May 18, 2019, ©. Leeham News: We are now two months into the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX because of MCAS. Boeing announced yesterday it has finished the work on the fix and it’s now ready for FAA certification flights. Once FAA has certified the fix, the 737 MAX will return to the sky. At least this is how it used to be.
A lot of hesitation and distrust has come into the system since the March 13th grounding. Here’s why I wouldn’t hesitate to fly on the MAX after the fix.
I think most pilots and aviation experts trust Boeing to get MCAS right the second time around. I do. The updated implementation has all the precautions, deliberations and global limitations the first version should have had.
In fact, the update is the glaring evidence of the initial MCAS’s deficiency and carelessness in its implementation. As thorough the fix is in all its aspects, as negligent was the first try.
Now a person of logic says: “If Boeing was as negligent in the development of the 737 MAX to let MCAS slip through, what else is in there?”
Here I rely on the Boeing CEO and top management to have realized the Boeing airliner which pays the bills can’t fail. If there’s one more blip, Boeing will not only be shaken, it will be down for counting.
I expect the top management to have put the question to its MAX team:
“If there’s anything else in the MAX you don’t feel 100% confident about, just tell us. We’ll fix it, no matter what.”
“This time, there’s no pressure,” the engineers would have been told. “You will crash your career if you don’t speak.” Before, it was the reverse.
I rely on this question being put and any answers finding its way into the fix. A 737 flight control software update is not a local patch of a software corner. It’s a global update of the system and any cleanups will ride along. Any such cleanups have been flying on the MCAS test flights for more hours than any cleanups before.
If the above question hasn’t been put after the crashes and grounding, I have no mercy. Then the top management of Boeing shall all be fired. Everyone. And it should hit the board as well.
I’m so convinced, having been in the mix myself, the question has been put, any answer put forward and any additional fixes implemented so I wouldn’t hesitate to fly on the MAX after the grounding.
Why wasn’t that true after the first crash then?
You’r right. I changed it to “after the crashes and grounding”.
At this point I am interested in your thoughts on the Trim Wheel and the loading that can make it unmanageable?
EXCELLENT response to this article. I am questioning the manual trim too (since also reduction in size of wheels from NG onwards). In fact this seems to implicate the 737 NG under some circumstances doesn’t it? Has the capability of the control column trim switches been evaluated at high speeds also? Shouldn’t the pilots have complete authority over the trim at all possible parts of the flight envelope? Will the new MCAS take into account the attitude, altitude and proper speed of the plane? Lots of questions before I would step on board.
Bjorn, did you write your artikel before or after this news in the Financial Times? “Boeing admits flaw in 737 Max flight simulator”
This is the key point. The question isn’t, has Boeing fixed MCAS? The question is, why should we trust anything Boeing tells us?
I don’t think Boeing has really understood the question yet.
I think you are dead on.
Also, I think all those employees who have been fired or left the company after being spurned and ostracized for rocking the boat on 737 safety issues will not/can not be heard (i.e. the question you pose, even if asked, cannot be answered). Boeing has truly buried those problems, and time will tell who will have the last laugh on this.
Also I think this is more of a middle management problem than a senior management issue. Far too many mid-level managers (2nd level) with misplaced ambitions who try to get ahead by suppressing technical opinions and “save the program” – I think for the most part, 2nd level management is where the problem begins, not the more senior ranks (although they are definitely culpable for allowing and fostering this culture of fear).
What is ironic is that we have just seen that a FBW aircraft is unstable on approach when in direct law.
How is that different than the 737?
How can it be EASA certified when the combination of high wing loading and the direct law behaviour causes this PIO induced “crash” in pretty good weather conditions. It is the first Russian commercial FBW Aircraft and the certifying authorities should have been more thorough even if it would help Russian design of military FBW systems durability.
I seem to recall many decades ago when a Pratt & Whitney engine had some issues due to some production issues, which caused the engine to fail in flight, killing everybody on broad. Then about a month afterward, the P&W CEO had an all-hands meeting of P&W and said: “These are our customers” and then played back the CVR, which had picked up some background people in the main cabin screaming.
If Boeing hasn’t done that to all their hands, they deserve to go under.
The action of the P&W CEO describes the kind of leadership that earns them their fat salaries. He had the moral courage to do what he did. In contrast, Boeing is still in denial, partly acknowledging a problem but in the same breath blaming the pilots.
It probably was…they started with the software update soon after the first crash.
I agree, I’m sure after the first crash a lot of investigation was done, and ‘upgrades’ prepared. But still it looked like it was going to be implemented almost by stealth, no grounding, just a field ‘upgrade’.
Then the second crash … and still the apparent reluctance to be open, and ground the aircraft. If other agencies hadn’t grounded the MAX before the FAA, would it still be flying ?
I would expect Bjorn’s question to have been asked, after the first crash, but if it was, it should have been asked very publicly. I personally am not convinced that it has been asked. I’ve not seen any evidence or leaks, which I would expect even as part of a PR campaign.
I understand the legal mindset that constrains what can be said, but BA would go a long way towards restoring confidence if they were a lot more open.
I’d suggest that Muilenberg should state publicly for the record that he has asked all staff to flag any issues at all, and has given an undertaking to fix everything no matter what, a blanket amnesty if you will.
I completely agree with Bjorn on ‘No question, no mercy’ !
Surely you are mistaken, according to Mr Muilenburg there is nothing wrong in the MCAS system that adhered to all the certification standards. it is all down to pilot error as they are dead and foreign. The fear is that he is not lying but actually believes that statement and hence there is nothing to sort. The aircraft is ‘safer than safe’ remember, this sort of hubris proscribes any concession of error.
In UK corporate governance we have the principle Judgement, where the senior management and board are required to exercise common sense, acuity and astuteness. There is none of that to see anywhere in the senior management pronouncements of the past two months. I hope they are consistently lying and beneath it all they do realize that they have a problem.
Most air accidents are a chain of events i.e. the swiss cheese model.
But if MCAS was not present in both JT610, and ET302 would they have crashed ? There were certainly issues with the AOA sensor, but I have to say without MCAS, I don’t personally think they would have crashed !
I suspect the position would be very different if the crashes were a US Airline aircraft with a lot of US citizens aboard.
Quote, ” I suspect the position would be very different if the crashes were a US Airline aircraft with a lot of US citizens aboard.” It seems strange that AA,UA and WN as far as I know never reported a similar malfunction. Why JT610, and ET302 and no others?
The worldwide flying population of 737-MAX’s are distributed quite a bit.
Lion Air has/had 14 flyinsg, Etheopian has/had 5 flying .. I don’t see any airline with more than 25 or so.
So, it’s not that surprising that the two crashes were outside the US.
My take, it’s sheer luck that it wasn’t a US aircraft that crashed.
We may find out in time from the full investigations into the crashes why the AOA sensors failed. I suspect a faulty AOA sensor in JT610, and a bird strike or other catastrophic failure of the AOA sensor on ET302.
I’m sure there have been 737 incidents in the past with a failed AOA sensor where the aircraft haven’t crashed. What made these two accidents different was MCAS. In both these cases, I ask the question, if MCAS was not present would the aircraft have crashed. I don’t think so. YMMV
My last statement in my previous post; what I am proposing is that if it had been a US Airliner that had crashed, full of US citizens, the pressure being applied to BA, the FAA etc. to find answers would be significantly greater than it is at present.
I don’t think people would be questioning the training or piloting skills of the pilots.
I don’t want the pilot of my aircraft to have to be a tenth as good as Eric “Winkle” Brown !
Agreed, US crashes or crashes and different trajectory on it all.
MCAS was the case of a feature that was lethal.
Peter Leme has a good writeup as to how and why the MCAS 1.o would not be interpreted as runaway trim.
You forgot the goverment shutdown. The Alert SB would have been out and the Etiopian crash maybe avioded if they have implemented the ASB to upgrade the software. So one can argue that the shutdown caused the ET crash and lives lost.
I don’t buy that.
The disagree light or the display just tells you its an AOA issue.
They got that quickly enough. They even did the right thing.
With MCAS 2.0, that would stop MCAS, but not 1.0
They missed a procedure in the emergency and wound up with stabilizer loading they could not hand crank against. The term is task saturated environment with stick shaker, alarms, MCAS acting and no training in it other than a book review.
That is not something that is taught that is as vital as fixing MCAS.
The ASB was the MCAS 2.0, now you most likely have MCAS 4.3b getting certified. ET with MCAS 2.0 and a failed alfa probe only a 737MAX simulator running the same flight can tell if that software load would have avioded the accident or not.
Well, all the regulations 737MAX does not need to comply with due to its TC being a derivative of the 737-100/-200 “Fat Albert”.
Hence it will be as safe as the 737NG but not much more. Still having some wiring that a new design cannot use and other parts that cannot be used on a brand new Aircraft design as a brand new design has to comply with all the latest regulations of its time like the A220-series, 787 and A350. The LEAP Engines are new and certified to the latest standards on its Type Certificate.
The A320neo is also a derivative from its origianl TC but not as old as “Fat Albert’s TC”.
Grandfathering does need to be looked at. There need to be limits.
In the 60s everyone drove around without seat belts, we learnt lessons, and we now wear seat belts, and have loads of airbags.
Common sense needs to prevail.
I think it wouldn’t take that many changes to get an A320NEO certified as a completely new aircraft, but I suspect it wouldn’t be possible from an economic point of view to certify the 737 MAX as a completely new aircraft.
The simple upgrades like latest wiring standard, some more redundancy and maybe Full Aviation Duplex internet hookup to the main boxes and a central maintenace computer with the Failure Investigation Manual (FIM) integrated would make it “almost 787 safe”.
Yes, the Mercedes 200 has been around since before the 737-100 and evey new model is certified to the latest regulations (maybe a few cheats), but in principle a big step forward in safety and fuel economy.
apples to squid comparison.
each generation of MB200 is completely new from the ground up every ~5 years. new chassis, new suspension, new brakes, new engines, new electrics.
aircraft fuselage/wing designs have a 40+ year shelf life (A300/310/330/340, 747, 737, A320 will get to 40 in 5 years on the original wing).
there should be a cutoff (call it 2o years from original TC) where any major systems upgrade (i.e. re-engine, rewing, major avionics update) triggers a re-cert to current standards.
but then the manufacturers will game the system the same way people game the home renovation permit/inspection rules or the way the US Navy games the aircraft programs (look up the F-9 series and the F/A-18 A-D vs E-G)
The Mercedes W124 has the life of a 737 of 22-27 years.
We do not need faith. We need assurance.
Boeing current approach denying the need of flight simulator hours for pilots, before they fly again the MAX, seems to be guided (once again) by economics, not to the necessary need of giving confidence
This may, in a painfully cathartic way, be exactly what Boeing management needed to force them to consider their obligations to more than just shareholders. Placing aggressive time schedules on development and accepting second best design solutions has come back to haunt them.
When you risk map the company they have a lot of high likelihood risks to deal with every day some of which are of high impact and others of a more operational nature. What seems to have been forgotten in the haste to ‘be competitive and profitable’ is the very foundation of engineering excellence upon which the cash is generated. Falling down in such a public manner on the low likelihood but high risk event of entirely preventable poor design and engineering must be chastening to all in the company.
It appears that they have dropped the ball many times during this debacle. Hopefully the needless deaths it has led to will be a wake up call they needed to excel at the basics for which the company has and should stand. Bjorn, you are suggesting that we should trust Boeing, I hope for the flying public and the employees of Boeing this trust is not misplaced.
” exactly what Boeing management needed to force them to consider their obligations to more than just shareholders.”
you must have missed the memo. in corporate america, share price uber alles.
‘you must have missed the memo. in corporate america, share price uber alles’
But the upshot is fail in this regard and the share price will tank sooner or later. So I am not suggesting altruism or concern for the flying public. Muilenburg et al will be doing this out of the primary motives of fear and greed.
Boeing’s board and top executives are currently relying on a delusion: “no technical gap or slip” to put this behind them and carry on, nothing to see here. Suggesting that they do not really care about safety is one of the more aggravating strawmen I’ve read, in various places. It’s actually worse than that. They are in a circular reasoning loop: we care about safety, that’s who we are, that’s why we are great and our share price is high. We cared about safety in the MAX, the MCAS malfuction WAS a runaway stabilizer (with Elwell continuing to mouth their point of view), unfortunately, we’ve realized that there are dummies out there flying our planes that didn’t grasp that. Now let’s go in and make it idiot-proof. The fact that they hindered pilot knowledge and training, especially after the first crash, is outside of their chain of accident model.
Tem, Someone INTENTIONALLY didn’t inform pilots of MCAS, changed the speed of the MCAS trim setting, changed the STAB TRIM switch functionality, changed their previous KC-46 MCAS design from two AOA sensors to ONE AOA sensor, in the 737-MAX. It’s almost as if they wanted the planes to crash. I don’t know who’s fingerprints are on these decisions, but, there must be sign offs and paperwork showing who knew about it. This doesn’t sound like a lapse in judgement, or a fault in a logic diagram. This design and non-disclosure was done very deliberately. That’s what really bothers me. It wasn’t an honest mistake. This was planned, step by step.
Sowerbob: Its amazing but you can look at the US Tobacco companies and the death and carnage they created and they are still around.
You should recall Boeing did this with the rudder issue and it was business as usual.
I don’t know what it would take to blow Boeing down but I have yet to see it.
The remedy is political and that is outside the scope as it were of the blog as it gets into repub and democrats.
One more related accident and MAX is dead. Flying is not the exotic pastime of the previous century and failure is not due to anything more than poor work
Nope, I’m not flying this plane anytime soon! I always said the 737 MAX is a variant gone too far! The 737-800 is a awesome plane, the right amount of everything which equals success. The Max is a engine gone too far. It was a knee-jerk reaction to the NEO period. There are way too many confirmed stories of rushed patchwork engineering done to get this plane flying and certified. I’ll set back and watch this plane for a few years before I get anywhere close to one again…There is one very simple rule in life…Never be cheap! as it will always come back to haunt you and wind up costing you more to get it done the right way. Boeing has just learned that lesson!
Then after the fix, the jewel in the revised 737-8’s spec will turn out to be MCAS 2.0 itself, wherefore Boeing could rebrand it as the fantastic new ‘737 MACS’ (pun intended), the hottest buy-to-be at Paris Le Bourget ’19 airshow ??
What about the strapline
‘Boeing MAX 2: less likely to kill you’
Boeing Max 2: Even safer
I have a lot of respect for this site, but, no thank you. This a/c should have never been given an airworthiness certificate, in my opinion.
Perhaps pilots should be fully simulator trained on how the MAX flies with MCAS disabled:
Greg Travis –the same fellow who wrote this article:
… and now, co-author on this article:
That article is the most interesting and comprehensive indictment of the whole issue.
“Perhaps pilots should be fully simulator trained on how the MAX flies with MCAS disabled”
Why bother? Turns out the simulator is flawed anyway.
I am surprised Bjorn has so much confidence in this company. I guarantee you they did not put that question out to the rank and file engineers, at least not in a serious manner. If they did there’s no way we’d be looking at having them back in the air by this summer.
Well, Boeing says it has corrected simulator software for the MAX …..
MCAS disabled means it does not work at the stall.
LCAC seldom stall and when they do its a secondary consequence of having lost situational awareness (gone to outside view and illusions vs using the instruments ) nd they are crashing anyway.
I looked at those posts. Clearly they are not pilots and they really are sensationalize the issue for the sake of their postings.
Peter Leme is the guy to read not those clowns.
Boeing did the 787. That makes the 737 looks like a wheelbarrow (don’t get me wrong, wheelbarrows are very useful in my world)
This is the same story of corporate greed and arrogance that we have seen since time immemorial.
If you are not at stall then MCAS has no role and if you are, any pilot would take the correct action (or should) if you got a stick shaker and the cross checks confirm stall.
MCAS 1.0 was a lot like Ebolla, a germ that kills.
Few on other aspect stalls ever in commercial aircraft (mostly disorientation and then not using instruments and the stall(s) would be secondary to someone who has lost it.
how much is Boeing paying you for policing this site?
Jon Ostrower has pretty good links to inside Boeing (i.e. the engineering staff and manufacturing staff). one of his more recent articles (the Air Current) focusing on the average Boeing worker does not seem to indicate that such conversations as Bjorn has theorized having occurred.
This does not mean to say that they haven’t but if they had, would that not “leak” out to the press or the blogosphere?
I am, unfortunately, quite sceptical of Boeing’s upper management levels and their reliability vis a vis ensuring that all safety related issues have been positively resolved.
The sad truth is that Bjorn’s postulation relies on Boeing Upper Management showing responsibility, something they have, in my opinion, demonstrably failed to do since at least the 787 hollow shell rollout.
I also don’t have as much confidence in Boeing as Bjorn.
This might be a question:
“If there’s anything else in the MAX you don’t feel 100% confident about, just tell us. We’ll fix it, no matter what.”
The follow up question may be :
“Will it delay recertification?”
“OK, we will fix it no matter latter.”
I think flying on any 737 NG or MAX is worth thinking twice about……
Leave aside the stagecraft, the statements, facts and evidence in this TV piece are incredibly damning. Since there was no response from Boeing or from the FAA, does anyone here have an independent analysis of the content?
The question! Why now after 60 years is MCAS required?
I admit we have been told that it is to make it fly like the 737 NG. But we all know that isn’t true. The most obvious evidence is the rebranding from a stall protection system to a component of the speed trim system.
MCAS 2.0 will be significantly less aggressive than MCAS 1.0. Why was MCAS so aggressive in the first place?
Why does manual trim become inoperable at speeds greater than 250 knots?
Is there sufficient elevator for significant downward moments, remembering that the elevators became inoperable when the airplane was subject to significant downward moment?
And the alpha vanes. They do seem to fail a lot but give no indication of failure?
And so on!
Boeing have not answered the question of stability, which we all know is the real reason for MCAS!
Not flying in it!
The 737MAX is basically a flawed design that BA didn’t want to build but was forced to due to the 320NEO’s. Now it needs all kind of “foefies” to make it fly. Will do everything to avoid flying in it.
Lets see what the future holds for airlines such as Ryanair and Southwest.
You really need to watch this
Now tell me that FBW is better than 737?
“If there’s anything else in the MAX you don’t feel 100% confident about, just tell us. We’ll fix it, no matter what.”
That statement is pathetic! It is now up to the customer to detect the problems and report them to the manufacturer.
Just like for an expensive but unreliable Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Land Rover…
Boeing has really gone low
Bjorn’s proposition is that boeing mgt is asking boeing engineering that question, not customers. suggest you re-read Bjorn’s writing…
Sure, we should try to explain this to the family of the ~350 dead people…
I can speak as one of those family members. Thanks for the concern but it is important to keep the propositions and arguments straight. bilbo is right. Now, I think that Fehrm’s conjecture is wishful thinking and I hear from inside Boeing quite the opposite: they are doing the minimum. Nor is that a secret in particular, since several of the changes are well known (e.g., not going to 2x thread).
I suspect that Fehrm is alluding to the fact that any crash of the MAX now, separate from MCAS could be the end of the line if it is determined to be largely or even partially Boeing’s fault (and even if it’s not, it would clearly have a major impact).
I am still concerned that MCAS was implemented to make it seem like the MAX flew like the NG. I would be happier if the pilots were trained to fly the MAX as itself and could be experienced with it’s unique characteristics.
Here in Canada, our transport minister, a former astronaut, has stated that he will require MAX pilots to have simulator time before allowing the plane to fly again. A sensible requirement I think.
Boeing is not giving this impression at all,their paid politicians and PR men are suggesting that there was nothing wrong and giving the impression that the plane is suitable for American ex astronauts and fighter pilots. Transworld asks why they should listen to me, I am available for paid advice on how not to waste millions on suicidal PR.
No so much why but won’t.
Its all internal and they listen only to and unto themselves.
Surely you have seen it more than enough, most companies simply do not care and bull their way through.
All pilots at an early stage of training were shown how to trim the aircraft to fly straight and level hands free.
Can this happen with Max?
Of course, they do it all the time.
That is such a basic question, yet no one really wants to address the trimming skills of the pilots, especially on Ethiopian. I suspect for some it diverts from their bias to avoid the recognition of any pilot error. However, from the first moments a pilot touches the controls of an airborne airplane, he is taught how to trim the aircraft and to relieve the forces from the yoke. It should be an instinctive skill in a pilot with any experience when countering yoke forces. Yet, the pilots on Ethiopian were mainly absent in that regard. If they had properly trimmed the airplane before hitting stab trim cutout, they most probably would have saved the airplane.
And it diverts from your willingness to damn the dead. Have a look at the recent information from unbiased contributors, pilots not able to save the aircraft in the circumstances and no simulator that truly replicates the whole system failure.
Do Boeing pay you directly or indirectly?
This sounds all logical and reasonable. Yet I believe that Muilenberg and Co are so far up and detached from reality that I doubt they use the same logic. To get up there, you need to be reckless. You don’t change that so quickly, if at all.
I’m sure there is more screaming why it take so long and why that could happen in the first place. All communication is denying, containment and deflection. That does not give me confidence that the “right” things are being done.
You fly, I won’t
Is it really possible to ‘fix’ this issue before the final accident reports are published?
Until then – unless BA know something the rest of us don’t – it’s an educated guess at best.
This is actually an excellent question and point!
The reality is that you cannot realistically wait for a final accident report for incidents such as these before acting upon it. I believe it usually takes at least a year before such an investigation and report are fully completed. Investigators have to come up with some preliminary ideas as to cause so that regulators, OEMs and airlines can take, at least initial, appropriate measures.
But I am under the impression that Boeing is playing a dual game here as far as what is coming out of the investigation so far and as to what they themselves already know.
I have little doubt Boeing knows quite well what’s wrong with the MAX. They know that it would not be certified if it was a new design. They know that it’s a fundamentally flawed design and outdated too. They know how to fix this fatal blunder called MCAS 1. Will this fix make it a “good” plane? I don’t think so.
I’m quite sure that with MCAS 2 and some other fixes it is still a compromised plane that will show its bad behavior again. Maybe not in perfect weather, maybe not when it is worked precisely, but possibly in severe weather, heavy loaded, high altitude, flown by lesser skilled or experienced pilots and or some hardware failure.
That next crash will not only kill more innocent people but will cause a lot of damage elsewhere.
Well said. The plane should never be re-certified to fly. Sorry Boeing, go back to the drawing boards. Meanwhile the DOJ has yet to give us their analysis on this major SNAFU for Boeing.
if you are somehow thinking the DOJ is an impartial arbiter here, you haven’t been paying attention. They are owned lock, stock and barrel by the current administration (and have always been subject to undue political influence) and will either deliver the verdict most satisfactory to the WH or have their findings squashed.
As always, an excellent article with an excellent perspective. I am, however, still dissatisfied with the public statements by the CEO. He appears to still refuse to accept real blame for these tragic events. He needs to be far more transparent or he has to go. Apparently, the culture needs an overhaul, and that is lead by the CEO. Remember, a “fish stinks from the head.”
I do agree with your statement on flying on the MAX in the future based on how they fix the problem and communicate it properly to pilots and the flying public.
’m guessing, when the pitch up tendency of the 737-MAX became apparent to Boeing’s management, someone in a meeting said those three words Engineers dread “Can’t we just….”. It was followed by “implement some sort of quick, inexpensive, software fix for this problem”. And MCAS was born. A software “fly by wire” solution. Boeing refuses to refer to MCAS as a stall prevention system. A software system dependent on only one sensor, that pilots never knew even existed.
“===== But Boeing would disagree =====”
Of course MCAS is “not a stall-protection function and not a stall-prevention function,” says Mike Sinnett, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of product development and future airplane development. “It is a handling-qualities function. There’s a misconception it is something other than that.”
A 737-MAX crashes in Indonesia. And another “Can’t we just….” stick our heads in the sand and do nothing. Why should we change anything? It must be the pilots fault. We’ll issue a new update to the software. Pilots argue that they need to know about MCAS and that Boeing needs to make changes.
“===== But Boeing disagrees ======”
“No one has yet to conclude that the sole cause of this was this function on the airplane,” Boeing vice-president Mike Sinnett told the meeting.
“The worst thing that can ever happen is a tragedy like this, and the even worse thing would be another one,” he said later in the meeting held four months before the Ethiopian Airlines disaster.
“I don’t know that understanding this system would’ve changed the outcome on this. In a million miles, you’re going to maybe fly this airplane, maybe once you’re going to see this, ever. So we try not to overload the crews with information that’s unnecessary so they actually know the information we believe is important,” Mike Sinnett said.
A 737-MAX crashes in Ethiopia. And initially another “Can’t we just…” keep the 737-MAX planes flying. And then after the world grounds the 737-MAX, the FAA finally being the last one to ground it, “Can’t we just….” make a few software revisions, tie another sensor in line, and not bother putting a third sensor and complex voting algorithms in place, not bother changing the Stab Trim switches, in order to give the pilots ultimate authority over MCAS. We might even get the AOA disagree light working again. Although, that is really just for service technicians. “Can’t we just…” get the 737-MAX back in the air now with the two AOA sensors tied in, and some software changes made? I think
they have ignored the original pitch up tendency issue, and focused on trying to bandaid the orginal “can’t we just…” MCAS stall prevention, fly-by-wire system. I’ve been trying to figure out the certification rules governing fly-by-wire systems. Boeing may disagree, but, MCAS to me, looks to be fly-by-wire. It may issue feedback through the yoke by moving the stabilizer, but, the yoke is not controlling the stabilizer. The trim wheel is. The pilot is not commanding the stabilizer to move, MCAS is. The pilot does not have ultimate authority over MCAS. Pushing the Stab Trim Cut-out switches does not turn off MCAS. Where is the circuit breaker for MCAS? A lot of aviation accidents cause FAA regulations to be written. Put in place so that future accidents aren’t caused by the same causes. If the same Ethiopian situation occurs in the future, the unfortunate pilots will not have the ability to stop MCAS and use electric trim. So, how will they not end up with the same result? The Ethiopian pilots recognized the problem, cut out the Stab trim switches, and then were trapped. The manual trim wasn’t an option at that speed, or even if they were able to use it, could they turn it quickly enough to regain control, while also flying the plane? Why is Boeing so reluctant to have the pilot in control of the stablizer rather than MCAS? Is the original pitch up tendency that big of a problem? Engineers seem not to think so. With a sensor disagree, under MCAS 2.0, it will turn itself off. (we hope). Of course, if a pilot see’s the AOA disagree light, he has the option of turning off his electric control of the stabilizer, if he doesn’t trust the indicator light. But, he doens’t have a toggle switch to turn off MCAS. So, the indicator light alerts him to have faith in the software. I wonder what the procedure will be for a AOA disagree light indication on takeoff? Software is flying the airplane, not the pilot at that point. That dictates a higher lever of certification. There is too much “Can’t we just…” thinking at Boeing. I’m not flying the 737-MAX or any new Boeing built aircraft until the “Can’t we just…” thinking is changed. The lack of candor, and outright secrecy in their aircraft systems to pilots and airlines, does not fill me with confidence, in their aircraft design and engineering.
Mike Sinnet, “It is a handling-qualities function.”
That is a pretty darned extreme handling-qualities function that keeps repeatedly pitching the nose down at greater angles until…..
Mike Sinnet, “No one has yet to conclude that the sole cause of this was this function on the airplane.”
Isn’t that dangerously close to admitting that this “handling-qualities
function” played some significant factor in that incident?
Not to mention that this is a pretty disingenuous statement to make? How many aircraft accidents that aren’t pure pilot error have a sole cause?
Mike Sinnet, ““I don’t know that understanding this system would’ve changed the outcome on this. In a million miles, you’re going to maybe fly this airplane, maybe once you’re going to see this, ever. So we try not to overload the crews with information that’s unnecessary so they actually know the information we believe is important,”
I don’t even know where to start with this statement. Personally I think it needs no commentary other than this is the smoking gun showing Boeing upper managements true attitude towards safety!
“Can’t we just” is inherent to a cost-conscious culture bias surrounding a mature profit center (“cash cow”), and will continue to haunt the aircraft as it’s useful life is stretched out. See USAF aircraft inventory as a case in point. Ironically, the KC-46 (B767) already has that status with Boeing even before USAF acquisition. It’s many problems and production line issues underscore the facts of that economic reality. They don’t throw good money at old stuff.
That said, I agree with your frustration, but it’s not a Boeing fault, just a corporate reality. That the FAA fails to be on high alert for that effect is the real failing. The government is supposed to understand and mitigate the weaknesses of its corporate wards through judicious and energetic oversight. Here they have become too complacent and allowed the inevitable to transpire.
“in a milion miles maybe once”
Does Sinnet understand that a 737 could be flying 5.000 miles a day and hit a million miles every 200 days?
For once a year the plane has to do an average 2740 miles a day.
I find it rather disturbing that a man in his position belittles the odds, while the odds aren’t that small to begin with.
The changes to MCAS are of two types:
1. Ensuring the trigger is robust, things like taking the other sensor into account, rulling out clearly erroneous input like 75 degree AOA etc.
2. Reduction in the strength of the intervention. Things like the amount of stabilizer movement commanded, removal of repeated intervention etc.
Have you seen the reasoning behind why MCAS was originally so aggressive but this is now not considered necessary?
1 is correct. 2 not. The strength of the intervention has not changed to my knowledge (trim units/second and duration). This is what’s needed to gain the correct pitch moment curve. But it only happens once for each AoA instance exceeding the threshold. For JT610 it happened 22!!! times, for ET302 two and then three times for the same AoA exceedance. This was never needed, it was just sloppy system work. 3. There is a global limit on how far the units can count down, before to 0 units (full nose down trim), now not further than you can counter with the elevator, which is probably dynamic pressure dependent.
A big difference and why I don’t fear MCAS anymore after the fix. The initial implementation should never have happened.
Peter Lemme on his satcom.guru website has some new information on MCAS 2.0,
from yesterdays government hearings… .. it sounds like they still don’t allow the pilot to switch off MCAS, but, it should be more benign.
What is new is that MCAS stab authority will be limited based on available elevator pitch up authority – that the elevator will be able to apply 1.5g pitch up after one MCAS stabilizer trim command. This new feature addresses a major concern that MCAS, even when used as designed, could create a mistrim that overwhelms the elevator authority, which was the case in both accidents. The final MCAS stabilizer trim on both accidents, done then “open loop”, would now be limited and would have stopped the forced dives
There is no reason for MCAS to actuate at very high airspeed.
Therefore the cycle duration should have diminished to zero at some airspeed above which MCAS has no function.
If this had been done, it is unlikely that either plane would have crashed.
You mean to say, it hasn’t been done now?
jbeeo, From this report in the NYT .. it appears the test pilots noticed an issue when doing stall tests at slow speed, so the engineers quadrupled MCAS’s trim speed setting ..
I’d love to know the details .. maybe they will be in the books covering the 737-MAX, sure to come out.
Boeing Corporation was spanked fairly hard due to the MCAS problems. Nowadays, it is quite hard to come down on these international huge companies. It took two crashes of company’s main source of income and the terrible loss of 346 lives. This plane will have been gone over with a fine tooth comb. People felt other planes could not do the job after crashes and loss of live, but they did. The DC-10 being one example.
Sam: Its hard to come down on any large company , politically impossible.
Relativity speaking Boeing is not international in the terms you imply.
It has world wide suppliers but company owned assets are very US focused with a few odds and sods in UK and Australia and an interior install in China.
Boeing does big business to all points of the globe. Ironically, it was not our FAA that stepped up to the plate but the EASA, the Chinese, the Canadians, Indonesians and Ethiopians that led to the MAX grounding. But it is hard to fine/punish/financially hurt a large corporation. Case in point, the Exxon Valdez. Last I heard Exxon via the courts had reduced payment for all the destruction of the spill to less than a Billion, and I wonder if anything has been paid yet. BP in the Gulf? VW? Anaconda? Dark money, that’s the ticket. The film: “Dark Money” should be part of curriculum. When the MAX saga reaches the courts, a lawyer will say to the plaintiffs: This is what they are offering. If you don’t want this to drag out for years, take it.
Question is would have China stepped up to the plate if it was one of their aircraft that killed 347 people?
It may well have been the right move for the wrong reasons.
Would any other AHJ have been the first to ground?
Should the Trent 1000 787 been grounded?
RR kept coming up with models that said you could go X time only to find out their models were wrong and it was less than X.
I am not trying to defend the FAA but I do think you can only tell when you are under the local political microscope and not outside that.
I think you have hit the nail on the head albeit unwittingly. The FAA does the bidding of us manufacturers in much the same way as the CAAC. The makeup of EASA is considerably less politically charged because of both its reporting lines and history.
The issue that you so rightly point out is that if insider to outsider. The FAA dictates to outsiders eg RR but discusses with insiders eg GE and Boeing.
I will be shot down for saying this but I do believe the certification structures are an order of magnitude better in Europe because of the position both the manufacturer and regulator take.
I am cynical about this, but I would trust engineering before marketing, management and FAA organizations of any other country.
While I like the angle being presented as to why one should fly the MAX now, I would beg to demur given how defensive Muilenburg has been in front of the press. He wasn’t coming clean when he could have / should have. So, I am not sure he threw the challenge out to crawl through the entire system and use this opportunity to fix whatever other bugs are find.
And given the incestuous relationship that has been exposed between the FAA and Boeing, I would look askance at FAA recertifying the MAX. So, I would rather wait for FAA’s counterparts in Canada, Europe and Japan to recertify it before I fly this tainted aircraft. After 50 years of admiring Boeing and its products, my faith in the company has been deeply shaken.
I’m more worried about the Boeing-FAA safety culture than about the 737 MAX LEAP pitch up moment.
The Boeing-FAA handling of the Lionair crash before the Ethiopian crash is giving me shivers. What a publicly & politically fully supported big cooperation can get away with..
Doing perception management on pilots & reputations, while debunking “speculation” pointing to a yet unknown investigation report a year out. They nearly got away with it, but for the second crash.
After the Ethiopian crash they tried the proven process again, but hit the wall when the Chinese, EASA and Canadians had had enough.
The FAA standing by, their authority & independence slowly going down the drain. That worries me.
Its a problem with both that Boeing allowed the monster MCAS 1.0 and the FAA clearly does not want to claw back to where the safety people report to them not Boeing.
It does not help we have idiots like Ted Cruz talking about Space Pirates in some weird twitched relationship to aircraft issues.
Once the MAX is flying again and to regain travelers confidence, BA should for the fist year, have one BA employee on every flight.
Years ago an experienced mechanic was puzzling over a rash of crashes of some airplane type like the Twin Otter.
He said to me that back when he was a mechanic in the bush near Burns Lake BC Canada the mechanic had to go on the test flight after significant maintenance.
Ferdie Vachon was a conscientious professional.
It is the PUBLIC who will eventually decide of the fate of the MAX ! . If very large numbers of PAX refuse to board a Max, then it will be the end of this aircraft.
Even if all the aviation Administrations in this world have followed the predictable FAA decision.
I never hear flyers ask what type of plane am I going on? The DC-10 had some bad crashes and yet people still flew them. This latest upgrade on the MAX should be the end of similar problems encountered by the two downed flights. I would not have any qualms about flying on the Max.
Indeed, the DC10 still flew. But most of the incidents were in the 70s and 80s. There was no myriad 24 hour news channels, no 60 Minutes exposes, no social media, no YouTube, and no bloggers (and every man and his dog) to publicly give their opinion about the issue. Commentary has ranged from engineering, to management, and Boeing’s communications (or lack thereof). To think the dynamics are still the same just won’t work anymore.
I’m an aviation enthusiast; I’d love to fly in the MAX one day (maybe a while after it gets back into service!), but my wife for example, who has never bothered with aircraft, has told me straight up that she doesn’t want to go on this plane. Ever. Friends who couldn’t be bothered with aviation are talking about the MAX.
Yes, every passenger won’t know what plane they’re on, and many probably still won’t care as long as the fare is good. But all this media attention has made more people become aware, and ask what plane they’re on.
It may not make much difference if a few of us plebs at the back don’t want to use the MAX, but what happens if/when a high value customer who occupies the pointy end says “no thanks”?
Given that I doubt any journalist (investigative or otherwise) has access to all of the pertinent engineers and engineering teams within Boeing and its suppliers I think any article written could too easily under appreciate or over appreciate any cultural/operational/etc confidence inspiring changes or actual fixes. So I would rest my confidence with actual certification.
But there is no way at all that I would have any confidence in a return to service certification provided solely by the FAA as you appear willing to do Bjorn. Once all the global certifying agenices are happy I’ll be happy to fly MAX. Not before.
It is the US corporate culture that is the culprit. Our corporations are supposed to operate so as to “maximize share holder value.” At first glance, this marching order appears reasonable, but what is lacking is the time frame. It should never be “in the short run.” Maximizing immediate profits, tuned to the Stock Market Earnings cycle, is a recipe for disaster in the long run. Yet, that is what companies like Boeing have been doing. Instead of investing in long-time R&D, and developing skilled, well-paid, happy work force with emphasis on good design and fabrication practices, Boeing management has focused on stock buybacks, and union-less, cheaper work force, all geared toward impressing the Wall Street and along the way increasing compensation to the upper level management. I believe paying the CEOs of US companies in stocks, while keeping their regular pay artificially low, is a major blunder. Naturally, these folks focus then on “maximizing shareholder return” but in the short term that matters to them most. Long term thinking that Japanese companies use (25 year, 50 year plans) is nonexistent in US companies. This is what leads to decline of companies in the long term. A good example is Sears, which used to dominate retail industry.
The evidence of the consequences of such thinking is plenty at Boeing. One mistake after another: $30 billion cost overrun on B787 program, which has yet to make a profit; shoddy work on the KC tanker; hasty reactive launch of 737 MAX; demise of 747-8I (along with A380 of course); ceding market share to A321 neo with doubtful business case for NMA etc. etc. Not just in the aviation field. The NASA space launch system with Boeing as major contractor, is way behind schedule and over budget, so much so that NASA may have no choice but to use some other launchers.
Irrespective of whether 737 MAX regains public confidence and continues to be a money maker for Boeing shareholders, the corporate culture must change. Boeing needs to develop a skilled, happy, well-paid workforce that will serve it well in the long run. It needs to think long term. Its management (and of US companies) must be paid in salary, not in shares, so as to promote long term focus on the welfare of the company, not short term increases in stock price.
Are any of these things going to happen? I doubt it.
I, for one, will avoid flying on 737 MAX at least for a year, if not more. Normally, I prefer A320’s over 737s anytime. I am not a great fan of the 737s.
Well said & spot on!
I agree 100%
I would like to see the Law or a citation to it that says Corporations are to maximize profit?.
By that standard they build the cheapest they can get away with –
Or go into the drug import business.
“By that standard they build the cheapest they can get away with”
That is indeed what has been happening in most US industries – relentless focus on cutting costs, gutting unions, making shoddy products, all to maximize shareholder return, i.e., profits, so that Wall Street is happy and so are the CEOs that are paid in shares. Not too long ago, US automobile industry was doing exactly that, until of course forced to do better by competition from Japanese car makers!
Just imagine what Boeing would have done, absent Airbus!
Sorry, don’t agree with you.
Have been trough it in my industry, the automobile industry. Still isn’t over.
The basic deepest root cause is toxic culture. And it is poisoned by managment and its mind set. It can’t be changed in two months, not in a year and not without beheading most of the senior managment.
I would neither want to any design by Boeing from the last decade.
Bjorn is right, the threat of serious jail time is likely to persuade Boeing senior management to at least try to do the right thing. Why didn’t that work after the first crash? Can anyone resist the pressure unground the MAX if the grounding lasts for a year or more?
I’ll fly the MAX when the UK CAA clears it ,this is the only logical position. The FAA needs to think very hard about why this argument dosnt apply to them.
While I agree with Bjorn MCAS is tamed, I don’t agree that anything has changed other than we got caught, we hgave to fix MCAS aqnd get away with anyting else we can.
You see it in their ocntrinuing to blame tyhe pilots. You see it in the Repubs that are now mouthing that view.
I don’t say the pilots were not part of the issue (I also don’t think they should be presented with that kind of crap to deal with in the first place)
But when I made a mistake it was to take the blame and not try to deflect it to anyone else even if they had a part of it.
Yes, I screwed up, it won’t happen again.
I’m not sure that the threat of serious jail time is on the table at present. Also, with the numerous revelations in the press it’s going to be difficult to mount an actual trial. Plus with various political types lining up behind Boeing / FAA… I think they’re going to get away with it on a personal basis, and the company will simply end up paying large amounts of compensation.
This is so, so far removed from the mea culpa moment that the EASA, CAAC, CAA were probably hoping would happen that I can’t see how Boeing and the FAA are going to build up the trust again.
Peter Lemme posted something that I’ve written about on these pages too; that MCAS faults will remain hazardous irrespective of the software patch; it simply doesn’t have the redundancy to stop malfunctions causing trim inputs. Paying attention to two AoA sensors is nice, but it’s still only a single software channel, and they’re now adding some rather complex functions to it, in very short order.
With that being so, I won’t be getting on a MAX ever.
Can anyone resist the pressure to un-ground the MAX? Well, that remains to be seen.
I think the pressure is greater than that; the FAA’s certification process has been broken for decades now, and in principal the CAA, EASA, etc should be pondering whether or not anything built in the last 20 years can be officially trustworthy. Many hours of unblemished operation is one thing, but it doesn’t guarantee that there’s not some slow-to-develop issue in some aircraft type somewhere that wasn’t picked up by the FAA / Boeing who, it seems, can’t be trusted to go look for such things.
So there is pressure the other way; forget ungrounding the MAX, what else really shouldn’t be flying?
I strongly suspect that they’re choosing to ignore this issue for the moment, because that really would be an extreme outcome. However the EASA ignoring the fact that a peer aviation agency (FAA) hasn’t had a proper process now for ages is undeniably a small corruption of the role of the EASA. It’s giving in a small bit to bad practises, and by definition that’s taking a risk with lives.
I agree that Boeing and FAA are essentially doing the minimum and are refusing to entertain any notion of error. Watching the acting FAA rep (Elwell?) embarrassing himself in front of the senate hearing was disgraceful, he has obviously been heavily coached to not agree or acknowledge certain points.
In my view the other certifying regimes have one lever and that is regarding the recertification process. I think we all know that this process is not about safety from the perspective of the FAA/US. They have been painting political interference for a couple of weeks.
So the other bodies will be picked off one by one with bribes and coercion to force this through. The US executive will be a bully when they don’t get their way
Do you really believe that any executive at Boeing would serve time? I don’t, not even if indicted, and that is extremely unlikely.
Sower: All too true. Look at what Enron did and then they let the only clown that got nailed go. That was a financial crime. How many from the 2008 meltdown?
White color crime even if it involved murder (this is at least third degree) and you have enough money or are big enough is above the law.
We are a nation of laws, they just are not enforced for the High and Mighty.
I lack the knowledge and expertise to assess, much less question Bjorn’s opinion that once returned to service, the 737MAX, will be safe to fly.
Personally, and as someone old enough to not just remember, but also to have been a professional travel agent at the time with many clients (and family) with virtually all averse to flying the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 after it was grounded for some time (myself included), that’s the approach I’d take again, and when the inevitable flurry of messages from family and close friend’s begins (as it will) asking me if the plane is safe to fly, or if I would fly it myself, the answer now will be the same as then:
1.) No, I absolutely will NOT fly the plane until it’s been in service and completely accident free for some time;
2.) And for those who have similar concerns, and especially those whom already are “nervous flyers” and would be even more fearful than they already are normally when they fly, then by all means they’d be wise to avoid booking any flights on that model until sufficient time that the model has been in service accident free has passed.
Right or wrong from an aerospace engineering perspective, rational or not, if a product, ANY PRODUCT, has a troubled start after being introduced for regular use, then frankly, I prefer to take a “wait and see” approach before taking any chances of spending money on a product that still hasn’t proven itself in the marketplace as being a reliable product itself, let alone in this case, a product where the consequences of any defects is not just wasted money and the inconvenience/hassle factor of correcting any problems that may arise from that product’s defects, but literally life and death, as 346 unfortunate souls, and their loved ones face now.
It’s one thing if someone willingly accepts the trials and tribulations of “beta testing” products, and the attendant risks that may arise if unknown imperfections yet remain, and won’t be known, until subjected to the rigors of regular use in the “real world” versus controlled experiments and/or computer simulations – which in so many ways is what happened already for whatever reasons be it shortcuts taken by Boeing when it faced the threat of American Airlines going “all Airbus” for its narrow-body refleeting with its A320/321neos, and needed a quick solution to avoid losing both the entire order itself; the momentum that would swing in Airbus’s favor if a top tier airline such as American abandoned Boeing in favor of its rival, Airbus; the prestige factor that would’ve surely tipped in Airbus’s favor of an airline as large as American also went “all Airbus” for its 400+ units narrow-body reflecting order instead of splitting it between Boeing’s 737-8 MAX for the mid-size category aircraft (which was mostly viewed at 160 passengers when the ordered was placed eight (8) years ago in 2011 instead of the present 172 in the new [and reviled] “Oasis” configurations); and the larger A321neos (which at the time commonly had a capacity closer to 180ish passengers than the mid-190s and higher seen now for the largest segments of the single aisle, narrow-body sector), as was the outcome after Boeing’s panicked reaction to the prospect of losing the entire AA order led to it’s rushed to market, and on the cheap at that, led to the “birth” of yet another “generation” of a plane, 737s, that itself traces much of its design, engineering and even its actual operating mechanicals for the MAX series, to those introduced in the 1950s with Boeing’s then masterpiece, the 707, or shortly thereafter in the 1960s when the 737 was first introduced as a stubby, close to the ground, aircraft intended for short-haul missions under 2,000 miles and flight times under three (3) hours.
Longtime readers, here and elsewhere, have long known my concerns about tasking an aircraft designed not just more than 50 years ago, but also for an entirely different mission in the present for flights considerably longer than envisioned by its original designers and engineers, along with a hodgepodge of technologies some cutting edge such as the significantly larger in diameter (~68”) engines required to achieve fuel economy to be competitive with the A320/321neo’s even larger in diameter engines that are as if cut and pasted onto the geriatric designs, engineering and even its actual in service mechanicals that date all the way back to, or nearly so, to the dawn of the Jet Age?
Or if the blame also lies with the airlines, whom Boeing sought to appease/have a competitive edge over rival Airbus’s souped up A320/321neos, or even the then little known, nascent Bombardier C-series that Boeing went all out to kill-off (and ended up face planting itself when that effort blew up in its face as it did), by offering them a stale, warmed-over “classic” the airlines need NOT waste time and money retraining their legions of pilots to fly?
As always, and often just as humans tend to do in our own personal interactions, Boeing and its supporters tend to point the blame at the airlines for demanding products at a certain price point that “forces it” to make “Hobbesian choices” it didn’t really want to make, but “had no other choice” if it was to remain in the game.
While the airline industry and its supporters turn around and do the same in reverse when the “blame Boeing” for making decisions that resulted in the airlines being “limited” to whatever few and “limited” “options” they were offered by the OEM to “choose from”.
And that’s NOT taking into the consideration the ethical questions (or [im]morality) of only offering critical safety features as ancillary fee priced “options” offering airlines only what they wanted, instead of what was actually needed.
That insanity speaks to an altogether evil that better describes why greed really isn’t good – at least when it comes to designing and building man-made machines intended to defy nature and the laws of gravity.
Of of course, why gluttony is among the “seven deadly sins”.
My point is this:
Consumers should have every right to take a wait and see approach regarding the PROVEN & DEMONSTRATED in service safety and reliability of the 737MAX after it returns to service, whenever that happens, and forever long it takes until consumers as a whole can have complete confidence that they’re NOT unwittingly “beta testing” Boeing’s (do-over; “Mulligan”) MCAS 2.0 over the next “X” amount of months or years.
That’s all there is to it.
Right or wrong; rational or not; only time will tell.
That’s the way I approached the DC-10 grounding personally, and professionally when I was responsible for making decisions about booking hundreds of people regularly on flights around the world when I was a travel agent back in the day.
If Boeing succeeds and get this right, as I’m certain everyone wants to see happen, then of course, in due time, I’ll be willing to book flights on the MAX series when necessary (I wasn’t a fan of this aircraft for flights longer than three hours BEFORE it was densified, so it long ago was a plane I tried to avoid for flights other than to/from RDU or Florida from my hometown NYC), and will similarly say the same to the many friends and family members who as sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west will ask me “if the plane is safe to fly” once it re-enters service.
And here’s hoping Boeing does get things right this time, because the way things have been handled to date for this aircraft has been awful in every way, and if another 737MAX goes down anytime soon, be it for substantially similar reasons of technological incompatibility seeking to paste 21st century engines on an underlying airframe whose designs, engineering and even some of its operating mechanicals dates back to the 707 which was introduced in the 1950s – or even something completely unrelated such as garden variety pilot error – it’s hard to imagine the model surviving that as an aircraft passengers will be willing to fly.
Finally, while there was a fairly long period where I avoided flights on DC-10s, which were very common on airlines and flights I took at the time since they could take-off and land at NYC’s LaGuardia Airport, and we’re routinely flown to many cities near (Buffalo, Syracuse, Raleigh/Durham, Toronto just to name a few short hauls that featured daily service) or further afar (such as Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Bermuda, and all of the popular destinations in Florida, especially from November through April), plus San Juan, LAX – pretty much you name it – DC-10s were flown to lots of cities domestically, after the DC-10 returned to service and proved itself, I flew it without hesitation, and would similarly encouraged those whose memories still caused them to be fearful many years later to fly it as well.
Heck, I even tracked down and chartered a World Airways DC-10 so 350 or so die-hard University if Miami Hurricanes fans (my dad especially!) could attend the Fiesta Bowl in January, 1987 for the unofficial college “National Championship” where all of us flew home in near stony silence crestfallen, and still in shock when the “dream team” Hurricanes that was coached by the then super-star coach, Jimmy Johnson, and its star-quarterback, Vinnie Testaverde, failed to score on a drive just short of the end-zone in the closing minutes of the game, and went down to Joe Paterno’s Penn State Nittany Lions 14-10!
So yeah, I’ll have NO PROBLEM flying a 737MAX – or even were the need to arise, chartering one, just as I did with the DC-10 after it’s troubles were put behind it.
But expecting people to fly the 737MAX from “Day 1” as beta testers as those aboard Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines unwittingly did based on software updates that are yet to be proven in service under real world demands and conditions?
NOPE! That’s just “plane” crazy to expect.
And passengers and flight crews have every right to feel the same way – like it or not as Boeing’s attitudes and actions to date give it ZERO REASON to expect anyone to take the company at its word.
Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice…
Sorry. NOT sorry (as the expression goes).
For not understanding the situation you wrote a heck of a novel.
I’m NOT an aerospace engineer and made crystal clear that the perspective was:
1.) NOT intended to be even remotely close to that that of expert such as Bjorn;
2.) may or may not be right or wrong; rational or irrational.
But instead, what was written was entirely based on a very perspective as both personally as a flyer, as well as my past professional expertise as a travel agent (and for one special event, the key person who found a needle in the haystack in tracking down an aircraft, any aircraft, that could be chartered on short notice after the date of the Fiesta Bowl was changed when #1 Miami Hurricanes and #2 Penn State Nittany Lions we’re playing for the “National Championship” on January 2nd, 1987 that really was next to impossible to accomplish. If anyone has any doubts, I was interviewed live, on-air, by the local Miami all news radio station on the day of the event, so there’s probably some transcript of it wherever records like that are kept).
Anyhow, the point, as clearly stated, was NOT to question Bjorn’s, or any others with expertise in these matters.
But again, to simply present a perspective from that of someone who does answer to others on matters regarding the booking of flights (now only for family and close personal friends) of which I do a reasonable amount of (easily $50+K over the past 18 months); plus my many years as a professional travel agent with both corporate and individual accounts at a travel agency (that’s still around in fact), whose clientele includes captains of industry, plus many of the best known “A-list” celebrities and fashion designers past and present.
And as sure as they did immediately after the Ethiopian Airlines disaster (and many did), they surely WILL once the 737MAX returns to the skies, turn to me for a perspective they have come to trust over many years, or even decades, from having done right by them on a great many travel matters, on whether or not the 737MAX “is safe to fly?”
And as someone who’s been at a travel agency when news breaks of crashes (I was working on the days when the AA DC-10 went down in Chicago, and also the day the Pan Am 747 blew up over Scotland, just to name but two incidents where I was terrified that someone I booked was aboard either of those flights), or whom yet still, as family and friends will attest, am never fully relieved until everyone and their bags arrives home safely after every trip I have any involvement in assisting them with recommendations that they they include with plans they book on their own, or more often than not, when they turn to me to book their flights and/or hotels.
My philosophy, which I guess is a different perspective of exactly what Bjorn said, is that if I won’t fly a particular airline – or airplane model – then they shouldn’t either as the last thing I ever want to face is hearing news that someone who acted on my recommendations, or whom entrusted me to book travel for themselves and/or their loved ones, is among those who were injured or perished in any kind of accident be it while flying, or staying someplace that I had a role in offering an opinion about.
That’s all. Nothing more. Nothing less.
And while, as noted, I have absolutely no reason, or credentials, to dispute Bjorn’s opinion on the matter of the 737MAX’s safety once MCAS 2.0 is certified for that model to return to service, because I do take seriously that loved ones will be asking me about that plane, and if they should fly it, while no disrespect to Bjorn is intended, I’m still going to take the same approach as I did with the DC-10 after it was grounded, when literally 100s of people asked me regularly if they should take a chance on an airplane that had a spotty safety record in its early years, and was also grounded for a few months (even if the cause of the AA disaster was ultimately determined to have been that of the airline’s maintenance department for an incorrect engine removal and replacement).
And the reason for this is that these loved ones will NOT just be asking me about knowledge as they know I will surely see from experts such as Bjorn if only because it’s part of my daily reading that they know I do as if “religiously” that they don’t do, where sure I could reply to them by saying “so and so, (likely whom they never heard of, of course) said the plane is safe to fly, so if s/he said so, then, it ‘MUST’ be so…” (or something like that), but there’s a much different perspective that experts such as Bjorn may not be familiar with which is entirely emotional, and although, yes, may very well be “not rational” from an expert’s perspective is nevertheless very real for many passengers: anxiety and fear.
And frankly, given just how incredibly bad Boeing (and the US FAA) has handled the entire 737MAX matter, I don’t think Boeing, or the airlines that fly this aircraft, have any right in expecting passengers to take either the company, or safety regulators who let a machine that clearly was NOT ready for certification to enter revenue service based on the two disasters and other reports here in LNA (which we all agree is among the most precise and authoritative on these matters), and elsewhere, which make clear this plane had serious defects that were known by Boeing and the FAA, too, but were things that neither disclosed to airlines, or (incredibly, because personally, in what universe is it even remotely acceptable to conceal vital information from) pilots that THEY NEEDED to have available when things went horribly wrong as they did for both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines disasters that took 346 innocent lives, at their word this time around.
But rather, and just as I found useful back in the day with the DC-10 example provided, experts’ opinions or not (and again with NO disrespect intended to Bjorn or anyone else with expertise like his), I’m personally going to take a “wait and see” approach (likely 18-24 months to ensure sufficient time for at least two bad weather seasons with tricky winds and different take-offs and landings, etc.) before I’m willing to fly this model of the 737s, and I will state the same to anyone who asks me since I’m NOT willing to put them in a place or heightened fear and anxiety about a plane that began service with known defects that the company that designed and manufactured it made many efforts to either downplay the seriousness of, or worse still, allegedly made efforts to conceal from its buyers (the airlines), the experts charged with operating them safely (pilots), and ultimately, the consumers who paid good money to fly a machine with known defects so severe that their lives, as 346 people and their loved ones found out, were endangered.
Like I said earlier:
Sorry. NOT sorry.
But, Boeing blew it big time the first go ‘round on the 737MAX (which is a plane I believe that really would’ve been better off NOT extended for another generation anyway for reasons discussed in other posts here and elsewhere dating back to 2017); it’s lucky that it’s in an industry where there’s but JUST TWO (!) companies, it and rival Airbus, that produces the flying machines that most of the world relies on for a fast, reliable and (usually) safe method that is the backbone of global commerce and transportation, and as such gets a “second chance” / “do-over” / “Mulligan” that had it been in other highly competitive industries instead of a protected, “too big to fail” duopoly such as it is, it likely would not ever be afforded the same opportunity to have for this model (see for example, the Ford Pinto, British Aerospace Comet, or likely Russia’s Sukhoi Superjet 100).
So, like it or not, Boeing would be wise if it didn’t begin a promotional campaign seeking to erase consumers’ memories of how their lives were made secondary to profits by insisting the plane is “safe to fly” – but rather letting the plane speak for itself by PROVING itself over time.
Because given the consequences, and the corporate arrogance the first time around, consumers have every right to take a “wait and see” /show me approach – as I surely will.
And just as happened with the DC-10, if after a certain amount of time passes without any major incidents, requiring diversions and/or emergency landings, and especially NO incidents that results in a loss of lives, then just as I did back in the day with the DC-10, I’ll not just fly it myself, and wholeheartedly encourage others to do so, but were the need to ever arise again to charter an aircraft, I’ll absolutely even charter the 737MAX – just as I did for that 350 or so passenger sold-out DC-10 that I, both of my parents, and 347 or so others flew out and back Miami-Phoenix-Miami in January 2nd and 3rd 1987.
I do not believe that failure is related with the project time frame, 6 years is more than enough for a re-engined aircraft, not rushed at all ( considering the engine design&certification from scratch).The root cause is rather the company culture in which managers or execs are challenging( read it as pushing) the engineers to skip the safety measures to boost profits or cash flows.Each manager in aerospace must understand that safety is not a marketing commodity it is a given.
When it comes to your justification Bjorn , I think it is another way of bullying the engineering by threatening with career stall. Todays company culture should allow you to challenge your managers manager not the other way around.
Maybe not related to overall time frame, but still could be rushed at times.
Thanks but no thanks. The Max is only a success if the Max stands for MAXimum casualties.
After Lion Air Boeing should have grounded, they let another 159 people die needlessly. Even AFTER ET302 they were opposing grounding the plane. Even after all we know they are still claiming nothing was inherently wrong. Combined with the 787 grounding and the problems with USAF tankers I have very little trust in this company now. What Bjorn thinks has been done by Boeing is what should have been done before Max certification. It should have been done again after Lion Air, and immediately after ET302 resulting in immediate grounding. None of this happened. What assurance do I have this company will suddenly see the light. for at least 2 years I will try and avoid flying on Max. At the very least Boeing needs to know they are now damaged goods. For all those lives they destroyed needlessly I feel I have to treat Boeing exactly how they deserve to be treated. With derision
“I’m so convinced, having been in the mix myself, the question has been put“
How can you possibly be convinced? There is no evidence that management’s mindset would lead them to further question their design and cost trade-offs. They have remedied “their part” of the design safety shortcomings: the lack of AOA signal redundancy and the overwhelming pitch authority from multiple MCAS activations at high speed and low altitude. The rest is surely ascribed to the crews’ actions and inactions.
What else is there to find fault with in the aircraft? And why would a company fear imagined loss in shareholder value from unknown future problems more than the almost certain loss that would follow admitting further failures or cover-up like re-engineering efforts? The corporate culture is to stay positive, minimize negatives and push ahead. That’s what they are doing. The government (FAA) implicitly agrees. They can not let the country’s largest aircraft concern suffer any further damage. Boeing is risk-subsidized by the government due to its enormous market position and global prestige industry status. The current losses, damages, and political fallout are acceptable. No dramatic changes will follow the min-risk effort to return the aircraft to flight. The grounding was the worst thing they will allow (and that only under intense pressure). The only major efforts from this point forward will be legal damage control, image repair, and cost recoupment.
So with all the changes, is MCAS still effective in its original role? i.e preventing a stall? How much did they reduce the maximum authority of MCAS? they started out at 1/2 degree cert and ended up at 5 degrees. Where are they at now? They had to go to 5 degrees for a reason no? Is this plane going to be stall prone?
I question the MAX10, its ~10% heavier than the MAX8, same wing, etc. How easy will it to be to fly when things hit the fan.
AB better look at pumping up A321 production?!
Mark, Only the shadow knows.. Boeing it not releasing enough data to tell, and with their recent past history, their trust is near zero. I’m beginning to doubt that even the FAA would know or not. Why is MCAS there? Boeing is reconfiguring MCAS, but, there is still no OFF switch for MCAS. They say the simulators have been recently upgraded to better reflect the 737-MAX flying characteristics. I guess we’ll only find out after a few years of flying in the real world. And I don’t want to be among the test passengers. We don’t know how often MCAS has activated in the past. Every flight? Every second flight? Only three times?
So if max is now stall prone, pilots will hestitate to go around. TOGA = pitch up. Reduced MCAS = stall = ball of flames at the end of the runway. Push an unstable landing = ball of flames at the end of the runway. Not at all confident the fix is so easy as software. And yeah the max 10 will be even more stall prone but I assume they will stretch at the front so maybe it’s won’t be as bad as the 8. In fact it is possible the 8 may be the worst of the family.
Anton: AB can’t produce any more than they are.
Not sure we all agree on this at all! Boring management have made it clear they want want ’business as usual’ as quickly as possible, and the Max in the air ASAP… this sound at all familiar to anyone?
With more whistleblowers coming forward concerning other safety defects that management did not listen to (and coming out this late in the day indicates they are frustrated at still not being listened to!!). There are still concerns across the board that managements are just interested in getting things back somewhere safe (the share price that is)
LMAO the FAA didn’t like the concerns and questions of the foreign authorities and decided to certify the max all allone asap. So it will be flying in the US and all other authorities like Canada, Europe, China… will do more proper investigations. Why trust a company that lies, blame foreign pilots and companys? Mr. Muilenberg still communicates that the Max never has been unsafe…
I simply can’t understand why Boeing / FAA would ever risk that. Despite that I think that they’re going to do it, but the consequences of being the only aviation safety agency to let it fly again just don’t seem to be clear to Boeing / FAA.
In this modern age it’s unimaginable that the entire US population would be unaware of that. Just what do Boeing / FAA expect the average USAian to think about their acquiesence in this safety matter being taken for granted?
The same goes for the rest of the world. Boeing, the FAA and now seemingly parts of the US political system seem to be taking it for granted that the rest of the world will also fall into line. Are we to see the US administration applying political pressure on foreign governments to override their own aviation safety agencies?
In many ways this is far more likely to ensure that some agency somewhere round the world is going to dig its heels in, and say “No”. This is indeed a matter of trust, and right now there’s not much to suggest that the US organisations are doing anything to earn that.
People die taking selfies off cliffs, off spires, and chasing app monsters inot rivers.
They do dumb stuff and kill themselves all the time.
I saw people let a 3 year old girl play in monster surf one time. She got swept out two or three times. Business as usual, ho hum.
We had a guy who figured he was a Grizzly Bear whisperer, camped right in the middle of the worlds greatest concentration of them. He died, his girlfriend died. They got great recording of it (if you like hearing people scream)
Probably 70% of the US population is not aware of the 737 issue (Indonesia and Ethiopia probably the flip side) .
People pay smugglers thousands of dollars to take them places in death traps. Economic migrants they are called, if they have that much money how economically deprived are they?
Don’t overestimates people. Look at our President.
At this point we have seen definitive proof that the FBW aircraft are impossible to fly to a landing when they go to direct law.
So is that an inherent issue or pilot training is not done in direct and should be?
Some have propounded how magic the FBW is, when the evidence says its an accident waiting to happen.
It time to look at the AHJ and how this got to where it is.
MCAS it taken care of, the trim wheel lock up is not nor am I remotely satisfied on FBW ops in direct (and some of them in full such as Boeing Auto Throttle FLCH)
Until its all fixed, we buys our tickets and we takes our chances.
Life is like that.
Direct law and MCAS are not comparable. Direct law is a last ditch to give the pilot a fighting chance, MCAS primary function seems to be to act as a virtual maniac,designed to sneak up behind the pilot and fight him for the controls.
I am not famliar of why a plane cannot be landed in direct law .Is there an incident you can refer to? FBW is to me still far supeior if designed properly. MCAS is like an FBW element dumped into a traditional plane with little thought. FBW laws have to be carefully thought off. We have seen some elements of Airbus FBW add confusion in a dangerous and fatal manner in some very strange circumstances. But on the whole, its a much better system especially with pilots of increasingly varying quality
I think he’s referring to the SU SSJ crash in Moscow. It would be interesting to know how much training pilots get on flying in direct law. FWIW, I’m not aware of it (i.e. inability to deal with the aircraft handling characteristics in direct law) ever causing a catastrophic accident on the A320-380. Does anyone know of an example?
Direct Law means there are no software algorithms in use. What the pilot inputs at the controls the pilot get. If the airplane is naturally stable then adequately trained pilots will not have a problem.
All Airbus airplanes are naturally stable. So if the FCC goes into meltdown, pilots can switch it off and fly the airplane themselves.
I think people are mixing up FBW and an FCC. FBW simply means controls are activated by electrical signals fed by electrical wiring as opposed to wiring that imparts a force. An FCC contains software algorithms that mediates/massages/smoothes pilot inputs according to a set of control law. As I said Direct Law switches off the software algorithms, which means there are no control laws that mediates/massages/smoothes pilot inputs. So what the pilot inputs the airplane does.
Airbus use 3 software channels as well as 3 sets of sensors to allow voting. The 737 MAX doesn’t.
In my research on the crashes I realised that everything on a 737 MAX is on the cheap. Nothing on an A320 is on the cheap. Boeing make a huge profit on the 737, Airbus an adequate profit on the A320
Oh come on, plane was overweight, wind shear condition and unstable approach, if spoilers had been deployed manually no one would have died.
‘At this point we have seen definitive proof that the FBW aircraft are impossible to fly to a landing when they go to direct law.’
I don’t think you believe that yourself, cut the whataboutery and deflection tactics please.
Man you cut me to the quick.
FBW does mean you have to have control laws.
What Airbus does is insert envelope protection into all that.
They also use bump steering.
The point is that certain people call the MAX a death trip and say its unstable.
The instability for the MAX (or any 737) if you want to cal it that is at a stall not any normal flight modes.
If fact if you look at the Superjet crash there is related wind sheer and taking off in or into a Thunderstorm.
But the pilot despite the alert to go around did not do so with wind sheer alarm sounded.
Most interesting. But the Superjet is ignored while the 737 nattering goes on.
And the real issue with 737 is the manual trim and inability to use it under stabilizer loading.
So all 737s have that issue. But for MAX only the sky is falling.
Failure of logic.
TransWorld, I though you would be much wiser than to mix up FBW and “unstable plane”. Did you do that on purpose or do you not understand the difference?
I think you know, but deliberately mixed it up, as this is the key issue with the MAX, and possibly with the SSJ 100 too.
What I have learned over the past months over this whole disaster is that aerodynamic instability is NOT ALLOWED in a commercial airliner! But apparently the MAX and the SSJ 100 do not offer sufficient aerodynamic stability and can’t be handled safely in direct law, so their certification should be pulled.
If the MAX enters service again without significant improvements in aerodynamic stability, the next crash will happen. More people will die. Is Boeing really begging for that disaster to happen? Can highly intelligent people be so blinded by short term greed? Or is it that they just can’t accept defeat? That they have made such “clever” terrible decisions in panicking over the A320NEO? Or is is pride?
To not ruin the company, Boeing should NOW do it the hard way and instead of MCAS2 make it a MAX2. Whatever it takes. New landing gear? New tail? New pylons? This will cost Boeing dearly, but not not doing it may cost them their existence.
But what if such kind of fix/repair is not feasible? What if the large engines are simply too large for this old plane? That would explain much of the desperate (and illegal) measures. A company on the verge of collapse.
Bjorn had a very good article on FBW and how it can affect the CG and flight envelope of an aircraft. With FBW absent, the planes controls can seem like a different aircraft.
A full FBW system allows to move the center of lift closer to the center of gravity, which means we need less down-force created by the elevator, reducing drag. Still, the both can not match or even switch places in a commercial airliner as that renders the plane uncontrollable in direct law. But this is apparently what happens in the MAX at higher AOA, heavy loaded.
This means the MAX is not airworthy.
To cover this up, MCAS was developed, providing the image of stability. But it had to be hidden, so that nobody would ask the wrong questions. Now, two fatal crashes later, Boeing does all they can to cover this up. There is so much money involved that there is quite a good chance that they might get away with it for now. But without changes on the hardware (landing gears, pylons, stabilizers,…) the next crash is just a question of time and circumstances. Then what?
As another commentator made clear, MCAS cannot be switched off without switching off electric trim. Why? Manual trim becomes inoperable above 250 knots. How does the pilot trim the airplane without MCAS?
Many, many questions. None have been answered in public!
Who is going to write the aviation equivalent to Ralph Nader’s famous book “Unsafe at any speed” citing e.g. the Chevrolet Corvair ? The ‘737 MACS’ could well win its ‘lettres de noblesse’ with the title “Unsafe at any altitude”… a Best-Seller-to-be ?
Ralph himself. Way before the FAA finally grounded the plane, he publicly stated the plane should be taken out of service after his grand-niece was killed on the Ethiopian 737 MAX crash.
It would be better if it read, he recommended it should be grounded regardless if he had relatives on board or not.
His statement was pretty good. Not being an aerospace engineer, he really cut into the Boeing culture and the shortcuts took in the development of the plane with nice biting pithy remarks.
Three points why I disagree with Bjorns faith:
1. No accident reports yet. How do you fix a problem that hasn’t been fully analyzed yet?
2. Sensor failures. The failure rate for the AOA sensors is way too high. How is that going to be fixed? It seems likely that not the actual sensors failed but the signal arriving in the FCC was faulty.
3. Manual trim. Seems to be ignored also.
MCAS is just a safety net for a flawed system. A software fix is not addressing the other problems.
Peter Leme (Satcom Guy) did an analysis of the AOA sensor.
It has two separate circuits on the same shaft going to two different parts of the FMS.
Both circuits showed the same data. Conclusion by logic was that the AOA had a failure of some kind.
AF447 was clear what occurred before they recovered the data recorders. The data recorders gave better delineation as to what happened but they knew what the issue was from the burst of data they had as it got into trouble.
Someone coined the term, relative truth. Not down to the dotted i or crossed T, but close enough for a decisions, which we have.
Boeing’s management and the FAA’s lack of oversight need to be listed as causes for the two 737-MAX crashes. They both need to be fixed. The FAA’s certification process is too vague. What ‘major’ changes denote a need for a new type certificate? Does the 737-MAX fall into the ‘major’ change category? How much has changed since the original 737 type certificate was issued on the 737-MAX?
Looks like the simulators now also need a few patches?
You guys are aware that all aircraft and simulators get patched all the time?
But only now after they knew about it. I was a great fan of the 737-800 but now I am starting to distrust it that as well.
It would seem like this home flight slimulator outfit has a better force feedback design than Boeing’s MCAS stab trim every 5 seconds until things seem good again…
(which I admit, isn’t saying much) This is assuming of course, that MCAS is a feelability system, as Boeing has stated in the past.
(5 min video .. rather well done) https://ksr-video.imgix.net/projects/652920/video-314878-h264_high.mp4
Imagine if Boeing had this design, rather than forcing the 737 stabilizer down. Or, some similar design solution. (again, assuming MCAS is not a stall protection system)
Maybe Boeing should rip out the MCAS software and replace the feelability needs with another design that doesn’t effect the control surfaces? Then folks would feel more
confident in flying with a plane who’s software won’t trigger the trim system. (again, assuming MCAS is just a feelability system and not a stall protection system)
And why would MCAS be a stall protection system? They already have a stick shaker to alert the pilots, and pilots are well trained in procedures to follow at near stall conditions. This is the question that really bugs me. Why is MCAS there? Is there some strange instance that causes such a sudden loss of control into a stall that they
put in MCAS to avoid that sudden situation? If not, then why not rip out MCAS and do things the right way for feelability? Contrary to Boeing’s statemetns, there is no way
to shut off MCAS, without shutting down the stabilizer. There is no OFF switch to MCAS. Why? What is the real purpose of MCAS?
Pilots “will always have the ability to override MCAS and manually control the airplane,” Sinnett told reporters Wednesday. He spoke at a briefing near the Renton, Washington, factory where Boeing manufactures the Max, it’s all-time best-selling jetliner. (Bloomberg, Updated: March 27, 2019 )
Richard, why do you not spell out the obvious solution to the equation? The MAX is no safe plane, as it’s aerodynamic instability would lead to results like we have just seen with the SSJ 100.
Without the MCAS the MAX can’t fly safe and reliable. But it also can’t with it. This is a doomed plane, a failed design, or simply put a bad product. It needs substantial repairs / reworks or go to the scrap yard.
Gundolf, In the New York Times article on Apr. 11 2019 .. There is a quote that Boeing really needs to be asked much more about.
After the test flights began in early 2016, Boeing pilots found that just before a stall at various speeds, the
Max handled less predictably than they wanted. So they suggested using MCAS in those instances, too,
according to one former employee with direct knowledge of the conversations.
What do they mean by “less predictably than they wanted” .. this was after wind tunnel testing. Does the extra pitch up at high AOA caused by the engine placement cause the engine to block airflow over the inboard portion of the wing, causing it to stall at the wing root first? Boeing has never described this added function of MCAS. From initially being a high speed feelability speed trim helper to also operating as some sort of stall prevention function device.
What if the problem is just inherently not fixable? From what I understand they are trying to use software to mitigate a problem that arises because the design itself is aerodynamically unstable.
Hopefully Airbus is also learning lessons from this and don’t do irrational things to catch-up when Boeing launches the NMA and/or NSA/FSA.
I can see an “322XLR” by somewhere around 2026-28(?) with Ultrafans, new wing, etc.?
The A321 is crying out for a replacement. It’s wing is too small and the aux fuel tanks for longer range? -yuk. But as it has no competition it’s a winner!
Its selling like hot cakes, I would not call that crying out loud to be replaced.
With a new wing you could certainly get better range but pax numbers need a longer fuselage and the 737-300 was not a huge success.
The -300 had the -200 wing?
If engineers perform required updates on things other than MCAS, the whole ungrounding process becomes an extended recertification campaign. External authorties will question just how much FAA/Boeing let things slip. I don’t think Boeing would take advantage of this situation and fix everything that “slipped” the first time around. That said, other required improvements may be sidelined until the next opportunity.
FAA and Boeing are in a huge hole among the industry, let alone passenger confidence. I wouldn’t be so confident if there are other fixes apart from MCAS – most likely, we’ll never know the extent of other required safety improvements. What I am confident of is eventually FAA and Boeing will make sure this doesn’t happen again – the consequences otherwise are too high for both!
No pressure? There is a time?
In MAX case? In Boeing? With all investigations and possible criminal charges? When they even hid (because of fear, I suppose) from managers that AoA disagree alert didn’t working?
Bjorn, are you really naive???
I think there is a completely opposite mechanics applied – “there is nothing too see, it’s just a scrach, plane is safe, safe, safe, safe, safe”
737 MAX shall be totally REcertified by Europeans, Chineses, Canadians from top to bottom & pilots shall receive a real training instead of the 1h-iPad-game. Otherwise “if it’s Boeing – I’m not going” will come true.
“The updated implementation has all the precautions, deliberations and global limitations the first version should have had.”
Have you seen all of those? I haven’t. What exactly are they?
1. MCAS will utilize input from both sensors, and will not engage if disagreement between them exists. An indicator light will show the disagree status.
2. MCAS will engage only once as a safeguard and then stop, not acting repetitively. Pilots will know that the safeguard was engaged and it will be up to them after that.
3. The correction applied by MCAS will never be greater than what the pilot can override by control of the elevators via the control column. It can still function to help prevent stall but it can’t overwhelm the pilot.
This is what has been publicly released by Boeing, as being incorporated in the software update.
when 1) the disagree status light comes on .. I wonder what Boeing has in their training manual, telling pilots to do what? MCAS has been deactivated, please land at the nearest airport?
2) the one engagement I heard about .. one per flight or until the AOA gets back to a save zone or ? I haven’t heard about the pilots being made aware when MCAS activates .. that’s a good thing.
3) is also good .. the pilot having ultimate control ..
why no OFF switch to MCAS? I want Boeing to release to the public, the wind tunnel testing, test flight data and test pilot reports etc. If they are saying it’s a good plane, then they should be proud to show the world the data. If not, you have to wonder why they don’t want to release it. Also, why there is no OFF switch for MCAS and why they changed the STAB trim switch functions. The “trust us, we know what we’re doing” .. just doesn’t wash it for me. Have they released any of this data to any government agencies or airlines? Everyone says the 737 is being looked at by dozens of entities. How? Has Boeing released any of their data to anyone? Has the reporting lines from the Boeing paid inspectors lead back to the FAA or directly to a Boeing manager, who then informs the FAA of what they want? Has that “certification process” changed? Do FAA inspectors get to talk to the FAA directly or not? I don’t trust Boeing. I want to see the Data. I want to see why MCAS was installed and Boeing doesn’t want an OFF switch. Why is MCAS there? The details please. How do you know the problem has been fixed properly if you don’t know the details of the problem?
Richard, this is just my opinion, but I suspect these issues occurred due to multiple problems at Boeing and the FAA, as have been speculated about in the press. But I don’t think one of them was willful disregard for safety.
I think that like most things that get messed up in life, this was about potential problems falling through the cracks. Those cracks shouldn’t exist and as Bjorn has suggested, they will likely be addressed now. There are so many stakeholders looking at this, it would be impossible to conceal. Even if the FAA is unwilling to admit mistakes, other authorities in the world can request the data and refuse the MAX certification, if they wish.
As far as the stability of the airframe, the platform is known to be stable in previous versions. The MAX had an issue at high AoA and high thrust, due to the larger engines and their forward placement on the wing. In that situation, there might not be enough elevator authority to command the nose back down, which would result in certain stall.
Outside of that scenario, the MAX had similar stability characteristics to previous versions. That is borne out by many hours of normal flight without pilots reporting fundamental stability or handling issues.
To address the situation at high AoA, Boeing decided to use MCAS to essentially “rope off” the area of the flight envelope that was a concern. That probably came from their experience with load imbalance in tankers. There it was used to guard against stability issues due to shifting CoG. In the MAX, it was used for flight envelope protection.
Envelope protection is now common in commercial aircraft. So adding MCAS is not an unreasonable solution. But the implementation was not good. It didn’t have the same safeguards as the tanker version. The software update is now essentially bringing over those features. It wasn’t adequately explained to pilots. It didn’t respond to the usual “yoke-back” disablement that was a long-standing Boeing feature. That might be logical from the perspective of stall prevention, but it’s yet another unexpected behavior that pilots had to accommodate.
Boeing glossed over those things by saying that an MCAS malfunction could be lumped under runaway trim. For an informed and trained pilot, that would likely be true. But without information, a pilot might not identify MCAS as a runaway trim. So it’s left to chance, to the experience and skill level of the individual pilot. The evidence is that most pilots did not correctly identify it, before the Lion Air crash.
After the Lion Air crash, we only have the Ethiopian crash as data. In that case, having been informed, the pilots did identify runaway trim, but having no experience with how MCAS would actually behave, they became entirely focused on dealing with it, and airspeed got out of control. That revealed another shortcoming of the 737 design, in that manual trim becomes difficult at high airspeed.
The solution Boeing recommends for that, to unload the stabilizer by allowing a brief dive, and using that time to crank the manual trim wheels, may not be possible if the problem occurs at low altitude. Again an informed and well-trained pilot might be able deal with this. But I’m sure the pilots did not expect that behavior either. So they are faced with one surprise after another.
This is why pointing at pilot error is not entirely fair or reasonable. Yes, the pilots might have reacted in a way that was survivable. But we cannot say that while also saying that pilot training was not necessary. If we say that the pilots are ultimately responsible, then we have to prepare them in such a way that they can be.
The points you raise are good ones. Not having an off-switch for MCAS and/or auto-trim, apart from entirely disabling the trim motor. That is consistent with the line that MCAS is part of envelope protection, but it removed an important option for pilots, that once they had. Not explaining the presence or specific behavior of MCAS. My guess is if pilots had known, they would have questioned the repeated activation and control authority of MCAS, which might have avoided two crashes.
In an ideal world, we would drag all this out into the open and get to the bottom of it, and have that done in public, as you suggest. But in a litigious world, the entities have to protect themselves, so it all has to be done behind closed doors and in confidentiality. I agree it’s very frustrating. The only assurance we have is that so many eyes are now focused on the problems.
Rob, Thank you for your very well thought out and informative response. I’m a retired computer programmer, who used to fly small planes. For the last few years of my career,
I only worked for private companies, as for the public companies, programmers had to deal with Sarbanes-Oxley paperwork, for every programming change. Because of that,
the tail began to wag the dog. Program changes were designed around avoiding the paperwork, rather than common sense. Much like the MCAS design constraints.
If Boeing originally told the airlines of MCAS and were more upfront with the FAA on the power of MCAS over the flight controls, that might require sim time and more training.
I think that’s the reason Boeing intentionally downplayed MCAS. Even after the first crash, they kept trying to sell it as a minor STS trim feature.
There’s a gathering of foreign aviation certification authorities, down in Ft. Worth hosted by the FAA, but, no Boeing. They weren’t invited. So, if the Canadian’s, British,
European etc. authorities want to lift the ban with just the agreement of the FAA they are free to do so. I’d really like to know if they have any more data than what we read
in the newspapers. If they don’t, then how can they tell if they are taking an acceptable risk or not? Basing their decision on only the integrity of Boeing?
As far as stability goes, if it’s really not that different than previous 737’s, and it’s only MCAS ‘grounding’ the aircraft, then why not rip out MCAS? It’s killed more people by being there, then not being there, right? At the very least, include an OFF switch, so if you do get into a situation as the two crashed airplanes did, the pilot can just switch it OFF. Why is there still no OFF switch for a safety system that kills people? Boeing says after the first crash, that they have this feature called MCAS and if it happens again, pilots just need to execute a runaway trim procedure. After the second crash, they now say they just need to adjust the magnatude of the trim changes, and if the AOA’s don’t agree, we’ll turn off MCAS until everything is ok again. (I still haven’t figured out until when).
Boeing is keeping too much to themselves. They didn’t advertise MCAS until after the 1st accident. They are including some other minor changes to the software (having to do with the new FBW spoiler system?) The smaller trim wheel in the 737NG and 737-MAX.. Is that part of the reason the 2nd crash couldn’t be controlled manually? Would a 737
classic trim wheel have the same results? We’re not sure yet, because the ‘fidelity’ of the 737-MAX trim wheel in the simulator needs an update. The AOA disagree light not working on the 737-MAX. This leads to even more questions than answers from Boeing. And we’re supposed to trust them? Trust, but, Verify. Where is the Verification?
The 737-MAX flight computer software, I think is made by Rockwell-Collins (now Collins Aerospace after a buy out by UTX). Are they the same folks that build the KC-46 flight computer software or was it a different company? It really seems strange that MCAS for the 737-max would only take input from one AOA sensor while, their previous experience
with the KC-46 MCAS relied on two sensors.
Without the information to correctly analyze the risk of the ‘pitch up’ stall that MCAS is there to prevent, how can we tell if the changes to MCAS are good enough to prevent
a sudden stall at a high thrust situation? Pilots don’t have the numbers. I hope pilots try and figure out where the ‘real’ flight envelope is in a 737-MAX when they get the
737-MAX simulators reprogrammed. And flight departments and aviation certification agencies try and quantify how much danger the 737-MAX problems are. After that, they can then weight the risks of allowing them to fly again, or tell Boeing to move then engine back, and raise the landing gear. They have 5000 of them scheduled for future delivery and
they will be carrying quite a few people day in and day out. I don’t want to see a plane or two crashing every year. The public doesn’t have answers to the stall / MCAS questions. We just know that two have crashed in the last couple of years and Boeing has some new software that lessens the chance of a failure mode. But, that’s it. The same people that said a runaway trim procedure will take care of everything, now say everything will be cured by new software parameters. If Boeing says it’s safe, then show us the data.
Bjorn, you confuse me.
Your headline/intro says you’d climb on a 737MAX, but your article seems to make that contingent on Boeing management getting feedback from staff on any other concerns about the airplane.
That’s difficult to determine, somewhat easier if Boeing management is explicity.
(About a decade ago Jim McNerney did tell Boeing managers that their job depended on how well they treat employees. But he seemed eventually to go on to other things.
Scott has chronicled a few cases of CEOs who told employees very clearly where their future lay after a bad failure or ethical problem, both directly and by saying “we own the problem” (in whichever specific words). A Forbes magazine article adds a few more. I add Jack Welch who said that while he did not know of the shenanigans in a financial services subsidiary of GE it happened on his watch (any employee with half a brain would already know that Welch was quite willing to fire people).
Niki Lauda died recently. He was a Race Car Driver, Pilot and Airline Owner. Years ago, a crash involving a Boeing plane, flown by his airline happened.
Here’s how he dealt with the public disclosure of information vs. Boeing from an interview of his in 2006.
It took about eight months to discover what had caused the crash. The flight recorder was damaged and only the voice recorder survived, along with some of the engine software. When the manufacturer Boeing eventually analysed everything it was clear the reverse thrust had deployed in the air. Everyone thought that an aeroplane could continue to fly under those circumstances – but it couldn’t. What really annoyed me was Boeing’s reaction once the cause was clear. Boeing did not want to say anything. There was a funeral in Bangkok for the last 23 unidentified passengers and I went there to pay my respects. Then I flew straight to Seattle to try to have this dealt with properly. This was a very difficult time for me.
I asked to fly the simulator myself with it programmed the way they thought the aeroplane had behaved. At first they refused. But I said: ‘Listen, this was my aeroplane, my name, my damage … so let me do it.’ They agreed. I tried 15 times to recover the aircraft, but it was impossible. It was absolutely clear why the plane had crashed. But the legal department at Boeing said they could not issue a statement. They said it would take another three months to deal with the wording. I asked for a press conference the next day in Seattle. I said: ‘Take a 767, load it up like it was with two pilots, deploy the reverse thrust in the air and, if it keeps on flying, I want to be on board. If you guys are so sure that people can continue to fly these aeroplanes without being at risk, then let’s do it.’ Immediately they came to my hotel and told me they could not do it. I said: ‘OK, then issue a statement!’ And they did. This was the first time in eight months that it had been made clear that the manufacturer was at fault and not the operator of the aeroplane.
The full interview.. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2006/oct/29/features.sportmonthly
I can understand Boeing being afraid of lawsuits, but, if I were on a jury, I think I’d be more sypathetic towards someone like Niki Lauda, than Boeing.
Also, keeping all of the details locked away, doesn’t bode well for the future of aviation safety. Aviation, Medicine and other fields where mistakes can cause deaths should be held to a higher standard.
Yes Bjorn, but has the board said that to managers also, instructing them to not block revelations, which could reveal they pushed too hard?
Concerns raised will need triaging to do initial investigation and prioritize, a process that already should be in place for safety analysis results, and probably is for software problem reports.
Did they for the 787, which had the same problem of a poor design of one aspect and flawed safety analysis?
Richard, I believe there are at least some answers to your questions. Bjorn looked at the 737 MAX in his articles on pitch stability, parts 9 and 10. If you read those, you can see where the instability occurs and what the purpose of MCAS is.
As far as the off switch, that could be added and it will be up to the certifying authorities to request it. The trend in modern cockpit design and control has been toward reducing the number of components pilots need to remember. It could also be done in software, but that adds another failure mode.
As far as ripping MCAS out, the overall certification might then be in question. If it was removed, there would need to be some other compensating measure. There may not be another simple replacement solution. Greater elevator authority would be one option, but that is a major change.
An example would be the Airbus accident where the pilot overcompensated for wake turbulence and destroyed the rudder. Many pilots said that it shouldn’t be possible to break the aircraft control surfaces in normal flight. But the NTSB and FAA ruled that the plane was safe as designed, if operated within the known limits.
As far as moving the engines or lengthening the landing gear, that is something Boeing looked at and determined was not feasible for the 737, which was designed low to the ground originally to make it compatible with airport ground equipment. It’s not something they could easily change without changing the entire design. So rightly or wrongly, they adapted the 737 design without those changes. They couldn’t easily be modified now.
You ask to see the data, but the truth is most members of the public would not understand or be able to interpret it. We rely on experts for that purpose. If the experts mess up, then they need to be held accountable, and you are seeing that process work itself out right now. But we cannot substitute popular opinion for expert opinion, they are not really the same thing.
I realize many people are upset about these crashes, and rightfully so. The first instinct is to jump in and say what should have happened, and what should happen now, and to punish the bad guys. Some of that is justified, but Boeing or the FAA being wrong, does not automatically make us right.
So we need to let the process play out, and ask questions along the way to keep things honest, but we cannot substitute our lesser knowledge for their greater knowledge. We should instead try to learn from them and understand what they did, and now want to do. Even for things that are wrong, we can all still learn something from them. This helps us to ask better, more informed questions, and those in turn can help to guide the process to a better outcome.
Rob, Bjorn had a great series on the pitch stability. I’ve done a little bit of gyrocopter flying and they are very docile aircraft as long as you keep the main rotor
loaded and spinning. It’s in effect the ‘wing’ of the aircraft. If you happen to get into a situation where the rotor becomes unloaded, you hear a loud bang, the rotor stops
and you’re toast. It’s all in the angle of attack controlled by the pitch. You want to keep the ‘wind’ flowing through the main rotor. If you don’t have a good horizontal
tail surface to stabilize the pitch as some badly designed gyrocopters don’t, then they are more prone to get into trouble. If you have the thrust mounted low on the gyrocopter and suddenly add power, the pitching moment can cause it to enter a stall zone suddenly also. A well designed gyrocopter is fun to fly, a poorly designed gyrocopter is a death trap. They’d be a great aerodynamic test platform for budding aircraft designers to learn the fundamentals.
Someone at Boeing, or a contractor of theirs, came up with the idea of adding stall protection as an additional function to MCAS. It’s goal in life, before that time was purely in fine tuning speed trim. So far, he hasn’t raised his hand and said “I suggested it”. I don’t know if he had a Ph.D in aerodynamics, at the end of his name or if he was a software programmer. But, the change was most likely signed off somewhere in a change control meeting or process. If it was “just a software” change to an existing system, it may have not gotten the scrutiny that it deserved. Then after they began flight testing, when the design had been submitted to the FAA, another “just a software” change was made that fed the trim motor from the slow speed command to the high speed command. Again, this change was signed off somewhere, but, didn’t get the full scrutiny a flight control surface change deserved. Obviously, any control input to a flight control must be looked at by the multiple area’s that are effected. Boeing in the past, used to have monster meetings with all areas attending, discussing changes all day long, so each area of the aircraft design team could see how other area’s changes affected their own. You may have only been interested in a small portion of the meeting, but, you did learn a lot about the entire planes systems. I wonder if they still do that now?
On the Air Force Academy grounds, there is a statue of Lance Sijan. He was a pilot in Vietnam. He was shot down, was captured, and died in captivity. Most every Academy graduate knows his story. But, if you ask where the statue for Bob Ebling is, at some Engineering College, folks will ask who is Bob Ebling? He’s one of the Engineers at Morton Thiokol, who wouldn’t sign off on the Challenger launch, because they knew about the risk of O-ring failure in cold temperatures. A manager finally signed for them and seven astronauts died. I haven’t heard of any managers being demoted, fired or held accountable for that. The space shuttle’s were grounded, a blue ribbon panel issued it’s report
but, no accountability into the bad decision making. They had written procedures, a few engineers who valiantly refused to sign off, and unaccountable managers went forward
after the experts said no. I wonder if there are any Bob Eblings in the 737-MAX story? Those that saw the risk but, couldn’t convince managers of the danger. Even after the
first accident. Are there any now, that see the risk either of too much MCAS input or too little. Pilots don’t know, if they are on a gusty landing approach, in bad weather,
and decide to hit the TOGO button to go around, if they should pitch up or keep it level. Will MCAS kick in? At what setting? When will the plane stall? But, under what EXACT conditions does MCAS kick in, and how does the 737-MAX stall differently than the previous 737’s? Hopefully, they’ll learn in the simulators. And have the different procedures and settings worked out for the 737-MAX. Because of the mounting of the engines, it is a different plane. It flies differently, and new procedures and settings need to be worked out for it. Not just some iPad discussion. But, simulator routines, pointing out the different danger zones and how to react to them.
The pilots flying commercial aircraft need to know enough about the systems to know where the dangers are and how to control them. When systems fail, they need a plan B. When the Sioux City aircraft lost all three hydraulic systems, there was no procedure. They had to figure a plan B. They used differential thrust of the three engines to try and control the plane as best they could. If there’s nothing in the QRH, then you’ve got to know your planes systems and maneuvers and come up with a plan B. I agree that more and more systems are being tossed at pilots. After getting rid of the Flight Engineer with computers, you now seem to need a Systems Engineer to now monitor the computers. On the JT043 flight, you in effect had one. The jump seat pilot getting a ride. He saw that there was some sort of air speed data problem, and was able to focus in on the warning lights and alarms without the immediate distractions of trying to fly the plane. Pilots in the 737-MAX need a plan B, and not including an OFF switch for MCAS is restricting their “Plan B” options. Peter Lemme, believes that if there was an OFF switch for MCAS, that the pilots would have had an opportunity to try and possibly these crashes may have
not happened. Maybe if the trim wheel was larger as in the classic 737’s, if would have offered more leverage for the pilots to overcome? That should be investigated. I still
think that the risks vs the added fuel savings with the current 737-MAX design needs to be looked at more. The “can we just” change some software again, ignores the fundamental
engine placement, pitch up design problem. They need to think outside the software box to come up with a solution. If you’re going to put FBW into the 737-MAX in it’s spoiler system and now it’s stabilizer, then you need to have full FBW certification and verification as AIRBUS does. If there’s a lightning strike and the 737-MAX’s flight control computers hic-cup, does MCAS revert to a failsafe mode? An alternate law?