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Boeing employees mocked FAA in internal messages before 737 Max disasters (npr.org)
380 points by jfaat 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 236 comments





Geez.

> "Would you put your family on a Max simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn't," says one employee to another, who responds, "No."

> Peter DeFazio, [D-Oregon], called newly released documents "incredibly damning"

That's hard to argue with. You'd like to think this kind of thing would... leak. Who said conspiracies involving hundreds of people are impossible?


Blow your whistle all you want but until something catastrophic happens, the whistleblowers would turn out the way the whistleblowers for the 737ng airframe cracking came out: fired and then ignored.

Whistle-blowing is misunderstood.

You can't just start leaking internal documents and making accusations without evidence. ...that will get you fired, and possibly in jail.

You need to talk to a lawyer, follow the legal process, and make allegations that you can PROVE.

So many whistle-blowers come out with wild stories (often true), but since they bring zero evidence to the table they are ignored. ...and if they have evidence, they just blindly leak it to the press without going through the process, which can endanger people/privacy and destroy IP.

Don't get me wrong - whistleblowers are important, but if you really want to make positive change and not just stick it to your employer - do it responsibly.


It feels like the problem is cultural. If the culture doesn't allow enough time for confidence in deliverables, then what proof would you have? Often there are a million items that can go wrong (although all tests pass). So probabilistically something is wrong, but there's no solid item to latch on to.

"This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys."

The monkeys will ruthlessly suppress any evidence that they are monkeys or that they supervise clowns.


How many people in the government knew about the NSA spying on citizens before Snowden finally spilled the info? That was a massive effort involving many (thousands?) of people. Then when Snowden reveals it, his life is destroyed and he’s forced to live in exile. Sends a very strong warning to any other potential do-gooders considering telling the truth.

I'm not sure why this got downvoted, I personally wasn't aware of the conditions on which boeing were making plane before the accidents. My gut feel is nobody did care before something really bad happen and having access to a journalist who is interested enough to make a story ain't simple when you're not in their network. As an example, I did notice a few months ago that twitter did receive identifying information about youporn users (here's a proof: https://archive.kerjean.me/public/2020/twitter.jpg). At that time, I did contact a few journalist from techcrunch, gizmodo and some linux techies but never got any answer and the story never went out

Before Snowden? Everyone in the tech field knew the US government was spying on everyone WELL before Snowden.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Room_641A


Eh. In that case, there _had_ been prior leaks, for years; they were just much less complete and taken less seriously. As far as I know, there was never a pre-production leak that Boeing employees thought the MAX was unsafe.

Yes.

For example, this report from the EU parliament from 2001: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP/...

This details a lot of what we knew about ECHELON from the mid 1990s to 2002: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/EPRS/EPRS_STUDY_538877_Affair...


While true, Snowden position as administrator placed him outside the usual compartmentalization (because he worked on connecting separate parts of the infrastructure)[0], and placed him in a unique position to realize what was happening and to exfiltrate the proof. I suspect most of the other people who knew the whole picture, were a lot higher up the food chain.

[0]: see his appearance on the Joe Rogan podcast (it's really long and rambly but there are some fun nuggets in there) Snowdens book might be a better source but I haven't read it yet.


The NSA's secret boxes in the now famous AT&T closet were well known long before Snowden

Here on hn, on the other hand, there are plenty of people that say that they don’t see any problem in flying on the max once it is again in service. From my point of view I’ll happily let them be the guinea pigs while I’ll avoid at all costs to fly on that death machine.

As long as they give pilots proper training, I'd actually rather fly on the recertified MAX than certain other Boeing planes.

They have gone though the whole plane with a fine toothed comb, Identifying any other potential problems. It will probably be the safest Boeing in the sky.

This whole MAX situation has made me very nervous about flying on the 787 (built in the same era) or the 737 NG (while it lacks MCAS, something else could theoretically put the stabilizer massively out of trim, and this whole situation has proven pilots have problems recovering from out-of-trim stabilizers)


What if they missed another flaw ? Some older boeing planes have been flying for years without an issue, I'd rather fly on those.

Yep, the issue is the culture and the idea of "we are going to make subtle yet fatal changes to the plane, but not require pilots to learn about these changes" that's got everyone shook.

>They have gone though the whole plane with a fine toothed comb,

Are we sure this is happening? This is a modified airplane so they are checking the new addition but are they checking say the wheels or all the screws because some forces might be different and numbers changed and everything should be redone.


This [0] makes me nervous about flying on a 787.

[0] https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/boeing-787-dreamliner-safet...


The 787 has been in service for 8 years now and has never had a single fatality, never mind a hull loss yet. Your fears may be misplaced.

People have been talking about Boeing management grinding things down for years too; it's just that it finally had unignorable consequences. A lot of the difficulty with preventing and evaluating bad stuff is how long it takes for a big structure to rot.

They have only two flight computers - either of which are capable of crashing the plane. With only two its not always possible to know which is incorrect.

Regardless of how much you go over it you can’t fix a fundamentally broken design.


> They have gone though the whole plane with a fine toothed comb, Identifying any other potential problems. It will probably be the safest Boeing in the sky.

More like they've done the bare minimum to get the planes back in the air. The entire point of the plane is to avoid having to certify a new frame ie avoid doing exactly what you're implying they've done.


They wanted to avoid a new type certification which would force all existing 737 pilots to be retrained and certificated on this aircraft.

They can go through the whole plane with a fine toothed comb and still end up with a common type.


They've already recommended simulator time as a requirement to fly it. The shared type cert to avoid retraining is kind of moot.

The sad thing is this could be seen as a successful (in the Pyrrhic sense) business move by Boeing in that they were given an impossible goal, secured sufficient sales to airlines, and show all indications of being on the road to getting away with it if there are still sufficient people out there who are still willing to fly on one afterward.

Just gotta be willing to crack a few eggs, and cash in on that goodwill on occasion, yet the business churns on regardless.

It's a bit sickening to be honest. To be faced with what we're finding, and to show all indications of just moving on with business as usual.

It makes it hard to take anything seriously anymore. Cripes, I used to hang aerospace over my teams as a "you could be in a situation where I'd reject this work wholesale because you haven't convinced me you've thought it through, and I don't feel like killing people down the road."

Now the tables have turned... Even there, in what I thought was the last bastion of "it absolutely must be provably right", it seems that wasn't ever the case, or if it was, the rot has set in so badly as to leave it unrecognizable.

Leaves me feeling like a Diogenes, searching desperately for someone who isn't cutting irresponsible corners, and is dedicated to not just achieving the mission, but caring about how they do it.

Sorry, bit of a tangent there... But jeez. I figured it'd be bad. Not this bad though.


To be fair, flying in MAX was/would still be orders of magnitude safer than pretty much any other transportation method outside flying.

(No, I don't think I still want to fly that, either)


Only per mile. Per journey it's the most dangerous transport typically used. Per hour it's about average.

This doesn't matter if you have to make a specific trip (the number of miles is fixed), but that's not always the case. Whatever you do, don't walk, that seems to be the most dangerous common mode of transportation (unless motorcycles are common).

"Aviation industry insurers base their calculations on the deaths per journey statistic while the aviation industry itself generally uses the deaths per kilometre statistic in press releases."

Source: Transport comparisons in https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aviation_safety


Your point that accidents per journey might be more interesting than accidents per passenger-kilometer is a very good one, however it seems like the data in the table in the Wikipedia article you linked is a bit old ("The following table displays these statistics for the United Kingdom 1990–2000").

If you take a look at the "Fatalities per trillion revenue passenger kilometres" plot in the same article, it looks like flying got a lot safer since 2000 (maybe ~10x?).

The conclusion that flying isn't a lot safer than other common modes of transport when you compare by journey is still correct though... (But maybe it is a little bit safer, or similarly safe).


The other thing is that the statistics for car travel include all journeys by car. You can do a lot to improve your own safety by avoiding the common risk factors: not driving drunk, driving in daytime (that also avoids drunk drivers), not being in an all-teenage vehicle, driving well-rested & so on. If you do that, per journey you'll be safer than in your regular commercial aviation airplane.

> don't walk, that seems to be the most dangerous common mode of transportation

Not walking is also a bad idea, though. I don't have numbers at hand, but I can imagine that a sedentary lifestyle gives you way more micromorts than the risk of traffic accidents when walking to work.


Tons of people die in their sleep!

So, just to be safe, don't ever sleep...


Walking to work does not prevent a sedentary lifestyle. A little exercise doesn't make you fit.

I mean, it's pretty common for people to have a heart attack from sudden exertion, too. Like snow shoveling.

And I remember Douglas Adams died after a workout and he was probably reasonably fit at the time (in theory anyway).

So don't exercise.


From my back of the envelope calculations at the time of the second crash they had worse safety than a car. Did you run the actual numbers?

I'm confident I'm a safer driver than at least 50% of the people on the roads - if I thought pilots were only as safe as an average driver I'd be worried.

I'm confident I'm a safer driver than at least 50% of the people on the roads

So is almost everybody else. :)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illusory_superiority#Driving_a...


Everybody may think they are "skilled", but any given person can in principle assess their own risk more accurately than assuming they are average. Don't confuse safety with nebulous ideas of skill or ability.

You can compare your insurance rate with the average, and you can consider objective factors that are really blatant such as whether you drive drunk, or when falling asleep, or while texting. And of course you can compare the number of accidents and tickets you have to average.


Well, if you're only claiming median skill I don't think that applies.

80% of the drivers rank themselves in the top 20% of skill

even if that were true (statistically it isn’t), unlike with a plane roads aren’t so tightly controlled and other drivers are barely competent. head-ons happen all too frequently and i’m sure one of the victims is ... a safe driver.

driving isn’t unsafe because of your own (self-assessed) skill, it’s unsafe because of that other 50%.

no matter how safe of a driver you are, you should be worried.


I should write a treatise in every post :o)

I'm aware that people over-estimate their skill, I'd have been inclined to say "in the top 20%" otherwise, lol. Whilst my reaction time has slowed slightly, and my focus deteriorated a little with age (IMO), I've been driving cars for 25 years without an at fault collision (taxi driver hit me when I braked hard to avoid killing a dog -- we were sub 30mph otherwise I'd have chosen to hit the dog). Have avoided some accidents for sure. I also hold a full motorbike license, have driven minibuses and car&trailer pairs. I'm aged enough to have calmed down and having ridden motorbikes feel I've much more road awareness than the average driver.

Also, I considered head-ons, etc., where the injured party is not at fault - but whilst they increase the risk an experienced and competent drive can avoid some collisions, mitigate the harm of others, and will nonetheless reduce their chances of being in a collision from their side. If 50% of injured parties are the cause, and I can reduce that 50% by 50% then I've still reduced my chance of being injured by 25%.

Does anyone think that doesn't put me in the bottom 50% for risk?

Still, the point stands that I expect aeroplanes to be better maintained and have more redundant and fail-safe systems than a car; and expect pilots to be better trained and more competent (prevented from driving drugged/drunk/tired more than truck/car drivers, etc.) than the average car driver. So, aeroplanes only having the same per-mile safety as cars is [would be] terrible.


skill != safety, because how much of a safety margin you leave generally swamps most of the effect of skill. And your safety margin reduces the effect of other drivers' stupidity.

And I hate it when people say "statistically that isn't true". How can a fact about an individual be statistically not true? Is it statistically true that I have 2.4 (or whatever) children, even if I have none?


I guess I should have been more prudent. Some time ago I recall reading here at HN some crude calculations about this where I got this impression.

Sure, though many people aren't deciding between flying a 737 MAX and driving or taking a bus. They're often deciding between flying on a specific flight that uses a 737 MAX and flying at a different time and/or on a different airline that doesn't use a 737 MAX.

Most people are just choosing the cheapest flight that fits their schedule, which is usually 1.

Sure, but that's not really the choice, usually. You would in most circumstances have a choice between a MAX and an -800 or a320.

Unless they redesign the airframe, I don't think there is any way of fixing the aircraft. One of the requirements ought to be that the aircraft is capable of gliding when it loses power. Given that its airframe is unbalanced it will have a hard, neigh, impossible time "gliding". It will most certainly plunge to the earth killing all the souls onboard.

I mean, I have already flown on them dozens of times prior to the catastrophic events, so I’m not really opposed to boarding them again after recertification.

Then again, it’s not clear to me what else they “covered up” or issues that this new article is focused on. I’d be happy for the FAA to delay them further and get to the bottom of this.


I'm one of those who would fly it. It's about figuring probabilities rather than gut feel. The odds of me dying riding a motorcycle which I do sometimes are like 10,000x those of dying in any airliner crash.

You seem to be confusing "known unknowns" with "unknown unknowns". I find this unaccountably irritating because everybody intuitively knows the difference, and that it's huge, except when they pretend to be "rational".

What's the probability of something happening when the probability you are given is probably wrong?


I'm more just dividing the historical statistics eg.

>commercial airlines in the United States between 2000 and 2010 was about 0.2 deaths per 10 billion passenger-miles

and

>390 motorcyclist deaths per billion vehicle miles

dividing gives 19500x per mile. Though I do more miles by air. It's all a bit approximate.


1. You can't claim your risk of dying using a particular method of transportation is above another method just by looking at per mile death rates unless you travel a similar distance in both, or say it in a context of making a decision of using one or the other to travel from place to place (although to be precise the length of the trip depends somewhat on the used method).

2. The commercial airlines figure which you've used is not from using the particular method of transportation, 737 max, which the use of you are justifying with the comparison.

3. If you wear a helmet, don't ride drunk, don't speed and otherwise follow traffic rules it will make riding a motorcycle a lot safer than average.


Well, yeah it's complicated. From the perspective of an all knowing god your chances of dying in some way are probably either 1 or 0 depending on what fate will bring so practical probability estimates are guesses based on limited information. Based on my limited information I'd be happy enough to fly the max. It'll probably be the world's most scrutinised aircraft by the time it flies again anyway.

Guesses based on limited information need to include the information you do have, and not include information you don't have. If a probability doesn't reflect what you know and don't know, it's not valid, period, limited information in general not withstanding.

> Who said conspiracies involving hundreds of people are impossible?

Companies are pretty opaque by design and I'm sure these people signed NDAs.

As long as they believed the company was acting legally (even if not ethically) they might not have felt like they had the legal right to share insider information.

Others might have simply felt the company was working on it. And others might not have wanted to damage the company that employs them.

The people that knew something wrong was going on and kept passing the buck are certainly at fault though and in retrospect I bet a lot of people wish they said something.

It's a tragedy what's happened and unfortunately a bunch of people probably could have saved some lives but didn't.


> And others might not have wanted to damage the company that employs them.

Paraphrasing a famous saying, it's hard to make somebody care about something if their livelihood depends on them not caring.


Indeed. Another thing consider is if someone blows the whistle it could leave all of their coworkers without jobs. Men and women with families, mortgages, bills and lives. That is a lot of guilt and a very heavy decision to make, especially when there is no consequence in sight. Now that hundreds of people have died as a result that guilt has waned.

Not that I want to defend Boeing, but it's easy to play Nostradamus and predict catastrophies to then only dig up the prophecies if they turn up true. The article doesn't say how much the claims were substantiated and backed up by the concerned employees.

Looking back, Boeing certainly should have investigated the claims more seriously but just from reading the article I feel we don't have a very clear picture of what happened.


Also, this prophecy didn't come true. If anything it was completely ass-backwards - it's about the quality of the 737 MAX sim, not the plane itself, and it looks like Boeing's engineers believed internally that Boeing shouldn't have pushed so hard to release it given that existing 737 pilots didn't need simulator training on the MAX and felt safer flying on the MAX with pilots trained on the NG than they did about flying with MAX-simulator trained pilots. You may recall that the general narrative is that the crashes were, in part, the result of Boeing's desire to avoid MAX-specific simulator training.

This is what gets overlooked in these stories. Most failures have at least a few of these.

But if the same investigation happened with successful aircraft, they'd likely find a lot of the same things.

"Employee at X mocks regulator" is not exactly uncommon.


Well, perhaps they didn't have enough vehement disagreements.

Group think is a real thing unfortunately...

I feel that particular quote is taken out of context a bit. The line immediately preceding it is:

> Another damning exchange calls into question the safety of the 737 Max long before the plane was approved to fly passengers.

It’s the quality of the finished product I care about, not the quality of the product at some unspecified point during R&D.


Presumably internal employees are familiar with the design process of planes. Or do you suspect they make statements like this for every plane during th early stages?

I have no idea. I doubt anybody commenting in this thread does either, given the complete lack of context.

Given Boeing’s proven track record, you could potentially speculate that the comments are actually in reference to some serious failure. But the quote as it’s presented doesn’t provide any meaningful information.


The 'proven track record' is pretty much non existent at this point.

> Given Boeing’s proven track record, you could potentially speculate that the comments are actually in reference to some serious failure

Read the whole sentence. Boeing does have a proven track record of serious failures, negligence, coverups... If you were inclined to speculate, you could speculate that this comment is in reference to some sort of serious issue that eventually made it into the production model. However the article doesn’t substantiate that implication (and it is only an implication).

The author of the article clearly wants you to come away from reading it with a diminished impression of Boeing. They have a clear profit incentive to make the article as outrageous as possible. A lot of people (myself included) already have a pretty poor opinion of Boeing, and I’d bet a lot of people who clicked on the article would be inclined to believe any negative claims made against them. The dangers of Fake News are often discussed on HN, and this is exactly the sort of situation where it is most important to exercise critical thinking.

That quote, without context, doesn’t reveal any meaningful information at all. I presume I’m getting downvoted because people think I’m defending Boeing, which I haven’t done once. I’m simply pointing out the danger of getting sucked in by outrage journalism, especially when it plays into your preconceived notions (no matter how well founded they are).


The greatest irony of all is that this quote doesn't impugn the quality of the 737 MAX in the slightest. It's entirely about the simulator--which isn't implicated in the MAX disaster since the pilots were not being retrained for it (i.e., using the simulator).

Well yeah, they were a very prudent organization before August '97.

> Given Boeing’s proven track record

The proven track record (this decade; what they did in the past is largely irrelevant) of releasing a deeply defective product?


Bluntly, this is why companies have email "retention"[1] policies. Lots of products have internal emails about all the scary things that can (and will) go wrong. Its hard to put them into context, but if things do go wrong they will be all over the press.

[1] Really deletion policies


I don’t see that extra bit of context changing the quote

Vague remarks about the design of the plane being unsound at any point in time prior to it being approved to fly passengers, doesn’t reveal any information at all about the soundness of the design of the plane that was eventually approved to fly passengers.

Your statements broke my brain... "The plane got approved, it must have been good enough, however grueling it got during the design process".

But all evidence shows it wasn't good enough (the design killed some 300 people!), but it got rubber stamp approval.


> But all evidence shows it wasn't good enough

Sure, but without additional context we can’t know what they were talking about, or whether those remarks were relevant to the final product.


Except, the quote you’re referring to was dated 2018.

The 737 MAX started operations in May 2017.

So the comment was after the plane was regularly flying, and people on the inside were STILL joking about its safety.

(0) https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/jan/09/boeing-737-...


In that case the NPR article (which doesn’t mention a date) is just factually incorrect.

> Another damning exchange calls into question the safety of the 737 Max long before the plane was approved to fly passengers.

> "Would you put your family on a Max simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn't," says one employee to another, who responds, "No."

If that quote was from 2018, then it’s from a year after FAA approval, not “long before” it.

I was criticising the reporting, not defending Boeing, and as you’ve kindly pointed out, the reporting is even more dubious than I had first thought.


Most outlets say it's from 2018[1] and New York Times seems to have the original which points out that it's from 2018.[2]

1. https://www.google.com/search?q=Would+you+put+your+family+on... 2. https://int.nyt.com/data/documenthelper/6653-internal-boeing...


The source and year of the quote I took from the guardian article I referenced.

I’ve got no idea what you mean by ‘long before’, unless you somehow Switched what I was talking about - my point is exactly that the employees were discussing that they wouldn’t fly on it the year following the start of service. QED?


I feel like you haven’t read OP article, or the parent comments in this thread. The quotes I posted above are directly from the NPR article that this thread is commenting on.

I wasn’t making any comments regarding Boeing’s culpability, I was specifically commenting on the quality of the OP article. As those quotes are presented in the NPR article, they lack sufficient context to communicate anything meaningful, and based on what you’ve posted, appear to be reported in a factually incorrect manner (they directly contradict the guardian reporting, so at least one of them must be incorrect).


https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2020/01/09/b...

Sorry for the amp reference.

At least another paper using 2018 as the source year for that same quote.

How the hell this single quote can, ‘without context’ lack enough punch to convey anything meaningful is just wrong. Your attempt at being even-handed here seems totally misguided. If I met you on the street I would immediately assume you’re massively long Boeing. What’s the point? There are no redeeming features from the whole MAX story - every month another piece of disasterous news comes out about the practices of this company and the culture that allowed this to happen


The Washington Post article says that quote was from 2018, contrary to your speculation that it was some long-ago comment that is no longer relevant.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/int...


Two things:

1. You would be surprised at how normal talk like that is in huge corporations due to internal politics. People bad-mouth other projects that are getting limelight, taking away resources, etc. A more benign example is how often Google employees rag on the GCP engineers as being inferior, which has more to do with the money flowing into GCP than merit.

2. People are irrational about safety, despite data showing something is ok. There were droves of people that said they would never get on a fly-by-wire plane (Airbus), despite having no evidence to support their fears.


In pilot lingo there are four levels of trust in a pilot (ascending order):

1. I won't fly with you 2. I will fly with you 3. I will fly with you and take my shoes off during take off 4. I will let my family fly with you.

This phrase used verbatim means quite a lot.


If what you’re saying is true, this is a full reversal in the meaning of the leaked conversation.

You’re implying the employees not only trust the MAX, their trust is such that they are comfortable kicking back with their shoes off on a flight.


How'd you get there?

>"Would you put your family on a Max simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn't," says one employee to another, who responds, "No."


Conceptualize it as a three-point scale of trust:

1: I will fly with you.

2: I will fly with you without even wearing shoes. (Realistically, I can't imagine why shoes would make a difference.)

3: I would let my family fly with you.

If you say you wouldn't put your family in a Max, then your trust in the Max is not at level 3. Logically, this is a very weak constraint; it only shows that trust < 3. Maybe trust is 2. That's what fingerlocks is saying.

However, vernacular language generally doesn't work that way. A common mode might come from the following train of thought:

- I don't trust this plane.

- How much do I not trust it? The MAXIMUM LEVEL, LEVEL 3!

- "I would not let my family fly on this plane."

Here, from a logical perspective, the person has confused "lack of level 3 trust" with "level 3 distrust". This is bad in a math class (the scope of the negation is wrong -- [not [level 3 trust]] vs [level 3 [not trust]]), but routine in ordinary speech.


This is missing the forest for the trees. The context is a passenger aircraft whose normal job is to transport families, so "level 3" is all that matters.

No, the context is internal communications between employees during the design and construction phase of the aircraft.

Imagine if your conversations of various bugs for a software project that you were building were released after the fact, what do you think they would sound like out of context?


I generally try not to write things at work that could look bad to the NY Times, but my point was just that it's overanalyzing to distinguish between levels of confidence here. In context, if the crashes hadn't happened, maybe it wasn't all that significant. But at least momentarily, it must have seemed important to the writer. It is true that often at work I'm concerned about something, and it's because I'm confused so when I'm reassured I realize my earlier comments are inapplicable.

Shoes = evacuation ready.

Other quote from the reuters article (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-boeing-737max/designed-by...) :

“I want to stress the importance of holding firm that there will not be any type of simulator training required to transition from NG to MAX,” Boeing’s 737 chief technical pilot said in a March 2017 email.

“Boeing will not allow that to happen. We’ll go face to face with any regulator who tries to make that a requirement.”


> Boeing’s 737 chief technical pilot

He's one who really needs to go to jail. Why didn't they name him?


The further down the PDF I go, the more I agree with you.

Here's another one of his quotes:

> There is absolutely no reason to require your pilots to require a Max simulator to begin flying the Max. Once the engines are started, there is only one difference between NG and Max procedurally, and that is that there is no OFF position of the gear handle. Boeing does not understand what is to be gained by a 3h simulator session, when the procedures are essentially the same.


This makes me angry.

Not that 3 hours of simulator training would have helped in either crash. The problem wasn't that the ipad course was inadequate training for the new procedures (as he said there were no major procedural differences), but that any mention of MCAS had been removed from the manual to avoid needing new or modified procedures.

Even worse, MCAS was designed to be near-impossible to override, using data from only one sensor, to avoid the need for procedural changes.


Not to defend Boeing or the folks in these messages in any way, but as I understand it MCAS initially was making use of multiple sensors. It was changed at one point to only use 1[1]. It would be important to know the timing of these messages relative to the development.

Another _unverified_ thing I heard was that initially MCAS would only be able to issue a single nose down command, and was later modified to be able to issue multiple.

1. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/times-watchdog/the...


From what I understand, the decision to change it from using 2 sensors to 1 sensor was specifically because if the system used 2 sensors it was considered a safety system requiring simulator training for the failure scenarios.

IMO Boeing should be required to separate the military and civilian parts of the company and allow the military side to build civilian aircraft based on existing civilian models. I honestly think it's the only way to save the company, because right now airlines, regulators, pilots and passengers do not trust the current incarnation of Boeing. With their shady culture, we don't know what else is hiding in the airplane. Culture issues aren't solved overnight.

I fly a lot of miles and am the type of person who keeps the airlines in business, and I will not fly on a 737 MAX for the foreseeable future. My coworkers are in the same boat. I don't see the American carriers being able to return these planes to service before 2022. This is absolutely an existential threat to the US aviation industry, and I think the only solution is to split Boeing up.


What’s worse is that we will lose trust in FAA as they still allow for a single non-redundant sensor.

At this point FAA should require minimum 2 sensors for something like MCAS which can crash they plane. This should be without regard to any prior certification of the planes.


I think the FAA does require a minimum of 2 sensors for safety systems -- Boeing intentionally lied to hide the true purpose of MCAS from the FAA in order to make the planes easier to sell.

Restructuring is a prudent proposal, but jail time is needed.

I don't disagree, but I don't think you can find a single person who is fully responsible for the failures. This was an institutional failure caused by a combination of regulatory capture and erosion of the firewall between sales and engineering.

> Another _unverified_ thing I heard was that initially MCAS would only be able to issue a single nose down command, and was later modified to be able to issue multiple.

My understanding is that it was never limited to one command.

Instead, all their failure analysis was based on the assumption the pilot would correctly identify the problem immediately after the first activation and follow the runaway stabilizer checklist (disabling all electric trim) before the second activation could occur.


Also in the emails, a discussion about renaming MCAS to make it seem like it was just a tweak to existing control software, rather than a new feature needing documentation and training....

Oh yeah, that was interesting. They were renaming it to be part of the Speed Trim System, with the MCAS name used only internally. After doing some looking, apparently the STS is a system on all 737s that adjusts the stabilizer in order to increase the stick force. This is necessary to ensure the plane meets the FAR speed stability requirement for the minimum increase in stick force as the plane moves away from the current speed. It does this by moving the stabilizer in a way that opposes the flight stick input, and is active 5 seconds after the last manual trim input when autopilot is off. If you've been following the discussion of MCAS, all of those details are probably feeling awfully familiar...

Because Boeing is a company of national importance and also a monopoly on home turf, vital to the US security and economy so they're untouchable in the US.

Just like how no VW employee went to jail in Germany for emissions cheating.


Lets not forget that some actually got to go to prison[0].

[0]: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-06/vw-execut...


That happened in a US court but VW's CEO and a few other top execs were also criminally indicted in Germany. I think it's still ongoing so no outcome yet.

Not true. Several actually went to jail, including the former boss of Audi, Rupert Stadler. However, their trials are yet to come, so no final decision on jail time yet.

Also a good way to turn an employee willing to do terrible things into a whistle blower.

VW wasn't nearly as bad. People need to go to jail over those deaths and their legacy used as a reminder for those that come next.

Here is another damning Boeing message, follow the source for more:

https://twitter.com/cedivad/status/1215558552229683200


Define bad. As a cyclist in Europe I breathe in fumes from VWs diesel engines on a daily basis.

I'm wondering how shorter the lifespan for me and others like me will be in the long run.

I'd say that's pretty bad but as the deaths are not instantaneous, the long term damage is difficult to quantify.


My suggestion is to just stop doing it, especially if you start sleeping worse (the first symptom if you're affected). My life was ruined by not caring about living near a highway even though I easily had the money to get into a better apartment.

Now for the past 5 years (I'm 38 now) my life is about trying to find places with clean enough air, which is much harder and more expensive in winter time.

I'm always looking at experiments that reverse methylation damage, and hoping that those experiments succeed before I get cancer, but there's only 1 successful experiment so far, and I have no idea if it would help me.


Thanks for the tips. Where do you live now?

Right now I'm in a boutique hotel in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic on the beach.

Last year I was in small cities in Colombia, like Pereira or Armenia in small hotels/AirBnb-s far from the city center.

I can't live in big cities anymore, and I'm really missing it.

I'd like to go to Australia as well, but I'm afraid of the air pollution due to forest fires.


Do you have any information you can share regarding the highway? I live next to one

The problem is that it all depends on your genes. For many people air pollution doesn't affect them..but I thought it doesn't affect me before it started.

Regarding living close to highways: air pollution close to them are much higher than farther away, and you spend a significant amount of time sleeping at home, so you if you are not lucky, you are affected.

Generally background noise is a good predictor of air pollution in my experience, just open the window, and if you hear cars all the time, you should look for another place to live.


As bad by what metric? VWs emissions overshoot has been projected to cause 1200 deaths: http://news.mit.edu/2017/volkswagen-emissions-premature-deat...

For most people actual deaths are more immediately apparent than estimated deaths. By driving a car, riding a bus, or taking a plane any regular person also contributes to some of those estimated deaths. But this is very different from causing direct deaths by knowingly disabling a safety feature on a car, plane, or bus for example.

Company values. On one end of the spectrum you have a relatively small group of people cheating and no idea where the bucket stopped.

For Boeing you have multiple lines (not only the 737 MAX but the 777 too) going as far as handing over bribes to the FAA, with upper management investing the budget savings on some yacht time.


How do we know that something caused 1200 deaths, instead of, say for example, 1% of a death of each of 120,000 individuals?

When the defeat device was turned off during normal engine use its emissions went up by 40x the legal limit. VW's scandal was unprecedented in my opinion. The NOx emitted by those filthy cars are awful for anyone with respiratory issues.

While still substantially less than the 737 Max, plenty of people died because of that. We're not even really talking orders of magnitude, but around 10-20% @~59 premature deaths estimated (vs ~300 w/the max). That's not accounting for other health issues, and stress on the environment

source: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/10/11/1...


> The company official said the language used and sentiments expressed in these communications "are inconsistent with Boeing values, and the company is taking appropriate action in response."

Do you think this means:

a) Change the environment that fosters those kinds of messages?

-or-

b) Punish those who wrote those messages?


Boeing is saying the language used and sentiments expressed are bad.

They're not saying that releasing a plane that employees were sounding safety alarms are about is bad.


This. Exactly this. They are literally saying:

> [Sounding safety alarms is] inconsistent with Boeing values, and the company is taking appropriate [ie punitive] action in response [to prevent any alarms on the next unsafe design].


Boeing were dangerously incompetent w.r.t the 777 MAX, but I have to disagree here - this isn't about putting down whistleblowing or dissenting opinions. What they're saying is they are gonna slap some people on the wrist and issue company wide memo saying something to the effect of "Please don't say stupid embarrassing stuff like this in the company chat or over email".

However we are in agreement that this isn't a commitment to fix any of underlying issues that caused this mess.


> slap some people on the wrist and issue company wide memo saying something to the effect of "Please don't say stupid embarrassing stuff like this in the company chat or over email".

While that's on the low end of the range of severity I'd expect, I can't help but point out that that is, in fact, punitive action and would, in fact, discourage (albeit probably not prevent) any warnings about the next unsafe design.


The actions need to really be understood in context.

If people were joking around and using hyperbole to exaggerate the extent of what they saw as problems, and did this often-- as some engineering cultures do-- a slap on the wrist is justified. That kind of banter creates noise that obscures real concerns about lack of safety.

If they were genuinely concerned and are smacked for creating documentation of it, that is super bad.


Both, but as a higher priority, c) punish the exec team on whose watch it happened.

Bring back the concept of responsibility. They are paid to be in overall responsibility for anything that happens under their remit.

Time was such a behaviour in the department, or under their leadership would have ended a career. Realising the actions of a lowly engineer or janitor can end their gravy train, they might implement adequate oversight.


Why just end a career? Why not go to jail?

Well I did say punish not merely fire. I would expect that to encompass imprisonment and fine, depending on severity. Ending or severely restricting the career and income should be the bonus, lower standard of proof consequence merely for the event happening whilst they're in charge. Separate from a court fine of 5 years salary, all bonuses and share options, or given 3 years in clink. :)

With adequate penalty and frequent enforcement, usual behaviour would change...


In a system with social capital this would be entirely possible.

Why not both?

Do you honestly expect anything _but_ [punishment for the ones who got outed]?

I must say that seeing the SEC’s handling of internal emails in the Tourre affair taught me a lesson about internal corporate communications. Some personal emails which were unrelated to the affair were published in the SEC report (clearly for the benefit of the front page of newspapers). The extract contained jokes where the sentence had been edited to alter the meaning of the sentence.

The published extract was “whole building is about to collapse anytime now. Only potential survivor, the fabulous Fab […] standing in the middle of all these complex, highly leveraged, exotic trades he created without necessarily understanding all of the implications”

Out of memory the […] that was left out by the SEC said something like “as kindly calls me xxx, but there is nothing fabulous about me, just a tender... etc”. And that was an email to his girlfriend, nothing to do with any transaction.

Morale of the story: no jokes, even innocuous, they will be weaponised against you in bad faith. Stick to boring, neutral language. And no personal communications on corporate systems. Write everything on the assumption it will be published with bad intent.


Si vous me donnez six lignes écrites par la main de la plus honnête des hommes, je vais trouver quelque chose en eux qui le ferai pendre.

If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.

- Cardinal Armand Jean du Plessis, Duke of Richelieu and Fronsac (1585–1642)


It amazes me in this day and age that people don't realise that anything they say on these systems can be dug out and read by anybody, anywhere at any time ...

You're not thinking about this with every keystroke even if you know this. I certainly don't.

I do. I've only ever worked for public universities or state owned organizations, so every work email I've ever written is theoretically accessible via an open records request. I write every email as if it's going to be published on the front page of my local paper.

As a result I don't use email very much.


I absolutely do. If I'm typing it I'm checking myself just as if I were speaking across an open plan office.

The only way you'll ever know what I actually really think about something controversial is if you ask me face to face, or maybe, on a phone call.


> If I'm typing it I'm checking myself just as if I were speaking across an open plan office.

I do this, too. I would call this good manners. But that's wildly different from being aware that the contents might be used in discovery or being published out-of-context. Especially the latter provokes the Richelieu citation.


what?

I'll echo the other comments here, too. I never put anything in writing that I'm not comfortable being published publicly. Working in the public sector and being subject to public records requests, and working in the private sector and having my emails quoted by opposing counsel to a judge during a lawsuit both taught me the value of being exceedingly careful in what I write.

I know I do and im sure others that are often under regulatory scrutiny do as well.

Wow, this article is full of amazing quotes. I highly recommend reading the entire thing. My favorite one I haven't seen posted yet > "I still haven't been forgiven by God for the covering up I did last year," one employee says in 2018, referring to an exchange of information with the FAA.

Utterly unbelievable, yet also totally unsurprising given everything else that's come out about Boeing recently.


>Utterly unbelievable, yet also totally unsurprising given everything else that's come out about Boeing recently.

What amazes me is that the same thing is happening with Tesla, but HN hardly bats an eye, because Silicon Valley:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/teslas-push-to-build-a-self-dri...

Engineers speaking up and getting fired or resigning. What's worse is that, as opposed to having a choice to fly on a 737 MAX, driving on autopilot on public roads puts other people at risk.


There is a very fundamental difference. The Tesla autopilot is a mere driving assist system. Like with plain cruise control, the driver is still fully in charge and needs to pay enough attention to take over at any moment. All accidents happened because drivers were not paying attention at all.

With the Boeing, the MCAS system put the 737 in a flight state which trained pilots couldn't recover from.


>The Tesla autopilot is a mere driving assist system.

Yes, when you follow ambiguous instructions, which contradict things like, "Only waiting for regulatory approval!", or"1 million robotaxis this year!" or "Cars can drive by themselves coast-to-coast!"


The instructions given to the owner of a Tesla are not ambiguous. No where it is claimed that the Tesla drives itself without supervision.

But a car involves far less people than a plane.

Cool how Boeing's response appears to be to find and punish those responsible for the communications, not those responsible for deceiving the FAA and regulators in order to certify an aircraft that never should have left the design phase.

The cost (not just money) of this to Boeing needs to be way, way more than the cost of the additional training/certification/better sensors and software or whatever would have been needed to do this right to begin with.

We can’t let this to come down to a cynical “what’s the cost of a life?”-style calculation.

It needs to be much more consequential relative to the crime/incompetence than Equifax, Facebook, etc.


>>The language used in these communications, and some of the sentiments they express, are inconsistent with Boeing values, and the company is taking appropriate action in response. This will ultimately include disciplinary or other personnel action, once the necessary reviews are completed.

And that my friends is all that you need to know about the boeing of 2020.


About a year ago, I was considering investing in Boeing. I would have made a good chunk of change doing so. I'm glad today I decided not to.

It's interesting that Boeing apparently has a bigger issue with the language used than with the culture that fostered these communications in the first place. That is one sick company, trying hard to pretend it was a sick company.

The McDonnell Douglas leadership seems to have put business ahead of engineering (and safety) at Boeing (from other pieces I've read). There are at present just two manufacturers of big planes in the world (China may have a third soon I believe) so it would be terrible for airline safety/efficiency if Boeing did go bankrupt (which is still unlikely) and left just one company with no competition. I think what we should all hope for is a return to Boeing's engineering-centered roots. There are tens of thousands of people who work hard at Boeing, do incredibly difficult work and take justifiable pride in the amazing planes they build. It's a shame that some bad leadership has led to these tragically avoidable crashes. As disturbing and infuriating as these messages are, I believe Boeing if it is once again engineer-lead can get back to strong form and that's what we should all hope for.

Basically, aircrafts manufacturing is a duopoly: Airbus & Boeing. Isn't there enought market for these two as to not having to cut costs anywhere and airlines pony up with whatever price they set? I know we're talking big numbers here, but come on, Airbus can't produce enough aircrafts to satisfy 100% of the market, so why obsess with cost cutting in such ridiculous things like avionics or simulators?

It may be Exec culture or just culture in general. We all want to be successful/ better than the competiton. It attracts/feeds our narcissism and eventually gets buried by people who only optimize for profit, success on paper.

Can't we replace the finance folks with software yet? It seems that should be the easiest to automate. They can see it, but of course they are closest to the money, and can't let go.


>The McDonnell Douglas leadership seems to have put business ahead of engineering (and safety) at Boeing (from other pieces I've read)

The merger happened 22+ years ago. When will you start considering the “new” Boeing company to be responsible for their current actions? It’s 2020 and the problems at Boeing are the fault of Boeing, not McDonnell Douglas.


Any internal correspondence can become public information in a disclosure proces.

~ first rule of corporate communications


I completely agree, but I'm pretty sympathetic to the employees. I've worked enough and made enough jokes at work that I don't give much credence to them. At a lot of places I've worked, people internally often viewed the infrastructure as shit, even when it's well-received by users. I think it's part cynicism, and part that so much time goes to fixing bugs, when all you see is that bad part of something, it colors your judgement.

Yup. Talk as much crap as you want in person, but what goes in email and web messages and pull-requests and code comments must be immaculate.

Even in person, you shouldn't talk crap all the time. It creates a toxic culture.

Heh, this reminds me: at a former employer, the eng team communicated exclusively by IRC (when Slack was already a thing) specifically because the CTO had previously experienced his communications being picked apart and taken out of context when his old company had ended up in the scope of a congressional investigation. So that's one way around it...

If it's being logged, it's subject to the discovery process, regardless of what protocol you're using.

Why? I’ve ragged on my employers in DMs, and will often express very blunt concerns about quality/risks in emails or PRs. Providing my opinions in such channels is part of what I’m paid to do. If my employer doesn’t heed my advice, manages to majorly mess something up, and my comments come back to haunt them, why is that my problem?

Because openness and transparency requires emotional security as a prerequisite. Surveillance and transparency are not the same thing. If you subject people to an all-seeing eye, people will default to covering their asses, and you will not get the information you seek.

Attempting to force people to be vulnerable by unilaterally being open about your own vulnerabilities is manipulative. You will get "my biggest weakness is that I care too much"-type deflective responses at best and a cold shoulder at worst.

In companies, a culture with emotional security is built first in private one-on-one meetings and spread from there - it never originates in a public (public within the company at least) setting.


> Because openness and transparency requires emotional security as a prerequisite. Surveillance and transparency are not the same thing. If you subject people to an all-seeing eye, people will default to covering their asses, and you will not get the information you seek.

> Attempting to force people to be vulnerable by unilaterally being open about your own vulnerabilities is manipulative. You will get "my biggest weakness is that I care too much"-type deflective responses at best and a cold shoulder at worst.

> In companies, a culture with emotional security is built first in private one-on-one meetings and spread from there - it never originates in a public (public within the company at least) setting.

I'm a little confused... Did you mean to respond to a different comment?


I’m not sure how this relates to what I asked at all. If something I said at work gets leaked to the public or a regulator, that makes my employer look bad, why should I worry about that? That sounds a lot more like their problem than mine.

> Attempting to force people to be vulnerable by unilaterally being open about your own vulnerabilities is manipulative.

This comment makes no sense to me. Aside from not relating to what I said, I cannot possibly see how being open and honest is forcing anybody else to do anything. Personally I speak my mind wherever I work, and if my employer doesn’t like that, I’m more than happy to find a new job. Ironically, the only people who have ever had a problem with it are middle managers trying to cover up after themselves, and incompetent people that were somehow promoted to technical leadership roles they had no business being in. People I have no problems upsetting.


> Personally I speak my mind wherever I work, and if my employer doesn’t like that, I’m more than happy to find a new job.

This is more or less my point. If your employer was happy with it, then your employer was the kind of employer attempting to build a transparent organization (and worked to build emotional security etc.). If your employer wasn't happy with it, then you and your employer have different opinions on the importance of transparency, which points to a cultural mismatch, which points in the direction of parting ways.

The key insight is understanding that it's the employer, not the employee, who have both the responsibility and the power to set culture and direction. So if the employer decides not to work on building transparency into the culture, the employer will get an opaque culture as a result. Maybe this results in the kind of problems that Boeing is suffering from now, maybe it results in bankruptcy, maybe not. The employer is responsible and accountable to decide. The employee's decision is much simpler - adapt or leave. Most people decide to adapt; the potential upside to leaving is a murky gamble taken on faith, particularly if people don't have a specific offer lined up at a specific place that seems to be a better fit for specific reasons. So it shouldn't be a surprise to you that employers get what they (intentionally or unintentionally) incentivize.


They can come back to haunt them, come back to haunt you, and come back to haunt people you like at your company who get caught in the blast radius if your words are misinterpreted. Because when written material is disclosed and published, the person who made the original on-a-record statement doesn't usually get to testify as to what they meant, and your words will be interpreted by a litigious party hostile to the interests of your company, and sometimes by the public (after having their expectations primed by the litigious party hostile to the interests of your company).

If you believe that your "ragging on your employers" can stand that level of scrutiny, then by all means, commit them to writing.


> why is that my problem?

This kind of attitude is the problem. You’re supposed to be working together toward the same goal. As a team.

A team of “not my problem” people who are working only towards their own individual goals (or worse, CYA) is the most toxic team that can exist.


I think you missed the point, "will often express very blunt concerns about quality/risks in emails or PRs" means he straight up communicates any issue without sugar-coating. Which is what you want from a conscious employee. If despite that someone higher up in the decision chain ignores the issue (in the case of safety risks, that is criminal negligence), to continue to fight this battle is pointless and would only mean risking one's career for nothing.

I think there's a fine line between communicating without sugar-coating and speaking past one's own local knowledge of a problem that a lot of engineers don't recognize.

There’s plenty of ways that an IC can misconstrue managers not acting on their advice, and usually they come down to a lack of understanding the organisation, or immaturity. Having learnt a lot of those lessons the hard way throughout my career, I’d like to think I usually don’t fall into those traps.

The most common one I’d say is when an IC thinks whatever they’re concerned about is much more important than the organisation thinks it is. In such a situation, as long as I’ve communicated my concerns to the right people, I never have any bitterness about an organisation accepting risks I’ve raised after proper analysis (unless of course, it has some impact, and then they start politically back pedalling the risk acceptance).

Personally, due to the nature of my work, I am often brought in to contribute to projects that are either well under way, or nearing completion. I will often find things that I think are risks or other issues at this stage. Any time this happens, there’s a whole bunch of things that could explain what I’ve found. Perhaps I’ve made a mistake in my assessment, perhaps there’s some mitigation (planned or otherwise) that I’m not aware of, perhaps they already know about it and have accepted it, perhaps there’s some major constraint I don’t know about... So I ask around and try find out if there are any easy answers. If not, then I’ll escalate it to other stakeholders. Usually phrased something like “I’ve noticed this, I think it’s an issue for these reasons, and could potentially cause such-and-such an impact”, sometimes with “I’d suggest we consider this alternative approach” and potentially “I’d recommend delaying delivery of this project to address these concerns if necessary”. Even at this stage, I don’t know all the facts, so I simply express my thoughts without claiming to have any definitive conclusions, and trying my best to qualify them with where I believe the limits of my knowledge/understanding are.

In a well run organisation, this will result in my concerns being proven either founded or unfounded, previously known or previously unknown, and some sort of action could result (even if that’s only risk acceptance, further investigation, or plans for future mitigation). In a dysfunctional organisation, my concerns will either be dismissed off the bat, or pointlessly argued about by political actors.

In my experience the latter reaction will usually come from incompetent management trying to conceals their failures, or incompetent contractors trying to defend their billable work. In the first case I’ll just make plans to leave the organisation. In the latter case I don’t really care. I’m a contractor myself, so my job is to deliver value to the employer (who would usually be happy with me in such a situation), I’m not particularly concerned about whether my work satisfies other contractors in that respect.


The beginning of the sentence:

> If my employer doesn’t heed my advice,

I think the OP’s assumption – or at least hope – is that if they identify a problem so severe that disclosure would be a serious liability, then their employer will heed their advice, and fix it. The shared goal is producing quality results, not covering anyone’s ass (either OP’s or their employer’s) when they don’t.


I think the only thing that can actually fix Boeing is bankruptcy, so I hope that people refuse to fly on the Max even after recertification and it ends up being too big of a financial blow to recover from.

I agree. I'll be boycotting the Max just on principle, regardless of what extra safety measures are implemented to get it re-certified.

I'm hoping (and kind of expecting) that people will build simple apps or websites to check whether an advertised flight is on a 737 Max. It should be quite easy for people to avoid/boycott this plane.


Not on Ryanair. The CEO explicitly said that their plane allocation is defined 24 hours before the flight and if the passengers discover that the plane is a max they are welcome to not fly but they won’t get any refund.Ah, and they had the balls to rename their max planes to 737-8800 or something similar trying to deceive everyone. Result: it’s almost 1 year that I don’t fly with Ryanair even if before this I used it several times per year.

Classic Ryanair. You can't fault the consistency of their customer service.

Thanks for posting this, it's genuinely useful.


Interesting to note that Ryanair is currently exclusively a Boeing 737 airline. It has 367 Boeing 737-800 aircraft in service (the largest operator of this aircraft) and 135 Boeing 737 Max 200 on order. [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryanair#Fleet


> regardless of what extra safety measures are implemented to get it re-certified.

To be fair, after this the Max is likely to be one of the most intensively studied and prepped planes in existence for pilots who might have to fly one. Pilots don't want to die either.


How can all the study and preparation of a pilot help in a catastrophic mechanical failure caused by some likely design flaw that still is not apparent?

The design of individual components is quite tested and actually most of them have a long history of performance as they have been in use for a long time. On the other hand, I'm not confident on the design and integration of those components in the whole package.

I think it's very apparent by now.

How would bankruptcy fix Boeing? Bankruptcy is a process around restructuring debts (or winding down the company). It's also very likely to get a bailout (if it comes to that) since the world needs more than one major commercial aircraft maker.

Bankruptcy is also great time to fix corporate culture. People are malleable when no one is sure if the next paycheck will come at all.

Or nationalization. Make success about safety and transport rather maximizing profit.

As someone who remembers the nationalised British car industry I am sure that will not resolve these problems.

Boeing (and Airbus) are effectively nationalized: no matter what, their respective governments will bail them out due to their importance for military hardware.

"this airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys"

In the moment, I would imagine this comes across as sour grapes. With the benefit of hindsight, that sentiment seems to hold some water.


It's about how bad the flight management computer is, the ridiculously short testing timeline, and how it is likely to never be fixed:

https://twitter.com/davidshepardson/status/12154759339661926...


That comment leapt out to me to. I would wager that the same sentiment has been expressed about any sufficiently large project whether it's successful or not. There's always going to be someone in a company who thinks someone else is an idiot.

With that pustule breaking up, releasing more and more of that really evil, stinking and ugly slime I start to wonder if that plane goes into service ever again.

Maybe the FAA will yield to poltical pressure. But I can't imagine any other certification agency accepting responsibility for any accident occurring on their watch now that more and more about the ugly, incompetent, fraudulent and outright evil engineering process for that death trap comes to light.

A plane only certified by the FAA is essentially dead.


It’s like a 49 state emissions car or a Mexican market auto. Maybe the Third World will take it.

I worked with Boeing during the 00's. It's when they started outsourcing everything including IT.

Holy shit this goes deeper than I thought and some people are heavily cleaning Wikipedia.

Didn't even know about this bit stealing rocket tech.: https://www.justice.gov/archive/criminal/cybercrime/press-re...

Also check out: Darleen Druyun https://www.seattletimes.com/business/boeing-probe-intensifi...

Phil Condit was ousted over Darleen and that's why Harry was brought in... although the Wikipedia page doesn't mention any of this...fu wikipedia. He was not "retired" he was forced out and Boeing was banned from Space Contracts for 5 years.

Damn I wish I save all those news articles. Whoever said the Internet is forever is wrong! The Internet is fickle ...some things will be memes forever and others will be forgotten.

And here's what happened to Harry Stonecipher: https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB111019724886272076

So much for "cleaning" up the company culture. F Boeing. The company not the engineers. I also know some very talented people there.

[Edit Note:1] The WSJ link should not be paywalled as it's an old article...at least it wasn't for me.

[Edit Note:2] The WSJ link is very detailed about what went down if it ends up blocked/paywalled I will...f'ck it I will edit wikipedia....grrrrr history is not fickle and Condit was and is an ass.


From the rpr article, "This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys" This says a lot about Boeing's internals / culture. Probably their subcontractor interaction quality as well. While we can't take one comment in isolation it is a relevant indicator.

Its telling there were no[?] whistleblowers able to come forward beforehand. Consequences are too real and the search for the guilty talkers likely continues and I don't even think they were even remotely whistleblowers.

Perhaps technical prowess isn't as highly respected as it should be? Too many corners cut? Excessive priority of business over engineering? Timelines too tight? Budgets too small? Misallocations?

Don't know. Lots of symptoms of an unhealthy organization. It will become an interesting case-study regardless.


This sort of stuff makes me freak out when I find out I am flying on a Boeing product. I expect people that are making aircraft to be better than when this NPR reporting purports.

It’s panicking thought to assume that similar culture and malice doesn’t exist at Airbus, just because they haven’t had their public 737 MAX event yet.

If it's not Airbus, I'm not going.

While I agree with this sentiment, buying tickets specifying Airbus, and having the airline switch them to Boeing one week before travel time (as happened to me this holiday season) means I wouldn't be able to do any long distance travel. Is there a way to mitigate this?

On AA, for example, you can improve your odds of getting an Airbus aircraft if you route through a former US Airways hub (e.g. CLT).

You might find similar patterns for other carriers if you search by city pairs.

Equipment swaps are pretty unusual for international routes, too, because it's harder to reaccommodate people. I think you were unlucky and shouldn't expect that in the future.


Fly a carrier that uses Airbus exclusively, such as Spirit or JetBlue.

If anyone is reading the original messages, this might provide some context for the comments mocking the competence and training of the FTC's AEG:

https://www.seattletimes.com/business/boeing-aerospace/senat...

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/faa...


Does anyone know where we can read the actual documents? This article is missing a lot of information.



Wow, that email at the bottom of page 109 sounds particularly bad.


>The monkeys will ruthlessly suppress any evidence

Yeah, I would even say that from the following part "are inconsistent with Boeing values, and the company is taking appropriate action in response."

The Monkey will fire the clown, while still being employed and probably not being hold responsible for the shit they have done.

Management liability at its best.


Sounds like Elizabeth Holmes and Sunny Balwani might be a good candidates for a new management roles at Boeing!

I'd like to know what they say internally about other Boeing planes.


scrap all those planes.. F-ing Boeing

'The company official said the language used and sentiments expressed in these communications "are inconsistent with Boeing values, and the company is taking appropriate action in response."'

The company is taking action in response. Against its employees. Not the ones responsible for killing hundreds of people, but the ones who were calling the program out on its flaws that led to those deaths? If I were working on a safety critical program and I thought it was risking lives I'd lose my shit. The employees that said this should be getting an "I told you so" badge, and the executive team should be going to prison. Fuck Boeing for this.


That's just not how massive companies work. Sometimes the leaf-level employee knows a secret to improve the entire system in significant ways, but they'll never be heard. Sometimes the root employee (we'll say CEO) catches a earful from any given section of their company they don't like, regardless of how accepted or pervasive it the sentiment is, and that employee could be picked from the tree. It's just how it works in a massive structure. Someone at one end thinks the values and ethic is one way, and the people at the other end have an entirely different understanding.

There’s a difference between knowing something that would improve a system and knowing that there are specific flaws with a significant degree of lethality. It should be acceptable to miss someone telling you the first (if perhaps a missed opportunity), but it’s negligent to miss the second. It sounds to me that these people were taken aback and appalled by the cavalier attitude towards safety. If you have a decent number of professionals telling you something is unsafe and you ignore their cries, and then you kill people, you’ve fucked up in a big way.

Edit: more to my original point though, the response should be to improve internal processes to prevent this kind of tragedy again, rather than to throw the people doing the right thing by speaking up under the bus, saying it’s against company culture to call out dangerous risks.


To me, your attitude is that problems shouldn't exist because we should solve them, as if there's a magical process that guarantees perfection. But what happens when we miss something? What happens when an employee has a thought about an engineering technique that maybe didn't quite make sense, but speaking out would disrupt an entire chain of command within the culture we invest into day-in day-out, and they get distracted by one of the million ways to do it these days and don't end up dealing with their thought? What if we miss this moment and some things get by that shouldn't. Is this not human to some degree?

We can cross that bridge when we get there. At the moment, getting there seems to be the problem because if you hide problems and you ignore the people complaining about them, then you get the situation we are in.

> if you're human, then you get the situation we are in.

Fixed that for you...


For every truly insightful potential whistle-blower, you have plenty of disgruntled Peter-principle know-it-alls.

Still, it's management's job to create an environment that distills signal from noise.


Completely irrelevant to the point you're replying to.

He's mostly saying the employee shouldn't be punished for saying this in some internal chat(but the CEO should).

> Someone at one end thinks the values and ethic is one way, and the people at the other end have an entirely different understanding.

Like, how is this relevant to the employee getting punished being bad?


I came back to the comments to reference this exact quote! If the actions are inconsistent with Boeing values, then Boeing has the wrong values.

Same. Sure firing competent employees is the right and only necessary move here. /s

My favorite quote:

>The company official said the language used and sentiments expressed in these communications "are inconsistent with Boeing values, and the company is taking appropriate action in response."

Values? Your values appear to be maximizing profits at the expense of human lives. Your response to: "the guys developing our simulator were emailing back and forth they'd never fly on this plane" shouldn't be - let's fire them. It should be: how did management fail SO HORRENDOUSLY that the feedback from these testers wasn't pushed up the chain so we could build a reliable product?

The fact that we're this far removed from the accidents and they still don't get it tells me the company probably needs to just fail.


I completely agree. It's a great example that they are still incapable of owning their mistakes, and cannot be trusted without a significant dressing down. Let them fail.

Except American interests will trump all so they'll play as dirty as they need against Airbus and kill Canadian aerospace in the process.

This seems right to me. I think most of us have been in situations where we've commiserated with coworkers about a problem that we felt was beyond us to fix, because it's coming from the top. Either management is actively refusing to invest in the necessary changes, or they're creating an environment where it's not even safe to bring those problems to light. And even worse, a culture where it's normalized that there are unfixable problems, such that employees barely even remark on them.

This is shocking. Said by a cynic.

I think this is a reminder - do not say or do inappropriate things using company resources (chat, email, VPN, etc). Don't complain about co-workers, don't joke about breaking the law, don't say or do anything rude or disrespectful. You'll get about 5 seconds of happiness from a joke that can ruin your career.

I'd blunt that with: It is still appropriate for you to respectfully raise concerns with coworkers, management, etc using company resources. That especially includes if you suspect something may actually be illegal, in violation of a contract etc. Basic human decency and ethics aside, getting fired is still better than going to jail as a scape goat.

> You'll get about 5 seconds of happiness from a joke that can ruin your career.

And your coworkers may gain enough courage to actually stand up publicly against what they all say in private. What a horrendously self-interested take on this whole saga.


Boeing might be just the place for you.

That’s what you took away from this?

Someone once gave the sage advice of never using the word 'kill' in your code base. 'm_Object.KillListeners();' can sound pretty bad in court. A lawyer can try to make your source code a legal matter, and a jury is free to interpret 'm_Object.KillChildren();' as being proof of willful negligence. Of course, this doesn't really matter when you're actually exposing willful negligence over your internal communication channels.

> man kill

    KILL(1)     User Commands                    KILL(1)

    NAME
       kill - send a signal to a process

    SYNOPSIS
       kill [options] <pid> [...]
Probably not a unix user then?

That's exactly his/her point.

To a techie it's obvious what it means, but if the code runs on some hardware that ends up killing people for real and the code gets inspected during discovery, having words like that could be a liability since jurors are less likely to understand the technical meaning.

I worked in the automotive industry for a few years, we where told not to use the terms "crash","kill","die" and a few others anywhere in code or documentation for exactly this reason.


Opposing counsel doesn't care and nobody on the jury will be a Unix user. So ...



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