Restoring operations of the 737 MAX

By Bjorn Fehrm

December 1, 2020, ©. Leeham News: Boeing and its customer airlines have 837 MAX airliners that shall get back in the air. After the FAA and ANAC, Brazil’s regulator, have stated the conditions, the work can begin. EASA and Transport Canada will follow with eventual modifications on what needs to be done.

There can be no slip-ups when the 737 MAX flies again. Boeing and the airlines know this; hence there is no room for hurried work or compromises. It will take two years to get the job done, according to Boeing.

Boeing 737 MAX planes stored at Boeing Field. Source: Wikipedia/SounderBruce

State of stored aircraft

Boeing delivered 387 737 MAX 8 and 9 to customers before FAA’s grounding. Seven of these were not flown to its customers. The remaining 380 are stored around the world, typically at airfields suitable for storage with a dry climate. Examples are Victorville, CA (Southwest MAX storage, at the border of the Mojave desert), Tulsa, Oklahoma (American Airlines’ MAX storage), and Goodyear Arizona (United’s MAX store).

Boeing has produced 450 additional MAX 8 and 9 stored at Moses Lake, WA, Victorville, San Antonio, TX, and its airfields in the Seattle area.

These aircraft have been in storage for up to 20 months now. During this time, the airlines have jogged the aircraft systems twice a month, with Boeing’s service representatives present every four weeks.

Storing aircraft for months or years is nothing new. The winter season has reduced demand for aircraft, and many airlines store part of their fleet over the winters. Conserving aircraft and de-conserving them is an established routine.

Yet the MAX return to service is de-conservation of another scale. Boeing has practiced the de-conservation steps 400 times during the grounding when supporting ferry flights. Boeing will also have special MAX service representatives teams that support airlines that take aircraft into operations with onsite support for the first months.

De-conservation, rework, and checks before operations

The rework of a 737 MAX wiring for the trim systems takes about 400 working hours. Special teams are set up at facilities around the world to perform this work.

After the rework of the wiring the aircraft de-conservation is finished, engines are run to burn off conservation oil, and systems are brought back to serviceable levels. For the pitot system, this will often involve cleaning as insects can have clogged the pitot lines.

Then follows software updates to the Flight Control Computers and the Cockpit Display Systems. Engine control runs are performed where key engine data is verified. Then the flight control system is checked, and all systems are tested with the Built-In-Test (BITE).

After cleaning and preparation for flight, the aircraft are test flown. The proper operation of all systems is verified. The airplane is flown to a test protocol, visiting the different corners of the flight envelope. It’s verified the aircraft performs to specification.

The above takes about 10 days once the rewiring is done. When declared ready for delivery (new aircraft) or re-entry to service (delivered aircraft) the operations acceptance starts. For new aircraft is contains:

  • The aircraft is ticketed as airworthy once it passed all tests and the FAA has accepted the results.
  • Customer airline representatives arrive and make an on-ground inspection of the aircraft.
  • The customer’s Pilots and Boeing production Pilots test fly the aircraft. The flight tests that the aircraft performs to specifications.
  • The final touches and fixes are applied after the validation flights.
  • Finally, the customer takes delivery and flies the aircraft to its home base.

The delivery procedure takes six to seven days. This phase is shorter for delivered aircraft as there is no airworthiness inspection by the FAA, just a check that the de-storing procedure is correctly done.

It will take years

Boeing expects to deliver about half of the 450 undelivered aircraft during 2021 and the other half during 2022. Some of the undelivered aircraft are White-tails. The original airline customer doesn’t exist anymore and cannot/will not accept the aircraft. This means remarketing and possible configuration change before the plane is back in the air.

The pace of return to service of delivered aircraft will be gated by the rewiring work and in some jurisdictions by additional regulator demands for a return to service.

We can expect it will take until early 2023 for the complete fleet of grounded 737 MAX to fly again.

45 Comments on “Restoring operations of the 737 MAX

  1. United has said the investment in each aircraft will be about 1,000 man-hours, including modifications, restoration, inspections, and pilot training. Also planning multiple readiness fights per aircraft. So not expecting commercial flights until early next year.

    Southwest has said they will require additional pilot training above the FAA requirement, and conduct additional readiness flights as well, so won’t resume until mid-2021.

    American has been pre-positioning their MAX restoration efforts and will begin non-passenger flights in December, with passenger service resuming early January.

    • 1000 hrs is a lot. But indeed life limited parts such as batteries, filters need to be replaced, fluids and detailed inspection. Testing of about everything, being out of operation for 20-30 months is not a night stop. Plus maybe a few expensive units being cannibalized from the aircraft by cash strapped operators, to keep their NG’s flying, burning minimum cash.

        • FYI, that total was the organizational hours per aircraft needed to have the MAX fleet back in passenger service, which includes everything, pilot training, crew training, ground training, agent training, etc.

          It wasn’t just maintenance or upgrades. Both American and Southwest have listed their efforts on their web sites. Overall they estimate it will take about 2 weeks per aircraft.

      • Good question about batteries, they tend to self-discharge, need to be kept up with trickle-charging. Varies with battery chemistry, even the small difference between automotive starting and deep-cycle batteries makes a difference (the latter self-discharges more quickly but is not damaged by a deeper level of discharge – to a point, I wouldn’t leave them sit with low charge for months).
        And the story of the Tesla brick is about – don’t drive quite a ways to an airport then let the car sit for two weeks, you may have a very expensive brick, that might not be recoverable.

  2. Bjoern : you have painted a fairly precise PERT chart for the completion of (re-)EIS of all those grounded MAX aircraft … but in parallel to (and possibly interacting with) this don’t we have another such PERT chart for the availability of airline pilots checked out/cleared with the required MAX type certificates, when access to MAX simulator time around the world will itself involve queuing etc ?

    • There are about 50 MAX simulators now, and half the training can be conducted in NG simulators, which are more numerous. So training can go on concurrently with aircraft preparation, and since aircraft will be restored sequentially rather than all at once, there should be sufficient training capacity to keep up. No airline has pointed to this as an impediment.

      • I see that SWA have at least three simulators for MAX plus some NG ones that can be used for part of the training. For 9000. pilots IIRC.

        Amazing – I remember when SWA was a regional airline, circa 1980. Jack Vidal was a good guy despite coming out of Eastern/PanAm.

        Say Rob, EAL and PAA were examples of lack of leadership in company and union, compared to SWA which had unions but a real leader in Herb Kelleher, who chose executives well (many from troubled airlines, like Jack and the recent CEO). They were taught about SWA’s struggling start, beginning with Keller spending all night in a law library finding something strong to use against the attack by the airline cartel on SWA.

        Kelleher was of course a goofball, would show up on the ramp at Christmas wearing an outfit. One of a kind.

        In contrast, John Allison of Branch Bank and Trust looked more the executive type but was smart, principled, and able to delegate because he taught principles. ('s ‘culture’ document should be required reading for newly anointed managers. (They are a big probable, though of course if you hire wisely, coach, and fire when needed you won’t have many bad ones.)

  3. Sadly, yes there can be so called slip ups.

    The problem is once you establish a failed culture, management can say anything they want but they have set the table for failures to occur.

    You then have multiple failure fronts from the culture that has been established. It takes huge effort and full acknowledgement to change that once established, not just a press release.
    Lo many years ago we got put on a distribution list for Corporate high level memo by mistake. It was a hoot to read them (until they realized the workers were the last ones you wanted in on that stuff!)

    1. People just quit caring. Maybe the worst. You can do your job and watch the screw ups go by. You get nothing more to at least bring it to someones attention. Actually its worse than that, the screw ups in control and they turn on you.
    Yea, I got up front lessons in all of it. Then there is the silly stuff. Cut rag costs by 50% (you do know we only spend $300 on rags last year?) – or as one department did, go to paper. You now have another wast stream to deal with. And paper does not work the same as rags.
    Its at the face of the cut the fiddly works gets done.

    2. Safety Cuts. You not only have but you keep cutting that. Throw in your processes are gone.
    The 787 tail is the (sadly) perfect example. I cann’t begin to fathom how you cannot have an inspection protocol that ensures what you claimed would happen did not acualy occur or you cut the catch part out.
    That has shades of cherry picking AOA failure data. Jon Ostower may get the skinny on what went wrong. All we know is it badly went wrong in two different aspects both of which should have been caught.
    And yes I have seen new process cut in with old, but you ensured that the new one matched or exceeded the old and there was not a either a long term failure or the new did not have its cross checks for quality assurance.

    I expect there to be failures. How can you make aircraft with FOD in the tank?

    For the workign people I hope them the best but from the management failure history , you can expect something in between as is now par for the course.

    Its a lot easier to wreck something than it is to build it and cultures are no different.

    • @TransWorld
      3) Opportunity costs. Imagine all the process improvements, productivity improvements, performance improvements, and out-of-the-box ideas that MIGHT have happened if workers felt empowered and management encouraged workers to come forward with their ideas. Harry Stonecipher introduced this cost-cutter’s mantra and passed it on to managers throughout the company: “Why are we doing this? Do we need to do this?”

      • There is a balance between good idea and delays vs we need to produce it now. If you engage the workers, you don’t have to do all their ideas. But listen, accept the good ones that can work shorter term, keep an eye on implement medium term and long term it may be a real big deal.

        I fought both my company and the client over a Boiler decision. The only reason I persevered was for my own satisfaction (and this was one of many) .

        Lot of gory details but it had a cracked section (out of 5 as I recall). Take one out, tune it down to accommodate it, its in the manual.

        No, replace both boilers, re-plumb to a low loss header.

        In the end they decided the state would not allow it! Really, have you talked ot them? Well no, but we know. They don’t let you mod a boiler.

        This is not a mod, its variation you could order (at one time, the boiler was no longer mfg literately the day they installed them!) its right in the book, as is the tune data.

        So, if I get the ok from the state you will accept it?

        Uhhh yea but you won’t get the approval.

        I-800 State, I have this boiler cracked section, I want to take it out as no more replacement secions, its in the book as well as the new tune parameters.

        Uhhh why are you calling us? Uhhh because I have to! Sheese, you can do anything you want to that boiler as long as its in the book. Thank you but don’t’ call us again (can I get that in writing?) Oh, sheese, yes. And no, we don’t have to inspect or approve anything.

        So we did. New boiler of that class about 20k each, plumbing etc. You have to throw a good boiler away because flow has to be even. Probably 50k to 80k with new boilers, pumps, plumbing.

        In the end I gave up. If it affected me, I would fight for it. If not, go nuts. It all theirs in its messiness.

    • TW: “The 787 tail is the (sadly) perfect example”

      You have to imagine this. Boeing designed the 787 with wishful thinking but isn’t able to build it up to specs. Boeing deliverred 787 for nine years and now starting QC and telling the world that they can’t build it. Are customers thinking “designed by clowns who are oversighted by monkeys” when FAA inspect their 787 after years of service.
      When designing solutions, Boeing chose the cheapest instead of the best and still it seems they will never earn something. Now they want to reduce production costs of the 787-8 instead of making the plane better.
      Boeing is lost and so is Bjorn, writing in his subsciption article “AFTER a long slough against problems” LOL
      This tail issue is the biggest issue the 787 ever had and Boeing can’t fix it. Why should customers buy 787 when Boeing can’t build it. No wonder Scott didn’t allow comments on his Hope For Orders article.
      Bjorn praised the 787 in his comparison vs the 777-200ER, but in reality the 787 can’t beat the old 777-200ER. Whom does Bjorn want to fool with his Boeing PR disguised by his EU comment picture.
      There might be many other cheap Boeing solutions on the 787 which might backfire soon. Just think about the 737NG pickle fork issue, designed for a life time, cracked at 25%. If it was a life time solution on the NG, why change it on the MAX. Did Boeing know the pickle fork issue before and kept it secret. I wonder if QC engineers mentioned the 787 tail issues before but Muilenburg fired them.
      Boeing is … LOST

      • Leon:

        No disagreement Boeing is lost due to its Management.

        The 787 is a good aircraft. Its been badly managed. Nothing quality contro0l cannot fix, its more that it hasn’t and stupid things are not followed up on.

        Its like they turned the computer on to cut the shims and then walked away not checking anything. Its not a tech issue, its a management issue of no process.

        You can build something that has such tight tolerance and quality that it needs no inspections (not a good idea on an aircraft) or you have high quality build and check each item against the build data.

        The shims are simple to cross check, there is the spec datum and the output and you filed check if the spec data was right (wrong spec data-and built to wrong spec will be wrong but passed a quality check on output)

        The joint itself would have its own methods of check, fit and where its at withing allowed tolerances that was not done or failed.

        You don’t get un-LOST with a PR sheet. But when all you focus on share value because you get more money then you stay lost.

        The Fix is to ID the problem, then come up with a program to correct it.

        Boeing has done none of that. They just play quality control whack a mole.

        • It varies.

          One liaison engineer on visiting Boeing several years after he left remarked that the production line had ample parts near the airplanes in the factory to fix defects, instead of having to fix down the line which is usually much more costly due access.

          Lockheed had serious wing fatigue on the C-130, especially due short edge margin on skin-spar cap fasteners. Touring the factory, I looked at outer wings, and asked how they located fasteners. Workers showed me an SS template that had a row of holes for a drill device to drill holes in correct place. I asked how the template was located – answer was by manual measurement then clamped in place. Ayup, those turkeys in California, where outer wings had been made in the past, were sloppy. (I didn’t think to check if the template was wide enough that one could just line its edge up with the edge of the skin, probably not given the problems.)

    • That’s why leadership is needed, as BBandT bank has long had, and Delta Airlines had in the 70s.

      An aviation magazine was shocked to be told by Delta that it did not have a capital budget. Why not? Because Delta had money to fund very good proposals from employees. (You can bet that employees did not ask for something they didn’t really need but did ask for something that would reduce costs or improve quality.)

    • “That has shades of cherry picking AOA failure data. Jon Ostower may get the skinny on what went wrong. All we know is it badly went wrong in two different aspects both of which should have been caught.”

      What is that about?
      If you are talking of the Lion Air disaster, note the AOA failure was miscalibration by the repair shop and omission of test after installation.
      If you are talking of the Ethiopian disaster, AFAIK the vane has not been found, may be heavily damaged if it ever is. Various possibilities including bird strike.
      The systems are being improved, but neither disaster would have occurred without the MCAS development botch.

  4. TransWorld you make some great points. Boeing has a failed culture and as they continue to promote incompetent inexperienced management at all levels it’s not going to improve. That worker installing the AOA vanes just got a 60 day WARN notice, how do think he/she cares about doing his/her job right and bringing to attention quality defects? His/Her morale is toast. But folks this has been going on for years at Boeing!
    No mention about pilot training other than a reader commented that it’s not a ‘big deal’…. how’s that for feeling safe?
    And no mention about training mechanics to properly troubleshoot and diagnose critical systems failures, you know the guys that signed off the Lion Air as “could not duplicate problem” before the crash (note I refuse to call it an accident). Boeing all along has blamed the pilots who aren’t here to defend themselves.
    I’m also stunned that EASA is allowing pilots to pull C/B’s when in a critical safety of flight attitude. Those that know aviation need to think about that. LeeHam has defended the mad max as no other airplane has been scrutinized… we’ll see won’t we.
    Quoting Dennis Muilenburg “to make a safe airplane safer”.
    I hope I’m wrong, I really do.

    • Yea, we loved Boeing as a whole at one time, management included. I grew up in AK, it was like our next door neighbor . It put Washington state at the center of the world, pretty danged cool for a lumber town. Poor kid grows up to be a massive success.

      And you are right, accidents are truly rare. It all negligence at best of various aspects.

      Boeing does not bother to control foreign operation (unlike corrupting the FAA). But it knows what is going on with them and the mechanics /pilots.

      It can make aircrat that are failure tolerant. Its chosen not to. They live cheek and jowl with those foreign operations, they train pilots. There is zero excuse.

      Caution on the EASA: If I am reading it right, that is part of EASA certificate for all aircraft. Its just the location that would be accessible vs a NG/MAX that is awkward.

      While this is non aircraft personal experience, I found I could not ignore an alarm when trying to work a tech control problem. The alarm took up most of my mind and away dealing with the cause of the alarm.

      If I could kill it, then I could focus. I think the thinking by EASA is that get rid of the distractions (false stick shaking) so yo can focus on the issue.

      That was and still is a concern on alarms for me. AF447 was the same thing. They had lots of alarms, but the one they needed to get focus on was stall.

      That in fact went off, but they build an assumption in that below a certain airspeed stall was not relevant, though in that case it horribly was THE element they needed to correct.

      And are all pilots enough alike to have universal or should the system be tuned to the pilots? From my flight training, nose way high, regardless of power and VSI going negative at 10,000 fpm, that is a stall. Somehow they (three of them) never got that until too late though it was right in front of them.

      How to convey that is beyond me as its a human factors and research to what actually works.

      Converse, having worked in the construction field, a backup horn becomes background noise and you no longer pay attention.

      I don’t know how to sort that out from an alarm being distracted and tuning something out as I have experience both. But again, put a focus on it, find out, don’t just keep doing the same thing you have proven does not work over and over and over.

      The backup thing started out with a bell clanger on the that only worked when you backed up. We just got to ignoring it as it was always there (someone was always backing up something)

      Then they escalated to a horn. Now its a wobbly horn. Maybe an arm that pushes you out the way and then a Taser that zaps you to hold you still is the real answer.

      Its that odd area of human behavior that managers thinks alarm is the answer and whats really needed is a deep dive into what works and then do that, not assume.

      But we have always done it that way.

      And it always fails, people may get through it but that is despite the system not because of it.

    • Do tell about Airbus not installing AOA vanes flush to outer skin, so wash water that wasn’t blown off before flight froze and prevented the vane from rotating. (A design shortcoming.)

      As for airline mechanics not checking AOA vanes correctly, Boeing produces the manuals and perhaps ample work cards, but it is the responsibility of the operator and its regulator. Manuals need to be good, Boeing even restricts vocabulary for ESL persons.

      BTW, you may have cases at Lion Air mixed up, my memory is that:
      – the vane that was replaced on the accident aircraft had an intermittent that only showed up when the vane was not hot, thus only when at speed. The shop found the problem, root cause was too much varnish/wrong location on winding of a piece of it caused thermal stress which broke a wire.
      – whereas the replacement vane was not tested per the airlane manual, IIRC, it had been miscalculated by the overhaul shop that missed a subtlety of using a test device.

      Communication between pilots and mechanics helps. At PW our ace avionics engineer would call a pilot at home when helping maintenance troubleshoot a repeat snag. Usually quickly determined the cause by asking a few basic questions including where in thre world they were when the problem occurred. On two occasions he then called Transport Canada to tell them they needed to check frequency calibration of their VHF T/Rs in an area. Somehow maintenance troubleshooters weren’t that smart or aggressive, IIRC the group assigned to deal with repeat snags lacked avionics experience and didn’t talk to the avionics specialists at the other end of the hanger enough, sometimes were discouraged from talking to pilots.

  5. The views presented here are not representative of reality, or substantiated by fact, and are not shared by the majority outside this forum, nor by the FAA, nor by NTSB, nor by EASA, nor by Boeing customers, nor by Boeing shareholders, nor by Boeing financiers, all of whom have a vastly more informed and substantiated understanding.

    The idea that Boeing management is responsible for clear worker quality issues is absurd. Workers have a personal responsibility for their work. I’ve worked for plenty of non-ideal managers, it was never an excuse to do less than my best. I still always took pride in my work. I never did a sloppy or substandard job, nor was I ever asked to do so.

    This idea that it’s McD’s fault, the board’s fault, moving to Chicago’s fault, ODA’s fault, FAA’s fault, and the endless list of exculpatory reasoning that is put forward here, is nonsense. It’s a disavowing of the personal responsibility that makes the best workers stand out for reward. It only rewards the people who cause the problems, by excusing their behavior. As such, it actually inhibits quality.

    The idea that a line worker has been forced to leave FOD behind by management, is nuts. What possible purpose could that serve? The idea that errors in assembly and construction were forced by management, is equally nuts. I have seen bad workmanship justified because of outdated or poor quality tools, and sometimes inadequate training or skills, but never justified by the workers’ attitudes. Boeing has not failed to invest in facilities or tools, or to provide the resources to do things well. But that has not translated into the quality that is expected.

    If you argue that Boeing management can be improved, yes, that is always possible. There are areas for improvement, especially in establishing the conditions for people to excel, and then rooting out those that don’t and moving them off positions of responsibility. Also to empower those who do excel, to speak up without prospect of retribution, either from their superiors or co-workers who are being exposed.

    And to encourage safety as a culture, which requires workers to do their best, as a prerequisite and first principle (a cause and not an effect). And to improve communication, working with labor to improve relations and raise standards. Boeing jobs are well paid and have good benefits. That should translate into work quality. If it doesn’t, that is a labor problem to be resolved.

    But this idea that every problem is due to the corruption of management, is not rational, it defies all logic and the evidence we have available. It demonizes and vilifies management rather than presenting any kind of rational solution. Possibly this is done from the perspective of previous unsuccessful conflict with management. Possibly from clear dislike of Boeing in general (despite the protestations otherwise, there can be no mistaking this). This is easy and amusing and has no consequence, so it’s something people here have chosen to believe & pursue. But in the real world, it does have consequences.

    All these theories dovetail nicely with those pre-existing prejudices. But are substantially deviated from reality, as was also true of viewpoints on the MAX.

    • Should I infer from your post that you think management has nothing to do with the quality of the product ?

      Is it HR that simply hired the wrong people ?

      Or does the location of the Factory determine whether the workers in that area are interested in quality ?

      Or what else is it that means management have no control over quality ?

      Is the quality of work better when workers are not protected by a strong union ?

      In fact, if management doesn’t influence the quality of the product, by what measure should we judge management ?

      • Your inference is not what I said. Of course management can impact quality. But just as important is that a worker has not left behind FOD, or has not misassembled a critical part. That is on the worker.

        Union, location, HR, none of that matters to personal commitment to one’s own work. It’s all an excuse designed to shift poor work on to other causes. In this case Boeing management, since that is the usual target here.

        The role of management is to set up the worker to succeed. If management does that but the worker still doesn’t succeed, then you have to look at the worker. Management has various way to address that.

        Beyond this, management has a role in creating a culture of safe and good work. Boeing is trying to do this, but it requires a responsive workforce as well. If you clean up FOD on one line, but then it pops up on another, your workforce is not responsive to the message. Why exactly that is, I don’t know.

        Boeing has gone after these issues as they’ve arisen. I don’t know what methods they’ve chosen but they have made progress. My point is that the problems should not arise in the first place, and that process starts with the worker.

        If someone has evidence to show the role of management in this, I’d like to see that, as it would help to understand what went wrong.

        • It takes a long time to tune a Company to make customers, employees and owners happy. It requires interest and focus on details, correct enpowerment and listen and understand/acting on your staffs problems, refining workprocessess and all the time improve the tools used both physical and software to improve quality and productivity. Just look at Toyota or Scania trucks. It can quickly be ruined by promoting the wrong people that just focus on one of the stakeholders and take the others for granted. Boeing can send a clear message by taking Alan back and give him the 797 and a dedicated Ford parking lot.

          • Claes, I was with you until you got to Mullaly and the Ford parking lot. That’s just another over-simplistic shot at management.

            Conducting business is a symbiotic partnership between labor and management. Each needs the other to survive. Management has upheld its end, the jobs at Boeing are well-paid, have good benefits, the facilities are good, tooling is good. All the ingredients are present for the work to be done well.

            And the truth is, probably 90% of it is done well. Boeing’s own internal numbers show this to true. But the 10% that isn’t, is mystifyingly bad. More than small errors or minor oversights, in an industry were even those are not tolerated.

            That is the conundrum. I think it doesn’t happen without worker contribution. So that is the problem Boeing faces. I’m sure the conscientious workers at Boeing, who are far in the majority, aren’t happy about it either.

          • The Alan comment was more on the “working together” attitude and how Boeing worked when designing the 777 that started as a 767 derivative but evolved step by step to the very sucessful 777-300ER. (The Ford comment was a joke as the rumor said he had to cancel the Lexus he ordered when he got hired by Ford)

          • Rob:

            So, a worker can correct a Boeing muck up say on a computer that makes shims? Really?

            He did not program, it, he had nothign to do with it, he had no process check,. he just delivered the shims and installed them as they were supposed to be perfect.

            While you give lip service to management responsibility, you then denigrate workers who hive no power to change or do anything.

            Worse, you insists that HR and management, working conditions has nothing to do with worker integrity. If you want something to ignore everything and do its job regardless, then you get a robot.

            By your standard there are no mental health issues, its just people being lazy.

            I am considered pretty asocial, but I don’t believe in treating people like slime. Far from perfect, but not that.

          • This process is dozens of people. Here is an accelerated video of a 787 construction. It’s not some poor worker performing a menial task under the management slave masters. It’s well qualified people working under good conditions with good tools and good training, to do what they do.


            Also as with the MAX accidents, I never said management plays no role, only that responsibility is shared. You are the one with the one-sided vision.

        • Rob, I have many examples of low quality employees and bad managers.

          Plus padders everywhere, an MLA discovered that the first class ticket upgrades she and husband and kids received to go on vacation were a quiet perk from management of the charity he worked for, to compensate for low salaries.
          They are no longer married, the board of the organization was replaced by the main funder (the government of B.C.). The organization existed to provide housing fro very poor people.
          Similarly, a Greenpeace executive was commuting by airline from somewhere in continental Europe to his job location in England, never mind the train services in the area.

    • Yes, workers have to care to do their job.

      But leadership is valuable.

      I recommend the ‘Culture’ document at, pride is one attribute listed. Under the leadership of John Allison, now retired, the company expanded more and avoided the financial problems leading to the Recession of 2008. They were good bankers. With good values taught and reinforced and enforced they were able to delegate more to branches. Among their comments after the government-caused mortgage mess was to the effect that they did not offer certain things because they were not good for customers thus not good for the bank. OTOH, Washington Mutual bank was out of control, sometimes not even checking that a property existed before granting a mortgage – its shareholders lost.

  6. Since I know people here will claim I’m a Boeing sycophant, I’ll share an experience from my first job. My home town had one industry, a manufacturing plant owned by a nationwide brand. Had been there for 50 years, was the major employer and source of town revenue. I was a junior machinist servicing and rebuilding the line equipment.

    The plant had been developing a chronic issue with production rate & quality control, it was consistently below other plants owned by the company. This was a source of conflict between management and labor. Workers claimed they weren’t treated well and did the best they could, and it was a managerial issue. Management pointed to the other similarly managed plant performances.

    So the company decided to upgrade the line with process control sensors, computers, and programmable controllers (novel at the time, but a revelation and an education for me). Hoping to improve quality control, but resented by the workers. After a long shakedown period, the quality was still not at the expected level, and we hadn’t yet made rate. So the company brought in experts to analyze the line.

    Then they held a company-wide meeting (all 3 shifts). They had found evidence of either recklessness or intentional damage (repeated knife marks, dings, and other damage in the production hardware). A product defect introduced by the hardware could then cascade throughout the line, sometimes halting it. So the managers said, we can’t have this, it has to stop. You guys have an obligation to the company to do your jobs well.

    And then I witnessed something I will never forget, people got up and complained bitterly about the company, using pretty much all the same arguments used here about Boeing. Not one person said sorry, this is not us, we’re better than this, or offered a solution. It was all about, management had not respected their skills, had brought in computers rather than more workers, was cheap & greedy, didn’t care about the workplace, what did they expect, on and on. That view had become so deeply ingrained, it justified them fully, in their minds.

    Even as a dumbass kid, I knew this was wrong. People were paid well there, good benefits, that job helped put me through college. And in no case did it justify poor work or possible sabotage. But I think like myself at the time, most people wanted nothing to do with any of this, so we sat there stupidly and let the angry people speak for us, not realizing what the consequences would be.

    A few months later, the notice came down, plant was closing. Then the howling began. Can’t shut us down! Been here 50 years! Just spent millions to upgrade the line! Told you they were trying to screw us!

    But the company was perfectly capable of breaking down and shipping the entire upgraded line to another of their locations, even if it took a year to do so. Two years later, a huge empty building, which they sold to the town for $1 to help offset the loss of revenue. The town has never been able to attract another large employer.

    So when I hear this same reasoning for Boeing, that workers are not responsible for the poor quality of work or FOD, but management is, I’ve heard it before. It was venomous & destructive then and remains so now.

    Every worker has the obligation to do their job well, and to not do so has major consequences, as it has for Boeing. Whatever managerial or culture problems Boeing has, it doesn’t justify poor quality of work. Integrity is a responsibility of the workforce, just as much as it is for Boeing.

    • Rob:

      You are not a Boeing sycophant, you are a power sycophant. You present press releases as facts.

      Its the cowering workers syndrome.

      Workers are only as good as their structure and management.

      Workers control nothing beyond themselves.

      Structure and process is setup by management. Things fail because of bad management. I worked for an in a toxic culture for 30 years. Nothing I could do about it. No matter how hard I worked, they tore it down behind me.

      Equally, no matter how hard I worked, no mater what I did, no matter how much I contributed, I got no raises for it.

      In the end, I cut my production down by 75% and management did not notice. All I had to do was put out fires and they ignored the very position they created to make things work right. I am the engineer with all these duties you took away form me why?

      I acualy got yelled at for doing some work. You should turn that over to someone else and be doing your job. What job? You made me the engineer with all those duties and I am still a tech (well once in a while I got the dog whistle and came panting gout of my dog house to provide some data, that usually was ignored) – you want an engineer why?

      The US did not do what it did in WWII on production and logistics because of good workers.

      They did it because they knew how to manage and understood they were taking raw potential and had to provide both structure , learning. And they made 10s of thousand of aircraft (yes) tanks, guns etc and they worked! Getting there was hard, but the did it.

      Yes, some of the workers were never going to be worth diddly and nothing you can do with them.

      Workers do not have the money, they don’t set the budge, they don’t set the structure , they don’t set quality control.

      Other though wee and would quit and move onto a better job and they had to re-train.

      All your factory story tells me is tht the company that did it was in the slash and burn mode of operation.

      They knew they wold fail, they set it up to move on when it did.

      You might look up FoxCon. I saw the same thing in Puerto Rico. Nothing new.

      So, go ahead and blame it on the workers. Its a classic MO of really bad management.

      • Yes, ‘if the workers are cowering’ doesn’t exactly set a shared sense of purpose and team spirit.

        I have no clue of what Boeing is supposed to say in court, or reports. Cold logic won’t win over the hearts of the traveling public. IMO, Boeing would do well to apologize a little for their brand of management leading up to this.

        • Ted, I’d be cautious about accepting the “cowering workers” theory. There is not much evidence to support it. The jobs in question are well paid and have good benefits.

          There are mechanisms to report employer abuse, to Boeing, to FAA, and to NASA. People have used those methods successfully in the past. No one attempted to do so for FOD, or for the assembly problems.

          If this theory was true at anything like the scale that is claimed, surely we’d be hearing numerous complaints across the organization. But we don’t find that.

          I suspect this theory is more in line with the personal views of the author, who has described his numerous career conflicts with management throughout his posts here. Those align perfectly with the view that only management is to blame.

          You may have noticed that in the newly proposed FAA legislation, there’s a civil penalty for anyone who has knowledge of a safety issue or defect, that fails to report it. While that may or may not be justified or effective, it’s an acknowledgement that management is not solely responsible for quality or safety. Workers are as well.

      • TW, you persist in your either/or view of management vs workers, so must be management. That is consistent with your worldview, but not consistent with reality. You can post that view in this forum because it has no relation to the real world. But Boeing must deal with the reality, which is that they have some careless workers.

        Similarly you can post the view that MCAS was the sole cause of the MCAS accidents, because again it has no relation to reality. The FAA had to deal with the reality, so they applied the more correct and balanced view that there were multiple causes, and thus required extensive training.

        In the real world, problems have a balance of responsibility. It is clearly a personal responsibility of workers to not leave FOD behind, and not to assemble things incorrectly. So Boeing must address that problem.

        Although you don’t understand this, you are actually defending the lack of quality, and its source, by your comments, while you claim to do otherwise. I’ve seen and heard that before, and it’s just plain wrong. No experienced manager, and no conscientious worker, would ever accept that reasoning.

    • Rob, shareholders aren’t interested in those explanations. They want results, and they want the management to deliver them. When the managers applied for their positions, they didn’t say “I’m bad at managing people”. They said “I’m a super duper people-manager”. They get paid handsomely to keep things going smoothly, and that smooth includes the workforce. The management may fail, of course, but then it has to be called what it is – a failure. The fact that workers also have the moral responsibility to try to do their work well, in which I strongly agree with you, doesn’t take away from the responsibilities of the management.

      I also wouldn’t underestimate the importance of example. If the workers that build the planes notice that the management is cutting corners, as happened at Boeing, they will sooner or later do the same, especially if they are pushed by the same management to work too fast. Let’s also not forget that workers have faced negativity at Boeing when they have reported serious quality issues. That’s like saying to your workers “producing good quality is not appreciated here”.

      • I’m not saying those things don’t happen. But this is yet another attempt to say that management is solely responsible for quality, based on a few exceptional events. It’s just not the reality. Quality control is a partnership. It can’t explain leaving FOD behind.

        I don’t buy the argument that good workers will accept a corporate message that quality doesn’t matter. Besides the fact that message is extremely improbable, they may be powerless to change what others do, or it may be deemed unacceptable to point it out or complain. But still they are responsible for their own work. That never changes.

        If it’s found that Boeing forced workers to both create and accept flaws in assembly, then the FAA will fine them heavily, and they would deserve it. We’ll have to see the findings of the investigation, but as with all things, it’s most likely to be a combination of factors involving both management and labor.

    • Rob, workers should do their job well or get out of the leaderless mess.

      People let stress drag them down from the energy and focus needed to find better work. And in a one-company town opportunities are limited unless one changes career, which some people should work at doing.

      (Interesting story about the one-company town you worked in. Sounds like the owner-worker relationship was poisoned by the time a real effort was made to improve that plant, Boeing may have the same problem especially if unions merge.

      Unions are often a problem, protectionist and protective. I knew an aircraft maintenance supervisor who would be approached by workers asking him to get rid of a couple of workers as they were unsafe, he had to respond that he was unable to. (Unions may have a legal obligation to ensure an employee is treated fairly, as was explained in Alberta when a holocaust denying teacher was dismissed. But they make corrective action difficult. A very good supervisor remarked to me one day that sometimes what was needed for he and an employee to go to a quiet place and argue, the employee could yell if he wanted to, objective was to clear the air on why they disagreed. But he said the union ‘grievance’ process prevented that useful first step.

      Word does get around that a town is difficult to do business in and/or has workers with a poor attitude. The People’s State of California is hemorrhaging business and workers, I know a family that moved to Indiana because they did not like the environment for raising their children, the father’s job was portable. Portland OR and Seattle, and the states they are in, will be next because voters elected Marxism-founded politicians who work against protecting individuals.)

  7. “The plant had been developing a chronic issue with production rate & quality control, it was consistently below other plants owned by the company.”

    What, in your opinion, made the difference between your plant and the others owned by the company ?

    • The attitude of the workers, as I described. They had convinced themselves they were mistreated so didn’t owe anything to the company or the management.

      Like Boeing, this company was not perfect. Some of the criticisms of the workers may have been valid. I personally was glad to have my job there, I learned a lot and enjoyed the work. But many on the line were unhappy with the hours and the pressure to produce.

      This production line took awhile to start up and once running well, it was kept running 24/7 at all costs. Some were unhappy with those requirements. For maintenance, it meant some slack periods balanced with intensive work and overtime when the line was down. For line workers, it sometimes meant working holidays and extra shifts. But it was all hourly with over-time, double-time, and holiday pay. You could earn a lot in a small town with low cost of living. It was enough to pay for my college education, without students loans.

      This was an exceptional case, I’ve never witnessed anything like that since, but I have recognized elements of it, where employee lapses in quality are justified by criticism of the company and management. It’s just a bad road to go down. If the employees turn in an excellent work product, they’re in a much better position to negotiate for themselves. Then if the company doesn’t reciprocate, the workers occupy the high ground.

      • Voting with feet:

        One aerospace supplier was losing very experienced employees.

        Eventually the GM, VP Engineering, and head of HR were fired – company owners figured out that the trio had been lying to them about why so many experienced employees had left.

        I was one, I gave up a big opportunity because I needed stability to achieve that opportunity.

  8. Has anything been heard from Transport Canada in the month since publicity that its approval of RTS was imminent, but relatives of crash victims including Ralph Nader were lobbying government to require far more review?

    I haven’t found anything recent in searching, albeit the gummint of Canada does not do web sites well.

    • “Has anything been heard from Transport Canada in the month since publicity that its approval of RTS was imminent..”

      ‘Any day now’ software people like to say (but with the uncertainty of ‘anonymous sources):
      anticipating approval of design changes but with additional requirements compared to FAA – training mentioned as suggested a month ago, AD won’t be issued right away.

      GOL of Brazil has now flown the revised MAX commercially.

      More info:
      Silencing stick shaker is a concern.
      TC admits it rushed acceptance despite having a question to Boeing, one that may related to MCAS, “..the agency felt it had been misled…”.
      The article quotes TC engineers and PR people. may be from Transport Canada, appears to be via some kind of PR operation.

      • TC inches along, now accepting FAA-mandated modifications but hinting at more modifications, not just training and such. AD expected in January 2021. (Apparently EASA won’t issue an AD until then either, I presume the airplane cannot fly revenue service in the EU+UK until then.)

        (Why can’t PR people write clearly? One problem is silos – they don’t check back with engineers and financial analysts – BC Hydro botched twice a few years ago, to its detriment, giving ammunition to tin hat types and others.)

        Perhaps some ‘design changes’ are adding colours to CBs are what is hinted at. I _guess_ there may be a phased approach – training and manuals first, perhaps with adding colouring as well, then later modification to facilitate silencing the [exaggerated IMO] ‘intrusive’ stick shaker concern.

        And a nit is saying that changes are to enable ‘pilot in command’ to disable stall warning is very questionable at best. That should be at direction of/agreement by the PIC, but physical action at the CB panel should only be done by whoever is PNF (or a third pilot in the flight deck).

        • Terminology:
          ‘Validate’ is the term for reviewing and accepting the certification of another agency.

          In this case it is ‘no, not good enough’ but TC are keeping additional modifications separate, plus adding training.

          (The Approved Flight Manual is part of certification, other manuals are usually reviewed but not approved. The Operations Manual has in the past contained system information.
          Training handled separately, hopefully in close coordination with other silos in the organization, something TC, FAA, and Boeing didn’t do well with the MAX.)

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