April 1, 2019, © Leeham News: One can’t help but think, a lot, about the two Boeing 737 MAX crashes and the facts that Boeing created the system, linked it to one sensor, not two, didn’t tell the airlines pilots about it, didn’t include it in pilot manuals, didn’t have a safety alert system as standard equipment, initially blamed the Lion Air pilots and reportedly lobbied Donald Trump not to ground the airplanes.
But my thoughts haven’t stopped here.
These decisions were made at a time when:
I just don’t know what to make of all this.
Was there a major breakdown in Boeing’s system converging all at once?
Or was this a case of a series of unconnected events converging all at once?
Four concurrent commercial airplane programs (the KC-46A being a hybrid between commercial and military) each had trouble.
Two of their last four airplanes have been grounded by regulators. A third airplane had such poor quality control the customer stopped taking delivery. Three of the four were years late.
What’s going on here?
Boeing resources were clearly stretched too thin. Billions of dollars were going out the door in cost overruns. Were bad management decisions made by the bean-counting McNerney regime?
Was there something systemic happening? Or just a run of bad luck and bad timing?
I know people will say bad luck is just a myth, but sometimes (as the saying goes) [stuff] happens.
I have full confidence Boeing will get back on track. Just as the problems for the 787 and 747-8 were fixed, the QC on the KC-46A will be sorted out and so will the MCAS on the MAX.
Boeing is a solid company. Its employees are dedicated. It, and they, were going through a very rough patch.
There’s a new transition coming. Thousands of engineers, technicians and touch-labor employees retire in the next five years. The replacement talent pool will be stretched and the loss of institutional knowledge will be hard to replace.
The pending combination of Embraer will bring a good source of engineering talent that Boeing will need during the retirement phase. SPEEA may not like the work that will wind up in Brazil, but (lower costs aside), directing work there will be necessary.
Although the timing of the NMA, with a program launch in 2020, is really driven by keeping research and development investment steady so stock buybacks and dividends can be maintained, managing resources and not risking a repeat of the concurrent airplane programs effects outlined above is a factor. I vaguely remember statements in the past about not doing two concurrent programs again. I don’t remember which regime made the statement, though.
As I said, I just don’t know what to make of all this. Was it systemic or just a series of bad coincidences?
This will be debated for years to come.