Boeing 737 MAX

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The Boeing 737 Max crisis goes way beyond software
By Tim Fernholz
March 23, 2019


There is no small complexity in the task of carrying hundreds of people through the sky at hundreds of miles an hour. More than 100,000 airliners take off and land each day, but two deadly air crashes in six months have shocked passengers, regulators, and industry alike.

Crashes of Boeing’s 737 Max in Indonesia and Ethiopia offer a window into all that complexity. Boeing and its CEO Dennis Muilenburg want the story to be simple: a software problem that can be fixed with a quick patch. But that doesn’t capture the mistakes made by Boeing and American aviation regulators in certifying the plane to carry passengers.

By now, you may well have heard of MCAS, software that automatically pitches 737 Maxes downward to avoid stalling in mid-air. It exists only because Boeing wanted to upgrade its 737 without changing it fundamentally—so it added new engines that made the aircraft more likely to stall, rather than starting from scratch. In the emerging picture of the two accidents, the software only failed because the mechanical sensor it depended on also malfunctioned.

But all that pales next to what will likely be the highlight of investigations into the incident: the training and user experience of the people in the cockpits. Pilots did not have sufficient training to understand how MCAS worked, and two vital safety features—a display showing what the sensor detected, and a light warning if other sensors disagreed—were optional extras (paywall).

Minimizing training and cockpit changes was an economic decision: The upgraded plane would be more attractive to potential purchasers if they did not have to spend expensive hours retraining their pilots. The Federal Aviation Administration determined Boeing’s training and safety plans were fine. Now, investigators want to know why. The answers could be costly for Boeing, and for America’s reputation as a leader in the safe deployment of aviation technology.

Software is easy to blame, because for many people computer science is a mystery. But these crashes emerged from an experience we’re all familiar with: the pressure to deliver on a tight timetable, the temptation to cut corners, and the hope that in a big, complex world, one little kludge won’t mess up the whole program.



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Boeing 737 Max
 

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Boeing Was ‘Go, Go, Go’ to Beat Airbus With the 737 Max


By David Gelles, Natalie Kitroeff, Jack Nicas and Rebecca R. Ruiz

  • March 23, 2019
Boeing faced an unthinkable defection in the spring of 2011. American Airlines, an exclusive Boeing customer for more than a decade, was ready to place an order for hundreds of new, fuel-efficient jets from the world’s other major aircraft manufacturer, Airbus.

The chief executive of American called Boeing’s leader, W. James McNerney Jr., to say a deal was close. If Boeing wanted the business, it would need to move aggressively, the airline executive, Gerard Arpey, told Mr. McNerney.
To win over American, Boeing ditched the idea of developing a new passenger plane, which would take a decade. Instead, it decided to update its workhorse 737, promising the plane would be done in six years.

The 737 Max was born roughly three months later.

The competitive pressure to build the jet — which permeated the entire design and development — now threatens the reputation and profits of Boeing, after two deadly crashes of the 737 Max in less than five months. Prosecutors and regulators are investigating whether the effort to design, produce and certify the Max was rushed, leading Boeing to miss crucial safety risks and to underplay the need for pilot training.

While investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the crash in Ethiopia this month and one in Indonesia in October, they are focused on a newly installed piece of software designed to avoid stalls. The software was meant to compensate for bigger, more fuel-efficient engines and ensure the plane flew the same way as an earlier version.

Months behind Airbus, Boeing had to play catch-up. The pace of the work on the 737 Max was frenetic, according to current and former employees who spoke with The New York Times. Some spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Engineers were pushed to submit technical drawings and designs at roughly double the normal pace, former employees said. Facing tight deadlines and strict budgets, managers quickly pulled workers from other departments when someone left the Max project. Although the project had been hectic, current and former employees said they had finished it feeling confident in the safety of the plane.

The specter of Boeing’s chief rival was constant. Airbus had been delivering more jets than Boeing for several years. And losing the American account would have been gutting, costing the manufacturer billions in lost sales and potentially thousands of jobs.

“They weren’t going to stand by and let Airbus steal market share,” said Mike Renzelmann, an engineer who retired in 2016 from Boeing’s flight control team on the 737 Max.

Dismissing a Rival
Boeing didn’t seem bothered at first by the A320neo, the fuel-efficient plane that Airbus announced in 2010.
At a meeting in January of the next year, James F. Albaugh, the chief executive of Boeing’s commercial airplanes division, told employees that Airbus would probably go over budget creating a plane that carriers didn’t really want, according to a recording of the meeting reviewed by The Times.

Mr. Albaugh boasted that carriers were already paying more for Boeing’s single-aisle jet than the Airbus version. He didn’t see the need to strike now — Boeing could wait until the end of the decade to produce a new plane from scratch, the executive said.
“I don’t think we need to get too spun up over the fact that they’re making some sales,” he said.

For decades, Airbus was barely on Boeing’s radar. A consortium started in 1970 by several European countries, it was slow to compete globally. Boeing, founded in 1916, dominated the passenger-jet market with its 737 midsize jet and the 747 jumbo jet.

Then came John Leahy, an American who rose through the ranks to become the chief Airbus salesman in 1994. Mr. Leahy was relentless. Once, the chief executive of an airline got sick just as a deal was about to close. Mr. Leahy traveled to the man’s house, and the executive signed the papers while wearing his bathrobe.
“Boeing thought we were a flash in the pan,” Mr. Leahy said in an interview. “But I thought there was no reason we couldn’t have 50 percent of the market.”

Mr. Leahy scored a major coup in 1999 when JetBlue decided to launch with a fleet composed entirely of Airbus A320s. In the years that followed, more low-cost carriers around the world, like easyJet, placed big orders, too.

Airbus had pulled ahead of Boeing by 2005. “Boeing has struggled with the development work needed to take the company into the 21st century,” Tim Clark, president of Emirates, the Dubai airline, said that year. Airbus, he said, “has been braver, more brazen.”

In 2008, Airbus delivered 483 airplanes, while Boeing delivered just 375. Three years later at the Paris Air Show, Airbus took orders for 730 aircraft, worth some $72.2 billion, with its new fuel-efficient version dominating.
“Boeing was just completely arrogant in dismissing the viability of the A320,” said Scott Hamilton, managing director of the Leeham Company, an aviation consulting firm.

As American considered placing its largest-ever aircraft order exclusively with Airbus in the spring of 2011, executives at the carrier initially didn’t believe Boeing thought that the threat was real, according to a person involved with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Airbus had a team camped out in a suite at the Ritz-Carlton in Dallas, near American’s headquarters. Mr. Leahy traveled to Dallas and dined with the American chief, Mr. Arpey, at the Mansion on Turtle Creek, a five-star hotel. Boeing visited less frequently, according to several people involved in the sales process.

With American pondering which planes to buy, Boeing made a business decision. A former senior Boeing official said the company opted to build the Max because it would be far quicker, easier and cheaper than starting from scratch, and would provide almost as much fuel savings for airlines.
Eventually, American decided to make deals with both Boeing and Airbus, buying hundreds of jets from each. Mr. Arpey called Mr. McNerney again, this time reading from a script to carefully calibrate his words. First, he congratulated the Boeing chief on the deal, according to the person with knowledge of the discussions. Then he broke the news that American would also place an order with Airbus.


‘Intense Pressure Cooker’
Inside Boeing, the race was on. Roughly six months after the project’s launch, engineers were already documenting the differences between the Max and its predecessor, meaning they already had preliminary designs for the Max — a fast turnaround, according to an engineer who worked on the project.
“The timeline was extremely compressed,” the engineer said. “It was go, go, go.”

One former designer on the team working on flight controls for the Max said the group had at times produced 16 technical drawings a week, double the normal rate. “They basically said, ‘We need something now,’” the designer said.

A technician who assembles wiring on the Max said that in the first months of development, rushed designers were delivering sloppy blueprints to him. He was told that the instructions for the wiring would be cleaned up later in the process, he said.

His internal assembly designs for the Max, he said, still include omissions today, like not specifying which tools to use to install a certain wire, a situation that could lead to a faulty connection. Normally such blueprints include intricate instructions.

Despite the intense atmosphere, current and former employees said, they felt during the project that Boeing’s internal quality checks ensured the aircraft was safe.

In a statement, Boeing said: “The Max program launched in 2011. It was offered to customers in September 2012. Firm configuration of the airplane was achieved in July 2013. The first completed 737 Max 8 rolled out of the Renton factory in November 2015.”

The company added, “A multiyear process could hardly be considered rushed.”

At the heart of Boeing’s push was a focus on creating a plane that was essentially the same as earlier 737 models, important for getting the jet certified quickly. It would also help limit the training that pilots would need, cutting down costs for airlines.

Rick Ludtke, an engineer who helped design the 737 Max cockpit and spent 19 years at Boeing, said the company had set a ground rule for engineers: Limit changes to hopefully avert a requirement that pilots spend time training in a flight simulator before flying the Max.
“Any designs we created could not drive any new training that required a simulator,” Mr. Ludtke said. “That was a first.”

When upgrading the cockpit with a digital display, he said, his team wanted to redesign the layout of information to give pilots more data that were easier to read. But that might have required new pilot training.

So instead, they simply recreated the decades-old gauges on the screen. “We just went from an analog presentation to a digital presentation,” Mr. Ludtke said. “There was so much opportunity to make big jumps, but the training differences held us back.”

“This program was a much more intense pressure cooker than I’ve ever been in,” he added. “The company was trying to avoid costs and trying to contain the level of change. They wanted the minimum change to simplify the training differences, minimum change to reduce costs, and to get it done quickly.”

Boeing said in a statement that the 2011 decision to build the Max had beaten out other options, including developing a new airplane.
“The decision had to offer the best value to customers, including operating economics as well as timing, which was clearly a strong factor,” the company said. “Safety is our highest priority as we design, build and support our airplanes.”

A Cascade of Changes
Months before Boeing’s announcement of the Max, the commercial airplanes executive, Mr. Albaugh, critiqued the decision by Airbus to refit the A320 with bigger engines, which could alter the aerodynamics and require big changes to the plane.

“It’s going to be a design change that will ripple through the airplane,” Mr. Albaugh said in the meeting with employees.

“I think they’ll find it more challenging than they think it will be,” he told them. “When they get done, they’ll have an airplane that might be as good as the Next Generation 737,” a plane that Boeing had launched in 1997.

But a main selling point of the new A320 was its fuel-efficient engines. To match Airbus, Boeing needed to mount the Max with its own larger and powerful new engines.

Just as Mr. Albaugh had predicted for Airbus, the decision created a cascade of changes. The bigger engines altered the aerodynamics of the plane, making it more likely to pitch up in some circumstances.

To offset that possibility, Boeing added the new software in the Max, known as MCAS, which would automatically push the nose down if it sensed the plane pointing up at a dangerous angle. The goal was to avoid a stall. Because the system was supposed to work in the background, Boeing believed it didn’t need to brief pilots on it, and regulators agreed. Pilots weren’t required to train in simulators.

The push for automation was a philosophical shift for Boeing, which for decades wanted to keep pilots in control of the planes as much as possible. Airbus, by comparison, tended to embrace technology, putting computers in control. Pilots who preferred the American manufacturer even had a saying: “If it’s not Boeing, I’m not going.”

The new software system is now a focus of investigators who are trying to determine what went wrong in the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air tragedy in Indonesia. A leading theory in the Lion Air crash is that the system was receiving bad data from a faulty sensor, triggering an unrecoverable nose dive. All 737 Max jets around the world are grounded, and Boeing has given no estimate of when they might return to flight.

In Renton, Wash., where the 737 Max is produced in a 1.1-million-square-foot plant, the mere possibility that Boeing engineering contributed to the crashes has cast a pall over the factory. After the Lion Air crash, Boeing offered trauma counseling to engineers who had worked on the plane.

“People in my group are devastated by this,” said Mr. Renzelmann, the former Boeing technical engineer. “It’s a heavy burden.”
In a statement, Boeing’s chief executive, Dennis A. Muilenburg, said he had spent time in Renton recently and “saw firsthand the pride our people feel in their work and the pain we’re all experiencing in light of these tragedies.”

Boeing is working on an update to MCAS software. The company was meeting with carriers over the weekend to discuss the update, which is expected to roll out by April. It also intends to make a previously optional safety indicator in its cockpit standard in new Max jets.

The business is increasingly under pressure as airlines reconsider their orders and ask for compensation. But work in Renton is continuing apace.
Boeing now makes a record 52 737s a month — most of them Maxes — and aims to reach 57 by April. As fuselages and plane skeletons continued to chug into the factory by train this past week, crews worked around the clock to make thousands more.

Correction: March 23, 2019
An earlier version of this article misstated the number of 737 Maxes that Boeing makes a month. It is making a record 52 737s a month, but not all of them are Maxes.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

 

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Boeing testing software changes to 737 MAX planes
By David Shortell, Evan Perez and Gregory Wallace, CNN

Updated 9:47 AM ET, Mon March 25, 2019


Seattle (CNN)Pilots from the three American carriers that fly Boeing 737 MAX planes tested software changes developed by Boeing to a key stabilization system on Saturday, a person briefed on the tests said.

The changes are intended to decrease the chances of triggering the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, which is believed to have played a role in the Lion Air crash in October.

The Federal Aviation Administration has said there are similarities between that crash and a second 737 MAX crash earlier this month in Ethiopia.
Pilots and training officials from Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and United Airlines met with Boeing officials Saturday to review the software changes in the Seattle area, where the model is assembled, according to multiple airline sources.

At the gathering, pilots from the three American carriers, plus two smaller non-US airlines, ran simulated flights designed to mimic the situation that brought down the Lion Air flight in Indonesia last year, using the current and updated software, according to the person briefed on the session.
Each pilot using the flight simulator landed the plane safely, the person said.

In the simulations with the current MCAS software, the test pilots used existing procedures to disable the system, while test flights using the new software required less intervention from the pilots, the person said.

Saturday's test flights were first reported by the New York Times.

The updated software designed by Boeing uses input from two sensors on the nose of the plane, instead of one, and is designed to not trigger the MCAS system repeatedly, which is believed to have pitched the Lion Air plane's nose down so sharply that the pilots' attempts to regain control were futile.

In a statement Sunday, Boeing called the meeting a "productive session" and said that they had invited more than 200 pilots and technicians, as well as regulators, to an informational session at the company's production facility in Renton, Washington, on Wednesday.
"This is part of our ongoing effort to share more details about our plan for supporting the safe return of the 737 MAX to commercial service," Boeing said.

"We had a productive session this past Saturday and plan to reach all current and many future MAX operators and their home regulators. At the same time, we continue to work closely with our customers and regulators on software and training updates for the 737 MAX," Boeing said.
The FAA, which is part of this effort to test the new software, declined to comment.

One source familiar with the tests said the FAA is expected to receive the software early in the week.

But the FAA is not expected to allow the dozens of 737 MAX planes it grounded back into the air until it learns more about the causes of the Ethiopian Air crash, the source said.

Data from the flight data and cockpit voice recorders is being analyzed in Ethiopia.

US air carriers would like to see the plane return to the sky. American, which has 24 MAX aircraft in its fleet, and Southwest, which has 34, agree with union statements that their pilots are trained well enough to deal with the incidents that the Lion Air pilots encountered.

American alone is canceling dozens of flights a day as a result of the grounding of the MAX aircraft.

On Sunday, the airline said in a statement that the cancellations would continue through April 24, resulting in 90 flights grounded every day.

 

Khafee

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We keep hearing about the plane getting hacked due to a software bug. Not sure what to believe.
Software bug, that kicks in the anti-stall system, and pitches the nose too low, resulting in a crash. Identical issues and results of both 737MAX crashes.
 

BATMAN

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Software bug, that kicks in the anti-stall system, and pitches the nose too low, resulting in a crash. Identical issues and results of both 737MAX crashes.
Basically Boeing have created an auto crashing function in 737, without telling the pilots about it. While pilots are trained to remain in auto pilot mode.
 

Khafee

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Basically Boeing have created an auto crashing function in 737, without telling the pilots about it. While pilots are trained to remain in auto pilot mode.
LOL! Yeah something along those lines :D
 

diamond wing

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Basically Boeing have created an auto crashing function in 737, without telling the pilots about it. While pilots are trained to remain in auto pilot mode.
Are you talking serous??? @BATMAN world best passenger jet manufacturing company intentionally makes auto crash system for 737 to crash, are you out of your mind or its just a sarcasm @BATMAN Just LOL @BATMAN O-|-oº∆˙˚˚%-(*-*)0-0()0-0(
 

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Boeing anti-stall system was activated in Ethiopia crash: source
The information is among the preliminary findings from the analysis of the "black boxes"

Published: March 29, 2019 AFP

NEW YORK: Boeing's MCAS anti-stall system, which was impli-cated in the October crash of a 737 MAX 8 airliner in Indonesia, was also activated shortly before a recent accident in Ethiopia, a source with knowledge of the investigation said Friday.

The information is among the preliminary findings from the analysis of the "black boxes" retrieved from Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which crashed southeast of Addis Ababa on March 10, killing 157 people, the source told AFP on condition of ano-nymity.

The information retrieved from the plane's voice and data re-corders was presented Thursday to US authorities, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the source said.

However, the source said the investigation is still underway and the findings are not yet definitive.
The information was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Boeing and the FAA declined to comment to AFP.

Ethiopian authorities have promised to submit the preliminary report on Flight 302 by mid-April but have already said that there are "clear similarities" between the two Max 8 crashes.

It was yet another blow to aviation giant Boeing, which just this week unveiled a fix to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmen-tation System (MCAS) that Boeing designed to prevent stalls in its new plane.

The aviation company has tried to restore its battered reputa-tion, even while continuing to insist that the MAX is safe.

'MCAS was the problem'
The family of 31-year-old Jackson Musoni, a Rwandan citizen who died in the Ethiopian Airlines accident, filed a lawsuit against Boeing on Thursday in a court in Chicago, where the company has its corporate headquarters. The suit accuses the aircraft manufacturer of designing a defective system.

The MCAS, which lowers the aircraft's nose if it detects a stall or loss of airspeed, was developed specifically for the 737 MAX, which has heavier engines than its predecessor, creating aero-dynamic issues.

The initial investigation into the October Lion Air crash in Indo-nesia, which killed all 189 people on board, found that an "angle of attack" (AOA) sensor failed but continued to transmit errone-ous information to the MCAS.

The pilot tried repeatedly to regain control and pull the nose up, but the plane crashed into the ocean.

The flight track of the doomed Ethiopia Airlines flight, which also crashed minutes after takeoff, "was very similar to Lion Air (indi-cating) there was very possibly a link between the two flights," FAA acting chief Daniel Elwell told Congress this week.

The FAA grounded the MAX fleet worldwide, but not until two days after most countries had done so.

That delay, along with an FAA policy allowing Boeing to certify some of its own safety features, has raised questions about whether regulators are too close to the industry.

Boeing on the defense
Elwell denied the agency was lax in its oversight, saying, "The certification process was detailed and thorough."

He also seemed to cast doubt on the MCAS as the clear culprit, saying that data collected from 57,000 flights in the US since the MAX was introduced in 2017 revealed not a single reported MCAS malfunction.

However, Steven Marks, the lawyer for Jackson Musoni's family, said information from the recent tragedies, as well as pilot re-ports, "made it crystal clear that the cause of these two crashes are the same."

"There's no question that MCAS was the problem" and that pi-lots were not aware of the system, he told AFP.

US pilots complained after the Lion Air crash that they had not been fully briefed on the system.

Musoni was among at least 22 United Nations employees killed in the Ethiopian crash.

Boeing also declined to comment on the lawsuit, but this week unveiled changes to the MCAS system that will be installed worldwide, once the FAA approves.

Among the changes, long in the works, the MCAS will no longer repeatedly make corrections when the pilot tries to regain con-trol, and the company will install a warning feature - at no cost - to alert pilots when the left and right AOA sensors are out of sync.

The company also is revising pilot training, including for those already certified on the 737, to provide "enhanced understand-ing of the 737 MAX" flight system and crew procedures.

https://gulfnews.com/world/boeing-anti-stall-system-was-activated-in-ethiopia-crash-source-1.1553880507560?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=GulfNews_NewsLetter_20190330_Morning_AM
 

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The emerging 737 Max scandal, explained
It’s more than bad software.

By Matthew Yglesias
Mar 29, 2019,
9:10am EDT

Boeing executives are offering a simple explanation for why the company’s best-selling plane in the world, the 737 Max 8, crashed twice in the past several months, leaving Jakarta, Indonesia, in October and then Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in March. Executives claimed on March 27 that the cause was a software problem — and that a new software upgrade fixes it.

But this open-and-shut version of events conflicts with what diligent reporters in the aviation press have uncovered in the weeks since Asia, Europe, Canada, and then the United States grounded the planes.

The story begins nine years ago when Boeing was faced with a major threat to its bottom line, spurring the airline to rush a series of kludges through the certification process — with an underresourced Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) seemingly all too eager to help an American company threatened by a foreign competitor, rather than to ask tough questions about the project.

The specifics of what happened in the regulatory system are still emerging (and despite executives’ assurances, we don’t even really know what happened on the flights yet). But the big picture is coming into view: A major employer faced a major financial threat, and short-term politics and greed won out over the integrity of the regulatory system. It’s a scandal.

The 737 versus 320 rivalry, explained
There are lots of different passenger airplanes on the market, but just two very similar narrow-body planes dominate domestic (or intra-European) travel. One is the European company Airbus’s 320 family, with models called A318, A319, A320, or A321 depending on how long the plane is. These four variants, by design, have identical flight decks, so pilots can be trained to fly them interchangeably.

The 320 family competes with a group of planes that Boeing calls the 737 — there’s a 737-600, a 737-700, a 737-800, and a 737-900 — with higher numbers indicating larger planes. Some of them are also extended-range models that have an ER appended to the name, and, as you would probably guess, they have longer ranges.

Importantly, even though there are many different flavors of 737, they are all in some sense the same plane, just as all the 320 family planes are the same plane. Southwest Airlines, for example, simplifies its overall operations by exclusively flying different 737 variants.

Both the 737 and the 320 come in lots of different flavors, so airlines have plenty of options in terms of what kind of aircraft should fly exactly which route. But because there are only two players in this market, and because their offerings are so fundamentally similar, the competition for this slice of the plane market is both intense and weirdly limited. If one company were to gain a clear technical advantage over the other, it would be a minor catastrophe for the losing company.

And that’s what Boeing thought it was facing.

The A320neo was trouble for Boeing
Jet fuel is a major cost for airlines. With labor costs largely driven by collective bargaining agreements and regulations that require minimum ratios of flight attendants per passenger, fuel is the cost center airlines have the most capacity to do something about. Consequently, improving fuel efficiency has emerged as one of the major bases of competition between airline manufacturers.

If you roll back to 2010, it began to look like Boeing had a real problem in this regard.

Airbus was coming out with an updated version of the A320 family that it called the A320neo, with “neo” meaning “new engine option.” The new engines were going to be more fuel-efficient, with a larger diameter than previous A320 engines, that could nonetheless be mounted on what was basically the same airframe. This was a nontrivial engineering undertaking both in designing the new engines and in figuring out how to make them work with the old airframe, but even though it cost a bunch of money, it basically worked. And it raised the question of whether Boeing would respond.

Initial word was that it wouldn’t. As CBS Moneywatch’s Brett Snyder wrote in December 2010, the basic problem was that you couldn’t slap the new generation of more efficient, larger-diameter engines onto the 737:
One of the issues for Boeing is that it takes more work to put new engines on the 737 than on the A320. The 737 is lower to the ground than the A320, and the new engines have a larger diameter. So while both manufacturers would have to do work, the Boeing guys would have more work to do to jack the airplane up. That will cost more while reducing commonality with the current fleet. As we know from last week, reduced commonality means higher costs for the airlines as well.
Under the circumstances, Boeing’s best option was to just take the hit for a few years and accept that it was going to have to start selling 737s at a discount price while it designed a whole new airplane. That would, of course, be time-consuming and expensive, and during the interim, it would probably lose a bunch of narrow-body sales to Airbus.

The original version of the 737 first flew in 1967, and a decades-old decision about how much height to leave between the wing and the runway left them boxed out of 21st-century engine technology — and there was simply nothing to be done about it.

Unless there was.

Boeing decided to put on the too-big engines anyway
As late as February 2011, Boeing chair and CEO James McNerney was sticking to the plan to design a totally new aircraft.

“We’re not done evaluating this whole situation yet,” he said on an analyst call, “but our current bias is to move to a newer airplane, an all-new airplane, at the end of the decade, beginning of the next decade. It’s our judgment that our customers will wait for us.”

But in August 2011, Boeing announced that it had lined up orders for 496 re-engined Boeing 737 aircraft from five different airlines.

It’s not entirely clear what happened, but, reading between the lines, it seems that in talking to its customers Boeing reached the conclusion that airlines would not wait for them. Some critical mass of carriers (American Airlines seems to have been particularly influential) was credible enough in its threat to switch to Airbus equipment that Boeing decided it needed to offer 737 buyers a Boeing solution sooner rather than later.

Committing to putting a new engine that didn’t fit on the plane was the corporate version of the Fyre Festival’s “let’s just do it and be legends, man” moment, and it unsurprisingly wound up leading to a slew of engineering and regulatory problems.


New engines on an old plane
As the industry trade publication Leeham News and Analysis explained earlier in March, Boeing engineers had been working on the concept that became the 737 Max even back when the company’s plan was still not to build it.

In a March 2011 interview with Aircraft Technology, Mike Bair, then the head of 737 product development, said that reengineering was possible.
“There’s been fairly extensive engineering work on it,” he said. “We figured out a way to get a big enough engine under the wing.”

The problem is that an airplane is a big, complicated network of interconnected parts. To get the engine under the 737 wing, engineers had to mount the engine nacelle higher and more forward on the plane. But moving the engine nacelle (and a related change to the nose of the plane) changed the aerodynamics of the plane, such that the plane did not handle properly at a high angle of attack. That, in turn, led to the creation of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). It fixed the angle-of-attack problem in most situations, but it created new problems in other situations when it made it difficult for pilots to directly control the plane without being overridden by the MCAS.

On Wednesday, Boeing rolled out a software patch that it says corrects the problem, and it hopes to persuade the FAA to agree.

But note that the underlying problem isn’t really software; it’s with the effort to use software to get around a whole host of other problems.
1of x: BEST analysis of what really is happening on the #Boeing737Max issue from my brother in law @davekammeyer, who’s a pilot, software engineer & deep thinker. Bottom line don’t blame software that’s the band aid for many other engineering and economic forces in effect.
— Trevor Sumner (@trevorsumner) March 16, 2019
Recall, after all, that the whole point of the 737 Max project was to be able to say that the new plane was the same as the old plane. From an engineering perspective, the preferred solution was to actually build a new plane. But for business reasons, Boeing didn’t want a “new plane” that would require a lengthy certification process and extensive (and expensive) new pilot training for its customers. The demand was for a plane that was simultaneously new and not new.

But because the new engines wouldn’t fit under the old wings, the new plane wound up having different aerodynamic properties than the old plane. And because the aerodynamics were different, the flight control systems were also different. But treating the whole thing as a fundamentally different plane would have undermined the whole point. So the FAA and Boeing agreed to sort of fudge it.

The new planes are pretty different
As far as we can tell, the 737 Max is a perfectly airworthy plane in the sense that error-free piloting allows it to be operated safely.
But pilots of planes that didn’t crash kept noticing the same basic pattern of behavior that is suspected to have been behind the two crashes, according to a Dallas Morning News review of voluntary aircraft incident reports to a NASA database:
The disclosures found by the News reference problems with an autopilot system, and they all occurred during the ascent after takeoff. Many mentioned the plane suddenly nosing down. While records show these flights occurred in October and November, the airlines the pilots were flying for is redacted from the database.
These pilots all safely disabled the MCAS and kept their planes in the air. But one of the pilots reported to the database that it was “unconscionable that a manufacturer, the FAA, and the airlines would have pilots flying an airplane without adequately training, or even providing available resources and sufficient documentation to understand the highly complex systems that differentiate this aircraft from prior models.”

The training piece is important because a key selling feature of the 737 Max was the idea that since it wasn’t really a new plane, pilots didn’t really need to be retrained for the new equipment. As the New York Times reported, “For many new airplane models, pilots train for hours on giant, multimillion-dollar machines, on-the-ground versions of cockpits that mimic the flying experience and teach them new features” while the experienced 737 Max pilots were allowed light refresher courses that you could do on an iPad.

That let Boeing get the planes into customers’ hands quickly and cheaply, but evidently at the cost of increasing the possibility of pilots not really knowing how to handle the planes, with dire consequences for everyone involved.

The FAA put a lot of faith in Boeing
In a blockbuster March 17 report for the Seattle Times, the newspaper’s aerospace reporter Dominic Gates details the extent to which the FAA delegated crucial evaluations of the 737’s safety to Boeing itself. The delegation, Gates explains, is in part a story of a years-long process during which the FAA, “citing lack of funding and resources, has over the years delegated increasing authority to Boeing to take on more of the work of certifying the safety of its own airplanes.”

But there are indications of failures that were specific to the 737 Max timeline. In particular, Gates reports that “as certification proceeded, managers prodded them to speed the process” and that “when time was too short for FAA technical staff to complete a review, sometimes managers either signed off on the documents themselves or delegated their review back to Boeing.”

Most of all, decisions about what could and could not be delegated were being made by managers concerned about the timeline, rather than by the agency’s technical experts.

It’s not entirely clear at this point why the FAA was so determined to get the 737 cleared quickly (there will be more investigations), but if you recall the political circumstances of this period in Barack Obama’s presidency, you can quickly get a general sense of the issue.

Boeing is not just a big company with a significant lobbying presence in Washington; it’s a major manufacturing company with a strong global export presence and a source of many good-paying union jobs. In short, it was exactly the kind of company the powers that be were eager to promote — with the Obama White House, for example, proudly going to bat for the Export-Import Bank as a key way to sustain America’s aerospace industry.

A story about overweening regulators delaying an iconic American company’s product launch and costing good jobs compared to the European competition would have looked very bad. And the fact that the whole purpose of the plane was to be more fuel-efficient only made getting it off the ground a bigger priority. But the incentives really were reasonably aligned, and Boeing has only caused problems for itself by cutting corners.

Boeing is now in a bad situation
One emblem of the whole situation is that as the 737 Max engineering team piled kludge on top of kludge, they came up with a cockpit warning light that would alert the pilots if the plane’s two angle-of-attack sensors disagreed.

But then, as Jon Ostrower reported for the Air Current, Boeing’s team decided to make the warning light an optional add-on, like how car companies will upcharge you for a moon roof.

The light cost $80,000 extra per plane and neither Lion Air nor Ethiopian chose to buy it, perhaps figuring that Boeing would not sell a plane (nor would the FAA allow it to) that was not basically safe to fly. In the wake of the crashes, Boeing has decided to revisit this decision and make the light standard on all aircraft.

Now, to be clear, Boeing has lost about $40 billion in stock market valuation since the crash, so it’s not like cheating out on the warning light turned out to have been a brilliant business decision or anything.

This, fundamentally, is one reason the FAA has become comfortable working so closely with Boeing on safety regulations: The nature of the airline industry is such that there’s no real money to be made selling airplanes that have a poor safety track record. One could even imagine sketching out a utopian libertarian argument to the effect that there’s no real need for a government role in certifying new airplanes at all, precisely because there’s no reason to think it’s profitable to make unsafe ones.

The real world, of course, is quite a bit different from that, and different individuals and institutions face particular pressures that can lead them to take actions that don’t collectively make sense. Looking back, Boeing probably wishes it had just stuck with the “build a new plane” plan and toughed out a few years of rough sales, rather than ending up in the current situation. Right now the company is, in effect, trying to patch things up piecemeal — a software update here, a new warning light there, etc. — in hopes of persuading global regulatory agencies to let its planes fly again.

But even once that’s done, Boeing faces the task of convincing airlines to actually go buy its planes. An informative David Ljunggren article for Reuters reminds us that a somewhat comparable situation arose in 1965 when three then-new Boeing 727 jetliners crashed.

There wasn’t really anything unsound about the 727 planes, but many pilots didn’t fully understand how to operate the new flaps — arguably a parallel to the MCAS situation with the 737 Max — which spurred some additional training and changes to the operation manual. Passengers avoided the planes for months, but eventually came back as there were no more crashes, and the 727 went on to fly safely for decades. Boeing hopes to have a similar happy ending to this saga, but so far it seems to be a long way from that point. And the immediate future likely involves more tough questions.

A political scandal on slow burn
The 737 Max was briefly a topic of political controversy in the United States as foreign regulators grounded the planes, but President Donald Trump — after speaking personally to Boeing’s CEO — declined to follow. Many members of Congress (from both parties) called on him to reconsider, which he rather quickly did, pushing the whole topic off Washington’s front burner.

But Trump is generally friendly to Boeing (he even has a Boeing executive serving as acting defense secretary, despite an ongoing ethics inquiry into charges that he unfairly favors his former employer), and Republicans are generally averse to harsh regulatory crackdowns. The most important decisions in the mix appear to have been made back during the Obama administration, so it’s also difficult for Democrats to go after this issue. Meanwhile, Washington has been embroiled in wrangling over special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and a new health care battlefield opened up as well.

That said, on March 27, FAA officials faced the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation and Space at a hearing called by subcommittee Chair Ted Cruz (R-TX). Cruz says he expects to call a second hearing featuring Boeing executives, as well as pilots and other industry players. Cruz was a leader on the anti-Boeing side of the Export-Import Bank fight years ago, so perhaps he’s more comfortable than others in Congress to take this on.

When the political system does begin to engage on the issue, however, it’s unlikely to stop with just one congressional subcommittee. Billions of dollars are at stake for Boeing, the airlines that fly 737s, and the workers who build the planes. And since a central element of this story is the credibility of the FAA’s process — in the eyes of the American people and in the eyes of foreign regulatory agencies — it almost certainly isn’t going to get sorted out without more involvement from the actual decision-makers in the US government.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated that it was the landing gear, rather than the engine, that had been relocated.

 

diamond wing

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You guessed right, i'm not serious.
Boeing didn't do anything deliberately, but that's how situation developed.
there is no way that Boeing could developed auto crash system for 737 which is most successful passenger jet, and first tell me how do you know that Boeing unintentionally developed auto crash system for 737, are you assuming/guessing??? @BATMAN º∆˙˚˚%-(%-(
 

Khafee

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there is no way that Boeing could developed auto crash system for 737 which is most successful passenger jet, and first tell me how do you know that Boeing unintentionally developed auto crash system for 737, are you assuming/guessing??? @BATMAN º∆˙˚˚%-(%-(
Go through this thread, THEN you will understand his sarcasm.
 

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