Culture key to latest Boeing MAX crisis: panelists

By Scott Hamilton

Special Coverage of the Boeing crisis

Jan. 24, 2024, © Leeham News: What began as a non-fatal accident with an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 on Jan. 5 has blown into a full crisis for Boeing. The company was once considered the gold standard of commercial aviation.

Today, 171 737-9s remain grounded in the US by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). There is no end in sight as the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigate the accident of Flight 1282 in which a door plug (an inactive emergency exit) blew off the 10 week old Alaska MAX 9 on climb out from Portland (OR).

It is the second time the MAX has been grounded. All MAX 8s and MAX 9s were grounded from March 2019 for 21 months. This grounding only affects the MAX 9.

Evidence points to Boeing quality assurance flaws in final assembly. An anonymous Boeing employee posted on LNA a detailed scenario how Boeing failed its own processes in final assembly of the Alaska plane. (His post follows this article.)

The FAA is booting more inspectors on the ground at the 737 Renton factory. On Jan. 24, Boeing shut down the 737 assembly line for a “safety stand down.” CEOs of Alaska and United airlines, the two US carriers with the 171 MAX 9s on the ground, publicly eviscerated Boeing.

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At the first aviation conference following the Alaska incident, the Aviation Week suppliers event, some speakers called for leadership changes at Boeing.

Culture, leadership failures at Boeing

Richard Aboulafia, a consultant with Aerodynamics Advisory, is a long-time critic of Boeing CEO David Calhoun. He’s called for Calhoun’s ouster—a move other panelists didn’t endorse. Nor did any call for the ouster of Stan Deal, the CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. But several believe that heads will soon roll, including Calhoun’s.

But, said Michael Bruno, an editor of Aviation Week and a panelist, there is no obvious successor to either Calhoun and Deal. Boeing has a surprisingly thin bench to elevate an internal officer.

(The appointment in December of Stephanie Pope from CEO of Boeing Global Services to EVP and COO of The Boeing Co. caused puzzlement. While not mentioned at the AvWeek event, few understood her appointment. Her background is entirely finance and despite a long career at Boeing, she’s never been on the “front line.”)

Boeing’s repeated quality assurance failures at all three of its assembly plants in Renton (737s), Charleston (SC) (787s) and Everett (777s and 767s/KC-46As) has been well reported. Panelists repeated a long-stated criticism: Boeing’s culture shifted from engineering and quality final assembly to shareholder value.

And, some panelists said, there doesn’t seem to be a solution or a willingness to change. Aboulafia and Bruno compared Boeing’s problems to the morass of the US war in Iraq in 2004 when US troops reached not only an impasse but didn’t have equipment needed to prosecute the war.

Robert Gates was brought in then as Defense Secretary and he slashed through bureaucracy, effecting changes that benefited troops.

We have let our customers down

“We have let down our airline customers and are deeply sorry for the significant disruption to them, their employees and their passengers,” said Stan Deal, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

This has become a familiar refrain at Boeing that predates Deal’s appointment. Boeing officials have said some variation of this with the first MAX grounding, the suspension of deliveries of the 787 (for 20 months, due to quality issues), delays on the 787 from 2008 and the 747-8 and during various labor strikes.

“I’m more than frustrated and disappointed,” Alaska CEO Ben Minicucci told NBC News two weeks after the accident. “I am angry. This happened to Alaska Airlines. It happened to our guests and happened to our people. And — my demand on Boeing is what are they going to do to improve their quality programs in-house.” Alaska has 65 MAX 9s.

“I’m disappointed that the manufacturing challenges do keep happening at Boeing. This isn’t new,” said Scott Kirby, the CEO of United Airlines. United has more MAX 9s than any other airlines—79.

“I have a lot of confidence in the people at Boeing,” Kirby said. “There are great mechanics, great engineers, [and a] great storied history. But they’ve been having these consistent manufacturing challenges, and they need to take action to get it.” Kirby pointed to an order for 277 MAX 10s that is already five years late. Certification by the FAA isn’t remotely in sight and is likely to be delayed further. He said United is now planning its fleet expansion without the MAX 10, on the assumption deliveries will be further delayed.

“The MAX 9 grounding is probably the straw that broke the camel’s back for us,” Kirby said. “We’re going to at least build a plan that doesn’t have the MAM 10 in it. Now, we’ll hope that Boeing gets it certified at some point, but we’re going to build an alternative plan that just doesn’t have the MAX 10 in it.”

Safety stand down

On Jan. 23, Boeing announced a safety stand down for the Renton factory. This is the full announcement:

First, Boeing’s 737 factory teams will hold a “quality stand down” in Renton, Wash., this Thursday, Jan. 25.  During the session, production, delivery and support teams will pause for a day so employees can take part in working sessions focused on quality. This is part of the immediate quality actions recently shared by Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal.

 Here are excerpts from internal communication to all Commercial Airplanes employees:

  • The first of the stand downs will be held Thursday for the 737 program. Production, delivery and support efforts will pause for a day so teammates can take part in working sessions focused on quality.
  • The sessions allow all teammates who touch the airplane to “pause, evaluate what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and make recommendations for improvement,” said Stan Deal, BCA president and CEO.
  • Over the next few weeks, quality stand downs will take place at all commercial airplane factories and our fabrication sites. During the stand downs, teammates will participate in hands-on learning, reflection and collaboration to identify where quality and compliance can be improved and create actionable plans that will be tracked to closure. [End.]

A new, independent safety committee lead by a retired rear admiral has been appointed. This is the second time such a committee has been formed; the first was in September 2019 during the first MAX crisis. Boeing declined to explain what the first panel achieved and why a second panel is necessary.

Whistleblower reveals what happened

A reader of LNA posted a long comment on our story about Unplanned Removals and Reinstallation processes. He’s anonymous. LNA checked his post with our own Boeing contacts, who said the comment accurately reflects Boeing’s process.

The whistleblower’s post is here in its entirety. It has been slightly edited for clarity.

Current Boeing employee here – I will save you waiting two years for the NTSB report to come out and give it to you for free: the reason the door blew off is stated in black and white in Boeings own records. It is also very, very stupid and speaks volumes about the quality culture at certain portions of the business.

A couple of things to cover before we begin:

Q1) Why should we believe you?
A) You shouldn’t, I’m some random throwaway account, do your own due diligence. Others who work at Boeing can verify what I say is true, but all I ask is you consider the following based on its own merits.

Q2) Why are you doing this?
A) Because there are many cultures at Boeing, and while the executive culture may be thoroughly compromised since we were bought by McDonnell Douglas, there are many other people who still push for a quality product with cutting edge design. My hope is that this is the wake up call that finally forces the Board to take decisive action, and remove the executives that are resisting the necessary cultural changes to return to a company that values safety and quality above schedule.

Why did this happen?

With that out of the way…why did the left hand (LH) mid-exit door plug blow off of the 737-9 registered as N704AL?

Simple- as has been covered in a number of articles and videos across aviation channels, there are 4 bolts that prevent the mid-exit door plug from sliding up off of the door stop fittings that take the actual pressurization loads in flight, and these 4 bolts were not installed when Boeing delivered the airplane. Our own records reflect this.

The mid-exit doors on a 737-9 of both the regular and plug variety come from Spirit already installed in what is supposed to be the final configuration and in the Renton factory. There is a job for the doors team to verify this “final” install and rigging meets drawing requirements. In a healthy production system, this would be a “belt and suspenders” sort of check, but the 737 production system is quite far from healthy. It’s a rambling, shambling, disaster waiting to happen.

As a result, this check job that should find minimal defects has in the past 365 calendar days recorded 392 nonconforming findings on 737 mid fuselage door installations (so both actual doors for the high density configs, and plugs like the one that blew out). That is a hideously high and very alarming number.

If our quality system on 737 was healthy, it would have stopped the line and driven the issue back to supplier after the first few instances. Obviously, this did not happen.

The accident aircraft

Now, on the incident aircraft this check job was completed on 31 August 2023, and did turn up discrepancies, but on the RH side door, not the LH that actually failed. I could blame the team for missing certain details, but given the enormous volume of defects they were already finding and fixing, it was inevitable something would slip through. And on the incident aircraft, something did. I know what you are thinking at this point, but grab some popcorn because there is a plot twist coming up.

The next day on 1 September 2023 a different team (remember 737s flow through the factory quite quickly, 24 hours completely changes who is working on the plane) wrote up a finding for damaged and improperly installed rivets on the LH mid-exit door of the incident aircraft.

A brief aside to explain two of the record systems Boeing uses in production. The first is a program called CMES which stands for something boring and unimportant but what is important is that CMES is the sole authoritative repository for airplane build records (except on 787 which uses a different program). If a build record in CMES says something was built, inspected, and stamped in accordance with the drawing, then the airplane damn well better be per drawing.

The second is a program called SAT, which also stands for something boring and unimportant but what is important is that SAT is *not* an authoritative records system. It’s a bulletin board where various things affecting the airplane build get posted about and updated with resolutions. You can think of it sort of like a idiot’s version of Slack or something.

Wise readers will already be shuddering and wondering how many consultants were involved, because, yes SAT is a *management visibility tool*. Like any good management visibility tool, SAT can generate metrics, lots of metrics, and Boeing managers love their metrics. As a result, SAT postings are the primary topic of discussion at most daily status meetings, and the whole system is perceived as being extremely important despite, I reiterate, it holding no actual authority at all.

Fixing the accident aircraft

We now return to our incident aircraft, which was written up for having defective rivets on the LH mid-exit door. Now as is standard practice in Renton (but not to my knowledge in Everett on wide bodies), this write-up happened in two forms, one in CMES, which is the correct venue, and once in SAT to “coordinate the response” but really as a behind-covering measure so the manager of the team that wrote it can show his boss he’s shoved the problem onto someone else.

Because there are so many problems with the Spirit build in the 737, Spirit has teams on site in Renton performing warranty work for all of their shoddy quality, and this SAT promptly gets shunted into their queue as a warranty item.

Lots of bickering ensues in the SAT messages, and it takes a bit for Spirit to get to the work package. Once they have finished, they send it back to a Boeing QA for final acceptance, but then Malicious Stupid Happens! The Boeing QA writes another record in CMES (again, the correct venue) stating (with pictures) that Spirit has not actually reworked the discrepant rivets, they *just painted over the defects*. In Boeing production speak, this is a “process failure”. For an A&P mechanic at an airline, this would be called “federal crime”.

Presented with evidence of their malfeasance, Spirit reopens the package and admits that not only did they not rework the rivets properly, there is a damaged pressure seal they need to replace (who damaged it, and when it was damaged is not clear to me). The big deal with this seal, at least according to frantic SAT postings, is the part is not on hand, and will need to be ordered, which is going to impact schedule, and (reading between the lines here) Management is Not Happy.

Pressure seal issue

However, more critical for purposes of the accident investigation, the pressure seal is unsurprisingly sandwiched between the plug and the fuselage, and you cannot replace it without opening the door plug to gain access.

All of this conversation is documented in increasingly aggressive posts in the SAT, but finally we get to the damning entry which reads something along the lines of “coordinating with the doors team to determine if the door will have to be removed entirely, or just opened. If it is removed then a Removal will have to be written.” Note: a Removal is a type of record in CMES that requires formal sign off from QA that the airplane been restored to drawing requirements.

If you have been paying attention to this situation closely, you may be able to spot the critical error: regardless of whether the door is simply opened or removed entirely, the 4 retaining bolts that keep it from sliding off of the door stops have to be pulled out.

A removal should be written in either case for QA to verify install, but as it turns out, someone (exactly who will be a fun question for investigators) decides that the door only needs to be opened, and no formal Removal is generated in CMES (the reason for which is unclear, and a major process failure).

Therefore, in the official build records of the airplane, a pressure seal that cannot be accessed without opening the door (and thereby removing retaining bolts) is documented as being replaced, but the door is never officially opened and thus no QA inspection is required.

Verification job not opened

This entire sequence is documented in the SAT, and the nonconformance records in CMES address the damaged rivets and pressure seal, but at no point is the verification job reopened, or is any record of removed retention bolts created, despite it this being a physical impossibility.

Finally with Spirit completing their work to Boeing QAs satisfaction, the two rivet-related records in CMES are stamped complete, and the SAT closed on 19 September 2023. No record or comment regarding the retention bolts is made.

I told you it was stupid.

So, where are the bolts? Probably sitting forgotten and unlabeled (because there is no formal record number to label them with) on a work-in-progress bench, unless someone already tossed them in the scrap bin to tidy up.

There’s lots more to be said about the culture that enabled this to happened, but that’s the basic details of what happened, the NTSB report will say it in more elegant terms in a few years.


78 Comments on “Culture key to latest Boeing MAX crisis: panelists

    • It’s getting sadder and sadder. One’s memories of Boeing being a great aviation company are now nearly 30 years old. There’s lots of people working at Boeing who weren’t even born when their employer was last good at what it does.

      It also means that there’s probably zero people left who remember those good old days, no one to say “When we did things this way, it worked”. Even if Boeing’s management had an appetite to return to former practises that worked, there’s no one left who knows what those were.

      So, they probably have a demoralised workforce, they seem to have a clueless leadership, there’s an uncomfortable level of debt, and the product line up looks a little thin. Not the best way to incentivise people to come to work, give their best, and relish doing the same tomorrow. There’s not many organisations that have come back from such a situation.

      The only thing left in their favour is a fat order book, and a total inability for anyone else to supply the market demand in their place in short order.

      However, if Airbus took a bold move, an announcement of a major increase in capacity, Boeing’s order book could start evaporating at quite a pace. Boeing are probably depending on Airbus not having the ambition to go that way. There’s a bunch of very angry airlines that are probably asking Airbus to do exactly that.

      If suppliers signalled to Airbus that, yes, they’d rather drop Boeing and help Airbus increase their capacity (because Boeing’s customers look set to stop buying Boeing regardless), who knows what would happen.

      • I for one do in fact remember the good old days which is why seeing what’s happening is so sad to me. Boeing was the place I always told myself I wanted work at when I was a youg starry eyed aviation geek kid watching planes I ended up leaving Boeing in 1997 as a “victim” of the MDC buyout. Turned to be great for me as I ended up having a wonderful career marketing aircraft for a leasing company until my retirement last year.

        I’m sure as much as Airbus might want to increase production of their A320neo family aircraft GE / CFM will have little if any interest in losing their exclusive deal with Boeing to power 100% of all B737 MAX aircraft just to face competition against P&W’s GTF engine on every A320neo order. Not only would they likely make less $$$’s / engine but they would only build around 50% in number of additional engines on A320neo’s vs. 100% of the engines on MAX’s.

        • “50% of the engines on NEO’s
          100% of the engines on MAX’s”


          100% of ZERO deliveries is …. ?

          • Not sure if you heard the latest news but all grounded MAX 9’s will be up and flying within a few weeks -and- Boeing will continue to produce and deliver almost 400 MAX”s per year until the FAA lifts the tae increase “freeze”. In order for GE / CFM to be happy Airbus would have to build and deliver 400 more A320neo family aircraft, ALL powered with GE / CFM engines. Not happening……

          • If the allegations re “Boeing production system is FUBAR”
            have even a little substance I expect delivered numbers to be touched in a negative way.

            If Boeing’s solution goes towards another series of weasel worded cop out Lobby/PR campaigns with insufficient solving powers applied the “real problem” you see some FAA hammer or other fall.
            ( if that doesn’t happen customers will start to get unpleasant. What I’ve read: flight searches have been expanded to select/avoid plane types )

        • As a retired Boeing employee of 30+ years working in the Quality department, I had seen the quality of our products decline since the merger with Mcdonnell Douglas. The first to go was the title of Quality Control since in the wisdom of the executives, we don’t control quality. We then became Quality Assurance but that title changed using the same logic, we don’t assure quality. So we were identified only as quality. Inspetions were reduced with more emphasis placed on the mechanics signing off on their own work. Quality management went along with this since the importance of a quality product switched to that of making deliveries (which increased Market Share). Thought of the day was, just look the other way, it is more profitable to make schedule. We can fix it later after the customer takes delivery. This mindset existed throughout all divisions of the company.
          As an internal auditor and later a licensed FAA Repairman, I was met with ridicule from management. Several of my audit findings were signed off as Non-existent by upper management. During my time as an FAA Repairman, when I would not return to service after phase maintenance due to it being incomplete, and I stated that my responsibilities to the FAA would not allow me to look the other way, I was informed that I was a Boeing employee first.
          I retired in 2008 and have not flown on a Boeing Aircraft since.

      • This is what happens to a company when you have piss poor management, too much outsourcing, and incompetent top level leadership. YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW

        RIP BOEING

  1. A bit surprised China Southern just accepted the first max 8 delivery in years to the country.
    Flight Radar showing it’s on the way to Honolulu for a stopover..

  2. I wonder what would have happened had this door blown out at say 30k to 35k feet?
    Would there be a possibility for a catastrophe like the DC10 where the cabin floor collapsed taking out all hydraulics and in the case of the ancient 737 control system, the cables to the tail, leading to a loss of the aircraft?

    • No question that if the door blew off at cruise altitudes it would have been more damaging. Don’t believe it would buckle the floor necessarily since the “escape route” of the air in the cabin is above the floor. The DC-10 tragedy started with a cargo door (below floor level) blowing off the plane. Nevertheless there certainly would have been far greater rush of air seeking to escape the opening -and- the aircraft would have been flying much faster and in far colder conditions. Very likely there would have been more injuries and possibly fatalities in that case.

      Another important factor is if at higher cruise speeds the door might impact the tail section rendering the aircraft uncontrollable. In the Portland case I’m guessing the slower speed allowed the door to drop downwards before impacting the tail section.

      Lastly, lets not forget the shock the crew experienced when the cockpit door blew open (as designed). Once again, Boeing failed to document this possibility in any of their manuals or checklists. Listening to audio of the conversation with the tower one can hear the how shaken that pilot was at the beginning. I can only imagine how much worse it would have been up front at higher altitudes and the door blows open as designed…..

      • The door blowing off where and when is pure speculation.

        It also could have been forced a gains the stops with a large press-rue differential and it was only at a lower altitude it could eject,.

        What is clear is that it was an insanely balanced situation that the Blank did not hit the tail assembly and cause severed damage.

        There are compounding aspects here as well as fantastic luck. The aircraft was on auto pilot. It is standard training to leave on auto pilot while they get masks on.

        If the plane goes erratic then PF has to fly while the PM gets his mask on, and they can’t hear anything due to the massive blowout and the door being opened.

        There are passengers and crew people that were on that aircraft and that hit the jackpot (right after being nominated for the short straw) Its not the CEO that pays the price.

      • This is an excellent posting – thanks Scott. I sure hope it has the impact it needs to have.

        A bit about the nature of the pressure vessel: The cabin floor panels in a Boeing plane are NOT part of the pressure vessel and are actually rather easy to lift in many cases. Generally, the pressure vessel is defined by the outer skin of the plane, the aft pressure bulkhead, the bulkheads that make-up the main gear wheel well and center wingbox, and a series of bulkheads and panels up front that define the forward pressure bulkhead for the cabin, the same for the EE bay, and the decking that runs between them.

        Pressurizing the plane is a bit like blowing up a balloon. Releasing the pressure at altitude is more or less violent depending on the pressure differential. Aluminum skinned planes are generally pressurized to an equivalent of what you would experience at an altitude of 8,000′ on the ground. This is roughly the same as the lodge at Vail. Target humidity is low, around 5%, to minimize oxidation issues around the fasteners and such.

        On the 787, which is a much stronger structure when built right, target equivalent pressurized ground elevation is 6,000′ with a target humidity of 15%. This makes long flights a lot more comfortable and less fatiguing.

        So what all of this means is that the violence associated with a rapid or explosive decompression will vary quite a bit depending on the altitude where it occurs, how fast the change is (size of the hole), and where the compromise to the pressure vessel occurs. Given enough of a pressure differential and a sufficiently bad location for the hole, the impacts can be as bad as making the plane uncontrollable by the movable surfaces and a Goldfinger-like event in the cabin. A relatively low altitude event with the decompression thrust being amidships is probably a best case scenario. Having the event occur at cruising altitude and well away from the COG (think center wing box) would be the worst. It would be an interesting test, but a question that immediately comes to my mind is whether or not an aft side door on one of the longer planes blowing out would be enough to throw the plane into a flat spin. That would be super bad, and I don’t recall ever hearing about a test of it being done.

        • There are a couple of incidents that should be borne in mind – and attest to the way that Boeing used to build aircraft.
          1 – WN1380 on 17Apr18 – aircraft was at about FL360 when an engine blew, and took out a cabin window. (Unfortunately) one passenger lost.
          There are other examples of major cabin decompression, but another that comes to mind was this one:
          2 – EI048 on 24Sep70 flying SNN-LHR at FL250 the hinge area on the upper cargo door (aircraft was a PCF) gave way leaving a hole of about 40″ by 30″. Aircraft descended and continued to LHR with no injuries (or loss of life)
          If you go back further to the 1950’s the Comet disasters came one after the other – 3 of them were lost because of a design flaw (square windows exacerbated cabin vibration leading to cracking of fuselage around windows.
          The lessons from these design flaws were passed on to every major aircraft manufacturer in the world to help make aviation safer.
          Would that we have that level of cooperation within each manufacturer (looking at you, Boeing!) and between manufacturers. (A pipe dream, unfortunately)

          • Maybe the more famous depressuration event on a Boeing aircraft built in the Pacific Northwest was United 811, a B747-100 operating LAX-HNL-AKL-SYD. The event (unfortunately with loss of life) happened as they were climbing out of HNL as a forward cargo door blew off and the floor immediately above it buckled allowing passengers seated there to be ejected out to the Pacific Ocean. Despite a huge gaping hole the great structural design of the B747 was proven as the aircraft returned to HNL for a successful emergency landing.


    • Though speculative, at altitude, it is feasible that some type of structural damage could be expected. The full extent of potential damage is unknown.
      New Mexico Aviation Outfitters

    • beyond a potential full loss there is the
      issue of seatbelts on or “you can release them now”, move around.

      unsecured pax probably would have lost more than a t-shirt.
      i.e. sucked out and thus lost their lives.
      That door provides for quite a bit larger area than a broken window.

  3. Fascinating. What gets lost in this is if Spirit had ever installed the bolts appropriately to begin with. I would think Spirit records “should note” that step. How much other rework is not documented in the official system. That ought to be a fun audit with the FAA going through every entry into SAT to determine what could have occurred “off the books”

  4. There is continuous talk about fixing the “culture” when it seems to me that the real problem is just Business 101 of managing your suppliers. The problem lies not with the mechanic or the quality inspector or lack of regulatory oversight.

    The problem is that the system has been stretched thin by a failure to manage suppliers. Boeing has too much relied upon gimmicks to gin-up margins through “Partnering for Success” and escalating payment terms to 120-days.

    It doesn’t matter how many “stand down meetings” one holds when finance has created a system that incentivizes shortcuts and cutting corners and fix-it-later at the expense of building it right the first time and accepting nothing but the acceptable quality upstream from final assembly.

    The common thread between 737MAX MCAS accidents and this accident is that the quality and regulatory system was not adequate to address a failure by supplier to perform. On 737MAX, the AOA disagree light was not implemented correctly by the supplier, which necessitated following a non-compliance process under which safety and certification was argued away and corrective action deferred to reduce costs. And here as well, a system that is meant to address an occasional lapse in quality or part shortage is stretched to breaking point by volume of work and likely a slew new hires and retirements.
    The problem is that the metrics used to grade and reward Supplier Management are distinct and separate from the metrics used to score Operations management. You can’t reward Supplier Management for meeting their metrics if that results in more costs to factory, which may take years to observe in practice.

    The Executive team created this organizational morass at the top and the Executive owns it.

    • I don’t get the above remark.

      What does managing your suppliers have to do with a gap in your quality control?

      Yes Spirit has issues, but how do you manage it into no problems?

      Yea, I can blow a puff of wind at a fire and that does not do anything.

      You need a top to bottom interest in safety, not profits and you need processes and procedures in place to make sure there are layers of safety.

      Suppliers may have issues, its the failure of Boeing at the top to ensure that safety is first and profits are last.

      Yea, you can punish the supplier but if that supplier is in a position where there are no profits?

      You got rid of Wichita so you could pretend that you can have two separate organization make a profit off the same assembly.

      Spirit lied when they said they could and Boeing swore to it.

      Boeing has internal issues that have nothign to do with suppliers, the Shim debacle on the 787 is a case in point. That was Boeing failures.

      Yea a fuselage might have been out of round, was there inspections and paperwork that said it was to spec?

      • “I don’t get the above remark.
        What does managing your suppliers have to do with a gap in your quality control?”

        Primum Inter Pares” vs “sole sore thumb” 🙂

        * Door plug made in Malaysia separated from plane
        * Airbus caught fire ………………………………….. due to collision.
        * Trent 1000 came apart on a test stand causing 787 delays.

      • It isn’t about punishing suppliers. It is about how supplier selection and supplier management creates a system that inherently will fail once it becomes over-stressed. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip, and you can’t continue to dictate cost reductions in your suppliers without there being consequences.

        Let me give you a few examples.

        Example 1. At one site when the production line was starting up, management found that that the average hourly rate on the shop floor was higher than what was budgeted. The solution was to bring in younger mechanics and transfer experienced mechanics to another program. As you might expect, the number of non-conformities increased. As the NCRs increased, Liaison engineering and MEs staffing was not increased because that also counts against budget, which meant more overtime work. Mistakes happen in dispositions due to rush to meet shipping dates; components are shipped with open NCRs to be resolved at final assembly.

        Example 2. At another site, a new workforce is hired in a non-union right-to-work state. The wage rate is at the prevailing wage for the area. The quit rate is found to be high because the mattress factory up the road offers better pay than the aerospace factory. As a consequence, there is a constant stream of new mechanics just coming off of training that have to learn how to build aerospace quality parts. NCRs go up dramatically.

        Example 3. In product development after extensive conceptual studies, the Engineering team recommends a very experienced supplier that has worked on Boeing Commercial airplane programs in the past as Industry Assist. However, they are a “high cost” supplier and Supplier Management selects the lowest cost bid for the work package. The lowest cost bid fails to perform in either engineering work statement or in its manufacturing production.

        Example 4. A supplier was selected at Company B based upon a design utilized at Company A. Once in production, it was found that the manufacturing process used for Company A could not be used for Company B without a very high reject rate. Supplier Management though dictates that the contract cannot be renegotiated, which means that engineering and liaison staffing are used to make a bad design work.
        The point that I’m making is that the most profitable manufacturing process is the one that makes parts without errors. The financial pressures on suppliers to always reduce cost mean that the system is stressed in a way that it wasn’t intended for.

    • A bit of Toyota thinking might help. Hence you check the fuselage at incoming inspection at Renton. If not per spec you send it back and demand a report from their Q how it could happen and how they will make sure it never happens again. Then per Toyota logic there are 7 other problems hidden you need to find in Wichita and then you start accepting fuselages again. Normally you should expect defects on the first 3 shipments then once those are corrected the system should work if built right..

      • Too expensive, nothing more than a bandaid for the less capable.

        We’ll fix it on the shop floor.


        When the Moscow design subsidiary was tasked with 747(-8) work
        the result was a pile of do-do.

        “unsurprising! dumb Moscovites!”

        Later it was exposed that archived “official” documentation availed for the Moscovites for this type did not match what was build and then left the shop floor to delight customers.

        Better than 15 years ago I found this to be a rather revealing information. It fit quite well into the parallel issues the Dreamliner project bogged down on.

  5. What will it take for the Boeing Board to sack these losers and bring technical competence instead of financial acumen back to the C-Suite?

    • No joke. The lack of serious action at the Board level in the face
      of impending disaster is bizarre.

      Alfred E. Neuman stuff.. are they thinking they can brazen it out
      one more time?

      • I don’t think its a joke but its classic CEO in the pillage world.

        Its only when the nasty stuff hits the fan and then it takes time to react.

        Will see if this is slathered over, attempted to be slathered over or action is taken. It will not be immediate. It might be a few weeks or it may be a few months.

        This all has a predictable course in how they attempt to shuck it (employee meetings are sure going to solve it of course).

        Then Stan will get the ax and probably he should, but he is nothing more than a floating guy aimlessly wandering the empty plane. He does not even have an office.

        After Stan gets whacked then more wait and see if it can be slathered over.

        The FAA slowing down the 737 ramp up/halting it or stopping delivery is another possible step.

  6. If you wanted to jump ship on your MAX 9 or 10 order you would have a long wait for an A-321. Of course there is no way of knowing when the 10 will enter service.

    Boeing is just lucky that Airbus can’t possibly meet the single aisle demand itself and that the airlines need two manufacturers to have some competition in the market.

    As a fan of aircraft, Boeing’s descent since the original 777 is a real tragedy and the damage may not be repairable. Could they actually do a new aircraft now if they chose to?

    • Q: Could they actually do a new aircraft now if they chose to?
      A: No, I don’t believe they could. And this is not a new state of affairs. This has been true at least since before c. 2010. The weakness in the New Airplane Product Development organization contributed greatly to the company’s decision to launch the MAX (i.e. there were no competitive/viable clean sheet alternatives ready for launch in 2011). IMO the clean sheet design situation is much worse now than it was even back then.

      • Right now Boeing would have to borrow more money to ramp up into a new aircraft. They might have to put up the company like Ford did to get a loan.

        But the latest failure also means the profits ramp up is not going to occur.

        The board may act simply because all the projections just went out the window again. You can bet that there is a lot behind the scenes.

        There was a time any single aircraft mfg could make up the other being non producing, but at 70 Airbus A320 a month, that is 700 a year roughly (yes it has a windage factor here, we are talking ballpark)

        Airbus cannot begin to deliver with many thousands of backlog and Boeing has thousands as well.

        United, Alaska etc can shift to other models of the MAX, but they sure can’t just replace a fleet that would take 10 years to swap out.

        The -7 is not getting delivered either and caught up in this and we have the South West situation to add into it.

        Some like United could come up with slow shift over strategy taking -8 or -9 in the meantime.

        But you also have A320 LEAP issues and P&W issues.

      • the next clean sheet commercial aircraft….
        currently wing and fuselage.. metallic or composite fuselage and wing will be thermoplastics
        current engine technology…next with be hydrogen (e.g. Airbus 2035)
        current sub assembly parts …machined…next will be AM parts

        We are looking at 2040 before entry into service, you will need all new mfg. infrastructure from OEM down to third tier suppliers (PS where will the money come from to invest?)

        • No idea about Boeing.

          For Airbus and what I’ve seen published:
          They have been rather busy looking, testing, developing
          new methods and new materials all the time.
          And they don’t succumb to selecting solutions based on media sexiness.
          Through delivering NEOs in large numbers they have the financial power to work a new project.
          ( anyway: one should start the next geneeration when the current one is at its apex.)

    • “Boeing is just lucky that Airbus can’t possibly meet the single aisle demand itself and that the airlines need two manufacturers to have some competition in the market.”

      This can get worse.
      I expect the FAA to remembering their “to further american aerospace industries” line of jobs and starting make life difficult for Airbus
      just to “level the table” vs Boeing. IMHO a real danger.

      The US as a whole is in “aggresively throwing their weight around” mode to not drown.

    • I’d like to think that (as far as Airbus is concerned) there are always alternatives, insofar as getting aircraft before 2030.

      Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick any two.

      Especially now, I don’t think AB will cut quality on the product, so if you want it fast, it ain’t going to be cheap. Thing is, if United wants high volume discounts on it’s order, they’ll have to go to the back of the line.

      If United is willing to pay more, I’m sure that there are lessors & other airlines in the queue willing to give up their slot…for the right price. How much? Might be a coupla-few million extra AND they might have to accept some engine deals that aren’t quite as good as they might have signed.

      Also, they would probably have to pay a premium to get their suppliers onside, in order to get their BFE to the Airbus FAL in time.


      Possibility #2

      This is the United fleet:

      They are getting some XLR’s starting this year, to replace 757’s. The Max 10’s were supposed to start in 2025. They are getting A321Neo’s until 2032.

      They’ll have to hang onto their older 757’s, A319 & A320 Ceo’s longer than expected(22 & 25 yrs age) and increase their A321Neo order.



      United have that order for 45 – A350’s that they keep deferring (45 aircraft).

      What would Airbus do if Kirby called up AB and said “we want more A321Neo’s sooner than later and in return, we’ll start taking those A350’s as soon as you can make them. 100% firmed up. We might even order some more.”

      Maybe some lessor or airline could be convinced to step aside for a couple of years.

  7. Firstly – a typo in the United CEO’s quote: “doesn’t have the MAM 10 in it.”

    Secondly – in the last few years, I didn’t follow aviation quite as closely as I used to because family matters took over most of my life (and I don’t work in aviation). I still followed the big news stories, but smaller ones like certification progress of new A32xNEO or MAX variants weren’t really what I keeping tabs on. And honestly, reading “Kirby pointed to an order for 277 MAX 10s that is already five years late.” I’m a bit flabbergasted. I had no idea they were that badly behind schedule, and to me, this – and the anger expressed by Alaska and United – really drives home how big a task Boeing has ahead of them, considering how many issues they have in the part of their enterprise that is supposed to develop, certify and build the products that their revenue and profits (and share price) is based on.

    • From the 2018 BA financials, pg 29

      Program Development The following chart summarizes the time horizon between go-ahead and planned initial delivery for major Commercial Airplanes derivatives and programs

      Go-ahead and Initial Delivery
      737 MAX 7 2011 2019
      737 MAX 8 2011 2017
      737 MAX 9 2011 2018
      737 MAX 10 2017 2020
      787-10 2013 2018
      777X 2013 2020


      By 2025 it’ll be 5 years late.

  8. FAA halts Boeing 737 Max production expansion, but clears path to return Max 9 to service

    ““Let me be clear: This won’t be back to business as usual for Boeing,” said FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker in a statement Wednesday. “We will not agree to any request from Boeing for an expansion in production or approve additional production lines for the 737 MAX until we are satisfied that the quality control issues uncovered during this process are resolved.”

    “The FAA is investigating Boeing’s production lines after the Alaska flight. Whitaker told CNBC on Tuesday that the FAA will keep “boots on the ground” at Boeing’s factory until the agency is convinced quality assurance systems are working. He said the agency is switching to a “direct inspection” approach with Boeing.”

    • I thought we already has enhanced MAX inspections?

      But yea, the hammer starts to come down, stay tuned.

    • “direct inspection approach”

      oh. what were they doing before- I mean, after the first two MaxCrashes?

      should be fine

  9. The MAX 10 variant was officially launched in June of 2017 and a prototype was already flying in 2018. Unfortunately for Boeing timing was all wrong as the entire MAX program came to a grinding halt March of 2019 when all MAX aircraft were grounded and soon thereafter we had the COVID crisis where the very existence of several airline customers and Boeing itself came into question until financial assistance was forthcoming to get thru the crisis. Boeing had to focus on getting hundreds of grounded airplanes back in the air and resuming deliveries of MAX 8’s and MAX 9’s before getting additional variants certified. In the meantime the FAA having taken egg in the face in its role allowing the original defective design of the MAX 8 to be certified is of course now making the certification process more onerous and lengthy for any aircraft variants including the MAX 7, MAX 10 and B777-9.

    If its any consolation to Mr. Kirby (UAL CEO) I believe Southwest (and others) have been waiting even longer for the MAX 7 which was launched before the MAX 10 and is also yet to be certified.

    • While a lot of truth it was not timing that was all wrong.

      It is and was Boeing fanatical devotion to shifting any money made to the upper managements (stock buy back) and borrowing 13 billion to pay a dividend.

      Its the company focus that is wrong.

      • China is proceeding with Max deliveries again. Both United and Alaska stating the ‘9 will be returning to service this weekend!!
        Could it really be a sign of things to come.
        Or a mere blip on the radar?
        Do we at last see progress on the certification of the Max7 before years end ?
        Does Emirates Begin route proving trials on the 777 9 as planned ?
        More questions than answers.

      • A bit of history re Boeing and China
        AC will provide vertical fins and the inboard flap for the 737 MAX, scheduled to begin deliveries in 2017. XAC also supports the Boeing 747-8 program with trailing edge wing ribs and inboard flaps.

        Today more than 8,000 Boeing airplanes fly throughout the world with parts and assemblies built by China. China has a role on every one of Boeing’s commercial airplane models ? 737, 747, 767, 777 and the newest and most innovative airplane, the 787 Dreamliner.

        Boeing projects that China will need 6,020 new airplanes over the next 20 years, valued at $870 billion, which is nearly 45 percent of the total demand for airplanes in the Asia Pacific region. Tourism in China and intra-Asia travel is supporting a strong demand for single-aisle airplanes, with total deliveries projected to reach 4,340 through 2033.

        SEATTLE, July 27, 2015

    • So true

      Go-ahead and Initial Delivery
      737 MAX 7 2011 2019
      737 MAX 8 2011 2017
      737 MAX 9 2011 2018
      737 MAX 10 2017 2020
      787-10 2013 2018
      777X 2013 2020

      ‘On May 15, 2013, Southwest became the launch customer for the Boeing 737 MAX 7. The first delivery was expected in 2019 but was delayed by the grounding of the 737 MAX.’


      Just a short 13-14 year wait to get what you ordered. Your 5 year old becomes an adult, before SWA get’s those aircraft.

      • It should also be noted that the B737-7 MAX had a design change after its launch. The original design was to be same cabin size as the B737-700. However, when Boeing realized how badly operating economics were affected when installing much heavier (yet more fuel efficient) engines on the smaller plane Boeing decided to stretch the aircraft by 2 rows. The current design B737-7 is larger than the B737-700 and A319ceo it replaces while the B737-8 MAX is the same size at the B737-800 it replaces.

        • the B737-700 used a lot of bespoke parts for weight savings.
          ( sensible as it represented overall ~20% sold frames. higher in the early years !?)

          The 737-7MAX did not match that interest at all.
          Boeing decided to save on parts and turned the 7MAX into a simple 8MAX shrink. i.e. I don’t think lower op costs are a given!
          ( does taking 7MAX actually make any sense at all these days?
          A319, though providing for 50% of deliveries in the 2000 years,
          lost out to A320 due to “more capacity for minimally higher cost”)

    • >Unfortunately for Boeing timing was all
      >wrong as the entire MAX program came
      >to a grinding halt March of 2019 when
      >all MAX aircraft were grounded

      About the choice to use the word, “Unfortunate”: I’d not give them an iota of sympathy for that. They did it to themselves, and to the 346 people who died in the two crashes.

      • OK, fair enough, they -and- the FAA share responsibility for allowing the original MAX 8 design to be certified and delivered leading to 2 crashes and 346 lives lost. However, they are not responsible for COVID and the 95% drop in passengers flying out of US airports from in April 2020 compared to March 2020 leading to whwt was perceived at the time as existential crisis for OEM’s and airlines for quite sometime. I remember living it day to day, it was exhausting dealing with my lessees. In retrospect I wish I had retired pre-COVID……

        • True, but Calhoun turned down federal pandemic money and laid off many thousands of skilled workers. That was self-inflicted damage.

          • Yes, Boeing did turn down direct assistance from the Feds offered up by the CARES but only did so because the same CARES Act enabled the Fed to offer significantly improved financing terms in the open market and Boeing took advantage of that avenue. Originally they planned to split the “help” between bonds and CARES Act direct assistance by only offering $10-$15 billion in bonds but the demand was sooooo high for those bonds (oversubscribed to $70 billion) that they ended up offering $25 billion at better terms for them and that way avoided any direct federal $$$’s and all of the strings that come attached to them.


          • “That was self-inflicted damage.”

            For Calhoun?
            IMU: No. only way to get his bonuses.
            ( “Not taking public money”
            did that also give some boyancy to share values?)

        • I think it’s worth noting JD, that Airbus has faced the same headwinds as BA, in regards to external forces (pandemic, Ukraine invasion, supplier issues) and one that BA is not facing, in the P&W GTF mess.

          IIRC they were in the black, financially – all throughout.

          Boeing’s woes are a series of self inflicted wounds made by mgmt; 737Max, 787, 777X, share buybacks and dividends, BDS programs in the red – all these issues were related to decisions made in the C-Suite.

          • Spot on FP. The only thing that is saving Boeing’s rear end over the past decade of commercial fiasco’s across all programs is the massive stable revenue they derive from military and space programs. On those cost overruns are simply passed along to taxpayers (ie. KC-46 tanker).

  10. I had to laugh at the “we are surprised at how thin the Boeing bench is!”

    Really? KC-46A, T-7A, MQ-25, all the 787 build failures, 777X endless delay.

    This did not just occur.

    And that means the Everett MAX line is on hold along with the -7 and -10 and any possibility of a waiver for the de-ice system.

    • The funny thing is, Trans, is that you used to tell us how awesomely well all the Boing programs you just mentioned were doing.

      Just a trivial observation.

  11. Just in case Boeing attacked Leeham site, I cut out and saved the original post in the topic aka report by Throwaway. Paranoid? Maybe. But just because you are paranoid does not mean they won’t come after you (in this case Leeham).

    I am seeing a lot of mis quotes and ad libs on that report he wrote.

    Will have to stay tuned but as I noted some entries subject wise back, his report had all the hallmarks of what explained what happened.

    The big aspect is the bolts were not there period. Not loose, not 3 still in place, none of them in place nor rattling around.

    As I told a manager one night when he said, now the uppers will suffer.

    Nope, you are here, I am here trying to deal with a gaping hole in the Hangar we can’t close because they would not authorize $1500 to put a safety device on a door as it all depended on a single operating control.

    You will pay for it and I am not going to get any sleep tonight (called out at midnight) while I try to get maximum heat in the equipment rooms and they will slather it over and cover it up.

    Exactly what happened. You really have to have been on those crosshairs to know the truth when its been laid out.

    The acronyms change, how the hole got to be where it was changes but its all based on no one cares until the nasty stuff hits the fan and then how can we cover it up?

    This is so grossly public that Calhoun in my opinion is gone, but whether something changes or they plug in another blank into the CEO position and do not lock the bolts this time, well that plays out over time.

  12. “This is so grossly public that Calhoun in my opinion is gone”

    Frankly, I didn’t understand why his being appointed CEO didn’t raise eyebrows more than it did. He was a director at Boeing (in addition to similar roles elsewhere) since 2009, became chairman of the board in 2019, and has now been CEO for four years. I find it very hard to argue that a) he did not play a role in shaping the management and culture at Boeing, both of which are amongst the chief root causes of the problems Boeing is facing, and b) he is the right person to get Boeing out of this.

    In my own experience, yes, heads do matter.

    • * Nick for a poster here a decade in the past.
      * A character in “Atlas shrugged” by Ayn Rand
      * John Galt Corporation, American demolition and construction contractor
      * John Galt Solutions, Inc., American software company

      On further reading learned something.
      “Who is John Galt?” ~= don’t ask.


  13. It is indeed a culture issue at the core, and Boeing’s ‘leadership’ created it and reinforces it, as many of you have said, priorizing very short-term stock price hikes to win executives their bonuses. Dave Calhoun, Stan Deal, Scott Stocker, Mani Tiggs, Dave Baker, Lance Ball, Mike Delaney (the “Safety” leader under Stan), and another 100 other executives just like them (the critical mass of the current, cancerous GE/Mac-Dac culture executives) all need to be summarily and publicly dismissed, with the reasons made clear. Then real Leadership can be reintroduced with absolute foundational priorities of an open and committed culture unwavering around real quality and safety, starting by truly listening to and caring for the good people of Boeing and having ZERO tolerance for any other kind of employees.

    • From VPs to the Board, they’ve demonstrated incompetence & negligence in terms of Quality, Safety & business management,,, for years now. Most, if not all, need to go.

      Re the 737, some of these execs were part of the plan 6 years ago to address Spirit issues and were made plainly aware of the risks of Spirit quality and out of sequence work.
      The publicly available data shows little to no progress, and that sub par quality has become the process.

      Why should the 737 Production Certificate not be pulled?

      • IMO, even the lower leadership ranks in this organization are now tainted by hyper normalization of sociopathic behaviors coming from the top. If the people in the lower ranks are used to populate the upper ranks (most likely), the same behaviors will be inevitable. Sorry to say, but Boeing has entered a process that is nearly impossible to reverse, short of a complete restructuring from the bottom (basically requiring a big financial event and bankruptcy to drive an 80% downsizing). Cultural illnesses are very difficult to cure once they set in.

        • I mostly agree.
          My point is the “leaders” who got you lost are uniquely unqualified to lead one out of the morass they led one into.

  14. I have to admit to being a bit puzzled. Is it only on the 737-9 line that bolts are left untightened? Unless that happens to be the case, in which case the problem can be narrowed down almost to specific workers, there must be a suspicion that the problems are endemic, and if that is the case, why are all the lines not halted and recent production undergoing detailed inspection for loose fasteners? Or is that too awful to countenance?

    • In the closed position door/plug and frame are physically interlocked.
      the missing bolts just block the thing from moving up and unlocking.

      Additional flexible hinging at the lower sill exists to keep the door/plug linked to the fuselage when opened ( the functional egress seems to have a lanyard to limit the angle of opening.)

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