Pontifications: Back to drawing board on NMA, Boeing’s CEO says

Jan. 27, 2020, © Leeham News: Back to the drawing board.

So to speak.

By Scott Hamilton

There is no drawing board, of course, but, rather, computer design.

In his first media conference last week as president and CEO of The Boeing Co., David Calhoun is going back to a fresh start on evaluating what Boeing needs for its next new airplane.

The New Midmarket Airplane (NMA) and Future Small Airplane (FSA) appear dead.

That’s not to say, necessarily, restarting the analysis won’t conclude one of these concepts is the right one after all.

But something entirely new might emerge, too.

The future, for now, is MAX

Calhoun naturally said the focus right now is to get the MAX back in the air and delivered to customers.

He sees the MAX around for at least a generation. Calhoun did not define the term, but in humanity, a generation typically is 20-25 years. With entry-into-service in 2017, 20 years will take this to 2037. This probably is the outside production period of the MAX.

The 737 NG entered service in 1997 and the MAX program was launched in 2011, a period of just 14 years. NG production ended in 2019, or 22 years. The NG program was launched in 1993.

The NG superseded the 737 Classic. The Classic entered service in 1984, just nine years before the NG program was launched. The Classic program was launched in 1981. The Classic succeeded what, in some quarters, became known as the 737 Jurassic—the original 737-100/200 series. This airplane entered service in 1968 after a program launch in 1965.

“This airplane will compete well for another generation,” Calhoun said.

Returning to clean-sheet study

Calhoun said that the NMA study will be revisited in its entirety.

“That MMA project is going to be a new clean sheet of paper,” he said. “We’ve had couple of years now go by since the first clean sheet of paper was taken to it. Things have changed a bit. Not so much MAX related, but the competitive playing field is a little different.

“We have to plan for China. We’re going to take probably a different approach. We’re going to start with a clean sheet of paper again. I’m looking forward to that. I think that next airplane will be great,” he said.

“I want to do a little less visioning and a little less long-term planning and a little less all that stuff,” he told the media last Wednesday. “We’re just going to get back down to restoring trust with one another, trust with our customers, and trust with our regulator.”

It appears this new study will begin with a deep dive into revisiting Boeing’s philosophy of relying on the pilots as the ultimate in command, he said.

Airbus in the 1980s shifted its approach to more automation and more computer control. This is a practice that gained favor in the developing world where pilot training and skills may not be up to Western standards.

The Airbus philosophy has long been looked down upon by Boeing despite tiptoes into more automation on 7-Series airplanes.

Calhoun suggests there now may be a wholesale shift coming.

“We might have to start with the flight control philosophy before we actually get to the airplane. Because the decision around pilots flying airplanes, that’s a very important decision for the regulator and for us to get our head around,” he said. “As you well know, we have always favored airplanes that required more pilot flying than maybe our competitor did. We’re all going to have to get our head around exactly what we want out of that. That’ll be a process that will go on alongside of the next airplane development.”

There is a future new airplane

Although Calhoun put the NMA on hold, he said he’s not running from research programs; these will be sustained, but they may be reprioritized.

“We’re not ripping them apart, we’re not giving up on the future,” he said.

“There are definitely investments we can make to support the engineering function and the disciplines attached to it,” Calhoun said. “I know what those are. I’m not going to describe them externally until I get them firmly rooted internally, but we will do that.”

The timing won’t be driven by the future of the MAX, but it may be influenced by it.

“I am guessing and projecting the MAX will hold its own,” Calhoun said. “The market split that existing prior to MCAS will restore itself. That will give us a lot of freedom on that next airplane. If that share position didn’t restore itself, of course it would have an impact.”

155 Comments on “Pontifications: Back to drawing board on NMA, Boeing’s CEO says

    • “don’t show the turmoil underneath”.
      That is “professional manager” 101 🙂

      Boeing cockpit interfacing philosophy is comparable to keeping the stoker on a diesel engine.
      And because the first autopilots where mechanical links into the rods and wires surface actuation that too must stay.

      Imagine a Toyota speed control device linking via servo motor onto the accelerator pedal. ( pedal is a “by wire” device for quite some time now.)

    • Thank you, I have not a clue.

      If an NMA was good a year ago its good today. Nothing has changed.

      More accurately, you don’t have to change squat to change how the aircraft is controlled. That is all software.

      He should be hauled to Muilenberg’s farm and thrown on the the manure pile.

      • NMA got no traction ( i.e. a benign mix of features design-ability and produce-ability satisfying customer demand )
        a repeat of the NSA.

        He took it behind the shed and shot the beasty. Can’t stand it suffer.

        • That would be factually incorrect.

          There was significant interest.

          Was there enough for an NMA and what version was the issue and continues to be, but yes there was serious interest.

          • It’s so good to have somebody on this board who know all the facts.

          • “a benign mix of features design-ability and produce-ability satisfying customer demand”

            no match, Mr.!

  1. I want to do a little less visioning and a little less long-term planning and a little less all that stuff,”

    Silly question, isn’t that his job? Who else is going to look at the strategic vision of the company if it is not someone in his position? This guy appears to be solely a seat warmer until they have found someone who can drive the company out of its current mess.

    I will be surprised if the MAX will regain its market share. It will of course look quite good when the frames are reactivated but the 60/40 split will reopen quite soon. When all is said and done the MAX, even if not tarred by the fiasco it has gone through, is a one trick pony in the MAX 8. The A321 continues to have a stranglehold on the upper reaches of capacity/ capability and that appears to be where the centre of the SA market is moving. this leaves Airbus with a dilemma, quite a nice dilemma but still a dilemma. Do they bring out an A322 and cannibalise sales of the A321 with a view to futureproofing their position or do they sit and wait. Ii am hoping that they develop, orthey put themselves at risk of becoming like Boeing and falling down the route of ‘do nothing’ as the default position unless pushed to do otherwise.

    • An A322 wouldn’t necessarily cannibalise A321 sales, though perhaps a little. There are around 200 757 freighters out there that can carry 14/15 pallets – an A321 conversion cannot do that.

      An 88″ or 176″ stretch would be needed to add one or two pallets respectively. They’d be sure to replace the 757s because there isn’t a similar sized narrowbody out there. Such a machine would also undermine the feasibility of a new build aircraft for the NMA sector.

      • A 322 cannibalizing A321 SALES would not be a problem, cannibalizing A321 PRODUCTION is the issue. Which is why Airbus moves production of the A320 family into the A380 hall.

        Apparently the suppliers are stretched in their capacities and it’s not yet time to push hard for a production increase. So while Airbus watches how the MAX story unfolds, they keep their powder dry. Because right now everything seems possible between a perfect fix and a termination of the MAX program.

        Once the A320 production is moved to the other hall, Airbus has the option to bring the other hall to the same (more modern) standard, use it for a new model or maybe a European production of the A220, or keep making more A320 (no A321) to replace aging 737-800s.

        • No apparently on a stressed system, they are 2-3 months behind on deliveries

          P&W just got good news, Whiz is sticking with the GTF.

        • Airbus said that the A380 FAL will become a new A321neo FAL and I assume all the staff building A380’s retrained to build the A321neo with all new robotics as a next robotisation step from the HAM robotisation.
          The main obstacle to go up to 70 A320neo/month was Engine availability, now Boeing helped airlus by lowering the pressure on CFMI letting them boost the LEAP-1A production.
          I would not be surprised if there will be a block change on the A321neo with structures better optimized to be handled by robots for Toulouse and they will be built in parallell for a few years.
          Airbus claims the A320neo production in TLS will remain the same, but that might be staff levels, a new modern A321neo FAL fully up to speed will of cause produce more than the existing HAM A321 line.

      • I am not an engineer but an A322 (+4.4m / 176″) will give an aircraft ~49m long, give or take B752 length but it will expose the wing and current engine (33Klb) limitations.

        Two options likely, the easy one, use the 321XLR wing for extra lift, MTOW ~97T (Extra drag), range ~3000Nm, typically ~230 seats or 260-270 max in high density LCC layout (exit limits?) or,

        Go the full bells and whistles with new CFRP wing, 35-37Klb engines, range 4500-5000Nm, ~52m long, 240 pax, 2nd access door in front of wing, this is pushing towards an NSA and will take time and (“big”) money to develop. Yes it will take sales from the lower end of the NMA but the opposite is also true. It will however also be well positioned to compete with a large variant of an B737 replacement.

        • Both CFMI and P&W has promised Airbus 35k A321neo engines. The question is if that is enough for a stretched and carbon wing optimized A322. Airbus still has to do a good amount of work to get the A321XLR certified.
          Maybe RR will push for a 37-40k Ultrafan option on the A322 and CFMI/PWA can only offer 35k versions of their present engines.
          There is a big chance Airbus does nothing besides the A321XLR to concentrate on ease of A320neo robotic assembly, weight and cost reductions on the A330neo and getting cost out of the A220-300 with a few more increases of MTOW.

  2. The “There are definitely investments…” section is repeated 🙂

  3. The Boeing SUGAR Project is an aircraft that goes for max efficiency and min fuel burn but might need new regulations to be certified. Boeing with NASA money has already done 7-12% of the development design work. It will force Airbus hand to replace the A320neo with something totally different and it will limit its production run and force Airbus to save Money to pay for a totally new Aircraft family.

      • SUGAR is much better. Dogma!

        The C-Series/A220 present a long standing investment for Airbus. There is much more cost and effort to it than one $C for 50%.

        I am really keen on seeing Boeing handle its Embraer loot.
        ( if this goes forward.)

        • Yes, the Boeing SUGAR is a new generation of Aircrafts way different from todays certified passanger Aircrafts including the C-series. It will be interesting to see what engine GE comes up with as they are part of the NASA Project.

    • “As you well know, we have always favored airplanes that required more pilot flying than maybe our competitor did.”

      Boeing have airplanes of old design, it’s not a philosophy, it’s reality with a PR talk as sweetener. Things started to change with 777 and 787. Now it’s time to continue this path in narrowbodies.

      What struck me that Calhoun said: clean sheet. It would mean or they didn’t start for good with 797 design, or made it just badly, or is just PR talk “Boeing gets better now”.

      That all plans, which Calhoun contradicts by saying “I want to do a little less visioning and a little less long-term planning and a little less all that stuff,”. I agree with @Sowerbob that exactly the opposite CEO should be.

      • if you look at the 777 and 787 FBW, it is a philosophy.

        Boeing’s philosophy has been “the pilot has ultimate override authority” where Airbus’s has been “the computer has ultimate override authority”

        soft envelope protection vs hard envelope.

        it isn’t really clear if one philosophy is better than the other, certainly people have died because of the Airbus model (A320 airshow crash, AF447), both of which resulted in changes to FBW logic. I don’t think there have been any fatal accidents (yet) directly attributable to the Boeing philosophy.

        • Simplistic generalisations and being factually incorrect don’t help your case.

        • Maybe “the pilot has ultimate override authority” wasn’t as noble as it sounds and Boeing was selling (very) old design.

          BTW In A320/AF447 crashes computer authority was pulled by the pilots..

          It’s becoming clear Boeing has been succesfully overruling / out communicating / sidelining experts in crashes where aging, grandfathered systems played a big role (eg Turkish 1951, Lionair 610).

          • All the incidents relating to the Boeing pilot first philosophy seem to show a pronounced tendency to “Topping from the bottom”. i.e. stealthy and insidious system behavior.

            Attributing those incidents to pilot error is a show of PR over reality.

        • @bilbo

          All this pilot authority mantra was just a lame excuse for old 737 design. My point is: at last a FBW envelope protection will come to Boeing’s narrowbodies.

          “soft envelope protection vs hard envelope” you made a good point, imo both philosophies are valid and best is applied in A220 which is a mix of both.

          • Actually that is wrong.

            Boeing implements it in the FBW as well.

            Should they is another question but there is nothing inherent in FBW that says it has to be one way or the other.

            Airbus choose to implement it somewhat half assed as it disappears when needed (AF447) which also is an example of really crappy piloting, overwhelming alarm and lousy implementation of a cockpit environment.

          • @TransWorld

            “Actually that is wrong.”


            Boeing implemented FBW to narrowbodies already???

            Or they shouldn’t implement FBW to narrowbodies???

        • In the 320 airshow crash the flyby wire SAVED lives; it prevented a stall. The pitot attempted a maneuver for the first time at low altitude with passengers!

        • Hi Bilbo, if you look at the MAX crashes, despite the philosophy, there was a system on the MAX that the pilots were incapable of over-riding. From my perspective, this talk of the different design philosophies is a bit of a distraction.

    • Boeing seems to do best when it goes for ‘moon shots’ like the B787, B777 and B747. Going for something radical may just be what Boeing needs to jump ahead of Airbus, Irkut and COMAC. The technology for the SUGAR concept using either unshrouded prop fans, turbo props or high bypass ratio turbo fans is surely ready apart from maybe the fuel cell that powers the tail suction electric fan, that can probably be dispensed with. Boeing has experience in folding wings, electrical systems and we might see EGTS electrical ground taxiing system. The landscape in terms of CO2 emissions in 8 years time may be extremely difficult. SUGAR promises a 56% reduction in emissions. If they can get 66% of that i.e. 36% they will do well.

      • Yes, Boeing either needs to develop something radically better fuel burn or develop a slightly better aircraft designed for robot assembly and minimum build cost. This approach makes it easy to open FAL in all places where major markets are. We will see what Boeing finally decides to do.

  4. “I want to do a little less visioning and a little less long-term planning and a little less all that stuff”
    Spoken like a true leader of the McBoeing Douglas corp. What could possibly go wrong with that philosophy ingrained in the company culture?

      • I blame the McDonnell Douglas philosophy of warmed over old aircraft in order to save on development costs in the short run.
        In the long run we all saw how it worked out.

        • Warmed over old aircraft ?

          The 737 classic ( launched 1980) and NG ( launched 1993) were ‘warmed over ‘ well before the Boeing takeover of McAir.

          next time try having some simple facts that match your claims

          • Actually the 737Classic was a huge step forward in durability especailly its CFM56-3B Engines. The MD-80 and its Engines were not the same step forward as the 737-300 from the 737-200, (some say it was a step backwards) and the MD90 was a step backwards, only the MD-95/717 was a huge leap forward in reliability and durability and Valujets intense operation pushed RR to fix its engines. It just did not get the wings it deserved.

      • yes, yes you can.

        the disease of shareholder value uber alles is directly a product of the McD-D takeover of Boeing. it has been maintained ever since by the appointment of like minded board members and selection of like minded CxOs to run the company.

        the McD-D takeover of Boeing was probably the single worst thing to happen to the American Aerospace industry in the last 50 years.

        • 3rd World pilots and McDonnell Douglas.

          It’s never Boeing’s fault.

          • at this point, Boeing is McD-D, therefore it is “Boeing’s” fault…

            the point is that “old Boeing” a company that (mostly) valued good engineering over increasing stock price would likely have made different decisions WRT the 787 which would have prevented the 737MAX from ever being conceived.

            they wouldn’t have approached 787 the same way which would (likely) have left them the financial flexibility to launch NSA/Yellowstone before Airbus could cut their legs off with the NEO.

  5. Calhoun sounds like a dividend focused dinosaur who is oblivious to the realities of where Boeing currently stands in the airliner marketplace. I certainly understand putting the NMA back on the shelves (I never thought it would be launched in the first place), but to expect the MAX to be around for a generation is simply burying your head in the sand. If anything, Boeing should be working on a new narrow body replacement and get it out the door ASAP. You can’t be in this industry if you’re not going to make serious investments to improve your product line and compete with Airbus.

    Calhoun is not the right person for this job, he should be retired along with most of the board members.

  6. His comments about doing less vision is kinda confusing. When he talks about pilots philosophy, I could imagine that he is looking at a new era and go pilot free. But that would be a big vision, so it might just be a shift to full fly by wire.
    In terms of shifting market, I would expect that they aim at a new aircraft that sits somewhere between the MAX and the NMA. The lower end might get complement by the Embraer jets (although they’re currently too small), while with a new FSA starting at an A321 size with options to go up to 240/250 pax on short to medium routes, they can cover part of the NMA and the FSA in one go. Aim for commonality with the E2 jets, to provide a whole big family for the airlines, from small to medium-large. Then they can also start fairly soon with the development and keep the MAX for some time, though I don’t expect it to be in production for 20 years.

  7. Boeing can’t get out of this mind set of pilot error. They have never really withdrawn the allegation against the pilots with regard to the Lion Air crash or the Ethiopian Airlines crash. The same happened with the Turkish Airlines crash in the Netherland.

    One of the problems with the MAX crashes is that the pilots were unable to switch off the automation. In the first MAX crash the pilots didn’t know the automation existed, in the second crash, the pilots were told to use a procedure that doesn’t work.

    Sending pilots to Las Vegas to better understand a crap shoot is not pilot training. So it’s perhaps right that Boeing have given up on that one.

    So to Boeing, please introduce automation that works and if it doesn’t work allow the pilots to switch it off. Afterall pilots in the developing world can’t be held responsible if they are not trained to win a crap shoot. But then every Las Vegas casino will tell you that, one balance, the people never win a crap shoot.

    Same old rubbish from a Boeing CEO. If Boeing do rely on the MAX then we are witnessing a repeat of McDonnell Douglas. My condolences to Boeing employees. RIP.

    Airbus employees must have a massive grin on their faces. The same applies to the newcomers in the narrowbody market.

    • MCAS was just a really bad piece of automation. Highly intelligent people created an incredibly stupid antiquated crap system when they new better and everyone else knew better about fault tolerant automation. One of the fallouts of this is the public loss in confidence in automation when in fact MCAS was just a a piece of irresponsible rubbish software sitting on top of 1990s 16 bit 80286 computers that I doubt many a software engineer really understands anymore since they weren’t born when it was created. They must have brought the original developers out of retirement. Probably Some boomer who was riding his Harley on route 66 with his girlfriend got a call to come out of retirement.

      • The next version of MCAS, MCAS2.0 does not improve on your words. It’s still a single point of failure. If something goes wrong it turns itself off.

        There is no point in complaining about developing worlds when this is the standard set by Boeing. I’m sure developing worlds can so better than Boeing. Indeed anybody can do better than Boeing. Boeing are living in the past. But, I admit a great past.

        But then this is what will happen. Developing world’s will not show respect for Boeing’s past. They will so better than Boeing. But then that is easy to do,

        That’s what happened to the car industry. Nobody outside America buys an American car. Why? They are crap. The same will apply to the American airplane industry, unless it sorts itself out. Boeing airplanes will be regarded as crap.

        Boeing need a reality check. Given the new CEO, not going to happen. The Boeing CEO is in the Boeing bubble.

    • Hello Philip, I enjoy your contributions!

      I agree with your observations – to say that the philosophy for the flight controls needs to be reviewed because of wrong assumptions about how pilots would react – mind boggling!

      As you say, they are consistent in their “blame the pilot” theme but they are allowed to get away with this because they are never challenged – it would be good to see a robust interogation from the likes of LeeHam.

      And, I guess one small irony in this whole thing is that the philosophy of MCAS specifically precluded any pilot over-ride…

      • Willy,

        Welcome to the madhouse I call LNA. Scott, no offence.

        This article says that pilots in the developing world are useless because they are unable to read Boeing’s mind. My own view is that they are better off if they can’t read Boeing’s mind, for what’s in Boeing’s mind doesn’t make sense, as so ablely demonstrated by Rob.

        Enjoy the madhouse

    • Philip, again just in the interest of truthfulness, the pilots in the two MAX accidents were able to turn off MCAS. In Lion Air 610 they didn’t and that is an outstanding question, as it’s a memory item for malfunctioning trim.

      The Lion Air captain successfully countermanded trim over 20 times, yet did not turn it off, and the first officer upon assuming command, made only a brief attempt to countermand it. In Ethiopian 302 they did turn it off, but did not trim out the aircraft first, and since they were well above the maximum safe operating speed, the manual trim wheels didn’t work correctly due to aerodynamic loading.

      In both accidents, airspeed approached or exceeded 400 knots in a climb, at a low altitude, which was an unsafe speed clearly marked on their flight displays, and alarmed by the clacker which sounded on both flights. That reflects overuse of throttle and lack of airspeed control. It’s understandable that they were distracted, but this was a basic mistake nonetheless.

      It’s true that MCAS 1.0 was badly written & implemented, and Boeing is responsible for that. But MCAS was not the sole contributing factor to the accidents. The notion that the flights were a “crap-shoot” is just not accurate. That’s readily apparent from the Lion Air and Ethiopian fight data that demonstrate the errors.

      The throttle was just one of the pilot mistakes that were made in the two accidents. The lesson that Boeing has learned, and has been reinforced at every turn (including the testing conducted last month), is that pilot skill has significant variation. So I’m sure that will factor into their thinking on future control designs. Those are likely to be less dependent on pilot response, without totally removing the ability of the pilot to act in an emergency. I think we will see a new evolution of that design philosophy, that will more expansively utilize FBW but with enhanced override abilities.

      • @Rob

        A couch pilot view on “truthfulness”, a couch pilot who knows everything better after everything has been discovered (almost) and explained (almost too).

        If these pilots had the knowledge that we have today they would have theoretical chances to save aircraft.

      • It’s true that MCAS 1.0 was badly written & implemented, and Boeing is responsible for that. But MCAS was not the sole contributing factor to the accidents.
        And yet, pilots who recreated the two flights in a simulator found that even knowing exactly the right sequence of actions did not always result in a saved flight.
        Most noteworthy, Sully recreated both flights multiple times and, based on the experience, called MCAS in its original form a “death trap”.

        Quote: “I am also one of the few who have flown a Boeing 737 MAX Level D full motion simulator, replicating both accident flights multiple times. I know firsthand the challenges the pilots on the doomed accident flights faced, and how wrong it is to blame them for not being able to compensate for such a pernicious and deadly design. These emergencies did not present as a classic runaway stabilizer problem, but initially as ambiguous unreliable airspeed and altitude situations, masking MCAS.”
        Source: http://www.sullysullenberger.com/my-letter-to-the-editor-of-new-york-times-magazine/

        • Anfromme, Sully’s comments were made in response to another article where another experienced pilot laid blame primarily on the accident pilots. Sully objected to this as an attempt to exonerate Boeing & MCAS, and his statements follow accordingly.

          The fallacy of both sides of this argument, is that the blame can be assigned solely to one side or the other. Neither is correct. The accident resulted from a chain of events, to which both MCAS and pilot error contributed.

          I don’t doubt or deny the sincerity of Sully’s statements. I’ve never tried to say that MCAS or Boeing were not responsible. But no matter how much people are motivated to advocate for one side or the other, the fact remains that there was a chain of events that involved hardware & software failure, as well as pilot error. Thus I have argued for improvement on all sides, because I see all sides as contributing.

          We have to look at the entire chain to arrive at a reasonable conclusion, and to truly increase safety for the future. I wrote more below about the role of Lion Air. They actually bear more responsibility than the individual pilots.

          • @Rob

            “Sully’s comments were made in response to…”

            “The fallacy of both sides of this argument, is that the blame can be assigned solely to one side or the other.”

            “I don’t doubt or deny the sincerity of Sully’s statements.”

            “there was a chain of events… pilot error…”

            To squeeze in some pro Boeing PR you even contradict yourself.

          • Nobody mentions the FAA, EASA, CAAC. Boeing and other Aircraft designers make misstakes and they should be caught during the certification by the authorities checking the work and test results against the regulations.

            Just look at the number of AD’s and reliability enhancing SB’s issued after certification to get a feel for the scale of the complexity of new Aircrafts and Engines. Finding those problems before certification makes life easier and Aircraft manufacturers does not have to give launch Customer pricing expecting those customers to get hit by massive amount of problems that should have been caught during certification. Just ask ANA, SQ, Swiss, UAL on the engineering work and problems that had to endure historically on new Aircraft/Engine types.

          • Rob,

            I agree that we have to look at the whole picture, there were a lot of assumptions made that now look to be obvious oversights.

            One of Sully’s comments stands out “These emergencies did not present as a classic runaway stabilizer problem, but initially as ambiguous unreliable airspeed and altitude situations, masking MCAS.”

            People say they should have just flown the plane. It’s not as simple as that, they had a bunch of alarms, and warnings, and a lot of conflicting information. With hind sight it’s easy to pick out what the pilots should have concentrated on.

            As Boeing have now found out even with all of the coverage of MCAS when they put pilots in simulators, and presented them with problems, they didn’t react the way that Boeing thought they would react. They tried to fly the aircraft with their different levels of experience, and skill, and often didn’t follow the correct checklists.

            There is one good thing that should come out of the MAX crashes, how the human reacts with the machine needs to be understood. It needs to be designed for in any future aircraft control system, and it needs to be verified, and tested. Pilots need to be trained properly, we can’t just say a pilot with 8000 hours is a better pilot than one with 350 hours.

            Training is not just a Boeing, or Airbus thing, pilot training in general needs to be looked at.

            “We have to start with the flight control philosophy” – Calhoun: it’s certainly worth looking at. I suspect part of this is also to increase the level of automation with a view to reducing the cockpit crew, having a ‘pilot flying’ in the cockpit, but a ‘pilot monitoring’ watching a number of aircraft from a ground location as an option to sell to the airlines at some point in the future. Pilot monitoring would eventually change to be AI software either on-board, or in a large data centre monitoring a large number of aircraft at the same time.

            That’s the other thing the MAX crashes have taught us, cost / money / shareholder value is a bigger factor than we may be comfortable with.

            If we could go back in time before the MAX crashes, and as part of the certification of the MAX, put say 10 line pilots from each of American, United, and Delta in a verified accurate simulator, and run them through the Lion Air, and Ethiopian flights, would these crashes then have occurred in real flight conditions ? I don’t think so. I don’t think the 30 ‘test’ pilots would all have crashed, but I do think enough would have, I think there would have been some very close calls, and I think it would have been quite clear that MCAS needed to be looked at.

            I’d also have wanted to put 10 line pilots from the three sketchiest operators of the 737 I could find through the same scenario, just to be sure !

          • Jakdak, I agree with your conclusions, and that is why I think we need to look closely at what the crews did or did not do, that could have avoided the accidents. Safety is an across the board phenomena. Lion Air has had plenty of incidents that did not involve the MAX, so obviously there is an issue there, if we are willing to look. But we have to be willing.

            There seems to be a strong sentiment that acknowledging any contribution other than Boeing, somehow lets Boeing off the hook. That is not true, there can be contributions in parallel, that are independent. There is no law of conservation of responsibility, such that acknowledging one decreases the other.

      • Wow. That is a nicely written defence of the “it’s the pilot fault” conjecture.

        If the higher end of the “pilot skill variation” required to fly a MAX is the one achieved by the Boeing chief pilot who performed the “Jedi Mind Tricks” on the FAA inspectors, then I might not feel a lot more confident flying in one.

      • Hi Rob,

        You seem to be prone to use words that reflect a certain belief and which are posted as being facts…

        I’ve seen it suggested that you are connected to Boeing… in that case perhaps you do have access to more “insider” information than most of us on the outside, although the ethics related to sharing that on a blog would be an interesting study if that were the case.

        I’ve a strong urge to try to argue against the points made in your post but I have the premonition that that would be a futile exercise. I would say that the way this paragraph especially is written makes me wonder where we are as a society: Rob said – It’s true that MCAS 1.0 was badly written & implemented, and Boeing is responsible for that. But MCAS was not the sole contributing factor to the accidents. The notion that the flights were a “crap-shoot” is just not accurate. That’s readily apparent from the Lion Air and Ethiopian fight data that demonstrate the errors.

        So, you have a system that was never analysed, probably (not my program so I don’t know…) never subjected to an SSA/FMEA (or equivalent), benefiting from all sorts of justifications to deliberately remove the need for detailed analysis, probably never tested in the simulator and with no information provided to the crew all hanging off just one relatively unreliable sensor.

        And, when that unreliable sensor fails in some way – it sets of multiple contradictory warnings, overspeed, stall, airspeed disagree amongst others. Again, not my program but I guess even the B737 has some notion of RED (immediate action needed) and AMBER warnings to help the pilots prioritise their mental resources. And, on top of this, there is our friend MCAS without any warning winding nose down trim while you are no more that 1000ft QFE…

        If that is not a “crap shoot”… I don’t know what it is.

        And, if you are Boeing or in anyway representative of Boeing’s thoughts… no way will I ever get on a MAX of any description!

        Rob said: Those are likely to be less dependent on pilot response, without totally removing the ability of the pilot to act in an emergency.

        Too bad you didn’t see fit to do this the first time round! Perhaps a few hundred people would still be alive and Boeing would be a few 10s of Billions better off!

        • Willy, constantly pointing at MCAS does not remove the role of the pilot or the airlines in the accidents.

          Your description of what happened in flight is not accurate. If you read the Lion Air report, and look at the flight data, the facts are there. The pilots experienced stick-shaker, and alarms for airspeed and altitude invalid, on the left side only. Right side was ok. Reference instruments were ok. The stick shaker continued for the entire flight due to the bad AoA sensor, but the alarms for the other two were momentary. The only other alarm was the overspeed clacker.

          Upon raising flaps and unintended MCAS activation, the captain correctly lowered flaps again and ended MCAS. The flight then proceeded several more minutes until flaps were raised again. Not clear which pilot did that, as it was not commanded or called out.

          MCAS then engaged again and the captain learned to countermand it within a few cycles, using electric trim, continuing to do that until transition of control to first officer. They had time to call the flight attendant into the cockpit and ask her to bring a passenger engineer forward, then discuss the problem with him.

          No mayday, no pan-pan. Flight continued to climb to the requested holding pattern altitude of 5000 feet. Captain had the aircraft under control. He thought the first officer had his same situational awareness, but the first officer did not, and lost control over the next 1 to 2 minutes.

          These are the facts, and they are clearly not a crap-shoot. They in no way absolve MCAS or Boeing, but they are important in understanding what really happened.

          • I’m loath to give in to you because I personally feel that truth twisters should be challenged.

            You seem to be talking about the first MCAS activation now. At this point, it is quite safe to say that no one had any idea of MCAS. So, by what measure an you say: Upon raising flaps and unintended MCAS activation, the captain correctly lowered flaps again

            How an you say that it was the “correct” thing to do? Based on which checklist? Which procedure? What knowledge of the system?

            This is symptomatic of the truth-twisting that I’m talking about. The corollary of this quickly becomes: raising the flaps is the “incorrect” thing to do – passed of as a pilot mistake.

          • Willy, standard pilot procedure is that if you do something and it causes a problem, the first thing you do is undo it. This is what the captain did, he went back from flaps 0 to flaps 1, which stopped the problem. It was a good move and reflected situational awareness.

            Then after the second raising of the flaps, which we don’t know why or who because there is no discussion of it, the captain saw the unknown deflection again, and this time responded with electric trim. This again shows good situational awareness as he consistently trimmed back to a value he knew was valid for the aircraft.

            And he identified the 15 second MCAS pattern and began to anticipate it, he interrupted it quickly before it caused significant trim.

            Note that he did not require specific knowledge of MCAS to successfully respond to it. His knowledge of the aircraft’s expected behavior (including stabilizer) was sufficient.

            Note also that specific knowledge of MCAS did not change the outcome for ET302. So I don’t think knowledge of MCAS was the dominant factor, although we can never know in the case of JT610.

            There is no truth-twisting here, I’m reciting the events that are documented in the report. You perceive it as twisting because it doesn’t agree with your view. But you can go back to the report, and read and check for yourself.

          • Clearly I am with Rob on this one.

            There were contributing causes to the accident.

            I also do not read Sulenbergs assessment the same way a non pilot would. Keeping in mind Airbus had a lousy checklist for both engines out (ohh, maybe we should write one) – his turning on of the APU gave him full control which is what you want, not degraded.

            We all agree regardless of how its put that MCAS 1.0 was bad, I would call it crap.

            One area I am puzzled by in Lion was the AOA should have been non factor when it was switched to the First Officer side.

            Boeing gets no pass on the MCAS 1.0, but that does not mean the pilots and their abilities were not a factor and should be addressed as part of the lessons.

          • @Rob

            “standard pilot procedure is that if you do something and it causes a problem, the first thing you do is undo it.”

            Don’t invent. Standard thing is grab QRH or do memory item, if problem is well visible (which wasn’t in case of MCAS) and follow the procedure given by manufacturer (which was flawed in case of MCAS). When you ate falling from the sky literally you don’t have opportunity to play as little detective – let’s try this or that, is just too late, you crashed.

            Then some in his armchair will judge you – you could do this or that better, some armchair aviator.

            You bias is unprecedented.

          • Pablo, this is a well-known axiom for pilots, which is why the captain did it. And he was correct, he stopped the problem. Along with the basic one of the PF to “fly the plane”.

            Also the aircraft were not falling out of the sky, until the last moments. The flight data are in the reports. Both aircraft climbed until the last moments.

            Here are a few references:

            “If something doesn’t look right, it should be an automatic reaction to undo the last step.”


            “If a problem coincides with something you did, undo it!”


      • “In both accidents, airspeed approached or exceeded 400 knots in a climb, at a low altitude, which was an unsafe speed clearly marked on their flight displays, and alarmed by the clacker which sounded on both flights.”

        First things first …the stick shaker activated indicating the plane was about to stall.
        But that wasnt all, the plane kept climbing but they couldnt work out altitude or airspeed as they were given incorrect readings .

        Then they dropped 700 ft as Mcas kicked in.

        So they have no reliable way to know altitude or speed but Rob says they should have not been at that speed at that altitude…. forgetting that the warnings are sounding all at once , the instruments saying contradictory things and Mcas is repeatedly giving the cockpit high G downward motions.
        Ah yes ..the armchair ‘should haves’

        • Duke, they had two good readings of airspeed and altitude, and one bad, on the left side only. They had two brief alarms for airspeed and altitude, and they had stick shaker, all on the left. It was dawn and clear conditions, so they had observational confirmation as well.

          Right side and reference were ok throughout the flight. The two left-side alarms sounded at rotation and stopped, and then the right-side clacker sounded awhile later when they exceeded 340 knots (Vmo). With airspeed well above 200 knots, not really at risk of stall.

          As far as G’s, the pitch of the aircraft remained around zero or slightly positive for climb, except for the initial and final engagement of MCAS. Initial was not initially opposed because it caught them by surprise. That was the 700 foot descent, from an altitude of 2500 feet. The final was unopposed because the first officer did not oppose it as the captain had.

          As far as the “armchair” remarks, the point is not to say that they should have done better, or that I know better. The point is to establish what could be done better, so as to improve safety and avoid those problems in the future.

          • Rob,

            The flight deck went into meltdown in both crashes. That means it was a crap shoot as to which instrument to believe. The answer is the pilots could not believe any instrument for there was total instrument failure.

            As JTAR said and Peter Lemme said, the failure of the left alpha vane caused a cascade failure. A cascade failure is one failure causing everything else to failure.

            I’m still surprised that the Ethiopian Airlines pilots called left alpha vane. They could have called anything on the basis of what was happening on the flight deck. Unfortunately the pilots were not informed that manual trim doesn’t work. So when they switched off electric trim they were all dead.

          • Philip, the flight deck did not have a meltdown. There is no data in the report that implies or suggests that. There was stick shaker and two brief alarms on the left, plus the overspeed clacker on the right, near the end.

            The tone of the pilot conversation was normal. The recorder picked up the sound of the shaker, the trim wheels moving, pages being turned in the manual, captain coughing, door opening and closing, the conversation with the engineer passenger they invited up to discus the problem, radio traffic with ATC. Nothing to suggest a dire emergency.

            There was not an emergency until control was passed to the first officer. Then the control issue developed very quickly.

            I too have used the term cascade to describe what happened. One event feeds into another. But that does not mean intervention is not possible. Indeed we know from the evidence that it was possible.

            Similarly on the Ethiopian flight, control was lost in the last moments. Until then they had maintained an average rate of climb. They turned electric trim back on so they could trim, but then did not use it to trim out MCAS. They had also not trimmed adequately against MCAS throughout the flight, so this was a systemic action. They also did not reduce throttle to control airspeed. So the crew did make a contribution, there was a solution possible. The outcome was not defined or certain until the last action.

            Once again, let me reiterate that none of this changes the errors that went into MCAS, or Boeing’s responsibility. It’s just an acknowledgment that other factors were involved, and that it’s not an either-or case.

          • Dear Rob the Relentless,

            Still nailing dead pilots to the MCAS cross at the altar of share price… I hope you’re not religious as I cannot imagine the reception waiting for you at the Pearly Gates!

            The pilots, without warning and without a script were thrown into the role of test pilot to try and find a way out of a problem that had never been seen before, much less tested in a simulator… They were also given this job under conditions that no test pilot would ever accept – 1000ft AGL with a load of passengers.

            Thanks to you we now know that they had a copy of the AOPA guide to troubleshooting avionics.

            The pilots weren’t up to the job, we get that. But, that has nothing to do with their innate abilities and everything to do the aircraft they were given.

          • Willy, you’re obviously still in the mode of either-or, and the either you select is Boeing. That’s fine, it’s your opinion.

            As far as blaming the pilots, I’ve said dozens of times that’s not the goal, nor is it to exonerate Boeing. The goal is to be honest about what happened, including pilot mistakes, so that we can improve for the future.

            If that view were wrong, we would not need additional training for the MAX, which I have advocated from the beginning. One of the huge benefits of that is that it will be enforced everywhere in the world. It will help to level out pilot skill level. Pilots will have access to training their airlines would have avoided otherwise. The training will include stabilizer runaway and MCAS-type situations. So hopefully out of that will come a better ability to deal with adversity.

      • Rob,

        I mean a switch that turns off MCAS but leaves a working airplane. As it stand’s it’s necessary to turn off electric trim, meaning the airplane cannot be trimmed because manual trim doen’t work with an airplane that has significant instability and elevators that can become inoperable. The devil or the deep blue sea.

        As I’ve made clear in previous posts, MCAS2.0 is no better. It’s still a single point of failure.

        Whatever you say, Boeing are in a dive as deep as the dive imposed by MCAS on those poor passengers and pilots. Automation that doesn’t work and is deadly.

        The world isn’t jumping for joy at the prospect of the MAX returning.

        • Philip, you’re referring to a return to the NG configuration of cockpit trim switches. I agree with that and have advocated for it. It’s not clear what the benefit was in changing that, as the physical switch is still present in the MAX.

          Your criticism of MCAS 1.0 was that there was no way to turn it off. Your criticism of MCAS 2.0 is that it will turn itself off.

          MCAS 2.0 is not a single point of failure if it has redundant sensors and computers. It also can be overridden by the control column using elevator, the electric trim switches, the cutout switch, and by the trim wheels.

          Trim wheels are clutched so as to give the pilot priority over electric trim, and they can be manually held against electric trim, in an emergency. This was one of the checklist items for runaway trim.

          • Rob,

            Still rubbish.

            Even when MCAS is turned off the pilots still needs to deal with no manual trim, elevators that can become inoperable and above all, pitch instability that is severe.

            Deal with the facts. Your words are rubbish. As many on this web-site are telling you,

          • Philip, no reference to any of these things in the reports. No issue with elevators. No mention of severe pitch instability. No issue with trim wheels, apart from the long-known issue of aerodynamic loading at higher speed and lower altitude. We will see what the AD’s are at RTS, that will tell the final story.

          • Rob,

            That’s an interesting point… “Trim wheels are clutched so as to give the pilot priority over electric trim, and they can be manually held against electric trim”

            It reinforces the point that the pilots didn’t do what they might have been expected to.

            For some reason the aircraft trims nose down (quite aggressively from some reports of experience of MCAS in the simulator), you trim it up, and it trims down again, you notice the trim wheels are running, but they don’t present as runaway trim, so you don’t follow the quick ref memory items for trim runaway, but still the trim wheels are moving, so why didn’t the pilots decide to manually stop the trim wheels moving. Why would the pilots decide to gamble with turning the trim back on again to try to use electric trim ?

            Is training so inflexible that pilots are put into a mindset of following quick refs, or memory items instead of being able to decide when a procedure doesn’t make sense, and when to use common sense, and logic ?

            In our military training we had ‘drills’ for everything, we practised things over, and over again… 3rd vehicle in the convoy attacked from the left, there’s a drill for that, 1st, and 3rd last vehicle attacked from the right, we had a drill for that, every possible combination, hammered into us over, and over until it was a ‘memory item’ with muscle memory included. The thing is on top of all of this, we also learnt no matter the mayhem, to evaluate, and deviate from the drill if the drill was going to get us killed.

            By the way, do we know for certain that holding the trim wheels will stop STS or MCAS from moving the stabiliser ?

          • Rob,

            Then it’s clear your not reading the reports or Peter Lemme’s work.

            Boeing admitted the elevators became inoperable. You can find that admission in previous articles on this web-site.

            Also look up what Peter Lemme says about trim and column inputs.

            You need to do more reading and less writing,

          • JakDak, I think the military training is the key. As you said, and from my friends in the service, there are debrief sessions for all missions, for training flights, and even for the simulator. They were brutally direct, and total honesty was expected. Anything done wrong was examined and expected to be corrected. Also the training scenarios were designed to trip you up, the goal being (again as you said) to be prepared for anything, as you might be called upon to fly in hostile conditions, with a damaged aircraft. People who couldn’t do this were washed-out, and that was no shame.

            I think pilots trained in that way are much more able in the face of adversity. That element is not as heavily emphasized in civilian training. Also the wash-out rate for civilian training is near zero, because the demand for pilots is quite high. So people are encouraged to try again.

            With regard to the trim wheels, my guess is that pilots so seldom use them that they wouldn’t be the first thing to come to mind. I don’t know what the training is, but there are videos on-line of pilots grabbing the wheels to stop them. I looked in pilot forums to verify, I found a few comments that you had to be “brave” to try it. But most complaints about the trim wheels are about banged shins from the handles.

            With regard to runaway trim, I think it’s valid to say that the initial 2.5 degree movement, then stop, would not present as runaway trim. But the second 2.5 degree movement would take you to full deflection, and I think that is a sure sign of a runaway, as you would never encounter that behavior in normal flight. That’s like 40 to 60 turns of the trim wheel.

            The issue of common sense/logic vs checklist/routines, is something we need to understand better. There was an interview with an Indian pilot about the accidents, she said her training was the PF flies the plane, while the PM runs the checklists, with good communication and call-outs so each knows exactly what the other is doing. Reacting and jumping into those duties should be immediate. The PF takes the information from the PM and integrates it into what the aircraft is actually doing. Then calls out the plan as a check before acting. Both pilots agree and work together.

            In the pilot tests last month, the two criticisms were that pilots went first to their manual flying skills, which delayed the checklist, or they ran the wrong checklist initially before settling on the right one. So those seem like CRM issues, they didn’t work well enough together as the Indian pilot indicated. Sully also said you need two good people, that’s why he supported the 1500 hour rule in the US.

            But that also raises the issue, do the response guidelines allow enough time to sort things out? The runaway stabilizer is a good test case because within 30 seconds, the aircraft can be out of control, if there is no corrective response from the pilots (why the response is a memory item). Pilots can only delay the inevitable with full column back, even though that is an instinctive response, so that alone is not an adequate response.

            In terms of ET302, I understand why turning trim back on, seemed like the right thing to do. They should have reduced airspeed but they seemed not to believe the aircraft was moving that fast. Possibly because they were still following the left side with stick shaker.

            In my mind, the mistake was then not using the re-energized electric trim to immediately counteract MCAS. They should have been on that button as soon as they turned on the switch. The fact that they always stopped trimming well before the neutral trim value, leads me to believe there was a misunderstanding or an awareness problem of some kind. It makes no sense otherwise.

            Thank you for the good questions and analysis, they go to the heart of the issues and what can be learned, rather than trying to blame one side or the other. The behavior of MCAS informs the behavior of the pilots, and vice-versa, so the two sides are closely linked.

          • Further down in this thread Rob said ….” Pilots can only delay the inevitable with full column back, even though that is an instinctive response, so that alone is not an adequate response….

            At risk of being stoned I’ll add a comment re the column

            AFIK the NG and previous models , pulling or pushing the column in opposition to trim direction by the stabilizer, cut out the stab trim.

            But on the MAX, that override ” switch ” was no longer active since it would defeat MCAS. So for decades, in the rare event that trim moved the wrong way- pulling or pushi9ng the column immediately stopped things

            And that was an instinctive response, virtually immediate. nose drops suddenly, first response is to pull column back and it stops.

            Nobody told the crews that with the MAX, that response was no longer effective or appropriate-

            When your car swerves to the right due to a front wheel blowout at 60 mph, your first reaction is got twist wheel in opposite direction to keep from the ditch, probably within 3 seconds, as you slow down with foot off gas and THEN work the rest of the problem …

            In an airplane at low altitude – you become a lawn dart ..

          • Bubba, I agree with you and hope you won’t feel stoned by my response.

            The only counterpoint I would offer, as earlier, is that although pilots know the column switch is there, they are trained not to rely on it, because it leaves the aircraft in a mis-trimmed condition, and also the required corresponding full elevator movement could contribute to control difficulties. So it isn’t mentioned in any of the procedures for trim malfunction.

            That said, it’s a valuable fall-back and I wish there was something similar for MCAS. I’ve thought about a secondary inhibit of MCAS based on other indicators of nose-over, such as artificial horizon.

  8. Airbus went for automation, correct. But more importantly AIRBUS went for full fly-by-wire, which Boeing did starting from the B777, too. What Boeing didn’t do: they did not adapt this to the B737 when doing the MAX, which led them to the entirely disappointing solution with the MCAS being some sort of Speed Trim with _slightly_ more authority, limited to one input sensor. It is not that AIRBUS did something Boeing did not, the people in charge simply rejected the adaption of the MAX due to time constraints (and then ultimately cost).
    The difference in pilot authority between a B787 and an A350 is rather superficial in my eyes, it is larger in the single aisle sector.

    • Absolutely. Plus Airbus have done very well in all market sectors by being able to offer pretty much the same identical cockpit across all their models. Airline planning really benefits from that.

      Whereas Boeing’s line up hasn’t offered that, doesn’t do so today, and they’re not planning on doing that any time soon: This alone could sink them.

      For example, if as seems likely the wide body sector gets scavenged by longer range single aisle, existing Airbus operators can roll with that. They can buy A321XLRs, and can more or less get their existing wide body pilots flying them with minimal training. Can’t do that with Boeings and presently there’s no plan for that.

      Other people have suggested a new single aisle with a 787 cockpit. Probably that’s essential to Boeing long term.

  9. “The market split that existing prior to MCAS will restore itself”

    Encouraging Realism..

  10. BCA seems to keep on acting as the market leader, but it isn’t anymore, is it?

    • Calhoun sounds like the dark knight in Monty Pytons Holy Grail, when his arm was cut off, stating: ‘Tis but a scratch’ and continue fighting in just the same hopeless style, defending a undefendable position.


      If Boeing does not make a 180 degree turn away from shareholder value towards customer satisfaction, the next arm will be off sooner than later.

      • “Shareholder value” is not related to the problem. The problem is related how the CEO and other top brass is paid for. Several big stock holders of Boeing are pension fonds rather related for long term investments but they too have CEOs and top brass paid according to the same rules. The real problem is called “stock options”.

        • Have to disagree – if shareholder value reigns as supreme as it does with Boeing, it is not just related to the problem, it is a problem in itself.
          Boeing spent 60$ billion on stock buybacks in the last six or seven years. The chief purpose of such buybacks is to return money to a company’s shareholders, on top of dividends. Beyond the immediate return this represents, it also does its bit to keep share prices higher than they otherwise would be.
          Yes, top brass profit from that as well, but that’s just one aspect of the whole issue, IMHO. Various staff (including C-level) at Airbus surely get stock options as well. Yet they don’t have the same culture at work there currently as Boeing seems to.
          If a shareholder-value-first-second-and-third philosophy permeates the thinking of everybody as much as it appears to have done at Boeing for the 15 years or so, that’s what decisions are based on. Hence the slice-by-slice communications about 787 delays, 737 MAX return to service, etc. when everybody with half a brain could already call BS on the rhetoric. Hence also the rollout of a DIY store-style 787 on a marketing-dictated date that doesn’t even make sense to anybody outside the US, as nobody else uses the MDY notation.
          Hence also the focus on “ohhhhh – we could spend a couple of bucks less on tax if we move some production to Charleston”, ignoring/underestimating the learning curve required while at the same time disrespecting and underestimating the value of experienced staff.
          Those are just the examples I can think of off the top of my head. I’m sure there are more.

          But let’s get back to that number: 60bn spent on stock buybacks in less than 10 years. Boeing could have funded two from-scratch airplane developments and still paid out ~30bn in stock buybacks.

          • Developing new planes from scratch doesnt mean the airlines want to buy at those new development prices and in the volumes that reduce costs.
            Have you heard of Bombardier Aircraft and their Cseries, thats how that works out. Bombardier is no longer making commercial aircraft.

          • Developing new planes from scratch doesnt mean the airlines want to buy at those new development prices and in the volumes that reduce costs.
            Have you heard of Bombardier Aircraft and their Cseries, thats how that works out. Bombardier is no longer making commercial aircraft.

            Firstly, I was trying to illustrate the size of the buybacks, which, as spent, contributed zinch to Boeing’s engineering capabilities and their product line. Not even as money in the bank to use once the next plane is actually launched.
            Secondly, interesting example you choose considering the CSeries is alive and well as the A220, ie the reason BBD ran into trouble with it was more to do with the company than with the airplane itself.
            Thirdly, I realize a product needs a market, and I can even see how the business case for an NSA at the time of the NEO/Max launches would have been less than sound. And yet… Even on the lower-investment MAX Boeing was obviously cutting all sorts of corners, while also only doing a 777X revamp chiefly because… The 777 the base airplane they had to counter the A350-1k. (Which is ironic considering the A350 is what it is partly because of Boeing’s PR of “just a warmed-over A330”, which the market bought into and thus killed the A350 Mk1.) Boeing were publicly promoting the NMA/MOM and not pulling the trigger. Again, I’m the first to say that the business case was maybe a bit iffy to begin with.
            And yet – during all that time, they were not just doing their highest ever dividends and a shedload of buybacks… They spent 60bn on buybacks. Even by aviation industry standards, that’s an insane amount of money. And let’s not even get into the politics of trying to not pay a cent in taxes they can avoid while doling out that amount of money through other channels.

            So in short, my point was: If they had that amount of money lying around, they could have at least made their product line (ie those revamp projects) that much better (and MCAS less deadly), if not launched at least one new programme.

          • The Cseries was exactly the problem, airlines didnt want to buy it at a price which made money for Bombardier.
            Technically it worked out fine, and its usual for cost and schedule overuns to cost big bucks. The same process is being repeated by Mitsubishi.
            Your obsession about share buybacks is because you lack understanding about both the size of Boeing, the extent of its Business, the yearly revenue it has and the ‘US way’
            Buybacks are just another form of dividends for shareholders for profitable companies.
            Boeing has had $43 bill of buybacks since 2013 according to FT. thats 6 1/2 years. Thats around 6 1/2 times $100 bill yearly revenue or around 6.5% of its entire revenue over the same time. Not a big amount in that context

          • The Cseries was exactly the problem, airlines didnt want to buy it at a price which made money for Bombardier.
            Technically it worked out fine, and its usual for cost and schedule overuns to cost big bucks. The same process is being repeated by Mitsubishi.

            So you agree with me, it’s an issue with the company and their capabilities, not the plane itself.

            Your obsession about share buybacks is because you lack understanding about both the size of Boeing, the extent of its Business, the yearly revenue it has and the ‘US way’
            Please do enlighten me.

            Buybacks are just another form of dividends for shareholders for profitable companies.
            Much to your surprise, I’m sure, I know this. I’ve even worked for a massive American multinational for years and held stock options as well as actual stock in that (and other) companies.
            And based on that experience, too, I know that countering criticism of Boeing’s approach with allegations of “lack of understanding”, and explaining Boeing’s massive buybacks (plus dividends) as “the US way” is… a way of walking away from the discussion.
            Which is fine, to be honest, but then let’s just stick with “agreeing to disagree” rather than making assumptions about what each of us knows/understands and what not.

            Maybe one point, though, as you were talking about “profitable”… Not a category Boeing fell into in 2019, as we now know.

  11. When I read this [statement/direction change] a few days ago I thought… did Boeing just buy Airbus shares… because they’ve given the XLR free reign for the next 10yrs to mop-up all the short-medium-long range ‘one-flexible-airframe’ orders [considering not just design/launch/production but issues/ramp-up etc.]… at no real cost to AB.

    By making this statement – even if off-the-cuff; ‘holding pattern’ customers of the potential NMA will have little option but to jump [quickly] to secure positions for their 757 replacements [the XLR], and BA has [now] nothing to offer for quite some time – but another ‘dream’. Am I misinterpreting the consequences of what has happened?

    Airbus must be numb with shock. Getting those remaining a380s built and the hangars cleared can’t come too soon for expanding a321 production capacity.

  12. I’ll go with the theory that Boeing has a limited shelf life left in its current lineup. Production could be somewhere around 4,000 MAX left, 400 777-9, and 800 787. They better launch some new airplanes pretty soon, and get a GTF re-engine of the 787 on deck for 2030. I’m sure there were high hopes for the MD-11 and MD-90 until they fizzled out.

    • Hell will frees before anyone admits, likely airlines aren’t exactly stumbling over each other to finally get their hands on those amazing 737 MAX aircraft. Sales figures show some conservatism, to say the least. Insights changed, Boeing bashing resurfaced as cold facts. Airlines are doing the maths.

      • Any idea what premiums increases insurance companies are talking about for a Max (say) in Indonesia?
        And/or additional requirements for pilot training maintenance upgrades

  13. Does anyone else read Calhoun’s message on rethinking the flight controls as hinting a shift from designing cockpits around the “nothing-can-go-wrong US-centric pilots’ mind” to a “3rd world pilots’ mind”.

    Only that by saying he’s planning for China, he appears nice about it.

    • Plenty of 1st world pilots have had basic airmanship issues… A330 pancaked into the Atlantic, A300 tail ripped off, B757 flown into a mountain… the list goes on…

      And those 3rd world pilots managed reasonably well on the B737 NG…

      I would say – the solution you get can only ever be as good as the problem you see

      • It’s not third world vs first world, it’s quality training and operational environment, as well as safety culture. There are third world airlines with good training and environment, and there have been first world airlines with poor training and environment. It’s mostly a matter of operator diligence.

        An example, it’s been questioned why the two Lion Air flights with stick shaker at rotation did not return to the airport. It’s since come out that the airline policy was to incentivize pilots to fly, as their contract stipulates a $500,000 training cost penalty if they are discharged. No pilot can afford that. There have also been instances alleged where the airline disagreed with the crew decision to cancel and did not pay them for a cancelled flight.

        It’s been documented that Lion Air did not allow time in their schedule for training. Some pilots were flying 300 hours per month, 3 times the legal limit. It was documented that a lead investigator at NTSC in Indonesia stated that the accident aircraft was not airworthy. The next day, the government issued a correction and denied it, even though it was on record, and is obvious from the report.

        Those are just a few examples of the safety culture at Lion Air, and the level of corruption and deceit involved. We know that the maintenance log for the accident aircraft was falsified. The captain was sick with the flu and the first officer was off-shift but was called in at 4 am. No one knows whether the first officer had adequate rest. But neither could really refuse.

        These things would not happen in an airline with good safety culture. Lion Air also used the same hardball tactics with the crash families as with the pilot contracts. But Lion Air has escaped all responsibility for this, due to the exclusive focus on Boeing, so those practices continue today.

        This is what is so disturbing about blaming Boeing or MCAS alone for the accidents. Yes, they both played a significant role, and no one has denied that. But Boeing is spending a fortune to correct their errors. Very little has been done, or has changed, at Lion Air.

        The irony of all this is that all the corruption that Boeing and the FAA are accused of, does factually and verifiably exist at Lion Air with their regulator. And this absolutely was a contributing factor to the accident, just as much as MCAS was.

        • You seem to be conflating to different things. Let’s use an example outside of this business.

          Let’s say that there were to be a competitor to Ferrari. Fast, good looking and very desirable.

          If a rich person were to let their 14 year old child drive this car even though they were neither licenced or competent and the car ended up wrapped around a tree – no one would criticise the car.

          If, on the otherhand, this car had an unreliable speed sensor on the gearbox that, once it failed, automatically engaged an “automatic park function”, even at 110mph on the freeway… well, I doubt that there would be much time spent looking at the driver…

          I think MCAS is more like the second case than the first.

          • If the driver correctly adapted for the malfunctioning feature, and then handed control to a second driver who did not, then yes, the driver role would be examined.

            Also your premise is that the driver can do nothing once the malfunction occurs. That was not the case with MCAS, although it has frequently been portrayed that way. Most people believe the accident aircraft dived almost immediately into the ground on takeoff, and that pilots were helpless.

            The truth is that for MCAS to cause a crash, required the pilot to take no action against a stabilizer at near-zero units defection, which by any definition is a runaway. They are trained very specifically that the action of pulling back on the column alone will not prevent a loss of control for a runaway stabilizer. They are required to memorize the steps to correct for it separately.

            Obviously there was the startle effect, and confusion about what was happening, and also distraction from things like airspeed. MCAS plays a role in all those things, and Boeing bears responsibility. But pilot reaction to malfunction is also important, and can be improved, but only if it’s role is acknowledged.

        • Rob, you can’t share the blame out like that. Either the pilots are in the wrong or Boeing has designed a system that ordinary pilots cannot reasonably be expected to cope with. Are you prepared to accept that 2 out of every 3 false MCAS activations will result in a crash because its the pilots fault?

          • Grubbie, please note the blame is not being shared out by me, the relative contributions are established by the sequence of events themselves.

            You are subscribing to the thinking that it must be all one way or all the other, but the accident chain clearly shows that is not what happened.

            The sequence shows that errors were made by Boeing and embedded in the MCAS software. Those errors were exposed by a failure of the AoA sensor. A response was possible to deal with those errors, but errors occurred in the response as well. The airline and pilots are responsible for that response. So contributions exist from all parties.

            To say that 2 out 3 makes Boeing guilty, or pilots innocent, is an odd argument, as it’s not a vote. If it were 1 out of 3, would that make Boeing innocent, and pilots guilty? Obviously not.

            If MCAS problems exist at all, then Boeing is responsible for them. If pilots don’t respond as well as they could have, in any flight, then they are responsible for that. In the case of Lion Air, it’s clear the airline played a significant role as well.

          • Rob,

            My goodness! Who has the time to respond to every single criticism of Boeing with very long and very well-written paragraphs?

            The Ethiopian Air pilot had 8,000 hours, primarily, I believe on 737s. I’m sure he encountered many mechanical and other problems in his career. He knew what he was doing. He was well trained. He knew how to fly the 737. It’s easy to say that if it weren’t for MCAS, he would still be alive. Full stop! A malfunctioning AoA sensor would have been child’s play on a NG. MCAS is the culprit. And there is no Max without MCAS. Please stop blaming the dead, even if it is just a job.

          • RealSteve, experienced pilots can still make mistakes. Even test pilots can make mistakes.

            The premise of your comparison of the NG to the MAX, is that the presence of MCAS was somehow automatically fatal. Yet we know that it wasn’t, it was a major contributing factor. The crucial difference was crew response.

            Your use of the words “full stop” is illuminating, they reflect your desire to not look any further than Boeing. That in turn reflects your belief that to acknowledge other contributions, somehow reduces Boeing’s contribution. That view is logically incorrect, Boeing’s role in the MCAS errors is completely independent of pilot actions, it stands on its own faults and weaknesses.

            However by not allowing the spotlight to stray from Boeing, you are aiding the airline that should also share that spotlight, Lion Air. They have amongst the worst safety records in aviation. But the owner has successfully shifted that criticism onto Boeing, with cooperation from the Western press, and many of the comments here. Is that really what we want to advocate?

            Here is an example of the spotlight that is needed. Note there are prior instances of a first officer not having the needed flying skills, resulting in a crash. Also prior instances of broken parts being shifted between aircraft.


            which heavily references the original reporting:


          • Rob,

            The presence of MCAS wasn’t “automatically” fatal; it was simply fatal.

            I am not a propagandist for any company or country. My job isn’t relentlessly to put out fires our outbursts of negative criticism.

            There is, of course, a deep flaw in what you are saying. A sensor (that most people feel is of negligible importance in a non-fly-by wire system) failed. In an NG, which pilot’s had been assured behaved almost exactly like the Max, I suppose such a failure might have activated the stick shaker. It would not have turned on a hidden system that started pointing the nose of the airplane down, eventually driving it into the ground.

            Boeing has spent more than a year trying to correct this system. If it was largely maintenance and pilot error, this wouldn’t be the case. There have been other crashes and other groundings in the past. The problem was usually fixed fairly quickly. In this case, the problem is both not easily fixed and deadly.

            Next, if the captain made mistakes, it was mostly because he was not really flying a 737 but something else that he didn’t understand and couldn’t understand because no one clearly told him about it. The 737Ng would have forgiven his mistakes. In fact, from what I know of the performance of the classic 737 in high heat, high altitude setting; it would have demanded some of them.

            So, what would we learn from blaming the pilots? That they needed the training that Boeing said they didn’t need? So, what do we learn from sloppy maintenance issues? I can’t see anything systemic to learn from what I know of so far. I’m sure that if the mechanics knew that one single bad AoA sensor could potentially bring down the whole plane, they would have been more careful. Aren’t there different kinds of check priorities in maintenance inspection? Was a single, faulty, AoA sensor enough to ground the Max before the crashes?

            What do we learn by blaming Boeing exclusively? We learn that if those two planes hadn’t crashed, one would have inevitably crashed in a short amount of time. I don’t think this can be disputed. And it was possible for it to be an American plane. We learn that this was going to happen sooner or later because the company had evolved a culture that led to the creation of MCAS, which you admit was bad software that was operating in hundreds of of airliners. There are many, many other things that we’ve learned about Boeing and the Max. I’m glad I know them. But it also makes me very sad for what was once a great company, for the workers, and for the people that were killed by two brand new airplanes malfunctioning.

          • RealSteve, you persist in the belief that only Boeing contributed to the accidents, and that nothing can be learned by considering other contributions, so they shouldn’t be examined.

            Your thinking contradicts almost 100 years of accident investigation practice, and ensures that the mistakes will not be addressed, which in turn makes future fatalities more likely. It goes against all reason and common sense.

            “So, what do we learn from sloppy maintenance issues? I can’t see anything systemic to learn from what I know of so far. I’m sure that if the mechanics knew that one single bad AoA sensor could potentially bring down the whole plane, they would have been more careful. Aren’t there different kinds of check priorities in maintenance inspection?”

            They falsified the log, and the required inspection, and the evidence presented to investigators. While they may not have known the sensor was defective, they knew it had not been inspected or tested. They also knew that the repetitive faults had continued to occur multiple times after sensor replacement. Repetitive issues require grounding under the regulations, so the cause can be positively determined.

            “Was a single, faulty, AoA sensor enough to ground the Max before the crashes?”

            The aircraft was not airworthy in that condition, had not been airworthy on the previous two flights. They avoided the required grounding on the basis that the MMEL included an exception for the airspeed & altitude disagree indicators. They were able to clear the faults with a power reset, and the faults did not recur while on the ground. So the aircraft was released as airworthy.

            In the previous flight JT043, the pilot said that he was aware beforehand that the aircraft had repetitive issues, and as he expected they occurred again on that flight. The pilot was required to return to the airport and report the aircraft for grounding. Instead he flew to Jakarta with stick shaker active and manual trim, then reported only that the repetitive problems had occurred again.

            That alone was cause for grounding, but the Jakarta depot repeated the same reset process and cleared the aircraft. The pilot did not report the stick shaker or trim cutout. Those also would have required grounding.

            But instead, the crew of JT610 were handed a non-compliant aircraft, without warning besides the assurances of the maintenance staff that the repetitive problems had been fixed.

            I’ve discussed the pilot errors, as well as the things they did correctly, at length. The idea that they “were not really flying a 737” is …. well I don’t really have a word to describe it. Let’s just say it pushes the bounds of credulity.

            If you cannot see that these are the same kinds of failures that occurred at Boeing (or worse), that led to the MCAS errors, then I don’t know what else to say. The culture at Lion Air endangered lives, just as surely as MCAS did, and continues to do so, whereas MCAS does not. The difference is that Boeing has made the investment to rectify their errors and improve. The Lion Air practices are endemic and systemic and still continue today, and that has been enabled by the people who have sought to blame Boeing exclusively.

    • I think they are planning on one pilot Aircraft while the other is software in a Boeing computer somewhere in the World, a bit similar when they went from 3 to 2 in the cockpit and the flight engineer got replaced by automation, now it is the same for the co-pilot. This will make flying more precise and by the books. The multitude of urban electrical quadcopters being designed will push automation requiring no pilot. As those are certified with no pilot it will move inte airliners as well.
      But the risk is that the airline pilot will just push one button after lining up on the runway and do the taxi after landed and never touch any controls in the air until things go seriously wrong and he/she needs to disconnect “everything” and hand fly to the nearest open Airport if the emergency land button does not work..

  14. In a recent blog post, “Vero Venia”, an aeronautical engineer, puts forward interesting views as to what the NMA could be. Basically, a shrunk, re-engined, re-winged, 767-400 with a new flight-control system. It makes sense:


    If launched, we can safely bet it would not be named 767MAX…

    • By the time you get done with all your 767 mods you have a new aircraft.

      Ain’t happening let alone the -400 size poor sales.

      • Did it not work for the A300?
        And all the other rewinged -to one extent or another- such as 737NG , 747-8 and now the 777X.

        • Worked fine for turning the A300 into the A330 and A340 during the metal fuselage era, but we’re not living in that any longer. The original A350 concept was drummed out as a “band-aid” reaction to the 787 a full fifteen years ago, and a re-engined, lightened, FBW 767 will get the same treatment today..

          • A300 and A330, A340 don’t share a TCDS.
            Though A330 and A340 have more in common than any two Boeing models of one of the 7×7 product lines.

            What they do share in a hard way is fuselage Cross-section. Everything else its more like Boeing’s 767 to 777 progress, only a couple or 8 years earlier.
            Cockpit structure may have carried over in both lines A and B.

    • VV is ghost writer for Randy Boeing. Or vice versa. Not sure.
      Detestable rhetoric, a hate for Airbus and can’t stand people asking awkward questions about his efluent 🙂

      On occasion I got the impression he is Boeing’s toe to test the waters.

  15. Needs a goodlook with perspective, including:
    – Don’t just chase the competition (find customers with some perspective, AA had that circa 1980 whereas TW did not, later SWA did not take a long-term view so the 737 was hampered).
    – Perspective.
    – Technology of course, risk (and I suspect choice of supplier, apparently the company in the PS area did fine whereas another did not).
    – Nothing wrong with introducing two new models as Boeing did with 757 and 767.
    – Fuel prices are a variable though US is now net self-sufficient in oil (while spot prices react to Middle East fusses the cartels like OPEC and tyrannies like Russia and most of the Middle East do not has as much influence today).
    – Politics, with voters electing eco-liars who con people like Bjorn with their scam that human use of fossil fuels can have significant effect on climate.
    I’d look at mix-and-match elements, such as wide selection of engines if manufacturers cooperate.

    • Let’s hope Boeing incorporates active control side sticks on all future airplane designs.

    • the trick is to give customers what they need
      and not what they think they want.
      Actually the most interesting step in customer/project acquisition for me ( building rather specialized instrumentation, mostly remote sensing. terrestric, flyable , space )
      customers come up with a a concept of their desires _formulated in elements of technology that they know about_
      independent of that being rather aged or unrealistic:
      you have to trace back to what they really want to achieve with the bespoke box they buy.
      From there you can move forward with your own superior solution. You may add extremely useful gimmick because they are easy in scope of the new solution. You may have to cut down on some spec for a reason.
      Overall the solution will be simpler and the customer have more satisfaction than “just doing his bidding”.
      Boeing is peddling PR objects and not working towards solutions in the way I’ve described.

        • Another diffuse layer of bullshit bingo?
          ( though we share a family name 🙂

          But in a way she is right:
          developement is subsumed by market wars.
          The final user does not really get what he wants but what has best push via leveraging the buquet of market forces.
          ( Most of the social media stuff exists not because it fills a hole for the user side but it allows to take profit where none was before.
          There were enough well functioning services ( SMTP , NNTP, … ) around with only one downside: difficult to reap large profits from.)
          Most computer infestation and compatibility issues are caused by profiteering.

    • Fuel prices will start to plummet before the NMA see the light of day. As it is, even with OPEC+, the price of oil is struggling to maintain altitude.

  16. My thoughts on an aero “generation” — 10 to 12 years, 15 tops.

    Regarding the “chasm” aka the MTOW gap between SA and TA planes in — currently 101T to 228T — I think that BA are now going to address the issue from the top and not the middle.

    TA Mom’ster — Anything below 150/160T MTOW will just be annihilated in the market by a HD SA offering based on 50 per month build economics of the donor platform.

    Consequently the review will crystallise around a re-visiting of the B767 platform in the 180T product space — 165T / 195T pair? — the target is enough real estate for 270 / 300 “standard” seats and a nominal range out to 6K NM.

    They have worked the B787 for all it is worth and the Model 8 even in its new improved form is a dog anyway so all they have to worry about is the second hand values and that would be a secondary issue to the main game of getting something into the air ASAP.

    Fancy ovoids and moonshots are history.
    The future is basic engineering and a good engine supplier.

    AB can counter very easily but at the moment 50% of something is a qhole lot better than 100% of nothing.

    • The A300/(330)’s are no youngsters with A300B2 EIS in 1974 (46 years ago). The A300-600R had two class seating for ~250 pax, range around 4000Nm and listed OEW of 89T.

      Surely AB can build a very efficient new aircraft with seating for 250-300 based on the basic A300/330 fuselage criteria, range 4500-5500Nm with OEW of <100T. Engines such as the GEnxMK2 and RR-UF's (~55Klb?) could be available by 2026(?).

      It must however be a clean sheet design and not panel beating of the A330, doesn't need to try to come with SA economics, etc., flexibility of application from high density 1-2KNm routes to lower density medium haul routes. As example, seating of ~250 (5500Nm) in "4" classes, (Business, Premium Y, Comfort/Stretch and standard Y) to around 280-300 seats (4500-5000Nm) in typical 2 class with the same length fuselage, engines, MTOW, etc.

      If you do the Al-Li fuselage and can add 2-3 inches in the cabin width the 3-3-3 layout (330-350 seats) will be more acceptable for shorter high density density routes, quick boarding and de-planning times key considerations.

  17. Strategic vision includes thinking hard about the flying public’s, the non-flying public’s, and the 2021 US Government’s concerns about the dangerous impacts of Climate change now and in the future. The next Boeing airplane needs to be the most important airplane in airplane fleets for reducing cumulative CO2 emissions 2026 – 2050. The scientists need major reductions by 2030. So far, no mention of this by the airlines, the lessors, and Boeing; no such goal and comprehensive plan is in place. ICAO’s Corsia offset plan to hold international flight emissions at 2020 levels for carbon-free international growth beyond 2020 in unlikely to achieve that and omits domestic flight emissions, e.g. in North America, Western Europe, China, S.E Asia, and India. The scientists want elimination of fossil fuel CO2 emissions by 2050; ICAO’s goal is aimed at reducing emissions to half of 2005’s which were generated by burning around 62 billion gallons of fossil fuel. That’s not acceptable

    • The technology isnt currently available to met those CO2 aspirations . Full Stop.
      They are in effect paper targets and anyway its more productive to look at what can be done for industrial processes which are best of all on the ground and have possible technology much closer or currently available.

    • Yes. And, if you get it right, you immediately turn your competitor’s massive backlog into a massive liability. The trouble is that the environment hasn’t been a high priority in America based on what we see coming out of things like Davos.

      • Davos is not a reflection of how all the US feels about emissions.

        Nor is it in its members reflective of anything but elites of one type or another who all flew there in private jets.

        At least Great hitch hikes and does not own the mega carbon footprint to build Yachet.

      • Yeah dirigibles it seems the only result of current “madness of the elites” if we are to believe them in their own words…
        …not true of course, the nomenklatura will continue to fly in Zils. Flying will return to fashion status and at that time with material status returned to “proper” people they can abandon theirs ideas status.

        Then i am sure the aristocracy would want to stop e/immigration because that is one big reason of flying, people returning to see their family often.studying abroad, besides doing deals, tourism etc.
        Maybe we will all get a flying quota…like a certain bread quantity in a breadline.

    • It is all very well for plane manufacturers, airlines to think about climate change
      Real thinking and debate and policy has to go beyond cutting 5% here 10% there on this and that ; burning this or that fuel, offset how or not, and so on
      This kind of discussion you mention – ICAO, the ‘scientists’- remains within a mindset and a framework, institutional commercial and political, which evolves by even tinier %s when it comes to fuel efficiency and emissions reduction, but very significantly the other way round, when additional costs are loaded on (security) and subsidies massively increased even if disguised (tax avoidance, Defense, airport infrastructure and travel to)
      As long as airtravel is sold as cheap and safe discussion will remain grounded & as long as those who denounce it and demand change insist on flying often if not private (everyone from exPrince Harry on up) it will be clear who benefit the most from Climate Change chatter and certification
      The very same people and mind set that brought you the Max

  18. A lot of people think that Boeing’s NMA will be a 2-pilot airplane. Long before it sees the light of day, AUAVs will be transporting pax (by 2025 probably) and society will be conditioned to accept single-pilot airliners.

    • Self driving cars is maybe 25 years away, even longer for so called autonomous ‘air vehicles’ as the air worthy standards are even higher. Ask Kobe Bryant how it worked out with 1 pilot.

      • Self driving cars are a lot closer than 25 years away.

        The biggest problem is going to be when self driving cars, and cars driven by humans interact, once we reach a point where most cars are self drive there will be fewer accidents.

        My prediction, car ownership will decrease. You will summon a car using an app on your phone, perhaps days in advance, perhaps immediately. You will have a choice of car, colour, style, size, entertainment, and a price.

        You will tell the app what date/time you want the car, where you want to go etc. The app will let you know when the car is almost at your location. If your preferred car is delayed for any reason, another will take it’s place.

        One day you might pick a small non-descript car for a short trip to the office, the next day you may want to choose a pink Rolls Royce to visit a client a few hours away.

        You can get an idea what Tesla Autopilot is like currently here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sk0eZRVw9x4
        look at the blue highlighted steering wheel in the left lower screen, if it’s showing, the autopilot is driving the car. You will see it turn off when the driver takes control.

        If road designers take autopilot into account, and paint lanes properly on the roads, or embed sensors, I can see autopilot being viable in the very near future.

        You generally have more space / bigger roads in the USA, so as you say YMMV, but I would think if autopilot can handle a European city, it bodes well for the future.

        • No . They certainly are 25 years away, its the last 15% of the task thats the hardest and will take the longest.

          Think about the history of heavier than air flight.
          1799 Cayley set down the principles and by the 1840s he had all the concepts worked out about lift , drag, power to weight for sustained flight and so on.
          It took the Wright Bothers till 1903 to make it work over and over. Safe flight is an ongoing journey but took many years after first flight for it to be a major issue. Self driving has to be right up their in safety right away, but is a long way yet.

        • In 1975, my nerdy dad gave me an early digital watch. A kid at school said, that kind of readout would eventually replace all watches with hands and the words clockwise and counter clockwise would drop from the language.

      • Thanks for the link, what an amazing video. It makes me think of future airliners where the helmsman is some very intelligent software and the human captain works like on a ship, making the basic decisions and supervising everything. On very long flight you might still need a 1. officer on board, so they can alternate their watches.

      • Planes have been able to ‘autoland’ since the 1960s. Same with ‘auto throttle’ and ‘auto pilots’ have been around some time.
        More interesting to consider why you think its suddenly new. Aviation history has lots of things like that.

        • Why so blind to advances? The ability for a passenger in a turboprop to press an emergency button and then have the aircraft determine the best field, contact air traffic control, negotiate a landing slot and land is kinda new.

  19. Well, in a fly by wire system, an airplane could, conceptually be piloted from the ground. The issue is one of the reliability of physical senses and sensations vs. reliability of instruments and sensors. The former are irrelevant and have been for a long time. So, it might even be preferable to have someone on the ground — a flight engineer or copilot — on the making snap decision, far distant from mayhem of the cockpit in an emergency. I don’t like the idea, but I think I’m not facing reality.

    As for the future of flight. A true visionary CEO might see it. Many of us can remember when we were toying around with computers and “poking” each other, but never imagined email. I had a Palm Pilot (actually a cheap Handspring Visor — to which I plugged in a phone module), but when I saw Jobs introduce the iPhone controlled by swiping his finger, I thought it was ridiculous.

    But things will change. Our attitude toward burning carbon fuels will change. Our attitude toward flight and global warming will change. The US has serious energy consumption issues compared to people in other countries who take shorter showers, turn off lights, use public transportation more, etc. But it has to do with habits and habits change. It was wrong to replace trains with airplane in the US; and for cheap airlines to undermine train travel in Europe. People will fly less and also look for more green alternatives. This will be the future. Maybe not 10 years, but certainly 20 years.

    Greta Thunberg might seem like a joke to some (she came to the US on a sailboat!), but I think she represents how many young people think about the earth and climate change.

  20. If MCAS there to produce proper linear column force, then shouldn’t it be a fast acting, able to
    vary the column force as the pilot shifts the column backwards and forwards in the non-linear part of the pitch force curve? Not just one digital lookup table shot of trim? As a stick pusher type of hydraulic control could do? The STS constantly moves up and down to trim for speed changes. Does MCAS constantly move up and down for AoA changes? Or, is it just a digital one shot up and then one shot down after some reset time or other parameter change?. It sounds like a saw toothed wave form, trying to produce a smooth, linear change. If this was just a small change, then maybe you could see a bunch of small changes with a microscope, but, Ten seconds of high speed trim, isn’t a small change. It’s too slow to react to potentially different AoA changes, produced by quick column changes on the elevator. I can change
    elevator positions very quickly, but, MCAS using the HS Trim can’t react as quickly as a hydraulic stick pusher system could. It sounds like the MCAS Trim system could induce oscillation in pitch, trying to keep up with changes in AoA, via the column, chasing fast elevator changes. IF MCAS IS ONLY INTENDED FOR PRODUCING PROPER LINEAR COLUMN FORCE? Why then, only one shot of a large amount of trim change? It more of a stall prevention system at that point.

    • Some months ago, I likened MCAS 1.0 to trying to produce a curve using a bunch of steps so your “It sounds like a saw toothed wave form, trying to produce a smooth, linear change.” rings true for me.

      I think this is exactly the issue with trying to fit some Fly-by-Wire to a non Fly-by-Wire aircraft. You don’t have 3 AOA sensors, you don’t have FCC computers that have spare capacity to process the changes in AOA, measure against control column deflection, and move the stabiliser at a speed that allows you to produce the pitch moment curve that you’re looking for in real time.

      I can’t remember the link to the reference where some pilots flying a MAX simulator (at Boeing I believe) expressed their surprise at how aggressive MCAS was when it triggered, it was not just a gentle motion with the yoke becoming harder to pull back (or at least keep the same level of force), the nose of the aircraft was pushed down firmly.

      I am still wondering if, as Boeing have now understood that pilot training is required to fly the MAX, the best option would have been to remove MCAS entirely, and just do very specific training in a simulator to handle the area of the flight envelope that MCAS has been installed to deal with.

      If the pitch moment curve issue is as minor as it has been described, I don’t understand the logic of implementing a system, that if it malfunctions has the potential to increase the level of hazard. It seems crazy to me to mitigate a major hazard by implementing a system that could misfire, and become catastrophic !

      Even worse to mitigate a minor hazard by introducing the potential for a catastrophic hazard !

      Has the MAX been grounded for so long because we absolutely must stick to a regulation regarding a pitch moment curve out of dogma ?

      I can’t see a problem with issuing an amended/additional type certificate for the MAX without MCAS … IF, and only IF, the pitch moment curve is relatively benign, and could be trained for. I don’t think doing so would set a precedent, as all future commercial aircraft will be FBW, so the pitch moment curve is a non issue.

      • “Has the MAX been grounded for so long because we absolutely must stick to a regulation regarding a pitch moment curve out of dogma ?

        I can’t see a problem with issuing an amended/additional type certificate for the MAX without MCAS … IF, and only IF, the pitch moment curve is relatively benign, and could be trained for. ”

        So you want to fix issues in widely achieved by waivers certification … with yet another waiver ?

        Amusing, to put it mildly.

        • I may not have put this clearly, I’ll try a different way.

          MCAS is apparently present in order to correct the pitch moment curve to satisfy regulations.

          The aircraft are supposed to only very rarely get close to being in the area of the envelope where MCAS would be needed. (I would love to know the statistics of exactly how often any commercial 737 has been in the area of the envelope which we’re interested in)

          The issue with controls not having the same feel as an NG in this rare area of the envelope is said to be fairly minor. IF, and only IF this is true, and can be safely mitigated with training in the simulator (training Boeing now accepts will be part of RTS). Then …

          Adding a complicated software solution that could INCREASE the hazard above the danger that the original issue creates does not make much sense.

          It’s a question of a PROPER safety evaluation of each of the options:

          Just how minor (or not) is the issue MCAS is trying to solve ? If it were proven that the risk was lower with properly trained pilots than with software that may fail, then it does not make sense to me that you go back to the “but it has to pass a certain regulation”. That would be saying that you’re putting regulations before safety.

          Safety has to come first, second, and third. But we should avoid the trap of implementing systems that are over complicated, and increase the chances of catastrophic failure.

          If you’d be in the area of the envelope where MCAS was needed say once in every 10,000 flights, you have to contrast that against the fact that MCAS was active every flight !

          I know you’ve seen Transport Canada’s Jim Marko comments, he just may have a point.

          However, there’s always the possibility that the pitch moment curve is more of an issue than we are led to believe, and that training would not result in a safer outcome than a hardware or software solution.

          In essence all I am saying is that safety should be put first, and proper, and complete evaluation of all of the options should be made without prejudice.

          The cure should not be worse than the disease !

          • Boeing would have tried without MCAS if it were so minor, but their own test pilots said that with MCAS it’s much better.
            I expect that MCAS will not be certified, the hardware is not made for it.

            I can’t believe that only three mistakes were uncovered since December 12 when Dickson asked for all self-certification documents. I would expect much more self-cert tricks, Boeing stopped production because of it. I can’t believe the weak jackscrew could be accepted, it was sliding on a 4 months old MAX.

            For sure there will be few strict regulators. Trump is strict too and kept the MAX flying.

    • Richard and Jakdak, the action of MCAS is intended to be a small correction for the nacelle forces, so it’s a one-shot adjustment based on the lookup table for airspeed & altitude. It’s an open-loop one-time correction, not closed-loop and continuously adjustable.

      The idea is that it’s only needed briefly, the aircraft will not be flying continuously at that attitude. If the pilot chooses to hold it there, I don’t know if MCAS will adjust for changing altitude or airspeed, but I’ve seen nothing to indicate that it would. I suspect that MCAS has fulfilled its purpose at that point.

      I think this is also why the aircraft can still be stalled, as it is during recovery testing. MCAS will make no further contribution to prevent a stall.

      As far as the response time for the stabilizer as driven by MCAS, that is an open question raised by JATR that will be tested by EASA. We know that the limit of movement for the high speed case is 0.6 degrees, so that’s a little more than 2 seconds. For the low-speed case, the limit is 2.5 degrees which is 10 seconds. These are the worst-case full-travel times.

      So it depends on how rapid the response of the aircraft is, for those conditions, in comparison to those times. It weighs 60 to 80 tons so has some inertia, it can’t move instantaneously. But I have no idea how they compare.

      MCAS really doesn’t have to compete with the elevator, in terms of either force or speed. It just has to respond to the motion of the aircraft itself, since it’s triggered and released by AoA.

      The potential for pitch oscillation would actually be enhanced by increasing the MCAS speed to the point where it does compete with the elevator. A slower MCAS is better in that regard, from a perspective of stability.

      There is another issue on the other side of stall recovery, as to whether MCAS is fast enough to back out before airspeed recovery, and not impede the pilot in leveling the aircraft.

      The other issue regarding MCAS response time is if it’s separately classified as stall prevention, based on behavior or intention alone. In that case it may not meet the requirements for stall prevention, including actuator speed.

      It’s good to test for all these things and answer the questions, so there can either be confidence in MCAS, or rejection of it if it’s not compliant.

      As far as reports from testing pilots in the simulator, at least for MCAS 2.0, they have all been positive, as far as I know. MCAS 1.0 was aggressive in malfunction, it used the full 2.5 low-speed deflection repetitively, because it was unbounded. There are also reports of aggression in the early simulators from the Forkner e-mails.

      As far as substituting pilot training for MCAS, that is up the regulators, they have that power if they choose to use it.

      As far as why the MAX has been grounded so long, the first 3 months were spent on MCAS fixes, the time since then has been spent on the FCC rewrite, and all the things (such as testing and software audit) that go with it.

      I saw a report on Monday that the audit is now complete, but no word on results or when EASA testing may begin. Only the comment from FAA that they were pleased with progress overall, but have no timeline..

  21. In the 320 airshow crash the flyby wire SAVED lives; it prevented a stall. The pitot attempted a maneuver for the first time at low altitude with passengers!

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