Kulula and BA’s Boeing 737 Max 8 planes – “We remain vigilant”

Gordon_R

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Former Boeing official subpoenaed in 737 MAX probe won’t turn over documents, citing Fifth Amendment protection - The Seattle Times

Read the full article at the link below:

https://www.seattletimes.com/business/boeing-aerospace/former-boeing-official-subpoenaed-in-737-max-probe-wont-turn-over-documents-citing-fifth-amendment-protection
Key previous source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/01/business/boeing-737-max-crash.html
On March 30, 2016, Mark Forkner, the Max’s chief technical pilot, sent an email to senior F.A.A. officials with a seemingly innocuous request: Would it be O.K. to remove MCAS from the pilot’s manual?

The officials, who helped determine pilot training needs, had been briefed on the original version of MCAS months earlier. Mr. Forkner and Boeing never mentioned to them that MCAS was in the midst of an overhaul, according to the three F.A.A. officials.

Under the impression that the system was relatively benign and rarely used, the F.A.A. eventually approved Mr. Forkner’s request, the three officials said.
 

Daisy Cloudskitter

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^^ The article mentions that the post-certification MCAS ‘revamp’ changed reliance from 2 sensors to 1, but there's no mention of what I understood was an equally critical change. Boeing said MCAS could move the horizontal stabilizer a maximum of 0.6 degrees in the original FAA certified version , then only after the Lion Air crash it told airlines that MCAS could actually move it 2.5 degrees ( or half the physical maximum) - after the ‘revamp’. Isn't that hella difference to the AoA when MCAS triggered the automatic nose-down?

“… current and former employees point to the single, fateful decision to change the system, which led to a series of design mistakes and regulatory oversights.

As Boeing rushed to get the plane done, many of the employees say, they didn’t recognize the importance of the decision. They described a compartmentalized approach, each of them focusing on a small part of the plane. The process left them without a complete view of a critical and ultimately dangerous system.

The company also played down the scope of the system to regulators. Boeing never disclosed the revamp of MCAS to Federal Aviation Administration officials involved in determining pilot training needs, according to three agency officials. When Boeing asked to remove the description of the system from the pilot’s manual, the F.A.A. agreed. As a result, most Max pilots did not know about the software until after the first crash, in October.”

The few experienced 737 pilots I've seen interviewed on YT seemed to accept that MAX8 would be fixed, but appeared far more concerned about the possibility of other Boeing 'revamp' issues having slipped through the certification process over years.

I get it that reams of other crucial factors are tied up in the MAX investigations, but it sometimes seems like the FAA’s trying to influence public opinion against particular Boeing employees.
 

Gordon_R

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The criminal investigation is being carried out by the FBI, not the FAA, though there are wider issues at stake.

The case against the B737 test pilot seems like a 'fishing expedition', where they either find evidence against him, or persuade him to testify against Boeing.

P.S. The EASA demands to Boeing are dated 1 April, so they have long known that re-certification was going to be a difficult process. Failing to inform shareholders, and the 'blame the pilots' strategy, were both reprehensible.
 

Daisy Cloudskitter

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The case against the B737 test pilot seems like a 'fishing expedition', where they either find evidence against him, or persuade him to testify against Boeing.
Yea it grates me if I think FAA and/or Boeing even hint at pinning any of this on pilots or engineers. Just seemed like FAA pointed at him here :

Mark Forkner, the Max’s chief technical pilot, sent an email to senior F.A.A. officials with a seemingly innocuous request: Would it be O.K. to remove MCAS from the pilot’s manual?

The officials, who helped determine pilot training needs, had been briefed on the original version of MCAS months earlier. Mr. Forkner and Boeing never mentioned to them that MCAS was in the midst of an overhaul, according to the three F.A.A. officials. Under the impression that the system was relatively benign and rarely used, the F.A.A. eventually approved Mr. Forkner’s request, the three officials said.
 

Gordon_R

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The fundamental question around an investigation of multiple role players and elements of non-disclosure, is Who Knew What and When, and who was in charge giving orders? Tracking down documentation and e-mails and sworn interviews, should establish some of those details. It may be difficult to prove malice or conspiracy (criminal charges) or blame individuals, but Boeing can't plead ignorance (civil charges).
 

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Finally some of the Boeing board realise the need to take safety seriously. Link may be paywalled: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/15/business/boeing-safety-737-max.html
For the past five months, a small committee of Boeing’s board has been interviewing company employees, safety experts and executives at other industrial organizations in an attempt to understand how the aerospace giant could design and build safer airplanes.

The committee is expected to deliver its findings to the full Boeing board this week, and call for several meaningful changes to the way the company is structured, according to three people briefed on the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the report has not yet been submitted.

The recommendations will include that Boeing change aspects of its organizational structure, calling for the creation of new groups focused on safety and encouraging the company to consider making changes to the cockpits of future airplanes to accommodate a new generation of pilots, some of whom may have less training.
One of the report’s most significant findings concerns the reporting structure for engineers at the company. At Boeing, top engineers report primarily to the business leaders for each airplane model, and secondarily to the company’s chief engineer.

Under this model, engineers who identify problems that might slow a jet’s development could face resistance from executives whose jobs revolve around meeting production deadlines. The committee recommends flipping the reporting lines, so that top engineers report primarily to Boeing’s chief engineer, and secondarily to business unit leaders.
Another key recommendation calls for establishing a new safety group that will work across the company. The committee examined the process by which Boeing employees conduct certification work on behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration, known as Organization Designation Authorization, as well as an internal company framework known as the Boeing Safety Management System.

Boeing has more than 100,000 employees and, like many large companies, at times struggles with information flow. In particular, there has been inadequate communication within the engineering department, and from Boeing’s commercial airplanes division, based in the Seattle area, to Boeing corporate offices in Chicago.

The new safety group will work to ensure that the company’s various efforts have adequate independence and are working together and sharing information effectively. The new group will report to senior Boeing leadership, as well as to a new permanent committee on the board focused on aerospace safety.
A third major recommendation involves how Boeing approaches the design of future airplanes. Though the Max crashes were triggered by the malfunction of a new system on the planes, there is a simmering debate concerning whether the pilots responded appropriately, and whether the Lion Air plane that crashed off Indonesia last October should have been flying at all because of maintenance problems.
Edit: The Boeing board has some pretty smart people, not just financial interests:
Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr., a former nuclear submarine officer and the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the committee chairman. The other members were Lynn Good, the chief executive of Duke Energy and a board member of the Institute for Nuclear Power Operations [etc]
Edit: A few paragraphs about FAA oversight, and the EASA regulations.
 
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Gordon_R

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The Joint Technical Review Panel report is expected to be critical of FAA approval, and the B737 MAX design process. Link may be paywalled: https://www.wsj.com/articles/international-panel-set-to-criticize-faas-approval-process-for-boeing-737-max-jets-11568666088
A panel of international air-safety regulators is finishing a report expected to criticize the initial U.S. approval process for Boeing Co. ’s 737 MAX jets, according to people briefed on the conclusions, while urging a wide-ranging reassessment of how complex automated systems should be certified on future airliners.

As part of roughly a dozen findings, these government and industry officials said, the task force is poised to call out the Federal Aviation Administration for what it describes as a lack of clarity and transparency in the way the FAA delegated authority to the plane maker to assess the safety of certain flight-control features. The upshot, according to some of these people, is that essential design changes didn’t receive adequate FAA attention.

The report, these officials said, also is expected to fault the agency for what it describes as inadequate data sharing with foreign authorities during its original certification of the MAX two years ago, along with relying on mistaken industrywide assumptions about how average pilots would react to certain flight-control emergencies. FAA officials have said they are devising new pilot-reaction guidelines after two fatal crashes.
 

Ivan Leon

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Why Southwest Is Rethinking Its Boeing 737 Strategy - CNBC

Part of Southwest Airlines’ strategy was its focus on operating one plane across its fleet: the Boeing 737.

After two fatal crashes of Boeing 737 Max planes Southwest has been forced to cancel thousands of flights and Southwest’s CEO has said he’s willing to explore ordering planes from other manufacturers like Airbus.

The question for Southwest is whether switching from Boeing to Airbus is worth the trouble.

 

Ivan Leon

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What Really Brought Down the Boeing 737 Max? - NYT
Malfunctions caused two deadly crashes. But an industry that puts unprepared pilots in the cockpit is just as guilty.



“Airmanship” is an anachronistic word, but it is applied without prejudice to women as well as men. Its full meaning is difficult to convey.

It includes a visceral sense of navigation, an operational understanding of weather and weather information, the ability to form mental maps of traffic flows, fluency in the nuance of radio communications and, especially, a deep appreciation for the interplay between energy, inertia and wings.

Airplanes are living things. The best pilots do not sit in cockpits so much as strap them on. The United States Navy manages to instil a sense of this in its fledgling fighter pilots by ramming them through rigorous classroom instruction and then requiring them to fly at bank angles without limits, including upside down.

The same cannot be expected of airline pilots who never fly solo and whose entire experience consists of catering to passengers who flinch in mild turbulence, refer to “air pockets” in cocktail conversation and think they are near death if bank angles exceed 30 degrees.

The problem exists for many American and European pilots, too.

Unless they make extraordinary efforts — for instance, going out to fly aerobatics, fly sailplanes or wander among the airstrips of back-country Idaho — they may never develop true airmanship no matter the length of their careers.

The worst of them are intimidated by their airplanes and remain so until they retire or die.

It is unfortunate that those who die in cockpits tend to take their passengers with them.
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Gordon_R

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What Really Brought Down the Boeing 737 Max? - NYT
Malfunctions caused two deadly crashes. But an industry that puts unprepared pilots in the cockpit is just as guilty.

Limited-view paywall source link:
I couldn't read the full article this morning, since my default browser had reached the monthly quota, but I just opened in another browser. It is very long, but written by veteran pilot and journalist William Langewiesche , so should be worth spending time reading...

Edit: Quite a wide scope and nuanced opinions, and covering a few areas not well researched elsewhere. Fairly critical of the airlines safety records and pilots training. Equally of Boeing continuing to sell complex aircraft such as the B737 in competition with the more automated A320.

Edit: I stumbled on a link that discusses many technical errors and omissions in the article: https://www.moonofalabama.org/2019/09/14000-words-of-blame-the-pilots-that-whitewash-boeing-of-737-max-failure.html
But the piece does not really say what brought the Boeing 737 MAX down. It does not explain the basic engineering errors Boeing made. It does explain its lack of safety analysis. It does not mention the irresponsible delegation of certification authority from the Federal Aviation Administration to Boeing. There is no mention of the corporate greed that is the root cause of those failures.

Instead the piece is full of slandering accusations against the foreign pilots of the two 737 MAX planes that crashed. It bashes their airlines and the safety authorities of Indonesia and Ethiopia. It only mildly criticizes Boeing for designing the MCAS system that brought the planes down.

The author of the piece, William Langewiesche, was a professional pilot before he turned to journalism. But there is so much slander in the text that it might as well have been written by Boeing's public relations department.

The piece is also riddled with technical mistakes. We will pick on the most obvious ones below. The following is thus a bit technical and maybe too boring for our regular readers.

Langewiesche describes the 737 MAX trim system and its failure mode:
That’s a runaway trim. Such failures are easily countered by the pilot — first by using the control column to give opposing elevator, then by flipping a couple of switches to shut off the electrics before reverting to a perfectly capable parallel system of manual trim. But it seemed that for some reason, the Lion Air crew might not have resorted to the simple solution.
Wrong: The manual trim system does not work at all when the stabilizer is widely out of trim (i.e. after MCAS intervened) and/or if the plane is flying faster than usual. That is why the European regulator EASA sees it as a major concern and wants it fixed.
 
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Gordon_R

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Rather different perspective in this article about the dysfunctional culture at Boeing: https://newrepublic.com/article/154944/boeing-737-max-investigation-indonesia-lion-air-ethiopian-airlines-managerial-revolution
He had mountains of evidence to support his position, mostly acquired via Boeing’s 1997 acquisition of McDonnell Douglas, a dysfunctional firm with a dilapidated aircraft plant in Long Beach and a CEO who liked to use what he called the “Hollywood model” for dealing with engineers: Hire them for a few months when project deadlines are nigh, fire them when you need to make numbers. In 2000, Boeing’s engineers staged a 40-day strike over the McDonnell deal’s fallout; while they won major material concessions from management, they lost the culture war. They also inherited a notoriously dysfunctional product line from the corner-cutting market gurus at McDonnell.


And while Boeing’s engineers toiled to get McDonnell’s lemon planes into the sky, their own hopes of designing a new plane to compete with Airbus, Boeing’s only global market rival, were shriveling. Under the sway of all the naysayers who had called out the folly of the McDonnell deal, the board had adopted a hard-line “never again” posture toward ambitious new planes.
In the now infamous debacle of the Boeing 737 MAX, the company produced a plane outfitted with a half-assed bit of software programmed to override all pilot input and nosedive when a little vane on the side of the fuselage told it the nose was pitching up. The vane was also not terribly reliable, possibly due to assembly line lapses reported by a whistle-blower, and when the plane processed the bad data it received, it promptly dove into the sea.
The MCAS crash was just the latest installment in a broader pattern so thoroughly ingrained in the business news cycle that the muckraking finance blog Naked Capitalism titled its first post about MCAS “Boeing, Crapification and the Lion Air Crash.”


But not everyone viewed the crash with such a jaundiced eye—it was, after all, the world’s first self-hijacking plane. Pilots were particularly stunned, because MCAS had been a big secret, largely kept from Boeing’s own test pilots, mentioned only once in the glossary of the plane’s 1,600-page manual, left entirely out of the 56-minute iPad refresher course that some 737-certified pilots took for MAX certification, and—in a last-minute edit—removed from the November 7 emergency airworthiness directive the Federal Aviation Administration had issued two weeks after the Lion Air crash, ostensibly to “remind” pilots of the protocol for responding to a “runaway stabilizer.” Most pilots first heard about MCAS from their unions, which had in turn gotten wind of the software from a supplementary bulletin Boeing sent airlines to accompany the airworthiness directive. Outraged, they took to message boards, and a few called veteran aerospace reporters like The Seattle Times’ Dominic Gates, The Wall Street Journal’s Andy Pasztor, and Sean Broderick at Aviation Week—who in turn interviewed engineers who seemed equally shocked. Other pilots, like Ethiopian Airlines instructor Bernd Kai von Hoesslin, vented to their own corporate management, pleading for more resources to train people on the scary new planes—just weeks before von Hoesslin’s carrier would suffer its own MAX-engineered mass tragedy.
It went without saying that MCAS was an honest mistake, but the secrecy shrouding the program’s very existence told you it wasn’t a 100 percent honest honest mistake. The story of the secrecy begins with the universally beloved, unusually labor-friendly, strangely not-evil Southwest Airlines. (When the carrier’s beloved co-founder Herb Kelleher died in January, Ralph Nader wrote a fawning obituary about the old friend, a “many splendored human being,” who had founded his favorite airline; Nader would soon lose a grandniece to MCAS.) On something of a lark, Boeing had given Kelleher a sweet no-money-down deal on his first four 737s in 1971, and Kelleher repaid the favor by buying more than 1,000 737s over the next 50 years—and zero of any other plane. According to a recent lawsuit against Southwest and Boeing, the airline had rewarded this loyalty with an unwritten but zealously enforced “handshake” agreement, dating back to the 1990s, that Boeing would not sell any planes for less than Southwest was paying, or Boeing would send Southwest a rebate check. And in exchange for that guarantee, Southwest reliably swooped in with big orders and/or accelerated payments after accidents, stock price plunges, or both; the same lawsuit claims that, after September 11, the airline formed an off–balance-sheet slush fund to bail out Boeing during unanticipated shortfalls, and lent other airlines its own planes when Boeing production fell behind, all while it waited patiently for its order deliveries to be filled at a time when it was convenient for Boeing. As the carriers became more profitable in the twenty-first century, more of them followed Southwest’s lead and helped Boeing make its numbers, with United Airlines and Alaska Airlines pitching in during fourth-quarter 2015, alongside Southwest, to make payments not due until 2016. Those partnerships were but one numbers-smoothing mechanism in a diversified tool kit Boeing had assembled over the previous generation for making its complex and volatile business more palatable to Wall Street, and while not entirely kosher and not at all sustainable, they were by far the least destructive tool in the kit—until Southwest called in the favor on its orders for the MAX.
Southwest always had a lot to say about projected modifications to the 737, and Kelleher’s team mostly wanted as few technical modifications as possible. With the MAX, they upped the ante: According to Rick Ludtke, a former Boeing employee, Boeing agreed to rebate Southwest $1 million for every MAX it bought, if the FAA required level-D simulator training for the carrier’s pilots.


To whoever agreed to this, the rebate probably seemed like a predictably quixotic demand of the airline that had quixotically chosen to fly just one plane model, exclusively and eternally, where every other airline flew ten. Simulator training for Southwest’s 9,000 pilots would have been a pain, but hardly ruinous; aviation industry analyst Kit Darby said it would cost about $2,000 a head. It was also unlikely: The FAA had three levels of “differences” training that wouldn’t have necessarily required simulators. But the No Sim Edict would haunt the program; it basically required any change significant enough for designers to worry about to be concealed, suppressed, or relegated to a footnote that would then be redacted from the final version of the MAX. And that was a predicament, because for every other airline buying the MAX, the selling point was a major difference from the last generation of 737: unprecedented fuel efficiency in line with the new Airbus A320neo.
Firstly, that there are two AOA sensors on a 737, but only one, fatefully, was programmed to trigger MCAS. The former Boeing engineer Ludtke and an anonymous whistle-blower interviewed by 60 Minutes Australia both have a simple explanation for this: Any program coded to take data from both sensors would have had to account for the possibility the sensors might disagree with each other and devise a contingency for reconciling the mixed signals. Whatever that contingency, it would have involved some kind of cockpit alert, which would in turn have required additional training—probably not level-D training, but no one wanted to risk that. So the system was programmed to turn the nose down at the feedback of a single (and somewhat flimsy) sensor. And, for still unknown and truly mysterious reasons, it was programmed to nosedive again five seconds later, and again five seconds after that, over and over ad literal nauseum.


And then, just for good measure, a Boeing technical pilot emailed the FAA and casually asked that the reference to the software be deleted from the pilot manual.
So no more than a handful of people in the world knew MCAS even existed before it became infamous. Here, a generation after Boeing’s initial lurch into financialization, was the entirely predictable outcome of the byzantine process by which investment capital becomes completely abstracted from basic protocols of production and oversight: a flight-correction system that was essentially jerry-built to crash a plane. “If you’re looking for an example of late stage capitalism or whatever you want to call it,” said longtime aerospace consultant Richard Aboulafia, “it’s a pretty good one.”


The 737 MAX sailed through its FAA certification flight tests in just over a year. The plane was actually early, which was a good thing from an investor’s standpoint, since Boeing’s last new plane, the 787, had been three years late. Of course, the MAX wasn’t really a new plane, just an “upgrade” of the old 737 that had the benefit of carrying roughly two and a half times as many passengers about three times as far as the original 737.
 
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Gordon_R

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New Republic article continued:
And so all the early hot takes about the crash concerned Indonesia’s spotty safety record and Lion Air’s even-less-distinguished one. The plane dove into the Java Sea early in the morning on a Monday, 14 hours before the market opened and sent Boeing’s stock down almost $30. But the price shot right back up again on Tuesday. “It looked like an anomaly,” said David Calhoun, the private-equity executive who leads Boeing’s board of directors, and whose shares in the company appreciated in value by $2 million between the two 737 MAX crashes.


There aren’t any pilots on the Boeing board, and the only engineer in the C-suites is CEO Dennis Muilenburg—and pilots and engineers were the ones who found the crash unnerving.
Of course, there aren’t any pilots on the Boeing board, and the only engineer in the C-suites is CEO Dennis Muilenburg—and pilots and engineers were the ones who found the crash unnerving.
What was this wild animal that kept dunking down the nose of the plane? There is a scene in the first episode of a five-part 1996 PBS series on the making of the 777, Boeing’s first plane to employ “fly-by-wire” technology, in which an engineer discusses the company’s philosophy of computer-assisted aviation:


One of the things that we do in the basic design is the pilot always has the ultimate authority of control. There’s no computer on the airplane that he cannot override, or turn off if the ultimate comes, but, in terms of any of our features, even those that are built to prevent the airplane from stalling, which is the lowest speed you can fly and beyond which you would lose the control. We don’t inhibit that totally; we make it difficult, but if something in the box should inappropriately think that it’s stalling when it isn’t, the pilot can say, this is wrong and he can override it. That’s a fundamental difference in philosophy that we have versus some of the competition.


Pilots are familiar with this philosophy. It’s one of the things that makes flying a Boeing different from flying an Airbus.
What has pitched up nicely since its initial nosedive is Boeing’s stock price, which as The New Republic went to press was right about where it stood a year ago, despite company projections of some $8 billion to settle wrongful death suits from the MAX debacle. The true financial cost could be much bigger for Boeing, if more carriers follow in the footsteps of Rostec, the Russian government conglomerate whose aircraft leasing arm sued Boeing in August to cancel its orders of the plane and return its deposit plus interest. That could prompt already pessimistic credit-rating agencies to downgrade Boeing’s debt, which could put Boeing in a serious cash crunch. But until anything really, really catastrophic happens, investors seem ready to buy all of Boeing’s dips—rather like MCAS in reverse. That’s in no small part because they know the company has developed fail-safe systems for smoothing earnings, beating expectations and jacking up demand for its shares with a precision that rivals any jet that rolled off the assembly line in Boeing’s heyday.
Lengthy discussion about budget and deadline overruns on the B787 project fiasco.

Indeed, most of Boeing’s response to the MAX disasters has involved disseminating a kind of misinformation and doubt that makes the crashes look more complex than they really are. First Boeing issued, then instructed the FAA to circulate, a terse directive to the aviation community essentially copying-and-pasting the 737 flight manual’s instructions for handling a runaway stabilizer—a rare (but terrifying, and well-understood) situation in which the plane’s horizontal stabilizer doesn’t respond to a pilot’s commands. Then, when the airlines informed pilots about MCAS, they dispatched executives to talk pilots off the ledge about the deadly software—explaining, in the words of a Boeing vice president Mike Sinnett to the American Airlines pilots’ union, that Boeing simply didn’t want to “overload the crews with information that’s unnecessary.” Sinnett also suggested that an MCAS malfunction would never happen to American pilots, because the AOA “Disagree” light, an optional feature for which American had paid extra to outfit its fleet, would alert the crew before takeoff that the plane’s angle-of-attack sensors were contradicting each other and that the plane was not airworthy.


That part turned out to be a lie. (The plane needed to be at least 400 feet in the air to activate the Disagree light—at which point the pilots, already preoccupied with getting the plane in the air, would only have a few seconds to turn it around.) But the idea that some safety feature existed that would have saved American planes perpetuated the fiction that an MCAS crash couldn’t have happened in a civilized country, even if its pilots were ill-informed enough to fail to remember the runaway stabilizer checklist.
And that’s why, come March 2019, Peter Lemme, a former Boeing flight controls engineer who publishes a very technical aviation blog called Satcom Guru, could not bring himself to believe that when Ethiopian Flight 302 drilled into the ground near the resort town of Bishoftu, this incident could possibly be related to the Lion crash. “It can’t be MCAS, it just can’t be,” he thought. Lemme had met his wife working on pitch augmentation controls for the 757 and 767 aircraft; he’s also been one of the company’s now much-maligned “designated engineering representatives,” to whom the FAA delegates so much of its oversight. It went against everything he’d seen in 40 years in the business to think that two crashes four months apart had been caused by something so specific and inane. When the FAA grounded the MAX before even analyzing the preliminary black box data on the crashes, he assailed the move on Twitter. Clearly Boeing had made some serious mistakes, but it seemed implausible that the media wasn’t oversimplifying them—and moreover, every pilot in the world knew how to respond to an MCAS error. They had the checklist!


But by the end of March, Lemme and his fellow aviation blogger Bjorn Fehrm, working occasionally in concert with the anonymous but very pilot-famous Mentour Pilot, a 737 captain and “type rating examiner” with half a million YouTube subscribers, had solved at least one mystery: The Ethiopian pilots had followed the Boeing checklist. They had switched the stabilizer trim cutout switches to the “cutout” position and attempted to turn the nose of the plane back up using the manual crank—they just couldn’t. In accordance with the prescribed fix for an alert they were getting on the flight control computer, the pilots had been flying extremely fast, and above the speeds of about 265 miles per hour at which the manual trim wheel became unbearably heavy. This issue wasn’t specific to the MAX; it was a well-known bug in the 737 generally. The Mentour Pilot had noticed the problem in his day job evaluating the final flight simulator exams of hundreds of would-be 737 pilots. He had even filmed a terrifying video in which he attempted to implement the MCAS override checklist in a simulator to demonstrate the system failure. And as Lemme had detailed on his blog, the predicament was compounded by the ways in which Boeing had and hadn’t tweaked the plane through its various iterations—shrinking the size of the cranks, adding augmentations but never moving to a full fly-by-wire electronic flight control system, introducing a somewhat questionable function called “speed trim” in the ’80s that paved the way for MCAS, consolidating certain controls on the MAX, and all the while purging a lot of pertinent information from the official 737 literature over the years.
The upshot was that Boeing had not only outfitted the MAX with a deadly piece of software; it had also taken the additional step of instructing pilots to respond to an erroneous activation of the software by literally attempting the impossible. MCAS alone had taken twelve minutes to down Lion Air 610; in the Ethiopian crash, the MCAS software, overridden by pilots hitting the cutout switches as per Boeing’s instructions, had cut that time line in half. Lemme had seen a lot of stupidity from his old employer over the years, but he found this whole mess “frankly stunning.”


Lemme was on the brink of going public with his analysis of the manual crank fail when a federal agent showed up at his door with a subpoena demanding all his electronic correspondence. He was dumbfounded that the feds wanted talk to someone who hadn’t worked at Boeing in 22 years, and a little concerned that the criminal probe would “chill the open dialogue” he considered foundational to a functional safety culture, but he chose to take it all as a positive sign authorities were casting an “unusually wide net” in their hunt for the perpetrators of MCAS and the deadly obfuscation surrounding it. Lemme called Dominic Gates at The Seattle Times and posted his analysis the next day, tweeting for context a link to the Mentour Pilot video, in which he and a co-pilot use the full force of their bodies to move the crank about a degree or two before turning off the camera. It was a sanitized but still deeply unnerving reenactment of what the Ethiopian pilots experienced.
 
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Gordon_R

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New Republic article further continued:
“There was this micro tidal wave of people coming forward because they felt it was safe to come out of the woods,” remembered Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the American Airlines pilots’ union, of the weeks following the Ethiopian crash, when pilots and engineers alike shed their qualms and unloaded on the company whose “toxic culture of fear and intimidation” they blamed for the crash. But the fear and intimidation would start to surface again: Mentour Pilot took down his video, explaining in a livestream that he shouldn’t have taken such liberties amid an “ongoing investigation.”


But the bigger picture was becoming clearer: Boeing had manufactured a self-hijacking plane, and in a display of grotesque cowardice, it had chosen to disseminate to pilots a checklist for counteracting the self-destruct mechanism that had killed them even faster. The Seattle Times deemed it “a nightmarish outcome for Boeing and the FAA.”
But as the nightmare drags on, the clarity of things has dimmed a bit. We have learned that there were other problems with the MAX—esoteric and exponentially less comprehensible than the MCAS nosedives—as well as problems that dated back to earlier generations of corner-cutting, but troubles that the company and the agency are genuinely trying to fix. We have learned that the FAA certified the plane despite its professed belief that the plane “does not meet” its own safety standards due to the elevated possibility of one of its massive new engines destroying the single set of cables controlling the rudder, if it were to break apart in midair. (The FAA is not mandating repairs to the cables.)


We have also learned that no one at FAA wanted to work on the MAX certification—to the point that one of the engineers who did take a job on the effort told The New York Times he joked that he was high on drugs when he agreed to the assignment.
Some political grandstanding, critique of GE and American capitalism, the 'blame the pilots' tendency, and other comments, too much to quote.
 
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Gordon_R

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What Really Brought Down the Boeing 737 Max? - NYT
Malfunctions caused two deadly crashes. But an industry that puts unprepared pilots in the cockpit is just as guilty.

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And this is how misinformation propagates. A lengthy and somewhat one-sided article is stripped of its nuance, and turned into an authoritative source, stating that the crashes were not Boeing's fault: https://www.businessinsider.com/737-max-blame-inexperienced-pilots-boeing-nyt-report-2019-9
A damning new report on the 737 Max blames 'inexperienced pilots' and the low-cost airlines who employ them — not Boeing
 

Gordon_R

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First indications of the contents of the Indonesia crash report. Probably no surprises for anyone who has read this thread. Also no single cause, with multiple contributory factors. Link may be paywalled: https://www.wsj.com/articles/indonesia-to-fault-737-max-design-u-s-oversight-in-lion-air-crash-report-11569185664
Indonesia to Fault 737 MAX Design, U.S. Oversight in Lion Air Crash Report

First formal government finding on crash also likely to detail pilot and maintenance missteps; NTSB preparing separate safety recommendations
The latest version of Indonesia’s accident report has been shared with the FAA and NTSB for comment. U.S. officials are expected to visit Indonesia around the end of this month to finalize the document. People familiar with the process said NTSB experts don’t appear to have major disagreements with the draft. Boeing and the FAA, on the other hand, are concerned the final report will unduly emphasize design and FAA certification missteps, some of these people said.

Unlike NTSB reports that identify the primary cause of accidents and then list contributing issues determined to be less significant, Indonesia is following a convention used by many foreign regulators of listing causal factors without ranking them. Instead, the report is expected to list more than 100 elements of the crash chronology, according to a person briefed on the details. Many of those points are likely to refer to missteps by pilots and mechanics initially revealed last year in Indonesia’s preliminary report.
 
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Ivan Leon

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Boeing to pay bereaved 737 families $144,500 each - BBC News

Families who lost relatives in fatal Boeing 737 Max air crashes are set to receive about $144,500 (£116,200) each from the company.

The money comes from a $50m financial assistance fund, which Boeing announced in July.

The fund has started accepting claims, which must be submitted before 2020.

Lawyers for the victims' families, many of whom are pursuing the company in court, have dismissed the fund as a publicity stunt.

"$144,000 doesn't come close to compensating any of our families or any of the families," said Nomaan Husain, a Texas-based attorney who is representing 15 families.

"This is not something that is going to satisfy the families. The families really want answers."
 

Ivan Leon

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The FAA Misled Congress on the Qualifications of Its 737 Max Inspectors, U.S. Probe Finds - Fortune

American aviation regulators misled Congress about a whistle-blower’s allegation that many inspectors performing safety assessments on the now-grounded Boeing Co. 737 Max airplane weren’t properly qualified to certify pilots or assess pilot training, a government watchdog agency has concluded.

The Office of Special Counsel, a federal agency that investigates whistle-blower complaints, called Federal Aviation Administration assertions on the case “misleading,” and said the agency’s response to lawmakers “raises significant concerns.”

The charges became public in April when Senator Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican who is chairman of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, issued a press release.

At the time, the FAA disputed the allegations, insisting in responses to Congress that its pilots were properly qualified.

The FAA pilots about whom qualification issues were raised are called Aviation Safety Inspectors. They administer skill tests of other pilots and perform other duties, including sitting on groups called Flight Standardisation Boards.

The FSB was involved in approving the pilot training criteria for the 737 Max.
Read the full article at the link below:

 
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