Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
U.S. to ground Boeing 737 Max 8 (businessinsider.com)
716 points by wine_labs 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 617 comments





This is the correct move. Airline crashes are so rare that two crashes of a new model within 6 months of each other must be cause for grounding flights.

The fact that Boeing cut as many corners as they did to bypass mandatory training just adds more smoke to the fire. When the dust settles on this episode I won't be surprised to learn that Boeing (and FAA regulators) is found completely at fault for engineering shortcuts to save costs on re-training.


> This is the correct move. Airline crashes are so rare that two crashes of a new model within 6 months of each other must be cause for grounding flights.

I agree. It seemed like the FAA was taking a position best described as "innocent until proven guilty." I think that's great for the US criminal justice system. I think a better approach for air travel safety is "abundance of caution." I have no direct experience in this field but it seems to me that the plane should be grounded out of an abundance of caution until we know more.

Edit: FWIW I used the phrase "abundance of caution" before I read it in the article.


Even the criminal justice system has no qualms about "grounding" (taking into custody) people before they are found guilty in a court of law.

Question: is it realistic to expect cops to know exactly what law someone is breaking before they decide to arrest them? Like I get that in an ideal world this would be the case, but humans only have so much memory. Is it unreasonable if a cop arrests someone because it seems the person is doing something that warrants it, but then later fails to find an actual crime they can charge them with? i.e. Would we be better in world where cops only arrested those whom they could immediately charge with a crime?

Cops arrest people for all sorts of reasons. They don't have to have proof of a crime; suspicion is enough. They don't immediately have to charge them with anything, and they can first question you. If they decide not to charge you, they can keep you in custody for a couple of hours at most.

Then again, in Guantanamo Bay there are people held in custody for many years now without any charges, so these rules can be bent pretty far in the right circumstances.

Planes aren't criminals or even citizens, though. But to translate this to the 737 Max situation, when something seems to be wrong it seems entirely reasonable to ground planes in order to investigate the situation. But there should be a limit to that grounding, and a permanent ban requires some actual proof.

Of course keep arresting people for no good reason, people lose their trust in them.


In practice, cops in a position to arrest people on their beat are generally arresting a series of people for the same thing over and over again, and eventually learn the details of what will satisfy a charge.

Mileage will vary based on geography and beat though.

And... I'd admit we saw some charging documents we immediately dismissed from new officers, roughly like 'this guy seemed shady and was near a crime.' We'd lay into them for that though, they'd eventually seem to figure it out.


You'd have to ask a lawyer if this would fall under probably cause - i.e. a police officer is allowed to arrest someone if they have a "reasonable" suspicion that a crime was committed, and then the prosecutors decide whether to bring charges. It's not clear to me how a court would view an officer being mistaken about the law in specific ways.

This depends upon where you are doesn't it? In the UK the grounds for arrest are "reasonable suspicion" in the US isn't it "probable cause"? I think that "reasonable suspicion" is similar to 10% certainty and "probable cause" 25% (c/f with "beyond reasonable doubt" which should be 95% certainty)...

I am not a lawyer. If anyone is in doubt I suggest speaking to a lawyer!


"Probable cause" is defined using the word "reasonable" in lots of sources. The root of any UK/US difference is more likely related to drift in precedent over the last couple of centuries than to any precise difference in the meaning of words.

I don’t think the parent comment is about arresting. But holding someone without bail until a trial has concluded where by it is deemed that the person is a possible risk to society by being released until trial. (I think)

So if I don't like a black person I can just arrest them because he seems shifty?

Effectively yes, you can do that as a cop in most justice systems if you can dress up the "seems shifty" in a bit more concrete terms.

But if there is nothing to back it up, the guy will be realeased very soon, and if you do it repeatedly, you'll eventually get problems (and rather quickly and seriously if you lied and it can be proven).


A little bizarre to see "them" followed by "he"...

I guess the question here is what about him makes him seem shifty to you. One would at least hope his skin color would not be factoring into that and that your judgment would have been the same for anybody else exhibiting the same behavior.


Great point. Criminal Justice is about erring on the side of caution of imprisoning people wrongfully. Its why there's a difference between arrest and imprisonment.

> When the dust settles on this episode I won't be surprised to learn that Boeing (and FAA regulators) is found completely at fault

And promptly given a pass by the FAA/regulators.


Boeing is the single largest exporter in the US. The idea that we are going to seriously punish them is laughable from a political standpoint, regardless of what the regulators have to say.

Isn't the alternative an abandonment of the 737 max 8 series from international carriers? The US currently has the largest aviation market but it's growing globally. Airbus has the 320neo and 220 which are direct/close competitors.

Remember the 737 has been slowly growing each generation: the A220-100 doesn't compete with the 737 MAX at all (it's smaller than the 737 MAX 7, and the MAX 7 has only 61 orders, out of over 5000 total orders). It provides a possible replacement for the A318 and 737-600 (but also neither of those sold well either!); it's biggest competition is probably the E195-E2.

The A220-300 competes with the A319neo and 737 MAX 7 (and the A319neo isn't selling any better than than the MAX 7).

I don't think really an abandonment is on the cards: too many fleets are too heavily bought into the 737 family, and the cost of migrating away is real. By way of comparison, the A320(ceo) hardly had the best of starts to its life either with the Air France Flight 296 crash (which while different, still wasn't exactly good press!).


Then the interesting question is whether airlines would punish them by forcing better terms or even lawsuits, and would shareholders likewise punish them by selling the stock.

Not to forget a third category: customers. I heard that there were considerable cancellations or at least fuzz about going to ride a 737 Max.

I'm fairly sure knowingly selling defective airplanes involves some liability and breach of contract issues even without criminal charges. No need for the FAA to punish Boeing, but I expect them to feel the weight of public opinion.

Grounding aircraft for unexplained mechanical failures is the norm.

Following that, the problem is not finding who is at fault but how to prevent it from happening again. The first step to getting the aircraft ungrounded is often to update the flight manual and decrease inspection time so it can be flown safely with reduced capabilities. The root cause is fixed later.

Aviation regulatory bodies are normally not into finger pointing. Traditionally, the customer pays for everything, even if it is not their fault. The reasoning is that it is one less incentive for the manufacturer to hide defects. No doubt that legal battles will ensue but care is taken to keep lawyers out of the technical process.


It's sad that Boeing tried to cut so many corners, but absolutely baffling that the FAA went along with it. They squandered an enormous amount of trust by doing this. I wonder what the long term effects of that loss of trust will be.

And even if they fix the problem and pilots get more training, it's still likely to hurt 737 Max sales; it seems likely they cut those corners because having the Max count as "just another 737" that didn't require extra training, was a major advantage to airlines. When airlines need to retrain their pilots anyway, they might choose different planes in the future. And they may be less likely to trust Boeing and the FAA when they claim a new plane model won't require extra training.

Then again, I don't know the airline industry. Maybe it just blows over with no long term effects.


This is what happens when you have a business-forward administration who guts all regulatory bodies and instills industry titans into their spots.

I'll happily blame anything on this evil administration, including this, but the corporatism which led to these deaths predates the American fascist assumption of power.

I think we should be careful to look wholistically at this. Will grounding the plane cause more people to drive? Driving is so much more dangerous than flying even if there’s a MAX crash every 6 months (doubtful). How many more people will take connecting flights — the danger is in the take off and landing after all. I don’t have the answers, I’m suggesting this isn’t a straightforward decision. Humans have an amazing ability to overweight incredibly unlikely outcomes with severe consequences.

Some napkin math. 150,000 flights, each with 172 seats (based on the American Airlines 7M8 configuration, which is admittedly tight). That's 25.8 million journeys. Two accidents, let's that's ~350 deaths. Your chance of dying on any given journey is therefore 0.00135% (four nines to live).

You've got a 0.0167% chance of dying [1] for every 10,000 miles driven. Let's assume that each 7M8 journey averages 2500mi (generous, a transcontinental average). A linear projection tells me that's a 0.004175% of dying in an equivalent car ride.

You're still 3X safer on a 7M8 than you are in your car.

Now, by no means should this be taken to say the planes shouldn't be fixed or that Boeing should "get away with it." However, grounding all these planes and pushing people into a less safe form of transit may actually end up causing more harm than allowing the planes to fly with a fixed, short schedule to resolving the problem.

[1] https://www.seeker.com/how-common-are-skydiving-accidents-17...


> "Driving is so much more dangerous than flying even if there’s a MAX crash every 6 months (doubtful)."

I'm not sure that's correct. Let say there's 350 MAX aircraft in service, flying 5 flights per day on average. In 6 months, thats about 320,000 flights. So a 1 in 320,000 chance of a fatal crash. Let's say the average route length is 1000 miles. That's 1 crash per 320 million miles flown, or 3.125 crashes per billion miles flown.

If we assume an average of 150 passengers per flight, then it's 468 deaths per billion miles for the MAX, compared to only 0.02 deaths per billion miles across all aircraft. [1]

In the US, there are 12.5 deaths per billion miles driven, including pedestrian and cyclist deaths from motor vehicle collisions.[1]

If it crashed once every 6 months, the MAX would be around 37X more dangerous than driving, and 2340X more dangerous than an average commercial flight in the United States.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transportation_safety_in_the_U...


150,000 flights, 172 seats per is 25.8 million passenger seat-journeys. Given the type, I think it's fair to say they're at least 1200mi long (why fly a 7M8 on a sub-2 hour flight, when you can just throw a regional jet at it). The whole point of the MAX family is that it can fly further than a normal variant. This is 30.96 billion passenger seat-miles. There were ~350 deaths. This is 0.000000011 deaths per passenger seat-mile, or 11 per billion. This is in line with but still less than driving (12.5 per your data source).

I imagine 1200 miles is short for an average 7M8 flight though, which could make it substantially safer. With 2500 mile averages you get back to that 3X number I cited. It's still no more a death trap than your average Honda Civic (10% safer by your metrics, more by mine).

To your point, it is of course riskier than a different aircraft.

My whole thesis was to ask what effect this will have across the entire population and how will humans react, irrationally, to this news.


There are arguments against measuring crash rates by “number per vehicle miles traveled” and instead by “number per vehicle hours traveled.” VMT is a product of speed and time, and thus a fatalities-per-VMT metric will nearly always show the faster routes to be safer.

But compare spending 20 minutes traveling 10 miles on a local street, vs 10 minutes traveling 10 miles on a freeway. Both are considered equally safe using a fatalities-per-VMT model. But in the former, you’ve stayed safe for a longer portion of your life. (See http://pedshed.net/?p=1050)

Using that metric would make that Boeing far less safe compared with driving.


That argument seems flawed to the point of absurdity. Two extreme examples showcase this:

1) a teleporter with the exact same risk as driving 20min on local streets or 10min on the highway would be the worst thing ever invented. In reality, 100% of people would choose it unless they were intentionally wanting to spend time driving

2) A 100% safe ridable snail would be the ideal form of transit, given that you'd spend your whole life safely trying to get somewhere.


> measuring crash rates by “number per vehicle miles traveled” and instead by “number per vehicle hours traveled.”

there's another issue, which is plane risk is uneven during their journey, so a type that does half the flights but twice the distance on average will end up almost 1.5 times as safe all other things being equal.

this source claim 45% crashes happening on takeoff and landing which are a minimal percentage of travel if you measure risk by mile or hour: https://eu.usatoday.com/story/travel/columnist/cox/2013/08/2...

a way to normalize that would have to use "number per flights" but then you'd get trains, with their multi-stop journeys, skewing the numbers the other way.


But you travel to get somewhere not to be in a vehicle for X amount of time. So why would any metrics besides per-distance be more relevant.

As a traveler, I care about the trip, not the time nor the distance. If I take this trip, what's my probability of dying if I fly it versus drive it.

Airplane travel have fixed segments (takeoff and landing, ascent, descent) and variable segments (the coasting phase that varies by distance traveled). Car travel is only the variable segment. Hard to compare apples to oranges.


On the flip side, if the plane is intended for long flights, do you think people are just going to drive 1200+ miles and incur the gas, the additional time, a hotel stay or a few?

Some trips may be made using older aircraft. Some trips may not be made at all. But I think assuming a 1:1 correlation with driving is a bit silly.


A very good point, although, my fear wasn't that people would replace 1:1 7M8 flights with a roadtrip across the country, but that grounding an entire plane type would cause people to replace short flights with long drives. I suppose planes falling out of the sky may do that too :)

Fatalities per passenger mile is a good metric for passengers, but for the FAA, I think crashes per vehicle mile is a better target.

That is, the plane isn't inherently 100x safer if you just fly it empty.


Yes, the plane is much safer if you fly it empty.

It's still a risk to those on the ground!

Also, more broadly, you have some degree of control over dying in a car. Like the odds of dying on the road while driving a modern safe car, legally and carefully, would be lower still again. Airplanes we cede all out control over safety to the airline / pilot and manufacturer.

This would be true if you were on the car alone. Unfortunately we all share the road, so it only takes the most dangerous person on the road to ruin your safety.

Even so, just by following road rules, driving sober and having a well-maintained car, you likely go to the bottom decile in car-related risks. That much is definitely under your own control.

He said "some degree of control", not "complete control".

And even worse if you do the calculation based on time spent in vehicle rather than distance.

The alternative isn't driving, it's using a different (safer) plane.

Have you examined the actual outcome of grounding this model of plane?

I would think at least some people are driving instead. US airlines run at a pretty high utilization, grounding dozens of planes isn't going to be easily absorbed into other flights.


Grounding a newly release airliner is not new. It's only news because of the two crashes and 300 victims. I'm pretty sure these airlines are careful and still have some of the older 737/A320 that these MAX were supposed to replace.

Issues with new airliners and engines -specially engines- are not rare at all. So this sort of grounding is not rare: see 787 first grounding (battery issues), current partial grounding (Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 issues), or Pratt & Whitney ongoing issues with the A320NEO engine (PW1000G issues).

You can imagine the sort of clusterfuck when PW needs to produce 60 engines a month for Airbus, only manages to build 20 in its factory... but need to send these 20 engines to replace already delivered engines because they are defective. The situation has improved a lot lately, but 2017/2018 were tough...

Only the A350 introduction has so far been relatively event free. Probably because the Trent-XWB is a derived from the Trent 1000, so the 787 took care of the teething...


> Only the A350 introduction has so far been relatively event free.

I am biased on this since I have spent a couple of years working on the development of A350XWB systems (and only marginally contributed to other programs) but I always had the feeling that, after the trauma of the A380 (rampant production issues, lengthy delays and management mishaps/stock fraud), the focus for A350XWB was put on accountability at all levels.

This might not be sustainable for a large corporation but retrospectively, that seemed to have had the desired effect at least for this particular aircraft program.


Maybe! Looks like there've been 350 deliveries so far [1]. Are that many planes available on short notice to replace them? Airlines generally operate with 80% load factors, it'd be hard to just re-shuffle everyone.

The grounding and reaction may also shake people's faith in air travel in general, causing them to drive more even if planes were available. Bruce Schneier has a good write-up on this effect post 9/11 too. Humans are terrible at dealing with this kind of thing.

The reality is you're much more at risk in your Uber ride to the airport than you are aboard the 7M8.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_737_MAX#Orders_and_deli...


I think in practice more of the flights will be replaced by other flights or not travelling than driving 2500 miles.

Commercial flying is safer on average than driving, but that's because of, not despite the extreme approach to safety concerns. (General aviation is actually substantially more dangerous than driving)


> Are that many planes available on short notice to replace them?

If there are, they'll have to wipe the dust off of them, and send type-rated crews into territories they're not familiar with day-to-day.

That, or defer maintenance of the existing fleet.

I'm unconvinced that this is the safe resolution, but that's what will happen.

At least the US and Canada allowed planes in-flight to land, instead of making them turnaround and come back anyway via non-revenue ferry flights.


Maintenance deferral is not an option (unless they're electively carrying out maintenance checks well ahead of OEM-specified intervals) and type-rated crews landing in unfamiliar territory happens on a daily basis and certainly isn't a risk factor comparable with a [possibly] flawed aircraft. If the delay's long enough to actually see parked aircraft brought into service, it'll largely be the same crews flying older 737s anyway.

Mostly people will just cancel their holidays or agree a teleconference because getting flights on that route at short notice is too difficult.


> type-rated crews landing in unfamiliar territory happens on a daily basis and certainly isn't a risk factor comparable with a [possibly] flawed aircraft.

Flying in/out of unfamiliar territory is a known risk. Whether the 737 MAX series is higher risk or not is an unknown risk because of insufficient sample sizes.

Hopefully some statistician will start tabulating P values so we can see if the confidence intervals overlap or not. Treat this situation like a new "better" drug for X where 2 users died in quick succession. Is there enough evidence to take it off the market or not? AFAIK, nobody has (yet).

>If the delay's long enough to actually see parked aircraft brought into service, it'll largely be the same crews flying older 737s anyway.

Sorta. On a Canadian airline, Westjet, the MAX is flying routes that are too far for the regular 737s without a fuel-stop (by my estimates). I'm booked for such a flight in 2 months. I'll get to learn what happens. I would have been happy to fly the MAX8 based on the current lack of evidence for grounding.


Of course, the other thing to consider is how many more people will drive due to a loss of trust in the FAA and airlines over the failure to ground the plane once it's percieved as unsafe.

"I could drive or fly...oh, no, but what if they try to put me on a 737 Max? I better drive."


No, most people don't pay that much attention, honestly. "Drive or fly? Hm... that plane did just fall out of the sky right, planes freak me out, let's just drive." This is an excerpt of a conversation I've had with friends after the MH crashes. I had to explain to them planes generally don't get shot out of the sky or just disappear and that in spite of this all, flying remains safer than driving.

People pay attention to things like this. My kid is flying to Denver in a few weeks and was looking to see what plane type it was. An acquaintance is heading west for work and the first question was ‘Max 8’?

Sure, a avoid reason to ground the affected model.

“The ones that fall out of the sky have been grounded, so that’s great”


I see what you’re saying, but there are intangibles that are hard to factor in. For example, a big reason that air travel is so big an industry is precisely because it is so safe. But that image could get tarnished very easily, at which point you would see a sudden and large drop in paying customers (think 9/11). Consequently, grounding the planes until everyone can be certain of the cause and the remedy is in the best interest of the entire industry (although not great for Boeing in the short term).

Why would grounding the planes cause people to drive more? There's very few of them in operation, and airlines have other planes to fill the void.

Why will grounding the plane cause more people to drive? It does not have large enough share of existing planes to cause significant rise in prices to make people choose driving. Especially considering that it is used for long distance flights, which are more likely be replaced by train instead of car.

It still pushes the balance. Not everyone lives right by an airport and has a true destination right by an airport.

OR the planes doing the short-haul flights will now have to make these longer-haul flights, increasing the short-haul flight costs.


>Driving is so much more dangerous than flying

Flying is only as safe as it is thanks to regulations written in blood. I don't think flying today versus driving today is the right comparison to make, rather flying today versus flying in a decade. If we allow leniency on the basis of alternatives to flying being more dangerous now, improvement of flight safety may be squandered so that the safety of future transport as a whole is reduced.

I also think these regulatory bodies have to make grand gestures, at times, to reassure the bags of blood and bones that get on planes in a way that statistics do not.


> Let's assume that each 7M8 journey averages 2500mi

Let's then also assume that people are not commontly drive transcontinental distances. Your calacluations are interesting but all over the place. E.g.:

> How many more people will take connecting flights — the > danger is in the take off and landing after all

So in this case distance does not matter. How does car safety compare to airplanes in terms of number of trips?

Anyway, the biggest problem is assuming that all grounded flights will be replaced by driving. Either the flight will use different aircraft or the trip is cancelled in majority of the cases.


The holistic view is rather that the only reason we have such safe aircrafts so you can get such nice numbers is because there's very well crafted procedures for handling crashes.

Reacting strongly when those procedures seems to have missed something is important not because of the crash itself but because the process is important. Could the same oversights lead to additional fatalities is the question, the robustness of the boeing is a minor point.


This is why I come to Hacker News. Thank you

[deleted]

Flying won't stay safer than driving if aircraft manufacturers can get away with letting their standards slip.

Well nobody is proposing a free pass here. Of course they'll all need to be fixed, and ASAP. I'm just saying, it's no more a death trap than your average Honda Civic so it's probably okay to let them stay up in the air, depending on what the confounding external factors end up being.

Cars kill people primarily due to human error in judgment or lack of attention. Mechanical or software failures causing fatalities are the overwhelming minority of cases.

Remember how big of a deal the Toyota accelerator pedal recall was?


Didn't Toyota turn out to be a few old people that probably shouldn't haven't been driving anymore anyways.

No, it was a buffer overflow in the ECU. It's an interesting read if that's the kind of thing that strikes your fancy :)

This could be as bad as the Toyota "unintended acceleration" glitch.

The way this particular glitch plays out sounds suspiciously like software, or a software-like function of the MCAS unit.


There was never any evidence that a software glitch caused sudden unintended acceleration in Toyotas. The problems were caused by defective floor mats and driver error.

https://www.caranddriver.com/features/a15125313/its-all-your...


The specific causes were determined to be non-software, but when they took a close look at the software, the software was atrociously bad.

I'm not sure Boeing's software, even if not at fault, will be entirely flawless.


No complex software has ever been entirely flawless. The best we can probably ask for is that it's safe within certain defined boundaries.

I have a family trip booked next month on Southwest, who has many 737 Max 8. I'm relieved that they won't be able to use it now. I'm still expecting my flight to happen, Southwest and Boeing will have to figure out how to get the plane.

Southwest was actually grounding these flights yesterday (Tuesday) before the FAA decision. Source: flight was cancelled along with multiple other 737 MAX flights out of SJC yesterday.

Oddly enough they were also claiming to be surprised by the faa. It seems like a huge miscommunication from different departments and people.

It's about 5% of their fleet, and they fly, on average, with their planes ~85% full. There will almost certainly be some cancelled flights.

They had no choice. When no other major regulator would stand with their position, and the public didn't wish to fly on the Max 8, the position became untenable.

After the flight data recorders are recovered from the Ethiopian Airlines accident they could reevaluate if it turned out to be something else. But this seems like a rational safety first position given what we know today.

Hopefully Boeing's April patch and mandatory additional training mitigates the issue well enough to resume normal flight operations.


The fix may be as simple as a patch, but the customer confidence in the plan is damaged, maybe beyond repair.

I know I will look twice next time going on a trip which plane I end up on, I'm not sure I will go with a 737 Max anytime soon.


Remember all the early A320 crashes? Do you worry about stepping onto an A320 now? Unless the problem turns out to be far deeper, I suspect that this, too, shall pass.

It doesn't look like anything like the 737MAX crashes though: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_accidents_and_incident...

"an a320 crashes every two years" sounds quite different than "a brand new 737MAX crashes during take off every 6 months because of the faulty sensor thingy".

Also a320 family of 8605 aircraft took the life of 1393 passengers in 30 years, 737MAX is at %30 of that in two years and 350 aircraft.

737MAX accidents look very brutal and specific. It doesn't look like "ironing out imperfections" but more like "this plane is broken, it falls off on take off" - regardless if that's the case, people see a pattern here.


Worth noting: 150 of the A320 count may be Germanwings Flight 9525 (unless you already accounted for this) - which was suicide by pilot.

Not really fair to blame the plane in that case.


It's not fair to blame the plane at all unless you're sure the crash was the plane's fault, but that isn't stopping most of the people in this thread from doing it.

Airplanes don't have the right to a trial of their peers with presumption of innocence.

Two crashes within six months is very abnormal. Abnormalities are evidence of problems. Airline regulators are tasked with keeping people from dying, not with protecting manufacturers' feelings.


The Boeing 767 experienced three crashes between the months of September 2001 and April 2002. I think you can guess what caused the first two.

You need more information than just a calendar and a model number to make determinations of flight safety.


Those three crashes had one thing in common: terrorism.

These two crashes have one thing in common: brand new planes.

Unless you know of an islamist terror organization that has a grudge against Ethiopian desert wilderness, I don't think terrorism is a more likely common cause than the brand new airframe.


> I think you can guess what caused the first two.

You do realize they redesigned the plane after 9/11 to prevent that from happening again, right?


...and those changes are what allowed the GermanWings crash to happen. Sometimes there just isn't such thing as a fully-technical solution.

Yes but my point is that people don’t avoid the 767. Look upthread please, this whole sub thread is about whether these incidents will cause consumers to avoid 737 Max planes in the future.

My (apparently very controversial) opinion is that we don’t know enough to predict that now, because we don’t know what caused the Ethiopian Air crash yet.


People never avoided the 767 because it was clear all along that the crashes had noting to do with the plane.

People are avoiding the 737 MAX because given the current information it definitely could be a problem with the plane, in fact the information we already have from the first crash makes it look like it's very likely to be a problem with the plane.

You option is not controversial, it's just wrong.


> People are avoiding the 737 MAX because given the current information

Again: the topic here is predicting long-term damage to consumer confidence. I understand what is happening right now.

The entire 787 fleet was grounded not more than a few years ago due to battery issue. How many people actively avoid 787s today? Long-term consumer trust depends not just the root cause of an accident, but also the perception of how it was addressed. As the GP correctly points out, the 767 (and all other planes, and security screening procedures) were redesigned to protect against the type of attack that succeeded on September 11.


> It's not fair to blame the plane at all unless you're sure the crash was the plane's fault

I'd say "unless you have some indication that it was the plane's fault". Otherwise, agreed: 2 crashes per se tell you nothing about the safety of the plane; it could've been a terrorist attack or a suicidal pilot or a missile.

It's two crashes under similar circumstances, with no indication of such an external event, that justify suspecting the plane.


> It's not fair to blame the plane at all unless you're sure the crash was the plane's fault

Since we aren't talking about assigning criminal penalties to the plane (for one, because its fairly well destroyed, and for another because it wasn't the kind of thing subject to such penalties in the first place), the criminal standard of proof ("beyond a reasonable doubt" -- which still falls short of actually being sure) is inapplicable. In fact, given the minimal consequences of blaming the plane in the discussion in this thread, its probably fair to do so if there is any reasonable basis for belief that that the crash was the plane's fault. Its certainly to do so if the preponderance of the evidence as yet reviewed by the person doing the blaming suggests that, even if it is a fairly weak conclusion that a very small amount of additional evidence could reverse.


I don't object to this line of reasoning, I object to the idea that this line of reasoning by itself, as known today, is sufficient to predict that the reputation of the 737 Max is permanently damaged in the eyes of consumers. That's the context of this subthread, starting here:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19382699


>"an a320 crashes every two years" sounds quite different than "a brand new 737MAX crashes during take off every 6 months because of the faulty sensor thingy".

If you cherry-pick the time interval, you can say that basically all planes crash once every hour.


It was almost 1 a year for the first 5 years, but that is still less than 25% of the current Max-8 rate.

Edit: Max-8 had first flight in 2016 is in service since early 2017, so the crash rate over that period is roughly identical with the rate for the first 5 years of the A320. We just have a set of two closer together recently. Not enough data to form a statistical basis of course.


This should be normalized to tue number of flights (if the problems are related to starting/landing) or to flight hours (general problems that might appear mid air)

Time is not a very usefull thing here, as number of active aircraft and flights will be very variable.


Agreed. I don't think they're unsalvageable, but they're definitely unsafe in their current state, and trust will need to be rebuilt (a slow process). Boeing is to blame for most of this because of their design decisions, too.

99.9% of passengers cares more about the cost of ticket vs. airplane model

Yeah I dunno about that. Sure they don't care about airplane model in general but this is fast becoming a known name and associated with crashing. In the past few days I've had my in-laws and my own grandma asking me to help check their planes for booked flights. You just need a bit more of the tabloids to run on it and this model plane is finished in the public's mind.

I think this is natural because it's a major news story right now.It seems likely that some upgrade will be made to the planes to address whatever issue they conclude they have, and once that's done and the planes are in the air again people will soon forget about it all.

I must be very unique then. As someone who flies often and cares about making it there, I _have_ been booking recent flights to not take MAX aircraft, even at the inconvenience of multiple legs.

If the root cause is straightforward, I would be inclined to expect once they figure it out it will never happen again, given all the attention.

I have no direct experience with aviation software, but if it's similar to other highly regulated environments, a SW "patch" is not "simple", possibly it means weeks/months of regression testing and validation, justification for it need, etc...

It's a revision of a model number. People will forget, if they remembered at all.

But that's the thing, the 737 max isnt a revision of a model number. It has a very different airframe with different flight characteristics from other 737 models.

Boeing used software to override and reinterpret pilot inputs so that the airplane behaves as if it were a 737, in order to cut costs on retraining. When that software fails, the pilots are suddenly flying a totally new airframe that would normally require additional certification with 0 experience.


Sorry to go on a tangent, but if they were going the redesign the airframe anyway, why didn't just make the plane aerodynamically stable with the bigger engines (make landing gears longer?), instead of lifting the engines and using software to compensate?

Sure. But my point is that the name is easy to forget. It's not a top level brand like 737 or 787. It's a variant. People will write the information off as essentially trivia, because it's just one variant out of "how many?"

The idea of there being a layer of software between the pilot's intentions and the aircraft's control input freaks me out.

that's exactly what airbus does... there are a set of "laws" that govern flight at different stages of flight "normal, ground, flight, flare, alternate 1, alternate 2, direct, and mechanical" quite complex systems, that.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_control_modes


And this is what contributed to the crash of AF 447.

That said, I prefer either the older boeings, with minimal computer interference when hand flying or the Airbus approach. Because Airbus at least appear to know what they are doing.

This Boeing-Airbus chimera isn't really working.


The stories where the computer stops the human from doing something stupid and saving the day never makes it in the news.

Doesn't that describe fly by wire systems which describes most planes these days?

Most fly-by-wire systems implement the pilot's stated intention directly, though, is that not correct?

This layer inbetween where the computer goes "actually what I think you REALLY meant to do is..." is novel in the 737 Max.


No. The intended behavior is a nose down nudge every 10s only when a) exceeding a certain angle of attack b) above a certain altitude and c) when flaps are retracted. It's second guessing only at a particular edge of the normal flight envelope to prevent it from departing that envelope.

And all the various layers of protections in fly by wire airplanes do that - they second guess certain inputs to prevent edge cases. But in any case the input is going through software abstraction. Any apparent directness is part of that software behavior.

I'll be interested what the software update due at the end of April entails exactly. I think every airplane should get the angle of attack sensors disagree indication, standard.


An intrinsically dangerous plane that needs either much more careful piloting (hard to sell...) or software assistance (bad idea) should freak you out even more.

I would recommend against boarding any Airbus than.

Long term public opinion impact would likely be much smaller if the FAA had lead the grounding, not lagged behind: "some sub-variant of a model iteration on hold for investigation" would have been merely a footnote only those directly affected would remember a day later. But this slow-motion wave of country after country changing their minds with ever increasing drama "what will the FAA do!", this is quality news-tainment. I know that hn readership is not representative (the intersection of aviation geekery, software engineering and high stakes UX: golden), but it's quite a bit of a headline elsewhere as well.

The 737 Max is probably the safest plane to fly right now. Pilots are not complacent people.

No. The 737 Max introduced a fundamental design weakness that was implemented for cost efficiency reasons only. The center of gravity is towards the rear, which makes the plane tend to tilt backwards, and requires an automatic system to compensate for that https://www.seattletimes.com/business/boeing-aerospace/faa-e...

This is the first time I have seen this. Really scary if that is what ended up being the cause. Won't bode well for Boeing.

It's the first time you've heard it because there is a lot of BS floating around in the last few days, and it seems to be getting worse, not better.

So it's not true?

My understanding is that the issue is more one of the centre of thrust (of the engines), which is now further away from the centre of gravity, giving rise to a larger momentum.

Also the nacelles generating lift.

It confirms what I've read about this issue so far. But this article is from the previous crash. If this was already known, why hasn't it been fixed? Why haven't pilots received additional training to deal with this?

Engines were moved forward. Center of gravity should shift forward.

Lift from the nacelles is the issue.


Wow ! Mind blowing. This is borderline criminal.

How can you seriously say that?

There are a ton of planes with a better flight/crash ratio.

380 A340 where build since 1991 almost exactly as much as the number of 737 Max built (376). Not one fatal accident in almost 20 years for the A340 versus 2 fatal accident in 2 years for the 737.


My point is that all 737 Max pilots flying today are briefing on the issue and hyper-vigilant, while the Airbus pilots doze in their cockpits in peace.

The point is that all legally licensed 737-type-rated pilots are currently legal to fly the 737 MAX line, no questions asked, no training needed. (As far as I know.) The plane should be moved to a new type certificate and all its attendant requirements, seems to me.

I can’t legally be the PIC (pilot in command) in a Citation 525 (“CitationJet” or CJ) despite it being nearly identical to the 550 (Citation II or Bravo) I can, in most ways that I can tell matters. I have copilot time in both and PIC in the 550 (and related models). The newer plane is even easier to fly, frankly, and has some nice safety features for engine failures. I have to get the training and certification (and recertification every two years) to legally be PIC in the newer Citation, though.

My limited understanding is that the aerodynamics and flight characteristics of the 737 MAX are quite different than the older 737-800 - let alone the even older second (or even first) generation 737s. The memory items may be different. That alone should have mandated a new type certificate in my non-regulatory expert perspective.


Flight characteristics are reported to be the same in the normal flight envelope except at high angles of attack where the new engine nacelle actually produces lift which translates into a further pitch up - but I have no idea how aggressive this is. But it's enough that this is why MCAS exists.

I'm certainly concerned whether MCAS is both working as intended, and also failing safe. But my more immediate concern is like yours: when MCAS is effectively disabled in the normal course of troubleshooting runway trim by setting stab trim to cutoff, now you have a plane that has different stall behavior than you're type rated for! Flip those switches, now you need a different type rating! Of course pilots can learn different stall behaviors and avoidance for a new type, we don't need abstraction to do that for us when we know about it and have trained for it. Stall avoidance is fundamental make+model knowledge, but it can be non-obvious and making it obvious and deliberate is what the type rating is about.

So yeah we might actually end up in the very curious case where either Boeing, or FAA or NTSB are all: this is going to require a type rating afterall. The very thing the airlines in particular want to avoid.

It seems to me the in-cockpit "aoa disagree" option needs to become standard by AD. MCAS only takes input from one of the two alpha vanes, so if it gets bogus data it has no backup source. Meanwhile the pilots have no indication the two vanes disagree unless they (apparently) bought that indication feature. Which I think is pretty fucked up if that turns out to be true and relevant as to either cause or solution in all of this.


The solution here is going to be to have MCAS automatically disengage when the two sensors disagree, which will change the stall behavior automatically. Airbus has the same problem, and so will any manufacturer that introduces computer augmented flight characteristics in their aircraft. If a component of the computerized flight control system fails, the flight characteristics of the aircraft will change. In fact, Airbus has had a similar crash: in that instance, a pilot was pulling full back on the stick thinking that the aircraft was unstallable, but one of the sensors (airspeed, maybe? can't remember) was disabled (by icing, if I remember) and the aircraft had changed to a different flight control law that didn't have the anti-stall function. Splash.

Eh, I googled it for you people. It was air france 447: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_France_Flight_447


I don't think the AF crash was a case of that pilot "thinking it was unstallable" so much as not thinking, in the mental state he was in at that point. Even if the plane were "unstallable", pulling full back on the stick like that would not have been the right course.

The problem is that the issue may cause the plane to be unflyable even by a pilot aware of the issue.

The earliest reports said that pilots could avoid this runaway trim issue by knowing to disable the electric trim. Now it sounds like doing that may also eliminate all ability for pilots to trim the aircraft.

Inability to trim make airplanes extremely difficult to fly, the control (yolk) pressures required can quickly become too high to maintain control. Pilots would have to hold something like 1 lb of continuous backpressure for every 6 knots out of trim for the entire flight.


> The problem is that the issue may cause the plane to be unflyable even by a pilot aware of the issue.

That’s partly true, but it’s not the whole story. MCAS and its use to make the MAX 8-9 fly “more like the 737” is part of a longer trend of manufacturers coddling pilots instead of expecting them to behave as competent professionals and treating them as such. They’re effectively opting for a more familiar normal aviating experience, with the tradeoff being longer emergency/exigency checklists and so much more to manage/remember/process when the system malfunctions. With the end-result being that even more experience is required to safely and reliably pilot modern aircraft.

Side note: Disabling trim should only be done as part of a problem remedy, not as part of normal flight.

(Disclaimer: I’m not a pilot. I’ve read for many hours on these issues.)


They were briefed after lionair

What were all 737 Max pilots doing after the LionAir crash and Boeing's emergency airworthiness directive?

(Incidentally, that's how I calm myself during turbulence: I think "well, at least the pilots are awake now"...)

Even Boeing itself started calling for the grounding of the Max 8:

https://techcrunch.com/2019/03/13/boeing-requests-faa-ground...

Something is terribly wrong when the regulator that's supposed to keep people safe is less willing to do that then the company that stands to lose the most from the bad image of a product.


Boeing did it far too late to help themselves.

Compare and contrast with Johnson & Johnson's handling of the 1982 Tylenol poison incidents. Tylenol immediately pulled the product off the shelves everywhere out of an abundance of caution and earned a lot of credit with the public. Boeing... yeah.


Just in case anyone is under the presumption that J&J is a good company, that business school corporate responsibility case apparently didn't have a lasting impact on their culture. In recent years, there have been numerous cases of them covering up serious defects in their products while keeping them on sale:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/27/vaginal-mesh...

https://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/27/business/27hip.html

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-06-11/j-j-said-...


Honestly that's more of a sign of the times. People have gotten more greedy and immoral when running companies. Or just in general, have become complete cowards to admit they fucked up.

No Southwest and American airlines stand to lose the most. Nothing is worse for an airliner than a grounded jet.

As an aside, do you know who actually owns most of the jets for an airliner? Banks like wells fargo and chase. They still expect leasing payments regardless if the plane is flying or not.


> Nothing is worse for an airliner than a grounded jet.

Those airlines clearly think the probability of this is pretty low or they would have make the call to ground those planes on their own, but a jet that smashes itself into the earth and disintegrates because of a faulty sensor is probably even worse than a grounded jet.


Not quite because the Airline can turn around and sue Boeing so there is some recourse. Furthermore, people aren't blaming Ethiopian airlines they're blaming Boeing, so the reputation damage to the airline would likely be minimal. The reason why they can't easily sue Boeing over the grounded airplanes is that they don't own them, the banks do.

10% of Those airlines fleets (Apr Canada too)

Flydubai is the biggest loser - over 20% of their fleet grounded.


Those calculations are always crude.

Airlines typically fly many sizes and shapes of planes. And usually more of the smaller planes.

But You can’t just drop in a Dash8 q400 twin turboprop for your grounded MAX.

And the MAX could fly further than the 737; so it opened new routes that the 737 could not do.


Of course they're crude, however the fact remains that with very few hours in the air, 2 737-maxs have crashed in similar circumstances, both under 6 months old. If this doesn't raise concerns, what does.

So you're saying the airline stocks should be shorted?

If you look at the 5-day chart for southwest, you will see 2 big drops that correspond to Monday opening bell and the faa announcement. https://www.google.com/search?q=southwest+stock

But the reason why I'm not a day trader is that I have no idea why they rebounded so quickly haha


Traders operate on all kinds of time scales, and most trading is done based on algorithms that account for the fundamentals more than of-the-day news. It's likely that holding SW is good for the long term as people make more money and continue to fly more.

> Nothing is worse for an airliner than a grounded jet.

I'd say a spotty record is probably worse...


No. Nothing is worse for an airline than to lose a plane, to lose lives. You don't ever want that to happen.

My company sent me on gig to a petroleum pipeline once. Gig was a result of an accident where a couple of people were burned alive in their homes when the pipeline exploded. Maintenance guy I met said one the engineers went down to the accident site to supervise. That night came back to the office, sat down and threw up on his desk.

Personally I never want to be that guy.


That was after Trump unexpectedly announced he was going to push an emergency declaration to ground the planes earlier in the day.

Gotta get ahead of that PR curve!


> the public didn't wish to fly on the Max 8

I certainly couldn't have been the only one to look at the airline I'm about to fly on and check that they didn't have any of the Max 8 variants in service.


My father and I both did for our immediate flights.

I bet American and Southwest were receiving phone calls from customers cancelling their flights.

Supposedly the profit margins for discount airlines are pretty slim, so if they can't fill all the seats what's the point? What's bad is that they had to wait for that to happen before they took action. It just makes it look like they'd choose profits over safety every time... as long as they can keep making profits.


Looks like SWA at least was very proactive already after the first crash. Supposedly their fleet of 737Max has been retrofitted with additional cockpit displays for (faulty) AoA values. And they have afaik also extended pilot training.

It’s a bit absurd that the mechanism to detect the failure is a paid upgrade!

Not sure if thats all to it. It seems rather curious that US grounding the aircraft (and Boeing advising to do so) right after about a day or so after black boxes being found. Also, Ethiopian authorities issued a statement about the pilots reporting flight control issues rather than any external factors. I wouldn't be surprised if they already have priliminary evidence that there's an issue with the aircraft.

April? I heard this morning it would be til the end of the year before the software was updated.

Good lord, this has been such a disaster for the FAA’s image. Slower than everyone else to ground the plane and they project the appearance of being susceptible to political winds. Not a good look.

Isn't it more that the rest of the world is susceptible to political winds (US plane) and the FAA is just holding the course?

A plane crashes and kills over 300 people, in two separate incidents, in an industry where even minor crashes are rare, and you think the grounding of the planes is "political"?

I would argue that the reasoning for not grounding them was political.

[flagged]


Except your timeline is wrong: China was the first to issue a ban, followed by Indonesia. Australia and various European as well as non-European countries followed suit, and eventually the European Aviation Safety Agency.

FAA is not in the business of operating based on unsupported assumptions. The investigation for the second crash is not complete and a root cause is not known.

If a third 737 Max 8 were to crash before a root cause of this crash can be determined, would you then say it's a prudent move to ground them all? What about a fourth? Fifth?

Is your position that any grounding of the planes is unjustified until the full root cause is determined, or that "only" two crashes isn't enough to justify this action?

While I would always rather understand root cause -- and it's absolutely essential to get there eventually -- the world is full of imperfect information and assumptions are sometimes all you have.


One inexplicable crash is not a case for grounding, no; otherwise the (incredibly safe) 777 would still be grounded because of MH 370.

Regarding the 737 MAX now, the prior Lion Air crash is reasonably well understood. It has exposed some fundamental weakness and questionable design choices, but the plane was still deemed safe to fly.

Thus, what we have is one unexplained crash. Why should it be grounded?

(Having said that, I'm avoiding the MAX as far as I can. But that's based already on the Lion Air crash. So, I argue that it should've been grounded after Lion Air became understood, or not at all.)


We have one unexplained crash where early reports about what happened /strongly/ match the circumstances that brought down the LionAir flight. We also have hundreds of public complaints from pilots across the United States of similar unexpected nose down behavior from 737 MAX airplanes.

Oh, I hadn't heard of those reports. It must be terrifying when your plane is actively trying to kill you.

I don't understand how they could build MCAS on the basis of one (!) AoA sensor.


It's one sensor per flight computer, and the diagnostic indicator to warn a pilot of disagreeing AoA sensors is a paywalled upgrade.

This is pretty much what happened with the Comet. I think they gave in when four of them had exploded.

Bullshit. Anyone who deals with or tries to deal with the FAA will tell you they deal with all kinds of unsupported assumptions. For instance, medical certificates are denied all the time for people who admit to having taken an ADHD drug when they were a kid, even if they only took it once or didn’t want to take it. Why? “An abundance of caution,” which is a frequent cause for actions the FAA takes.

> "The investigation for the second crash is not complete"

After two crashes in such a small amount of time, the investigation doesn't need to be complete. The planes should be grounded until proven safe, not flying until proven unsafe.


Isn't that an argument to ground the planes?


Somehow Americans always play the victim card. The airplane is maybe dangerous but nope, grounding it is a political move? I just wish to see the comment section of the plane was Chinese.

Your comment is bending over backwards to give FAA the benefit of doubt

Not how it looks from the rest of the world I'm afraid. More, US didn't want to ground plane built by US manufacturer...

... i mean, honestly all we're doing out here is sitting back with a bag of popcorn and channel flipping between the UK parliament on Brexit, and Trump on twitter. And they say there's nothing entertaining on TV any more...


The problems with the plane have been known for a while, so much so that there is a high priority control software patch in the pipeline. The design as it existed is inherently unsafe as it relies too heavy on the input of a single sensor without any sanity checking, redundancy, or correlation with other sensor data.

Also, the FAA makes precautionary changes before it knows everything, it has routinely issued emergency airworthiness directives before investigations have been complete.


No. The circumstances are so unusual that grounding it is not unexpected.

An interesting point was made by an airline pilot in one of the plane forums. It appears that Max 8 with full trim deflection down doesn't have enough controls authority to recover (at least in the syms). Thus, the trim issues followed by disabling the trim can lead into a situation when pilots can not recover the plan from steep descend. Of course, this is not necessarily what have happened in real life and we need to see the data.

Pilot here. Correct, in most aircraft that incorporate a trimmable horizontal stabilizer, elevator authority will be insufficient to counteract the aerodynamic effects of a the entire tailplane having deflected through a certain point. Thus it is important to quickly recognize and correct a runaway trim situation.

Of even more significance is that is currently unclear if it is even possible for a pilot, once it has disengaged the trim motors (following faulty commands from MCAS) to manually correct the trim as per Boeing procedure [1].

The problem lies in the fact that it makes a lot of sense to haul back on the yoke as hard as you can if the nose starts dropping. Elevator upwards deflection loads the tailplane aerodynamically in such a way that it becomes harder to trim the tailplane in the required direction. Called colloquially a yo-yo maneuver, you are then require to "offload" the tailplane (think - push yoke forward..) in order to be able to manually correct the runaway trim.

Plane going nose down, push yoke forward at 500ft? I do not envy the crews at the pointy end of those flights. My heart breaks just thinking about it.

The Lion Air pilots must have been pulling back on the sticks until their tendons break, to no effect. I hope there is a special place in hell for Boeing execs.

[1] 737 Flight Crew Training Manual, chapter Non-Normal Operations/Flight Controls, sub heading Manual Stabilizer trim:

"Excessive air loads on the stabilizer may require effort by both pilots to correct mis-trim. In extreme cases it may be necessary to aerodynamically relieve the air loads to allow manual trimming. Accelerate or decelerate towards the in-trim speed while attempting to trim manually."

This was recently brought to the attention of members of a certain pilots forum that does not welcome lurkers, hence not adding a link.


>I hope there is a special place in hell for Boeing execs.

I'd settle for a special place in prison.


This desire for a 'final judgement' may be the desperate hope for justice when faith in the human court system is lacking.

Would it be inappropriate to ask for an explain-like-i'm-5 version of this?

Maybe not quite 5-year-old, but here's my attempt:

The elevator is the little wing at the back of an aircraft that tilts up and down to make the nose go up and down. When the pilot is flying, this up-down is what moving the yoke forward/back does.

The elevator also has a tab (the trim tab) part of the wing that can move independently from the main part. This trimming movement allows for adjustments to the plane's up/down movement that don't require the yoke forward/back (this is useful to "lock in" the current desired climb/descent/level flight so that pilots don't have to be constantly pushing/pulling on the yoke to get the plane to be climbing/descending/level the way they want it).

The 737-MAX has a system that automatically uses this trim tab to pitch the nose of the plane down when it senses certain conditions, without notifying the pilots. In this case (plane inexplicably pitching down), the natural response from a pilot is going to be to pull back on the yoke to counteract.

This can cause issues because the act of pulling back on the yoke increases the pressure on the elevator (because physics - the more the elevator deflects in an attempt to change the plane's attitude, the more force the airstream flowing over it exerts. This "catching the airflow" is why it can change the plane's attitude at all). Apparently on this plane if the trim tab is way out of line even if disconnect the erroneous system that was automatically adjusting the trim tab and try to reset the trim to a safe position by hand, the airflow over the "loaded" elevator (which is trying to counteract the position of the trim tab and keep the plane from crashing) is too strong to physically allow the manual control to move the tab. So the "correct" procedure is to push the yoke in (allowing the nose to go down/lose altitude) to reduce the airflow that's hitting the elevator, while frantically spinning the manual trip wheel to get it back to neutral. Then, once you've reset the trim manually, you presumably pull back on the yoke to get the nose up and pull the plane out of the dive.

The issue with that is that the ground can get in the way in between when you've let off the yoke and you've spun the wheel enough to get the trim tab back to neutral.


I wanted to update my explanation ^ a little bit - it's based on how trim works in smaller trainer aircraft (which are all I've flown). On a 737 there isn't a "trim tab" - instead the whole littler wing at the back of the airplane (tailplane) can change its position based on the trim, while the elevator is the adjustable tab at the back of that which moves based on the pilot's inputs.

I think the basic procedure for how to undo the excessive trim based on too much force to move the tailplane still is accurate though...

I just read this great article (https://www.skybrary.aero/bookshelf/books/2627.pdf) linked lower down in this thread for more details.


Incorrect, this describes a typical General Aviation aircraft with trim tabs. Most (all?) airliners use a trimmable tailplane, meaning the entire tailplane tilts up and down to trim for a specific speed.

Incorrect, this describes a typical General Aviation aircraft with trim tabs. Most (all?) airliners use a trimmable tailplane, meaning the entire tailplane tilts up and down to trim for a specific speed.

The only airliner I can think of that uses trim tabs is the DC-9 and its derivatives (MD-80/MD-90/Boeing 717). Some, like the L-1011, went in the completely opposite direction and use an "all moving tailplane" where the functions of the elevator and stabilizer were integrated into one piece.


An example fully trimmable tailplane in a general aviation airplane is the Mooney, at least the 201 and related models. Look at pictures of it and compare it to, say, a Cessna 310’s plane. You will see the “trim tabs” at the back of the 310’s elevator and none on the Mooney 201.

I seem to recall some tail draggers I flew had no trim tabs too.


Yeah this explanation is completely backwards. The "trim" moves the entire horizontal stabilizer. The elevator control moves the elevator (a moveable section of the back of the horizontal stabilizer).

In an average case (trained pilot, solid amount of experience, etc.) what is the turn around time between detecting this problem and fixing it in the air?

Like, how long does it take to determine the exact problem, spin the manual trim wheel to get to the point where you can recover from a nose dive in this case?

How does that number (in seconds I'm guessing?) translate to altitude levels?


By regulation, when a system fails (as designed) the pilot MUST be able to recover:

- in 3 seconds when in cruise

- in 1 second when on approach

- when in the landing phase - immediately!

Such a system would be certifiable.

Most modern airliners have ~10 "memory items" that are procedures that are to be recalled and applied immediately without consulting any checklists. Runaway stabilizer is such a memory item. But first you need to recognize the issue as such..

It bears to mention that the 737 is riding on it's "grandfathered" certification status from the 60's, getting a free pass on many newer requirements that are subjected to airliners designed today. This is why it doubly makes sense for the bean counters to not design a new aircraft.


That's really impressive turn around times. I wish I could debug most software errors in 3 seconds or less.

That is pretty frightening about the grandfathered rules.

I don't know much about cars but I do know they have a similar thing. Suddenly because you have a car 1 year before a point in time it can be obnoxiously loud but today it wouldn't be street legal. I almost can't believe the same thing happens with planes.


If you lose an engine in a small piston twin engine aircraft in the first few hundred feet after takeoff... 1 second might even be generous.

have you heard that old pilot joke about twin engine aircraft? The second engine serves mainly to get you to the crash site faster.

The situation is actually worse with airplanes. When automobile regulations change, owners can generally continue to drive older vehicles but manufacturers can't continue to sell new vehicles approved under old rules. But with aircraft, once a type certificate is issued the manufacturer can generally continue producing it forever.

which regulations did the 737 get grandfathered into?

I think (please correct me if I’m wrong), the plane’s “type” is fixed, and pilots have certifications for that “type”. So theoretically the plane is simialar enough to not require completely new training if a pilot is certified to the type - this new 737 Max is grandfathered into the 737 “type”. If it were different enough, then it would be a new type. If the plane is a new type, pilots, and likely all sorts of other things, mist be retrained, and reissued.

So there’s an incentive to not just make the type backwards compatible to keep the common “type”, but also not introduce too many new features that might bring into question the grandfathered training.

This 737 Max added this new “safety feature” without telling the pilots (because it’s the “same type”). And that feature seems to have an unfortunate interaction with other systems in some circumstances.


I don’t know the specifics, but I assume the process to get changes approved to an already-certified type of aircraft (the 737 family in this case) is less rigorous than what you’d have to go through to get an entirely new type certificate.

I guess you can think of it like so:

1. The confuser commands a nose down trim, this means that the leading edge of the tailplane is raised. In actuality, this represents a decreased angle of attack (think of tailplane as a upside-down wing).

2. Pilots haul back with all their might. This means that the elevators (the trailing control surfaces at the trailing end of the tailplane) deflect upwards in order to increase the angle of attack and create more "downforce" from the tail, raising the nose.

3. Think of the trimmable tailplane [1] as moving around a pivot. In reality it is a jackscrew/hinge combination.

4. The elevator deflections (the intuitive response) "creates a twisting force" the tailplane around the "pivot point" and against the desired direction that you want the trim to travel.

5. Unload the elevator pressure to make it easier to trim it. The key is that elevator deflections, despite intuitive are not sufficient. Luckily, it is a trained manoeuvre.

[1] https://i.stack.imgur.com/9RQY4.jpg

Note the UP and DOWN markings on the airplane's skin.


The elevator (smaller wing on the back) points up or down, pushing the air up or down, which in turn raises or lowers the tail/nose of the plane (it's pitch).

Some planes have little cutouts on the back of the elevator that move, thus deflecting the wind. Other planes, the whole back wing moves (stabilator).

To keep the nose pointed up or down, it can get tiring to constantly apply force on the pitch control. So now we can "trim", which changes the neutral position of the elevator to be higher/lower.

Some planes have little cutouts on the elevator or stabilator for trim. Other planes, the whole elevator / stabilator moves for trim.

Some times, when the whole elevator / stabilator moves up/down for trim, you need a lot of force to move it back down/up, especially if its neutral position has changed.

Occasionally, under high loads due to wind/pressure, you just can't. So you have to go to it's current neutral position (no matter how high or low) so you're not fighting a loosing battle. Then you have to reverse the trim. Then you can apply the opposite force.


> Plane going nose down, push yoke forward at 500ft?

Is this in anyway akin to drivers counter-intuitively steering into a skid in order to regain traction?


You are correct in it being counter-intuitive and seemingly opposing the desired outcome. You need to recognize the situation fast and know precisely what you are doing. Unenviable position to be in at 500ft AGL.

In this case you are either going into a commanded descent into terrain or the broken computer will do it for you, at that altitude there aren't many chances of getting out of that situation in one piece.

More like how you have to steer a bike slightly in the opposite direction, before spinning the wheel towards the way you want to go.

From the previous yo-yo recording and now, a structural engineering boundary seems very likely broken at the connection area to elevator motor. Caused by swelling of a screw type plausible, or a punctured surface mounting causing a built up existence of a opposite hold in sudden decent, then lumbering heat.

Cars have power steering, where it's pretty much impossible for steering to require superhuman effort. Why can't the hydraulic assist of a plane be designed the same way?

Airliner control surfaces are 100% hydraulically actuated. It isn't a matter of actuation force, it's a matter of aerodynamics.

The comment I'm replying to says

Elevator upwards deflection loads the tailplane aerodynamically in such a way that it becomes harder to trim the tailplane in the required direction.

so I'm not sure what you mean by "matter of aerodynamics", because that comment suggests that it only gets harder due to the forces exerted by the air on the control surfaces, and so could be overcome by applying more force --- which a hydraulic system could be engineered to do.


The 737 stabilizer trim is actuated by steel cables running from the nose of the aircraft to the tail, guided by pulleys [1]. The same cables also make the wheels spin when the stab trim motors are running.

[1] http://aerossurance.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/737-contr...


Wild. Thanks for the correction.

Not always. See the MD88.

Most airliners with jackscrew activated horizontal stabilizers don’t have enough elevator authority to counter a fully deflected tailplane. I don’t think that’s in any way abnormal to the -Max. What is abnormal is the failure mode that seems like it can deflect to full nose down from stability augmentation.

There's a good article, Do you really understand how your trim works?, that explains how trim works, and in particular how stabiliser trim (what the author calls "trimming tailplane") differs from the trim tab ("conventional trimming") found in smaller planes (that many pilots train with). They operate pretty much the same to first order (for small perturbations), but quite differently for larger deviations from neutral. Bottom line, as you said: You can't overcome bad trim in an airliner by "pulling harder".

https://www.skybrary.aero/bookshelf/books/2627.pdf


Even if this is true (which I suspect it's not, I think being able to override trim in all positions is a certification requirement, but I could be wrong), disabling the trim just disables automatic trim. It's still possible for the pilots to manually move the trim wheel to trim back up.

The 737 can definitely be flown into a situation where the elevator doesn't have authority to overcome the stabilizer. That's been true at least since the 737 Classic. Take a look at the Bournemouth incident.


Ah, interesting. That's nose-up, which is the opposite direction of what we're talking here, and seems to indicate that it is the combination of max thrust at low airspeed and large nose-up trim that exceeds the elevator authority.

It's not immediately clear, at least from my skimming of the report, whether a similar situation exists for nose-down trim, since in that case thrust will help the elevator with pitching up.


Manual trim is possible but at low near the ground one might not gave enough time.

The current "industry standard" is 1 accident per 10 million flights. I think the MAX 8 has racked up something around 150K flights with 2 accidents. So yes, the statistics represent an anomaly.

Naive null hypothesis: ~0.8% that MAX 8 is as safe as other planes and the shared accidents are a coincidence.

I assume you meant: If an airplane is as safe as average then it has PUT_NUMBER chance of having 2 incidents after 150k flights. 0.01% is actually the number I'm getting, assuming parent estimates are correct and making naive assumptions. In other words only 1 every 10 000 airplane models will have 2 incidents that early on if they are of average safety.

That is different then stating the probability of it being as safe as the average airplane, which you can't do as easily without additional modelling/priors and bayesian statistics.


<addressing all comments>

Lies, damn lies, and statistics. The NH is that a plane has 1/10 [M * flights] failure rate. The odds of 2 failures in 20M flights falling in same (random) stride of 150K flights are 150K/20M = 0.75%.

[E: fixed numbers] [EE: yes, I admit this calculation is incorrect]


How did you calculate that?

If we assume that accidents are rare and independent per mile, then the correct distribution is a Poisson distribution with a parameter of 150,000/10,000,000 = 0.015. In which case the odds of no accident should be 98.5111939603...% and the odds of one accident should be 1.47766790940...%. The odds of 2 or more accidents is 100% minus those, which is 0.0111381302891...%.

It gets even worse when you consider the fact that both crashes happened while the plane was in the air. Nearly half of all accidents happen at takeoff and landing. This makes the per mile, just flying along failures even less likely.


Is that figure per model or per actual airplane? If the latter, 0.01% seems close to something I'd expect to actually see just by chance.

If I understand correctly, that's the probability for 2 crashes within any span of 150 kiloflights. I'm curious if it makes sense to ask about the first span of 150.


It's likelihood per 150k flights per model (although likelihood per 150k flights per individual plane would give the same answer, it's just a weirder question).

The assumption is that for the average plane all accidents happen independently from one another. Under such an assumption, the probability for any span of 150k flights is exactly the same as the probability for the first span of 150k. So it would not change the answer.

If you roll a die a 1000 times, the odds of landing on a 6 on roll 999 is the same as it landing on a 6 the very first roll.


How did you get that number? Assuming a binomial distribution with p=1/10^7 and n=150*10^3 samples as the null model, the probability of 2 or more accidents happening by chance is 0.011%.

Using a poisson distribution with a mean of 150k/10M = 0.015, I'm getting P(x >= 2) = 0.01%.

https://twitter.com/ByMikeBaker/status/1105909327255080960

This is more revealing than they’d like, I think.


On Mar 13th 2019 the FAA announced shortly after the President had signed the executive order, that they were probibiting Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to operate in US airspace and stated: "On March 13, 2019, the investigation of the ET302 crash developed new information from the wreckage concerning the aircraft’s configuration just after takeoff that, taken together with newly refined data from satellite-based tracking of the aircraft’s flight path, indicates some similarities between the ET302 and JT610 accidents that warrant further investigation of the possibility of a shared cause for the two incidents that needs to be better understood and addressed. Accordingly, the Acting Administrator is ordering all Boeing 737 MAX airplanes to be grounded pending further investigation.”

https://www.faa.gov/news/updates/media/Emergency_Order.pdf

[ sound of stampeding lawyers intensifies ]


'out of an abundance of caution' is textbook damage-control PR, when you learn that POTUS will no longer have your back, you pull this, and fast.

I have to admit that after reading the tweet and thinking about the gravity of what happened, of the horrible end the innocent passengers went through, I choked up... It's just unimaginable.

I hope they find out the cause & make sure it never happens again.


> In a statement, Boeing said it recommended to the Federal Aviation Administration that the 737 Max be grounded "out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft's safety."

A company is recommending to their regulator that the regulator take action against them. That is a pretty solid indicator that the lawyers have a rough idea of potential liability and are now trying to mitigate damages.


A day after personally calling the president to ask him to prevent the regulator from taking action. This is just a bad attempt at saving face.

Since the grounding has affected search queries, could you help me with a citation?

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/12/business/boeing-737-groun...

> Early Tuesday, Dennis A. Muilenburg, the chief executive of Boeing, spoke to President Trump on the phone and made the case that the 737 Max planes should not be grounded in the United States, according to two people briefed on the conversation.


You make me almost want to feel bad for a corporation. Nothing Boeing can do or say will make some people happy.

I was merely commenting on the rationale and strategy behind their decision as someone who has been in a similar position. Though in my case only bank accounts, not lives, were at risk.

And for the record, I made the same call. It's not easy but I'm certainly not judging Boeing for weighing their options and moving forward with a strategy that gives the company the best chance at recovering from this mess.


Why “against?” Surely Boeing is on the same team as everyone in wanting prevent any further loss of life. If they believe there is a safety issue I’m sure they would encourage the FAA to take action so airlines were obliged to.

When Boeing sells or leases the planes to the airlines there is almost certainly a clause in the agreement that represents & the warrants the plane is suitable for it's intended use: flying. An FAA declaration grounding the planes quite clearly means the planes aren't suitable to fly and Boeing will be on the hook to compensate the airlines for the costs associated with the groundings. We're talking millions of dollars a day.

They also have thousands of outstanding orders for this model plane that are, at best significantly delayed and perhaps in jeopardy.


What's the current status regarding analysis of the black box data recorder? The only source I've seen [0] states that Germany lacks the software to analyze it. "This is a new type of aircraft with a new black box, with new software. We can't do it," BFU spokesman Germout Freitag said.

[0] https://www.dailysabah.com/africa/2019/03/13/ethiopia-cannot...


This shouldn't be Trump announcing the ban. Either FAA or Secretary of Transportation should be announcing the grounding of flights. Its just odd to me that Trump would be involved...

The President is analogous to the Chairman/CEO of [most of] the executive branch. That role can tell them what to do and what do focus on, but mostly doesn't. He told them what to do, now the FAA has to do it. The Secretary of Transportation could likely have unilaterally issued an order without needing it to tell the FAA what to do, or waiting for the President.

But either way, this is symbolic and shows the stance of the government to the world and internally. The highest office in the US is grounding the planes like the rest of the world is, the administrative nuances are irrelevant. Boeing and the airlines would be the ones to challenge it, way to go for PR.


A country isn’t a company, nor is the executive branch. Agencies operate somewhat independently, precisely to prevent the appearance (and reality) of political interference. In practice, this means the president does not have the power to make agency decisions. For some agencies, he might get to fire the director. But even then, he would have to fire everyone down the line to the individual or group making the decision.

Violating that tradition is rather stupid for a President. Not only are FAA decisions now tainted, he is putting himself square at the center of blame for anything negative happening from now on. It’s even worse considering there aren’t really any symmetrical opportunities to shine with a job well done in aviation safety comparable to a crash.


> A country isn’t a company, nor is the executive branch.

It is an analogy, which is why I used the word analogous, and it still fits.

The power of the Executive Branch is vested in the President of the United States, who also acts as head of state and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. There isn't any framework to have a rebuttal to that, this is as succinct as it gets.

SOME agencies are independent of this structure. They are called independent agencies.

Other agencies are not.

The President's primary role in this capacity is to steer the executive branch, and this is done using rather mundane executive orders which are usually merely plans, again ANALOGOUS to a companies quarterly or annual goals. A CEO lays out the mission and the organization follows that.

The job title is a 3-part job. Head of executive branch, head of state, and commander-in-chief of armed forces. The celebrity status and reliance on The President's every move and stance on everything is merely happenstance, but a byproduct of the constitutional government becoming involved in every aspect of American society, having subsequently created all these "not-companies" with millions of employees, and perpetual armed conflicts around the world.

So finally, head of the executive branch, for agencies not independent of this structure, the President is ANALOGOUS to the Chairman/CEO and has ultimate say in steering them. There is no tradition that was violated.

Anyway, on the topic at hand, the FAA followed the order and indications from the President and issued their own.


>Agencies operate somewhat independently, precisely to prevent the appearance (and reality) of political interference.

Unfortunately Trump didn't start this trend but I really hope whoever is next stops it.


Fortunately there are laws against him being a "CEO". The "spoils system" he has sought to restore permitting him to fire those who disagree with him politically and place those he favors in their place are blocked by a series of progressively increasing laws culminating in the 1978 Ethics in Government Act which limits his ability to engage in CEO-like acts of political influence over the civil service.

His ability to directly influence, and damage, the executive branch's operation in service to the people to what he wants is thus limited.


> Fortunately there are laws against him being a "CEO"

Do you know what the Presidency is? It's the head of the executive branch. By definition, Chief Executive of the United States. The law specifically are for the President being CEO -- that's exactly what being president is. The one who signs bills, runs the organizations who enforce the laws, and runs the military that defends the country. The president is 100% in charge of the Executive Branch and all of its agencies -- that's exactly what the job is! He could fire every head of every non-independent executive agency tomorrow and it would be 100% constitutional.


> He told them what to do

That is...unclear, at best. The only account of the decision making I've seen in any news source that comes from anyone involved (e.g., excluding CNBCs unsourced claim of an "executive order") is Boeing's claim that they recommended the action "in an abundance of caution" to the FAA which acted on it. (EDIT: Actually, the FAA has just tweeted that they made the decision, based on evolving evidence from the investigations, so that's another narrative.)

Of course, the White House can assume the privilege of announcing any decision from anywhere in the executive branch, and the President announcing it as an "emergency order" that "we" are issuing is factually correct where "we" refers to the Executive Branch.


The only account of the decision making I've seen

Well, it does seem to spend a lot of time on Twitter. Perhaps he saw something convincing there.


The Washington Post reports the President made an unexpected announcement and that Boeing’s PR statement was damage control after the fact.

> The President is analogous to the Chairman/CEO of [most of] the executive branch.

I disagree. Bureaucracy is a good thing. This smacks of a President that looks a) desperate for attention and b) incapable of delegating.


Of course the President can just tell the FAA what to do. I understand that.

The question is how the public should have been informed by the event. Dan Elwell, the acting director of the FAA, is both a military and commercial pilot. If he made the announcement, it would have carried far more weight than Trump (who likely doesn't know much about airplanes).


> Dan Elwell, the acting director of the FAA, is both a military and commercial pilot.

Also important: he's a lobbiest for the airline industry.

It made the news when he was confirmed because of his ties to the industry. He is the Ajit Pai or Betsy DeVos of the FAA.


> He is the Ajit Pai or Betsy DeVos of the FAA.

Why not the Tom Wheeler of the FAA?

That seems to be a closer fit to the kind of industry ties he has had then either Pai or DeVos. Pai's industry ties was as a lawyer for Verizon, whereas Wheeler's were as head of first the cable trade association and later the wireless trade association, and having been involved in several telecom companies. That seems a much closer match to Elwell, who was VP of a major aerospace trade association and a pilot and an airline executive.


People here know Ajit Pai and DeVos as they are constantly in the news. I've never heard of Tom Wheeler, so I wouldn't think to use his name.

Obama's last FAA director wasn't even a pilot. He had a degree in political science. At least Elwell has actually flown airplanes -- including 16 years flying airliners for American. He also has combat aviation experience. Elwell is far more competent than Michael Heurta. Huerta's background was in politics, working for New York City and Later the Port of San Francisco. No flight experience, no airline experience, no general aviation experience.

People criticized Trump for putting a non-scientist at the head of the Department of Energy, however, where is the criticism of Obama for putting a non-pilot as the head of the FAA? When Trump does something wrong, sure, criticize him, but Elwell is an experienced, relevant choice to head the FAA -- especially compared to Huerta. Reducing Elwell to "Lobbyist" is silly, if one actually looks at his background.


That would have only carried weight for those who know who Dan Elwell is. He carries no weight with me other than apparently being "acting director of the FAA". The president, even if he's disliked by many, carries much more weight for the average person.

The public don't need to know who Dan Elwell is, they need to know that the decision to take a very disruptive emergency safety precaution has been taken by the relevant safety body after evaluating the currently-known relevant information. (The people who actually execute the grounding of the Max know who he is anyway)

I don't actually think Trump is doing anything wrong in trying to take responsibility for the action, and suspect the decision was reached through appropriate channels rather than by him reading something by a pilot on Twitter, but having a president known for more being capricious than his understanding of aviation safety as the figurehead behind the decision does make it look less like a reasoned decision to the average person, especially if they have strong anti-Trump priors.


There are plenty of proper ways to do things. Ex: Trump could have said that the acting director of the FAA has news about the MAX 8.

s/likely/clearly/

There is no question that the acting director of the FAA would be more knowledgeable about airplanes than Trump. While technical individuals are needed during the investigation, I don't believe that this decision warrants a full-on root cause analysis prior to making the decision to ground the planes. The FAA's Primary Mission is to ensure the safety of civil aviation, and from a safety stance, if the acting director is incorrect, and another plane was to go down, hundreds of people would likely be killed.

> Trump (who likely doesn't know much about airplanes)

Trump owned an airline with a fleet of 17 Boeings. He also used 2 large Boeings as private jets.

Very likely he knows a thing or 2 about airplanes.


I'd trust his assessment of an aircraft's airworthiness as far as I'd trust his assessment of structural stability of a skyscraper.

You have it wrong. Orange Man Bad!

I predicted two days ago that this would turn into a shit storm of hysteria, justified or not. The President exerting his authority is similar in that sometimes these events turn too emotional and fearful. He made the right call for that sake.


I own quite a nice spider plant.

Surprisingly, I am not a botanist.


You likely know about spider plants much more than average person who doesn't have any of them.

It sounds like he had to go to an Executive Order to get the FAA to comply.

I mean, he has a phone-line, and his Secretary of Transportation is in charge of the FAA. So its just odd that he'd personally involve himself in this issue. There's a myriad of ways for Trump to get this done with better optics.

Even if Trump were to give a phone call along the lines of 'Ground the Plane or else I'll write an executive order' , the optics of the situation would be so much better if Chao (Secretary of Transportation) or Dan Elwell (FAA Acting Administrator) were to give the announcement instead.


> if Trump were to give a phone call along the lines of 'Ground the Plane or else I'll write an executive order' , the optics of the situation would be so much better

If the President is requiring it then the proper mechanism to do that is an order.

You're suggesting a side-channel phone call and a threat so that he's still deciding but it's recorded as someone else's decision for PR purposes, and you think that's better? That's a terrible idea.


> You're suggesting a side-channel phone call and a threat so that he's still deciding but it's recorded as someone else's decision for PR purposes, and you think that's better? That's a terrible idea.

I disagree with GP, but this is basically how firings are handled at high levels.

It's very rare for a POTUS or a corporate CEO to actually fire a direct report. Instead, they say "you have X days to resign before I fire you" via a side channel, and most of the time the report opts for the resignation.

(funny thing is, at the first company I worked for, the CEO did this to the VP of Engineering... and the VP assumed he was bluffing, waited out the whole 30-day period he was given without resigning, and then got walked out of the building one morning in front of everyone who was there that early... and the guy who was in charge of walking him out was one of the people who was promoted to replace him)


There's a difference between personnel changed and commanding actions to be taken, though.

> So its just odd that he'd personally involve himself in this issue.

Personally involving himself unnecessarily is Trump's MO. "Only I can fix it." was one of the themes of his 2016 RNC speech.


Optics for whom? Trump might feel it is better optics for him, if it comes out as something that he has done.

Remember that Trump knows a lot about planes. Unlike most people here he owns a big plane made by Boeing. As well as being a narcissist this is something he can feel he can understand, it's his topic, he pays the bills to get his own plane serviced.

more to the point, who told the FAA bods not to pull the plane? Was this the President too?

Because of how this has been handled by the Trump I think Boeing now have a 'Samsung Note 7' on their hands, i.e. a product that isn't going to be re-released as it is poorly engineered and can't be fixed by just changing a supplier or two. It was a hack with another hack to keep the hack okay. There will be a who knew what and when scandal. This won't be like the Dreamliner teething issues due to two lost planes. People can forgive teething issues but a scandal is a different beast.


Owning a plane does not equate to understanding anything about them, easily proved by his completely stupid tweets about the complexity of modern aircraft being a bad thing.

He also ran an airline for a couple years and personally managed a air safety PR incident https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trump_Shuttle

> In August 1989, a Trump Shuttle flight arriving in Boston incurred a nose gear failure upon landing due to maintenance errors by Eastern personnel prior to the acquisition. Trump personally flew on the next Trump Shuttle flight to Boston in order to manage the media reaction to the incident.[3]


> his Secretary of Transportation is in charge of the FAA

I actually don't believe this is true - I can look up citations in a bit, but the FAA is an independent body whose directors are appointed by the president.


> but the FAA is an independent body whose directors are appointed by the president.

The Federal Aviation Agency was an independent agency, but the Federal Aviation Administration, which it became, is a subordinate agency within the Department of Transportation. It has an Administrator, but it does not have directors, commissioners, or some other multimember voting governing body.


Unfortunately didn't have a chance to check this on mobile, but the parent poster is correct: https://www.faa.gov/about/history/brief_history/#agency

According to [0] this is true. I'm surprised a president would need to use an EO for this? Couldn't they just command FAA to take a course of action?

[0] https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/13/boeing-shares-fall-after-rep...


An EO is the legal mechanism to command an agency to take an action. Agencies shouldn’t be taking instructions from random tweets, TV appearances and speeches as it’s hard to interpret the exact meaning. Further if some random bureaucrat were to act on a random Tweet and then be sued they’d be unable to say “I was just following orders.”

> An EO is the legal mechanism to command an agency to take an action. Agencies shouldn’t be taking instructions from random tweets, TV appearances and speeches as it’s hard to interpret the exact meaning.

Yes, but it'd not be unusual for the agency's director to check in with the president on a course of action or vice versa, verbally or via memorandum, without the president formally invoking his presidential authority via executive order.

To put the whole thing in perspective, the number of EOs issued annually by recent presidents Bush and Obama was very modest, averaging 36.4 and 34.6 respectively.


> It sounds like he had to go to an Executive Order to get the FAA to comply.

The words he used was "emergency order" and "we", not "executive order" and "I". CNBC is reporting it (not quoting any official source which says that, and citing only the President's "emergency order" public statement) as an "executive order", but other news sources are not, and Boeing is saying that they recommended the grounding to the FAA.

My initial impression is that this is an FAA action based on Boeing's recommendation that the White House wanted to take the press attention for.


> My initial impression is that this is an FAA action based on Boeing's recommendation that the White House wanted to take the press attention for.

That would make me feel better if this were true. It seems to match my expectations for who is in charge of various decisions, as well as the politics that Trump likes to play. So it makes sense at least.


To me another plausible explanation is that the reason the FAA _wasn't_ grounding them was because Trump said not to.

> Early Tuesday, Dennis A. Muilenburg, the chief executive of Boeing, spoke to President Trump on the phone and made the case that the 737 Max planes should not be grounded in the United States, according to two people briefed on the conversation.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/12/business/boeing-737-groun...

Maybe Boeing changed it's mind in between yesterday and today?Or that reporting was inaccurate?

Or, that's exactly what happened, but then today either Trump or Boeing or both of them realized this wasn't gonna fly (no pun intended), and that they had to be grounded, they talked to each other again, Trump decided he wanted to make an announcement about it because he likes being on TV about whatever he's thinking about at the moment. (I'm not sure an "emergency order", which Trump said it was, is even a thing?)

I mean, really, who the fuck knows. This administration doesn't tend to make a lot of sense, and it's kind of kremlinology trying to guess why they do what they do.


> I'm not sure an "emergency order", which Trump said it was, is even a thing?

Well, the link to the order has that in its title (but is also a dead link right now):

[page with link] https://www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsId=93206

[target of link] https://www.faa.gov/news/updates/media/Emergency_Order.pdf%2...

[EDIT: Oh, they f-ed up the URL in the link with a trailing space, and didn't verify it before posting: https://www.faa.gov/news/updates/media/Emergency_Order.pdf ; It is indeed an "Emergency Order of Prohibition", and an FAA emergency order is an actual distinct legal thing under 49 USC Sec. 46105(c) https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/49/46105 ]


Maybe he was letting FAA to do their job to avoid the appearance of interfering, but the external pressure was getting too high and FAA was dragging their feet so he stepped in to overrule. Interesting to see who's the original appointter of the FAA commissioners.

Nobody. Trump has failed to appoint an FAA administrator for his entire tenure as President.

FAA has an acting administrator: Dan Elwell. He was appointed by Trump to be Deputy Administrator.


Did Congress block his appointment or he simply didn't nominate one?


No nominee at all.

Nominating one isn't so simple.

First of all, there is a backlog of higher priority nominees. It wouldn't be good to distract congress from those.

Second of all, the constant harassment of this administration must be having a huge impact. A person has to be slightly crazy to accept a nomination. They and their family will be facing physical danger, legal danger, and more. Lots of competent people are thus unavailable as choices. The constant harassment has had a real negative effect on the quality of our government.


I think you have cause and effect reversed there. The candidates aren’t low quality because they face difficulty. The administration’s candidates face difficulty because they’re low quality.

Even if you are right about them being low quality (a disputed political opinion) it should be obvious that no 100% sane person would put their family at risk by taking one of these jobs. Good people are thus eliminated from consideration. Those who feel that the choices would be low quality are thus forcing the choices to be lower quality.

Put yourself in their shoes. You have a normal family and could earn millions of dollars per years in a nice comfortable corporate executive position. How insane do you have to be in order to take something like $150,000 while living in the expensive DC area and being unable to simply go out to eat in public? What normal parent would subject their kids to the abuse?

Scaring away qualified people does not improve the government. You don't do that unless seeing Trump do badly is so important to you that you are willing to sacrifice the wellbeing of the country itself.


Whose families were at risk?

Actual qualified people like Mattis and Tillerson faced little trouble. Even Gorsuch, who was the embodiment of a stolen seat, did just fine.

What's scaring away qualified people is the proud ignorance and naked corruption of the administration.


Kavanaugh's

He's not in the executive branch at all.

Moving the goalpost? Gorsuch was listed by the person I replied to.

And it's the same when we're considering nominations in general. What happened to Kavanaugh could happen to any nominee, no matter the branch.


And yet it didn’t. I don’t see the example of Kavanaugh scaring away good people.

You're in denial if you don't think the orchestrated scandal that happened to Kavanaugh doesn't make people a little hesitant.

This is by far the most interesting aspect of this story. I expected that the US would ground these planes soon. There was too much pressure to follow the rest of the world. But having the order come from the President rather than the FAA is highly unusual. Seems like something very strange must be going on behind the scenes. Maybe the FAA is reluctant and he’s forcing their hand, or maybe he’s trying to take credit for their decision.

Or more likely, he pushed initially for it not to be grounded and now changed his mind and is getting in front of the story to cover his ass.

Maybe he wanted to be seen as the savior vs letting the FAA do it?

Bingo.

Gives the impression that he called the shots, which would be a worrying scenario for all people flying in the USA indeed.


Trump has not nominated administrator for the FAA. FAA has currently only acting administrator.

He initially tried to nominate his own pilot for the job (the same who screwed so much that FAA had Trump's plane grounded).


Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: