Boeing recaps actions ahead of earnings call

Oct. 22, 2019: Boeing today recapped its actions to bring the 737 MAX back to certification and service, ahead of its earnings call tomorrow.

The company has taken huge hits since Friday when the information about pilot text messages were revealed by Reuters. The Seattle Times today has a detailed report that makes an independent assessment of the context of the text messages. The story, by Dominic Gates, who’s reporting has been ground-breaking,  supports Boeing’s narrative in this case.

Boeing’s press release recapping its actions to fix MAX and return it to service it below. LNA doesn’t publish press releases except in extraordinary circumstances. Given the bashing Boeing has been under–including by LNA–we’re making an exception in this case.

Boeing Progress on 737 MAX Safe Return to Service

CHICAGO, Oct. 22, 2019—Boeing has made significant progress over the past several months in support of safely returning the 737 MAX to service as the company continues to work with the FAA and other global regulators on the process laid out for certifying the 737 MAX software and related training updates. The company has also made significant governance and operational changes to further sharpen its focus.

What we are doing

In addition to providing assistance to those affected by these accidents, teams from across Boeing and our supplier partners have been working around the clock to develop software updates and conduct related flight testing, enhance future pilot training materials, engage and inform global regulators, airline customers and our suppliers, and support the existing fleet of 737 MAX airplanes.

  • Support for Victim Families: These two tragic accidents continue to weigh heavily on everyone at Boeing. Boeing has established a $100 million relief fund to meet family and community needs of those affected by these accidents. Fifty million dollars has been set aside for the Boeing Financial Assistance Fund, which is designed to provide immediate financial assistance to the families of the victims of the accidents. Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, renowned experts in establishing and overseeing victim’s compensation funds, have been hired to design and independently administer the Boeing Financial Assistance Fund, which has already begun providing relief to impacted families.
  • Software Updates & Flight Testing: We updated the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation Software (MCAS) on the MAX by adding three additional layers of protection that will prevent accidents like these from ever happening again. To date, we have conducted more than 800 test and production flights with the updated software, totaling more than 1,500 hours. The company is making steady progress on the second software update announced in June for additional flight control computer redundancy. Some 445 participants from more than 140 customers and regulators around the globe, including the FAA, have participated in simulator sessions to experience the proposed MCAS software update. Just last week the company successfully conducted a dry-run of a certification flight test.
  • Customer & Stakeholder Engagement: Boeing has conducted 20 conferences across the globe with more than 1,100 participants from more than 250 organizations to help operators and financiers prepare for return to service. The company is also conducting weekly technical calls with customers worldwide to deliver the highest quality support and fully prepare the fleet to safely return to service when the grounding is lifted.  This also includes a developing a comprehensive package of training and educational resources. The company is also closely engaging with more than 900 suppliers to ensure supply chain stability.
  • 24/7 Fleet Support: Boeing is providing around-the-clock customer support through its global operations center while simultaneously delivering the highest-quality fleet support to airlines. Teams are leveraging advanced analytics, production flights, and on-site demonstrations to ready the fleet for entry-into-service once regulators lift the grounding.

What we have changed

We’re also taking steps to implement previously announced actions that will sharpen our focus on product and services safety. Since announcing changes on Sept. 30, we’ve already made changes in response to our Board of Directors’ recommendations.

  • Governance and Oversight: A specially-appointed Board Committee conducted a rigorous, five-month independent review of the company’s policies and processes and made a series of recommendations that have been adopted. Earlier this month, the company also announced that its Board of Directors has separated the roles of chairman and chief executive officer to enable Boeing President and CEO Dennis Muilenburg to sharpen his focus full time on running the company, delivering on our customer commitments, and strengthening our focus on product and services safety.
  • Safety Management & Engineering Focus: On Sept. 30, Boeing announced the formation of a Product and Services Safety organization that will review all aspects of product safety and maintain oversight of our Accident Investigation Team and the company’s safety review boards. The organization’s leader has been named and the team has already begun operating under its new format. Other changes made include realigning the engineering function, establishing a formal Design Requirements Program, enhancing our Continued Operation Safety Program, partnering with our airline customers on flight deck designs that continue to anticipate the needs of future pilot populations, and expanding the reach of our Boeing Safety Promotion Center.
  • Additional steps taken: Boeing has taken additional measures to increase its focus on operational excellence and strengthen how it manages safety across the company, its supply chain, and the broader aerospace community in an effort to advance global aviation safety. We have broadened the use of a comprehensive safety management system and safety review boards to standardize safety policy and share best practices, led by senior company leadership for enhanced visibility. We are expanding the use of our anonymous reporting system to encourage employees to keep bringing forward potential safety issues. Boeing is also taking additional measures to address the growing need for talent, especially pilots and maintenance technicians, by further investing in STEM education. And we are investing heavily in areas such as product design, future flight decks, infrastructure, regulation and new technologies.

“We continue to make steady progress in safely returning the 737 MAX to service. Our Boeing teams are unwavering in their commitment to our customers and our values, and the changes we’re implementing now will further strengthen our approach to safety across our company and the aerospace community,” said Muilenburg.

For the latest updates and an infographic summarizing 737 MAX return to service progress, please visit

99 Comments on “Boeing recaps actions ahead of earnings call

    • rearranging the deck chairs on the 737tanic

      MCAllister out- Stan Deal In per NYT

  1. Can the Seattle Times now also give us a detailed explanation of what was meant by the “Jedi mind tricking regulators” passage in the text messages in question?
    And also explain how a Boeing test pilot can “suck at flying”?

    • First, without doubt, he was referring to the auto trim system. I think the ‘granted, I suck at flying’ was a comedic device of irony to imply that, if he was at minimum an above average pilot and having confusion about the system and aircraft behavior, it would not be a reasonable system for the average pilot.

      • I agree. Humour is very often used to relieve pressure and stress.

        With regard to the Seattle Times report. I’m not aware that it has been publically disclosed by Boeing the AoA at which MCAS engages. If Boeing have released the details, can someone provide me with the link.

        It’s very possible that there was a bug on the grounds that MCAS was changing and significantly changing late on in the flight test programme. MCAS should have been stable before the flight test programme started.

        • Can I stress that the Seattle Times report is invalid unless Boeing have publically disclosed the AoA at which MCAS engages.

        • I think he didn’t want to say “I’m an above average pilot, so its not a pilot skill problem but a simulator tuning issue” because he didn’t want to seem boastful, a big problem in our equality mad society. The other reason to use irony is to say a truth not socially permitted.

      • If you read the Seattle Times story you will find he wasnt a ‘test pilot’ in the way you were thinking.
        It was described as this
        “Forkner was chief technical pilot on the 737, managing pilots in a group called Flight Technical and Safety within Boeing’s customer services division. This is an entirely separate group from the test pilots who fly the planes under development, who are part of a different corporate division: Boeing Test and Evaluation.”
        “The job of the technical pilots is to develop the pilot training simulators and manuals that airlines will use when the plane is in service. They typically don’t fly, but work in flight simulators.”

        • The term “pilot” suggests that the person in question is certified and competent to fly. Certainly when such a pilot is “chief technical pilot on the 737, managing pilots in a group”, then I expect him to be a good pilot and not someone who “sucks at flying”…regardless of whether he flies in a simulator or in a cockpit. Remember that ROV / military drone pilots also effectively fly in a simulator…that doesn’t make their competencies any less important.
          In court, lawyers will have a field day with this: ‘a Boeing chief pilot involved in the MAX testing program freely admits that he “sucks at flying” and knowingly engages in “Jedi mind tricking regulators”’. Imagine what a jury is going to think of that…

          • He came from USAF flying C-17s , not an airline with 737s. I suppose Boeing didnt want the top 5% of 737 pilots writing the manuals.

          • Probably “sucks at flying” means the simulator sucks.. it didn’t work correctly as simulator of airplane they were testing.
            I highly suspect the simulator still doesn’t works correctly at this point in time. And probably that is the real reason why they have been trying to avoid additional simulator training of pilots..

      • Before everyone rushes to give Dominic Gates the Pulitzer, ask him to address why top executives at Boeing waited so long to disclose the text messages. If the explanation was harmless, why the undue delay?

        Would the messages ever have been disclosed if Muilenburg was not scheduled to testify to Congress before the end of the month?

    • “suck at flying” for me is an obvious figure of speech, a use of irony to tell the truth not “corporationally” allowed and to underline gravity of a problem. If he wasn’t educated he would use lots of f* words. I don’t think he really sucks at flying, contary.

  2. What are the “three additional layers of protection”?
    Two AOA, only one operation of MCAS for 9 seconds, what other thing?

    • First officer (2nd layer) and Co-pilot (3rd layer). Now they will be trained with a better app, which will make them adequate layers of protection.
      (This reads like a Dilbert comic strip)

    • Presumably it is redundancy. But if I read the release right, it isn’t finished. The press release says steady progress and a flight test dry run

      • You can add in the part about in close touch with regulators.

        I have seen major gaps where the said regulators had no word from Boeing as to what they were doing and where they were at.

        Frankly its because I don’t think Boeing knew or at times still knows.

        They have the system so messed up communications wise and in so many different locations its not just left and right hand, its the entire Boeing body that does not know what any other part is doing.

        And constant messages about its ready when in fact they had made another major change (a good one with cross check on the computers) but clearly unless they had pre-done it (yea right) it takes a lot of time to test out that new relationship.

  3. Its all well and good trying to be all goody goody now, but the fact remains they knowingly put an unsafe aircraft in the sky putting all those lives at risk, i still cant fathom why!
    After these txts have come out, can manslaughter proceedings be levied at mullingerg if the buck does stop with him?

    • So called white collar crime gets a pass, even if people die.

      Legally Corporations isolate individuals from accountability.

      Legal system is for stability not justice.

    • There is no crime here, no intent to hurt, harm or put lives at risk, just human fallibility. Confirmation bias would be why Boeing test pilots and Engineers were looking to prove MCAS was safe within the B737 MAX 20-60 year old concepts when they should have been looking to prove it was unsafe. A belief that the B737 MAX was tried and true disarmed the skeptical eye needed. There would have been “Get with the program group think” as well but I’ve done enough engineering work on complicated engineering projects to know that document distribution and review can confuse things. That latter will be a bigger part. To a certain extent Boeing is a victim of its own success having perhaps become over confident.

      • I’m sorry, but our legal system simply is not as forgiving of the poor and regular people — those most excoriated by the corporate executives who cavalierly, irresponsibly and incompetently shove them onto unemployment lines to increase short-term profits. A drunk — an alcoholic, a sick person — who steps into a car and kills a family isn’t trying to do harm, but we have laws that will shut that person away. If someone dies while another person is trying to rob someone else — not unlike getting people to pay for a flawed product — even the lookout might get a 1st degree murder conviction and spend their lives in prison. Our system only seems to be so forgiving of white collar crime, but it doesn’t make it any less violent or criminal. The violence of the forces that made that crater in the Ethiopian ground renders certain practices in certain professions criminal. Some day, look up Wansee Conference and reflect on why it has such incredible and horrific symbolic in addition to real significance.

        • Somehow you worked you way up to equating a problem with engineering oversight, review and testing from people who inherited an ill-conceived and hasty program into the equivalency of White collar crime, high range drunk driving and armed robbery. Granted I don’t want some minor line engineer or test pilot taking the blame for this. A system of quality assurance and certification should be robust enough to handle errors of what are often overworked individuals. In our civilisation one only punishes someone who deliberately did something wrong mostly to help them improve and signal to others to take care. In this case punishment does nothing but satisfy angry vengeance (not good vengeance)

          • There’s nothing wrong with satisfying vengeance. One of the crash family members lost his 3 kids, his wife and his mother-in-law in the Ethopian crash: I imagine he very much wants a satisfactory explanation of the “Jedi mind tricking” reference, and that he would also like to know why the test pilot in question — who “sucks at flying” — is more interested in saving his own skin (by invoking the 5th Amendment) than in providing clarification of what he said. I additionally imagine he’d like to know how a so-called world-class corporation like Boeing was using a crappy simulator to test an important new feature of a new aircraft. The text message exchange is more like something that you’d hear in a drunken frat house than in a safety-conscious organization involved in transporting the public.

          • With “no intent , unfortunate oversight” you are on the wrong train to begin with.

            This was done for profits and cloaked in amateurish appearance.

          • I’ve been trying to put myself in the shoes of the designers and testers of the MCAS system and it baffles me as to how it got implemented. They had the 767 Tanker MCAS to use as a template, but, they either didn’t know about it or completely ignored it. The 767 Tanker uses two AOA sensors and even a third non-AOA sensor I believe. It keeps the yoke override switch in place, but, the 737-MAX designers deactivated it for MCAS. The 767-Tanker stab trim cutout switches weren’t rewired as it was on the 737-MAX. The 737-MAX designers appear to have wanted the MCAS system to override pilot commands period, with no discussion. If that was their intent, then they’d better have a true certified FBW system, because as it turns out, MCAS killed a lot of people, with no OFF switch for the pilot. They intentionally took that away from them. Why? There was no limits on MCAS. Either the AOA returned to normal or MCAS was going to drive the stabilizers to the full limit down. I can’t fathom a designer or engineer doing this. It just makes no sense looking at it. I’m waiting to hear the story on how so many mistakes were made in the process.

  4. I think we are starting to see the whole picture. There are 3 big stories one smaller one and a developing one that might be the biggest or might be a damp squib:

    * Capture of design and oversight at Boeing by finance/business. This resulted in a tumultuous atmosphere inside Boeing as it rushed to get MAX. The result was a deeply flawed MCAS who’s faults were not found by review.

    * Regulatory capture of the FAA by Boeing. The result was the FAA did not uncover the flaws, indeed did not even have the final design. This is actually an issue across a number of industries. Finance for example.

    * Grandfathering and waivers. The industry needs to have a conversation about this and remove the financial incentives to keep 50 year old designs flying. Something like requiring that new safety requirements become mandatory in newly manufactured aircraft after say 20 years.

    * That the MAX needed MCAS to amend pitch behaviour. This gets a lot of focus but is the smallest of the stories. The aircraft flies just fine without MCAS but feels “off” in some corners of the envelope. MCAS addresses this and because those cases are so unusual MCAS failing to off is acceptable. If MCAS had been implemented correctly there would be no issue at all and the MAX will fly with MCAS v2 Q1 2020.

    * And the big one, the hints that Boeing knew early that MCAS was a flawed design but pushed on regardless. The texts point this way but also that Boeing was already working on MCAS improvements prior to the Etheopian crash.

    • Not a bad summation.

      I think fracturing of a working system needs to be included.

      While it pulls bits from several categories, how can a test pilot come up with a test for something he does not know exists or woks the way it did?

      So, software build should be in the same building as flight test. Weekly if not daily interfaces between all the drivers for it.

      I don’t know how many times we would go around a problem on phone, email, text until we got everyone in the same room and or on the phone and they realized what they were missing.

      Maybe its the way humans communicate best as its the original methods.

      It does to work if software is in San Diego, Flight Test is in Everett and the manages running it are in San Antonio .

      And its obvious it should also be trialed by the (ah hem) average pilots and if possible below average entry pilots.

      It also gets into, just because you can have a cute feature, should you?

      And things like Auto Throttle should become standardized. I like how Airbus does it as it still has a low speed, stall floor no matter what.

    • Your view that pitch behaviour is the smallest of stories doesn’t explain why the deflections of the trim stabiliser were all of a sudden increased by a factor of four. Note the force imposed is significantly greater than linear so the force imposed is significantly greater than four times the original force.

      It’s never been explained and equally it’s not been explained why the numbers can be rolled back.

      EASA want to see for themselves. Let’s hope they tell everybody.

    • “* That the MAX needed MCAS to amend pitch behaviour. This gets a lot of focus but is the smallest of the stories. The aircraft flies just fine without MCAS but feels “off” in some corners of the envelope. MCAS addresses this and because those cases are so unusual MCAS failing to off is acceptable. If MCAS had been implemented correctly there would be no issue at all and the MAX will fly with MCAS v2 Q1 2020.”

      How are you sure of this?

      • Reduction of stick forces indicates a “more stable” attitude. Near to stall aoa that is absolutely undesirable.

    • jbeeko,
      ” The aircraft flies just fine without MCAS but feels “off” in some corners of the envelope.”???
      I don’t buy that, and so doesn’t EASA. And I also don’t think that Boeing would have bothered to develop this software if the MAX had no significant stability issue.
      But we can speculate about it day in day out. EASA has demanded test flights with MCAS switched off. If Boeing knows that the handling is not acceptable, they will try to avoid this test at all cost. So maybe they will not even seek re-certification by other regulators than the FAA?
      Logic tells me that if the MAX could safely operate without MCAS, it would long be back in service. And as it is not, my conclusion is that it’s not safe.
      Tell me where I’m wrong.

      • Indeed, EASA wants a test flight showing them that the pitch behaviour is as Boeing is representing it as – there is a reduction in the force gradient just be for stall, NOT a inversion of force, the aircraft remains stable and releasing the yoke will have the aircraft return to trim.

        If the MAX fails this test I’ll be both wrong and surprised. A whole lot of Boeing execs and lead engineers will be gone. And as for the MAX, who knows.

    • As concerns your fourth point. What is the status of EASA’s request to fly and test the Max without MCAS?

  5. What I would like to see is a Boeing response to the JATR report, addressing every issue raised therein.

  6. When I was growing up, being told I had not done a good job was not bashing or wounding my inner child or getting my self esteem whacked.

    It was how you learned and got better, or you did and heard it over and over again until you did.

    Boeing desperately needs some hugely serious getting better.

    Its not like this is their first screwed up Rodeo.

    While some of the comments have spiraled into bashing, basically they screwed up as badly as you can in the aircraft business, that killed 347 people (diver died in Indonesian on recovery of the data recorders) .

    And the more that comes out the worse the whole things stinks of deliberate with intent of deniability behind corporate facade.

    • At one time the contention was that if you killed someone while driving (drunk back in my youth) it was ok.

      Boeing is using a variation on that excuse, we did not know.

      Well the CEO is paid to know and understand how to make his organization put out a safe product. It clear that they did not care about the consequences of all the cute moves and cuts and shifting they did.

      Criminally like the drunk drivers of an age gone by they may and almost certainly will get away with it. That does not mean they are not guilty.

  7. It is my understanding, based on Dominic Gates article in the ST dated 8/1/2019, that the third layer of protection is the redesign of the flight control system. Now the flight control system will take input from both of the airplane’s flight computers and compare the output.

    • IMHO- if it was just a software-compare fix, it would have been done by now

      But if a hardware fix also needed – ooopsie- cuz that may drag in over 5000 NG units. Think about hard to use trim wheel when all else goes bonkers.. and electrics are shut off with plane NOT being in near neutral trim.

      • Given the EASA has highlighted this very point, it’s somewhat of a miracle that the NG hasn’t been grounded just in case. Admittedly the NG has racked up a lot of almost entirely trouble free hours, but that’s no guarantee of future good performance.

        • Ng works “unremarkable” because aoa has no hard authority to move flight surfaces.
          ( and you have pilot / copilot instrumentation divide to get a grip on single side sensor errors.)

  8. Fehrm has harshly criticized Boeing’s original design of MCAS and says that he has “a real problem with Boeing’s culture.”
    “I’m all for criticizing when it’s due,” he said. “But you have to be fair.”

    These quotes from Bjorn in the ST article pretty much sums up my view of this MAX disaster.

    Also, hats off to Dominic Gates for making sure he got it right after perhaps misconstruing the texts at first.

    • Gates has a heavy load writing for the hometown newspaper of a town where Boeing is responsible for so many jobs. Probably every period and comma he writes must be put in front of the publisher. And he is not alone, Boeing butters the bread of a lot of people — including some of my favorite bloggers. I’m not sure that many people in the airline industry would like to cross them. They promise great rewards — and the withholding of luxuries and vast riches. But I have a very hard time believing that these comments were taken as radically out of context as it now appears. Why would Forkner be so terrified of incriminating himself (withholding documents under the 5th amendment) if his comments were so innocuous? I don’t consider myself a Boeing basher. But there is something wrong with the whole issue and people have had to guess at so much because Boeing has not been terrifically forthcoming. And what I suspect happened infuriates me, as it infuriates me when a computer or software company puts something on the market that isn’t finished and has to be updated with download after download or returned to the store because of a known factory defect. This has become a common attitude in the corporate world. But it never occurred to me for a second, that this was the attitude of the corporation that built the vehicle that was going to propel me at 585 miles an hour, 30,000 feet above the earth. Not for one second!

      • So the fact that Forkner pleaded the 5th somehow means his texts were talking about the aircraft MCAS instead of the simulator MCAS? Whatever. I can think of a dozen reasons that he would not want to cooperate and NONE of them have anything to do with the leaked (by congress) text messages.

        • I did not know the 5th could be pleaded in order to avoid cooperating.

          Could you please provide at least two examples of why you think he would want to plead the 5th?

          As it is always phrased, I understand that the 5th Amendment is pleaded in order not to incriminate oneself. i.e. To prevent oneself from looking guilty. Granted, the automatic assumption is to assume that the person pleading the 5th is guilty of something, which is not always the case. But it does invite, almost demand, further scrutiny from anyone investigating, doesn’t it!?

      • “” But it never occurred to me for a second, that this was the attitude of the corporation that built the vehicle that was going to propel me at 585 miles an hour, 30,000 feet above the earth. “”

        585 miles per hour above 30,000 feet with an 80286 processor

        • Not much to be said against a 80286 ( or similar 68k processors.) A320 fbw runs on similar hardware. Deterministic timing and not computing oomph is desired.

          • My impression is that redundancy in the A320 prevents it from actually depending on just one processor. Doesn’t it have something like three different computers with three different processors?

          • @Steve .. would you believe Five computers?=
            These choices were obviously fundamental to establish the now-classical architecture of the Airbus flyby-wire systems , namely a set of five full-authority digital computers controlling the three pitch, yaw, and roll axes and completed by a mechanical back-up on the trimmable horizontal stabilizer and on the rudder. (Two additional computers as part of the auto pilot system are in charge of rudder control in the case of A320 and A321 aircraft.)Of course, a fly-by-wire system relies on the power systems energizing the actuators to move the control surfaces and on the computer system to transmit the pilot controls.
            The five fly-by-wire computers are simultaneously active. They are in charge of control law computation
            as a function of the pilot inputs as well as individual actuator control, thus avoiding specific actuator
            control electronics. The system incorporates sufficient redundancies to provide the nominal performance
            and safety levels with one failed computer, while it is still possible to fly the aircraft safely with one single computer active.
            taken from…

  9. What interests me is Boeing have done 800 flights and 1500 hours of flying. But they now added some kind of redundancy. Are they going to do another 800 flights and 1500 hours of flying?

    • What would further hours provide if you do not test problematic regions of the flight envelope?

      • Nothing at all.

        Is that’s what’s really been happening, they’re just tootling around the place with 2 healthy AoA sensors working just fine?

    • If it’s true that BA started working on an ‘update/upgrade’ of MCAS immediately after the Lion Air crash, did they not realise the risks that MCAS posed ?

      Did BA just not understand how flawed the original implementation of MCAS appears to have been ?

      Someone must have signed off on all the extra work to ‘update/upgrade’ MCAS, and pay for the hundreds of hours of flight tests, wouldn’t they have had to understand how big an issue this was in order to sign off on it ?

      What seems odd to me is that they appeared to have the ‘update/upgrade’ ready not long after ET302, they appeared to be happy with their changes until the outside agencies looked a little closer, and then they decided that further changes were necessary. That might seem to indicate they still didn’t understand how serious the problems with MCAS implementation were.

      As many have said once you lose trust, it’s very difficult to regain it.

      We understand the IM exchange between the technical pilots regarding the simulator, Dominic Gates has a good write up.

      What’s more problematic is what was understood about MCAS directly after the Lion Air crash.

      One day when the DOJ investigation is complete we might know exactly what happened, who knew what, and when.

      Spare a thought for all the innocent hard working safety conscious people at BA, and their suppliers who are caught up in this mess.

    • I was actually being serious. My reading of the press release is that the latest round of software changes have not been flight tested. A flight test dry run is not a flight test.

      The problem is the latest round of software changes are the most difficult for they attempt some kind of fail-safe redundancy using computers that are 50 years old. But we are being told that Boeing will hand over all the changes in the next two weeks to the FAA and the FAA will certify in the next 6-8 weeks.

      Isn’t that how Boeing got themselves into trouble in the first place? Not testing their software.

      So I was serious in saying another 800 flights and another 1500 hours.

      But perhaps others are right. They are just testing the sunny days when everything works not the rainy days when things go wrong.

  10. What a surprise, Boeing is still claiming a software fix will suffice. Total silence on the EASA requirement to address manual trim forces.

    Perhaps they’re hoping that if news sites just reprint their press releases, They’ll convince the whole world?

    It seems to be working

  11. The Wall Street Journal . Today (Tuesdays 10/22/2019) has an article about the 737-MAX EASA formally splitting from the FAA approval process. It says that they delivered letter to the FAA announcing that they won’t rubber stamp the FAA on the 737-MAX return. So, Americans will be the guinea pigs for the new MCAS changes.
    just breaking off the WSJ. An Boeing executive in the Commercial group is leaving. “Kevin McAllister”

    • If the FAA ok’s the MAX to fly again, and then EASA want’s a 3rd AOA sensor or whatever to fly again, that would put the FAA in a pickle. I’d figure thay’d give Boeing so mach time to also retrofit the planes flying in the US?

    • Oh that’s really bad, sad news. The unravelling seems to be gaining pace.

      Southwest will gets its MAXs, likely no one else will any time soon.

      Who knows what purchase contracts say about this situation. Boeing will say “the plane if fit to fly”, the customer airlines outside the US will say “no it isn’t”, and Boeing might then say “that’s a matter for you and your regulator, not us and your regulator, pay up and take your plane away”.

  12. McAllister has resigned, according to FlightGlobal. I wonder whether he will speak?

    • he didn’tresign- he was fired according to local news and others.
      He got to boeing position AFTER max was well baked and on its way.

      IMHO- he became the designated offering to the masses similar to the pretorian guards who are supposed to take the bullet for the annointed ones.

      But no apparent damage to his golden parachute options. He can now spend more time with family.

  13. I’m afraid I’m not buying this new narrative on the significance of what happened in the sim back in 2016.

    There are a few key facts.

    1) “The issue could not be re-created”.

    2) This whole episode seems to have come as a complete surprise to the FAA

    3) The sim has no “break an AoA sensor button”.

    Fact 1 is highly significant. The reason for its significance is as follows:

    a) Suppose that a bug was suspected, and looked for. If the bug was identified, that would have pointed to a way in which the behaviour could be re-created.

    b) But it couldn’t be recreated. Therefore, no bug was identified, there is no pointer to the necessary conditions to recreate the behaviour, and the bug has not been fixed.

    c) Therefore the bug continues to exist to this day, uncorrected.

    So where might the bug be? There’s two possible architectures for the sim – either a sim computer generating data inputs for the real avionics and accepting output from them, or a sim that incorporates a faithful facsimile of the avionics’ functions. Either way, a latent bug in any of these systems is a big problem. Not knowing where the bug is means that it might be in the avionics.

    Log data in the sim should have been able to point to the location of the bug. For example, if the logged inputs to the avionics were reasonable but the logged output was a massive trim demand, then the problem lies in the avionics (or the facsimile of the avionics). If the avionics output looked OK that means the sim started inventing a trim demand all of its own, and so the bug is in the sim. In that case in particular the log data would actually contain the necessary test vector to recreate the behaviour, allowing them to recreate the behaviour. But they couldn’t.

    Of course I’m assuming that a sim apparently then in development would be logging data like crazy, just in case something like this happened…

    Fact 2: In the absence of being able to recreate, identify and therefore fix such a bug, what might reasonably be done? Well, that’d be an awful lot of analysis, and a very weighty report delivered to the FAA for their consideration. However, Fact 2 indicates that the FAA have not received any such report, and therefore it’s highly likely the report and the analysis behind it doesn’t exist at all.

    This in turn is very bad, because what it suggests is that the company acted (consciously or unconsciously) to suppress the significance of the fault, effectively shrugging its shoulders and dismissing it as a random event, never to be repeated.

    That’s not sustainable. Random happens all the time. It even happens to Airbuses. It’s why the FAA recently failed Boeing’s first go at fixing MCAS (they simulated a duff input data feed, and the flight control computer barfed its guts up – technical term). You don’t just sweep glitches as bad as this under the carpet and hope they never happen again. You find the cause, or you cover it off by introducing more independently implemented redundancy into the architecture. This is why we have triplex channels in safety critical systems, something that’s not in the MAX and nor are Boeing planning on introducing it.

    What is extremely disappointing is that, had any such analysis been done, hunting for possible reasons why the sim behaved the way it did, there is a fair chance that they’d likely have reconsidered the wisdom of relying on a single AoA input to MCAS. A massive missed opportunity.

    Fact 3 is totally spurious. Something went wrong somewhere in the sim / avionics combination. A known fault in an unknown location is not acceptable. This is because it’s plausible that the fault lies in the avionics, where its presence is unacceptable.

    • Please ignore the above – my first reading of the ST article was wrong.

    • This type of analysis is the reason I read blogs and can’t rely on conventional journalism. I used to be a journalist, and it was always a pleasure speaking to people who knew their field and knew how to conduct different levels of analysis and say amazing and brilliant things … that would never make it into the paper.

  14. Having just wittered on about the fault not being found, I’ve now re-read the ST article another time. When the source said “the issue could not be recreated in mid-December”, are they referring to the original or a modified version of the sim? The article suggests that there was a software fix to the sim, so perhaps it’s the modified version. In which case, please ignore my last lengthy post…

  15. the press release is informative, but the careful talking about ‘sharpening focus on safety’ still has lawyers fingerprints all over it. They still push the same ‘making a safe plane safer’ narrative which has turned everyone against them, and for a good reason.
    Which reason? choosing these words shows they are still blind to the root cause of the accidents: bad culture as already highlighted, a culture of greed dressed up in processes conveniently diluting values and accountability. No organizational process is going to correct for that.
    I d love to know whether
    1-they are in denial, rationalizing that they have done nothing wrong but got bad circumstances, bad pilots etc.
    2-they know full well of the issues, rationalizing the pros and cons of coming clean, in terms of improving trust vs paying damages.
    3-they have no clue, in sensory overload, dealing with one problem at a time.


    Agree with Normand.

    Boeing still isn’t listening.

    They lack genuine humility.

    • Yes, the lack of humility especially from the executive suite is appalling.

  17. I’ve tried to be subtle, but I think I need to be explicit. We know Boeing are keeping secrets because we know one of the secrets. There is a stability issue but we don’t know how big it is.

    In my view, if the stability issue was minor, Boeing would provide charts/graphs explaining the issue. They would also provide charts/graphs showing the AoA at which MCAS engages. Instead nothing. The world is totally in the dark.

    Equally, they didn’t inform JTAR members. Page 18 (page 38 of the PDF), Finding F3.5-C: … “From it’s data review, the JATR team were unable to completely rule out the possibility that these argumentation systems [[referring to STS/MCAS and EFS]] function as a stall protection system.”

    So Boeing didn’t give JATR members the chart/graphs or they would have worked it out. Specifically they would have worked out the stability issue and then told everyone through their report whether the issue was minor or major.

    But no, it’s all left hanging. Why? By deduction, the stability issue is major, not minor. There can be no other reason. This is why EASA are insisting on performing their own flight tests.

    This comes to the Seattle Times article. Those invited to comment all said that the text messages couldn’t have anything to do with MCAS because MCAS doesn’t engage under those flight conditions. A complete guess by those commenting because none of them know the AoA when MCAS engages.

    The Seattle Times published. Nothing wrong with that. Perhaps they should have asked the commentators as to whether they were guessing or not.

    As others have said, it’s time Boeing answered the JATR report and made clear the stability issue. If the stability issue is minor, then everybody would have confidence that Boeing are going in the right direction. As they are not doing that, by deduction the stability issue is major.

    • “” This comes to the Seattle Times article. Those invited to comment all said that the text messages couldn’t have anything to do with MCAS because MCAS doesn’t engage under those flight conditions. A complete guess by those commenting because none of them know the AoA when MCAS engages. “”

      Sure, Boeing is still hiding.
      But if MCAS would engage under the flight conditions Forkner mentioned, wouldn’t we have much more crashes?
      I can’t believe I’m defending Boeing here.

      Something I wonder about:
      EASA is so very much polite. WHY?
      It’s not their job to be polite. Their job is to secure safety in EASA member countries.

      EASA might be very sure, same as we are, that MCAS is a “major” system that is very much needed for a linear flight characteristic. So only a software fix won’t be enough, even EASA said that they would accept a software fix with pilot training for a transitional time.

      How can EASA be sure that MCAS is off when they flight test it?
      Boeing could install an additional MCAS which can’t be turned off to secure their hidings. Just an additional MCAS which is less powerful.

      • Leon,
        How can EASA be sure that MCAS is off when they flight test it?
        Boeing could install an additional MCAS which can’t be turned off to secure their hidings. Just an additional MCAS which is less powerful.
        They could take some brave test pilots, strap a parachute on them, snag a grounded 737-MAX from a European airline, (probably have to offer then a big insurance clause), find a spot over the ocean, and have at it. Flying normal situations, and then build up to abnormal flight, with a flight test program of their choosing. But, the big question is, how do you turn MCAS off? There is no OFF switch to MCAS. Not from the yoke limit switch, not from a circuit breaker panel. You might be able to tape down a flap limit switch, but, then you’d be turning off or on other systems possibly. How do you turn MCAS off? It almost sounds like there ought to be a rule or regulation … as in ..
        Sec. 25.672
        Stability augmentation and automa
        tic and power-operated systems.
        If the functioning of stability augmentation or other automatic or power-operated systems is necessary to show compliance with the flight characteristics requirements of this part, such systems must comply
        with Sec. 25.671 and the following:
        (a) A warning which is clearly distinguishable to the pilot under
        expected flight
        conditions without requiring his attention must be provided for any failure in the stability
        augmentation system or in any other automa
        tic or power-operated system which could
        result in an unsafe condition if the pilot we
        re not aware of the failure. Warning systems
        must not activate the control systems.
        The design of the stability augmentation sy
        stem or of any other automatic or power-
        operated system must permit initial counteraction
        of failures of the type specified in Sec.
        25.671(c) without requiring exceptional pilot skil
        l or strength, by either the deactivation
        of the system, or a failed portion thereof, or
        by overriding the failure by movement of the
        flight controls in the normal sense.

        • You see mcas trimm activity in for example fdr data.
          Thus insidiousness in that domain probably is out.
          Nonetheless boeing has a major and global trust problem.

          • In the ET302 crash report you can see 2 automatic nose down events with flaps down first. These events were weak, not as powerful as the later AND events. Might not be easy to devide MCAS events from others.

      • Isn’t it flabbergasting that almost 8 months after the 2nd deadly accident, and 1000s and 1000s of comments like we find on this blog site, it is still guesswork for everyone for what precise purpose MCAS was implemented? And particularly why it was made 4 times stronger at some point? If you look at this from a distance, you are almost forced to think only one thing: Boeing is hiding things and does not want to talk about the true function of MCAS, and it is hiding things because a solution that can be explained in a transparent way is not available. Hiding things is not a way to keep, or regain trust, certainly not in a crisis as deep as this one. People hence feel Boeing cannot be trusted anymore. That is why Boeing is bashed now most of the time, even if there is an incident like the text message story that may have more subtle explanations as it looks at first sight. But the only solution for Boeing is: give a clear an credible story why MCAS was implemented, beefed up with background information and facts. That is not there now.

      • Leon

        Before the test flight EASA could ask to watch the software being loaded into the test aircraft, and at that point take a copy of the code (in raw form), fly their tests, if passed they certify the aircraft.

        Once BA start getting aircraft back into the air, EASA could turn up un-announced at a handful of random locations where aircraft are about to have their software loaded, and take another copy of the code, it’s a simple matter to diff the two files to see if there are any modifications.

        A diff wouldn’t tell you in readable code what has changed, but it would tell you that the software was different to the code that you’d signed off on.

        It’s a question of trust, and potentially there is a legal aspect. If I was EASA would I verify the code tested is the same as the code loaded, yes I would, just to protect the agency from any potential future lawsuit.

        EASA could always film the test flight, either with cameras mounted to the aircraft, or from a chase plane, any hidden software would then be seen to be manipulating the control surfaces.

        I’ve said it before, Boeing should get ahead of the game, get a few credible pilots to observe a flight test with MCAS verified to be off, and stream the whole test live from multiple angles (including cockpit commentary, and with instruments visible, and time coded) on the Internet.

        I can’t see any commercial interest / trade secret that would prevent them doing that, what they would gain is undeniable proof (apart from conspiracy theorists) that the aircraft is safe with MCAS off.

        • I have two letters for you to consider: VW

          And please don’t try to demonstrate a difference between the two companies at an ethical bases.

    • Leon

      I take your point, but your point is a guess. Nothing wrong with it. Everything is a guess for the secrecy surrounding MCAS is equivalent to the secrecy surrounding nuclear launch codes.

      So here is a guess that opposes the view that a lot more people would have died by now.

      The original stabiliser deflections were 0.6° and then increments of 0.6°. Perhaps the reason was that they wanted MCAS to engage at lower AoA to prevent a nose up tendency when power was applied during cruise. The evidence is a 737 MAX captain who admitted to the Times of London that when power was applied during cruise there was a nose up tendency.

      And it’s perhaps a version of MCAS that was subject simulation.

      We know 0.6° became 2.5°.

      So we come to 2.5°. Perhaps Boeing decided this to allow MCAS to engage only at higher AoA. But what is the higher AoA. Perhaps it’s 6 °, 8°, 10° or in the pre-stall region. It’s anybody’s guess.

      Certainly it is a secret. But why?

  18. Interesting to see these text messages have significantly more influence on how the financial markets, and analysts rate Boeing than the critical JATR report.

    • Julian, We live in a bumper sticker, tweeting, headline environment. Very few people read past the headlines these days. CEO’s and Wall St. Analysts only look 3 months out. I agree, it’s crazy to see the influence of some off the record texting between co-workers compared to a months long, multi member, formal report

  19. Well, what seems like it’s going to happen and the new talking points about it are clear. Boeing thinks it can safely put a passenger aircraft with the stability of a fighter plane back in the air with some minor software tweeks, increased training and perhaps a long-term schedule of hardware improvements. And it should work. After all, if the Ethiopian and Lion Air pilots knew much more about MCAS, they would have responded quickly and survived — we think (and if nothing more very serious is involved). The challenge, then, is to make the flying public think this was much ado about nothing. So the major talking point, as this lemon returns to 500 mph at 30k feet above our heads was stated earlier by jbeeko:

    ” That the MAX needed MCAS to amend pitch behaviour. This gets a lot of focus but is the smallest of the stories. The aircraft flies just fine without MCAS but feels “off” in some corners of the envelope. MCAS addresses this and because those cases are so unusual MCAS failing to off is acceptable. If MCAS had been implemented correctly there would be no issue at all and the MAX will fly with MCAS v2 Q1 2020. “

    • Steve, If everything is OK, then why is Boeing still making changes? They had a software fix ready back in March they said. If MCAS only is for amending pitch behavior in a extreme range of the flight envelope, why don’t they just copy the MCAS system of the 767 Tanker and clap their hands and be done? Why did they take away the ability of the pilot to override MCAS through the yoke force limit switches as the 767 Tanker has? Why did they rewire the stab cutout to take away the ability of the pilot to switch off MCAS? These were both intentional changes. Why? They upped the power of MCAS from .6 to 2.5 without proper paper work to the FAA? Why? Was that an oversight or intentional? It’s been almost a year, and they haven’t submitted a solution to the FAA yet. The KNKT final report from Indonesia is ready, and is out to Boeing, the FAA, EASA for comments. I’m waiting on pins and needles for it. It would seem like a simple task for those parties to mark up what they would like to comment on in the report or have questions with. EASA is going separately to do their own evaluation of this aircraft. If the problem is not just in some extreme region of the flight envelope, then Boeing will have to do some big engineering to fix it. Place the engines somewhere else, raise the landing gear, redo something with the tail, and this might trigger a new type certification, which would undo decades of grandfathered changes. They said they are going to do a dual channel fix, which in itself is a good size change. They really haven’t fully described the pitch up problem. For all the effort they went to, to make sure MCAS has control of the aircraft, rather than the pilots, and upping the power of MCAS, it doesn’t sound minor to me. What happens when you try and fly a 737-MAX without MCAS? EASA wants to know. I want to know. There seems to be more to this pitch up problem, than they are letting on. A “simple” software fix won’t cut it without a full explanation of the above issues for me. The two upcoming accident reports hopefully will shed some light on the issues, with some data from the AOA vane they replaced etc.

  20. Philip and others,
    Here is an educated guess that supports Leon’s view.

    The original stabilizer deflections were 0.6° based on minimizing MCAS authority in the high speed portion of the envelope. The multiple MCAS actions which were painfully apparent in the two crashes were a result of poorly understood, poorly written, poorly tested, and poorly documented code, not because that is what a proper MCAS should have done. The purported nose up tendency when applying power is typical of aircraft where the thrust line is below the CG and certainly not significantly worse than on the NG since the MAX engines are mounted higher. So it is doubtful that any MCAS action would be required to counter thrust induced ANU pitching moments.

    We know 0.6° became 2.5° during the flight test program when it was discovered that a similar stability issue occurred in the low speed and high AoA portion of the envelope. The obvious reason for this increase in MCAS authority is the dynamic pressure is more than 4 times less in the low speed regime than in the high speed regime. This, of course, was not good news for MCAS because a G-sensor could no longer be used as a second gate for activation. Then the safety assessment was not properly redone and the proper people within the FAA, those that understood the details of the safety assessment, were not informed. Not even the right people in Boeing seemed to be aware of the changes.

    Again, the repeated action behavior of MCAS during the crashes was obviously not proper, just as it’s dependence on a single sensor was not proper, just as the safety assessment was not proper, just as the testing wasn’t proper… and so on. And.. if the testing wasn’t proper, what is the likelihood that the original MCAS dealt with out of range AoA inputs properly. AoA’s of greater than 20° are clearly out of range. So, it makes no sense to deduce the aerodynamic behavior of the MAX based on the behavior of improperly implemented software fed with out of range inputs.

    A little known fact (at least seemingly in this forum) is that changing the incidence angle of the trim stabilizer, which is what MCAS does, has no effect on the actual static pitch stability (natural stability in pitch), i.e. it can’t change the slope of the pitching moment vs. AoA curve to make it more or less stable. It can only change the trim, i.e. slide the pitching moment vs. AoA curve up or down. It can’t actually “straighten out” the pitching moment curve. If you don’t believe me, look it up: the final 3 equations at the bottom of page 2-7 in the following link.

    The trim stabilizer is also not fast enough to use for artificial pitch stability in some closed loop FBW-like system. It is much slower than the elevator and Boeing engineers would have to be crazy to try using it this way. The idea that the trim stabilizer is somehow being used by MCAS as a primary flight control surface makes absolutely no sense.

    Changing the trim stabilizer incidence angle then can only compensate for the the decreased stability region by intentionally mis-trimming the aircraft so that the control column feels heavier like it would if the decreased stability region were not present. Also, this is only effective if the aircraft is trimmed at a lower AoA and pilot action brings the AoA up into the decreased stability region. Because of this, Boeing engineers would have to be stupid to think that MCAS could compensate for the decreased stability region if it were large i.e. if MCAS was needed at low AoA’s. MCAS can’t ever actually make the aircraft more statically stable.

    You may ask… Why not just use “internal”control augmentation like a mechanism that makes the control column feel heavier at high AoA’s without changing the exterior aircraft configuration via changing the trim stabilizer incidence? My take on this is that the MAX also needed improved stall recovery characteristics in order to be certified. Control augmentation would not accomplish this, so Boeing settled on using MCAS via the trim stabilizer

    In my opinion, MCAS is both a stability augmentation system that improves the control column forces in the reduced stability region and a stall recovery aid that configures that aircraft in a way that makes stall recovery easier. This is not the same as an anti-stall system.

    • I agree that a trim stabiliser should cause no appreciable difficulty with the moment curve. At least that’s how an airplane should be designed. The maths you gave have that basis. The text to the maths explain the basis of the maths. So please read the text to the maths.

      In those words, I’ve turned your words around. You will get upset at me for doing that.

      The issue is whether the moment curve is accelerating – running away – due to the lift generated by the nacelles. The lift is very forward of the CoG and therefore generates a very big moment of it’s own. The lift will also increase with AoA.

      In other words are the nacelles causing a very difficult moment curve or a nasty moment curve. Using the word accelerate. With unstable airplanes, the moment curve does accelerate or runaway. In other words, the rotational speed increases. Once the speed is there it’s difficult to stop because of inertia. The airplane wants to depart the envelope, the airplane wants to flip. The F22 has a very big all moving stabiliser for that reason.

      Bottom line.

      If all it needed was 0.6° followed by a couple of 0.6° increments then you wouldn’t get a word out of me. That’s called trim. A bit heavy perhaps. That will cause drag. But nothing to worry about.

      I want to know the reason for 2.5° followed by increments of 2.5°. I won’t accept the reason is the collective stupidity of the Boeing engineering department. I want the actual reason.

      The numbers of 2.5° are beyond heavy. They are crushing. So crushing they make the elevators inoperable. They indicate the moment curve is difficult perhaps even nasty.

      So I accept your mathematical reference. But it is based on a typical moment curve and therefore based on a typical airplane design.

      I will end with explaining my guess, an educated guess:

      If the issue is restricted to the pre-stall region or near the pre-stall region there wouldn’t be a word from me. That’s what a stick-shaker is for. The elevator’s do have to work to push the nose down. In other words, I don’t see why MCAS can’t be withdrawn. The 737 NG works with a stick-shaker.

      Then I come to stall protection systems. I’m not opposed to stall protection systems. But a stall protection system is a primary control sytem. Is MCAS a stall protection system? If the answer is yes, then it must have the fail-safe redundancy of a primary control system. It doesn’t. On that basis, if it is a stall protection system then it should be withdrawn, leaving the pilots to the stick-shaker. As I said, the 737 NG works with a stick-shaker.

      Therefore, by deduction, MCAS engages well before the pre-stall region of the envelope. Why? The moment curve is difficult or perhaps nasty. That’s the reason why MCAS can’t be withdrawn. I can’t see any other explanation. But it’s a guess. If I’m right, the pilots will need to be trained to address the moment curve for MCAS will turn itself off and we are now being told the pilots will be able to turn it off.

      But it is a guess. I’d like to know the truth.

    • I am not an engineer, so most of Mike Bohnet’s post went over my head, though I still think I can understand the fundamental issues. But what concerns me most about his post are not the engineering arguments, but the inflammatory language and characterizations he uses to supplement these arguments as if they can’t stand on their own. In fact, in some ways his article reminds me of William Langewiesche’s now thoroughly disputed, and justly invalidated, supremacist screed for the New York Times Magazine. In it he uses the social Darwinist logic of fitness (or lack of it) – with words such as weak and dumb – to excoriate the Ethiopian and Lion Air pilots. On the Boeing side, Bohnet carries his argument with images of civilized decorum. For him, it seems a matter of manners and Boeing and MCAS merely behaved indecently. “Again, the repeated action behavior of MCAS during the crashes was obviously not proper, just as it’s dependence on a single sensor was not proper, just as the safety assessment was not proper, just as the testing wasn’t proper… and so on.” Meanwhile, the calm sanity and superior intelligence is the baseline that provides the clues to what really happened (in the complete absence of Boeing actually saying what happened). According to such arguments, they are thus fit, smart and incapable of error so it must be something else. So, he says things like: “Boeing engineers would have to be crazy to try using it this way,” and thus forces us to conclude that they obviously are not crazy and would never resort to the following: “The idea that the trim stabilizer is somehow being used by MCAS as a primary flight control surface makes absolutely no sense.” He augments this with: “Boeing engineers would have to be stupid to think that MCAS could compensate for the decreased stability region if it were large i.e. if MCAS was needed at low AoA’s.” It’s easy for people like Langewiesche to call non-Western pilots “stupid” but outside the realm of possibility when it comes to Boeing engineers. Sadly, in this issue, this type of thinking, this type of ad hominem argument, and this type of defense of Boeing has surfaced far too often in blog comments and even more official articles. Meanwhile, the company leaves one to guess and guess about something it clearly knows and has always known and could easily report.

  21. I wish Boeing will ask Airbus to fix the MAX problem, I think Airbus is much more convenient to find the problem and sort it.

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