By Scott Hamilton
Dec. 30, 2019, © Leeham News: Boeing and the 737 MAX dominated the Top 10 Stories on Leeham News in 2019.
This should surprise no one.
The year-end late-breaking news that Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg had been fired by the Board of Directors should be in the Top 10 Stories of 2019.
But coming as it did on Dec. 23, the start of Christmas week, it failed to make it into LNA’s Top 10 list.
Readership, obviously, falls off dramatically over the Christmas holidays. The fall-off continues between Christmas and New Year’s evidenced by LNA’s own decision to take a holiday (except for breaking news).
The Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10 grabbed three of the Top 10 stories and shared, with Lion Air 610 (the Oct. 29, 2018, crash) a fourth story.
Boeing’s pickle with the 737 NG pickle fork cracking was of the Top 10 stories.
An historical review that Boeing didn’t want to re-engine the 737, preferring instead a new airplane in 2011 when what became the MAX was launched, was in the Top 10.
An April 2018 story about a potential Blended Wing Body airplane from Boeing hit the Top 10 after an enthusiast site linked it to its forum.
Other MAX MCAS stories were in the Top 10. Finally, anticipated announcements by Mitsubishi for the Paris Air Show was the only non-Boeing story to be in the Top 10 reads for the year.
Airbus didn’t hit the Top 10 but did have a #11 story concerning a pitch-up issue on the A321.
The Boeing stories propelled record readership on LNA in 2019.
Here is the rundown.
ET302 crashed on March 10. This was a report of the initial information about the crash, based on radio transmissions to the control tower in initial radar data.
This is Part 2 of information obtained about the Boeing 737NG pickle fork cracking. See story #7.,
The initial Ethiopian Airlines crash report investigation claimed the pilots did everything right—a view challenged this month by FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson. Dickson testified before Congress, in response to a question, that “for whatever reasons,” the ET302 pilots did not follow procedures.
Bjorn Fehrm reported the initial crash analysis and added perspective.
The Boeing 737NG, which has been in service for 20 years, suddenly was discovered to have cracks in what’s called the “pickle fork,” so-named because of its shape. The pickle fork mates the wings to the fuselage. It’s supposed to last the lifetime of the airplane, or about 90,000 cycles. Cracks were found as low as 22,000 cycles. The cause still is unknown. Airplanes found with cracks are grounded until the forks are replaced, a complex process. So far, about 50 airplanes inspected were found with cracks, about 5% of the fleet with 22,000 cycles or more.
With the controversy over the 737’s re-engined design requiring the MCAS, LNA reported that in 2011—when the MAX program was launched—Boeing officials didn’t want to do a re-engined airplane. They preferred a new, clean sheet design.
This 2018 story, for whatever reason, became a 2019 Top 10 when an enthusiast site referenced and linked it.
More data emerged on the final minutes of Ethiopian Flight 302 and what went on in the cockpit.
Rumors were rife that Mitsubishi was going to announce a new version of the MRJ and a deal to acquire the Bombardier CRJ program were slated for the Paris Air Show. This advance look became the #3 most read story of 2019.
In an analysis, Bjorn Fehrm analyzed the factors behind the Ethiopian and Lion Air crashes.
The revelations that the pilot community, including the Lion Air crew, didn’t know of the existence of the MCAS, was the #1 story read on LNA in 2019.