Congress is accountable in Boeing MAX crisis, too

By Scott Hamilton


Dennis Muilenburg

When Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg appears before the US Senate today and the US House tomorrow, he needs to be sure the company owns up to its role in the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX crashes.

The advance copy of the opening statement to the Senate, released yesterday, heads in this direction.

But if Congress truly wants to understand how 346 people died and certification of the MCAS and MAX evolved, it damn well better hold the Federal Aviation Administration accountable, too.

There is little doubt Congress will put Boeing and the FAA through the meat grinder.

However, accountability doesn’t stop here.

Congress is every bit as accountable.

Year after year after year, Congress does not properly fund the FAA in order for it to do its work. It doesn’t give the FAA the money or the human resources or expertise to do its work.

Don’t hold your breath.

Members of Congress (although this hardly stops with MCs) are very adept at avoiding accepting responsibility.

89 Comments on “Congress is accountable in Boeing MAX crisis, too

  1. I understand Scott’s argument, and I’m sure it’s valid to some extent, but I can’t wholly subscribe to it. Even with reduced/insufficient funding, one can tackle a task by first concentrating on the most important issues, and then moving on to the less important ones (until the money runs out). In the case of a re-iteration of an old plane design, it would seem logical to first concentrate on the differences relative to the old design…which, in the current case, includes new engines / engine mounts, a modified wing, and MCAS — the list really isn’t all that long. It should have been possible to cover this task relatively effectively. Certifying a completely new plane like the 787 was a MUCH more complicated task, and yet the FAA managed to do that at the time.
    I actually think that the problem lies more in the arena of FAA complacency and sloppiness than in a lack of funding. Perhaps a mindset had developed of “it’s only routine, boring paperwork”, without due regard for the gravity — and potential consequences — of the certification tasks being performed. After all, when was the last serious accident that was caused by a design flaw in a plane? You’d have to go back to the 737 rudder problems in the 90s, or the DC10 cargo door in the 70s (the 787 battery issues didn’t result in loss of life, or hull losses). A lot of people go to work just to ensure that their salary gets paid at the end of the month…they’re not necessarily interested in actually doing their job.

    • @Peter: I don’t suggest all or even a majority of the blame rests with Congress. I say it’s a piece of the puzzle.

      • Scott: You said we are not supposed to be discussing politics.

        The issue is the entire political system and the corruption that takes place with the buying of politicians (campaign contributions)

        If you have opened this up, then in fact where it has to start of massive campaign reform where the congress actually does the work its supposed to for We The People, not We the Corporations.

        Unless its fixed, its like asking the Gambino family to voluntarily go straight (God Father aside)

        Now I have all sorts of ideas but I suspect that gets into the political arena we have to avoid.

        You fix it or you don’t, there is no fiddly little adjustment that makes it do what its supposed to.

        Or to put in in familiar terms, its like saying Trump should stop tweeting. Right Mel.

        • Real Hearings occur tomorrow.

          There at least some of the people on the Committee really care (and know their stuff) .

        • I’ve been working in engineering for decades now. I guarantee you that you can not review your own drawings, develop tests and test and certify your own software. If you are managing or supervising somebody they also need another pair of eyes to go over it. The reason is that the people that create just can’t see their own faults and flaws because they are in their own paradigm and process and just cant see what they missed. The managers that overview these people are also within it to a degree. That’s why I’m always happy when a customer wants to do a FAT (Factory Acceptance Test). It means the management are forced to allow time for the engineers to run through a test in front of independent witness. In this case the FAA must be the witness. The OBA systems doesn’t look too bad but even it needs oversight.

    • Peter,
      This comment goes back to an old anti-regulation, anti-union, anti-civil service talking point. It holds that at will workers in free enterprise who work with paltry benefits and in constant terror of unemployment are more efficient, less lazy, less complacent and less sloppy. It’s not critical of rampant greed or corporate executives, who — good choices or bad, incompetent or competent leadership — are rewarded with millions of dollars in pay and golden parachutes. It’s time to end the attack on government protections, civil service jobs, unions and job security as detrimental to industry and certain notions of efficiency. This discourse did not make us safer. As we can see, it has substantially, in all aspects of our lives made us less safe. All it has done is facilitate the most substantial redistribution of wealth in the history of the earth — from the poor, the lower middle class, the middle class and the upper middle class to the wealthiest 1% of the planet. Bureaucrats, middle managers, and strong union workers drive this process in Europe, and unfortunately, their aerospace industry is now coming out of this in a much stronger economic position than that of the US. So, let’s leave behind these 40 year old arguments that have gutted such essential functions and protections of 21st century government. The Max is the sad result of rampant deregulation and that era is over.

      • I find your comment rather convoluted…not easy to discern what exact point you’re trying to make.
        Stating that someone isn’t doing his job does not imply that the person in question has any particular salary — whether low or high. In addition, I don’t see how deregulation can be blamed for this: even in highly-regulated (European) countries, there are still people who don’t do their jobs properly…at all levels from janitor to CEO.
        Case in point: numerous reports from various countries indicate that millenials tend to be poor workers…apparently because they are disillusioned by the lack of “glamor” in their jobs. Such a mindset is independent of salary or degree of regulation.

        • I understand it perfectly. And I agree the MAX is a product of weakening government to the benefit of those who own the majority of stock, land and are in the pursuit of water. As the hearing was going on earlier today, the updates of the fires in California were displayed on the screen. Talk about irony.

  2. Who thinks EASA will do certification work for free.
    Funding should not be a problem with certifications.
    If Boeing didn’t follow the rules they will have to pay fines.
    One rule is that Boeing has to follow all regulations.

  3. @peter : (the 787 battery issues didn’t result in loss of life, or hull losses). That just sheer luck that it didn’t reault in lost of life. And in my book the design flaw of the batteries is not resolve.they just cover the problem with a big box over it.the design of the batteries hasn’t change one iota. So a fire could still accure it just will be contain by the box. They didn’t fix the root cause, that is that the battery can catch fire they just put a band aid over it.

    • Bluedog: I followed it closely as batteries were a deep interesing in my work world as well as side interest in aviation (and some crossing as I had a set of Saft Nicads for a Fire Alarm backup system one time and a brohter who was an Av Tech who dealt with Nicads regualry – lots of conversions over the subject)

      While I believe Boeing did cover up the battery (pun intended) – if you read the entire saga, massive changes were made (and heinous practices corrected) much like the MAX they could not have done worse originally if they tried.

      Boeing followed what was laid out by the RTC.

      Amongst the findings was Yuasa was running a filthy mfg ops when a Li Ioion Batt requires a quasi clean room. That was stopped. Its now up to spec.

      Yuasa was using hand hammering for created the battery forms, that is stopped and automated and a quality control test done (you get zero quality control by hand)

      I believe they were passing 95% of their batteries for the 787 when Industry standard results under good practices was about 40% reject rate. They now are in the industry norm.

      That means Yuasa actually now has a a X ray taken, inspected, as well as a number of other tests of the battery to ensure its good (again all to industry specifications)

      The charging system and monitor system were complete re-done.

      There have been a failure or two since, but nothing like occurred before.

      They are now segregated so they cannot cascade and that was tested to ensure it worked.

      Reality is you cannot stop a single cell fizzler entirely (nor can you on a Ni-cads) so the box was used as a final isolation to ensure no impact in the cabin.

  4. when was the last serious accident that was caused by a design flaw in a plane? You’d have to go back to the 737 rudder problems in the 90s, or the DC10 cargo door in the 70s (the 787 battery issues didn’t result in loss of life, or hull losses). A lot of people go to work just to ensure that their salary gets paid at the end of the month…they’re not necessarily interested in actually doing their job.

    • If you include crashes due to human factors design issues the list gets longer:
      AF447 – side sticks not cross linked
      Asiana 214 – non-obvious operation of the Flight Level Change Mode
      Helios 522 – crew unable to recognize pressurization mode was manual

      Making mechanically very reliable aircraft is pretty much a solved problem. Crashes now almost always are in part due to cockpit human factors. Basically designers assuming something should be obvious to pilots where in the moment of stress it is not.

      • Steve:

        The 787 battery was shear luck. If it had occurred in flight the results likely would have been gruesome.

        So Boeing and the regulators got lucky and more so the passengers.

        Fire personal had a almost impossible time snuffing even on the ground.

      • AF447 – you can add throttle lever position not linked to commanded throttle setting. Incorrect autopilot disconnect procedure, the aircraft is flying normally, do not change settings just hand control back to the pilot in command.

        • Side stick cross link imu not relevant as the accompanying story is false ( during the stall: “pulled all the time” did not happen. same for double input. only in the very last moments. )

          same for moving throttle. gimmicks.

          Then the AP on AF447 unlinked without any input change.
          The Pilot flying fulled like mad gaining height, loosing speed _below_ the speed threshhold that is expected for a valid AoA sensor signal.
          ( Inversion of stall indication is a problem.)

        • Its one of the reasons that while the stress on an aircraft is mandated, controls have gone out the window.

          At one time it was mandated based on the issues that throttles up power when pushed forward (yes younger generations, there were actually throttle you pulled back on to get power!)

          The T Insturment Clustger was invoked so tghat there was consiany of scan and locaiton (and clsoe to the smae from one aircraf to another)

          How Boeing has the superiour moving tghroteel, but dumps the floor out from under you via the Flach Trap.

          Airbus decides moving throttle are not needed.

          In the case of AF447, when automation could handle the issue of no speeds just fine, it dumps it onto the pilots (who are totally unprepared to actually fly the aircraft ) when Automation could simply have moved the throttle and the attitude to the safe positions (85% power and 5 deg up) and announce speeds were gone.

          What is done is not science but who can get their gadgets where into the cockpit. That is nuts. We know the dongs, bings, alarms and voice thing does not work, but we do it anyway.

          Its like eyewitnesses, you know they are totally unreliable but you use them anyway? Sheese.

        • The AF447 crash in the South Atlantic, the pilots were only both using the side sticks at the same time for a very brief period[during the handover of control], so wasnt even a minor cause for the crash.
          Any way the system gave a ‘dual input warning’ message.
          It seems to be one of those things that some people have become fixated over, without checking all the facts.

          • The system also gave a whole lot of stall warnings that were ignored. So we can figure that dual input while likely zero factor would also be ignored.

            No I am not hung up on the side stick controller issue though I think Yokes are far more intuitive (let alone the bump steering of Airbus)

            So what good are your warning if you know they are going to be ignored (or is Airbus (and Boeing) so ignorant of pilot dynamism they don’t have a clue that they are giving people?

            What MAX is rubbing into Boeing face is they do not.

            But I don’t see Airbus any better, different yes and side stick controller are so space age cool.

            But are they BETTER? Has there been any research into it (none I know of) – so they are there because they are different and perceived to be modern and cool (and a lot of modern stuff is worse than the old stuff)

            Much like the AOA disagree, if you don’t know you have MCAS then a disagree is just another light along with Speed Disagree (not enough to be an issue) and altitude disagree (only if yo9u are landing) while the real issue is (was) hidden.

            So less than great pilots, or maybe even decent ones get confused and forgets, fly the airplane, use the Primary Instruments and ignore the rest (as hard as they make it)

            So bad pilot skills are a factor and it used to be the pilot was there to save the aircraft, no so much anymore.

            And clearly AF447 had a lot less an issue to start with then Lion or Ethiopian and those so well trained pilots still hosed it.

    • Who is this “Steve.” He actually make comments with the exact same language as Peter above when “they” say in two different contexts, repeating anti-union, anti-civil service, anti-regulation talking points: “A lot of people go to work just to ensure that their salary gets paid at the end of the month…they’re not necessarily interested in actually doing their job.” Please, Steve, use another name. I don’t want your ideas under different names to reflect at all on things I might say.

      • How can an assertion that some people aren’t interested in doing their jobs be labeled as “anti-union, anti-civil service, anti-regulation”?
        I know people who are not in a union, not a civil servant, and not in a particularly regulated branch of employment, and they still don’t care too much about the quality of their work. Why aren’t they fired? Well, maybe their boss falls into the same category. Big corporations/organizations tend to be like that.

        • When was the statement made? It was made as a rebuttal to the idea that better and stronger government regulation is needed to resolve the problems that produced the Max. The comment said we should look to blame the two accidents on the complacency and sloppiness of FAA functionaries. I’m old enough to have seen this argument again and again for replacing a well-paid, secure work force and government workers with lower paid, insecure contractors, temporary employees and people off shore. It’s dominated American thinking since Ronald Reagan filed the air traffic controllers. And it’s the logic that has undermined better government protections — a logic the person commenting was using at the time. Blame the government employee who is sloppy and complacent and not the Boeing executive, who is short-sighted, greedy, calculating and careless about human life.

          • The thrust of Scott’s article was about the FAA: he opined that its dysfunction was (at least partially) due to lack of funding, and I opined that it was (at least partially) due to complacency/sloppiness. Neither of those opinions negates that most of the blame in this matter lies with Boeing, so I don’t know where you got that stance from…

      • For quite some time there is software from the US around to manage multiple account identities for a single “influencer” and for various social network sites. Guess how Twitter storms and political facebook groups are handled. 🙂

        @ TransWorld:
        it would be a real boon for discussions here if you could adhere to established facts and present writing that at least gives the appearance of having understood those back story elements.

        Early airplanes had a “stick input” the term joystick stems from that period. A wheel ( to turn for better leverage, instead of pushing left/right) was added when planes got bigger and control forces escalated. Over time and the advent of servo help the wheel got segments removed and was later “reduced” to various yoke designs.
        to wit: your intuitive and preferred interface is nothing more than the thing you grew up with and can’t disassociate from.:-)

  5. Fundamentally, when the basic flying characteristics, flight control laws, mass distribution and other elements of an aircraft are changed, the certification process needs to consider it as a new aircraft except by clear exception rather than the converse. The design of an aircraft is too highly integrated and finely balanced to try to separate out the changes in isolation. The approach being taken to continue to modify modifications of old designs reduces cost, but at the expense of risk. The certification process for this aircraft was approached as incremental to the existing type certificate and was resourced accordingly. Maybe it’s time to revisit this in a much more fundamental way.

      • @TW

        I would say yes, at the same time it was widely known at the time of development that the MAX was a significantly more extensive iteration than the neo for all manner of reasons. In fact the comments here were based on the unique difficulties of developing the MAX. As we are aware Boeing did the absolute minimum they could get away with. Further the development of the neo benefits from a full protection FBW system which could be tweaked.

        • What I am asking is where do we draw the line?

          767 should be stopped? Its an old mechanical design

          Ground all 757s? Ditto.

          While it was done horribly, the MAX was actually upgraded to a degree those others don’t have.

          MCAS 2.0 will be more so.

          You seem to feel FBW is some kind of magic elixir, when in fact the MAX was fine (and safer without the MCAS 1.0 )

          All the FBW in the world did not stop lousy programing on the AF447 (said programing is lousy and bad if a pilot can’t fly the aircraft when said program acts)

          But then the 777 is FBW but it has a lousy FLCH trap.

          Bad software is bad software be it FBW or not.

          If I was going to ground the MAX permanently it would be based on the manual trim problem.

          But aircraft with two known bad engines are allowed in the air? Hmmm

      • Yes, of course. The changes to the A320 design to accommodate larger engines, however, were much less extensive. The same approach would apply, but the certification process could be less extensive for this reason. This is not an Airbus Vs Boeing issue. There was a process breakdown here. Processes that are either incapable or out of control must be adjusted, improved or otherwise refined.

    • That is a bit over the top IMHO.
      What can’t be accepted is “keeping the base models tiny drum brakes for a racing mini cooper” because the 850cc one is certified with them.
      Same for revamping a design massively (737NG) without also dragging it into conformance with established newer certification.
      The 9g fuselage of the 737 shew its downsides in various crashes.( like TK1951, fuselage separates at the wing box edges.)

  6. I can’t see Congress biting the hand that feeds them. I think this will be more of a show trial, lots of shouting and finger pointing but, no real action coming forth. Pure political theater, meant to appease the masses. No changes in the way Designated Reps are chosen, or who they report to (FAA or Boeing). No proposed FAA regulatory changes. No letters issued to see the data. Maybe a few questions on who did what when, but, not really going anywhere. The only reason for the questioning is to make it appear that Congress is “doing something” when they aren’t overseeing the FAA, Boeing is.

    • Richard, you hit it on the Button! It should, however, be clear that all the other worldwide approving bodies, like the EASA, and the Chinese, Indian approving authorities, amongst others, are in their legitimate right to disapprove any Congressional/Senate decisions, with obscured approvals.

      • Norm: Move back up and read how EASA handles the RR twining of failure prone engines being fully approved on an aircraft.

        Then tell me that EASA does not have its politician aspects as well.

        No aircraft should fly with a suspect engine, you then fly one with TWO suspect engines?

        And one fails (for any reason) and you stress the daylights out of the other bad one because you now only have ONE!

        I can think of no dumber thing you can do but they sure did it.

  7. Under the Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) status that is granted to Boeing by the FAA, the aircraft manufacturer is empowered to act as the proxy on certification oversight. Prior to this arrangement, engineers in that role were approved by and directly reported to the FAA. To me, this implies that Boeing engineers operating under ODA are vulnerable to, for example, being removed from ODA duties if Boeing management so desires this. I’m not an expert and I could be wrong about this but, if it’s true then we’d all benefit from an explanation as to why this is not a conflict of interest.

    • @Aviation Consultant
      This is exactly what happens.
      To that description one could add low-key retaliation technique, which goes something like:
      – Manager: You mean to tell me that the design is not certifiable as is? that’s your fault.
      – ODA Employee: I don’t design the airplane, I only give feedback and in this case my feedback is not favorable.
      – Manager: We should discuss this during your upcoming performance review.
      – ODA Employee: Actually, on the second pass, I discovered everything looks a lot more rosy if I assume the pilot has super human, non-delayed reactions, there you go problem is solved.
      – Manager: Good boy. Go back to your desk and be happy you still have a job here.

  8. 0900 Central Time. Dennis Muilenburg has not spoken yet, but CNBC looks to carry it live. Their reporter, Phil LeBeau, caught up with Muilenburg in the hall. He hit him pretty hard with resignation questions, too little too late questions, etc.,… LeBeau is now saying Muilenburg will get hit real hard before the Commerce Committee.

  9. Just watching the Muilenburg testimony at the moment.
    He’s fudging, smoke-screening and being evasive…and it’s vexing his interrogators. Luckily, they’re not buying the hot air, and are persisting with their lines of questioning.
    It’s not looking good for Muilenburg at present.
    Is anyone surprised?

    • Surprisingly, Ted Cruz just annihilated him about the simulator pilots’ text messages. Muilenburg looked evasive.

      • Ted to knows how to play the game.

        What did he ever do to ensure we had an effective government?

        Well other than a 2 trillion dollar tax cut to those who put it into their bank accounts.

  10. Congress & the Executive Branch (and particularly one side of the aisle with their religion of deregulation) are absolutely just as culpable or maybe even more than the FAA, seeing as they direct policy and funding and the FAA follows orders.

    The FAA was ordered to partner with and delegate certification to the people they were supposed to regulate/oversee. the regulations were written largely by industry and pushed through congress with “campaign contributions”

    • Sadly, in regards to the so called executive branch, Children are not chargeable until they are adults.

      At the current rate we will be into a new ice age before that occurs though I am probably not allowing for the atrophying of age seeing in and stasis having been achieved.

  11. Appropriations start with the US House of Representatives. The US government spent over 4.5 trillion dollars in 2018, including over 1.1 trillion in discretionary spending. There’s been no effort to restrain spending other than the brief period of sequestration this century.

    The FAA does what it is told to do, period. The machinery in DC is disgusting to me in the hinterland, but it is what it is, and I don’t think lambasting the essentially faceless agency or “inadequate funding” is an answer unless a concurrent demand is made that the agencies (including other transportation/commerce-related ones) seek direct funding from the industries they regulate. That’s what the USPTO does, for instance, and it works, though folks despise the cost of IP/patents.

    I know Leeham tries to stay away from the politics realm, but if one is going to criticize appropriations, I think the appropriators, and recommended/preferred/considered alternatives should be identified. It’s not just all fun electric planes and ‘trade war’ bashing.

    • Effectively Boeing was funding the MAX certification work by supplying engineers, but then the oversight was not effective.

      If there is a significant certification cost charged to the manufacturer (instead of asking them to assign their engineers to support the certification), this can help resolve FAA’s budget issues.

      • Simply ensuring that the Boeing inspectors report to the FAA is not a cost issue.

        Its a control issue. And that is the plane truth. MCAS anyone?

        • Who do you serenade for Dinner?
          i.e. who controls your further employment?
          ( reason why here in Germany elected worker representatives can’t be fired as a saveguard to assure
          their independence. )

          • In the US when we had unions they were called Job Stewards

            I saw one take down a manger big time over an very unsafe truck

            It was a real treat, as said manager tried to make me operate that piece of junk and succeeded in making others do so.

            That too of course is getting killed off as fast as they can twist it.

  12. I think the question to Muilenburg, Hamilton so far are very general, more facilitating for Boeing to tell all the things they did to solve, prevent future issues. Supportive nearly.

    • Well we can only bash to much, the bread is butted from the Boeing side not the publics interest.

      Like Ted, guess who is based in Dallas? So he wants their money so he bashes Boeing (well he wants Boeing money to but Boeing understands how the game is played, its ok, Boeing will give him money anyway – because…….. )

      What does Ted actually do about any of this?

      Nothing. And that is all Boeing wants in this case.

      The system is totally corrupted and it needs a huge change and its not just FAA or Boeing involved, its the whole system of campaign money and who owes their position to whom.

      This could just as easily be Lockheed and the DOD.

  13. “Congress is every bit as accountable.

    Year after year after year, Congress does not properly fund the FAA in order for it to do its work. It doesn’t give the FAA the money or the human resources or expertise to do its work.”

    This to me is the key. If one of the problems is how much Boeing basically self-certified, or how few FAA personnel are able to dig into the fine grained detail, it’s budget.

    And decades of an attitude of ‘do more with less’ has pushed this situation that is akin to regulatory capture. Of course the dual nature of the FAA, and the ways in which the NTSB doesn’t have full power, play in to all that.

    But I agree the mess my be more on BA and the FAA, but Congress has a role. One they likely will not acknowledge.

    • At the Core, Congress is exactly the issue.

      None of this occurs if they are not beholden to big Corporate/Rich money for their jobs, and they will (far to many of them and more so Repubs) do anything to keep their jobs.

      When you try to pretend that its ok for the Executive to twist arms in some bizzare fake conspiracy theory involved some weird server in a country that can barley get out of its own way influence US elections in 2016 (even though your side won?) but its ok for the Russians to do it?

      You can’t write this sort of thing in Fiction and sell it. Its just to weird (well it was)

  14. I think this hearing is primarily for show. But I also think that Congress will respond with better legislation. Everyone flies and wants to believe he or she is in a safe airplane. The deregulation frenzy is over. This disaster has revealed a significant weakness in the unfettered-free-enterprise obsession and it has placed a significant industry that employs tens of thousands of Americans on the verge of collapse. Meanwhile, the highly regulated aerospace industries in socialist or quasi socialist countries are chugging along like in the race between the tortoise and the hare. One cannot fault greedy executives for behaving like greedy executives and snatching away every free-flowing penny like the Grinch snatching a crumb from a mouse on Christmas eve. They have learned to disrespect and abuse any system of professional ethics as a weakness to be taken advantage of and exploited. This mentality has not only placed Boeing on the verge of collapse, it threatens the entire country and the welfare of the Earth. The hearings show that Boeing is not capable of doing what it truly needs to do to recover its reputation and its status. It managers and board feel it must dig in its heals on a discredited business model that produced a lemon of which the entire world is now aware. But this has been the business model of many software companies. Put a lemon on the market and update it to functionality over time with patches. That doesn’t work so well for an airplane, we’ve discovered. But Boeing will put thousands of its patched lemons back up in the sky. And they’ll probably be safe (unless some other unforeseen glitch of a fly-by-wire system in a non-fly-by wire plane surfaces). But this means, it will still have committed itself in the long term to a 50 year old airplane while the rest of the world slowly moves toward the finish line.

    • Real Steve:

      Funny how when its the ones at the lower end its entitlement and when you are sucking big time on the cooked gravy train and have billions its the way it should be.

      Somehow it must be the Union that did all this, if we can just twist things around enough………………….

    • @RealSteve

      Meanwhile, the highly regulated aerospace industries in socialist or quasi socialist countries are chugging along like in the race between the tortoise and the hare.

      There is a long, proud history in the United States of the country losing its collective marbles over anything perceived as “foreign.” The fainting spells over “Socialism” is just another example of that. The problem seems to be that the U.S. media and the GOP simply don’t know how to talk about and discuss social programmes that serve the public, so they get hung up on whether or not social programmes are “socialist” — it’s probably just incomprehensible to them the idea of programmes that serve a social economic function rather than generate profit for some individual or company.

      For example, the private health insurance lobby in the U.S. has bought and paid for generations of congressmen and senators to sell that message, over and over, thus helping to indoctrinate vast portions of the electorate into believing that national health care is just plain evil.

      Now, as a matter of fact, Europe is not “socialist”. It has long been known that capitalism has many different variations. According to the French economics professor Bruno Amable, there are at least five different models of capitalism (i.e. Author of The Diversity of Modern Capitalism*):

      The Anglo-Saxon model (e.g. the U.S. and the U.K);
      the social democratic / Scandinavian model (e.g. Sweden, Denmark);
      the continental European model (e.g. France, Germany);
      the Southern European model (e.g. Italy, Spain);
      the Asian model (e.g. Japan, South Korea).


        • What we have and will continue to have is corruption of the legislative , executive and Judicial branches and unless the whole dynamism of getting elected and the money is changed we will keep going there.

          Thanks to the US Islamist Supreme Court, we can’t even have minimum reform of the system. Talk about some twisted out bizarrely supported conservative rulings . A tangled casting reel has nothing on the Supremos.

          When I was 17, I was out fishing on a set net site, the owner decided we had to loose the nets as the fishing period was over and we could not get them into the boat in those rough seas (and yes I told him he was out of his mind).

          I spent the next 10 days untangling those nets, and they were vastly clearer than the Supremes, so that to is an issue is that they don’t read the law but decide to twist it to their own fundamentalist ends (and its nothing more than fundamentalism of the US Religious Right though they hide behind the robes – notice they are black? I believe that was Head cutter gear back in the day)

          • @TransWorld

            Perhaps you should take a hard look a the outdated U.S. constitution.

            The US is exceptional in another way, too: constitutionally. Other countries have their parliaments and heads of state. But no other country invests such authority in a single document dating from the era of silk knee britches and powdered wigs. Sealed in moisture-controlled, bullet-proof glass containers that are on display in a special rotunda at the National Archives Museum in Washington DC by day and lowered into a multi-ton bomb-proof vault by night, the Constitution is to the US what the Bible was to medieval Europe or the Quran to today’s Islamic State, albeit with certain differences.

            It’s much shorter: just 4,000 words in its original 1787 version. It’s also more rigorous and to the point: you don’t have to parse a story about Abraham or Moses to learn how the Congressional spending process works. All you have to do is turn to Article I, section 7, and learn that ‘all bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills’ – which is more or less how things still work today.

            On the other hand, unlike today’s Bible or the Quran, the Constitution is subject to textual emendation. This might seem to detract from its general aura of holiness, yet the fact that Americans must genuflect in the direction of the founding fathers every time they want to change so much as a comma actually works to enhance the sacredness of the whole.

            In effect, the amending clause contained in Article V says that any change, no matter how minor, must be approved by two-thirds of each house of Congress plus three-fourths of the states. This is daunting, certainly. But growing population disparities render it even more so since the three-fourths rule means that 13 states representing as little as 4.4 per cent of the population can veto any change sought by the remaining 95.6 percent of the population.


          • Not all of us believe Europe is evil.

            Sloppy and lacking in will to defend themselves yes.

            Evil, no, just Co-dependent.

            Sorry, got side tracked there. Politics will do that.

    • Look into the gory roadkill trail for the GFC: Has anything changed beyond pressure having been bled “uncontained”?
      Any controlling institution better able to work ( more money, more personnel, improved legal leverage ) ?

  15. For those who are not into the details of how the US system actually works.

    Congress has two houses. the House of Representatives which is controlled by the Democrats now (who are far more likely to affect change but not a gurnatee3, they get their money the same way the Repubs do).

    The Senate is controlled by the Republicans who will no nothing other than lip service.

    The Repub take is Boeing should do whatever it wants as long as it can make money and give them donations. The FAA should be eliminated because as bad as it is in its duty, its an evil government agency .

    Rarely when forced they do something then Trump vetoes it and they know that will happen.

    They never ever override a veto.

    And a twist, the Senate has a rule (they vote on their own rules) and it requires 2/3 of them to approve changes. Unless its something they want like Judges that are along the lines of the Islamic State and then of course that is ok and it only takes one over 50 to do that (they changed that for Judges which are solely nominated by el Presidente and approved by the Senate, the house has no say)

    Can you setup a system that is perfect for cooking the books? Yes you can.

    Its the same system that ensured Slavery lasted in the US for 100 years.

  16. One small blurb in all this that actually is relevant

    “The committee has said it plans to change the program that gave Boeing, rather than regulators, authority to sign off on aspects of the jet.”

    I will believe it happening when I see it, they could have done that alone as a modification and mandate forever that Boeing inspectors to report to FAA not Boeing at any time since this began.

    • The president owns a Boeing 757 and flies a Boeing 747. You better believe that he assumes that the individuals who engineered and then put those vehicles together did it in accord with professionalism and professional systems of ethics And like the rest of us, he expects that the professional in the government to held their feet to the fire and upheld global safety standards. Now that the circumstances of two, snake oil lubricated lemons falling from the sky and killing 350 people are known, I think that even the most fervid anti-regulation zealots might change their tune unless they have forsworn ever flying.

      • He knows they were put other pretty good.

        To bad he is the polar opposite and could care less (until its him in the crash though it would be a great last tweet)

      • IMU the mechanics behind success via lying, misrepresentation and other smoke and mirror games from the set of Borgia tools are incompatible with unmorphable fact based world view needed for good engineering. No common grounds. Group “P” can’t even understand Group “E”. .. and long term group P dominates all other groups. apparently no recourse. When group P has crashed the system for good group E only gets the helm until things are superficially fixed. next cycle.

  17. The fundamental issue is that in the United States political corruption has been legalised. It is perfectly permissible for a politician to receive money or benefits from a registered individual representing a corporation, an union or whatever (in simple terms a lobbyist) and then openly vote in favour of a bill or regulation that benefits that group. I am not arguing right or wrong – merely that were the US Congress operating under the rules of just about any other democratic nation its members would be in serious trouble. Certainly here in Canada they would at the least be forced to resign, more likely face fines or imprisonment.

    That of course is the ideal here – but even though many evade it is only by actions which are below the table and out of sight.

    I fear that while it is legal for companies like Boeing to ‘fund’ legislators the US will be long bedevilled by issues such as this.

    • Yes, the U.S. do seem to have the best politicians money can buy.

      The question is, though, why should the rest of the people in the world accept boarding machines which are flying around in their airspace and which are certified by a captured regulator (FAA) — an agency which is obviously hamstrung by what appears to be corrupt U.S. lawmakers.

      • While I fully agree the FAA is more than on need of that question being asked.

        How do you address EASA and the RR Trent Engine debacle?

        This is just a dual engine failure away from catastrophe and they not only did nothign, they actually removed the requirement that they should not fly with two suspected engines.

        More at the heart, why the hell is any aircraft allowed to fly with a even ONE suspect engine? What part of safety do they not want to understand.

        Easy to point a finger but its also good to watch others and see if its do as I say not as I do.

        How many hundreds of fudges are allowed like that (lots on both sides I know for a fact)

        Some critical things that should be done now are allowed to go on for YEARS!

        So, Etu Brutai? (yea I know)

    • A few statement from a non engineer type Who procured his A&P license in the mid ’70’s who had actually soloed a Cherokee 4 as well. I have since worked on the DC 6-B while in the u.s. navy in the early ’60’s marvelled at how far aviation has come in just over 100 years. Now my few inputs. This hog show occurring over the next 2 days in the halls of congress is just that. [Edited as a violation of Reader Comment rules.] Thirdly TW’s many posts today have been very annoying, must be lonely wherever he resides.

      • Well if I am annoying you I am making you think as well.

        Compliments like that are like Oxycontin to Limbaugh.

  18. As I understand it the self regulation of any industry is predicated on the principle that it is in the best interest of the company to make safe products and that they suffer as a result of error. In this case Boeing showed how flawed a concept this is as it presupposes that the CEO acts in the best interests of the shareholders. Here the shareholders will suffer possibly lasting damage to their investment but the enormous previous payments to Muilenburg are safely in his pocket. In simple terms the risks and rewards are not aligned.

    In the short-term the CEO has driven up the share price by doing everything in his power to eliminate discretionary cost, this has led to a boost in the share price as earnings have been stellar. Unfortunately it has also inadvertently led to the MAX, the best example of doing the absolute minimum required in the redevelopment of an airframe.

    In general (the culture)
    Let’s iterate old aircraft
    Let’s abuse grandfathering
    Let’s make a virtue of not introducing current industry standards
    Let’s pressure the FAA to certify quickly
    Let’s pressure the FAA to allow self certification
    Etc etc

    The implementation (governed by culture and management pressure)
    Let’s hang the engines suboptimally
    Let’s not redesign the undercarriage sufficiently
    Let’s push for shared type approval
    Let’s avoid necessary pilot training
    Etc etc

    Crash, crash

    How do the regulators hold the company to account? Get them to sack DM? This will hardly hurt anything but his feelings. Fine the company? Well this will have to be a big fine to have any impact, in the billions, and does it change or improve anything? Send DM to jail? Not sure that is possible. In simple terms a company is a unique entity which is difficult or impossible to hold to account

    • Lets see, how many times do we have to have this rubbed in our faces as BS?

      But the Repubs will drum it up over and over and over again.

      Self regulation of ANY industry is a recipe for cheating, failure and deaths.

      Drink the cool aid.

      • This is not a republicans vs democrats thing. Check out which politicians Boeing “ownes”.

        This is a US politics thing, and the more you focus on red vs blue the more you’re being played.

  19. As for the hearings: I was surprised that they allowed Muilenberg to say he had not pressured the government to keep the Max flying after the second crash. Apparently, they did not remember his call to the president until he had left the room. I am surprised that he clearly stated that Boeing never blamed the pilots, their airlines or their maintenance culture. And I was surprised that he categorically denied the veracity news reports that stated that the FAA was not properly informed about changes to the strength of MCAS were false.

    • That call is utterly damming, no surprise they didn’t ask the obvious question.

  20. “Flying coffins “, Sen. Blumenthals cheap sound bite duly makes the headlines.
    I instantly lost any interest in following the hearings into a series of very complex problems, nothing to be learned here.

  21. Congress did look at the FAA aircraft certification process 2 years ago and advised more delegation, FAA to make sure EASA doesn´t check their certification too much. I´m sure congress would love their report to not exist at this moment.

    Far reaching delegation, streamlining and self certification was kicked of with Congress´FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. Right after Airbus sold a 1100NEO´s catching Boeing by suprize.

    Using grandfathered design seems doable – accpetable for a sub version such as the MAX, if done right, taking into account all system interfaces.

    The FAA showed amazing flexibility on grandfathering the 777X in the same period, which is hardly a 777 anymore. Everything was replaced..

    I assume everybody is scared to dead JATR recommendations projected on the 777-9 certification process cause a meltdown.

    • Well, there’s a lot for anyone connected with Boeing to be concerned about w.r.t. the 777X certification. Thanks to JATR, it’s has to be called into question.

      One thing I really can’t understand in all this is that Boeing had a choice as to how much effort to put into its own internal QC / certification functions. The amount of effort the company put into certification / QC should have been *independent* of the level of delegation from the FAA and Congress’s funding of the FAA. It’s a mistake to rely on labour levels in the regulator to catch problems you’re not willing to catch oneself.

      What Boeing have now found is that, really, the FAA is Boeing’s most important brand, and they’ve not protected that adequately with their own rigorous application of standards.

      Another option the company could have taken was to object to Congress’s moves over decades to reduce the FAA’s capacity to regulate. Politicians’ basic job is to deliver government services for the minimum cost. The constant battle with regulatory bodies is that whilst they’re doing their job thoroughly there’s nothing going on to make politicians realise that the money is well spent. Politicians react to problems, not successes.

      If the industry isn’t constantly reinforcing the requirement for effective regulation, they’re basically telling the politicians, “it’s fine to cut the budget, we’ve got this one covered”. Well, turns out they hadn’t.

      Getting back to the 777X, what Boeing should really be asking themselves is, “Have we honestly got this one completely and utterly right?”. If they haven’t, and there’s problems or disasters, they’re doomed.

      The trouble is that to answer that question they’ll need to have a watertight set of paperwork showing everything about every design choice. They can’t rely on the people – some of them aren’t there anymore. However what often happens in high managerial pressure cost cutting situations is that decisions are often taken “informally”. The paperwork likely won’t show that. They need to go looking for gaps, omissions, flimsy rationale, etc, and if they find any at all it’s back to square one, start again with a complete design review (oh and it’ll take years). Or just fly the plane anyway see what happens.

    • I think Grandfathering and what needs to be done should be addressed.

      Not sure I buy that the 777x is not going to be safe as a result of any of it but I have been surprised more than once.

    • >Using grandfathered design seems doable – accpetable for a sub version such as the MAX, if done right, taking into account all system interfaces.

      No I don’t think so. Two examples:
      * 1968 standards for exits should not be grandfathered in.
      * Ancient pilot trouble notification system should not be allowed.

      We need rules that specify for how long a new requirement can be waived. I suggest 20 years because that seems to be a normal production run.

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