Worth noting, they've also had problems with the new tanker they're building for the USAF, the 777X failed its pressure test probably delaying certification, and the space capsule thingy failed to rendezvous with the ISS.
Boeing CEO Dennis A. Muilenburg has stepped down from his position "effectively immediately" following 14 months of headwinds triggered by two fatal crashes of the now grounded 737 Max line. In a company statement, Boeing said that a “change in leadership was necessary to restore confidence in the company moving forward as it …
Not to nit pick but... The Space Capsule Thingy did not fail as such. It's on target for it's actual tests and results. The extra, docking with ISS failed, but that was always a bonus on the schedule. The real test for that will be the next one.
However, it did bring up a possibly worrying error in the clock/system/computer and guidance setup!!!
Docking with the ISS, whilst considered a nice to have by NASA, was still contractually agreed to by Boeing. So yes, the Starliner failed it's mission regardless.
Although, I do expect NASA to waive this anyway .. just like with parachute failures, pad abort failures.. etc :-/
When your contract says "must show that they can operate near, and dock with, the ISS", if you don't do that, then you have failed.
Much in the same way, that you would think that the driver has failed to deliver your parcel if they didn't reach your house, and just threw it into a hedge instead. Saying "well at least they put the parcel in the right truck" isn't much consolation really is it?
The 737 MAX is perfectly capable of flying safely without MCAS. All MCAS does is make the plane feel to the pilots like they are flying a 737 NG so that they do not need a new type rating. Major mistakes were made in how the system was implemented and how the system's features were communicated to the people flying and certifying the plane, but to imply that MCAS is somehow necessary to keep the MAX from killing people is just flat-out wrong and grossly oversimplifies the problem here.
The larger issue, aside from poor implementation and communication, is that Boeing felt the need to turn their new plane into a simulator of their old one just to save the airlines the hassle of retraining their pilots.
Wrong, MCAS is required to pass certification, no MCAS no selling it for use as an airliner.
The training was minimised to allow pilots to be qualified on the 737NG and Max with the same type rating, which is a big cost saving, and helps scheduling crews on mixed fleets.
It's capable of flying safely, but due to design compromises it is prone to nose lift and hence stalling. Hands up anyone who wants to fly on a plane that is capable of stalling quite easily from being given too much throttle without sufficient trim?
MCAS isn't necessary to keep the plane in the air, but it's a safety feature to help ensure the plane can't stall. You're quite right of course that there's major issues with how it was designed and implemented. That really is the whole issue here. A major safety feature which was poorly and cheaply designed, and which has caused two fatal accidents as a result.
You are correct, but a key cost cutting measure was to not classify MCAS as DAL A (failure is catastrophic) which meant:
1. Many thousands of manhours were saved in the process because DAL A designs can incur a paperwork overhead of about 5,000 hours before the first piece of code is ever written or the first schematic is drawn.
2. Lower standards of testing are required.
3. Lower standards of redundancy are required.
I have stated before that whether to classify a system or subsystem as safety critical (DAL A) is really not that difficult and in this case I cannot believe that the engineers(*) did not protest at MCAS not being so classified.
* This is not limited to Boeing; the actual computing elements were designed by a third party (the norm in avionics) who would have been given a specification of what it has to do (from Boeing who are the ultimate authority) and as soon as they saw something to the effect of 'can move / adjust the position of flying control surfaces' (the specifics are part of what is known as control laws) I have no doubt that there would have been questions. The paper (or documents and email) trail of those conversations would be very interesting reading indeed.
@Electronics'R'Us: "The paper (or documents and email) trail of those conversations would be very interesting reading indeed."
Indeed so. Readers might find this to be interesting:
See also this from Electronics'R'Us right here, in August (?)
and maybe also this text from my reply to Electronics'R'Us at the time:
The MCAS kit as originally specified was allegedly intended to have a limited-authority (maybe 25% of jackscrew travel, or something like that??) one-shot effect on a flight control surface. Perhaps in those circumstances it *might* just about have been acceptable to not have much resilience designed in (but the system might also have not had the authority to achieve the intended effect either).
As time went by, the fundamental MCAS design got transmuted into "keep retrying till the aircraft/system is back in control. No limits." So 25% authority on a one off basis, to full authority, whatever it takes, and nobody considered it might call for improvements in sysem resilience and recovery mechanisms?
Presumably MCAS variations got a "delta" design review rather than a "start from a blank sheet of paper" review, just like the 737 in general hasn't had a proper design review for decades.
The general principles of limited authority vs full authority, full review vs delta review, are more widely applicable than just MCAS and just Boeing.
It is capable of flying safely but it would not get a transport category certification because the relationship between yoke angle and rate of climb would not be linear.
Yes, the primary reason was to prevent need to retrain pilots, but it would have been a requirement anyway for certification
MCAS is a required stability system for the new engine configuration. It literally has to be there to compensate for the plane suddenly flipping up.
Many automobiles can only be sold with electronic stability too. Look for Moose avoidance test videos of pre-ESC cars. Those are experienced test drivers yet some cars handle so badly that a rollover or spinout can't be avoided.
I'm not sure how changing CEO is going to brush this under the carpet. It's not as if they can lay the blame on the outgoing CEO for the MCAS palava that has cost hundreds of lives!
They also failed to install a parachute correctly in a recent Starliner test. They tried saying it was a success due to redundancy, I'm sure if there was a crew on board they would prefer to lift off with everything in the right place you know just in case something else went wrong on the trip.
They also failed to dock Starliner because the clock was out more recently. Fair enough it landed OK but the mission was to Dock with the ISS and it probably failed because of lack of QA on the timing system.
Competition is good but not the catch up half arsed kind that Boeing are trying to do.
I'm not sure how changing CEO is going to brush this under the carpet.
It is some blood on the carpet: a sop to the media and the public to try to mollify them, expect also these meaningless phrases: a new broom; lessons have been learned; safety is paramount; listening to customers; will not be repeated; absolute confidence; new processes; ISO9000; Quality Assurance; ...
The problem is who makes the decisions, and that is the bean counters, as long as they call the shots and are not just giving suggestions, Boeing is doomed.
And as the directors are either smoke and mirror sales teams or bean counters and they are not going to fire themselves, they need the US to wage a trade war with the EU and China, otherwise they have a big problem.
> I'm not sure how changing CEO is going to brush this under the carpet. It's not as if they can lay the blame on the outgoing CEO for the MCAS palava that has cost hundreds of lives!
Perhaps it's not a question of: was he directly responsible for the original problem; but rather: how did he handle the situation after the problem occurred?
"It's not as if they can lay the blame on the outgoing CEO for the MCAS palava that has cost hundreds of lives!"
The MAX deaths are the culmination of 25-30 years of regulatory capture and an increasingly brazen management dominated by accountants rather than engineers (which has been going on for a lot longer than just 25 years)
Look at the history of industrial disputes and reports of production line problems at the company, the 2010 Al Jazeera investigation into the firing of whistleblowers who shopped Boeing regarding NGs being assembled with crucial fuselage ribs being handmade (well out of tolerance), falsely certified as CNC parts (per the FAA approval for the airframe), beaten into shape to fit on the assembly line (including further damage of other parts during thie process) and the damage covered up by assembly line workers (mostly with goo and paint) plus further falsification of paperwork before sending the airframes along for final assembly - this was in the 1997-2003 period.
Then there's the whole saga of the military tankers, where Boeing used political interference to GET the contracts (TWICE!) despite the USAF not wanting them from Boeing, and then doing the job so badly that airframes have had to be returned to remove various foreign objects from inside sealed areas. It makes you wonder what the new presidential flight 747s will be like (with friends like Boeing...)
And THEN there's the cockups in the space front and the political interference where Boeing has been front and centre in obstructing selection of SpaceX for USAF contracts as well as NASA ones.
Regulatory capture isn't just written loud and clear all over Boeing's actions and activities for the last 30 years. It goes much further than that.
The only "good" thing that's come out of the MAX crashes is that regulatory bodies around the world have been able to actually SAY "the Emperor has no clothes" without being killed on the spot by the crowds and the Palace Guard. Up to now if anyone had called this shit out they'd have been the subject of an immediate trade war and heavy sanctions from the USA. Now, the world's regulatory bodies are able to work in concert to say they don't trust American regulators and anyone who changes that tune individually looks highly suspicious.
This means that the 777X program can't skip over a bunch of tests that Boeing expected to merely grandfather, the ENTIRE 787 certification process is in question and under review (remember all the fires - not all in the battery compartment?) and those 737MAXes won't fly in non-USA airspace until _other_ regulators are independently satisfied that the aircraft are safe - most likely requiring pilots carry (at least) supplemental type certification to be allowed in the pointy end. Then there are the deeper investigations into the allegations about the 737NG irregularities....
In other words: Boeing has well and truely shat in its nest. Even the USAF has been pushed past breaking point and is holding the company's feet to the fire regarding the absolutely shocking build quality of the 767 KC conversions, despite attempts at political interference aimed at forcing them to accept the aircraft as-is.
I wouldn't be surprised to see most of the board removed and some serious criminal investigations into how deep the rabbithole goes - because without that happening, the entire rotten state of the US regulatory structure is called into question. It's not just the FAA, as anyone observing the telco or automotive arenas knows and the the USA is no longer THE dominant world economy able to throw its weight around anymore, despite (like the UK) dreams of past grandeur (see US automotive manufacturers crying "foul" because rest-of-world won't accept LHD(USA) standard cars and demands they be LHD/RHD(UN) spec, whilst USA only accepts LHD(USA) spec for the local market - there are more forms of protectionism than just tariffs and they can make your local makers just as uncompetitive as tariffs do)
How to save Boeing is so simple as to win the No Shit Sherlock Award 2019 .
But whether it will actually happen is another story entirely.
First, State the problem : this company is, effectively, Boeing Beancounters Inc.
The obvious thing to do is to put actual ENGINEERS in charge again.
The longer the beancounters stay, the more likely the company will be fucked up in a terminal sense.
Curiously enough I was reading an article in the local business press that made the same argument. They traced the shift in culture to the move of their HQ from Seattle to Chicago some 20 years ago. The change also coincided with the McDonnell Douglas acquisition which because a de-facto takeover of Boeing, an engineer driven company, by McDonnell, a company driven by the financials.
We're all nodding in agreement because this scenario isn't new and unique, I'd guess most of us work -- or have worked -- at a company that's driven by financial engineers and marketing types. They like pare down overhead (that's us) and have very optimistic ideas about how long things take to develop and test. That's why they like outsourcing so much -- the remote vendor just nods and smiles and gives them what they want (mostly) and by the time they've figured out that its not quite as rosy as it seemed they've taken the kudos for their skill at cost cutting and decamped 'to another opportunity'.
"They traced the shift in culture to the move of their HQ from Seattle to Chicago some 20 years ago. The change also coincided with the McDonnell Douglas acquisition which because a de-facto takeover of Boeing, an engineer driven company, by McDonnell, a company driven by the financials."
The change in HQ simply exacerbated an existing shift. The problems were already there - look at the history of industrial relations. Unions only get uppity (and build quality goes bad) when management is mistreating employees.
Boeing had stopped being engineering-driven at least 10 years before the McD takeover and accountants had been increasingly in control since the launch of the 747.
If it was an engineering-driven company it would have pushed through with production of the 7J7 as replacement for the larger 737/smaller 727 models in 1989 instead of shelving it and making the 737NG instead. THAT was a direct "accounting trumps safety" decision.
One of the problems with society is that corporations are not people so when they do something that kills actual people no one is held accountable and justice is never served. The system is set up this way and those people that die will never get justice while this CEO is now back on the merry go round on the way to another very comfortable job where he can green light more decisions putting peoples lives at risk without fear. Purely symbolic gestures like these provide an illusion of justice while no one talks about the real problem. Laws and rules need changing but that will never happen in our money grabbing capitalist culture where governments and policies are freely traded by the wealthy and backed up by people chasing that wealth with no realistic way of ever obtaining it.
Are you implying that other cultures from the “money grabbing capitalist culture” guarantee safety and “nice” businesses.
Non capitalist - communist Russian and Chinese companies are even less accountable - all practical communist regimes have devolved to tyranny. Russian flight safety is very bad.
Maybe all this is just the USA wanting to become more like China in a hurry!
Bad government regulation, poor safety, authoritarian ruler, media control/dismissal, bully/exploitation tactics, fallguy for the sacrifice.
In summary bad apples will fall, the problem here is that the regulatory body was effectively bribed through government lobbying and the system of checks and balances lost. Blaming the economic structure is silly and an emotional argument not a factual one.
This is yet another excellent example of how the US governance structure is broken, and how law makers can be bought over there. You want Boeing to be responsible, sure, but the reason it is just a dismissal is because your American lawmakers haven’t made anything Boeing did illegal. Shouldn’t it be?
What I do Grant is Boeing is now perfect counter argument to those who believe in low/no regulation and self governance of private entities offering public use goods. This has been a very expensive experiment, both in money and lives, of the US Congress, who I believe are actually to blame. They decimating the FAA in funding and responsibilities. That in turn is supported by a system called ”lobbying”, which Boeing exploited.
At least other countries, even China, get my respect because they all call it bribery.
Non capitalist - communist Russian and Chinese companies
Both China and Russia are far from being communist. Companies from both countries happily compete on the 'free' market both domestically as internationaly. Unless a foreign government (dare I say which one here) deems them a 'security risk' and excludes them from competing because they'd like to give their home-grown companies an unfair competitive edge (very anti-capitalistic behaviour).
are even less accountable
You mean like sentencing CEOs who lead companies responsible for civilian deaths are actually sentenced to death instead of golden parachuting into a new role?
Yes, I can definittely see that white collar criminals in China get away scott-free.
I correct myself in Russia meaning Soviet Russia/USSR.
PS: Competing in the free market has nothing to do with Communism? Just that those companies are owned by the state.
In any case you seem to be affirming my point as a counter argument.
The original comment says "greedy capitalism" is at fault.
China has *laws* that make it illegal. It isn't their economic system that created those laws.
So it has nothing to do with capitasm or communism or socialism or any economic system.
Lots of comments like the one above blame "greedy capitalism" whenever a corporation is found to be doing crap. These comments are annoying because it is just an emotional response. The real reasons turn out to be plain incompetence, to no laws that actually make such actions illegal.
This Boeing case is the fault of corrupt American politicians who do not make laws that make this illegal, and allow experimentation with people's lives.
It perhaps would be a different story today if American civilians had died. I don't think the CEO being fired would have sufficed.
PS: The white collar criminal rubuttal is a poor shot - those small business owners are hardly a comparison for the head of a $190Bn company, responsbile for a lot of tax revenue, political sponsorships and jobs in the US. Show me that sentencing in China or Russia ;) Those russian oligarchs are filthy criminals and pretty open about it.
I believe the problem is more political.
Boeing is a large employer in many states. Getting to the bottom of these issues run the risk of putting this giant into the ground. The District Attorneys and senators that were on watch when this takes place are unlikely to get re-elected.
So it won't happen.
I also find it interesting that skilled engineers are paid much, much, MUCH less than unskilled CEOs. (even when said CEOs are relieved of their duties)
"corporations are not people so when they do something that kills actual people no one is held accountable "
That _really_ depends on the jurisdiction.
New Zealand has laws which specifically hold individuals inside corporations accountable for unlawful decisions and has applied them (mostly in the area of unlawful anticompetitive activities) - usually with personal penalties of around 10% of the financial penalty the company is hit with, plus jailtime when things are serious - those penalties are applied to _BOTH_ the individuals making the decisions and their superiors - making CEO/CFOs far more cautious about potential illegal behaviour (especially corporate manslaughter)
It's important to note that "Limited liability" merely limits the overall financial liability of SHAREHOLDERS if the company goes bust. It in no way shape or form shields anyone from criminal charges - and the directors/board are front and centre if criminal/civil prosecutions are pushed forward as they are presumed to have signed off on policies.
The way companies seem to shrug off such stuff is more an indication of their legal abilities and the way that they've been able to shape decisions over the years than their actual liabilities.
> One of the problems with society is that corporations are not people
Just in case anyone is mislead by that statement, companies do have legal personality and the rights and obligations that emanate therefrom under the law.
> so when they do something that kills actual people no one is held accountable
The company itself, if found guilty in due process, is held accountable, like everyone else, and irrespective of any degree of responsibility that may be shared with natural persons.
Not that I disagree with the guy going, but what's the connection between a CEO and some dude deciding that the MCAS system only needed a single sensor? I'd be interested to see the full causal analysis. Like, er, what part of Safety Critical System did they not understand? Definitely sounds like the bean counters were ruling. I'd wager there are engineers in Boeing biting their tongues from saying "I told them..."
At the FAA it's a combination of regulatory capture after Congress continually cut funding. As a result the FAA didn't have the resources to do certification testing, so it let the plane makers self-certify.
And, as much as I agree that it should take as long as it takes to solve the problem, Boeing and Airbus, and for that matter Bombardier and Embraer, have incredible safety records. But the 737 Max was attempt to bend the results to speed up time to market and charge of criminal negligence shouldn't be ruled out.
As a result the FAA didn't have the resources to do certification testing, so it let the plane makers self-certify.
It should have continued on at the speed its resources allowed. If it costs Boeing (and others) enough money in delays, their funds get either re-instated or a politician will need to stick out its (yes, that the proper pro-noun) neck and be responsible for any slips in QA.
That's just wishful thinking. What happened is what always happens because, as we've seen here, the consequences for individuals are limited: no one at Boeing, the FAA or Congress will go to prison over this. Shareholders have taken a hit but their representatives on the board were happy with the way the company was run.
If there is a risk to a company in the defence industry like Boeing then they just talk about the national interest and pressure is applied to the regulators to wave them through. Rinse and repeat for opioids. The reason is that, generally, there's more votes in talking about jobs than there is in the tragic deaths of some "darkies" – US law infamously treats all non-US citizens as at best second class. In fact, it's possibly only because there were some US citizens involved in the Ethiopian crash, along with the response of European and Chinese regulators, that the issue got taken seriously at all.
"If there is a risk to a company in the defence industry like Boeing then they just talk about the national interest and pressure is applied to the regulators to wave them through"
Except when the customer - the defense industry - finds the products are in such a dangerous condition even after the regulators have waved them through, that they return the entire batch to be fixed - and refuses to pay for those repairs as they are delivery faults.
That was my thought too.
Even my contract means that if my employer asked me to leave tomorrow they would owe me three months pay.
I would imagine that the CEO would have a 12month notice period including bonuses, so really quite a lot of money, because they are worth it.
Yes you don't get the money if you're fired.
But isn't it nice to know what the Boeing board think of Ethiopian and Indonesian lives, by letting him resign and have his parachute.
I'm sure, as usual in America, their "thoughts and prayers" are with the victims families.
The problem is one of culture. The CFO taking over even temporarily speaks volumes that the Boeing board has zero clue how they found themselves in this mess. The CEO as the buck-stops-there sort of figure should have been dismissed months ago, but its a step. The actual change has to come from Boeing deciding they are going to design and build airplanes again instead of being supply chain and financial managers.
“operate a renewed commitment to full transparency, including effective and proactive communication with the FAA, other global regulators and its customers
But not a word about changing the corporate culture which led to 346 deaths, you will notice. They really don't understand the problem.
As an engineer I see this problem at my work.
The test engineers identify issues, and fixes mean the shipment has to be delayed.
PHB says 'this is too much testing, we've shipped this product before, we're not making military space craft'
When the customer eventually reports the issue, PHB shouts 'Why wasn't this tested? We should be identifying these issues earlier and I am disappointed with the team'
THANK FUCK the worst that could happen is that you reboot your phone...
"I get the same where I work - something won't work, we tell the big cheeses it won't work then they have trouble believing it didn't."
BTDT. Kept the correspondence. Produced it when they tried to drop the resulting clusterfuck in my lap.
It's amazing how fast "We can't possibly spend XYZ to make your impossible demands happen!" change to "How much do you need to make this work?" (to which the answer is invariably "three to five times as much as it would have cost if you'd given me the correct budget in the first place and it will take weeks to fix, not tomorrow, longer if you don't fuck off from breathing over my shoulder 24*7")
"Spirit Airlines are the most recent - 100 off A320neos with options on another fifty."
With 8500 aircraft already on backlog, that's only..... 5 years delay or so.
People tend to forget you can't order up these items and pick them up tomorrow.
There's another factor inasmuch as the penalties in Boeing contracts for _cancelling_ a confirmed order make it almost as expensive as taking the aircraft and parking it somewhere to rot. At least if you take it you can sell it to some other sucker or part it out.
It is April 15, 1952, seven years after WW2 ended. Boeing conducts the first flight with the B52, a huge jet engined bomber using 8 J-57's, which is still considered to be a venerable weapon in 2020.
Four years later, August 31, 1956, eleven years after the end of WW2. Boeing does the first flight with the KC-135 tanker, a modern four engined jet, which was the base for the successful 707 generation still in use by airlines and the military all over the world.
The fact Boeing was capable to design and produce modern jets less than a decade after only making slow piston engined planes, makes it seem weird they have so many issues now with things that seem simple for a layman like me. How is it, they do need more time to fix issues with the KC-46 tanker, than their grand fathers needed to design, produce and test the KC-135 from scratch, which is more remarkable, since they use an existing 767 airframe as basis for the KC-46.
Why did they allow, after 50 years of successfully building 737's, managed to ruin its good image as a safe plane ?.
Were our grand fathers just smarter people, or did the requirements go off the scale, and are impossible to meet by engineers ?.
And that was when McDonnell-Douglas took over Boeing. I know the official (and financial) story is the other way around, but that was the moment the -previously excellent- safety culture of Boeing crashed and the bean counters (all coming in from McDonnell-Douglas) took over in the financial department.
Isn't there the saying "you can pick any two from the menu - fast, cheap, good"
Boeing's tastes changed from 'fast and good' to 'fast and cheap'.
Maybe it's wishful thinking that they started off the 747NG successor as 'cheap and good' but the 320neo meant they needed to get their act together? But then incompetence and stock value centric thinking took over aka bean counters. I mean the CFO is taking over :D
The other thing, outside of boeing, is people have very short memories. Nobody will remember this in two years time. So the "damage" is just a few hundred (non-American) people dying is all...
Up to the point where these 737MAX crashed I kept getting stories in my news feed that seemed like plants from Boeing's PR department. Nothing specific or targeted, just a steady drip of stories about how Boeing was kicking ass with their new planes, the 787 and 737MAX compared to Airbus's older designs because they were so much better for the airlines' bottom line. There was also a fair bit of subtle knocking copy, typically about how the big Airbus was too big to be economic, it was a failure and so on.
I notice this sort of thing because it's how propaganda campaigns are run (you'll have noticed something similar with the recent General Election -- at least, if you didn't then you stand a good chance of looking at the post-election results and wondering "What the hell just happened?). It also cuts against user experience. The newer 737s belonging to some US domestics were already attracting attention because the restroom was so small that nobody could get into it. Since they were also intending to use these planes for transcontinental and trans-Atlantic routes, turning what might just have been tolerable on an hour's flight to Las Vegas into eight hours or more of torture, the general impression that I had was that they -- the airlines and Boeing -- were using a PR campaign to convince a skeptical public that it was all a hallucination, everything was fine and any discomfort you experienced was your fault because you were too big/tall/fat/whatever. I was already avoiding certain US domestic carriers because of safety issues (sorry, I don't think a knackered 757 is suitable for trans-Atlantic flights) and a cavalier attitude towards flight cancellation, constant nit-picky fees and so on so the loss of the MAX wasn't an issue, I wasn't intending to fly on the thing if I could possibly avoid it. (up to and including driving or even taking the train). I just noticed that the PR copy died with the MAX's grounding.
The moral of this tale is that looking out for the bottom line is laudable but not if it compromises product quality. Its an expensive lesson that US automakers had to learn, a lesson that lost them a lot of domestic market share. Running a company using remote bean counters will drive it into the ground -- it may not happen overnight but it will happen, its just a matter of time.
"Its an expensive lesson that US automakers had to learn, a lesson that lost them a lot of domestic market share"
It cost them virtually ALL of their foreign marketshare, but they didn't seem to care as they had a protected local market.
After the Chicken Wars US cars and pickups started disappearing from world markets pretty quickly. Having a protected domestic market made them lazy as hell and it showed (not that they were alone in this, the British car industry imploded when exposed to competently built competition, dropping from 30-40% of the Australian/NZ markets to less than 3% in 18 months when Japanese cars were given equal tariffs in 1973. US cars had already gone from 40% of the market in 1960 to effectively zero by 1970 having proven too expensive to run and utterly unreliable)
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