- Aug 4, 2005
Meh! Peanuts compared to a switching diagram for a mechanical automatic telephone exchange!
Reuters reported that the agency had asked the three US airlines that operate the MAX to provide the names of some pilots who had only flown the 737 for around a year, including at least one MAX flight.
Read the full article at the link below:Thursday brought more strong hints that Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration are moving steadily toward ungrounding the 737 MAX as soon as October.
The FAA said Thursday it’s inviting “a cross-section of line pilots from carriers that operate the aircraft around the world” to participate in simulator testing “as part of the overall testing and validating of new procedures on the Boeing 737 MAX.”
And according to two sources with knowledge of the matter, the FAA’s Flight Standardization Board that determines U.S. pilot-training requirements aims to issue in early September new recommendations for exactly what MAX pilot training is needed before U.S. airlines can fly passengers on the airplane again.
Meanwhile, Boeing gave suppliers a new 737 production schedule reflecting “timing assumptions for the 737 MAX return to service plan.”
The updated schedule is aggressive. Assuming FAA clearance in October, Boeing plans to begin the ramp-up immediately, moving from the current 42 planes per month to the pre-crash production level of 52 jets per month by February and reach a new high of 57 jets per month by next summer.
There may be significant pushback against the B737 in the industry, but growth in aviation demand is inexorable, and individual passengers don't really get to choose their aircraft model (NG vs MAX).These guys are hopeful that people will be willing to get on to this jet. I sure won't want to.
Pushing It to the Max
Boeing's Crashes Expose Systemic Failings
The crash of two Boeing 737 Max jets in the course of just months has created an existential crisis for the company. Were the 346 who died in Indonesia and Ethiopia the victims of shortcuts and cutthroat competition in the aviation industry?
In recent weeks, DER SPIEGEL dispatched a reporting team to Seattle, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Addis Ababa, Jakarta and Paris to shed light on the events leading up to and including the crashes. They conducted interviews with Boeing executives and airline managers, visited Boeing factories and spoke to experts who explained the technical side of what went wrong. They even stepped into a flight simulator to get a better understanding. In Ethiopia and Indonesia, they tracked down eyewitnesses of the crashes and spoke to the victims' surviving family members around the world along with lawyers and experts.
DER SPIEGEL learned a great deal about the bizarre process of regulatory approval in the U.S. We also learned of a complaint by a whistleblower at Boeing, who approached the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in June with serious accusations against the airplane manufacturer.
A best-case scenario is hard to imagine given the dire straits in which Boeing currently finds itself. The only way our standard approach to the risks of flying can possibly remain unchanged is if, at the end of the investigations in Ethiopia and Indonesia, it is determined that both were truly accidents in the conventional sense and their similarities.
But if it is revealed that 346 people died because both a corporation and the regulators tasked with overseeing it were grossly negligent, or even deliberately lax, then it would have far-reaching consequences for the aviation industry, the credibility of supervisory bodies and for normal people's everyday lives.
Half a world away, New York attorneys Moller and Green spread out documents showing the plane's flight path, angle of attack and speed at various points in time. The data has been entered into a coordinate system and are represented as colorful, jagged lines that only experts can interpret. For this, Moller relies on his colleague Green, though he has his own opinion of what went wrong: "We believe that the facts that emerge through litigation will demonstrate that commercial pressure, the Boeing/Airbus competition and the drive to make money and save money resulted in the 737 Max, as initially designed and sold, being an unreasonably dangerous airplane," says Moller.
The competition between Boeing and Airbus does, in fact, appear to be a key element in these two crashes. The profitability of both companies depends on but a few products, and when it comes to the most important aircraft of all, the short- and medium-haul planes, Boeing has fallen behind Airbus, Moller says, and suddenly, once-loyal Boeing customers were buying jets from Airbus, preferring the new A320 to the outdated 737. Boeing had to act quickly. But instead of designing an altogether new aircraft, Moller says, engineers continued to make changes to the old 737 design and, in the end, came up with an aircraft that was dangerously designed.
When he talks, Moller sounds like he already has the jury in front of him. He asks rhetorical questions, which he immediately answers himself, and develops an image for his audience of a plane, wobbling and shaking from faulty software run amok, with an overwhelmed crew, at far too low an altitude, much too close to the ground -- all because the aircraft was designed and built in such great haste.
"We believe that the facts that will emerge through the litigation will demonstrate that commercial pressure, the Boeing/Airbus competition and the drive to make money and save money resulted in the 737 MAX as initially designed and sold was an unreasonably dangerous airplane," says Moller.
Of course, the engineers never meant to kill anyone, Moller hastens to add. But he says they were driven by confirmation bias as they worked toward their goal. And that goal was to deliver an aircraft as quickly as possible -- one that looked new, was more fuel efficient, that airlines would want to have and that pilots could fly immediately without requiring further training.
In the coming proceedings and investigations, particular attention will be paid to the time between the crash in Indonesia and the one in Ethiopia. This will be the most dangerous window for Boeing. If the prosecution can prove or find witnesses to say that people at Boeing or aviation regulators had cautioned against the further operation of the 737 Max after the Lion Air crash, it could make the company look extremely culpable. If anyone at Boeing had even the slightest inkling of the new system's inherent risks, things could get tricky.
Moller is confident the case can be won. In court, he plans to talk about trust, which he can already do very convincingly. "You board an airplane, sit down in seat 10C or 14F and you have no idea who the pilot is," Moller says. "You have no idea who was the last one to have messed around with the maintenance of the plane. You sit down, buckle up and you even worry about sitting upright and putting your feet in the right position. You are locked into this tube. Some are nervous, some are not. But all have to have absolute trust that everything is in order, the equipment and the people operating it. Absolutely safe. And if there is the slightest doubt about the safety of the plane by the airline: Don't fly. The plane must be grounded."
The Kreindler & Kreindler lawyers aren't likely to be wearing kid gloves. And they aren't only interested in damage payments, which are self-evident and could be in the hundreds of millions. (The $100 million that Boeing offered as compensation to families of the victims in early July is likely a joke in their eyes.) Instead, Moller and Green are hoping to win a claim of punitive damages, which could be much more costly to Boeing. An initial hearing took place in late June and Judge Alonso ruled that the case could proceed and the lawyers could produce their evidence.
If Moller and Green are successful with their strategy, the consequences could be grave for Boeing. It may mean a tripling of the damage payments that the company would have to pay and Boeing's insurer would not be liable. And that could threaten the aircraft manufacturer's very existence.
How Fierce Competition with Airbus Fueled the Current Crisis
When Boeing first designed the 737 in the mid-1960s, the company took over as many parts as possible from existing plane models. The nose, fuselage and the long, narrow turbines were almost identical with those of the three-engine 727. Boeing did develop all-new wings, but essentially, the technology inside the 737 was straight out of the 1950s when it took off for its first test flight in 1967.
Even then, the development of the plane was a hectic response to the competition. Boeing's main rival at the time wasn't Airbus, but Douglas, with its new DC-9. Boeing itself figured it was about 17 months behind and threw everything into catching up to MacDac, as the industry rival was known. And it worked, but initially, most airlines showed no interest in the new, smaller passenger jet from Boeing. Indeed, the project was almost abandoned, despite Lufthansa becoming Boeing's first 737 customer and ordering 21 of the planes.
Success only came in the 1970s. Boeing introduced a slightly elongated version, the 737-200, and over the years was able to sell 1,114 of them. The plane was then modernized in the 1980s and outfitted with more fuel-efficient engines -- and that change laid bare a problem that all later versions of the 737, in particular the Max, would suffer from.
Ultimately two camps developed within the company: those who wanted to completely redesign the plane and those who simply wanted to make improvements to the existing design. And the latter camp won out, using purely economic arguments. Both camps were fully aware that the 737 was technically outdated, and even in the latest version, the modern-day industry standard technology "fly by wire" isn't completely introduced. Some of the 737 controls still depend on cables and hydraulics. In fly-by-wire planes, by contrast, computers translate the pilot's yoke movements into electronic signals and electric motors then adjust the relevant flaps accordingly. The comprehensive introduction of fly-by-wire technology into all aspects of flying would have required a complete redesign and the end of the 737. That, though, was too expensive for Boeing and the company feared it would lose too much time. Its competitor Airbus, after all, was far ahead.
It is impossible to tell the story of the 737 Max -- indeed, the story of Boeing's entire recent history -- without taking a closer look at Airbus. The self-confident Americans underestimated their European competitor's strength, not wanting to believe that Airbus's ascent to become the world's second-largest aircraft manufacturer was the kind of economic miracle that changed the entire game. Founded in 1970, massively subsidized by European governments and heavily promoted by an industry that was deeply invested in its success, Airbus was able to revolutionize the global passenger jet market in the course of just three decades. And then came the wonder of 1999, when Airbus received significantly more orders for its aircraft than did its American rival, despite the fact that Boeing had just merged with erstwhile competitor McDonnel Douglas a few years before.
At the 2017 Paris Air Show, Boeing took the lead, primarily with the brand new 737 Max. The company was able to announce an astonishing 571 orders for the aircraft worth around $75 billion, according to the plane's list price. One year later, Boeing was again far ahead of Airbus, and 2018 proved to be a particularly successful year for the Americans: For the first time, Boeing was able to ratchet up sales to above $100 billion, fully $25 billion more than Airbus. The company also celebrated the delivery of a record 806 aircraft in a single year. And Boeing's order books were full for the next seven years.
The crash of the Lion Air flight in late October 2018? Hardly an issue for Boeing. Economically, it was a mere pinprick and Boeing's stock quickly recovered, soaring to the historical high of $446.01 per share on March 1, 2019. But nine days later, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed near Ejere.
Seattle is home to a man who could recite all aspects of the Boeing crisis in his sleep because he was often the one who learned and wrote about them first. Dominic Gates, a gaunt, friendly man in his mid-60s, works as the aerospace reporter for the Seattle Times, and if you want to keep up to date on what's going on at Boeing, you need to read his articles. For the past several months, Gates has been writing about almost nothing else, with one investigative story following the next. Taken together, they combine to create a rather staggering image: Namely that there are deep-seated and fundamental problems with the company culture at Boeing.
It is not a theory that Gates developed while sitting at his desk. It is one that has formed over the course of several years in discussions with insiders, observations of his own and combing through reports and industry literature. He has the contacts he needs to report in depth on the aerospace giant but also the information he needs to make important connections over time. And that proved extremely helpful in his reporting on the current Boeing crisis. At a time when the entire world was still scratching their heads over what could possibly have led to the Max crash in Ethiopia, Gates wrote a story that Boeing isn't likely to forget any time soon.
On the basis of interviews with engineers who had been involved, he described how the new software for in-flight adjustments to a flap on the tail of the aircraft, the likely cause of the crashes, was developed extremely quickly and then changed -- and that these critical changes were kept from the safety and certification agencies.
Gates had collected most of the information pertaining to the software development prior to the second crash in Ethiopia because he had become deeply involved in investigating the cause of the Lion Air crash in Indonesia. His report, which was followed by further revelations dug up by the New York Times, hit Boeing just as the company was rolling out a PR strategy that sought to place all blame on the pilots' shoulders. But thanks to Gates, this disinformation strategy failed. Overnight, he became one of the aerospace giant's most dangerous enemies.
Yet despite the self-confident image the company strives to project externally, the company tends to be less self-assured when it comes to dealing with whistleblowers within its ranks. They are generally considered to be traitors, and traitors cannot expect mercy. Recently, Gates has begun to suspect that the mood has turned sour behind the factory gates, a conclusion he has arrived at based on the number of people who are interested in talking to him despite the significant personal risks that entails. "For many decades of Boeing's history, most employees were immensely proud of where they worked," Gates says. "In the ensuing years, many mechanics and engineers at Boeing have lost this pride." There has been a gradual estrangement between company leadership and its employees.
The alienation began with the merger of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas in 1997 and the increasing amount of attention being paid to the company's share price, Gates says. Longtime CEO James McNerney, the predecessor of current company head Muilenburg, charted a course aimed at drastically increasing profits. He sought out conflict with the unions, which had until then been an important part of company culture and a point of pride among employees. Even senior company managers were union members, though that didn't stop McNerney. On the contrary.
Until the end of the 1990s, the Boeing company was heavily reliant on engineers. But then, CEOs like Harry Stonecipher and his successor Condit aimed to streamline airplane construction to improve profit margins. As an investor, you would rather put your money into companies that grow up to 20 percent a year rather than just 4 to 6 percent, Stonecipher told DER SPIEGEL in a 2001 interview. Profitability and stock market performance became the company's most important goals. Philip Condit before him also emphasized the creation of shareholder value. It is, he said in 1998, "the principle measure of our success." Such priorities were, of course, a sign of the times, but they led to an estrangement between company executives and employees on the factory floor.
When Dennis Muilenburg took over as CEO in 2015, he had hoped to return Boeing to its core strengths, a hope shared by company employees. After all, as Gates points out, Muilenburg is an engineer himself. But the farmer's son from Iowa narrowed the company's focus on profit to a greater degree than ever before, even as he constantly repeated lofty aphorisms about the kind of management strategies he hoped to avoid. When he was chosen Person of the Year in 2018 by the magazine Aviation Week, he told the publication: "We're a tough competitor. But there's no occasion where we want our employees to be faced with a choice of competing or values. That's a false choice."
Part 3: https://www.spiegel.de/international/business/737-max-boeing-s-crashes-expose-systemic-failings-a-1282869-3.htmlNow, Muilenburg finds himself mired in his first large crisis. The crashes, the grounding of the 737 Max, the damaging report from the Charleston factory, the dissatisfaction of workers in Seattle, the attacks led by pilots and in-flight service personnel, the investigations by the Justice Department: All of that has led to an unprecedented drop in sales. At the end of July, Boeing announced record second quarter losses of $2.6 billion. And Muilenburg can no longer completely exclude the possibility of 737 Max production being halted altogether. The company's cash cow has transformed into a millstone around its neck and Boeing has become vulnerable.
And this all comes at a time when the Airbus-Boeing duopoly has been developing cracks. The two may still be the world's undisputed aerospace leaders, but companies in China, Russia and Japan are in the process of grabbing a bigger piece of the pie. Furthermore, it has become easier to build airplanes because a highly specialized global market of suppliers has developed that can deliver almost any part in the desired quality at the desired moment in time. The times when airplane construction was a calling card of unattainable technological excellence are coming to an end. Things are becoming more difficult, especially for Boeing.
How Did the 737 Max Get Approved in the First Place?
The Dec. 1, 2010 announcement by the Europeans that the entire A320 family would be re-engineered and outfitted with new, unusually fuel-efficient and quiet engines must have hit Boeing's Chicago headquarters like a bolt of lightning. Airbus promised to sink kerosene consumption by an entire 15 percent. And the year after the announcement, Airbus promptly sold more than 1,000 A320neo planes -- with many longtime Boeing customers among the purchasers.
At the time, Boeing had no fully developed plan for a new model or an acceptable new version of the 737. Most importantly, the company was not in a position to be able to install the new generation of jet engines on its planes. So, the industry was quite surprised when Boeing, just nine months later, appeared to catch up to Airbus. In late August 2011, the construction of the 737 Max was announced, and the company even promised that the plane could be operated 7 percent more cheaply than the A320neo.
It seems safe to assume that it was a difficult period for Boeing engineers. Even the smaller CFM56 turbines could only be crammed under the wings of the old 737 by resorting to a handful of tricks. But the CFM LEAP, which Airbus intended to use, has an air intake that is almost two meters in diameter -- and the Boeing engineers had to fit them onto a plane where they didn't fit at all.
Once again, they tried to compress the engine shape. And once again, they commissioned a customized, smaller version of the engine. They tried pretty much everything to create more space under the plane, even lengthening the landing gear by 20 centimeters. The most important change, though, was installing the turbines a bit higher on the wings and quite a bit further forward.
A former Lufthansa executive, himself a trained aerospace engineer who has decades of experience in reading technical evaluations of aircraft, is convinced that courts could very well determine that the actions taken by the Boeing engineers amount to "gross negligence." The ex-Lufthansa manager, who has to remain anonymous due to old contractual agreements, says he is convinced that the construction of the 737 Max on the whole is "amateurish." It is, he says, the culmination of the technical shortfalls that Boeing has essentially been seeking to eliminate since the mid-1990s.
The repositioning of the engines decisively changed the 737 Max's flight mechanics relative to all of its predecessors. In extreme flight situations with an especially steep angle of attack (the plane's position relative to airflow), the turbine cowlings with their flat bottoms create their own aerodynamic lift, not unlike an additional wing. That can lead to the sudden rise of the plane's nose, making a stall more likely. Should that happen, the plane loses lift and crashes.
To prevent such a scenario, the Boeing engineers reached deep into their bag of tricks. They knew that such an in-flight behavior was expressly prohibited by FAA regulations, so to ensure approval of the 737 Max, they needed a bit of electronic help. Boeing developed a software program that constantly monitored the angle of attack. As soon as this angle became too risky, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) would automatically lower the plane's nose without the pilot having to do anything at all. To do so, it doesn't manipulate the rudder, but the horizontal stabilizer trim, the most forceful control surface on the entire aircraft.
It was only by way of such string-and-chewing-gum tricks that engineers were able to achieve the stability necessary for safe flight. The FAA was informed of the system early on and accepted it. In hindsight, it is an open question whether they were really aware of all the details of the new software solution. When Boeing first presented the MCAS system to the FAA, the program only activated reluctantly and adjusted the horizontal stabilizer trim by just 0.6 degrees. Later, though, during the development process, Boeing gave the program much more leeway and increased its control over the plane, allowing it to make changes of up to 2.5 degrees. According to information currently available, it looks as though the FAA never approved this much riskier system.
Because of the several inconsistencies, the former Lufthansa executive believes the company could be facing the retroactive loss of its insurance coverage for the 737 Max. In a statement about the allegations, Boeing wrote: "The FAA considered the final configuration and operating parameters of MCAS during Max certification and concluded that it met all certification and regulatory requirements."
Yet there are still more significant errors that are currently under discussion and investigation. For many experts, for example, it is incomprehensible that with the 737 Max, Boeing appears to have ignored the vitally important principle of redundancy. A fundamental rule of aeronautics has long held that every system in an aircraft must have a backup so that any system failure that might occur can be compensated for. For example, the Boeing 737 Max has two angle of attack (AoA) sensors mounted on the outside of the plane just under the right and left cockpit windows. The data collected by the two sensors is fed into the Flight Management System, which monitors the plane's flight.
But for reasons that have not yet been pinpointed, the MCAS software only uses the information delivered by a single AoA sensor. Should it be damaged -- by a collision with a bird, for example -- MCAS could be activated in error. With no pilot input whatsoever, without the pilot even knowing that the system as even been activated, MCAS will automatically adjust the horizontal stabilizer. For 9.26 seconds, the system will enact Aircraft Nose Down commands before a five second pause and then a repeat of the maneuver -- over and over again until the system calculates that the angle of attack has been corrected. If the pilot intervenes to pull on the yoke and raise the plane's nose, nothing happens. By doing so, in fact, pilots run the risk of the automatic anti-stall system countering their efforts even more energetically because the false data it has been fed leads the system to believe that danger is imminent.
Pilots around the world were particularly furious that Boeing did not inform them of the MCAS software and launched a class-action lawsuit against Boeing. Indeed, until November 2018, there wasn't a single word about MCAS in the plane's operating manual. The company didn't tell pilots about the system because they apparently believed that in day-to-day operations, it would never make itself apparent. The result was that pilots could not train for erroneous MCAS activation -- because officially, the system didn't exist.
When boarding an aircraft, passengers must have absolute faith that engineers and mechanics have done all they possibly can to build a safe airplane. Every traveler must be able to trust that aircraft construction and maintenance followed strict oversight and certification protocols whose entire purpose is that of reducing safety risks as close to zero as possible. But that trust has now been shaken.
The system of air travel supervision, which has been transformed into little more than a pendant of the industry itself by radical neo-liberal politicians intent on deregulation, has been called into doubt. The FAA, respected worldwide for the depth of its expertise, demonstrably rubber-stamped the Boeing 737 Max despite the fact that the agency no longer had a clear overview of the individual steps in its development and production.
Indeed, the monitoring system is no longer worthy of the name, having transformed into an arrangement in which a company like Boeing is ultimately responsible for policing itself and certifying the market-readiness or airworthiness of its own products. It has become an opaque, dangerous game that raises questions about unbridled capitalism.
in some communities it still persists, like Jews refuse to buy German cars,There may be significant pushback against the B737 in the industry, but growth in aviation demand is inexorable, and individual passengers don't really get to choose their aircraft model (NG vs MAX).
Perhaps it will be like the situation after WW2, when people of my grandparents generation refused to buy products made in Germany or Japan. Some people do have long memories, but eventually the majority and common sense prevails.
The rules documented in FAR Part 25 are something like a constitution for global civilian air travel. For Boeing, though, the tome represents the greatest threat it is currently faced with. Although the 737 Max was officially certified in 2017 in accordance with the rulebook, there are significant doubts as to whether that certification was right and proper.
Both Boeing and the FAA seem to have made inexplicable errors. They violated standards that were developed and respected for decades -- standards which earned them global trust. Paragraph 25,671 of FAR Part 25 expressly states, for example, that an airplane must be able to safely land if, for example, the control surface on the horizontal stabilizer becomes jammed in flight or otherwise malfunctions.
Continuing flight in such circumstances must be possible "without requiring exceptional piloting skill or strength." Malfunctions "must have only minor effects on control system operation" and if the failure is not "extremely improbable," then the pilots must have the ability to immediately regain control.
It is difficult to imagine that the 737 Max fulfilled these certification protocols. What, though, does the FAA have to say about it? Daniel Elwell should know. He was acting head of the agency at the time of the crash and had earlier been deputy administrator of the FAA. Seventeen days after the crash in Ethiopia, he appeared before the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington D.C. and spent two hours squirming in his seat. Committee Chairman Ted Cruz's opening remarks, focusing on the two crashes, on trust and on safety, were articulate and poignant -- but his eloquence would not be matched by Elwell and the other officials who appeared in the witness stand. Indeed, Elwell's performance was particularly miserable. On several occasions, he seemed not to have understood the question or was forced to admit that he didn't know the answer.
Elwell spoke of an FAA culture that values "safety above all else" and pointed to the significant safety improvements that have been made. Since 1997, he said, the risk of a deadly accident in the U.S. has dropped by 94 percent and that in the last 10 years, there had been only a single death out of a total of 90 million flights -- the result of an April 2018 incident when the turbine of a Boeing 737-700 exploded in flight, shattering a plane window and killing the woman in the seat behind it. Elwell's message, essentially, was that the two crashes were regrettable, but they were mere exceptions to the rule. And that the FAA monitoring processes were effective.
The FAA was established by Congress in 1958 in response to a collision between two passenger aircraft over the Grand Canyon in which 128 people died. At the time, airplanes were much more primitive than they are today, so the agency was easily able to fulfill its monitoring and certification duties. But with growing fleets and a rapidly rising number of flights, the FAA increasingly had to strike deals with airplane manufacturers and delegate monitoring duties to them. Since 2005, the FAA has been permitted to allow Boeing and other companies to delegate their own employees to handle FAA certification checks. The problem, though, is that this system of delegating safety checks doesn't work in practice.
The "authorized representatives" (ARs) may report to the FAA in theory, but because they are, for example, employees of Boeing, their loyalty to their own company might be higher -- and the pressure coming from above higher. A report from 2015 noted that the FAA de facto only has direct authority over 4 percent of ARs at airplane suppliers. An even earlier report, this one from 2011, listed 45 incidents that took place between 2005 and 2008 in which the FAA was accused of insufficient diligence. Which is hardly surprising given the agency's almost impossible mission. In its certification offices, the FAA employs 1,300 people, whereas Boeing alone has 56,000 engineers on its payroll. Parity is a pipedream.
The possibility that the FAA reauthorizes the 737 Max but other agencies refuse to follow suit is a rather frightening one for the aerospace industry. If producers are forced to convince several different agencies of the quality of their planes, they will lose time, money and planning dependability. And the airlines that are waiting for their planes may have to completely rewrite their schedules because a specific plane can only fly in the United States, but not in China or Africa. It would mark the end of a well-organized system.
Air travel has become an incredibly competitive business, and that starts with the aircraft manufacturers, led by Boeing and Airbus. And they heap pressure on their suppliers to be faster, better and cheaper -- to the point that the industry repeatedly finds itself at the limits of what is possible. In the search for new customers, airlines offer rock-bottom ticket prices and there is a steady stream of new markets. In the rising economies of Asia and Africa, the number of air travelers has skyrocketed in recent years and airlines are in dire need of modern, fuel-efficient aircraft.
N.B. Text selectively quoted for length, but worth reading in full.The story of the grounding of the 737 Max hasn't yet been fully told, but it promises to be an intriguing one. In the time gap between March 10 and 13, scandals are hiding that must still be fully investigated. What did the Chinese know that the Americans did not? After all, following the crash in Ethiopia, China immediately banned all 737 Maxes from taking off or landing in the country whereas it took the U.S. three more days to do so, becoming one of the last countries to impose such a ban.
On Tuesday, March 12, two days after the crash, Trump tweeted: "Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly." Later that day, he spoke on the phone with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, who Trump calls "a friend," and Muilenburg assured the U.S. president that the 737 Max was safe.
But apparently Trump wasn't completely convinced. On the one hand, he had wanted to ground the 737 Max already on Tuesday, a plan the FAA talked him out of by arguing that not all data had been evaluated. On the other hand, he was concerned about panic and market turbulence should he do so. In other crisis meetings, Trump spoke disparagingly of the 737 Max, saying the model "sucks" and paled in comparison to the 757 of the kind he owns as a private jet.
On March 13, Trump spoke with FAA head Elwell and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao before again talking with Muilenburg. By then, even the FAA had enough information in its possession to ground the 737 Max, the necessity of which the agency had denied just one day previously. A single piece, found in the wreckage in Ethiopia, showed that the horizontal stabilizer trim was configured to force the nose down, just as had been the case with the 737 in the Lion Air crash.
Read the full article at the link below:As many as 3,000 pilots from 12 international airlines have joined a class action lawsuit against American aviation giant Boeing. Led by an Australian law firm, the action seeks "compensatory and punitive damages" from Boeing for losses stemming from design issues and failures to warn pilots in the lead up to two major disasters.
Russian aircraft lessor Avia Capital Services is suing Boeing for at least $115 million, alleging that the airframer deceptively sold 737 Max aircraft on the premise that the aircraft were properly certificated, and that pilots would not need months of additional training.
The lessor gave Boeing a deposit of $40 million as part of its order for 35 737 Max 8s. Boeing has delayed delivery of those aircraft until at least 2022 amid a worldwide grounding, while damaged passenger confidence in Max aircraft has dramatically reduced their value against what Avia anticipated at the time of purchase.
Avia has suffered an estimated $75 million in lost profit due to these delays and diminished prospects for leasing the aircraft, says Steven Marks, an aviation attorney at law firm Podhurst Orseck, which is representing the lessor.
Marks says Boeing avoided going through a new type certificate process for the 737 Max so that it could sell more aircraft on the premise that pilots would not need to be paid months of salary for mandatory simulator training.
"I think we can prove intentional misrepresentations made to induce customers into purchasing the aircraft," he says, expecting that the lawsuit could go to trial by August 2020.
The standard for punitive damages claims in Illinois is "gross negligence", Marks says, adding that if numerous examples can be found, and the case goes before a jury, Boeing could be made to pay punitive damages in addition to the $115 million sought by the lawsuit.
Several non-US companies have expressed interest in joining Avia's lawsuit to seek damages for their lost profit amid capacity absence and a lack of customer confidence in those aircraft, Marks says.
"We don't know what other latest inherent flaws exist because it hasn’t gone through a more robust certification process," Marks says. "I think the only thing that Boeing can do is start from scratch, bite the bullet and go through a full recertification process."
Marks is also representing 30 families of victims who died during the two fatal Max crashes that are seeking wrongful death damages from Boeing.
The US House and Senate are investigating whether the FAA allowed Boeing to rush the 737 Max through certification. Marks alleges that the airframer intentionally withheld and even suppressed information about the aircraft to avoid going through a more expensive and rigorous type certification process.
A critical signal as to the likelihood of US Government criminal prosecution of Boeing or any of Boeing’s employees may arrive this week when an international panel of aviation experts publishes the long-awaited report of the Joint Authorities Technical Review (JATR) in connection with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification of the Boeing 737 MAX.
Although actual criminal prosecution of Boeing is rather unlikely, criminal prosecution of employees, including possibly for involuntary manslaughter, could be the subject of active debate inside the Department of Justice.
Experienced aviation attorney Brenda Roubidoux Taylor stresses that “overshadowing this question of possible criminal prosecution is the aviation industry’s longstanding tenet against criminalising aviation accidents and the related actions of its professionals.”
Taylor points to the Flight Safety Foundation’s memorialising this position in its 2006 Joint Resolution signed by top global aviation safety groups against the decriminalisation of aviation accidents.
Taylor, formerly in-house counsel for a leading regional airline, stresses that “the larger aviation community steadfastly believes that threatening aviation professionals with criminal investigations or prosecutions will undermine long-standing self-reporting initiatives, such as the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP), that encourage aviation professionals to report voluntarily safety issues and incidents without fear of discipline.”
Read the full article at the link below:The viable threat of criminal prosecution could disincentivise cooperation by those involved in aviation incidents or accidents; going forward, they may opt to “lawyer-up” rather than cooperate with investigators.
Taylor, again referencing the 2006 Joint Resolution, notes that “this ‘free flow of information’ from those within the industry is critical for determining the cause of and preventing aircraft accidents and incidents.”
I personally don't think any criminal charges will stick, whether against individuals or the company as a whole. This smells more like negligence and incompetence, than conspiracy. However the threat of charges may force some of those involved to give evidence against others (like a plea bargain), or force the company to change the way it operates.Criminal Prosecution Exposure In Boeing Investigation May Come To Light With Expert Report - Forbes
Read the full article at the link below:
Decisions about possible criminal prosecution of Boeing and employees may become clearer with publication of the technical review report about certification of the 737 MAX. Infrequent past airline incident prosecutions may not be enough to prevent criminal charges.www.forbes.com