Pontifications: Rebuilding the MAX and Boeing brands

By Scott Hamilton

May 6, 2019, © Leeham News: Boeing has a big job ahead of it to restore faith in the 737 MAX with flight crews and the flying public.

Recertification is still weeks or perhaps months away. The return to service may be anywhere from July to August or even longer, depending on how global regulators proceed with review and approval of the revised MCAS software and pilot training.

Pilots at airlines seem split whether a “simple” computer training protocol is sufficient or whether a flight simulator training is required.

Let’s set all this aside on the safe assumption this will work itself out, whether sooner or later.

So, the question then becomes: how does Boeing repair the MAX brand—and its own.

Long-term news coverage

First, just because the airplane is recertified and returns to service, this doesn’t mean the cloud will dissipate quickly.

Crash investigations typically take 12-18 months to complete. Boeing is clear: it points its finger at the pilots as well as “owning” the narrow responsibility for linking MCAS to a single Angle of Attack sensor.

At the Annual Shareholders Meeting last week, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg denied any flaw whatsoever in MCAS itself. The accident investigations may or may not reveal information that could further taint the airplane.

Lawsuits will periodically put the MAX crashes back in the headlines.

Then there are the investigations by the US Department of Transportation, the DOT’s Inspector General about how Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration certified the airplane, the FBI investigation, one by the Department of Justice and a Grand Jury.

Finally, don’t forget about the politicians in Congress who want a piece of this action.

It’s going to be a long time before the MAX crashes and grounding are out of the news.

Lasting confidence damage

There is a crisis in confidence in the MAX and the Boeing brand. I firmly believe both will be overcome. The question is, how long will it take?

There have been several instances over the decades in which commercial airliners were grounded, following which the airplanes went on to serve productively and in which passenger confidence was restored:

  • The Lockheed Constellation and Douglas DC-6 were grounded shortly after entering service in the immediate post-World War II era. Both went on to be reliable, popular aircraft.
  • The deHavilland Comet, the first commercial jet airliner, was grounded and redesigned. By the time it reentered service, it was eclipsed by the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8, but the Comet IV went on to serve for decades reliably.
  • The McDonnell Douglas DC-10 was grounded in 1979. Its future was mixed; sales were hurt but the aircraft went on to serve airlines for decades.
  • The Boeing 787 was grounded in 2013, the first in the era of social media and 24-hour cable news coverage. No one was hurt or killed in incidents leading to the grounding, so circumstances were different, but the 787 sold well and it is serving airlines reliably.

Other airplanes didn’t fare as well.

  • The Martin 202 was grounded and this nearly killed the company. Martin went on to produce 100 Martin 404s, which were operated reliably by TWA and Eastern Airlines, but the competing Convair 340/440 was preferred.
  • The Lockheed Electra wasn’t grounded but it was placed under severe operating restrictions while major fixes were made. A turboprop airplane that entered service as the airlines began their transition to jets, sales were poor and Lockheed lost money on the program. Renamed the Electra II, the plane went on to serve the airlines well.
Rebuilding confidence

It’s against this backdrop and in an era of hyped social media that the MAX and Boeing must rebuild confidence.

It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick.

While it’s doubtful Boeing will drop the MAX name, it could and simply refer to the airplanes by the numerical designations, the -7, -8, -9 and -10.

Or, it could follow the de Havilland and Lockheed examples and call the airplanes the MAX II. It could follow its own example in the early jet era and adopt the “Advanced” name, as it did with the 727-200A and 737-200A, calling the current 737 the MAX Advanced.

Boeing could, of course, adopt an entirely new name for the 737 MAX.

Rebuilding the Boeing brand will be perhaps more challenging.

The company isn’t about to futz with the Boeing name. The brand has taken a big hit on credibility and its image of safety.

Boeing now faces accusations it designed an airplane with a safety flaw. Boeing denies this, but there is no denying it is fixing MCAS, despite corporate-speak that only an upgrade is being done with the MCAS software.

Articles in The New York Times pointed to several whistleblowers complaining about sloppy work at the Charleston and Everett factories.

The US Air Force twice stopped delivery of the KC-46A, based on the commercial 767, due to sloppy work practices.

The MAX is the second Boeing airliner to be grounded since 2013.

Doubts exist in some circles about the efficiency and reliability of the Boeing Commercial Airplanes division.

How does Boeing address all these issues and rebuild confidence in the Boeing brand?

This is a very good question and one for which I don’t have an answer.

But I am sure that over time, confidence will be restored in the MAX and Boeing brands.

126 Comments on “Pontifications: Rebuilding the MAX and Boeing brands

  1. Boing CEO and chairman Muilenburg has tripled profits and market capitalization of Boeing in just 3 years. That’s why shareholder love Muilenburg so much. Muilenburg made them rich. That’s why shareholder are not asking Muilenburg to step down.

    But that hunt, that pressure for maximised profits by Muilenburg led to bad decisions compromising the safety of the products. Basically: “Let’s implement MCAS the cheap way and don’t tell pilots and airlines about it. Could trigger simulator trainings and that could be bad for sales”.

    No unfortunate material defect has crept in and the programmer of MCAS has not accidentally made a mistake in the code. It was a deliberate decision to implement MCAS so badly, because it seemed so optimal for the competition with Airbus and the profits. It’s unlikely that Boeing made such bad decisions just once.

    Maybe through all the current investigations we will find out about more bad decisions at Boeing. That could hurt the brand and delay the rebuilding of the Boeing brand even more.

    • Your point, “It’s unlikely that Boeing made such bad decisions just once.” is, I think, key to the future of the MAX, and indeed 777x.

      Currently there’s nothing happening to dispel the possibility that this kind of thing is endemic across Boeing. In fact, everything that’s been released, leaked or whistle blown is fanning the flames quite nicely.

      EASA, CAAC and everyone else need to know that your suspicion is unfounded. Seems kinda hard to see how that could be accomplished.

      • Read the Seattle Times Article.


        Its posted latter down as well.

        Its not what Boeing did with MCAS, its how they corrupted the safety process so they could do it.

        The Maconda blowout is worth the in depth tech read, it lays out how each safety system was compromised or not done and in the end there was no safety to stop the blowout.

      • Boeing has blown it too many times in the last 7-8 years. McNerney is the man to blame for the cost-cutting, conservative approach that Muilenberg has inherited and continued.

        The 747-8 was way late. It should have been introduced 5 years earlier, in which case the A380 would have flopped even earlier.

        The 787 is still a financial disaster. In fact, as an engineer, I did not the way they contained the battery fire issue. Instead of understanding and solving the pro0blem, they contained it by putting the battery in a hard case to prevent explosions.

        The C46 tanker is still bleeding money, time, and engineering resources.

        And now we have the MAX problem.

        This points to a culture of failure and sloppy work. So, Boeing needs to sweep clean its management, starting at the very top, to drive out those who are happy with a “good enough is good enough” approach.

        Enough said, Sumit D.

        • 100% with you.

          It’s not the cost cutting or the stock price, it’s about the way Boeing builts products these days.
          The B748 was a bad product, didn’t see any demand and was late.
          The B787 had production, quality and construction issues, was late, heavy and faulty. It was pure luck the battery fires didn’t lead to any casualties or a hull loss, otherwise Boeing would have already been in trouble. It was a crazy when we learned the batterys were self certified with the FAA, it was already a flaw and did lead to the grounding.
          Luckily for Boeing this brocen process didn’t lead to any harm, and the B787 sells well. Still, just putting the batterys in a case is not a clean solution.
          The KC46 suffers as well, but there’s not too much info why.

          With the Max as with the B787, there are huge issues in terms of processes and this time it did lead to casualties, and Boeing is 100% in charge but denies beeing guilty.

          Yes the financials look great, but the products actually suck. Their dev. is broken. Their certification is broken.
          The B777x might not see a lot of sales.

          • Sumit: As an aircraft geek, I hate it when someone pontificates but does not know its KC46

            The C-46 was a WWII twin engine transport made by Curtis.

    • I’ve recently read (it’s not an authoritative source, so I can’t link, and this may all be wrong too) that the subcontractor company who implemented MCAS were unhappy about the specification they were being asked to work to that Boeing had given them. Apparently a lot of their programmers considered the quality level specified (i.e. simplex sensor channels, no triplication, etc) inappropriate for the role and power that MCAS would actually have in flight.

      Now I can only imagine what’s gone on between those programmers and their management, and the subcontractor’s management and their Boeing customer. But I can well imagine that somewhere down the line the subcontractor has made very sure to have an email chain where their concerns were raised with Boeing and Boeing told them to proceed as per spec.

      Perhaps this is what lies behind Boeing’s recent statement that MCAS itself worked as it should. The subcontractor has a lot of face to lose in public tragedies such as these, and probably told Boeing that they’d make the email chain public if there were any hint that Boeing would try to pass the buck.

      **Engineer’s Moral Responsibilities**

      It does raise an interesting point though. As a subcontractor, if you’re being asked to do work that you know is dangerous you can’t just pass the buck back up the contract pathway to the customer. The fact that you have concerns means you also think that the customer is incompetent and can’t be trusted to act properly. By otherwise keeping quiet about it and doing as one was asked, you’re passing the buck but doing nothing to prevent loss of life.

      It’s very easy to accept a short term assurance of “we’ll take a look at it”, but when years later it’s about to go into service it’s very difficult to ask, “so, did you look at it again?”. No, the best time to blow the gaff is immediately.

      Perhaps in this case the subcontractor raised concerns with the FAA. If so, it now looks like that may have been fruitless anyway. There’s other avenues – going to the politicians with oversight roles, refusing to do the work, or going public.

      Of course, these are all potentially very bad for one’s future business prospects (especially as perhaps Boeing is the only customer in town, and they have extensive relationships with the FAA and politicians).

      But at some point someone who knows has to make a stand. Otherwise people die…

      So the question is, is Boeing now an unconsciously incompetent systems integrator but by being the biggest player in town is unconsciously intimidating its suppliers into doing work that isn’t fit for purpose and keeping quiet about it?

      Goes to show just how deadly poisonous an effect that cost savings as a primary business goal can have.

      *Danger Signs for the MCAS Fix*

      And with MCAS in particular, assuming that the same contractor is making the modifications, just how happy are they now about the new specification they’ve been given and how hard has it been for them to get the programmers to actually work on it?

      The fact that they’re effectively (though unfairly) the focus of whole lot of very impatient and angry attention might be breeding a “conspiracy of optimism” within the company over the proposed fix, born out of desperation to escape the nightmare situation they’re in. The new spec as talked about by Boeing certainly sounds better than the old one, but is it enough? I think they might be in “it’ll work this time, won’t it?” mode. That what you naturally think when you’re trapped in a nasty engineering corner.

      If that really is the situation on the ground, that’s not a healthy atmosphere in which to create a fix for MCAS. The risk level is likely not low.

      *Rest of the World*

      As I said at the top, this might all be wrong. But it fits a lot of what has been disclosed publicly, what engineers naturally do when business is scarce and what businesses that need the work have to accommodate.

      But essentially this is another area of concern that the EASA, CAAC would have to be satisfied with. Satisfying themselves across the board that all of Boeing’s subcontractor relationships are healthy and properly run is a mammoth task, especially as one can’t necessarily be sure of the FAA’s word.

      • Bottom line re FAA ” approvals”

        Trust but verify

        IMHO verify by other agencies will take months, and bring in issues like no backup for cables from cockpit to tail, hows hard to crank trim wheel at XXX kts, how long to crank, how much altitude losss, shen to inhibit with either plus or minus xx degrees error on AOA, etc etc etc
        meanwhile- back at the ranch.. how many criminals will be indicted ??

        • It’s a big test of the other agencies. Will EASA, CAAC etc. fall in line, or will they stand their ground, and the FAA be further damaged ?

          As a passenger, I’d be a lot happier with an independent, objective review that takes the time needed free from economic, or political interference.

          If there really are other issues such as using high-power wiring to connect to a switch inside the fuel tank, too-high surface temperature allowed in the fuel tank … now is really the time to fix them, not in a few years after another accident when you have a thousand or more MAXs in the air.

          Certifying the MAX alone without at least EASA I think would be a mistake, and I am hoping they don’t do it.

  2. I disagree. As I wrote before, this is far more serius than any of the previous mentioned. People died due to bad decisions at the OEM. Lots of them. And then more people died. Lots of them. In an era when this doesn’t happen. All in a newly uncontrolled media world.

    Boeing had to act quickly and transparently to have a chance. They failed on both. Instead we’ve had drip, denail, drip, denial, deferral, drip, deferral, denial, drip….. and each of those d’s lead to damage. Every single one.

    I don’t see the MAX ever recovering for a very large % of the flying public. The best Boeing could do now to seek this is to clean sweep anyone touched by this. Fire those who failed most seriously, park the rest. Go above and beyond on safety and be seen, repeatedly to do this. But even if they do this I’m certain the lifespan of the MAX has been reduced.

    As for the brand, I’m not sure that matters as much in monetary reality. It isn’t as if there is a 3rd player that would mean Boeing might wither away. It simply isn’t in anyone’s interest to have a weak Boeing.

    Unfortunately for Boeing I think there is likely more to come, with renewed analysis of the 787 given the oversight changes that were at least partly responsible for the MAX mess took effect from way back in 2004. Plus the 777X, although at least any possible issues there can be brushed away in the development testing.

    • Woody: I agree on the first part but the second part is fighting history and history says it recovers fine.

      • It comes down to the pilots and fares, says history. If the pilots are willing to fly it, most people will climb on board. Right now, some professional pilots in leading roles are incensed and shaken. That’s where Boeing has its work cut out for it. Then it’s up to the airlines.

        • If its allowed back in the air by the FAA, then you fly it or you go down the road.

          Difference in one that is broke and you ground it.

          One aspect is the Lion 610 should have been grounded as unfit to fly until it was trouble shot by top team and the top Lion Pilots.

          • The ‘faulty’ part was replaced. But as Boeing had known for a year by then the faults were much deeper. Fleet still not grounded and vital information withheld.
            Talk now starting on criminally negligent homicide by Boeing in legal circles. Planes should be built to easily fly safely.

  3. The MCAS is a software Boeing used to cover up a design fault with the plane when they installed the new engine higher and also further forward. This is not a solution but a but a cover up of the design fault and that is the reason why the MCAS was not told to the crew and airlines. The way to go forward is not to modify the MCAS software but to reposition the engine and or come up with a way to raise the height of the plane so that it can accommodate the new engine. This is rectifying the fault not using MCAS which is to hide the design fault.

    • MCAS is certainly a band-aid / sticking plaster for poor aerodynamic properties. Though it’s worth noting that the changes you outline to improve those properties (and I agree with them) will have notable knock on effects throughout the airframe. In practise it’s likely to end up being a whole new aircraft.

      Which is probably what they should have done in the first place…

      That’s a multi-year effort, which is time they now do not have available to them. Ironically if they had decided to do a new one at the time they announced the MAX, that new design would now be in service and likely winning plaudits and beating the A320. Sure, they may have missed out on a few orders to Airbus in the meantime, but in the long run it would likely have been worth it.

      • Hammer in hand thing.
        If you have moved your product palette forward over time
        by certificational brinkmanship that is your hammer and you are are good with it.
        Every further problem then is like a nail. Swing that hammer.

        Good designers take after a time of “Produktpflege” the learning out of that product and start from new unhampered by (grandfathered) ballast.

        At the base this could be a trade vs science problem.
        tradespeople rarely invent from new. They accessorize.
        Abstraction is not their thing.

      • Yes, MCAS is a band-aid to address handling characteristics under certain circumstances. But that misses the point. Such band-aids, while never ideal, are not a big problem, or even unusual. Aviation design has a entire first aid kit full of such things: vortex generators, stall strips, stall fences, ventral fins, anti-flutter software etc. It is not uncommon for these to be added late in the process to to address undesirable characteristics found during flight testing (often characteristics close to stall which are very hard to model).

        The problem with MCAS is not that it is a bandaid, but that it was poorly implemented, with recover procedures that were poorly communicated and it exhibited a vicious failure mode.

        • What was it that was said of the F4 Phantom? Something about it being a massive collection of aerodynamic kludges from nose to tail?

          At least a vortex generator, etc are well understood and, ultimately, ignored by the pilots (assuming that they’ve achieved the desired result that is).

          • jbeeko has it right.

            All aircraft are compromises.

            MCAS is and of itself is not the issue.

            Ver 1.0 was a killer.

            You could do the same thing with say a fuselage that can’t withstand pressure cycles (hint)

            Of doors that don’t secure positively (hint)

            Or pilots who are all looking at a light bulb and fly the aircraft into a swamp (hint)

        • @jbeeko,

          Just picking a nit here: I don’t think the MCAS implementation was the problem, based on everything I have seen, it was implemented (by Collins Aerospace) according to the (Boeing) specifications and the design. The problem was in the specifications and the design.

          And in the lack of FAA oversight to validate the specifications and the design.

          • That is starting to slice hairs finely.

            The reality is MCAS 1.0 was garbage and would anemia garbage even if Muilenberg put it in.

            2.0 looks to have all the right stuff.

        • @jbeeko : There is nothing wrong with the implementation, the fault lies deep in the MCAS software which has nothing to do with implementation.

    • I absolutely agree with the Captain, The MAX was a quick response to the A320 Neo for which Boeing took a quick, cheap, deceptive approach. The time they spent trying to kill the C series would have been better spent making a decent and honest product. I don’t know a company like that will be ever trusted again. All dirty.

  4. Boeing are managing their image aggressively as always. This works only so far as there is acceptance of Boeing as being all powerful and the authority in their sphere. Once they get to the Emperor with no clothes position they are in now they risk all. At present their play seems to be to separate the MAX recertification from the wider investigation. They are pushing mightily to get the MAX back up in the air and will then allow the wider investigation to extend forever into the future, a bit of fudge and they get away with it Scot free!!

    The aggression they are adopting ie that the MCAS is not the cause of death (but instead it is the pilots) is ridiculous. Muilenburg mentions a chain of events but manages to avoid the obvious intellectual step to suggest that without the link of MCAS there would be no crash. The authorities must hold firm and ensure Boeing and the MAX are both held to account.

    • Fly by wire and their software are there to aid and also ensure that the planer do not exceed their flight envelope that it is certificated for not to cover up a flaw in the design of the aircraft. Airbus utilizes the fly by wire concept for a long time and they are improved over time making the aircraft safer and aiding flight crew to diagnose and assist if something unexpected should happen. Read up the Airbus A380 flight QF32 on the 4th. November 2010 when an engine exploded. The brilliant flight crew aided by the fly by wire system brought the damaged Super Jumbo safely back to Changi Airport in Singapore not creating a situation where it took over control from the pilot!!!!
      Before the Boeing Max is recertificated, FAA, EASA, CASA, TCGC and and all other authorities should look at the underlying purpose of MCAS and the issue they are dealing with. Deal and insist that the underlying issue must be resolved by design and not using the software to cover the issue and pass the plane as safe because it is not. Hypothetically, if a car is designed with a faulty brake system, you do not design a software to keep applying the brakes without letting the driver know when they sense a failure without warning. The owners and retailers were not informed of this feature in their cars. Whose fault is it when an accident happens and what should be done? Answer this and the same solution should be applied to the Boeing 737 MAX MCAS. system.

      • Captqain G: Youir so called Brillain crew kept the aircraft in the Air for 1.5 hours while they looked at all the alarms while the airc rtaft was falling apart on the wing.

        Said Brilliant crew tried to get the Auto Pilot to land it despite the fact the Auto Pilot was programed to have nothing to do with it due to the massive damage.

        They were clearly afraid to fly the aircraft and they dithered.

        The one lesson all good pilots learn is when things go wrong get it one the ground FAST.

        The only lesson from that debacle was that Airbus build a better than needed aircraft and they used every bit of that up.

      • You need software to help both aircrafts and cars to behave well and be safe, the problem is implementation and to follow checklists even for issues popping up late in certification testing. All changes need to be fully evaluated, fool proofed, documented and tested. Just look at the Mercedes A-klass that tipped over doing a “moose avoidance test”and was later saved by Bosch anti-skid/roll over software for the brakes that now every modern car has. Sometimes software is not enough as for the PW4000 engines that surged on T-O and PWA designed a ring style compressor for it that was the key improvement.

        • Yep, the steer to the direction you want depends on software.

          If its gone then you counter steer.

          You can’t design a car that goes where its pointed in a skid, you can put sensors on it to do so.

    • @Sowerbob : I totally agree with what you said. Muilenburg the CEO and Chairman of Boeing keeps repeating that the MCAS is not at fault and they are only updating the software to make it safer. He blamed the crew on both crashes to be incompetent and not trained properly because they are from the “third world” “Any well trained pilot and follow the flight manual will be able to react accordingly in that situation”. How does Muilenburg expect crews to deal with a situation that they were not told or trained for and to make it even worse there is nothing in the manual about MCAS or anything resembling MCAS. Muilenburg, why don’t you show the world of aviation that a well trained and experienced pilot can deal with the situation when a sensor failed (under the same condition, after take off)? You have the knowledge and should be well qualified since you were involved in the design and approval of MCAS.

      • Boeing claims they followed certification procedures that were all FAA approved and got their FAA certification. So it is the FAA/EASA and other CAA’s fault with their regulations and methods of compliance if the Aircraft is not safe enough. We will see if EASA will stop cooperating with FAA if they feel the FAA is not competent, independent and funded to fulfill its role. The quickest way is for the FAA is to revert to DER’s and give them protection/support that todays AR lack.

        • Again the argument that they are not at fault as they followed FAA guidance is a quite ridiculous statement. We see that they frame those regulations using Boeing employees working for Boeing managers with sanction for holding up Boeing development with no effective employment protection. If it wasn’t so disgusting we should be laughing at Muilenburg with a contempt reserved for the greatest of frauds.

          My question is does he believe what he is saying? Judging by his defensive posture I am inclined to say no

  5. @Scott, the question of how to rebuild the Boeing and 737MAX brand presupposes that the aircraft will actually be allowed to return to the sky.

    The constant stream of, frankly, appalling revelations and allegations about how Boeing ran the development and certification programme, how they’re building them, how they put it into service, how they developed the emergency AD following the Lion Air tragedy and even how they responded to the Ethiopian tragedy is without precedent.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall deHavilland, McDonnell, Douglas, Lockheed or Martin ever being labelled as “unfit” to produce aircraft. Yes, they made engineering mistakes, more understandable in those primitive (sorry) days. But as far as I’m aware none were as a result of management *preventing* engineers and test pilots doing their jobs on a *widespread* basis. However, this seems to be what has been going on inside Boeing, if the allegations and revelations are sustained.

    If so, how can Boeing be considered “fit” to produce airworthy goods? How bad does it have to get before one steps back, looks at the company as a whole, and concludes, “nope”?

    So that’s a long list of trouble for Boeing to address. The problem as I see it is that the EASA, CAAC can read the press as well as you and I, so they will probably be having to assume that all of these revelations and allegations (any single one of which can be a killer) must be investigated and settled before they’re willing to accept assurances of airworthiness again.

    Dare they risk otherwise? Like, life-and-death dare?

    Though practically, how does this mass of revelations and allegations get objectively assessed by the EASA, CAAC and everyone else who isn’t Boeing and the FAA? Are we to see EASA personnel having confidential chats with Boeing staff? How about CAAC personnel poking their noses inside aircraft as they’re being assembled? And so on. What if they conclude one thing and the FAA concludes the other? It’s ghastly to consider.

    Thus far those organisations have been trusting the FAA to do that listening and poking on their behalf, but it turns out that the FAA has no extant ability to do so.

    So in my line of thinking, rebuilding the Boeing brand really means rebuilding the FAA brand first. However they’re currently trying to pretend that they’re in good shape.

    No wonder the EASA is saying that this is a matter of trust.

    • An excellent point and one that speaks to perhaps a broader issue with US style capitalism. A quick rewind, we had the great crash of 2007 where profit, or its pursuit, was put above almost everything else…fast forward to recent US elections, again we have profit being put before anything else, welfare, social rights, environmental rights…

      We see it again with Boeing, operating in North Carolina a non-union state, playing the state of Seattle for every subsidy going et al. A management team that prioritises profit over anything else at the company, including its staff and supply chain.

      Those shareholders who have voted overwhelmingly to back Boeing’s management may feel justified win their choice, economically speaking, but have clearly decided that that is all they care about. Not the people who work at Boeing, not the local and federal government who do much to support Boeing with public money, not even the supply chain who are being forced to cut their prices all so that Boeing can pay its shareholders and senior management team.

      The fact is this sorry tale is the tale of something bigger, capitalism gone AWOL, a capitalism that is totally disconnected from the wider environment in which it operates and for which it is supposedly serving. That it is there to act for the greater good not only a very narrow set of stakeholders.

      In the end, and perhaps this is the beginning of the end for both the USA and Boeing, it will perhaps take the involvement of the wider aviation community to assure itself of Boeing’s and perhaps even the FAA’s priorities before the management team at Boeing will change its ways? Time will tell…

      • I see nothing wrong with seeking to be profits such, I just can’t understand seeking big short term profits at enormous risk, when long term thinking is likely to produce far greater profit at far lower risk.

        I suspect this is what comes of paying board members, CEOs and Chairpersons in shares, not money. Fundamentally they don’t care about anything beyond their retirement date.

        Even over there timescale of the past 7 years, a new aircraft would have been better for the share price than their current position. A new aircraft, well executed, could have enormous earnings potential, and buying shares during development is a “cheap” way if tapping into that before the profit becomes blatantly large and the share price even higher.

        Oh well, what do I know?

        • The system has been corrupted to the core, a death (347 this time) by a thousand slices.

          Capitalism itself is not the issue, its the vision of unrestrained capitalism a few right wing lunatics hold so dear that is.

          Unfortunately the right wing lunatics have the money.

      • But was that as a result of a culture of fear, or was it genuinely engineering mistakes? There’s a lot to suggest the former. It really, really matters to the validity of the certification to know for sure what the root cause was.

      • Also, I didn’t get from that article the impression that it was engineers cutting out the test pilots. Managers organise meetings, test pilots weren’t invited. A real big question is, wherever did the lower layers of management get the idea of not inviting test pilots to meetings?

        I’m sorry to paint a grim picture, but wherever I look I see strong hints that the entire company culture, at least at the management level, is completely and utterly broken. You can’t fix that with a software patch.

        • Totally accurate.

          Time for Boeing 3.0

          When you don’t know better (707/727) that is one thing, they know better. MCAS.

    • @Matthew: I totally agree with your remarks. With my knowledge and experience the FAA is supposed to be the independent authority entrusted with the task of certification but I am appalled and disillusion to know now that the FAA has practically handed the certification to personal employed, paid and reporting to Boeing !!!!! The trust of the FAA and Boeing is now questionable. Self certification is no certification !!! To rebuild the trust and that takes time, FAA Must be reformed whereby aircraft manufacturers like Boeing should and must not be doing self certification. Congress should make sure that this is done so that the FAA is independent from the manufacturers and not pass regulations allowing the FAA to practically hand over certification to the manufacturers with the excuses that they do not have the expertise and manpower. Funding will have to be allocated to the FAA to employ people with the expertise and impose regular training to keep the staff involved updated with any and all new technologies. The staff are the tools of the FAA and if they do not have the tools they are not functioning and no point them existing.

      • Captain G, reform of the FAA is indeed necessary. One of the problems I suspect is that it’s partly Congress’s fault that the FAA is in such a mess. Congress has ultimate oversight of and provides funding for the FAA, so why is it in such a mess? To some extent it’s not in Congress’s best interests to make too much of a fuss about it.

        To extend that well worn latin phrase, who guards the guard’s guard? Ah, that’s the electorate! Note that in Europe the custodians of the EASA are the EU commission. They’re unelected… Before one knows it one has coupled aviation safety to political theories. Anyway, perhaps FAA funding, role and composition should be de-politicised.

        Speaking to people I know who used to be in Airbus, it seems that there is also some devolution of certification from EASA to Airbus.

        One can interpret that as meaning that there’s a limited number of aeronautical engineers in Europe (just as there are in the US), and either the company has them or the regulator has them, but they can’t both be fully staffed.

        A fully staffed regulator with 100% oversight would have a lot of talented people who are mostly doing nothing. There simply isn’t enough aircraft development to inspect to keep them busy. The commonly held view is that that’s just not sustainable. Though I’d like to point out that such a view is subjective; it is sustainable if we (the human race) decide that it should be, and then we would make the necessary resources available.

        Back to reality… There’s no going back to the halcyon days of a fully independent regulator. We’re stuck with a model where regulatory oversight is, at least to some extent, a company function. The regulator then should become an unimpeachable check and balance on the company’s management whilst retaining enough technical expertise of its own to oversee the company’s engineers.

        What seems to have happened is that the FAA has decided to not do even that anymore. Then you have a nearly complete hands-off model.

        Whether that model works comes down to what the company management thinks of regulatory oversight. An enlightened company will see strong adherence to regulatory processes as being a market growth factor (because that’s the truth). An unenlightened company will see regulations as an overhead cost to be minimised by all possible means. Unchecked, they will crash aircraft and kill people.

        My view is that a regulator in today’s environment needs to be empowered to shut down a whole company without having to justify such action to anyone but themselves (not even the courts). They need a bigger stick than they currently have. That makes the regulators pretty powerful, and prone to corruption, so there should be a standing role in the police force to poke their noses into the regulator’s staff’s financial affairs.

        For the record, all the *former* (I know no current staff) Airbus engineers I’ve spoken to had no hesitation in saying that their management had had a healthy attitude to regulation. If an engineer insisted that, yes, something had to be done because it really was a regulatory / safety thing (and not just a “nice to have”), then it got done without any problems. Ok, that’s a limited insight, but Airbus’s senior management are right now probably very relieved that that’s the company culture they’ve got.

        And despite that rosy picture, I think that for the long term health of the industry in Europe the EASA needs a bigger stick, and the same for the FAA in the US. And they should use it when necessary. They should use it now and again anyway to remind the companies that that power exists.

        • I missed this, very eloquent stuff and it gets to the core of the argument. Your most pertinent point IMHO is the attitude of the company to the regime, enlightened self interest or not. Thank you

  6. I would say Boeing has a significant governance problem. One that is complicated by the loss of confidence in the FAA. It is in Boeing’s interest for the FAA to be a trusted independent authority, and not to undermine that trust. While social media does hype the problem, Boeing has real problems.

    How to go from here? As with any problem you can only start sorting it when you admit there really is a problem. Muilenberg probably has to go, so the new guy can say, that was the old Boeing, the new Boeing does things differently.

    Safety policy is a tension where you trade precaution off against costs and time to market. The tension needs to be managed, rather than seeing safety as a nice add-on: we’ll do safety as long as it doesn’t cost us anything. Safety also has to be embedded into every process, which also costs.

    • Wholly agree, the system of checks and balances are or were there for a reason. Simply there is a short-term profit motive for senior management that must be balanced with quality checks. It is too easy for management to chip away at safety to meet short-term goals. Boeing have effectively cajoled and bullied the FAA into a subordinate role. This cannot be allowed to happen. The FAA needs to regain the primacy over all aspects of certification and this will require a fundamentally different culture at Boeing

  7. The question is, “Do Boeing, and just as importantly, the FAA , recognize that they actually have an image problem that needs to be rectified?”

    All public statements I have seen from both organizations are not giving such an impression.
    But that is the public face and I believe we are all hoping that both of them are working privately to remedy this situation.

    The FAA is just as important in this situation for Boeing. The longer the FAA insists they have everything under control, the longer it will take Boeing to get this 737 MAX fix and future Boeing programs certified by other nation’s certifying agencies.

    • @Aero Ninja: Both Boeing and the FAA independently refused to admit that either of them is at fault. Boeing that MCAS is fine and not at fault and in the FAA case they have certified the MAX in accordance with the underlying standards.
      As long as both Boeing and the FAA do not admit their fault and failures, nothing will change and the mistrust of both will live on.

      • Keep in mind its not the FAA or Boeing, its the heads of FAA and Boeing.

        The rank and file know and going back to the previous system of checks and balances would go a long way to ensuring this does not occur again.

        The Weasel is not the candidate to guard the hen house.

    • Boeing’s and the FAA’s problems are not “image” problems.

      • Of course you are right, Carey.
        The theme of Scott’s post is about rebuilding the Max and Boeing brands and I chose the word image in that context. I also added the FAA as I believe they are part of the solution to rebuilding the Max and Boeing brands.

        The same goes for TransWorld’s comments that it is not (most of) the people working at Boeing and the FAA but rather the leadership at both organisations. But if the leadership is not willing to accept fault, then the organisation itself cannot help itself out of the situation.

  8. This from the Seatttle Times, I ws suprpoise Scott did not refernece it.


    It gets right to the heart of soul of corruption of a process.

    Much like lifting all the safety work that was done after Maconda to ensure no future blowouts (and it was totally preventable)

    When you remove or compromise your last layer of safety the disaster is a heartbeat away.

    • There has been a lot of talk about how the FAA’s representatives are paid by Boeing and how this might be a problem. But this diagram:


      shows how this is not the true issue. The issue is that under the old issue the FAA representatives at Boeing, while Boeing employees, reported findings directly to the FAA. In the current process all communication is channeled though Boeing managers. The potential for conflict of interest is plain.

    • No, issues not addressed the way they should have been.

      Head of FAA saying we need to ensure inspectors are trained but ignoring the real issue.

      This is not a short term issue, its going to take a lot of pressure to correct.

  9. And think about this before jumping on Boeing, Airbus had an issue with the A320 automation system that allowed a 5 year correction cycle.


    This sort of thing goes on all the time with ALL aircraft.

    It should not but it does. Pilots then have to make the adjustments to procedures to deal with it which take them off their normal training response.

    And in the case of 737MAX, Lion 610 would not have known it meant anything, Ethiopian might have but they knew pretty fast the issue as well.

    • @TransWorld : “And think about this before jumping on Boeing, Airbus had an issue with the A320 automation system that allowed a 5 year correction cycle.” You said it TransWorld, A320 automation system which is the fly by wire. The fly by wire is to assist and minimise the workload of the crew and the 5 year cycle you claimed are not to remedy a fault but improvements and refinements as the software did not cause any accidents in my knowledge. On the other hand, the MCAS is a software Boeing introduced to overcome a flaw in the aircraft when they move the engine forward and shorten the pylon which is a completely different scenario. So implying that the flight crew were at fault and not the MCAS is ridiculous.

    • True but most people just called it Electra, about two decades later with a big war between.

      I good airplane in many ways, I worked with it a bit and flew on it several times, in the 1970s (chosen for multi-engine and rapid power response which is good into primitive conditions). Flight deck impressed me but I am not a pilot just a flight deck engineer some times. But wearing out – upper wing skins were machined from thick aluminum thus prone to ‘stringers’ separating from skin due inter-granular corrosion.

      • A niche use was where noise and performance were concerns, Air Cal operated it into the airport serving the Nevada gambling town and nearby California town at the bottom of Lake Tahoe.

        Otherwise it may still be flying cargo here and there.

  10. Hopefully Boeing is now being upfront, truthful and honest. I think they are as I can’t imagine what would happen to Boeing if god forbid (or whatever-poor design, cover-ups, etc.) another incident happens with the B737MAX and it once again turns out to be the same type of situations/reasonings as the last two crashes. I think Boeing would be “sent through the wringer”.

    • I don’t think they’re being open and honest at the moment. The complete opposite in fact.

      Arguably they need to be sent through the wringer right now. Unfortunately that’d mean keeping the MAX on the ground for an extended period is time.

      TBH there’s probably not a whole lot wrong with the MAX that a triplicate MCAS wouldn’t fix.

      Changing out the senior management is a big step on the route to changing the company culture. That would allow engineers to freely express their concerns, and it’s likely those could be addressed quite quickly. OK, a triplicate MCAS is not available in the short term, but if that’s the biggest fix that’s needed then there is hope.

      Trying to squeeze through a multinational recertification under the current management with a mere software patch sounds like a difficult task.

      I may be proved wrong, so be it. But I wouldn’t be getting on a newish Boeing anytime soon.

  11. Self certification need a strong ethical behaviour … is not that bad … Aibus does it with success why not Boeing
    Mcas a band aid ?? not as efficient as the vents installed to prevent 787 bateries to burst !!!

  12. Instead of MAX nose down automated stabilizer command, Controlled Range (CR). Rename it the 737 CRX, but they’d have to pay Honda for that name.

  13. “….as well as “owning” the narrow responsibility for linking MCAS to a single Angle of Attack sensor.”

    Has Boeing now confirmed they were responsible for that ‘gap’, which provided one failure mode that could trigger the aggressive stabilizer trim behavior of MCAS?

  14. In today’s world of social media and up to the second new coverage of anything and everything this story will take a back seat to something else soon enough. The problems will be fixed and the average flying pubic will move on. The average person doesn’t read websites like this or any others. All this talk of Boeing being tarnished forever is rubbish. In today’s news cycle the average person will move on to the next big story eventually. Maybe not next month or even 6 months, but in a years time the MAX will be back in the air in large numbers and the average Joe won’t care as long as they continue to get the most affordable fares.

    • After having seen people back off cliffs taking selfies, off spires taking selfies, killing themselves going after a Pokemon monster something or the other you are spot on.

      737 at worst is safer than those people who have not a clue.

      That does not excuse it, we have a right to expect extremely high standards in aviation.

      Then people go out and take so called supplements from country X. Amazing.

      You can’t sort out the keepers from the chaff so all are (or should be) protected.

    • (I am a software developer and have no background in aviation industry. Neither have I an extensive backgound in media, but have done some media-related work).

      You are right in saying that public attension span is not long and soon enough some other issue will take attention away from the MAX debacle.

      However, in your view on the Boeing’s future reputation you are terribly wrong. The Internet doesn’t forget anything. The reputation problems are cumutative. An each next company’s safety failing will hit the company with an effect of all combined previous failings.

      Unless Boeing will genuinely try to change ways and become more transparent about it, this is not going to end well, reputation-wise.

    • The general populace may move on, but these tragic, appalling events are likely to leave a a lasting impression where it actually matters most to Boeing; the airlines, their pilots and operational managers. These are their money paying customers. Pilots have talked of betrayal. That’s memorable.

      Once again Boeing has given airlines a shiny new aircraft that has had a ghastly introduction to service, only now they’ve gone and pissed off the pilots enormously too, caused real headaches for managers juggling timetables and are wiping out operating profits for this year and who knows how much longer.

      So, how many MAX operators are looking at their peers operating Airbuses with envy? Every single one of them. Some of them are now wondering about buying A220s. Frankly, why would anyone buy a Boeing today?

      So it’s going to take decades for Boeing’s reputation with its customers to recover.

      One thing is for sure. When it comes to an airline choosing between an Airbus and Boeing bid, Boeing are going to have a big problem getting traction now, at least whilst the current management is in place. The public image is one of deception and evasion, and airlines will remember that. If the regulators don’t let it fly any time soon, it’s game over.

      Now, it’s inconceivable that Boeing aren’t aware of this. In fact one might imagine that they’d be keen to avoid giving such a bad public impression. And yet…. Holes are being dug deeper and deeper.

      If this doesn’t indicate that they’ve retreated into personal self preservation mode, I don’t know what would. And if they have started looking to their own self interests over the needs of the company, the shareholders should dismiss them.

      • Actually, the shareholders are accomplices. Who else would drive management’s decisions, solely looking at “shareholder value”, whereas the managers themselves are shareholders sharing the same greed?

        • I certainly agree that shareholding management is a corruption of the ideal.

  15. Boeing have a long way back, no pilot trusts them let alone your average passenger would run a mile than fly a max. I certainly would will be avoiding them like Russian airliners and Air France.
    Well Mr Boeing, your cheap skate solution to bring it to the market failed, putting profit before safety, miserably with far reaching consequences. As for the FAA being independent, why would they have offices less than 3 miles from Renton, they really only look after American interests and have been caught with there pants down big time this time.

    • The local office makes sense as there is going to be a huge amount of discussion between the parties, nothing wrong with that.

      Boeing should not be in charge aka management of the FAA delegated inspectors though.

  16. In support of engineers, I suppose given their mandate from management, they did the best they could within the time and cost constraints.
    Unfortunately it was not good enough.
    For me, the only serious answer is for them to fix its basic aerodynamic shortcomings with hardware like re-balancing.
    Software has a bad habit of requiring a re-boot at inconvenient time does it not?

  17. How does Boeing build its brand back? Some important but painful steps could be:

    1. Fall on your sword and take responsibility for this,… with no if’s, and’s or but’s. Period!

    2. Execute a severe management shape-up, starting with firing members of the board who were caught sleeping at the wheel, the CEO (who is busy copping pleas), the chief of the Commercial Airplanes Division and the chief of the 737-MAX program.

    3. Appoint an external expert to crawl through Boeing’s processes to determine how to put the company back into producing high-quality planes on time. Names like Aboulafia or Udvar-Hazy come to mind to lead this effort.

    Enough said!

    • Yes, they’d all be excellent components of a plan to get the reputation back. Their biggest problem is convincing the rest of the world that they’ve done all that…

  18. I vote for the: B737 MAX Advance 8. This is not an Edsel. This is not lipstick on a pig. This plane will work now. I think if Boeing had to do it over again, they would do the same darn update of the 737 Next Generation, but without the original MCAS system. The leadership vacuum at Boeing is a procession of men making arbitrary decisions based on the stockholders and the good old boy network. Case in point, after the 3 times cost over runs on the B787, McNerney just had to put his foot down. No new planes! Only updates! As I type this, on the CNBC Fast Money Panel, they are talking about the “culture” at Boeing and how they knew a fair amount about these problems, but remained tight lipped.

  19. “The return to service may be anywhere from July to August or even longer, depending on how global regulators proceed with review and approval of the revised MCAS software and pilot training”

    It has recently come into public knowledge that there are parts of the ‘normal’ flight envelope where pilots’ electric trim is inhibited, but it is impossible for a pilot of normal strength to move the stabiliser trim with the manual trim wheels. The FAA may have had some institutional knowledge of this, but the EASA certification relied on FAA certification that stabiliser trim could always be adjusted by manual winding of the trim wheel even when electric trim was inhibited.

    Depending on how this situation is approached, it could bring into doubt the certification of not only the MAX but also the B737NG

  20. I have read on Leeham that the problems with Boeing started with the McDonnell takeover, which brought in the latter’s risk-averse, shareholder-value driven culture in to Boeing, a company famous for being engineer-led, taking big risks and introducing the next big innovation. Can anyone confirm this?
    I remember when flying Boeing was a source of pride and wonder. This was the company that made modern aviation—737 (first flight ever), 747-400 (first international flight), 777 (first flight as adult). Nowadays I look forward to Airbus flights more. A320 is superior to 737, A350 is superior to 787. In fact after one flight on 9-abreast 787 I won’t fly it again: seats so narrow that I had to keep one shoulder blade up the whole time unless I wanted a fight with my neighbor. A350 at 18 inches is the absolute minimum though still not as good as old 777s or 747s (from memory, maybe I was skinnier then). I have always wanted to ask: what happened to 787? Did airlines make it 9-abreast because it came in over-budget and airlines couldn’t make it work at 8-abreast at the price Boeing charges? It was advertised as 8-abreast, setting standards for comfort. Instead it became a plane to avoid (also 10-abreast 777, I don’t believe with the 4 inch sidewall carve 777-8/9 will be much better).
    Please don’t flame me or make this about Boeing vs. Airbus. As I said I loved the Boeing of Joe Sutter and have great memories and respect for it. I’m just wondering if the 737 gaffe is about more than a technical mishap: a fundamental change in corporate culture, strategy and goals that means the days of Boeing as a standard-setter and industry-leader are over for good.

    • ” I have read on Leeham that the problems with Boeing started with the McDonnell takeover, which brought in the latter’s risk-averse, shareholder-value driven culture in to Boeing, a company famous for being engineer-led, taking big risks and introducing the next big innovation. Can anyone confirm this?”

      Excellent summation- completely correct- and the result was much much worse than you described.

      The 777 was the last real Boeing Airplane to be designed and built before the MDC ‘ takeover”
      After that the Tanker fiasco, 7 late 7, and major rework of the 737 programs have been behind schedule- overpriced, and a few VP and similar levels served time in club fed.

    • “problems started with McDonnell Douglas takeover” – no its wasnt, the MD shareholders received Boeing shares , not the other way around.

      You have this romantic idea of how Boeings production lines operated that wasnt connected to the reality

      If there was one area where Stonecipher’s straight-talk-express routine was needed most, it was facing up to what had long been Boeing’s terrible secret: The assembly lines of America’s leading exporter were morasses of inefficiency. Airplanes were built more like customized houses, with airlines able to select from 109 shades of white paint, 20,000 galley and lavatory arrangements, and even curtained prayer rooms with devices that pointed to Mecca (“Mecca meters”). Overseeing it all was an appalling system known as “effectivity,” which dated from Boeing’s World War II bomber days and used a manual numbering system to keep track of an airplane’s four million parts and 170 miles of wiring; changing a part on a 737’s landing gear thus meant renumbering 464 pages of drawings. Yes, there had been attempts at automation, but by the early ’90s they had metastasized into 450 separate computer systems, few of which could talk to one another.

      Bad as that sounds, it gets worse. When a part wasn’t assigned the right number–which happened on roughly 30% of drawings–a special class of worker known as an “expediter” would often be sent, sometimes by bicycle, to fetch a spare from elsewhere in the plant. This “just-in-case” inventory management meant that factory floors were covered with huge tubs of spare parts worth millions of dollars; when someone saw the bottom of the tub, a new one would be ordered. “Man, I had no idea how bad [the systems] were,” says Stonecipher.

      And remember this
      “Instead, it was Boeing that was buried by the onslaught of orders. The attempt to double production rates collided head-on with the DCAC changeover, and in the ensuing bedlam, the company was forced to shut down its 737 and 747 lines for 25 days in October 1997.”

      • Sorry charlie- the mecca bit was a special airplane for a saudi- a one off- not a production airplane. As to the takeover- while boeing ‘paid’ to buyout MDC, the management takeover was factual- It affected all areas- company secretay, senior aero types, beancounters, etc. Of course BA management at the time also screwed up by dumping about 9000 oldeer employees via a special retirement program a bit before Harry and pals were on the scene. That resulted in the first unplanned shutdown of assembly lines since the founding of Boeing. In the aerodynamics group, the MDC takeover resulted in a massive cost overrun of a new wing for 737- since the MDC types wanted to use the infamous inboard trailing edge wedge ( as used on the dc-10-11 to correct a range deficiency… then the stonechipher types pushed for the hiring of Rudy deleon to try to push the 767 tanker game in 2000- which a year later in 2001-after 911- resulted in a proposal of building a 767 ‘ tanker ‘ frame in everett, flying it to wichita – taking it apart to convert to a real tanker, etc. jacked up the price/lease arrangement, and eventually resulted in club fed time for a few execs. Plus stealing documents, etc. And the Boeing company has gone downhill ever since in terms of ethics, schedules, quality, and common sense. Thus the 777 was essentially the last properly done Boeing airplane-on time and on schedule and with minimum overruns.
        Oh yeah, they booted out Alan mulally in favor of a few Jack welch wannabees . .

        • How could McDD ‘ takeover’ have caused 737NG cost over runs and quarrels on wing design?
          The 737 NG flew before the merger even happened, rollout Dec 96, merger was a year later.
          How much of the rest of your claims rest on reality?

  21. First issue is to find out the depth of the problem at Boeing; are we facing a benign tumor or a generalized cancer? The best tool to assist with a diagnostic is an in-depth audit by the FAA that would review Boeing’s processes and adherence to these processes. FAA would evaluate the result of internal audits, repeat findings, delays of implementing corrective actions, completion of action plans etc…
    Richard Tougas

    • The FAA itself is deeply involved in the investigation of the certification proces.

      Re certification / acceptance of the MAX has moved outside the traditional circle of influence.

    • Who writes the specification for the software that BA uses ? Who validates it ?

      AOA sensor on ET302 goes from around 15 degrees to 75 degrees almost instantly, Turkish 1951 radio altimeter goes from 8191 feet to -8 feet almost instantly. So no software check / self diagnosis, and in each case only one input source.

      Is this really the state of flight critical software today ?

      Rebuilding the MAX, and Boeing brands ?

      1) New CEO from outside Boeing.
      2) CEO orders all BA staff to report any issues at all to his team directly. (You won’t be fired for reporting issues, you will be fired if we find any after the deadline)
      3) All outside suppliers (e.g. Software / Hardware manufacturers) given the same message.
      4) ARs to become DERs again, paid by Boeing, but reporting to the FAA, FAA then notify BA of any issues.
      5) Test pilots to work alongside Engineers so that they have full oversight of the production of the aircraft, full authority to question anything, CEO open door policy for any test pilot concerns.
      6) Public commitment to fix anything necessary before lifting the grounding.
      7) Full review of 787 production issues.
      8) All above policies effective immediately.

      Let’s be clear BA has the money to do this, short term pain, but it would be worth it in the long run.

      • JakDak, I think that would be a very good way to proceed. The problem is demonstrating to the whole world that this has been done, and done thoroughly. The FAA, the body which broadcasts certification to the world, has been in a “Delegate everything to Boeing” mode for a long time, I’m not sure that they can play their role as you suggest without major reform.

        The good thing is that with the company culture fixed as you suggest, the need for the FAA to be comprehensively capable is reduced. That doesn’t help convince the EASA, CAAC, etc but it does at least mean the MAX would be safer.

        The bad thing is that I suspect that Boeing has already fired a lot of engineers who tried to raise concerns, meaning that there might not be anyone left in the company who is aware of issues that were found in the development programme but got suppressed. An “issue amnesty” is probably not sufficient to get 100% coverage.

        One example of this is that it seems that no one knew that the manual trim would be unmovable if the aircraft was badly out of trim, making the post Lion Air AD unworkable.

      • JakDak, I’d like to know who changed the spec’s after they were originally sent to the FAA. They changed the trim setting speed from low to high for MCAS in the change. Why? The test pilots didn’t ask for this change. Who and why did Boeing change the trim setting speed for MCAS? Is the 737-MAX longitudinalally, dynamically stable in all of the normal flight envelope? I’d really like to see the testing on that. I would guess that the wind tunnel tests would demonstrate any abnormal conditions?

        • I would like to see a number of questions asked, and satisfactorily answered by either a) BA, b) The FAA, c) DOT investigation, d) Senate hearing, e) EASA/CAAC etc.

          Amongst others:
          Why exactly were the stab trim cutout switches changed ? I can’t see any reason that they needed to be.

          Why was the yoke jerk trim cutout removed (It appears to be there on 767 with MCAS) ?

          Who signed off the original specification of MCAS 1.0 ?

          How many people were in the team specifying, writing, testing, and implementing MCAS 1.0 ?

          When was the change from 0.9 degrees of stabiliser movement changed to 2.5 degrees, who decided on the change, who was made aware of this change, and when. Why was this change not communicated to the FAA ?

          Who signed off the risk assessment that decided that only using one angle of attack sensor was acceptable ?

          Just what is the other software issue that the FAA has asked BA to ‘upgrade’ that is critical to flight safety, and described by BA as a ‘relatively minor issue’ ? – critical to flight safety : minor issue -> oxymoron !

  22. The key number is $220bn+. By rushing the MAX they got the orders that were at risk. By ensuring the MAX had the same flight rating as the NG they ensured they got a good price from Southwest etc (worth $1m per aircraft apparently). In comparison to that a loss of a couple of billion because they got caught out is small fry.

    This is the attitude that pervades Boeing senior management. They will ride the wave batting away any temporary reputational issues. I am surprised that the reporters didn’t take Muilenburg to task more in his admittedly very brief press conference. The question is will he and the company ever be taken to task? What about some sort of senate hearing? They seem to love those in the US, why not get Muilenburg to answer questions under oath and to detailed questions about:
    – The specific MAX issues
    – The processes
    – And senior managements true perspective to safety vs profit
    As it stands the whole process of certification is broken in the US and that is bad news for the global industry especially in the ‘America First’ paradigm we are in.

    • You paint a picture of a very cynical management at Boeing. I’m unable to disagree with your assessment…

      Well, we’ll see where this goes. MAX gets back in the air inside a few months, perhaps they’ll get away with it. MAX is kept on the ground in large parts of the world, Boeing may well have blown that $220bn+.

      Incidentally, I’m not convinced that those orders were ever at “risk” . Airbus could never have accepted orders for 4000 extra A320neos, so Boeing did have time to develop a new aircraft and meet the majority of those. Ok they may have lost them the short term American Airlines business, but the whole point of a new design would be to make American Airlines regret ever leaving Boeing for Airbus, make them hungry for Boeing’s product next time round.

      All they’ve accomplished now by rushing is that all their customers are pissed off, just as Airbus are building an A220 FAL in Mobile.

      • Ahh you are probably correct regarding the orders but I was thinking about the mindset of the shareholders. They see a guaranteed income stream from the MAX of $30+Bn a year whereas the NSA would still be in certification so the FCF numbers would be strongly negative for a few more years. Remember Muilenburg’s remuneration package centres on delivering FCF now.
        YNWA (sorry)

  23. I keep seeing Boeing spokespeople referring to “FAA processes and requirements” that Boeing followed or how the “The FAA signed off on the Max’s flight control feature.”

    I wonder if they are digging themselves a deeper hole here.

    It seems that sooner or later, either the FAA is going to get sick and tired of Boeing pinning it all on the FAA or lawmakers themselves might take matters in their own hands to ensure that Boeing does not need to defend its designs by saying they followed the FAA and got their approval for them.

  24. Boeing seems now to release findings (Warning system problems cleaar in 2017) themselves, because they understand they will surface from the other investigations. They want to keep it (somewhat) in their own hands.

  25. This story is massive but Boeing seems to have achieved its objective by releasing it over the weekend.Boeing became aware of an “inadvertent “saftey related software issue and only informed the FAA after they had made fools of themselves by issuing an air directive following a fatal crash. Having been around for a while, I would be very surprised if there weren’t more revelations to come.

    • Well too many more and I think I am going to go hide under the bed.

      Sheese. This was known, the extent of it was not.

      Have to wonder what would have happened in a simulator with the AOA display that SW gets and no light? Or a light that was not on the real MAX?

      This goes in line with Trump and attempting to remove the Maconda safety measures.

      You get a system that works and then you start tearing it down. It must make sense for someone.

      Don’t I recall someone saying they would not do stuff like that deliberately because it is their reputation on the line?

      The next person who says that should be put up in front of a firing squad for gross ignorance of the reality.

      And the stupidity is that sans MCAS training, you would not know what it meant anyway when you pulled up the flaps (and even with MCAS training of some degree…..)

  26. Hell of a rash of “incidents” , Superjet in Moscow (that was an ugly bounce it took) , a Challenger went down over Mexico, two planes skidding off the ends of runways, 767, current Ethiopian 737.

  27. “How does Boeing address all these issues and rebuild confidence in the Boeing brand?
    This is a very good question and one for which I don’t have an answer.
    But I am sure that over time, confidence will be restored in the MAX and Boeing brands.”

    So if you don’t have an answer about how fundamental issues are to be addressed and confidence rebuilt, a firm belief in a positive outcome simply becomes a form of religious dogma. I guess if you have devoted your professional life to analyzing Boeing, you have no real choice but to stay on the bandwagon and hope it can dig itself out of the mud.

    As a long time Seattle area resident who claims no expertise on aviation issues, my oversimplified view is that the 737Max episode mainly demonstrates that the foul legacy of the St. Louis bean counters has yet to be extirpated. Boeing was built by Puget Sound engineers and machinists under the guidance of a management team that appreciated their contributions. After the merger the integrity of that culture was undercut under Stonecipher, and it was then fully destroyed by McNerney, who cared for nothing except the praise of Wall Street, detested the manufacturing employees and removed the headquarters to Chicago so he wouldn’t have to deal directly with them. Muilenberg may have pulled the company back from the worst of McNerney’s excesses, but not enough has changed to really matter.

    Based on that summary world view, Boeing’s recovery seems far from assured. The company is regarded to have cut corners on a critical safety system. Worse, it is a safety system that was necessitated by an inherently risky decision to retrofit larger engines onto an existing body. That may have been defensible from an engineering standpoint, but Boeing should have understood that any failures due to the retrofit would be impossible to defend to a skeptical public. The safety system should have been overengineered to eliminate even the slightest exposure to a failure risk.

    While industry insiders may appreciate that the old Boeing disappeared decades ago, in terms of positive public image the company has been able to coast along on its earlier reputation. No more. The death of the old Boeing is now clearly visible to everyone. This could actually be the beginning of the end.

  28. I think traditionally the FAA, the public and congress have been very supportive/ foregiving towards Boeing, the #1 exporter. Crashes were smoothly handled. How would the Lionair crash live on if their hadn’t been a second crash? The official investigation report is conviniently planned for late 2019. Before that anything was “speculation” The public was quickly informed about Lionairs trackrecord. Stockprice hardly moved after the Lionair crash.

    • Lion Air had a maintenance record in the past but have implemented changes and that was done successfully. Furthermore blaming Lion Air crew for the crash has been proved false. The MCAS system failed which is a hidden by Boeing and the CEO is still adamant that the plane is safe and there is nothing wrong with the MCAS. There is a second crash in March 2019, Ethiopia Airlines and Lion Air or any other airline did not have another crash after the Ethiopian because they are all grounded.

      • A bit hard to argue Lion was successful when the problem remained after two maint checks and activity on the aircraft.

        Also the fact the aircraft was not considered airworthy.

        None of it excuses what Boeing did. Nor where they tried to point the finger.

        But the last layers of safety which is the airline attitude and how it deals with pilots were also gone.

        Crews continuing flight with a serious problem argues that there are issues with Lion (likely fly or be fired) . The prior two flights should have been turn backs.

        • Also a reference that Lion official tried to bribe Transportation official. Hard telling on that one of course.

  29. I wonder what the situation with Lionair’s Max order is now. Given the ill feeling, what chance of a double whammy of a cancellation and A321 order at the Paris Air Show? That certainly wouldn’t help Boeing’s rehabilitation.

    • Lion is a pretty weird operation.

      Batik Air branch (why Batik?) is taking the current A320/321 orders supposedly. 178 on the books but see none delivered.

      No reason those could not be switched to Lion Air.

      That also leaves 56 or so not listed to anyone (order was 234).

  30. Having read a bit about aviation accidents,on the few occasions that I have flown in light aircraft ,what I want to hear from the pilot is that if there are any doubts whatsoever about weather or equipment ,he/she will not hesitate to call the whole thing off. It’s the same thing for Boeing, any doubts about the MAX and they will not allow it to fly.Obviously Boeing don’t want any accidents either and even if senior management is completely composed of psychopaths,they would be able to see that risking another accident (particularly if it happens in US airspace)is just not worth the risk.Unfortunately ,this is not the message that Boeing management is putting over.

    • BA appear to have started work on MCAS 2.0 right after the Lion Air crash, so you could assume that they thought it was necessary to improve it.

      If BA thought that MCAS 1.0 was fine, and JT610 was just a maintenance issue, coupled with pilot error, why did they feel the need to start working on MCAS 2.0 ?

      The BA mindset must really have been that following the runaway trim stabiliser cut out checklist was sufficient. If they had thought there would be another crash related to MCAS, I can’t see any rational reason they wouldn’t ground the MAX until MCAS 2.0 was implemented.

      It’s more difficult to understand not grounding the MAX after ET302. I think the fear of litigation for loss of earnings by airlines if you ground the planes has to be a factor.

      Rebuilding the MAX and Boeing brands:

      Maybe before the MAX is returned to flight we really do need some simulator time, for all management of BA (AB, and the other airframers also) one by one in the jump seat as the simulator follows the path of JT610, and ET302, 40 degrees nose down, over 450 knots, stick shakers, and overspeed clackers going, just as a reminder that safety really must come first !

      I’m sure most people haven’t headed down at much more than 5.5 degrees (London City Airport), I have personally in the back of a DC-3, 90 degree bank, then nose down from somewhere over 10,000 feet, one 360 degree turn levelling off about 15 feet AGL if I remember correctly, I was too busy tightening my lap belt so that I didn’t float into the guys seated on the opposite wall. … hence Dak

  31. I wonder if Boeing has accident insurance? I doubt it. If they did, their insurance premiums would be going up. And it would show up in some spreadsheet. Boeing’s managers seems to be from the spreadsheet management school. There’s no line item in their spreadsheet for the chance of another MCAS accident, and the possible fallout of passenger confidence in the 737-MAX. If passengers run away in droves from the 737-MAX, then the airlines will dump them and Boeing is toast. That isn’t in their spreadsheet. Getting the 737-MAX back flying by “x” date is. Does current management care if another 737-MAX MCAS accident happens 5 or 10 years from now? Ripping out MCAS, moving the engine back to where it should be and redoing the landing gear just isn’t even being discussed within Boeing. That would be too much of a line item in the spreadsheet.

    • China Airways replacing current generation 737 fleet with A321. Just announced. Straw in the wind?

    • Keesje:

      What has that got to do with Boeing or aircraft?

  32. Boeing has a load of expensive spin doctors running around trying to convince everyone that the MAX is safe.They should be sacked immediately because what they are doing is counter productive.The aviation authorities decide when a plane is technically safe to fly, so people will be asking why it’s nessicary to pay some slimy PR man to try and convince us.

    • Who Boeing employs and for what is their business (as long as its legal, spin is legal) .

      Do you really think that Boeing is going to read what you wrote let alone pay any attention to it?

      This adds what to the discussion?

      • It’s fine,they can waste their money as they choose. I’m just pointing out what should be obvious, it’s counter productive.Are these mostly non technical smooth talkers going to convince you?No,of course not,you have to put your trust in the regulators just like anyone else.

        • Its fair to say and put it that way, but to say Boeing should do this or that?

          Has that ever worked.?

  33. The pressure is building. FAA going alone would on one side satisfy Boeing, congress and the industry. If other foreign authorities need more time for a more thorough research, review and approval, I doubt much passengers are going the board the aircraft. Social media will take care & the FAA could incur further damage. They must avoid to be last to see, first to forgive. Let’s try to politicize as an escape. The Chinese where first to ground the MAX & looking back they were right. And Boeing / the FAA not. DoJ & DoD are looking into it.


    • I’m not sure FAA going solo on lifting the grounding, before any review of FAA certification procedures has been completed, will make the congress happy.

      And I suspect that internationally this may in fact be counterproductive for the 737 MAX: instead of FAA collaborating with the other agencies to find a reasonable compromise solution, FAA lifts the grounding (within the US only, of course). That then leaves all the international agencies to discuss the grounding and certification criteria on their own, effectively without FAA. And that may result in more drastic conclusions than might have been the case had the FAA held off and worked together with the other agencies.

  34. If you’re an Airline Captain, assigned to flying the 737-MAX. Do you want sim time before flying it again? What do you want in terms of documentation and training to feel confident in flying the new improved plane? Do you want to have a mechanic test out the AOA disagree light to see if it works as advertised? Will the airlines be testing the planes after the Boeing fix to see if the changes are actually made, or trust in Boeing that everything is as they say it is? I’m really interested to hear what 737-MAX pilots, doing recurrent training with the new upset / stall guidelines in place now, think of the stall characteristics of the 737-MAX in the simulators. Does MCAS kick in, where, how and how it affects the recovery etc. Will 737-MAX pilots ask for sim time before strapping on the real airplane again?

  35. Criminal charges should be laid against Muilenburg. Let his lawyers convince a judge that negligence did not play a role in multiple deaths.
    The victims deserve justice.

    • I agree. That is a statement that has true merit. Not likely but its spot on and worth the effort as well as bogus statements that are lies and affect stock (SCC Commission)

      What are the laws in Illinois in that regard for all criminal and civil aspects?

  36. Of course they are not going to listen to me.They have hired these guys in a panic,and I think that you would be the first to admit that it just makes them look like dishonest car salesmen rather than the good solid engineer imagine that they should be looking for.

  37. Boeing may never recover fully. When the Comet was grounded it’s market was taken over by competing airliners. Whilst not being wiped out, future MAX sales will be compromised and market share will diminish.
    For a moment let us suppose that Boeing gets the FAA to lift the grounding of the MAX. The rest of the world will see it as yet more evidence that the FAA is Boeing’s lap dog. Independent aviation authorities in Europe and China, representing large populations of passengers, simply cannot afford to follow the FAA’s lead any longer. Any future incident involving the MAX would reflect badly on them too. Furthermore, in an age of social media, the public perception of the MAX is extremely poor and airlines simply cannot succeed commercially by flying planes that the public are afraid to fly on.

  38. The negative spell affecting the MAX will not cease and desist unless and until this type is rebranded. MAX WHAT exactly ?? : MAX death toll ? MAX threat ? MAX risk ? MAX danger ? MAX trim AND ? MAX AoA ? etc … The superlative leads on to a perception of some upper limit, which in aviation never abodes anything positive. Proposals for new type names to replace ‘MAX’ are welcome !? …

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