Ultimately, Congress is responsible for mess at FAA, Boeing, Spirit, et al

Editor’s note: Mondays are ordinarily paywall days. Because of the nature of this topic, today’s article is a freewall post.

By Scott Hamilton


The Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-9 MAX that was involved in the Jan. 5, 2024, accident. The door plug for this emergency exit blew off the airplane during climb out from the Portland (OR) airport. Nobody died and injuries were minor.

Feb. 26, 2024, © Leeham News: There’s no getting around the culpability of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Boeing, and Spirit AeroSystems in the current 737 MAX mess. Nor was there any doubt about the culpability of the FAA and Boeing in the first MAX crisis in 2018-2019.

But let’s face it: Ultimately, Congress is where the buck stops. Because Congress for decades failed to appropriate the bucks needed for the FAA to do its job without overreliance on Boeing or Spirit.

Shifting oversight responsibilities and diminishing the FAA’s role may well have been the result of effective lobbying by Boeing and others in the aerospace industry. Congress could have rejected changes to laws governing the FAA’s oversight authority in favor of Boeing and other aerospace companies.

So, it’s Congress, once again, that is ultimately culpable.

Let’s not be naïve. There is no way Congress or Members of Congress will step up to assume responsibility for the mess the US commercial aviation industry sees itself in today.

Stepping off the cliff

The USA and the FAA were once considered the gold standard for commercial aviation safety. If the FAA approved, reciprocity certifications by Europe, the UK, China, Brazil, and other jurisdictions followed. When the FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive, other regulators usually followed. If the FAA grounded an airliner—a rare occurrence—other regulators typically followed.

No more.

The FAA was not the first or even the second regulator to ground the 737 MAX after the October 2018 and March 2019 accidents that took 346 lives in Indonesia and Ethiopia. It was the last. By contrast, the FAA moved with lightning speed in 2013 to ground the Boeing 787. Then, a lithium-ion battery in a Japan Air Lines 787 parked in Boston caught fire, followed a week later by a near-fire on an ANA 787 on take off in Japan. The FAA acted wthin hoursa of the ANA incident. The 787 was grounded for three months while a fix to contain a fire (as opposed to preventing a fire) was developed by Boeing.

News reporting at the time between the March 10 Ethiopian Airlines accident and the FAA’s decision on March 13 to ground the airplane indicated Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg called President Trump urging no action be taken on grounding.

Such a call by the then-CEO was wholly inappropriate. Any contact between Trump and the FAA or its parent, the Department of Transportation, only subverted the mandate of the FAA to oversee safety.

Once was the gold standard

Boeing was once considered the gold standard for the design, development, and production of airliners. Employees and executives prided themselves on delivering reliable airplanes that met performance targets on time to customers.

Before the 787, which was 3 ½ years late and short of performance guarantees, the only late airplanes I remember were the 747-400 and the 747-100. Software development for the new glass cockpit on the -400 caused delays of about four months. The ground-breaking 747-100 suffered delays due to development problems with the first-of-its-kind engines designed for the jumbo jet. That wasn’t Boeing’s fault.

Since the 787 industrial and production debacle, the 747-8 was late and about $2bn over budget.  The KC-46A (767-based) USAF tanker racked up $7bn in overages and it was late; there are still issues with the tanker that bedevil the Air Force and Boeing. Boeing’s new 777X was already an estimated nine months (due to engine development issues) when the first MAX crisis happened. Since the MAX crisis, certification of the 777X will be at least six years later than planned and a big write-off has been taken. The first MAX crisis resulted in a write-off of some $5bn, a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with an accompanying fine of more than $2bn, and delivery and production delays that will continue for months to come, if not years.

The toll of the second MAX crisis has yet to be fully understood.

Spirit AeroSystems

Spirit AeroSystems has been ensnared with the second MAX crisis, the Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 accident that, fortunately, didn’t kill anyone and resulted in only minor injuries.

Spirit makes the 737 fuselage and the nose sections for the 767F/KC-46A, 777, and 787 for Boeing. Quality escapes, affecting mainly the 737 and 787, at Spirit have become more and more frequent since resuming production following the COVID-19 pandemic. The original of the emergency door plug quality failures began at Spirit and ended with Boeing failing to reinstall four bolts that would have prevented the door plug shifting off its mountings and separating from the MAX 9.

A shareholders’ lawsuit filed against Spirit in December highlights quality control issues at Spirit. The Seattle Times cited this lawsuit in addition to original reporting in this article.

Following 1282, the FAA descended upon Boeing and Spirit, adding “boots on the ground” to get to the bottom of the plethora of problems at both companies.

Predictably, some Members of Congress were quick to criticize Boeing and the FAA, some within hours of 1282 when no underlying facts were known. There were calls for new Congressional hearings. At least one hearing is scheduled for next month.

A lot of theatre

There’s a lot of theatre going on with these statements and calls. If Congress truly wants to make a difference, passing new legislation isn’t the be-all, end-all. As the Acting Director of the FAA testified during the 2019 Congressional hearings, staffing up the FAA to eliminate the need for Organizational Designation Authorization (ODA) using Boeing employees as FAA representatives would take billions of dollars in new funding.

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There was no appetite for that, then. There certainly won’t be any appetite for that, now. It was a struggle just to get the FAA reauthorization bill through Congress in recent months.

Congressional hypocrisy is alive and well in aviation, in addition to other policy areas. In the meantime, the USA’s lead in commercial aviation continues to decline.

48 Comments on “Ultimately, Congress is responsible for mess at FAA, Boeing, Spirit, et al

  1. I’m afraid Scott is right here.

    After the 787 development drama (2002-2011), industry & congress stood shoulder to shoulder to streamline FAA aircraft certification. To speed up the process, reduce bureaucracy and strengthen the competitive position of the US industry.

    The worlds airlines were ordering NEO’s like there was no limit and loyal 777 customers were ordering A350s in big numbers. The pressure was on. https://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/rulemaking/committees/documents/media/acprrarc-4202012.pdf

    FAA was forced to comply, their budget re-authorizations by Congress being held hostage since 2012. Targets were being based on this streamlining and responsibility delegation by the FAA. https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-17-508t-highlights.pdf

    Boeing then had the FAA in the pocket & felt invincible.. Boosted by their record orders, stock value and clear political support. A wining mood.

    Soon after (2018) Senate & Congress faulted FAA oversight of Boeing; Acute amnesia.

    The 777x certification strategy (certify as a 777-300ER derivative, the “changed product rule”) approval, amazed many already in 2014.

    The 777x has new wings, engines, landings gears, tails, cockpit and systems. The fuselage has different length, load patterns, door locations, window structure. -> It’s a new aircraft & everybody saw/ignored.

    The unexpected fuselage rupture during 777x ultimate load testing, has focused investigators on the used certification strategy. Changed Product Rules (e.g., 14 CFR §§ 21.19 & 21.101) and associated guidance (e.g., Advisory Circular 21.101-1B and FAA Orders 8110.4C and 8110.48A) should be revised to require a top-down approach. Whereby every change is evaluated from an integrated whole aircraft system perspective. As advised by international experts: https://skybrary.aero/bookshelf/joint-authorities-technical-review-boeing-737-max-flight-control-system.

    -> That means no patching while using reliability numbers of the previous (NG, 77W) design, when those are not representative. Or they are based on grandfathered design and requirements.

    Another, more objective look was taken on new to be certified aircraft (777-9, 737-10, 737-7). Now FAA requires full compliance and should be less vulnerable to the political / industrial pressure of the previous decade.

    The politicians who pushed for relaxation, exemptions and delegation in the 2012-2018 period, “improve” the certification process, are keeping low profiles now, want to look forward. With just a few brave exceptions (M. Cantwell).

    Congress should buy a few big mirrors & dig up various recommendations, sniffy GOA reports, industry letters, ARC reports and FAA re-authorizations 2012-2018..

    • What is the difference in size, budget and staffing between EASA and FAA as their workload should be almost the same.

      • Staff numbers from their own websites – FAA has 45,000, EASA has 800.
        The EASA number seems very low as, in the UK alone, the CAA has 1,200 staff.
        I suppose you’ll need to check each individual country to find out how many people in Europe work for each authority.

        • Apples and oranges: 35k of the FAA’s 45k are ATC–EASA doesn’t do that.

          The article is spot on….

    • Soild summary. There are great similarities to the banking crisis, environment, and the Pharma sector also… Government steps back after lobbying (and financial contributions), loosens regulations, and greed fills the void putting citizens in the firing line.

      And on spins the merry go-round.

    • @keesje. Your comment has a tone of authority and legitimacy, but it would do you well to temper your comments to what you know for certain are factual. I was the primary author on the 777-200 vertical stabilizer formal analysis, among Boeing’s first production certificated composite primary structure, and also contributed to the 777X formal analysis 25 years later. There was no lowering of standards in the certification effort between 777-200 and 777X airplanes, at least within structures and loads and dynamics. The 777X benefits from decades of service experience which resulted in innumerable design improvements in slats, landing gear, moveable trailing edge, etc. If anything the capability of computers and analysis methods resulted in a more thorough and complete set of analysis requiring more engineering hours than the original airplane. And as to the “fuselage rupture”, your characterization of the technical issue is equally incorrect as well, as the failure location and failure mode was not unforeseen and readily addressed after interrogation of the test results without any measurable impact to program cost or schedule.

      • JB:

        Thank you, its invaluable having insight from someone in the process directly.

        I remember when the A380 broke its wing 3% ahead of the 150% figure called for. A lot of people were jumping up and down about how badly they screwed up and a new test required.

        I looked at it and though, wow, they got it withing 3% our of 150%, that is amazing.

        Airbus has forecast where the break would take place, they were off by the 3% but it broke exactingly where they calculated it to break.

        Rather than re-test the wing, they were given a waiver and beefed up that areas.

        Beef up can be tricky if it moves a load someplace else and causes a problem in that other location.

        In this case the calcs said it did not and would not and that was more than good enough for me.

        The 787 wing never did break. I assume they went well to the safe side as it was new tech. Yes they had the side fuselage join but that while painful was easily fixed, it messed with production and cost re-tro fix and design changes in that area.

        Its why we run tests. Computer models are great things but they also need to be validated.

        Computer let me do things I never imagined when I started in on my final career. Yes they have aspects you don’t like and it can be annoying. But once you get through the issues, they are phenomenal day in day out running things in auto.

        I could manage something like 100,000 sq ft of facility from my office and any failure, fault alarm I could tell you what was going on and roughly what needed to be done.

        Prior to that I had to walk to each room and the only heads up was someone saying, we got no heat.

        And sometimes it was a couple hours in the ceiling to find out why the Variable Air Box was not doing its thing correctly.

        Once I had a program tuned, I knew it was not that and could figure out what was going on and what needed doing about it, let the manager know and what the course of action was.

        Before I would have to get a ladder in the room, often had to move people out as they invariable put those units above the desks, then take my gauges and meters and run tests.

    • You guys have really perfected this divert and deflect technique. Dont put the current organization failings on Congress.

      The last good airplane that Boeing built was the 777-200ER. Nobody is rushing to credit Congress for that nor should they. The credit should go to the people who designed and built it.

      • Well, Congress is most certainly part of the story. They set the FAA budget and both parties have reduced that over time. They are also the targets of Boeing lobbying for reduced oversight.

        When the company has turned to the politicians in its drive to be less encumbered by regulation they have been only too happy to assist, seemingly with no curiousity whatsoever as to what that might mean for the safety of the travelling US public, or indeed for passengers all over the world. By passing such “assistive” laws at the request of Boeing, they have taken on responsibility for the consequences.

        In short, Congress has consistently acted to line up a few holes in the Swiss cheese of accidents. That’s made it easier for accidents to happen.

        Of course, it turns out the company too was lining up holes in the cheese with it’s general approach to QC, and lined up almost all the rest with MCAS in particular. MAX entered into service with only one thing standing in the way of certain death – a single working attitude sensor.

        Okay, so how was Congress to know that the company was also engaged in lining up the cheese holes for accidents? Well, several things:

        1) It’s Congress’s job to oversee the FAA and enquire as to the health of the regulatory system. Except that Congress was consistently acting to degrade the regulatory system, and it reached a point where the FAA could not objectively confirm or deny that everything was working as necessary. The buck really does stop with Congress – that’s their job.

        2) The legal framework for corporations, investors, and employment and therefore the legal pressures that end up defining the motivations and actions of executives is the responsibility of Congress. Essentially, company execs have to be seen to be acting ever more agressively in pursuit of cost savings, increased profits, etc. The US political economic and legal system creates too steep a slope for safety to keep a toehold in a company (and, it’s not just aviation where this is a problem), yet that is something that evidently Congress is happy with (or they’d change a few laws).

        3) Boeing is a strategically significant company, which ought to make Congress more than a little curious and interested in the healthy operation of the company. A bad Boeing is bad for the US’s strategic and geopolitical position.

        4) Common sense; if a company involved in a business that is (supposed to be) highly regulated for public safety reasons starts asking politicians for relaxation of regs / laws, the normal reaction is “no, and why are you asking?”.

        Basically, it’s Congress’s job to know, they are in control of the economic framework and should know what company execs are minded to do if they can get away with it, but Congress has been very naive about the whole thing.

        A positive improvement would be if Congress voted themselves out of being in control of the FAA. They should simply fund the FAA to a high level, and accept that that is the price of running the US economy in the way it is.

        • Matthew:

          Spot on, its a system and it succeeds as a system or it fails as a system.

          None of it was done alone.

          If we did not have janitors I could not do my job. Its built from the lowest paid employee to members of congress.

        • Matthew:

          “Okay, so how was Congress to know that the company was also engaged in lining up the cheese holes for accidents?”

          I know you answered your question, but is your question valid? Who decided that Boeing was engaged in lining up the cheese holes for accidents? With respect to the MAX, the news media and blogs like LNA have been making such accusations ever since the first MAX crash, and the allegations of cutting corners at the expense of safety, doing things on the cheap to save money and keep profits up, etc. have not been challenged and with regurgitation again and again by various media, have become cast as fact—without ever being validated. What sort of competence was involved in making those assessments? Are they even logical? They certainly have been a part of the basis for the redesign of the MAX to return it to service. They’ve even been the basis for legislation that purports to improve aviation safety.

          Take the allegation (or is it a fact now?) that you made in your comment: MAX entered into service with only one thing standing in the way of certain death – a single working attitude sensor. (I’m assuming you meant AOA sensor, not attitude). How did you decide that the effect of the runaway stab trim condition created when an erroneous AOA sensor value activates MCAS unnecessarily is catastrophic? Because two airplanes crashed? How does that runaway have a far worse effect than runaways caused by other faults, which are still evaluated as Hazardous? The flight data records of all three flights that experienced runaways due to unnecessary MCAS activation showed a comparatively benign scenario, where the pilots reacted (automatically and reflexively per basic pilot training) to the initial unexpected pitch change using elevator control to restore pitch attitude as well as recover altitude lost, followed by electric trim to assist when the elevator force grew excessive. The electric trim interrupted the runaway and it remained suspended for 5 sec after electric trim ceased. So the pilots successfully countered the runaway and maintained level flight—just as Boeing predicted and expected. The pilots did this each time the runaway manifested. Eventually, one flight shut off the electric trim system and using the manual trim wheel went on to land at their destination. The second flight countered the runaway 22 times(!) then control was handed to the FO who didn’t know how to maintain pitch attitude, so didn’t counter the next 2 runaways and they all died in an unrecoverable dive. The third flight also countered the runaway a few times, then shut off the trim system, then turned it on again but didn’t even attempt to counter the runaway when it re-manifested. One hypothesis is he deliberately did so, part of a scheme to get the autopilot engaged. They too died in an unrecoverable dive. BTW, none of the 3 sets of pilots gave even the slightest hint that they had even heard of a runaway stab trim, let alone train for the procedure as part of their basic 737 type rating training. And notice… no mention of MCAS at all—none needed.

          So, not exactly the picture painted by the media, of stunned pilots fighting losing battles with automation that wrested control away from them and put the airplane into a steadily incrementing dive. But we took 20 months to redesign MCAS, adding sensor redundancy to ensure a runaway trim due to MCAS would never occur again (but runaways by other faults can, just like before). Why? To assuage the prejudiced media by pretending that we were fixing a Boeing design defect that had allowed a catastrophic situation to manifest and kill 346 people, while hiding the fact that two airlines were not giving their pilots basic 737 training, so they didn’t know how to handle a runaway trim condition and allowed it to develop into an unrecoverable dive that killed 346 people.

          LNA needs to rewrite this article to include the huge and destructive role that disinformation from an incompetent and irresponsible media has played in mucking up aviation safety. IIRC LNA was in the middle of yet one more speculative hypothesis, trying to blame the design of the MAX for the crashes, when the FAA suddenly released the NPRM for returning the MAX to service. Abandoning that hypothesis, LNA then concluded—quite definitively—that hiding MCAS and denying pilots the critically necessary training on the system is what caused the crashes; the pilots were helpless victims. I’d love to see that training being administered to a student pilot. Should be very interesting, considering that MCAS has absolutely no pilot interface: no ON/OFF switch, no knobs/levers/buttons to control or modify its operation, no procedures or messages that reference or mention it, no gauges or indicators showing its status. In normal MCAS operation the trim wheel will turn for 2 or 3 seconds but is indiscernible from the operation of the Speed Trim System. Abnormal operation used to be a runaway stab trim. So, MCAS is invisible to the pilots, “transparent” was the term Boeing used when requesting the FAA’s permission to remove it from the pilot’s operations manual, nothing to operate. But news reporters couldn’t understand “transparent” so the cheap and sensational conclusion was: Boeing was trying to hide it! The rest is history. Sad.

          BTW, you may want to rethink the answer to your question about Congress knowing… In case you didn’t notice, the report from the Congressional Hearings on the MAX had many “findings” that accused Boeing of some very serious wrongdoings, and for the analysis that led to those findings or the evidence that supported the conclusions, the report has links… to news articles. Yup. Congress.

  2. I agree that Congress is responsible, but it is US voters who elect the members of Congress and influence its behaviour. The ‘What do we want?’ ‘Less Government’ philosophy has defunded the FAA alongside other core infrastructure, whether that is physical infrastructure or institutions. You get the government that you deserve, and combined with a ruthless short-term focus on profits the USA has, over time, cashed in all the long-term investments made by previous generations. Without a shift away from a philosophy that all government is bad, this situation will only get worse. Where is the pride on strong, capable institutions? Who is fighting to fund them adequately, to attract and retain the best? Politically this is so far off the agenda it is not even debated, as far as I can see.

      • No. We want government that is not deeply corrupt and self-serving.

        Pouring more money to corrupt people doesn’t lead to better outcomes, just wealthier corrupt politicians.

  3. “The first MAX crisis resulted in a write-off of some $5bn, a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with an accompanying fine of more than $2bn, and delivery and production delays that will continue for months to come, if not years.”

    How does one go about evaluating just how much the Max crashes have cost Boeing? One thing seems clear; BA has lost much of the goodwill built on the backs of previous aircraft, engineers & employees. No longer do they get the benefit of the doubt, which has set every commercial program back once everyone started to take a closer look.

    Trying to put a dollar figure on just how much it has cost them is a difficult task. The pandemic and Russian invasion of Ukraine also has played a part. As pointed out, BDS hasn’t helped the company either.

    You could look at the debt load that the company carries pre-Max and compare it to it’s most recent reports, but that only tells a portion of the story.

    Perhaps a 5 year comparison from 2018-2023 is in order.

  4. FAA not quite the gold standard back in the old days.Arguably(someone is bound to argue)MD10 cargo doors,767 thrust reversers,737 rudder hard over crashes were a result of manufacturers applying pressure to the FAA and delaying action.How many times did they do the same thing and got away with no accidents?
    Has anyone actually got to the truth about Muilenburg’s call to Trump? I think we can safety say that it happened but last time I mentioned it someone started arguing about the circumstances. It’s absolutely disgraceful and at least shows how easy Boeing imagines it is to manipulate the system.Equivalent behaviour often (and rightly so)ends up in a prison cell.
    Any sign of action with the deferred/non prosecution agreement?Thought not.
    A320 and 737 replacements cannot hope to get near the existing safety levels without massively increased testing to replace the positive effects of evolution over their vast in service lives

    • Quite.

      More the De Facto standard due to U.S.’ extant or (in later years increasingy) historical industrial and political dominance.

      And to go with the extent of that dominance they had the competences that many others couldn’t match. So, I see the same failings as you, but would argue that day to day they generally had the competence the muscle deserved.

      • One can argue that US machines are slipping: from washing machines, cars, trucks, locomotives, fridges, commercial helicopters so that commercial aircrafts are following the GM/Ford track is not surprising. The US top talent are following the money into software/finance/biotech not hardware with a few exceptions.

      • Grubbie:

        You noted the salient points – there always have been problems with the FAA being under Boeing capture.

        The myth of a Gold Standard should have a wooden stake driven through its heart.

        And the FAA operates in a system of congressional corruption as they are bought and owned by companies not the citizens.

        I made a more extensive post in what is now the first item on the Blog on the nature of that.

        As much as we would like to, you can’t separate out these issues without understanding the political morass behind them.

  5. These are all grown-ups and they should have known better.

    The neoliberal mindset appealed to the financial industry which was its major beneficiary. Regulatory capture was common to the FAA, FDA, SEC, and other regulatory agencies. A similar dynamic applied to the free-market free-trade approach to globalization, which Joesph Stiglitz characterized as “global governance without global government.”

    Around 2002, I started hearing the aircraft industry described as “mature,” with the implication that innovation was low, the hard problems were solved, and it was time to put investors first, make regulators step aside, let markets drive decisions, and crank out commodity-like products.

    I thought that was ridiculous. I said, let’s try to build an airplane under those rules. If it works, I’m wrong. The 787 program was launched 2 years later. My little thought-experiment had no effect at all on the prevailing wisdom.

    Instead, we arrived at Upton Sinclair’s observation – it is very difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends on him not understanding it.

    • Agree with Stan and Scotts well written article with a minor time change. IMHO 2001 (911 ) PLUS the combination of SPEEA strike ( 2000-2001 ) and including the birth of the Dryun-Sears games were the major issues which morphed into the NG, MAX, and 7mess (insert version here ) 7 issues. Virtually the only mostly positive commercial derived version since then was/is the NAVY P-8.

      Another trigger was the 1995 golden handshake which pushed out a lot of talent.

      • I worked with that talent from the 777 development Era. They were as advertised, true experts.

      • Ditto and the same for the comment by TransWorld.

        Now all of this said, I have a slightly different take, which is not to say that I disagree with what Scott, Stan, Bubba2, TransWorld and others have said.

        The thing I would add that I think is important is that the societal norms in which Boeing now exists are different than they were when Boeing was still healthy and growing (basically prior to about 1995 or so). Change was in the air BEFORE the merger.

        In my view, the root cause underlying all of this is a huge shift in core values. Mulally’s eleven or twelve point (depending on the year) “working together” principles are almost perfectly antithetical to everything Phil Condit an all subsequent leaders practiced personally, and modeled for others to emulate. Today’s FAA safety culture report touches on this, but I think it gets things backward as well. If the values can be fixed, then the rest will follow, including the desired improvements to the so-called safety culture.

        • What RTF says is true and its an example of a lot of views of the same problems allows Chou to frame what the problem is.

          Unless its framed and correctly so, then its nothing more than flailing.

          Cultures may change but values of quality and safety remain the same. How you deal with a newer generation and inoculate those values may be different, but the values themselves are timeless.

          I worked with younger guys and they were as committed to a quality job that did what it was supposed to as I was.

          It was not what generation they were, it was their attitude. Some were good, some good, some meah and some that were just bad.

          That was true from the day I started working.

          What changed was management refusing to deal with the bad ones.

  6. Boeing Annual report 1968 – 36 pages – back when Executives wore White shirts and ties – when landing on the moon was possible
    – when Boeing actually built airplanes themselves, and not assembled the final product from suppliers
    “In the Zero Defects program, directed toward avoiding production errors, employees received the Air Force Craftsmanship Award,
    highest given to industrial organizations for the on-the-job performance. In a “Pride in Excellence” program, 641 individuals
    and 449 groups comprised of 19,153 employees earned performance awards”
    Boeing Annual report 2019 – 164 pages – after the 737MAX disasters – a lot of the Board are politicans and finance people
    Some Members of the Board …
    Nikky Haley – Former U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
    Caroline Kennedy – Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan
    Susan Schwab – Former U.S. Trade Representative
    Mike Zafirovski – Executive Advisor, The Blackstone Group

    • Great reminder Richard D- especially read the list of names of business executives on the Board and their qualificatiions.
      Of course even then BA did use other vendors/companies to build significant parts of the then aborning 747,767,727, etc. For the later to be cancelled 2707 SST- Boeing did learn and develop new and improved techniques for drilling, riveting,machining and welding of titanium- later used on B1 bomber, and help on grumman f-14, etc. For example- the F111 used a swing wing with a wingbox made of D6AC tool steel- which became prone to abusive drilling resulting in deadly falures. Thus the B-1 used a titanium wing box using techniques and fasteners learned from 2707 developments.
      Electro Impact magnetic riveting methods and development now used in industry was also developed on 2707 program and later used on 767 and following. Ditto for coldworking ( fatigue technology ) was also expanded and now almost an industry standard.

      The point also being BA stock rarely got above 100 , and usually split to stay in the 30 to 60 bracket. Hasn’t happened since 1997.
      And as menti0ned-BA had then an excellent reputation.- and while some quality issues were a problem – NOT to the level of the last 2 decades mess.

      • Bubba2 wrote.
        Thus the B-1 used a titanium wing box using techniques and fasteners learned from 2707 developments.

        No. The B1 used a Difussion Bonded titanium box made from 6Al4V. The process placed a large number of details inside a stainless steel retort compressed to a few hundred tons and heated to the point where the titanium reached a temperature where the grain boundaries of the adjacent details flow into each other. This is completly unrelated to the 2707 as it eliminated tens of thousands of fasteners and their drilling, increasing its fatigue life and reducing⁹ weight. It was built at Rockwell NAAO El Segundo in the same building as the X15, B70 and Titan missile Isogrid Skins

        • Uhh scott- I spent about two years at Rockwell el segundo on the B1 -A program – approx 1972-74 and directly involved with the process – qualifications of drilling on the titanium wingbox and other related areas. The 2707 swing wing version initially used EB welding for the swing wing box and Taperlok fasteners as did the f-14 at Grumman re EB welding.
          At rockwell, on B1A they used a plethora of taperlok fasteners with VERY stringent drilling and sizing requirements largely brought about due to the F111 crash in Nevada when ‘ wing came off ‘

          When Roockwell fouled up in ‘ inserting” the taperloks, they wound up with using a specialized one sided driver version of the Boeing magnetic riveter AKA a magnetic hammer. [I happen to be uniquely familar with Taperlok drilling-installation and ElectroMagnetic Riveting re my experience- development work on both swing wing and delta wing 2707 and related titanium drilling – someday I may tell the real tale of gold plated/colored drill bits ;)) ]

          During my time at Rockwell- I sometimes flew as a passenger via Rockwell Aero commander to and from Palmdale plant 42 with the corporate VP pilot named Bob Hoover. :))

          • Bubba wrote
            Uhh scott- I spent about two years at Rockwell el segundo on the B1 -A program – approx 1972-74 and directly involved with the process – qualifications of drilling on the titanium wingbox and other related areas. The 2707 swing wing version initially used EB welding for the swing wing box and Taperlok fasteners as did the f-14 at Grumman re EB welding.

            Well thats all good because the B1A was a 4 bird prototype series.. They learned a lot and one lesson was that they couldnt make rate/durability or cost with a mechanically fastened wing box. So they went to diffusion bonding to take thousands of hours out of the airplane. This was how the production birds were made because 64TI is so notch sensitive that taperlocks needed to be executed so perfectly it wasnt sustainable. Anyhow I had a great time there and ate lunch at the Goose often…. God the insustry was so different then and Airplane guys were everywhere….

          • Since you mentioned riveting……..still no decision on the Renton 737 Wing Riveter order (replacing the 1960′ and 70’s wing riveters). It will be interesting to watch if Boeing “chooses” the wrong supplier for the job. This could have major ramifications on ramp up rate for the 737, another 2 year slip could happen if Boeing would have to select another supplier, might drive Southwest (A220) and Ryanair (A321) to Airbus to get aircraft for revenue growth.

  7. We all seem to forget that the FAA is operating under a reauthorization. This is no different than our xountrus use of continuing resolutions to kick the can down the road without a fix. The FAA has been working this way for years using a stream of short term administrarors who babysit the mess. Expecting improvements in this environment is a laughable pipe dream

    • You can blame Boeing all you want, they are allowed to operate within the system.

      The system has a number of enablers that then do not hold Boeing accountable.

      If Banks left money on tables that the public has access to, do you think that money would be on the tables long?

      Boeing and Corporations have been given a 00 license.

  8. Scott you write, “Congress is where the buck stops. Because Congress for decades failed to appropriate the bucks needed for the FAA to do its job without overreliance on Boeing or Spirit.”
    Generationally speaking, the FAA has always cried WOLF” to get Congressional Reauthorization, i.e., taxpayers money, after being publicly exposed for their ongoing aviation safety failures and violations resulting in the loss of life and property, endangering the lives of the public, or shutting down the National Airspace System! So, I disagree that the sole reason for this current state of disarray in US aviation and aerospace safety is attributed to “Congress’s failure to reauthorize/appropriate bucks,” as you say. Executives and employees at Boeing, Spirit, and FAA get paid well and have no problems cashing their paychecks!
    In effect on January 23, 2000, USC Title 49-TRANSPORTATION, Section 40101: Policy
    PART A-AIR COMMERCE AND SAFETY, clearly provides in sub-paragraph d) that “Safety Considerations in Public Interest.-In carrying out subpart III of this part and those provisions of subpart IV applicable in carrying out subpart III, the [FAA] Administrator shall consider the following matters, among others, as being in the public interest: 1) assigning, maintaining, and enhancing safety and security as the highest priorities in air commerce. 2) regulating air commerce in a way that best promotes safety and fulfills national defense requirements. 3) encouraging and developing civil aeronautics, including new aviation technology.”
    Currently, the FAA has approximately 45,000 permanent full-time equivalent employees, which remains the norm for over 40 years! So, for the FAA to whine about not having adequate and qualified “staff” for any staff or line office is a “sham attempt” to elicit Congressional and public “pity” for more “milk-the-public-money” to pay themselves and contractors without being held accountable for Safety, Efficiency, and Staffing results that fall within the Public’s Interest! This current disarray in aviation safety is not about lack of reauthorization/funding, it’s about the appointment, promotion, and selection of inept, incompetent, and ineffective leadership and workmanship, and the lack of oversight and accountability! Keep doing your own research!
    Remember, Your Life is the Benchmark for Safety!🛫

    Brutha’ Q – CEO and Co-Founder
    Black Professionals In Aviation and Aerospace (BPIAA)
    On LinkedIn

  9. Well… I see you didn’t want to post my comments that conflicted with your opinion! No worries though…your opinion is just one of many…no better…no worse! Average at best! So easy for you to blame Congress but you’re misguided!

    • Scott Hamilton is right: the FAA *is* perennially underfunded, effectively placing it at the mercy of the
      entities it nominally regulates- and other interested
      parties [ahem].

      • What some of you need to do is read history.

        The FAA has always had issues in dealing with Boeing.

        Boeing has always had issues with aircraft and safety.

        The bottom line is Boeing has gone from, we had that wrong to we can do no wrong (737 rudder issues) and the FAA enabling it to its out in the open and the FAA being prodded to do its job.

        Its never over, it always takes effort to maintain a good system and it take a whole lot of effort to fix one that is broken as badly as the Boeing system is.

        • I have read that premerger Boeing had never had an entire model it produced grounded. McDonnell Douglas had models grounded and McBoeing has had models grounded.
          Seems like the troubles are an order of magnitude worse with the Mc mindset.

          • John
            Boeinĝ had to shut down the entire B47 fleet whèn the coke bottle bolt wing attachment was failing at very low hours and the aircraft would break up in flighŕ. The 747 has had more than 1 rolling fleetwide gŕounding where where boeing enĝineers argued that they could beat the next hull loss with a rework mod. The incident in question was a freighter lost in amsterdam. The mid spar fuse pins inside the engine pylon failed. Noŕmally they would break in a gear up landing to protect the wing fuel tanks from rupture. However in another episode of we cant afford to ground the fleet because the economics are so bad, Boeig was allowed to fly as the probabilit of loss was acceptable. It was also a case where the repair cutters and parts could not support the fleet needs and a phased intro happened. Boeing has had many such episodes of fleetwide actions like this, so dont think goundings dont happen in the post meger Boeing fleets…… qtheybarenjust far bwtter manged by the Boeinĝ pŕ machine

  10. Boeing is an artefact of the society from which it emanates. American society, like every other has people who are more ambitious, and perhaps smarter and better educated, than most. These people naturally assume leadership positions and congregate, like flies on sh1t, in government and in their rent seeking counterparts in “strategic” industries i.e. Boeing.

    Over time, naturally, organically, with no intent to steal, cheat defraud or kill, they enact laws, rules, regulations and practices which favour themselves, their agenda, their friends, their cronies, their special interests, their ‘caste.’

    Over time, their power and influence grows until it can no longer be questioned or impugned. This is not exactly corruption, it is just the banal, commonplace ‘mission creep’ of an established, deeply entrenched elite. But, as we see here with Boeing, and in contrast to what the elites perceive (or intend), it is also entropy for as it progresses, it becomes more and more at odds with free, healthy competition and society at large. But then, people die and it requires greater and greater efforts to keep the public ‘on message’ and in line. For these “elites” power & control has become the sine qua non of their very being, they have lost the ability to see let alone address the cause of the threat (as they see it) to their existence and position in the society (they created) to which they feel entitled so the root cause of any problem goes unaddressed.

    In this regard Boeing is a fractal of American society in the early 2000’s. You will no more fix it with “reports” and “committees” than you will with voting in this president or that president.

    • Fastship:

      That is very well put.

      I disagree with the end statement.

      Reports and committees do not fix the problems, but if done right they frame it and you know where the problems are and what needs to be done.

      Without that you just flail away.

      The rank and file being confused and not having even heard about the uppers in Boeing so called fixes tells you that its failed.

      We can argue if its intended to fail (lip service) people just have no clue as they are trying to exchange their stripes, but it has failed and the people at the top are not the ones needed to correct it.

      Maybe some will disagree, but I think its a given Boeing needs a top to bottom management change.

      That alone will not fix it but its where it begins as the metrics and financially incentives should be thrown out and quality and safety become the paramount norm.

  11. The FAA of today is a far cry from that of the past. Too much reliability on computer oversight replacing on the ground oversight has greatly eroded the effectiveness of this once great agency.

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