Three Things: Boeing Boing

[NB: The byline – check it. /~Rayne]

That U.S. flights of Boeing’s model 737 Max aircraft were suspended is a good thing, I think we can agree though perhaps not all for the same reasons. I’ve had suspicions about Boeing for some time now and not because of the company’s products or its management. Three things have bothered me and the deadly crash on March 10 has only added to previous concerns.

~ 3 ~

I’ve noted before that Boeing has been a possible target for stock manipulation; in fact I wrote about my suspicions a year ago:

You can imagine my surprise on December 6, 2016, when then-president-elect tweeted about Boeing’s contract for the next Air Force One, complaining it was too expensive. Was it Boeing the spies were discussing? But the company didn’t fit what I could see in the indictment, though Boeing’s business is exposed to Russia, in terms of competition and in terms of components (titanium, in particular).

It didn’t help that Trump tweeted before the stock market opened and Boeing’s stock plummeted after the opening bell. There was plenty of time for dark pool operators to go in and take positions between Trump’s tweet and the market’s open. What an incredible bonanza for those who might be on their toes — or who knew in advance this was going to happen. …

And while Boeing 737 Max equipment safety was under public debate after Sunday March 10th crash, Trump tweeted this Luddite position on contemporary aircraft complexity on March 12:

How interesting that he avoided naming Boeing specifically, but at the same time he managed to post the first of these two tweets at exactly 10:00 a.m.; the second tweet didn’t publish for another 12 minutes, leaving those following his tweets closely to assume he was going to discuss Boeing specifically during the interim.

I can’t help think Trump has an ulterior motive with regard to Boeing considering how often he has stepped into their business one way or another since December 6, 2016.

It’d be nice to know who’s been shorting NYSE:BA before his tweets and in which stock exchanges.

[Graphic: NYSE:BA moving average and trading volume from midday Monday 11-MAR-2019 to midday Tuesday 12-MAR-2019 via Barron’s.]

~ 2 ~

Trump’s personal demands have also affected Boeing directly with regard to system updates. The government shutdown delayed for five weeks work by the Federal Aviation Administration toward certification of a software “fix” for the 737 Max flight control system.

In other words, eight more American citzens traveling on the doomed flight this past weekend may have paid the ultimate price for Trump’s gross incompetence and corruption, not to mention the other truly marvelous human beings lost to the world when that flight met the earth two weeks ago.

Boeing’s business model needs to be revisited, though, if the flight control system “fix” wasn’t treated with adequate urgency based on feedback from Boeing to the FAA. There’s a fundamental question of a product’s safety for its intended purpose if it must have a software update to fly safely but that update is an additional feature outside the product’s purchase agreement and must bought before it can be added. Smells like product liability with a whiff of extortion.

Would we tolerate this business model in other situations where so much is at stake? Imagine your computer’s operating system needs a patch before you can use it — and you must pay for the patch, it’s not included in the licensing agreement for the operating system. Oh, and the computer runs your insulin pump or your pacemaker wihout which you are likely to die.

~ 1 ~

The FAA as well as Boeing need to be reevaluated based on complaints the government agency is too closely linked to the aerospace company to provide appropriate oversight. The FAA has been relying on Boeing to self-monitor via component safety inspections because the FAA doesn’t have adequate personnel or resources.

Recall recent reports of supply chain vulnerabilities — is it at all possible Boeing components have been as compromised as other military suppliers have been? How would the public know if it has relied on the FAA’s self-inspection “designee program”?

This sounds eerily familiar, like the claims related to firmware updates needed on servers when it was possible the Supermicro motherboard hardware had been compromised.

~ 0 ~

Treat this as a open thread. We could use a break from what will continue to be a flood of news relate to the Special Counsel’s Office report, especially after the Golfer-in-Chief parks his cart for the weekend and begins shit posting on Twitter in earnest again.

76 replies
  1. rip says:

    Boeing and other aerospace companies (Lockheed-Martin?) are prime targets for infiltration and subversion. Having worked with a couple of these over the years, I know they chant the mantra of security and “loose-lips” but I suspect this is more showmanship than reality. Especially as the deviations happen way up the chain-of-command.

    Your last para makes me wonder how many listening devices are installed in the dumper’s golf carts. The old wire-scans that we could run in the past aren’t very good at picking up sub-micro alterations to chips and off-cycle transmission of data.

    • Rayne says:

      Oh jeez, Mar-a-Lago is probably one massive listening post, never mind the golf carts.

      Ditto other Trump-branded facilities like the hotel in federally-owned old post office building in D.C. — the tower of which was the only U.S. Park Service site to remain open and guarded during the government shutdown.

  2. Frank says:

    I am not a pilot. I have been interested in aviation for a long time. If permissible here, I would like to reccomend a site for understanding some of the more technical aspects, especially when an aviation incident, accident, or tradegy occurs. Moderators please delete if I am violating any terms of EW. Go to Professional Pilots Rumour Network dot com

    • P J Evans says:

      NTSB can be interesting, though it usually takes from months to a year for them to get their investigations done and the reports released. (They aren’t just aircraft and highway stuff – they also hand pipeline investigations.)

    • Mainmata says:

      The 737 is a 52 year old design, which has been tinkered with forever. One of the biggest changes was to put bigger engines on the existing airframe, in order to extend the plane’s range, which appears to have made the plane less stable. This, in turn, apparently required other changes to the autopilot and other systems, which required still other changes ultimately leading to the need for new software. Boeing didn’t even tell pilots about the change nor did it provide any training. Pretty irresponsible behavior, it seems to me.

      • Bardi says:

        Well stated and to the point. Irresponsible enough to kill some 350 people.

        It is called fascism when corporates and government are combined. Interesting to see what might happen.

    • Zachary Pruckowski says:

      The thing is though, that cuts the opposite way. The alleged corruption from Shanahan would presumably benefit Boeing, while the accusations in the piece seem to deal with downward manipulation of Boeing’s price?

      [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so community members get to know you. This is your 2nd username. Thanks. /~Rayne]

      • Rayne says:

        Oops, I meant to come back and respond to this.

        Just because there’s one potential risk or exposure doesn’t mean there aren’t two. Someone inside the government could be ensuring preferential treatment to a government contractor/supplier; someone else could be betting against the same publicly-held government contractor/supplier.

        And somebody else could be spying on either/or/both to improve opportunities for competitors using insider information obtained at the golf course or by surveillance of poorly secured communications.

        There are many ways to skin a 737, many ways to scam the public.

  3. Sharanbir Brijnath says:

    Please keep in mind the parallels of dehavilland….these folks in Boeing knew ….too their eternal shame

    • bmaz says:

      Yes. And Boeing, a long ago gold standard, has been going downhill fora very long time. And it is sad.

    • Doug R says:

      Are you referring to the metal fatigue discovery years ago or the Canadian airplane company bought by Boeing for a brief period?

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    MCAS’s job was to make it appear to the pilot that a different aircraft flew just like an earlier version of that aircraft. That was a commercial and a marketing decision, not an engineering or design choice.

    I believe that the risks associated with it were rated as “hazardous,” one level shy of “catastrophic.” But the “public-private” partnership arrangement Boeing and the FAA worked out allowed that system to be implemented – relying on a single sensor – without full disclosure, documentation, or pilot training.

    Information that was disclosed understated by a factor of four how much control the system had over the horizontal stabilizer. Possibly most dangerously, it failed to disclose that it reset after manual intervention by the pilot. That feature appears to be a direct cause for the apparent – and catastrophically fatal – tug of war that began between computer and pilot, leading to an uncontrollable powered dive.

    Those elements alone indicate a gross failure of design, management decision-making, and regulatory oversight. They are also an unfortunate and unwanted boon to the tort bar. That conclusion seems reinforced by Boeing’s provision of extra-cost safety options – additional sensors and warning lights indicating disagreement among them – which imply foreknowledge that the base system did not express an “absolute commitment” to flight safety.

    • bmaz says:

      They moved the damn wing and engine nacelles!

      “Merely a flesh wound” /Python’s Black Knight

    • Bobby Gladd says:

      I am not a pilot, but I flew numerous times with flight instructors who worked for the FBO / flight school where my wife worked. “Sole sensor?” In the hands-on piloting world, you NEVER rely on a “sole” instrument / sensor. You scan the instrument panel back and forth all the time, cross-referencing what you see (especially under IFR conditions). I would think the same principle should apply to digital avionics automation software, and there should be immediate manual override functionality.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Indeed, given the MCAS system’s ability to control the aircraft’s pitch and engine thrust, and to fight the pilot’s attempts to override it. (I should have been specific that it was a single angle-of-attack sensor.)

        • AirportCat says:

          “Never have anything with a single point of failure” is probably Rule Zero of aviation design. It’s mind-boggling to me that the MCAS relied on the input from a single AoA sensor. The aircraft have two AoA sensors and the software should have been checking/comparing both and alerting the pilots in case of disagreement. That suggests to me a level of sloppiness and a rush to finish that I would not have imagined was possible.

          • Rayne says:

            Thanks for your comment, much appreciated. I hope some members of Congress or their staffers wander through here and take heed of comments like yours before the anticipated hearings on Boeing’s 737 Max.

          • P J Evans says:

            Hell, most of the pressure-regulating stations in our area distribution system have two runs, so that one can be shut down for maintenance without fucking up the system. (Yes, there are single-run stations – but they generally are serving only a few customers.) Just about everything critical has a bypass for emergencies.

          • Bri2k says:

            It gets even better. I’ve read comments from pilots saying that disabling the MCAS was counter-intuitive and required the pilot doing so to respond to the downward pitch in a manner opposite to that which they’re typically trained to for such an emergency.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Boeing’s engineers must have realized that the lack of redundancy could pose hazardous to catastrophic risks. They made a redundant system available, but Boeing’s marketing and/or finance types upcharged for it as an extra-cost feature that not all airlines chose to pay for, a secondary error. Corporate greed is not limited to the real estate development, banking and pharmaceutical industries.

            Absolute commitment to flight safety all round, and an excellent argument for re-regulating the industry.

      • TJ says:

        That’s what I would have told someone before the 737 MAX 8 crash(es): that flight computers never rely on a sole sensor either, they cross-check flight data just like humans do, and they will never take action based on data that the cross-checking indicates may be unreliable.

        The 737 MAX 8 apparently broke all those rules.

        I’m not a pilot either, but I have a strong interest in aviation, specifically aviation safety. I do have programming experience, so I can understand the software logic behind flight computers.

        I have an idea of how the Airbus A330 flight computers work from my research into the Air France 447 crash. If you’re interested in this stuff, I recommend checking out the book “Understanding Air France 447” by Bill Palmer. He’s an Airbus pilot, and his book helped me understand and appreciate the Airbus design philosophy. (Many popular narratives about AF447 are really misinformed, as well as IMO disrespectful to the pilots who are no longer alive to defend themselves.)

        The A330 has at least three copies of all the sensors that I’m aware of. For instance, it has three pitot probes, three static ports, etc. I assume it also has three angle of attack vanes, because it has three different “bundles” of flight data overall.

        An analogy: You ask three different people to go measure the temperature, humidity, and wind speed outside your house. You tell them to work independently of each other, and you give them each their own set of instruments to use.

        Each of their weather reports is like one of the “bundles” of flight data. These are called “air data inertial reference units” or ADRIUs. The relevant part here is just the “air data reference unit” or ADR.

        Imagine that all three people bring back the same weather data. Maybe their measurements differ from each other by a few decimal points, but that’s all. The data is also believable: they’re not claiming that it’s 100 C/212 F outside. You could safely assume that their measurements are correct. That’s what the A330 does when all the ADRs agree.

        Now imagine that two people bring you weather reports that agree with each other, and the third person brings you one that’s different from the other two. You could safely assume that the third person’s data was incorrect. That’s what the A330 does when one ADR differs. There are rare situations where you can have two sensors being wrong in the exact same way, but it’s *far* more likely that the “odd one out” is the wrong one. (Pilots can still disable the erroneous ADRs in those rare situations.)

        Now imagine that all three people bring you significantly different weather reports. You truly have no idea what the weather is like outside. You trust all three people equally (it’s not like you know that one of them is meticulous and the other two are careless). So you *still* have no idea what the weather is like. You would be right to reject all three reports. This is what the A330 does when all three ADRIUs disagree. (This can happen when they all start disagreeing at once, or when it’s already started ignoring the “odd one out” and the two remaining ADRIUs no longer agree.)

        Finally, imagine that all three people bring you the same data, but the data is implausible. They’re saying that it’s 100 C/212 F outside. It doesn’t matter if all three of them agree, because all three of them are obviously wrong. You would be right to reject all three of their reports. This is what the A330 does as well. If the airspeed drops in a way that’s incompatible with the laws of physics, it will reject that data.

        Whenever the A330 doesn’t have at least two ADRIUs agreeing and being “plausible” about a parameter (e.g. angle of attack), it will stop taking action based on that parameter. That means it will not provide flight envelope protections (e.g. stall protection, overspeed protection) that are based on that data.

        That sucks, but it’s the only option. The Air France 447 crash happened for many reasons (like all crashes). But it *didn’t* happen because of the flight computer. The flight computer did exactly what it should have. It noticed an implausible drop in airspeed, it knew the pitot-static system could not be trusted, and it no longer took action based on data from that system. It said: “I can no longer protect you from stalls, because I no longer know if the plane is stalling.”

        (Well, it probably would have helped if it did literally say that. The plane could have done a better job at telling the pilots what protections were lost and why. But that’s a completely different issue. It’s a human interface and design issue, not a fundamental flight controls issue.)

        Before the Lion Air crash, I would not only have said “this is the only possible option”, but I would have told you that it’s how Boeing’s flight computers work as well (at least any that have flight envelope protections or “flight envelope suggestions.”) I mean, there is no other way to program them. I wouldn’t need to know the details to know that a Boeing plane isn’t going to fly itself into the ground over one faulty sensor.

        It seems I was horribly wrong.

        Because that’s apparently what the Lion Air 737 did. The two angle of attack sensors disagreed, but instead of saying “I don’t know what the AoA is anymore, I can’t provide stall protection”, it decided that the plane was stalling and it had to push the nose down to get out of the stall.

        Over one sensor. One.

        It doesn’t matter to me if the pilots can override it or not. A plane should never take action based on a flight parameter unless at least two data sources agree about that parameter. Having to turn off the faulty ADRs in the “two sensors agree, but are wrong” in an Airbus is a different matter. That is such a freak occurrence, and the only way to avoid that would be to not use a flight computer for anything. Even Boeing doesn’t do that – I’m pretty sure all their planes have stall warning systems like stick shakers.

        You could help it a bit by adding more layers of backup sensors, which IIRC is what Airbus has done on the A350 (for one). I heard it has like five layers of backups.

        Before this crash, I would have told you that Boeing and Airbus planes were equally safe. Now I am not so sure, especially considering the things discussed in this post.

        Yes, the statistics overall have been the same up to this point, which is why I would have said they were equally safe. But what about the future? How can I trust Boeing now? This is so unthinkably bad. It’s not something that is only obvious in retrospect. It’s not a freakish edge case. It is blatantly wrong. And flight envelope protections are not new! Airbus has been doing them correctly for decades, and Boeing has also, in different ways.

        This is totally subjective, but I feel like Boeing needing to tack on stall protection just because the 737 MAX 8 is too stall-prone is also weird. Airbus added flight envelope protections because they *wanted to*, not because their plane designs wouldn’t be considered airworthy without them. The MCAS system is not compatible with Boeing’s philosophy or image at all. Boeing fans would have said they like Boeings because they don’t have things like MCAS.

        And this is wild speculation that you should take with a massive grain of salt, but part of me wonders if that’s why they didn’t tell pilots about it. I’m sure most Boeing pilots have nothing against Airbus, even if they personally prefer Boeings. They know it’s the aviation equivalent of Apple vs. Microsoft.

        But I have seen some who vehemently oppose anything Airbus, or anything with the Airbus philosophy (e.g. flight computers providing any kind of protections). They call Airbus “Scarebus.” They don’t really understand the Airbus flight computers, but they’re convinced that Airbuses are going to fly themselves into the ground because they think they know better than the pilots. (You know … like a Boeing just did.)

        I have no idea how many of those pilots there are, or if Boeing has any reason to care about their opinions. But they exist, and even a correctly designed MCAS system is basically their arch-nemesis.

    • Bardi says:

      Due to the union, American Airlines bought in to a couple of AOA indicators.

      I agree. Boeing really sank their reputation on this one.

  5. Valley girl says:

    This article was posted at EW. Can’t remember who posted it.

    This is part of the above
    Since MCAS was supposed to activate only in extreme circumstances far outside the normal flight envelope, Boeing decided that 737 pilots needed no extra training on the system — and indeed that they didn’t even need to know about it. It was not mentioned in their flight manuals.

    That stance allowed the new jet to earn a common “type rating” with existing 737 models, allowing airlines to minimize training of pilots moving to the MAX.

    Dennis Tajer, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association at American Airlines, said his training on moving from the old 737 NG model cockpit to the new 737 MAX consisted of little more than a one-hour session on an iPad, with no simulator training.

    Minimizing MAX pilot transition training was an important cost saving for Boeing’s airline customers, a key selling point for the jet, which has racked up more than 5,000 orders.

    The company’s website pitched the jet to airlines with a promise that “as you build your 737 MAX fleet, millions of dollars will be saved because of its commonality with the Next-Generation 737.”

    In the aftermath of the crash, officials at the unions for both American and Southwest Airlines pilots criticized Boeing for providing no information about MCAS, or its possible malfunction, in the 737 MAX pilot manuals.

    An FAA safety engineer said the lack of prior information could have been crucial in the Lion Air crash.~
    See above about an hour’s training on an iPad. I read some where that the pilot of the Ethiopian MAX-8 didn’t even get that minimal training.

    I’ve read read a lot about this, but alas didn’t save as bookmarks.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Since MCAS was supposed to activate only in extreme circumstances far outside the normal flight envelope, Boeing decided that 737 pilots needed no extra training on the system — and indeed that they didn’t even need to know about it. It was not mentioned in their flight manuals.

      Boeing’s logic seems entirely self-serving. Pilots are routinely trained in how to avoid and maneuver out of unusual attitudes, such as stalls and spins, which subject the aircraft to unusual and high stress. In fact, such training is mandatory. (See, Murphy’s Law.)

      • Raven Eye says:

        So if MCAS wasn’t in the flight manual, was it in the preflight checklist? If it was not working properly, was there an indicator or warning? If the pilots were not told it was there, how would they know if it wasn’t working properly?

    • P J Evans says:

      There was one story about a Lion Air flight the day before their crash, where a deadheading pilot in the cockpit knew how to handle the problem of the avionics overriding the pilot and making the plane unstable.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I believe he had time to figure it out because, as the third pilot on the flight deck, he was not actively fighting the controls and trying to fly the aircraft.

    • Bardi says:

      “In the aftermath of the crash, officials at the unions for both American and Southwest Airlines pilots criticized Boeing for providing no information about MCAS, or its possible malfunction, in the 737 MAX pilot manuals.”

      American Airlines, to their credit, ordered their MAXs with at least one option, AOA indicators that allowed the pilots to quickly evaluate the cause. I understand those “options” are quite expensive.

      What really bothers this commercial pilot is the idea of placing a mechanism that directly affects a primary control surface without considering that the mechanism can fail all by itself. (I’ll take a 757-767 any day)

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        It does boggle the mind: the computer had extensive control over pitch and engine thrust. But because it controlled maneuvers Boeing tells us were outside the normal flight envelope, the pilot didn’t need to know a thing about what the computer could do. I don’t think “arrogant” adequately describes that particular “attitude.”

        • Raven Eye says:

          Back in the TQM (Total Quality Management) days, my boss and I visited the TQM leader at a major aviation company (not Boeing). They had experienced a rough spot with their major DoD customer. They kept on having meetings, but the DoD folks couldn’t seem to break through to the company. Finally the DoD folks looked the company reps in the eyes and explained to them that, from the perspective of people who bought and flew their aircraft, the company was “technologically arrogant”. Branded thusly, the company finally got the point…That was the label that they would be stuck with until they cleaned up their act.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The Guardian appears determined to make its 2020 election coverage irrelevant. Conclusive evidence can be found in this entry: “The B-Team: are Beto, Biden and Bernie the best the Democrats can offer? [] The author seems to think the answer is, Yes.

    The author’s recommendations run the gamut from B to B. (h/t to Dorothy Parker.) Who are the recommendees? Two grandfathers, wholly unlike each other, one the most conservative, the other among the most progressive of today’s candidates, and a third guy whose voting record and history in Texas makes him a Biden clone, minus about a quarter century.

    For some reason it should rethink, the Guardian chose an American free-lance journalist – Josh Wood, “in Plymouth, New Hampshire,” – presumably, a straight, white male and whose main beat has been foreign affairs, to make this establishment-serving point.

    “The party is diverse but it has a problem – beating Trump – and it may be that a straight white man is best placed to help.”

    Help me. The choice lacks a certain je ne sais quoi, so much so that I can’t stop face palming. Beating Trump is the point of the campaign, not a “problem.” Any journalist alive during the 2018 mid-term election would know that that objective is not advanced by nominating a ticket of straight white men. Mr. Wood would probably better serve his and the Guardian’s readers if he returned to covering the Middle East: its politics are simpler.

    • Valley girl says:

      Quick comment, w/o going into details to back my opinion.

      Beto “Born to Run”? Like he’s channeling Bruce Springsteen? Gag me with a spoon.

      Biden? Hell no. Senator for MNBA? etc.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The white, male thingy seemed routinely old-school, but adding the sexual orientation characteristic seemed gratuitous. From its US coverage, I had imagined that the Guardian was well-staffed in North American and did not need the services of free-lancers.

        I disagree with the theme of the article, obviously, but I most object to its apparent ignorance and simplistic logic. It has the feel of having been written by a Biden press officer.

  7. Jockobadger says:

    Bullshit. All BS. Just listening to Barr’s ‘summary.’ NAL. Obviously. Also biased.

    I want to hear MW’s and Bmaz’ thoughts on this. JHC

  8. tinao says:

    Hey Rayne, i’ve been working out in the spring yard, and here goes…
    To the First Female Pres

    I still say… America
    has the best chance
    of righting her ship of state
    warts and all.
    Ruby slayed a Dragon on the hill.
    All the PEOPLE cheered.
    That’s as far as I am. New story.


  9. Rapier says:

    Boeing Danger 3/1/19
    Funny thing this. I absolutely imply no causality.

    Trump last week said his 2020 campaign will be based upon the stock market. Could be a winner. Truth be told the inflation of assets, especially financial ones, is the heart of MAGA. If we don’t inflate then China is going to win this capitalism thing. We can’t fail. Can we?

  10. tinao says:

    PJ, i as a Pennsyltuckian yahoo know as much if not more, how our government functions than dat derr lump.

    • P J Evans says:

      most of us paid more attention to civics in school that Tr*mp ever did. (He’d have flunked out of the schools I was in. We were expected to demonstrate competence as part of getting to the next grade.)

  11. e.a.f. says:

    As some one pointed out to me, one of the first 3 countries to take their 737s out of the air was China. Their opinion, they know something is really wrong. They usually don’t care about much when it comes to the loss of human life.

    The last two countries to take the 737s out of the air, Canada and the U.S.A. Now, Canada, was so “close” to the end because (in my opinion) Air Canada and West Jet use those jets a lot. No other reason. The U.S.A., Boeing is an American manufacturer and most likely some one was given them a break. But then when I thought about it, it was also most likely that some one who was creating a problem. So my question has been are there one or two players at work here to bring down the air line or the U.S.A.’s position in the world of air craft manufacturing. Who benefits, who looses. The lack of trust instilled resulted in the black boxes being sent to Germany. Translation for me, the U.S.A can no longer be trusted in this area of expertise. Political interference may take priority. Who wins? Who looses?

    • P J Evans says:

      My understanding is that most airlines don’t depend on 737 MAXes – they’re new enough (and expensive enough) that a lot of them haven’t yet been delivered. So they can be grounded without too much difficulty in replacing and rescheduling.

      • e.a.f. says:

        West Jet in Canada, grounded approx. 24 of the jets out of a fleet total of 187 Jets. Its Canada’s second largest airline. Air Canada, grounded 6% of their fleet when they parked their new 737. Due to the number of new 737s out of commission for awhile, it is expected air fares will be going up in Canada. (this evening’s news)

        Canada doesn’t have the number of regional airlines the U.S.A. has.

        • Bri2k says:

          I thought it was Canada grounding the 737 Max that finally pushed the FAA to do the same. If the 737 Max can’t use Canadian airspace that means it can’t be flown on many northern U.S. domestic routes because these cross Canadian airspace.

  12. tinao says:

    Sunday treat
    i can’t get that damn question mark out without loosing the link. Help.

    [FYI, in the YouTube URLs the question mark is fine. The address says:
    Go to YouTube -> Watch, but what (questionmark) -> This particular video (v=video’s unique ID)
    Capisce? /~Rayne

  13. Eureka says:

    People with twitter accounts: there is what I consider to be violent gun imagery as a reply to one of EW’s tweets (with hundreds of replies to this one tweet, she may not have seen it), can you consider reporting this:

  14. Bri2k says:

    I just wanted to thank you for one of the best concise breakdowns of the Boeing breakdown, Rayne. I’m a bit of an aviation geek and I’ve been following this story fairly close and your post hit on all the major points.

    I’ve been reading input on this story from commercial pilots and industry insiders and one facet that’s interesting but might not get much ink is the battle within Boeing upper management between career Boeing people and those who came on board when Boeing bought McDonnell-Douglas. From what I gleaned, the life-long Boeing managers thought the MCAS fix was a bad idea and that the entire aircraft needed re-designed to make up for the new engine placement but they were over-ruled by the former McDonnell-Douglas group.

    Props on a most appropriate photo to head this piece but I can’t help pointing out that’s a Douglas DC-3 and not a Boeing product however as stated above, there was a Douglas component to debacle.

    • Rayne says:

      Thanks. I wondered if someone would point out the image wasn’t a Boeing. It’s the one I have filed in our media library under “crash,” though. Sadly fitting.

      The friction between two different corporate cultures is interesting. I hope that shakes out somewhere in the congressional hearing process because that particular issue isn’t unique to aerospace. I can think of chemical industry businesses which have suffered for this.

  15. Forbes Road says:

    Those two planes and all the people in them were more than likely lost because – 1. Boeing put the new mcas system in the Max that allows a SINGLE angle of attack sensor to cause 10 seconds of nose-down stabilizer trim, followed by a 5 second pause and if the high angle of attack (or erroneous detection of such) continues, another 10 sec of nose-down trimming. If this is allowed to continue you end up with an un-flyable plane (airliner variable-incidence stabilizers have a large range with a powerful result) and a large splash or a smoking hole. (and we ended up with both) and 2. Incompetent or incompletely trained pilots who did not immediately accomplish the required ‘Memory Item’ from the B737 Quick Reference Handbook Non-Normal Checklist for an ‘Unscheduled Stabilizer Trim’ event. There are not many Memory Items anymore, but pilots are supposed to know them by heart for good reason. It is reported that a Lion Air pilot travelling in the jump-seat assisted the operating crew of the Max 8 a day or so before the same plane crashed by advising them to cut off the hydraulics to the stabiliser (by operating the two switches within easy reach of either pilot for that very purpose) when he saw and heard the stab trim control wheels running forward uncommanded. If you have never seen a B737 trim wheel in motion, take it from a working pilot that is obvious and unmistakable. 3. The ‘Tombstone Agency’ may have deferred too much to Boeing in certifying the Maxes which under commercial pressure was rushing to get them on the line after the competing Airbus A320/1 Neo was already up and running. Politics may also be in the picture because Boeing employs more than 150,000 people.
    Under James Reason’s ‘Swiss Cheese’ model of Crew Resource Management the operating pilots are the final barrier to an accident after the holes in various systemic layers line up. The tragedy is that the ‘Unscheduled Stabilizer Trim’ memory item was not reinforced by the flight operations department at Lion Air after more than one event. In the days before budget airlines and deregulation (‘Now Everyone Can Fly!’), that plane would probably have been grounded and test flown without passengers after maintenance. Even worse, why did all operators (and the government agencies that are supposed to have oversight) of the Maxes not reinforce the required memory item procedure after the first crash. If that was done in Ethiopia, the second crash may not have occurred. The two crashes appear to be remarkably similar, notwithstanding ongoing investigations.

  16. Forbes Road says:

    Also Boeing in their wisdom did not tell operators (adequately or at all?) about the new MCAS system or describe it in Flight Crew Operating Manual.
    The question of whether a 1960’s fuselage with the original landing gear leg length (because there is no space for longer ones) should have new wings with larger and larger engines stuck on should have been perpetuated is a good one. Again commercial pressure from a deregulated industry to minimize training costs by allowing a common type rating is the root cause.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Boeing did raise the nose gear 8″ to provide more ground clearance for the larger nacelles. The Max does seem to be en route from the realm of modified aircraft to the realm of Frankencraft.

  17. Mark Ospeck says:

    Most of the politics I don’t understand. But it sure looks like bad Boeing software, also awful airline maintenance practices and v serious pilot error also stands out.
    I am esp. sensitive to the last since I used to fly in the military as a GIB (guy in the back). One of my jobs was to pull breakers in the event of warning lights or malfunctions. Had to know where every breaker was by number and by feel. Pilot’s job was to fly the airplane. If the ACS is fighting the pilot, you and he talk and you inform him that you are taking it offline, popping the breakers, and that he flies by hand. Basic. Here the MCAS obviously has some big bugs in it, and you have airline maintenance after 4 days of strange fails keep putting the aircraft go for flight (Lion Air)?! Even after the previous day’s aircrew almost died? Did they not inform maintenance of how they survived by taking the MCAS offline? Do the pilots even read the previous day’s aircrew’s comments?
    So yea, Boeing deserves to lose a lot of market cap for its dubious flight “augmentation” system that sees imaginary stalls on takeoffs and then calls for nose downs. But the inexcusable thing is that the aircrew didn’t know how to quickly take the MCAS offline. They were not qualified to fly the airplane.

  18. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The pilots had not been instructed about what MCAS could do and when, or in how much control it could assert over pitch and thrust. They did not know that MCAS was malfunctioning. They did not know that shutting it off would enable them to correct their flight attitude. They did not know that they had about 40 seconds to figure it out from scratch. They did not know because Boeing did not deem it necessary that they should know or to put any of that in writing.

    That says nothing about the qualifications of these pilots to fly this aircraft. It does say a great deal about Boeing’s design and marketing priorities and its arrogance.

  19. Forbes Road says:

    Yes, Boeing is at fault to allow a single aoa sensor to cause nose-down trimming, especially 10 sec of it under the new mcas. Yes, they should have told everyone about it. Yes there were failures in the certification process and oversight etc etc.

    However, the crews and the people that trained and checked them have to take a big part of the blame. Several things can cause a Runaway Stabilizer in an airliner. In the 737 it is obvious and unmistakable that it is happening, whatever the cause. The immediate action is a required Memory Item as indicated by the text above the dashed line in the copy and paste below.

    From the B737 NG QRH (Quick Reference Handbook), page numbers and header added manually.
    Non-Normal Checklist page 9.1 Runaway Stabilizer

    “1 Control column. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Hold firmly
    2 Autopilot (if engaged) . . . . . . . . . . . . .Disengage
    Do not re-engage the autopilot.
    Control airplane pitch attitude manually with
    control column and main electric trim as
    3 If the runaway stops:
    4 If the runaway continues:
    switches (both) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . CUTOUT
    If the runaway continues:
    trim wheel . . . . . . . . . . Grasp and hold
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    5 Stabilizer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Trim manually
    6 Anticipate trim requirements.
    7 Checklist Complete Except Deferred Items
    􀀙 Continued on next page 􀀙
    Runaway Stabilizer
    Condition: Uncommanded stabilizer trim movement
    occurs continuously.”

    The event is practiced during initial and recurrent simulator training in all types. There is no substitute for good pilots and good training and checking and it is a shame that so many people were lost when the remedy for the failure in flight is so fundamental and simple.

    • P J Evans says:

      Is that for the older 737s or for the 737 MAX planes? Because they’re really, seriously not the same plane.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      You will recall from memory that important information about the MCAS in the Max version was not in the manual or the quick reference guide. Nor did pilots receive training on it, which takes us back to your paragraph one.

  20. Forbes Road says:

    I could not find a B737 Max QRH pdf on a quick Google, but found a video of the memory items. The Runaway Stabilizer drill (memory item) starts at 7:00 and is the same as the NG except for the addition of disconnecting the Autothrottles.

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