1. They got it right this time
2. They didn't get it right (because it's not possible to get it right), but they are going to insist that they did because admitting that they were chasing a chimera all along would be the end of the company
The problem is that it will be very hard for anyone without very deep knowledge to determine which of these is the case. I don't see any way to tell a convincing story  about how the Max can be flown safely that does not involve re-training pilots to fly the plane "raw", i.e. where a human pilot is capable of flying the plane when the automation has failed, without any software covering up its native handling characteristics. That will require a new type certificate and re-training. That can make the plane safe to fly, but it will utterly destroy its economic model, so that is an unacceptable solution.
Boeing has already destroyed all of the credibility it once had. It insisted that the Max was safe to fly when it manifestly wasn't. They will again insist that the Max is safe to fly whether or not it actually is because their survival as a company depends on it. The problem is not that the plane may be unsafe. The problem is that, under the circumstances, there will be no way to know whether or not it is until the next one crashes.
To put it in perspective, in North America, American Airlines and United Airlines have each ordered at least 100 of the airframes. These airlines each operate several different fleet types of similar sizes that each require putting pilots through extensive training to move them back and forth. The economics of operating the MAX would be changed but I would imagine it’s still going to come out as cost effective when considering how much more efficient the aircraft is vs the older aircraft they’ll be replacing.
I certainly appreciate the skepticism of getting the product back out there without extensive training. I think even after its all said and done the pilots and pilots’ unions will heavily advocate for additional training to ensure these things are being operated safely.
A new type rating cannot use grandfather rights. There is plenty of stuff in this plane that is not permitted any more (like the door design over the wings). Those would be massive changes to the plane.
That’s just one example though and you’re likely right. The thing is though most of these systems have modern adaptations that could be applied. They just haven’t been because of the desire to keep it a 737. They’re things that can be changed/fixed whereas the aerodynamics of the design cannot be be changed easily.
Oddly enough that news bulletin says it's still a plug door which it clearly is not in the final design.
Overall the root cause I believe is generally weight of doors and evacuation time. I had a few conversations about this around the time the second accident happened and grandfather rights were brought up by people from the industry I talked to as an expensive problem for a new type rating.
"It is the only modern Boeing jet without an electronic alert system that explains what is malfunctioning and how to resolve it. Instead pilots have to check a manual."
But if Boeing can get out of this disaster with a few more AoA sensors on each airframe, some safety-critical software, some simulators, and some free training for the airlines to send their pilots to...they'd be fools not to do that. A fleet sitting on the ground for months is worth a lot more than some simulator time.
Yeah, but at this point that’s just going to mean Boeing ends up selling these things for less of a profit. There’s years of backlog of 737 MAX orders, and years of backlog of A320 Neo orders.
Airlines with orders in for dozens of MAXes in 2021 aren’t going to be able to switch those orders to Neos without incurring years and years of delays on delivery.
That means that if 737MAX requires a new type certification, then it requires in order to make business sense for airlines either (at a minimum) additional costly fragmentation of the airlines' employee pool, or more likely making plans to retire the fleet of planes that are classified under the prior "not as profitable body design" of type certification.
My source is hard to narrow down, I've been listening to the APG podcast show, where Captain Jeff (the not-as-good-looking Jeff) flies MD-80's for "Acme Airlines", I guess which is a major US legacy carrier who has been renamed to protect the innocent. It might have been something I heard here, or read online, and I am not a pilot, so willing to be called out by anyone who knows more than me, please feel free to chime right in here if you know different. I can't seem to find a source for this fact.
I think perhaps what I misunderstood might be, if there is no law or regulation that says you can't be type certified in multiple aircrafts at once, actually have to turn in your current type rating in order to get another one... (???)
... but that the practicality of maintaining multiple type ratings for a pilot makes it something basically so expensive or onerous as an Airline Transport Pilot, that it would be practically unheard of for someone to maintain two type rating certifications at once for any period of time. And it seems logical the same thus goes for airlines themselves. The Southwest brand of cheap flights was originally made possible by the fact that their entire fleet was made up of planes with just one type rating. The more type ratings that must be maintained, the less nimble and profitable the company will be.
It seems likely we're going to see more airlines going under as this story unfolds, either that or some kind of major bailouts. I don't even know if they make any insurance that covers this scope and scale of business catastrophe.
The 737 MAX fleets will be big enough to justify the cost of maintaining a group of pilots that fly the MAX and a group that flies the 737NG. Just as they do now with multiple fleet types. If airlines were trying to just mix 30-40 of these in with the 737NG fleet the economics would break but when you’re talking a fleet of 100+ it starts working out. Of course it will end up making the economics worse than originally planned for but at this point what can you do? The A320NEO order book is filled for years so if you’re an airline CEO you’re stuck with the MAX.
As far as the airlines go none of them seem to be suffering significant financial damage yet. The pace of orders meant they were only going to have about 30-40 of these things by years end so they’re coping. It remains to be seen how it will affect them long term. DAL seems to have struck gold with the whole ordeal. As the only major US airline without the MAX they’ve increased capacity 2-3% more than planned and their recent Q2 shows it’s working out great.
I did not know this! Thanks for the added insight.
That's not my understanding: I think you can simultaneously be certified for multiple planes, however companies will only make you fly for one at a time, currently. My guess is that if the Max needs a new certification, it will create a whole new model given it is still really close to the NG (and basic 737, if they still fly), so it might be more convenient than risky (and costly) to allow pilots to be certified and fly on both, if really needed. Maybe this will not even be needed, because tons of companies use multiple types of aircraft already.
Call me cynical, but I believe this is not possible. It may be upgraded, rebranded, recertified, and they may retrain everyone who may come anywhere near its cockpit, but they can't just drop the plane for three reasons:
1. They already sold too many. Those customers will want a refund, and will have a major loss of faith into Boeing. Unless there is a replacement plane to give but ...
2. They don't have any replacement. They don't have anything to put in that slot. And it's already a plane they had to rush because a) it's the main seller, and b) the competition (A320 Neo) is a very good plane in that slot.
3. Like said above, it's the major seller. It has how many thousands of orders and how many years of wait to get your planes already ? And nobody cancelled to move to airbus because they're just as backlogged. So neither Boeing, nor the airlines, nor the US government want it / can afford for it to disappear, they want it fixed, anyway possible.
Don't get me wrong, I believe in a perfect world it should be grouded forever and be remembered as a huge warning lesson, but this will never happen.
The real question is, why aren't Airbus and Boeing massively increasing their production capacity for those lines ? Feels like they've been been backlogged since forever, and it's only getting worse. I get that you can't create a new set of factory and their trained workers overnight, but we're talking decade here.
Ultimately we may be moving toward a taxpayer bailout of Boeing. Instead of doing that why not take that money any fund grants to help rediversify the market?
I don't see how you could have a competitive market like cars when the safety standards are an order of magnitude higher than driving and yet probably an order of magnitude smaller in size.
It's also worth considering that car crashes are disproportionately caused by drunk and teenage drivers. If you are between 25 and 70, drive in the daytime and don't drink yourself you can beat the safety record of airlines! There's no need to argue for laxer airworthiness standards using bad statistics.
Cars can travel extremely short ranges and extremely long ranges which skews their "journey" statistics as most people use them for short trips. Planes are only efficient at long ranges so "journey" statistics look bad but if everyone were to drive everywhere instead of fly, human fatalities would definitely go up.
You can slice the numbers in many ways, but in truth you can only substitute similar distances between modes of transit. Aka you can’t substitute a 1km car trip for a 10,000 km aircraft trip. Making deaths per passenger distance the only meaningful metric.
I can't see how you came to this conclusion, I'd expect walking to be the safest by far on this per-journey accounting.
Cars are the deadliest thing we have in modern society.
Because it's expensive, and times where their market isn't going so well will be coming, and the company that hasn't spent billions on production capacity it can't utilize is better off. More production capacity doesn't even mean they sell that many more planes overall.
You must have missed this news:
Both receive absolutely massive subsidies from their respective governments, to allow them to price-cut the competition. The governments are not willing to increase those, hence limiting the amount of under-market-value products they can deliver to their customers.
"EU rapped by WTO for $10bn a year Airbus subsidies
FBW on the A320 has many benefits such as better passenger comfort because it can use the control surfaces to take the edge off turbulence. You can get away with smaller control surfaces which then lowers weight, improves range, etc.
Airbus went through a lot of work to validate the safety of the FBW/Flight Envelope Protection -- if sensors fail, it goes into one of several degraded modes. Pilots are trained to recognize these modes and fly them.
Boeing has applied this technology to their large jets, but it's just sad that the most common Boeing jet by far, the 737, is a technological backwater. Boeing is talking about making a "New Midsize Aircraft" which has a questionable market, but so far as I can tell, their business plan is to be building a starship for NASA in 2070 but still be selling 737s.
Especially AF296 killed 3 people when they try to demonstrate the anti-stall capacity of the FBW during an airshow. Airbus modified the way the fbw control reclamation worked after this. After the Rio-Paris accident (forgot the flight name, it was AF too), they changed the way the degradation worked wehn sensor fails (i think now 3 different mode exists, and information is more visible).
Those incident killed people, and there is a chance that the first one was actually caused only by the manufacturer (the second one was 99% the pilot though, the remaining 1% was: better information, better sims and better gradation so that even new, tired pilot can't make this kind of mistake).
FBW adds cyber-related failure modes, but it is hard if not impossible to make the traditional hydraulics, strings, springs and pully-based systems resilient against failures since the number of things you have to duplicate explodes exponentially.
One big difference is that the pilot and co-pilot's yokes on a Boeing plane are mechanically connected to each other so they share the feelings. Airbus uses "sidestick" controllers which aren't quite as nice but are perfectly adequate.
Boeing, however, uses FBW only on their large aircraft, but not on the 737, which is their most flown aircraft. All Airbus planes are FBW, because their competitor to the 737, the A320 is FBW.
AOA sensors should be helpers, should notify or alert, but never make decisions.
Only if you ignore moments. 
The government hires an independent contractor organization (I guess The Aerospace Corporation and NASA people and former-FAA people from the time the FAA had technical people, etc.) to do a blue ribbon commission style full analysis of the plane, at a huge cost in time and budget, and publishes the whole thing, scathing as it is to Boeing. Some people might get fired, in both Boeing and the FAA, but that doesn't matter.
The independent contractor organization gets carte blanche to declare any issues as "preventing certification", and to suggest any fixes, and oversee Boeing implement the fixes and the tests (what the FAA should have done). When they sign off that the plane is safe, the FAA signs off (as a formality, because we don't trust the FAA) and airlines based in the US start using the plane where jurisdiction allows (maybe only in US, maybe in friendly countries). After a while of no crashes, other jurisdictions will allow it and other airlines will buy/unground it.
Boeing pays the government for the work of the independent contractor organization, in equity I guess. The government holds the stock until the stock price rises after the fixed plane succeeds in the market, and then sells.
Note I know nothing about anything, so the above is fan fiction.
Great idea, but I think Feynman died awhile back.
They need to put pilots through simulator training of both kinds of MCAS failure: (1) MCAS goes nuts and needs to be turned off, and (2) MCAS is not there to save you when you need it.
So long as Boeing refuses to capitulate, the grounding is going to go on, and the longer the grounding goes on, the more problems are going to be discovered, the more orders get canceled, etc.
Of course it is. All jet airliners already have active augmentation to make them fly as if they do not have stability problems that can lead to crashes.
All aircraft experience Dutch roll. It's an inevitability.
Control stick force inversion on approach to stall is absolutely not an inevitable consequence of large aircraft design. Yaw dampers are specifically required as a labor saving device on civil transport aircraft with swept wings; but all pilot's are aware of Dutch Roll.
None were made aware of the failing behavior that MCAS corrects.
It's still a stability issue that has led to fatal crashes because some pilots were unable to correct for dutch roll. Successfully countering dutch roll is an ongoing process, and a pilot may know all about it in his head and still be unable to correctly counter it with properly coordinated stick & rudder movements.
Dutch roll is no joke and the yaw damper is required and is critical equipment.
On the other hand, dealing with runaway MCAS is literally just turning a switch off on the console.
No one was told about MCAS or the force inversions it was meant to correct ahead of time, or shared enough technical detail to ensure pilots know what to be prepared for. Major difference there.
>On the other hand, dealing with runaway MCAS is literally just turning a switch off on the console.
Which instantly decertifies your aircraft to be carrying passengers.
Look, I get it. That's paperwork talk! The thing still flies!
But we have to hold ourselves accountable to the silly whims of paperwork talk, lest we fall victim to Normalization of Deviance, who is a cold-hearted, stone-faced bitch.
Knowing about it doesn't help. They crash anyway. That's why there's a yaw damper as required equipment.
> No one was told about MCAS
That's true, but they were told about the stab trim cutoff switches to halt runaway trim, and the MCAS failure exhibits itself as runaway trim. The flight before the Lion Air crash had an MCAS failure, too, and the pilots simply switched off the stab trim and they landed safely. They did't know about MCAS, either.
> Which instantly decertifies your aircraft to be carrying passengers.
That isn't how certification works.
Boeing has certainly made many mistakes with the MCAS system, but the problem was controllable by pilots who remembered what the cutoff switches were for. This was proven in the first MCAS failure incident I mentioned.
They don't do it not knowing about and having experienced Dutch Roll, however, with a check pilot. We train for the unexpected, use technology as best we can to mitigate, and just have to have faith that after a certain point we've told the pilot everything they need to know, and leave them to do their thing. Regardless of whether Dutch roll has killed someone or not they knew about Dutch roll going into it. They knew yaw dampers were a thing. They knew how and when yaw dampers were active and why. Not so with MCAS.
>The flight before the Lion Air crash had an MCAS failure, too, and the pilots simply switched off the stab trim and they landed safely. They did't know about MCAS, either.
Walter, c'mon man. We've been through this before.
The penultimate Lion Air flight had 3 pilots, one with the luxury of paying attention to anything the other two actually flying the plane weren't; None of them knew what was going on, and to be frank, Getting it right for the wrong reasons just sets the stage for more disaster later. You can also look at the documentation regarding stabilizer runaway, and it is specifically described as a continuous uncommanded trim actuation.
MCAS isn't continuous, it's discrete. On for 10 seconds, off for five. While the procedures may be the same, an unprimed pilot being caught unawares by an aircraft feature completely foreign to them, and unelucidated in the documentation is liable to lose precious time if the failure happens at an inopportune time of the flight.
Also, throw in the failure of autopilot to stay engaged, and inability to lock the computer out without losing the trim switches, it's a losing proposition all around.
>That isn't how certification works.
I'll butt heads with you there. A type certification certifies a particular configuration of hardware and software to be flown in certain airspace for a particular purpose. While operational leniency is to be expected so a failure of a component not on the Minimum Required Equipment checklist doesn't ground planes at every little problem, I patently reject the proposition that having a type certificate granted, then experiencing a configuration change during normal operation that compromises the ability for the airframe to meet the prescribed criteria for being certified as airworthy does not discertify that particular instance of the alleged type from immediate airworthyness.
It is the configuration that is certified. Anything that meets that configuration within reason may be used for the certified purpose. Departure from said configuration warrants immediate remediation as quickly and safely possible. Generally that judgement call is by custom left to the pilots as to whether to continue or reroute for repairs.
If you lose a system required to use the plane for it's intended purpose in flight, then you should damn well be prepared to put that plane on the ground to get it fixed. Period. This type of thing isn't a game, and the more the industry treats it like one, the less inclined people will be to trust and utilize it.
Obviously it's not as the pilots in the first incident turned off the stab trim and landed without further incident or difficulty, despite being totally unaware of MCAS.
10 seconds of the stab trim moving is a long time, and it's hair-splitting to say that isn't a runaway when it is uncommanded and moving things in an obviously dangerous direction. Short circuits can also cause runaway trim, and are often intermittent.
They do not have to know what is going on to conclude it's runaway trim and shut it off. The pilots are supposed to be trained for runaway stab trim. It's the WHOLE POINT of having the cutoff switches within easy reach on the console.
Just like if the engine is on fire, the pilot does not need to know why the engine is on fire, he just has to know how to operate the engine fire extinguishers.
Furthermore, the MCAS system was known after the first crash. Boeing issued an airworthiness directive about it, with instructions to use the cutoff switches.
So what is the reason the Ethiopian pilots were not aware of the MCAS system (it was all over the news, and Boeing had issued an airworthiness directive on it which is supposed to be sent to the pilots)? I don't know. I've never heard an explanation for it.
Nobody is claiming it's a game. Nobody is claiming Boeing doesn't need to fix the MCAS system. Pilot training is clearly inadequate if two sets of pilots did not use the cutoff switches. Something is wrong with the airworthiness directive system if they did not reach the pilots.
But at the end of the day, the FAA will let it fly again because it not flying might break Boeing's back and Boeing is essential as a defense company.
At worse, they'll have to have a separate type-rating and require pilots to go through further training to fly it.
The whole idea behind the plane was to skip full training and be qualified with a short hour long tablet training session.
That cost saving measure has now passed, so rather than scrapping the Max all together, pilots will just need the further training.
I maintain that it will fly again, there will be a third high fatality crash related to MCAS, and then it will never fly as a passenger plane again. The existing planes will be repurposed as cargo planes. You heard it here first.
And a massive federal bailout of Boeing because it is critical to national security is well beyond inevitable at this point.