Pontifications: Safety changes good for Boeing, the industry

By Scott Hamilton

Sept. 30, 2019, © Leeham News: Boeing’s announcement last week that it’s establish a permanent Board level safety committee, realigning some functions and creating new lines of reporting is a good and necessary step.

It’s not only good and necessary for the 737 MAX return to service, it’s good and necessary for Boeing and for the industry.

It’s also just a first step in restoring confidence in the MAX and the Boeing brands.

Unprecedented scale

As I’ve written before, groundings of commercial airplanes, while rare, are not unknown. In the US alone, since World War II the Douglas DC-6, Lockheed Constellation, Martin 202, McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and Boeing 787 were grounded for design flaws.

But the grounding of the 737 MAX is unprecedented in scale and in duration.

There were 387 MAXes in service when global regulators grounded the airplane March 13. There are roughly another 300 newly produced and undelivered MAXes stored in Washington State and in Texas. Even after grounding orders are lifted, Boeing will be producing the MAX at a faster rate than it initially can deliver the airplane.

Boeing has yet to publicly detail how it will meet this logistical challenge.

Improving safety for the industry

Boeing’s permanent Board-level safety committee, the Aerospace Safety Committee, and new reporting lines within Boeing Commercial Airplanes, brings the ability to communicate safety issues right to the top.

I’ve never bought into the thesis advance by some that Boeing deliberately cut safety corners for expediency, greed and cost-cutting.

There is nothing in it for Boeing to produce unsafe airplanes.

These are good people. Good people sometimes make bad decisions. Good people sometimes make stupid decisions. I don’t think there is anyone who can say he or she hasn’t done so.

Cost-cutting impacts

Desires to cut costs and improve efficiencies are standard in any business. Sometimes these go too far, cutting to the quick. I think that’s what happened at Boeing, and it’s been a long, long time in the making.

It would be easy to point fingers at former CEO Jim McNerney, current CEO Dennis Muilenburg and even the old McDonnell Douglas crowd when it comes to cost-cutting policies. In truth, Boeing was bloated and it did need cost-cutting. It did and continues to need production transformation to become more efficient and competitive in the future.

But Boeing’s engineering union, SPEEA, and its touch-labor union, the IAM 751, have been warning for years that cost-cutting was going too deep and safety was being jeopardized.

I’m not so naïve as to think that there wasn’t a certain amount of self-interest for job preservation in these complaints. But executive management was too quick to dismiss these warnings and complaints are purely self-interest tactics.

These chickens have come home to roost.

Systemic issues

That Boeing was headed down the proverbial rat hole of systemic problems should have been obvious to Chicago.

The 787 was grounded, 3 ½ years late and billions of dollars over budget. The 747-8 was late and a few billion dollars over budget. The KC-46A was running over budget—it’s now up to $3.5bn in write-offs—and two years late. The development of the MAX, initially put at about $1bn-$1,5bn by former CFO Jack Bell (later internally upped to $2bn) reportedly ran at about $4bn, a figure that is unconfirmed.

Quality control at the 787 plant in Charleston remained an issue and LNA periodically received reports of emerging QC problems at Everett on the 777 line. (The KC-46 QC issues over foreign object debris that emerged came much later.)

These issues alone should be alerted Boeing executives to systemic issues within BCA.

Then came the grounding of the MAX.

The day of reckoning

The MAX became Boeing’s day of reckoning for a few decades of decisions, cost-cutting and, well, arrogance. This will make for a series of business school case studies.

It’s a cliché that the deaths of people (usually in the context of war) have died in vain. It is, of course, a huge tragedy what happened to the passengers and crew on Lion Air 610 and Ethiopian 302.

But these twin tragedies means Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration have taken a deep dive into their processes, protocols, design standards, etc. Perhaps it is true, as Boeing says, that development of the MAX didn’t violate any of these that were in place. What is equally true, or so it appears, is that these all were flawed at some level.

It is also true that aviation learns from accidents.

Global regulators are learning from the FAA’s flawed processes and protocols. Other manufacturers, whether it be Airbus, Embraer, Mitsubishi, COMAC or Irkut, also are learnings. No doubt the builders of private and corporate airplanes also will learn, as will manufacturers of helicopters and maybe even drones and UAVs.

This is why criminal investigations into airline accidents, prevalent outside the US, are a bad idea. There must be free flow of information for the benefit all stakeholders. I’m deeply concerned that there are criminal investigations by US authorities in the MAX crisis.

I’m also concerned about Congressional hearings. The FAA’s role is fair game, but Congressional hearings all too often become opportunities for making headlines rather than eliciting information.

53 Comments on “Pontifications: Safety changes good for Boeing, the industry

  1. The balance between efficiency and safety is critical. In recent years Boeing have touted massively aggressive development programmes which they have then failed to execute on time or budget. The failure must be placed largely at the door of unrealistic planning and targets. It is undoubted that the MAX was placed under a tight schedule with considerable cost constraints, in this circumstance the only thing that can give is quality.

    Let’s hope this move is more substance than just paying lip service to safety. In theory the link to the board should improve matters, in practise it may just become a way of parking the safety concerns whilst the main board does what it has always done

  2. This is a decidedly Boeing/FAA/US problem that tainted established safety culture/mechanisms to the advantage of the local market participant. ( is the upcoming pickle fork fatigue issue similar grandfathering fallout?)

    Boeing will fight leveling the table ( to their disadvantage ) nail and tooth using directed word power weapons.
    i.e. I expect a mirage of fixes being propped up that won’t change all too much behind the scenes.
    I expect a range of entangling actions against non US market participants: up front Airbus. this will be full spectrum warfare.
    nod of the WTO is just too well timed to allow weaponizing in this context.

  3. “Other manufacturers, whether it be Airbus, […], also are learnings.”

    Very much true!
    Working in a company that provide Airbus with systems and equipments for decades, we actually feel a shift since some months.
    AIB is being even more cautious than before, especially when it deals with re-designing already certified A/C systems.

  4. Thank you for a level headed assessment that feels the pain of both the tragedy’s and what Boeing as a company is going thru now.

    Thank you to for not joining the mud-fest that has abounded since all this has happened. Perhaps many of the knockers might pause now and consider that the whole name and safety perception of aviation as a whole has been damaged.

    • @ Too Old

      You left the last bit out.

      ….. as a result of Boeing being too aggressive in their desire to make short-term returns at the expense of engineering integrity.

      there fixed it for you

    • “Thank you to for not joining the mud-fest that has abounded since all this has happened.”

      Interesting to note that Boeing exists in a “mandatory show loser under winners foot” environment. Stepping on every bodies toes and lamenting the blowback. amusing to ask for a super soft pardon
      and then 40days later continue as before.

  5. Thank you Scott for thinking this over and reviewing longer term implications.

    What might another root cause in this Congress it self. Congress FAA Reauthorization, self interest of local Congress men and their weakness to being lobbied by big cooperations. Congress listened to Boeing instead of their own FAA people.

    https://thehill.com/policy/transportation/319723-boeing-urges-congress-to-streamline-aircraft-certification-process

    Google “Congress FAA Streamlining Aircraft Certification Boeing” 2011-2018 and it becomes clear how much pressure congress has put on FAA to “streamline” certification over the years. It’s all logged & hurts my eyes.

    IMO time for some honesty & sole searching in US Congress.

    • keesje: Soul searching and politicians are not two works that go together but all too rarely.

      You can see the same decent into the abyss. literally in the case of the Deep Water Horizon and Maconda well.

      And current administration is trying to roll the beefed up protocols back again.

      This goes in cycles and people die and or messes made (both) – I wish I had the answer but from what I have seen over a lot of years, once its in the past far enough the whittling begins again.

    • Depends on what is meant by ‘streamlining’ and how it is done (politicians and bureaucrats don’t do such well).

      There are many arcane procedures, bad apples in both Boeing and FAA, many overlapping regulations, many silos in both organizations.

  6. “I’ve never bought into the thesis advance by some that Boeing deliberately cut safety corners for expediency, greed and cost-cutting.”

    I think you are probably right at the top levels, the top level executives likely over 50 thought that pushing for demanding time and financial goals could be achieved in an honourable way, like they did as young engineers and managers. However , and this isn’t unique to Boeing, the mid level management and maybe some further up as well don’t have the same standards anymore and ‘expediency, greed and cost-cutting” usually for careerism and financial gain are increasingly important. As I said , it isn’t unique to Boeing, but the first signs appeared within Boeing with the jailing of CFO for the USAF tanker corruption case around 15 yrs ago

    • Duke: Its what the CIA calls Plasisiable Deniability .

      CEO mucks with a structure that works, always under the guise of efficiency (and ah hem, cost cutting).

      Injuries and in this case death occur and they say, well we didn’t set out to kill anyone.

      These are not ignorant people, they are well educated.

      The Mantra of Derisory Repeats itself if we forget the past just is not part of their DNA.

      It money and arrogance. They simply do not care. Its a game.

      Good people are only as good as the company lets them be. You can push the boundaries a bit (50 years of doing so) but its not much.

      Ultimately as an employee you know its your pay check or your integrity.

      So between the reality that you have a mortgage to pay and greed of a CEO this is the end result.

      But on the upper level it is deliberate no matter how much they deny it and they do set the values (or lack) of the corporate culture.

  7. The article is written with a great deal of emotion. I understand why. But the emotion means there is no reality there is no truth.

    I’ll use BP to explain why. Specifically the Deepwater Horizon disaster. America responded with venon towards the distaster. As a Brit to I complain. No. But there needs to be a clarification.

    Oil and gas exploration has a terrible history in a America. The reason is a lack of regulation. The DeepWater Horizon disaster is an example. It was an American designed oil rig, owned by an American company and manned by Americans. The oil rig was certified as safe by American regulators.

    Those words suggest that BP were not responsible. They were responsible. Why? They took advantage of a lack of regulation to maximise their profits. To be clear, they could have built a very high technology oil rig to prevent a build up of pressure that caused the distaster. But the most notable failure was a the sealing of the well. There was no equipment. So it took days upon days to seal the well.

    So no, BP were responsible.

    Corporate greed is a problem. Very often it does extend to criminal behaviour. This is true at Boeing.

    That doesn’t mean that every Boeing employee is a bad person. Indeed, I’m sure that the overwhelming majority are good people because I know the overwhelming majority of Americans are good people. I spend many happy days in America. So I know. I have no time for anti-Americanism.

    The fact is the safety culture at Boeing was first eroded and then lost by corporate greed. The regulators, the FAA, allowed it. The world does have a right to respond with venon towards Boeing and the FAA in the same way America responded with venon towards BP.

    What right for one side is right for both sides. A level playing field.

    I will end with a couple of points.

    The use of criminal charges is not more prevalent outside of America. It’s always prevalent in America when American’s lose their possessions, suffer or die because of some kind of criminal activity. Indeed America has no tolerance, especially with regard to foreign companies and foreign nationals. Huawei is a good example – America’s attempt to extradite the CEO for criminal activity towards America.

    But I come to safety in aerospace. It already exists outside of America. It used to exist within America. So it’s not correct to say what’s happening is good for the industry. As I once said the A320 is much more of an airplane than the 737. The consequence is that the profit magin on a A320 has been far less than the profit margin on a 737. For example, you get triplex FCC channels and triplex sensors on a A320. That costs money. And so on.

    Bottom line. America has zero tolerance to foreign companies and foreign national who cause American nationals to lose their possessions, suffer or die. Anything else is pure gibberish

    Scott, I understand your emotions. But your article is not reality and not the truth. I think many will say the article represents double standards. Indeed many will take offence. Not a good day at the office.

    • Phillip: I find myself in almost 100% agreement.

      I think the A320-737 comparisons is not founded on data (no idea what the real costs between the two are and an added aspect is the payback on the A320)

      I don’t know that I would roll over the A320 triple setup over a 737, that gets into a declaring something obsolete at an arbitrary date.

      I will agree that gets into the US annoyance with government telling us what to do.

      But also, the 737 got to where it is by slipshod oversight and that includes the manual trim and then the mysterious change in how it really was working vs what was programed into the simulators (faked)

      I worked supporting a level D Simulator (not on it). You learn a lot working around equipment and talking to the techs (since I quit my job I can talk about aspects that were previously behind the paywall)

      The upshot is that if there is a level D simulator absolute mandate, its fidelity (it is supposed 100% accurate to the real bird)

      Real world was we had a fan that was inserting a noise into the operation that was not there in a real bird, they went to amazing efforts to stop it.

      Not because they were purists, but because the FAA required thty correct it (a case of how regulation is supposed to work)

      In the case of the 773 similar (NG as well) its the equivalent of finding that the Vatican is running a Las Vegas class gambling establishment on the premises .

      How the simulator lost its fidelity is another key aspect of this mess that has to be deliberate and needs an explanation.

      Why the second motor on the stab was allowed to be deleted as well.

      The 737 Classic on had a stiller safety rerecord.

      Less about how much better the A320 is and more about Maconda and a cut here and a cut there and soon you have no safety at all.

  8. Despite all the shuffling, the reality is that they have split things up so the design people are not talking to the test people

    And this is a good example of where it was done right but not on the MAX

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/boeing-did-not-key-safeguards-737-max-report-204107374.html

    To have any confidante in safety being real, I would want an organizational chart as to who is located where and what the duties are and then have them all in the same place.

    At one time it was a mantra, the engineers need to be co located with the builders so they can see where the issues are.

    And another one:

    https://thehill.com/policy/transportation/463604-wing-structure-cracking-issue-cited-on-some-boeing-737-ng-planes

  9. And this sort of story along with FOD issues is becoming all too common with Boeing.

    It shows how thing to non existent their management bench is.

  10. Increased emphasis on cost cutting is one thing. A fundamental change in business philosophy is quite another. You mentioned the “old McDonnell Douglas crowd”. It was shortly after Harry Stonecipher took over the newly merged company that the internal edicts emanating from the top changed from the traditional emphasis on “enhancing customer satisfaction” to that of “enhancing shareholder value”. Is there a possible correlation with doing whatever is necessary to cut cost and schedule in order to bring new products to a competitive marketplace as quickly as possible?

    • There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with seeking to enhance shareholder value. Done properly and looked at over the right timeframe, it’s the same as enhancing customer satisfaction. Ask Toyota.

      There’s nothing wrong with cost cutting either, done properly. With an engineering process that you think is costing too much, the last thing you do is let management redesign it. Engineering processes are best developed by your very best senior engineers; they’re the ones who know how far you can go. Again, ask Toyota.

      For companies like this, with long pedigrees, there’s gold in having long lived company archives and a few proper trained historians working in the staff. They’re the people who can unearth old, forgotten “reasons why we do this”. Often it’ll be buried in some decades old memo, or in personal journal. With modern technology applied to digitising, processing and organising old paper records, it’s impressive what can be recalled quite efficiently. Toyota don’t need this, because there’s plenty of people desparate to study them and their processes and write books about it.

      • Agreed, but what it has come to mean with US Corporation and companies for the most part is to whack what has worked with the intent to make the stock more value so the CEO who gets his pay as a cut of the stock makes more money.

        So now its a theme, slash and burn and hope you escape the barn before the fire gets you.

      • Of course you right @Matthew, Toyota is a good example of company which didn’t lost his integrity in a process.

  11. In short, the shareholders got the company culture they’ve been indirectly pressing for. Congratulations.

    It was a day of reckoning, but I’m far from convinced Boeing and the FAA have taken it seriously. Yes, they’ve set up this shiny new board level safety committee, but they’re also rushing to get the software-only modified MAX back into the sky before the committee has had a chance to do anything, and preferably before it’s met for the first time. Kinda hints where their priorities are, even now.

    I’m not sure exactly what other regulators and manufacturers are supposed to be learning from all this, other than “don’t do it this way”. But I think they already knew that, and are still responding to the discovery that someone was doing it that way…

    Scott is right to be concerned about criminal investigations getting in the way; we’re already seeing people involved refusing to incriminate themselves by cooperating.

    On the other hand the suspected failings are of monstrous consequence; arguably its too bad to simply let someone get away with it by affording them immunity from prosecution in return for cooperation. They’ve tried the carrot of a benign, helpful regulatory environment, but look what they did with that. Time for a bit of stick perhaps, to encourage others to start liking carrots more.

    • I don’t buy into the criminal investigations as a negative.

      I think its been a mantra all too long that has not proven itself.

      You have to work a bit harder but you can get the information and decide what needs to be done with it.

      Aviation has self selected itself as something special and deserves an exemption. Like all entitlements it has its own corrupt aspects.

      I quit a work place that felt it was “special” due to locale when in fact it was just an excuse to do whatever they wanted and in the end I saw direct corruption aimed at myself to get something from the company I worked for I was not remotely involved with

      In other words, rather than go through the process that was there to be sued for that purpose they went with a corrupt one.

      Fortunately for me I was in a position to just quit.

    • “we’re already seeing people involved refusing to incriminate themselves by cooperating.”
      Unfortunately that person is in legal peril and the right against self incrimination before congress doesnt apply in this sort of situation. Things have moved on from the 1950s when it was claimed often.
      The Compulsory Testimony Act applies to him, which covers testimony and personal papers. However I see the claim as a ‘white flag’ thinking that they will get ‘immunity for cooperation.’
      Boeing should be very worried if it plays out that way.

      • Ah, that’s much more sensible. My only concern is that somehow the higher ups in this affair evade prosecution or conviction, being able to afford more lawyer time. Well, we’ll see how it goes.

  12. I don’t agree with @Scott romantic vision “I’ve never bought into the thesis advance by some that Boeing deliberately cut safety corners for expediency, greed and cost-cutting.” I think it is a loss of criticism.

    Because someone did it all with MAX. It wasn’t a computer’s decision – it was people’s actions/ omissions /renunciation – some group of people at some level decided this way – someone gave idea, someone made it live, someone verified, someone approved, someone oversight.

    I believe that criminal investigations in such scale of non-fullfilment of duties are just crucial and necessary, followed by proper sentences, so no one in future will even think about cutting corners like Boeing did with MAX. That’s also is building safety in aviation, not only free flow of information. No-blame-aviation-culture cannot be same quality as no-stress-education myth.

    And let not be forget that CEOs, Bords etc. at least sets the tone, that’s the basis for their responsability.

    • Spot on.

      Wink wink, nod nod, you know Jimie is causing problems, it sure would be nice if Jimmie quit causing problem wouldn’t it?

      Now where did I recently hear that being done?

    • Totally agree. AFAIK regulations and checks must have uncovered the MCAS problems. Some people did a shortcuts to get things going. What about the story that Boeing changed the MCAS trim angle (0.9 to 2.6 I think), but did not update the FAA about it. FAA was OK with older value, but might have demanded extra test for new value. Criminal case right there.

  13. It can boil down to how can FAA, EASA verify the computer software generated design of geometric tolerances, aero, stress/life with material propertis, systems design and logic. Today I do not think they can verify this part, just check that each box is ticked in the certification requirements documents and review test results vs regulations and computer model predictions. Hence design misstakes can easier slip thru the review

    • I fear you’re underestimating the power of testing. It doesn’t matter what the fancy CAD software says, the wings are still going to be put through a lot of static testing, the flight test campaign will put flight control software through its paces, and so on. Ok, this approach may not bottom out the true fatigue life, but that’s why there are periodic in service inspections.

      Arguably by grandfathering in so much of the MAX’s design Boeing were avoiding a lot of testing. That was the whole goal of the MAX program, make minimal changes and then be exempt from full retest of the whole aircraft. That’s now looking like a bad idea.

      Boeing are even now campaigning to be allowed to skip a load of production line QC testing, arguing that “the test results are always good, clearly there’s no need to do them”. Recipients of 787s, KC46, Apache, and who knows what else would beg to differ…

      • Using advanced software and massive Cray computers is like driving a very fast car. Doing everything perfectly right you get amazing results, a small error in an assumption of a boundary condition or setting a parameter like a time constant wrong can easily go unnoticed all the way to certification and delivery to customers. Then it bites you back. The analysis has been thru many reviews, testing with well paid managers sign offs but some misstakes will be severe when the “planets line up” and be of the MCAS class. Most are less severe but bad enough, just look at the A220 Engine uncontained failures that lucky enough did not pass thru the fuselage. My point is that verification of designs for safety require a new level of skills and tools for the FAA/EASA to catch the dangerous errors made before certification.
        One can look at the number of SB’s issued after certification that addresses an improvement of safety after FAA/EASA certification (like on the PW1100G).

  14. 737 MAX

    October 1st. Boeing said they would hand over their intentions to the FAA in September. Anybody know whether it’s happened.

    EASA want tests flights in October to test high speed nose up turns with MCAS on and off. Anybody know when or if it will happen.

    The committee

    Is the committee going to review the 737 MAX changes before they are given to the FAA as somebody else suggested, or does the committee start work after the 737 MAX changes are finalised?

    We will have the answers this month. If we don’t Boeing will have to cut production or stop production!

    • It’s almost a year when JT610 crashed and Boeing started fixing MCAS, and still no answer :/

  15. Leaving specifics out, a review of assumptions around pilot behaviour and cockpit human factors is a good thing. For example the assumption that pilots can react correctly and complete memory items in 2 seconds under all conditions is outdated.

    Yes it is physically possible, it will be true during check-rides, it may even be true most of the time. But I bet it is not true all the time. Like the rest of us pilots get distracted, bored angry, tired etc. Other industries have shown that a high level of engagement when simply monitoring is not a reasonable assumption.

    I bet if we get self-driving cars they will not be allowed to make any similar assumption nor should aircraft certification authorities continue to allow them.

    • There was a time in aviation while 3 seconds reaction time was up to date – when in cockpit were only 3 warnings lights – so many decades ago. Now, at those level of complexity it is only possible in obvious, most common issues. When you have to think, analyse, it’s just too late.

  16. It’s good that JOHN GOGLIA picks up Congress powerfull & influential role in pushing delegation of certification to Boeing and “streamline” certification.

    Either congress set wrong priorities, were sleeping at the wheel or
    were simply bought by the #1 exporter.

    FAA REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2018:

    “at the request of an ODA holder, eliminate
    all limitations specified in a procedures manual in
    place on the day before the date of enactment of the FAA
    Reauthorization Act of 2018 that are low and medium risk
    as determined by a risk analysis using criteria
    established by the ODA Office and disclosed to the ODA
    holder, except where an ODA holder’s performance
    warrants the retention of a specific limitation due to
    documented concerns about inadequate current performance
    in carrying out that authorized function;”

    https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/302/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22FAA+Reauthorization%22%5D%7D

    https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/blogs/torqued-congresss-role-boeing-737-max-accidents-needs-look

    Time someone opens the curtains to let the sunshine in.

    I guess soon “Streamline” just like “Grandfather” is declared a do-not-use-anymore-word with regards to Boeing and FAA Certification.

  17. One issue is the aerospace industry is and always has been a quasi socialist if not outright socialist industry. It is not and cannot be driven by the vagaries of the market, quarterly profits, and the mantra of efficiency, effectiveness and excellence. It must have subsidies. What is strange is the form of socialism developed between Boeing and the US government in comparison to the socialism of Europe and now China. In the US, this collusion has resulted in a radical redistribution of wealth from workers to executives and gross income inequality. It has meant massive tax subsidies and construction in right-to-work states where workers and their communities are perpetually in a lose-lose situation.

    It’s been a time of becoming first through cheating and destroying the competition through monopoly, corporate mergers, acquisitions and marketing strategies. And if that doesn’t work use all of the power of the government to keep things on an unequal footing. The writing was clearly on the wall as Boeing tried to undercut Bombardier, a company that had struggled to create a truly remarkable and new aircraft – doing what the world had counted on Boeing to do two decades ago instead of going with the worn out 737.

    But it’s become the marketing strategy of the world during the last 30 years. As a software engineer, what was Bill Gates’ real innovation? From its inception, DOS was not a state of the art operating system, but Gates managed to wrangle it into every IBM PC, making practically the entire industry dependent on his inferior software. The 1984 Macintosh (like the Bombardier C series) was the future of the personal computer, which (in terms of graphic interface) has changed very little since those early machines. Bill Gates won with cunning and a marketing strategy, not through engineering and by building a better Machine. And throughout the anti-intellectual, anti-labor, anti-professional, neo-liberal, long Reagan era, this has been our dominant ethos. It is rehearsed and learned in shows like survivor where scheming, back-biting alliances Trump physical survival skill and ability. The significant character of this era of American exceptionalism is the one-time dominant winner of the most grueling event in sports, Lance Armstrong, who won a record 7 Tour de France titles while using performance enhancing drugs.

    Someone once wrote that capitalism sows the seeds of its own destruction. This seems to be coming true in the current era. This thinker had only witnessed capitalism in it rawest, most intense form in the early to mid 19th century. He did not anticipate the Keynesian transformations of the 1930s that smoothed out its rough edges and helped the economies and governments of the west produce the highest quality of life in history. The long Reagan era dismantled this, bringing us back to the robber barons, monopolies, booms and busts of 19th century capitalism. And the woes of Boeing are the seeds this era.

    And now, Boeing is left with the idea of trying to fix it all with perception – with spin and more PR. I’m even wondering about the latest item in the news about the military tanker that had a better version of MCAS. Can anyone tell me why the 767 would need MCAS?

    Anyway, It’s time to accept the fact that Boeing has lost its standing and will never achieve the same footing it had in the past. What’s wrong with it being a company like all others and returning a little less on the investment?

    • “It has meant massive tax subsidies and construction in right-to-work states where workers and their communities are perpetually in a lose-lose situation.”

      IMHO the mandatory union membership to be allowed to work at all
      is the broken part of equation as it removes coalition freedom from the individual worker.
      Right to work states do not forbid unionized organization of the workforce.

      Unions in the US are about as overbearing and dysfunctional as their management counterparts. A “Mafiose” system.

      • I agree. The union rules on scope contracts, restricting which aircraft can be flown by an airline is nuts. Aircraft makers, Airlines, and pilots all want things to stay the same. They are afraid of any change that can force improvements into the system. Any change that will force them to invest, train and learn. Any change that will involve a new type certification, any change that will involve new simulator training etc. They just want to retrofit a bit of software and make all the problems go away, not change any part of the plane itself.

        • Some industries don’t respond well, positively and in the best interests of the public to market pressures. The healthcare industry is one, and it seems the aircraft industry is another. People do not have to be in constant terror of losing their jobs to be creative and implement change. In fact, one of the most flexible, dynamic and creative sectors of the US economy has been our universities — which are the envy of the world. Take away tenure and you have for-profit universities, which are the envy of no-one. Robber Barons, plutocrats, and oligarchs stifle the economy as they stifle competition and the free speech and constructive criticism so necessary for experts and professionals to do their jobs right and well.

  18. Somehow, the discussion keeps moving away from: 1) what effect did placing the LEAP engines up and further forward have on the aerodynamics of the 737 Max 2) what EXACTLY was MCAS designed to do?

    • afair: EASA’s Mr. Ky was explicit in his report to the EU parliament:
      “The stall avoidance system MCAS .. “

    • Steve, so true. Boeing knew they had an issue back in the wind tunnel testing. I’m not sure if they ignored it, or didn’t fully comprehend the magnitude of it. At the last moment, a couple of test pilots and a small segment of the design team pushed MCAS to be even more powerful. A good design review was not done. MCAS is obviously a stall prevention system. Feel-ability would have been solved by yoke pushers. They didn’t want to do anything to the basic flight surfaces. i.e. enlarge the elevator, stall vortices etc.

      • This still looks like a massive PR effort to redirect attention away from the basic problem — The 737 Max has serious, inherent, and physical aerodynamic problems because of the placement of the engines. Apparently, it is not airworthy without MCAS — which seems to differentiate it from other control systems. And after reading the comments on this page for several months, it’s still not quite clear where the stall is occurring that MCAS is designed to avoid. (Why would the military, tanker version of the 767 need MCAS? More PR?) The PR smoke makes it easy to forget that the stall was produced because the new engines don’t fit right on the old airplane — like socks on a rooster.

        • Steve, The military MCAS is because of a shift in weight during refueling operations (it’s a tanker). And it uses TWO AOA sensors. The Air Force took a look at the 767 MCAS when the 737-MAX issues came out and don’t seem concerned about it. A much better designed system. As for the 737-MAX MCAS system, Boeing has been very secretive about information on the specific ‘pitch up’ details. Even when EASA asked to see the data, Boeing has been stalling. (pun intended). They have been mentioning making MCAS less aggressive, but, as an outsider, you can’t tell if that will be sufficient or not without data and testing. EASA seems to want to have a look. The FAA is just Boeing in sheep’s clothing. I don’t see the FAA wanting to have their own test pilots fly a 737-MAX. They are just looking over Boeing’s shoulder when Boeing test flies the plane. I’ve noticed that a few ‘former’ Boeing folks were on the MAX program. I wonder if that’s normal for people moving on in their careers, or they don’t want to be associated with Boeing after seeing up close how the 737-MAX was made and Boeing’s current culture. It’s more of a question in my mind right now. If I were King of Boeing, and had a true fix that I’d be proud to show off to the world, I wouldn’t hide the data. Especially, when the world is questioning Boeing’s design methodology, certification and testing. I’d want to advertise to every airline and pilot, every detail of the fix to the plane that I could. Not hide the problem and details of the fix, saying you can trust us this time.

          • Richard,
            Thanks for the information. But it doesn’t seem like the same system. Shifting weight just doesn’t seem like the same issue as whacky aerodynamics. The former seems like it would be addressed by the autopilot system and not as a patch to aerodynamic irregularity.

          • Steve, the 767 tanker was designed by folks who knew what they were doing. Not like the 737-MAX. Two sensors, only one time shot and not the high speed trim. The way MCAS should have been on the 737-MAX originally. But, MCAS on the 737-MAX was changed at the last moment, with no notice to the FAA. I wonder if they have an OFF switch for MCAS on the 767 tanker? Or indicator lights that work, or a rewired stab trim cutout switch? Every time I think about the 737-MAX MCAS system I’m just dumbfounded how screwed up the design, testing and review was. Here’s a link to a good WSJ article on the comparison of the two MCAS’es
            =============
            https://www.wsj.com/articles/before-737-max-boeings-flight-control-system-included-key-safeguards-11569754800?redirect=amp#click=https://t.co/73CyeCEMO0

  19. And the Comet airliner was grounded, first for a short time then longer after a second accident, some Comet 1 models were modified to have oval windows as the later Comet 1 had. (Fatigue was not well understood by deHaviland, Avro Canada and Boeing had better understanding so used tear-stopping features in their jet airliners.

    Apparently the Lockheed Electra turboprop was not grounded despite fatal breakups.

  20. Further to my previous post that has not appeared yet, I note the Comet was grounded for about four years. Extensive investigation and a full-scale water tank test took time.

    The debacle slowed Comet sales, modifications were costly (some Comet 1/1A aircraft were scrapped). The later Comet 4 had significant success (there were Comet 2s, mostly used by UK military, no Comet 3s due development of Comet 4).

    The Avro Jetliner prototype flew and toured airlines but Canadian government funding stopped in favour of spending on the Avro Arrow high-speed allweather interceptor. I don’t know the economics of the Avro Jetliner, four engines is a cost concern.

    • The Avro Jetliner was relatively short range so two engines would have been adequate, problem was the usual – lack of suitable engine, that’s compromised many designs. (Does have advantage of engine-out climb performance in hot/high conditions like DEN and MEX, the only high Canadian airports I can think of were YYC at 3500 feet ASL, and YDQ at 2500 – all less than DEN and MEX.)

  21. The Lion Air flight before the accident ‘survived’ MCAS because of the alertness of a 3rd pilot in the cockpit. Maybe with all of this automation, the return of the Flight Engineer needs to be looked at?
    When an emergency occurs, pilots are usually busy trying to fly the plane first, and then secondly trying to work the problem. Having a 3rd crew member in the cockpit would allow someone to begin working the problem a lot sooner, not burdened with flying the plane first.

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