Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 06, 2019

EASA Tells Boeing To Fix 5 Major 737 MAX Issues

Boeing hopes to have the 737 MAX back in the air by December. But a list of five major requirements issued by the European aviation regulator EASA lets one doubt that the time frame can be kept.

EASA’s checklist includes a number of issues that have been disclosed: the potential difficulty pilots have in turning the jet’s manual trim wheel, the unreliability of the Max’s angle of attack sensors, inadequate training procedures, and a software issue flagged just last week by the FAA pertaining to a lagging microprocessor. But the agency also listed a previously unreported concern: the autopilot failing to disengage in certain emergencies.

We will discuss the five issues below.

It is not clear if EASA will insist on all the points to be fixed:

“Any of these could significantly affect the return to service, but we don’t know if they are actually going to become requirements or are they just items for discussion," said John Cox, a former 737 pilot who is president of the aviation consulting company Safety Operating Systems.

As usual the regulators will not tell Boeing how to fix the problems. Whatever solution Boeing offers for those items simply has to comply with the general demands the regulations make.

Some of the listed items seem to require hardware changes that will have to be applied to all 737 MAX and maybe even to the older 737 NGs.


Manual trim

We discussed the trim wheel issue back in May:

The 737 MAX incident also revealed a problem with older generations of the 737 type of plane that is only now coming into light. Simulator experiments (video) showed that the recovery procedure Boeing provided for the case of a severe mistrim of the plane is not sufficient to bring the plane back under control. The root cause of that inconvenient fact does not lie with the 737 MAX but with its predecessor, the Boeing 737 Next Generation or NG.
...
  • The smaller manual trim wheels on the 737 NG make it more difficult to trim a runaway stabilizer back into a regular position.
  • The larger stabilizer surface makes it more difficult to counter a runaway stabilizer by using the elevator which was kept at the same size.
  • 737 NG pilots no longer learn the rollercoaster maneuver that is now the only way to recover from a severe mistrim.

EASA listing the trim wheel issue is the first official recognition of this problem.

The manual trim via the trim wheels is a necessary backup for the electrical trim system which relies on only one motor. If the manual trim can not be used in certain parts of the allowed flight envelope, Boeing has a severe issue at hand.

A 2015 EASA safety finding, previously discussed here, accepted the 737 MAX only because Boeing said that the manual trim wheel was operational even at higher speeds and when the electric trim cuts out. It also promised that its training material would cover the issue.

It is now known that the manual trim, especially at higher speeds, may require more force than an average pilot can apply. The general issue and the difficulty is still not mentioned in the current Boeing training material.

The trim wheel problem seems to be an item where the U.S. regulator FAA and the European EASA disagree:

The FAA has also previously denied that the trim wheel -- which is used to lift or lower a plane’s nose during an emergency -- would cause delays.

It is hard to see how a manual trim system that, as Boeing told EASA, should be used where the electric system comes at its limits, can be acceptable without change, when it can not be moved in especially those cases where it should be used.


Angle of Attack Sensors

The second item on the EASA list is, as Bloomberg describes it, "the unreliability of the Max’s angle of attack sensors".


Angle of attack sensor

The two angle of attack sensors on the MAX are not inherently unreliably. They are external sensors that are prone to get damaged. The original Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) that led to the crash of two planes, relied on only one of the two sensors. When that sensor got damaged, likely by a bird strike, MCAS trimmed the plane nose down into the ground. Boeing will now use both sensors to control the MCAS system. This may however not be enough.

During start and landing planes can collide with a passing flock of birds. In such cases both AoA sensors could easily get damaged. Many will remember that US Airways Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson river because bird strikes disabled both of its engines.

More modern planes than the Boeing 737 have 3 or 4 angle of attack sensors. Some other Boeing plane types have systems similar to MCAS. In addition to the AoA sensors they use an inertial system, acceleration and absolute position sensor, to determine if their MCAS like system should react.

It is quite possible that the regulators will now require a third sensor to be used to control the MCAS on the 737 MAX. If that is the case Boeing will likely prefer to add an additional internal sensor box to the plane instead of a third external sensor.


Training

Boeing only provided a few electronic pages of training material for pilots switching from the older 737 NG to the 737 MAX. It omitted any mentioning of MCAS. The American Airlines pilot union voiced concern about the new training material and advice Boeing plans to provide:

“However, at APA we remained concerned about whether the new training protocol, materials and method of instruction suggested by Boeing are adequate to ensure that pilots across the globe flying the MAX fleet can do so in absolute complete safety,” [the president of Allied Pilots Association] said in his statement.

In a Congress hearing Captain 'Sully' Sullenberger, who saved flight 1549, demanded additional simulator training for new 737 MAX pilots:

"They need to develop a 'muscle memory' of their experiences so it will be immediately available to them in the future when they face such a crisis," Sullenberger said.

The British Civil Aviation Authority also called for more training. It issued a Safety Notice (pdf) on Flight Crew Training that relates to the MCAS incidents that brought the two 737 MAX planes down:

Over the last five years, there have been number of large commercial air transport aircraft accidents and incidents which were attributed to lack of awareness of the aircraft’s trim condition. Factors which contributed to loss of control in-flight were inappropriate trim inputs or mishandled automatic trim malfunctions, especially during a high energy state or at low altitude, which resulted in excessive elevator or stabiliser load forces.

A number of situations that pilots should be additionally trained for is listed:

  • Automatic trim malfunctions, associated crew actions and implications of manual intervention and lack of awareness of the aircraft’s trim state. This should include strategies to recover from an out-of-trim condition after an automated system failure and various energy states at different altitudes
  • The difficulty of manual trim intervention at high aerodynamic loads with applicable commercial air transport aircraft, particularly at lower altitudes and with consideration of crew coordination difficulties/techniques

The British Safety Notice is an indirect but strong hint to the FAA that it should demand extra simulator training for flying the 737 MAX.

Boeing however has signed 737 MAX sales agreements with Southwest Airlines and possibly also other customers that require it to pay back $1,000,000 per plane should new MAX pilots require additional simulator training. Southwest ordered a total of 292 of the 737 MAX type. 31 have been delivered so far.


Flight Control Computer

We discussed the "lagging microprocessor" problem in detail some ten days ago.

Each of the two Flight Control Computers (FCC) has two microprocessors. If one processor fails the other is supposed to take over. But the two processors already share some work. When FAA test pilots disabled one of them, the other one had too much to do and was too slow in reaction to the pilot's input. The simulator test flight ended "catastrophic". Boeing said it can make software changes to prevent processor overload. It is doubtful that a software fix is a solid solution without additional side effects.


Autopilot Disengage

The last item on the EASA list is "the autopilot failing to disengage in certain emergencies". This problem was not completely unknown. It is likely related to the lagging microprocessor.

In general the autopilot, which consists of a number of programs running on the Flight Control Computer, must disengage immediately when the pilot turns it off to fly the plane himself. When the pilot uses the electric trim switches on his steering column, because of a "runaway stabilizer" or some other unsavory trim condition, the pilot's signal must have priority over all other processes. But that does not work when the FCC is too busy.

The FCC delayed the tuning off of the autopilot and the manual electric trim signal the pilot gave did not go through.

A functional diagram of the electric trim system shows that the Main Trim Interlock, which is another program running on the FCC, must close the Main Trim Relay to allow electricity from the pilot's column switch to the stabilizer motor to flow through. The computer can effectively block the pilot input even in emergency cases.

Horizontal stabilizer trim control system

source - bigger

When the FCC is overloaded it fails to stop the autopilot program immediately and it does not trigger the Main Trim Interlock process. The Main Trim Relay stays open and the electric circuit from the pilots column switch to the stabilizer motor never closes.

This works, like MCAS, "as designed" but is far from an optimal solution. It depends on the FCC to be fully functional without any delays. In a plane as old the 737 type, which is not constructed from the ground up for fly-by-wire, the pilot's input should have priority over all automatism. The electric circuitry of the horizontal stabilizer trim control system should be designed in a way that gives electrical priority to the pilot input without any need for an intervention by the FCC's digital magic.


The crash of the two 737 MAX planes revealed several issues with the plane and with Boeing as a company that were essentially caused by greed. Boeing did not want to construct a new plane to counter the announced Airbus 320 NEO. It remodeled the 737 NG and used the old type certification of the 737 to avoid greater costs. MCAS was a band-aid for a problem that required a solid aerodynamic solution. Engineers and test pilots were pressed to sign off on some shoddy management decisions. The FAA was not informed or asleep at the wheel. Developing and launching the MAX cost Boeing only some $2 billion. To build a new plane in the 737 class would likely have cost some $10 billion. The additional time needed would probably have cost Boeing some market share but with a modern platform it would have had a good chance to again catch up.

It is doubtful that all the above issues can be solved by the end of the years. Some 340 737 MAX were grounded in March. Boeing has since each month build 42 more of them. It will probably have to again reduce the build rate for lack of storage capacity. This will hurt not only Boeing, but also all its suppliers. Those hundreds of planes standing on the ground cost a lot of money. The typical lease rate for such a plane is up to $10,000 per day.

The total cost for Boeing of the 737 MAX accidents and their grounding due to the MCAS band-aid are now estimated at more than $10 billion. Boeing's outstanding shares value dropped from a peak of $242 to $200 billion. A lot of bad press is still to come as are the many lawsuits and investigations. Boeing's market share in the 737/320 segment will likely decline as at least some passengers will avoid that plane.

To revamp the 737 NG into the 737 MAX was the wrong decision. It would have been cheaper to develop a new plane.

As Capt. Sullenburger said in a recent interview: "Nothing is as costly as an accident."

---
Previous Moon of Alabama posts on Boeing 737 issues:

Posted by b on July 6, 2019 at 18:18 UTC | Permalink

Comments

Trump is after Airbus. I'm sure this is entirely unrelated.

Thanks for the excellent and timely coverage of this since it first surfaced.

Posted by: the pessimist | Jul 6 2019 18:58 utc | 1

Thanks for another superb report, b.

We need a new bumper sticker that says, "b is my co-pilot".


Posted by: Grieved | Jul 6 2019 19:00 utc | 2

I seldom fly anymore, but when I do it won't be on a 737-MAX or 737-NG. Thanks for your beyond yeoman's work on this subject, b. The Profit over People Culture needs to vanish from the face of time along with its immoral promoters.

Posted by: karlof1 | Jul 6 2019 19:02 utc | 3

Appreciate the clear writing and the ability to put the issues in perspective relative to each other, b.

Posted by: fx | Jul 6 2019 19:04 utc | 4

The 737 Max is a defective piece of shit. The engines are totally in the wrong place. These 5 major fixes are not enough. They need to reposition the engines and give it taller landing gear.

Scrap this death trap and bring back the 757.

Posted by: Jerry | Jul 6 2019 19:11 utc | 5

Reading this reminds me of the Macondo well blowout. Strangely similar. Margin compression.

Posted by: Jake | Jul 6 2019 19:46 utc | 6

The rational alternative to allowing management to continue to bankrupt the company-while killing innocent passengers and collecting Israel sized subsidies for providing the American people with armaments- is to nationalise the operation bringing it under public ownership with control over technical and safety issues being informed by the experts who build the planes.
This is all the more reasonable since the bases of the Boeing fortune have been cost plus profit contracts, many of which date back to the time when, the Senator from Boeing, Scoop Jackson was breeding up neo-cons. And trying to start wars.

Any profits could fund Medicare for All. And probably Dental care, too. And an International Peace Conference thrown in.

Posted by: bevin | Jul 6 2019 20:52 utc | 7

I don't think I'm going to ba taking a 737 in the future, if I can avoid it. And I should think that opinion will be widely shared.

In May, I had to take a Turkish 737 from Tabriz to Istanbul, no choice, I was aware of the risks. The alternative was an Iranian 727 which hadn't had access to replacement parts for forty years, because of sanctions.

Posted by: Laguerre | Jul 6 2019 22:02 utc | 8

I am a bit surprised that the EASA has already done an "assessment" before the FAA have re-certified the 737MAX? Seems to me like a paperwork assessment based on information provided by Boeing and/or FAA. I don't believe that the EASA has carried out any actual hands-on/flight tests.

Doesn't inspire confidence. Feels more like propaganda. I have no doubt that the EASA will go along with Boeing/FAA approval; the EASA position is just for show.

Still no-one has begun to address the weaknesses that must exist within the EASA (How else did the EASA approve the 737MAX in the first place? The work of the EASA must have been completely inadequate?)

Posted by: ADKC | Jul 6 2019 22:27 utc | 9

To replace the angle of attack sensors, could I get a contract to install carpenters' level in each aircraft? You know, the items with the little bubbles showing deviation from horizontal.

Posted by: Bart Hansen | Jul 6 2019 23:28 utc | 10

Boeing also has major problems delivering a new military KC-46 tanker plane. New designs will be required to fix some of the issues with the refueling boom and the remote vision system on the Air Force’s new KC-46 Pegasus tanker, and that could take years to fix, the Government Accountability Office said in a recent report.

GAO: "After a nearly 3-year delay, the Air Force accepted the first plane in January—with critical defects that don't meet contract standards. The Air Force is withholding the remaining 20% of the price until the defects are addressed. . .The good news is that the cost of delivering all 179 KC-46 tankers is now expected to come in at $43 billion, or nearly $9 billion cheaper than originally estimated in 2011," GAO said in the report.
That's partly due to the fact that the Pentagon treats Boeing differently then it coddles Lockheed Martin. They both screw up big-time but Boeing has to eat its mistakes while Lockheed always gets fully funded on the faulty F-35, and then some.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 6 2019 23:28 utc | 11

This post is a great description of the perfect storm of deregulation, outsourcing, corruption, and profit taking that made the 737 Max and killed 346 people. Corporate media has been gloating and patting each other’s back that the U.S. economy officially entered the longest expansion in its history. Not once mentioning that these great crimes are the foundation of the expansion. They are the direct cause of the decline of the western middle class and the corresponding increase in the number of global billionaires from 793 in 2009 to 2,754 in 2018. This is not sustainable with an increasing human population on a finite world with finite resources.

Posted by: VietnamVet | Jul 6 2019 23:59 utc | 12

This is how this is gonna go: Trump's gonna whine about unfair competetion (not a word about the MAX fatalities), and he's going to infuse Boeing with some extra capital because it got stiffed by Obama and all that.

Posted by: bjd | Jul 7 2019 0:06 utc | 13

- And how much time will it take for the US to retaliate against Airbus ?

Posted by: Willy2 | Jul 7 2019 0:14 utc | 14

"The Profit over People Culture needs to vanish from the face of time along with its immoral promoters."

Yeah it should but it cannot and will never happen in any but a superficial cosmetic way, until the entire structure of corporate capitalism has been brought down.

It took the Wall St spruikers & quants decades to win absolute control over scentists and engineers who built up the large corporations using brainpower and sweat, but foolishly remaining ignorant of the motives of "those nice fellas back east who keep 'giving us cheap(sic) money" and now those "nice fellas" have control there is no way that Wall St will ever give it back.
Does anyone seriously imagine that if it really came down to an all out fight between the engineering class and the bankster gang so that the politicians were forced to get involved that the banksters with their armies of DC lobbyists and serried ranks of compliant media enablers, would lose?

Remember the final battle between the engineers and financiers at Boeing was won by Wall St when the Clinton administration insisted that there were too many defense contractors and that there must be mergers to reduce the number.
Boeing's engineers were bought out by the useless inadequate and murderous banksters at McConnell Douglas (who doesn't have friends or family killed in one of the many DC10 'incidents'?) using Boeing's own money.

Cigar Bill and the boys many of whom had been Wall St merger & aquisitions cowboys prior to their WH gig coined it up large and would doubtless now say "How were we to know it was gonna kill 346 slants 'n nigras? Anyway it is meant to kill a lot more of 'em than that from improvements to weapons platforms."

yeah right platforms like the F-35 lol. F++king idiot sociopaths are gonna kill us all. Them and the bean-counting quants who can calculate exactly how much a war will cost in dollars but always omit the human cost.

Nothing will change because by the time sufficient people wake up from their disparate & self-aggrandizing points of view and honestly confront the reality of where humanity is, it will be far too late.

Posted by: Itshalfempty | Jul 7 2019 0:54 utc | 15

So after not cerifying the aircraft on first go round, they plan to re-not cerify it based on short list of uncovrred design flaws.
That should fix it until next time.
Everyones a winner.

Posted by: jared | Jul 7 2019 0:55 utc | 16

"The Profit over People Culture needs to vanish from the face of time along with its immoral promoters."

Yeah it should but it cannot and will never happen in any but a superficial cosmetic way, until the entire structure of corporate capitalism has been brought down.

It took the Wall St spruikers & quants decades to win absolute control over scentists and engineers who built up the large corporations using brainpower and sweat, but foolishly remaining ignorant of the motives of "those nice fellas back east who keep 'giving us cheap(sic) money" and now those "nice fellas" have control there is no way that Wall St will ever give it back.
Does anyone seriously imagine that if it really came down to an all out fight between the engineering class and the bankster gang so that the politicians were forced to get involved that the banksters with their armies of DC lobbyists and serried ranks of compliant media enablers, would lose?

Remeber the final battle between the engineers and financiers at Boeing was won by Wall St when the Clinton administration insisted that there were too many defense contractors and that there must be mergers to reduce the number.
Boeing's engineers were bought out by the useless inadequate and murderous banksters at McConnell Douglas (who doesn't have friends of family killed in one of the many DC10 'incidents?)using Boeing's own money.

Cigar Bill and the boys many of whom had been Wall St merger & aquisitions cowboys priior to their WH gig coined it up large and would doubtless now say "How were we to know it was gonna kill 346 slants 'n nigras? Anyway it is meant to kill a lot more of 'em than that from improvements to weapons platforms."

yeah right platforms like the F-35 lol. Idiot sociopaths are gonna kill us all. Them and the bean-counting quants who can calculate exactly how much a war will cost in dollars but always omit the human cost.

Nothing will change because by the time sufficient people wake up from their disparate & self-aggrandizing points of view and honestly confront the reality of where humanity is, it will be far too late.

Posted by: halffull | Jul 7 2019 1:04 utc | 17

NASDAQ analysts are predicting a large Boeing earning increase next year here.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jul 7 2019 1:15 utc | 18

I've flown multiple millions of miles - the 737 (pre-MAX) was, by far, the worst plane to fly in.
The MAX modifications enabled this terrible experience cattle car to extend its range - there are airlines in South and Central America that fly 8-10 hours in them. A friend of mine, despite my warnings, took a "business class" flight to Argentina via Panama in one of these. Not a great experience, even discounting the 6 hours on a runway in Panama without air conditioning.
As for storage: storage/hangar space in an airport is expensive, but that's not the only option.
There is also the Nevada desert (Mojave airport) where hundreds of old planes are stored. Pretty sure storage there wouldn't cost $10,000/day.

Posted by: c1ue | Jul 7 2019 1:28 utc | 19

@Bart Hansen

You wrote:
To replace the angle of attack sensors, could I get a contract to install carpenters' level in each aircraft? You know, the items with the little bubbles showing deviation from horizontal.

Bart, it is a bit more complicated than having a device like a bubble level which would tells the flight control computer or the pilot the degree of pitch up or down the aircraft or its wings make with the horizontal. The problem is you have to determine the angle attack which is often different than the angle the aircraft makes with the horizontal.

The angle of attack is the angle at which the relative oncoming airflow meets the wing and it varies during flight independently of the angle the wings might make with the horizontal. So an aircraft with a relatively low nose up attitude with regards to the horizon might still under certain configurations (speeds, loads, power settings, angle of bank etc.) have an excessively high angle of attack.

Posted by: Bongo1 | Jul 7 2019 2:54 utc | 20

@bevin
Nationalisation is also likely to fail, as the elimination of middle management had resulted in such personnel moving to public institutions, which they now run into the ground, cases in point being public universities and utilities---when the purse strings are suddenly more loose (in the minds of the former private sector middle managers now in upper management in public institutions, due to the ideological fantasy of public largesse), they spend their assigned funds on vanity projects in the FIRE sector and other dubious projects (unneeded buildings, ill-considered industrial liasons where the universities take the place of the sold-off corporate R&D units, despite the obvious conflict of interest). When funds run dry, they get rid of skilled and experienced personnel, and have graduate students teach courses on a massive scale.

As middle managers, regardless of early technical training, do not hone technical skills, but rather busy themselves with checklist style project management (the door to advancement for the highly technically educated), technical knowledge responsibility is shifted to vendors, subject to the same process. When there is failure, proper scientific and engineering analysis is usually missing, which leads to long and politely angry phone calls, that could be avoided by spending a few days or sometimes hours investigating in the field or reading relevant literature.

Managers are very resistant to such efforts: "we pay you to work, not to study" and "your time is too valuable to do manual labour", precisely when such study, manual labour or low level operation is precisely what is necessary to calibrate one's intuitions and check one's assumptions. I blame the elimination of Euclidean geometry from education, as that was where most students would develop their intuitions in the application of logic, and learn the value of useful heuristics combined with logic. Lacking such a foundation, higher math is simply a hurdle to sort potential personnel, rather than a useful tool, outside very special applications, and even then, the institutional preference is to unload mathematical effort and specialisation onto computers. Resistance to that, despite accomplishments at work that others cannot replicate on account of deficient skills, means that "you are too technical" and "you need to dumb it down so that others can use it".

As personnel are needed who can perform tasks that require proper scientific analysis, while the system discourages the development of such personnel, such personnel are imported on a large scale, e.g. H1B and similar "merit based immigration" schemes. The children of such immigrants are then subject to the same institutional pressures that makes them ill-suited such as to need immigration-based substitution.

I once had an army officer who was undergoing an engineering education complain to me (I was occasionally tutoring) that he had to learn useless stuff such as integrals and derivatives. That mentality is reflective of industry. As so many immigrants arrive, there is a belief that "we are doing things correctly," that "immigrants need to be trained," typically with a second or third graduate degree in the new country, often much less rigorous than the first graduate degree, and with the less capable immigrants staying in educational capacities, or getting involved in the capital raising side of industry.

Posted by: Johan Meyer | Jul 7 2019 3:08 utc | 21

- And how much time will it take for the US to retaliate against Airbus ?
Posted by: Willy2 | Jul 7 2019 0:14 utc | 14

Not long. One imagines that WaPo, NYT & Faceborg are already conducting "editorial meetings" to discuss an innuendo campaign against Airbus based on 'very sincere' anecdotes from Airbus passengers and their "I thought we were all gonna die!" stories.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jul 7 2019 4:19 utc | 22

With the MCAS how controllable is the plane in the case of a single engine failure?

Posted by: Ian | Jul 7 2019 4:42 utc | 23

"Boeing however has signed 737 MAX sales agreements with Southwest Airlines and possibly also other customers that require it to pay back $1,000,000 per plane should new MAX pilots require additional simulator training."

Is the FAA formally required to take detriments to profit into account, the way most other regulators are?

Not that it makes much difference, since regulatory personnel see their job as to "serve the client" regardless.

On a language/ideology note, given our consistent criticism of the way the government and MSM characterize the actions of the empire and its "enemies", it's unfortunate that where a plane aggressively rams into birds who were minding their own business it's called a "bird strike".

Posted by: Russ | Jul 7 2019 6:36 utc | 24

As Capt. Sullenburger said in a recent interview: "Nothing is as costly as an accident."

It's well proven these weren't accidents. If one wants to call them "collateral damage", that's still premeditated and deliberate.

Posted by: Russ | Jul 7 2019 6:42 utc | 25

Did we Nordics (Bêifangrén) steal all of Bow-ving's trade, craft, craftyness, security and secrets -- plus all of the technology, patents and smarting brains -- from Bowing and hand it all over to the Chinese or just the Israëlis? Anything left out? Has bowing finally start become bent?

Posted by: Ts'yew Taw-Loh | Jul 7 2019 7:06 utc | 26

('Scuze the bad Lation)

Tempus est ad finem imperii Romani ab equite quod caeli superiores paganis
humili genere Romanus curribus aether. Quapropter in Caesarem decreta Imperii gentilium templa paganorum aethera currum vendi non excedit limitibus Romana equitatu commercia caelo accideret vectigales. Ineffabile sacramentum simul pederasty perversa acie ceu damnosas honestas abusus multos ad amplectendum servis liberisque novas religiones deorum. Exercitus in omni consuetudine et ratione pariter coeperunt deficere bellis.

(As the Imperial Period came to an end, Rome found that sky chariots built by pagans were superior to the low quality of Roman sky chariots. Because of this, Caesar decreed that pagan sky chariots could not be sold within Imperial precincts and pagan commerce in sky chariots beyond the pale of Roman civilization would become subject to taxation. At the same time secret pederasty and unspeakable perversions engaged the upper classes as ruinous exploitation of the slaves and freemen inclined many to embrace new religions and gods. The Army came into constant use against all, and as the matter went on, began to lose important wars."

Posted by: Walter | Jul 7 2019 11:34 utc | 27

Not only 737 X series, but also Egyptair 990 (a 767), which lost elevator
control (probably due to bad design and sheared rivets in the actuator-to - shaft connections)

Seriously, the low quality work is because of low quality policies. It's general, and obvious, and not especially focused on any specific area... Low Policy set is due to economic concerns...

The Empire is no longer great, not viable. O Tempora O Mores!

Posted by: Walter | Jul 7 2019 12:01 utc | 28

#12: "perfect storm of deregulation, outsourcing, corruption, and profit"

Not only just from Boeing on the 737 Max, but also from the far larger MIC on the US military.

Posted by: Jonathan | Jul 7 2019 13:56 utc | 29

Even though I know nothing about aviation, I like to comment in posts about this Boeing debacle because it is a very illustrative case about capitalism.

Boeing, like the rest of the capitalist world, begun to see its profit rate to secularly decline after the oil crisis of 1974-5 and, specially, after the double-dip recession of 1980-1982. By the mid-1980s, it decided to recycle its old designs instead of investing in brand new ones, and, if what a commenter here replied to me weeks ago is true, it went public at the beginning of the 1990s.

The trajectory is clear: every step Boeing made since the 1970s was made to stop and reverse the tendency of its profit rate to fall. The ultimate step is financialisation -- which it took in the 90s, when it went public.

The financial capital (what Marx called, more scientifically, "fictitious capital") doesn't produce any wealth: it only produces the illusion of wealth, through a differential of distribution of wealth. When a capitalist society goes full-financial (like the USA after the 1990s), it means the "real economy" has already gone FUBAR.

Profit rates in capitalism tend to - in the very long term - fall because of a very simple concept: the bigger a capital is, the easier it is to profit absolutely (because it is a virtual monopoly, so it controls overwhelming swathes of the means of production, therefore of human labor), but the harder it is to profit relatively (because we live in a finite world). In scientific term, we say the higher the organic composition of capital, the lower the profit rate. When absolute profit also begins to fall, then we have a structural crisis (like the one we had in 2008). This is important to grasp, because that means the very reason capitalism profits relatively is the same it profits absolutely -- which means the tendency of the profit rate is inescapable: capitalism will end some day, it's a matter of knowing how and when.

After 2008, even the financial sector stagnated. We now live in a NIRP/ZIRP world, where "zombie business" reign. Unless the Fourth Industrial Revolution comes, it is difficult to fathom capitalism recovering to its progressive era of the 18th-20th centuries.

--//--

Here's what will need to happen for Boeing to survive this imbroglio. There are essentially two historical scenarios.

1) Best case scenario for Boeing: there's another cultural revolution in the capitalist world, where all the propaganda machine moves to make the public to accept deaths by planes falling as a natural aspect of life. Ban of the 737 is lifted, and Boeing keeps its production. Business as usual proceeds.

2) American allies -- specially the EU countries, which compose the largest consumer market today -- put overwhelming pressure on Boeing, making its losses greater than if it would start to invest in a new model. Boeing then invests in a new model.

If it does number 2, then there are two paths to be followed:

2a) Boeing invests with its own capital (Private R&D). Since its profit rate is already too depressed, this cost would be overwhelming for it as a capitalist enterprise. Boeing loses initiative in the market to Airbus and the new Chinese models. USA loses an important tool for its imperialism.

2b) The American Government (USG) do a "preventive bail out", with taxpayer money (Public R&D). The American people shoulders the burden to sustain its own private corporations, but Boeing survives as a leader in the sector, thus sustaining America's imperial status in the whole world.

Posted by: vk | Jul 7 2019 14:13 utc | 30

Many good comments, as usual, especially the VietnamVet @12. What is happening with (not to) Boeing is a symptom of a general deep malady of the system. This is why it is relevant to link it directly to the rich getting richer, the poor swelling up the free shit army (FSA), and the middle class disappearing. The rich do not get richer by caring about the well-being of the people, then totally opposite - by selling a turd such as contemporary Boeing in a golden foil of bullshit spin & marketing.

These five wishy-washy EASA fixing requests are complete crap. As someone here already commented - what was EASA basing its previous approvals on? This gives a clue as to what it will base its decision about compliance with its five fixing requests on.

There is little doubt that when the two disasters are forgotten the things will go back to exactly where they were before the crashes: money out of thin air for banker bailouts = money out of thin air for MIC (Boeing). It can end up only in one of two ways - nuclear war with Russia and China or financial crash and subsequent civil war in US.

Posted by: Kiza | Jul 7 2019 14:45 utc | 31

As ever B, very thorough, but I think you may have overlooked one
small issue; why do the newer 737s have problems with stalling.

Most reports say something like this: MCAS was introduced by Boeing on the 737MAX because its heavier, more fuel-efficient engines changed the aerodynamic qualities of the workhorse aircraft and can cause the plane’s nose to pitch up in certain conditions during manual flight.

Angle of attack sensors on the aircraft tell the MCAS to automatically point the nose of the plane down if it is in danger of going into a stall.

I don't think that's the whole story...

The original 737 wings were designed using "conventional" airfoil
profiles. These low-speed airfoils experience drag when airspeed
approaches Mach 1 ( approx M > .7 ).

A decade later all modern jet designs were using "supercritical"
airfoils. The benefit was lower drag at higher airspeeds. This led to shorter journey times and lower fuel consumption. And bigger profits!

When the 737NG and later the 737Max were re-engineered, they
incorporated supercritical airfoil profiles - hence problems with
stalling.

This following is an extract from Wiki on supercritical airfoils.

=================BEGIN WIKI=========================

Stall characteristics

The stall behavior of supercritical profile is unlike that of
low-speed airfoils. The boundary layer along the leading edge of a
supercritical wing begins thin and laminar at cruise angles.

As angle of attack (AOA) increases, this laminar layer detaches in a narrow region and forms a short bubble. The airflow, now turbulent, reattaches to the surface aft of the bubble; the increase in drag is not extreme in this condition.

However, if AOA is increased to the stalling point, an adverse
pressure gradient builds, and a shockwave can form within the thin
boundary layer ahead of the bubble, even at relatively low speed. At the critical angle, the bubble rapidly expands ("bursts"), causing airflow to suddenly detach from the entire surface (from leading to trailing edge).

The abrupt loss of lift is exacerbated by the lack of traditional stall "warning" or buffet as a low-speed contour would provide.

Due to this lack of buffet warning, aircraft using supercritical wings are routinely equipped with stick-shaker alert and stick-pusher recovery systems, to meet certification requirements.

=================END WIKI=========================

Back in the 1970s when some very clever engineers at Cambridge University were trying to force the rudiments of engineering into my thick skull, one little mantra kept popping up: "improving an existing 'good' design by incremental means is dangerous." If taken too far it can be catastrophic.

The 737NG took the original design to the limit. 737Max took it further.

If only there'd been an adult in the room... See you in court.

Posted by: SSoSilk | Jul 7 2019 16:13 utc | 32

B> The FCC delayed the tuning off of the autopilot...

tuRRRning :-)

or perhaps, "tuning OUT" :-D

Posted by: Arioch | Jul 8 2019 10:53 utc | 33

B> Engineers and test pilots were pressed to sign off

Wow! That was a good link. Did anyone ever wondered why there are TWO "stab trim cut off" thumblers, not one?
It seems, that the trimmers motor control can be either on or off, or so they say everywhere, right?
But superposition of two triggers give as 2x2=4 different combinations. It also provides for failures during emergency, a pilot makes a move, without even looking, toggles one trigger, but misses another. Without realizing it. No he has one cut-off switch non-matching another one - and what would it be then???

So, the link in the B's quote have an interesting comments section, which says:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I am surprised you did not mention the different functionality of stab trim cutoff switches in this article, considering that you already reported about it in another article. It would be interesting to learn why Boeing made this change. This difference is very important, because if the functionality was like on the NG, the Ethiopian crew would have a better chance to re-trim the airplane after they realized what happened and turned MCAS off.

- - - - - - - -

I agree that this is important, and suggest that Boeing made the change for three reasons:
a) so pilots would continue flip down both stab trim cutout siwtches as on prior 737s
b) the reason for (a) was that MCAS was designed assuming pilots would not do the right thing (by implication in 3 seconds)
c) and Boeing had no alternative, marketing-wise, since explaining the cutout switch change would have forced Boeing to disclose that MCAS made the MAX different.

I have corresponded with a few MAX pilots and spoken to one; none of them knew that the right switch stopped computer signals while the left switch separately stopped pilot yoke switch commands to the trim motors.

As you say, keeping the function of the left switch would have allowed the ET pilots to recover - assuming they were informed that the left switch gave only the yoke control, not the computers, so it gave them a chance to cut off faulty commands.

- - - - - - - -

Hmm - that was/is true on the NG, but NOT true on the current MAX. From the site
https://www.satcom.guru/2019/05/737-pitch-trim-incidents.html

and other links re MCAS on the same blog, either switch cuts ALL electric to both AP and Stabtrim leaving only manual trim wheel, which IF not brought close to normal trim BEFORE cutout becomes nearly impossible to move. In that case ( total manual trim ) there is no difference between NG and MAX. Which brings to fore another long standing problem.


- - - - - - - -

My choice of words seems to have failed their intent.

Yes, on the MAX each switch cuts all electric power. My comment should have clarified that these were pilots of both NGs and MAX who did not know the left vs right switch difference existed in the NG. Knowing that difference could save a plane. Restoring the difference in the MAX seems desirable so pilots can use that difference to level the plane with the yoke switches in both MAX and NG, but only if that is taught to pilots.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Those are... interesting details.

From a holistic engineering point of view, having two switches instead of one could had been a sad detrimental invasion of real world and its constraints into ideal world of Plato's ideas. The drawback they had to let slip in, because they could not efficiently remove it using technology available during NG design phase.

Then during MAX design they managed to do it and unified the switch functions. If you did - then remove another switch, as there is no more any reason left to have both, since the cut-off function is now ONE - then make it controlled by ONE switch. However, perhaps due to critical urge to avoid pilot re-training, Boeing decided to keep look-and-feel and to keep BOTH switches physically, albeit the FUNCTIONS of those both switches was radically changed, and as usual for Boeing was changed in an undocumented way.

Plus, if this information is true, the rot started long ago. NG pilots, allegedly, had the way out of the trap "trim runaway / manual trim impossible / too low for rollercoaster" - the natural way of selectively disengaging only the faltering system, while keeping the working one on. However - even this seems to be hidden from the pilots...

The NG seemed to implement better, safer and more natural escape way than "rollercoaster", and thus the removal of the latter from flight manual was worth it. As part of the larger procedure of introducing new, better way to deal with the situation.
However... for some reason the "new better way" was not documented. And removal of "old bad way" without documenting "new better way" is detrimental.
It also suggests "split personality disorder" within Boeing. Just like it manifested with MCAS devolution from weak narrow subsystem into strong and global one - all while keeping this change secret from other membbers of design/documenting team.

Posted by: Arioch | Jul 8 2019 11:54 utc | 34

Boeing is dealing with this issue in a criminal way, they won't be able to quietly get out of this problem "promising" fixes...end of the year deadline is a total BS, and airlines know it. Yesterday a Saudi Arabia airline cancelled $6Bi in 737MAX orders, this is the tip of the iceberg, many more will come and I estimate over $100 Billion in cancelled orders will be reached, it will have a tremendous implication to the future of this criminal company (yes it is criminal, Boeing Executives knew in advance the cut corners and knew about the issues, it is an intentional murder of over 300 passengers in any unbiased court" around the world). Aside from the cancelled orders, Boeing will have to compensate for the 300+ planes on the ground for over 1 year, this is extremely expensive plus countless lawsuits that will last years...this company is doomed for a very long time, and global depression is coming and new orders will be postponed affecting cash flow, nightmare scenario ahead.

Posted by: Canthama | Jul 8 2019 12:41 utc | 35

USA States already have precedent of laws criminalizing BDS Israel movement. Now they will legislate copycatted laws that will criminalize BDS Boeing activities. Any company that boycotted Boeing 737 Max must be properly punished for the malevolent damage to US economics.

Posted by: Arioch | Jul 8 2019 13:27 utc | 36

I've heard on the grapevine that Boeing has solutions for all of its 737 MAX technical problems and will implement and submit them for FAA approval in September, 2019.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jul 9 2019 15:58 utc | 37

Apparently EASA didn’t ask any modification to the 737 NG but only to the MAX because the rollercoaster technique is not applicable to the MAX because of itslongitudinal instability. On the MAX the rollercoaster technique might cause a stall which precisely the MCAS was supposed to avoid. Why the rollercoaster technique has been removed from the manual, probably because it can’t apply to the MAX.

Posted by: Sab | Jul 12 2019 4:11 utc | 38

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