinese market alone will guarantee a large market for the C919. But then we come to Chinese influence in Asia, particularly the Indochina peninsular and Africa. China will eat into Airbus’ market in those regions never mind Boeing’s market.

    The 737 MAX will be the worst performing airplane relative to the airplanes named above.

    LNA reported that Boeing shelved further increases in production for the 737 MAX. My own view is Boeing will begin to have difficulty selling it’s current production in ~4 years time.

    I also think the 737 MAX backlog will deteriorate because of what’s happened. In other words, airplines will cancel orders because of what’s happened

    Not looking good for the only profitable airplane Boeing have!

    • No, B737MAX is selling mainly because companies equipped with B737NG wants an easy transition when modernizing their fleets. Pilots can easily transition from one to another or fly the two at once. Moreover, the issues of the B737 when modernizing are also partly its advantage. A shorter landing gear and a narrower fuselage also means less weight thus a better efficiency per passengers. This also why it is doubtfull a double aisle will replace a single aisle in this market.

  14. Well as a historian Scott should be reminded of the many A320 crashes of the early A320. On more contemporary note one should also remind to the readers that the A320Neo flies under strict restrictions in India. I wonder why agencies like the FAA don’t study the reasons for those restrictions.

    • @David,
      I would like to add, the early years of the A320 was three decades ago. The acceptable risk/accident rate, news reporting/social media has changed tremendously since then.
      Regarding the restrictions in India, those are not caused by some fundamental properties or limits in the aircraft design, they are strictly related to design/reliability problems of the (PW) engines, which are nearing an end soon.

      • There have been a lot of engine failures in the last 4 years. Fortunately none have resulted in a full aircraft loss, but that has been a combination of both good design and very good luck. Yet no national authority has forced grounding of all aircraft flying the suspect engines, even the the one where it is now required that the left and right engine be from different production runs. So it seems that regulatory authorities do accept some level of risk in aircraft design and operation even when the reliability is not 100.0%.

        • sPH,

          The second engine eliminates a single point of failure: if one engine fails, you can still fly the aircraft.

          Similarly, there are two AoA sensors: if one fails, you should still be able to get a valid reading. Unfortunately the MCAS was designed to only look at a single sensor, so it had a single point of failure.

          • Well, it’s not quite so simple, as the system still has to figure out which AOA reading is wrong. So you need a gyroscope/GPS or other to back this up resp. make the decision. Then you also need to make the processor/controller redundant etc. In total a much more complex system than the original MCAS.

          • India did ground the A320 with the GTF.

            But thats an engine issue not an air-frame.

            But yes, early FBW had flaws as well as people not understanding it.

            MCAS was easily avoidable which is the insanity of it all.

            It like a nickle nut caused a 10 billion dollar impact.

          • Gundolf,

            If it used both AoA sensors, it would at least be able to determine that it does not know which one is correct, and at the minimum alert the pilot rather than taking a potentially disastrous action.

            I don’t know at all what kind of internal processing failover capability MCAS has, but at least in terms of AoA inputs there are none. And the AoA discrepancy warning light is a $10,000 option on the MAX.

          • Gundolf: All it has to do is to put a disagree into the system and inactive MCAS until its fixed.

            MCAS is not remoley cirlitial to normal flight.

            It is only egneage (or should be) at etemel dege that are not normal.

            All aircrat fly with allowed equipemt out lists.

            Many are allowed to fly with known flaw (RR engines falling apart – GE engines with unknown disk quality))

            There are other software changed such as limited how much the stab can move and to one cycle.

            You can also feed in the Yoke switches and disable it like any other Boeing override.

      • I would quote the -600/700/800/900/MAX figure for the 737, which is 0.13.

        The -100/200 (which is from a very different era long predating the A320) skews the 737 (all models) data too much and really isn’t relevent to the 737 today.

      • However, the rates for Classic (0.15) and NG/MAX combo (0.13) are near as makes no real difference the same as the A320 series. All are very low.

        I think it is fair and relevant to look at the early history of the A320 as it too introduced a new way of doing things and pilot training and the UI were issues and so could offer insight into how the MAX should have been introduced.

        • Agreed, 737 tube engine was back in the days of steam gauges and crashes were a lot more common for all sorts of reasons.

  15. I believe you probably visited the Delta Tristar crash site at D/FW, not a 727.

    • Delta had a 727 crash at DFW. It was deemed a combination of problems: a) lack of sterile cockpit/CRM led to probable takeoff without flaps set, and b) intermittent failure of the B727 warning system that should have alerted crew to lack of flaps + advancing to T/O power.

      • Correct, it was the 727 crash I was at. I was out of town the day of the L-1011 crash but literally flew over it the next day on landing on my return.

  16. Pity that Bombardier couldn’t hold on with the CSeries for a little while longer…a CS500 and the dynamics of 3 NB options would make this interesting situation even more colourful for Boeing

    • If the MAX is going to be out of action for some while and operators start looking elsewhere then this is a real opportunity for Airbus to push the A220-500 button now and get the product out in 2/3 years. This would be preferable to ramping the A320 any more as at some time that will be required to go through its own replacement cycle.

      The massive backlog of aircraft at Boeing would play into the hands of Airbus as there looks to be a substantial delay in delivery on what for some slots is 5+ years away. What about Ryanair or similar being less enamoured with the tainted MAX 8 and being offered 250 A220-500s at a juicy price to get the ball rolling. All that space in Mobile now looks very useful indeed.

      So Airbus gets to go to something like 70 on the A320 and 30+ on the A220 leaving not much space for Boeing to breath. Any new NSA would have to compete across a wide spectrum from 110 seats to 240 seats making that offering far more difficult to specify.

      • “If the MAX is going to be out of action for some while and operators start looking elsewhere then this is a real opportunity for Airbus to push the A220-500 button now and get the product out in 2/3 years. ”

        I agree that Airbus has a golden opportunity to launch the A220-500 and take advantage of Boeing’s huge mistakes. Bombardier designed the A220-300 with an extra wing evacuation door with the 500 in mind. All that is required is to add a couple of plugs to stretch the 300. I suspect all the design work was done long ago and they were just waiting for the right time to launch. It is possible it could be certified in less than 2 years if they made it a priority.

        I bet Boeing is regretting that they did not buy Bombardier when they had a chance.

        • While I love the C series, a new variant and ramp up is 3-4 years away.

          Dust will have settled by then.

          Still a good idea.

      • Airbus is already trying to ramp up at max possible speed to answer the NEO backlog of thousands of planes. In the short term they can gain nothing from Boeing issues. Maybe in the long term. Their strategy is now more to erode the base for the future NMA launch next year. After the A321 LR last year, they will surely launcg the A321 XLR this year at Le Bourget. There is a strong possibility that they launch a A322 longer version with no other modifications next year as the A319 is no more selling. The standard length is now the A321 … Those new additions are easy and cheap to implement.

        In the long term, remember that the A320 is a plane from the 80’s with its original metallic wing and fuselage. If pressed by competition, they could launch a composite light weight version with an improved aerodynamic wing. This would be more expensive but less than a complete new plane with a different certification. Thus the A320 family has at least still an iteration left before being completly outdated.

  17. Deferred Prosecution Agreements are a useful tool that oversight bodies in the US have in their kit. The body can agree with the target to defer any prosecution for a fixed period of time while the target gets its house in order. It isn’t a soft touch, as the target agrees to the sanctions if the regulator decides they step out of line. It works in situations where the target realizes being seen as rogue isn’t doing them any good.

    • Would the target be the FAA? Because that’s who really has the ultimate responsibility for manufacturer oversight and for certification failures.

      • No, the target would be Boeing.

        Heads will roll at the FAA but they cannot be prosecuted.

  18. I would hope that Transport Canada, and EASA would want to know why everyone only found out in Boeing’s bulletin to the airlines, after the Lion Air crash, that the limit of MCAS’s command was 2.5 degrees where the FAA, and the other regulators were under the impression that it was 0.6 degrees.
    “None of the engineers were aware of a higher limit,” Dominic Gates, Seattle Times.

    The MAX had been certified, and flying for more than 18 months, and the degree of control over the stabiliser was still not reported correctly … why ?

    I’m sure the other regulators (not FAA) would be interested in the logic that allows the stabiliser to remove pitch authority from the pilots by moving the stabiliser to it’s maximum range with the aircraft nose down.

    If BA, and the FAA really understood the implications of this post Lion Air (and you might think they would as they were developing a software update to address this), why didn’t they ground the MAX until the software update had been applied ?

    MCAS was only intended to kick in when the aircraft was approaching a stall, somewhere you hope a commercial airliner is unlikely to go, but where usually you can trade altitude for for lift with pitch down.

    Why wasn’t it thought through that with just one input, which could fail, if you didn’t have altitude (just after takeoff), pushing the nose down repeatedly could put the aircraft in a very dangerous position.

    It’s fine to say the pilots should have dealt with it as runaway trim, but it may not look like runaway trim, it starts, then it stops, you adjust, then it starts again, you might just possibly be busy trying to deal with other issues (unreliable airspeed/ AOA / altitude or lack thereof).

    It helps if you have a third pilot on hand to calmly look at one issue as the others aviate.

    • QF A380 had 5 pilots working full speed to understand and deal with all the issues after their T-900 uncontained failure..

      • My take is that 5 pilots tried to deal with a million alarms when you needed to clean the board and land the airplane.

        The chilling part was they kept putting it back in auto pilot which it kept shucking them out of, the last time at 1500 ft on landing.

        With damage like that not foreseen anything could happen.

        They should have put it right back on the ground in hand control.

        They had more faith in a hosed up automation system than their own flying.

  19. @Scott –
    how is the EASA process different from the FAA Process?

    Does the EASA similarly allow the manufacturer to plan and perform all/vast majority of flight testing and data analysis and certification work and basically assume a review/question/ask for changes role?

    in theory, under the FAA process, a set of Boeing’s employees are “certified inspectors” for the FAA and are responsible for ensuring the aircraft meets FAA requirements etc, how does the EASA do it?

  20. The Max was one facelift too many — rushed job, defensive in nature where the answer was yes now what is the question.

    The concept of the “Franken-plane” gets a regular airing regarding plans for the future and with each passing day the Max looks to be the poster child of that particular design process.

    Parts bin special where the parts didn’t fit so they were made to fit by any means possible.

    BA has had a good run with the 737 from runt of the litter into the golden child over 2 generations with some engine tech, stretching, CFD enhanced wings and a lot of BA market presence.

    As the fable tells us — the camel will fall eventually if the suits get too greedy.

    Quantity has a quality all of its own and at the moment that seems to be the Max’s saving grace — the global demand for air travel means that the market cannot sideline the B737 supply chain / production infrastructure even if it wanted too.

    Interesting to find out what happens if the Max is beyond redemption:
    Is the brand tarnished beyond passenger acceptance?
    Are the physics of the “engine forward” layout so marginal that fixing one issue only generates others?

    The return of the NG — if yes then for how long?
    Marriage made by way of necessity — B757 wingbox / MLG + B737 wings / fuselage?
    What would you call it and how would you certify it?

    New longer legged B737 derivative — 5 years of work?
    New / clean sheet design — 8 years of work?

    BA managed to survive the B787 debacle.
    They are managing to survive their “stuff-a-pleb” economics.
    Will this catastrophe — QBIAS design standards / suits calling the shots from Chicago? — be terminal in that it was a known issue where the company was on the case but behind the curve rather than a bolt from the battery tech blue?

    BA might have won the battle on Wall Street but it has sold it’s soul to get there.

  21. BA and its 737 problem — what about the MC-21?

    Buy a share of the programme and split up the world regarding sales.
    That way BA would have a state of the art SA available in 4 years with a lot of growth potential built in.

    Desperate situations call for desperate measures.

    • Perhaps Donald “the dealmaker” can arrange something with Vladimir Vladimirovich. As you say, desperate situations require desperate measures.

    • FBOT: It would not happen at any time and never in the current climate.

      Russia give away its to be Crown Jewel?

  22. Hi Scott,
    As another long-time interested observer of aviation, this is really sickening. My Dad flew Boeing airplanes for 21 years in the USAF…KC-135s and B-52s while the B-29 was a trainer for him, and the family business has never looked worse. Watching Boeing wait and wait, after I saw the flight profile on the BBC first thing Sunday morning…shame on them.

    How they could think it was fine to not tell the pilots about MCAS is beyond sad. Just another case of MBAs messing important things up in the ugly pursuit of money…which they are now responsible for losing in a huge way…not to mention 2 crashed airplanes and 357 dead people. That would have been evidence enough for me to have grounded the MAX on Sunday.

    This also begs the question of did they even tell the FAA…? If not…wow…if so, then the FAA had to also sign off on their not telling the pilots. No wonder there is even a criminal investigation.

    Lots of (MBA) people want to have autonomous commercial flights…again to save every dollar, and bust the pilot’s unions who are costing the C-level guys their stock option money. This is a problem in many areas…a wired up way to make sure companies invest in their own shares instead of R&D or their employees…or improving the world somehow.

    B-school Model:
    (Z x crashed airplanes) + (Y x dead people) = $52 saved

    They have never flown a heavy jet, or written a computer program, but are 100% into this idea anyway. In the military, sure, but airliners are a different story entirely.

    Sadly, because software was in total control, this is the first test case in my view and it has not gone well…even with the pilots still on board. How these guys (who were informed by then about MCAS) didn’t think to shut off the stab trim motor is also very strange. Boeing was clearly relying on them to think it was a stab trim runaway, and the day-before Lion Air crew did figure it out. How that airplane flew again the next day with a bad AOA vane is just awful, and it would have been possible (on the ground still) for the aircraft to tell the crew that there was a mismatch…not to mention the designers should not have chosen to rely on just one of them. Mr. Gates in Seattle has done his usual great job and everyone should read his stuff…

    A message of some sort on that expensive panel would have been useful (aural too), but…what else could it have been…? The manual trim wheel must have been spinning and making its usual racket. Is the shortage so bad that we are qualifying people who should be selling insurance…? And post-Colgan Air, there will be a lot of above average pilots who will end up doing something else because 1,500 hours is too expensive and they don’t have rich Dad to pay for that.

    For a species that has such potential and is supposed to be so smart, plus the hundred plus years of making aviation better and safer…how bloody-minded greedy and stupid. Hope we can somehow avoid blowing up the whole planet…

    • Keep in mind that the stick shaker is going full tilt bogey and stall voice message are yelling at you.

      So the wheel clacking is likely gone not noticed.

      Ethiopia has its own Pilot certification’s, not US standard (copilot only had a few hundreds hours)

      I don’t know if they can fly to US without US spec pilots.

  23. Never being afraid to go out on my own limb, I am going to stand by 3 months MAX and its back in the air.

    First the software is 5 months into development and Boeing will fold to the FAA and stop the bleeding.

    Review of the MCAS software is not a huge deal, Boeing will do a LOT of testing in fault conditions.

    Yes this will reverberate for a long time. Heads will fly, people will get charged, things will get changed.

    I do find it amusing some people agree with its too fluid to call and then make calls anyway.

    Keeping in mind this stuff hits a peak faster and it falls off the radar faster to.

    Having walked a few wrecks (not on Scotts level) it is indeed a sobering experience. Even years latter its sobering.

    • Three months (mid-June) might happen in the US. I think it’s much less likely to happen in Canada or the EU based on the recent comments. And I expect Air Canada’s removal of MAX from their flight planning is partially based on discussions with Transport Canada as well.

      Maybe Boeing can restart deliveries to US airlines in June?

      • I will only speak for myself, but I think other end-users will do similar: If the FAA releases the grounding and WN, UA and AA start flying again, I’ll remain a loyal Delta passenger. I split about 1/3 of my domestic flying to WN, but if Canadian and EU regulators haven’t cleared the MAX and the ‘patch’, I’m not even going to privilege any US airline that resumes MAX flying with my dollars – even if I feel quite certain that I’d be scheduled on another model.

        My two cents. May be extreme, but there are two sets of customers who have to be dealt with: the airlines, of course. But also the traveling public.

        The damage to BA and FAA credibility is real and I don’t believe it can be waived away by June, and certainly not if our closest trading partners aren’t ready to remove the chocks on this bird.

        • I fully agree, this is not over by June, just that it will be flying in US.

          If handled right and Canada, EU, Japan, China are kept appraised of the fix and the data to go with it, then they can consider or release to fly once confidant is established in MCAS.

          Longer term flight of the MAX based on review of the certification’s and any issues raised resolved or dealt with (and how sever if found)

          Fix of the FAA is going to take time and any confidence for that longer still.

          Boeing I don’t know what will work or take.

          I can see Muillengerge being given the ax as the high level sacrifice.

          Legally this will go on for a long time.

          Where those decision made and who made them at the Boeing BCA group is fully open.

          It seems the extent of the fix was being fought by Boeing (not now!) and with 5 months to have written software it should be soon (how much delay the US Shutdown impacted it will also be a major news item)

  24. I am wondering, with so many MAX already out and flying, were there any other incidents recorded by airlines, where the had the same problem, but the crew successfully recognized the trim runaway and recovered the situation? Are there any records from the Flight Data Analysis that commercial airlines are doing?

    Is it that it only happend twice and both times the crews failed or did it happen several times and it was only those two unlucky crews that lost the battle?

    • Numerous incidents (not resulting in crashes) recorded in the US. Another one on Lion Air aircraft’s penultimate flight. It’s not clear how many others in other countries.

    • The question is, does anybody know? Does Boeing know, does the FAA know? Maybe nobody, which should be frightening.

      I watched the series, American Experience, Command and Control, about nuclear weapons accidents. The head of nuclear safety was kept in the dark about half of them. What’s that say?

      • Pretty public and we have seen a few reported pop up.

        However, two of those were in Auto Pilot which is not supposed to be involved (why I am puzzle as auto pilot would use AOA sensor I would think but that part of the control system not discussed yet)

        USAF, well lets just say they have problems and any stove pipe organization can have cut outs that stop info from getting to the top.

        As we have both public and pilot input and all the medial platforms, I don’t see other MCAS issue going un-reported.

  25. While all rhis is going on, boeing is not delivering maxs but i guess are still producing them at their usual rate, their parts are ordered months in advance, years even.
    So if this drags on into july then you may end up with a few hundred ac stacked up, so, at what point does boeing slow down production? Or will they just keep ploughing on regardless?

  26. While all this is going on, boeing is not delivering maxs but i guess are still producing them at their usual rate, their parts are ordered months in advance, years even.
    So if this drags on into july then you may end up with a few hundred ac stacked up, so, at what point does boeing slow down production? Or will they just keep ploughing on regardless?

    • It would be suicidal to Boeing if they continue production as if nothing major had occured. They still might and we may see Boeing going chapter 11 this year.

      • Boeing has plenty of cash so I think Chapter 11 is highly unlikely.

        Depending on the length of the grounding, storage of the completed 737 MAX might become a challenge. Maybe Boeing can rent some space in Mojave though?

        • If Boeing keep the production running full throttle and the certificate is revoked permanently the negative cash flow will burn through the cash reserves in a few months and Boeing will not last into 2020.

          • What does Boeing contracts say about stopping commitments to contract?

            This is really nonsense.

            The Cert is not going to be revoked.

            Boeing has no choice, the bobsled has left the chute and you are going all the way down the runway.

            They have 4 billion a year in buyer buy back they can stop any second.

  27. Since shortly after the mid-late 1990s McDonnell Douglas merger Boeing has been infected with McDonnell Douglas thinking, which is about avoiding big company-betting programs (“moonshots”). This is despite the fact that Boeing has actually, in the past, been pretty dang good at those. The 777 program, for instance, was an absolute triumph. That is a magnificent aircraft, highly successful commercially as well as technically.

    The 787 program, on the other hand, only went forward because of the attempt to restructure industrial organization (pushing responsibility down to vendors) that went with it. That was a prime example of MacDac thinking. And of course it turned into a complete disaster, which just made Boeing even more gunshy, with the explicit statement that they didn’t want to do any more moonshots. Notwithstanding the fact that technically, the 787 is a triumph — the disaster was at least as much traceable to the idiotic attempt to completely restructure the industrial organization of the company at the same time it tried to take a great technological leap forward. In other words, you can very much lay the blame at the door of MacDac thinking.

    The MAX is the fourth generation of an aircraft that was originated in the 1960s – the technology of which arguably goes back, at least partially, into the 50s (because it uses the Boeing 707 cabin cross section). The original 737 was kind of a cheap option itself — how do you quickly respond to the DC-9, BAC 1-11, et al, without spending too much money.

    So you take, say, hamburger (737-100/200) and you make it into meatloaf (737-300/400/500). And then you extend it with soy protein (737-600/700/800/900) before most recently mixing that with lab-grown vegetarian “meat” (the 737-MAX).

    All the while, taking advantage of certain grandfathering because you can still legally fit define the 737-MAX as a 737-100/200 derivative. So you are still carrying around 1960s design choices and safety standards (e.g. door sizes, etc). So you gain benefit from still arguing that it’s hamburger, notwithstanding all the additives and changes since. It sure doesn’t look like hamburger anymore.

    At a certain point it’s logically indefensible, even if it were 100% safe. But it turns out it’s not. Because among the 1960s design choices is the landing gear, and that’s hard to change, so you’re jamming a modern generation engine under a wing in a way you just never would if it were a clean-sheet design. And that compromises the aircraft aerodynamically, in a way you never would in a clean sheet design.

    And the FAA went along with that. Boeing should never have even asked to do that, but the FAA went along. And that requires a kludgy software system to fix a problem that should never have existed in the first place. Sure, it would have been commercially very difficult and expensive for Boeing to bring out an all new narrowbody when it needed a fast response to the A320NEO, but that’s absolutely not the FAA’s problem. The FAA should have zero interest in making it easy for Boeing to respond commercially. Except that it has this dual mandate of both enforcing safety and promoting civil aviation… Plus regulatory capture is a thing.

    Sure, you can nominally make the MAX “safe”, but you are fixing problems that only exist because of this insane infinite derivative approach. You’re fixing risks that true safety-first culture would require never existed in the first place.

    Boeing finds itself in a situation entirely of its own making, and one I would argue very much originates in the MacDac thinking that has infected the company from the late 1990s.

    And the latest thing is that it’s now managed to break the trust that other global regulators had in the FAA. Heck, a lot of Americans now no longer trust the FAA. Let alone Boeing.

    People need to be fired for this. Lots of people need to lose their jobs for having damaged the reputation not only of a once-great company, Boeing, but of our national safety regulator, the FAA. Looks the the DOT thinks that some people might even need to go to jail.

  28. Boeing has to figure out if it is an aviation engineering company or a financial engineering company feeding off the carcass of a great aviation company built over 100 years.

    The ratio of money invested in new commercial aircraft compared to shareholder returns tells the story. Boeing should have launched a new aircraft by now. The spirit and investment in new models in the past, like the dual launch of the 757/767 seems to be lacking. Ten year after the 787 was 2014, 12 years was 2016… no new airplane… tick, tick, tick.

    • I think we all know it’s the latter, and the great fear is that it has been done to fatal excess. The reaction of Boeing and the FAA has demonstrably fanned those fears internationally.

      If one considers the full ranges of consequences for all Boeing / FAA certifications since the late 1990s coming under global suspicion you can easily see that they would be a huge problem for the US government (as well as everyone else). It’s possible that the US government has realised this. The best way of ensuring that these consequences don’t happen is to instigate a cleaning of the stables.

      The stable cleaning metaphor is apt. Sure, you end up with clean stables and smart horses, however you’ve still got a steaming pile of horseshit somewhere else, but out of sight.

      So what we’ve seen is the serving of a subpoena on someone related to the 737MAX certification. Their information is now in the hands of the DoT / DoJ. That’s obviously been enough for them to judge just how badly government intervention is required. So now we hear the FBI is involved too, which should be able to measure the scale of the intervention needed, they can see just how deep the problems run

      Basically Uncle Sam needs to be seen to be scrubbing the stables to a shine, so that when the rest of the world’s regulators come along and start asking awkward questions about all Boeing / FAA certifications of recent decades they can say, “Look, we’re working on it, please be patient and give us some time”. That might placate them, the grounding isn’t contagious, and Uncle Sam isn’t left dealing with a bankrupt but nationally vital Boeing.

      The same response from Boeing’s current management and today’s FAA would not be convincing. We’ve already seen them failing to convince.

      • We used to call it spreadsheet engineering. We being both Britons and Americans.

  29. What’s done the 737 MAX is the stabiliser. If they had resized the stsbiliser and resized the elevators to cope with – dampen – the pitch up moment caused by the engine/wing mounting, the airplane would have been safe.

    Yep, I agree it would have been better to have a new undercarriage to allow the engine to be mounted with a pylon. But that’s a nice have not a must have. The stabiliser/elevator resize appears to be very close to a must have and may in the end be deemed a must have.

    As it stands, without stabiliser/elevator resize, MCAS and the pilots will need to deal with a fierce pitch-up moment that worsens with increasing AofA. Pilots will always have to be mindful during climb out after flap retraction; even more so in poor weather when there are strong upward vertical currents and gusts.

    • MAX flight simulators must surely be a priority for airlines flying the MAX now.

      It seems that there are only a handful worldwide, and I wonder what information they are based on, stabiliser deflection of 0.6 degrees or 2.5 ? Control column back not effective in arresting trim, or does it still behave like it did in the 800 ?

      Are the new larger engine size, and positions taken into account ? Does a MAX simulator really behave in exactly the same way when approaching a stall, or landing in a cross wind (don’t forget the proximity of the new split winglets to the ground) ?

      I think even in the 800 when recovering from a stall, you have to make sure you have pitch well under control before carefully applying thrust or the nose comes up fairly rapidly. I wonder how this behaves in a MAX simulator, and just how close it is to real world behaviour.

      I may be a little cynical here, but I think it’s a genuine concern that given we only found out about the level of control of the stabiliser (0.6 to 2.5 degrees) after the Lion Air crash, the existing MAX simulators may, or may not be based on the correct information.

      • There aren’t any 737 MAX simulators. The first will be delivered to SouthWest Airlines before the end of this year. See Flight Global article:


        Excellent article.

        The question is whether the 737 MAX simulators, when they arrive, address MCAS for Boeing says treat the situation as runaway trim stabiliser.

        If the simulators do address MCAS, will it be the old MCAS or the new MCAS?

        The Flight Global article says conversion training between the NG and the MAX is an iPad course taking less than a hour, even though NG stability and MAX stability is different, very different.

        As I said elsewhere, the revelations will keep coming.

        It’s going to take longer than 3 months to sort this out.

      • CAE has delivered a MAX simulator to Air Canada so they do exist. Whether they include the actual MCAS behaviour is a whole other question.

          • Phillip:

            I gather you feel all mfs of aircraft in the world don’t know or understand how Stabilizer sizing is supposed to work?

            The 737 stab is no different than anyone elses. They all move, they are all bigger than the elevator.

            A320 will do the same thing.

            Its systems are well tested and proven but in the 2 out of 3 voting of computers, with two AOA going bad (frozen) it will and has done the same thing.

            Remedy is the same. Kill the stab. Use the backup system to neutralize it.

            I would like to hear discussion on that as I do now know what backup Stab ops on a 2 out of 3 voting computer system aircraft is.

            But no, the issue is not Stabilizer vs Rudder, its MCAS logic failure.

          • Transworld

            Last time, can’t be bothered anymore.

            Boeing have said they will stop the stabiliser overpowering the elevator using software; it should be hardware.

            So clearly Boeing don’t agree with you either.

            The problem for me is it means they didn’t test the situation or simulate the situation. That means they don’t know the envelope. That’s bad.

  30. A question that seemed a little less important with a short grounding, but with flights speculated as being grounded until July, if Boeing continues building at their current rate, we are looking at around 600 frames sitting round in the desert. How long would it take to do their currently advised fix?

    Depending on what happens with certification this could be even longer, imagine….nightmare scenario…. EASA demands a third AOA probe, or a larger aileron sometime late May/ June (Remember the CAA required a larger ventral fin on the 707?).

    Are Boeing thinking the unthinkable and dropping production?

    • More like 200.

      Unless there is a major issue, Boeing can’t stop production. Or it can, but the contracts are valid and they still have to pay them

      Keep in mind this aircraft has been through a whole lot of testing (and air time) and no other issues have cropped up nor are we hearing FAA off the records say any were.

      Ramping up the speculation is not a good thing to be doing.

      We could get hit my a massive asteroid tomorrow to but its so small that I am planning on sleeping in.

  31. Long time lurker at this site.

    This is one of the best columns you ever wrote.

    Safe to say this will be a watershed event

  32. From an interview in USA Today:


    “We purposely designed the airplane to behave in the same way,” (Boeing CEO) Muilenburg said. “So even though it’s a different airplane design, the control laws that fly the airplane are designed to make the airplane behave the same way in the hands of the pilot.”

    The CEO of Boeing states that the MAX is a different design. How can they then claim that it is still covered under the 737 certification?

    • Per international agreements that allow them what is called Grandfather rights.

      Right or not its allowed.

      Airbus has changed the A330 significantly with its NEO as did the A320 (fewer changes) under the same allowance.

      A350-1000 is another one

    • This is ominous for Boeing. As long as there is a criminal investigation into the certification process it is easy for other national regulators to argue that the clear message from US authorities is that the certification process and hence the certification itself may be suspect.

      China in particular has been very quiet since its opening move.

      • China itself has a huge problem to cover off if the wheels really do come off the FAA certification wagon for Boeings. They operate a lot of Boeings domestically, rely on them. If they’re grounded too there’s a big upset in the Chinese transport system.

        I have no doubt that their government is wondering on how to exploit the current situation. But that’s fair enough, it’s not a situation of their design, that’s all down to Boeing and the FAA.

        And I completely agree, it looks very ominous for Boeing. If there’s anything to find, a criminal inquiry is more able to find it than anything else. The fact that one has been started means that someone somewhere has shown themselves something that justifies more inquiry.

  33. Why isn’t anyone talking about the faulty AoA indicator. Isn’t that the root of the problem? Seems like Boeing has culpability in the first crash as no one knew the MCAS system even existed. But prior to crash number 2 wasn’t there an AD discussing how to disable? Isn’t solving a “runaway trim” problem a memory item? Interested in your input.

    • Some of us have and are.

      Speeds off is an issue for sure in Lion Air.

      It not the only issue and not the most critical if it were not for disastrous written software logic.

      And I would like to know if AOA has anything to do with auto pilot as well.

    • Airplanes shouldn’t crash because of a faulty AoA indicator, especially on a calm, clear day with a clear horizon

  34. @Scott, welcome to the Dumbfounded Club. Let me encourage you to imagine reaching for the inner circle, where dumbfoundedness turns to apoplexy…

    The problem I think exists in the aviation industry is The Rules. These are the processes, engineering guidelines, etc. which, if followed closely, will result in safe designs that are properly manufactured, operated and maintained. Everyone inside the aviation business is trained, from birth almost, to follow those rules to the letter, and to advertise any problems they’ve encountered far and wide without self cencorship or fear of blame.

    And that’s great. It works a treat. Aviation is the safest form of transport. Right up until someone somewhere stops following the rules, and gets away with it. Which, in a close-knit, inter-dependent, trust-based community such as aviation, almost never, ever happens. It’s unthinkable.

    However, when someone is operating outside the rules, all bets are off. Everything is too interconnected for the consequences to be limited.

    And I think that that’s what’s happened here with the 737MAX. I think that’s what happened with the EC225 helicopter too (just how does 1 gearbox inspection per flight make logical sense? With error bars on a once-per-flight determination, sometimes that’s not soon enough…).

    Yes, we’ve had groundings before, and some industry insider’s intial reaction to the 737MAX grounding was typical for the situation where it is assumed something unforeseen had gone wrong, and therefore everyone is still within the rules.

    And normally that’d be fine; The Rules are sufficiently finely balanced so that when something goes wrong there’s likely a decent safety margin to disaster anyway. For example, the problems with RR’s Trent 1000 on 787 were bad, but not so bad that anyone was panicking about it. It’s manageable.

    However, for 737MAX the warning signs were writ large for all to see that this was not a normal situation arising within The Rules. And you can only see these signs if you’re a suspicious, cynical sort who doesn’t trust your colleagues across the industry.

    For me a cursory glance at the architectural design of the MCAS implementation got my whiskers twitching straight away. The purpose of the thing is dubious and the architecture is highly questionable for achieving that purpose. Worse, the scope for catastrophic fault conditions is way too high (there’s some nasty interactions with other aircraft features, such as the frangible torque tube connecting the control columns), even with a software fix.

    Now if I, a seasoned Systems Engineer from a completely different industry, can see this after reading a couple of online articles about MCAS and its design, published after the Lion Air tragedy, one might ask what the hell was that thing doing on an aeroplane in the first place? Especially as it turned out no one else knew it was on the airplane, and that apparently it was not as it had been described to the FAA?

    Whereas the industry insiders intial reactions seem to have been along the lines of, it’s on the aircraft therefore it must be basically alright because it’s been approved, it must be necessary, and surely only minor tweaks are required to correct what ever is wrong.

    That is a gut reaction borne of years of being trained to play by the rules and to trust everyone else to do the same thing.

    And it’s a reaction that has probably just killed another 157 people.

    ==Breakdown in Trust==

    Now that there seems to be a growing recognition across the industry that The Rules have been broken, I think that it’s possible to forecast where this will go.

    0) It’ll turn out that a lot of people have known that all is not well for quite a long time, some will have tried to raise concerns in the proper place, a lot won’t have, none will have got anywhere anyway. The proper place (FAA? DoT?) will soon be wondering about how to explain their inaction.

    1) It looks like other regulatory bodies now have an appetite to properly dig into this

    2) It looks like various parts of the US government and judicial system are also motivated to look into this – it’s likely their corporate responsibility really, and there’s arse-covering to do

    3) The point in time at which the rules started to be broken will be identified

    4) Everything certified from that point onwards will come under suspicion.

    ==What might that encompass?==

    a) Some 737NGs might get grounded outside the US. The NG bear strap business will likely come to the fore again. No doubt other regulators asked the FAA at the time whether there was anything to it, and no doubt they were assured that it was nothing. That is now in doubt, and other regulators might very well ask the question again, but more pointedly.

    They will now be especially careful of this because, having grounded the MAX there’s going to be a whole load of early generation NGs getting more cycles put on them than planned, which will exaserpate the danger of structural failure due to manufactering defects. Caveat – I’m not up well enough with this to know whether or not any of the supposedly affected airframes are still in service.

    b) 787 might get grounded pending recertification, outside the US

    d) 747-8 likewise

    c) 777x certification by the FAA is rejected globally, A380 gets relaunched, or A350-1100 comes into being?

    d) Assuming it’s the FAA certifying Airbus’s manufacturing in Mobile, that might run into deep problems too.

    e) Boeing’s proposed fix, certified by the FAA, for the 737MAX is rejected.

    f) Uncle Sam buys up Boeing to protect national security programmes, etc.

    That’s a very big hypothetical list. At this point in time, I don’t think it’s wise to assume that none of this will happen. We’ve got to a 737MAX grounding through the ugliest, most shameful route, I see no reason to assume that that’s an end of it. Once the trust is broken, it’s broken, and the ripple effects will go a long way.

    If other regulatory bodies get the merest whiff of there being irregularities over the certification of any of these types then they’re going to have no choice but to take action.

    The disruption we might see in the aviation business in the coming years could be immense. This itself may force other regulatory bodies to stick their necks out and grandfather in 737NG, 787, 747-8 even if there are irregularities about their FAA certifications; at least they’ve not been falling out of the sky.

    And if this is where we end up, well that would be cause for a lot of apoplectic anger. For it does go this way because it turns out someone wasn’t sticking to The Rules, it will be the most severe example of malpractice ruining for everyone what had hiterto been a prosperous and beneficial (if slightly poluting) industry.

    ==Respect for Fellow Professional Human Beings==

    For anyone raising slights against the abilities of Lion Air or Ethiopian to properly operate these things, stop it at once. Both airlines AFAIK have had NGs, which the MAX was supposed to mimick, for a long time. During that time they have never had tragedies of this nature whilst operating them. They can get NGs off the ground and into the air without pointing them straight down at high speed. So there is clearly something very different and wrong with the MAX. It has overwhelmed even forewarned pilots.

    • Previous planes have a return of experience showing that they were safe. B737NG cannot be grounded because of the B737Max. The issue is more for new planes.

      For me the bigger problem is that the plane was not grounded after the first crash but only after the second one and worst after many resistance from the FAA and Boeing. An error can be made in the design and its certification, it is horrible and cynical but it may happen. No human being nor organisation is perfect. But three successive errors is not possible, it is a will to pursue whatever the cost in human lives because of personal interest and greed.
      Errare humanum est, perseverare diabolicum

  35. To paraphrase your post, you are not looking at the aircraft but instead we are looking at the certification process, the ethical behaviour of Boeing in an engineering sense, the relationship between Boeing and the FAA and such like.

    You are suggesting we will be going back in time to establish when things started to go wrong and effectively decertifying everything since that point in time. An interesting viewpoint but I don’t think the investigators in the US or without have the balls to confront the issue and sure as eggs are eggs Boeing will be desperately trying to ringfence the issue to MCAS or MAX or B737 or or or.

    Perhaps my age has introduced a world weary cynicism but what should be done and what will be done are going to be two different things. Even Airbus must be rattled by this, I have always felt they were more respectful of certification processes but ‘Mea Culpa’ writ large.

    • I do write too much… Yes, the aircraft is only as good as the certification process that signed it off. Poor certification process = unusable aircaft.

      That’s essentially the foundation of trust as part of aviation safety. It applies to certification of a design, a manufacturing plant, an airline, an airport, a pilot training programme or a maintenance operation.

      We’re here right now because it looks very much like the 737MAX certification process has gone fatally wrong, an impression reinforced by poor public behaviour by Boeing and the FAA after these tragedies. It’s a matter of how far has the rot spread, a question no doubt at the forefront of every other regulators’ minds right now.

      However I suspect that it will pan out as you suggest. It kind of has to, otherwise the chaos will be staggering.

      I think that if the US government gets some aggressive investigations going to expose what has transpired, find out just how bad things really are ASAP, that will help. The result of that will probably be, well, liveable with, even in the worst case of other certification irregularities being found. It’s more liveable with if the theatre surrounding the investigation demonstrates a firm drive on the part of the US government to do a thorough, no holds barred job of it and hold the culprits to account, and remove them from their posts.

      That would make it easier for regulatory bodies like EASA to stay their own investigations, and reduces the pressure they might feel to disregard FAA certifications en-masse.

      Whether that’s right or not, well who can tell? We just don’t know enough about it yet. A pragmatic approach is to develop information as quickly as possible, and then act accordingly. Given the time that’s already gone past and the hours already flown, a short grace period now probably won’t kill or hurt anyone.

      That’s a bit of a gamble, but it is a defendable and honourable position to take, so long as the grace period is short. People need to travel, they’ve bought tickets, livelihoods need to be maintained, etc. Knee jerk groundings of other types right away guarantees to hurt a lot of people in other ways, and that probably isn’t morally defensible as yet.

      I know regulators do not like to take gambles, but they have been put into a position by the FAA and Boeing of now having weigh up the gamble vs the distasteful certainty of acting stictly by the book. I don’t envy their jobs.

      However if a year down the line we’re still none the wiser, the investigations haven’t made a determination of any sort, that could be real trouble. If other crashes occur traceable to certification shortcuts, game over for Boeing.

      I’m sure that Airbus’s senior management are indeed as rattled as the rest of us. There has been much talk about the huge commercial advantage they now have. I strongly suspect that, actually, they’ll be feeling pretty sick to have got that advantage as a result of the deaths of several hundred people in circumstances that were probably very avoidable but for an unrestrained profit motive.

      At the same time I suspect Airbus management are grateful that the economic climate in Europe is more permissive of long-term thinking. Taking away short term pressure from the very top extends goodness all the way down.

  36. I’ll wait for the ink to dry before commenting on the legal, ethical issues of the MCAS software. Too much is unknown at this point.

    I will say that Boeing had no business selling the MAX, or any other AC that requires an experienced, competent crew to either country. Airbus is much better suited to the third world pilots.

    No lives should have been lost if an experienced, competent crew had been in the cockpits.

    • That’s grossly insulting and illogical.

      You’re saying that 3rd world pilot + MAX = problems, and you’re blaming the pilot.

      However it is demonstrably the case that 3rd world pilot + NG = no problems; NGs have not been falling out of the sky in this way anywhere on the planet.

      You can’t have it both ways. Pilots with high trouble free hours on NGs don’t suddenly become useless jellies just because the aircraft’s name has got MAX in it.

      Care to withdraw your post?

    • A plane that needs a perfect pilots to be flown cannot be considered safe. Pilots as competent, as they can be, are human beings prone to errors, bad influence, fatigue, … Thus a plane shall be adapted to the pilots that will fly them and not the contrary. They shall accept temporary small errors. A plane that crash if the pilots does not react immediatlty in a very specific way in an obscure scenario cannot be safe. Pilots shall be the ultimate safety system in the degraded case not the redundant system in the nominal case. And this is the spirit of the regulation.

  37. Let us not put the entire blame for the fiasco on the FAA. As I said in an earlier e-mail, our Congress has to share at least some of the blame. You cannot starve an important agency like FAA through budget shenanigans and under-budgeting, to find money for one’s pet issues (tax cuts, defense – take your pick) and then expect the agency to do well. What the Congress (I won’t mention any side, which would be quite obvious) did to IRS is an excellent example.

    The way forward: Fund the FAA properly and give it only regulatory responsibility without any conflicts re safeguarding the welfare of US Aviation industry. Give it the resources it needs to do its job right. Don’t push FAA under the bus to mask what Congress has been doing for years and years.

    I wonder if Scott has anything to add here!

      • Yes. It seems the Ethiopian 737MAX simulator does not simulate the nice new MCAS stability software. Also Ethiopian are saying the manual is, at best, obscure.
        Sadly I am beginning to see the ‘blame the pilots’ line being repeated.
        So sad. We need to do a fix that is NOT just another not well tested write of the software.
        AND I am still certain that Grandfathering is the real issue.

    • Scott, hang on a minute though. If you’re a senior manager in a certification agency and you look about your money-starved organisation failing to do its job properly, is it your honour bound moral duty to either, 1) stumble on regardless in silence and hope for the best, or 2) down slide rules and tell the world your organisation is no longer fit for purpose?

      An underpaid luggage loader needing the overtime who damages an aircraft door is expected to fess up. A piece-work pilot too ill to fly is expected to call in sick and skip it. A cheap maintenance shop is expected to keep tabs on FOD, and report problems up the chain accordingly despite quotas. A struggling airline is expected to keep up with maintenance, and ground itself if it runs into problems despite flight schedules. An airport run on a shoe string is supposed to inspect its runway for issues and close it if found wanting, regardless of sold landing slots. And so on. Why should the very pinnacle be exempt from this?

      We see this occassionally in engineering endeavours, where the engineers are being pressured to do things they know are wrong. As an engineer in that situation, your employment is already effectively at an end (it might just get postponed a bit), so you might as well accept that. All you can do is lodge the evidence with your lawyer for self protection, escalate the problem over the head of the source of the trouble, and walk out the door if no resolution is forthcoming.

      There’s VW engineers who didn’t do this, and they’re now in jail. I’ve two colleagues who have had to do this, and it saved their careers.

      I agree that the emaciation of the FAA is not the fault of the FAA. Going along with that is its own fault though. Top-Dog organisations like that ought to have an internal health check process, and if found wanting they should close up shop and walk away.

      This passivity pervades engineering because the social responsibilities of engineering are not widely taught at university. Nor is the dynamics of engineering + politics. These things should be taught.

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