Pontifications: How Airbus maneuvered Boeing into launching a re-engined 737

Sept. 13, 2021, © Leeham News: Tomorrow night the US PBS network broadcasts an hour-long special examining the Boeing 737 MAX crisis.

Here is a preview. Afterward, the show will stream on PBS’s Frontline website.

I sat for a long interview for the investigation, which was a combination of reporting by Frontline and the New York Times. I haven’t previewed the show, so I don’t know how much of my interview—if any—survived the editing. But one area of the focus of the interview was how Boeing came to develop the MAX.

Air Wars is available here.

Following the crashes of Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines five-month-old MAXes, one of the allegations that emerged was that Boeing rushed the development of the airplane.

It’s true that Boeing decided within two days to launch the MAX program. It’s not true that development was “rushed,” in the most common use of the word. Boeing developed what became known as the MAX in parallel with an entirely new airplane concept that would have replaced the 737 Next Generation airplane. It’s what Boeing does: study two or more concepts as engineers and the executives decide what the next airplane will be.

The basic design was on the shelf, ready to go when Airbus forced Boeing’s hand on the cusp of a huge order from American Airlines for the A320ceo/neo family. When Boeing learned of this, the decision was rushed, within two days, to launch the re-engined 737 rather than a new airplane design.

In my new book, published Sept. 1, Air Wars, The Global Combat Between Airbus and Boeing, I outline just how the MAX came to be and how Airbus maneuvered Boeing into launching the program. The book is available globally on Amazon here.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 1, one of three chapters about the neo-MAX development.

The Multi-Billion Dollar Gamble

By 2010, Airbus officials had some hard decisions to make. And some in the executive ranks were “terrified” to make it.

The A320 single-aisle family was selling well, with more than 7,000 program orders. The heart and soul of the Airbus, the family consisted of the 125-passenger A319, the 160-passenger A320, and the 190-passenger A321. The A319, once a strong selling airplane, held its own compared with Boeing’s 737-700. But sales of both aircraft had fallen off in favor of the larger A320 and Boeing’s 737-800. The -800 carried 12 more passengers than the A320, and its larger wing gave it more range. Boeing held a sales advantage over these two airplanes.

Airbus’s A321 had a clear market preference over Boeing’s 737-900ER. The A321 carried more passengers. The -900ER (for Extended Range) could fly farther. But airlines, especially those catering to leisure markets, preferred capacity to range. The A321 outsold the -900ER by about 3:1.

Airlines in 2010 were still recovering from the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. Losses were enormous, and some airlines went out of business. Others sought ways to cut costs, and one of the highest costs was fuel. Boeing was flirting with offering a new airplane to replace the 737. It also studied re-engining the 737. Airbus favored a lower-cost solution: re-engining the A320 with the GTF and an engine offered by P&W rival CFM International, called the LEAP.

However, if Airbus went this route, investing up to $2 billion in the process (with about half picked up by the engine manufacturers), would Boeing offer the new airplane? If so, Airbus would be forced to follow. Having committed to the re-engined A320, all this money would be down the drain. Airbus would have to develop a new airplane, costing at least $10 billion.

Skepticism over re-engining the A320

John Leahy, the chief operating officer-customers for Airbus, initially scoffed at re-engining the A320, at least publicly, but he had come around. Supported by Barry Eccleston, the president of Airbus North America, strategist Christian Scherer, his top lieutenant Kiran Rao and others on the Toulouse staff, Leahy now advocated the re-engining route. The family would have more range and substantially lower fuel consumption than the A320 or 737NG. New engines also meant lower fuel emissions. Activists in Europe were gaining ground in targeting commercial aviation as a polluter. Airbus was ramping up its “green aviation” efforts.

Tom Enders, the CEO of Airbus, was skeptical. What if Airbus committed to the re-engining and Boeing went with a new airplane? What if Airbus got it wrong? It was a multi-billion-dollar gamble.

Unbeknown to Airbus, officials worried about the wrong airplane. Airbus believed Boeing was going to offer a new single-aisle design. To be sure, Boeing had shown concepts of such a plane to customers. And no firm decision had been made internally by Boeing what direction it would go. But some within Boeing were pushing hard for a new twin-aisle concept called the New Light Twin. Those within Boeing at the time said years later this was the favored solution.

This twin-aisle airplane concept carried 180 to 225 passengers with a range of up to 4,500nm. It was a composite with a novel elliptical or ovoid shape. This airplane would rely on ground-breaking production techniques, which in many respects was key to the entire business plan. It would have single-aisle economics. What’s more, a key benefit to the airlines was that twin aisles allowed a rapid turnaround at airport gates. It was a family for three airplanes.

Forcing Boeing’s hand

Leahy was convinced Airbus could force Boeing’s hand into forgoing the new airplane and instead decide to re-engine the 737. Leahy and his strategic team believed a re-engined 737 would be inferior to the re-engined A320. They believed an “A320RE” (re-engine) would at long last give Airbus a clear advantage over the 737NG and a 737RE. For a lot of technical reasons, they were convinced a 737RE could not be competitive with the A320RE.

Leahy now had to persuade Enders and the executive board. He said that what was needed was a significant order from a key Boeing customer to shock Boeing into making this move. The dynamics in the U.S. at the time were stacked against Airbus, however. American, Delta, Southwest, and United were all key Boeing customers. Each had large 737 fleets. American had signed a deal in the mid-1990s to buy exclusively from Boeing.

Southwest owed its very existence to Boeing. When Southwest was a three- or four-airplane operator facing financial calamity, Boeing helped the airline stay in business. The odds of Southwest buying from Airbus were virtually nil.

Delta and United flew A320s. But Delta, like American, had been an exclusive Boeing customer. Its Airbuses came into the fleet after it acquired Northwest Airlines. With the merger came Northwest’s management, who eventually took over at Delta. They liked Airbus but did not like becoming launch customers of new technology engines. It was a view that in retrospect would prove prescient.

United’s A320 fleet was ordered by a long-gone management team. Although the merged airline was branded United, in reality, Continental was the surviving carrier. The remaining executive team mostly came from Continental. It was the third U.S. airline to become an exclusive Boeing customer by contract. The Continental management, now in control at United, wasn’t receptive to Airbus.

Targeting American

American’s predicament presented just the kind of opportunity that Leahy relished. By 2011, American was in a dire financial condition. It also had one of the oldest fleets of any carrier. It had some 300 aging Boeing MD-80s, purchased initially from the McDonnell Douglas, beginning in the 1980s when MDC was an independent yet struggling commercial airplane manufacturer.

Eccleston was friends with American’s chairman, Gerard Arpey.

“I had known and done deals with Gerard Arpey and some other American folks in my other careers in the past, mostly at Rolls-Royce,” Eccleston recalled. “I got to know Gerard really well, and I was quite close to him and his wife personally. I used my relationship with Gerard and with Tom [Horton] to at least initiate a debate. That debate mostly involved having nice dinners at the Mansion at Turtle Creek [a posh Dallas restaurant and hotel] once every quarter or so to sort of stay in touch.”

In early 2011, Eccleston’s conversations with American heated up.

Eccleston recalled it became apparent that American was nervous about Boeing getting to know too much about this discussion. Talks progressed to the point of nearing a deal by the spring. It was time for Leahy to become personally involved. A confidential lunch meeting was arranged in Ft. Lauderdale in March with Horton and a few key staff members. Eccleston agreed with a restaurant to open privately for lunch to be sure it remained confidential.  By the end of the meal, Leahy concluded American was serious, and a deal could possibly be done. It was a blockbuster, too: more than 400 ceos and neos.

A deal could be done

“It became apparent to us that there was a deal to be done and that Tom Horton (American’s president) would be able to convince Gerard to set aside his concerns about working with Airbus. This was going to be a great airplane, and it was going to be a great deal. It would transform American’s future. They would show a lot of confidence in the future by placing an order of around 200 airplanes.” An equal number of options would be part of the package, but then a big wrinkle appeared.

“Suddenly, one day, American called up,” according to Eccleston. “Horton says, ‘So, how would Airbus feel if we ordered Airbus and Boeing, and we took both?’”

“Why would American say that?” Eccleston asked in wonderment.

“You remember when we had this agreement back in 1997 about exclusivity [with Boeing], and we were one of the three airlines?” Horton said.

“Yes, I’m aware of that, but that went away when Boeing bought Douglas and the European Union (EU) said that’s dead. So, as far as I’m concerned, Tom, you don’t have to worry about that.”

Horton replied that there were some people in the room at the time with Crandall and Ron Woodard when the exclusive agreement was signed. “They feel it’s kind of a commitment to Boeing, and they’re nervous about walking away from that.”

Boeing would be upset

It was clear that American was very concerned that if they just bought an Airbus, then Boeing was going to get really, really upset, Eccleston recalled. Horton pressed Eccleston about the Airbus reaction if American also ordered the 737.

Eccleston’s assessment that Boeing would be “really, really upset” was on the mark. “The next thing was, and this is really weird, I had a call from Horton saying, ‘Boeing said if American bought Airbus with or without Boeing, Boeing was going to sue American for breaching the exclusivity.’ We would like to ask Airbus if you would indemnify us against that,’ Horton said.”

Airbus quickly rejected the suggestion.

The next thing Eccleston heard was that Boeing showed up in American’s headquarters in Dallas with half a dozen people, most of whom were lawyers, to prove how serious Boeing was about suing them. “It really upset American. It really upset Tom. It kind of upset Gerard, who is a very mild-mannered man and doesn’t upset easily,” Eccleston recalled.

In the end, the deal included Airbus and Boeing. But for the latter, it was a near thing. Had it not been for Arpey’s call, Boeing would have missed out on a huge American order.

Asleep at the Switch

Why did American open the door to Airbus with the exclusive Boeing deal in place? “Boeing was asleep at the switch,” recalled an American official, still with the carrier in 2020. American had been asking Boeing for an upgrade to the 737NG in response to the A320neo. Boeing didn’t believe American would leave the exclusive agreement. Thus, the opportunity for Airbus. “It caught a lot of people by surprise. Boeing was pressed into doing something,” an American insider said years later. “Some didn’t want to have their hands tied to the 737RE.”

American’s precarious financial condition was also a factor for Boeing, recalled a Boeing insider. Airbus and Boeing agreed to backstop the financing of 230 airplanes. “There was a lot of debate if we should even be doing the deal because of their financial condition,” the Boeing insider said. Indeed, on November 29, just five months after the record-setting $40 billion order, American filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The filing eliminated the financing commitment if the purchase contracts were later “assumed,” a legal term that means the orders survived the bankruptcy. American assumed both contracts.

American fleet planners found the neo economics compelling, especially compared with the aging MD-80 fleet, said the American insider. But Boeing, he relayed, was confident American would not order from Airbus, and it didn’t up its game, offering only more 737-800s and a batch of -900ERs. American simply had no interest in the latter airplane.

Rushing to launch

Arpey was the bearer of bad news in 1994 when he called Leahy about the looming exclusive Boeing deal. Now he called Boeing to tell them Leahy was at American’s headquarters ready to sign a deal for 400 aircraft, a former Boeing employee recalled seven years later. If Boeing wanted a piece of this deal, Arpey said, Boeing needed to get on an airplane and get down to the airline’s Ft. Worth, Texas, headquarters, said the former employee.

This was a Tuesday. Boeing salesmen spent all day and night Wednesday coming up with a re-engined 737 program, terms, and conditions. Jim McNerney, then the CEO of The Boeing Co., stepped in and decided to launch the re-engined 737, killing Albaugh’s dream, and that of many others, of an entirely new airplane.

On July 20, 2011, American announced the dual orders at the newly opened Admirals Club at the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport. Arpey, Horton, Airbus CEO Enders, and BCA’s CEO Albaugh were present. Leahy, Eccleston, and a host of others from Airbus, Boeing, and American were there as well.

Airbus succeeded in forcing Boeing to re-engine the 737. Leahy had his deal from a major Boeing customer. The future for the A320neo was now secure. The prospect of Boeing launching a new airplane was dead, for now. For Boeing, the decision to drop a new airplane in favor of the 737RE would prove to be a fateful one because the 737RE would eventually become known as the 737 MAX

 

 

 

177 Comments on “Pontifications: How Airbus maneuvered Boeing into launching a re-engined 737

  1. Amazing story, but you got the date of the AMR announcement wrong. It was July 20, 2011, not the 11th.

  2. If the development of the MAX wasn’t rushed — as set forth in the article above — then one can logically conclude that engineers had plenty of time to develop it properly. That, in turn, begs the question how those engineers could possibly have thought that MCAS was a properly designed subsystem — seeing as its design/implementation violates multiple tenets of basic control theory. If time duress is out of the equation, then one is instead forced to seek an explanation in factors such as incompetence, indifference, corruption, arrogance and/or greed.
    One wonders if the plaintiffs in any of the multiple MAX lawsuits against Boeing will pick up on such an argument.

    • @Bryce

      Needless to say – good point

      The Max was in some sense rushed, in the half assed sense – BA could not possibly, as stupid as they are, have deliberately and un hurriedly designed such an accurate facsimile of badly designed done in a rush that’s our excuse

      Greed et al as you list took over, and trashed whatever better might first have been designed

      But surely this, and the whole process, is documented – how much longer will BA be able to plead IP secret défense?

      In which case BA is double damned

      • Gerrard — “But surely this, and the whole process, is documented – how much longer will BA be able to plead IP secret défense?”
        But surely this, also: were there not (are there not still?), internal whistle-blowers who know where all the skeletons are; who made what decision, when, and at whose direction and under what pressure? I think the world should be told.

        • @Pundit

          Good point

          I have no idea why someone has not come out to denounce, documents in hand

          Close up knowledge of BA savage lawyers?

        • I can only imagine that the file of sealed evidence is quite thick with documents and information that we’ll never see.

    • MCAS was poorly thought out. But the problem also stems around Boeing trying to keep the same pilot rating for SW and AA. So concerns weren’t just about time and money – they were also interested in keeping training to the bare minimum. Manuals? Simulators.,…

      • Sam1:

        Spot on.

        It does conflict with some opinions on the subject but that is the reality.

        I would add Management greed involved to shift money to dividend and stock buy backs regardless of what it did to Boeing.

      • If I remember correctly, big if, there was a clause in the contract that said Boeing had to pay 1 million per ac to AA if the max required type training.
        That adds up.
        No Boeing manager would like to be the one to be the one to cause that payout to become reality.
        caveat: Not sure about AA, could have been another big customer.
        Alzheimer light.

    • As of 2019, the two flight control computers of Boeing 737 never cross-checked each other’s operations; i.e., each was a single non-redundant channel. This lack of robustness existed since the early implementation and persisted for decades. This isn’t Boeing it’s the flawed philosophy of aviation from DC4 era where there are separate instruments on left and right cockpit with separate power supplies.

      This required pilots to resolve errors.

      The two flight control computers are Rockwell Collins FCC 730. They are the same as the ones in the NG as the MAX.

      Below is a list of software upgrades. 12.1.2 is the post Ethiopian crash fix.

      http://www.b737.org.uk/glareshield.htm#fcc

      Collins EDFCS FCC, P/N 822-1604-101 (-101 / -151 FCC or “P1.0” software) – Feb 2003
      Collins FCC software P/N 2270-COL-AC1-03 (known as -120 or “P2.0” software) – Jan 2004
      Collins FCC software P/N 2277-COL-AC1-04 (known as -130 or “P3.0” software) – Feb 2005
      Collins FCC software P/N 2276-COL-AC1-05 (known as -140 or “P4.0” software) – Aug 2006
      Collins FCC software P/N 2275-COL-AC1-06 (known as “-150” or “P5.0” software) – Jun 2007
      Collins FCC software P/N 2275-COL-AC1-07 (known as “P6.0” software) – 2012
      Collins FCC software P/N 227B-COL-AC1-08 (known as “P7.0” software) – Aug 2012
      Collins FCC software P/N 227A-COL-AC1-09 (known as “P8.0” software) – Feb 2015
      Collins FCC software P/N 2272-COL-AC1-10 (known as “P9.0” software) – Oct 2016
      Collins FCC software P10.0” software – Jan 2017 – This was the basic software for the MAX-8.
      Collins FCC software P11.0” software – This was updated software to include the new MAX-9.
      Collins FCC software P/N 2270-COL-AC2-22 (known as “P11.1” software) MAX and NG – Jan 2019
      This has improvements and bugfixes to a total of 17 functions, many of which will give new maintenance messages. I have listed the more interesting ones here:

      Improved IAN backcourse function.
      Improved LNAV to LOC mode transition.
      LNAV to remain armed on the ground while switching from ground power to airplane power.
      Improved A/P pitch response while capturing the glideslope from below during a climb.
      Prevent the A/P from deviating away and descending below the glide path during an aggressive glideslope capture from above.
      Reduced nuisance autothrottle disconnects during takeoff.
      Minimum speed protection function changed to allow the A/P to revert to Min Speed protection at a higher airspeed.
      If the A/P detects active stick shaker indication from either SMYD for more than 5 minutes, the A/P will disconnect automatically and will provide new maintenance messages.
      MCAS changed to illuminate “Mach Trim” and “Speed Trim” when flap position failures are detected.
      The emergency descent level change sub-mode tweaked to improve the pitch response of the airplane whenever the MCP selected speed is decreased while performing an emergency descent.
      P12.0 software – This was updated software to include the new MAX -7 and -8200 models.
      P12.1.2 software – November 2020 contains the MCAS fix for the MAX following the Ethiopian and Lion Air accidents.
      A full list of all FCC updates detailing their features is available in the book.

      • Just wanted to add that the two FCC 730 were able to communicate to each other. In fact Airlines which purchased the optional angle of attack display (like American Airlines) received a sensor disagree alert on their artificial horizons where the AOA was displayed. Due to a specification flaw the sensor disagree alert was removed from aircraft that were not been ordered with the angle of attack display.

        Had at least sensor disagree alert been displayed it might have given the crews a chance however there were no instructions on the flight manual because MCAS wasn’t mentioned so the crew still had to take guesses and work out the problem The FAA advised that ‘memory items’
        should involved decision branches for the crew, just linear actions. Boeing regards runaway stabilisers as a memory item the FAA as a checklist item.

        Given that the ‘sensor disagree’ alert was already created it would have been easy for the software to inhibit MCAS’s action by either allowing only cycle or just moderating it.

        I wonder of the engineer tasked with this job understood the problems yet implemented it anyway because that was the specification.

        I also wonder whether sensor disagree alert was removed because it would force a update of the flight manual.

        Either way sensor disagree alert with inhibit on MCAS would have been simple.

        It wasn’t really until due to Bernard Ziegler that the A320 (and A310 partially) that civil aviation went in a sane direction by
        a/ triplicating the critical sensors
        b/ deconflicting the sensors by using a 2 out of 3 rule
        c/ using standby and backup actuators.
        No more jack screws dethreading, no controls reversing, no pilots trying to figure our which sensors is faulty,.

        Common mode failures still caught out Airbus when the three pitot-static sensors all froze simulenously. Synthetic air data is the answer for that. Hopefully airbus catch up with the $200 drones .

        • William:

          To look back over 70 years and say a controls approach was a flaw is a flaw unto itself.

          Dual system was what could be managed. There clearly was no room for a third Yoke in a cockpit or how many instruments can you stuff in? They also had flight engineer.

          Equally keep in mind, the early pilots were WWII that were used to emergencies. Failures were a way of life.

          The 737 computers do not have to check in with each other. You still flip sides as to who has control. I have yet to read any crashes or incident due to inability to deal with computer failure on 737.

          Airbus has to put 7 computers into their aircraft to get their 3 redundancy. Wild variation on a RAID network. Most people don’t think about two people voting the third person off the Island.

          Then you don’t have 3 anymore. Let two out of two fight it out?

          Nope, put in more computers so there are backups to the voted out one. Somehow number 7 becomes a backup to the backup 3.

          And the point about the AOA disagree?

          First you have to know about MCAS to understand the implication (and have the MCAS survival checklist)

          And you assume a cockpit gone nuts that they even see a light on the dash show up with alarms and stick shakers galore.

          And the two out of three (Sensors) means vote out the bad one and which one is right if the two disagree?

          We saw that when A320 AOA all froze up and we saw it when the Thales probes froze up.

          Not to mention an anomaly that if you have no forward speed showing your stall alarm quits (really?)

          The 737 safety record speaks for itself until Boeing management blew it with MCAS 1.0.

          It had nothign to do with control philosophy and all to do with costs containment and guarantee for commonality.

          No disagreement that any new aircraft is going to meet modern standards by force of regulation.

          But the E175 that went nuts in Spain is an example that the software failed to alert the crew they had a problem, and the crew did not look at the feedback for what the controls were doing.

          Pilots continue to crash A320 and 737 at the same rate due to their failures regardless of what system they have.

          Until you replace the pilot, your next real step in improvement is not there.

      • Good point about separate avionics for each pilot, though B737 autopilot was initially single channel (SP77 vs later SP177).

        Connecting redundant systems gets tricky, have to firewall cross-connections, it is done.

        Even voting can be done inadequately, the case in Australia of a using system deciding that a bad signal was actually the most correct for example. (Poor algorithm design, triplex avionics did not prevent.)

        Indeed, while some makers of FBW and such had three different suppliers write software for each of three systems, some experts point out that is not foolproof as designers may have read same industry papers or worked for another supplier at one time.

  3. @Scott Hamilton

    Thanks for giving those very far away the chance to read some of your book – it is, needless to say, very interesting, the kind of history which is truly informative and revealing

    If I may comment -briefly – on another post subscriber only – China industrial development has been been very rapid, aggressive in the positive sense of the, witness HSR

    • I share your view regarding the theme of the article below this one: as good as the LNA team (no doubt) is when it comes to modeling industrial ramp-ups, I suspect that they’ll be dumbstruck by the pace at which COMAC scales up production.
      We’ll know soon enough.

    • I work with Chinese companies and engineers. They have a number of cultural and quality issues to overcome arising out of its ‘workers paradise” of communism in the state run and ex state run industries. They are doing this fast I have to admit but its still there. Employees will loose bonuses if they don’t achieve monthly targets. They may even be fined. Hence the system compels them to push work through, cut, copy, paste not question. It also compels them to hide quality issues. One is reluctant to highlights and issue because you may hurt a fellow worker and that might even come back on you. The problem exists everywhere to a degree but worse because of the system.

      One of the great things that W Edwards Deming always emphasised was of the humanity involved and necessary in quality control.

      Aviation is really the final frontier for them to conquer and they are close.

  4. Things like MCAS happen in development programs. The issues with the pitch authority were probably not foreseen. The problem with the MAX was that very little time and resources were available, and that Boeing had committed on pilot training for transitions. So, MCAS was only superficially a technical problem.

    • “MCAS was only superficially a technical problem”…

      MCAS was a safety-critical sub-system, AND YET:
      – Was designed with a single point of failure;
      – Was given infinite overriding authority, despite the fact that said single point of failure relied on a type of sensor that was known to be unreliable.

      These are very much technical issues…and they’re not superficial either. That being said, an undergraduate engineering student with a basic grasp of control theory would have realized that the design was sub-standard.

      Furthermore, how can you assert that “the problem with the MAX was that very little time and resources were available” when the whole thrust of the article above is that the MAX was developed at a normal/leisurely pace, and was just sitting on the shelf waiting for a go / no-go decision?

      • Yes, thanks for restating those key points. How did such an easy error make it through the process? That points to a lack of organizational engineering discipline, a lack of a robust critical review by people who understand what they are looking at. Judging by Theranos, it is a culture which wants to believe anything magically works and any study is true. How much red wine or coffee should I drink? There is science that tells me a lot or none at all. It is no wonder that MCAS was believed infallible, even after the first crash. Present something technical or scientific and people will take it hook, line, and sinker, even if it is completely wrong.
        “Skepticism, not cleanliness is next to Godliness” -Gerry Spence.
        “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” -Richard Feynman
        “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.” -Richard Feynman

        And I would say that those quotes apply just as much to medical science as Boeing. Anyone whose stock n trade is the integrity of numbers should not fudge numbers or manipulate data to produce a desired result.

        • @Schorsch @Bryce and @Ted are on the right track. In Boeing’s cost-cutting business culture, management’s message has been “What is the least we need to do?” Too often, managers ask engineers, “Why are we doing this? Do we need to do this?”

          This is very different from the strong problem-solving culture on pre-787 programs.

          I would add one to @Ted’s citations. “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” – George Patton.

          MCAS is a textbook case of group think.

          Boeing’s current weak problem-solving culture makes it very difficult for them to make bold decisions or manage risk. That also worked to Airbus’ strategic advantage. If Boeing had chosen the more challenging clean-sheet design, things might have gone even worse.

          • The key is really Boeing management forcing a decision on the commonality area.

            South West gets a huge discount if they have to do training, ergo, we won’t do anything to make more training required.

            The rush was not the issue, it was and continues to be Boeing management failures in regards to new aircraft (because they were gutting the future for Dividend and Stock buy backs)

            The NG should have been the last 737 with a planned replacement.

            So when MCAS came up, the decision to cherry pick the data as well as hide its existence was a natural consequence.

            If it was due to rushing, then the rest of the MAX would have had major failures as well and none have occurred.

          • While group think can be a factor, it does not apply in this case.

            Or to put it another way, with the culture corrupted along with the FAA worse than ever, it was a natural evolution to cover up MCAS and minimize it into the background.

            The people involved knew they were slathering over the problems, their goal was not to be the one who told the king he had no cloths.

            I have both been threatened with job loss and attempted to be intimidated in going along. SOP these days. Ugly part of working now.

            Group fear, cowering workers, whatever.

      • Bryce — “…how can you assert that “the problem with the MAX was that very little time and resources were available” when the whole thrust of the article above is that the MAX was developed at a normal/leisurely pace, and was just sitting on the shelf waiting for a go / no-go decision?”
        Quite.

        • If the MAX were on the shelf, then why was it needed to keep groups separate and let not engage them. Why wasn’t everybody updated. Why was undue pressure used on a daily basis.

          Boeing might have had a MAX firm configuration IDEA on the shelf. But fantasy monkey believe won’t guarantee performance, see the 787 quality garbage.

          Of course the MAX was rushed. Some systems were not developed because there was no time.

          And the FAA is still too lazy to check all self-certs.

          [Edited]

          But it is interesting when others post a different view.

          I can understand that it’s hurting when the beloved Boeing is still falling deeper into the dirt. Happens when there are retard goals.

          I think if you are working for Boeing, you need to be [Edited]

    • it was not rushed.

      It was iron fist certification choked
      Over the top promises on no retraining needed did not help either.
      design constraints that left no positive area solution space.
      What I don’t get is the added insult of “design execution by a green intern”. ( But that was to allow ” we didn’t err intentionally” afterwards ? )

    • Yeah Scorsh, things happen.

      But no one with authority and experience in Boeing was looking a the big picture, and Boeing did not follow its process – did not update safety analysis as system design morphed from simple to aggressive.

      The question customers want answers to is ‘How to prevent bad things happening?’

      Many people in Boeing work hard on that but some did not. There is deadwood in the company. SPEA needs to collaborate with the company on that. McNerney tried to improve ethics, after the USAF procurement collusion fiasco, and told engineering managers that how they treated people would be key to their promotion.

      • keith said ” McNerney tried to improve ethics, after the USAF procurement collusion fiasco, . . .”

        Well it did take about 2 years to retire the head of internal governance B Soodik .
        ” CHICAGO, April 17, 2007 — Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney today named Wanda
        Denson-Low to replace Bonnie Soodik as head of the company’s Office of Internal Governance, effective
        May 4. Soodik will retire June 30 after a 30-year Boeing career.

        Seems improperly blocking communications regarding valid complaints about management came to light and his response was nearly immediate.

        • Thanks.

          Sometimes the chickens come home to roost, and the offender is made an example of.

          May take repeated examples. In one company managers were publicly fired because a long-planned progress meeting was cancelled only a few weeks before the date. But a year later a manager asked me to lie to a customer – slippery Al had not heard the message.

    • But gosh, Airbus does not have a short wide body …. a market gap. :-o)

      (The A310 has a shortened A300 fuselage but smaller wing, rushed into production to compete with the B767.)

      As for Boeing helping Southwest in its very early days, keep in mind Boeing was so hungry to sell B737s in the early-mid 1970s that it considered ceasing production forever. Very happy to get orders of one or a few airplanes, some from charter airlines, some from regionals like SWA, PWA, Frontier, Aloha, ….. (Launched with big orders from a couple of majors but small operators carried production through that lean period. US military is given some credit by Wikipedia.)

      • Keith Sketchley — ” Boeing was so hungry to sell B737s in the early-mid 1970s that it considered ceasing production forever…? Do you have a source for that, preferably with chapter and verse, please? I’d like to know more. Thanks.

        • @Pundit: More accurately, Boeing almost sold the program to Japan because sales were so poor.

          • Scott, https://simpleflying.com/boeing-737/ says considered cancelling, though a secondary type of source. Cancelling would logically be an option to be considered, along with any others.

            Your Japanese notion is supported in https://www.heraldnet.com/news/almost-cancelled-the-boeing-737-has-endured-49-years/, I thought Pete Morton was later than that date in that role.

            Mention of testing on Hope BC airport, I was also there for the testing, I thought it was later.
            Dug rut anecdote bobbles timing and purpose, the 737 had already been operating on gravel runways for years, mission was to get data on grass, but that runway was a bit soft. Airplane did several landings and takeoffs but in one the gravel suppression ski on the nose gear dug in. Did give Boeing performance data at lower end of usable range of grass.)

            “One of his first jobs as marketing manager was to lead a task force studying whether to keep, close or sell the airplane program. ”
            IOW, close was an option, according to Pete.

            “It was a volatile time. The company was in financial straits, and everything was on the table,” he said.

          • Adding more ijnfo here because your fine WorsePress software does not always provide a Reply link:

            Information on the Internet says that testing on the grass runway near Hope BC was in August or September of 1972 (contradicting sources). Runway would be quite dry then, at least on surface.

            Video of B737 testing on grass runway at Hope B.C.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOpBXmqa0eY

            You can see the gravel deflection ski behind the nose gear in the takeoff views, it only sticks a bit ahead.
            Notice significant vertical movement of nose gear strut, I recall 737 doing that on runways with some waviness.

            Date was in September1972.

            https://www.rbogash.com/BC/Hope.html (beware his title is hype, his homebuilt airplane has 737 in registrration number – and his photos don’;t load).
            The airport has a local through road beside it, I don’t remember if it is visible from the freeway.

            Description of kit for unpaved runways: https://simpleflying.com/boeing-737-gravel/, hard to see the nacelle booms. Nose gear ‘ski’ was flat, fairing built up on fuselage for flat ski to retracted flush into, often can see the fairing in photos.

          • Keith Sketchley – thanks for adding to my education; since you enquire, in 1972 I was a callow youth in the British Aircraft Corporation design organisation working in the structures drawing-office at Brooklands (Weybridge) on (mainly) VC10, Concorde, and One-Eleven ,leavened by occasional projects work on a Reduced/Short Take-off and Landing (R/Stol) airliner design (that preceded Europlane – anyone remember that?) and also had a stint on the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (Tornado). I had initially cut my teeth as an apprentice and later shop-floor worker on the VC10, Concorde, and One-Eleven production lines and in 1973 went off to work for an international aviation magazine for 20 years before becoming self-employed working for multiple other such outlets (you did ask…). But where were you in 1972?

          • Well, Pundit – nice experience but you were nowhere near operators of the B737 and its manufacturer

            Whereas I was.

            I am not going to debate you, I have provided evidence in other posts, as has Scott Hamilton, your question was poor.

      • “Rushed”
        you have that reversed.

        A310 was offered ahead of the 767. April vs. June 1978
        A310 got a much improved fully super critical wing
        767 seems to have been a bit hamstrung in that respect.

        There is an interesting comparison of the types from Flight Global of that time ( EIS afair ).

    • Toulouse — do you mean: ‘is it a true story or just a story’? A real story might remain a story, even if just that. It is to be hoped that, in time, we will get an acceptable (or likely) approximation of the truth (not a story), whether or not justice is served.

        • @Toulouse: (Who is really from Limoges, in central France): What’s your basis for saying “it’s just a story?” My sources were Airbus and American. What’re yours?

      • Regarding ‘Toulouse’ use of ‘story’, he should clarify as use of words in language can vary.

        Reasons include:
        – colloquial use
        – basic language does not map a word exactly to another language

        For example, Bjorn often uses the word ‘shall’ when a native English speaker would use ‘should’, as ‘shall’ means mandatory’, or in another sense ‘will happen’.

  5. Boeing always had a strategy to trump the competition with a bigger/better single aisle aircraft. The 737-100/200 v Dc9, followed by the re-engined 737-300 family, followed by the 757 family. The 737-300 family was trumped by the bigger/FBW A320 which Boeing trumped with a bigger 737NG family. The 737Max was the first time Boeing chose a strategy to just “match” the competition (actually not in the case of the A321NEO). Appears to be a bad change in strategy.

    • “The 737Max was the first time Boeing chose a strategy to just “match” the competition”

      Interesting viewpoint. But reality does not support it.
      The MAX Mk1 needed extended effort to give the appearance of matching the NEO.
      Before that the NG was a major make over and floated on buoyancy from grandfathering. Imagine an NG with 14g fuselage and SEO requirements matching the A320!

        • TransWorld — “And the survival rate of ALL A320 crashes vs 737 crashes is superior?” Survival rate is a pretty subjective comparative measure surely, unless all accident circumstances are common (although one does not know the purpose to which the received, not to say perceived, wisdom would be put)?

          • To show that a 9g fuselage is as good as a 14g one. 🙂

            so why did the A320 have to conform to that new requirement if it was no (safety) win?

            as it happens just the Classic has a comparable number of fatalities to the whole A320 family.
            NG adds 750, MAX 390 fatalities.
            ( do we count all or just the airframe issue related ones)
            Match the Habsheim Crash (3d) with the NG one short of the Polderbaan(9d): intact fuselage vs broken up in segments, …

    • Well, look at the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser vs. DC-7 and Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation.

  6. “For a lot of technical reasons, they were convinced a 737RE could not be competitive with the A320RE.”

    I’d be interested in a little expansion on the above, what those technical reasons were, and whether Airbus were right or wrong. Plenty of airlines ordered the Max, some like British Airways, using A320 based aircraft. Were they wrong to switch to a less competitive aircraft?

    • Chris Lee — ‘I’d be interested in a little expansion on the above…’ Would we not all, but Mr Hamilton has a living to earn and some folk are willing to pay for his advice, I suspect!

      • Given the title of the book, I’d say an overview of why Leahy thought he had an intrinsically better aeroplane was very much on topic. And it’s not the author’s advice I’m asking for, it’s the lynchpin to the plot, giving Leahy the motivation to act as he did.
        So why did he think a 737 iteration would be uncompetitive, in retrospect it’s not obvious and a valid conclusion might be that Leahy was wrong to think that. This lends an element of luck to the result, a factor all businessman strive to deny. What do you think?

        • Not sure if you are asking Scott or ????

          My take was it was a lucky decision wrapped up in a slow decline arleady forming in Boeing market share (the A321 was kicking Boeing butt)

          If I had an Airline that needed A321 capability I would change to A320 series as well (if big enough they make a mix fleet work but there are a lot of AK Airline types out there).

          The success of the A330 was luck that Boeing screwed up the 787 program. Boeing had them on the ropes, the buying bubble was about to hit and then Boeing could not deliver, so they bought A330.

          Some would have anyway, but Boeing could have taken 60% of that market.

          The A380 was a huge mistake.

          Leahy was not an engineer, he was sales. He had no idea what was possible. What his basis for the 737 could not complete was?

          Boeing made the same assumption that Airbus could not do a CRFP as they had the corner of the spun barrel.

          Under huge pressure, Airbus came up with a different build method that was as good as the spun fuselage.

          Never underestimate what engineers can do under pressure. We often pull the rabbit out of the hat.

          • Leahy was a humanities graduate, earned a little money as freighter pilot, successful academic, majored in business, tried to join American Airlines (got rejected) almost joined McDonald Douglass, left work in Switzerland because they wouldn’t let his wife work. He wasn’t working by himself of course he headed a team and new how step back s0 as not to override the people he had in Latin America, US and Asia. There was Christian Scherer, who now has Leehy’s job, already working as strategist. He strikes me as formidable. Born in Dusiburg Germany, Raised in Tolouse France where his father worked, educated in Canada.

            He now represents a second or even 3rd generation of Airbus employees who know nothing but multinational cooperation. Perhaps it is the kind of culture Boeing had but somehow lost perhaps when it moved to Chicago.

            Having said that: it was the near A380 disaster that saw CEO and Chairman’s head role that forced Airbus national companies to finally behave as a single company,

            Brexit must have seemed weird to Broughton Wales.

            If I were Airbus I would be asking what could get in the way of that cooperation.

        • Chris Lee — since you ask, I think the author is sure to explain in the chapters following that initial first excerpt.

          • Uwe:

            It said so in my tittle!

            I believe it was actuality Engineer/Technician. No I did not have letters after my name.

            But yes I served in an engineering position. I always referred to it as a field engineer.

            Equally I was put in the position, I did not apply. They wanted a person who had engineering capability and I knew the various fields from a real world standpoint.

            A lot I did engineer, a lot was per-engineered and then if it did now work or worked badly, figure out what the problem was and come up with a correction.

            Some of those went back to engineering and some I fixed.

            I did that work in increasing responsibility from 1982 to the day I quit.

          • @ TW
            If you don’t have a university degree in engineering, then you’re not an “engineer” in the normal sense of the word.

            Of course, in the past, train drivers were referred to as engineers…but that was a long time ago. Similarly, armies have “engineer corps”, but that’s also a throw-back to old days.

    • “Plenty of airlines ordered the Max.”

      Exclusively tech based decisions don’t happen.

      Price, Availability, .. do have at least equal weight.

      • Plus: Airlines that already fly 737s are deterred from switching to another model, because of the pilot re-training involved.
        There are some brave ones here and there that take the plunge, but the majority don’t.

    • The simple technical reason is the short undercarriage of the 737 unable to fit engines with larger diameter beneath the wing.

      The Leap engine for A320 has a fan diameter of 1.98 m vs 1.75 m for MAX. The surface is 28% larger. For the same thrust you need more overspeed. That comes with a price.

      • Apparently not.

        Maint costs continue to be as good as A320.

        You should also be made aware that the fan on the NG and A320CEO were different sizes as well.

    • I believe that Airbus engineers in evaluating a potential B737RE would have understood that Boeing could not substantially increase engine fan size. They may not have anticipated that Boeing could a/ fit new winglets, b/ change the tail cone to save 1% fuel burn and c/ get a slightly better hot core in the LEAP 1B compared to the LEAP 1A that helps compensate for low bypass ratio.

      The lack of FBW on the B737 MAX hampers aspects. For instance the anti tail strike software on the A321 in particular was useful in increasing MTOW by allowing faster and deeper rotation and surely would be very helpful on the B737-10.

      The B737-10 (33oonmi range) will compete very well with the A321neo (3400nmi with flex cabin) however Boeing has nothing to match the A321LR or upcoming A321XLR. It may be able to produce a long range B737-9 suspect.

      Boeing engineers did a very good job on the MAX apart from the let down of MCAS.

      • Don’t forget the embarrassing electrical grounding problem…which was only discovered by chance.

        • Bryce:

          Unfortunately you continue to be erroneous in your statements.

          The electrical issue was found as a result of quality check testing.

          Like fuselage tests, that is why we test, to find issues if they are there.

          Like fuselage (and wing) tests they get fixed when found.

          • @ TW
            Actually, you’re the one who’s wrong (as is so often the case). The electrical grounding problem was discovered “by change” when a newly-produced MAX wouldn’t start up.

          • > The electrical issue was found as a result of quality check testing. <

            Yes- the brand-new 737MAX aircraft not starting up pre-delivery was the "quality check".

            😉

      • William — “Airbus engineers in evaluating a potential B737RE would have understood that Boeing could not substantially increase engine fan size…” It would be fascinating for all us commenters (whether or not ‘engineers’ by some definitions…) to see the Minutes of any such evaluation. I wonder how far they would have gone down the ‘What if?’ road.

    • The 737MAX was designed to be the cheapest way for airlines to haul pax domestic in the US and I think it is. The A320neo is more flexible, modern and a bit more heavy before you look at the A321neo and XLR. Hence Boeing Chicago seems to have looked at the top 5 US operators and calculated that they should be a bit more profitable flying the 737MAX8 domestically than the A320neo and that closed the deal. Boeing looked at redoing the landing gears/wing box to fit the LEAP-1C with its bigger fan but backed off.
      The MCAS was initially only a “fix” to pass certification stick force linearity requirements and deemed never to be activated in service that led to skipping internal routines to redo the full systems and risk analysis late in the program and not follow all internal design rules for a flight critical system. It was later done after the grounding and resulted in todays MCAS system and flight simulator training requirements for the pilots. Hence Boeing can still solve these problems by just following its old procedures.

      • “Hence Boeing Chicago seems to have looked at the top 5 US operators and calculated that they should be a bit more profitable flying the 737MAX8 domestically than the A320neo and that closed the deal.”

        Apparently there was a contract forcing the big 3 to buy Boeing and Boeing lawyers were all around. A bit less heroic I seems..

        • Keesje — “Apparently there was a contract forcing [sic] the big 3 to buy Boeing…” This is one of several such references I’ve seen recently (perhaps not all here…) and I’m not sure they all agree. Can someone please clarify the key details, especially any suggested rescinding of the, er, agreement. Thank you.

          • @Pundit: the story about the exclusive agreement, and how the European Union reacted to it with the McDonnell Douglas-Boeing merger, is in Air Wars.

      • ‘claes’, I challenge your “The MCAS was initially only a “fix” to pass certification stick force linearity requirements and deemed never to be activated in service that led to skipping internal routines to redo the full systems and risk analysis late in the program and not follow all internal design rules for a flight critical system. ”

        That would be incompetent thinking.

        The requirement is to evaluate all possibilities – repeat ALL. That’s why for example ‘dead code’ is not allowed in airplane software. (Code that the software is not designed to activate, but incorrect coding might so it is not allowed.)

  7. what i have not understood: If Boeing had basically 2 concepts ready in the shelf, what kept them from launching one of them already 2 years earlier instead of waiting till Airbus has caught up and then be caught on the wrong foot and consequently be forced to do the second most favorite – and inferior – option?

    I remember back in the days, many said the 320neo launch was premature, because after all Airbus had still a huge backlog of 320ceos. Only in retrospective it becomes clear that it was a strategic master piece. Airbus left the 380 mess and the 787 catch up race behind, gained back initiative and made itself producer nr 1 again. All strategic advantage of Boeing that they had gained by betting on the 787 was gone. Just imagine, if the 787 had been half way ok and they would have come up with a 737 successor, while Airbus was still busy on the 350.

    • Boeing was still dealing with 787 mess at this time. They really preferred to keep selling 737NG instead spending another $X billion for another battle with Airbus

      • Boeing manage was focus exclusively on dividends and stock buy backs as the goal was max return to shareholders at the expense of the company future.

        Pillaging comes to mind. As long as the CEO and the board get their bucks now, they don’t care what happens once they are gone.

    • Excellent question.
      From the viewpoint of someone who was at Boeing in the middle of all of this, here is why the launch of the 737 MAX was delayed by 2 years:
      The Boeing Y1 concept, called NSA (New Single Aisle Airplane), had one major issue: Its fuel burn performance, being a new airplane, was essentially equal to that of the 737 RE (+/- 2 %). The green pompous C&EA folks who ran that study had agreed to the same engine core technology level as the 737RE, hoping they can design the airframe such that it can beat the 737REs performance by a significant (10-20%) margin. That was never to be the case because the 737RE study was, by definition, benefiting from grandfathering a great number of weight-saving features, biggest of all was the lack of compliance to a 16g body crashworthiness (as UWe mentions) as well as bird impact and redundancy requirements which gave the 737 RE a huge upper hand in efficiency out of the gate.
      To answer your question more directly: in the end, no new airplane concept was able to improve upon the fuel burn performance of the 737 RE by any significant margin, and considering the much larger program outlay (5-10x) and slower ramp-up of the output on a clean sheet design, the 737 MAX won the day. The NAPD folks tried very hard to improve their design (hence the 2-year wait) resorting to everything from realistic engineering changes to fudging their numbers (i.e. cheating), but they were soon discovered and were unsuccessful in getting buy-in from the board. The rest is history. At its core, you have the issues that others have already alluded to in previous comments: a widespread competence issue in the rank and file as well as engineering management (lack of basic understanding of engineering principles, much less a mastery of aircraft design as a discipline), and a brutal culture of “ends justify the means” imported from MacDac/GE both within the NAPD, and the 737 program senior managers and higher. There are individuals that are far more guilty of these than others, but in the end, everyone lost except Airbus.

      • thanks a lot, very interesting. Do you know by coincidence, as it seems there were calculations being done on concrete designs, what size this new plane would have had? I guess planned in 3 versions?

        I had no idea that the granfather aspect is that important. I thought it was more or less just the doors.

        • You are correct. It was originally intended as a direct drop-in for the 737 line (i.e. same passenger count), but later on and prior to the mid-summer 2011, versions with up to 10% dual-class seat count increase were looked at.

      • Yes, it is very hard to get a big fuel burn benefit from just tweaking the fuselage especially if you already are too narrow and need to increase cabin i.d. a few inches to overtake your competitors.
        You need new wing technology and new engines unless you can make them much cheaper and more reliable than the competition where today supplier components causes most operational disruptions. Making and certifying super slender carbon wings with active flutter damping is not easy and will take time to certify. You buy engines/powerplants from todays manufacturers. So designing for assembly by robotics, making as slender carbon wings as possible and waiting for new 10-15% better engines seems to be the answer.

    • Yes, I saw that.
      This epic soap series keeps on coughing up new episodes 👀
      It’s a wonder that those suppliers haven’t lost patience yet.

    • EU got duped. It was ‘dropped’ but both Boeing still expected airlines to honour those exclusivity agreements and airlines agreed.

  8. Do you ever spell/grammar check this stuff before posting?? I sure hope the book was better edited than this excerpt.

    • Its not like this is the main part of Leeham existence.

      Recommend a correction is fine and Scott always acknowledge that.

      Being able to discuss this and post views is a privilege not a right, and I cut Scott all the slack in the world in regards to typo and errors.

      We can sort out and figure out what was meant.

      I disagree with Scott on his conclusions at times, but that has nothing to do with the blog presentation.

  9. I will disagree on the concluding statement that with the American order the A320NEO future was secured .

    It was going to be a success regardless of what American did.

    What it did was drive Boeing into a knee jerk reaction when they should have had a new aircraft well on the way.

    What the A320NEO did was insure Boeing was going to loose even more market share and it was a matter of how much.

    With the MAX tragedy, its even worse than worst case estimates.

    Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.

    • If Boeing decided to go with a clean sheet and actually managed to execute it properly (not exactly a sure thing as 787 mess has shown), then A320neo future success would be very much in doubt. It could be in a position of A330neo competing with 787.

      • JS:

        I tend not to agree.

        As we saw with the MAX, you can make an older airframe fully competitive with an A320. What you can’t do is match the A321.

        The A320 can simply put on a new wing and up the game to match and the A321 can do the same.

        Boeing failure is that they are behind all the time, not ahead. The 737 never can be made superior. That lets Airbus with a get out of competition free card. Match sale on the -800/-8 and beat the daylights out of them with the A321.

        Boeing market was eroding before the MAX tragedy.

        Boeing is ensuring that loss stays baked in.

        All new aircraft and give PW an exclusive with a updated GTF and you have a winner long term.

        Boeing has no long term view, its all short. Plug the dike with your finger, don’t get a bucket of plugs and fix all of the holes.

        • “Plug the dike with your finger, don’t get a bucket of plugs and fix all of the holes.”

          I’m chuckling because Indian customs tried to protect food from Afghanistan by putting buckets under holes drilled in roof to attach solar panels, instead of putting plastic sheeting over the food. So importers suffered.

          I’d rather line the dike with a waterproof membrane, otherwise you’ll be playing plug-a-hole for years. :-o)

          (Afghan suppliers and Indian importers are cooperating/trusting in the absence of a banking system in Afghanistan, they may be able to work through UAE.
          Apparently much spice is exported to India from some cities (nooo, I don’t think poppy seeds count :-o).
          Didn’t Douglas accept products like food as partial payment for DC-10s?

          Gosh, with the lack of transportation of cargo these days, perhaps Boeing could use some of those parked B737MAX to fly cargo from ports. Must be grain harvest season in eastern WA and Saskatchewan. OK, Keith is being Silly on wedneSday. 😉

      • “””It could be in a position of A330neo competing with 787.”””

        Which competition? Only a part of the iceberg of the Boeing self-cert cheating business is known.

        Eight 787 were grounded because of
        1st too big shims and 2nd poor skin flatness. Why only eight? Bigger shims were Boeing’s solution for out of specs skin flatness from the start and is still today. The skin flatness was never repaired. But the skin flatness is not the problem, the problem is to set the specs to 1/5000 of an inch and do load calculations with it. If the skin flatness specs can’t be reached, how can it stand the 150% load test. Could be the test was cheated too, this is Boeing’s MO.

        What kind of competition is it when the 787 used doping to pass the load test. Now think about this, this issue is so severe that they grounded eight 787!!! Boeing calculated the load with with a super narrow skin flatness tolerance which they can’t reach in production. They never recalculated it and lowered the MZFW. But they calculated that eight 787 needed to be grounded 🙂

        • Leon:

          It was assessed that only a few 787s had the stacked tolerances that would cause an issue and those were grounded and fixed.

          787 are still being produced, the number grows each month and none have been delivered. Those are all grounded as FAA and Boeing disagree on quality control.

          Down the road the FAA may decide all 787s need to be fixed. We do not know yet.

          EASA has not weighed in so we can assume they agree with FAA its not an immediate issue.

          • “787 are still being produced …”

            With report that delivery of large structural sections halted until end of October the earliest, production of 787 is either slowing to a crawl or halted altogether.

          • TW,

            the skin flatness was never repaired. They changed bigger shims to the max allowed size.
            Do you think that the QC engineers didn’t check the tolerance 10 years ago LOL They came to the solution that bigger shims can compensate the non skin flatness.
            The thickness of a hair on a 6m wide barrel, designed by clowns, oversighted by monkeys.
            The FAA is not doing their job. Do you remember when they calculated many more MAX crashs and did nothing.
            Of course if the FAA would do its job the 787 would be a bigger disaster than the epic MAX mess.
            It was reported that 900 planes are out of specs but the load calculation is not touched. No surprise the fuselage did not break in the 150% load test. Over 150% safety is inefficient. Did they really glued the sections together 🙂
            Time for a regulator to reach the top of the world and start a 145% fuselage load test again. Niki Lauda would do it. Nothing can happen, it should not break, right 🙂

        • Leon — was it 1/5,000in or 5/1,000in? One is 24 times bigger than the other: 0.005in cf 0.0002in.

          • Only Boeing knows how they calculated. But we know that Boeing cooked the books many times in the past.
            There is a reason why Boeing engineers won’t fly 787.

        • “Which competition? Only a part of the iceberg of the Boeing self-cert cheating business is known.”

          The competition where 787 has 1500 orders and 330neo has 300 (with third of it being a pipe dream). Yes, yes, Boeing bad, but it does not change the commercial reality.

          • And now looked at from another angle: those 300 A330neos match up a little closer to the 400 787s currently in the order backlog. The 787 was, after all, introduced years earlier…

          • “””The competition where 787 has 1500 orders”””

            Most of the orders are based on Boeings firm configuration with fantasy OEW. Then the 787 became 25t heavier.
            Once a cheater, always a cheater.

          • >The competition where 787 has 1500 orders <

            I'm wondering when or if BCA will reach break-even on the 787.

  10. @Scott
    Do you plan to have your book translated in French?
    I can do that for you!
    And would be extremely happy to help…

  11. “The next thing Eccleston heard was that Boeing showed up in American’s headquarters in Dallas with half a dozen people, most of whom were lawyers, to prove how serious Boeing was about suing them. ”

    Gives you an idea on how Boeing likes to conduct business. Tried it with the A220 and look what that got them.

    • And now the tables have turned, and all sorts of lawyers are banging on Boeing’s doors: survivor family lawsuits, duped passenger lawsuits (SWA + Boeing), investor lawsuits (Boeing board members), customer lawsuits (Norwegian), congressional inquiry…one wonders what all of that is costing in legal fees!

      • (overheard at a BA executive meeting)

        VP Engineering: So, we’ve decided to go with the cheaper alternative, shoehorning oversized engines onto a 60 year old airframe and fixing any differences with a software kludge.

        VP Legal: Great! Sounds like a winner. We’ll start drawing up the contracts immediately. (Thinking: Talk about job security…)

        The lawyers are the only ones that win.

      • It’s all about ego.

        I have a really good story from an executive at a Boeing supplier (they also deal with Airbus) which cannot be told for a couple of years, until he retires. It involves one of the VP’s at BA and illustrates perfectly how self-important and egotistical they are, over there.

  12. The book spells out what happened nicely.

    Ray Conner, Boeing’s best Sales guy, was on assignment in Supplier Management at the time of the AA deal.

    As a result, the”B” team was left running Sales. Conner, who had a relationship with Horton, had to tell them what was going on between American and Airbus.

    • The book treats the final and most “noble”/public phase of the A320neo launch which is the marketing and sales of the product.
      Product strategy is about introducing the “”right” product in terms of product positioning with the associated guarantees and demonstrate that the risks vrs rewards in terms of schedule, production and technology are properly managed. Surely this is not achieved over a lunch or dinner……
      Finally the A320neo required a major strategic alignment with the key actors on the engine supply side – this is another story that is far more complicated!!!

      • @Pegasus: The mating of the A320 with CFM and PW Leap and GTF is covered in a later chapter.

        • Thanks Scott, I believe it took years of preparatory work with all 3 players to achieve a ‘perfect’ strategic alignement…
          A big story and adventure on its own with many tales !!

  13. “It’s what Boeing does: study two or more concepts as engineers and the executives decide what the next airplane will be.”

    Thankyou for pointing to what few pontificators think of – sensible people consider alternatives.

    Many aircraft manufacturers make paper airplanes – Boeing did several for 747 enlargement. As aerodynamics engineer Phil Condit studied higher speed for the 747 (I don’t know what that entailed).

    Enlarging engines for the B737 was especially challenging of course. Boeing had already enlarged engines – the CFM56 installation on what some people misleadingly call ‘classic’ models (-300 etc.).

    Boeing also studied things in back corners, such as HUD, long before installing it in airplanes – having knowledge of technology is a key motivation, that has several benefits including being closer to using it if demand/feasibility emerge.

    • Keith et al — “Enlarging engines for the B737 was especially challenging of course…”Any commenter remember who the engineer (yes, engineer) was who originated the 737 engine position rather than perpetuate the 727 set-up? Just a thought.

          • The engine position was to meet a specification to be as close to the ground as possible.

            Making something out of that 50 years latter is a mistake as today relevance of what the 737 morphed into was not what it was intended.

            Boeing should have proceeded form the 757 into a 737 replacement and did not and the rest is history.

          • TransWorld said
            September 15, 2021

            “The engine position was to meet a specification to be as close to the ground as possible.”

            Correct-but the reason was to avoid the use of stairs and ramps needed for rural airports. Such that the 737 could be used on unimproved fields with hard dirt. At the time the engines in use were much smaller in diameter. The 727 had the same concept for use in unimproved landing fields. Flew on a 727 from Juneau to a small field near glaicer bay which was unpaved in the early 70’s. If I recall, the early 737 had kits for ‘ gravel’ runways.

            Basically the jet equivalent of ‘ model A ‘ fords

    • ” Many aircraft manufacturers make paper airplanes – Boeing did several for 747 enlargement. As aerodynamics engineer Phil Condit studied higher speed for the 747 (I don’t know what that entailed).”

      AFIK- extending the upper lounge area behind the cockpit on 747 made a closer match to the Whitcomb area rule reducing transonic drag and IF ( big IF ) I recall correctly , the 747 -400 has/had the highest cruise mach of commercial jets for years.

      • Bubba2 — “[IIRC], the 747 -400 has/had the highest cruise mach of commercial jets for years…” How does/did it compare with the Convair CV-880/CV-990 that I seem to recall were also somewhat ‘Speedy Gonzales’ in performance?

        • If once looks up the data – the 990 lists as mach .89 and the 747-400 at .82 to .85
          True the 990 used area rule and was first and fastest prior to concorde for commercial service.

          And 400 came later- but is still in service.

  14. Boeing has released a new BMO (Boeing Market Outlook), which is very upbeat. Some highlights:

    “- The global commercial fleet will surpass 49,000 airplanes by 2040, with China, Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific countries each accounting for about 20% of new airplane deliveries, and the remaining 20% going to other emerging markets.
    – Demand for more than 32,500 new single-aisle planes is about equal to the pre-pandemic outlook. These models continue to command 75% of deliveries in the 20-year forecast.
    – Carriers will need more than 7,500 new widebody airplanes by 2040 to support fleet renewal and long-term passenger and air cargo demand growth in longer-haul markets. These projections are up slightly compared to 2020 but remain down 8% from 2019.”

    The big question, of course, is how this cake will be divided…and, particularly, how much of it will go to COMAC / CRAIC.
    Also interesting: if the 777X is a flop, then to what extent will BA be reduced to eating scraps? After all, it has a fossil narrowbody program, the 787 hasn’t exactly been a healthy program of late, and there’s not really enough money on hand to launch new programs.

    https://www.avionews.com/?item=1238936

  15. “John Leahy, the chief operating officer-customers for Airbus, initially scoffed at re-engining the A320, at least publicly, …”

    So the hotshot flipped, or perhaps it was PR which I think is common.

    How large was the investment in re-engining the A32x, compared to a new airplane? (Yah, I know, r e a d t h e b o o k :-o)
    Sounds to me like a good idea anyway, as Airbus had a newer basic design with, I understand, a bit more comfort in width. When of course would be the big question,

  16. Starting to think Mr. Sketchy only posts while [Edited].

    I’m looking forward to reading Scott H’s book, esp the mentioned engine coordination with Airbus on the neo.

    • Right enough, Aim9x, Scott actually said it in his excerpt: 2 vs 10, I need to read his excerpts if not his book.

      How much of the 2 would be lost if the 10 were subsequently proceeded with could be debated, I expect not all of it for various reasons. Regardless, one takes a chance.

    • ‘Bill7’, whoever s/he is, blabbered on
      September 14, 2021:
      “Starting to think Mr. Sketchy only posts while [Edited].”

      Gee, thanks for revealing the content of your character, and your inability/unwillingness to make a rational case for whatever you are trying to peddle – that and sneer/smear tactics are evidence.

      BTW, whoever is ‘editing’ should have erased the entire post.

  17. “787 are still being produced …”

    With report that delivery of large structural sections halted until end of October the earliest, production of 787 is either slowing to a crawl or halted altogether.

  18. Did Airbus really manuver Boeing into anything? Airbus was just making decisions on what would be the best to grow/defend their marketshare. The title implies they had some intent on what decisions Boeing would make. All they were trying to anticipate and defend against the options Boeing was considering. The did some modelling and it was obvious to them a twin aisle could NOT compete against a re-engined a320. So this is how they went. I am sure they were hoping Boeing would proceed with the twin aisle as they would then own the single aisle. They are headed there but more due to a series of incompetent and tragic decisions by Boeing.

    • I don’t think anyone is insinuating that Airbus did anything shady or underhanded here. The bottom line is that Airbus had invested much more over the last 30-40 years to keep its product line up to date before launching the Neo. The 737 is a 50+ year old platform, so Boeing made it very easy for Airbus to take its product to a level of performance where Boeing could not follow.
      The real problem is simple, the finance cult running Boeing is not motivated to invest in a new airplane until it has become painfully obvious it is necessary, but by that time it is too late. This is why Boeing commercial is doomed: the management philosophy of this GE mafia clique is incompatible with the realities of commercial aviation.
      PS: How long has Boeing been toying with the NMA concept? About 15 years I think.

      • Thanks for this clear comment. In my opinion,
        financialization has caused many to pointedly
        not see what’s right in front of them re: Boeing.

        I’m a little interested to see if that entity will recover in any form.

  19. TransWorld — “The [ 737] engine position was to meet a specification to be as close to the ground as possible…” Joe Sutter makes no mention of any prescribed “specification” to be met. Rather he pragmatically considered “a more elegant design solution” than reiterating the 707’s wing-mounted or the 727’s tail-mounted engines: “…Aft-mounted engines on pylons and wing-mounted engines on struts were both problematic. Was there a third configuration providing a better solution?
    “I .. felt a sudden flash of excitement. Instead of mounting the engines away from the wing on struts, why not mount them hard against the underside of the wing itself?
    “Our studies showed that having the engines beneath the wings meant we could carry six more passengers…” And with one bound he was free.

  20. A”Sign.

    ‘Bubba2’ babbles by repeating snips of what I said first.

    What is his game?”

    Answer.

    IN simple terms – I use a snippet for Clarification.

    For context . . .

    Because of the way WordPress and some other blogs work, unless one is the first to replly to a comment, it becomes almost impossible to reply to a given post.

    So to ensure the reply is specific to a given post instead of the immediately previous response, many people, including myself usually post a snippet of the specific post by the specific person they are responding to.

    Also, depending on browser and system, the Reply tab may or may not take one to the reply involved and as shown in the emailed post when following a thread.

    Of course different cultures or countries may use other means

    Eh ?

  21. Leon — “Only Boeing knows how they calculated…” My question remains about the accuracy of the quoted dimension (rather than how Boeing arrived at it), given the huge proportionate difference: do we know if it is/was 1/5,000in or 5/1,000in? One five-thousandth of an inch is very much less than five one-thousandths of an inch , yes?

    • According to the link below, it’s 5 thousandths (i.e. 0.005):

      “Skin flatness issue
      Then there was another quality issue: “Subsequently, in August/September 2020, we discovered a second issue in the same area of the aft fuselage. There are very tight tolerances for the flatness of the fuselage skin inner-mold line, the inner surface. Anything greater than five thousand (0.005) of an inch is outside the engineering tolerance. This is comparable to the width of a human hair or a piece of paper. Related to the skin flatness, we found that there were some non-conformances and that on some aircraft skin flatness was found beyond engineering tolerances.””

      https://airinsight.com/boeing-confident-787-will-become-moneymaker/

      • Bryce – re ‘five thousand’ — that is ‘five one-thousandths’ — thank you very much. I wonder how a robot would have perceived (understood?) those words?
        I’ve no idea how Boeing is employing shims to achieve required results, since I don’t know where – between which facing surfaces(?) – this ‘gap’ occurs: at what point in assembly of which parts is the shim requirement calculated (whether or not within tolerance)? Nor am I clear as to why the aircraft cannot operate with skin out-of-flatness, if only because no report/comment has spelled this out. Is it a structural strength or an aero consideration..? Can anyone provide a link, please, to any published explanation of the problem? Thanks. (Sudden thinx: in the early days, was there not talk of the fuselage being a one-piece shell – where can be any gaps?)

        • Puuuhlese- take the time to look up graphics on 787 -777x etc airplane assembly sections as to where typical body joints are. The sections joined and how are typical of virtually all commercial aircraft made for the last 8 decades. In short descrsiption, Cockpit, body section over wings, body section aft of wing, body section transition to tail. As length expands, additional circular- tubular sections are usually added before or aft of wing body section. The above holds true for aluminum or composite builds

          Try searching on Boeing 787 assembly diagrams and note section breaks from section 41 (basically cockpit) thru sections 48 ( tail )

    • Reported was .005, but where is the proof. I’m sure the FAA never checked the calculation. Boeing could even calculated with a smaller tolerance, similar with the false calculation described in the JT610 report.

      Reported was also that the shims were changed to a smaller size, likely changed to the maximum size allowed and at the same time it wasn’t reported that the skin flatness was touched. So the skin flatness might not have changed. If the skin flatness would have been repaired, wouldn’t a repair certification be needed. I want to see this cert 🙂

      Normally a production process is set up, then it is checked how much quality (skin flatness) can be achieved and is possible during the whole production. This possible quality (tolerance) is part of the load calculation.
      But Boeing clowns might have made it different, same as the OEW assumption in the firm configuration. The clowns calculated with a wonderful tolerance and later found out that the tolerance can’t be reached in the production process and they never changed the calculation. Why didn’t they changed the calculation, 1st because of time and 2nd because the 787 load might be useless 🙂
      It was reported that 900 B787 might be out of specs.

      So now the shims got smaller and therefore the gaps bigger because the skin flatness can’t be pepaired. The skin flatness was never repaired but 10 years ago QC engineers came to the solution that bigger shims can compensate the non skin flatness. That might be the reason why bigger shims were used in the first place, but these bigger shims are not certified.

      So the skin flatness can’t be repaired. That’s why Boeing wants to certify a changed inspection process, a way to hide and cover up all out of specs produced fuselage sections. Of course the FAA will allow this, they are so dense that they were ok with many more MAX crashes too.

      Would it be the death for Boeing if all 787 were grounded?
      Without repairing the skin flatness, they need to change the calculation and the MZFW might be so low that the 787 might be useless.

      • @ Leon
        Even without following the minutae of this matter in the same detail as you, it seems pretty clear that this issue is more complicated and serious than BA would like us to believe. When a program as important as this remains in limbo for so long without a sign of resolution, then it’s apparent that there’s a significant wrinkle in the rug.

        • Indeed Bryce, Boeing reduced the production because of that and they are hiding. Important is what they don’t say. It was reported that too big shims were replaced but the skin flatness wasn’t mentioned, when shims and skin flatness are one system.

          • Leon – for what value it might be, here’s a link to a specialist composites-material publication: https://www.compositesworld.com/articles/composites-in-aircraft-fuselage-now-and-in-the-future.
            Here’s a quote: “It’s easy to assume that the cause [of lack of flatness] must be in fabrication — perhaps a chronic tooling flaw or a process control issue. Less discussed, but just as likely, is that the cause is in the design of the fuselage skin itself. Lack of flatness in a laminate implies fiber warpage or some other distortion, which could be attributed to the ply schedule developed for the skin.
            “…[I]t is puzzling that [these] dimensional tolerance issues … are rearing their heads now, given the fact that the 787 has been in production for so long.
            “…Shimming has long been a necessity of composites manufacturing, but it’s high time that aerocomposites manufacturing evolve to obviate the need for these tools. And given all that we know about composites design and material behavior, developing a structural laminate that maintains dimensional tolerance should be trivial by now.”

  22. Considering that a single sheet of normal copy paper is .004 or 4 thousandths of an inch, the “logical ” and “practical” answer would be Five Thousandths ( .005 ) inches.
    However given that a dime is about 30 thousandths ( .030 ) and CFRP layup thickness control via layup and bagging and autoclave process, I question that ( .005) inches is maybe a bit small for the joint- join process described. Typical prepreg tape is on the order of (.005 to .007 ) thickness. Number of layers of tape is usually exact when using hand or automatic layup. ToolIng is about the same tolerance – and goes thru a few hundreds of degrees temperature change.

    So one would expect that even using hydraulic or electric ‘ bending ‘ tools on a large semi circular part, shims of ( .005 to maybe ( .030 ) might be needed.

    FWIW

  23. Bubba 2 – further to my ‘five thousand’ reply to bryce above, are you saying this problem occurs at a fuselage joint rather than in a parallel section — and hence are we talking about a step in the skin intefering with airflow…?

    • groooan… yes at fuselage ( semi tublar section usually ) joint(S) and steps facing airflow are avoided where possible. The problems discussed seem to be more of a structural/fatigue issue than that of airflow-drag. excessive shimming of gaps is generally a no no but how to define exactly what is ‘ excessive ‘ – probably more than the thickness of a dime total.

      Please look up an assembly diagram for Boeing and Airbus aircraft to understand about Fuselage ‘ sections’ and joints and where they happen- Assembly methods and joints and locations are virtually the same for both – whether aluminum or composite.

      • @ Bubba2/Leon
        Without having done specific simulations myself, I can very much imagine how a form mismatch at a joint could significantly affect the dynamic loading patterns (flexion, shear, torsion) at that joint, with a possible effect on mean time before failure. Because the forces on the joint are enormous, I can understand the FAA’s concern. Just because no joints have failed yet doesn’t mean that a failure isn’t in the pipeline. The Aloha incident vividly illustrated how ugly joint failures can be.

        • This issue was recognized because of dents in the skin. Must be too much load at this location because the neighbor location had a gap which couldn’t take load. That might be also the reason why there is a maximum size allowed for shims.

      • Bubba2 – thank you for that more helpful response. Sorry to frustrate you… Being nevertheless quite familiar with aerostructures, I’ll look for assembly drawing(s) in hope of finding local illustration of said shimming location and detail that is not otherwise clear from all previous comments. Thanks again.

        • AFIK The problem is section 47 to section 48. Section 47 is fuselage semi circle 20 plus feet in diameter composite ‘ tube’ section 48 is transition from tube to tapered aft section and contains the aft pressure bulkhead. So the area under consideration seems to be like joining two round tubes of the same ‘ diameter ‘. Its hard to find even on the Boeing site a decent graphic section listing.

          • It should be an issue on all joins and only on the 787 design.
            On 787 wikipedia is a photo of a section but not the complete join.

      • If it were an airflow issue, I could imagine that it could be fixed easily. There are no problems at doors and windows too and imagine when a plane gets painted, they paint over the join. Would you ground a plane because of that.

        But there was a report about an aero gap between wing and fuselage. The gap was measured with a thin steel, like valves of car engines were measured. They wanted to reduce these inspections too. I wonder why this was reported because there was never an issue reported at this location.

        • IMHO this whole subject re shims and gaps if off topic for the subject of this blog. Its almost impossible to explain without views and drawings. Why not sit back and watch the blinking lights.

          -30-

  24. hard to find graphic sections even on Boeing site Look for 787 sections 47 and 48 ( aft body section and ‘ tail’ section. Sort of like joining two ‘ round’ tubes of same diameter. I’m not sure of joint details re if inner frame/circumferentials of aluminum/titanium or tapered front end of section 48 inserted into aft end of section 47.

    On the aluminum versions of 777, such joints were made via an internal circumferential ‘ plate ‘ and jigs had computerized capability to ‘ squeeze ‘ sections slightly into round shape to match.

    Hard to describe without drawings/photos

    perhaps FAA reports may clarify

    Nuff said on this kind of detail here

    • Bubba2 – thank you very much for final additional detail. I don’t know how composites respond to cabin pressure cycles, which must be a fatigue consideration. Thanks again.

      • pundit- generally, with composites, fatigue is better than metal since fewer fasteners, rivets, bolts are needed for structural integrity.

        In aluminum, every hole-rivet- bolt becomes a stress riser and corrosion issue over time/cycles.

        The Aloha airlines problem was due to corrosion- fatigue of many rivets/bolts in the skin fasteners. The major frames -stringers and circumferentials held the plane together without the skin

        Aloha Airlines Flight 243 (IATA: AQ243, ICAO: AAH243) was a scheduled Aloha Airlines flight between Hilo and Honolulu in Hawaii. On April 28, 1988, a Boeing 737-297 serving the flight suffered extensive damage after an explosive decompression in flight, but was able to land safely at Kahului Airport on Maui.The one fatality, flight attendant
        Clarabelle Lansing, was ejected from the airplane.

        Again this is IMHO off topic for this blog subject line

  25. “””this is IMHO off topic for this blog subject line”””

    Sure it’s OT, but it’s a present and importantLeon topic and only LNA can start an new article. It’s kind of normal that these topics and news are mentioned here. LNA allows it. Only politics, covid and non aviation topics are not allowed.

    • Scott/Bubba2/Leon — Bubba2 and I agree this is OTT. If you agree, please advise us all how/where to proceed with any further discussion. Thanks.

  26. As there was mention in one of these threads about testing engine candidates, here’s a history lesson (mostly Brit): https://www.britairliners.org/airliners-article?title=a-history-of-engine-testbeds&id=30

    Unfortunately article botched for the Convair 640, which in fact had R-R Dart engines. (The 640 was a re-engined Convair 340/440, the 600 a re-engined 240. Whereas the Convair 580 was a 349/440 re-engined with Allison turboprops off of L-188 Electras.)

    Observe that the article claims the electric Harbour Air Beaver has little payload because of battery weight.
    (And seems to much Beaver and Twin Otter together, much different fuselage size and the Twin Otter has two engines.)

  27. Uwe — “as it happens just the Classic has a comparable number of fatalities to the whole A320 family…”
    I say again: “Survival rate is a pretty subjective comparative measure surely, unless all accident circumstances are common…” The simple test of aircraft safety is ‘the possibility/likelihood of any individual flight ending in catastrophe’ indicated in events per million take-offs. What are the relevant values for the 737 and the A320?

    • Pundit, why do you so often ask for info that is freely available on internet?

      In the link you’ll see crash rates per million flights per model. Of interest:
      0.62: 737 -100/200
      0.15: 737 -300/400/500
      0.07: 737 -600/700/800/900
      3.08: 737 -MAX 7/8/9/10
      0.24: 737 all models

      0.09: A318/319/320/321

      http://www.airsafe.com/events/models/rate_mod.htm

      • Bryce – I hear what you say; forgive me, very often my question is intended to be rhetorical or ironic: pointing out that this is the question to ask. Yes, granted I can check many/most things myself, but that likely wouldn’t make the point out loud very often.

      • Useful and illustrative stats on 737 v A319/20/21
        safety- thanks. I guess those early 90s 737 rudder PCU-caused all-fatalities crashes put a dent (no pun intended) in Boeing’s numbers. That company tried to falsely blame those two crashes on the pilots for quite some time, BTW.

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