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Boeing Resisted Pilots’ Calls for Aggressive Steps on 737 Max (nytimes.com)
509 points by aburan28 on May 14, 2019 | hide | past | web | favorite | 244 comments

What people are forgetting is that Boeing did it all to head off competition from the E190 and Bombardier C-Series, both of which are smaller planes than the 737 but are bigger in terms of passenger comfort while being smaller in terms of noise and global warming impact.

Boeing discounted the 737 MAX by more than 70% to force Bombardier to sell the C-Series below cost, which forced Bombardier to sell a controlling share to Airbus for $0.

I rode in a E175 and was blown away by the passenger experience; the 2nd generation E-Jets are much better and the A220 is better still. Boeing hopes that you don't ride in one and realize you don't have to settle for a 737.

(Not like I trust Airbus with the A220, since they've got the same motivation to string the A320 along that Boeing has to string along the 737)

I’ve flown in many an E190/195 and almost as many E170/175 that I can specifically recall. The small size of the cabin is a large negative for many people. Carry on bags don’t fit near as well; the galley is small so food service is weak; for people afraid of flying, the living room experience in a 787 or A380 is far superior. I didn’t find cabin noise levels to be especially pleasant (nor unpleasant) in the small Embraers, but they’re amazingly nice in the 787 and even a step better on the upper deck on the 380.

I fly small piston aircraft for a lot of our travel, so even an A319 or MD90 is top luxury in some sense.

I don’t think people generally feel like they’re “settling” in a 737. I just got off a 737-800 BOS-ATL in fact. I do feel like I’m settling when I strap on an E170/175 on a short haul flight. I put them as clearly superior to Saab 340s and Dash-8 aircraft, but that’s about it. It makes taking the train (Amtrak!) seem worthy of consideration for BOS-PHL type trips.

I can understand your points, but they seem a little odd in the context of where the A220 or E190/195 might be used. You won't find 787 or A380 aircraft flying most of the routes where these smaller aircraft will fly.

On many of these routes the 737 is over provisioned and Boeing is not really winning the deals on the merits. You can see Boeing cozy up further with Embraer since that's been on the cards for a long time and then they'll be able to offer something other than the 737.

I just flew in a KLM E190 "CityHopper" and the seating was significantly more spacious than recent 737ng experiences. Seat layout allows for large carry ons under the seats. No problem. 2x2 rows means football players don't get stuck in a middle seat. I also noticed the E190 noise level was lower than 737.

I took one once and I was blown away by how smooth it felt in flight.

Airbus are nervous, jiggly and constantly jittering along as the avionics happily acknowledges the plane is within envelope. Boeing planes feel more damped and they don’t remind me of my flight stress as often.

But the Embraer?! I flew one over the English Channel, windy and all that; and yet, it sailed along gently.

Hmm...I fly frequently (every month) on either Boeing or Airbus planes and but for the seat pocket card I'd be hard pressed to identify one from the other.

As the other comment mentioned, I also can't notice the difference between a A320 and 737, although flown on both massively. Of course, weather has a great influence. The worst turbulence in my life was over North Macedonia on a flight to Greece and from Stockholm to Oslo, both in a 737 (300 and 800). But I can't relate that to the aircraft, the weather was poor.

But I'm convinced I can feel the difference between them and the A321. Maybe because of the lengthy fuselage, but it always feels much more comfortable.

Honestly this might just be the KLM part. Recently flew a very short flight between Berlin and Amsterdam (don't remember if 737 or a320, but definitely one of them), paying for extra legroom... When I got on the plane I couldn't tell the difference between extra legroom seats and regular seats very easily (cos they were all relatively spacious). Was also the most I've felt a flight to be "just like a bus" in my life (smoothest takeoff/landing I'd had in a long time and smooth operations)

For me seat width matters more. The A320 inner fuselage is more than 6 inches wider than a 737, which means an A320 will be able to offer up to an additional inch of seat width. An airline may chose to split the allowance between seat width and aisle width, but an A320 will almost always have the seat width advantage.

I've always found A320s more comfortable. It's a big reason why Jet Blue and Virgin are generally much more comfortable than Southwest or other 737-based carriers. For seat pitch the thickness of the seats can matter, so the fact that Jet Blue and Virgin had more modern, thinner seats mattered for legroom. And of course you can add and remove rows. But thinness doesn't matter for seat width and everybody uses 6 abreast rows, so there's little a 737 carrier can do to make up the difference.

The 737MAX carries forward this handicap (737 has a circular fuselage while A320 is more elliptical), so Airbus will continue to have the leg up in this regard for the foreseeable future. Newer planes like the C-series provide even greater width[1], and considering the C-series is basically Airbus now that's just more reason to prefer Airbus when booking. Indeed, given that most 777s have been converted to 10-abreast seating in coach[2], I'd prefer an A320 (or preferably a C-series, though I haven't flown one, yet) over any Boeing plane if flying coach.

[1] The configurations so-far have been 18.5" for window and aisle, and 19" for the middle seat. 19" is like business class on Boeing planes! Compare that to a 737 where the typical seat width is 17". That's a huge difference, especially if you're traveling alone and are the conscientious type (i.e. avoid rubbing shoulders).

[2] From the originally envisioned 9-abreast configuration. Apparently the 777X is being designed for 10-abreast and will more seat width as compared to the 777, but I'll be surprised if it provides better width than a comparable Airbus plane. Boeing seems singularly focused on the demands of the big American carriers, and they couldn't care less about coach comfort.

Yes, this. I fly about 200k miles a year (mostly US, some international). I'm 50 years old, but I have an athletic build - very wide shoulders. I'm 6'2", but the width is much more important to me than leg room. I'm upgraded to first class a lot b/c of my status, and the only thing I care about is the seat width -- not the service, not the food, not the free alcohol, not the thicker upholstery.

My shoulders literally protrude into my neighbors' personal space, and I can't do anything about it. Even if I wasn't as athletic, my frame is built that way. Sucks for them, sucks for me.

As a thin American who observes many corpulent Americans flying, I would think seat width would be a big issue. but then I see large people squeezing into small seats and realize that my screams of protest are in vain.

Carry on. thanks at least for bringing up the topic, it's a real thing.

I agree on the seat width being important (I'm both overweight and tall) - this is why I avoid exit seats on the "nicer" airlines (since that usually means the tables/screens are stored/flipped-out from the armrest --> narrower seats) - but on budget airlines this is usually not the case. (at least in the EU/Middle East region)

But the nicer airlines offer general legroom's that's survivable - some budget airlines my knee is basically in somebody else's back (thinner seats help here).

KLM has quite spacious seating in general.

But is this because it is KLM or because you are paying more in general compared to other airlines?

In the last 6 months I traveled between Amsterdam - Bangkok twice (11 hour flights) both times using KLM, and although they aren't as cramped as some other (cheaper) airlines I upgraded my seat every single flight to get a bit more leg room. But I can't compare to other (premium) airlines yet.

Dutch people are tall, with an AVERAGE height of 1.83m (>6')

It therefore makes sense that the Dutch flag carrier has slightly more generous leg room than the norm.

That's an interesting point which is probably something the manufacturer can accommodate to some degree with their configurations.

Generally my experience is that US carriers will select the cheapest and densest configurations, especially for domestic routes, including Hawaii. They've been applying this to transatlantic routes recently as well, but I think they'll do this globally as refits occur. It all fits with the pattern of a race to the bottom that is horrible for customers and staff that turn up every day to get us safely to our destinations.

I think EU and other global carriers are at a different stage on the race to the bottom. There is still some differentiation between national and budget airlines. There are consumer protections and regulations that US air travelers could only dream of. In terms of outlook, I see these comforts diminish with future recessions and pressures on the airlines.

The main difference is that the low-budget in EU is much more aggressive, to the point where IMO there's not much sense in racing to the bottom with them; you'd never beat them on cost. And European consumers are more willing to put up with crappier flights because (Western) Europe is so much smaller; Lisbon to Berlin is under 4h. Plus the high speed rail is available as an additional competitor, so national airlines have to differentiate there as well.

The major American carriers mostly compete with each other and Southwest.

A lot of issues with cabin space is down to configuration. I find Southwest much more comfortable than a similar model on Delta, because Southwest has their seats all slightly further apart than the economy seats on a Delta flight.

As a person quite afraid of flying I've never had the opportunity to fly with a 787 or A380 because I've never taken flights longer than 3 hours, and as such I don't care one bit about wether the A380 or the 787 are better for people who are afraid of flying (such as I am) because they are not an option for me. I do care though if the E190/196 or the A220 feel nicer on the inside compared to the A320 or the 737, because I ride these latter two type quite regularly (my preference is for the A320 over the 737, but that's just subjective, of course).

> for people afraid of flying, the living room experience in a 787 or A380 is far superior

Especially in economy, I find this to be moot - seats are crammed in at near DVT-inducing density regardless of the size of the fuselage.

I've flown in 787s and A380s numerous times. I'm also mildly claustrophobic, and I've never had a "living room" experience, even when flying business or first (TBF, I've only done so twice, both times with BA; it might vary for some carriers)

BA business is not representative of a good business class though, they cram you 8 wide with their herringbone layout which is just insane for a "premium" product.

Yes, the chairs are relatively comfortable, and if you're just going to sleep it's OK (especially with the BA arrivals lounge at Heathrow meaning you don't need to wake up for breakfast on the flight) but after being the trailblazers with lie flat seats BA have really dropped the ball compared to their competitors.

Frightened flyers do not sleep on planes. Who is going to supervise the pilot, assess the nervousness of the crew, wonder what that bing-bong means, and listen for strange engine noises if we are asleep? We would have to tear our eyes away from the "is this nightmare almost over" diagram of the plane's progress.

Another important, yet often overlooked duty for nervous flyers is monitoring the engine sound. Signs of trouble are when it's loud, too soft, or too grindy. I also find pilots frequently slow the plane down too much on initial descent.

Don't forget to throw coins into the engines "for good luck".


I meant I'd only flown first twice, both times with BA. I've flown business many times, across a few carriers (although mostly BA). Never have I had a "living room experience" though!

As long as it's one of their newer planes, I find BA's business to be "good enough"; the food is invariably shite, the service is usually shite, but the wines are decent and you can sleep, But you're correct it's not as good as others (e.g. Singapore Airlines).

The couple of times I flew first with BA, I have to say I was mightily dissapointed - no way was it worth twice the price of business... it was barely any better at all. Luckily they were free upgrades!

TBH, all of BA feels like it's stagnated for 1-2 decades, and is slowly becoming a budget airline - but without the budget prices.

>But you're correct it's not as good as others (e.g. Singapore Airlines).

Yep, I just flew twice on Singapore Airlines, on 777s, and it was excellent, even in the economy section. Service was fantastic, food was fantastic (for airline food), I couldn't complain.

I think, at this point in time, the Asian and Middle Eastern airlines are what you want to fly on, because the American and European ones mostly suck. Some of the European ones are still supposed to be pretty good (like KLM I think), but all the American ones are horrible, and many of the European ones don't have the greatest reputations either (e.g. RyanAir).

Personally I prefer a noisy plane to a quiet plane. With a noisy plane you basically have white noise washing out the sound of all the other passengers having conversations, sniffling, snoring, crying, etc. I'd rather listen to the engines than to other people.

White noise for an extended time damages your hearing.

If you want isolation from other passengers, wear some headphones. But noisy engines are not good for your health.

Maybe that is a legitimate concern for flight attendants, but I totally reject there being any measurable impact on my hearing from riding in a 737 a few times a year. Particularly when I also do other activities like walking down sidewalks next to traffic, which is typically louder and very often MUCH louder (every time an emergency response vehicle drives by blaring a siren which incidentally incorporates white noise.)

Headphones and earplugs are uncomfortable when worn for several hours in a row, either because they are inside my ears, or because they are bulky. This is a matter of comfort, particularly since I try to pass time on planes by sleeping. A noisier commercial airliner, all else being equal, simply is more comfortable than a quiet one.

(I dare say sleep loss and jet lag have a more measurable impact on my health than whatever hearing loss is induced by a typical commercial airliner.)

>like walking down sidewalks next to traffic

Traffic noise is usually much more intermittent, unless you're walking next to a busy freeway. You just hear cars as they go by, but it's not usually a constant. Ears handle intermittent sounds much better than constant noise, even when the intermittent sounds are much louder. It's a lot like radiation exposure: it's cumulative.

>A noisier commercial airliner, all else being equal, simply is more comfortable than a quiet one.

Honestly, you sound like someone who already has a lot of hearing damage.

> Not like I trust Airbus with the A220, since they've got the same motivation to string the A320 along that Boeing has to string along the 737

They really don't, because it's much easier to cross-qualify between types of the standard Airbus range (the A3x0) than it is across Boeing's 7x7: the quotes I've seen are 2 to 15 days depending on the move (15 is going from A320 to A380) whereas outside of specific pairs for Boeing it's pretty much a full type rating (30~40 days).

Also I'm not aware of airlines flying only and solely the A320. Airlines like Southwest which refuse to fly anything other than the 737 were a big reason for the MAX.

Finally, the A320 is a much younger frame than the 737 and was FBW from the start, A320 launched in 1984, the 737 launched in 1967.

Also I'm not aware of airlines flying only and solely the A320

Allegiant and EasyJet are, IndiGo was for years A320-only, and Batik Air (part of the Lion Air group) will be soon. Edelweiss has A330 and A340 as well but it's relatively easy to move between the 320/330/340.

I believe also WizzAir is flying only on A320 series

Interesting, thanks.

OP is talking about the A220 (néé Bombardier C-Series), not the A320.

I literally quoted the bit where they talk about the A320, saying that Airbus would have the same motivation wrt A320 as Boeing has with the 737. My comment is a strong disagreement with this assertion.

"Boeing discounted the 737 MAX by more than 70% to force Bombardier to sell the C-Series below cost, which forced Bombardier to sell a controlling share to Airbus for $0."

I don't know any better, but I thought - statements by the companies to the contrary aside - that https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CSeries_dumping_petition_by_Bo... is what drove the Airbus partnership.

Yes, that's part of the causal chain. Boeing forced Bombardier to sell below cost, and then filed a petition to accuse Bombardier of "dumping".

There doesn't seem to be any links to that on Wikipedia. The only text I can find is: "After it had to cut its price by 70% to beat the CSeries for United Airlines in 2016, Boeing decided to act when the CSeries was offered to Delta at $10 million below its production cost".

Perhaps the Wikipedia page is being edited by Boeing?

Wow, that's masterful. Incredible.

So Boeing dumps, then accuses Bombardier of dumping? That's classy.

National dumping is unenforced, but for international dumping there are teeth

Is this how the free market is supposed to work?

I think you are confusing the word "fair" with free.

> (Not like I trust Airbus with the A220, since they've got the same motivation to string the A320 along that Boeing has to string along the 737)

The possible difference being with fly-by-wire it's much more likely they can keep the same(ish) flying behaviour (meaning no new training) whilst making fairly dramatic future changes to the airframe if required.

I also doubt they'd go to anything smaller than the A318 in terms of derivatives...

> The possible difference being with fly-by-wire it's much more likely they can keep the same(ish) flying behaviour (meaning no new training) whilst making fairly dramatic future changes to the airframe if required.

Hopefully with a full fly-by-wire system they're a little more careful to make sure it's reliable and won't suddenly nosedive the plane...

I'm sure they have; everything I've read about Airbus FBW is that it's triple-redundant.

Remember, with FBW, that's the plane's primary control system, so of course they're going to be ultra-conservative and make sure it's right. With Boeing's MCAS, it was tacked on at the end as a cheap hack to try to make the plane have the same flying characteristics as the older 737s. Basically it was an afterthought.

Also, Airbus has a longer history of pushing fly-by-wire.

The A320 is a far newer baseline to be building on, though. Wasn't the 737-MAX more a reaction to the A320-NEO about to eat their lunch?

A late and desperate reaction as explained in many articles about the crash of the 737 max and its economical and technical causes.

Seat pitch

28–29 in (71–74 cm) 737 max 2nd class 100@31/32" - 114@29/30” E190

Bigger is better


30" is the least I can fit into at 6'5"; at 28" I may as well walk.

I'm only 6", and 31-32" really uncomfortable, and unbearable for longer than maybe 3 hours.

I rode in an A220 a while back on a random point to point route. It was great, all the trappings of a modern plane.

Thought the ride was gonna suck since, well, unpopular short routes is where most carriers put their old pieces of crap, since they're too fuel and maintenance hungy to do anything else.

I don't think people are forgetting that. I think people just don't find that excuse/justification to be sufficient for forgiveness. Of course Boeing did it for the money. How often is a corporation not motivated by greed when they fuck up like this?

Random people forgiving or not forgiving Boeing isn't going to change much.

Hopefully, other nations' air regulators will refuse to certify the 737MAX, and will be extremely reluctant to certify any other Boeing planes to fly in their airspace in the future. They cannot be trusted, and the FAA can't be trusted to do their jobs either.

> "Random people forgiving or not forgiving Boeing isn't going to change much. Hopefully, other nations' air regulators will refuse to certify the 737MAX,"

Public perception will play a big role in that. If the general public opposes the aircraft, regulators will be more likely to go with that flow. Standing up to Boeing's bullying is easier when you've got the moral support of the common people.

> Boeing discounted the 737 MAX by more than 70% to force Bombardier to sell the C-Series below cost, which forced Bombardier to sell a controlling share to Airbus for $0.

Why would Boeing want to help their competitor, Airbus, like that?

Boeing did all they could to get the US govt to prevent that sale from happening.

If I remember correctly, when the sale was completed, it was a common opinion that Boeing’s tactics had completely backfired.

Let's just say it was a classic case of foot shot by Boeing.

They absolutely wanted to kill Bombardier, but due to the fact that Airbus stepped in, took over a majority of the project and assembles the plane in the US Boeing's calculation badly backfired.

Because the only thing Boeing fears more than one viable competitor is more than one viable competitors.

The alternative is developing a new aircraft type to beat the competition, which Boeing will avoid if it can due to this massive risk and cost involved; they only have to look at the fate of bombardier for a cautionary tale.

“You’ve got to understand that our commitment to safety is as great as yours,” Mr. Sinnett [Boeing Exec] said in the meeting. “The worst thing that can ever happen is a tragedy like this, and the even worse thing would be another one.”

But yet, even after the second crash Boeing still insisted they continue to fly the plane. It's like they pre-determined their decision and any evidence or additional crashes be damned.

I don't want to have too much hindsight though - if the AA pilots union really didn't want to fly the plane, presumably the union could have chosen not to fly the plane (I think it's in most pilots contracts?). In fact, even after Ethiopian crash, American pilots continued to fly the plane. Though part of this may have been because they didn't have the full amount of information Boeing did.

The most despicable thing besides all these that Boeing did was to start blaming the pilots, trying to use xenophobia and blaming it on 'third world' pilots first [1] though it was clear even from the start that there is nothing any pilot could have done so close to the ground [2].

That was disgusting and has me lose the last bit of sympathy I've had left for The Boeing Company.

[1] https://www.inc.com/peter-economy/boeing-ceo-puts-partial-bl...

[2] https://www.ft.com/content/db8a09b8-56aa-11e9-a3db-1fe89bedc...

This was not just Boeing and was common across wide swaths of professional pilots. Based on conversations with pilots I know and trust and who flew with non-US, non-major-Western European (and Australia) carriers, I’m deeply skeptical of many foreign operators and their realized safety record does not match the US/AU/major EU air carriers.

The second crash may have been avoided by timely application of the NNC procedure for runaway stab trim, right?

The 2nd crash would have been prevented by Boeing listening to the American Airlines pilots’ union call to ground the MAX after the 1st crash. You can't put this one on foreign pilots, when American pilots called for grounding the MAX.

Yeah, first paragraph of the GP was agreeable. Then the second one veered abruptly into weird corporate apologism.

"Man if only those "other" victims weren't so dumb, then my favorite company wouldn't have to suffer bad PR!"

Pilot error can be (and apparently was) a factor, no matter how at fault Boeing also was, and no matter how understandable the errors may have been under the circumstances. The Lion Air Pilots did not follow the trim procedures that had saved the prior flight, and the Ethiopian pilots didn’t keep their speed under control, among other things.

Didn’t we just have an article yesterday on how difficult it is to recover from this event in a simulator, in which the pilots knew exactly what was wrong and what was going to happen.

Blaming the Ethiopian pilots (One of the safest airlines in the world btw) for getting over speed during the workload induced by runaway trim is disrespectful.

By now, near every professional pilot agrees that these are near unrecoverable events unless you assess and cut the trim in first 15 seconds or so.

Blaming Lion Air in the first hours after the crash, with their somewhat sketchy history, was understandable.

Everything after that is uninformed or racist.

Getting over speed is an understandable error, and it's neither disrespectful nor racist to mention it as an error when discussing whether pilot error occurred.

Lion Air as such deserves blame for putting a broken plane back into the air; that's a bigger "third world factor" than pilot error, but it doesn't remove all pilot error from the flight.

The industry has stopped blaming things on "pilot error". It's not constructive, and in 90% of the cases it is the wrong conclusion. That in itself is dangerous because it means you stop looking for the real cause and ways to prevent it in the future.

The current view is that a mistake by the pilots can not be allowed to bring a plane down. If it does, the plane, software or procedures are designed wrong. And from my experience the industry (at least in Western Europe where I fly) really lives by this.

I don't represent the industry; I was just responding to a comment about pilot error. I was taking it as a given that we already know the ultimate cause was bad software. But that bad software didn't crash the planes every time, only under certain conditions, and after certain pilot actions or inactions.

Racist? The Ethiopian copilot had less than 300 hours total time. In the US, 1500 hours is required. Lion Air’s history of deficient processes is also not a function of race. Pilot standards are much lower in other non-American/non-European countries.

The fact that the US flies more and has fewer accidents isn’t “racist” nor lucky.

What is Racist is that Boeing is using perceptions about foreign airlines to shift blame and scapegoat... when clearly Boeing was the party trading safety for profit here. Boeing, "the Americans", knew and did nothing. There is no evidence that more flight time or experience would have changed the outcome. Who has 5,000 hrs of MCAS fuck up protocol? Sometimes those with less experience handle new technology better.

I doubt it was racism when regular American (and Western) chauvinism is plenty to do the job of discrediting a third-world airline--not to mention that most Americans couldn't tell you what race Indonesians are.

>This was not just Boeing and was common across wide swaths of professional pilots.

One of these two groups was in posession of a rather importantly wider set of information than the other.

As far as I understand there was nothing pilots could've done. They were too close to the ground to counteract the trim. They explicitly followed procedures.

Human factors may have been a contributing issue, but it seems like the root cause was the design/implementation.

In most major catastrophes/mishaps, there's a number of proximate causes (i.e. the pilots didn't do 'X') that 'could' have prevented the issue. But focusing on these to the distraction of focus on the root cause is a sure way to increase the risk of another failure.

Installing a larger oil pan won't fix your car for long if the root cause is a bad filter design.

there's no East vs West Europe in aviation. All EU airlines adhere to the same stric EASA rules.

You are not being fair here. Stating that Lion Air has a questionable safety record is not xenophobia, nor is it blaming the pilots when you speak of a chain of events and note that "in some cases, those procedures were not completely followed".

> nothing any pilot could have done so close to the ground [2]

FWIW, the pilots in the doomed Lion Air plane on the flight just prior to the accident flight did just that.

There is enough wrong with the 737 MAX, Boeing, the regulatory regime, etc. No need to become hyperbolic and inaccurate.

> FWIW, the pilots in the doomed Lion Air plane on the flight just prior to the accident flight did just that.

Not the pilots so much as the person sitting in the jump seat (who suggested disabling electric trim). It essentially took three pilots to save that plane.

It took one pilot who knew what he was doing.

Did he really knew the MCAS issue? I mean that every time you stabilize the plane it will point it down even harder?

The pilots did not know about this problem, they corrected the issue a few time the problem was that after a few correction MCAS corrected extremely and cutting it off at that point was useless because the pilots did not had the physical force to correct the plane.

The other pilots that rescued the situation in the simulator did it by using a technique he read on a pilot forum after the crashes, so it is obvious that a regular pilot that was train using Boeing manuals and followed Boeing guidelines for this problems could not save the plane(at least not in 100% of the cases).

Sure there may be super pilots (like we have super programmers that can read assembly stack traces) or lucky pilots but you don't want to excuse Boeing crimes by the fact that some pilots were lucky.

> Sure there may be super pilots (like we have super programmers that can read assembly stack traces) or lucky pilots but you don't want to excuse Boeing crimes by the fact that some pilots were lucky.

Agreed, but don't write (as GP did) that "there is nothing any pilot could have done so close to the ground".

The "there is nothing any pilot could have done so close to the ground" was alluding to the Ethiopian accident. They were a mere thousand feet from the ground.

It's exponentially easier to recover from a lot of issues, even a stall, when you have 40,000 feet of distance (and thus a lot more time) to play with rather than not even a thousand feet off the ground.

"At 8:39, as the jet reached an altitude of 8,100 feet above sea level, just 450 feet above ground, its nose began to pitch down"


You are mathematically correct, it is impossible to prove that, even the case with the third pilot is not a contra-example because it probably was not the exact same issue.

That's disingenuous.

The third pilot wasn't having to exert 40+ pounds on a control yoke.

The third pilot had a full view of the center console without the burden of having to read and understand a large amount of the information normally considered critical to "flying the plane".

He was therefore in an advantaged position to troubleshoot less obvious root causes of the anomalous behavior.

He didn't know about MCAS, but he definitely got an rueful of trim wheel happily clicking away.

It's why Crew Resource Management is such an important thing, and why people who can pilot have been known to step up and assist crews during emergencies.

It's just words. Actions speak louder than words. Their actions fly in the face of all the nice sounding things they say, and report after report fly in the face of all of Boeing's denials and claims of safety.

Boeing has gone into liability defensive mode at the expense of the lives of passengers, the safety of air travel, and America's credibility in aerospace engineering.

Boeing is either going to face a major reckoning that they may not survive or maybe we'll have more deaths from accidents due to their negligent behavior.

I'm basing all this on the many reports about what is going on around the 737 MAX aircraft published in the WSJ and the New York Times. It hasn't been pretty.

I don't think that plane should ever fly again as engineered. It seems to require software to address problems with the large engine and the plane's form that other jets do not have. If a software patch can make the aircraft safe, then a bug can make it unsafe. Does the FAA validate all the aircraft software patches Boeing issues?

Other airliners w/ large turbofans have a pitch-up under climb/thrust characteristics. (like B777) We don't know if 737 MAX's pitch-up stall handling characteristics are really bad -or- just different from older 737's. MCAS was put in place to allow the MAX to be type certified w/ other 737's so 737 pilots could fly the 737 MAX and vice versa. (Airline pilots can only hold 1 type certification at a time.)

Where'd you get the idea that pilots can only hold one type rating at a time? One pilot managed to acquire 105 at one time (and is in the Guiness Book of World Records for that).

Also, MCAS wasn't put in place to allow the MAX to be type certified w/ other 737s. It was put in place to allow it to be certified at all. It's a hack to ensure the force on the stick continues to increase with increasing angle of attack, which is a certification requirement.

> MCAS was put in place to allow the MAX to be type certified w/ other 737's

But the expected behavior which MCAS was to provide was not something invented only for "other 737's." Whichever plane would behave as the MAX behaves without MCAS turned on would also be rejected from certification.

Only Boeing being silent about MCAS is the effect of the goal of "avoiding re-certification."

> We don't know

I can't agree to that. Based on the above, I think it is obvious that we do know: 737 MAX without any MCAS-like help is dangerous to fly according to the security expectations which weren't specially invented for 737 MAX.

> But the expected behavior which MCAS was to provide was not something invented only for "other 737's." Whichever plane would behave as the MAX behaves without MCAS turned on would also be rejected from certification.

No, it would have been a perfectly certifiable plane with a particular set of handling characteristics (including 777-like pitch-up). It just wouldn't be a 737, and would require its own type certificate. No-one's suggesting that large turbofan aircraft with pitch-up behaviour are inherently unsafe when flown by pilots appropriately trained and certified for them - otherwise the 777 would be grounded.

> No-one's suggesting that large turbofan aircraft with pitch-up behaviour are inherently unsafe

It is as long it keeps 737 MAX body and engines and doesn’t have something like MCAS I.e. Inherently unsafe under conditions under which MCAS was supposed to turn on when properly functioning.

The certification requirements are the result of the clear safety goals not something invented “just so.”

MCAS was a type certificate hack.

The poster you're responding to is right; there isn't anything wrong with the behavior given the right training.

It's just that the investment in that training, and extra certification hoops to jump through would have made WhateveroModelNumberus MAX a non-starter.

It had to be a 737 to work at all.

> there isn't anything wrong with the behavior given the right training.

The behaviour without MCAS on 737 MAX is that minimal movements of pilot’s controls effectively activate what would be considered “amplification” of nose up movement, resulting in an uncontrollable plane and sure crash.

It’s definitely not something that pilots or passengers should be exposed to: being punished for approaching more dangerous position by plane forcing a deadly outcome.

Training pilots to not to move even minimally the controls in the “wrong” direction is maybe technically possible but in practice still totally wrong: It’s comparable to what Boeing told everybody before Ethiopian crash, and their attempts to blame the pilots. In reality, the pilots had almost no chance to rescue themselves and the plane.

In engineering the “positive feedback loops” (amplification of control inputs) are bad the “negative feedback loops” (correction of the input) are good.

The functioning MCAS provides a correction. The plane without MCAS amplification. Badly functioning MCAS also amplification and crash. That's why the wrong behavior was regulated, and that's why it had to be fulfilled for the certification. It’s that easy.

To convince me that 737 MAX without the "properly functioning MCAS" isn't inherently dangerous under higher angles of attack you'd have to provide some explicit proofs.

727 had about the same issue. Interactions with high lift devices would cause major problems on approach to stall.

The FAA certified it anyway. The U.K. gave it conditional certification contingent on the addition of a stick-pusher to be able to operate in U.K. airspace. See the Royal Aeronautics Society D.P. Davies Interview, specifically the 727 one.

There was quite a bit of controversy amongst test pilots at even granting the certification, seeing it as setting a precedent that would lead to a slippery slope that would culminate in less and less airworthy designs.

Nevertheless, the certification authorities accepted the argument that as long as instabilities could be countered by technological means, it would be acceptable.

Let me clarify though, that without MCAS, a responsible pilot would definitely be constrained to a much thinner envelope, but within that thinner envelope, the plane can fly just fine.

The deployment of flaps, also takes the plane out of a regime where MCAS is a factor.

So both legal, and practical precedent for it exists. Given additional training of course.

> The U.K. gave it conditional certification contingent on the addition of a stick-pusher to be able to operate in U.K. airspace.

Boeing 727 was clearly from another times: "As of July 2018, a total of 44 Boeing 727s were in commercial service" "Many airlines replaced their 727s with either the 737-800 or the Airbus A320."

> both legal, and practical precedent for it exists.

Does it? The devil is in the details. Speaking as an engineer, both the measurements of the ranges in which the changes happen and the characteristics of the responses to controls still matter. I wouldn't be surprised that it's still 737 MAX that would be "a precedent" with worse characteristics when the stall is possible (and without proper MCAS-like help) than those measured in 727.

It's the conditions under which the problems occur and the response diagrams that the regulators are supposed to verify, not the binary "has or hasn't" a problem near the stall. I'm quite sure that the technology at the time of 727 introduction was already more than capable of producing the relevant diagrams, so they can be compared. Thanks for specifying your arguments in the answer.

No problem! I'm as eager to get to the bottom of things as anyone, so I'm trying to be a careful steward of as much context as I can to keep discussions productive, and to rephrase in as many different ways as possible to increase visibility and reasonability to anyone who can help contribute more context.

>It's the conditions under which the problems occur and the response diagrams that the regulators are supposed to verify, not the binary "has or hasn't" a problem near the

Ah, I hadn't run into this tidbit before! Can you elaborate on it? I'd love to get some more detailed information if only to facilitate my own deep diving. I've been repeating the 727 simimilarity, and if there's any footwork I can do to make that more accurate, I'd be thrilled to run with it.

I do know Boeing was generally considered notorious amongst test pilots for knowing exactly how their designs would fly, so I can't imagine that those diagrams can't be found somewhere.

> Can you elaborate on it? I'd love to get some more detailed information if only to facilitate my own deep diving.

To appreciate non-binariness of the problem, just try to find the pictures of different flight envelopes under different flight conditions for different planes and compare them. The wrongness in claiming that every plane can be qualified with just "has x" or "hasn't" is then more than obvious.

Then imagine that you'd actually need the response diagrams -- some valid measurement of how the plane reacts to the controls. That is the actual point of problem: exactly how the curves look like, where are which limits between "fine" and "deadly" and how dangerous is which kind of movement or non-movement of which control.

Then consider that Boeing even after the first crash claimed that "everything's fine" in their "additional instructions" which were followed by the Ethiopian air pilots but that then the plane responses were such that the pilots were practically helpless: the plane "didn't listen." That's what's happening with the positive feedbacks, and that is what "nose up" behavior is -- but the answer is not "yes-no" but where and how much in every point.

The helplessness (or not) of the pilots (i.e. how much of their force produces how much of the outcome under which conditions) is also something that can be plainly measured and drawn.

I don't have the corresponding (complex) pictures of Boeing 737 MAX flying without the MCAS. And I don't think they are available at the moment. But that is the point. Who are those who claim that they know it's safe and what is the basis of their claim? We have already plain demonstration that Boeing openly lied with their "everything's fine" claims -- I can't imagine that nobody inside of a company that is supposed to sell the planes orders of which measure hundreds of billions of dollars has such pictures.

But who can say simple "it's safe" when to be able to really claim it somebody has to evaluate these complex aspects demonstrated by the diagrams and not just construct a simple "yes-or-no-is-it-kinda-same-as-this-other-thing" question?

Reducing that whole topic to such kind of argument "well 727 was bad too" is obviously misleading. The way I still see it is: had it been it actually safe to fly it without a functioning MCAS, there would be no "regulatory requirement" to put it there at all. The "requirement" was an actual "it's not safe without it." But the way that "requirement" looked like was also not "yes no" but "see this diagrams -- the plane should approximately behave so and not the opposite of that." And the opposite is the characteristic of the positive feedback loops. MCAS was there to polish one resulting from the design driven by the marketing goal, not by physics.

Imagine when you would move the steering wheel to make a slight turn and when the car would "listen to you" under e.g. 30 mph but respond in turning you much out of the road when the speed is higher. "Well you should be trained not to try to turn the wheel when over 35 mph" "Really?" "Yes you see that other old car also responded kinda like this one, yes that old one couldn't have killed you so easily, yes, this one will, but don't worry that's actually the same, trust me, because I'm the one making and selling you this new car." "..." That's not how the sameness is compared.

I get where you are coming from. And understand it isn't binary. I was hoping you knew what what the name of the various diagrams you asserted were being evaluated were.

I understand there are different levels of problematic behavoor, because something that causes a 3 degree uncommanded pitch over say 10 seconds is a sight less severe than one that does the same over 3 seconds.

I'm still not seeing anything that's significantly changing my mental model of this problem. Physically, legally and pragmatically speaking.

-The plane remains statically stable within the majority of the flight envelope.

-Dynamic stability still isn't quite there, but can be handled with more conservative maneuvering.

-Critical information was deemphasized in the certification process, or changed after the fact

-the promised deliverable did not achieve it's stated goals without excessive "compliance engineering"

The plane is absolutely dangerous to an uninformed pilot; but aerodynamically, within a constrained flight envelope, it's fine. I don't personally feel it should be airworthy, as I agree with many test pilot's from back in the 60's. It just encourages the use of less airworthy designs with less problematic behavior, because a computer can smooth out the curve, and yet as a programmer myself,I believe a passenger plane should not be reliant on that level of hack necessarily.

As it is, I'm not even highly confident that if there were something wrong with the software update, that the FAA would even catch it in it's current incarnation.

But without language naming the graphs you're talking about, or need to see to be convinced of safety, a FOIA would honestly be fruitless.

Thanks for the contributing though. I'll see if I can find the paperwork.

If you consider FOIA then it could be, for example:

- of the logs of the measurements of the test flights flown on the 737 MAX prototypes with the new engines but without the MCAS, if the test flights are flown to establish the flight envelope, especially of the correlation to the pilot's input and the plane's response.

- of the calculations or of the physical models of the said response to the pilots input, on the plane without the MCAS. Such parameters and models are indeed used e.g. in the flight simulators.

- Note that even if there were planed deliveries of hundreds of billions (!) worth of 737 MAX planes, up to recently only four (!) flight simulators for 737 MAX were delivered. I don't know if it's possible to even fly them without assuming MCAS "always working perfectly."

I'm not directly in that field to be able to give you a "local" jargon though. My view is a result of just reading those newspaper articles which provided enough engineering details (and a few forums) and I do remember seeing some complex enough related graphs for which I''m sure they couldn't be invented by a journalist, but surely not a "definitive plainly obvious proof". But there is indeed a lot still kept hidden from the public, and I'm sure there are more technical details that are significantly worse than we are ready to imagine.

> To convince me that 737 MAX without the "properly functioning MCAS" isn't inherently dangerous under higher angles of attack you'd have to provide some explicit proofs.

I am legitimately curious, do you have any explicit proofs of the converse, that (as you say) "the behaviour without MCAS on 737 MAX is that minimal movements of pilot’s controls effectively activate what would be considered “amplification” of nose up movement, resulting in an uncontrollable plane and sure crash"?

The standard should be that a an unimpaired pilot properly trained in flying the aircraft will normally (practically) be in no danger of a "sure crash".

> The standard should be that a an unimpaired pilot properly trained in flying the aircraft will normally (practically) be in no danger of a "sure crash".

Exactly. And under that assumptions 737 MAX with no MCAS was never certified. Boeing didn't even want to admit that MCAS even exists to avoid even showing the flight characteristic of the plane "without MCAS." It's on Boeing to prove "737 MAX without MCAS" is safe, and up to now they did all they could to avoid that, and I expect they'll do more of that unless there is a pressure outside of both Boeing and FAA.

But there is a distinction between never getting certified because it is not safe, and never getting certified because Boeing didn't want to certify it as a new aircraft, because they wanted to sell it with the value proposition of not having to train pilots on a new type. Is that not correct?

So it seems to me that the discussion in this subthread is really around that point: could the aircraft have been certified as a new type without the horribly dangerous MCAS system in place to paper over the change in flight characteristics?

You seem to be saying no, and the other guy says yes, but you seem more to be talking past each other than offering proof of your assertions. He at least did point out (though without citing any proof, I think) that the 777 had a similar issue and was certified anyway (and I don't believe 777s have been falling out of the sky because of it). But, obviously, this is a different aircraft.

Boeing will definitely survive. It is a behemoth, both for export capital and for defense. Too big to fail.

Also, lots of planes require software to be safe to fly. It’s just the way things are nowadays.

Boeing is a strategic asset for the US government, of course they're going to survive.

Could you explain what you mean here, please?

Boeing make a bunch of military aircraft, drones and missiles [1]. The US government might want to buy those in the future, so wants Boeing to stay in business.

Hence, the government is unlikely to deal Boeing a killing blow.

[1] http://www.boeing.com/defense/#/products-services

Even when it comes to commercial aviation, the US wouldn't want to depend exclusively on foreign designed airplanes where they have far less influence.

It's not unsafe per se, the MCAS software is only required to avoid (expensive) new type rating and training for pilots.

MCAS is required for the 737 Max to be certified at all. To remove the requirement for MCAS would require enough changes to the aircraft to make it not a 737.

The person who’s most committed to a plane’s safe operation is almost always going to be the person who dies if something goes wrong. That’s just kind of how human psychology works.

Fight Club math. It must have been cheaper to keep operating and pushing their narrative.

From my understanding, they were also flying different planes, which had redundant backup circuits for the sensors, an optional feature with a price.

Damning article for Boeing execs... just one quote:

“We don’t want to rush and do a crappy job of fixing the right things and we also don’t want to fix the wrong things,” Mr. Sinnett said, later adding, “For flight-critical software, I don’t think you want us to rush, rush it faster.”

Well Mr. Sinnett, that's exactly what you did in the development of the 737 Max.

He's certainly making an air tight case for keeping those planes on the ground.

Hard to think of a better case study on the perils of regulatory capture than Boeing.

Ironically, the best way forward would be to let this spiral out of control a bit for Boeing and create some room for their competitors. Maybe cause some C level execs to be fired. Make the FAA do their job and hand out some fines, etc.

The whole problem here is that Boeing has absorbed all their former US based competitors in the past decades and has only Airbus left as a main competitor and a few much smaller ones based in Russia, China, Japan, etc. This is a unhealthy situation for the market and for the US. It was fine when Boeing was cranking out innovative products that were clearly better but they seem to have a hard time keeping up with competition and are too dependent on government support currently. Easy fix: cut back that support a little.

IMHO the 737 Max thing will probably blow over once Boeing implements some relatively simple technical changes. People seem to obsess over a lot of technical details with sensors and software processes. That criticism is well deserved but probably relatively easy to address by Boeing as well.

The bottom line is that once they get their solution past certification, that will be the end of it. Their branding has obviously suffered and this is impacting short term sales and revenue. They'll probably have to do some rebranding and maybe ditch the 737 Max brand in favor for a new version. After that, it's likely back to business as usual. Short term this just means awesome deals for carriers brave enough to talk to their sales right now.

IMO you are vastly underestimating the long term damage this is doing to Boeing. In the short term, 737 user will have to keep using it and will have to buy more of those planes from Boeing, because switching to another single-aisle plane would cost too much and there simply isn't enough production capacity in the world to make this switch happen in the near future.

However the 737Max is the last version of the 737. 737 users will have to transition away from this type in the medium term future. The current troubles force them to think hard about whether they will trust Boeing at that point or decide to go with a competing product. Of which there will be roughly half a dozen by that time.

It gets even worse, if we look at the big picture. The 787, 747-8i and 737Max have all been expensive disappointments for the airlines that ordered them. Boeing has been losing market share to Airbus for decades now, this really isn't a good trend for them. That doesn't mean that Boeing will not find a certain level of success with their next airplanes, but the damage their brand has suffered does hurt their bottom line quite severely.

Think short-term. No American airlines ordered the 777X, which is due to fly next year. How much foreign scrutiny will the 777X get? What safety critical systems did Boeing lie about?

Exactly, particularly with the folding wingtip which is a very novel approach for civilian aircraft.

The 787, 747-8i and 737Max have all been expensive disappointments for the airlines that ordered them.

Also, what? The 787, for all of its faults, has been extremely well received. The 747-8i was only ordered in small numbers because nobody wanted a quad jumbo (same reason the A380 is ending production) — the freight variant (8F) has been pretty popular (again for a niche market).

Are airlines really expecting passengers to fly in that plane in the future?

Amazing how Boeing was restructured from an engineering & production organization into a political influence machine. Production was spread (and outsourced) from Seattle out to key influential states and HQ moved to Chicago.

Not just US influence but international influence.

In the 777 and 787 eras, Boeing decentralized production all over the world, and it's hard to say that Airbus is really a European company because they've done the same.

Back in the day so many countries had to have a fourth- or fifth-rate car industry, and to head that off, the Boeing-Airbus duopoly distributed production all over the place so politicians in most countries could point to some part in a Boeing or Airbus airliner that was made in their country to discourage the development of an indigenous industry.

Which is why the safety cards in US airline cabins cleverly state "Country of final manufacture: ___"; another subtle win for Boeing.

It was the financialization of the company from just producing airplanes to a "global 100 company". Of course, with all of the problems and pressures that go with it.

Actually, that statement,

>"For flight-critical software, I don’t think you want us to rush, rush it faster.”

may come back to haunt them, given it doesn't line up with the paperwork they filed, or with anything about the way they tried to get the plane certified. The fact he said that before the investigation completed implies they knew how critical MCAS was.

Something tells me "that was just talk!", will not go over well.

EDIT: deparaphrased quote.

Important point, I think. They also gave MCAS an innocuous name: "Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System" Sound better than 'pitch-up stall prevention system' (my vote is for 'death plummet prevention system') or something that implies that if the system is not in place, you die. It seems there was intent to mislead from the get-go. I'd love to see their internal documents describing the naming of this subsystem because it's got to be highly political.

It's not even that. It's solely to maintain the 737 type certification to avoid a need for retraining. The pitch up tendency isn't inherently unsafe but it does change how pilots need to fly in certain portions of the flight envelope. Normally this is just something they're trained on but to avoid that we got this bodge of a system in MCAS.

Well, this is true only if you believe Boeing's talking points. We actually don't know how bad the pitch effect is. Perhaps a small pilot error would result in an unrecoverable stall. Considering Boeing modified the MCAS's authority over what was originally stated to the FAA (malfunctions aside, which gave it unlimited authority), why should we trust them?

What is the absolute probability that no MCAS + pilot doing what would be normal on any other aircraft would lead to a crash? Remember, pilots go from plane to plane, potentially of various types. If a particular plane you don't fly frequently behaves very differently in a critical situation, that's a bad thing. You need the muscle memory. If they only flew the MAX 100% of the time, probably not a big deal.

Imagine twice a year you drive a someone else's car. During normal operation, nothing out of the ordinary. However, if you apply more than 25% brake pressure while turning left between 5-10 degrees, the steering input suddenly goes to 60 degrees, requiring you to quickly counter steer. Now, imagine that there's a software mitigation to prevent this over-steer. Now imagine, with little warning, that software system is disabled, and you've never driven the car without that system active.

It's lunacy.

> Remember, pilots go from plane to plane, potentially of various types. If a particular plane you don't fly frequently behaves very differently in a critical situation, that's a bad thing. You need the muscle memory. If they only flew the MAX 100% of the time, probably not a big deal.

That's what type certifications exist for and it's actually pretty rare for pilots to switch between planes. In their career with a particular airline they're going to be flying one type family of planes (eg: A319, A320, and A321 all count as the same plane from a certification standpoint) day in and day out, it's quite expensive to get certified on a second plane.

As for your car example that's the exact thing MCAS was a bodge for it was to make the MAX8 fly enough like the rest of the 737 family to require minimal retraining. It was a bad bodge that should have been classified as a safety critical system (meaning 3+ AoA etc).

Also highly relevant is it's not very clear how bad the pitch up effect is from reporting it could vary anywhere between a slight problem that would only really put the type rating in danger to a critical safety flaw.


How many FAA officials used to work at Boeing (or related lobbying firms) or vice versa?

Boeing was allowed to act as the FAA’s contractor in certifying the plane.

Reminds me of when Tennessee Valley Authority let contractors certify the dams for its coal plans, which they failed terribly at, leading to a dam breech that spread toxic material all over the valley and watershed outside the Kingston Fossil plant. I covered the protests back in 2009:


Let's hear it for "market forces" and unfettered capitalism, youd think we would've learned in 2008.

The market for political influence is working pretty well, no reason to use scare quotes.

I'd argue that this is precisely when free market capitalism will perform its function. This tragedies' fallout is already blowing back on the buddy-buddy corporation/regulatory body relationship that is toxic for a free market economy. It's the rare case where the effects of a negative event have enough impact to actually correct something wrong with the market.

So is Mr. Sinnett still working for Boeing? I don't see how the managers can ride this one out.

Boeing appears to already be lawyering up their execs while throwing engineers under the bus. It’s going to be all about denying everything now.

Yes, it was probably another vast multi-decade inter-company conspiracy entirely orchestrated & executed in secret by THIS lone, junior engineer, hired last January. Amazing how systemic this kind of problem is.

Except, the "lone engineer" VW blamed it on was the head of the diesel engine department, and by now even the former CEO is facing jailtime.

I doubt Boeings management will get any punishment whatsoever.

The secret head of the conspiracy was the security guard working in the FAL. Or so I heard.

There's no way the execs can deny they knew everything by the time the second plane crashed. It's damn if they do, damn if they don't. If they didn't know, why the hell not?! A plane crashed, why wouldn't they demand to know? That's negligence. If they did know, they had months to make a decision that would have saved the second plane and did nothing.

Reminds you of VW...

Except no one is going to jail.

Maybe Ethiopia can trick a Boeing executive into visiting for vacation.

Yes but they probably can't subpoena corporate data/emails to complete the necessary due diligence. They need the FBI to seize evidence, if that even exists.

Depends if Ethiopia believes the US will declare war against Ethiopia, or otherwise destabilise Ethiopia over one token Boing executive being detained fairly-indefinitely.

Boeing CEO arrives in China

Ethiopia puts in an extradition request to China

Indonesia puts in a competing one

CEO stays in China for a significant time

Pressure on U.S. to cave in on sanctions. Trump refuses.

I wonder if Lion Air will be determined to be the Arch Duke Ferdinand of WW3. Either way would be good to get some actual consequences for decision makers at the top of corporations.

If this is even possible they would do this to trade for the Huwei exec. Also Ethiopia gets a ton of US aid and military support so it wouldn’t be in their interest.

Lol... ok.

I couldn’t keep a straight face while typing that.

Geopolitics meets speculative fiction, amateur style.

Why does that approach ring a bell? Ah, VW, that's why! Didn't work out too well for these Execs neither...

Think they'll stay out of jail or end up as American's Samsung?

They also selling bonds, after a $20B stock buyback.

I am not seeing enough calls for Boeing's CEO to resign. Boeing put profits ahead of safety; now the company's reputation is in tatters, and the company will likely will end up buying back all the 737 MAXs. The CEO needs to go.

To jail

So when will travelers have the option to filter the aircraft manufacturer/type in flight booking systems?

It exists. I've seen an Aircraft Model filter on searches in Kayak, for example. Not particularly prominent, but it was there some way down the sidebar.

I assume you mean one that's contractually binding on the airline?

Not contractually obligated (sometimes it seems they're barely obligated to actually fly the flight you've paid for) but airlines pretty much always fly the same plane on the same flight number day in and day out.

Yes, that's ultimately what one would want (otherwise filtering is not very useful I suppose)

The CEO of Boeing should go to prison.

For what?

As a start, for keeping details from pilots even after the first crash. For example, after the first crash, Boeing did not disclose that MCAS keeps repeating at 5 second intervals. Surely this was relevant information for pilots in life and death situations. But perhaps it would have required Boeing acknowledging the need for additional training, and corporate greed got the better of their judgement.

Continuing to lie about the AoA disagree light being disabled is also a major issue.

The core feature of his strategy for the company was to sacrifice safety in order to increase profits.

It was clear to any truly responsible person that they needed a new design for an aircraft with a fundamentally different mission.

He cut every corner possible in order to avoid having to re-certify. From the fundamental decision not to do a full redesign to the decisions related to the kludgey system to keep it from stalling out and how that was managed down the line.

At least one person from the FAA should also go to prison. They failed in their core mission.

This actually seems very similar to a common tactic that managers of software projects will take. Since they are not being judged on the integrity of the code, they are happy to encourage any kind of hack or corner cutting or technical debt in order to save a buck.

In this case the stakes were higher than an average software project and many people died.

Boeing apparently has no idea how to handle a crisis.

I think Boeing accurately reflects the arrogant world view of its main client.

This is a great comment!

Of course a company can only be a subset of the values of the world it exists in.

If this is not irony then I have to disagree, any agent with a free will have responsibility

It's why diversity is so important, in companies, in education, in government. It's not PC, it's an asset to have a diverse board.

Just waiting for the other shoe to drop and for all of these revelations to mean something. Hope it does eventually.

When comparing with the Monsanto/Bayer Roundup case, there is a more direct link between what the company has done (or not done) and the death of people. American People died in the second crash, right ? They have a clean shot for suing and getting a billion punitive damage, haven't they ?

See, Monsanto would not have had a problem if Bayer had not acquired it...

I wonder what circles of hell is Mr. Sinnett destined to?

now reporters have audio from that meeting: https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/15/us/boeing-737-max-audio-meeti...

"You’ve got to understand that our commitment to safety is as great as yours," Mr. Sinnett said in the meeting.

Which is a blatant lie considering they opted to DLC bunch of saftety features.

It is astonishingly how out of touch Boeing leadership is in everything that they say about this crisis.

They "own it" but they've "done nothing wrong."

Or, they know exactly what happened and have a personal phalanx of lawyers writing every statement for them.

I don't think anyone thinks the executives are unaware of what happened. OP was commenting on the optics of how Boeing is handling the situation. What I wish the public was discussing is accountability for their negligence, and a solution to avoid similar process failures in the future (and likely jail time for those responsible).

One could make the argument that the execs didn't know until after the first crash. But they definitely knew by the time the second one crashed. They had months to do something and did nothing.

This is why people find Musk so refreshing.

Funny you should bring Musk up in this context.

Some sort of autopilot self-crashing joke next.

There are few ways of dealing with the situation worse than the one chosen by Boeing, but late night tweets about "unscheduled meteoric burial" would be one of them.

Calling all the victims pedos would be pretty bad.

Which is a blatant lie considering they opted to DLC bunch of saftety features.

If you're referring to the AOA indication — they didn't though. Boeing sold the MAX to the FAA and the airlines as being equipped with an "AoA disagree" annunciator on every single one. It turns out that the annunciator didn't work unless you also purchased the AoA gauges (it's unclear to me whether or not there are gauges on the primary flight display or if they're just part of the heads-up display). That little glitch was considered too minor by Boeing to notify the FAA or the airlines.

So effectively it did turn it into a DLC, making GP's post 100% correct.

I am past caring for or trusting their lame excuses at this point.

It’s really worse, since the aircraft was advertised as having the critical safety feature but in reality it required the DLC. So pilots could well have assumed there would be a warning.

Southwest actually called them out on this, and called Boeing a bunch of liars (through corporate speak).

I don't think the AoA disagree indicator is particularly useful without an AoA gauge to at least see which side has a plausible number.

On the 737MAX the indicated airspeed is calculated from the pitot tube reading and the AoA reading, so you'll already get an airspeed disagree warning. And the stickshaker on the side(s) with the broken sensor will also be going, if it uses the bad data to compute a stall.

Another warning doesn't help Lion Air when they don't know the computer is adjusting the trim, even though autopilot was disabled because of airspeed disagree.

Another warning doesn't help Ethiopia Airlines who don't have a procedure that gets the trim back under control.

What Boeing needed to do was tell pilots about MCAS -- training, as well as an indicator that it activated; and provide a way to disable it while still providing pilot control of trim.

Did they consider it minor even AFTER the first crash? I think even if you accept that such a glitch was overlooked prior to the Indonesian crash, it is hard to see the justification for continuing to withhold this and other information related to MCAS after the first crash - which - remember - was very much related to the AoA indicator.

I know it's unlikely cause, America, but I'd like to see some of these executives tried for criminal negligence. They'll most likely just face civil suits and make settlements with passengers/pilots families ... which honestly isn't enough. Executives need to know fucking up this bad can lean to prison time.

Could they potentially face jail time in Ethiopia or Indonesia (where the doomed flights flew from, and the airlines are based)? I'm sure there would be quite the fight over extradition, but it would certainly send the message that you can't escape your negligence because of an eye to corporate profit on a global scale.

There would not be a fight over extradition, at least as long as the executives stay in the USA. The USA does not have an extradition treaty with either Ethiopia or Indonesia, and the USA won't even consider extradition if they are convicted of a crime that doesn't exist in the USA.

Doesn’t criminal negligence exist in the US, along with a number of other statutes that could apply? Not to say they would face trial here if the events occurred here, but there are laws that would apply given sufficient evidence of wrongdoing.

First, I am not a lawyer. Yes, negligence can be tried as a criminal act, but there's no way this situation would pass the Justice Department's sniff test. Any negligence that would have happened almost certainly happened on US soil. Even though foreign governments are free to convict however they like, if the act happened on US soil and the US doesn't find you guilty of a crime, then there is no way they are handing you over. If in the unlikely case an executive is found guilty of a crime in the USA they would serve out their sentence in the USA first before extradition is considered. Even then, we'd be real reluctant to hand them over.

What I think is more likely to happen (but still unlikely) is that Boeing is penalized through corporate liability. The aggregation of the executives' actions create a responsibility for Boeing, although no single person's actions meet any criminal action. In that case the USA would fine Boeing or punish it in some other way, but I don't think that money is going to Ethiopia or Indonesia.

Lastly, since we don't have extradition agreements with either of those countries these arguments would probably not even come up, as we'd tell their embassy to go pound sand- we're not handing over American citizens until you reciprocate with us, prove that your courts are not kangaroo courts, and sign an extradition agreement. And there's no way we're signing one- you think the Trump administration is going to sign an extradition agreement with either of those countries? No, these guys are going to skate.

Some references, they probably don't hit everything but they are a good start:




It could certainly complicate their lives, but I doubt we would ever extradite them.

Extradition not required. Start threatening their business in these countries. They could try something like "no Boeing aircraft in our airspace" while they refuse to cooperate. Get their local allies on board with a similar ban, and then maybe the Boeing board would hand them over willingly.

That's quite the hypothetical, and I don't advocate it. But they certainly don't have to be limited by extradition.

> maybe the Boeing board would hand them over willingly

This is not something the board can do

Sure they can. They can physically make it happen. Put money in the right hands and it happens.

Morally, ethically, legally questionable. But certainly not impossible.

I'm sure they'd just fire the executive(s) in question first. Lots cleaner and maybe cheaper depending on the golden parachute in the executive's back pocket.

I honestly don't understand why families settle in this kind of case. It's one thing if the victim is alive and has medical bills. If they're dead, all you can hope to achieve is justice. Don't settle for money. Take them down. Make it actually hurt.

You'd have to cause heavy losses (in money or lives) to the rich and powerful to see the executives get prison time (see Bernie Madoff). Some brown people on the other side of the world dying doesn't quite cut it.

Serious question: how would you go about determining who is at fault in such a situation?

Very difficult, just as it would be in any large organization. Facilitation of plausible deniability is a principle design requirement for company structure.

Worse, because of the corporate shield, any malefactors get to keep their ill-gotten gains. (Wells Fargo's execs, even after clawbacks, wound up tens of millions of dollars ahead.) There's no serious deterrent -- the system encourages wrongdoing at the individual level, the perpetuation of entities where wrongdoing occurs, and the creation of new entities where wrongdoing will commence.

Prediction: everyone at Boeing will come in for a safe landing after a bit of turbulence.

Not sure. Every single design change goes through well documented review processes in Aerospace. The bigger the change the higher the up the hierarchy it goes. The definitely is a paper trail here. If someone is willing to investigate.

Agree with rest, organized deniability is pretty much how large orgs are set up.

Start with the people whose signatures exist on paper, or however the approval chain works in this context.

1) find the systems-level people (business and engineering) who signed-off on MCAS as being safe. point to them and say "how could you not have tested the failure modes of MCAS, specifically AoA sensors?". There's no answer to that. Off to prison.

2) find the people who allowed the Max to keep flying after the first wreck. Not literally one hour later, but once they had information that MCAS might have been involved, a crime was committed (endangering public safety) allowing flights after that moment.

3) If any whistle-blowers emailed their superiors about MCAS failures, whoever ignored the complaint committed a crime unless any written concerns were properly documented, filed, considered, etc.

But why is everyone blaming Boeing? They were working on the issue, and I wouldn't want to rush a software patch on plane either. The pilots clearly thought it was an issue, by why are they talking to Boeing? Shouldn't they be talking with the Carrier? I mean if anyone is to blame for loss of life surely it's the carriers?

Everyone is blaming boeing because every time you think you learned the last possible either dumb or reckless thing they did with the 737 max there is another dumber more reckless thing. Every single rock you look under there is more of this crap.

Let's recertify our jet instead of doing a new one, shorten time to market.

New engines don't fit, ruin the handling of the aircraft. Can't recert that.

Try to fix aircraft handling in software. Designed flawed system to hide this from pilots and get regulatory apptoval. Under testing discover that system as submitted to regulators does not work well enough in flight. Update to allow to run repeatedly instead of once as well as increasing movement ranger per cycle. Do not tell regulators.

Ship aircraft with 1 hour iPad video intro for pilots. Do not mention this system.

Discover that the indicator in the cockpit for sensor failure for the system only works if you have optional HUD upgrades. Sit on this data. Do not patch until your aircraft is grounded.

Reassign the guys who are supposed to be doing safety oversight for you if they ask for more safety testing.

It's like back when every single week on Hackernews there was another article about Uber, either dealing with harassment, a corrupt or cut-throat business culture, the hell map, programs to get around laws in various countries, hiring Eric Holder's law firm for damage control, a self driving car driving the wrong way up a 1-way street, a self driving car killing a lady on a bicycle, said self-driving car intentionally had sensors disabled for testing the computer vision system, etc. etc.

There still in business though, so Boeing will probably pull out of this fine.

I could imagine that the biggest risk for Boeings exec comes from the certification issues. That they lost two planes because of the system will result in civil law suits and, I'd guess, a settlement. If Boeing can get these settlements without admitting to wrong doing they will have an advantage on the certification front. If they have to admit wrong doing to get a settlement, like VW had to, the Execs are in much more trouble. And the bad thing for them is that the FAA certification process and any potential cheating in it can be litigated and prosecuted in the US.

Boeing itself should be fine after a couple of really expensive years. VW was as well and I for my part really thought VW could go under. Instead it hit some high level managers and around 30 billion in fines.

You missed the final step: people die. No individual or group of individuals is ever tried for a crime because corporate personhood.

There is no evidence (yet) the MAX engines placement "ruin the handling of the aircraft". That's still speculation. Clearly it handles different from other 737 type aircraft which would require a different pilot type certification, which is a big deal and a huge competitive disadvantage vs a320neo.

What? The whole purpose of MCAS was to address the tendency for the aircraft to pick up under throttle because the engineers are placed more forward on the wings causing a change in lift

Yes, but that's not "ruining" the handling of the plane, only changing it from the handling of a real 737.

They gave MCAS extremely powerful control over the trim, apparently powerful enough to overcome the pilots. That implies that the handling characteristics that MCAS is supposed to overcome are pretty bad.

Or that they're pretty out of spec for a 737. I think other people in the thread have pointed out that the extra lift from the engine position is considered normal in other airplane models, but I haven't seen a lot about that aspect of the MCAS issue so I can't comment on it.

I think it’s the degree of lift from the engines in a stall situation that made the 737Max8 unusually dangerous. But you’re correct in that Boeing desperately wanted to maintain the 737 type certificate to make it easier to train existing 737 pilots.


DuPont (the chemical company) has been dumping PFOA/C8 chemicals into various waterways, causing cancer and birth defects[0] across hundreds of towns and cities in various parts of the US for decades[1], and when the EPA told them to stop and fined them something like $17M (for a company that makes tens of billions of dollars a year), they promptly switched to a different chemical process to produce Teflon that resulted in identical health issues[2].

Did any of their executives see any criminal charges? Of course not.

The Devil we Know is a great documentary, by the way.




What you seem to be missing is the idea of the rule of law, and perhaps also the idea of only punishing those who are moral responsible.

How many people do you think have moral culpability for this fiasco? Twenty? One hundred? Boeing employs more than 150,000 people. You want them all to lose their jobs based on the actions of 100 people? You want a battalion of rednecks to "mop up" (kill?) 150,000 people for the actions of 100?

If you want to fire a bunch of executives (and maybe some engineers), I'm fine with that. You want some to go to jail? Sure. You want the stockholders to take a bath? Makes sense to me. Destroy the whole company? No, I don't think that's a reasonable response. An emotional one, maybe, but not a reasonable one.

> If a person had gone out and murdered two planefuls of people

How can this possibly be murder? Negligence, man-slaughter, maybe, I don't know the facts. But how could it possibly meet any standard required for murder?

Not sure how it works in the US, but in Germany this would be possible. Here, it doesn't have to be "intent", meaning you want it to happen. There is another concept called "billigend in Kauf nehmen", which means you know your actions could cause this, but don't care if that's the outcome. This is different from plain negligence, where you just believe it won't happen.

Are you proposing that an armed militia hunting down Boeing employees is somehow going to improve the situation??

This is not going to be popular, but I'm pretty sure it would!

The reason of all this negligence and death of passengers is exactly this: The worst they can do to us is force our CEO to step down and put what a 1% of our profits in form of financial penalties? We will survive and this is worth cuts!

It seems most likely to be a mix of ignorance, greed, and incompetence on the part of a fairly small number of Boeing employees and executives. Meriting prison time? Probably, actually. Meriting mass murder?... I mean, really?

Well, it's over 100,000 people, is one thing.

More seriously, the real question is why the CEO of Boeing doesn't get forced out. It would seem time for the board of Boeing to do their job, if only in order to save their pocketbooks. It is dismaying that they haven't even done that.

Look at the Boeing board members. They are responsible for Boeing's current trajectory. Expect Nikki Haley to hold anybody accountable?

For one, they provide jobs for more than 150,000 people, not including contractors and vendors. Would you prefer those people all land on unemployment overnight? The people who did this should be punished, sure, but that shouldn’t make all of these people liable.

If they can’t recover, the company will be sold off for parts. That’s pretty standard in the corporate world. But to say we should somehow punish middle-class people trying to do good work by disappearing their employer because of some bad actors within the ranks of the company is a bad take.

Eh... As attractive as it sounds, and as viscerally satisfying as the Sheriff's posse approach would be, the problem is that everyone is entitled to due process.

And in terms of criminal liability, that involves stapling the crime to various real people, and proving a case against them.

At a minimum, Boeing is facing potential exposure for: -Corporate Manslaughter -Fraud -Securities Fraud -Criminal Negligence -Product Liability

Those are just the major ones I can think of off the top of my head. There's probably interesting flavors of

-Making false statements to Federal Agents -Perjury

And a host of other exotic crimes players in this debacle can be charged with, if you had an AG with the interest and will to hit them with every reasonably provable charge.

Magic 8 ball says there will be investigations into the part played by executives, getting to the root of who was pushing the deceptive documentation, design, and sales decisions.

They get criminal charges. Boeing gets sued for securities fraud and settles or otherwise pays out.

Civil suits for victims family's will likely be paid by insurer's/the Federal Government (likely pitched as a surprising diplomatic concession, really a National Security concession).

FAA or Congress may surprise and crack down on Boeing, laying down a plan where the executive leadership gets swapped out, mandatory culture/operational revamp under Federal supervision for some number of years. (Boeing has too much National Security impact to have the plug completely pulled).

Mmmm. MAX probably get refits/regulatory waivers of various flavors; pilots/Flight Attendants will be the primary determinant on how much has to get done. Combined Boeing/Pilots/Flight Attendants Unions run a PR campaign, vouching for MAX's safety. Planes return to service, and eventually the public begrudgingly returns to their normal flying habits.

737 line is probably officially on it's deathbed. FAA may see some major scrutiny, and possible budget increases depending on political will.

And the world turns.

You think the EU will roll over for Boeing?

Magic 8 ball is... Inconclusive.

<shakes for more detail>

Boeing will likely have to submit to additional certification internationally, and possibly additional retrofits to bring it into parity with at a minimum the same level of redundancy that Airbus is held to (for the EU at least).

Enough dice were cast that it would be diplomatically/economically inconvenient for the EU to lock out the MAX entirely without seriously inconveniencing every other country that invested in building out their fleets with them.

8 ball is not saying that the EU doesn't have the wherewithal to stone wall Boeing, but... somehow more air traffic is likely to be seen as more satisfying to the palate in the long run than any gains to be had by grandstanding too hard against American Corporate Corruption in the short term.

I'm beginning to wonder if HN is an unwilling part of a disinformation campaign an on 737max? It seems every day now we have a speculative article posted like this.

Please don't break the site guidelines by making insinuations about astroturfing without evidence. If you're worried, you can email us and we'll look at the data. People reach for this image to explain why they're seeing a bunch of posts they disagree with or dislike—but the overwhelming majority of the time, it's simply that the topic is divisive, with lots of users on opposing sides.


I'm a bit surprised by this reaction actually. I know it's in HN favor to keep the comment section academic; so my apologies if my comment came off construed as conspiracy theory. Given that early 2017 a heavily discussed topic was fake news and intentional manipulation of social media, this did not seem out of the realm of possibility for me, hence my original comment.

Agreed, the germs of the topic are still very much airborne, and that's a big part of it. I think we just have to keep repeating this every time it comes up (sigh). Totally clear that your intention was sincere.

This article is written by the New York Times, I fail to see how it is disinformation by posting articles by one of (if not ) the biggest newspapers in the world. It's not like these are written by some obscure journalistic outfit. Of course that doesn't mean they are correct and accurate and unbiased themselves, but it at least indicates to me that even if HN users are posting holding the viewpoint of the article, at least it is a viewpoint that is held by other reputable parties.

Try riding in a A220 or E190 and see if you still think the 737 has a reason to exist.

The 737 MAX is a classic case of secular stagnation, of undercompetion, underinvestment, regulatory capture, etc.

How do I find A220 and E190 flights just to see if I have them available to me?

“speculative”? You’re alleging that the hour-long recording that is the basis for this article is misleading or a fabrication?

HN is a community consisting primarily of software engineers. This is a very high profile news story in which software ended up killing people. It's very much in the interest of readers here to keep discussing it when new information comes to light.

> HN is a community consisting primarily of software engineers

You might think so, but this is by no means clear. Perceptions of HN have a way of being wrong. For example, people think HN is a Silicon Valley community, but fewer than 10% of its users are in SV.

Change that by putting more effort into your comments.

"Rogue Boeing 737 Max planes ‘with minds of their own’ | 60 Minutes Australia" is what Youtube tries to show me now. It's pretty ridiculous.

Some Boeing history from 2010. On the Dreamliner.


Short version: the problems have been there since at least 2005

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