Regulators Discover New 737 MAX Autopilot Problem

Filed Under: Misc.

It seems that the situation with the 737 MAX returning to service just keeps getting worse.

The Boeing 737 MAX has been grounded globally since March, following the crash of two 737 MAXs just months apart. Boeing has been working on a software fix that they hope will get the plane back in the air.

In mid-May Boeing claimed that they completed the necessary software update, though obviously a lot more tests were needed to get the plane back in the sky.

Then in late June FAA pilots uncovered a data processing issue impacting their ability to perform the procedure for counteracting “runaway stabiliser.” This is the method by which pilots are supposed to respond to erroneous activation of the MCAS, which is the software that activated prior to two Boeing 737 MAX crashes.

Boeing stated that it would take until at least September to fix the newly discovered issue, and then there would be at least several more weeks of testing. At this point it seems unlikely that the plane will fly before the end of the year.

Well, there’s now yet another issue with the 737 MAX.

Specifically, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency has sent their list to both the US Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing of the five major requirements it wants Boeing to address before they will allow the plane to return to service in Europe. Per Bloomberg:

EASA’s checklist includes a number of issues that have been disclosed: the potential difficulty pilots have in turning the jet’s manual trim wheel, the unreliability of the Max’s angle of attack sensors, inadequate training procedures, and a software issue flagged just last week by the FAA pertaining to a lagging microprocessor. But the agency also listed a previously unreported concern: the autopilot failing to disengage in certain emergencies.

The autopilot failing to disengage in certain emergencies is a new issue that hadn’t been addressed before. Only time will tell how big of an issue this is, though it sure doesn’t sound like good news.

  1. The scary thing is not the problems with the MAX, because they will all be discovered and fixed before it will fly again and will probably be the safest plane in the world. The most scary thing is: how many other types of planes are flying around with undiscovered faults? My bet is: all of them.

  2. Any way you can fix the sweepstakes scam I constantly get when I try to read the site on safari?

  3. @ Tim

    Is that the aviation equivalent of “oh, look, everyone — a squirrel!”.

    The idea that this half-century-old, massively remodelled airframe will ever be “the safest plane in the world” is laughable.

    It was great for its time. It has now been over-enlarged to try to make it fit to carry out a role for which it was not designed. Software and hardware “fixes” have been piled on top of each other to try to overcome the inherent problems. But they are just sticking plasters to try to address the underlying problems.

    Boeing would probably have been better off trying to design a new plane from scratch.

  4. I agree with “the Nice Paul” Boeing has pushed the envelope on this airframe to it’s limit all in the name of profits over safety. They should take the frames that are done convert them into freighters and design a whole new bird. All the other models are flying just fine.

    Frankly I am amazed that no one has been sacked fired or otherwise taken out back and shot for what’s happened and all those poor soles that have died.

    Maybe if Boeing can’t get this thing done they do what many manufactures do have Air Bus “private label” airplanes for them! As ex USAF I have always been a supporter of Boeing now not so sure.

  5. The MAX needs to go through a full certification as a new aircraft versus sub type of a 737. The FAA can only keep getting egg thrown on its face until it realizes it needs to start from scratch.

  6. I have long said that Boeing should now get out of this hole by calling the end of the 737 and speeding up new versions of the 797 family, including a 737 replacement. But I don’t want to blame this all on Boeing. They are responding to what their airline customers wanted – built on price and economical to run rather than mainly comfort, higher speed and safety.

    They would happily still be doing the after 50 years still fastest cruising airline passenger airliner latest 747-8s, 767s and other more comfortable aircraft, if that is what airlines had wanted.

    Instead the airlines want the cheapest and most ’efficient’ planes possible. And many passengers are part of this cycle by wanting ever cheaper value fares over comfort.

  7. @”The nice paul” & “ghostrider5408”, I suggest looking up Boeing’s Yellowstone Project:

    Y1 is the proposed successor to many older airframes, including the 737. The decision to re-engine the 737 yet again was a commercial one brought about by the success of the A320neo family and resulted in Y1 development being delayed.

    Boeing were already going down the track you’ve identified – the choice to introduce the 737 MAX interfered with that. Although there are statements by some analysts that the next plane we’ll see is the NMA (the so-called 797), this aircraft could very well be the form the Y1 was on the path to taking (or had generally taken) prior to the introduction of the 737 MAX.

  8. @Tim

    The 737 is not “Fly-by-wire”. That’s part of the problem. At it’s root, the 737 is a 52 year old design. The flight control surfaces are moved using cables and pulleys, there is no centralized emergency alerting system, there are still paper checklists, etc.

  9. The point still stands … within both commercial and military aviation, there are a number of aircraft (and missiles) which would be unstable without computer correction. That doesn’t make them unsafe–it makes them dependent on a computer. The Max isn’t close to unique in that regard.

  10. Not really a surprise, too many Arts/Business majors have risen in the ranks in Boeing after the Mcdonnell Douglas Boeing reverse takeover. Once less educated business minds take over an engineering firm its over.

  11. Time for Boeing to call it a day and kill off max. Perhaps they can design something new? With all the talent they have in the company and money, you would think they can come up with something fast and great looking.

  12. It sounds like they should just install the new Microsoft Flight Sim 2020 software – done. Thank you – thank you – thank you very much.

  13. Those of you calling for a redesign: Logically there’s no reason why a redesign would be safer than improving an old proven safe design. There’s no logical connection there. People seem to be oblivious to the fact that many many many things can go wrong when starting anew. In fact, I’d bet that a redesign is *less* likely to be safe than improving on an existing design, even with the knowledge of the current problems in the 737 MAX. The problems with the MAX is a known (albeit, high) risk. But problems with a new design is an unknown, potentially higher, risk that many people here are not sufficiently considering.

    How can he possibly not take the responsibility for not reaching the levels of awareness ?

  15. The public has a short memory. The Dreamliner was a Boeing nightmare at its launch and I doubt few, if any, would not board one today due to safety concerns. There is little chance these airliners are just going to be what? Scrapped?

    Boeing will make these birds airworthy at any cost. I believe rebranding will happen at that time as “Max” has been equated with lives lost.

  16. @Tim — “The most scary thing is: how many other types of planes are flying around with undiscovered faults? My bet is: all of them.”
    @Justin — “… within both commercial and military aviation, there are a number of aircraft (and missiles) which would be unstable without computer correction. That doesn’t make them unsafe–it makes them dependent on a computer. The Max isn’t close to unique in that regard.”
    @Jim — “Those of you calling for a redesign: Logically there’s no reason why a redesign would be safer than improving an old proven safe design. … ”

    Absolutely agree! Finally — so refreshing to see some posters who *do* understand some engineering (hardware or software) in order to bring *sanity* to this discussion, without all of the emotional rhetoric about how Boeing did this wrong and that even more wrong!
    @Frederick — “They are responding to what their airline customers wanted – built on price and economical to run rather than mainly comfort, higher speed and safety.”
    @UA — “The decision to re-engine the 737 yet again was a commercial one brought about by the success of the A320neo family and resulted in Y1 development being delayed.”

    Absolutely agree! What those who incessantly engage in emotional rhetoric to blame Boeing just do *not* understand, is that engineering (including safety) issues are also intertwined with market and business issues, and the influencing can go *both* ways! Let’s say that Boeing ignored the 320NEO in the marketplace and did NOT create the MAX in response — the passengers on those two most unfortunate crashes would have been saved, but that is now totally *hindsight* and contributes *nothing* towards resolving any/all issues going forward! Boeing *had* to originally proceed with the MAX because of public perceptions, and, having done so, is *now* being blamed for having done so! No way to win based on such circular attitudes! Everyone needs to understand that Boeing could *not* just cede the MAX market to the 320NEO, since to do so would have been tantamount to committing corporate suicide!

    Therefore, engineering does its best, based on allotted resources and timeframes, in order to synchronize with market needs and business cycles! No one is perfect and sometimes, *unfortunately,* errors are made that cost lives! But if we’re to just *stop* everything and *ditch* the MAX altogether, rather than n-tupling down on due diligence to fix *all known* problems ASAP, what will we be left with? There are *always* untold numbers of potentially *unknown hidden* issues/problems with every engineering design — all that we can do is to engage our best efforts to *try* and *uncover* those currently *unknown* issues and fix them ahead of time! But everyone *must* understand that you can *not* fix what you do *not* know to be a bona fide problem, to begin with! This said … accountability at all levels (including at FAA being responsible for original certifications) *must* still be enforced, but *not* based upon emotional rhetoric that does *not* contribute towards actual *solutions* that work to *everyone’s* best interests!

    If this constant blame game were the attitudes coerced upon our prior generations of engineers, we would *never* have gotten man to the Moon and back! If the public were to educate itself on what *really* happened on Apollo 11 with its flight computers during their trip to the Moon and subsequently *most fortunate* touchdown on the Moon, everyone will be *totally shocked* at just how close total catastrophe *could* have ensued! Yet our brave astronauts proceeded with all due faith and succeeded, anyway! This is the “American Way” towards our bountiful successes and accomplishments throughout history!

  17. you should be thankful that by paying $10 to.someone in india and he managed to even made that thing fly. paying an american even $20 i doubt he can do it. it is the problem of boeing, not indians

  18. Talk to people who lost families in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
    They lost their family members because Indian programmers lying to Boeing about defects of the sensors and bugs in the program which they conducted.
    It’s not the news in Bay area.

    It doesn’t matter $9 or $20. It’s about lives!!!!
    Or in Indian’s mindset, $9 can offset the loss of a human’s life……………………

  19. Running a bunch of engineers by a gaggle of fat cats who have no engineering clue, but do have a liberal arts degree and/or an MBA is invariably corporate suicide. I’ve presented projects to bean counters and lawyers and invariably “invited” to downgrade/cheapen the product. Objecting is getting you fired, so you compromise. On a car or a truck, you can get away with that. Not on a turbine engine or an air ship. Their crashes are less forgiving. Boeing has enough cash reserves to survive and keep the same fat cats who were threatening the engineers 20 years ago. Airbus is my bet now. They still are humble and pragmatic. The laws of physics don’t care who you are, who you know and what your title may be. A careless design kills.

  20. First, the Boeing 737 Max is not “inherently unstable”, since it can be flown manually with ease.

    The Boeing 737 Max used for Lion Air Flight 610 had the same problem on four previous flights, but on the previous flights the pilots (in one case an off-duty pilot flying in the jumpseat) knew how to cut power to MCAS and trim the aircraft and fly on to their scheduled destination manually. The angle of attack sensor problem was only fatal on the fifth flight because the pilots didn’t know what to do. (Of course, had Lion Air replaced the sensor correctly the accident wouldn’t have happened.)

    The original test pilot left Boeing in mid-program. He knew the aircraft and MCAS and prescribed limited power and use of the system. After he left, the new test pilot and engineers decided to expand the system’s use and power in order to make the Max “feel” like 737NGs, so pilots could transition from one to the other without being recertified.

    The pilots on Ethiopian Airways Flight 302 realized MCAS was their problem, and turned it off several times, but unfortunately turned it on again each time. Even with MCAS turned off they were unable to trim the plane manually because they kept their engines at full throttle and achieved airspeeds so high the dynamic forces on the tailplane were too great for the copilot to overcome using the trim wheel.

    Yes, it’s still Boeing’s fault for installing a piece of software about which pilots weren’t fully trained, and expanding the power and use of that software beyond levels their first (very experienced and most knowledgeable about the MAX) test pilot thought safe.

    Without naming them, Boeing says they have replaced the people responsible. I am guessing that would be the second test pilot and the MCAS chief engineer.

    The plane is perfectly safe, and easy to fly with MCAS turned off. In every case in the US where an angle of attack sensor has gone bad the pilots have turned off MCAS and flown the plane safely (Mind you, AA and other US airlines paid the extra $80,000 to have backup sensors installed). However, Boeing is reluctant to give up on MCAS because that would mean 737NG pilots would not be automatically 737MAX certified, which was one of their selling points for the plane.

    It was and is a commercial decision that has nothing to do with instability or the age of the basic design or method of transmitting inputs from the pilots to the control surfaces. It had to do with selling a new airplane to airlines by telling them their tens of thousands of 737NG pilots could walk into the cockpit and fly the 737MAX without being retrained, saving them tens of thousands of dollars per pilot, and simplifying pilot scheduling.

    For people who’d like to know, instead of blowing smoke, but don’t want to spend hours reading aviation journals, I suggest checking the Blancolirio Channel on YouTube, maintained by an ex-military, senior commercial pilot for a major US airline. He covers almost all military and commercial aircraft accidents in depth and explains them so simply that everyone here (except the “inherently unstable” idiots) will grasp what he’s saying. The downside is he doesn’t speculate, so you’ve got to wait until he has the information he needs to know what actually happened.

  21. @Robert J Fahr
    The Dreamliner had issues, but none of them were of the “nosedive into the ground 30 mins after take off” variety.

  22. JZ – Indian IT contractors are the cause of many issues throughout the western world. That’s because they appeal to beancounters be promising the world at a fraction of the cost.

    Sounds great until they discover they can’t actually do the work, and they were basically lied to. But have been strung along for too long to turn back.

    There’s nothing racist here. That’s reality of a culture.

    From taxi drivers not admitting they don’t know where they’re going until you’re irreversibly lost, to IT accepting projects they have no idea how to do, to pilots not having licenses and being able to land.

    “Yes no problem sir.”

  23. The 787 had its problems but no one has died on it yet. Boeing maxed out the 60’s design with the NG already, the only way forward for them is a clean sheet design. The A320 is a phenomenally good plane and there is still much Airbus can do with it. Even if Boeing gets the Max flying again there is no way I’ll ever fly on one, that’s for sure. Maybe the public will forgive and forget at some point but I’m not so sure. Boeing lost a lot of trust, like earlier this week when I checked out of my hotel and the lady asked me if I’m heading home. I said yes, after which she said “safe travels Sir, I hope you’re not going home on a Boeing”. Tough one.

  24. @ Jim

    “Logically there’s no reason why a redesign would be safer than improving an old proven safe design. … In fact, I’d bet that a redesign is *less* likely to be safe than improving on an existing design … ”


    So what you’re saying is that we should stop designing and building new planes and, instead, we should be raiding all those aviation museums, to get Sopwith Camel biplanes and DC8s flying again?

    Does the same principle apply to cars? Though, if they do, it’s odd how the statistics don’t seem to support you – brand-new designs of cars are orders of magnitude safer for everyone (drivers, passengers and pedestrians) than 50 year old models.

    But those were the good old days, when everything was safe. This modern technology nonsense, though, can’t be trusted, etc, etc, … how are my Boeing shares doing now…?

  25. @John
    “I’ve presented projects to bean counters and lawyers and invariably “invited” to downgrade/cheapen the product. Objecting is getting you fired, so you compromise.”

    So did you get fired by MBAs or you caved and kept your job. If so, you are also part of the problem.

    @The nice Paul

    You do know that DC8s in those aviation museums are using almost the same engineering concepts and designs as the new as A350. A tube attach a sweep wing and a turbofan. What we did in the last 60 years was just engineering modification for improving efficiency. We all are still stuck in the Jet age. No new propulsion no new energy source no new aerodynamics.

    Boeing should not be blamed for the design. They should be blamed for the execution. It was part of the design to add weight to the 60 year old tube design. They just f**** up on the software. This should be no different that updating iOS to fix glitches. Sadly this glitch is cost lives.
    I hate that Boeing is doing a quick cash grab but I can’t blame the 737 designs. Software was put in place for this very reason, they just didn’t properly test the software. Again design flaw examples should be the DC-10 cargo door, even software can’t even save it.

  26. @The nice Paul you’re taking my narrow statement out of context. New designs are certainly better, depending on what capabilities are *designed* to be better. For example, fuel efficiency. In addition, you can either make new designs by improving on an old design, or you can throw everything away and start anew. My statement was that the former approach is lower risk, with less things likely to go wrong, than the latter. That’s all.

  27. @ The nice Paul

    So what you’re saying is that an unproven design is inherently more safe than a proven one.


  28. @jim Your arguments are true for minor modifications, bet changing the location of the engines and increasing their maximum thrust is not considered ‘minor’

  29. @ Bobby

    Seriously? are you suggesting there is no real quality control and all the responsibility is with the Asian contractors? come on…

  30. @ Milkman’s Son

    You seem to be confused: it turns out the MAX was itself an unproven and unsafe design, utilising a half century old design of airframe stuck together with some modern bits. It was the worst of all worlds (except the financial world of course, making Boeing squillions of dollars).

  31. @The nice Paul —

    So since you’re the one who claims to *not* be “confused,” please illuminate everyone on exactly which airliner, that is flying today, is *not* based on that century-old concept of a hollow cylinder attached with horizontal wings as well as horizontal/vertical stabilizers, along with engines?

    Try *not* to *confuse* a century-old foundational *concept* with one (of *many*) sub-optimal *implementation(s)*! In engineering there will *always* be *unintentional* mistakes or oversights made, but that does *not* invalidate foundational concepts!

    Boeing took a “gamble” on its approach to bring the MAX to market in response to the 320NEO and, in this case, their implementation and debugging missed some key issues … hopefully these issues will now be properly and expeditiously resolved going forward, albeit having incurred much *unfortunate* pain and suffering upon certain affected families! But please understand 2 very basic tenets about the MAX (and airliners in general) —

    #1. Boeing had *no* choice but to find an expedited solution to address the 320NEO challenge in the marketplace, since to ignore that challenge will cede that entire market segment to Airbus! Designing a brand new aircraft “from scratch” is a 5+ year proposition and therefore was *not* an option!

    #2. Given that time-to-market was paramount to respond to the 320NEO challenge, Boeing most likely suffered that “marketing/sales vs. engineering” internal struggle over just “good” is “good enough” to get released to market? The airliner industry has to undergo (normally) very stringent certification processes to validate airworthiness and, in this case, we need to assign a large part of the “blame” to the FAA, which did *not* do its *proper* duties as a watchdog certification agency for new releases of airliners … even if only a derivative of an already-existing model!

    A hypothetical question — should (God forbid!) a new model Airbus airliner suffer a crash in the future, will you also blame that on Airbus being similarly “crooked” and “irresponsible” in their approach towards designing a “new” airframe?

  32. @ BillC

    Fake news!

    You wrote: ‘being similarly “crooked” and “irresponsible”.’

    But I didn’t use either of those two words. Why are you “quoting” them? And what’s with *all* the asterisks?!

  33. @The nice Paul —

    Please identify specifically *which* part(s) of my reply to you is “Fake news”?

    So many who invoke *emotional* rhetoric over this tragedy, *insinuate* that Boeing was “crooked” and “irresponsible” in how they approached the development and release of the MAX, but if you don’t feel that you’re one of those, then I’m more than happy to retract my mistake to associate you with them!

    The use of *…* is meant as an emphasis method that is more polite than using CAPS (at least that’s what I’ve been told) … if you have a better way to do emphasis, then I’m always happy to hear about it and, if appropriate, adapt for future use!

  34. @Martin — “Your arguments are true for minor modifications, bet changing the location of the engines and increasing their maximum thrust is not considered ‘minor’” —

    Question — are you therefore suggesting that doing a brand “new” design from scratch is “safer” than “modifying” an existing airframe that has been flying safely for several decades, even under the constraint of providing a “credible” solution for the market within a much shorter timeframe than it would have taken to develop any “new” design (5+ years)?

    Isn’t it totally ironic that, had those pilots of the Lion Air and Ethiopian Air flights *not* crashed their aircraft, but managed to properly recover controls as per runaway horizontal stabilizer procedures (as many other pilots had done), this whole issue wouldn’t have even become the hot controversy that it has!

  35. @billc it’s a totally fabricated argument to say that Boeing had no choice but to do the MAX instead of designing a new plane. They could have taken their lumps and used their cash to compete down the road. Especially for an industry where safety is paramount, Boeing tried to shoehorn a new engine where it didn’t really work, try to fix the resultant problems with a poor software patch, make the redundant systems optional purchases and not provide adequate simulators or training while pretending things were business as usual. I’d bet you if the people in charge had to do things over they would do them very differently.

  36. @ BillC

    This is also weird: “we need to assign a large part of the “blame” to the FAA, which did *not* do its *proper* duties”

    It’s a bit like me robbing a bank but, instead of blaming me, you attack the police for failing to stop me.

    I am responsible for my actions, and Boeing are responsible for theirs. They can’t just design a crap plane in the expectation that the FAA will sort out any problems.

    It’s particularly odd to read an implicit demand for more stringent regulation in the US — a country that seems more often totally opposed to the burden (sic) of regulation, which apparently hampers dynamic entrepreneurs. Most non-military/security US agencies have been cut and cut again. And yet you want to place “a large part of the blame” on the FAA?

    Is there nothing Boeing can do wrong, in your eyes?!

    PS: CAPS are rude, but spraying asterisks around like an incontinent Tom-cat makes text really hard to read. In good writing it’s obvious where the emphasis should go. That’s one of the joys of English.

  37. @Gaurav — “it’s a totally fabricated argument to say that Boeing had no choice but to do the MAX instead of designing a new plane.”

    Sure … they could have taken the path that you suggest, and then ended up with *no* further reason to even *exist* in that market segment, since the 320NEO would have monopolized that entire market by the time that Boeing spends 5+ years to develop a brand “new” aircraft from “scratch!” Airlines just do *not* go on aircraft buying “sprees,” very often (maybe once every decade or so for a particular passenger capacity profile), with incremental additions from the same aircraft family along the way, as evolving passenger loads dictate! So if the current window of opportunity is missed, it’s pretty much game over for a long time!

    Of course the people in charge at Boeing will do certain things differently — but those will be centered around improving their implementation *verification* processes, rather than changing their underlying path of creating the MAX in response to the 320NEO!

    Ever notice that several “properly” trained pilots who instinctively “knew” how to handle an aircraft with a “runaway horizontal stabilizer” event were, nevertheless, able to regain control of their MAX aircraft and did *not* end up crashing? In fact, the Lion Air MAX had the same problem during its immediately prior flight, but those pilots were able to recover and land safely … I read that the co-pilot on the Ethiopian Air crash had only something like 100+ hours of flying experience and had *not* undergone “proper” training! Ironically I also read that Ethiopian Air had already purchased a MAX flight simulator, but hadn’t been able to send all of their pilots through a training program when their crash occurred! Not to dismiss the tragedy of these two crashes, but ever also notice that the 2 largest operators of the MAX (USA and China) did *not* experience any crashes at all?

    To be sure — these crashes are very unfortunate for all concerned, but this situation has gotten grossly exacerbated and exaggerated by those who brandish emotional rhetoric upon this event, rather than cooler engineering attitudes that will be necessary to fix *all* issues (including perhaps others not yet uncovered) ASAP!

    Realize that just because a crash hasn’t occurred (yet) doesn’t mean that (God forbid!) there isn’t one or more yet-to-manifest faults with any aircraft that might one day result in a crash! This is true with the new Airbus airliners as well! No one can predict and/or fix something that isn’t already “known” to exist (ie, one won’t know that something “hidden” is faulty until it occurs)! We can only do our best based on best verification practices as known at that time — if there have been dereliction of duties in the certification process (eg, FAA), then those shortcomings obviously need to get fixed ASAP!

  38. @The nice Paul — “They can’t just design a crap plane in the expectation that the FAA will sort out any problems.”

    Well … I’m sure that Boeing did *not* set out to design a “crap plane,” since their long historical reputation flies onboard every one of their aircraft! But there are times when trade-offs must be made in order to be successful in the marketplace, and some innovations must be applied … the ways that Boeing decided to implement the MAX definitely underwent internal engineering reviews before being launched into implementation/release to the marketplace! But what often happens with complex projects is that the *implementations* don’t match the originally stated *plans,* so then it’s up to the *verification* process to try and catch what “leaked” through internal verification efforts. In the airliner industry that final verification process is done by the FAA. There have been reports about how the FAA has recently gotten pretty “lax” about their duties and even outsourced portions of their certification process to Boeing itself! That will be like having the fox guard the proverbial chicken coops!

    It has also been posted on this forum that Boeing somehow decided to outsource their MCAS software development to India … that would have been just *begging* for trouble, since such decoupling of control software development so far away from its intended functioning hardware makes tight-loop integration testing very prone to inadequate results and ultimately failure down the road! If Boeing actually did such MCAS software outsourcing, then *shame* on them for being such morons to do that!

    As for regulations, we can *not* have a “laissez faire” approach when serious public safety is at stake! Business corporations, being what they are, may not always have the best interests of the public at heart, under every circumstance, so regulatory agencies *do* have very important roles to play within public service industries (Boeing being in the Transportation Industries); another example is the FDA within the Foods Industries.

    About those “*” — Sorry … but I might be a bit overly “passionate” about this topic! 😛

  39. @BillC

    Airbus, Antonov, Embraer or Sukhoi – it doesn’t matter the company. If any of them did what Boeing did, relying on software to stabilise an updated design that is not really capable to aerodynamically balance and naturally handle the engine size under its wings then it wouldn’t just be Boeing getting the blame. Many of us actually used to favour Boeing seeing Airbus as the upstart.

    And all Western airline models have previously been designed for the correct size of engines so they wouldn’t be so unstable that they rely on software to avoid stalls upon take off.

    There is something very Titanic about the faith in software and human fallibility over natural design dynamics regarding the corporate culture at Boeing, the FAA and the 737 Max.

  40. @Frederik — “And all Western airline models have previously been designed for the correct size of engines so they wouldn’t be so unstable that they rely on software to avoid stalls upon take off.”

    Once again — we should *not* conflate a concept with an implementation! There is *nothing* inherently wrong with the concept of using software in the control loop to effect aircraft stability and/or enhance performance parameters. All fly-by-wire aircraft also use software this way, and modern high performance military combat aircraft can actually be designed to intentionally *not* be stable, except for flight management software that controls the aircraft’s flight laws to coerce stability — this is to make the aircraft much more agile in maneuvering during air combat situations. It is *not* a valid argument to claim that fighter pilots have an ejection seat and so his fighter can be considered “expendable” (unlike an airliner), because the F-35 costs nearly $100 Million apiece! Using *properly* designed/implemented software in the aircraft’s stability control loop is *not* as “out there” as many perceive! Besides … how do we know whether other fly-by-wire airliner manufacturers are *not* also using similar software methods, but we just don’t know about it because they did a more credible job of flight control implementation than Boeing did, with their inadequate MCAS?

    This all said … I’ve also read that one of the primary reasons for Boeing to create MCAS was to make the MAX handle like their NG models, so as to eliminate the needs to re-qualify pilots to fly the MAX vs. the NG. As has been portrayed in some technical journals, the trade offs Boeing took in choosing to employ MCAS, in concept, was *not* inherently flawed, even if their implementation came up wanting! The MAX *can* fly *without* MCAS being engaged, but it requires a different flying profile than the NG and pilots would then need to be re-trained to manage those differences (including being mindful of different “safe” operating corners in order to keep the aircraft functioning properly) … turning off MCAS meant that the pilot needed to handle the aircraft as if it had a runaway horizontal stabilizer situation and did *not* necessarily mean that the aircraft had to, therefore, “fall out of the sky!” Other pilots were able to successfully recover from prior MCAS anomalies (including the ones who piloted the same Lion Air aircraft on its immediately prior flight) because they were properly trained on how to respond to such a runaway horizontal stabilizer situation and were able to subsequently land their MAX safely!

    Not to unfairly denigrate the pilots of Lion Air and Ethiopian Air crashes, but notice that there have been *no* crashes of the MAX with the world biggest operators of this model — USA and China! However, it is totally fair to complain about Boeing *not* providing adequate training for pilots on how to handle emergency situations when MCAS is disabled! That contingency should have been covered in training under any/all circumstances!

  41. We used to have indian engineers oversea to do our codings for our products at cheap costs; however, it was very often to discover their software with alot of bugs and needed to communicate back and forth many times to get them fixed. Sometimes phone calls over internet with their broken English and accents are not understandable. Therefore, we decided to get rid of them and got everything back and do software ourselves in-house here. Until this day, we still fix some of their horrible bugs that they created in the first place.

    These indian software programmers from India that I would classify them as farmers trying to do codings as programmers. These people often have only several weeks or months of short classes or trainings before taking their jobs as programmers. They do NOT have enough Engineering backgrounds and skill-sets like those engineers graduated in the US. Of course they can do codings just like those who can read and write in English; however, the quality level is not as the same as those engineers graduated in US have. They clearly have lack of deep understandings on many levels, from engineering knowledge to reasonably logic thinking.

    The fact that Boeing outsources software development to them is a very stupid mistake in my opinion. From our experience here at our company with Indian software programmers, I will NOT put my life at risk for flying with Boeing airplanes with software outsourced to India. That is my opinion and you take it or leave it. It is to you to decide to put your trust in their hands.

  42. I believe you are right Nathan.Its not the first time I have heard company approved contractors, have a shortage of programmers, so they out source the job to over seas companies . An insider source said that while they had some brilliant programmers, there were some that just did not have enough experience of what the program entailed. A lot of companies have now gone back to using their in- house staff. There is definitely an urgent market opened up for Cobalt programmers to come to the U.S. Asap. Name your price so I hear .

  43. I accept that computer software is necessary to prevent a Eurofighter Typhoon dropping earthwards, inherent instability enhances manouverability. The last thing I would want whilst enjoying Glenmorangie on the Rocks is the pilot attempting Pugachev’s Cobra. Boeing..Wake Up. Its a civilian airliner, not a Russian Knight.

  44. @Martin J.S. – “Boeing..Wake Up. Its a civilian airliner, not a Russian Knight.”

    Just because computer software is used to control an airliner, do pilots, therefore, have to fly it like a fighter?

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