The points about Government acquiescence to Boeing pressure in performing regulation also resonate. Beware the tendency to make this a single-axis "more vs. less" regulation issue. The solution isn't "more regulation". The central concern should about regulatory culture. Ultimately, responsibility lines must be drawn, standards established, adjudication performed, and unique or specific situations accommodated. Inevitably, the "less regulation" crowd corrodes the kind of regulatory culture that serves the best interests of the populace in these processes. Good regulation depends on having highly-competent, wise, empowered, and apolitical persons on the Government side. While providing regulatory organizations lots of funding doesn't ensure that they hire, empower, and maintain such a cadre, starving them of resources and implying the Government can never be competent, so it should reflect the role back to Industry, is pathological and will produce outcomes like the 737 Max.
We need to not just empower and provide adequate resources to regulators, but also demand and foster a culture of competence and good judgment^. Making that happen is a lot harder than arguing about "more or less", but necessary for proper outcomes.
^"good judgment" here explicitly excludes decision-making with regard to political implications
I work in veterinary medicine production and I am a little concerned by some of the features of quality control in my workplace. Basically, if a mistake is made, there is an additional load of paperwork and investigation that has to occur according to procedure. If you never admit that a mistake was made, you can save yourself a lot of grief and leave work at 5pm instead of staying later. I think the culture is actually fairly positive, a lot of mistakes do get reported, quality assurance does try to keep the paperwork manageable. But there is massive resistance to change in processes for even minor things. Some people do have a bad habit of avoiding the proper channels when they think they can. I suspect this is normal friction for any workplace that has regulatory compliance.
Hoo boy. How much time have you got?
The fundamental problem with NASA is that one of its main functions is to serve as a pork funnel to send money to key congressional districts. This goal is, as one might imagine, sometimes at odds with NASA's other mission of, you know, exploring space. When these are in conflict, the former wins. In the private sector there is a similar dynamic, but instead of the pork funnel tail wagging the engineering dog, it's maximizing profits that is the primary driver.
So what happens at some point in everyone's career is that they are given marching orders that serve the financial goal but not the technical ones and they have to decide what to do. If they raise objections they are labelled as "not a team player" and they don't get promoted. So the ranks of upper management are filled with people who are willing to play the game while the troublemakers are shunted off onto career sidings and turn into grumpy old men with no power or influence.
In my case I found myself in a very bizarre situation for two reasons. First, I had credentials that were visible outside the organization. I was a researcher with a pretty good publication and citation record (in fact, according to CiteSeer, I was the most cited CS researcher in all of NASA, and I held that title for about ten years after I left). That made it hard for them to fire me. And second, I had a patron, a senior manager who liked me and got me promoted over some pretty strenuous objections. So I ended up on the highest rung of the technical career ladder, essentially untouchable. But I had also made some powerful enemies. So what happened to me was that my funding dried up.
A small digression: the process of funding research is largely a sham, though I didn't realize it at the time. Ostensibly, people write proposals which undergo peer review on their technical merits (though of course what really happens is that the money is assigned based on which congressional district your institutional affiliation is in). One of the weird things about NASA research proposals is that you have to tell them what results you are going to achieve, which is kinda weird because if you know that ahead of time it kinda stops being research. Also, as part of this year's proposal you have to tell them whether you accomplished the goals from last year's proposal, and that goes into your score.
I came up with what I thought was a clever way to game the system: I wrote proposals for work that I had already done, which insured that I would always be able to provide accurate predictions of the results. It turns out that everyone does this, but I didn't realize it at the time. So one year my proposal was rejected on the grounds that what I was proposing was too ambitious, that it could not be done on the budget I was requesting. Which, of course, I knew to be false because I had already done the work the previous year, but of course I couldn't say that. It was only many years later that I came to realize that the reviewer already knew it too, but that this was a not-so-subtle signal that I needed to toe the party line.
But I didn't, so I found myself being assigned to projects that had some extra money in their budgets to cover my salary but where I was essentially a potted plant. (I spent an entire year shepherding purchase orders for search appliances through the procurement system.) Towards the end I was spending my days in an enormous windowless office by myself with literally nothing to do. That's when I quit.
I have spent some time in biological science research and your comments about grants holds very true. The result is that a lot of money is funneled into inefficient laboratories producing safe and often not very useful research, that is when they aren't hording results for a Nature paper that will never come. Sometimes this benefits some truly terrible people who are ruthless in their goal of climbing up the ivory tower. There are still plenty of great people in academia who are doing well, but I wish medical research at least tried to be as meritocratic as it claims to be. Right now the grant committees are an old boys club.
> biological science research
Yeah, similar dynamics play themselves out in all human endeavors. The Ford Pinto gas tank. The Corona Virus. Sub-prime mortgages. It's all examples of the bean-counters and the good-old-boy network overruling the technocrats. Welcome to the human condition.
Is any of this unique to JPL (or at least more extreme there) due its organizational structure that is somewhat different than other NASA Centers? I’ve sometimes heard of JPL being “quasi-NASA” and thus playing by a different set of rules
But you also have to keep in mind that this was all a very long time ago. I'm offering my testimony here not so much to inform current events as to vouch for the plausibility of what V_Terranova_Jr said in the root comment of this thread.
Even though it was a government agency, working at a national lab felt even more productive than the private sector.
The reasons are that the departmental leadership is 100% done by research scientists who are ruthlessly efficient at doing science and writing papers about them.
My department had approx. 4 senior scientists, a computer hardware engineer, a payload engineer, a CNC technician, a sysadmin, 2 technical consultants, and one administrative staff.
We did custom payloads for the Shuttle, balloons and rockets which did atmospheric measurements. The software was primarily custom in C for telemetry and HP Basic/etc. for plotting.
I highly recommend working for a national lab for a couple of years. Besides an unlimited budget, it's great having a sense of mission.
Factoid 1: We used Fidonet to copy data from launch sites to the lab for quick turnaround and to ensure the instruments were functioning and calibrated properly.
Factoid 2: Since this we pre-WWW, sample source code was often hard to obtain. So we had the world's shareware on a single optical disk with an index file so people could find sample code.
Factoid 3: But since it was a national lab, if we needed, we had access to SOTA civil and military systems that came with source code. I was familiar with those systems, but we never needed them while I was involved.
What was more tractable about studying the ozone hole than climate change was that we could make direct observations and reducing CFCs had a fairly immediate effect. There wasn't an issue with "ozone hole deniers."
To see the lab's papers, do a scientific search for Dr. Hans Fast and his co-authors.
“I wrote proposals for work that I had already done, which insured that I would always be able to provide accurate predictions of the results.”
Also, in the case of the manned program, human lives are at risk.
What's the cost of NASA not going to the moon yet? Zero. What's the cost of NASA failing at going to the moon? Large.
Consequently: the organization optimizes to avoid failure at all costs, even at the cost of minimizing success.
On the other hand, what was the cost of 1960s NASA of not going to the moon? Large. The cost of failure? Large, but slightly less.
Result: we went to the moon.
> Can you say more about how the congressional district pork funnel works? I mean, how brazen is it?
That depends on what you mean by "brazen". In my tenure no one ever explicitly said, "We need to do X because we need to send money to congressional district Y." It was more like: "Your proposal will stand a much better chance if it's a joint proposal with institution Z." When I asked why, there was never any technical rationale for it. It was more like, "Look, I'm just trying to help you out here. Don't ask too many questions."
To be fair, sometimes those coerced collaborations were productive. But other times they caused some very serious problems in the case where there was really nothing useful coming out of Z. In that case we had to find a way to shoehorn something coming out of Z into the project, and that usually did not end well.
Current fighter projects try to hit all 50 groups of senators, er, states.
I'll add the concept of 'good faith'. I feel like fashionable neoliberal economics fails because you can't incentivize good faith. And indeed the amoral foundations is corrosive to it. And here we are.
Thank you. I have been looking for a pithy way to articulate this idea. There is literally no metric or combination of metrics that can perfectly incentivize a person who is... morally challenged.
I agree.. but I don't think you can do that organically. I think part of the issue is the size of the corporations, the concentration of that corporate power, and the inability of the market or regulatory agencies to function correctly when this is the case.
You get cultures of competence and good judgement when there is a real competitive market with multiple strong players each vying to have the best products.
This is certainly achievable with the right leadership, wide-basis political protection (cannot be achieved when an agency's leadership is subject to unprincipled undercutting by the President), and sufficient resources.
This doesn't even happen in markets that are highly competitive. Only professional and strict engineering standards work.
Not voodoo economics.
Nobody does this, not even the most outspoken anarchist libertarian. The question is not more or less regulation, the question is who does the regulation. I would argue that regulation should be done by those who stand the most to lose. This is not corruptible Government officials but by insurance companies, airliners, pilots and passengers, i.e. by those who have skin in the game.
If anything, the Government regulation makes the situation worse, because by its nature has incentive structures that are completely inadequate. Perhaps if damages were payed out of the compensation of employees at the FAA the situation would be different. Perhaps if everybody at the FAA were earning minimum wage after the 737 Max crashes and all that money went to the families of the crash victims, then there would be an impetus to change the culture in the FAA and the aviation industry. Until the regulation is done by organizations that have skin in the game, I would say the FAA is doing more harm than good, by lulling the public into a false sense of security.
The FAA's track record led to a situation where for a good portion of the world, the FAA's word was considered good, and bidirectional approvals between the local and American aviation regulatory agencies were common. This allowed the capability to run a much tighter and cheaper ship industry-wide, because companies could rest assured that their FAA papers were de-facto gold standard everywhere else.
It remains to be seen whether that will remain the case, and the reputation of the agency has been heavily damaged by the MAX disasters, especially given how the FAA were the last regulatory agency to ground the plane, provably through political machinations.
As long as the FAA continues to function as a vestigial appendage of the American Aerospace industry instead of as the last word by the most competent the system can muster, there will be a magnification of the costs of getting new aircraft approved as local regulators crack down.
Listen to any debate aired in the press about regulation and it almost invariably degenerates into "more vs. less". This is consistent with U.S. political discourse in general, which turns major issues into single-axis ones. It's the nature of politics these days: for vs. against, more vs. less, left vs. right. Somehow everybody unquestioningly gets locked into this broken, simplistic framing of inherently complex issues.
Sure there are some words thrown in to make the argument sound more complex, like "too much burdensome regulation" but usually the remedy being suggested is to "cut regulation", not asking how we do smarter regulation, what the enforcement situation looks like, and what systems we put in place for periodic re-assessments of the regulations. Nor to suggest that at the end of the day, if we don't have good people in these regulatory organizations, no amount of process can make up for that.
> If anything, the Government regulation makes the situation worse, because by its nature has incentive structures that are completely inadequate. ... I would say the FAA is doing more harm than good, by lulling the public into a false sense of security.
The tremendous track record established through the regulatory efforts of the FAA is starkly opposing evidence against this line of argument. Everyone who flies commercially around the world should, while disappointed in their failings, be happy at the overall magnitude of public benefit the FAA has ensured. Every time I get on a commercial flight I'm amazed at how we operate these incredibly complex machines with the kind of safety and reliability we enjoy. But it's no happy accident or dumb luck.
The thing I don't like about just blindly labeling all government as inefficient bureaucrats is that if you actually spend time on the inside, you realize there truly are a lot of people that care and want to do the right thing. There are some truly sharp, talented, well-motivated people who take their responsibility to the public extraordinarily seriously.
> I would argue that regulation should be done by those who stand the most to lose. This is not corruptible Government officials but by insurance companies, airliners, pilots and passengers, i.e. by those who have skin in the game.
The people that have the most to lose are the citizenry. The Government works on their behalf on most matters of safety. And for the most part in democratic nations with low levels of corruption, this system generally works well. In the current construct, money and a "getting in bed with the regulated is good for the people" mentality among politicians are the corrosive factors. Do you really think that some kind of joint body comprised of pilot and insurance companies is somehow less inherently corruptible by money and its own sphere of politics? I'd argue there would be even less sunlight to expose conflicts of interest.
The radical reform we need in the U.S. is to contend with politicians working for the interests of those other than the citizenry, including the misguided idea that when there is tension between industrial economic interests and the public interest, that they should by default favor or err on the side of industrial economic interests. Channeling Upton Sinclair, this will probably not change until the nation finds ways to further mitigate the effects of money on politicians. The well-meaning mid-level career civil servant cannot work on behalf of the people if he is being undercut by the political appointees at the top.
It confirms basically everything I've read over the past year on the topic (mainly on hn). Culture of concealment, production pressure, self-oversight, conflicts of interest, faulty assumptions.
Like many other lessons borrowed from commercial aviation, these are supremely relevant to tech companies.
Edit: BA stock down 1.27% in after-hours trade. I guess the market has decided that this behaviour is fine.
Like you said, this basically confirms everything we already knew. So it stands to reason that the stock is already priced accordingly and a large drop wouldn’t be expected. It’s already down about 35-40% since the crashes.
i.e.: before their profits, especially due to sales of the MAX, are taken into account.
I guess the markets have a short memory as long as you only kill people instead of simply losing people's money.
Also, seems doubtful but possibly additional issues may still be found with this aircraft design as it is. Possibly though retrofits aren’t found to fully solve these problems or themselves create other issues.
Note that this is FY2019, after losing 737MAX sales. If they are without a direct competitor to the Airbus A320 for years, it will be a big hit, not least because several Boeing-only airlines will be forced to start buying Airbus.
Funny - these same attributes are prevalent at my employer. But all we do is make software.
> AA technical and safety experts determined that certain Boeing design approaches on its transport category aircraft were potentially unsafe and failed to comply with FAA regulation, only to have FAA management overrule them and side with Boeing instead
from the linked citation :
> In 2015, the FAA drafted an issue paper, finalized in 2016, that offered Boeing a chance to establish compliance without implementing a design change.4 At least six FAA specialists refused to concur
>It is our understanding that non-concurrence by FAA technical specialists is fairly infrequent and not to be taken lightly. In addition, my staff has been told that it was virtually unprecedented for six or more FAA specialists to jointly non-concur on a single issue, highlighting the gravity of their concerns regarding the rudder cable issue. Despite all of this, in June 2017, the F AA's Transport Airplane Directorate upheld the controversial issue paper
Someone needs to name names, and those people should be investigated for corruption.
I don't know about you, but I don't see the current admin prioritizing the flushing out of regulators in bed with industry.
That's why I say name some names.
I am centre-left political (socially liberal, fiscally conservative) and It really really bothers me to see the double standards. Once you start to notice the pattern of one-sided appropriation of blame in pretty much every fking scenario, you end up discounting any criticism of republicans as bias.
We've also had countless posts talking negatively on the very merger that lead this iteration of Boeing (McDonnel-Douglas) with no regard for the administration that basically encouraged the merger.
It's okay to admit it guys: both parties suck and are corporate shills.
One of these two parties has the ability to affect change. It's not the latter.
The appropriate response would be to force FAA to ground the planes (if and which FAA did not do themselves), and wait for the official report and then open an investigation in to Boeing and FAA. Time is a factor to take into account.
If it is, there’s no support for that claim in anything written in the message I reply to.
I'm sorry if that was unclear.
State level is where they are all the same.
Whether they are in favour of a loose status quo in terms of the political system is entirely different to their operations within it.
The "they're all the same" argument in Australia is a very common talking point you see on the ABC and "left-leaning" (actually corporatist) outlets like The Project. Folks who tune in are inundated with this crap.
The ABC's idea of balance is to feature the viewpoint of the Lib/Nats (to cover the right-wing) and the Greens (to cover the left-wing). Labor gets all of the criticism for "not being left enough" by the Greens and "being too far left" by the Lib/Nats. You even see the Murdoch papers making both arguments simultaneously.
> State level is where they are all the same.
Maybe, but I doubt a Labor NSW state government would've privatised the vast majority of WestConnex before construction began. Or engaged in outright corruption by giving discounted land to developers who then gave them kickbacks.
I dunno about the left saying that though. I see it most from people who aren't really into politics in general justifying their lack of interest in voting. Definitely agree on abc having a weird split identity, but that's due to external pressure and a lack of funding.
I think that at a state level you get substantially different programs, but public and commercial journalists basically act like covering state politics is an unreasonable attack on their credibility, so it's quite true that state politicians act corruptly.
Sure, if the President had fired them earlier that would have been satisfying -- at first, then when they all lawyered up and refused to testify, we'd all have thought that the President was a moron for having fired them too soon.
It is clear that many people were involved in conspiracies, and that their negligence directly lead to many deaths, as they knew that it would.
Why hasn’t the current administration brought criminal charges against them?
Also, the courts can force non-government employees to testify, and most of the evidence in the report seems to have come from non-government employees. Firing them doesn’t somehow absolve them of their crimes.
No idea. My guess is that it takes time, and that the DoJ will need to be prodded to do it, that the DoJ won't do it of its own volition. Whether the AG or deputy AG have to get involved, or the POTUS, or perhaps a criminal complaint has to be filed by, e.g., Ethiopia, I don't know, but I expect there are no DAs who would initiate a case here on their own (whether because government protects government, or because they think the case is radioactive, or whatever).
Exactly this. What people like me are tired of is the legions of armchair experts that opine in such way as to support their prejudices while pretending to be rational and intellectual about it.
For example: complaints about the complicated tax filing system, yet when Ted Cruz offers a postcard-sized tax return as a proposal, that idea is ignored and “Republicans” get blamed for being in bed with TurboTax. When Rand Paul calls out and presents proposals against excessive government surveillance, he gets ignored and this crowd still overtly or tacitly support the party to which they belong, rather than supporting the actual ideas that claim to care about. If Obama cut taxes, it’s “good,” when Republicans do it, it’s “for the rich” or whatever tribal argument is en vogue. When Republicans wanted to reduce SALT deductions, all hell broke lose (in California at least,) while the increase in the standard deduction gets ignored. Nancy Pelosi argued the tax cut was “for the rich,” while saying that the $1000 average in lower taxes for working people was a pittance. $1000 isn’t a pittance for many people.
In the current discussion, the FAA is “bad,” but only because Trump is in office, despite the Max certification happening with officials appointed by Obama. When Obama put kids “in cages,” the media literally ignored it. When Trump did it, there was mass outrage, ironically using Obama-era photos as “proof” of how bad Trump is.
Even the Coronavirus is being politicized beyond all reason. The Democrat aligned media makes it seem like we are all about to suffer a zombie apocalypse, despite a low American infection rate. When the economy was up, that was because of Obama’s policies, yet when it’s down, that’s because of Trump.
San Francisco “liberals” are every bit as tribal and biased as some NRA bubbas in an Arkansas Cracker Barrel — and both groups are wrong. The answer is somewhere in the middle. But the middle has dissolved because honestly, the near non-stop Trump hatred has turned the country into a place that is barely removed from some warlord-infested tribal region in Africa. Republicans weren’t fans of Obama, but they didn’t launch non-stop, media fueled investigations over and over again. First it was Russia. Then Ukraine. Now it’s Coronavirus. We had the FBI at the highest levels sending text messages vowing to stop Trump.. even before he was inaugurated. Imagine if the George Bush FBI started wiretapping the Obama campaign and then, Republicans calling for impeachment before he even took office. Imagine if Trump directed the head of the IRS to not testify to Congress over proven discrimination over tax exempt statuses of left wing groups. That would be considered obstruction, yet Obama did exactly that when Loris Lerner refused to testify about IRS targeting of conservative tax exempt groups. Was Obama impeached over that obstruction? Of course not.
There is a huge double standard fueled by an intellectual class that’s offended that the crowd that shops at Bass Pro Shops has just as much a right to their opinions as some writer at the New Yorker. Some cafe-culture liberal doesn’t have more right to their opinion than anyone else. Hillary Clinton actually called half of the country “deplorable,” and Bloomberg said farmers were essentially stupid.
It’s evil, this environment. Bill Maher even publicly wished for a recession so that Trump wouldn’t be re-elected. There are Democrats actually hoping this Coronavirus thing gets worse because, as Rahm Emmanuel once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” It’s disgusting.
He was the man in charge of Trump's presidential campaign’s air fleet.
There were multiple incidents. One of the pilots was convicted violent felon that had to be fired. The landings were constantly so horrible that press joked that nobody survives covering Mike Pence. It all ended with serious incident where one of the crews overshot the runway resulting shut down of Laguardia airport. Mike Pence was on board.
I mean what it tells you about a man who can't even hire competent pilots in America.
The aircraft you are referring to was chartered from Eastern Airlines (since acquired by a different airline) and flown by Eastern Airline pilots. 
> The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this incident to be:
>The first officer's failure to attain the proper touchdown point and the flight crew's failure to call for a go-around, which resulted in the airplane landing more than halfway down the runway. Contributing to the incident were, the first officer's initiation of the landing flare at a relatively high altitude and his delay in reducing the throttles to idle, the captain's delay in manually deploying the speed brakes after touchdown, the captain's lack of command authority, and a lack of robust training provided by the operator to support the flight crew's decision-making concerning when to call for a go-around.
I do have strong views about which US administration and present-day political party has been worse for the people in terms of quality of regulation, but rather than go down that road, we may be able to make progress if we can seek explicit agreement that "what's good for the short-term economic interests of the large enterprises we regulate is good for the people" cannot be the philosophy underlying regulation and public policy.
No, these five recurring themes paint a disturbing picture of Boeing’s development and production of ALL its aircraft.
Not ALL; just all after the merger with McDonnell Douglas. Which means the 787 and the 737 MAX as far as commercial aircraft go.
Both major new versions of old designs made post merger. Same kind of thing as the 737 MAX.
“The big lesson of the Vietnam War: stay out of Vietnam!”
He pretty much blamed it all on the previous CEO.
Asked whether he believed American pilots would have been able to handle a malfunction of the software, Mr. Calhoun asked to speak off the record. The New York Times declined to do so.
“Forget it,” Mr. Calhoun then said. “You can guess the answer.”
Does it mean that Boeing maintains its position that the MCAS was not "that bad" and it's on the pilots for not handling the Boeing's mistake? Is he suggesting that we should avoid Boeing Aircraft unless the pilots are American?
Boeing’s system safety analysis categorized MCAS as ‘hazardous’. Even with the wrong categorization (there’s a strong argument it should’ve been labeled ‘catastrophic’) if they followed their own design procedures hazardous systems should have redundant sensors. Besides the fact his reply defies a good understanding of human factors in engineering, when management deflects responsibility to their customers it is extremely troubling.
Cognitive dissonance is dangerous in leadership.
>(ARs)—Boeing employees who are granted special permission to
represent the interests of the FAA and to act on the agency’s behalf in validating aircraft systems
and designs’ compliance with FAA requirements
Others have pointed out that the conflict of interest inherent in this must pervade AR's daily work environment, and indeed the report pays brief lip service to the contradiction:
>4) Conflicted Representation. The Committee has found that the FAA’s current oversight
structure with respect to Boeing creates inherent conflicts of interest ...
So why do it that way, and why do my searches of the investigation's PDF for "funding", "budget", and "staffing" come up empty?
Consider, then, that responsibility for setting the operating budget of the FAA belongs to the House -- the very same running this investigation.
I hope this leads to significant fines for Boeing and jailtime for the more egregious actors involved; according to the report, their negligence directly led to the loss of lives. Knowing how important Boeing is to national security/the economy, I'm skeptical that enough will be done...
Cue the obligatory comment of Boeing is a company with an insanely great engineering culture and their engineers lived in an idyllic culture of building great and safe products. This great culture was all lost as a result of the merger with McDonnell Douglas , , .
Somehow the Boeing apologists want you to think that the unholy trinity of the ghost of McDonnell Douglas through the CEO at the time of the merger Harry C. Stonecipher (the father) and Dennis Muilenburg (the Son) who greenlighted the 737 MAX are responsible for this abomination. So much so that of the thousands of engineers who worked on the 737 Max not a single one raised issues with the engineering of the aircraft or wrote a blistering memo calling out its failing or quit in protest. They were all held in thrall by the power of this unholy trinity!
In the theory of causation, we distinguish between proximate vs. ultimate causality. Every proximate event can plausibly be claimed to be the cause for a subsequent event. As they say for want of a nail the war was lost. What is plausibly the cause for the engineering fiasco of the 737 Max? Why go back to the merger and why not blame the 9/11 or the election of G.W Bush or even Barack Obama's for this disaster? Why go back to the 1997 merger with McDonnell Douglas? Because it allows Boeing engineers to deflect blame for the terrible product they built and foisted on the flying public by coasting on their past reputations.
Eventually, all stellar organizations, public or private, become complacent (e.g. Israeli Intelligence Failure, 1973). Boeing made an unstable plane with a dangerous MCAS to get it to market fast. They then topped it off by making it rely on a single sensor and made the dual-sensor an upgrade. A sophomore engineering student with a 101 course on probability can see that this is tailor-made for diaster. They made an essential safety feature an upgrade!! They then proceeded to hide this monstrosity from every regulator and airline on the planet and insist that the plane was no different in every aspect of its flight behavior than its predecessor which was over 30 years old.
Boeing had become so criminally blatant that the head of airline training at Lion Air inquired about extra training for the 737 Max and they rebuffed him. After the Lion Air crash, Boeing proceeded to cast aspersion on the safety practices of Lion Air. Lion Air does have a spotty safety record but in this case, Boeing rebuffed their requests for additional training because it would set a precedent for other airlines in SE Asia. When that lack of training was a factor in the crash, Boeing proceeded to blame Lion Air. The mind boggles at the sheer chutzpah!
The recently released messages show how Boeing employees worked in unison to ensure no extra simulator training was required. Great engineering culture obsessed with safety, this aint!
Go ahead and blame the McDonnel Douglas merger for this. Or accept that whatever stellar engineering culture existed at Boeing is dead. We as a society need to stop scapegoating imaginary forces in the past and giving Boeing's engineers a pass. We need to start agreeing that strong regulation is necessary to ensure the safety of the products Boeing puts out.
Not because of the merger, but because management deliberately set out to change the entire company culture from being engineering-driven to being business-driven. Business-driven as in: cut corners to save money.
Of course the merger argument sounds more plausible i.e. it is a better rationalization but again non-falsifiable.
Whatever killed Boeing's engineering culture is irrelevant. Arguing over that is a distraction from the fact that Boeing's current engineering culture pushed this product to market.
Oh I'd disagree. To fix the problem and prevent it from happening again at Boeing or elsewhere, it would be good to figure out how the culture at Boeing became so broken in the first place.
I worked for Boeing back when the corporate HQ was moved from Seattle to Chicago. At the time I remember thinking how bizarre that seemed. Why would someone in a leadership position want to separate themselves from the rank and file and lose that valuable insight and visibility into operations?
Eh. My problem was likely in assuming that most corporate leadership positions are filled with actual leaders.
It is most assuredly not unfalsifiable when you have executive leadership on record as intending to shift the focus of Boeing away from "over thinking the box" and revolutionizing it as a shareholder value creator.
Which cascaded to:
Further, have you read
I mean there were other contributors, sure, but the McD merger is provably connected if you pay attention. Example of other factors:
When confronting a bunch of Wall Street analysts, an engineer gets shouted down for daring to entertain the foolish idea that making safety critical machines was an altogether different in nature from a company that make consumer widgets.
Unless you have just entered the workforce, and therefore are completely ignorant as to how executives propagate culture shift through what they decide to prioritize, in which case, this outburst can be forgiven.
Honestly, I'd accept many alternative theories but you're striking me as being contrarian and disingenuous by just throwing the history that is there.
And no, trying to only focus the current engineering culture as the main focus of what's wrong is the exact kind of thinking that leads to one repeating the history they should be learning from.
I see no reason to be held back by claims of unfalsifiability. A structural argument doesn't hold water when coming to a conclusion from which the contributing factors are self-evident. I see no reason to throw in the towel that one cannot claim a child will be different from their parents as a result of sexual reproduction. Just as the merger of Boeing and McD yielded a substantially different company that Boeing and McD competing desperately.
Culture, and specifically corporate culture, is not ineffable. I've been the guy who rounds up managers behind closed doors with a list of ills affecting the company culture toward Quality. I've placed my head on the political chopping block and made myself a target for daring to take the whole "mission" thing seriously. Culture is tangible, and directly observable. It is the sum of a company and its constituent part's decisions made, and those specifically not made or even those it simply isn't possible to entertain without becoming untouchable in the eyes of management above.
I've seen "new blood" shipped in on the management/VP level and watched both transformation for the better, and death from within occur. I've been the stick in the mud pushing back, since God as my witness I will not let myself go down in history as a contributing factor to a THERAC-25 or MAX fiasco. You can know culture, you can pivot culture. You can navigate it, map it, describe it, debug it, and even live it. The only ones who can't are the ones who won't or are afraid to.
In modern business thinking, part of the Welchian playbook is to maximize that fear in the heart of the worker of the one who sets the culture; the guy at the top, to make sure that the business is a top-down machine without any pesky influence from either the cogs or middle management. It is what attracts the power hungry to the position. I have yet to meet in person a single example of the executive that sees their company as the living thing it is, and treat it accordingly. I hope one day I might, but I'm not holding my breath.
Point being, I don't accept the claim as substantially unfalsifiable. In fact, I assert that it is the wrong rational tool to apply to the job at hand, and best left for what it is best suited to. Sound scientific pursuit in the context of something reproducible rather than trying to warp the situation at hand onto the Procrustean bed of Popper's work.
Draw a line from every output of an organization, back through the people involved with making it, and I guarantee you the set of outcomes lines up with the priorities set by the people highest on the totem pole, even if they don't realize it, or give it the attention it is due. This is a fundamental fact of how the world works.
Account for the retirement of the old Boeing guard, plus the shift in modern business's attitudes, plus the pedigree of the line of executives over the last 20+ years, and you will have a hard time not seeing how the merger was not complicit/inevitable.
Frankly, I'd be more interested in whether or not the McD merger was a symptom of the shift in sensibilities since the 80's, or if the shift in the business landscape was in part a result of observing an influential industrial sec to go through a series of rapid M&A's.
My point is that management deliberately set out to create a completely different company culture that would no longer be engineering-driven. I don't see how anyone can seriously dispute that.
> Whatever killed Boeing's engineering culture is irrelevant. Arguing over that is a distraction from the fact that Boeing's current engineering culture pushed this product to market.
You know what? The insanity of this argument is going to be so obvious to any reader that rather than argue against it I'm just going to emphasize it by quoting it.
The answer is to reduce emissions. That must be acknowledged if we're also supposed to acknowledge the cost pressures mentioned in the article.
Both the reduction of emissions and the effort to avoid retraining are regulatory impositions.
Are the execs in jail?
Odds are his conscience is weighing heavily on him, and he doesn't trust that Boeing's council won't attempt to pin it on him acting alone. Corporate culture is rife with leaving subordinates to act on implied mandates in order to insulate executives from the potential for criminal liability. The idea is if the criminal thing works and no one finds out, the exec gets their bonus; if it blows up, the exec never told them to do it.
FFS flying is stressful enough in general - but when you have specific events (the crashes) and specific evidence of corporate [corruption/concealment/negligence/malfeasance or whatever the truth is within Boeing] which detracts from the faith in the safety of their life critical product(s) -- it has just destroyed a fair amount of trust in the company and the industry as a whole.
- The stress of getting to the airport on time, and finding transportation from the airport to my destination.
- Standing in line for security checks together with hundreds of strangers, all impatiently waiting and shuffling in line.
- Waiting until boarding begins, trying to relax but at the same time trying to check of the gate doesn't change at the last moment.
- Getting crammed in seats that are too small, and having to sit there for hours.
- The high-pitched noise of the jet engines works on my nerves. Noise-isolating earbuds or noise-cancelling work wonders for that, luckily.
- Changes in air pressure often hurt my ears, and it sometimes (when I have a bit of a cold) takes a few days to disappear completely.
- I get airsick sometimes, especially in rather strong turbulence, so turbulence stresses me out too. Fortunately there are medications that work pretty well.
Not a lot of that is caused by the flying itself. Taking the Eurostar across the Channel for example has much of the same unpleasantness. And I imagine flying in a private jet or a Singapore Airlines A380 First Class Suite (as in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_O2_nTt1N6w) can be very pleasant.
You're not supposed to fly when you have a cold. Any existing swelling in the sinuses or ears can result in long-lasting injury. Usually that means ruptured ear drums, but the sinuses can be affected.
Pilots with a cold certainly cancel their flights.
I once told a friend with a cold to cancel his flight and take a 24-hour bus ride. He laughed it off and flew anyway. When I saw him a week later, he was still in pain.
Not to detract from your points, but if you have any inclination to anxiety, yeah flying is stress-inducing.
The valsalva maneuver seems to work the best for me but it doesn't always work and is often painful.
All they really need to do is recertify the entire aircraft, which is no small task.
Boeing is too big to fail and too powerful to punish so nothing will really happen. If it was a Chinese company it would be banned from the US. As a US company it will go on like nothing happened. Well maybe the engineers who refused to sign will be fired. Give it some time and a "fix" will be made and the MAX will fly again.
And in this case, there are non-US regulators in play too. They used to just blindly trust the FAA and approve anything the FAA approved, but that has likely changed now - the FAA (rightfully) lost a lot of trust due to this. Pressuring the FAA into approving another unsafe design isn't enough anymore.
I suspect that if the FAA approves but EASA doesn't, many other authorities will be heavily inclined to trust EASA on this one. Which could make the plane a "US only" plane. Maybe some close allies could be pressured into allowing it but I doubt any airline outside of North America could meaningfully integrate them into their fleet with a different type rating and a small set of countries that allow them.
But rebuilding the trust will be harder.
MCAS wasn't added because the plane didn't fly the same as the 737. MCAS was added because the plane didn't fly the same as all other certifiable aircraft. It doesn't meet FAA regulations on how the controls need to feel when approaching stall.
The type rating mess only caused Boeing to hide MCAS from pilots. This triggered various dangerous design decisions, including designing it to be impossible to disable and making it only take data from one sensor.
* It was undocumented.
* It had too much control authority. It was able to adjust the trim such that the elevator could not overcome the trim's pitch-down force, and such that the average pilot did not have enough strength to use the manual trim wheel to neutralize the trim in a dive.
* They removed the switch to turn it off. On older 737s, there's one switch to turn off automated control of stabilizer trim, and another to disconnect power to the motor, completely disabling electric trim. On the Max, both switches perform the latter function.
* They made it rely on only one sensor. I can't imagine the logic for that since two sensors are physically present, and damage to AOA sensors is not rare.
* The AOA disagree warning light, which would have clued pilots in to the presence of a faulty sensor was not present in most aircraft, despite documentation to the contrary.
The logic for that is really simple: each sensor is wired to one of the two computers. Each computer uses its own sensor. This was an already existing design, MCAS is just a new function added to these computers.
(AFAIK, other aircraft like Airbus have multiple sensors wired to each computer, so for them it would be natural to use more than one sensor.)
This is how they implement the AoA disagree function (the one which was broken in 90% of MAXes for unrelated reasons). It's also how they managed to implement a software update which makes MCAS take data from both sensors.
The logic for not implementing both sensors is much more insidious.
If you implement both sensors, then you have to deal with the case that infomation from sensors might disagree. The computer has no idea sensor is providing correct data, so the only thing it can really do is disable itself when the sensors disagree.
If MCAS has the ability to disable itself, then it must provide feedback to pilots it has done so, and have pilots follow some procedures. If there were procedures, then Boeing would have to add pilot training about what MCAS was and how things would be different when it disabled itself.
Boeing made it rely on only a single sensor to bypass training requirements.
My understanding for that is that if you look at two sensors, then a disagreement can happen, which has to be resolved somehow. In the case of MCAS, this would likely be turning MCAS off and telling the pilot, which would require training on what that extra warning light meant and would have required telling the pilots about it, jeopardizing the type rating.
Looking at only one sensor means the system "cannot fail"...
You can't just add a switch to suddenly turn the aircraft into an illegal one. Any sane pilot would immediately turn it off for their own safety or be coerced to turn it off after launch by the airline companies. All the manufacturers would add an MCAS equivalent system to skip regulations. In the past the F1 went through this bullshit where cars were legal before the race started and the race ended with all cars turning on illegal features.
It's not like turning MCAS off makes the plane go faster or burn less fuel. Nobody would turn it off unless it was malfunctioning.
If the "fix" is to not do that, then the 737 MAX is not fixable because it loses the entire reason for its existence.
There are a ton of existing 737 MAX, and Boeing's production lines are all geared up to produce more. The MCAS etc are there so that it could be called a 737, but the "entire reason for its existence" was to mount larger more fuel-efficient engines.
On a 737 type. Not on a completely different type which would require retraining all 737 crew and lose months worth of flight time. Even less so for companies like Southwest which fly 737s exclusively.
Also, "Typically, once an airline takes the aircraft, Boeing makes some guarantees in terms of the performance of that aircraft, and one of them is that the aircraft should be airworthy," says Chris Higgins, an analyst at Morningstar . So even the other half that is already sold isn't necessarily sunk for them as they have contractual obligations that will cost them if the planes have to get scrapped.
"Most pilots are not very likely to experience a cabin pressurization problem and the associated warning horn at any time during their line flying.
The Board also considered the role of stress that probably further contributed to the possible confusion of the two meanings of the warning horn. In general, stress, such as that caused by the onset of a loud, distracting alarm in the cockpit, combined with the element of surprise, is known to lead to automatic reactions. Automatic reactions, in turn, are typically those that result from experience and frequency of encounter and are therefore not always appropriate. The Board considered that the flight crew may have automatically reverted to a reaction based on memory before consciously processing the source and significance of the stress factor. This would also explain why the flight crew failed to realize the improbability of their interpretation of the horn as a takeoff configuration horn and why they failed to move on to gathering information for a new, correct diagnosis of the problem at hand."
That particular stable door got closed, but at the time it was cited by pilots as an example of legacy design that wouldn't have been permitted on a clean-sheet airliner.
Both the LA and EA crews did respond withing 10 seconds and restore normal trim using the electric trim switches. LA worked on the issue for 5 minutes, EA for a couple minutes.
The findings did not mention that Boeing issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive to all MAX crews after the LA crash that contained correct instructions on how to recover from it - restore normal trim with the electric trim switches, then cut off the stab trim with the console switch.
Both crews were able to restore normal trim repeatedly with the electric trim switches. But LA never cut off the trim, and EA cut off the trim when it was in a dive, not after restoring the normal trim.
Runaway stab trim should never happen, but the reason the cutoff switches are there are so it can be recovered from. It's the same with fire extinguishers on airplanes. Fire should never happen on an airplane, but we expect the pilots to know how to use the fire extinguishing systems when it does.
- In 2015, a Boeing AR raised the question of whether MCAS was “vulnerable to single AOA sensor failures….” Despite this, the aircraft was delivered with MCAS dependent on a single AOA sensor.
- After Boeing redesigned MCAS in 2016 to increase its power to move the aircraft’s stabilizer at low speed, Boeing never reevaluated a single- and multiple-failure analysis of MCAS.
- In March 2016, Boeing sought, and the FAA approved, removal of references to MCAS from Boeing’s Flight Crew Operations Manual (FCOM), ensuring 737 MAX pilots were unaware of this new software and its potential effect on the aircraft’s handling without pilot command.
- Boeing’s design of MCAS violated its own internal requirements which demanded that the system “not have any objectionable interaction with the piloting of the airplane” and “not interfere with dive recovery,” which occurred in both 737 MAX crashes.
- In August 2017, five months after the 737 MAX was certified by the FAA and three months after it entered revenue service, Boeing issued a problem report to its supplier complaining that the 737 MAX’s AOA Disagree alert was tied to an optional AOA Indicator display and therefore was not functioning on the vast majority of the 737 MAX fleet worldwide.
- Rather than immediately informing the FAA and Boeing customers about this issue, and advising Boeing to fix the problem via a software update as soon as possible, a Boeing AR consented to Boeing’s plan to postpone the software update until 2020 (...)
- Although Boeing prepared a “Fleet Team Digest” to inform its customers about the inoperable AOA Disagree alert, the company never sent it, keeping its customers in the dark about the inoperable alert.
- Boeing provided Lion Air a Flight Crew Operations Manual (FCOM) on August 16, 2018, one year after learning that the AOA Disagree alert was not functioning on most 737 MAX aircraft, highlighting the operation of the AOA Disagree alert. Boeing failed to indicate that it knew the AOA Disagree alert on the Lion Air 737 MAX aircraft was not operational.
- Boeing did not acknowledge that the AOA Disagree alerts on an estimated 80 percent of the 737 MAX fleet were inoperative until after the Lion Air crash in October 2018.
- Boeing’s own analysis showed that if pilots took more than 10 seconds to identify and respond to a “stabilizer runaway” condition caused by uncommanded MCAS activation the result could be catastrophic. The Committee has found no evidence that Boeing shared this information with the FAA, customers, or 737 MAX pilots.
- Boeing had tremendous financial incentive to ensure that no regulatory determination requiring pilot simulator training for the 737 MAX was made. This incentive included a Boeing contract with Southwest Airlines, its U.S. launch customer, that would have cost Boeing more than $1 million per aircraft it delivered to Southwest if pilot simulator training was required for Southwest pilots transitioning to the 737 MAX from the 737 NG. At the time of the Lion Air crash, Southwest had ordered or pre-ordered an estimated 280 737 MAX aircraft from Boeing.
- In March 2017, the month the 737 MAX was certified by the FAA, Boeing’s 737 Chief Technical Pilot responded to colleagues about the prospects of 737 MAX simulator training, saying: “Boeing will not allow that to happen. We’ll go face to face with any regulator who tries to make that a requirement.”
Furthermore, the LA crew on the flight immediately preceding the LA crash experienced the same problem, and simply restored trim and turned off the stab trim system, and landed safely. They had no knowledge of MCAS. No extraordinary feat of airmanship was required. No lightning reactions were necessary. They simply remembered what the cutoff switches were for, as they were supposed to.
As far as I remember it was far from "simply." Apparently they had luck of having a third pilot in the cabin present, who didn't have to maintain anything else in the cabin and had the luxury and time to observe and think about what is going on. The pilots in charge were overwhelmed by the killer plane then too, which is completely expected -- note the "10 seconds" admitted in my quotations.
So, no, as far as I remember, the previous LA flight actually doesn't support your claims.
They did indeed, one who remembered that the solution to runaway trim is to turn off the trim system. This is something that is supposed to be a "memory item".
Note that all three sets of flight crews successfully countered the runaway trim using the electric trim switches. They were not overwhelmed to the point of not understanding that the trim system was the problem, as they were countering it.
This was so underwhelming to the first LA crew that they didn't even bother to inform the next crew about it, or even have the plane taken out of service and fixed.
The pilots were from the cultures where deference to authority, specifically, failure to even talk about the problem to those "above in the hierarchy" provably previously caused other airplane accidents. The crews since learned to function in the cockpit. But this required such an attitude outside of the cockpit for those who managed respond, "sticking their necks out" from their point of view, so they avoided it. Again, nothing to use as the proof that the plane was not utterly dangerous.
I don't believe that a crew that thought they had narrowly escaped death from a "killer plane" with some horrific defect would fail to notify the next flight crew, and not have the plane grounded until it was fixed.
It's their job to do that, and not doing it should bring them up on charges of dereliction.
It's much more credible that they didn't think it was a big deal.
I don't have any more facts about that flight - nothing is ever reported about it. I sure hope the NTSB includes it in their investigation, as finding out what went on in that flight and what the crew did afterwards is crucial.
I know firsthand the challenges the pilots on the doomed accident flights faced, and how wrong it is to blame them for not being able to compensate for such a pernicious and deadly design. These emergencies did not present as a classic runaway stabilizer problem, but initially as ambiguous unreliable airspeed and altitude situations, masking MCAS.
The LA and EA pilots countered the stab trim movement repeatedly with the electric trim switches. They knew the stab was running out of control. There is no other definition of runaway trim and there is No Such Thing as "classic" runaway trim.
There is no mistaking the 737 stab trim running. Two large wheels, painted black and white so spinning can be easily seen, bracket the center console. They are directly connected with a cable to the stab trim jackscrew. They also make a loud clacking sound when they spin. There is no possible way the pilots could not know it was running with the direct effect of pushing the nose down. Indeed they did know, because they countered it.
Source: I worked on the design of the 757 stab trim system for 3 years.
My guess is that the failure of one of the AOA sensors triggered all kinds of alarms and conflicting instrument readings, while MCAS behaved a lot like other systems that occasionally rotate the trim wheels. The Boeing checklist gives as a condition for runaway stabilizer trim: Uncommanded stabilizer trim movement occurs continuously. It probably didn't help that at this point the pilots didn't even know about MCAS' existence.
> Uncommanded stabilizer trim movement occurs continuously
It occurred continuously enough that both crews actively tried to counter it each time. They obviously knew that was the problem. Running for several seconds each time is plenty "continuous". You don't need to wait until it goes all the way to the stops, and you'd better counter it before it does.
Consider this: suppose an electrical short caused the trim to run erratically. Are you going to decide that isn't really runaway trim because it's erratic? You're going to ride that into the ground?
I don't think so.
> engineer who probably didn't.
Except that I worked for 3 years on the 757 stab trim system, and Sully is an Airbus (very different controls from Boeing) pilot and hadn't flown a 737 in many years and is not certified to fly one.
He is technically correct that the pilot's did have information in hand through Airworthyness Directives at the time. The only place I tend to depart from him point of view-wise is how the human factors come into it.
He believes, (and if you mull on it from the technical point of view, he's right) that it should have been covered with the same procedure.
I may not be an aero engineer, but I've done stints in both Quality, and Safety industries. My stint in safety brought me into contact frequently with the aviation guys, and unintuitively enough, they were very particular about how information was presented to pilots. When I asked why, th He answer was that they needed to fly the plane, not be burdened with how everything went together. Their job was seen as needing to know everything that affected the operation and aeronautic behavior of the craft first and foremost.
That's where I believe these Airworthyness Directives, though accurate, failed. The pilot's mental model was built up during their training period which included no mention of MCAS. The Airworthyness Directive in this case would translate to informing a pilot of a Major feature release through an off hand set of patch notes.
Which is why I still hold Boeing at fault, even if a faulty misunderstand may have been arrived at by the pilot's reading alone of a notification outlining the exact solution to the feature.
You don't build the kind of instinctual multi-level reflexive behavioral binding through a singular notification. You must explain the why, and provide repeated examples to get good retention.
For an example, I've taken cars completely apart and put them back together. Knowing how they work has enabled me to get a lot more out of my car than others can. Doubtless knowing how an airplane flies and how all the systems work will make for a better pilot in times of crisis. I think back on all the times Neil Armstrong got himself out of a jam through such understanding (he was an engineer, too).
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."
Plain and straightforward. The facts that the LA and EA crews did restore normal trim multiple times with the electric trim switches comes from Aviation Week 19-Sep-2019:
"The [LA] pilots countered with main electric trim nose-up inputs. At least 25 automatic stabilizer nose-down, pilot-directed stabilizer nose-up exchanges took place and then several nose-down inputs were not countered."
"The MCAS activated twice, and the [EA] crew countered with electric trim."