Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 12, 2019

Boeing, The FAA, And Why Two 737 MAX Planes Crashed

On Sunday an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed, killing all on board. Five month earlier an Indonesian Lion Air jet crashed near Jakarta. All crew and passengers died. Both airplanes were Boeing 737-8 MAX. Both incidents happened shortly after take off. 

Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are now grounded about everywhere except in the United States. That this move follows only now is sad. After the first crash it was already obvious that the plane is not safe to fly.

The Boeing 737 and the Airbus 320 types are single aisle planes with some 150 seats. Both are bread and butter planes sold by the hundreds with a good profit. In 2010 Airbus decided to offer its A-320 with a New Engine Option (NEO) which uses less fuel. To counter the Airbus move Boeing had to follow up. The 737 would also get new engines for a more efficient flight and longer range. The new engines on the 737 MAX are bigger and needed to be placed a bit different than on the older version. That again changed the flight characteristics of the plane by giving it a nose up attitude.

The new flight characteristic of the 737 MAX would have require a retraining of the pilots. But Boeing's marketing people had told their customers all along that the 737 MAX would not require extensive new training. Instead of expensive simulator training for the new type experienced 737 pilots would only have to read some documentation about the changes between the old and the new versions.

To make that viable Boeing's engineers had to use a little trick. They added a 'maneuver characteristics augmentation system' (MCAS) that pitches the nose of the plane down if a sensor detects a too high angle of attack (AoA) that might lead to a stall. That made the flight characteristic of the new 737 version similar to the old one.

But the engineers screwed up.

The 737 MAX has two flight control computers. Each is connected to only one of the two angle of attack sensors. During a flight only one of two computer runs the MCAS control. If it detects a too high angle of attack it trims the horizontal stabilizer down for some 10 seconds. It then waits for 5 seconds and reads the sensor again. If the sensor continues to show a too high angle of attack it again trims the stabilizer to pitch the plane's nose done.

MCSA is independent of the autopilot. It is even active in manual flight. There is a procedure to deactivate it but it takes some time.

One of the angle of attack sensors on the Indonesian flight was faulty. Unfortunately it was the one connected to the computer that ran the MCAS on that flight. Shortly after take off the sensor signaled a too high angle of attack even as the plane was flying in a normal climb. The MCAS engaged and put the planes nose down. The pilots reacted by disabling the autopilot and pulling the control stick back. The MCAS engaged again pitching the plane further down. The pilots again pulled the stick. This happened some 12 times in a row before the plane crashed into the sea.

To implement a security relevant automatism that depends on only one sensor is extremely bad design. To have a flight control automatism engaged even when the pilot flies manually is also a bad choice. But the real criminality was that Boeing hid the feature.

Neither the airlines that bought the planes nor the pilots who flew it were told about MCAS. They did not know that it exists. They were not aware of an automatic system that controlled the stabilizer even when the autopilot was off. They had no idea how it could be deactivated.

Nine days after the Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610 ended in a deadly crash, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive.


The 737 MAX pilots were aghast. The APA pilot union sent a letter to its members:

“This is the first description you, as 737 pilots, have seen. It is not in the AA 737 Flight Manual Part 2, nor is there a description in the Boeing FCOM (flight crew operations manual),” says the letter from the pilots’ union safety committee. “Awareness is the key with all safety issues.”

The Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed went down in a similar flight profile as the Indonesian plane. It is highly likely that MCAS is the cause of both incidents. While the pilots of the Ethiopian plane were aware of the MCAS system they might have had too little time to turn it off. The flight recorders have been recovered and will tell the full story.

Boeing has sold nearly 5,000 of the 737 MAX. So far some 380 have been delivered. Most of these are now grounded. Some family members of people who died on the Indonesian flight are suing Boeing. Others will follow. But Boeing is not the only one who is at fault.

The FAA certifies all new planes and their documentation. I was for some time marginally involved in Airbus certification issues. It is an extremely detailed process that has to be followed by the letter. Hundreds of people are full time engaged for years to certify a modern jet. Every tiny screw and even the smallest design details of the hardware and software have to be documented and certified.

How or why did the FAA agree to accept the 737 MAX with the badly designed MCAS? How could the FAA allow that MCAS was left out of the documentation? What steps were taken after the Indonesian flight crashed into the sea?

Up to now the FAA was a highly regarded certification agency. Other countries followed its judgment and accepted the certifications the FAA issued. That most of the world now grounded the 737 MAX while it still flies in the States is a sign that this view is changing. The FAA's certifications of Boeing airplanes are now in doubt.

Today Boeing's share price dropped some 7.5%. I doubt that it is enough to reflect the liability issues at hand. Every airline that now had to ground its planes will ask for compensation. More than 330 people died and their families deserve redress. Orders for 737 MAX will be canceled as passengers will avoid that type. 

Boeing will fix the MCAS problem by using more sensors or by otherwise changing the procedures. But the bigger issue for the U.S. aircraft industry might be the damage done to the FAA's reputation. If the FAA is internationally seen as a lobbying agency for the U.S. airline industry it will no longer be trusted and the industry will suffer from it. It will have to run future certification processes through a jungle of foreign agencies.

Congress should take up the FAA issue and ask why it failed.

Posted by b on March 12, 2019 at 04:39 PM | Permalink

next page »

@ b who wrote
But the engineers screwed up.

I call BS on this pointing of fingers at the wrong folk

Engineers get paid to build things that accountants influence. The West is a world in which the accountants have more sway than engineers.

It is all about the money b and to lead folks in some other direction is not like what I think of you.

The elite that own global private finance and everything else killed those people in the planes because they set the standards that the accountants follow and then force the engineers to operate within

The profit narrative is bad for humanity.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Mar 12, 2019 4:55:32 PM | 1

A whistleblower at Boeing would have been nice.

Posted by: bj | Mar 12, 2019 4:57:15 PM | 2

"Congress should take up the FAA issue and ask why it failed."
If there had been any chance of that happening, the planes would probably still be flying and dead passengers alive.
This, if you are right and I suspect that you are, is symptomatic of an empire dying of corruption. It is no accident that both the new secretary of defence and the neo-con cult itself were born of Boeing. A fact memorialised in the UK where the Blairites rally in the Henry Jackson society.

Posted by: bevin | Mar 12, 2019 5:00:23 PM | 3

Last night I wrote on a previous thread:
Over the space of a few months 2 almost new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft have crashed. Rather than going to the expense of designing an entirely new fuselage and normal length landing gear for its larger and much more powerful 737 MAX engines Boeing stuck with the now ancient 737 fuselage design that sits only 17 inches from the ground – necessitating changes to the positioning of the engines on the wing, which together with the vast increase in power, created aerodynamic instability in the design that Boeing tried to correct with software, while not alerting pilots to the changes.
Through the 1980s and early 1990s Boeing executives had largely resisted pressure from Wall Street to cut staff numbers, move plant to non-union states and outsource. The 777 was the last real Boeing, though significant outsourcing did take place – but under the strict control and guidance of Boeing engineers. After the “reverse” takeover of MacDonnell Douglas in 1997 the MDD neoliberal culture swamped Boeing and its HQ was moved from the firm’s home near Seattle to Chicago so executives could hobnob with speculators. Wall Street had taken down another giant.

Posted by: Lochearn | Mar 12, 2019 5:00:42 PM | 4

The story I have most interest in, at the moment, is the state of the power blackout in Venezuela and whether this was a cyber attack by the United States. If it was, it is, in my opinion, a weapon of mass destruction and a very major war crime. The story seems to be fading from the news so I'm hoping b. will be able to gather more information about it.

But I find every story by b, worthwhile!

Posted by: David Park | Mar 12, 2019 5:01:36 PM | 5

I don't know if this is true by my sister who was an engineer working on military jets said that she'd heard that because of various design requirements, the 737-MAX was inherently unstable but stability was provided by the fly-by-wire system. In military jets, this feature provides greater maneuverability and survivability but has no place on civilian aircraft as the outcome of a system failure would be catastrophic with the pilots being unable to do anything about it. Anyone heard anything similar?

Posted by: Ghost Ship | Mar 12, 2019 5:04:07 PM | 6

b - thanks for addressing this.. subservient canada is also flying them still..) canada is going the same way as the usa-faa - into a ditch long term... it is really sad for the people who have died and for the fact that as @1 psychohistorian notes - the decisions are being put in the hands of the wrong people...

Posted by: james | Mar 12, 2019 5:09:31 PM | 7

Excellent piece b.

Posted by: Barbara Ann | Mar 12, 2019 5:11:56 PM | 8

Gotta agree with psychohistorian @1, that the engineers aren't totally responsible. Deregulation pukes at FAA, bean counters at Boeing and their managers who approved it all are morally culpable. Airline executives aren't immune either, although many will likely plead ignorance.

Posted by: karlof1 | Mar 12, 2019 5:13:53 PM | 9

If the US were a sane country, a Congressional investigation would follow, but it's not, and Congress is going to be more concerned with Boeing's bottom line than in public safety or the integrity of the FAA. That's probably why the planes haven't been grounded in the US. Congress is much more likely to impede investigation and accountability.

Posted by: mourning dove | Mar 12, 2019 5:17:18 PM | 10

the dreamliner is the plane of the future barack hussein obarmie

The Boeing Broken Dreams Al Jazeera Investigations

Posted by: dave | Mar 12, 2019 5:17:28 PM | 11

David Park @5--

You'll want to read this!

Posted by: karlof1 | Mar 12, 2019 5:19:49 PM | 12

You omit important facts: the pilots know by heart how to quickly cut off electronic control of the stabilizers and fly manually. The pilots on the preceding lion air flight had had the same problem, and immediately solved it. The defective sensor should have been immediately replaced, and would have in the United States. On the next flight, the pilots (the copilot being quite unexperienced) spent 10 minutes not doing what they were trained to do in an emergency where the stabilizers are out of control: disable them.

When some flight crews get it right, but others don’t, it’s not a design flaw but a problem with the flight crews.

I can’t agree with your conclusions.

Posted by: Steven | Mar 12, 2019 5:26:50 PM | 13

Through the history of Boeing senior executives lived in modest middle-class houses. They traveled on Boeing aircraft to get pilot's responses. But when Phil Condit (Wall Street's man) took over he immediately bought private jets and started living the lifestyle. The difference between productive capitalism and financial capitalism.

Posted by: Lochearn | Mar 12, 2019 5:30:48 PM | 14

"How or why did the FAA agree to accept the 737 MAX with the badly designed MCAS?"

Because it would be against the state religion to stop, or delay, a huge corporation earning even more money.

Posted by: Tom Welsh | Mar 12, 2019 5:34:56 PM | 15

the broken dreams documentary above spells it out very clearly the documentary is from 2014.
it even has undercover folks in the boeing factory saying they would not fly on one.

if you fly you should watch that old al jazeera investigation.
the company does not pay tax and
the head of boeing paid himself 100s of millions of dollars

corporate manslaughter
could be

Posted by: dave | Mar 12, 2019 5:36:39 PM | 16

But the bigger issue for the U.S. aircraft industry might be the damage done to the FAA's reputation.

I'd counter this by asking "what reputation?"

I've known for years how it took take a "smoking hole" for the FAA to get off the can and actually do something about a problem with an airplane or airline. But things evolve, and here we have TWO such smoking holes and the FAA still allows it to fly. I'm not trying to pick on the current FAA leader, for the man is utterly typical of the people who are allowed to gain his position. From his wiki:

But the bigger issue for the U.S. aircraft industry might be the damage done to the FAA's reputation.

Elwell joined Airlines for America (A4A) in 2013[3] where he was the Senior Vice President for Safety, Security, and Operations. Elwell left this role in 2015.

(Skipping to the A4A wiki:)Airlines for America
Officially, the A4A has announced five "core elements" of a national airline policy include reducing taxes on the industry, reducing regulation, increased access to foreign markets, making the industry more attractive for investors, and improving the air traffic control system.

I suspect that grounding the 737-MAX would contradict the goal of "making the industry more attractive for investors".

More on the FAA's Tombstone Mentality

About an hour ago I sent out an all-points email suggesting my family members avoid boarding a 737 MAX until the facts are better known and solutions are in place. The FAA may not care about them taking risks, but I sure do.

Posted by: Zachary Smith | Mar 12, 2019 5:39:20 PM | 17

Boeing has a get-out-of-jail-free card.

"Boeing is among the largest global aircraft manufacturers; it is the fifth-largest defense contractor in the world based on 2017 revenue, and is the largest exporter in the United States by dollar value".

Posted by: Tom Welsh | Mar 12, 2019 5:39:22 PM | 18

I agree with Psychohistorian @ 1 in less forthright terms: the engineers did not "screw up". On the contrary they most likely did what they could with the money and the time deadline they were given to carry out what essentially was a patch-up job that would make Boeing look good, save money and maintain its stock in sharemarkets.

Probably the entire process, in which the engineers played a small part - and that part in which they had no input into whoever was making the decisions - was a disaster from start to finish. The engineers should have been consulted at an early stage in the re-design of the aircraft's flight and safety features. Only when the appropriate re-design has been tested, changed where necessary and given the thumbs-up by relevant pilots' unions and other organisations with regard to passenger safety can the marketing department go ahead and advise airlines who buy the redesigned planes what training their pilots need.

That the marketing department has more say than the engineers who design and test the hardware and the software in passenger jets tells us a great deal about the Potemkin-style workplace culture that prevails in Boeing and similar large US corporations. The surface sheen is more important than the substance. The marketing brochures and manuals are no different from mainstream news media in the level of BS they spew.

One can think of other organisations where the administration has more power in the corporate decision-making process and eats up more of the corporate budget while the people who do the actual work are increasingly ignored in boardrooms and their share of the budget correspondingly decreases. Hospitals and schools come to mind.

Posted by: Jen | Mar 12, 2019 5:39:56 PM | 19

@ Tom Welsh #18

To be fair, I suspect Lockheed has the same "card" as Boeing.

Posted by: Zachary Smith | Mar 12, 2019 5:41:58 PM | 20

@ 19

Boeing got taken over Wall Street, which means cheapest solution to anything. Engineers are stuck with what they are given. What part of that do you still not understand.

Posted by: Lochearn | Mar 12, 2019 5:45:36 PM | 21

A mitigating factor to the flightcrew is the take-off to 10,000ft is the busiest time. There is enough going on without having to deal with runaway stab. This is especially true for new crew to a new aircraft. Rode in many cockpits before 9.11.01 when company employees were allowed and the standing rule was no conversations below 10,000 and keep you eyes open for traffic. I also include my Maintenance bretheran in that equation. Spent 30 years as a Avionics Tech. on both military and commercial aircraft so I am really fond of giving flightcrew a break but I
might this time.

Posted by: viking3 | Mar 12, 2019 5:55:18 PM | 22

I meant NOT REALLY fond of giving aircrew a break!

Regards, Rob

Posted by: viking3 | Mar 12, 2019 5:58:41 PM | 23

Jen @19--

Dilbert, the comic strip, from today and yesterday nails the marketing angle. And this isn't the first time Scott Adams has targeted marketers.

Posted by: karlof1 | Mar 12, 2019 5:59:13 PM | 24

Good point @4 Lochearn

Why is Boeing suffering from this design problem and not A320neo is that 737's wings are much lower to the ground than the A320. Unfortunately, more fuel-efficient engines require a larger air inlet, so the newer generation engines are much larger than the previously installed V2500 or CFM56 (anyone can verify that - the older engines are much, much smaller than the newer ones). When Airbus introduced the Pratt & Whitney GTF on its A320s (calling it the neo - new engine option), it led to an increase (high single digits %) increase in fuel efficiency. Boeing had to respond to that. If they wanted to increase the height of the wings of the 737 from the ground, they would have had to redesign the fuselage which would have cost billions (and which they should have done, in hindsight). Instead, they listened to the investors and the bean counters as you have called them here and they jiggled the position of the wings a bit and introduced the new automatic stabiliser.

The people at Boeing are good or at least the engineers are. Imagine how many times this problem would have been brought up by someone for him/her to be shut down. It's not like they were not aware of the issue, but they were unwilling to let their bottom line suffer. Instead, they were okay with carrying the risk of killing hundreds of people.

That is what boggles my mind!

Posted by: ancientarcher | Mar 12, 2019 5:59:44 PM | 25

Lochearn | Mar 12, 2019 5:00:42 PM | 4;
Posted by: Ghost Ship | Mar 12, 2019 5:04:07 PM | 6

Agree with both of your comments. It looks like the 55 year old 737 air-frame design, which is very low to the ground when compared to more modern designs, is incompatible with the bigger engines required for fuel efficiency.

Being very low to the ground, Boeing was forced to put the engines out in front, which upset the airplane's balance, making the plane essentially unstable. To counter the instability they added the 'MCAS?' control system.

This solution violates a fundamental tenant of design for safety-critical systems. The tenant of 'fail-safe'. If something goes wrong the system is supposed to fail in a manner that preserves safety. For the 737 Max, when the this stability control system fails, the plane is fundamentally unstable. For this system it is not 'fail-safe'. It is 'fail-crash'.

Why would Boeing do this? Because Bombardier was building a clean sheet design, that would eat the 737's lunch. Boeing (and Airbus) were desperate to do something quick to minimize the 20% fuel burn advantage of the C-series. The more modern Airbus 320 air frame allowed it to re-engine their plane. Boeing's did not. But Boeing went ahead anyway and built an fundamentally unstable airplane, because the alternative was to walk away from their most important market.

To me, this looks like it could be catastrophic for Boeing. It reminds me of G.M.'s 'Corvair' moment (Unsafe at any speed), from the 1960s.

Posted by: dh-mtl | Mar 12, 2019 6:00:43 PM | 26

Steven @ 13: The Indonesian Lion Air jet still crashed with all onboard dying, even after the pilots did as you said. B's post explains why: the MCAS system has to be deactivated separately as it is still active when autopilot is off and the pilots are flying manually. The Indonesian pilots did not have the time to figure out and realise that something else was controlling the plane's flight, much less deactivate what is effectively a second autopiloting system.

Posted by: Jen | Mar 12, 2019 6:02:28 PM | 27

@13 steven.. i am not sure you have that right... perhaps not everyone was trained in this new feature of the 737? that is what i seemed to recall..maybe some pilots know how to shut off the system and others not? the only reason they are shutting it off is it is faulty? maybe others can chime in..

if the (usa?)financial system can bail out wall st, there will be no probs bailing out boeing..

Posted by: james | Mar 12, 2019 6:05:33 PM | 28

thanks jen... i see your post now!

Posted by: james | Mar 12, 2019 6:06:02 PM | 29

how is this for reassuring? press release from boeing today... this info is from someone else,and i haven't verified it..

"For the past several months and in the aftermath of Lion Air Flight 610, Boeing has been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX, designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer."

Posted by: james | Mar 12, 2019 6:09:41 PM | 30

"Boeing got taken over Wall Street, which means cheapest solution to anything. Engineers are stuck with what they are given. What part of that do you still not understand."

Why they colluded with and indeed implemented what they knew to be - and now proven to be - a mass killing system. What do you not understand here?

Posted by: witters | Mar 12, 2019 6:10:37 PM | 31

very un- assuring..

Posted by: james | Mar 12, 2019 6:11:02 PM | 32

Great article B.

There is much more behind the covering up of this "design flaw" from the start. The concept that, in this day and age, sensors used in the aviation field and close to brand new are defective is a stretch of the imagination. The current effort by Boeing to do a software upgrade, I suspect, is cover for something more damaging.

How easy is it these days to access the MAX's operation and flight control computers? Can it be done via WI-fi or Bluetooth from the airfield? We are well aware that in the newer heavies Seattle can take basic control via satellite.

Posted by: Whozhear | Mar 12, 2019 6:15:58 PM | 33

@ 5

You may also find this interesting........

Posted by: Whozhear | Mar 12, 2019 6:19:12 PM | 34

@jen @james

You clowns don’t understand what you’re telling me I’m “getting wrong.” MCAS ISN’T part of the autopilot, and I never said it was.

737 pilots have to be able to do about 10 procedures in their sleep. One is when the electrical control of the horizontal stabilizers doesn’t work; Aa few steps but basically pull a breaker and revert to manual control only, no power assist.

The crew on the previous flight did this and flew on with zero problem.

It’s outrageous that lionair didn’t find out why emergency procedures had had to be used and fix them before they let the airplane fly again.

If airlines do not adhere to Minimal safety standards, it’s not Boeing’s fault if it’s planes crash.

Posted by: Steven | Mar 12, 2019 6:24:25 PM | 35

@35 Steven,

Is Boeing paying you to miss this part:

“This is the first description you, as 737 pilots, have seen. It is not in the AA 737 Flight Manual Part 2, nor is there a description in the Boeing FCOM (flight crew operations manual),” says the letter from the pilots’ union safety committee. “Awareness is the key with all safety issues.”

Posted by: Jonathan | Mar 12, 2019 6:35:04 PM | 36

Well it's good to know that Canada is still allowing this death trap to fly, I couldn't bare the thought that Boeing might lose more stock value merely because of a defective product that kills! Seriously though, the silence from the Canadian media on this subject is deafening. CBC news didn't even cover the banning of these planes in the rest of the world until an hour ago and even then they seemed more concerned about the impact on Boeing then the you know 300 people killed because of this flawed plane. Eventually (before Friday) I think Canada will be forced to ground it's fleet of 737-8s. With the current corruption scandal, Trudeau is too weak right now to stand up in Question period and claim the 737-8s are safe to fly. Even Trump is getting in on the action and blaming Boeing for the accidents. FAA may end up being the biggest loser from this situations with a huge hit to its' trustworthiness, I remember when the FAA would issue emergency maintenance/inspection orders after any crash suspected to be caused by maintenance issues and ground entire fleets of aircraft if two planes crashed within 2 years. You know, the FAAs behaviour now reminds me of the old Soviet joke, "our planes never crash, their just indefinitely delayed"

Posted by: Kadath | Mar 12, 2019 6:41:49 PM | 37

These people did not die they were murdered. Long ago, I had worked with Boeing on a computer project and I had the highest respect for the company and engineers. Facts and reality were paramount for Boeing. Things started a slow downhill slope when that TWA flight that was accidentally shot down by a missile. I noticed how uncomfortable the engineers were to talk about it – just a short comment that the fuel tank was not the cause. When politics and management go away from reality and facts, it is just a matter of time. But for the life of me I do not understand how Boeing can come to this:

Fault 1: As B says, it should never have been designed like this.
Fault 2: Don’t tell the pilots about MCSA.
Fault 3: Real time flight tracking altitude data show wild swings – red light ignored. No need to wait for a plane to crash.
Fault 4: Lion Air Flight 610 crash showed that this MCSA system is at fault and nothing much was done. The murder of 189 people.
Fault 5: Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 murdering an additional 157 people.
Fault 6: FAA says everything is ok.

Especially the Ethiopian Flight 409 crash should never have happened. This issue became well known to engineers and flight crews world wide after Lion Air. A good question is: was the disable MCSA switch now a memory item or a check list item for the flight crew? Or did Boeing want to wait for the final report of Lion Air?

I noticed that the Ethiopian pilot was not western, but looks like from Indian decent. I would not doubt his abilities, but rather say that he would follow the rules more than a western pilot. Western pilots would network and study this thing on their own and would not wait for Boeing. They would have penciled this into their flight deck routine - just to be safe.

Posted by: Meshpal | Mar 12, 2019 6:46:17 PM | 38

David Park #5

I read this yesterday regarding the Venezuela power outages. Possible Stuxnet infestation ala Iran 2010?

Posted by: JohnT | Mar 12, 2019 6:51:38 PM | 39

One can always find a benefit in the sanctions, albeit coincidental.

Iran avoided a lot of damage from Boeing. They had ordered 140 of 737’s. All got canceled. Congratulations.

Posted by: Alpi57 | Mar 12, 2019 6:54:45 PM | 40

@40 Alpi57
Iran always has the option of buying the Irkut MC-21 which in my opinion is the best narrowbody plane that anyone can buy now. Fully redesigned body with significantly higher composite percentage and comes with the best engine in the world for narrowbodies - the P&W GTF. And Russia will be happy.

What's not to like

Posted by: ancientarcher | Mar 12, 2019 6:59:53 PM | 41

Before you guys and gals bash b, hop over to Zerohedge citing Dallas Morning News revealing FAA database Pilots on Boeing 737Max complained for months...Manual inadequate ...criminally insufficient .just for starters.

Posted by: Likklemore | Mar 12, 2019 7:07:19 PM | 42

james @32--

That Canada didn't is crazy:

"In a remarkable rebuke, nations from the U.K. to Australia have rejected public reassurances from the FAA and grounded Boeing’s 737 Max."

Posted by: karlof1 | Mar 12, 2019 7:10:30 PM | 43

I was a big fan of the 6-part BBC doco series Black Box from the 1990s. The main conclusion drawn was that the industry is way too fond of blaming as many mishaps as possible on Pilot Error, and way too slow to react to telltale signs that a particular aircraft model might have a fatal flaw. There was a tendency to ignore FAA edicts for inspection of a suspected design weakness. Two cases that come to mind were incorrectly locked DC 9 cargo doors ripping off with a big chunk of the plane plus half a dozen occupied seats, and a tendency of 727s to nose-dive into the "surface" at Mach 0.99.

I'll be very surprised if any part of b's analysis, conclusions and predictions turns out to incorrect.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Mar 12, 2019 7:28:54 PM | 44

Lights in Venezuela on.
US Boeing stocks down.
More evidence for the Lockheed f-16 downing.Reports it was a dogfight between an old MiG-21 (with modernised radar and missiles) that brought the modern US Lockheed f-16 down and maybe not from a launch of MiGs modern bvr missile.

Things are looking up.

Posted by: World 3 - USA 0 | Mar 12, 2019 7:31:57 PM | 45

@ ancientarcher @41

The problem with a "new" airplane is the Western Content. Over a certain percentage, the US basically controls the situation. Another issue is servicing the things. If an airplane is sitting in Podunk Airport with a broken widget, the airline wants it fixed right now! Some planes like the 737 have been around for decades and there are probably parts for it - even at Podunk. A new plane will probably be grounded until a new part is transported in - a process which will take many hours even in the best of circumstances. Advantage to the 737 and other 'legacy' airplanes.

Just saw an intersting headline at Reuters - I'd suppose it is some friendly advice from Wall Street disguised as "news".

Breakingviews - Boeing needs to think faster than its watchdog

Change "watchdog" to "lapdog" and that would be about right. It seems to me a sensible proposal, for if Boeing must take a beating out of this, the company ought to at least adopt a pose of "really caring" and "doing the right thing". Try for the brownie points.

Posted by: Zachary Smith | Mar 12, 2019 7:33:32 PM | 46

@ Zachary Smith who wrote
It seems to me a sensible proposal, for if Boeing must take a beating out of this, the company ought to at least adopt a pose of "really caring" and "doing the right thing".

China is coming to teach the West morals which are currently ranked below profit and ongoing private control of global finance

Posted by: psychohistorian | Mar 12, 2019 7:40:55 PM | 47

Elaine Chao? If we are pointing fingers.

Posted by: idland | Mar 12, 2019 7:53:16 PM | 48

@35 Steven
The Ethiopian airlines flight was an international flight, so the pilots will have been certified to international standards. I don't know the details of international standards for type training, but you are basically saying that the fault is not with Boeing, it is with the type training of international pilot crews. Can you elaborate and does this mean that we are equally in danger regardless of the aircraft model and that it is just coincidence that both these crew failures were on 737 Max models?

Posted by: aspnaz | Mar 12, 2019 7:54:05 PM | 49

The evidences and recognizably legitimate information (there is always a lot of through-the-hat blather-yap from internet-"engineers") suggests thrust angle, not structure or CG destabilization. "larger" engines are not necessarily significantly heavier, but, today, and if more efficient, will be larger diameter for more fan, for more thrust (which in jet and fan engines is more power). Larger diameter nacelles will require modification of placement, higher, lower, larger weight will require modification of placement, forward, backward. Clearance restrictions may require modification of engine thrust-line angle, relative to fuselage, and fuselage-fit control surface lines (which include flight surfaces). Thrust changes with thrust changes, which means thrust-angle change will change thrust-effect at differing thrust amounts: Take-off and climb thrusts are near maximums, wherefore angular component will be near max then (cruise maximums are less, or less effective, or radical, for altitude air thinning).

What this means is that if larger engines on a 737 MAX, for larger bulk are slightly angled for clearance,the angling may have little effect except in specific instances and attitudes, such as take-off and climb. It sounds as if Boeing angled thrust slightly for engine fitting, and assumed a computer control fix could handle the off-line thrust component effect during the short duration times it was sufficient to effect flight characteristics, which, if the thrust-angling was up, would add a nose-up tail-down thrust rotation component, greater at greater power. to compensate which the software would add nose-down control surface counteraction, as incident described.

What it sounds like the pilot in the first, non-crash, case most likely did, that saved the aircraft, was not 'disable' an automatic system he had no information about, for it being not intended for disablement, but was reduce power, reducing the off-line thrust effect, so the auto system backed off. In the other incidents, especially if the airports were get-em-high-fast airports (to 'leave' the noise at the airport) the pilots would incline to not reduce power, and would be more likely to get into a war with the too automated auto-system, the way Tesla drivers can do with their over-automated systems.

All auto-control "AI" systems need human-override options built in, so that human-robot stand-offs to impact cannot occur. The real culprits in stand-off accident situations are the techie-guppies who think robotic control can always do everything better, and fail to think of the situation where the "right" response is wrong.

Posted by: EV | Mar 12, 2019 8:07:08 PM | 50

Steven @ 35:

Lion Air's engineers had previously identified and tried to fix issues with the jet that crashed in October 2018.

The day before the jet took off from Jakarta airport and crashed, killing all 189 onboard, one of its Angle of Attack sensors had been replaced by engineers in Denpasar. Unfortunately the source I checked (see link below) doesn't say if this replacement AoA sensor was the one linked to the computer running the MCAS on the flight.

Posted by: Jen | Mar 12, 2019 8:19:36 PM | 51

Bean Counters:

Delta once initiated a fuel saving measure whereby aircraft were insufficiently topped off with fuel to prevent pilots from wasting fuel. Once this information began to leak, the measure was ended.

Posted by: fast freddy | Mar 12, 2019 8:26:15 PM | 52

@ fast freddy with the Bean Counters example

Thanks for Bean Counters! I so much wanted to use Bean Counters in my rant but thought I should stick to their standard appellation....

Bean Counters need to be taken seriously because they are not going to go away in any form of social organization and represent where the rubber meets the road when it comes to social decision making/risk management

Bean Counters (along with their bosses) need to be required to place morals as a higher value than profit and forced to operate with maximum public transparency and input; then, all will be good.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Mar 12, 2019 8:40:43 PM | 53

Thank you for the accurate information. The basic problem seems to be that the low-consumption engines protrude too far. A well-designed, reliable aircraft becomes a faulty design. To try to solve this using software is a precarious approach. The FAA should have rejected this in principle. But because to design an aircraft completely from scratch naturally takes longer and would have given the competitor Airbus time to take over the to much market share, this 'solution' was accepted. This type of corruption will cost the u.s. a lot.
But first let's wait for Tronald's tweet, which will certainly be aired by tomorrow at the latest, in which he states that the 737 Max is a great, great aircraft - if not the best ever...

Posted by: Pnyx | Mar 12, 2019 8:41:19 PM | 54

There is no doubt that both Boeing and FAA are to blame, but we pay the Government to ensure safety. Businesses have always chased profit, some more ruthlessly than others. But when the real corruption sets in then the Government regulator works for the businesses at the expense of the public. Regarding FAA reputation, there was a time when US was the leader in aviation, military as well as commercial. This means that the best experts were in US and thus FAA had the best and the most knowledgeable people. It is similar with FDA, all countries in the World used to follow the touchstone drug approvals by FDA. Now the "Federal" in any US acronym has become a synonym for "Corruption" (FBI anyone?).

The expertise does not matter any more, only greasing of the hands does. In the old times, anyone from FAA whose signature was on this planes approval to fly would get a life sentence in jail. But 330 people dead is less than a days worth of US global victims - business as usual for US. It is just that these victims are getting much more publicity than the silent victims. We will be lucky if anyone influential from FAA even resigns let alone goes to jail. There will be many more dead before the World understands this new reality.

Would you fly on any Boeing plane designed or delivered after the company was taken over by the Wall Street wizards in the 90s?

Posted by: Kiza | Mar 12, 2019 8:49:51 PM | 55

Re the engineers - they agreed to build an out of balance aircraft (thrust vs weight and drag) and to try and rectify this with software. What we will do for money. Both the bean counters and engineers are at fault, perhaps the beancounters and shiney butts more so as they did not inform buyers and pilots of the faults.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Mar 12, 2019 8:53:28 PM | 56

Posted by: fast freddy | Mar 12, 2019 8:26:15 PM | 52
(Fuel 'economy')

QANTAS once decreed that pilots rely on brakes and treat reverse thrust as emergency-only procedure, until a 747 skidded off the end of a runway with the nose-wheel inside the cabin and bruised engines = lots of down-time + very large repair bill.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Mar 12, 2019 8:56:22 PM | 57

Fast Freddy:
Not just Delta; Ryanair did the same, at least until there was a major storm in Spain (Valencia, I think) and all flights had to be rerouted to other airports. That was fine, with dozens of planes flying around waiting for a window to land, until the handful of Ryanair planes that had been rerouted to Madrid and other places called for emergency landings, because they didn't have enough fuel to fly for even 30 minutes longer than planned flights.
I'm still amazed that the EU regulators and EU fucking commission didn't downright dismantle such a bloody greedy and downright criminal company. That they basically did nothing is proof enough, imho, of the insane level of capitalism-worship and of corruption going on in Brussels (of course it's even worse in Washington DC, but that's basically a given).

Posted by: Clueless Joe | Mar 12, 2019 8:58:46 PM | 58

the toronto star is carrying this story
"Ottawa exempts Boeing 737 Max jets from standards meant to minimize passenger injuries"

"Air Canada and WestJet are flying the Boeing 737 Max aircraft exempt from regulatory standards meant to limit passenger injuries in the event of an accident, the Star has learned."
What does it mean?

Posted by: bevin | Mar 12, 2019 9:19:41 PM | 59

B is right. This is a criminal act of deception and fraud thats cost hundreds their lives. Boeing executives responsible should be prosecuted and then jailed.

Instead the safety agency regulating them will cover it up, backed by the criminal congress.

We see similar crimes against humanity being committed in many other areas. FDA, CDC, EPA, FCC , USDA, etc covering up for Big Agra, Big Pharma, Big Telecom with dangerous products like vaccines, glyphosate,4G/5G, GMO foods, gene edited livestock, etc. Safety standards are lax and inadequate, safety testing is minimal and in some cases fraudulent or completely lacking. Defects and adverse effects are covered up. A revolving door between these agencies and the industry they cover presents significant conflict of interest. These industries finance congressional members campaigns. Public safety is sacrificed for the greater good (profits and personal gain). Whistleblowers are muzzled, attacked or ridiculed as the MSM are their lap dogs.

That said, the airline industry has had a remarkable safety record over the last 30 years if you can overlook their failure to have adequate locks on cockpit doors in 2001. However, the lack of competition and increasing corruption and continuing moral decay we see in society , government and industry has obviously taken its toll on the industry. This is inexcusable. Heads should roll (dont hold your breath).

Posted by: Pft | Mar 12, 2019 9:51:59 PM | 60

Congress flies on these aircraft to and fro from Washington to their districts. It is to their interests to have these Boeing 737 permanently grounded.

Posted by: El Cid | Mar 12, 2019 9:57:08 PM | 61

psycho @1 said;"The West is a world in which the accountants have more sway than engineers."

Case closed, and anyone who thinks senior execs should be prosecuted and jailed are right.

BUT, never would happen in today's pro-corporate U$A mentality..

Profits uber alles!!

Posted by: ben | Mar 12, 2019 10:13:18 PM | 62

Re: 59 Bevin, "Ottawa exempts Boeing 737 Max jets from standards meant to minimize passenger injuries"

- what this means is that Washington called Ottawa and ordered little Justin that he had to allow the 737 8's to fly and Justin said yes sir! However, someone at the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, told Justin that the threat these plane pose to travellers was so obvious that they couldn't just ignore it and that they would instead have to issue a waiver to show that they have done due diligence - apparently this person or someone else within the department then called the Star in order to leak the information and embarrass Justin into reversing his decision. I imagine tomorrow at 4:00pm during the question hour, Justin will get raked through the coals over his - Justin's whole defense of his actions during the Lavin scandal has been "I needed to protect Canadian jobs", I imagine the NDP or Conservatives will then retort something along the lines of "you'll break the law to protect Jobs, why won't you obey the law to protect Canadian lives!", I should point out that 8 Canadians were killed in the most recent crash in Ethiopia

Posted by: Kadath | Mar 12, 2019 10:23:36 PM | 63

Steven @ 35: watch this

from 2014

32min in john woods aerospace engineer whistle blower

Posted by: paul | Mar 12, 2019 10:28:00 PM | 64

Steven is correct. Totally correct. I suspect that he is an airline pilot, as am I. Everybody else is wrong at least in part and most between 50% and 100%(The description of the cause of the QANTAS hull loss).

Pilots MUST know all about aircraft systems operation. It is crazy for Boeing to have functions not in the AFM.

The system in question is not operative with autopilot engaged. In manual flight if at any time one gets an uncommanded stab trim movement one should immediately disable electrical trim(One switch, half a second, no "procedure" required. In manual flight if the trim wheel moves and you hadn't touched the trim switches you have uncommanded trim. Immediately disable electrical trim.

There is procedure for reestablishment of electrical trim, that does take time. The defeat of the runaway trim does not take time. B737 has provision for manual trim(but it's very slow.

Posted by: acementhead | Mar 12, 2019 10:39:09 PM | 65

Also a very interesting read about the JT610 Flight

Posted by: Bob | Mar 12, 2019 10:47:40 PM | 66

I grew up reading Boeing’s weekly employee newspaper. Times have changed too much since then. Moving the headquarters from Seattle to Chicago and a second 787 assembly line in South Carolina to bust their unions are proof that Boeing is a multinational corporation superior to national governments. The company is the Empire’s armorer for profit. It is criminal to design an unstable passenger airplane that must be controlled by fly by wire sensors and computers to stay in the air. The problem is the aircraft industry duopoly and deregulation. Airbus has lost at least three aircraft to problems with the pilot computer interface. I was shocked when NBC put this first last night. I though it would be silenced. I blame Trump Derangement Syndrome. His trade wars and dissing have ticked off the world. When China grounded the 737 Max 8 everybody followed to show what they really think about the North American Empire. This could be devastating to the last manufacturing industry left in the USA.

Posted by: VietnamVet | Mar 12, 2019 10:47:49 PM | 67

Boeing in my view took a cynical decision. That is, there would only be a few crashes within a set period. Thus the insurance companies would pick up the tab for their profits. However the loss of two planes so close together could destroy the company. The aforesaid insurance companies will not pay a single dime if they can stick corporate murder charges onto Boeing.

This smells of the Ford Pinto scandal where Ford knew that there was a problem with the fuel system if the car was rear-ended ( the vehicle burst into flames ) but it was cheaper to pay the compensation than fix the problem.

Posted by: Deal | Mar 12, 2019 10:58:29 PM | 68

B is missing the point that fitting new engines caused airplane to take off close to stalling horizontal speeds and angles at very low altitude and more steeply ascending to flight altitude and that has left little time for pilots to react. That is very dangerous as much weaker tail wind may confuse pilots and sensors. To remedy that without recertification AI software was installed to react faster and overriding actions of pilot who was assumed not be aware of situation at the moment he had to immediately react at the latest.

Lack of sensor redundancy is also criminal as determination of sensor malfunction is critical for pilot.

That is AI application correcting "human" physical mental deficiencies and that is deadly trap.

If it goes to court, interesting case will be, whose error was that as MCAS system acted correctly against pilot based on faulty sensor causing pilot to make mistake recovering from corect but suicidal software actions.

People must be warned of cultish trust in technology and AI which is ultimate guilty party together with greed that killed those people.

Posted by: Kalen | Mar 13, 2019 12:25:40 AM | 69

I apologize for being off topic but this is very serious. Trump has allocated $500 million for Venezuela "regime change."

Posted by: frances | Mar 13, 2019 12:48:11 AM | 70


There are unlimited dollars for any intervention they choose, publicly allocated or not. There is a reason 21 trillion in pentagon spending is unaccounted for. This does not count dark money from illicit means used to fund covert operations.

The fact its public just means Trump wants congress to sanction it, which they will. Seized Venezuela assets will serve as collateral for future reimbursement.

Posted by: Pft | Mar 13, 2019 1:01:16 AM | 71

@65 acementhead - "It is crazy for Boeing to have functions not in the AFM"

No, it's criminal.

And while all the technical discussion around how to fly a plane is truly interesting, what's really at issue here is corporate and institutional betrayal of trust.

The corporate aspect is Boeing, obviously. The institutional aspect is FAA, which used to lead the world in trust when it came to life and death matters.

But now, in what Bloomberg, even while trying to support FAA, has no choice but to report as a "stunning rebuff" to FAA's integrity, countries around the world are grounding this flawed plane. Germany, among others, has closed its airspace to the 737.

This situation has only a little to do with how to fly a plane. It has vastly more to do with the face of capitalism we see leering at us as our families live their last few moments, on the way to the ground. It has to do with how the corporate spin departments will attempt to cover up and evade responsibility for these crimes.

And it has to do with how the global consumer market will start to book its flights based not on price or time or seat location but on make of plane.

And despite your claim that "Everybody else is wrong at least in part...", I doubt very much that most of the commenters here are wrong in their appreciation of the situation.

Posted by: Grieved | Mar 13, 2019 1:02:08 AM | 72

@68 No Deal
I don't think Boeing made a decision, they had little choice(stockholders were first, the jobs were essential to the politicians, and market share would become competitive if Boeing dropped out), it was the pressure of the system that charted their course. Capitalism is about competition in a just. fairly well managed government regulated environment. In order for capitalism not to over step the bounds of competitive capitalism; government must remain present, to prevent foul play and to deny all hints of monopoly power... Capitalism without an honest government becomes organized crime or, worse, it degenerates to allow private enterprise and special interest to dictate how the rule making and military arms of government should be used, against domestic and foreign competition. . Economic Zionism is what I call this last degenerative stage.
Defensively EZ teaches the winner to completely and totally destroy the infrastructure, the resources and the people (including competitive personnel with the brains to develop competition) of those who refuse to conform or those who insist on competing; offensively, EZ teaches the winner to take all and to take-over, own and keep the goodies taken from those destroyed, and in the matter of profit making and wealth keeping EZ teaches only winners are allowed to produce-and -profit everyone else is to be made to feed the monopoly that eliminated competition produced. The residual of eliminated, decimated competitive opposition = monopoly power

It is the king of the mountain monopoly that produces the wealth and power and feeds the corruption that makes the rich richer.

I think this case makes clear, privatization of government responsibility nearly always turns sour. The Government should take over and keep the operation of all of the Airlines strictly in government hands (privatization is proven to be problematic). When I grew up all of the airlines were so tightly regulated they were part of the government; the airlines were investors and operators following government rules and regulations. pricing was based on point to point fixed in price and terms (and the same for all airlines) and that was a time when aircraft design was not so accurate, meals were served and jets were nearly not existent but still there were very few accidents. Same for the Trucking Industry and the railroad.. Why should roads be government obligations, but rail, trucks and planes be privately owned?

I am not a communist or a socialist, I just know that private influence will always find a way to wrongly influence public sector employees when private interest wants something from government.

Posted by: snake | Mar 13, 2019 1:07:41 AM | 73

JohnT @ 39:

Were you the one asking in a previous MoA comments forum about the 130-strong Israeli Defense Forces search-and-rescue team in Brumadinho, in Minas Gerais state in Brazil, and why it was there? I seem to recall reading elsewhere that this team had not had clearance from Brazilian authorities (at federal or state level, not sure which) to come into the area to help search for people lost in the dam explosion.

A road trip along the BR-174 Federal Highway from Brumadinho to Santa Elena de Uairen on the border with Venezuela takes about 64 hours (just under 3 days). Another 9 hours to Guri Dam by car, taxi or maybe a hired bus. Bear in mind the Brumadinho dam collapsed in late January. How much time would be needed then to insert Stuxnet-type malware into the software that controls Venezuela's power grid?

Posted by: Jen | Mar 13, 2019 1:23:12 AM | 74

VietnamVet | Mar 12, 2019 10:47:49 PM | 67

For a number issues/reasons, I quit flying in 2007, vowing never to set foot in an aircraft again. Trains or ships, okay.
So far so good; the 737 Max just firms my rsolve...

Posted by: V | Mar 13, 2019 1:43:43 AM | 75

@ snake who wrote
I am not a communist or a socialist, I just know that private influence will always find a way to wrongly influence public sector employees when private interest wants something from government.
I agree with your ending but abhor your Economic Zionism BS
You evidently haven't been in the MoA bar long enough to come up against my calling BS on folks conflating Zionism with the elite that own global control of private finance.

Prove that Zionists own global private finance or stop playing the identity politics game and call our social problem out at its core, the Western social contract requiring God of Mammon/ global private finance to exist instead of those services being entirely public.

Please and thank you!

Posted by: psychohistorian | Mar 13, 2019 2:03:34 AM | 76

Jen @74

No, that was not me.

Posted by: JohnT | Mar 13, 2019 2:16:28 AM | 77

The aircraft did not undergo piece by piece certification or type certification. It underwent supplemental type certification that shortens the investigative process.

max 8 Certification

This is a potential disaster for Boeing. The stock is falling and it'll go into free fall if decision is made to ground this aircraft. FAA will also face a legal tsunami. If this is the reason they didn't ground the planes yet; it's going to look really damning when the find themselves in court later.

Posted by: Circe | Mar 13, 2019 2:17:54 AM | 78

This is shaping up to be unnecessarily messy for the industry.
Yesterday's Oz edition of PBS Newshour went over most of the topics touched on in b's posting but stopped short of finger-pointing although it insinuated that Boeing had blundered. Today's edition posed a question I was going to pose here...
"Should anyone be flying 737MAXes before the black box data has been evaluated?"
The answer, delivered by a female ex-Inspector General (of precisely what I didn't hear) is "No. Absolutely not!"

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Mar 13, 2019 2:21:34 AM | 79

@35 steven... i will take that as a compliment, referring to me as a clown.. i have high regard for clowns, although i don't think there is anything funny about the topic at hand.. innocent people dying and it being based on a corporation that might be negligent in it's responsibility to it's passengers, is something we will have to wait and find out about.. i am definitely not thinking it is pilot error here, as you suggest.. i saw what the canadian airpilot association said - essentially they don't believe canada should be flying them either, as i read it..

@43 karlof1.. as i pointed out in the link @7 - the fact canada allows them to continue to be flown makes no sense to me..poor judgment call is what it looks like to me.. the canuck gov't and etc are living in the shadows of what b has described about the FAA.. a lot of credibility is on the line here as i see it..

i apologize for not reading all the comments, as i was out most of the day and just got back..

Posted by: james | Mar 13, 2019 2:39:06 AM | 80

Kalen said

"...fitting new engines caused airplane to take off close to stalling horizontal speeds and angles at very low altitude and more steeply ascending to flight altitude and that has left little time for pilots to react. That is very dangerous as much weaker tail wind may confuse pilots and sensors. ..."

This is absolute garbage. Nothing but a "word salad" it has nothing to do with reality.

The Ethiopian crash is due to a useless pilot. A different crew, on the same plane, the day before had the same problem. They handled it correctly, which is EASY, and completed the day's flying without problem. Third world airlines have HUGE numbers of absolutely incompetent pilots.

Anyone interested in the operational aspects of this should go to an aviation site. PPRUNE has some good discussion of this event. There are a few idiots posting but very few. Most people there are very knowledgeable. I had a look at mostly rubbish.

Posted by: acementhead | Mar 13, 2019 2:48:25 AM | 81

Kalen 69
Installing the new engines changed the angle of thrust.
In a balanced aircraft, engine thrust is pushing centrally on wight and drag.
If the thrust is below center of weight, it will nose up while accelerating. If thrust is below center of drag, the aircraft will be trying to nose up while cruising.
The original aircraft was most likely balanced, with thrust centered to weight and drag.
Mounting new engines lower means the aircraft will tend to nose up when accelerating, and nose up during cruise. Relying on sensors and software to keep an unstable aircraft stable is not a good thing. To not notify pilots of this problem is worse than not a good thing.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Mar 13, 2019 3:16:03 AM | 82

@ acementhead with insistence that the pilot was at error.

Without the black box data you are sticking your **ck out a long way

I find it interesting that in both your comments you are insistent that the pilot was the problem

You wrote in your first comment
Pilots MUST know all about aircraft systems operation. It is crazy for Boeing to have functions not in the AFM.
The 2nd sentence is your only criticism of Boeing but then you spend the rest of the comment describing what the pilot should have done.....before black box data says what happened.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Mar 13, 2019 3:24:41 AM | 83

When a relative asked me recently why did the new Ethiopian plane crash, I generated a sound-bite like explanation. Before, the civilian airliners were falling out of the sky because of an immature technology, that is because of the learning curve. Now that the technology involved is fully mature the airliners are falling out of the sky for profit taking.

The scariest thing is that 737MAX model was a botched Boeing reaction to the market change towards budget flight. If the plane manufacturer and the approval authority were prepared to cut corners so badly to remain "market competitive", one can only imagine the compromises that budget airlines are making to sell cheap whilst increasing profits. Some airlines must be treating planes worst than buses are treated by the bus companies.

US citizens entrust their wallets to the private bank, The Federal=Corrupt Reserve, which prints money and gives it to the most exceptional among the exceptional (did you think that there was no hierarchy within the exceptionality?). We entrust our heads to the Federal=Corrupt Aviation Administration whose bureaucrats work for the porky revolving door consulting jobs that come after a stint in the Corrupt.

Posted by: Kiza | Mar 13, 2019 3:45:44 AM | 84

@Peter AU 1
As Aussies would say: using software to solve a hardware problem is like putting lipstick on a pig. More than 300 people dead are a terrible testament to this wisdom.

Yet, it is fascinating that you are blaming the engineers and some others are asking in the comments for whistleblowers in Boeing and FAA.

Well, if I were an engineer at Boeing I would probably have resigned if asked to do this design monstrosity of putting unfitting engines on a differently designed plane - creating a Lego airplane, but I never had a home mortgage over my head. Regarding whistleblowing, we all know how suicidal it is, why do supposedly intelligent people expect other to be so dumb to commit one? Before you expect others to self-sacrifice ask yourself if you would do so in their shoes.

Posted by: Kiza | Mar 13, 2019 4:01:48 AM | 85

It seems that the U.S. now wants to manipulate the investigation of the Ethiopian Airlines crash

WSJ U.S., Ethiopia Maneuver Over Crashed Plane’s Black Boxes
Washington wants NTSB to download data from recorders, while African nation’s officials prefer U.K. experts

U.S. air-safety investigators on Tuesday engaged in intense behind-the-scenes discussions with their Ethiopian counterparts regarding where the black-box recorders found amid the wreckage of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 will be downloaded, according to people familiar with the matter.

Posted by: b | Mar 13, 2019 4:01:57 AM | 86

Kiza 85 "Before you expect others to self-sacrifice ask yourself if you would do so in their shoes."
"Self sacrifice" ... Most of my life I have been self employed, but for a few years when I was young and then as I got older and ill health slowed me down, I have worked for others.
If told to do a job that I believed was destined to fail, I would pull out. What you call self sacrifice simply comes down to money, and as I put in an earlier comment "what we do for money" Engineers that put this schumozzel together were simply putting in the hours to received their pay check at the end of the week with no thought as to the people hurt or killed when this bodge job failed. The fault is equally with engineers who sell their souls for money and the bean counters who did not inform purchasers or pilots.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Mar 13, 2019 4:15:37 AM | 87


This is basically irrelevant to the flight control issue. Yes, there are accusations against Boeing about safety from time to time. Sometimes the employees are litigating against Boeing, or presumably have personal grudges against Boeing, and sometimes one presumes they’re justified.

But I was only referring to the flight control issue.

Posted by: Steven | Mar 13, 2019 4:16:22 AM | 88

What you wrote is asinine garbage, my friend. Everybody except for bribed FAA dumped B737 Max 8 until notice. It is simply too dangerous to fly.

It is you who are trolling for Boeing, the problem was discovered five months ago never fixed, blamed pilots despite previous complaints. Now FAA admitted that fact by demanding software fix in April or they will ground the fleet.PILOT ERROR????? Of course not and they know it.

Not only worldwide airlines dumped this model so far but also they closed the airspace for them in EU, China, HK etc.,because the plane is dangerous and may require recertification of plane and pilots since Boeing lied about it and its flight parameters,p the trust was broken, they were cheating with deadly consequences was revealed. Expect hundreds of lawsuits, as American were also onboard.

Interestingly that anti-stalling software cannot be disabled on the ground only in flight in manual mode only after it was engaged exactly for reasons I mentioned about near-stalling dangerous flight parameters.

Posted by: Kalen | Mar 13, 2019 4:16:24 AM | 89

@james calling you a clown wasn’t meant as a compliment.

While Boeing and anyone else is certainly open to justifiable criticism.

There are about 10 emergency procedures that 737 pilots must know in their sleep, by heart, and be ready to do instantly. They train these until pilots can do them while sleepwalking. One of them is disabling electronic control of the stabilizers and using only mechanical control.

Your suggestion that some pilots may not have learned them is that of a clown.

Posted by: Steven | Mar 13, 2019 4:23:11 AM | 90

b 86

US Boeing are very much competing with France airbus and also the coming Chinese Russian airliner.
The US is very much batting for the home team (as the mad monk told the Australian Broadcasting Commission to do so).

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Mar 13, 2019 4:27:42 AM | 91

Steven 35 "If airlines do not adhere to Minimal safety standards, it’s not Boeing’s fault if it’s planes crash."

Airlines and pilots adhering to minimal safety standards is not the issue here. Rather the issue is that Boeing have not adhered to minimal safety standards in not alerting purchasers or pilots of the potential problem.
You appear to be posting for Boeing.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Mar 13, 2019 4:40:40 AM | 92

EV, you’re partly right, partly wrong.

The issue with the 737 max is that under in certain rare situations lots of sudden thrust can make the airplane tilt upwards, too far upwards, and if not very quickly caught crash it. In an airplane meant to fly millions of hours a year, it was sure to happen. The MCAS system is there to stop that from happening.

You’re completely wrong about the previous flight. The defective AofA sensor was telling the MCAS that the airplane was tilting upwards and about to crash. The pilots on that flight disabled electric control of the stabilizers and flew the stabilizers mechanically. Outside of rare parameters and inattentive pilots, the thrust up doesn’t matter.

Posted by: Steven | Mar 13, 2019 4:42:39 AM | 93

Steven 93
Can you point us to some information that says the MCAS control of the stabilizers can be overridden and that Boeing has shown owners and pilots how to do this. This is the problem.
Owners and pilots have been completely unaware of how to override fucked up sensors and software to be able to fly an out of balance aircraft manually.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Mar 13, 2019 4:54:14 AM | 94

Kalen I am not "trolling for Boeing". For the last ten years I've had a personal boycot of all things USAian. I will no longer travel there(used to go every year to ski) and will buy nothing USAian unless absolutely essential. I do buy computers(never USAian) with windows OS as there is no alternative at present(have tried Linux(various versions) and have never got a minute's worhtwhile use out of it).

I am interested in the truth. A number of people above write authoritatively but it is clear that none except Steven know anything at all about aircraft design, construction or operation. Sorry but it's true.

After I retired from a full career with a non-USAian airline(including years of captain of B737 and B742 I took a short term contract with a Middle Eastern Airline. Got sacked after a few weeks(based in Jakarta) because I told them some of them were incompetent. Didn't mind being sacked at all as had previously spent enough time in Jakarta on a previous contract job. There are thousands of incompetent pilots flying in airlines, mostly third world but many in first world including USA. Political correctness kills in aviation. "Positive discrimination" is a disaster.

Posted by: acementhead | Mar 13, 2019 5:05:46 AM | 95

acementhead 95 "A number of people above write authoritatively but it is clear that none except Steven know anything at all about aircraft design, construction or operation. Sorry but it's true."

That's throwing a very poor line on airline pilots and big aviation. I guess if if Stevens knowhow is the limit of airline knowledge then I wont be flying anymore airlines. Never liked flying on airlines much anyhow.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Mar 13, 2019 5:20:49 AM | 96

acementhead Steven
Boeing will have to upgrade its pay rates. As the saying goes, pay peanuts, get monkeys.
What you clowns have to debunk is the fact that boing did not inform clients or pilots of the potential problems associate with an unbalanced aircraft, nor how to over ride the software if sensors or software played up.
Go and have a beer with bellingcrap.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Mar 13, 2019 5:51:27 AM | 97

Several commenters here oppose holding all the murderers responsible. They want to exonerate such lower-level Eichmanns as the engineers. They cite the same old "I was only following orders" defense which was rightly rejected at Nuremburg. Nuremburg didn't buy it, nor would anyone with a shred of humanity left, in the many cases of corporate mass murder like this one.

Posted by: Russ | Mar 13, 2019 6:12:06 AM | 98

Peter AU 1

"Can you point us to some information that says the MCAS control of the stabilizers can be overridden and that Boeing has shown owners and pilots how to do this. This is the problem."

It is not a problem at all. Every competent Boeing pilot knows how to stop any undesired stab trim movement. It takes a fraction of a second.

"Owners and pilots have been completely unaware of how to override fucked up sensors and software to be able to fly an out of balance aircraft manually."

No they haven't. All competent Boeing pilots have always known how to prevent undesired stab trim movement. Takes a fraction of a second.

Out of trim and "out of balance" are totally different things and "out of balance' doesn't really mean anything. There is a range of acceptable CofG and even outside the legal limits the aircraft doesn't suddenly become impossible, or even particularly difficult to fly.

Steven's knowledge: I didn't say or even imply that "Stevens knowhow is the limit of airline knowledge..." I said that Steven was right. He hadn't said much but that which did say was right. The majority of what everybody else said was wrong and several it was 100% wrong. Lots in the catagory of "not even wrong" eg yours of trim and "balance".

Posted by: acementhead | Mar 13, 2019 6:13:54 AM | 99

Is it really so hard to connect the secrecy about MCAS and why it was needed in the first place? The lawyers will have a ball of the decade with this: the defendant created a secret software solution to turn a Lego airplane into a real airplane, made the software dependent on a single sensor, and made it difficult to switch the software off.

The networked Western pilots learned how to compensate for the faulty design, but non-networked foreign pilots never got in on the flying tricks needed for this new plane because it was never been in their training. Also, the critical sensor may not be available on an airport in Ethiopia or Indonesia or .....

I cannot believe that Boeing shares dropped only 7.5%, this is a statement of how untouchable Boeing is and how protected it will be by the Corrupt.

Posted by: Kiza | Mar 13, 2019 6:14:40 AM | 100

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