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737 Max Second Deadly Crash / China Grounds Plane / Others Follow Suit / FAA Finally Grounds Jet

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  • Experts Say Ethiopian Air Pilots Failed To Do One Thing That Could Have Prevented Deadly Crash

    They didn't throttle back after take off!!

    http://stocktalkjournal.com/experts-say-ethiopian-air-pilots-failed-to-do-one-thing-that-could-have-prevented-deadly-crash/
  • edited April 6
    Nice find @Gary.

    First, note that experts seem to disagree about whether or not failure to throttle back right after takeoff was to blame. (@Old_Joe may be best qualified to address that.):“Pilots interviewed by Bloomberg didn’t agree completely about the factors.Some took issue with Ethiopia’s transport minister, saying the Ethiopian Airlines pilots had actually failed to properly follow the procedures. Other pilots said the flight crew’s actions were understandable given the chaotic situation.”

    Second, if accurate, it would not be time first time an airliner has crashed because the pilots didn’t completely understand / comprehend the particular malfunction they were dealing with. Unexpected as these things tend to be. It’s always easy in retrospect to go back and say they should have done this or that. Point is: the MCAS system was pointing the plane’s nose down unexpectedly at a very critical and busy time (right after takeoff and in close proximity to the ground). Quite possibly the crew misdiagnosed the issue and thought additional power necessary to pull out of the dive. It’s happened before. Almost seems intuitive to do that.

    There’s another larger issue airlines and aviation professionals have long been acutely aware of but which has received little mention re the 737 Max accidents. Modern commercial airliners have become so automated that it’s a challenge for crews to retain the high level of skill necessary to fly the plane manually or react quickly and appropriately in an emergency. A known problem. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/14/business/automated-planes.html

    Shame on those who skirted the obvious need for simulator training on this model before handing it off to crews to fly. All in the interest of rushing the plane into production and saving money. An hour’s course on an ipad? All they needed? You gotta be kidding. https://qz.com/1584233/boeing-737-max-what-happened-when-one-us-pilot-asked-for-more-training/

    Related: Boeing announced a 20% production cut of the 727 Max on Friday to try and reduce the glut of planes now awaiting delivery pending recertification. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/apr/05/boeing-737-max-aircraft-production-cut-nearly-20-per-cent

  • Boeing Didn’t Make Any Commercial 737 Sales in March

    The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Boeing didn’t book any commercial orders of its 737 jetliner in March, the first month without a sale of the aerospace giant’s best-selling aircraft in almost seven years.

    The company delivered 11 of its 737 MAX jets in March, less than half the rate of deliveries in the two previous month.

    Boeing said last week that it would cut monthly output of the MAX by 10 planes to 42 this month, effectively shelving its plan to boost production to 57 this summer. That will make it harder for Boeing to reach its goal of delivering about 900 jets this year. Dozens of MAX jets are sitting at its Seattle-area assembly plants.

    The production cut and global grounding of the MAX are prompting airlines to rearrange their operations and schedules ahead of the busy summer travel period. Southwest Airlines, the largest operator, was due to add 31 MAX jets to its existing fleet of 34 this year, while American Airlines was expected to add 16. Both have removed the MAX from their schedules through early summer.

    (The preceding are selected excerpts from the WSJ article, lightly edited for length.)
  • edited April 9
    @Old_Joe, Thanks.

    I was hoping you’d weigh-in on @Gary’s post above as someone with past aviation experience. The “throttle back” suggestion in his article is intriguing to me. (1) Would failure to do so in itself normally be dangerous at that point in flight? (maybe causing undue stress on the airframe or rendering control surfaces ineffective), (2) Is the throttle-back on modern airliners, as far as you know, done before or after autopilot is switched on? (3) Isn’t throttle-back more related to noise abatement regulations near airports than to critical flight profile?

    What I think: (1) No - Failure to reduce thrust at that point should not cause problems if everything else is working properly. (2) Yes. From what I’ve heard, autopilot is often switched on a few hundred feet off the ground. That would have the (pre-programmed) autopilot performing the throttle-back. (3) Noise abatement, along with fuel savings, is primarily the reason for reducing thrust shortly after takeoff - so Yes

    I’d be grateful to receive a score of 66% on this quiz.
  • edited April 9
    @hank- Well, my aviation credentials don't extend to multi-jet engine aircraft, so I'm reluctant to comment on an area in which I don't feel qualified. I will venture this, though: from the comfort and safety of an armchair it's pretty easy to dissect an event and analyze all of the possible reactions to it.

    That's hardly the same thing as being in a cockpit in an airplane that is plunging towards the ground at a low altitude and a great rate of speed, with multiple alarms screaming that the world is ending, all of your controls seemingly taking on an arbitrary life of their own, and less than a minute to figure all that out.

    If you've trained extensively for such a condition, as I'm certain that military pilots have, that's one thing. If your training and experience in a commercial civilian plane hasn't really focused on a situation like that, good luck to all... you're going to need it.

    We need to be careful with the generality "throttle back after takeoff". The departure procedures with respect to throttle, rate of climb, and so forth will vary greatly depending upon the airfield location, altitude, and other characteristics. I believe that many normal departures don't actually "throttle back" significantly until at least several thousand feet of altitude, or a particular specified point on the published departure route have been reached.
  • edited April 9
    Old_Joe

    Thanks for your perspective. I’d forgotten there was another type aircraft before the modern jet transport came along. Agree 100% that it’s easy to armchair. (Is that a verb?) Different when your ass is 5,000-10,000 above ground and things are rapidly going downhill.
  • Boeing and Its 737 MAX Jets Have a China Problem

    The Wall Street Journal is reporting that "A state-owned airline is seeking compensation and that could be just the start of headaches for Boeing when it comes to China".

    One of China’s big state-owned airlines joined the list of carriers seeking compensation from Boeing over the grounding of its 737 MAX fleet.

    China Eastern Airlines Corp. has approached Boeing for financial reparations for the disruption caused by the jet’s grounding in the wake of two deadly crashes, a company spokesman said Wednesday. The carrier—which together with its subsidiaries operates 14 of the 737 MAX jets—is also assessing the potential impact of the aircraft’s safety difficulties on its future plans.

    China Eastern and its subsidiaries have a combined fleet of more than 700 jets.

    Boeing faces a challenge in China. It was the first nation to ground the 737 MAX and it has hundreds of the American planes on order, giving Beijing crucial leverage in purchase negotiations as airlines waver in their commitment to the jet. A Boeing spokesman said Wednesday the company doesn’t comment on discussions with customers.



    Note: The Wall Street Journal is a subscription-only news source. It is linked here because of the probability that many MFO members have access to this newspaper.

    These selected excerpts from the WSJ article were lightly edited for brevity.
  • US airlines still don’t have flight simulators for Boeing 737 Max 8 pilot training

    A lot of airlines haven't ordered new simulaters

    https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/vbwj9m/us-airlines-still-dont-have-flight-simulators-for-boeing-737-max-8-pilot-training
  • edited April 19
    Vulnerable To Failure - Boeing 737 Sensors Linked To Over 140 Incidents

    google to find !

  • edited April 15
    Trump’s Advice to Boeing: “REBRAND” the 737-Max

    “What do I know about branding, maybe nothing (but I did become President!),” Trump tweeted at 6.29 a.m. ET. “But if I were Boeing, I would FIX the Boeing 737 MAX, add some additional great features, & REBRAND the plane with a new name. No product has suffered like this one. But again, what the hell do I know?”. http://time.com/5570658/trump-boeing-737-max-rebrand/ (This is not from The Onion.).

    - The “additional great features” should begin with up to date flight simulators so pilots can practice flying this model before taking to the skies with paying passengers aboard. In part, because the plane was rushed into production, simulators weren’t readied in time. Instead, ipads were used to teach pilots about how the new plane handled.

    - Renaming the plane might work. The 717 was a rebranded McDonnell Douglas DC9 / MD95. (Arguably a better and more modern design than the 737). Since they discontinued the 717 they could call the rebranded 737 a 717 and play off of that plane’s good reputation. Rumor has it Boeing has a new 797 on the drawing boards. So that name is taken. And they already build a 787. So the new 737 might be called a 807. But the “8“ might remind people of the planes that crashed. Both were 737 Max 8s.
  • @MFO Members: Thank goodness the problem has been solved. Now we can return MFO to discussing investing and funds.
    Regards,
    Ted:)
    https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/15/trump-tells-boeing-to-fix-and-rebrand-737-max-jet-after-fatal-crashes.html
  • @Ted,

    Thanks for the CNBC link to this story. In light of your comment a month ago that Boeing was “a great long term investment”, it would seem appropriate to follow the 737 Max story thru to completion. I’m sure many mfo readers followed your advice and purchased BA a month ago.

    I can’t control what the President says. As a highly influential political figure his words have the ability to affect and move the markets and companies like Boeing. If you can stop him from interjecting himself into investment areas of which he apparently knows nothing, it might go a long way in removing references to him from this forum. Nothing would make me happier.

    As far as Boeing goes - it’s one of the 30 stocks in the DJI and worthy of continued discussion as long as people find it of interest. As always, you are invited not to comment on those threads that don’t interest you.
  • msf
    edited April 15
    hank said:


    Renaming the plane might work. The 717 was a rebranded McDonnell Douglass DC9/MD95. (Arguably a better and more modern design than the 737). Since they discontinued the 717 they could call the rebranded 737 a 717 and play off of that plane’s good reputation. Rumor has it Boeing has a new 797 on the drawing boards. So that name is taken. And they already build a 787. So the new 737 might be called a 807. But the “8“ might remind people of the planes that crashed. Both were 737 Max 8s.

    Should the plan be rebranded? To paraphrase the Bard, a turkey by any other name would still stink as much.

    An 8 series might actually do well in Asia, as 8 is considered a lucky number in Cantonese. Though lucky numbers is not why Boeing named its jets 7x7.

    A bit more seriously, ISTM that from a business perspective Trump is right (did I say that?) that upgrading the plane could help. Throwing in currently optional features (notably safety features, as you wrote) for free would be a start. Boeing should make additional improvements both in safety, for obvious reasons, and for comfort for PR. All for free, even if they lose money, simply to stanch the loss of sales until they get a new plane developed.

    That would include regarding the plane as modified, making additional flight training necessary. Boeing might throw that in for free, or since the airlines also have a problem (too little capacity with their planes out of service), and their employees would benefit from the training, they might be willing to share some of that cost.
  • edited April 15
    @msf’s post missed my late-edit correction - so I should note it in the interest of complete accuracy.

    The 717 was, in effect, a Boeing rebrand of the older DC-9. However, before Boeing acquired the plane (in their buy-out of McDonnell Douglas) McDonnell had already rebranded the plane as the MD-95. In fact, most (but not all) of the MD series (ie the MD 80, 85, 90) were essentially rebrands of the old DC-9. Like the 737 Max, the rebranding was accompanied by installation of newer engines, avionics, and lengthening (or, in the case of the 717, shortening) of the fuselage. However, the 737 structural changes have been much more dramatic than what was done to the old DC-9 / MD series. And, that has led in part to Boeing’s current issues with the aircraft.

    Why was the 717 dropped? Great smaller aircraft. But regional jets became the fad - even for some long-leg domestic flights. They were cheaper for airlines to buy and operate and - unlike the “full sized” 717 - less qualified crews are allowed to fly them. Big savings for the airlines (but uncomfortable “scrunched” seats for the flying public).

    Here’s a Wikipedia article on the 717. It addresses in some detail the “Rebranding and marketing” the aircraft underwent. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_717
  • @hank - I've added the MD95 to my quote of your text.

    As should be obvious, I'm no aviation expert, but as an occasional flyer, I was aware of the renaming of DC9s to MD80s. I did not know about the rest of the MD series.

    Somewhat bizarrely given this thread, the Wikipedia 717 page begins by saying that the first 717 sale was to ValuJet. An airline remembered for its DC9 crash and for its rebranding.
    http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1914815_1914808_1914788,00.html
  • edited April 15
    @msf - Thanks for keeping up with my frequent edits. :)

    - The “MD” obviously stood for McDonnell Douglas. The “DC” likely stood for Douglas Corporation which pioneered the DC 9 before merging with McDonnell.

    - There were some other rebrands to the MD name. The (wide-bodied) DC-10 became the MD-11 for example. It was seen as a competitor to Boeing’s 747 - but was inferior technically (to the point of being dangerous) and was wisely discontinued. Still in use for cargo hauling and as an AF tanker.

    - Valuejet (Atlanta based) was expanding rapidly in the 90s. Relied on a bunch of used DC-9s they had picked up. Poorly maintained. This plane also dates back to the ‘60s. But the accident you note (DC-9 in 1996) was actually related to improperly / illegally stowed items in the cargo hold which caught fire. Went down in the Everglades after departing Miami.

    - Yes - AirTran was a rebrand. Much better run. The company downsized after the accident and bought newer planes. I loved their N/S service out of Flint Michigan to many Florida destinations on the 717 which they mostly operated (along with some 737s). Southwest bought them up and than discontinued those flights roughly a decade ago.
  • Ah yes, the DC-10. Another plane that was desperately in need of rebranding.

    "Except for 9/11, the crash of [American Airlines flight] 191 remains the worst air disaster in American history — all 271 people on the plane and two people on the ground were killed instantly. Almost all were burned beyond recognition."
    https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-american-airlines-ohare-crash-flight-191-hospital-perspec-0525-jm-20150522-story.html

    "The (wide-bodied) DC-10 became the MD-11"
    That renaming wouldn't have been intended as a pun on Lockheed's L-1011, read ten-eleven (another wide-body of the time)?
  • edited April 15
    msf said:

    Ah yes, the DC-10. Another plane that was desperately in need of rebranding.

    "Except for 9/11, the crash of [American Airlines flight] 191 remains the worst air disaster in American history — all 271 people on the plane and two people on the ground were killed instantly. Almost all were burned beyond recognition."
    https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-american-airlines-ohare-crash-flight-191-hospital-perspec-0525-jm-20150522-story.html

    "The (wide-bodied) DC-10 became the MD-11"
    That renaming wouldn't have been intended as a pun on Lockheed's L-1011, read ten-eleven (another wide-body of the time)?

    @msf - The L-1011 bore a striking resemblance to the DC-10. It was commonly known as the Lockheed “Tri-Star” due to the 3 engine configuration. I had the good fortune to fly on both planes out of DTW. Nearly identical. The L-1011 wasn’t plagued with as many failures as the DC-10, but not many were sold and production stopped early. Eastern had some Tri-Stars. Not sure who had the DC-10, but probably Northwest, which was taken over by Delta.

    Pun? Could be. Certainly an original thought on your part. In addition to the horrific Chicago crash, another DC-10 made a miraculous crash landing in Sioux City Iowa in 1989 after losing all hydraulics. It was a miracle some survived. Many did not. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Airlines_Flight_232

    The “stretch” MD-80 was an awkward looking stretched-out DC-9 with 2 rear mounted engines. People who should know told me at the time it came out that they could actually see the fuselage flex (bend) slightly when it lifted off due to the extra length. Delta was still flying them (acquired from Northwest) recently when I travelled - though they’re being phased out of the fleet due to poorer fuel economy plus the expense of maintaining older planes. Not a bad plane. Like the 737, a good mid-range workhorse.
  • edited April 18
    Following are selected excerpts from an article currently appearing in the Wall Street Journal, by reporters Kim Mackrael and Andy Pasztor. The quoted excerpts have been edited for brevity.

    A rift between the U.S. and Canada is growing over how to ensure the safety of Boeing Co.’s grounded 737 MAX planes, as Ottawa’s focus on additional pilot training could lead to a delay in getting the jet back in the air. Canada’s transport minister has signaled that his government could require additional simulator training for pilots of the 737 MAX.

    “Simulators are the very best way from a training point of view to go over exactly what could happen in a real way and to react properly to it,” Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Wednesday. “It’s not going to be a question of pulling out an iPad and spending an hour on it.”

    The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has tentatively decided against mandating additional simulator instruction [while] industry officials said that could change based on input from foreign regulators, as well as responses from domestic pilot unions and other groups during a public comment period ending April 30.

    Aviation regulators in Canada, Europe, China and Brazil previously indicated they would conduct their own safety reviews of the software fix instead of accepting the FAA’s analysis and decision to require only interactive and self-instructional training on laptops or other electronic devices.

    Mr. Garneau’s remarks are the first explicit break with the U.S. by a foreign regulator and could mean months of additional delays in other countries while extra simulator time is reserved and new training scenarios are developed. A spokeswoman for Mr. Garneau said no formal decision has been made about requiring simulator training [and that] Mr. Garneau would wait to see what Boeing says and speak with experts before making a final decision.

    The situation marks a sharp departure from tradition—stretching back many decades—when major safety decisions from the FAA affecting American-built aircraft tended to be routinely embraced by foreign counterparts. Trust and cooperation have frayed following the 737 MAX groundings, which have roiled the global aerospace industry.



  • msf
    edited April 18
    "The situation marks a sharp departure from tradition—stretching back many decades—when major safety decisions from the FAA affecting American-built aircraft tended to be routinely embraced by foreign counterparts."

    This schism is illustrative of a difference between the U.S. and some other countries. Other countries emphasize regulation: "Canada’s transport minister has signaled that his government could require additional simulator training for pilots."

    The U.S. often takes the perspective that the marketplace is the best decider, what you need is disclosure. So it's okay that my financial advisor has a conflict of interest, so long as he discloses it. (Fiduciary? What's that?) And it's okay that my pilot trained on video games (iPads), so long as that's disclosed.

    So let's have disclosure. Then I can decide whether I want to save a few bucks or fly with a pilot who's had first rate training.

  • edited April 24
    Following are selected excerpts from a current NPR news article, edited for brevity.

    Uncertainty: that's what Boeing says is in store for the company and its investors as it tries to get approval for its 737 Max to return to the air. Boeing said Wednesday its profits fell 13% in the first quarter and that the grounding of its 737 Max aircraft following two deadly crashes will cost the company at least $1 billion.

    The company delayed issuing guidance regarding its future financial performance, citing "the uncertainty of the timing and conditions surrounding return to service of the 737 MAX fleet." It also said it stopped buying back shares of its stock in mid-March, shortly after the 737 Max was grounded worldwide.

    Boeing said it's "making steady progress" on getting its software update certified for the 737 Max.

    Boeing's profits fell to $2.149 billion in the first quarter, from $2.477 billion a year earlier. Its revenues decreased 2%, to $22.9 billion. On Wednesday it's stock was up about 1 percent, to $377.52, in midday trading.
  • The airlines are taking full advantage, ironically. But we're not surprised, are we? Fewer planes flying, no reduction in demand. Limited flights, fares much higher. I just checked SWA for my usual yearly trip out to the Northwest. Absurd ticket prices, and flights to my destination from my local airport happen only on Sat or Sun. It's nuts.
  • msf
    edited April 25
    The lead story (p. A1) in last Sunday's NYTimes was "Safety Concerns Plague Boeing Dreamliner Plant, Claim of Sloppy Work on a Popular Jet - Whistle-Blosers Cite Retribution.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/20/business/boeing-dreamliner-production-problems.html

    For those without access, Inc. did a fairly good job at summarizing the article:
    https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/boeing-787-dreamliner-safety-issues-north-charleston-plant-debris-planes.html

    As I wrote before, Boeing is a company that's picked quick and cheap over good (safe). Rather than edit for brevity, I'm just providing a small sample of low-lights:

    A New York Times review of hundreds of pages of internal emails, corporate documents and federal records, as well as interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees, reveals a culture that often valued production speed over quality

    Regulators and lawmakers are taking a deeper look at Boeing’s priorities, and whether profits sometimes trumped safety.

    “As a quality manager at Boeing, you’re the last line of defense before a defect makes it out to the flying public,” Mr. Barnett [a former quality manager who worked at Boeing for three decades until 2017] said. “And I haven’t seen a plane out of Charleston yet that I’d put my name on saying it’s safe and airworthy.”

    In March, the Air Force halted deliveries of the KC-46 tanker, built in Everett, Wash., after finding a wrench, bolts and trash inside new planes. “To say it bluntly, this is unacceptable,” Will Roper, an assistant secretary of the Air Force, told a congressional subcommittee in March.

    While Boeing has nurtured generations of aerospace professionals in the Seattle area, there was no comparable work force in South Carolina.

    But the workforce was cheap, which is what mattered to Boeing. This is a good article worth reading; it's not a pretty picture. It makes it look like the 737 MAX problems are not an anomaly.
  • edited April 25
    Gary said:
    Good article. I’m getting the feeling this is more than a software issue - and probably more than a crew training issue. There were a number of structural design changes to this new 737 compared to the preceding model. Some obvious ones were: engine size & placement, longer / larger landing gear for additional ground clearance (weight and weight distribution issue), more powerful engines. Quite likely there were changes in cargo loading & positioning necessitated by the other changes. And likely the plane put on some additional weight. Than there’s those oversized winglets which became necessary to provide enough additional lift for the heavier aircraft without necessitating longer wings (and resultant problems using existing airport loading gates). These changes all work together to change the center of gravity (CG) and overall flight characteristics. Boeing thought they could get around the resulting compromised stability issues with a software upgrade (called MCAS).

    If it were merely software and crew training related it wouldn’t be taking as long as it has. Last estimate was July for return to flight. Even a compromised aircraft like this is certainly safer than what we routinely accepted as state of the art back in the 60s, 70s and 80s. (That’s assuming they get the software / training issues corrected.) So I wouldn’t be afraid to get on one of these. However, by today’s phenomenal air safety standards, it’s a troubled plane and wouldn’t be my first choice either. I suspect Boeing will replace it with a totally redesigned plane in the near future. And I’d really like to know the degree to which Southwest (whose sole reliance on 737s greatly reduces their training and ground equipment expenses) influenced Boeing’s decision to do yet another redesign (on a 60s era aircraft) rather than coming out with a replacement for the 737 earlier?
  • Following are selected excerpts from a current Wall Street Journal news article. They have not been edited in any manner.

    Boeing’s Enduring Puzzle: Why Certain Safety Features on 737 MAX Jets Were Turned Off

    Plane maker Boeing Co. BA -0.53% didn’t tell Southwest Airlines Co. LUV -0.69% when the carrier began flying 737 MAX jets in 2017 that a standard safety feature, found on earlier models and designed to warn pilots about malfunctioning sensors, had been deactivated.

    Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors and supervisors responsible for monitoring Southwest, the largest MAX customer, were also unaware of the change, according to government and industry officials.

    Boeing had turned off the alerts which, in previous versions of the 737, informed pilots if a sensor known as an “angle-of-attack vane” was transmitting errant data about the pitch of a plane’s nose. In the MAX, which featured a new automated stall-prevention system called MCAS, Boeing made those alerts optional; they would be operative only if carriers bought additional safety features.

    Southwest’s cockpit crews and management didn’t know about the change for more than a year after the planes went into service. They and most other airlines operating the MAX globally learned about it only after the fatal Lion Air crash last year led to scrutiny of the plane’s revised design. The FAA office’s lack of knowledge about Boeing’s move hasn’t been previously reported.

    “Southwest’s own manuals were wrong” about the status of the alerts, said Southwest pilots union president, Jon Weaks. Since Boeing hadn’t communicated the modification to the carrier, the manuals still reflected incorrect information.


    Comment: This all gets more interesting by the day. The cesspool of Boeing management sleaze gets deeper and deeper.
  • edited April 29
    “Boeing told Southwest only after the Lions Air crash that the feature was activated only if the airline paid an additional fee.”

    Thanks @Old_Joe - Bloomberg is all over this today. (The above blurb is from their on-air programming.)

    If I were Southwest, I’d be looking elsewhere for planes. You may recall Bombardier recently rolled out a more modern jet of roughly the (original) 737 size. Trump screwed them over with tariffs and they were unable to sell it to U.S. carriers. I think Airbus took over the project. Whether that plane’s still a viable option for Southwest - not sure. Quoting Ed on this one: “As consumers, you should feel free to pull your money and go elsewhere if the product changes in ways you don’t understand, is cheapened, or does not meet your goals, objectives, and expectations.” https://www.mutualfundobserver.com/2019/04/brand-or-generic/
  • edited May 3
    Following are selected excerpts from a current Wall Street Journal news article. They have been lightly edited for brevity.

    Boeing’s Own Test Pilots Lacked Key Details of 737 MAX Flight-Control System

    Boeing limited the role of its own pilots in the final stages of developing the 737 MAX flight-control system implicated in two fatal crashes, departing from a longstanding practice of seeking their detailed input, people familiar with the matter said.

    As a result, Boeing test pilots and senior pilots involved in the MAX’s development didn’t receive detailed briefings about how fast or steeply the automated system known as MCAS could push down a plane’s nose, nor were they informed that the system relied on a single sensor—rather than two—to verify the accuracy of incoming data about the angle of a plane’s nose.

    The extent of pilots’ lack of involvement hasn’t been previously reported and could bring fresh scrutiny from investigators and regulators already looking into Boeing’s design and engineering practices. It isn’t clear whether greater pilot participation would have altered the ultimate design of the flight-control system. But the scaling back of pilots’ involvement and their lack of detailed knowledge about the plane’s system add to the list of questions about engineering and design practices facing the Chicago-based aerospace giant.

    Boeing’s test pilots are an elite full-time crew, usually consisting of former military aviators, who try out systems on new aircraft before engineering specifics are locked in. Such test flights occur before the final version of the airplane is produced, cockpit procedures are set and the aircraft is delivered to customers.

    But over time, an internal restructuring that began in 2009 introduced changes in that process, eventually reducing pilots’ clout, according to people familiar with pilots’ role in the process.

    About midway through the MAX’s development, the senior pilot recalls warning a Boeing executive about taking pilots out of the loop: “Something is going to get by, and it’s not going to be pretty.”

    In hindsight, test pilots “had no real input” into the ultimate MCAS design, one of the people said.



    Note: The Wall Street Journal article is quite lengthy, with significantly more detail than is contained in these excerpts. If you have WSJ access I highly recommend reading the entire article.

    Comment: The cesspool of Boeing management sleaze gets deeper and smellier by the day.

  • edited May 6
    Following are selected excerpts from a current NPR news report. They have been lightly edited for brevity.

    Boeing Knew About 737 Max Sensor Problem Before Plane Crash In Indonesia

    Boeing knew that there was a problem with one of the safety features on its 737 Max planes back in 2017 – well before the Lion Air crash in October 2018 and the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March. But it did not disclose the issue to airlines or safety regulators until after the Lion Air plane crashed off the Indonesian coast, killing all 189 aboard.

    In a statement Sunday, Boeing said its engineers discovered a problem with a key safety indicator within months of Boeing delivering the first 737 Max planes to airlines. The indicator, called an angle of attack disagree alert, is designed to warn pilots if the plane's sensors are transmitting contradictory data about the direction of the plane's nose.

    Boeing intended for the indicator to be standard on the 737 Max, in keeping with the features available on previous generations of 737s. But its engineers discovered that the sensor worked only with a separate, optional safety feature. Boeing said the faulty software was delivered by a vendor, which it didn't name.

    When it learned of the issue in 2017, Boeing says it conducted a safety review and concluded that the nonworking alert did not affect airplane safety or operation. The review also concluded that the indicator could be decoupled from the optional indicator at the time of a future software update.

    Boeing says its senior leadership wasn't aware of the problem until after the Lion Air crash. Boeing says it discussed the indicator problem at that point with the Federal Aviation Administration — a year after the company knew about the problem. The company then convened another safety review, which concluded once again that the absence of the alert was not a safety issue. It shared the analysis with the FAA.

    A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines, the largest operator of the 737 Max, told The Associated Press that Boeing had informed it of the indicator issue in November, following the Lion Air crash. Southwest then added the optional feature so the angle-of-attack disagree indicator would work.

    But only 20% of customers had purchased the optional feature, and neither Lion Air nor Ethiopian Airlines had functioning angle of attack disagree indicators on their 737 Max fleets, The New York Times reports.

    If angle of attack sensors indicate the nose of the plane is too high, an automated flight control system on the 737 Max automatically forces the nose of the plane down.

    Boeing maintains that the 737 Max was safe to fly even without the alert, which it says provides only "supplemental information." But the new disclosure raises questions about how forthright the company has been about issues with the planes.

    "We thought [the disagree light] worked," Jon Weaks, the president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, told the Times. "If they knew it in 2017, why did we get to nearly the end of 2018 until the manual was changed?"

  • @MFO Members: Time to put this very, very, very, tiresome post to rest !
    Regards,
    Ted
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