Bjorn’s Corner: Cutting corners in aerospace costs a fortune

By Bjorn Fehrm

July 05, 2019, ©. Leeham News: It seems more and more likely the 737 MAX grounding will go well beyond six months and it can approach nine months to a year depending on developments in the next months.

The costs to Boeing for the MAX debacle are now approaching the costs of a new aircraft development.

Corners can’t be cut when making airliners

The development of a new civil airliner requires somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 work years. The total development cost lands below or above $10bn depending on the size of aircraft and its capabilities.

This is a lot of work years and a lot of money but the 737 MAX crisis shows there are no possibilities to avoid this magnitude of effort. There are no shortcuts possible in this business. The tiniest oversight or shortcut and it has major consequences.

The MCAS software fix for the 737 MAX pitch instability was such a shortcut. An aerodynamic solution to the problem could have been made but a software fix was easier and cheaper to implement.

By using the base functions from Speed Trim System (STS) with an adapted logic triggered by Angle of Attack (AoA) instead of Speed change, a fix was produced which allowed the MAX to pass certification.

Its implementation was badly engineered and its testing, including the FMEA (Failure Mode & Effects Analysis), didn’t detect how flawed the fix was. The fix bears the signs of a fast and cheap solution, a shortcut to a needed result.

The end result of the management culture which produced this engineering shortcut is horrendous:

  • Two aircraft and 346 lives lost.
  • Boeing in eight months transformed from an admired civil aviation leader to a distrusted brand, subject to several criminal investigations.
  • The economic losses are not yet clear but they will approach the costs of a new aircraft development.

It all shows how high the stakes are in civil aviation and that commercial pressures can never be allowed to rule engineering decisions. If they do they jeopardize flight safety and with it, the flying public’s lives.

It also jeopardizes the company in itself. The MAX debacle was caused by a will to keep development time and costs low. Yet it will end up costing Boeing a good part of what a new aircraft family would have costed. And this is before estimating the Brand image costs.

Must the management which pushed for lower costs and higher profits now learn the hard way: there simply is no way past thorough and sound engineering in aerospace. Any shortcuts will cost the company many times more than what was saved in the first place. In the extreme, it can challenge the existence of the company.

232 Comments on “Bjorn’s Corner: Cutting corners in aerospace costs a fortune

    • I remember watching a documentary made by Al Jazeera on Boeing about B787 (The Boeing 787: Broken Dreams). In that documentary, a Boeing executive was asked, “What is more important to you, Quality? or Schedule?”, the executive answered, “Schedule”.

      They should have learned a fair bit from B787 development where billions of dollars (development costs) were written-off as they simply cannot be recovered. I believe for petty bonus and awards, the management is putting company and lives of passengers at stake. I can only imaging how the Engineering heads had to compromise because they simply could not argue/convince the management about the importance of Product Quality and Safety.

      • Agreed with Pablo.

        Per Prakash, no they do not learn nor can they. I think its built into US business DNA.

        One forgottten aspecft was that once they got the 787-8 going in Charlsong (they hired outside labor to get the program going and no aocuntin of how much that cost)

        So they look at it and hye have a 3 month gap before the -9 starts in.

        So they laid off the contract labor (read that as your expeirended skilled workforce) Hire em back in 3 months and we will save money!

        What they were so stupid to not get was that was the glue that held the operation together at the time. Output went into the toiler and traveled to Everett as they had a huge impact on the big pieces going there that were not getting done so had to be finished in Everett.

        At this point I think Boeing would have to fail before any real reform will take place.

        They won’t learn anything from this either.

        At best they will be forced to make changes in who the tech assessment people report to (currently Boeing, should be FAA direct)

      • A common problem, Elon Musk proved it again with his glitzy car – shoving them out of the factory to try to get good output numbers for publicity.

        So many repairs and modifications that they had teams going to customer driveways to work because dealers were overloaded.

        A smart lady in the Victoria BC area said:
        “My dad always said, ‘A
        shortcut is the longest distance
        between two points.’

        Shortcuts can be seductive, but they never really
        pay off. It’s easy to focus exclusively on the goal,
        but it you stay engaged _ with the process and mind the details along the way, the outcome takes care oi itself. Be efficient, be effective, but stay in the process. That’s where the magic
        Danielle Keogan

        And her colleague said:
        “Ideas have to be made real.
        Grand visions, without order, Fall short in the execution.
        We weave planning, design and build into
        a single’ clear continuum, breaking down compartmentalized silos that so often plague and
        frustrate the industry. The outcome is the simultaneously efficient execution of our projects and an emergence of greater utility and beauty for our clients.”
        Nicala Hicks
        Principal Designer

        MAVEN Design + Build

      • @Prakash

        Seems like there will be a sequel “Definitely Broken Dreams aka how we strangled from inside Boeing with MAX”

        It’s so sad that supposedly brilliant company is so bad functioning – from top to bottom.

  1. And to think Boeing management already was taught this lesson with the 787 development. Trying to save costs by outsourcing most design and manufacturing backfired. EIS was delayed by years, a grounding followed the battery fires, and Boeing reputation suffered. They ended up spending more time and much more money than if they had done development the traditional way.

    In corporate America, the executives never learn, because they are given personal financial incentives to take risks, and no personal penalties for bad decisions. Thus they will not learn the lessons of the past but instead hope this time things will be different and will work out, if working out creates a reward for them. As Sinclair said, it is impossible to make a man understand something, if his salary depends on him not understanding it.

    • the reward for success vs the punishment for failure is imbalanced.

      if you succeed, you get more stock and a big bonus. if you fail, at worst you get a golden parachute equivalent to a couple years worth of pay and bonuses… so, win win for the VPs and up.

      and the reality of senior management is that the golden parachute exit will not hurt them in the search for the next company to ruin as it will be presented that he was the fall guy for an engineering screwup.

      • Or they retiree in luxury. They don’t care what happens after they get their big bucks.

        The system is broken and will only change if its corrected, not likely.

        A lot has to do with the Boards and those are corrupted to the core.

    • First(?), the 787; next, 737 Max. Should we worry that there’s a third ‘cut corner’? What could it be, I wonder? Has the 777x flown yet…?

      • No it’s not, and given the investigations going on into the MAX certification, the 777x certification is surely going to come under microscopic scrutiny.

        That is not going to be helped by the fact that a former Boeing engineer has sued them after being fired for raising issues about the electrical system on the aircraft, and during this court case GE documents (they picked up the manufacturing contract) reportedly backed him up…

        And if that kind of thing really is endemic across the 777x programme, as we suspect it is in the MAX programme, then I suspect that there’s going to be big trouble getting 777x airborne. Not that it’s selling very well.

        It’s almost as if Boeing’s management’s approach to airworthiness is to keep saying to themselves “I believe it can fly, I believe it can fly”.

      • The stubborn statement to have the 797 EIS by 2025 event though it’s a complete new development seems it will be another rush job, pushed through no matter the cost. Time will tell…

        • Yes, Boeing does great things in waves and loose skills in Between, the 777 program was a highlight under Alan, the JSF contender not, the KC-45 not, the 747-8 not, the 787-8 not, the 787-9 is, the TX is and sonic cruiser not. 737Max not yes So hard to predict which program Will be great and not. A well run company should have >63% succesful programs.

          • KC-45 was an aircraft developed by Northrop Grumman and Airbus based on A330. KC-46 is the dirty tanker.

          • Yes KC-46A is the Boeing ”Frankentanker…” finallåt per all USAF specs.

        • We don’t know how far along the design is and its parts testing. Boeing might have the detailed design Done just tune the manufacturing process to get cost, volume and quality right. But probably somewhere in between testing with soft tools and iterate its Wayne forward. We thought engine selection should comeback soon.

          • Do commenters not think that Boeing has been advised to be discreet re NMA/797 ATO? Surely any such in mid-2019 would have been deemed churlish by the twitterati (et al) in the current Max circumstances?
            It is quite possible for Boeing to have communicated to a sufficient number of interested parties (suppliers, lessors/operators…) that they had planned a Le Bourget launch for the beast and that work quietly continues and that a later announcement can accommodate a 2025 EIS.
            Obviously all parties have an interest in maintaining complete discretion (=secrecy…). Think it not impossible that the International Consolidated Airlines Group LoI for 737s has built-in flexibility that can be reiterated as a 797/NMA launch order, or am i just cycnical?
            And, of course, if the design indeed had not been ready for ATO and Paris launch and EIS consequently comes two or three years later, that might yet give Rolls-Royce the time needed to achieve the UltraFan maturity it seeks for the new motor to enter service reliably.

          • Extremely unlikely. From every perspective.

  2. Airbus got the A380 debacle by trying to save money on software licenses. Didn’t kill anyone, only, arguably, the bird itself though

    • I think the A380 was more an example of a non uniform mfg process due to the disparate centers of Airbus that were really not a functioning company

      To their credit they realized it and worked on the reform of that structure so it was a fully integrated operation. .

      • TW – wasn’t it different editions/versions/revisions of the same software..? As you say, to their credit.

        • France had moved to CATIA 5 but Germany and most other locations remained at 4.

      • And having done so the A350 programme went like a dream. That could turn out to be far more economically important than the poor sales of the A380!

        • Pundit: Yes (bad memory, I had not remembered Germany had CATIA at all)

          A united company would have it in all design and build centers on the same plane (pun) , so the broken up structure of Airbus allowed Hamburg and Spain to not have the same rev.

          Airbus management had to negotiate rather than simply implement it across the facilitates as they would now.

          That Airbus structure worked at all at the time is amazing and a testament to the people who made it do that despite the obstacles.

          • TW – you know the difference between leadership and management, then?
            Leadership is when, God having told you He’s going to flood the world, you go and build a big boat.
            Management is then not letting the elephants see what the rabbits are doing…
            Yes, it apparently was a failure of management not to have ensured there was common design software among all offices.

          • Having different versions of the same software was most likely because one country delayed the testing of the new version to see that it was compatible with existing designs. Backwards compatible is often OK for hardware but not always for your own software developed to use CATIA and clearly in this case the designs being worked on

        • This was what Faury was getting at when he said the A380 was successful.

  3. “Boeing in eight months transformed from an admired civil aviation leader to a distrusted brand, subject to several criminal investigations.”

    Loss of reputation has been long coming. The change is in that it is now exceedingly difficult to hide the fact behind a Potemkin facade.
    Boeing has for a long time seen a transformation to a “share value management entity.” Focus lost on the hard product. standing based more on historic reputation rehashed in a stream of PR.
    787 development shew the exact same systemic defects that sit at the core of the MAX grounding. Nothing changed in 15 years.

    • Boeing wants to build an Oval fuselage twin-aisle NMA with single aisle costs, CAPEX and OPEX as well as EIS it in 2025. Can this be done if they don’t take short-cuts and has it been build into the NMA business case?

      Whats “saving” the 737MAX at moment is the 320/1 backlogs. Boeing will still sell 737M’s but they will have to give big discounts and/or come with sweetened deals (787/779) as is the likely case with IAG.

      • It probably can’t be done. Not now, not in that timescale. And if A321XLR hasn’t saturated the NMA’s market by this time next year, I’d be astonished.

        Given that the engine manufacturers would have to put billions into a new engine development for it, they’d have to consider the possibility of whether or not Boeing could actually make a success of it. If Boeing don’t, or go bust trying, it’s not like those engines could be sold onto anything else. RR decided to make public their non-participation, and I wouldn’t be surprised if GE and P&W follow that lead.

        The A32x backlog is indeed the only thing saving the MAX, if it can be saved at all that is.

        Airbus could go for the jugular; what if (big if) Airbus approached Spirit Aviation and offered them a Grand Deal; start fabbing A320 fuselages, ship them to an expanded FAL in Mobile. The engine manufacturers could probably switch over easily enough as well. Don’t know about wings… Anyway, there’s a lot of Boeing suppliers who might be prepared to take a medium term hit if it means getting back to making long term reliably saleable aircraft parts with a large global market.

        • Spirit all ready does large structural sections for Airbus. Doesnt do anything for Airbus to take the fuselage sections to another yet manufacturer

          Theres a wide range , skins, keel beams, side shells etc are all made across various companies including Boeing suppliers Ducommun and Triumph Everett

          Spirit Europe is already a supplier:
          Wing Spoilers: Single-aisle spoiler on the Airbus A320 family programs;
          Wings: Leading & trailing edges, flap track beams

          • Dukeofurl, that’s interesting, thank you. I’d naively assumed that Spirit was beholden to Boeing.

            Do you think that makes an uptick in A32x production rates more achievable, if Airbus were to decide to go for it? The vibes I’d been getting was that it’d be monumentally difficult to increase the rate again, everyone is making things as fast as they can already.

        • I think it’s a good idea. They need to get the rate up to 70/month and perhsps 80/month… and airlines are upgauging to the A321. I think another site is needed. An expansion of the Mobile site is an option

          • To do that the Airbus board would have to meet and authorise another Super Beluga XL. I don’t think it will be worth it. The B737NG is possibly the safest aircraft in the sky at the moment in terms of hull loss rate and accident rate (which is 0.06 accidents per million flights). The B737MAX is is essentially the same aircraft as the B737NG apart from MCAS, FBW spoilers and the LEAP 1B engines. Once the MCAS is fixed the B737 MAX should achieve at least the B737NG safety levels. I think the problems that afflicted the B737 MAX program in regards to MCAS, manuals and training are confined to the B737 program alone. They stem from the legacy of the 1960s philosophy’s and architecture of the B737 systems and kludging new technology on top. I don’t think the B787 or B777X, which are clean sheet designs, will be in any way effected. I’ll get on a MAX if I have to. (I prefer the A320 as it seems to have wider seats)

          • This is closer than is may seem. Airbus has announced plans to make the A32x rate to 63 by 2021. Plus they plan to get the A220 rate to the low teens by 2025. Taken together that will be close to 70+ SA aircraft per month.

            As for where to build? Increasing output at both Mobile and Tianjin makes sense to me. There is spare capacity, Mobile is at 4/month now with the max capacity of 8/month. Tianjin is also at 4/month with a capacity of 10/month. Both are supplied by sea so no need for additional Beluga’s. And producing in China and US seems politically wise.

    • What flight stability problems does the 787 have that are caused by cost cutting. ? None and none.
      As got outsourcing of the build. Embraer does that do much that they only build the cockpit area themselves, but the process was a feature of the DC9 back when it came into production in the early 60s.

      • Pronounced lack reading comprehension.

        I wrote about “systemic defects” that are common to the 787 and the MAX development process.

        • There is no comparison about the flight stability certification problems of the 737 Max and the industrial development and outsourcing problems of the 787.
          They are completely different in every way, only thing they have in common is a 7X7 name and are developed by Boeing.

          As well you have confused systemic with systematic
          ‘If every part of a system is affected by a problem, this can accurately be described as a systemic problem’ . As I said different problems for different planes
          Always check your own reading comprehension first

          • You can misunderstand all you want to further your ( unpleasant ) agenda. It does not change a thing.

            The problem is a Boeing internal processes defect.
            culture. priorities. THAT can truly be tagged “systemic”.

            The exposed design processes for both types ( 787, batteries/charger, 737MAX,MCAS) are similar enough.
            Lackluster, surface scratching, cubicle mind based design showing its lack of introspective depth .. and overbearing influencing by technically unversed management.
            Not an unfortunate compromise taken on reasably complete understanding of a problem
            but more like a freshly acquired intern taken off the leash.

          • Dukeofurl – I think Uwe meant what he said; it makes perfect sense using systemic by your meaning definition. Of course, we don’t all have American as our first language.

      • Duke and Uwe

        My english is so bad, I’m having difficulty understanding where your disagreement is. Systematic problems are very often, perhaps always, the result of systemic behaviour.

        Your positions on the 787 do appear to be similar if not the same. So what’s the difference? Is one saying the problems are internal, the saying the problems are external (out-sourcing)?

  4. I agree that decline started with the idea of 787 new way development.

    Maybe in 5-10 years 1st will be A, 2nd will be C, and at far 3rd will be B, not far from 4th S. It seems to be only matter od time.

    I hope that A will be pushed enough by Chinese C to not to repeat B mistakes.

    • You forgot M, they probably Will make next aircraft one size up. Maybe buying the MC-21 program and make a new iteration to make payload/range/ cost per seatmile top of industri for 150-190 seats

  5. As I posted to one of the other articles;

    From Wikipedia on the 787:

    “With the same wing but a longer fuselage than the -9, the flutter margin was reduced for the -10 but to avoid stiffening the wing or adding wingtip counterweights for commonality, software oscillates the elevators in the flaps up vertical mode suppression system (F0VMS), similar to the vertical gust load alleviation system.”

    See a trend here ? Something that would/should have been fixed using engineering, and aerodynamics is now ‘solved’ using software.

    Given what we’re now beginning to understand about the software that had been implemented on the 737-MAX, I do hope that ALL the boundary conditions have been thoroughly tested with this system on the 787-10 !

    • 747-8 flutter fixed via software and touted as an innovative step forward.

      This actually is the poison/addiction inherent in software defined engineering. It is comparatively cheap to do delayed fixes even if you go into heavy gyrations on the software side.

      This works much better in System designed from the get go as software assisted. As another paradigmatic onion layer on classic hardware you easily get into hot water from clashes with the classic design underpinnings.

      • I write code myself, so I am well aware of the advantages, and also the disadvantages.

        As long as it’s done properly, there should be no issue. If the software hasn’t been well thought out, designed, written, tested, and integrated, you really don’t want it for anything safety critical.

        The question needs to be asked, however unlikely what if:

        What if, the aircraft is encountering violent turbulence, higher than normal G, and the software controlling flutter fails for any reason at all (memory or processing overload, power failure, hardware failure etc.) will this affect the structural integrity of the aircraft ?

        What if, in some circumstances the software gets into a feedback loop, could the software get out of step, and actually contribute to flutter for instance ?

        I would hope that all aircraft engineers, hardware or software have heard of, and understand the lessons from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (Galloping Gertie), a very good example of aeroelastic flutter.

        Just because you can ‘solve’ an aerodynamic issue with software does not mean that you should !

        • Often the Tacoma Narrows bridges collapse is wrongly attributed to the bridges natural frequency being resonated by the wind flow

          It was a biographer of Von Karman ( one of the investigating engineers) who made the error ( Not Von Karman himself) in saying the wind vortices frequency was matched to the bridges natural frequency ( Von Kármán vortex street) and that version has grown since.

          • Dukeofurl – thanks for the bridges/flutter link; fascinating – an education!

        • I’d like to have all flight control software accessible to pilots and mechanics of airlines, not the code itself, but, at least a flowchart. So that, if you wanted to trace the operational parameters of MCAS, or diagnose a possible condition or failure, you could see that the left AOA is read for input, what other conditions are used (flap settings, autopilot engaged), then the actions it would take, high speed trim for 10 seconds, wait for 5 seconds repeat, unless the yoke mounted switch is being used etc. We have a “black box” mystery, with Boeing only telling pilots parts of the puzzle. I can hide a lot of functional changes in a flash update of the FCC. Flowcharts seem like the best way for programmers, designers and ultimate users to converse with each other. They’ve been around since the dawn of the computer age. Most anyone with a bit of explanation can understand them. Sort of like an electrical schematic. I”m surprised the FAA doesn’t mandate them now.

    • Your post is interesting. I read what Wiki said. To use elevator oscillation to correct wing flutter is unusual. As another poster made clear, alieron oscillation was used to correct wing flutter on the 747-8.

      It’s allowed, if they have wizz bank servo actuators with full redundancy.

      The use of elevator oscillations suggests the root of the wing flutter is in the fuselage. It’s not stiff enough, so it oscillates, it vibrates. The oscillation then transmits to the wings.

      Carbon is resistent to fatigue caused vibration. We will find out how resistent given what’s been said.

      I will end by saying that Wiki does get it wrong. So are the elevators really being used to control wing flutter. Or is it just crap?

      • Wiki is correct – its based on a Flight Global story, and there is additional evidence with full details published by the FAA in The Federal Register.
        The FAA is even upfront about Boeing having ‘business reasons’ for not wanting to increase torsional stiffness of the 787-10 wing.

        • Ok. But unusual to oscillate the entire airplane in pitch to address wing flutter. As you are so good at this, off the top of your head, are there other examples?

          • Damping the flexible wings , I think thats what you mean, not ‘oscillate the entire plane’

          • The effect is to oscillate the entire airplane in pitch. The keywords are “in pitch”. The elevators can’t do anything else.

          • So we’re assuming that both wings flutter in sync ? Is this always the case ?

          • You are right, I wasnt reading it correctly and as they were talking about flaperons as the backup I mistook elevators for ailerons.

            This part of the FAA statement is interesting

            Because Boeing’s flutter analysis shows that the 3Hz mode is stable and does not flutter, the F0VMS system is not an active flutter-suppression system, but, rather, a damping-augmentation system. At this time, the FAA is not prepared to accept an active flutter-suppression system that suppresses a divergent flutter mode in the operational or design envelope of the airplane.

    • I see not problem with using software controlled servo system to solve an aerodynamic problems so long as its done to proper principles. Aviation would be unimaginable without yaw dampers and Mach trim. We’d have to give up swept wings as well as flight over Mach 0.7 In the process industries we often use a 2oo3 (2 out of 3) rule in which an control action will not take place unless three sensors are in agreement. Obviously this also creates a fault if one is in disagreement. Boeings original MCAS would have been safe. The original MCAS, as approved by the FAA, fired of only two sensors (like a stick pusher) and then drove the stabiliser down at 0.6 points/second for 5 seconds before pausing 5 seconds before resetting. The MCAS as delivered fired of only one sensor, drove the stabiliser at 4 times the rate (2.5 points/second) for almost twice as long (9 seconds). If they simply had of retained only one feature (activating of two sensors) and added an alert into the artificial horizon and master caution to warn of the alpha sensor disagree things would have been fine. Personally I would have insisted on a proper ECAM system to communicated the alert to the pilot and MCAS cutout switches as well as quadruplicated but that kills the B737 cockpit compatibility nevertheless the 2 sensors would have been enough. They violated fundamental principles of automation, it seems to avoid having to add procedures into the manual to handle any faults detected. I do suspect the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing on the 737 program and the failure chain will show several people made isolated decisions. A pity because MCAS if done properly could have functioned as a life saving anti stall system.

      The dynamic damping system used to increase the stall margin of the B787 as opposed to changing the natural frequency of the wing by stiffening or adding pendulous weights save weight and I suspect that saving weight generally increases safety. The accelerometers that sense flutter also would provide an warning and inform the crew to slow down if flutter did develop. I believe the B787 doesn’t normally experience flutter that has to be damped down, it uses it only to increase the margin.

      • Good post. I don’t disagree provided the technology is there. It isn’t. Having said that, I am uncomfortable with reduced stability commercial airplanes

        • I think the world is already heading beyond reduced stability. The direction of EVTOL based urban mobility aircraft such as Lilium as well as Boeing and Airbus’s own efforts (eg vanhana) suggest natural stability will be a thing of the past in some aircraft as will be pilots. It needn’t be a bad thing. I’ve always thought that having an “elevon mode” for airliners would add safety in event of stabiliser/elevator loss, differential spoilers can substitute for rudder. Why should a badly loaded aircraft that is tail heavy crash for stability reasons. Aircraft should be able to crab sideways without a bank using differential thrust and rudder etc. There is a lot to be done. Embraer already reduced the size of the tailplane to save in fuel. There will be no room for unprofessional designs or testing as was done on MCAS in this world.

  6. An excellent summary of the situation. It now clear to me that Boeing are at least a decade behind Airbus with regard to providing software logic to moderate the behaviour of pilots and to moderate the behaviour of airplanes, at least in the commercial space.

    So my suggestion is they set up a department to produce a FCC in the laboratory with all mode tested through simulation. At least 5 years work. But it could be ready for their next new airplane.

    With regard to the 737 MAX, withdraw MCAS and introduce an aerodynamic fix. Many have been suggested by posters on this site. The simplist is a set of fins to keep the nose down. But at the same time the maximum deflections of the stabiliser must be reduced, not by software by harware, to ensure the elevators remain operational and an electric motor reintroduced to ensure manual trim remains operational.

    The changes will make the lousy performance of the 737 MAX even more lousy, but at least it will be safe.

    Boeing will sell lots, if the price is right. The reason: It’s a sellers market. But that is beginning to change because of China and Russia.

    Long term, a new NSA. In other words, forget about a NMA

  7. Nothing will change at Boeing, or any other corporation, as the leaders rake in the dollars,until the people in charge fear jail time for making bad decisions based on profit motives!

    • The system needs to be reformed, jail just means you replace one set of bad actors with another who try to get away with things.

      Where the rot starts is the place that needs to be addressed, not the symptoms.

  8. This is quite a lot more hyperbole than I’m used to from this blog – not to mention the grammar.

    please provide some supporting evidence that Boeing killed passengers because of “commercial pressures” as this piece directly alludes to.
    “The end result of the management culture which produced this engineering shortcut is horrendous”
    “It all shows how high the stakes are in civil aviation and that commercial pressures can never be allowed to rule engineering decisions.”
    Remember: never attribute to malice what can be sufficiently explained by stupidity.

    the basic errors in the MCAS are not a “tiny” oversight. They show a fundamental misunderstanding of aerospace practices. it smells of outsourcing without properly understanding the difference between general software and aerospace software. I agree with Uwe that this is eerily similar to to the 787 debacle.
    What I do not see is where the engineering community was repressed. they did their FMECA, the system was qualified in the normal way. This does not seem similar to the challenger where concerns were overruled or ignored. this just seems like an unfortunate oversight.

    • Talking about hyperbole … dear me. LNA, like myself, do not believe Boeing engineers are stupid. Boeing engineers are not stupid.

      • Who wrote a code for MCAS to rely at only one AoA (I omit that was at beginning also a Gsensor involved, but anyway omitting 2nd AoA in a crime in aviation engineering culture)?

        Who didn’t think about a contingencies of MCAS?

        Who made those decisions?

        Managers or Engineers/Programmers ???

        Is it really so important to blame one Boeing workers group or other Boeing group? They all worked for Boeing as a company, they all are part of Boeing. They all followed same strategy: fast and faster & cheap and cheapest.

        • The original MCAS fired of two alpha sensors (like a stick pusher) and then drove the stabiliser down at 0.6 points/second for 5 seconds before pausing 5 seconds before resetting. The MCAS as delivered fired of only one sensor, drove the stabiliser at 4 times the rate (2.5 points/second) for almost twice as long (9 seconds). It lacked an sensor disagree alert which could have been added to the artificial horizon display where the angle of attack could be displayed as a optional feature. It certainly wasn’t an software anomaly (ie bug) it was designed that way, it was changed to be like that. It seems there were several people involved in making those design changes.

          • Stick pusher fires off a single AOA

            SOP if it triggers is for an assessment (backup instruments and non flying side agree) and shift to the other pilot controls if its a bad input.

          • TW, that the stickpusher ‘fires off’ a single AOA is correct. But doesn’t the pilots in many situations, if not all, have the option to ‘grab the stick’ and pull it back, – should it be a runaway situation?

            I seem to remember that an undesired stick movement happened to some Bombardier aircraft some years ago. The pilots had to ‘work hard on the stick’ to keep the aircraft on the approach slope.

          • Some stick pushers are designed to over power the pilot. This was the case for both the Hawker Siddley Trident and BAC 1-11 after both lost prototypes and their crews from irrecoverable superstalls. Compressed air was used to drive the control yoke forward. The stick pusher was sensitive to both alpha vanes and pitch rate from rate gyros. The BAE 146 Rj series used two sensors as well. Over powering the pilot is a good idea as they frequently stalls the aircraft when startled. Of course proper failsafe design and redundancy must be used (unlike the MCAS system).

        • The MCAS coding was outsourced. But based on everything I have read to date, the coding is not at fault: it works exactly the way it was intended, designed and specified.

          The real problem is the design, which was done internally at Boeing.

          • If the software engineer that implemented the MCAS code and the designer that created the functional spec worked in the same building or at least same state they would communicate far more often. A code developer will often clarify with a software specifier. An Indian guy is going to do as he is told. Its another pair of eyes. I do control system design and software. If I get it built in Australia and I make a error I usually get a phone call or email querying an issue. If I get it done in China they will implement an drawing error with impeccable precision no matter how idiotic. Outsourcing works with mass production of debugged designs with new designs you need to do a lot of careful testing but the nature of outsourcing it means that the kind of free informal collegiate QC you get from going in house or to a specialised company in your own state is different.

      • “Boeing engineers are not stupid.” Then who was?

        • Boeing engineers know. But when your job is on the line you don’t tell. They do need to feed their family!

          • They do need to feed their family, but now they’re looking at the possibility that their employer goes bust. It’s a rotten outcome.

            At the end of the day if a company like that is doing things wrong and isn’t listening to advice, you’ve got to get out, go do something else. Reasons being, 1) your own peace of mind, 2) continued employment, 3) you can blag to the regulator as you depart, 4) beat the rush.

            There’s likely some engineers in Boeing who, nominally, are in a position of signing off work. Management cannot sign off work, and probably haven’t been doing so.

            Unfortunately, these engineers are likely going to end up having to rely on portraying their working conditions as having been eroded by managment to the point where their engineering responsibilities no longer meant anything , or couldn’t be exercised.

            The thing is I bet there’s no actual written policies threatening dismissal or dispensing with signing off procedures. Without that, in a court it’ll come down to one persons word vs another, and with the added difficulty that senior engineers really are the ones expected to not abdicate their responsibilities and to spot deficiencies in both processes and work, no matter what.

            And this is what stinks about the whole business. The corrosive, slow acting drip-drip-drip of constant cost cutting makes it very difficult for engineers to identify the point at which the cost cutting has been taken too far. In a hostile management environment, you don’t stand a chance.

          • @Mathew:
            “At the end of the day if a company like that is doing things wrong and isn’t listening to advice, you’ve got to get out, go do something else. ”

            The process starts out with the sensible people doing exactly that. What remains are the submissive, mediocre and yes-sayer entities.

            In a way the Challenger disaster shew similar mechanics: incompetent but pushy management types overwhelming the competent.
            This observation has been formalized in Jerry Pournelle’s “Iron law of bureaucracy”:

          • @Uwe

            I think you’re right – most valuable workers already left Boeing.

        • The system that breaks up the interaction of the software and aerodynamics folks from the feedback of the flight test.

          Boeing has divided it so that each group only sees its thin slice and is fed selective information (real world AOA failures vs AOA failures due only to themselves)_

          Its analogous to lab testing a tire vs real world testing where nails and things exist as well as people deviating off the specs (tire pressure per the Expedition and its tires that were so close to limits that no latitude aka granny factor) for low tire pressure could not be tolerated without failure)

          Shifting the tech analysis experts from report to FAA to Boeing management is another part of this.

          The tech Boeing people in turn know that they can and will be fired (or sent to Siberia).

          Its cumulative and corrosive.

    • “unfortunate oversight” and inadmissible at that, given the warnings that we know of.

      Bjorn did not mention malice. This is a clear case of irresponsibility, maybe even criminal, not necessarily malice. It only proves that, in general in this day and age, corporate management can still pass for automatons obsessed with excel and powerpoint reports being given excessive decision power on matters they are absolutely unqualified for.

    • I suggest you watch a documentary made by Al Jazeera on Boeing about B787 (The Boeing 787: Broken Dreams). The documentary shows people smoke/sell pot in the Charleston factory where B787 was being made. A person selling hamburger one day, was building B787 the next day… Its a fact that Management was directly responsible.

    • Imho Bjorn has right it’s problem of bad corporate management/engineering culture.

      It’s not unfortunate oversight – it’s much more. How long you can pressure on people to make them to do they job faster? One week, one month, maybe few months, at most – later the brain is so overloaded and overstressed that stops working properly, tunnelling vision etc.

      And to make thing worse – B outsourced the software job to someone who do not had sufficient capabilities and/or experience, but was significantly cheaper.

      So here we have – 737 MCASliner, 787 SHODDYliner.

      • Yes, software engineers who were paid $9 per hour – which just proves why greed (and gluttony) is NOT a good thing when it comes to building sophisticated, gravity defying flying machines.

        There’s a reason gluttony is among the seven deadly sins; and “McBoeing”, which followed the failed company, McDonnell Douglas’ failed business strategies of prolonging its commercial aircraft catalog via endless “updates” and “life extensions” as the cheap and expedient way to remain competitive, and then pulled-out all the stops, ethical or not, wise or not, to cut corners, be it on the product development side (pushing the 737 another generation beyond the Next Generation to the MAX), or a ruthless effort to protect a long ago aircraft design against more modern ones offered by Airbus and a 98-pound weakling, Bombardier, which built a true, 21st century clean sheet narrow body but lacked the financial resources, sales force and global infrastructure to successfully launch its modern, superior and technologically advanced aircraft in the belief that keeping its flying dinosaurs going “on the cheap” to continue funding obscenely generous annual stock buybacks that have sucked tens of billion$ out of the company in recent years alone (not to mention generous quarterly dividend payments, too) is now rapidly becoming the poster child for greed run amok AND everything that’s wrong about corporations that more and more have focused on how best to suck (aka degrade product quality) and get away with it – as long as they make shareholders the predominant focus of their managerial strategies by funding obscenely generous stock buybacks with each passing year as they chase Wall Street’s insatiable demands for “margin expansion” by any means necessary.

        If paying its software engineers $9 per hour to write programs for something as sophisticated as aircraft, where the margins for error are razor thin, and the consequences are literally life or death, doesn’t demonstrate how rotten the corporate culture at “McBoeing” is – then nothing will.

        $9 per hour to develop software for the 737MAX; is it any wonder so much is wrong about this aircraft?

        But, hey, how about those $50-75 (or perhaps even more?) billions that funded its stock buybacks in recent years!

        • Howard, I don’t believe software engineers being paid 09USD/h, as you indicate, are involved in all stages of designing and making an FCC like system (or other important system for that matter). From the conceptual stage until the final product, the project goes through many stages, including verification and final (flight) testing. Many stages even before the start of developing software.

          The 09USD paid engineers, if they exist, often do less critical work, such as ‘punching code’. I have been involved in projects where part of the work was done ‘offshore in a low salery country’. I and my ‘western colleagues’ were paid a bit more (actually several bits more) than the ‘offshore engineers).

          My experience is that we get the best result (yes, both price and quality wise), when all project stages include engineers that have good (detailed?!) knowledge of all project stages. Their task is to ensure that the specialist engineers do their job, and ensure that all bits-and-pieces work flawlessly when ‘put together’.

          Keep in mind that todays engineers know more and more about very narrow (engineering) topics. Then some of us has to follow Aristotle’s advice- it is better to know a good deal about many things, than everything about ‘almost nothing’.

          • To all, I guess you already have asked yourself ‘did Aristotle really say that? Of course, he didn’t. It was said long before, by Socrates. Correct it must be!

        • Your evidence?

          Do note that wages vary with country, due cost of living among other factors.

          One does have to ensure competence and have good communication (which people do over great distances). In India for example Microsoft probably gets the best people by paying well and

          OTOH, Smiths > GE Yakima WA would have been paid much but many were incompetent in my experience (the usual mix of bureaucracies, good people and densos or worse). Not far from Everett but ….

    • ikkeman, it’s management’s obligation to ensure that the company has adequate processes to ensure that bad engineering does not go unnoticed. Plus in aviation in particular, the regulator’s job is to enforce this obligation by spot checking, audit, independent testing, etc, grounding aircraft as necessary. If all that had been in place, we’d not have had two fatal crashes such as these.

      Good engineering arises from good management practises, bad engineer arises from bad management practises. This is not a coincidence.

      • Agreed.

        At the end of my job I simply began to ignore life safety issues.

        If I tried to point out all I got was grief and it did not get corrected. At some point you can only save yourself.

        Nice? morale? No. Ever try to stop a Buffalo stampede?

        All you wind up is a red smear on the prairie and the heard goes on.

        Management detaches itself, lip service and blames the workers. Works for them.

        • TW – presumed-apochryphal tombstone tribute:
          Here lies the body of John G. Jay
          Who died defending his right of way
          He was right, dead right, on that day gone long
          But now he’s as dead as if he’d been wrong.

    • The point is to not blame “just one” group of employees.
      This whole MCAS debacle is a cluster… of mistakes, errors and oversights. there is planty blame to pass around, beyond “just” management, or even just boeing. there are problems at the FAA, at the outsourcing, at engineering, Management, Quality Assurance… they all missed the problem, and all could have corrected it.

      on the other hand. this is the first serious error in a production item in… dare I say decades? for aviation. It is a testament to the incredible level of safety achieved by this inherently deadly endeavor of sending the general public hurtling across the world at almost the speed of sound at altitudes that will kill you in seconds in flimsy aluminum tubes build by the lowest bidder.
      This is a problem, corrective action is required BUT – it is not a systemic problem (yet)

      • I think you are forgetting the 787 battery issue which fortunately did not become a deadly issue because the fires occurred on the ground and not in the air.
        That was less than 10 years ago, not even one decade!

        • The first “non fire” event ignored by FAA one _was in the air_.

  9. Bjoern, do I understand you correctly when I read that any software solution to the ‘pitch instability’ would have been cutting corners? That is, none of the following would in your view be sufficient; an improved input circuitry, such as using more than one AOA sensor – or more advanced input detection using multiple sensors (other than AOAs) – limiting the Hstab movements to what could be compensated by the elevators – limiting the MCAS use (i.e. system ON) to strictly the conditions required by design premises (such as fly like an NG) – software solutions that would require more extensive pilot training.

    To make it short: software in ‘any packing would be cutting corners’?

    Excluding the pilots training item, the others could, in my view, be implemented without causing project delays, and within a reasonable cost.

    Todays pilots have less and less ‘hands on skills’, and are becoming more operators pushing buttons. On this background, I agree that MCAS V.1 was far from good enough. I have more difficulty in agreeing to ‘cutting corners’. It was simply a bad design.

    • What I have learned here in this forum is that civil airliner must offer aerodynamic stability, unlike military planes that are nowadays unstable and can be flown only with a full FBW system.

      What we also know by now is that the MAX has serious stability issues both at high and at low speeds. This renders the plane illegal!

      This instability was discovered in flight test. (My thinking is it was expected by engineers but smothered by the management). At this point the MAX project should have been stopped. Instead we see the company crossing a red line here, committing a crime that would eventually kill everybody on board of two planes and put the company on fire. Because of what? Greed? Incompetence? Negligence? Stupidity? Pride? Probably a mix of all that.

      As a result you not only end up with a terrible loss of lives and enormous financial cost, but you still don’t have a product! In my eyes, the 737 MAX shall never fly again, as the necessary hardware fixes are probably impossible to implement (taller landing gear, new pylons, larger tail, new trim system,…)

      To me it looks as if Boeing is heading straight for chapter 11.

      • Gundolf, Bjoern and you say that the MAX has ‘instabilty issues’. In don’t (necessarily) interpret that to the MAX being inherently unstable in the ‘classic sense’, i.e. the CG being aft of – or at – the CP.

        I read some place that at very low aircraft weight, with the CG all the way at aft limit. the margin becomes too low at high AOAs – the oncoming ‘winds’ could flip the feather like aircraft over.

        Ideally the Hstab could be in a fixed position, and we could trim transferring fuel (and some weights), and use the elevators for intermediate maneuvers. Just a late summer Friday thought – I guess I need to do some design work – I’ll do that when I wait for the halibut to ‘bite’.

      • The MAX has no stability issues. Experienced B737NG pilots given a B737MAX with MCAS deactivated are hard pressed to tell the difference. The problem relates to B737 MAX that are lightly loaded with a relatively aft centre of gravity. The stall according to FAA rules must be progressive with increasing control feedback force. The aircraft was very flyable without MCAS it was simply the situation that it’s handling was different from the B737NG and this on its own would have required retraining. The big LEAP 1B engines are so far ahead of the wings and so large they capture the airflow and generate a pitch up moment that changes the stall chapter of the aircraft noticeably somwith an aft loading.. It’s not unstable but just a less desirable but still acceptable stall in some circumstances.

    • A software solution is certainly acceptable if properly researched, implemented and tested. The implemented MCAS fulfilled none of these criteria:

      MCAS was implemented with repetitive nose down trim commands if AoA stayed high. The research for the update found the necessary augmentation only needed one nose down cycle. Research for MCAS was not correctly done.

      MCAS was implemented with a single sensor trigger and without global limitation on nose down trim. The implementation of the update uses dual sensors and deactivation of MCAS if they don’t agree. It also has a global limitation of nose down to leave 1.5G nose up authority to the pilot via the elevator. The implementation of MCAS was not correctly done.

      The testing of MCAS was done by Boeing on behalf of FAA. It did not judge the single sensor triggered repetitive MCAS as dangerous. It judged the Pilot would easily identify an incorrectly functioning MCAS despite not knowing of the function and how to distinguish it from the very similar and ever-present Speed Trim System function. The testing of MCAS was not correctly done.

      • I don’t agree, but then you probably expect that. Theoretically a software fix will work if the control surfaces are big enough and respond fast enough. Having said that, I’m not a fan of using software to address instability on commercial airplanes. Fighter pilots have ejection seats, passengers don’t have ejection seats.

        I think we are a long way off using software to control reduced stability commercial airplanes. But it is an opinion.

        Returning to big enough and fast enough.

        The elevators are not big enough, which is why the stabiliser is being used.

        Is the stabiliser fast enough and does it have the redundency to be used as a critical fast moving control surface. The keywords are “fast moving”. I don’t think either is true. I don’t think it is fast enough and I don’t think it has the redundency.

        I refer to the comments on flutter by other posters. Control surfaces are being used to control flutter on the 747-8 and the 787-10. But the control surfaces have whizz bang servo actuators that are high speed and high precision, and have multiple redundency.

        Whizz bang servo actuators with muliple redundency is not associated with the MAX stabiliser.

        It does though depend on the level of instability. The control surface needs to be bigger and faster the greater the instability. It would be good if everybody knew the level of instability because it does mean we are all guessing.

      • I might add, it now appears the CPU isn’t big enough or fast enough.

        I always wondered why MCAS 1.0 used such big increments.

        One possibility is that small increments didn’t work because the action and reaction loop wasn’t fast enough. But it is possible that both ends are to blame. The stabiliser wasn’t fast enough and the CPU wasn’t fast enough.

        • The CPU overload issues is badly defined from the tidbits out in the aviation press
          Aviation Week and Space Technology seems to think it has to do with the yoke mounted trim switch trim response speed. The FCC not responding to the switch input quick enough.

          If you take a 737-MAX up to altitude, disable MCAS, and pitch up to stick shaker, can you recover using only elevator, throttle and the yoke trim switch?
          I’m basically laying out a stall recovery test for certification (without MCAS).
          If unable to recover, properly for certification, would there then be, reluctance by Boeing to shutting off MCAS, since it would be a required item on the aircraft,
          as it seems to be currently?
          According to the Aviation Week and Space Technology article, the FAA simulation flight testers want a faster stabliliter response by the trim yoke switch?
          As Boeing also, originally modified MCAS to a faster rate of trim.
          Does this indicate that the 737-MAX elevator doesn’t have enough authority, by itself, in a stall entry situation? That it requires quick stablilizer response,
          also, in order to recover from a stall in a 737-MAX?

          BTW, why was MCAS designed to fire for 10 seconds, and then lie in wait for 5 seconds, before attacking again? Why did it not fire, until the AOA is back to ‘normal’?

          • Excellent post. I don’t know where to start. I can’t disagree with anything you have said. But this is what I think will happen.

            It’s all about trade-off. Trade-off doesn’t just mean removing problems that are of no real concequence, it also means downgrading problems that are a matter of concequence. The consequence is safety.

            Boeing have done both for commercial reasons. They keep telling everybody the MAX is safe. It isnn’t safe. It needs aerodynamic changes but also CPU changes, the CPU can’t keep with aerodynamics

            The regulators need to address this. But Boeing are not cooperating. They are fighting tooth and nail.

            I’ve been there, time and time again. I’m happy I’m retired. It’s for the young bucks.

  10. If we go back to well before the MAX was launched it was generally accepted that the B737 had been developed as far as it would go. The MAX iteration has been an exercise in trying to produce the cheapest upgrade over the shortest time period. At each step commercial considerations rode roughshod over engineering integrity. Even the workarounds were shoddy and the testing slapdash. The issue to me is when does this approach become criminal as opposed to negligent.

    On another note, when the product is seen to be inadequate, doesn’t it seem sensible to peel back the grandfathering elements and require that the aircraft conforms to current standards. Let’s remember even when they get this aircraft back flying we are still in the 60s or 50s in terms of some aspects of safety.

    We must ask does it feel good to be at the helm of Boeing, do these guys feel proud of what they have done? Or do the copious stock options reduce the pangs of guilt for being responsible for so much death and misery.

    • I have not seen one of them commit honorable suicide to atone for their crimes yet.

    • sowerbob – perhaps a reader can summarise for us all the current airworthiness standards that are not met by various Boeing models (737, 747…) under grandfathering principles, please.

      • The comprehensive list would be an interesting read, you are correct.

      • 737: in case of an emergency normal doors should open autonomous after the right lever is pulled. On a 737 a flight attendant has to open the exit manually. If the fuselage is slightly rolled it could be a hard task.

  11. The biggest threat to Boeing is indeed its very senior management. It’s rotten from the top but I think that the roots are still in good shape.

    It all started when they moved the HQ to Chicago, that was the most obvious sign that they did not care about the product.

    • Boeing has multiple divisions including Space and Defense . They are situated outside the Seattle area, where Boeing Commercial Aircraft is still located along with 70,000 employees.

      Boeing likely has more employees in Georgia than the HQ in Chicago- who are almost entirely connected to corporate treasury functions and the CFO, not aircraft design or management

      • exactly the problem . . . wanna-be-masters-of-the-universe thinking they can phone it in

    • CBL – d’you not think something started earlier, after the McDonnell Douglas ‘merger’?
      For sure, the Group HQ move out of Seattle played its part. Before then, there might well have been a sense of inferiority among other divisions that BCA was treated (and enjoyed such perceived status) as ‘Number 1 Son’ when favors were dispensed from on high. After the move, if there was a claimed levelling of the playing field, it might be that more-equal sibling rivalry meant BCA suddenly found itself competing for attention.
      Meanwhile, after launch/development of the 777 ten or a dozen years earlier, the turn of the century found BCA had lost half a generation of senior engineers/technicians (and attendant knowledge), if only to retirement or other natural wastage.
      Similarly, senior positions perhaps became occupied by a new generation raised not on slide rules and drawing boards but electronic calculators and computer monitors. Back-of-the-envelope math by which to test what-if ideas and past experience in developing new aircraft models were perhaps no longer available. (I remember such circumstances being provided as the explanation for strut/pylon cracks when the RB211-524G was fitted to the 767: there was – allegedly – no recognition that an engine ‘weighing a ton more and developing a ton more thrust’ had implications for existing structures…)
      And, yes, what a good idea: when Public Enemy No 1 is developing a true two-deck jetliner to address pre-global crisis market forecasts, let’s make a sexy-looking demon racer (unkindly dubbed Chronic Snoozer) to fly near-sonically and promise next-to-no fuel penalty; speed always sells (no memory, it seemed, of why the 767 – developed as it was in the shadow of the first energy crisis – had a Mach 0.80 wing, the very reason why the ‘Longer Range’ 767-400ERX was still-born: 6,500nm at 460 knots would have taken forever …).
      And if that’s unrealistic, let’s develop an all-composites aircraft and, while we’re at it, get international partners not only to make the major sub-assemblies, but also to design them and to do so at their own risk…
      Oh, and why not push the time envelope: we’ll fly and certifiy it in about eight months, instead of the previous 11 or 12. And if they can’t ‘plumb and wire’ the parts, they can just send ’em on Seattle where our integration (not ‘production’) center will finish ’em off. After all, we’ve been saying we can assemble a 787 in three days, so we don’t really need a line – just plug the parts together and roll ’em out, ten every 30 days, no sweat.
      And how much more time passed/experience retired ‘twixt 787 and Max, and now Max and NMA…?

  12. I disagree with the assertion “commercial pressures can never be allowed to rule engineering decisions. If they do they jeopardize flight safety and with it, the flying public’s lives.” Everything is a trade off, a balance. If you want an airliner that is 100% guaranteed to never result in loss of life you’ll be waiting for ever and paying enormous sums. If you want to let coal face engineers do whatever they choose you’ll often end up with an over-engineered, too expensive (or too complicated or too x, y, z) product.

    The issue is simply that there are levels that must be attained in order to satisfy acceptable levels of safety etc. (I’d add in health factors such as seat width and pitch). These must be guarded by the regulatory agencies, which of course the FAA failed to do here. It is then up to the designers/manufacturers, with an accepted culture of genuine safety awareness (Boeing’s failure) to achieve those levls of safety etc., in the most profitable way for their shareholders.

    • There is nothing wrong with the words provided it is understood that engineering science is always a trade-off. But the trade-off must comply with engineering principles not commercial values otherwise it breaks.

      That’s what’s happened. Commercial values have come before engineering principles. And guess what? It’s broken!

    • It is not a matter of attaining any unreasonable assurance. It is about attaining that which acquired knowledge is able to provide. Boeing knew better and failed the aviation industry.

      I appreciate the image but warnings did not come from coal faced engineers, they came from decades worth of accomulated experience, both internal and external to Boeing. They have no acceptable excuse.

  13. Almost certainly the real engineers produced layout drawings of what Max ought to look like.
    Pity that the real engineers status has been downgraded in the new order of things.
    Maybe a real Mac will emerge after another round of software fixes.
    Basic laws of physics and mechanics will always prevail.
    It is after all how we obtained our qualifications.
    Let us hope that Boeing can survive a period of their history best forgotten.

  14. I think this article really hits the problem on the head. But I also think the B737MAX will be built and flying for most of those 4000+ orders. As harsh as this sounds, if the two B737MAX crashes had been by an American airline, enough pressure could be exerted to change international business culture at this time. Look at the hubris of the oil and gas companies, Facebook, Wells Fargo, VW, etc.,…? Look at Bain Capital and all its brothers? This is the business climate that exists today…

    • Agreed, anyone want to read about the Maconda muck up?

      So maybe as much as size and detachment along with specific culture factors of the US.

  15. interesting article – what was new to me concerning the 737 MAX pitch instability was
    “an aerodynamic solution to the problem could have been made”
    What would that have been? Fins or more severe new landing gear?

    All together, as long as a software solution is allowed it will be done, with the 747-8 flutter as best example. Maybe one day air safety authorities will condemn the day they started allowing this and did not insist on natural – mechanical – stability. Needless to say, however, this would make a flying wing design and other concepts unfeasible.

    • Sure, which is a very good reason not to introduce flying wings as civil airliners.

      I once tried to build a model flying wing and get it to fly stable – that was a nightmare.

    • I’ve heard the the Bombardier C series had similar pitch issues to the MAX but it was just trimmed out via the properly redundant FBW system. I wouldn’t be surprised if the neo had similar issues. MCAS was just extremely badly implanted. Nothing wrong with the basic idea.

  16. My guess would be that replacing the 737 will cost many times the figure that Bjorn is suggesting. The production and operating systems and infrastructure are vast and it will be many years before its production and operation are honed the way the 737 is.Airbus has the A220 to help smooth over this dreadful bump.

    • An NSA from Boeing would cost – guessing, and I’ll try to substantiate this figure – 35 Billion. Why so much? 1) I’m basing this on outsourcing like they did on the B787. 2) They’ll have to do the plane in three lengths with possibly two wings. 3) The reduction of human engineers and production workers and relying on “Non-Union” computers and machines. And 4) Inflation, because this is down the road more than a few years.

      • Boeing’s current (24 month plan presented in dec 2018) share buyback plan calls for 10 billion in share buyback a year.
        Last year (2018) they spend 9 billion.

        That’s almost an NSA at the suggested inflated price.

        If I go back long enough, they spend so much in share buyback since the start of this century, it should be close to 150 billion (adjusted to 2019 dollars).

        • Share buybacks show they are more interest in return on investment than planning for the long term. Recent years’ increases in share price value for BA has been dramatic. Sound business practices should be more concerned with competing with the A320 line than squeezing profit out of the 1960s designed B737. But when you can stifle competition with laws and lawyers, you can get away with being the weaker member of a duopoly.

  17. McDonald Douglas = DC-10, Boeing buys McDonald Douglas, Boeing = 737 MAX.

    • RJ – alas, ’tis not a McDonald’s product…
      I think it was Richard Aboulafia who said: “McDonnell Douglas bought Boeing with Boeing’s money.”

      • He was wrong. Misreading of the merger details , which would have been done that way for tax reasons- likely to preserve all MDD losses

      • @pundit, I don’t know when Richard Aboulafia said that, but for sure, I said that here in the reader’s comments
        section of LNA, and elsewhere, beginning in mid-December 2017 – and many times since!

        I won’t rehash those comments right now, as regulars here are likely familiar already with the commentaries & analysis dating back to 2017 re toxic impact of McDonnell Douglas corporate culture post-1997 (reverse) acquisition of Boeing by McDonnell Douglas, and how even the relocation of Boeing’s HQ to Chicago from Seattle itself spoke volumes about how shocking it was that the failed business strategies & the corporate culture of Boeing’s failed, and allegedly vanquished former rival, whose stale and repeatedly updated well past the point of obsolescence commercial aircraft models were quickly overtaken, and then left behind by much newer aircraft produced by OG/“Moonshots ‘R Us” Boeing, and of course, Airbus.

        Friday evening at nearly 10pm NY (Eastern) Time does not lend itself to a more detailed discussion, however, the wonder, to me, is why isn’t there any discussion of a thorough housecleaning at the highest levels of a company where its hubris in seeking to instigate a trade war with Canada to kill Bombardier’s much more advanced narrow body C-Series (now Airbus’s A220 for $1 – yes, $1!) in an effort to protect its antique 737s alone should’ve been enough to warrant a complete restructuring of management, and a self-examination of the company’s ethics, not to mention the wisdom of its decision-makers.

        And yet still, with what’s already been reported since the crash of not one, but two, 737MAXes, the discussion seems to omit any meaningful focus on the people in the C-Suite & Boardroom.

        How can this be?

        And why is anyone thinking that the same people who made the decisions that were made in the past that outcomes make clear were ill-considered at best, can, or should, be trusted going forward to fix what ails a very sick “McBoeing”?

        Worse, still, why do they deserve a “do-over”/“Mulligan” to get things right a second time around when published reports suggest that at each and every opportunity BAD decisions were made for the sake of experience and short cuts to profits?

        To wit, I will add, there’s no way the public should be asked to believe the 737MAX is fixed, if the underlying corporate culture, and the people who accepted and advanced that corrupt (morally bankrupt?) corporate culture remain in place.

        Simply put, the 737MAX cannot be fixed if the company that makes it isn’t fixed as well.


        Paging Gordon Bethune… Paging Gordon Bethune…

        Or a proven transformational leader like Bethune who can take a broken company and fix it – as BOEING desperately needs.

        • Correcting the following in the above posted comment (predictive text gremlins got me again! 🤬)

          The corrected version is as follows:

          “…when published reports suggest that at each and every opportunity BAD decisions were made for the sake of **EXPEDIENCE** and short cuts to quick profits?”

      • @Pundit,

        You’re correct! Richard Aboulafia did say that in this “Financial Page” column by James Surowiecki in the New Yorker, that was published January 27th 2013:

        I was unaware of this article, or another a few days later, in a publication I was unaware existed until now called the Los Angeles Observer, which cites Aboulafia’s comments in the New Yorker.

        So, with no less than the highly regarded Richard Aboulafia having said this re McDonnell Douglas’ hideous (and now even contemptible) hijacking of Boeing via its stealthy, Trojan Horse reverse takeover years before I said this beginning in 2017 (which I was unaware Mr. Aboulafia said until now), then certainly as his expertise is not to be trifled with, it’s time to look at the destructive impact on Boeing that the toxic corporate culture and the reliance on the failed business strategies of the FAILED COMPANY, McDonnell Douglas has caused, and do something to get rid of it, and those who are responsible for poisoning OG Boeing over
        the past 20 years.

        Enough is enough!

        The outcomes of three major aircraft programs:

        – the 787, it’s $32 billion cost to develop & other quality control deficiencies;

        – the ongoing KC-46 mess;

        And now perhaps worst of all:

        – the 737MAX debacle for a plane that probably should’ve NEVER been built.

        I’ve said it several times since the 737MAX was grounded, but it’s worth repeating: asking the public to trust those who created the 737MAX debacle to “fix” the troubled aircraft without fixing the underlying toxic corporate culture that brought us to where we are is wholly unacceptable.

        Instead, for the 737MAX to be fixed (if that’s possible, that is), so too, must the company that makes the aircraft since it’s the decisions that were made by its leaders and Board of Directors that allowed this debacle to happen in the first place – so expecting those who got things so horribly wrong already to fix what they broke, and asking the public to trust that they’ll do the right thing this time simply isn’t fair.

        Bring in new management; I’ve used Gordon Bethune’s name if only because of his transformation of Continental Airlines after that airline was gutted and left at death’s door by Frank Lorenzo from “worst to first”, and of course, his background at Boeing before salvaging and restoring Continental Airlines.

        However, Bethune’s name is used as an example of the type of transformational leader desperately needed ASAP at Boeing and if not him, then someone who can do for Boeing what Bethune did for Continental.

        Whomever it is – just as long as there’s NO MORE McDonnell Douglas hacks brought in.

        It’s time for that FAILED COMPANY, its toxic corporate culture and its cheap AF approach to taking generations ago obsolete commercial aircraft models in production long beyond their best years to be consigned to the dustbin of history where it belongs.

        Goodbye, McDonnell Douglas – and good riddance!

  18. At the end of the development process, after the cert process was all but over, Boeing shunted all failure scenarios to the runaway stabilizer checklist as they made “last minute” changes to MCAS. The rest – one AoA sensor input and the like – all have their internal logic in light of the pilot-as-last-resort safety net that they were clearly counting on.

    Where the criminality may come in at the executive level is after JT610. Remember, the CEO called POTUS in an attempt to prevent the grounding after ET302. This is the kind of thing of move that we sanctimonious Americans make fun of in other countries with weak governance.

    We haven’t seen the last of the technical flaws in the Max. There are a lot of sharp eyes on this, in particular on the TAB, and – according to reports like the Air Current – Boeing initially pushed back on the latest flaw correction indicated to them. (During 73-8 development, Boeing didn’t even use their own internal sharp eyes, which would have failed MCAS.)

    The company is going nowhere but the top execs and BOD have to go. Their failures are just too numerous and too consequential.

    • Great post.

      Can I pick up on the failure to admit the latest issue. Boeing are not admitting anything. So the regulators are having to drag Boeing into admission.

      So be it. To the regulators, take your time. Two, three, four or more years. There is no rush. Take your time, but find out the truth.

      Boeing may then take a different attitude.

      • Corners can be cut with commercial aircraft development (and have been ala 787) – we will only get a change if Boieng fully fesses up ahd changes all the aspects of hte system that lead to this happening.

        That said, the 737 has been a study in hiding your head in the sand for two genertions.

        Orignaly it had two stablizer motors. with the NG it got one.

        Those aspecdts then lead into corrupted 737 simulaors that do not refrlecftg (did not) how impossible it is for the manual hand wheel backup to work agaisnt a frozen system. Wiht a silge pointo ffialure in the gear trian and not being able to break free of the motor that is frozen to make the tail move, that backup is worthless as a safety feature.

        So along with all the safety layers that Boeing corrupted over time , that legacy aspect was newer addressed either.

        You can bet that there were a lot of people who saw it all and shuddered and kept quiet because they knew what would hit the fan if they ever got enough notice to be more than just fired.

        So the layers are deep in both a grandfather issues as well as current lack of Boeing safety.

        If yhou backup is worhtless then the whole concvept is worhtless.

      • Philip, Boeing accounts for about 10% of the Dow Jones Average. They “pay” Congress almost $20 million a year (donations & lobbying) Congress doesn’t want to increase the FAA budget. I’m not holding my breath in anticipation of the American regulators doing anything differently. Hopefully, the foreign regulators will be more wary of FAA (ok Boeing under the covers through DER & ODA’s), certifications.

        • The technical scrutiny on this plane is x1000 over what it was during certification and even after the AD Nov 7, 2018 and Boeing memo. My conjecture is that this greatly increased scrutiny is almost all outside of Boeing. Inside the company they are too afraid of getting too many of their own experts directly involved. Lack of direct involvement provides the escape, “I don’t know what they were looking at when they did x.” But outside, you have the TAB directly involved in FAA recert, The Joint Task Force reviewing, NTSB examining the cert process and interviewing Boeing employees (in addition to forensic technical work), DOT IG, and DOJ criminal probe. All of these people – some of whom I’ve met with personally – know what is at stake here. There is nowhere to hide for them: their work is the MAX, period.

          • Did that help putting Safety First?

            Or did it make some feel they could get away with anything?

            For me still one of the most shocking parts is the way Boeing, FAA, the press and public handled the Lionair crash.

            A widely supported Tsunami of Arrogance and make no prisoners capitalism. Boeing handled it as collateral damage, paying off victim families, delaying, playing public sentiments, hiding behind investigation timelines. And everybody played along. Disgusting.

  19. 737Max is a too small aircraft.
    Nevertheless, will Potus fly his new Air Force One after all these comments?

    • Boy, the comments roll through the mind.

      Factually (gasp) AF1 new unit will not be in service for years.

      The new design change to allow it to carry a Combat Armored Brigade of course will take some re-work.

  20. BTW, I don’t grasp why you call the MAX ‘unstable’.

    I understood you to say in your articles on the pitch concern that control forces were reducing as stall attitude was approached, thus there was risk of a pilot over-controlling (my term) thus stalling the airplane.

    • No, if you put it into a stall it would pitch up more than is allowed per design.

      Frankly there was nothing wrong with a software response, it was how that response was allowed into the system in form of 1.0 that was so tragically flawed.

      Weird logic that stick shaker and audibles are not enough.

      Totally safe without it. When was the last 737 stalled and crashed that was not part of a totally disoriented pilot?

      • @TransWorld

        I don’t agree that 737 MAX is totally safe without MCAS – question are:
        – how much MAX is prone to pitch up and then stall comparing to NG? (I don’t buy Boeing story thatbwas implemented for “cosmetical NG” reasons)
        – if a 1h-iPad-game trained pilot will be able to safe a plane in case of disabling of MCAS? (they made it 1.0ver. as always working system for a reason).

        Old versions of 737 had different placed engines and so different aerodynamic characteristics, don’t you agree? So relying on past experience in a new circumstances is not an adecuate approach, isn’t it?

  21. It was a failure by Boeing to invest in their product. Starting in 1997 when the NG came out, they needed to be putting 1B per year in a bucket for a replacement. When the Neo was launched, they needed to launch a new single aisle, or go with a strategy to re-engine the -800 for Southwest and other operators along that line of thinking, and bring out an all new aircraft to replace the -900ER and 757 in 2024 EIS. Instead they cheaped out and spent about 3B to try to cover the entire market and go head to head with the A321 with the 737 platform.

    Whatever the ratio of investment in core product to total market cap. and profit was anemic, and that was a strategic mistake IMO.

  22. It’s interesting to observe how the degree of pessimism here at Leeham News has got worse, as the revelations and their consequences have been sinking in.

    Both Bjorn and Scott used to be confident of an engineering fix being in place pretty quickly, as per the normal course of events following tragic events, especially if a new training regime was introduced. A couple of months or so back the situation was then described as unprecedented (i.e. all bets are off). Now, we have articles from them raising the serious possibility of the grounding easily lasting for a whole year or more and for company going bust.

    If such seasoned observers are a (delayed) indicator or bellweather for the trends afflicting the company, you’d have to say that there’s a real possibility that the company is already doomed to bankruptcy, if it isn’t already and they’ve just not told anyone yet.

    Bjorn’s article a while back about Boeing’s k8 filing to the SEC was especially interesting. The k8 was filed just a couple of days after the FAA found the problem with the new softare. However, I seriously doubt Boeing made a full engineering assessment of the failure and what to do about it in that time. If so, the k8 was filed by the management in ignorance of the true extent of the consequences of this test failing.

    So why file a k8 when you don’t really know how bad it is? Is it the kind of thing you do because you already know that you’re close to running out of time? If you’re close to running out of time, you’re close to running out of money.

    Right now they’ll be further through their assessment as to what to do about the failed test. The nature of the failure – CPU overload under a fault condition – cannot be dismissed lightly. If as seems likely there is no software fix for this overload, it will require new, faster hardware. And that’ll take a substantial period of time to bring together. And there could be major consequences throughout the aircraft’s entire avionics suit and wiring. And it’ll mean starting again from scratch on certification.

    And that’ll take a very long time indeed, time that the k8’s existence probably suggests Boeing hasn’t got.

    • First, it’s an 8-K, not a K8.

      Second, with no offense but 8-K filings are fairly routine. That article of Bjorn’s was a bit cringeworthy in how it ties in the capital markets, because it implied the 8-K was something super special. Bjorn’s description of it is not incorrect, he is very precise and detailed. But as a stock analyst, I will tell you 8-Ks are insanely routine and not something that portends doom due to their mere existence. Some large, totally healthy US companies I follow might file 15 of them a year.

      My point isn’t to throw cold water on Boeing criticism. I’m in your camp and think there is a major shoe to drop here. Just gotta get the facts straight about 8-Ks and how they’re pretty routine SEC filings for US listed public companies. It isn’t like the presence of an 8-K filing alone is some super secret and doom-worthy news to those in the know. They’re routine stuff for public companies.

      Far more serious is all the long, winding truth about the MAX, the corners cut to race it out to compete with A320neo, and Boeing’s disgraceful effort in the aftermath of crash 1 and then crash 2 to come hell or high water save its own financial wellbeing, over the trust and integrity of the commercial aviation complex. For a longtime aviation investor and stakeholder, this feels like a reckoning.

      • Mathew: What do you base your conclusion that there is no fix on the lattest software?

        New Arriane (4 or 5?) had a stack overflow issue at one time, once they realized what was doing it they corrected it and it went on to many successful launches.

        No question they not only hosed up things with MCAS 1.0 but also opened the flood gates to other issues (that should have been dealt with).

        Boeing will not go bust, but they are going to have to permanently stop share buybacks for some time.

        What is at issue is this is the second gross management failure that until major changes are done, will occur again.

        I see no indication they are anywhere near changing the culture ( the board resigns, fire the entire upper staff, move back to Seattle, reform the whole mfg process and then we can talk understand and correct)

        • The fault is reported to be that the flight control computer hit 100% CPU time trying to cope with the data stream from another microcontroller that had been tipped into a simulated fault condition. That is, the microcontroller started babbling, and the FCS couldn’t handle the added volume of data. This is more rumour than established fact, but that’s my interpretation of what’s been said by the FAA and a few leaks.

          The reason why this is perhaps terminal is that, unless their current software is needlessly inefficient in how it handles this fault-condition data stream, there’s no fix other than to have more compute power. And you can’t get that without a hardware upgrade. You can’t magic up more compute power in software, unless your software architecture was inefficient to begin with.

          Given that they’re reportedly using an 80286, hitting 100% CPU utilisation seems perfectly possible. The 80286 is not a fast processor by modern standards, or even 1990s standards (when I think it was first used for the NG).

          Ariane 5 did not have a stack overflow, it had a value overflow, despite having written the software in Ada (which is supposed to prevent such cock-ups).

          The interface between one module and another had been misunderstood by the separate teams, discovered way too late in the development of Ariane 4. This was discovered during the software integration phase, and rather than rewrite the incorrect module they kludged it together. They had worked out that incorrect understanding of the interface would not result in the value overflowing on Ariane 4. And so Ariane 4 flew, very successfully.

          When they came to do Ariane 5 many years later they simply reused the Ariane 4 software without thinking about it (a management decision…). The original specification for the software was fine for Ariane 5, but no one checked to see if the software actually met that. It didn’t – the kludge didn’t live up to the specification. And by then the kludge had been forgotten about. So when the first one flew, the value did overflow, resulting in a course deviation and destruction by the range safety demolition charges.

          So in Ariane 5’s case, the fix was “re-write that software module properly”, and that was fine on the existing hardware.

          In MCAS’s very different case, if my interpretation of reports is indeed correct, it sounds very much like the necessary software specification cannot be implemented on the hardware on which they’ve currently got.

          And this in itself raises some appalling possibilities. If the specification against which MCAS software has been developed has so far excluded the fault condition that the FAA exercised (and found it failed), then what else is missing from the software specification? There could easily be some really catastrophic omissions. Any one of these could cause the MAX to be scrapped, and could (depending on when the omission occured) ripple back up to the NG too (I gather it’s basically the same hardware and software).

          The supporting train of thought to suggest that there’s other omissions is as follows. Clearly Boeing thought that the software was worthy of being tested by the FAA, yet it failed a particular test. Had Boeing actually done that test themselves, they would have known it would fail and they’d never have gone to the FAA in the first place. The only valid reason for Boeing not to do the test themselves is if they thought it didn’t apply.

          And if Boeing have been going through the FAA’s book of testing requirements choosing which ones they thought applied and which ones didn’t, it’s difficult to see why they’d have left out just this one, and only this one. You’d imagine that if had they determined that all the other testing requirements applied, they’d have simply concluded “to hell with it, let’s just do the whole lot and avoid the debate”.

          Their problem now is that the FAA is clearly saying, “passing these tests is necessary”.

          Anyway, whether or not I’m right or wrong, we’ll soon know. If they’re in deep trouble with passing this test, they won’t be able to hide that for too long. Everyone is expecting a re-test in the near future, but if that doesn’t happen then we’ll know it a problem.

          What could be happening right now is that the software team has told the management that it’s bad news, and the management are still asking “are you sure?”, and “have another think”, etc. If management has indeed been given really bad news, you’d surely seek a second or third opinion because the consequences could kill the company. You don’t go public with that kind of information (8-k?) without being very, very convinced that the situation is as your engineers are saying. Seeking these alternate opinions could take some time.

          • @Matthew

            Well presented teory, very plausible imho.

          • Pablo, thank you, but it is still a theory.

            I wish that the sum of all externally observable symptoms had a more positive plausible theory, but for me they don’t. Part of being a senior engineer (as I am, but nowhere near the aviation business) means that I’m prone to reading between the lines, imagining what is actually going on around meeting room tables. There’s just been too many odd, bad, legal and fatal events taking place over a sustained period of time to be consistent with a healthy company culture.

            I remember the old Boeing with fondness – the 747-400 is a masterpiece of its time. That was, and remains, something to admire. They need to get back their mojo, otherwise they will become extinct.

          • 1) the “provably correct software” concept of 1975-1985 died out because no one other than Dijkstra or Hoare could write provably correct code that worked on real systems in practice.

            2) there are an infinite numbers of things that could be tested and could fail. The spec will not overcome this (see 1) and bounds on testing will always be set somewhere.

            3) I used to work with a consulting company that fixed database performance problems by rewriting queries using real knowledge of set theory. Their record for me was a vendor software function that ran for 11 hours; the vendor wanted me to buy a half million USD of hardware to “fix” the problem. Consultant rewrote the code & query so the function ran in 7 seconds. I’d look for the fix in that realm.

          • @sPh

            You are suggesting that 737 NG code, on which MAX code is based, was already bas written, without proper integration and optimasation?

            So small amounts of data that came with MAX (I write small because MAX is not real FBW technology) was able to cloth it?

          • Mathew: I have been at the heart of one of those data issues (pointy end of the spear trying to keep it running in the field)

            All you have to do is understand the problem and you can filter the data stream all sorts of ways to deal with it.

            Once we (finally) got the attention of the software people we ran capture software and they saw what was going on an fixed it with a software change.

            Oh yea, you see register X and stack Y and zip Zee and zap 9 are doing back flips and they don’t need top but they thought it was fun.

            Back in the day we used to have to write lean program due to low chip speed and not much RAM.

            Software people (groups) get sloppy and they simply have to clean it up and filter what needs to be passed on, its not rocket science and it does not need new hardware.

            Pondering and assessment of what is going on is fine but to then jump to the sky is falling is hyperbole not fact or data related.

            None of use have the details that would make a valid determination of solutions.

      • Stephen – thanks for the corrective sense of perspective!

        I guess the point is that we don’t yet really know for sure how important this particular 8-k is. Perhaps my suspicions will turn out to be correct, perhaps not. Given that we’ve seen nothing yet coming out of Boeing (or more importantly, the FAA/EASA/CAAC/etc) to indicate that they’ve reversed a downwards trend, I geniunely fear for their future.

        If the situation is as bad as I think it might be, being completely and utterly transparent about it (i.e. forget saving face, etc) will be necessary before they can be extracated from that situation.

        I know that part of success in business hinges on inspiring confidence (even against evidence to the contrary), but there is a limit. Feynman’s saying about the role of PR in engineering being unable to fool Mother Nature applies in this case.

        • sPh .. I’ve done the same sort of fix in the past. Some poorly written VSAM code for a large, brand name retailer was taking over 10 hours to run each night. It was holding up their online database, every morning. It took me about a week to reprogram it, parallel test it, and move it to production. It then ran in less than 5 minutes. The night computer operations staff were impressed. These aren’t real time programming examples, which is much different programming. Event driven vs. plowing through data. But, I’m sure improvements may be found.

      • I’ll reduce the theory to fact.

        Transworld, stack overflow is always a bug.

        Memory overflow is about not being big enough. The CPU needs to be bigger enough for what is expected.

        The CPU isn’t big enough.

    • @ Matthew

      For Boeing is along way to bankrupt, but as it seems, unfortunately, it’s a very straight forward way for them.

      • I don’t know how much cash reserves actually have to handle this. But I reckon they’re losing about $4billion per month in revenue. Even if their costs were half that, they’re losing money at a rate of about $24billion a year.

        I seriously doubt that they’ve got cash reserves that large. I’ve read that they started off with about $10billion in the bank, and could call upon about $7billion in easy credit. If my $24billion per year loss rate guesstimate is correct, we can expect Boeing to be bust around about Christmas if they’ve not restarted deliveries of flyable aircraft.

        • I think the ironic thing is if they survive this, and they have a huge losses due to the MAX grounding, it is absolutely the perfect time to write off all losses on the 787, KC-46 and whatever else. The end result is a catastrophic loss this year, but having reduced costs in future years as well as tax credits for the huge losses. So the profitability might be stellar in the future.

          • Accounting standards come to the rescue, as all those parked 737s maxs are on the books as ‘cash equivalents’. They arent white tails without owners , they are all in the colours of the intended airlines.
            That will be ‘the number’ to look out for, but the description will be kind as investors like a company sitting on ‘cash’

    • If FlyDubai is in anyway connected I would expect the expert’s to have spoken up, but as a non expert, I am deeply suspicious.

      • It may be involved. Runaway trim stabiliser pre-dates the MAX. If my memory serves me correctly, a video showing a simulator used an NG simulator not a MAX simulator to demonstrate runaway trim stabiliser. Runaway trim stabiliser would put an NG into a steep dive that can only be recovered using a Yo-Yo procedure, but 8000 ft and more is required to do it.

        Boeing said the FlyDubia crash was pilot error. So perhaps nobody looked at the possibility of runaway trim stabiliser.

  23. Three comments:

    – 346 lives lost. Let’s not forget the Indonesian diver who drown when searching for the flight recorders. 347 lives.

    – If no software-based solution can be accepted by the airworthiness authorities, we are looking at aerodynamical and/or structural modifications. Time to design, implement, test and refurbish already produced aircraft is probably 18 months minimum.

    – The current CEO will not leave until all revelations have been made. The fact that he is still in commands means there are still issues to be revealed. Only when the full picture is made known can a new management team, with clean hands, be appointed.

    • Dennis Muilenberg became CEO on 1st March 2016 about 6 weeks after the MAX flew. It was formally certified about 1.3 years latter. The Bulk of the MAX was developed outside of his time and the program was started by James McNerney who himself favoured a new clean sheet replacement design. In 2011 when American Airlines was in sight coming out of its 1996 20 year exclusivity deal its CEO telexed McNerney to say they would only order Airbus neo if Boeing couldn’t put together a credible offer. Boeing couldn’t so AA ordered 140 neos but gave Boeing an order for 100 hypothetical B737NG upengined to create the MAX as a consolation even though the B737 MAX was only a design study not yet launched. McNerney’s hand was forced. One of the reasons the neo exists is that Joh Lehay had reacted to the loss of 70 aircraft order from Frontier Airlines to Bombardier by launching the A320 neo formally. Obviously P&W were keen as they were excluded from the B737 by Boeing/GE exclusivity deal. Boeings reaction to Bombardier selling 70 aircraft to United Airlines for 36 million by undercutting them with the B737-700 for 22 million suggests Boeing were not thinking in terms of competition on technical merit but the use of their massive power as a large company.

  24. Leeham seems to have extracted it’s head from the sand. By the end of the year,1000 airliners will be missing from the planned global fleet, this must be significant one way or another. Apart from the missing aircraft my big concern is that we are messing with a well honed system, merely reactivating the fleet can introduce risk. I am prepared to fly the MAX as soon as the UK CAA and EASA(but not the FAA)declare it safe,but if I had kids I would be slightly reluctant to let them fly on it for a couple of years.

  25. “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
    -Warren Buffett

    Boeing desperately needs new leadership.

    • Yes, it does – the sooner the better.

      And NOT just the C-Suite, either; the Boardroom, too, that originally signed off on the 737MAX, and then sat on its hands, or worse, nurtured the culture of greed that since McDonnell Douglas’ Trojan Horse reverse takeover of Boeing has now led to not one, not two, but at least three major aircraft program disasters:

      – the 787’s three year delayed entry into service; cost overruns estimated to have been more than $32 billion; the lithium-ion battery development problems, the resulting grounding of the model shortly after entry into revenue service; recent reports of quality control issues at “McBoeing’s” South Carolina non-unionized (aka scab labor) final assembly line;

      – the KC-46 fiasco (so much wrong here it would take practically a week to list everything; oh, and the plane, which, like the 737MAX relies on designs and engineering concepts from so long ago that the great grandchildren of the generation that designed and built the 767 will be flying it – if it ever makes it into mass production, that is, it’s so late already;

      – the 737MAX (seriously, need I say more?)

      Three strikes McDonnell Douglas – yer out! In fact, your failed company and it’s legacy of failure by the end of the 20th century should’ve NEVER been allowed into the building at Boeing in the first place.

      So for sure, it’s time to say “BYE, FELICIA”!

      It’s so time for the corrupt and toxic corporate culture of the FAILED company, McDonnell Douglas, to go.

      The sooner the better – starting with a purge of the C-Suite, BoD, and any remaining vestiges of that long ago failed company, with its legacy of unwanted by the 1990s (dead/retread) passenger jets to go.

      Break out the brooms; it’s time for an house cleaning – ASAP!

  26. JakDak,

    Thanks for the link. Importantly it makes clear that EASA is setting out the problems but not setting out the fix. It’s for Boeing to offer a fix. This is standard practice.

    The issue for Boeing is that the regulators are saying the problems are critical problems. This means they will expect the fixes to work in a timely manner but equally the fixes must incorporate redundency to address single point of failure, meaning the fix still works in a timely manner of there has been a failure.

  27. I’m not sure the author understands how stall protection works when he talks about there being an aerodynamic fix or a speed change based fix. Stall is AofA dependant – designing an automatic stall protection system requires triple redundancy, MCAS wasn’t even dual redundant.
    An ultimate fix would have been to remove it altogether and replace it with a warning. Boeing’s always used to be pilot’s planes, unlike a certain competitor who fly the pilot.

    • @Pete: “I’m not sure the author understands how stall protection works when he talks about there being an aerodynamic fix or a speed change based fix.”

      For your information the author is a former test pilot.

    • I’d go for a caution annunciation (amber) that stall is being approached, but you should check the FAA regulation that fomented MCAS.

      Note that the 767 met that regulation with a few vortex generators, flight tests showed a triplex pushover system was not needed. 737MAX flight testing apparently found the opposite, need was greater, though IMO MCAS as delivered is far to aggressive for the risk it prevents.

      The KC-46 aerial tanker version of the 767 has an MCAS-like system because of the rapid CofG shifts when offloading and transferring fuel, but it apparently is much less aggressive than the MAX system. (Air Force magazine doesn’t describe it well.)

      • Pete:

        The author is far more rated on this stuff than we are, both an engineer and test pilot.

        I disagree with him that an Aerodynamic fix was needed or even right, MCAS done right is a non issue.

        Also keep in mind that this is not a modern FBW aircraft, its an old fashion mechanical backup. Triple redundancy does not play into it.

  28. And Scot’s reporting on Boeing using SAP etc. should recognize that “A system that works as it should …” is not to be taken for granted.

    The likes of Accenture, EDS, and IBM have a sorry record of botching projects for governments and other bureaucracies, one government official in OR had to sue one of those suspects for defamation as it blamed her for cost overuns.

    Sometimes the fault is with the customer who has not thought their needs through

    For example, it is rumoured that Boeing’s bureaucracy was reluctant to change from oiled paper to stable mylar for templates.

    And example of gummint bureaucracy was the BC gummint’s rejection of a student scheduling program developed by a local school board because they wanted a big organization to get future support. So they chose a big name outfit that proceeded to botch the job, just like big name outfits had botched several other BC gummint software projects in recent years.

    I put sorting out engineering work in Boeing and the FAA in the same general category of ‘should’ whereas bureaucracies assume ‘guaranteed’. Though even at that with the 787 Boeing did what it swore after the 777 effort it would never do – try to develop an engineering tool at the same time as an airplane.

    And of course many of you know that Boeing’s program status process hid reality – never mind listening to the attempts by its military division to teach it a lesson learned from the Wedgetail fiasco.

    (That was the program that motivated its launch customer to publicly criticize Boeing in the city of its biggest customer – Washington DC. Aussies can be blunt.)

    • Boeing implemented CATIA with 777 bu they did not develop it, it was already developed (by Dessault)

      The 737 Wedgetail is a vastly more complex aircraft than the A330MRT that it took the Aussies 5 years to get the bugs out of. Boeing did relatively stunning to get the WT up to standard faster than the A330MRT got.

      Problems with government procurement go back forever. Ask the Brits about ships and the food back in the 1800s !!! (and before)

  29. I wonder what the cost to the Airlines is month to month for the 737-MAX grounding?
    Delta must be feeling lucky that they don’t have any 737-MAX’s. Will airlines, from now on, look more closely at aircraft certification, before committing to a new order? Southwest has to be pondering if it’s wise to put all of their eggs in one basket. Had the grounding order happened a year or two from now, they’d really be in a pickle.

    • I gather that Delta are posting excellent profits. Must be filling up a lot of aircraft with paying passengers, and not having large costs operating those aircraft. They’re heading towards being a very Airbus-orientated airline, and so far one can’t fault their strategy.

      Not having MAX in the fleet surely is helping at the moment. They must indeed be counting their lucky stars.

      Southwest are likely cursing theirs. Though with reports that they’re sniffing round the A220 series aircraft, perhaps they’re looking to improve their chances.

      Your point that the grounding happening now is better than in 2 years time is extraordinary! I suppose that, for Southwest, it is indeed lucky, but I don’t suppose it’s much comfort. Same observation applies to Ryanair.

  30. The main issue is what is broken in Boeings ability to develop safe airplanes in time?
    Their last developments have been late, costly or unsafe, or all together.

    B787: No major loss due to battery fire just because non of it happend during max. ETOPS – solution was a cheap n dirty fix, put a box around and let it melt not burn, increase cell quality and chances for a thermal runaway decreas. UNderneath it was a bad risk evaluation and a self certification.
    3 years late, way over budget, and unsafe.

    B748: Late, over budget, and the wrong plane for the market.

    B737-Max: Unsafe, a bad risk evaluation and self certification. Systems that in this way should have never been built in any airliner on this world.
    A lot of trouble and the story is to be continued, just imagine what another loss after the end of the grounding would mean for Boeing. Remember the DC10.

    KC46: Late, over budget – and that story about corruption, 3 RFPs needed, overall seems to be a desaster.

    B777x: Will be late, GE is to blame, but it looks like the major customers are not really sad about (ME3) – maybe these guys don’t want the plane that much.

    Overall, Boeing has shown awesoem financials the last few years, and at least the B787 is a awesome product for many airlines.
    Just their ability to built these products seems to be shaken and is in question.

    • Sash: While I agree with the jist of what you are saying, I am a technician and I like accurate information.

      The 787 battery situation was totally flawed. But the fix was more than a box and quality control (both of which are solid tech moves to partly address the situation). What you are missing is that they also created cell separation so you don’t get cascade (which quality control also diminished hugely) and upgraded the monitor and control systems.
      And keep in mind, there was NO quality control, the batteries were being made in filthy rooms when that type battery needs to be made in a very clean environment . Hammers were used to form the frames (you cant get quality results with a hammer). Batteries were not being tested at all. Quality wise you could not have done more to ensure failure.
      That was the MO of the whole battery including a test of using a nail to prove the battery would not short and cascade (said nail method had no testing of its own that proved it did anything other than looks)

      As for the KC46, clearly many people do not understand an RFP. Its a legally binding document. All your conditions are put into it so that ALL parties bid .

      The so called corruption was the USAF in how it tried to implement that document.

      Taking one area, cargo. The RFP did not assign added bonus to larger cargo as the program was sold to congress as replacing the KC135. Its an easy adder and as was done in the TF-X program, bonuses were awarded based on more than spec performance.

      So to give Airbus credit for larger cargo was a violation. Boeing bid the 767 on no cargo bonus (you could take that to extremes and bid a 777 which Boeing was prepared to do)

      There were roughly 6 major violations of the RFP by the USAF where they either gave a bonus or waived a specification (spacing of aircraft at an airfield).

      Its fairly unusual for the GAO to overturn one of these, often miner variations are overlooked deliberately as it is too nuanced to sort out.

      In the post assessment the USAF fully admitted they had violated the RFP

      GAO overturned it and the USAF re-bid it as a clean no frills.

      EADS walked away with 2 billion US dollars by the way as the system is setup it gives that initial payment immediately (oh joy unto us)

      On pure up RFP and up Boeing undercut EADS by 10%.

      In the long term the US taxpayer benefited as Boeing is eating its ovr4ages and we got 10% off as well as the lower 767 fuel burn over the A330 which over the lifetime the program will pay for it.

      • Fuel burn for 767 was calculated according to final RFP using more than 7 touch&go maneuvers on every flight a KC-46 will ever do. Is this real?

        Boeing was forced to build the 787 because 767 lost against A330. Main use of these new KC aircraft will be the C – cargo and not K – for tanKing. KC-45 offered about 40 % more cargo space because lower cargo deck on MRTT is not occupied by fuel tanks.

        RFP was based on KC-135 operations and not on how USAF said it is going to use its new freighter.

        767 was an outdated aircraft at time with no enhancements to expect. Airbus offered an A330 with 233 t MTOW. A330neo today offers 251 t MTOW and new engines burning less fuel than a 767.

        Maybe 10 % less fuel for touch&go maneuvers but for that USAF already had an RFP for flight simulators.

        USAF will have fun with KC-46 main cargo door sitting right in front of the engine. The door is further away from the cockpit than 767-300F due to permanent seating and refueling station in the back of cockpit but KC-46 has a shorter 767-200 fuselage!

        • Airbus was forced to build the A330 because the 767 wiped out the A300/310 .

          The RFP was written per what the USAF requested, the need was for tankers not freighters. If they wanted freighters they could have continued with the far more capable C-17 (or done a stretch on it)

          The US has 219 C-17, maybe 75 C-5M and the CRAF (and charters)

          If you are hauling freight you can’t b e a tanker.

          If you are tanking, you can’t haul fright.

          • Some misconceptions about C-17 /C-5 and other things. E.g. C-17 is an excellent aircraft for outsized cargo but also a gas guzzler. USAF estimates C-17 lifetime to be shorter than expected due to huge misuse for parcel service (463L) and troop transportation.

            CRAF is expensive like any charter instead of using own assets. KC-135 is a one trick pony only suitable for tanking.

            The situation during the gulf wars was first moving the stuff there and than starting the war with fighters and tankers. E.g. RAAF moves its fighter jets with equipment inside its tankers. Tanking is still a rare business compared to moving US Army forces and stuff around the globe.

            The second RFP was not about something USAF needed. It was about Boeing needs to win.

            Boeing had no answer to A300 in first place. The 767 had better engines than A300 and so the next iteration was the A330. Boeing’s answer was 787 and Airbus put new engines on A330. In my opinion A350 was never an answer to 787. It was a direct attack on 777.

  31. How much of a bailout is Boeing going to need? 10 billion?
    Airbus needs Boeing to be strong so that the duopoly is maintained. At least this way Airbus can defend itself against subsidy charges.

    • To be honest, I can feel some kind of a bail out up coming. Maybe a string of smaller indirect ones to confuse WTO. There’s definetely a long term strategic interest. The current AmFirst government will skip any free market ideology /WTO subsidy rules/fair trade moral in a fraction of a second.

      Maybe the almost certain refreshment of the top will benefit of a more international team.. Asians, Europeans. The strong national approach of the last 20 years is maybe not the best for the company.

      On strategy, I see a lot of group thinking, stock value focus and not really listening to customers. Or only to a few that confirm the strategy, or least show “strong interest”..

      • We used to have a comedy show called laugh in.

        Its best known Icon was an old guy on a trike that falls over all the time.

        WTO rev 1.0

    • My own view is that 50% of Boeing profits come from subsidies. But to address the 737 MAX

      I think you understand the difference between safety critic and non-safety critical. My own view is that safety critical requires redundency. For me, triple redundency is the minimum.

      A good example is the speed trim system. It is single channel/single CPU. Doesn’t matter, the speed trim system is non-safety critical. But MCAS is part of the speed trim system. I’ll return to that.

      The FAA as redesignated a problem as safety critical whereas Boeing regarded the problem as non-safety critical. How many more will be redesignated. This comes to EASA. We are being told that EASA is now setting out their conditions for return to service. If the information is right, EASA are redesignating problems as safety critical. An example, is the inoperability of manual trim.

      The big question. Will MCAS as a whole be redesignated as safety critical because of reduced stability, instability? If that happens, Boeing are done. No part of MCAS as the required redundency to be used as a safety critical systrm.

      It’s one thing having reduced stability, instability with a fully redundent system to control it, it’s another not to have a fully redundent system to control it.

    • I think I read this some time ago that A has already accepted that soon there will be a triopoly Airbus – Boeing – Comac.

      A doesn’t need B. B makes an unfair competence, not obeying the rules (is a “cheater”) and weakers this duopoly.

      • Comec will never be competitive to A or B.

        Its a communist state owned entity for China prestige and will always be behind in tech as well as the service needed to support world wide aircraft operations.

        Airbus while technically was state owned really had an independent charter that was state supported.

        Come is currently in league with the Russians on the CRAIC 939 and you can compound the issues with two state owned dictatorships involved.

        They don’t even have a path to world agreed certification’s

        • The commies have taken over your production of about anything, they are suucesful & rich, you own them a lot of money. And their flight in the last 7 years let to 0 hull losses in a big fast growing operation. Effective apparently. If Trump is nice maybe they’ll buy 100 or 200 WB’s.

          Seriously travel around in China & you know why they are so succesfull.

        • Transworld
          Get the info right its COMAC and its the CR929 widebody program

          The C919 has over 1,000 orders, that’s 1,000 single aisle aircraft that Boeing and Airbus will not be getting.

          You need to look at 20-30 year view, Made in China 2025 and China’s $900 billion New Silk Road (Belt and Road Action Plan) and you will see were COMAC will be selling their aircraft

          C919 has the first step done on with EASA agreement

          If you look at western suppliers on C919, more European than US and wait to see the CR929 suppliers, don’t be surprised with Rolls engine with no US content.

          Chinese Proverb-Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.

      • Boeing does not need a bailout.

        All it has to do is stop share buy back. That was 4 billion a year.

        3 years they have a new airplane.

        Of course they badly need to fix the one they have to be able to make a new bird. So call it 5 years no share buy back.

  32. Lots of interesting things had been said but for an armchair enthusiast my summary is that the MAX is aerodynamically/mechanically flawed due to the positioning of the engines resulting from BA not wanted to spend the time and money for the required landing gear and wing updates required.

    Developing/introducing MCAS is acknowledgement thereof. In the short term they could potentially fix/improve the software issues but it will always be a flawed design and be a compromised aircraft. Again from the armchair perspective, BA must do the required hardware upgrades for an 737MAX “Mark-2”, EIS in 3 years and cost of US$3-5 Billion?

    Developing/EIS an NSA/FSA will possibly take 7+ years and be the end of the NMA.

    • I agree, but Boeing won’t do it unless forced by the regulators. Having said that, the regulators do look as though thay are going to force hardware/mechanical changes. Aerodynamic changes? Let’s see!

  33. When is the most chance of MCAS activating? Executing a go-around at a difficult airport, needing abrupt action to avoid flying into the gournd. A TCAS alert, needing abrupt action to avoid a collision. CFIT alert, needing abrupt action to avoid flying into the ground. Do you want MCAS pointing the nose down in any of these situations? What are the situations that MCAS would actually help the pilot??? When would a pilot not be aware of a high alpha situation? Lack of elevator authority in these situations could be deadly. They are trying to turn a slow moving stabilizer into a quick reacting elevator. The recent FAA simulator CPU overload seems to point to this. MCAS seems to point to this. At a close to stall, high alpha situation, you want a quick response nose down. The elevator in the 737 may not be big enough at high AOA and low airspeed? So, they are left trying to use the stabilizer quickly? Shouldn’t they redesign a bigger elevator?

    • Richard, wouldn’t the flaps be down in most final approach, and TOGA situations; hence the MCAS would be OFF?

      • SveinSAN, Yes, you’d get the power in, gear up .. then depending on conditions, flaps up. Until the flaps came up, MCAS would be inactive. I’ve been trying to figure out an elegant solution to the pitch up problem, created by the huge fans going from below pitch axis to above, and it’s not an easy problem to solve. If you go with Boeing’s solution, I’m going to agree with Philip and others who want a triple redundant, FBW certified system. You are looking at an almost software defined plane then. Putting the engines where they should be, causes the gear to be longer and then cargo folks wouldn’t have as easy access to the hold. If you deploy some sort of spoilers as the AOA raises, then you have another set of problems to deal with. Is there any other aircraft, that has such monster sized fans changing position (below to above) in relation to pitch axis? It still amazes me how poorly designed and implemented the whole MCAS system and warning light inoperative was. And how it got tested and into production. There was a slew of errors along the entire chain of events.

        • Richard, my main point was related the landing. When starting approach, say around 2k AGL, the aircraft is prepared for landing, checklist, flaps settings to be used, etc. So from here on MCAS will be off; assuming flaps are used. I don’t see any fuel savings from late flaps extensions, – while I have seen fuel saving arguments through early flaps retraction during climb out.

          I have difficulties understanding the discussions around the new engine locations. I see the point that the new locations will influence the aircraft performance, and that adjustments/modifications to ‘hardware and software’ are required. However, that is not a great challenge. In the wake of the MCAS accidents, I must add ‘carried out properly’.

          Every time I see a new ‘wing with engines’ my thoughts go to ‘old’ Richard Whitcomb and his Area Rule. A rule that is not that important for ‘slow flying’ airliners, but worthwhile to have in mind.

          I will look at your other comments, summer weather permitting, – it looks promising, forecast is rain, windy and single digits C-degrees.

    • No, you have a flight pipper (carrot) that you follow. Calculates best rate of climb vs speed and external factors.

      You have to get to stall and stalls are so rare I have not heard of one in service (there have been losses where pilots lost their situational awareness and did not trust their instruments but those while a stall may have been involved were out of control aircraft and stall would be a symptom and not the primary cause, they were going to auger it in even if stall did not exist)

        They were in a holding pattern at high altitude and maneovering for landing at Hong Kong
        “When the 747-400 began a right turn to enter the holding pattern, it descended through FL 222 and reached a bank angle of a maximum of 32 degrees.
        Three seconds after the aircraft began a right turn to enter the holding pattern, the aircraft began experiencing “pre-aerodynamic stall buffeting” as its bank angle increased to a maximum of 32 degrees and speed reduced to 220kt.”
        “The buffeting then stopped and the aircraft continued descending.
        However, the aircraft’s stick shaker warning activated twice as the Captain sought to increase the pitch angle to prevent further descent.
        During the oscillations in altitude, five cabin crew members struck the cabin ceiling, with three suffering injuries.”

        • This is very close to the scenario MCAS was first designed for, a tight turn putting the aircraft close to stall.

          “During flight tests to certify an airplane, pilots must safely fly an extreme maneuver, a banked spiral called a wind-up turn that brings the plane through a stall. While passengers would likely never experience the maneuver on a normal commercial flight, it could occur if pilots for some reason needed to execute a steep banking turn.

          Engineers determined that on the MAX, the force the pilots feel in the control column as they execute this maneuver would not smoothly and continuously increase. Pilots who pull back forcefully on the column — sometimes called the stick — might suddenly feel a slackening of resistance. An FAA rule requires that the plane handle with smoothly changing stick forces.

          The lack of smooth feel was caused by the jet’s tendency to pitch up, influenced by shock waves that form over the wing at high speeds and the extra lift surface provided by the pods around the MAX’s engines, which are bigger and farther forward on the wing than on previous 737s.”

        • And it happened – even with triple-redundancy on the system input side, – the three pilots!

        • Asiana Airlines Flight 214 (A B777) also crashed short of the runway as a result of being setup incorrectly to land short of the runway. When the pilots belatedly tried to TOGA they stalled the aircraft worsening the crash. This was a B777 with Boeings supposedly superior ‘soft limits’ stall protection. Time and time again I hear of pilots stalling an aircraft due to being startled, loss of situational awareness. Hard limit stall protection works. Looks like we have a problem with precision and automatic approaches. Its amazing that automatic landings in zero visibility are not standard and simple for all aircraft. Something really backward.

  34. In order to have the 737-MAX allowed to fly again, Foreign Regulators need to give the OK. The FAA, NASA and the Air Force are trying to convince them that they can trust the Boeing Certification process. Meanwhile, the NTSB, DOT, Justice Dept, and FBI are conducting investigations into the Boeing Certification process, looking for where things went wrong and possible criminal infractions. In order for the Foreign Regulators to believe in the Boeing Certification process, people must be held accountable for their errors and actions. Otherwise, how will the Foreign Regulators, Airlines, Pilots and the flying public, have any faith in the system? If the MAX is allowed to fly again, without the details of the failures coming forth, the faults being shown, then how can anyone step into a 737-MAX with confidence that it is safe to fly again?

    • I don’t believe that is correct that Cert and Crime are directly linked. If that was true Boeing would simply write off the MAX, it will be years before any of it sees a court.

      I do agree the FAA looks to be working to getting the other AHJ buy in for putting back in the air.

      I would guess November return to flying sans any other issues popping up.

      There are a snootfull if known including the trim wheel issue that may go on for some time.

      It will be interesting to see long term if they have to back fit the two unit actuator fore the stab (or what it would take) .

      Clearly those with options will be voting with their orders.

      Flydeal clearly was a snag for Boeing that is now gone.

      • A new issue is reported affecting the autopilot which would NOT release as would be opportune. This would have been spotted by EASA who advis3d FAA and the demand a fix before recertifying.
        So perhaps we are looking at November 2020?

      • Here is a theory; Boing saw this coming and Flyadeal was asked wait till after Paris to announce this and in return any penalties in the LOI were waived. In the mean time Boeing got the IAG LOI in place in part by giving IAG the early slots set aside for Flyadeal.

        Poor hand played. Can you imagine if instead of the the IAG deal this cancelation was announced in Paris.

        • @jbeeko

          Intriguing teory, very speculative, but intriguing.

          Nobody knows, but in this industry nobody wants to put in bad light anybody, always with cortesy

          • With Airbus noting that they had not been asked to participate in the BA ordering process here it there is no question that Boeing gifted away a massive set of MAXes on cosmetic reasons.

            Being absolutely cheap to have is the only redeeming value proposition the MAX could provide at the moment.
            The cert base for the MAX is still in the process of unraveling. or “burning back” on the family tree 🙂

            Looking at things churning my guess is that there may actually exist a range of issues that had formerly been under the event horizon by way of limited leverage via shared certification and FAA/US dangling retaliatory action on any pressure applied ( from the non FAA certs.)
            Interesting to note that EASA seemingly followed the “mutual acceptance” regulatory agreements much closer than the FAA ever did.

  35. Jim “No More Moonshots” McNerney went from making post-it notes to leading an airplane company, his clueless inept “leadership” led to most of this profit over quality mindset. off-loading engineering to 3rd world countries, hundreds of experienced engineers laid off – I feel sorry for what he left Dennis to deal with.

    • I don’t feel sorry for him. He’s highly trained and had excellent experience. He chose this direction for his company from the point he took it over. He insisted on keeping the plane in service, when he knew what the public did not know. At the very least, he could have put the NSA ahead of the NMA and started some sort of conversion of orders to the newer plane when time came. If the stock price is any indication of how much resources are at Boeing’s disposal, than he should have used them instead of relishing in the idea of the stock reaching 500; and killing the Bombardier CSeries – a plane that he admitted would kill the old B737. On a leadership scale of 1 – 10, 1 being low and 10 being high, he’s a 1. McNerney is a -1. These are not “heroes.”

      • Muilenburg officially became Boeing CEO on 1 March 2016, about 5 weeks after the MAX prototype flew. By that time the MAX had accumulated nearly 3000 orders. Muilenburg couldn’t possibly have killed the MAX of then. The MAX was the mess left by McNerney. Despite years of warning he had nothing ready to match the neo when AA ordered 140.

        • Disagree in part. He could look after design of 737 instead of rushing and cutting corners. He saw very well how the things were going inside company.

          And he didn’t “jump in” Boeing with parachute one day – he was working for Boeing for many years.

  36. Richard Davenport

    It’s taken me months to get there. The fact is this. The ‘trim’ part of the trim stabiliser is now a primary control surface. The stabiliser, itself, is a primary control surface because it addresses pitching moment. But using the stabiliser for ‘trim’ is secondary. Trim is nice have not must have, provided the airplane is naturally stable. The elevators can do the required adjustments.

    The problem is the stabiliser has not been upgraded as a fast moving and precise control surface, which is required if it is to be treated as a fast moving primary control suraface. But then the CPUs wern’t upgraded either!

    Bottom line.There were no hardware/mechanical upgrades never mind aerodynamic upgrades. Just software changes and the CPUs aren’t big enough.

    • So, they are trying to make a “Stabilator” using fast trim action on the stabilizer on the 737? The problem is, it sounds like they may need it. If I were King, I’d move the engines down where they should be and raise the rear landing gear. In other words an Airbus 321, with non fly-by-wire controls. Or a 737-NG with higher landing gear and a bigger engine. Or, as one flight test pilot of the 737-MAX mentioned, some sort of aerodynamic trick that might raise the fuel burn, but, at least it would be a hardware fix rather than a software fix. I’m a programmer, and I don’t trust software as much as hardware. Software is too easily ‘fixed’. So, folks are constantly ‘fixing’ without thinking. Hardware is tougher to change, so it seems more thought goes into it’s design.

      • Richard, your analysis is on the spot. Still you dodge the final conclusion: the MAX is done for, and with it probably the whole company. Boeing will need chapter 11 to replace not only their top management and board of directors, but also scrap the MAXs and start building a new single aisle plane.

        You just can’t do all the necessary hardware changes on the existing planes that would be necessary plus the certification in a time frame that would allow Boeing to stay afloat. Not even close.

        Seriously, I don’t understand what they are up to right now and how far they are adrift in their own dream land as to not understand they have already hit the floor and need an ambulance and extensive surgery. After that it will be a long convalescence.

  37. “Trim is nice have not must have, provided the airplane is naturally stable. The elevators can do the required adjustments.”

    Stabs have been used for trim since the jet go.

    And no, its not a nice to have thing, trim is critical to avoid having to horse controls around.

    For a jet its the only way to go. Its not a mattere of using a stab or not for trim, all jet aircraft do (Airbus, Comec, UAL and the rest when they made them)

    Its how its implemented that is the key.

    Reducing motors down to one from two was one aspect

    And an A320 trims the same way, its got nothing to do with stability it has all to do with forces.

    Untrimmed you can horse it around, so you are advocating for hosting an aircraft around at its most critical modes of flight (takeoff and landing)

    Otherwise you need a relay of 10 pilots to fly it straight and level where the most time is spent and pilots exhaust their arm strength trying to hold it level.

    You mix up trim with stability and they are not the same nor can any aircraft be made neutral in trim throughout its flight envelope.

    • Very few that reach General rank are anything other than politicians.

  38. First off, I have NO specific knowledge of any avionics on a 737. I get all my information second or third hand via the internet. Could the address bus of the Flight Control Computer or maybe the Angle of Attack sensor be maxed out? Either by
    addressability not available, or bandwidth not available? After hearing about the CPU being overloaded, and the 737 still using the original, older model CPU’s with all of the extra stuff now crammed into the avionics bay
    a few possible added feeds off the AOA sensors for the new FBW Yaw Damper system. The new Onboard network system (see page 05)
    MCAS etc. There’s a lot of data flowing through computers, sensors and displays on the old 737 (NG) bus structure. They didn’t hook up the AOA disagree light. Was that because they knew they only were using one AOA sensor, and didn’t have the ability
    to feed in the other one? And were hoping to upgrade the bus structure and activate the AOA disagree light later, in the future?
    How many physical addresses do they have available on the 737 data bus structure? 128 / 256 / 1024?
    for example .. There’s a limit of only 20 outputs on a single ARINC429 bus structure .(see page 6) I assume that 20 is enough for an AOA sensor going to one air data
    computer, but, do any other computer systems require the raw feed? Or 19 other systems? Or maybe the speed of the bus is a problem?
    It’s scary to think how many CPUs are talking to one another in the 737 MAX today, compared to the original 737 in 1967. If Boeing
    needs to update a main data bus system on the 737-MAX, it would require a lot of changes to a lot of vendors equipment. Are there
    “race conditions” possibly entering the picture? One sensor or computer trying to push data, but, being blocked by other data tying up the

  39. Peter Lemme, a former Boeing avionics expert, had a fantastic write up on what he surmised of the 737 MAX MCAS system and
    why the one AOA sensor feed may have been overlooked. This was written back in Nov 2018. A good three months before the second
    crash. It sounds like a lot of his suggestions are being put into effect.
    One very striking comment of his…
    The FCC (Autopilot) engaged-mode calculations, even single channel, depend on two (AOA) sensor systems to prevent inappropriate response to a single (AOA) sensor failure.
    Yet no such feature exists for FCC commands while not (Autopilot) engaged
    note: added words in parenthesis were added for clarity
    His “Conclusion and Recommendation” section is well worth reading

  40. Looks like the (first?) head has rolled at Boeing, with the precipitous retirement of the MAX program manager.
    The guy has been there less than a year so he seems to be the “fuse” being blown to protect the worthies who really should carry the can👎.
    If so it is a very European approach , and somewhat astonishing , as the true riders of the dead MAX horse are reasonably well known in this day and age of instant personal media.
    Perhaps he is the first in a long line?

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