Uh Oh: Damning Boeing 737 MAX Text Messages

Filed Under: Misc.

With the 737 MAX having been grounded globally since March, and with no real indication as to when the plane will be back in the sky, you’d think things couldn’t get much worse for Boeing.

Well, yesterday things got much worse for Boeing. What happened?

The Terrible Boeing 737 MAX Messages

Yesterday some instant messages from November 6, 2016, were revealed, between Mark Forkner, the 737 MAX’s chief technical pilot at the time, and his colleague, Rick Ludtke, a former Boeing engineering employee.

This conversation happened about four months before the FAA certified the 737 MAX in the first place, and unfortunately it points to very similar issues to what ended up downing two 737 MAX aircraft.

In general the conversation has a lot of things they probably wouldn’t want public, like:

  • “nah, I’m locked in my hotel room with an ice cold grey goose, I’ll probably fire off a few dozen inappropriate emails before I call it a night”
  • “I’d ask for a job in sales where I can just get paid to drink with customers and lie about how awesome our airplanes are”

But the real issue here pertains to problems with the plane, in particular the MCAS:

  • “there are still some real fundamental issues that they claim they’re aware of”
  • “MCAS is now active down to M2. It’s running rampant in the sim on me, at least that’s what Vince thinks is happening.”
  • “so I basically lied to the regulators (unknowingly)”
  • “I’m levelling off at 4000ft, 230 knots and the plane is trimming itself like craxy, I’m like, WHAT?”
  • “granted, I suck at flying, but even this was egregious”
  • “they’re all so damn busy, and getting pressure from the program”

All of these messages are of course really, really bad. This is such a big deal because these are the first publicly known observations that the MCAS was acting strangely during testing before the plane ever entered service.

Then There’s The Cover-Up

The added problem is that Boeing apparently didn’t share these messages with regulators for quite a long time. This has caused regulators to write a letter to Boeing demanding an explanation:

“Last night, I reviewed a concerning document that Boeing provided late yesterday to the Department of Transportation. I understand that Boeing discovered the document in its files months ago. I expect your explanation immediately regarding the content of this document and Boeing’s delay in disclosing the document to its safety regulator.”

Following this being made public, Forkner’s lawyer has said the following:

“The simulator was not reading right and had to be fixed to fly like the real plane.”

This suggests that there was a problem with the simulator rather than with the plane as such, though that seems questionable. That’s especially true when you consider Forkner said how they were getting “pressure from the program,” and also that there did end up being a real MCAS issue with the 737 MAX.

What Are The Real Implications Of This?

What remains to be seen is what the real life implications are of this revelation. This is the first known reference to problems with the MCAS, but what does that actually mean for the 737 MAX, and its return to service?

There are two parts of this — both that this was known before the plane was ever certified, and also that Boeing has apparently kept these messages from regulators for months. With that in mind:

  • Could Boeing be facing massive fines for their negligence here?
  • Could this greatly increase the compensation claims that airlines can legitimately make with Boeing?
  • Could this impact the timeline with which the 737 MAX will return to service?

One thing that’s for sure is that this harms public trust in the 737 MAX even more. These messages suggest Boeing knew about the MCAS problems before the plane ever entered commercial service, and if that’s the case, then… wow.

We know that the FAA is taking their time with certifying the plane, but will this slow things down even further?

Unsurprisingly, Boeing stock was down nearly 7% yesterday.

How big of a deal do you think this latest revelation is?

  1. Boeing is still not taking this seriously. That CEO should be fired.

    The 737 Max will not fly again. Hardware design flaws cannot be rectified by manipulating ome software.
    Boeing took a shortcut and has lost the bet.

    Apart from the 737 they better fix the quality control on the 787 as well. Airlines are finding too many issues on new planes.

  2. “One thing that’s for sure is that this harms public trust in the 737 MAX even more” .. Sorry but trust in Boeing & the FAA here is the issue …

    I’m old enough to remember when Boeing built products and the FAA were considered the Gold Standard in Aviation. Not any more!

  3. The bosses at VW got jail time for lying about emissions. If Boeing gets away with just fines and nobody does hard time over this massive coverup, something is serioudly wrong.

  4. @Ron.
    I hope you are right and the B737Max will never fly another minute.
    Recently I had a future flight scheduled for a B737-8 and then the aircraft changed to the B737Max. When I noticed, I immediately called the airline and asked for a flight change.
    Even if the B737Max returns to service, I don’t ever intend to fly on this aircraft again.

  5. Boeing need to start considering do they want to be an aircraft builder at all ? As obviously the profits aren’t high enough – they can become like BAE and just cherry pick the stuff with a high enough ROCE.

    Just remember where the Airbus CEO had sold his shares before announcing delays to in service date of the A380 – he was fired immediately (maybe as the Boeing board are being paid immense director’s fees they don’t want to possibly bring in someone who may reduce those fees).

  6. Sounds familiar… expect the same smoke and mirrors from BOEING

    “Union Carbide India Limited, owned by Union Carbide (50.9%) and Indian investors (49.1%), operated a pesticide plant in the Indian city of Bhopal. Around midnight on 3 December 1984, methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas was accidentally released from the plant, exposing more than 500,000 people to MIC and other chemicals. The government of Madhya Pradesh confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release. It left an estimated 40,000 individuals permanently disabled, maimed, or suffering from serious illness, making it one of the world’s worst industrial disasters. Union Carbide was sued by the Government of India and agreed to an out-of-court settlement of US$470 million in 1989. The plant site has not yet been cleaned up. Warren Anderson, CEO at the time of the disaster, and Carbide refused to answer to homicide charges and remained fugitives from India’s courts. The U.S. denied several extradition requests. Anderson died on 29 September 2014 in Florida. Seven Indian employees of Union Carbide were convicted of criminal negligence in 2010 and fined $2,000 each. In 1982, Carbide’s auditors warned of a possible ‘runaway reaction’. Carbide insisted the accident was an act of sabotage by a rogue worker.”

  7. The news for Boeing keeps getting worse. How have senior heads not rolled, it’s unbelievable. They should be going to Boeing HQ with handcuffs and get these people arrested until the full truth comes out. It’s one thing to make a major mistake, another to cover it up.

  8. I am with this crowd, to say the least. I have always said that we only live once and I am tired of hearing when the 737 MAX is coming back to service!!! The CEO should have been fired from day 1 after the crashes!! Instead, this A$$ho decided not to resign when interviewed. The CEO is all about money first $$$$. To make this worse, Trump had suggested to rename the aircraft? WTF?

    Also, I am surprised that airlines like American, United, Southwest etc…never switched to Airbus? Another WTF? This is why Delta is kicking there A$$!!! YES!

  9. There better damn well be arrests made for gross negligence. Chief Pilot, Chief Engineer, and later on hopefully Chief Executive Officer.

  10. Naive question perhaps, but is it possible to ‘convert’ the MAX back to a regular 737-800/900?
    In other words, if the problem was solely being driven by the MCAS, can they remove that component, and install whatever the non-MAX 737s use?

    Regardless, this is terrible news for Boeing, both factually and optically.

  11. If the text messages are about the simulator, then they are not particularly relevant to the investigation.
    Essentially, once the issues with MCAS are fixed (multiple sensors, proper pilot training), this plane is going to be as safe as any other, so it’s irrational to say you won’t fly it or to take it out of service. There’s nothing wrong in principle with installing MCAS on a plane, the problem is when pilots don’t know about it, and when a single malfunctioning sensor of the angle of attack can activate MCAS. Pilots need to know every piece of software that assists them in flying the plane, and also need to know what can go wrong with it.
    When Boeing 737 first entered service, they had tons of issues and there were multiple crashes also, so I’m not sure it’s true that Boeing was ever the gold standard of safety.
    Stepping into a Boeing 737MAX, as it is now, before the fix, is still so much safer statistically than stepping into a car just about anywhere in the world, that I would not hesitate to fly it even as is, let alone once these problems are fixed. Obviously they need to make fixes and Boeing’s management has to be held accountable for their negligence — but after that, there is no reason (except superstition) that these planes should not fly again. I already have tickets booked on 737MAX flights and am more worried about the car rides to the airport than about these flights. (I also still fly Malaysia Airlines by the way)

  12. I don’t mean to suggest that what Boeing did was not serious or negligent – it was! Just that from everything I have read the planes itself can still be fixed and will be fine once they are.
    @Nathan: Union Carbide later rebranded itself Monsanto by the way, and their ethics have not improved much.

  13. It’s time Boeing stopped building the MAX and started scrapping the ones that haven’t been delivered then they can have returned all the ones that have been delivered for scrap.

    I won’t either be booking anything on the 779.

    So, if it’s a Boeing, I’m not going.

  14. These flying coffins might get approval to fly again in the USA ( although not anytime soon), but it’s increasingly unlikely they’ll ever fly in the more professional and better regulated aviation markets. We’re more likely to see a comeback of Concorde or the Spruce Goose.

  15. I never liked the B737, as I think the A320 family is much better. By the way, I loved the B727. I never understood Boeing, why they didn´t choose the B757 for Versions like -700, -800, -900 and -ER versions, which I found a perfect plane over the B737. The B757 would be perfect to compare over with a A320. Don´t get me wrong, I don´t like A vs. B issue, since I think both plane makers have excellent planes. I love to of fly A380/B747/B777, B787/A350, A320/B757

    But Boeing and the FAA are jeopardizing their reputation. Since I lived in Washington State I still love Boeing, and I still remember my many visits at Boeing.

  16. @at

    “Going back” to a previous version of the 737 while keeping the new engines (a major selling point) would require the same costly re-engineering that should have been done in the first place but wasn’t. The MCAS was to compensate for the changes to the handling characteristics of the plane due to the new, larger engines and how they were positioned on the wing. The MCAS will go down in history as a textbook example of deadly corner cutting.

  17. Lucky, Boeing shouldn’t be facing “massive fines”, it should face criminal prosecution for murder, including all managers and executives involved in this massive cover up. The shareholders should be wiped out and all 737 Max’s scrapped.

    The plane is not flightworthy and cannot be made flightworthy. Software will not fix the engine placement that caused the problem.

    Also note the replacement of dozens of engines on Air Baltic’s A220 fleet.

    To much focus on profits, and not enough on engineering and safety.

    I will never fly on a 737 Max.

  18. Sadly If the flight price is cheap enough for passengers and they earn a lot of miles
    The majority won’t care if it’s a former drowned valujet that was once underwater in a swamp nor will they even be aware
    Obviously the more educated and well read will likely care
    Unfortunately the industry is obsessed with profits over quality and safety and that is incredibly sad as it is deeply disappointing

  19. At this point if it ever does end up flying I would go out of my way NOT to fly it. Seems like Boeing is just another corrupt greedy corporation that will to risk lives to make a buck. Very sad indeed.

  20. The amount of ignorance in the comments, and hyperbole in the reporting, is astonishing.

    Every modern passenger airplane has software to compensate for aerodynamic deficiencies. If you want an airplane without software, you probably shouldn’t fly.

    The MAX is not inherently unstable or unairworthy without MCAS. However, MCAS – or software with similar functionality- is required to certify the airplane.

    There were mistakes in how MCAS was designed and implemented. There continues to be open questions about how and why Boeing and the FAA allowed this to happen. That is why the DOJ and Congress are investigating. The origination of the issue has no bearing on the safety of the aircraft after it has been fixed.

    Firing people without determining how and where the problems originated is an overreaction. What’s probably better is that Boeing’s CEO leaves after the problem is fixed, though it is worth pointing out he wasn’t CEO during the development of the MAX.

  21. @Joe – Well said, and yes the mob is ready to burn the place down and ask questions later.

  22. There is no more protected class from being fired from gross incompetence than public company CEO and their BOD with their padded compensation, benefits and pensions for going along with the CEO. The culture at Boeing has changed. And we are busy destroying the institutions that commanded global respect like the FAA. Caveat emptor

  23. If wasn’t China, 737 MAX may never be grounded. Politicians and capitalists don’t care about passenger life but just money.

  24. What I don’t understand is why Boeing stock is still trading for three times its price in February 2016. Must be the advantage of playing in a duopoly.

  25. This is so disgusting.

    If VW executives faced jail time over ignoring environmental standards… Boeing executives should be facing years and years of prison time.

    Regardless of how you feel about climate change, the VW executives did not kill anyone with their cheater devices. The Boeing executives actually did by failing to follow safety standards. That is the difference.

  26. @Trey, if the DOJ, FAA or other investigators determine there was willful ignorance or intentional avoidance of safety standards, there may (and should) be prosecutions of the responsible parties at Boeing. However, it would be difficult to prove criminal negligence and jail someone since it is apparent mistakes at the airlines contributed to the accidents. We don’t really know enough to say conclusively.

  27. Here we go AGAIN! Too many are IGNORANTLY and NAIVELY indicting the CONCEPT of MCAS rather than the FLAWED ways that certain groups in Boeing’s management chose to IMPLEMENT it! Name me ONE modern-day aircraft (commercial or military) that does NOT use software in its flight control systems?

    Do NOT conflate a valid CONCEPT with a bad IMPLEMENTATION!

    These new texting revelations actually VINDICATE what I keep saying about “unknown unknowns” when it comes to deploying new products (ie, aircraft in this case) into revenue service — the difference here is that one of those “unknown unknowns” turned out to be TOTAL incompetence and criminal neglect by certain groups within Boeing management that short-changed MCAS robustness in their decision-making, as pointed out by some Boeing Engineering “whistleblowers”! There is NO EXCUSE for those Boeing managers with their bad decisions that undercut their #1 priority of SAFETY in developing airliners! They MUST be held accountable!

    This said — everyone needs to understand that, fortunately, due to the nature of this problem with MCAS being predominantly SOFTWARE in nature, there ARE credible paths towards SAFELY reinstating PROPER and ROBUST functionality back into the MCAS CONCEPT by modifying the software architecture and coding! It doesn’t look like much needs to be done in the way of any hardware alterations, so everyone should be reassured that, with PROPER Quality Assurance (ie, WITHOUT any short-cutting of SAFETY criteria) in the re-certification process, the MAX will be able to function as SAFELY as any other airliner out there today!

    The most recent feedback from test pilots using the updated MCAS software fixes have already been positive in nature!

    As for those who now want to PILE ON about the B787, you need provide bona fide DETAILS (NOT rumors) of what your concern(s) are! The teething issues with B787 Li-ion batteries have already been successfully and safely resolved, so do NOT use that example!

    Regarding “unknown unknowns” and the brand new Airbus A350, I’m sure that there will NOT be ANY repercussions to THIS emergency safety action notice (ie, NO calls to GROUND that aircraft to get fixes installed ASAP) —


    From the article —

    “Airlines including Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways are amongst those using a model of aircraft the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has warned could catch fire.

    The regulatory body issued an emergency directive for a software update to all airlines using the A350-941s.

    EASA warned a ‘chain of errors’ in the system could lead to a fire in the fuel tanks of the Airbus A350-941 aircraft.

    The Cologne, Germany-based agency explained an issue could occur if one of the hydraulic pumps in the cooling system stopped functioning and the cooling liquid overheated. Reuters have said this could lead to an ‘explosion’.” —

    Did everyone notice the SOFTWARE fix mentioned in the article? Imagine the ensuing outcries if, heaven forbid, such an incident resulted in a brand new Airbus A350 exploding while flying along at 35,000 feet across the middle of some ocean? Where are the protests to GROUND the A350 until this FLAW gets properly FIXED?

    Oh … hopefully that flaw got transparently fixed with some SOFTWARE patches WITHOUT all of the negative publicity surrounding it? So WHY can’t MCAS get fixed in the same manner? Too many Boeing HATERS in this world?

    [NOTE — I’m referring ONLY to the TECHNICAL aspects of using SOFTWARE to fix such issues and *NOT* diminishing the seriousness of actual crashes that have resulted in unfortunate loss of lives!]

  28. Every engineering student does a case study on the Challenger explosion. I believe that the 737Max is the new Challenger of our time.

  29. As more & more facts emerge,it’s quite clear that these crashes were not because of “Poor third world training “,as was bandied about by large numbers on this forum.
    Aviation crashes generally have small beginnings & then a seemingly unstoppable momentum towards tragic crashes.

    Unfortunately some aircraft types are blighted,by design flaws;DC-10 cargo doors,Comet square windows,Electra wings, B737-200 & early 300’s/400’s & 500’s
    Rudder actuators & the list goes on.Some recover & go on to sell many units others are discarded,& fade into history

    We have acquired a wealth of knowledge in the design,& construction of aircraft & yet the desire to take shortcuts & save a buck has never left us.

    There we all go but for the grace of God

  30. We don’t know much about the texts just that they were sent. Its a modern way of venting. Every program I have worked on, people would bitch. Most people were smart enough to verbally bitch not use electronics.

  31. This will go down as a textbook case of bean counters and business types running roughshod over product engineering.

  32. “I wonder how many incriminating texts are out there about other planes like AirBus?”

    Probably plenty. None of which will be of any consequence to Boeing.

  33. All those complaining about capitalism, sorry to burst your bubble. There is no utopian system. Compare all of the innovations and quality of life advancements coming from the two systems. It’s not even close. Put another way, look at the places people are fleeing from and going to and the systems they live under.

    The system is fine. The people responsible for this need to be held accountable.

  34. The industry plant Fly18725 is defending Boeing as usual on the UA FT forum – spineless UA mods as usual let everything overly pro-UA go through and suspend the criticizers

  35. @Joe @BillC

    Thanks for the elaborations but I’m afraid you missed the point. Nobody expects planes to fly without software. Most people however expect manufacturers to do a decent job. And that has not been done here.
    Boeing got themselves in a rush as they had failed to innovate and a particular huge AA order was about to go to Airbus. Boeing, in order to match fuel efficiency of Airbus, had to mount bigger and heavier engines. However instead of coming up with a new frame, or at least redesigning the 50 year old 737 frame, they didn’t. Instead they just mounted the heavier engines, badly affecting the gravity and balance of the 50 year old frame, and then hoped to recover the balance by using corrective software. Hence my statement that hardware flaws cannot be compensated by software.

    On the 787, take a look at the many complaints from SQ, KLM and Etihad about the lack of quality, loose parts, free hanging wires, missing connectors etc. It is a well known fact that US quality standards are quite below European quality standards and far below Japanese and Korean standards. Look at eg the car industry. US cars are lightyears behind European and Asian cars in terms of quality and drivability.
    While for a car it is hugely unpleasant if you end up with a lousy one, safety standards for aircrafts should be a total no compromise. Thus Boeing should not have allowed quality control lapses in their 787 plants, but they did. My sense is Boeing management has gone for greed instead of safety.

    As Paolo made clear, Boeing might be able to lean on FAA to get their WMD’s back in the sky, but FAA has lost so much credibility that no other regulator will follow FAA anymore as they used to do. The 737Max will not be back in the sky outside US. Moreover, airlines still insisting these things are likely going to find themselves looking at mostly empty planes.

    The wise thing for Boeing to do is to finally take full responsibility, kill 737Max production, develop a proper new plane up to the standards they used to have and try to match Airbus quality and comfort. And they better get up to speed as it won’t be long before the Chinese come up with their own competitive planes.

  36. I remember when the A3xx series was introduced there were a number of prangs in India, supposedly related the new fly-by-wire software. Airbus convinced everyone that It was pilot error and apparently fixed the problem. They were never grounded.

    I will believe that the max will fly and that It will not have related problems in the future. I might even fly one.

    Too much hysteria for my ysstr

  37. B O E I N G
    Bring On Extended Industry No Go’s

    Swing wing supersonic 300 seater, to kill Concorde sales. Never Flew
    747-100/200 Losing engines for a year after service
    779 swing wing tips! see above

    Rush to market, is pretty par for the course in any industry, but doing it via safety cuts or impossible engineering, beggars belief.

    This puts me in mind of Comet, which had two crashes. The difference here is that, at the time, no one knew about the issues of metal fatigue, so after the first it was put back into service.

    Knowing = condoning.

    IMOH head, or heads must roll.

  38. We may see more 737 Max 10 who have the extended landing gear and thus the engine at the right spot, rendering MCAS largely unnecessary?

  39. @KJ — “As more & more facts emerge,it’s quite clear that these crashes were not because of ‘Poor third world training’, as was bandied about by large numbers on this forum.”

    NOT Correct! In a prior post on another thread, I had disclosed that the MAX already had something like 500,000 successful flights behind it before those 2 unfortunate crashes occurred! Recall that this type of MCAS failure manifests like a runaway horizontal stabilizer and all competent pilots have long been TRAINED to handle such situations with SUCCESS! There HAVE been reports by other pilots that “screwy” behavior DID occur, and those should have been reported to Boeing for investigations and remedies, but notice that NONE of those other incidents resulted in crashes! Furthermore, the amounts of experience the pilots of the crashed planes had CAN be brought up for consideration because —

    #1. With the Lion Air crash, the same flaky behavior manifested in its immediately prior flight and was noted by those pilots … nevertheless they recovered and landed safely

    #2. With the Ethiopian Air crash, it is well known that the airline has been expanding very rapidly and was having difficulties recruiting enough experienced pilots to meet their flight requirements … some have stated that the co-pilot had merely a couple hundred hours of cockpit time before being dispatched on revenue flights

    Now … with 500,000 successful flights, if there weren’t ways to recover from MCAS “screwy” behavior, wouldn’t fatal crashes have already occurred much earlier? We can all fault Boeing for NOT being much quicker to respond to reports of anomalous behavior from MCAS, but we also have to credit those pilots who had flown around 500,000 flights for being able to duly complete those successfully!

    So we CAN say that Boeing did NOT do proper EXECUTION in their implementation a TOTALLY VALID CONCEPT with MCAS, but the pilots that were already able to fly around 500,000 flights successfully tells us that the situation could have been mitigated in a more timely manner by Boeing adopting a more pro-active attitude towards investigating anomalous flight behavior and addressing those issues much earlier to POTENTIALLY preclude those 2 most unfortunate crashes from occurring!
    @Ron — “However instead of coming up with a new frame, or at least redesigning the 50 year old 737 frame, they didn’t. Instead they just mounted the heavier engines, badly affecting the gravity and balance of the 50 year old frame, and then hoped to recover the balance by using corrective software. Hence my statement that hardware flaws cannot be compensated by software. … The wise thing for Boeing to do is to finally take full responsibility, kill 737Max production, develop a proper new plane up to the standards they used to have and try to match Airbus quality and comfort. And they better get up to speed as it won’t be long before the Chinese come up with their own competitive planes.” —

    You wanted Boeing to develop a NEW design from scratch to meet the already-imminent threat of a major contract from AA to go to Airbus? That can take 6+ years (B787 took 7 years) to get from program launch, design, test, and certification before production? Boeing WAS caught flat-footed by Airbus going the NEO route (shame on Boeing, since they DID KNOW that Airbus was going to do that), and HAD to come up with an evolved upgrade to its venerable B737 family in order to meet market window timeframes! As I also posted in another earlier thread, Boeing, at that time, had 3 choices —

    #1. Do NOTHING and let Airbus run away with that market segment

    #2. Develop a brand NEW design and end up LOSING that market segment ANYWAY due to lack of an available and timely response against Airbus

    #3. Modify the existing B737 with a new and more efficient engine to counter-punch against Airbus immediately

    It’s too easy for so many who do NOT engage in Engineering Development activities to just sit back and do Monday-morning quarterbacking in claiming that Boeing should have developed a brand new design from scratch, rather than modifying the existing B737, because they have no appreciation of the complexities and costs/timings of aircraft design/development, fickle airline markets, and relevant finances/economics involved, thereof …

    Speaking of using software to mitigate “new” issues from using existing airframes — did you hear about how Airbus has to ALSO use SOFTWARE to fix recently disclosed issues with Center-of-Gravity (CoG) on their A320NEO aircraft? Airlines have been configuring their passenger cabin seating arrangements and managed to deviate outside of original Airbus CoG design parameters! The NEO also uses larger more powerful engines … want to guess whether those new engines might have had SOME impacts upon their recent CoG issues?

    As for China’s C919, that’s obviously taking a VERY long time to progress because it’s their first attempt at developing a “mainline” airliner (ie, NOT a “regional” airliner), so I wouldn’t consider that one to be any global contender anytime soon!
    @Ron — “On the 787, take a look at the many complaints from SQ, KLM and Etihad about the lack of quality, loose parts, free hanging wires, missing connectors etc. It is a well known fact that US quality standards are quite below European quality standards and far below Japanese and Korean standards.” —

    Yes … I believe that those were the result of early production “teething” problems arising from a new startup factory line to build B787s in South Carolina. Such issues should have been resolved by now, right? No more such complaints?

  40. @Johnny — “B O E I N G — Bring On Extended Industry No Go’s” —

    How about also “Bad Operational Executions Inflicting No Good”? 😛

  41. In their fight to usurp there rival (Airbus) Boeing have taken too many risks and oblivious to the ramifications they have put a killer aircraft into the skies which depends solely on a computer program/software to keep it flying correctly without doing any major modifications to the mainframe of the 737. How can the Airline Industry allow this to happen??

  42. I will try to avoid Boeing aircraft in the future if I can. I think its justified. They are trying to cut to many corners due to the pressure imposed on them from Airbus

  43. Years ago when I read that China was building a single aisle jet to compete against Boeing and Airbus, I thought no one will fly a Chinese made jet. However, Boeing has lowered the bar and due to their own greed has opened the door to make China a direct competitor. All China has to do is not have 2 crashes in the first 2 years of service and they will have a better record than Boeing.

  44. @Vinod Mirchandani — “In their fight to usurp there rival (Airbus) Boeing have taken too many risks and oblivious to the ramifications they have put a killer aircraft into the skies which depends solely on a computer program/software to keep it flying correctly without doing any major modifications to the mainframe of the 737.”

    Please read my prior posts above about this topic since this issue has already been beaten upon at length!

    But, in a nutshell, virtually ALL aircraft flying today, commercial or military, rely on SOFTWARE to keep it flying at all (correctly or incorrectly)! The public is just UN-informed about this reality and hence ass-umes that using software directly in flight control system operations loops is somehow inherently unsafe — a TOTALLY WRONG ass-umption!

    Even all of the Airbus aircraft use software prolifically within their flight control system operations loops to keep their aircraft flying!

  45. @James — “China has to do is not have 2 crashes in the first 2 years of service and they will have a better record than Boeing.” —

    ROFLMAO! So you think that the long-standing reputation from all of the successful commercial airliners that Boeing has built over the past DECADES can simply be wiped out by these 2 unfortunate incidents that occurred with the MAX? You can ONLY say that China MIGHT have a better record (how would we know for real?) with respect to the initial MAX implementation, but NO MORE than that!

    Good grief!

  46. @BillC — Lets not withhold the facts. The MCAS software is only needed because the new position of the engines causes the Max to have aerodynamic instability at high thrust settings when the noise is high, leading to an increased risk of a stall.

    No other commercial airplane on the market requires software to correct for this issue.

    Yes, Airbus and newer Boeing airframes have software to assist the pilots and to keep them from putting the plane into a dangerous situation. Good example is Sully, when landing on the Hudson, the Airbus keep the plane from stalling and dropping one wing into the water when he applied full back pressure on the side stick; thus preventing the all to common cartwheel during water landings. But this “software” on Airbus’ can be switched off with a single button click, thus giving the pilots alternate law controls (i.e. no software override).

    My personal opinion. Should Boeing redesign the Max and engine positions: yes. Will they: no. Will this hurt them in the long run when China comes into the world stage with airframe manufacturing: yes. This sort term shortcut and design flaw will lead to short term profits but long term losses. Yeah for unregulated capitalism (regulated capitalism is good; unregulated capitalism leads to this).

  47. Media and especially bloggers know little to nothing about actual aviation. These texts are being blown way out of proportion by people who have no industry knowledge. Isn’t this a points blog… just stick to the topics. Don’t be the media. No one likes the media.

  48. If plane is not fixed , 40 Bn$ in just customer refunds and almost 30 Bn$ I white tail write-offs. They have 22 Bn$ cash and receivables but owe 92 Bn$ in short term debt.

    Plane will fly.

  49. As I said before and as @Gus mentioned Union Carbide renamed as Monsanto and moved on in a corrupt unregulated way. A few minions took the fall. Mention Bhopal now and people go huh?Look at the RoundUp cancer issues.. still corrupt and unregulated…
    Boeing will rename the MAX, it will fly again and will continue to cut corners driven by profit and a few minions will take the fall..

  50. @CirrusFlyer — “Lets not withhold the facts. The MCAS software is only needed because the new position of the engines causes the Max to have aerodynamic instability at high thrust settings when the noise is high, leading to an increased risk of a stall.

    No other commercial airplane on the market requires software to correct for this issue.” —

    Once *Again* — you’re conflating a *Bad Implementation* vs. a perfectly *Valid Concept*! It *Is* common to use *Software* to help augment aircraft stability that otherwise will make the aircraft unflyable! Notice that the new Airbus 320NEO now must also use *Software* to fix a Center-of-Gravity (CoG) issue that arose after entering revenue operations! As we all know, if the CoG gets too much out-of-wack, the aircraft *Will* become unstable and potentially crash, as evidenced by prior crashes of some improperly balanced air freighters!

    Furthermore, the concept of using software and fly-by-wire controls to coerce stability is *Not* new at all, since this is the way that military fighters are often designed — to be as close to the unstable edge as possible, and some even go beyond, in order to make the aircraft more maneuverable! Notice that the F-16 *Must* rely on such a process in order to even be able to fly! And look how successful it has been for decades and decades, even in over-stressed military environments!

    So the idea that the MAX could *Not* be designed/developed to use *Software* to coerce stability is *Not Correct* — we can fault Boeing’s deficient *Implementation* but the underlying *Concept* behind MCAS is totally *Valid* to apply! And just because no other airliner uses such a technique is *Not* a valid reason to *Not* apply this, should external time schedule and marketing requirements so dictate! Otherwise, we would *Never* get any “innovations” to occur, if everyone just keeps retreading *Old* design methods!

    Boeing is currently in the process of fixing their originally *Flawed* implementation so that it will, in the future, function as it originally *Should* have, as per Engineering Design Intentions, rather than as per incompetent Middle Management meddling to “cut corners” related to *Safety*! If you follow the technical reports of what Boeing is incorporating into their “new” version of MCAS, then you will realize that many of your criticisms relating to the “original” MCAS have already been duly noted and addressed!

    Again, It would have been *Totally Unfeasible* to do a brand new design (which would have been their NMA project) since it takes 6+ years to go from design/development into testing and certification before production for revenue service can be accomplished! This means that Boeing basically kisses this market segment Good-Bye for over a decade!

    Boeing has too much at stake, with its previously stellar reputation, to mess this up a second time, so I think that the re-launched MAX (they *Must* also change its naming designation) will be totally *Safe* to fly, especially with the amount of extreme scrutiny that it has endured!

    As for your comments about China’s C919, as I said before, that one *Still* has a *Long* way to go before it gets properly *Certified* for operations *Outside* of China! It is China’s *First* attempt to develop a “mainline” (ie, *Not* regional) airliner, so there *Will* be a long time period of “teething” pains to “get everything right”!

  51. What Bill C said is pretty much spot on. These text messages are from years ago and prove nothing. We already know Boeing messed up. Let the clueless media shut up so they can fix it.

  52. regardless if the Max is fly worthy…
    trust is easily lost, and difficult to regain
    Especially if the other party lied

    Now the Max relies on politics

    Boeing is Too Big To Fail for the US

    But No regulator wants the next Max crash to be in their jurisdiction
    Heads will roll
    Politicians care about nothing more than their own skins
    Thus: better to let other regulators go first, and be the guinea pig for the world

    Given that:

    The FAA will be pressured to allow the Max to fly by the US Government, as Boeing is TBTF
    The US will be able to pressure Israel and Saudi Arabia to certify it as well

    The Chinese will deny it, mainly to spit in Trump’s face

    Latin Americans will want to deny it, again due to Trump. But they could be pressured using international aid. Eventually they’ll roll over

    Japanese and Koreans will be cautious. Unlikely they will certify quickly.

    The Europeans will also deny it, in part due to Trump’s trade war, in part to help Airbus
    The Russians are a wild card

    Thus, you’ll see a staged certification over a decade
    US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel first
    Latin America second (ex Venezuela)
    Asia ex China third

    It will also obviously be rebranded

    I for one, will avoid the plane for the next 5-10 years. Why not? I have little to lose by avoiding the plane, and everything to lose if Boeing and the USG rush this plane again. You see, they lost my trust

  53. @Billc
    Thanks for your comments,but I must point out that just because there had been over 500,000 flights in the Max & that MCAS failure was supposed to manifest itself like a runaway trim,doesn’t mean that,this is actually what happened.You really think an 8000+hr captain & Co-pilot couldn’t execute the memory items for that non normal condition,if it had merely been a runaway trim??

    The captain had previously flown NG’s so since the memory items are the same for the Max’s ,I just can’t believe that they were not correctly carried out.However I concede that we weren’t there,so we don’t know for sure what happened In those cockpits.

    Remember that B737’s had million of hours of flight time before 737’s (classics)began experiencing rudder hardovers.So flight time is not a foolproof way of establishing a type’s fallability.Design flaws manifest themselves over varying timelines.
    As for the low hour Co-pilot,every pilot has to start somewhere,& build experience.Pairing an 8000hr captain with a low time co-pilot would be entirely appropriate & is done on a daily basis worldwide.Of course it is rare in the USA to have sub 300 hour Co-pilots on B737’s ,but it’s the norm in Europe.Ryanair & Easyjet get the vast majority of their new hires from CTC,whose program places you with these airlines with 250 hrs as co -pilots.

    From what I understand the Max is perfectly flyable without MCAS,but given that it is a Public Transport Category Aircraft, the tendency to pitch nose up at high power settings forced Boeing to implement MCAS,since the test pilots probably felt that some pilots may not react correctly to the nose up pitch,though one wonders why ,since surely the stick shaker would give any pilot the adequate clues required to recover the aircraft

  54. @Ryan
    You mean Boeing apologists don’t like the media; without the digging from NYT and others, we’d be none the wiser in respect of the total disaster that is the MAX, as the Boeing smokescreen/ obfuscation/ plain old fashioned deceit, coupled with FAA incompetence, very nearly had those crashes down to third world incompetence rather than the complete corporate scandal it truly is.

  55. Wow the aviation industry plant (note: not just Boeing) Fly18725 really working hard on FT to spread misinformation and half-truths and muddy the waters…nice of the UA mods to endlessly let it slide

  56. @Kj — “However I concede that we weren’t there,so we don’t know for sure what happened In those cockpits.”

    Yes … that’s the point, right? Out of around 500,000 flights, 2 most unfortunately crashed and the circumstances are still under investigation, so we can only *Conjecture* about these types of incidents, and in such cases, we can only rely on “statistics” to base our *Conjectures*!

    This said, I did also make the point that experienced pilots *Should* have been able to recover if the misbehavior acted like a runaway horizontal stabilizer. And all prior pilots fortunately *Did* recover successfully! So *Why* did the pilots of those 2 most unfortunate flights *Not* recover? Perhaps we need to examine what pilot “experience” means — with today’s highly automated flight systems, it is possible for pilots to fly without incidents and *Not* really gain much “seat-of-the-pants” flying experience, since, as some have blasted, “pilots” are becoming more like flight “managers” than actual “pilots”! What is most often done to make up for such situations, is to have pilots undergo regular flight simulations training on how to handle emergency or extraordinary situations on at least an annual basis. I don’t know the status of those crashed pilots’ simulation training activities, so who knows if that might have any any influence? It had been reported that Ethiopian Air actually *Did* buy a MAX flight simulator, but those 2 unfortunate crashed pilots did *Not* have any opportunity to go through training with it.

    With respect to the legacy rudder hard-over problem, it is true that malfunctions *Can* occur even after decades of service! That one was a mechanical (*Hardware*) issue that perhaps had causes arising from materials fracturing (from wear-and-tear?) with its input control rods of the main rudder Power Control Unit, which could have required long periods of time to manifest itself, anyway. This just reinforces what I’ve been saying about “unknown unknowns”.

    However, with respect to MCAS (*Software*), there were *Already* signs of “srewy” behavior that Boeing *Should* have pro-actively investigated for resolutions much earlier than it did, especially since MCAS is primarily a *Software* system that *Can* be readily enhanced to become more robust, as needs had already indicated!

    With respect to the low-hours Co-Pilot issue, experienced aviation experts have indicated that such practices, while perfectly OK under *Normal* flying situations, can quickly become *Catastrophic* during emergencies, when *Both* Pilot and Co-Pilot need to address their *Own* (ie, separate) checklists and actions towards recovering stability of the aircraft! There are *Valid* reasons *Why* Co-Pilots in USA must accumulate greater flight hours *Before* entering the cockpits of “mainline” airliners!

    With respect to the necessity to implement MCAS, a bit of history might be helpful … Boeing was in a “race” against Airbus and needed to come up with a feasible solution ASAP. Any solution required the use of a larger diameter (more powerful) engine that will be much more efficient than the legacy CFM-56 family. Ever notice how the bottom of the CFM-56 engines look sort of “flattened”? This was a modification to allow the CFM-56 to be used, since the legacy B737 landing gears didn’t allow enough ground clearance margin to hold it. Apparently re-certifying new landing gears was deemed too expensive and time-consuming to undertake! OK … so the CFM-56 got accommodated into the 737NG family with minimal (and probably, no) modifications to the airframe. Then comes the MAX with even larger diameter engines. Now what? As I understand it, Boeing decided to move the MAX engine mounting forward to resolve this ground clearance issue and, in the process, induced that now-famous issue of aircraft pitch up under higher power. How to mitigate this effect? Create MCAS to compensate for engine-induced pitch up by manipulating horizontal stabilizers to pitch down in response. Perfectly logical, right?

    But those annoying Boeing Middle Managers, who were only interested to “kiss up” to their bosses and the “bottom” line, apparently coerced Engineering Development to scale back its emphasis on *Safe* operations, despite tremendous internal protests, to save time and money on the schedule! To further exacerbate the situation, Boeing management wanted to design MCAS to keep MAX with the same “type-certification” as their NG family so that more customer airlines can just slide the MAX into service *Without* needing to re-train and/or re-certify their Pilots, in order to make the MAX a more attractive proposition for customers.

    And here we are today! 🙁

  57. @JRMW — “Now the Max relies on politics” —

    OK … your rant is very *Entertaining*, albeit majority being devoid of actual *Facts*! 😛

  58. Hello I worked on the 737 MAX for about a year and a half and then suddenly in March, my whole base came to a halt. (I only worked on the max) then I was out of a job for 6 month. What can I do legally for compensation?

  59. @Kye — “… I was out of a job for 6 month. What can I do legally for compensation?”

    There’s no simple answer to your question, since there are too many variables that could have impacted your situation and status!

    Was outright discrimination of some sort involved? Was your performance not up to standards? Were you unable to work in a team environment? Was your project cancelled for other reasons that you’re not aware of? Was your participation based on “at-will” termination terms? The list goes on and on …

  60. @Bill

    Not sure my post constitutes a rant

    It’s more a cold calculation about the politics of the situation

    Which of my facts is in error?
    That Boeing is TBTF?
    that the Europeans would love it if Airbus took Boeing’s orders?
    That the Chinese and Latin Americans are angry with our current administration?

    Yes, there is a lot of conjecture in my post.

    But I’ll eat my hat if European regulators certify the Max before the Americans.

    Notice, I said nothing about whether or not the Max is safe to fly. I have no idea.

    But I’m an expert in management and operations for large corporations and entities
    I know how beaurocrats think and work.

    I’m comfortable with my hypothesis

    Oh: and avoiding the Max is easy for me since Southwest barely serves MSP

  61. @JRMW — don’t take it personally, since I did put that “tongue out” emoji at the end of my post!

    But I’m more than happy to discuss some of your points —

    #1. “Now the Max relies on politics … Boeing is Too Big To Fail for the US” — this position is usually taken on matters that do *not* involve loss of lives, so this strikes me as being pretty cynical, even if our political bureaucracies have acted in such manners on other matters! I would think that, with so much at stake, Boeing and the world’s aircraft certification agencies will want to earnestly get to the bottom of what went wrong and work diligently to *fix* any and all deficiencies! Otherwise, not just Boeing, but USA will look like $#!+ to the world — *not* acceptable! To this end, notice that Boeing has already removed Dennis Muilenburg as Chairman of the Board, but letting him retain the title of CEO (for now)!

    #2. “Which of my facts is in error?” — your conjectures about re-certification process by world aviation agencies also sound pretty cynical — certainly there *will* be some politics and influencing, to some degree, but *not* if the MAX has truly been proven to be as safe as possible after incorporating necessary fixes! Keep in mind that all of the relevant nation’s certification agencies must *also* look out for the financial interests of their domestic airlines that rely on the MAX for flight revenue generation, so once everything has been *proven* to be safe, then it is to everyone’s best interests to get it back in the air ASAP!

    Besides — what’s the point to hold out once sufficient *proof* of safety has been *validated*? Airlines have already committed to using MAX within their flight routes/aircraft fleets and there are *no* credible alternatives, since they can’t just ditch the MAX and go order the NEO from Airbus, unless they want to totally destroy their livelihood and cancel plans for future capacity and route expansions over the next 3-5 years, as Airbus production lines, just like at Boeing, are fully booked for the next “N” years out!

    BTW — test pilots who have “flown” the updated MCAS fixes (whether on flight simulators or on actual MAX aircraft) have reported that they’re satisfied with the results thus far! But their continuing chase to reduce the amount of “unknown unknowns” continue, as it must!

    I have nothing to say about your conjectures on the order of re-certifications by various countries.

    #3. “But I’m an expert in management and operations for large corporations and entities
    I know how beaurocrats think and work.” — I’m *not* questioning your qualifications in your work profession … I just think that, when so many lives were lost, and both Boeing’s and USA’s reputation and credibility are at stake on the world stage, the degree of your cynicism might be a bit overblown and unfair to those who are so diligently trying to implement proper fixes ASAP in order to return the MAX back into revenue service for all affected airlines!

    But … I’m NOT faulting you for expressing your personal opinions, since that is totally your right, based on the 1st Amendment! So carry on! 🙂

  62. Exercising a (A&P Certificate) since1968, I felt confident with Boeing’s supporting inspection/repair guidance was easily understood & effective when followed. Given S/B’s were clearly understood. The BAC guidance bringing a B737-200 from 109,000 to 128,000 was absolutely amazing. Changing the original pneumatic powered thrust reversers to the hydraulically powered target reversers was eye popping. Boeing was the best manufacturing company supporting airline company’s and repair stations. I’m pained seeing a Boeing product like the B737MAX going through these difficulties.

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