Book Review: Flying Blind is a must-read about the Boeing 737 MAX crisis

By Scott Hamilton

Nov. 20, 2021, © Leeham News: Flying Blind, The 737 MAX Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing is the sad story of how The Boeing Co., once renowned for its engineering prowess, descended into the depths of crisis with its most profitable airplane.

Authored by Bloomberg news reporter Peter Robison, much of the story is well known on the proverbial 35,000-foot level. Congressional hearings, investigative reporting, crash coverage of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 310, provided plenty of grist for the mill.

Robison delves deeper into the crisis that encompassed Boeing from March 2019 with the ET 310 crash, from which it won’t recover for years. I point to the Ethiopian crash as the start of the crisis, because for the most part, the Lion Air crash was viewed as just another crash—until Ethiopian’s tragedy made it clear there was something deadly wrong with the 737 MAX.

The fall of Boeing

The fall of Boeing, however, was rooted in events long before the MAX accidents. Many within Boeing complained for years that the 1997 merger with McDonnell Douglas Corp. (MDC) was the beginning of the long descent. I agree, and Robison takes a dive into this merger and the cost-cutting philosophy that came with it. Critics and many Boeing employees complain the MDC merged with Boeing using Boeing’s money. (It was actually a stock deal, not in cash.) Further, they complain, the McDonnell Douglas philosophy overwhelmed the Boeing engineering prowess.

But the descent doesn’t stop there. It continued with the “GE” philosophy of maximizing shareholder value at the expense of developing new airplanes—and with the two MAX crashes, allegations that shareholder value also was at the expense of safety.

Robison also takes a detailed look at the GE philosophy and how it infected Boeing.

Yet, as one gets deep into the book, for all the sordid news to come out during the two years since the Lion Air crash, in some ways, which was only the tip of the iceberg. Only one person is being held accountable by authorities for Boeing’s misdeeds: mid-level pilot, Mark Forkner, whose impertinent emails deriding the Federal Aviation Administration and others landed him at the center of the scandal. Forkner was the only Boeing official indicted. His attorney is a high-powered, high-profile guy named David Gerger. Forkner’s salary at Boeing and later as a pilot for Southwest Airlines (he no longer works here, either) couldn’t possibly afford Gerger. Robison reports that Boeing is paying Gerger’s legal fees. For his part, Gerger says Forkner is a scapegoat.

Robison’s story is revealing despite all the other information, investigations, and hearings that are already in the public domain.

Compatible books

When Robison began his work, I was already well into writing my book, Air Wars, The Global Combat Between Airbus and Boeing. Air Wars covers 35 years of the sales, marketing, and product strategy battles between the Big Two. I had to delay the book to include a chapter on the MAX tragedies and the COVID-19 impact, but the two books take different approaches and are compatible. I go into more detail about the development of the Airbus A320neo, which maneuvered Boeing into re-engining the 737 to become the MAX. Air Wars also has more detail about the debate within Boeing about the battle whether to re-engine the 737 or develop an entirely new airplane. Flying Blind goes deeper into the McDonnell Douglas influence and discusses the GE philosophy more than Air Wars.

There is a third book, Fall from the Skies¸ The Descent of Boeing and the 737 MAX, and still other books about the MAX crisis, which I’ve not read. Robison’s book is a must-read. And, of course, I would say the same about Air Wars, which is rated 4.5 stars by Amazon reviewers.

139 Comments on “Book Review: Flying Blind is a must-read about the Boeing 737 MAX crisis

  1. Yesterday’s “triple whammy” with regard to the 787 (door problems; contaminated composites; Congressional questions regarding FAA oversight) reinforces the feeling that BA has lost the way.

    This investor site sums up the current sentiment, in response to yesterday’s 5.77% decline in Boeing stock:
    “Investors are simply tired of hearing about new issues related to either engineering, quality, or safety. That is part of the reason for Friday’s decline.”

    https://www.markettradingessentials.com/2021/11/boeing-787-deliveries-are-delayed-again-theres-more-behind-the-stocks-slide/

    Boeing stock has been on a gradual “glide slope” downward (-14.5%) since it’s high on March 11; in the same period, Embraer stock has gone up more than 50%, and Airbus stock has gone up 10%.

    • “Scape goat strtegy”

      It is expectable that Boeing takes that path.
      It is unacceptbla that the prosecution accepts that narrative.

      • -> It is unacceptbla that the prosecution accepts that narrative.

        The future of your career lies in that decision you’re about to make … Decision, decision, decision.

        • Broken (judicial system) by design.
          ( some basic tenets have been eviscerated , a shell.)

  2. I actually finished the book yesterday evening. It is very well written and a must have for anybody who is less interested in technical faults of 737MAX and more in understanding the big picture – what happened to Boeing so it would make this kind of mistake and what happened to FAA to just go along with it.
    Especially the parts about how FAA was gradually neutered and forced to change its philosophy from ‘we are regulating these companies’ to ‘these companies are our customers, we exist to serve them’ are chilling. One aspect that unfortunately was completely omitted was JATR and how other aviation authorities dealt with it.
    The book does not come with a happy ending: covid came and removed 737max mess from the spotlight. This allowed Boeing to basically get away with it – Forkner became a single sacrificial goat, everybody above him came through unscathed (except for Muilenberg who got out on his golden parachute), Boeing got a laughable fine (less than a price of a single 787) and used covid crisis to double down on remaking the company for ‘shareholder value’ and put screws to remaining unions.
    Most egregious abuses in FAA were rolled back – for example inspectors’ bonuses can’t depend on Boeing making their deadlines any more. It seems to actually have a spine these days looking at how 787 is still held up, but I wonder how long it will last. I think by the time 777X will be going through final certifications, the political pressure on FAA to ‘be cooperative’ will be intense.

    • “One aspect that unfortunately was completely omitted was JATR and how other aviation authorities dealt with it.”

      And just what does ” JATR ” stand for ?

        • Mostly because at this point other authorities would not trust FAA to certify a doorknob. So in a break with traditions, multiple authorities did their own review of 737MAX documents, did their own certification flights, etc. I wonder how will they handle 777X certification.

          • Hopefully the same way.

            While joint nonrecognition is a good thing, blindly following another AHJ is not.

            Brazil AHJ at least did a review of the MAX documents and determined MCAS was an added system that needed to be in the pilots manual.

            Joint recognition was not intended to be a rubber stamp.

      • Joint Authorities Technical Review.

        The FAA chartered the Boeing 737 MAX Flight Control System Joint Authorities Technical Review (JATR), consisting of technical representatives from the FAA, National Aeronautics and Space
        Administration (NASA), and civil aviation authorities from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Europe,
        Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.

  3. So Boeing is paying Gerger – a high powered attorney, to defend Forkner.

    This looks like there is a backroom deal between Forkner & BA.

    You take the heat, take whatever punishment is dished out (if any), don’t point the finger up the chain or at the company, we’ll get you the best defense possible and ….dare I say it….compensate you for your troubles.

    So Forkner probably won’t be on the stand, he’ll keep his mouth shut and nothing will come of this.

    Why am I not surprised?

    • Laughably low fine, singling out Forkner as a ‘bad apple’, recent settlement that ensures that no executives can be questions really suggests that the fix is in.

    • Just a SWAG- re Forkner and legal support. Probably arranged by those wunnerful folks at Perkins_Coie. who have a great record at keeping pesky shareholders in line

    • I very much doubt this is the case. There is no conspiracy. It’s simply in Boeing’s interest to ensure Mark Forkner is acquitted and this gets put down to a horrible sequence of mistakes. In addition Boeing needs to be seen to defend or support its employees otherwise no employee will ever make a decision of consequence to the company again they’ll play everything super safe.

      Humans make mistakes, that’s why systems of engineering review exist. Under pressure people try to innovate short cuts that seem to work.

      Forkner as test pilot (for simulator) was responsible for writing the training manuals and let the dubious MCAS fall through the cracks and didn’t mention it but he was the end of a long line of bad decisions, missed opportunities.

      I really don’t understand the US court system in this. For a matter this serious a commonwealth country would appoint a Royal Commission headed by a senior justice who would have enormous powers to bug and intercept communications, seize and raid documents, compel appearance of witnesses and jail any perjury. No one gets in trouble unless they lie, mislead or omit or have clearly Brocken the law. The Royal Common will get to the bottom of it because they also engage experts. Maybe a grand jury can do this in the US.

      It’s worth reading the Royal Commission into the Harold of Free Enterprise sinking where a car ferry bow door was left open and a car ferry took in water and capsized. Commissioner put it down to “organisational ambiguity”

      The problem with criminal investigations is people lock up and plead the 5th.

      • Respectfully, I see the theme of “MCAS training was needed” repeated often. It does beg the question… How do you train on a system that has no intervention path??? MCAS has no off switch. It is always on, awaiting activation. It is a subroutine of Speed trim. It’s failure mode was an uncommanded trim motor activation. That scenario was already being trained on….. This gets muddier the harder you look at it……

        • There is no doubt that MCAS was such a powerful & flawed and vulnerable system requiring such rapid recognition & response that even training would have been inadequate in many cases.

          • Wasn’t the original operation to only activate the rear stabilisers once.
            The rushed development meant it was changed at last minute to work repeatedly without adequate analysis of the effects.
            It seemed that only a few knew of this and it was hidden from FAA as well.
            More troubling was why the managent kept their head in sand about the real causes after the first crash

          • Imu: that “once only” inhibit would be reset by manual trim intervention.
            Insidious for sure.

          • I doubt it’s true that only “a few knew”. There must be many who were aware, but they collectively turned a blind eye. That’s the current BA’s corporate culture. They knew a key AoA disagree alert was not delivered as promised to airlines who actually bought it. They went into overdrive to cover it up.

            https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/05/business/boeing-737-max-warning-light.html

            https://www.seattletimes.com/business/boeing-aerospace/long-before-first-737-max-crash-boeing-knew-a-key-sensor-warning-light-wasnt-working-but-told-no-one/

            https://www.wsj.com/articles/boeings-enduring-puzzle-why-certain-safety-features-on-737-max-jets-were-turned-off-11556456400

          • William:

            In fact the US systems setup to protect corporations.

            Justice is a happenstance if it occurs.

            No a grand jury cannot do anything, Boeing has been legally let off any hook.

            As there are legal rulings involved (to Boeing management benefit, aka Get Out Of Jail Free) congress would have to pass laws to correct that.

            Congress can’t barely pass anything due to another archaic protection of the rich and mighty known as Filibuster in the US Senate where a minority blocks a majority.

          • Duke:

            I do not believe that is correct.

            It started out as limited for high speed flight and then got picked up to deal with accelerated stalls (low speed flight)

            It was then given a huge amount of travel authority, basically total with no limits other than counter trim (or turning it off)

            Therein is the legacy issue in the manual trim locks up if the speed gets too high.

            They also removed a column switch that would have cut it out with full back (part of not telling anyone about MCAS at all)

            Said column switch was also part of response and its lack of course added to the confusion of “this is not doing what we were trained it did”

            and pilots literally have it beaten into their heads its all about procedure not ad libbing.

        • Scott Correa:

          In fact , there is a way to deactivate MCAS 1.0. You turn off the stab trim (per a runaway stab trim).

          The issue is that it did NOT ACT like a runaway trim (which is what Boeing said the response was).

          What ensued was pilot confusion. More or less this thing is trying to kill me and its not responding the way I was trained.

          On the prior Indonesian flight, an experience captain realized what the core issue was even if he did not know what the mechanism involved was and saved that flight.

          Ethiopian started to react correctly, but while dealing with MCAS they lost speed awareness and the stab locked up from manual trim.

          That is the one aspect of this no one is addressing. Your backup is not a backup if it does not work in a reasonable manner. What was reasonable back in the 60s is NOT today. How do you unload if you are already diving?

          William says no conspiracy but in fact its a conspiracy of Normalizing Deviation. Or as it was put in To Engineer is Human, Boeing corporate kept cutting until there was a failure (two) that in turn killed 348 people.

          • Thanks for the comment, but it appears slightly wide of the mark. What you describe is the disconnection of the trim motors from their power source. That action addresses a number of failures ranging from stuck switches, shorted wires all the way to a failed FCU.
            Irrespective of the motor switch position, MCAS is still running as it is a subroutine of the Speed Trim System, and speed trim is always on. There is no direct intervention path for the crew to address MCAS. That begs the question how do you train on it specifically. The trim motor switch exercise done in a simulator teaches you as a memory item, to respond to uncommanded trim movements by removing power to the stab trim motors. During that training, they do not specify any of the failure modes that were the cause of the runaway, just the action needed as a reply to the event. Because of this, a solid case can be made for never placing MCAS into the training syllabus because it lacks a direct actionable path….

      • I very much doubt this is the case. There is no conspiracy.

        SO this Forkner decided all by his lonesome, to go Rambo and do whatever he could to convince the FAA that mention of MCAS wasn’t needed in the manual.

        He also decided all by himself, to convince airlines that they didn’t need extra training.

        In a corporation the size of Boeing, where everyone protects their territory like a lioness and her cubs, a technical pilot took it upon himself to do all this?

        He boasted about it.

        You don’t think there were people above him that, at the very least, knew what was going on? Did he walk over to the print shop and tell the guys to delete the MCAS section too, from the manual?

        “Hey guys, I decided we don’t need to tell the airlines about MCAS and convinced the FAA to sign off on it. Rip that section out of the manual, will ya?”

        “Sure Mark, whatever you say!”

        One little technical pilot, who ended up flying in the right seat for an LCC (such was his career path) , who was responsible for making major changes to an aircraft – did all that?

        Hmmmmm…

        Mistakes? Errors?

        Let me refresh your memory:

        Crash #1
        Boeing: Nah, it’s fine. Keep flying the plane.

        Crash #2
        Boeing: No, it’s really OK. It’s the foreign pilots.

        Forkner was the one interfaced and fooled the FAA, then bragged about it. Someone gave him his marching orders.

        The only empowering Boeing c-suite guys want to do, is the kind where the zeroes on their compensation increase. Otherwise they’d let engineers run the way aircraft are made. You know, like it used to be…

        • Right on Frank- Boeing has had a history of somehow ‘ rewarding’ those who ‘ do favors’ for the bottom line- even if a bit unethical. but sometimes when real evidence surfaces that a VP level did a real baddie,they simply allow said perp to retire or go to work for one of the few dozen semi shell companies partially hidden under the Boeing umbrella.

          They even do that for union officials who have done the company a ‘ favor’ during negotiations. Subtle changes that allow said officials to continue to gain credited service while being paid full time by the union. Its information that is available only if one knows where to look .

          In the case of forkner – he is not going to go bankrupt or be on the soup line no matter what.

          • You can add to it the million dollar penalty to Boeing to South West (that we know of) if you had to do dissimilar aircraft training.

            There is a major element at issue here and that is if Boeing got convicted, they would be out of government contracts

            Not the firs time people have been sacrificed for national security (and it would be a huge issue).

            If there is any good in this, the people who lost loved ones got enough money to go on with their lives.

            Often that is not the case.

      • > I very much doubt this is the case. There is no conspiracy. <

        You are *so* right. A large and powerful entity would never, ever, ever make certain coordinated decisions
        for it own benefit..

        s/

        "Oops, we forgot to mention MCAS and its quadrupled, last-minute 2.5 degree authority- with no direct override
        possible even if the pilots *did* know it was there- in the manual.."

        oopsie, oopsie, oopsie…

        Meanwhile BCA gets a trivial, cost-of-doing-business fine
        for the "oopsie"..

        Is this a great country, or what? (if you're ultra-rich)

      • Your “Royal Commission” sounds analogous to our Special Prosecutor. But in the US these are typically reserved for cases of political corruption.

    • > So Forkner probably won’t be on the stand, he’ll keep his mouth shut and nothing will come of this.
      Why am I not surprised? <

      Yep. And a "like it, Proles!" to the rest of us. Corporatism (and its consequences..) rules our lives now.

  4. Really enjoy Air Wars, it became more assured as all the myriad of threads slowly coalesced into a central narrative. Having read your blog for many years I was particularly interested in the added depth you were able to bring to decisions and actions that I was already aware of
    thanks Scott

  5. Have you noticed that when CEO Calhoun talks about potential cultural problems at Boeing he is referring to those caustic emails by Forkner and others? He does not recognize cultural problems in the sequence of horrible management decisions: launching the Max in lieu of new platform, addressing the stability issues with the MCAS software bandaid rather than a proper modification of control surfaces, designing MCAS with single sensor input, drastically redesigning MCAS to increase its scope and power without notifying the FAA of the change, striking all mention of MCAS from the MAX manuals, obstinately insisting to airlines that simulator training was not required….
    The culture of the executive management which led to these disastrous decisions is what killed those 346 people, not a few caustic emails. My impression is that Calhoun considers this to be just an unfortunate sequence of events, ie the dead are sad but acceptable collateral damage of the holy war on costs in the pursuit of the highest good: shareholder value.

    • Yep. Unless it happens to them they are immune. They know it.

      If it had been his family on that plane? hmmm

  6. Trouble is, we are no nearer finding out how this actually happened.
    It’s all very well saying that the general public was unaware about how dangerous the MAX was until the Ethiopian crash, but the Boeing and the FAA were well aware. Even after the second crash Boeing thought it was worth having a go at stopping any grounding by trying to enlist their paid for advocate, president Trump.

    • >Trouble is, we are no nearer finding out how this actually happened. <

      Nope- we know how it happened, in spades. And 'Trump' was hardly Boeing's only advocate (though he
      sure makes for a convenient whipping-boy).

      By the way- how's it going w/ the Covid "vaccine" and the second, third, fourth, fifth dose ?

      Still unwoke, unvaxxed, and untechno-feudalized here.

  7. For years, McDacs motto was Use it up wear it out, make it do. This meant that going back to 1958, they only created 3 large commercial aircraft designs. The DC-8, DC-9 and DC-10. There was a near endless stream of derivatives that would make your head spin. Not much innovation. The continual decline of DACs market share was a silent indicator that the one trick pony design team was losing the bean counter war. For me, the party was really over when DAC was bleeding cash so bad, they came up with TQMS and had classes on how we needed to focus on getting aircraft delivered because we had virtually no cash reserves. TQMS quickly morphed into Time to Quit and move to Seattle, so I did. As much as I would love to think that the merger with BA was a merger of equals, I have to finally admit it wasn’t. It was an almost exact repeat of the McDonnell/Dac merger. The DC8 was a great bird and DAC needed money to survive. McDac/Boeing was another merger where the DAC product line needed to be bailed out. Sometimes romanticizing DAC gets in the way of a clear analysis of the truth. And as much as it pains me to say it, the Dougloids screwed BA. Looking back now it’s a twice repeated travesty……… Yeah I know you told me so….. Fwiw Scott Hamilton’s book explains exactly why the merger started BA down an inexorable path to mediocrity, and is a must read on an airplane guys bookshelf…….

    • As I recall- the DC9 was a major player in the downfall of DAC. DAC never really knew how much the DC9 cost to build and deliver due to a lack of atrackable accounting system. And McDonnell was making bucu money with F-4 Phantom and related govt work. And wanted to get back into commercial business-

      although technically the Govt contracts were not ‘ cost plus ‘ there was a LOT of ways around defining costs and change orders. Later, they ( MDC-Boeing ) used the same accounting ‘ attitude’ only to find out that commercial airlines were more attuned to ‘ costs of changes’ and basic ” contract pricing.

      Backing up a bit up thru the mid 50’s, DAC had the best AOG and service arrangements as compared to Boeing. Boeing thru the prop stratocrusier days had the attitude of the typical car dealer- drive it off the lot, its yours to maintain and fix forever. Dont bother to call for help after business hours.

      But then with the advent of 707-727 planes,Boeing woke up re AOG-Maintenace issues and put together a stellar AOG crew and system. DAC to save money went the other way.
      And the rest is history.

    • Might I also suggest for those relative ” newbies ” here two books that delve into Boeing workforce issues with lots of interviews , facts, and data – make good companions to current Books on the subject of Boeing and how and when they went off the rails ( er airports ? )

      Turbulence: Boeing And The State Of American Workers And Manager…

      and

      Emerging From Turbulence: Boeing And Stories Of The America…

    • I think the initial handling of the Lionair crash, deflecting “rumours”, abusing the weak Lionair safety track record, suggesting pilot eror, “assisting local authorities”, no-suit deals with devasted victim families, pilot training (“wouldn’t happen in the US”) and getting away with it, is shocking.

      An indepent team should look back at the handling of earlier 737 accidents. Because it seems Boeing kept the 737 safety track record up, in a similar way as with Lionair. To use the safety track record to justify grandfathering of design and avoid investment in system upgrades.

      I think the closing the ranks (Boeing, Congress, Supply chain, FAA) and share holder value / bonus focus led to serious safety culture problems at Boeing.

        • > This is ingrained in US culture. Unfixable in “Boeing only” scope. <

          I agree. Here in the Exceptional Nation one gets *promoted* for those defective "qualities".

          • I would disagree in culture. It certainly is not my value.

            I don’t think killing people is a value of US Culture.

            It is a value of the US court system and Congress to ensure the rich get away with it.

            But, as individuals? If you raise the red flag you get stomped on. You have to decide (if you have any conscience) if you keep your job and feed and house your family or they and you wind up on the street.

            Kill the messenger is a time honored method of those in power dealing with those who don’t have any.

            That said, Europe continues to have its poisonings, killings and jailing. It does not excuse the US but it also does not mean the rest of the world is excused either.

  8. Mullenberg should be in jail. His efforts to keep the MAX flying after Lion Air is really criminal negligence. A lot of people should be charged for their failure to ground the plane after that accident.

    • Absolutely. Forkner should sing. Let them hear it all. I find it interesting that he didn’t hang in at Southwest very long. Maybe they were pissed that they ordered all those MAXes and blamed him for helping to create it; or maybe they thought he’d be a Jonah; or lastly maybe he had no interest in flying the Max…

  9. Some history is worth hearing again.

    First, the FAA issues are long standing. Scott should address that, he certainly is in a position to know.

    The FAA regional entities were powers unto themselves and particular the N.W. (Seattle for all purposes). The EU types would be familiar with Dukes and Barron’s under a King.

    You can read Joe Sutter’s book on the 747 and how some of the engineering fights with management were not a slam dunk.

    The 737 Rudder failures were both Boeing and FAA failures. Lauda Air 767 was a Boeing failure.

    In those cases engineering and Boeing arrogance.

    The link of GE and MD while seemingly obvious is an excellent point that needs to be emphasized. Most dwell on MD, but the GE mentality is a huge factor here and maybe the main factor at this time. MD may well have lead to GE. But its the legacy of both that is important to where Boeing is now.

  10. Of course, the real question is: can Boeing ever get out of pit into which it has dug itself?
    $62B in debt, only €20B in cash, little/no inventory outflow, painful debt servicing costs, penalty-free cancellations on all current civilian programs, credit rating just one notch above junk, severe brain drain, major reputation damage, 777X and 787 in extended limbo, tepid interest / low margins for MAX, and a continuing pandemic.
    It reads like the Seven Circles of Hell in Dante’s Inferno.

    • Bloomberg:

      Manana, manana, manana.

      -> Frustration is mounting for customers waiting to take new Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliners — planes caught in a regulatory and production quagmire that has halted all but a few deliveries since October 2020. The popular wide-body jets will be needed to carry travelers across oceans as borders sealed shut by the Covid-19 pandemic start to reopen. But airlines and lessors trying to plan for the expected rush of travelers don’t know when their Dreamliners will arrive — only that it won’t be this year, as Boeing executives once said. 

      -> The story line from Seattle has been manana, manana, manana,” Steven Udvar-Hazy, chairman and co-founder of Los Angeles-based Air Lease Corp., said of Boeing’s commercial division, which is based in Washington. “In July they said, ‘Oh, by August we’ll be fine.’ Then in August it was September. We have 11 aircraft that are ready and we can’t get them delivered.” More than 100 Dreamliners are stuck at Boeing, tying up inventory worth about $20 billion by Air Lease’s calculation and hampering the planemaker’s financial turnaround and efforts to pay down its $62 billion debt.

      -> For each manufacturing glitch that strays from its design specifications, Boeing has to file a so-called notice of escapement with the FAA that evaluates the problem, recommends a fix and provides an engineering analysis to back up its finding. The company is still working through those notices, along with a broader inspection regimen for the 787, according to people familiar with the situation. There are about 20 locations on Dreamliners where potential quality breaches have been identified …

      -> Conducting the inspections can be time consuming and costly since, in some areas of the plane, workers have to tear out passenger cabins to gain access. Since not every Dreamliner has every flaw, Boeing has proposed creating a methodology to narrow the checks based on its own analysis and past inspections.

      The planemaker had initially requested permission to inspect a handful of planes and, if they passed, use its regimen for the rest of the undelivered aircraft, the people said. The FAA rejected that plan, and company and the regulator haven’t yet agreed on an appropriate level of inspections …

    • $70 bill of inventory.
      Debt servicing is easy, otherwise there wouldnt be good take-up on their bonds.

      Major troubles for sure , but Mitsubishi is worse and Comac is stuck as well.

      • The inventory is useless unless it can be delivered; in the meantime, an increasing amount of it can be cancelled without penalty, at which point repayments eat into cash.

        When did Boeing last issue new bonds on the primary market? Any new issuance would probably trigger an automatic rating downgrade to junk status. The same would happen if it tried to issue new shares.

        The situation is more dire than many would like to admit.

        • “Inventory”

          What valuation does GAAP.boeing allow for inventory?
          Accumulated production cost?
          Market value?

      • i) FYI

        So called $70 b inventory includes:
        787 program cost (i.e. cost overrun) $17 b, of which over $5 b has to be recovered from orders not received yet;
        777X tooling over $3 b ;
        737 MAX program cost $2.3 b ;
        and early issue sales consideration $3.2 b

        i.e. over $25 billion sitting on BA’s balance sheet not going into cash.

        ii) JP Morgan now expects 737 MAX excess inventory won’t be cleared until 2025.

        iii) How long it takes for BA to find acceptable solutions to FAA and how much it spends to fix over 1,000 787 is a big question mark. In the worst case, expected useful life of the 787 has to be shortened and BA would be liable for many billions to compensate its customers.

        iv) J&J has to carve out its baby powder and talc related business for bankruptcy in view of lawsuits. Time for plan “B”.

        • How many more times have I to repeat this??

          -> “Strange that one can simply ignore that Boeing has over $80b bills to pay in addition to debts!!

          • Concerning when interest rates and inflation are predicted by many to rise as the COVID “quantitative easing” effects come in.

          • No facts to support your wild and hysterical claims

            Fact ‘Inventory at quarter ending September 30, 2021 was $81.897B, a 5.82% decline year-over-year’
            Back in 2010 inventory was $20 bill

            Inventory is an asset not a liability as its what you make.
            Debt is counted separately.
            Seems that you have crashed and burned in your claims…

          • Duke said in part ” Inventory is an asset not a liability as its what you make.
            Debt is counted separately.”

            True for bottles of pop and bars of soap, etc but NOT true for Airplanes which cost $$$/day for storage plus rework and clean and test before flying out of storage.

          • From BA’s latest SEC filing:

            Inventories – Comm. aircraft program
            3Q21 $71.1b
            4Q20 $70.2b

            -> At September 30, 2021 and December 31, 2020, commercial aircraft programs inventory included the following amounts related to the 737 program: deferred production costs of $1,676 and $2,159 and unamortized tooling and other non-recurring costs of $619 and $480. (All fig. in million per filing.)

            At September 30, 2021 and December 31, 2020, commercial aircraft programs inventory included the following amounts related to the 777X program: unamortized tooling and other non-recurring costs of $3,444 and $3,295.

            At September 30, 2021 and December 31, 2020, commercial aircraft programs inventory included the following amounts related to the 787 program: deferred production costs of $15,153 and $14,976, $1,808 and $1,865 of supplier advances, and $1,814 and $1,863 of unamortized tooling and other non-recurring costs.

            Commercial aircraft programs inventory included amounts credited in cash or other consideration (early issue sales consideration) to airline customers totaling $3,238 and $2,992 at September 30, 2021 and December 31, 2020.

            Total current liabilities: $85.8b (incl. short-term debt and current portion of long-term debt: $5.4b)

            Total current liabilities not incl. current debt: *$80.4b* (85.8-5.4)

            https://www.sec.gov/ix?doc=/Archives/edgar/data/12927/000001292721000094/ba-20210930.htm#if139f55cba9e46f59ea85bee79a3f201_106

          • As BA plans to boost 737 MAX output to 31 per month in “early” 2022, it would build about 350 737s next year.

            Even in an optimistic case that BA delivers as many as 500 737s next year, it would still end 2022 with 200 737 MAX in inventory: not much better than where it wanted to be at the end of 2021.

      • Well, let’s take a look to see about that $70 billion in inventory, shall we?

        If you go back and calculated the amount of revenue that Boeing received from it’s commercial airplane division, for a given financial year – then you divided that number by the amount of aircraft they delivered, you get a ballpark figure of about $75 million (give or take a million or two).

        So that means that Boeing averages something in the mid-70’s (for both wide bodies, which give them higher revenues and narrowbodies).

        It’s a pretty consistent number, across previous years.

        Now, if we take your number of $70 billion (which is less then the declared number for inventory of $81,897 billion on their FS) and divide it by our ballpark figure, we get a inventory number of 933.333333333…

        Does Boeing have 934 aircraft sitting in inventory??

        Last I heard they had some 370 Max’s, 105 – 787’s and about 20 – 777’s.

        Let’s call it 500 aircraft (what a nice round number)

        We’ll do it both ways:

        So $70 billion in inventory divided by those 500 jets, all of a sudden gives us an avg of $140 million in revenue, per aircraft.

        or

        Those 500 aircraft multiplied by their historical ballpark average of ~$75 million in revenue per airframe, gives us $37.5 billion, give or take a billion.

        BTW – for the first nine months of 2021, BA delivered a total of 241 jets and got $14.7 billion in revenue. The average, you ask?

        $61.2 million.

        • That figure of $61.2M would correspond to the list price of a 737MAX8 with a 40% discount.
          However, of the airframes delivered in 2021, 82 were widebodies — with a MUCH higher list price.
          Your calculation thus serves to illustrate the relatively meager gross margins that BA is making on its planes.
          Couple that to the much higher production prices (due to lower production rates, inventory costs, refurbishment costs, etc.) and BA’s net margins become very anemic.

          • It’s a smell test, Uwe.

            A back of the envelope, ballpark calculation to see if Boeing does have $70 billion in aircraft inventory, ready to sell, as is claimed.

            But hey, by all means – please lemme know where I’ve gone wrong…

          • Here, let me explain it to you this way;

            You want to buy into a business. You go see a guy. He says “Look, we have $70 billion in inventory”. He takes you to a room. In it are boxes. Small boxes, medium size boxes and big boxes. Lot of ’em.

            You ask him how much he sells the boxes for.

            “Proprietary information, sorry, can’t tell ya. We don’t even put our per unit sales info in our financials.”

            But you can get those financials. So you look at them:

            In 2016 they sold 748 boxes for $58 billion.
            In 2017 they sold 763 boxes for $57 billion.
            In 2018 they sold 806 boxes for $58 billion.
            In 2019 they sold 380 boxes for $32 billion.
            In 2020 they sold 157 boxes for $16 billion.
            In 2021 they sold 241 boxes for $15 billion.

            Well, times go up and down and prices vary, for a variety of reasons, right? AT the very least he should have some 750-800 boxes in that room, since he sold $58 billion of boxes in ’16 & ’18 for those numbers, right? Also, $58 billion is some $12 billion short of that number, so he MUST have more in the room…$12 billion more of boxes, right?

            You can also average the annual revenue rec’d per box.
            You can also average the total amount of years and get an average that way, right?

            So give or take – how many boxes should there be in that room?

          • Deliveries provide for just a final installment towards contracted pricing.
            What are the metrics that define per item inventory value?
            ( look around on javiers blog for some details to include(thst was 787 deferred basket related))

          • Uwe – Duke claims there is some $70 billion worth of aircraft sitting around, ready to be delivered. Yes, final payments upon delivery are just a portion…but this is a “Does it pass muster, or is it a fishy number” look at it, without diving into the minutiae of the financials.

            And most certainly there is also a portion of parts of aircraft received and sitting somewhere, waiting to be put together or installed – but this requires someone to do it (i.e. additional costs)

            If you were just trying to get a quick handle on the inventory situation and someone claimed to you that there was $70 billion in product ready to go to customers, without calling in an auditor – would you say that this is an accurate representation (given what you know about the industry) that is a good ball park figure? Or is it hogwash?

          • @ Frank
            Your reasoning is flawless — don’t get distracted by noise in the margins 😉
            Another point: various (incrementally increasing) downpayments have already been made on planes rolling off the production line — so, even though a plane might be technically “worth” X in terms of its original sale price, it will only yield a fraction of X (the final payment) when it is delivered to the customer.
            And, of course, if the customer cancels his order without penalty, you get a triple whammy:
            – You have to repay all his prepayments, which eats into available cash;
            – You get stuck with a whitetail, which costs money to store and to strip/re-fit when you manage to find a new buyer;
            – In order to entice a new buyer, you have to lower the price = smaller (or even negative) margin.

          • @Bryce

            Thanks.

            In reference to progress payments;

            If you look at my ‘boxes’ table, those are the actual numbers, right off the BA financials. I’m not sure how they account for PDP’s and sales;

            Take 2018, for example;

            They sold 806 aircraft and got $58 billion for it.

            Is that $58 billion the exact total contractual purchase price that the airlines/lessors paid for the aircraft, or are some of the payments on those airframes rolled into the 2016, 2017 FY (let’s say the contract was signed in 2015) and accounted for during those periods?

            Under normal times, it wouldn’t be a problem – as each year rolls by, monies you receive from new orders keep things afloat, until you get the big ending payment…it just rolls over.

            Problem happens when you stop getting orders and PDP’s are not coming in…(kinda like recently)

            If you look at 2016-2018, the $75 million +-$5 million, is a good ballpark figure. 2019-2020 they didn’t sell many Max’s, so the average ballooned. 2021 they’ve been selling Max’s, not so many WB’s, so the avg fell to $61 million, as you pointed out.

            $70 billion in inventory? I dunno about that…

          • @Frank

            BA’s revenue (comm. aircraft delivery) = contract price with customers;
            PDPs are recorded as liabilities on BA’s book, reversed upon delivery.

            GL if anyone (not even Brian West) able to find $70 b worth of aircraft from BA waiting to be delivered.

            What’s the selling prices for B787 and MAX??

          • Frank:

            Agreed, its a good basis of value. No perfect but what is? Also a good foundation of discussion.

            That said, anyone buying a business will get the financials. Or let me put it this way, either they get them or they don’t care and may not care just want to know what they got but will never admit it.

            And as someone once said, when we are talking billions (probably trillions now) what does a few hundred million (billion) matter?

          • @Pedro

            So there you go, PDP’s don’t factor into those sales figures – thanks for the reversal info.

            As for the 787 & Max prices, it all depends on who is buying and how many. I would hazard a guess and say that the 787 tops out at $150 million and the 737Max at $50 million. LUV get’s their Max’s in the mid $30’s, as indicated by their financials a while back, when they had to declare a $70 million gain on the sale of 10 Max’s to a leasing company for $410 million.

            I think the number tops out at $15 billion for 787’s sitting there and $12 billion for the Max’s? No more then $30 billion for both. 777’s are tougher to do because none of the X’s are ready for sale.

            Interestingly, if tomorrow they delivered all of those 370 Max’s and ~100 Dreamliners and got $30 billion – at their 2018 margin of 12% (which they are not making, but let’s be kind) , much of that would be eaten up by the interest expense (which topped $2 billion at the end of Q3) they incurred for 2021.

            @TW

            Correct on the company purchase info – perhaps it would be better if it was a company who was looking for a valuation figure so they could get a loan against inventory?

        • if inventory goes down 10bn$, it does not mean that it brings 10bn$ cash to Boeing!
          it brings only the final instalment
          which might be 1,5bn$
          the rest has already been paid a long time ago as manufacturing was proceeding
          The debt will be slightly reduced when all Maxes and dreamliners will be delivered (2025)
          Meanwhile, interest rates will only go up, especially if BOEING’debt is degraded to junk
          Which could happen soon
          As GE, BOEING might be expelled from the DOW JONES
          all this stinks

      • @ DoU
        The Debt servicing costs on just the $25B worth of bonds issued by Boeing in April 2020 amount to $1.2B per year. It was already paying $722M per year on its existing debt, so the total was thus brought to $2B per year.
        Note that, with respect to that April issuance, “Boeing had to offer sharply higher interest rates than past debt issuances – one 10-year tranche yields 5.15%, according to Reuters.”

        https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeremybogaisky/2020/05/01/boeing-25-billion-debt/?sh=300b8b4241f8

        In February of this year, it did a further $10B bond issuance, in a debt rollover to repay a previous loan. The 5-year maturities in that issuance ($5.5B) incurred a rate of 2.196% — that’s another $121M per year in interest payments.

        https://www.spglobal.com/marketintelligence/en/news-insights/blog/global-ma-infographic-q3-2021

        It is denialist to assert that “debt servicing is easy”.

        • Bryce – debt servicing IS easy…if you have the capital coming in to cover the ~$2.5 billion annual payments. You just scratch a check and send it along to the debt holders.

          Mind you, that leaves less money for stuff like; paying suppliers, paying employees, investing in plant, property & equipment, investing in R&D, HIRING QUALIFIED STAFF, investing in technical know how (like purchasing a competitor who has a lot of quality engineering talent), putting out new products, producing a quality product and (I guess) returning profits to shareholders…

          …oh, and it’s kind of a vicious circle. The more you borrow, the more the risk of you defaulting on those loans increase. The more the risks increase, the more the lenders want to charge you for accepting that risk. The more that they charge you, the more you have to pay. The more you have to pay, the less there is for all of those important things I mentioned above. The less of those important things you have, the tougher it is to generate revenue. The less revenue you generate, the more you are required to borrow. The more you borrow….(go back to ‘oh’)

          • Also known as a death spiral.

            Boeing probably gets really good terms though.

            With housing finance at (3%?) money is cheap.

          • Well TW, the math is kinda easy;

            They had some $60 billion in long term debt as of Q3/2021, with some $2 billion in interest payments, IIRC.

          • @ Frank
            With rising interest rates, the debt servicing costs for B are becoming increasingly onerous; as highlighted above, it had to pay 5.15% on one tranche of its April 2020 bond issue.
            As it continues to roll over debt, it will be subjected to steadily higher interest rates.

  11. The Seattle Times article clears up a lot of the 787 issues (though it also presents others)

    https://www.seattletimes.com/business/boeing-aerospace/faa-memo-reveals-more-boeing-787-manufacturing-defects-including-contamination-of-carbon-fiber-composites/

    The random sampling looks to apply to built aircraft. You have to fall on the FAA side as Boeing did not document the build, all have to be looked at. Not immediate, but looked at.

    Why Boeing tried to link current mfg to the random is bizarre. Do full inspections and get some flow going again, deal with the ones built as a separate issue (and you of course have to check and correct the current backlog sitting on the ground)

    You have to wonder if a lot of airlines were happy not to get their 787s and now they are beginning to want them.

    Why you would not have an ODA in Italy? Not sure if that is an FAA issue or an EASA. Certainly its relevant. Outside suppliers and quality control.

    Some time back there was a whistleblower and as I recall Al Jazera report on the quality control issues on the 787. They do not look to have been exaggerated.

    A terrible tragedy that 348 people were killed in the MAX crashes, but its also exposed a host of issues that would have lead to other crashes.

    Sadly, Aviation has advanced on that road far too often and it should not have happened. We can only hope this adds to the impetus to clan up the Boeing management.

    • Ah ha. Peel ply!
      I have had massive troubles with contaminated peel ply myself, this can cause bonded joints to part just like they were coated with a release agent Outside of the aircraft industry few people are even aware of the possibility of PTFE contamination and a great many including myself have given up on relying completely on peel ply for surface preparation.
      This has the potential to be a massive problem and could possibly be the real reason delivery has ceased.

      • Actually reading a bit more carefully, this could also be the release film. I have also had terrible trouble with this, seems to affect more than just the outer surface, degrease, sand down and degrease again and it can still disbond.
        If Boeing is having problems with multiple suppliers, Airbus needs to have a good look as well.

        • And another thing. When testing the strength of these types of adhesive they tend to use steel plates, there is no point in using composites because the substrate will always fail before the glue.
          It seems as if this is no longer the case at Boeing.
          Sounds like a a nightmare and incredibly difficult to verify

        • >Airbus needs to have a good look as well.

          I was thinking just that, Leonardo is a large supplier to Airbus.

          • It’s easy to conflate the two, but it doesn’t make sense IMO.

            1) the 787 CRFP barrels are structural, the A350 has panels on a frame;

            2) according to ST, the FAA notes that these small gaps in the structure around passenger and cargo doors between the manufactured structure and the engineering specification are the result *not of bad workmanship, but of imprecision in the robotic equipment used to fabricate the airplane’s structures.* BA designed and engineered a perfect jet that no one can build to its design specifications.

            3) IIRC, the Japanese guys sent over to BA were shocked how fast the BA engineers went forward with new design, new manufacturing process without feedback from manufacturing guys, without giving time for manufacturing processes to mature.

          • It should be noted some are blowing off the A350 skin cracks, those in fact are a way for water to get into the lamination and de-laminate them.

            Its happened before (to Airbus).

            Blowing off that kind of an issue is ill advised.

          • Again pedro makes false claims about the 787 structure.

            The B787 is same as the A350 in which a thin skin is reinforced by horizontal stringers co bonded in autoclave and internal close spaced circumference frames ( which arent) which are added after the autoclave stage
            They are identical in their semi monocoque construction ( which is for all aluminium airliners too)
            The differences for Boeing and airbus is the method of fabrication of the composite skin. One does complete barrels the other creates panels. But this is soley for the skins only ( which arent capable of pressurised flight ‘structural’ as of themselves, thats why its called semi-monocoque, they both need support frames)

            https://leehamnews.com/2017/04/28/bjorns-corner-keeping-airliners-operational-part-1/

          • -> Airbus’ keel beam is a 54-foot structure, 70 percent made of composites, that will form the backbone of each A350. The A350XWB is a model with an extra-wide body.

            Boeing’s 787 doesn’t depend on such a robust keel structure, because *more of the hull strength comes from composite barrels that are fastened together end-to-end*. The A350 fuselage, by contrast, will be built of large curved composite panels, mounted on a framework that is in turn anchored into the keel.

            https://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/blog/2011/08/airbus-delivers-first-a350xwb-keel-beam.html

          • True.
            But supplier issues are “a Boeing” thing.
            Airbus, bombardier seem to go for tighter supervision..

          • Duke:

            You are flat out wrong. Airbus replaced standard aluminum structure with composites.

            Boeing spins a fuselage section that is more of the structure and reinforces it with rings rather than complex of circular and lateral ribs

            But anyone that thinks a fuselage section blowing off is not an issue is out of their minds. Aloha showed us how bad that gets.

            737 and 757 have a history of it.

            So a de-lamination ala an A350 would be disastrous

          • Both B787 and A350 use horizontal stringers and circular closely spaced rib frames with an outside thin composite skin.
            Its impossible to do it any differently as they are still semi monocoque like their aluminium predecessors
            An image of inside a ‘raw’ section will show the construction.

            The skins are produced in much the same way with tape layers and resins with the only difference is Boeing and its suppliers uses barrel type mandrels to create a complete section while Airbus uses curved moulds to create top bottom and side panels – which are then stitched together to create fuselage barrels. The tape laying is optimised for each panels location. The over centre wing box fuselage is slightly different and for Airbus they create the section under the tail as a complete barrel on a mandrel too.
            The stringers and frames are ( mostly) composite too with the stringers being co cured with the skins in autoclave ( same for both types)

            Image of B787 inside forward fuselage barrel with circular frames and horizontal stringers attached to outer skin.
            Good view of green Al cockpit window frames too
            https://content.fortune.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/boe05_1.jpg

      • I’m a bit puzzled by the comments on bonding as they apply to 7late7 fuselage barrel structure.
        Since the barrel is made of tape plies laid up to IML (ie wrapped around a large tube in effect ) with minimum control of OML ( outside of barrel- fuselage )-there should be minimal bonding problems between to parts/sections. Now there may be some delamination WITHIN the various layers of tape that make up the fuselage section- but if so- something else is very very wrong and almost impossible to correct.

        Now I’m no ex-pert on CFRP, but was directly involved in some ‘esoteric’ copper plating of both surfaces around and thru ‘ holes ‘ in CFRP wing spars about 35 years ago.

        • When I said ” there should be minimal bonding problems between to parts/sections.” I should have explained a bit more. Joining gthe two sections normally uses an aluminum or titanium ‘ Hoop ‘ or partial ” hoop” section usually called a cirumferential which joins the two barrel sections. Fastened by ‘ bolts” – eg Hilocks, Huck bolts, or similar to each section When the sections do not match on the inneer side ( sort of like a slightly different diameter or ‘ out of round’ section, then shims are used to fill the gap(s). To keep joint airtight simple silicone type sealant is used. Whatever type location of bonding to CFRP seems to me would not be for body-aircraft structural reasons- not counting interior stuff which might be ‘ glued on ‘ and not significant re structural or fatigue.

          Just my .0000000002

          • transworld said in part ” It should be noted some are blowing off the A350 skin cracks, those in fact are a way for water to get into the lamination and de-laminate them. ‘

            Exactly- early 707 KC 135 and a few 727 used a Boeing ” cold bonding ” process on ‘ skin panels ” – it was later found that under fatigue and stress and cracks in the bonds, moisture got in and started to corrode things. By the late 60’s- the process was dropped.

          • I think that you are right, it can’t be the barrel joins, because Boeing is managing to disassemble them to fix the shim problem.I was rather mystified about why they even needed shims if it was glued together.
            It’s nothing to do with the layers of laminate. The contamination has transferred to the inner surface of the moulding from the consumables.
            I believe that there are some important structures mainly held together with glue.

          • Fuselage, wings and tail, apparently. Mitsubishi apparently used non Boeing spec materials. At least 3 different manufacturers involved. Its sounding more like release film is the culprit.
            This looks to me like a serious problem, especially as Boeing assembly records are apparently incomplete.

          • “Boeing speced ..”

            Irrelevant.
            It must be have been speced in the contract!

            But history shew that some contracts did not go beyond napkin lore. 🙂

          • Uwe:

            That truly is BS. Boeing is fully responsible for its suppliers but none of it is Napkin based.

            All:

            The A300 and maybe the A330 has tail de-lamination issue when they went composite.

    • > Why Boeing tried to link current mfg to the random is bizarre. Do full inspections and get some flow going again <

      They're afraid of what they'd find in full inspections, methinks.

    • Yes, Ralph is one of my favorites, he made a career of ranting when the issue was resolved. The Corvair had its problems corrected.

      My step dad owned one, nice car. Innovative.

      But then there was CBS (?) and lighting off gas tanks artificially.

  12. As far as assigning blame for the MAX, I would work backward from what the required fix was. If it was just put the training in the manual, then it would all be on Forkner. But the fix was more than that. The design was at fault. So who designed it, and who approved it? Increase in stab rate, repeated firing, critical control on single sensor? To error is human, but an organizational error of this magnitude should not stand unexamined, unblamed, and uncorrected.

    • Good way to put it. It did not happen in a vacuum and having worked on safety critial systems, you never allowed a single point of failure to cause a failure.

      I can remember being aghast when I saw they had used a single AOA. I worked on a lot of safety related system and I never did something stupid like that.

      So yea, there was nasty stuff spread up and down the organization that lead to those deaths.

      • And, yet, you don’t see the inherent shortcoming in using just two AOAs instead of a higher odd number.

        • AoA signaling up to the NG had no real “leverage”.
          Initial design premises were still valid : two lobed and pilot filtered.

        • Bryce:

          In fact I don’t think AOA should be used at all.

          And in fact its not just two AOA that have to agree (to 5 deg) but also a number of cutouts in the software that inhibit MCAS.

          What non tech people fail to realize is that two out of three is a fallacy if two out of the 3 fail. Or all 3 fails as occurred with an A320.

          In fact, Airbus uses 7 computers in its FBW. 3 main, 3 backup each of the mains and one that backs up the suite of 3 active.

          AOA can freeze just as Pitot. Synthetic is a 3rd system that is not involved in the others (which are all subject to the same failure)

          The concept is N+1 (or 2 or 3 or 4).

          But that assume each of the 1/2/3/4 etc are fully stand alone independent and cannot suffer the same failure.

          Or as Boeing now teaches, close to or in a stall? Unload, unload, unload. Works fine last a long time.

          Tragic and ironic that an (intended) killed 348 people when no direct stall of a commercial airliner has ever done that.

          • “What non tech people fail to realize is…”

            What mechanics (as opposed to engineers) fail to realize is that:
            – In addition to the *possibility* of sensor system failure, one also needs to consider the *probability* of sensor system failure. In that context, the probability of 3 sensors all giving an incorrect reading is smaller than the probability of two sensors all giving an incorrect reading.
            – A system with an even number of sensors can suffer from an (undetectable) tie, whereas this cannot occur in a system with an odd number of sensors.

            Basic control theory / logic.

          • > Unload, unload, unload. Works fine last a long time. <

            If you have the *altitude, altitude, altitude* to work with.. and a low workload, and two pilots
            to work the manual trim wheels while also *flying
            that pesky airplane* with around two hundred souls onboard; assuming they even know what's causing the problem..

            MCAS in any form is an über-kludge, and no one should be defending it. The absurdly-named 'MAX' is the Edsel of the skies.

          • @ Bill7
            Excellent synopsis!
            And with 2 sensor inputs it’s still a kludge.

          • > What non tech people fail to realize is that two out of three is a fallacy if two out of the 3 fail. <

            What happens if *one out of one* sensors fail?

            I am just starting to think you're a moron (sorry, dude).

          • @ Bill7
            Indeed!
            And with 2 sensors, what happens when one sensor says A and the other says B? That’s called an irresolvable tie.
            Oh yeah, “the pilot is the third sensor”…except, of course, when he has his hands full dealing with an emergency.

          • Easy:
            2 disagree :: signal invalid

            ( AND BOEING BOTCHED THAT DIAGNOSTIC INDICATION )

    • Seems to me that the lion’s of legal culpability in the Max disaster is on those responsible for redesigning it from a system that would trigger on only rare maneuvers outside the normal operational evelope, and with a max stab deflection of only 1/2 degree, and changing it to trigger under relatively common circumstances and force deflections of up to 5 or 6 degrees.
      How could this happen without the FAA even being notified? How could Boeing’s certification processes allow this? It must have been the job of someone inside Boeing to notify the FAA.
      It was not the primary responsibility of Forkner to notify the FAA of this change. He was unaware of it when MCAS was certified, and only discovered it later. He is on the hook for it merely cause his emails document that when he eventually became aware he neglected to notify the FAA. But the catastrophic process failure was that this did not happen automatically through the normal channels at the time this redesign was accomplished.
      It seems that Forkner and the caustic emails are just a convenient distraction from the real failures within Boeing and those managers and executives responsible for them.

      • All valid.

        As noted, if Boeing was kept on the hook then they would be eliminated from defense programs.

        Ergo, they are impervious, Boeing is too entrenched in defense program to be removed. Truly an very ugly side of Corporations and the court system that refuses to hold them accountable.

  13. “you never allowed a single point of failure to cause a failure.”

    All your path diversification is void if you allow defects to taint each and every one of those.

    • Uwe:

      Maybe the only thing we ever agreed on. I in fact had a controls contractor bypass boiler high temp safeties . Yes he was stupid.

      And yes there was an easy wiring (and setting) logic that would keep the high temp safety in series.

      The good news was I caught it, realized what he had done and why it was tripping the high temp safety and corrected it. Yes I told management. No they did not get punished (mid winter, had to shut both boilers down to correct, no time to fight over it).

      At one time I had an equivalence of hot water flashing to steam in pounds of dynamite. Its a huge amount of energy.

      I saw the pictures of a 50 gallon hot water heater that had safety bypass, blew out the corner of a school house (entire classroom). 40 x 40 ft roughly. And yes people were killed. Fortunately it was not full but 5 or so died.

      Its an area people that do not work on things like Boilers, Carbon Monoxide flush and natural gas (leaks) don’t understand and obviously, people like Calhoun continue to normalize deviation until people die.

  14. Your “Royal Commission” sounds analogous to our Special Prosecutor. But in the US these are typically reserved for cases of political corruption.

    • Not the same . US special prosecutor is investigation for prosecution purposes while a Royal Commission ( for commonwealth countries) is investigation only , often in public hearings and with ‘court like powers’ over testimony but none over prosecution. However the politicians can limit what can be looked into by using very narrow terms of reference if it they want to cover politicians backsides.

      • Another very important difference is that when before a Royal Commission you must answer even if doing so will self incriminate you in a crime. But your answer’s or documents produced can’t be used against you in a later trial. This makes it a powerful investigative mechanism.

  15. Friend of mine has been a stress engineer at Boeing Commercial for 30 years. He is a good, experienced engineer. Recently his grade on the retention totem was Reduced to R3. (The three levels are R1, R2, and R3, where the R3’s are first to be laid off, followed by the R2’s, and finally the R1’s.)
    Historically Boeing all employees in a skill code were graded together in a single totem, meaning those with experience were likely to be rated as R1 or R2. But about 6 years ago they introduced separate totems for different levels of experience, so now highly experienced engineers are just as likely to be laid-off as new hires? Perhaps there are some advantages to this, but does this sound like a company that places a priority on quality, safety, and maintaining the highest quality of engineering capabilities?
    So when Calhoun talks about how he wants to restore Boeing’s engineering prowess, I want to reply: really? Muilenberg wasnt dumped due to failures in engineering and safety, he was fired for his failure in post crash public relations, his failure to deal with the FAA and the media. So Calhoun stepped in not to fundamentally change the management philosophy or the strength of the engineering organization,
    Calhoun took over in an effort to put a “kinder, gentler face”, on the rapacious maximization of short-term profit regardless of the long-term consequences.

    • The [apparently intentional, and continuing] destruction
      of the US industrial base and good jobs provided thereby
      has been a crime against the citizenry.

      “Learn to code! ; or, Big opportunities now available as a Walmart associate Greeter!”

  16. R1 R2 R3 games re ranking are nothing new, just the name and way rankings are manipulated.

    Still goes back to Neutron Jack welch- neutron bomb would leave buildings intact but no people.
    The question really is R3- if Jack Welch method – it means the bottom 10 percent to be ‘ released’ every year or so.

    So unless new hires equal or exceed the releases,the eventual outcome is zero employees- and great golden- platinum chutes for the ‘ overseers”

    And the company – not so much.

    • Yes, the retention totems have been around forever. What is new is that now some of the most experienced engineers will now be at the bottom, and therefore, unprotected in any downsizing.
      Suppose, for example, orders come down from the heavens to boot out the lowest 30 individuals in skill code XXX. In the old Boeing all or nearly all of the 30 would have had 0-10 years of experience. Now they have 3 separate totems for people with 0-10, 10-20, and 20-30 years, so they would now boot out 10 from each of the three bins, resulting in much more experience being lost.
      Conclusion, GE-Boeing management does not value experience.

  17. I realized that the GE executives have Boeing commercial running on a 10-year cycle. Every 10 years they produce a catastrophic failure which costs the company about $20 bil.
    2010: 787 development fiasco, cost = $20 bil
    2020: Max disaster, cost = $20b plus 346 lives

    So the intelligent move for Boeing would be to put aside $2bil a year to save for the inevitable 2030 disaster for which the C-suites are only now beginning to lay the foundations.

    • Around 2002-2003 Boeing set out new portfolio strategy Yellowstone 1,2 and 3. Engineering put 767, 777 and A330 data in spreadsheets, talked to airlines & concluded something new was required: A lean, better, carbon 330. Somewhere someone promised 2008, snapping together sections & flagwaved & stated it was a gamechanger.

      I think the Dreamliner (Y2) development drama forced Boeing to go for 737 re-eengine (MAX) as Y1 in 2011. Boeing also pushed congress to Streamline FAA Certification and revived grandfathering certification strategy for the 777x. (Y3).

      Meanwhile:
      – Congress overuled USAF and handed them the KC-X contract
      – 787, 748 billions could be pushed out using unique accounting blocks.
      – Investors were convinced free cash flow is King, the rest noise.
      – Government payed for a new carbon wing factory
      – Production was moved to low cost Charleston.
      – US Government put huge import taxes on the CSeries and Airbus.
      – DoD was pushed to keep on buying 40+yr Apaches, F18s, Chinooks.
      – Stock value, executive bonusses went through the roof..

      -> Boeing felt truly invincable, knew they could get away with anything!

      I think that if the 787 had entered production smoothly in 2010, everything would have been different now. The short term share holder value drive poisoned long term strategy, but the Dreamliner drama kicked off the portfolio / certification mess IMO.

  18. Sad and shameful the way the politicians and the courts have bent over for Boeing and its top executives. The authorities show no interest on holding anyone in power accountable. The fines imposed are all just lunch money, less than slaps on the wrist. The company and execs were absolved by the dubious settlement signed by a North Texas prosecutor who has since gone to work for the law firm which represents Boeing. There is no investigation into how the Max was certified without proper review of MCAS, they just offered up this Forkner as a sacrificial distraction from the real issues.
    Government has always treated big business with deference, but this seems to have gotten extreme over the last 25 years. Perhaps the expansion of stock ownership has driven this. I would say that back in 70’s a minority of households owned stock. Then came IRA’s, 401k’s, and internet trading. Kids are balancing their portfolios during recess, nearly everyone owns stock, politicians and presidents gauge their success by market indices, and big business is untouchable. Boeing is a big part of the Dow, politicians trip over one another in the race to assist our top exporting industry titan.
    It’s too much, I think.

  19. United exit 9 smaller destinations: not enough pilots.

    Regional pilot shortage: Horizon Air expects up to 40% of its crews to leave for for the mainlines in 2022

    • In their backstabbing way the us is bringing on new sanctions against nordstream 2 too.

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