That's not just bad; this is really, _really_ bad. In my eight years of the Navy, working on aircraft, parts and tool accountability was 100% the most serious part of our day. You went to and left the aircraft with everything accounted for. If _one_ part or tool was missing, everything would shut down for that aircraft until it was found.
The fact that tools and parts were/are missing tells me that either supply didn't do its job right, or someone left a loose nut in a compartment somewhere, just waiting to kill people.
People _die_ because of this shit.
Gotta keep the FOD out of the aircraft and the flight lines!
Really amazing work, read NTSB crash reports and they outline the methods used
Everyone knows that the investigative body is there to help figure out what went wrong and to provide guidance on how to avoid similar mistakes in the future. It’s not about assigning blame, and there’s an understanding that if it were to become about that then the industry would be worse-off as a whole.
(Slightly off-topic, but this is precisely why Tesla’s reaction to the NTSB investigation in their Model X crash was so concerning. Any player that defects here runs the risk of poisoning the process for everyone else.)
They pressurized and depressurized an airplane (inside of a water tank) 50,000 times until it failed.
Civilian aircraft are designed to be super stable.
That said, we take FOD and tool control very seriously. And the aircraft had 30 / 60 / 90 /365 day inspections that varied in detail
Planes have to be predictable, they can have massive failure states but the solution must be repeatable. Unknown failures, regardless of the severity, are a major problem and should always be tracked and investigated. A small unknown failure could be a symptom or precursor to a much larger problem.
Everyone hates paperwork but it's what saves lives.
My neighbor is a pilot and I asked him completely off hand how to troubleshoot non responsive flaps and he went into detail about the hydraulics system, where the pumps are and the steps he would take to troubleshoot. This was off the top of his head without a checklist.
Boeing is maybe too big to fail, but the reputation hit they are taking may lead to companies not buying their planes, thus pushing for least competition, which is bad news for everyone.
Airbus being the kind of behemoth company it is, I am convinced that without Boeing's competition, over time, they would end up with the same practices, convinced that their aircraft sell themselves.
What happened there: wrong kind of oil was used in elevator and it went unnoticed because maintenance guides did not require any inspections of affected parts. Wrong oil caused delays in sensor triggering, which led to primary computers shutting down, believing that there was a problem with elevator.
Backup computers didn't detect gear compression correctly when the aicraft bounced on the runway (one computer believed it was on the ground, the other that it was airborne) and also shut down and locked the elevator in neutral (zero) position as a safety measure.
This happened during a touch-and-go landing on a training flight. The A320 touched down, bounced, elevator got locked, the aircraft climbed a bit, then fell down on the runway scraping and damaging engines (due to loss of control), then took off again (not enough runway left for stopping) and was now flying with no elevator and with engines about to shut down. It's a miracle that pilots managed to turn around and land safely.
In 1993, Lufthansa A320 crashed under similar conditions: landed in poor conditions, computers didn't think it was on the ground and didn't allow braking until it was too late https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lufthansa_Flight_2904
What has surfaced in the last few months, is that Boeing is willing to cut corners, and is not being diligent.
It's completly possible that the same thing is happening at Airbus, but I have not personnally seen or heard evidences of that. At the very least, Airbus is not certifying it's own planes.
For example, for the crash you mentionned, was Airbus aware of that potential issue sooner but didn't update the maintenance guide for some ulterior motives?
Maybe, but the report you linked does not show that. The issue with Boeing is not that a plane crashed but that planes crashed despite earlier reports that people considered these planes unsafe. No such reports came out of Airbus about the A320 as far as I'm aware. Also the regulators did not delegate certification to Airbus.
Boeing, in contrast, uses simple radar altimeter. Whenever altitude reads 10 feet or less, the aircraft is considered to be "on ground" and things like thrust reversers become available.
I personally avoid praising or preferring Airbus when bashing Boeing. Who knows what else is under that rock too.
Which is problematic and has killed 134 people.
things like thrust reversers become available.
Boeing rather famously had a problem with in-air thrust reverse deployment (not on the 73 though).
Not at all. Its malfunctions are clear and obvious. If autothrottle starts moving thrust levers in unexpected ways, you turn the autothrottle off and assume manual control.
Thrust levers, reversers, braking or any other systems were not blocked or deployed unexpectedly. The aircraft simply reduced thrust too much while in control of speed, which is something one should always look out for, it's an expected failure, a known unknown.
The Turkish airplane crashed because the crew was flying an unstable approach and did not pay attention to warnings because their style of flying was expected to trigger warnings. This obscured the malfunction.
They came in too fast and too steep, ignored aural warnings, let thrust levers move to idle (which they expected because of high speed), failed to monitor airspeed and didn't notice last minute warnings because they were occupied with checklist that they should've already been through.
No-one was actually flying the airplane, despite the fact that there was an extra third safety pilot in the cockpit who was tasked with observing the flight.
While the FAA seems to agree with you EASA, Transport Canada, Australia's ATSB, and Senegal's BEA seem to disagree.
As said, autothrottle malfunction is a known unknown (with or without radio altimeter), something one can reasonably expect to happen, unlike the recent Airbus case where a bumpy landing led to loss of flight controls, something no pilot was trained for nor could reasonably expect to happen.
What's also important to stress is that loss of radio altimeter and autothrottle did not restrict Boeing pilots in any way. They had full control over the aircraft.
The TAM wreck wouldn't have happened had the pilots flown the plane either. vOv
unlike the recent Airbus case where a bumpy landing led to loss of flight controls, something no pilot was trained for nor could reasonably expect to happen.
That was quite a bit more than a bumpy landing. The Lufthansa pilots touched down far past where they should've. That's not a flaw with the aircraft. There's a reason the formal conclusion was pilot error and not because nationalism came into play.
What's also important to stress is that loss of radio altimeter and autothrottle did not restrict Boeing pilots in any way. They had full control over the aircraft.
Don't forget that in some of these cases, the autopilot didn't disconnect because the autopilot couldn't determine that one of the RAs had failed.
And what of the Lauda Air wreck? How much control did the pilots have when the reversers deploy in flight on a 76?
How about asymmetric flap deployments on a 75? Capt. VanderBurgh already discussed that scenario — another one where Boeing said that could never happen and pilots shouldn't train in the sim for it. Turns out it can happen and you're basically SOL.
Or what of the rudder hard overs in the NG?
How about the Helios Air wreck where the alarm for takeoff config and pressurization problems was (and still is) the same? How much awareness do you think a hypoxic crew will have?
How about the AoA disagree annunciator on the MAX that was too buggy to work unless you paid for additional features? Plenty of low quality crap comes out of Boeing these days…
Pilots were actively engaged, made a minor mistake by setting wrong thrust lever position on one engine, which caused the aircraft to disregard any other input and assume the aircraft to be airborne even when it was on the ground, spoilers and auto-braking armed, brakes manually slammed and one engine in reverse.
> That was quite a bit more than a bumpy landing.
I was referring to the 2018 incident. Pilots did everything by the book, yet lost elevator control.
> Don't forget that in some of these cases, the autopilot didn't disconnect because the autopilot couldn't determine that one of the RAs had failed.
Again, completely irrelevant as it did not prevent pilots from taking full control of the aircraft.
The rest of the examples you've thrown at me are also all malfunctions and have nothing to do with A320 incorrectly determining its state and overriding correct input from pilots.
You mentioned LH2904 and TAM3054. In both cases the pilots fucked up. Full stop.
Both flights were deemed pilot error by the respective investigative agencies. In the Lufthansa flight, they touched down too far down the runway.
A320 incorrectly determining its state and overriding correct input from pilots
The A320 pilots did not provide correct inputs.
This whole thread started from description of the 2018 SmartLynx accident.
> The A320 pilots did not provide correct inputs.
They did. Read the 2018 report. Simple touch-and-go's on a training day led to loss of elevator due to timing of a single light bounce after touchdown.
> Both flights were deemed pilot error by the respective investigative agencies.
Both reports also concluded that design of the aircraft contributed to the accident (instead of preventing) and recommended revising it.
In addition, the 2018 SmartLynx crash showed that the A320 still can't tell whether it's on the ground or not. This time pilots did everything by the book, and found themselves locked out of elevator control due to poor design of A320 SEC computers.
Yeah I'm familiar with the accident in question in passing so I just skimmed the article itself (whoops). RA failure on the 737 isn't unheard of:
The in-flight thrust reverser deployment killed everyone on the plane, thankfully Niki Lauda took Boeing to task.
So you're claiming that Airbus knowingly leaves a critical defect in their planes, which may cause the loss of flight controls and which they refreain from fixing for almost 30 years?
Either come up with a reliable source for this statement (which is extremely hard to believe) or allow me to call bullshit!
A320's computers monitor gear for uncompression of 1 second or longer. Computers are not in sync. If landing gear decompresses due to bouncing for long enough to be seen for 1 second by one computer, but short enough to get missed by the other, computers will produce different outputs and the system will shut down, freezing important flight control at a dangerous phase of flight and leaving pilots in a situation they have not been trained for.
Given the very obviously flawed and incredibly poor design that's easy to understand even for laymen, I would have very hard time believing that no-one at Airbus ever noticed, no-one ever spoke up. I think this would reflect even more poorly on Airbus.
Especially so considering that there have been multiple hull-loss accidents with fatalities (LH2904, TAM3054), where air/ground detection has been a contributing factor. Throughout the years, the aircraft has been unable to tell whether it's on the ground or in the air.
With the Lufthansa flight the problem was not the aircraft design but rather that the pilot remained on only one main gear for too long. The Airbus design requires weight on both wheels (this had nothing to do with computers being out of sync) in order to prevent things like the Lauda Air (Boeing 767-300ER) crash where the thrust reversers deployed in flight causing the plane to drop out of the sky, killing everyone.
Same deal with the TAM flight. For whatever reason the pilots didn't properly position the thrust lever on one engine. That had nothing to do with computers being out of sync and had absolutely nothing to do with ground detection.
Meanwhile with the Boeing 737, a single (unreliable) radar altimeter (RA) is used as part of the ground detection and a single failed RA caused a Westjet 737 to start pulling back on the throttles.
As far a the Turkish 737 crash:
During the accident flight, while executing the approach by means of the instrument landing system with the right autopilot engaged, the left radio altimeter system showed an incorrect height of -8 feet on the left primary flight display. This incorrect value of -8 feet resulted in activation of the ‘retard flare’ mode of the autothrottle, whereby the thrust of both engines was reduced to a minimal value (approach idle) in preparation for the last phase of the landing.
The problems with radio altimeter systems in the Boeing 737-800 fleet had been affecting several airlines, including Turkish Airlines, for many years and were known to Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States of America.
Despite the fact that Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States of America had been aware for many years that the radio altimeter system was causing many problems and was affecting the operation of other systems, this situation was not designated as a safety risk. Reports of problems with the radio altimeter system that could not be resolved by Boeing justified an effort to analyse the radio altimeter system and other related systems. Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States of America could have recognised the fact that the problems caused by the radio altimeter system, especially the potential for activating the autothrottle retard flare mode, posed a safety risk.
That sounds a lot like the engineering that went into MCAS - using only one input for something safety critical.
Westjet and Turkish incidents are irrelevant. Westjet malfunctioned, pilot took control and landed safely - that's what pilots are there for. Turkish airplane also malfunctioned and gave multiple warnings over several minutes, but pilots didn't pay attention to what the aircraft was doing until stall warning activated at 460 feet, by which time it was too late. Had they paid attention, they would've also recovered and landed safely.
In contrast, Airbuses systems didn't malfunction. They worked as designed and made the already difficult situation (landing in bad weather) deadly due to not responding like a pilot would expect. The design was deeply flawed, just like MCAS.
Nope. The Lufthansa bird had one bogie on the ground and one off. With the TAM flight the pilots left one thrust lever at climb power and one at idle, pure pilot error.
The Westjet and Turkish incidents are irrelevant. Westjet malfunctioned, pilot took control and landed safely - that's what pilots are there for. Turkish airplane also malfunctioned and gave multiple warnings over several minutes, but pilots didn't pay attention to what the aircraft was doing until stall warning activated at 460 feet, by which time it was too late. Had they paid attention, they would've also recovered and landed safely.
Unfortunately the 737s were functioning as designed, the computers took invalid input and ran with it instead of cross checking it.
Which is to be expected from a crosswind landing (especially with a lot of lift from higher-than-usual speed), but it took 900 m of runway before enough weight was detected on both of them to activate thrust reversers and spoilers. And even after all wheels were on the ground, it took another 300 m before wheel brakes became active. The accident investigation report recommended introduction of emergency override to cover the whole range of conditions in which airplanes fly.
> With the TAM flight the pilots left one thrust lever at climb power and one at idle, pure pilot error.
The aircraft was firmly on the ground, with one thrust lever in reverse position. Spoilers and auto-brake did not activate because position of the other lever lever was prioritized over actual condition of the aircraft. Critical data was derived from a thrust lever, which has no safety features to prevent inadvertent wrong positioning. Furthermore, lever positioning suppressed aural reminders to bring thrust levers to idle (the famous "RETARD").
> Unfortunately the 737s were functioning as designed, the computers took invalid input and ran with it instead of cross checking it.
Which is irrelevant on the 737, because its design philosophy expects pilots to monitor and (if necessary) override automation, which hundreds of attentive crews successfully did before the Turkish crash. A320, on the other hand, lacks emergency override, as the LH2904 investigators noted in their report. It cannot reliably tell whether the aircraft is on the ground or not, and stops pilots from taking the correct action.
And, that as far as we know, hasn't caused
I like thinking about this in a sort of hypothetical Sparta. Sparta had two kings from two different royal lines.
Suppose you're one of two kings, and the other royal line experiences some sort of dynastic hiccup. This inevitably happens to everyone.
A popular strategy throughout history is to capitalize on that hiccup by exterminating the existing royal line, or at least driving them out of power so you can take it yourself. As a king, you are ideally positioned to do this. Maybe you can take both thrones and be the double-king. Maybe you can put your cousin on the second throne. Maybe you can put a flunky on the second throne. Maybe you can get rid of the second throne, leaving yourself as sole king.
But once you do that, a precedent has been set. Your line will eventually stumble too, and it is likely to suffer whatever fate befell the other line the first time. Another strategy you have, back when the rival line first shows weakness, is to stake everything you have on your commitment to upholding the Spartan way of life as expressed in the dual kingship. Give rousing speeches on how unthinkable it would be for anything about the current setup to change. Throw all your considerable resources into supporting the king on the other throne, no matter how weak his position might look.
If that sticks, the other line is likely to remember that you were there when they needed you. But even more than that, you've just established that the dual kingship, and the two families who fill it, are an integral part of the culture, never to be questioned. That tradition may ultimately prove more helpful to you than any personal support. And it has such obvious benefits to the other royal line that, going forward, they will likely support it just as strongly as you do.
On this analogy, the problem with disturbing the Airbus / Boeing duopoly isn't that Boeing might start to compete with Airbus, provoking an arms race. The bigger problem is that (as you mention) some other company might start thinking they can make airplanes too, and who knows what could happen then.
Personally, I'd like to see Mitsubishi get back into the passenger plane business. They're already starting, but with a smaller regional jet.
I think what's missing in the Airbus-Boeing debate is an appreciation for the role of engine manufacturers. The A220, E195-E2, and Mitsubishi SpaceJet are all built around P&W's new geared turbofan engines.
It seems to me that at this point in the evolution of the industry everybody effectively builds their planes around the capabilities and limits of available engine technology. The immediate cause of death of the A380 was the refusal of any engine manufacturer to design and sell a more modern engine. The A380 became inefficient because its engines were at least 1.5 generations behind, not because there were 4 of them. (Of course, the reason nobody wanted to invest in a newer engine was because the market was too small to make it worth their time, especially considering their struggles with existing commitments.)
I imagine any aerospace engineering company could design a state-of-the-art and competitive body around the available engines. Aircraft manufacturers seem to self-select into market niches not because of engineering costs and difficulties, but simply because the global markets aren't large enough to support a third wide body manufacturer and only barely large enough, if at all, to support another 737/A320.
Embraer's commercial business is owned by Boeing now — the subsidiary is called BBC.
That's especially incredible considering Southwest pilots' union says in a lawsuit that the 737 MAX is unsafe.
Well, in this case I'd argue that it was totally Boeing's responsibility to communicate to such customers that they couldn't do it.
Instead they nodded their heads, demanded the impossible from their engineers, demoted or fired people that questioned it and in the end offered a hacked solution, which killed over 300 people.
I don't think that your argument excuses their culpability in any way, shape or form.
If I offer you $1 million to shoot someone, and you go do that, two crimes have been committed. Pointing out that I'm also culpable in no way excuses your culpability. I would be the real source of the crime, as the instigator, having set out a strong incentive to commit the crime against your otherwise better judgement.
The 737 MAX fiasco threatens this arrangement.
Because that's what manufacturers always did? If you only do iterative changes then eventually you run into a wall. Boeing engineers also knew that. The disagreement between what engineers wanted and what management wanted has been a point of contention for many years.
That was what Boeing and Airbus supposed to do: Sell the a320Neo and 737MAX for as long as possible and stay away from the wall. Now that Boeing screwed up, they may be forced to jump the wall and Airbus will have to follow. On the other side of the wall, they will sell the same number of planes.
While unchanged, the wing has seen a steady loading increase: to 83t on the first A321, then 89t and 93.5t, and is finally expected to go up to 101t on the A321XLR. This increased wing loading has meant higher take-off speeds, reaching close to the maximum tire speed limits, and a lower safety margin at altitude – in other words, a tighter “coffin corner”, and lower stability protection.
Airbus just hasn't had it's day yet.
If the company doesn't suffer for such failures then competition doesn't matter.
(FWIW, I think the A380 has superb pax comfort.)
I'm pretty sure we dropped about 500 feet straight down, but all I remember was being amazed how my cup of pepsi stayed on my tray and didn't fall over.
As for favorite plane, the lower pressurization and higher humidity of a 787 makes all the difference.
You need to plan ahead.
Sure, it was a handful for the manufacturer, luckily pulled it off, kinda broke even after some time. But it will be long gone when it will be really needed, when large hubs become even more congested or certain P2P lines heavily overgrow on themselves.
Even with the engine handicap the A380 was still generally competitive if fully loaded. And if not fully loaded it could still be competitive, as described by a recent story about the outsized role of the Dallas-Sydney route to Quantas' bottom line: https://simpleflying.com/dallas-sydney-qantas/ (see also https://www.dallasnews.com/business/airlines/2019/10/28/this...)
Considering that engine efficiency is perhaps the biggest contributor to financial viability, that says something very positive about the A380 approach and design. But as engines continued to advance the A380 would have lost even that edge.
Just to make things clear since I also work in the field.
Non conforming parts are not a problem, at least not from a safety perspective. It just means that the part is damaged (ex: scratched) or not up to specs, and that some analysis is required. A typical result is that the part is usable but with more frequent inspections and a reduced service life. It is more of a problem for the company because they are losing money fixing stuff instead of doing it right the first time.
Not knowing where each part is, conforming or not, is a really big problem, as mentioned by other posters.
We were all like, WTF. Photos were taken and sent; I really hope someone got fired.
This also led us to taking the aircraft completely apart and checking every nook and cranny. Found FOD and such in random places.
As a vet, this frustrates the hell out of me. We are trained to look out for one another and, especially in the case of aircraft maintenance, we are trained to police ourselves and each other.
Yes, we also had strict guidance and checklists, and we followed them (sometimes only as best as we could depending on the situation, like combat zones, lack of supplies, etc). But, paramount above all that was safety and making sure whatever we did impacted safety in a positive way.
Going into the civilian world, it frustrates the hell out of me how lazy everyone could be with things that could literally kill somebody if maintained incorrectly.
And honestly it really surprises me a little how much of this about Boeing is coming out into the lime light. I thought their standards would be higher.
In normal markets competition would make sure that a company like Boeing gets enough pressure or eventually fails. Now they are too big to fail however they misbehave. And there is little doubt that they do badly. The merger with McDowell Douglas should never have been approved, even less the newest acqusitation of Embraer. Case AT&T showed what to do if competition does no longer work.
From a Supplier perspective it's an interesting discussion.
At the same time watch the report and get your own conclusions before shooting it down based on YOUR biases and prejudices, that reporting is solid, it has video evidence from an employee walking inside the Charleston factory and chatting with co-workers regarding the safety of the planes and the assembly line.
So please, be more sensible about your sourcing, this is solid even though biased, just take it with a grain of salt and critical thinking about what parts you should consider and what to disconsider... It's a real source.
Also: be more civil, I expect better from Hacker News, your comment read like something out of Reddit.
The assumption that everyone is telling the truth in a biased fashion is an incorrect assumption and leads to accepting lies from people who don't deserve your trust.
Perhaps some mix of both is necessary?
I remember in particular a piece Malcolm Gladwell wrote on football and head injuries. ( https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/10/19/offensive-play )
I am willing to believe that football causes head injuries for other reasons. I am generally against this. So I let a few people know about the piece. I'd also give them a warning: Malcolm Gladwell generally doesn't know what he's talking about, and it's a bad idea to pay attention to what he says. That said, this is an interesting piece by Malcolm Gladwell.
I know this is the wrong thing to do. You can use Malcolm Gladwell's piece to make arguments against football because every argument is more persuasive when Malcolm Gladwell makes it. That's his only skill, but it is very highly developed. The problem is that that's a terrible reason to believe an argument. The Malcolm-Gladwell-sounds-convincing argument can prove anything at all, as long as Malcolm Gladwell wants it to. The correct thing to do as the person being argued at is to completely dismiss whatever he says, because it will sound convincing regardless of whether it's true.
We have to make do with what we've got, which is easy access to original sources and independently verifiable information thanks to the internet and electronics.
Newspapers nowadays are great pointers for topics to look into independently, but one piece of bad information is damaging enough to offset a hundred accurate facts. So considering the quality of modern journalism, it's better to just focus on the source material and ignore what the middle man has to say.
There is still people I trust to provide accurate information, because I trust in both their integrity and expertise in their fields, but there is certainly no news organization that I trust to that degree as a whole.
When you can go to the primary source, by all means, be my guest and go for it. Nobody's arguing against that. The trouble is you're not going to get very far with this approach unless you somehow have independent access to all the primary sources and also the time and resources to sift through them. If you do -- fantastic. If you're like the vast majority of people, though, this is frequently not the case for you. And whenever it's not, ignoring every middleman altogether is the equivalent of putting your head in the sand and declaring everyone is wrong.
The project managers wished their airplane wouldn't be assembled there, because that causes a whole bunch of extra problems.
There were plenty of rumours going around of what was happening at that plant. The quality difference was definitely there, and I'm surprised not more airlines requested that. Maybe they did bit it was behind closed doors.
e.g. https://www.planespotters.net/airframe/Boeing/787/G-ZBJM-Bri... vs. https://www.planespotters.net/airframe/Boeing/787/9V-SCF-Sin...
I’m not sure I have a solution here, other than saying something like “just fix Boeing” but whatever company is making commercial airplanes, I want them backed by governments and large corporations, not VC money.
Also I bet that the EU certification won't be easy in the next 10 years.
At the same time the number of whistleblowers increasing is great for keeping Boeing in check.
Bombardier, COMAC/UAC, Mitsubishi, or some of those that make very small planes like Textron etc.
The problem seems to me that aircraft companies are treated as national assets, and no country wants to allow, and obviously not encourage, challengers to their champion.
I’m not sure if the incentives or expected results really change all that much. Certainly there are plenty of large wealthy governments and large corporations that don’t have a great track record with safety in large engineering/manufacturing endeavors.
Anyone has made other experiences?
Spent some years working on an a class 2b diagnostic device. Potential for harm not that high, but the lack of rigour in testing leaves me wondering to this day whether it worked at all as advertised.
If medical devices are ever open sourced, millions of critical bugs are going to fall out.
Already happening with Diabetics. I know a girl that has cracked her pump for closed loop performance and she says the results are mostly better, but take close monitoring and an active hand.
It's a tricky thing still. Yes, the devices are buggy (all things are), but half of medical devices are used by people with below average intelligence (by definition). It's still a balancing act and is likely to be for a long time.
I tried to contact them regarding the fact that their url for jquery tools no longer resolves and that their SSL certificate has expired. I filled out the contact form and hit submit and then was presented with an empty results screen (probably because the js is broken). Hopefully they fix it up, but might not.
Regulatory bodies are aware but are sitting on it, as disclosure would be almost as damaging reputationally to them as to the manufacturer.
You know the catchphrase, "think of the children", often used to justify some kind of overreach?
In this case, please, _think of the children_ and for the sake of us all, even anonymously, get that info to the media.
It’s still in the “shouldn’t have happened” category, and the manufacturer in question reported themselves, and steps have already been taken to prevent a recurrence, and similar potential bugs have been identified and addressed.
It’s tough. There is a lot of political opposition from bad or amoral players to any regulation. They’re faced with the choice of voluntarily opening themselves up to fierce criticism over a, in the grand scheme of things, minor issue, or sweeping it well under the carpet, learning from it, and moving on, and spreading their reach for regulation and enforcement.
It’s a trolley car problem if I’ve ever encountered one, and I am not confident that I could make a good call.
And after all, this is the most important thing for a regulatory agency.
In large orgs "conservative" managers who escalate and block issues usually don't get fired, they just get pushed to some other part of the org. And when/if the issue blows up, they get pulled back in to clean up the mess. Cause few others will have credibility. Same dynamic applies in reverse. The bunch that were in charge, during a blow up will be sent into the background. But will be pulled back when more "aggressive" management tactics are required.
We just had a potential safety issue in the last few months because of a manufacturing process defect. While no one was injured, this was a potentially hazardous situation. The company stopped the production, and reworked every affected system on customer site. While our profit have taken a hit this year, at least I am glad the right decision was taken, and no one (that I know of) challenged it.
To be fair, I don't know at which level above me the (costly) decision was taken, but at least someone had the courage to take it. But I am working at a fairly big company so likely it is easier to absorb an unexpected cost to defend the company brand, compared to a smaller company that have only one product line and that maybe can't afford it.
John Barnett, the whistleblower mentioned here, had complained to the FAA about sharp metal slivers and had his complaint upheld on inspection by the FAA.
(the navigation is on top of the page, you need JS enabled to see it)
It seems there's a lot of people inside Boeing who can say "interesting" things. The guy who created the above website was terminated in 2006.
The current economic system demands that corporations should always grow. The solution is to change to an economic system which minimizes global warming, promotes public safety. In such a system this plane would not have been designed how it was.
> Mr Barnett, a former quality control engineer, worked for Boeing for 32 years, until his retirement on health grounds in March 2017. From 2010 he was employed as a quality manager at Boeing's factory in North Charleston, South Carolina. This plant is one of two that are involved in building the 787 Dreamliner.
In terms of credibility lent by a career, you can't do much better in terms of being positioned to blow this particular whistle.
> According to Mr Barnett, 57, the rush to get new aircraft off the production line meant that the assembly process was rushed and safety was compromised. The company denies this and insists that "safety, quality and integrity are at the core of Boeing's values".
Surely Boeing must realize how tone-deaf this sounds given the current skepticism being (rightly) cast its way.
> Mr Barnett says his attempts to have the matter looked at further were stonewalled by Boeing managers. In 2017, he complained to the US regulator, the FAA, that no action had been taken to address the problem. The FAA, however, said it could not substantiate that claim, because Boeing had indicated it was working on the issue at the time.
I tend to lean libertarian on a lot of "regulatory" matters, but no matter your normal view of things, I hope we can all agree that this is an embarrassingly obvious fox guarding this particular hen-house.
> John Barnett says tests suggest up to a quarter of the oxygen systems could be faulty and might not work when needed. He also claimed faulty parts were deliberately fitted to planes on the production line at one Boeing factory.
Even if the bag does not inflate, breathe normally as oxygen is flowing. Or not.
I wonder if other regulatory bodies around the world could/would/should have done something.
This has been going for a long time now:
> Instead of being manufactured by the approved computerised process, Ducommun employees were cutting the parts by hand - literally using a felt-tipped pen to mark out the shape and then cutting the metal with a hand-cutter.
> Not only did this result in parts which could never meet the mandated 3000ths of an inch accuracy - but the Boeing team realised it violated the official type design: any aircraft with these parts on them would be legally "unairworthy" - and therefore not allowed to fly.
> The Department of Justice ordered two investigations - one by the FAA and, because Boeing had sold some 737NGs to the military, one by the Defence Criminal Investigative Service.
> But the whistle-blowers have been dismayed by these investigations. Al Jazeera obtained a copy of the FAA investigation - which the administration redacted. The only publicly-viewable "investigative actions" appear to be that the FAA looked up Ducommun's address and visited its website.
The engineer will then run a few tests and simulations, green-light the change, a superior will check the maths, and they'll be good to go with making the part by hand.
> But there was worse to come: every part in the production process has to be signed off at each stage of its manufacture on a document called a "shop traveller". This records that each individual stage of manufacture has been carried out in accordance with the type design.
> The Boeing team discovered that Ducommun had apparently falsified these records: it had two sets of "books" - the official one recording that each part had been made by the computerised process and a second set recording the actual, handforming process which had really been used.
> What that meant, in the eyes of the Boeing team, was that every single chord and bear strap manufactured by Ducommun had to be viewed as unlawful.
> [...] I hope we can all agree that this is an embarrassingly obvious fox guarding this particular hen-house.
I can imagine situations where I would not agree, to be honest. If a manager says, "There is a bug in this system here" and I say, "I'm investigating that problem and will get back to you", it would be a bit strange for the manager to call a halt to my investigation so that they could start a new one. Usually the manager would wait until my investigation is finished. If they were still not satisfied, then that's the time to intervene.
In the same way, I would not expect the FAA to intervene on an issue if the manufacturer was already investigating it. They would wait until that investigation was finished. Sure, put a deadline on it, but it's pretty reasonable to say that you don't know where the issue stands because it's currently under review.
I think that your metaphor does a disservice to this whistleblower and the allegations that he's making.
Better is to imagine a manager saying, "I have observed bugs being intentionally left in the codebase in order to cut cost. Senior managers are aware of this and have allowed it to continue."
In that scenario, the matter of when to intervene is quite different I think.
There's nothing preventing the FAA from proceeding with its own investigation, except for Boeing saying, "Nah, don't do that, we got our own thing going on here... btw, how's your bank account? Get that 250k yet?"
i'd wait for the FAA before jumping to any conclusions, as unfashionable as this is in today's "speak first, think never" culture.
The 787 doesn't have any accumulator bags, the big difference with that system is that its electronically pulse controlled oxygen flow rather than a mechanical/chemical constant flow system.
His claim isn't exactly true, the lab he used sent power to all systems at once, this is why he saw a failure of about 25%, in fact the system on the plane actually fires the system in a sequence because the power draw to start all systems at once is just too high. So sit closer to the front of the plane if you want oxygen faster.
“Many analysts say that Boeing decided to put its second Dreamliner aircraft assembly line in the state to reduce the leverage of the machinists’ union, which represents Boeing’s work force in the Puget Sound region of Washington State and has used work stoppages to exact concessions from the company in the past. South Carolina is one of the least unionized states in the country.” 
And not surprisingly, pro-union “whistleblowers” are all to willing to leverage the fears of the public to advance their agenda.
If oil company workers were to go to the media to suggest that solar panels caused cancer, we’d frame their claim within the context that they have a self-interest rather than a genuine concern. Since John Barnett is retired and depends on a union pension, he has a vested interest in this despite not even working at Boeing for years.
The Aerospace and Machinist Union is extremely powerful. It’s foolish to think they are going to miss an opportunity to make a case than a non-union factory is more dangerous than a union one. Their literal existence depends on advancing that narrative. Even if they are right, their angle makes it hard to give their objections objective credibility.
However, that being said, that doesn’t mean the story is false, but responsible journalism wouldn’t let a “whistleblower” be the key voice in the story.
Those planes go through airworthiness inspections each year and unless some IA is fraudulently signing off on airworthiness requirements (which includes fully testing the oxygen systems,) then there isn’t any actual reason to suspect a system that doesn’t work. If Boeing is fraudulently conducted airworthiness inspections, then that’s something that would ground any airline using those planes — no air carrier is going to risk their carrier certificate by “helping” Boeing by faking airworthiness. Airlines themselves are responsible for maintenance and inspections — they have no incentive to be complicit in helping Boeing cover up defective oxygen systems. Boeing isn’t the one doing airworthiness inspections on airliner operated aircraft. The would mean the end of the airline. Suggesting that oxygen systems is faulty is ridiculous considering how frequently they are tested by the operators. If United found the O2 of the 787 was faulty, they wouldn’t accept the airplane. They would demand Boeing fix the issues or they wouldn’t take delivery. Those airplane sales contracts are extensive and exhaustive. United has no incentive to accept a faulty airplane.
> Mr Barnett says that when he was decommissioning systems which had suffered minor cosmetic damage, he found that some of the oxygen bottles were not discharging when they were meant to. He subsequently arranged for a controlled test to be carried out by Boeing's own research and development unit.
> This test, which used oxygen systems that were "straight out of stock" and undamaged, was designed to mimic the way in which they would be deployed aboard an aircraft, using exactly the same electric current as a trigger. He says 300 systems were tested - and 75 of them did not deploy properly, a failure rate of 25%.
...or am I reading this incorrectly?
1) they’d believe they can get away with it.
2) it wouldn’t be the end of the airline. Large fine, negotiated down, cost of doing business.
Even if people died, would the fine be that huge? I can’t find numbers for past incidents, but somewhere in my memory I have $2m for wrongful death. 300/4 * 2m = 150m. Is that way off? BA just got fined 230m for a data breach...
Its getting to the point that I'm actually nervous about flying Boeing now. I took 6-8 flights on the 737-Max each year 2016-2019 and now I've taken 4 flights on the 787-Dreamliner since March.
I know that it is still statistically improbable that one of these flights to have an issue, but it still raises my blood pressure since I fly predominantly on Boeing aircraft.
There have been 894 deliveries through September 2019. So far only one incident involving the uncontained failure of a Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engine. There have been no complete losses.
Great 'final assembly' time-lapse video of the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB.
But if the fault rate is 1/4 of the systems, you probably don't need many samples.
There's a lot of additional cost that goes into maintenance, pilot training, pilot availability, etc. that has to be accounted for if you're mixing aircraft from different manufacturers.
You can just look up the aircraft owned by an airline and it will give you a pretty good idea what to expect.
You can also go on flight tracker sites and just look at what aircraft are running the route currently, which would also be a good indicator.
Emirates: A & B
Lufthansa: A & B
Cathay Pacific: A & B
American Airlines: A & B
Delta: A & B (& M)
Air France: A & B
KLM: A & B
China Southern: A & B (& Embraer)
ANA: A & B
Aeroflot: A & B (& Sukhoi)
Air China: A & B
Ethiopian Air: A & B (& De Havilland)
Most of the big ones have a mix of Boeing and Airbus (plus smaller Canadair/Embraer etc. ones for their regionals). Some of the budget airlines are notable for having a single aircrat or single manufacturer fleet - Ryan Air, Southwest, Jet Blue.
When booking the aeroplane will usually be listed but you can also check flight history of the flight number. Of course the airline might still swap the plane at any time.
I do wonder if this fear of flying Boeing will spread to company travel departments?
Say a few of the really big companies in the world decide their employees should not fly Boeing. That support for this is being baked into booking systems and demanded from operators. Could Boeing ever recover?
If there's any entity that's proven they can tackle capital intensive aerospace markets as a new player, it's SpaceX. I know they're waiting for battery energy density to improve so that they can launch supersonic electric jets, but regular jets that use jet fuel wouldn't be a horrible stopgap.
Don't forget, building a jet isn't that big a deal. Boeing doesn't even make the 737MAX fuselage! It's built by a company called Spirit in Kansas. Boeing doesn't make the engines either, of course (no aircraft manufacturer builds engines, which are surely the most complex and technically challenging part of the plane). Boeing does the engineering, the wings I suppose, and the final assembly.
It seems like it shouldn't be that hard for a smaller competitor to get a capital infusion and scale up to building larger jets.
does it sound like too powerful (i.e. fast which translates to assembly speed) tools are applied to too cheap (like in manufactured to loose tolerances from cheap metal) fasteners and nuts?
PS: Credit me for the title if ever! :)
I'd guess both false and true reports suffer approximately the same repercussions...