Boeing Employees Mocked Lion Air For Wanting 737 MAX Training

Filed Under: Misc.

Every day you just think that Boeing couldn’t come out of the current 737 MAX investigation looking any worse… and then they manage to find a way to top themselves.

Boeing now recommends 737 MAX simulator training

As I recently wrote about, one of the selling points of the 737 MAX when it was first being designed was that the plane didn’t require separate simulator training, meaning that existing 737 pilots could easily fly the MAX.

Boeing 737 MAX simulator

Not only are simulators incredibly costly, but simulator training is also time consuming for pilots. For example, when Boeing and Southwest negotiated the 737 MAX order years ago, Boeing stated that they would give Southwest a discount of $1 million per plane if simulator training were required.

Well, just last week Boeing recommended to the FAA that 737 MAX pilots should undergo simulator training. This recommendation came after some simulator tests were carried out in late 2019, where Boeing found that 737 MAX pilots were relying on their flying skills, rather than the correct procedures, when dealing with 737 MAX emergencies.

Boeing mocked Lion Air for wanting 737 MAX simulator training

The whole reason the 737 MAX was grounded was due to two deadly crashes, the deadliest of which was with Lion Air crash, where 189 people died. This was found to be due to inadequate training and unfamiliarity with the new MAX systems.

Well, the House committee investigating the 737 MAX has now found that in 2017 Lion Air wanted to put their pilots through simulator training before flying the 737 MAX, but Boeing talked them out of it.

How did Boeing employees feel about this? One employee wrote:

“Now friggin Lion Air might need a sim to fly the MAX, and maybe because of their own stupidity. I’m scrambling trying to figure out how to unscrew this now! idiots,”

Another employee responded:

“WHAT THE F%$&!!!! But their sister airline is already flying it!”

A couple of days after this, Boeing’s chief technical pilot for the 737 bragged:

“Looks like my jedi mind trick worked again!”

There was an attached email exchange recommending computer-based courses over simulator training, in which Boeing’s chief technical pilot for the 737 wrote:

“I am concerned that if [redacted] chooses to require a Max simulator for its pilots beyond what all other regulators are requiring that it will be creating a difficult and unnecessary training burden for your airline, as well as potentially establish a precedent in your region for other Max customers.”

Boeing 737 MAX simulator

Bottom line

Obviously I expect any company with 150,000 employees to have some bad apples. However, some of the internal Boeing communication that has been released, including among senior officials at the company, is simply unbelievable.

What does it say about a company when the chief technical pilot of one of the world’s most popular commercial aircraft is trying to play “jedi mind tricks” on airlines? And what precedent does it set when he’s openly communicating that way with others in the company?

And of course the much bigger issue is that airlines were asking for this critical training that could have saved nearly 350 lives before the planes went into service, yet Boeing talked them out of it, only to now backtrack and recommend that training.

Not that the stock market is ever a perfect reflection of what’s going on at a company, though it’s bizarre to me how little Boeing’s stock price has been impacted by the disastrous past year they’ve had, between 737 MAX issues, along with issues with their new 777X. Boeing’s stock has only fallen about 25% from its all time high, and it’s still higher than it ever was prior to 2018.

Comments
  1. Man eff Boeing….toxic company, toxic culture….they got a bit too big for their britches and they’re going to spend years playing catch-up

  2. And no matter how many simulator training the pilots go through, one still cant get around the fact that the 737 Max is aerodynamically flawed.

  3. This is looking more and more criminal by the day. Somebody(s) at Boeing needs to be sued for murder of 300+ people.

    Boeing apologists need to stop defending this company. If you think foreigners don’t deserve the “fancy advanced” aircraft Boeing made, then don’t sell to foreigners and see how long Boeing Co. can last by just selling in the US.

  4. If only you knew the kinds of emails and other stuff going on in various DoD agencies. Lots of good people but a lot of misguided ones.

  5. Is this literally how employees communicate with each other in these companies? Thank god I don’t work at such a place.

  6. @rich, forget condescending emails, forget the f the foreigners attitude. The fact that Boeing actively refused training request from Lion air, that’s beyond “people say stupid things”, that’s criminal culpability.

  7. It’s fascinating to me that in these simulator tests, these pilots—who were from American Southwest, Aeromexico, and United—relied on their experience and flying skills rather than correct procedures.

    Pilots on these airlines are some of the absolute most experienced and skilled pilots we have, often with tens of thousands of hours on commercial airliners, and also often with Air Force or Naval backgrounds before that. So the good thing is that they HAVE incredible flying skills. They have BECOME skilled, talented airmen and airwomen who can rely on those skills when an emergency arises.

    In many countries, commercial pilots, while trained and certified and for the most part perfectly capable, do not have the same experience or acquired airmanship or flying skills developed over tens of thousands of hours/military careers that pilots in more developed countries often have.

    This makes their meticulous knowledge of proper procedures that much more important. If Boeing short-changed that procedure training, then what we have are less skilled pilots who do not understand procedures as clearly as they should piloting an aircraft with built-in flaws.

  8. I deplore the loss of life and Boeing’s conduct… but come on. Isn’t it standard to talk sh*t about customers and counter parties?

    Pretty standard in finance industry. Don’t get me started talking about compliance!

  9. When will we reach the point where the Max program can be declared a failure and we all move on? Each new revelation makes it seem less and less likely a solution that makes them truly airworthy will be found. It seems the old adage that you can’t fix a hardware problem with software applies. Boeing should have just written it all off and started over… only corporate greed keeps the hope alive.

  10. Lion Air employees could go through some extra training regardless of the MAX plane issues. I wouldn’t set foot on that airline no matter which plane they’re flying.

  11. @Lucky
    Sounds like you don’t understand stocks.

    Boeing has little to worry about. They’re too big to fail, and the stock market knows this. Boeing knows this too.

    The US Government’s bailout of the Automotive and Banking industries in 2008 has set the precedence that if a company gets large enough – and/or the government relies on it enough – that the private business becomes a defacto arm of the government; meaning it will stay solvent by fiat.

    That makes investors quite happy, hence Boeing’s steady stock price. Investors know that Boeing will take a small hit in quarterlies for a short term as it writes off losses. However, there’s 0 chance that investors will lose their money in the medium/long term because any penalty that is too impactful to Boeing (and its supply chain, conveniently spread out across all 50 states), will be minimized by the government to ensure Boeing stays as a strong competitor to Airbus commercially, and Lockheed militarily.

    At worst, Boeing can always spin off their commercial aviation business to keep that stock price nice and strong.

  12. Why it has not moved further is a lot of factors; technicals of trading/pricing creates a levels of support/resistance and long-term there is still a significant order log and at some point it’s pointing towards these planes flying. Even with costs from comp to airlines for the delay and simulator cost concessions, unless they mothball all the Max planes and need to redesign other programs then from a metric perspective it’s supported.

  13. When I write a company email, I do so with the expectation it could be all over the internet tomorrow. Same with recorded messages. Business 101. Whenever I see someone with experience get caught in the trap of their own words, I really wonder about the hubris of the individual.

    Having said that, too much is on the line for Boeing, and the airline industry as whole to let this product fail. I would guess the eventually the max gets recertified , and someday I’ll be flying in it.

  14. Boeing deserve to fail. Deplorable company that has atrocious ethics. Good to see Airbus is now the largest on the world.

  15. Boeing’s stock hasn’t fallen much because investors see it as Too Big To Fail. And they’re probably right – there’s no political party that will ever take power in America that will also shut down, break up or otherwise punish severely Boeing or its executives. Why wouldn’t you invest in a company that never will be allowed to collapse?

  16. @Hans you misinterpreted what I was saying. I mean to say that Boeing was negligent by producing a plane for which it is imperative that less experienced pilots follow procedure to a T (because they potentially don’t have the flying skills of pilots in more developed countries), and then not actually providing adequate training.

    If very experienced AND less experienced pilots don’t know the proper procedures, at least the former have their flying skills to fall back on. Others are left with a machine Boeing insisted they can learn to fly with a couple iPad modules.

    That’s negligent.

  17. @DMPHL It depends on the type of military pilot, times have changed. Airlines generally are fine with jet transport pilots. They do not like fighter pilots, and they traditionally have been harder to adjust.

    First, they never build the skills to handle a complex multi-pilot cockpit with things like CRM. Second, fighters are actually really easy to fly, fly-by-wire covers up poor handling characteristics, you can power out of many situations, you have centerline thrust, often one engine, etc. Third, fighter pilots have a mission completion mindset, not a conservative safety one.

    Really, there are inherent aerodynamic compromises that airliners make that other aircraft can avoid. The moment you sweep the wings, stalls become nasty, which is at the center of this whole MAX debacle.

  18. everythings been priced in. stonks only go up, Lucky

    if you spent more time trading stocks than understanding the definitely more complicated intricacies and complexities of the airmiles game, you’d be a bazillionaire

  19. Before we hang Boeing for the rude emails, we should know what the simulator training would have covered. It might not have covered certain MCAS malfunctions just as some driver’s education doesn’t always cover skidding on ice.

  20. So naive! It’s incredibly normal for companies to “Jedi mind trick” their customers – why on Earth do you think marketing departments exist? To provide a public service?

    I’m not concerned by mind tricks, but what the goal with the mind tricks are. In this case it was to promote dangerous practice to protect profits. Completely reprehensible. I wonder whether that pilot is feeling any personal guilt right now – blaming himself for the deaths of hundreds. If he has any conscience at all he should be (even if the simulator training probably wouldn’t have changed anything – he couldn’t know for sure).

  21. Even if Boeing had offered simulator training, it wouldn’t have been to recover from an out of control MCAS system (which Boeing never publicly admitted there was a problem with, at least after the first crash) .

    Yes this makes for a compelling headline, but the lack of Boeing provides simulator training is unlikely to have had any impact on the results of the two crashes.

  22. James – how do you know that?

    I’m happy to be corrected by someone who knows how they work, but do simulators not test what pilots would do when something goes wrong? For example, if a sensor stops working? Boeing may not specifically teach MCAS in the simulator, but surely there are some scenarios where it could become apparent to the pilots it exists? As a layman, if that doesn’t happen it strikes me as a huge training flaw.

    Or are you claiming Boeing would have disabled MCAS in the simulators?

  23. The main problem with Boeing’s attitude is that they expect the civilian pilots to be as good as military fighter pilots. While the US has a humongous Air Force and trains thousands of fighter pilots (in turn meaning that a large majority of US Airplane pilots have military flight experience) this is not true of the rest of the world. A civilian aircraft shuold not need fighter pilot level skills to fly, it should be flyable by a civilian pilot. Part of this hapens because most of Boeing’s business is the military so their Engineers adopt the attitudes of their biggest client . Boeing needs to be broken up to separate the military and civilian parts into separate companies to fix this attitude issue

  24. @Callum Its been found that the 737 Max simulators were flawed and did not model a MCAS failure properly . So the simulator training might have been moot anyway. What I am more worried about is that whether Boeing knew they were behind on the simulator and did not want to wait for the simulator to be ready and instead pushed for Airlines to not buy the simulator.

  25. This whole episode is leaving with a deep preference for Airbus. The Boeing corporate culture leaves me, the passenger, feeling that my safety is very low on Boeing’s list of priorities. While I enjoyed flying on the MAX, I will be actively avoiding it in the future. Boeing : designed by

  26. @Daniel

    Sure, Daniel. Just blame the dead victims who died horribly in flames. It’s ALL their fault.
    Nice attitude you got there, buddy. You’ll go far in life, I’m sure.

  27. Arrogance and over confidence. Lion Air has one of the largest Boeing fleets in the world. Talking about a customer in such fashion is disgusting. It displays everything America should not stand for.

    Anyway, as the design flaw is not fixed, the 737 Max won’t be approved to fly again.

  28. Looking forward to seeing fly18725 spin misinformation as usual on FT

    Truly amazing what the UA forum moderator let’s him get away with

  29. ” However, some of the internal Boeing communication that has been released, including among senior officials at the company, is simply unbelievable.” – sadly in some of the biggest companies this is how they behave behind closed doors.

  30. Thinking through this entire scenario it amplifies an organizational concept called “group think”.

    The whole Boeing community knew they were smarter than anyone and that they had done a marvelous job in creating such a brilliant extension of the 737 platform.

    Everybody knew that there was nothing wrong and so all of the negative criticism was dismissed arbitrarily.

    At this point it is abundantly clear that reality has struck Boeing and that from now on we can only hope they will recover and fix all the problems. I think the MAX is salvageable but the length of time this is taking either speaks to delays created by bureaucracy or that there may be more problems that have come to light.

    When the MAX returns to service the least they can do is reconfigure the cabin to make it more comfortable. As it was I would avoid the max because of poor seating and washrooms. Too little space for too many passengers. A great advertising ploy would be to advertise huge improvements to passenger comfort – EK offers piss poor comfort but overcomes it by offering 600 channels of entertainment and free booze for every passenger. The MAX will have to offer better comfort, like AA did in the 90’s with their “longest legroom in the sky” campaign.

  31. Boeing was one of the most respected companies in the world. How did they manage to F%$&!!!! up their culture so much and how do you ever recover?

  32. @derik
    Before we hang Boeing for the emails and after a court verdict, we should hang the executives and top guns behind Boeing’s murderous acts in a public square and broadcast it live to the world.

  33. Everyone here keeps talking about the ethical and moral voids in Boeing , and rightfully so, however its over-reliance on cheap non union workers create a quality issue too. Its not just about design but rather, are these airplanes airworthy? Do i need to see which plant assembled the plane im riding? Being so anti union and focus on costs only has made Boeing into GM. Determined to rid the company , ultimately, of organized labor.

    And to those whi believe the TBTF crap, when the market crashes , no government has the money to prop up the Dow let alone the rest.

  34. It’s not uncommon to verbally convince reluctant customers. But holding your customers in contempt is, at best, problematic.

    I was never even close to C suite. But I worked in strategy for a major financial corporation. Taking a dump on customers, at least post-crash, was not considered a positive quality. Respecting your customers and earning business was.

    So, IMHO, it’s as bad as it seems when top officers laugh about duping customers and call them stupid. At the very least, it means that customer is going to cost you more $$$ or leave when they find out. And they find out more than you think, since employee/executive turnover in sales organizations is >0%.

  35. Maybe Boeing needs to kill the MAX program and go back to building 737 NGs and start from scratch on a replacement.

  36. At the time these were written, the authors believed that there was no need for training. Had the MCAS been designed properly that would have been the case. Spare me the mock outrage. We all write things that are a bit crass when communicating in private or speaking in private. We’ve all done it. To judge this in the context of the accidents is not fair – they didn’t know this was coming. James C, the 737 is not “aerodynamically flawed”. ALL commercial aircraft use software to overcome handling issues. Every single one. If they are conventional controlled they use Mach trim compensation, yaw damping, sometimes a flap-stab trim interconnect and there are other schemes to over come what you are calling “aerodynamic flaws”. If they are a modern fly by wire airplane the entire handling is done through software! This has been done for over half a century and if done properly it is perfectly safe. But for some bizarre reason Boeing screwed it up. The Max, with its current engine, and a properly designed MCAS system will be a perfectly safe aircraft that will meet all the certification requirements. I’ve been certifying airplanes for almost 3 decades and once they get it fixed I will happily fly on a Max without a care in the world.

  37. HMMM, 40000+ flights over a two year period. Nothing, zilch, nada. So this issue either never occurred in that time, OR, the issue was corrected, as it was by a third seat pilot on one of the planes. I’ve been on two of those 40000 flights and apparently it never happened on those.

  38. @scott

    And a sterling job you and your colleagues did certifying the 737Max. Great job! Well done. LOL. So spare us your self-serving rant.

  39. People I know from Boeing said the company was bought by the money guys and the safety culture was ruined. They were waiting for a disaster to happen. So it finally did.

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