When your brand is suffering a crisis of confidence, you don't rebuild it by missing deadlines and dodging reality. The amount of hubris it takes to be so flippant in these circumstances is indicative of a deeply flawed corporate culture, and that falls at the feet of the CEO.
Also, how do you allow Starliner mission to occur without 100% confidence in ability of mission to be executed flawlessly? There are certainly complexities, but it almost seems like they passed the point when they could have quietly bumped the launch, and ended up in a literal PR gamble.
There are tests to prove out ideas during the course of development, but then there are tests which would perhaps be more accurately called "demonstrations"; where you're not trying to find flaws and refine your designs, but rather prove that you're [insert thing-name you're proving here] actually works the way you are representing it to work.
I understood this test to be more in the demonstration category, where Boeing would/should have had very high confidence, but they needed to prove to NASA that their spacecraft worked as advertised. If that's true, it was almost more a test on how much NASA should trust the confidence of the Boeing team than it was a test engineering and manufacture.
If that wasn't the character of the test, then I apologize for the distraction.
I think it’s just the (well deserved) media narrative Boeing is in now. When you kill hundreds of people and then pretend it wasn’t your fault, you get what’s coming to you.
These are known engineering problems with known engineering solutions. The explanation from Boeing was that a timer was set incorrectly. This sounds like a trivial error to me (though I'm not a "rocket scientist" just a "kerbal scientist", I guess, but we've been using timers for a long time afaik to properly manage burns to orbit).
I don't know how much the systemic issues that clearly compromised the design of the plane extend to the design of the capsule, but trivals errors seem to be very possible.
This design is bad, but it makes sense as a update of the 737. The flight computer setup is each pilot gets a computer under their chair, each computer gets its own set of sensors and the computers take turns each flight. The flight computer is generally safe (i don't think it's been implicated in any crashes?), but that's because in case of issues in flight, the system usually will disengage and alert the pilot, or if the system takes poor actions, it will disengage when the pilot opposes it, or the pilot will disengage it.
Adding MCAS to the flight computer makes sense, the flight computer needs to be aware of it. It's understandable, but negligent, to add a new feature to the computer without considering the original design. The problem comes in when MCAS was not disclosed to pilots, doesn't disengage on errors, doesn't disengage when pilot input opposes it (partially by design), and can't be disabled except by disabling electric trim, which is more or less needed to recover from the error condition MCAS puts the plane into.
I think this is fixable, but the public information on the current fix doesn't include being able to turn MCAS off, so it doesn't seem like they've really done enough.
I think it’s important to acknowledge the process failures like lack of communication between domains rather than acquiesce to simple conclusions that are more clear only in hindsight.
Most complex engineering projects are hard not because of one thing, but because of the mind-bogglingly large number of things that must all be done correctly.
(1 - x) ^ y, where x is the chance of each small mistake and y is the total number of opportunities, doesn't need a very large x, if y is large enough, for things to start looking dicey.
There are a lot of things I'd love to know the accepted name for, as I came into understanding through the backdoor. I regret that my college CS track didn't include more borrow-courses from physical engineering on reliability (and control theory). So many valuable, applicable lessons.
I would guess that at least in part the difference in attitudes is because SpaceX is considered more startup-y and Boeing is more associated with the "failure is not an option" ethos.
Anyway, I do not care too much about pointing fingers elsewhere. The parachute thing was quite embarrassing and IMO this problem should have been prevented as well.
Regardless, testing all of the flight software is certainly not exclusive to SpaceX. I would bet any amount of money that Boeing also tested their software and performed simulated launches, moreover that testing is probably mandated by their contract with NASA. My uninformed guess is that one of two things happened:
1. Their tests were incomplete. e.g. they didn't find some edge case that would cause problems when the T-0 changed.
2. Someone goofed the procedures on the day of launch and didn't update their configuration properly.
Then when something like this happens, you can have your PR call up journalists they know and suggest a name or two that is likely to say what you'd hope for.
To reiterate, the procedure is:
1. restore trim to normal with the electric thumb switches
2. throw the stab trim cutoff switches
Boeing Emergency Airworthiness Directive
"Initially, higher control forces may be needed to overcome any stabilizer nose down trim already applied. Electric stabilizer trim can be used to neutralize control column pitch forces before moving the STAB TRIM CUTOUT switches to CUTOUT. Manual stabilizer trim can be used before and after the STAB TRIM CUTOUT switches are moved to CUTOUT."
This AD was sent to all MAX flight crews. It works because the first incident of MCAS failure (Lion Air) was safely dealt with by doing just this.
No, it's not.
So here's some context. Boeing installed known not-to-spec structural components on the NG. Boeing installed known to fail prematurely slat tracks on the NG and 737 MAX. Boeing installed (probably known) not-to-spec pickle forks in the NG and 737 MAX. Boeing falsified repair documentation for an Air Canada 787. Oh, and of course, Boeing hid any mention of MCAS. Point being Boeing doesn't have a lot of credibility left.
With that in mind:
Manual stabilizer trim can be used before and after the STAB TRIM CUTOUT switches are moved to CUTOUT.
As the Ethiopian crew found out: it can't. The larger instruments of the NG required the hand cranks to shrink while the stabilizer itself grew. With the resulting lower mechanical advantage and increase in force required to move the stab itself the wheels became unusable. Sure, the Ethiopian crew went over the "maximum" speed but they were still under the max diving speed (Vd). That means the cranks were supposed to work.
It works because the first incident of MCAS failure (Lion Air) was safely dealt with by doing just this.
It worked because the first crew got lucky and had a third set of eyes that was free to dig through everything in search of a best guess.
Whatever you read about that is simply wrong. (I've seen a LOT of misinformation in popular print about this.) You're correct that the hand cranks were unusable. But the electric thumb switches WERE usable and were pointed out in the AD.
Note that the crews of BOTH the LA and EA crashes had already used the thumb switches to restore normal trim, the LA crew did so 25 times.
> best guess
No guessing required. Follow the training, which is supposed to be a "memory item", meaning they weren't supposed to need to consult a checklist nor dig through anything nor guess.
I am not a pilot, but I would not consider myself fit to fly unless I knew by memory what every single switch in the cockpit does, ESPECIALLY the ones prominently located within easy reach. You can bet it's not the infotainment system.
For damn sure I would read every Emergency Airworthiness Directive for the airplane I'm the pilot of, most especially one issued in response to a crash.
And if you enable the electric trim switches on a 737 MAX you get MCAS activation. MCAS, of course, trims faster than the switches. Using the electric switches is fighting a losing battle (look at the graphs of trim input vs output). How are you supposed to fly the plane when you can't trim the stabilizer?
Look at the graphs from the Indonesian report. The pilots were countering with trim up button presses and MCAS still managed to take the trim to a severe AND position.
Look at the graphs from the Ethiopian report. You'll see a long gap where the electric trim was disabled (leaving the pilots with no way to trim the stabilizer). Outside that gap you'll see an automatic (MCAS) AND command with no change in trim and a couple ANU clicks from the pilots with no resulting change in trim.
No guessing required. Follow the training, which is supposed to be a "memory item", meaning they weren't supposed to need to consult a checklist nor dig through anything nor guess.
And what memory items were they supposed to have in mind? Keeping in mind MCAS presented counter to how Boeing defines runaway trim.
The electric trim switches override MCAS. That is why the steps are:
1. use the electric trim switches to set the trim to normal
2. cut off the electric trim
That's all there is to it.
> MCAS presented counter to how Boeing defines runaway trim.
That's simply false. (And runaway trim does not need definition, Boeing does not define it.)
They pause MCAS but do not disable or override it it. The trim switches move the stabilizer slower than MCAS activation thus as seen by the Ethiopian and Lion Air crews using the electric trim switches is tantamount to fighting a losing batle.
1. use the electric trim switches to set the trim to normal
What happens when the electric trim switches don't work? They didn't in the Ethiopian crash.
runaway trim does not need definition, Boeing does not define it.
Sure they do, it's in the QRH plain as day.
Condition: Uncommanded stabilizer trim movement occurs continuously.
MCAS activation isn't continuous, especially not if you're pausing it with the trim switches.
The way to make things safe is to address ALL points in the zipper that led to the accident. That includes the pilot error aspects.
So how do you propose training against an unfinished product? Boeing still hasn't given the FAA a completed software package to evaluate. At the time of the 737 MAX crashes there were, what? two? 737 MAX simulators, and none of them emulated MCAS or even the forces required to crank the stabilizer manually.
One Lion Air flight got lucky because they had a third set of eyes that could spend time going through reams of documentation.
To even begin discussing pilot "error" is disingenuous when the pilots weren't informed or trained on new 737 MAX behavior. MCAS activation is not, and was not, a runaway stabilizer situation.
It presented as a runaway stab trim. Repeatedly coming on and driving the nose down is runaway trim. No two ways about it. And the usual, standard, runaway trim procedure would stop it.
> they had a third set of eyes that could spend time going through reams of documentation
From my reading of that incident, nothing of the sort happened. The 3rd pilot simply reached forward and flipped off the cutoff switches. The crew landed safely and went on with their day. Nobody bothered to inform the next crew flying that same airplane.
No, it didn't. From the latest QRH:
Well that's not met as MCAS doesn't run continuously. By design it stops periodically. Put it another way. You're arguing semantics while the 737 MAX remains a smoldering pile of aluminum and hubris.
2.) Control airplane pitch attitude manually with control column and main electric trim as required.
4.) If the runaway stops after the autopilot is disengaged ....
MCAS also stops after the trim switches are hit. So, again MCAS activation is not a runaway trim condition.
From my reading of that incident, nothing of the sort happened. The 3rd pilot simply reached forward and flipped off the cutoff switches.
Reread the report. The third pilot went back into the cabin to fetch reading material.
Trying to argue that the trim system erratically coming on and driving the nose down is not "runaway trim" is arguing semantics. Runaway trim is when the trim is doing something dangerous without command from the pilot.
If the cockpit voice recorder reveals them discussing the definition of "runaway trim" and deciding that the instructions Boeing provided didn't apply, I'd be surprised and interested.
> MCAS also stops after the trim switches are hit.
Exactly, the trim switches override the MCAS. That's why you use the trim switches to set it back to normal, then hit the cutoff switches. That's what the Emergency Airworthiness Directive says to do.
> Reread the report.
I haven't read that anywhere. I don't know what report that is. Reference, please.
On the 737 Max there is no way to disable the MCAS without also disabling the electric trim.
1. trim to normal with the electric trim switches
2. cut off the stabilizer trim
Do it in that order. Doing step 2 before step 1 won't work.
I can understand if the AD was intended as a short term fix but I would question the rationale if it were considered a long term solution
It was not, Boeing at the time was working on a solution.
Regardless, however, the pilots MUST know how to deal with runaway trim. This was true before MCAS, and is true after. It was true on the 757 (I spend 3 years working on the design of the 757 stab trim system). The cutoff switches are prominently within easy reach on the center console for very good reason, 40 years before MCAS.
It is not acceptable that pilots were unaware of the cutoff switches. It is unacceptable that MAX pilots did not read, understand, and remember the Airworthiness Directive sent to all MAX crews.
Similarly, airplane engineers work hard to keep the airplane from catching fire. But pilots also MUST learn to properly use the airplane's fire suppression systems. Most of pilot training consists of learning emergency procedures.
It's why airplanes still have pilots, instead of using automation instead.
Boeing still deserves blame for the flawed MCAS implementation. But there were other contributing factors in the crashes that must be dealt with.
The Ethiopian crew tried the cutout switches and found they couldn't trim the airplane with the hand cranks because Boeing lied. How is that a pilot training issue?
But there were other contributing factors in the crashes that must be dealt with.
A Boeing employee concern trolling over pilot training is pretty rich considering that Boeing knowingly hid crucial details from pilots.
The Emergency Airworthiness Directive to all MAX crews says:
> A Boeing employee
I left Boeing about 40 years ago.
If the graphs are to be believed neither the electric commands nor hand crank were able to move the stabilizer. Again, how is that a pilot training issue?
What the EA pilots did was:
1. cut off the stabilizer trim
2. try to use the hand cranks to trim to normal
Graphs of the FDR data from the (preliminary) accident reports. The Ethiopian authorities even annotated theirs with things like "automatic trim command with no change in pitch trim". You can see quite plainly the stabilizer was not moving as intended.
2. try to use the hand cranks to trim to normal
Per Boeing's documentation this should've worked. Unfortunately Boeing's documentation is mostly wishful thinking. Boeing's also suggested that a pilot try unloading the stabilizer with a roller coaster type maneuver. Unfortunately Boeing removed detailed instructions on this maneuver decades ago and the FAA's already demonstrated that with the altitude that the Ethiopian crew had, unloading the stabilizer would've just flown the plane into the ground.
There's a reason Boeing's largely backed off of the whole pilot error nonsense: the 737 MAX crashed due to shitty design not pilot error.
But there were other contributing factors in the crashes that must be dealt with
I don’t necessarily disagree with this either, but it does come across as if we’re being distracted by proximate causes rather than focusing on the root cause. To someone on the outside, it sure seems like there are deeper engineering and cultural problems that deserve a greater priority at this point. Not to belabor the point, but simply issuing a procedural AD doesn’t appear to address the root causes and should just be a stop gap measure
Put another way, would you want to board an airplane where the pilot did not take EMERGENCY instructions seriously? I wouldn't.
Pretty much 100% of the popular media (and its repeated appearances on HN) has been on the MCAS design shortcomings. Which distract from dealing with the other causes of the accidents.
As I mentioned previously, the AD was issued as a stopgap measure while Boeing worked on an MCAS fix.
Procedural is meant as an administrative action as opposed to a designed engineering action.
Think of a hazardous system that has software involved with controlling a pressure hazard. A procedural mitigation may be to have an operator monitor system pressure and push a non-software shut-off emergency button if the system overpressurizes. Even though it's an emergency, it's still a procedural mitigation. An engineering mitigation, on the other hand, may have mechanical pressure relief devices in place to mitigate the hazard. Whether or not it's an "emergency" just relates to the severity and time criticality of the hazard, not the mechanism of mitigation.
In safety design the hierarchy of hazard control preference is generally engineering controls, followed by procedural controls, followed by PPE as the least desirable control scheme.
Which distract from dealing with the other causes of the accidents.
One of the common flaws in mishap investigation is jumping to “solving” proximate causes at the expense of finding the root cause. This is applicable to MCAS as well if that isn’t the root cause (although my hunch is MCAS will be closer to the root issue than pilot actions). As long as people aren’t pointing to the AD as the “fix” I think there’s not a problem with it being an interim measure
"It was unclear whether NASA would require Boeing to fly another test mission without crews onboard before allowing its astronauts to fly in the Starliner. Bridenstine said he wouldn’t rule out a mission with crews onboard, pointing out that the space shuttle had been piloted by astronauts, not computers."
While Boeing makes noises about how there's no systemic problem with their ability to write software in general, earlier in the same article NASA comes to their defense by pointing out that if the craft was manned then the test would have been... saved? That seems strong to me but that is word used in the quote.
"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said at a news conference Friday that the failure would not have been life-threatening had astronauts been onboard. He said that had the spacecraft been crewed, the mission might have been saved. “They are trained to deal with a situation where the automation is not working according to plan,” he said."
Calling a space capsule a product and treating it like some kind of tech product launch and framing it's success that way is weird. It's a spacecraft and the mission was meant to test its capabilities and get data about it during an actual orbital flight, then go from there.
The reason everyone is trying to be so cheerful and optimistic is because it was a partial success - the capsule stayed together and landed, which were part of its mission parameters. But (clearly) the public perception of this mission is that it failed because it didn't get to the ISS, so I imagine people are trying to be cheerful to remind people that they're not upset cause they didn't fail, they just didn't fully succeed.
I'm no fan of Boeing or how they've handled 787 MAX or ULA or Starliner or their relationship with NASA, but calling this not too promising is a bit unfair.
That's why it's not encouraging - and why it's not at all unfair to be scathing.
Apparently, 20 years of progress and "promise" ain't what it used to be.
That is, the amount of project surface that it increased confidence in is as great or greater than the amount it called into question.
When a company creates a culture of sweeping problems under the rug, and then tries to go back and change that, it creates an impossible situation for people at all levels of the hierarchy. Where management once told people it was OK to hide things from them, now they've changed the rules and are telling them, hey, show us all the things we told you we didn't want to know about.
First of all, when you're told this, you have no way of knowing if they really mean it. Are they saying, hey, actually show us the dirt so we can deal with it? Or are they saying, hey, show us the dirt WINK WINK, but we want the answer to be that nothing too bad happened because that's the easy way out? (In other words, you have to judge whether they've had a sincere change of heart or you're playing a new phase of the same game as before.)
But even if you really believe them, now you have a difficult calculation to make. Maybe you will reveal some dirt and they will say, wait a second, we meant for you to hide dirt, but not dirt that was that bad, and that's your fault, and you were supposed to know that. And now you're in trouble for telling the truth. Unless management offers you complete immunity (if that's even possible), you still have a reason to keep hiding stuff to protect yourself.
TLDR, if your organization made sure everybody's closets are full of skeletons, then you're going to have a hard time getting people to open those closet doors.
There is also the need for an organisation wide culture built on processes, procedures and channels that then enables the company to quickly and efficiently find solutions to these kind of problems.
When a company for a long time has being building a culture of ignoring problems, the effort required to rebuild that problem solving culture is massive.
It is not helped by the fact that the individuals holding the power at the different levels within the organisation tend to be the ones who oversaw the demise of that engineering culture in the first place.
What space program with new hardware has ever executed 100% flawlessly?
has worked for Elon, and now his stock is trading at an all time high. $420
Haven't you heard?
Deliberately false and misleading statements that should be prosecuted by the SEC.
No question at this point that he needed to be replaced. The question is - why didn't the board act sooner?
It's a bad look, because Boeing is consistently way too late to recognize what is obvious to those of us watching from home.
I continue to be astounded that our most senior leaders will not act in the long-term best interest of the organizations they lead.
It's been 37 years since the Tylenol crisis, where seven people in Chicago died after someone tampered with the pain reliever and contaminated it with potassium cyanide.
Way back then, Johnson & Johnson did far more than they were required to do. They pulled all Tylenol from all store shelves everywhere, and kept it off the market until they completely redesigned the packaging. They took complete responsibility. They over-communicated with regulators and with the public. Their market share plunged from 35% to 8% and they took a huge financial hit.
But what was bad for J&J in the short term was fantastically positive in the long term. Their brand recovered, stronger than ever, and they regained their dominant market share.
But today, leaders across the public and private sectors rarely act with this kind of understanding and foresight. Muilenburg downplayed the catastrophes, blamed the pilots, pressured regulators, tried to find cheap shortcuts to fix the problem, and made promises to suppliers and customers he couldn't keep.
So often what's best in the immediate term is worst for the long term. Why can't today's leaders think a little bigger, and optimize for the long term even if that has an immediate cost?
> Why can't today's leaders think a little bigger, and optimize for the long term even if that has an immediate cost?
I'm not sure it's so simple. At the head of the Boeing bureaucracy, Dennis Muilenberg likely was being fed a diet of wrong and horrible information from lower executives keen on deflecting blame so that they could keep their jobs. He was ineffective because he accepted it and pushed it outward - to the board and the wider public - rather than challenging it and getting to the bottom of the crisis. Internally challenging the members of your organization during a crisis is incredibly politically difficult to pull off and has little to do with short-term vs. long-term perspectives. Of course, someone with his experience and compensation, working at his level, should be able to pull it off. He didn't.
I'm sure in 1982, the Johnson & Johnson CEO was also "being fed a diet of wrong and horrible information from lower executives keen on deflecting blame so that they could keep their jobs".
That's how big organizations work.
But in 1982, J&J leadership could see beyond that, cut through the noise, push back on short-sighted recommendations, and do the right thing for the company in the long term.
My question is why we rarely see "enlightened self-interest" like this today.
From Boeing to Facebook, Wells Fargo to Uber, it's hard to think of companies that do the right thing in difficult situations, even when that would be in the company's own long-term best interest.
This is not necessarily a given. In the Tylenol case an external saboteur was to blame, so little or no internal CYA was necessary. Easy and correct for everyone to just blame it on the saboteur and then do the right thing to fix the problem.
In the Boeing case the culprit was internal, which likely resulted in a tangled web of CYA, leading to a diet of wrong and horrible information.
Not excusing Boeing, they acted wrongly. But it’s clear how and why the odds of bad corporate behavior were much higher in Boeing’s case than in J&J’s case.
If J&J had behaved like Boeing, they would have blamed the saboteur, blamed law enforcement, and blamed retailers while gradually and secretly fixing the packaging problem before regulators could force them to do it.
If Boeing had behaved like J&J, they would have taken immediate responsibility, voluntarily grounded the entire fleet even before all the causes were known, and put passenger safety first.
Do you have a citation for that? I don't doubt it's possible but I've never heard it. As far as I know no major pain medications had tamper resistant seals at that point in history.
I've read a lot about this (being from Chicago myself) and do not believe you're representing it correctly. J&J took responsibility insomuch as they pioneered tamper resistant packaging, but they very clearly blamed a saboteur. The initial allegation was that Tylenol was unsafe. J&J successfully re-spun it, correctly, as an external terrorist poisoning their medication. And, to their credit, they did a great job making future Tylenol very safe.
But the bottom line is that these two incidents are very different. In J&J's case they were not at fault. In Boeing's case they were.
Info taken from https://www.ou.edu/deptcomm/dodjcc/groups/02C2/Johnson%20&%2...
Your job as CEO, or any leader of a large organization civilian or military, is to ferret out when you're being fed loads of BS. It's frustrating because Muilenberg was a engineer and started there as an intern in the 80s, so he at least should have some domain expertise in what the problems were. Perhaps him being a "company man" in this case was a hindrance, or conflicted with the new culture at Boeing that is, apparently, run by MBAs concerned with quarterly profits. In either case, he needed to go as this failure happened on his watch.
I get where you are coming from, but I would reframe it as "Your job as a CEO is to create a culture with integrity and transparency"
It is also pretty clear that a time of crisis is the time that your true corporate culture manifests, it seems that the culture at Boeing is not long on integrity or transparency.
If America stayed home in World War 2, how do you know the Allies wouldn't have won anyway?
Though any speculation we have there is just that - pure speculation.
it's disappointing and frustrating, but not all that surprising, given the decades of eroding honor, responsibility, and governance (both corporate and political) of large companies and their senior managers.
i'm more appalled that we tolerate obviously poor incentive structures that implicitly endorse such behavior.
compensation for senior managers should be better tied to long-term results, and punishments should more easily pierce the corporate veil.
(and whew, glad i covered that tylenol case in my mba program... would not have looked forward to asking for a refund! =)
I think it may be too early to claim this. I think we can only judge these companies' well-being (especially with respect to their recent controversies) on a medium- to long-term scale.
I've banked at Wells Fargo since 2013, and I intend to close my 2 WF accounts and open up new ones at Chase soon. If I could remove my information from Equifax or another credit bureau, I would. By all standards, these companies are "doing just fine" at present. But what about 5 years from now, 15 years from now? The damage to a companies' reputation and the impact it has on consumer decision-making can be slow-moving and hard to notice/quantify.
you're just moving from one crappy, uncaring bank to another (i've banked at both in the past). a credit union or local/regional bank will treat you like a real human rather than a necessary inconvenience: https://www.bankrate.com/banking/reviews/
you don't get good customer service (via phone or otherwise) at a big bank, as they see it as a cost center to be minimized. smaller banks use good service as a differentiator/product enhancement.
but yes, international charges can vary a bit.
They sure look being a 'reliable' and 'competent' gang now.
Most likely some PR firm working for Boeing fed some hints to the the Times.
Boeing then waited until it was released to have a coordinated PR push and put as much blame as possible on Muilenburg.
And the board looks horrible, slow to act, behind the curve, reacting to external pressure instead of leading. So it would not be in the board's interest to do a "coordinated PR push" and fire Muilenburg after the stories were published.
I’m no fan of Boeing but the truth is, betting your entire business requires a much higher burden of proof than journalism does.
This is totally wrong. The New York Times depends on its reputation for accuracy.
Which, to me at least, is a perfectly legitimate thing for a newspaper to do. Yes, they should check facts and vet sources, but their primary responsibility is to do the best they can and get the information out there for the public.
Their record of accuracy has suffered quite a bit in the past few years.
That's not reflecting reality at all. In a big enough company you don't really decide, you do both. Alternatively, you choose all three of the options. There's often no reason to fully go for one thing. This as in a big enough company there's enough resources that someone somewhere else does something else, likely the opposite of some other decision.
Eventually something will fail, or it'll succeed. The things which succeed will hopefully be implemented everywhere.
It takes a long time for a company as big as Boeing to crater. But I feel like in the last year, we've seen the start of the process.
As with all things Elon, SpaceX is built on a financial pyramid. It either wins big, or loses big. And Boeing is a clear loser if SpaceX succeeds. A rule of thumb is that the rare big projects that will do well starts announcing that they are ahead of deadlines early, and that continues. Big projects that won't do not declare slipping deadlines until they can't hide it, and there is never any sense of what the real schedule is.
Right now SpaceX is announcing that they are ahead of deadlines. Boeing is consistently slipping.
What would the losses be? Well consider:
Boeing is counting on billions of dollars for deliveries to the ISS. They are being heavily subsidized and do not have a proven technology for doing so. SpaceX is running routine missions and if their Super Heavy works out will see a dramatic cost drop.
Boeing has billions more at stake with the SLS system for deep space launches and a return to the Moon. But the project is in peril and missing deadlines. Political connections favor Boeing. But if Super Heavy is anything close to what is promised, Elon can as a publicity stunt afford to (unpaid) do missions for a few million dollars that Boeing failed to deliver for 10s of billions. How long will the gravy train continue?
And the giant wildcard is SpaceX suborbital flights. Suppose that SpaceX delivers in the next 5 years on a point to point flight time from anywhere on Earth to anywhere else in a maximum of 1 hour. It will take time for people to conclude that it is safe. But consider, a first class transatlantic flight costs $10,000 and takes ~14 hours. If the SpaceX launch costs their estimated $2 million and carries an average of 250 people, they can charge first class prices for a 30 minute flight, and take home a $500k profit per trip. Anyone who has done a long plane trip will see the appeal of not spending 14 hours in the plane. So your first class passengers switch to SpaceX.
The economics of airline travel are that first class tickets pay a very large chunk of the fixed costs of the flight, while economy tickets pay the marginal costs of adding a person to the flight. Take away the first class tickets and average tickets have to go up in price. The result? Higher ticket prices, more passengers per plane, and a consolidation in the airline industry. SpaceX does not have to take that large a fraction of the volume to trigger that consolidation.
The phrase "consolidation in the airline industry" should be extremely worrying to airplane manufacturers. Fewer and fuller long-range flights means that nobody needs to buy new airplanes for a while. Which means that Boeing's core business craters.
The long and short of it is that if SpaceX delivers, Boeing dies. We will know one way or the other in 5-10 years.
They do not separate NASA from defense department spending, but government was about 35% of revenue and only 16% of profit.
The rest is consulting.
The upshot is that if SpaceX embarrasses Boeing in space, it is a black eye and a sizable chunk of Boeing's business but not critical. But if suborbital flights replace even a modest chunk of long-haul commercial flights, Boeing will be in a world of hurt.
Consider, aircraft tend to operate for about 30 years. If SpaceX causes a 20% reduction in long-haul flights, it would result in a period of 6 years where nobody wants to buy new aircraft, followed by a resumption in sales at about 80% of the previous volume. There is no way that Boeing is prepared for that kind of business shift.
And SpaceX does NOT have to replace 20% of passenger trips to do it. If only the most profitable few percent of passenger trips disappear, then between more expensive seats and fuller flights, the number of flights will drop by a lot more than what SpaceX does. The impact on Boeing will be outsized.
The real question is, why is BA stock still trading above 330? Why are big money guys so confident about the company's future?
We have seen incredible growth in market cap. Ultimately Boeing does big business with the Department of Defense and their spending is up, but the lion's share of Boeing's profits come from commercial aviation if I'm not mistaken. The tax cuts and cash repatriation holiday were great too, but how much can that reduction in tax burden really account for this rally in the value of BA? Seems like a sell to me on first glance, but the fact that there is strong support here at 330 despite all that has happened is telling that some big money players are confident that Boeing is irreplaceable.
A friend of mine refuses to bet against BA because it makes up a large component of the DJIA, which the President appears to treat as his own personal economic scoreboard.
Until now, Boeing's business plan is that they will be building a starship for NASA in 2060, but you will still be stuck with a 737 on Southwest Airlines, a A320 on Jetblue, and never know that aviation could be better.
The 737 throws off a lot of cash, but the single-aisle monoculture makes flying miserable.
A 737 replacement will be expensive, take time to develop, and involve risk, but the end product could be the resurrection of the Boeing brand. Since there are so many 737-class airplanes flying, anyone who wants to see a better flying experience or is concerned about environmental impacts of aviation such as airport noise or carbon emissions would realize that a 737 replacement could have a greater impact than the widebody planes where competitive developments are happening.
You shouldn't have to fly international to benefit from 50 years of aviation improvements.
What is it that people expect when they say flying is miserable? I expect safety, which is why I'll never get on a 737 MAX. Other than that, I just put sandwiches and snacks in my pocket, fill my water bottle, and in X hours I'm thousands of miles away. Air travel is actually pretty amazing.
As far as I understand, the reason for this is that foreign airlines are not allowed to fly US domestic routes, and most US people don't fly international which means they don't know that things could be better.
It also seems like people in the US to a greater extent than other countries only cares about ticket price, which means that even if an airline wants to improve their quality they can't use it to compete because customers will simply not see them, since they sort by price on the travel site and pick the first one on the list.
With regards to quality, do airlines in other places generally provide more bang for the buck or are they just generally more expensive than US flights to provide for the higher quality?
That said, flights throughout Asia at distances similar to US domestic flights tend to be reasonably cheap.
I decided to make a comparison:
Fly Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Hong Kong. This will cost you 225 USD in economy.
A domestic US flight of the same distance would be San Francisco to Albuquerque on United Airlines. This flight will cost you 468 USD.
So it seems to me that Singapore Airlines is able to provide better quality at much lower cost. Perhaps the US airlines simply don't have to be better because there is no one that shows it can be done?
A better comparison with about the same distance in the US is New York to Miami, which can be done nonstop for under $200 on Delta, or $135 on whatever "Frontier" is.
EDIT: In fact you can go from New York to Las Vegas for under $200, round-trip, which is considerably farther.
It's probably important to be specific when I say "quality." By that I'm referring to ease of purchase, fair baggage prices, web/app UX, on/off-flight customer service including pilot communication with passengers, and even landings (as a pilot, I am absolutely judging beyond "did we get to the ground safely or not"). Price and seating are secondary for me, although I certainly understand why they are list-toppers for others.
I suspect flying up front on any of the majors is fine. Economy experience is driven by a race to the bottom price-wise, but if you want cheap travel, it’s readily available. If you want comfortable travel, that’s also on offer.
I flew Frontier the first time this Spring - was helping ferry an open cockpit biplane from Colorado to Illinois - and it was a stupid cheap one way fair. I really can't think of a single perk Frontier did not try and up charge a fee for. Boarding, luggage, carry on, seat assignment... I'm sure there were others. Funny enough, the guy I was ferrying with also picked the cheapest seats in the plane, so we ended up next to each other on the flight out. I was fully prepared too wear the kevlar helmet on the flight rather than pay the $60 carry on fee.
What's so awful about United?
My point was that even though the regular flights are similarly priced in the US and Asia, the quality in the US is so much worse. I now see that my attempt at explaining this discrepancy had some flaws, but what other explanations do you suggest?
The fact seems to be that even the best US Airlines are significantly worse than the ones in other places. When the best rated ones are hovering around average, there is something wrong.
I'm not so sure people do it any different elsewhere. I mostly fly in Europe and have definitely never considered anything else than price and suitable flight times. I consider all airlines to provide the same standardized service. Yes I'd pick BA over Ryanair, but wouldn't pay extra for it.
A lot of people I know and myself choose to pay more for a better experience.
It's not always about the race to the bottom in my opinion.
Ryan Air, EasyJet, and other discount airlines suggest that Europe cares significantly more about price.
You wouldn't think being obese would impact knees not having enough space, but my ass shrank in multiple directions and I have about four to five inches of free space now between the seat in front of me and my knees. Unless you're much taller than I am, it's likely that losing weight will not just help with your health, but make flying more comfortable.
If you are taller, well, life sucks for us tall people in many ways and we can't expect airlines to build comfortable seats for people two or three standard deviations beyond the normal height.
On many leisure routes from Toronto there is very little choice in flights either, so pay more means pay their business class rate which is quite expensive, or well go some very complex non-direct routing.
All of these options are horrible.
There more certainly is a statistically average height.
> Out of 4,063 pilots, not a single airman fit within the average range on all 10 dimensions.
This article is comparing 10 dimensions of variability and we're talking about just one here, the one you yourself mentioned, height.
What you’re probably thinking of is the US airline specific “comfort/extra/plus” add-on that is priced 10%-20% extra. There is a few more inches legroom but the seats are the same small economy seats.
The former uses larger seats and is typically available on long-hauls. The seat is somewhat similar to old-style business class seats, or modern domestic first class seats. It is not priced at 10% extra, it is usually close to double.
The latter is priced at around 10% extra, but is the same old economy seat just with a couple of inches more legroom.
It would be nice to have to pay only 10% extra to get 10% more space, but the lack of scaling is by design on the airlines part, and textbook market segmentation.
Edit: this article has pictures showing the difference: https://www.cntraveler.com/story/whats-the-difference-betwee...
This is either a triumph of choice, markets, and abundance or grim, barbaric end to flight as uplifting experience.
It's also safer than it's ever been.
We can each decide, I suppose.
I have arthritis and literally cannot fly anymore because I can't afford tickets with enough leg room to not be in crippling pain for the entire flight. I've had to miss important family events because of this.
Even if you personally could, some people that can currently fly would not be able to afford the higher prices. Why are your consumer preferences more important than theirs?
Without that, there's no motivation to do anything but shave every marginal dollar. Competitive forces are limited and will get more so over time. My uncle drives freight trains for living, and they pay extra to remove seat cushions on the locomotives because they don't want to spend opex on replacing torn cushions down the road.
My point is, when you optimize exclusively for cost, you will only get cheap and will not get any kind of improvement in customer experience. The only reason that Spirit Airways doesn't dangle you from a net hanging from the ceiling is that safety regulations don't allow for it.
A very short-sighted action. Driver seats are not like passenger seats, the drivers will strike if they are discomforted by the seat.
Jules Dupuit, describing rail carriages, though the same logic applies:
It is not because of the several thousand francs which they would have to spend to cover the third class wagons or to upholster the benches. ... [I]t would happily sacrifice this [expense] for the sake of its popularity.
Its goal is to stop the traveler who can pay for the second class trip from going third class. It hurts the poor not because it wants them to personally suffer, but to scare the rich.
I tend to try to travel on Qatar, and their new business class cabins are amazing: https://www.qatarairways.com/en/onboard/qsuite.html
It's also cheaper than the (worse) business class on many other airlines.
While the QSuites and the cabin crew are nice, you rarely get QSuites in reality. But you always get a stopover in Doha, and those stopovers generally include business lounges so busy you can rarely get a shower with a < 3 hour stopover, rarely get use of an airway for boarding (even at destination airports with numerous available, eg Stockholm), and you sit in the premium bus for 30+ minutes after "boarding" commenced waiting for other passengers (with dusty, fuel fume filled, unairconditioned Doha airport air).
The business class lounge at Doha is the best I've ever been to. You do need to go to the premium lounge though. They have a separate lounge for people with gold cards, and that one was a huge disappointment.
First of all, smaller planes such as the A320 and E195 feel bigger inside than the 737 does. It's like the difference between the "boat of car" from American manufacturers to the Japanese cars that were small on the outside but big on the inside.
If you just want a low-cost plane at the A320 level of technology, China is coming online with
It will put up great production numbers by selling to Chinese airlines first, they will have all the protectionism and subsidies they need to grow to an economy of scale where at 2030 the C919 will beat the pants off the 737.
If Boeing doesn't take advantage of it's comparative advantage and develop a much better aircraft, they are doomed.
I was going to go all "what do you mean, smaller??? ... surely you mean the A220", but had to good sense to look it up and you are right, the A320 Neo is actually a tad smaller than, for example, the 737-800. Also lighter.
Just carries more passengers a longer distance faster with slightly wider seats.
Not that the A320 is any spring chicken (dates back to the 80s), however that's still a quantum leap in technology (e.g. universal fly-by-wire) and I'm guessing more modular as it was intended as a family of planes sharing a type (from the 318 to the 321, though the 318 was dropped for neo).
The 321neo carries up to 240, even the 737-900 ER is left behind (220), though the 321 is longer than the -900 by quite a bit 44.5m to 42).
A 737-800 is 39.6m long to the 320neo’s 38.6, they have the same wingspan, the 320neo seats up to 195 versus 189 for the 737.
The 320 also has significantly more range (6500km to 5500) and needs a bit less runway (1950m to 2300).
The 737 MAX 200 is a modified 737 MAX 8 with an extra pair of exit doors so that it can seat up to 200 passengers. It will be used by Ryanair. Assuming the 737 MAX does fly again of course.
All to say I’m happy to have transitioned all my 401k years ago!
 I worked in the defense industry. Nothing to do with planes: my company was acquired by Boeing and operated relatively independently.
SP500 closed at 3221 today. In Jan 2009, it was about $890 and that is only a 3.6x return.
Hindsight is 20/20, but you might've been even happier if you kept all your 401k in Boeing.
C.f. Enron employees with company stock...
 If your employer goes belly up after you retire, you are screwed.
 Because it's fixed contribution, as opposed to fixed payout, if you lived longer than you planned, you are screwed.
In 1935 when SS was enacted, life expectancy was 61.7 years. benefits didn't kick in until the average person was dead by 3.3 years.
If this chart is accurate: http://vis.stanford.edu/jheer/d3/pyramid/shift.html -- it looks like in 1930 less than ~5% of the population was older than 65.
If this chart is accurate: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.65UP.TO.ZS?locat... -- it looks like ~15% of the population is currently older than 65.
What was the life expectancy at age 18? At retirement age?
If you made it past childhood, you were pretty likely to die far later than 61 years.
Maybe there's some way to have an insurance product to handle cases where people live longer than normal. That could be an improvement. But that should be handled by a fourth party.
That sounds like an annoying number of parties. But trust me -- mixing up of money for today with money for 30 years from now is just not a good system (in the private sector or government).
If you retire during a recession, your planned 20 years of 401K runway may not last you more than 12. Or you might end up living longer than 20 years. Or both.
With a guaranteed payments pension, you will continue receiving benefits as long as you live. This aspect of it wont matter to you if you fall over dead at 68, but will matter greatly if you end up living longer than planned.
Right now, less than 5% of my retirement savings are going towards a pension (Social security). I would be much happier if that number (And the expected returns from it) were closer to 25% - and that's with the expectation that SS payments will unexpectedly drop in the future. Having an investment instrument that will pay me until I die is great for diversifying my portfolio.
Thanks to that, a fixed benefit pension as part of your retirement strategy is much more fiscally responsible than going all in on either a 401K, or a pension.
* with the current state of medical science.
Generally speaking, the majority of (non DOD) Boeing employees should not be restricted by insider trading; It's often rumored to have broader reach than it does. In order to be an insider, you would need to have direct impact or insight into an unannounced project, corporate, or financial disclosure. It may even take some authority to be able to materially impact delivery deadlines or financials before you're considered an insider.
Sidenote: It's laughable when companies say they think options are a better choice for the employee than a 401k match.
I thought that was the norm? I've only worked at one public company and they did matching in company stock as well - I'd periodically sell it and reinvest so only about 20% of my holdings was in company stock. I wish I'd kept more in their stock since they've done quite well.
At a not-Boeing company, I believe all of our 401k match was company stock, although we could move it to other funds after it came in as company stock.