Don Hudson

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  1. We haven't seen anything further from the TSB on the YHZ14 overrun so we don't know what the circumstances were other than what the METARS provides, (I'm not a fan of using ADS-B/Flightradar24 data because the sample rates, data sources, data validity, etc., are not defined so don't have standards which would permit use in a serious investigation).

    By recollection only, the overrun accidents which have final reports associated, appear to indicate that the touchdown point is beyond the normal TDZ of between 500ft & 3000ft/first-third-of-runway, (see FAA doc below). For example, the 2018 Sochi overrun accident report which has just been issued by the MAK. Two causal factors are listed in the Report as:

    3. Conclusion

    The aircraft overrun, destroying and damage by fire were caused by the following factors

        - repeated disregarding of the windshear warnings which when entered a horizontal windshear (changing from the head wind to tail one) at low altitude resulted in landing at distance of 1285m from the RWY threshold (overrunning the landing zone by 385m) with the increased IAS and tail wind;

        - landing to the runway, when its normative friction coefficient was less than 0.3 that according to the regulations in force, did not allow to land.

    The full report is available at

    In general, for airborne distances longer than 3000ft there have been several factors involved, not just one single cause. The most common one appears to be "float time" - flying just above the runway surface waiting for touchdown rather than "planting" the airplane under one's control. Long, dry runways can invite "finessing" the landing I suppose, holding the aircraft for a smooth landing instead of following the Boeing SOPs which requires a flare duration of 8" or less from the 50ft/threshold point to the touchdown point, but that builds operational habits including cognitive and "muscle-memory" habits that can get one into trouble when landing on a short, contaminated runway. Boeing's landing data tables for normal landings, (vice non-normal procedures), provide for a touchdown at 1500ft past the threshold.

    Approach speeds for the 800 appear to be roughly the same as the Classic (400) B737, perhaps a few knots higher but not significantly so. Regardless of type, approach speeds are in the neighbourhood of 220fps to 250fps, sp the margins built into the certification data for published landing distances get swallowed up very quickly. It's been a while since I flew the A320 but i have the impression that the approach speeds are somewhat lower for that type. (I haven't flown the B737 at all, just the B727).

    I don't sense that brake size has much to do with overruns. I think the causes lie in those decision-making, energy-management and SOP areas of an operation. Where needed, I think -800 brake performance in a rejected takeoff is impressive. 

    Runway excursions, (off either side) are a different kettle of fish, involving loss-of-control during crosswinds, assymetric thrust, contaminated runways...




    • Thanks 2

  2. Panel Clears 737 MAX’s Safety-Approval Process at FAA
    Boeing’s 737 MAX was certified as a derivative rather than an all-new plane
    Boeing 737 MAX Photo: Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
    By Andy Pasztor and
    Doug Cameron
    Jan. 16, 2020 10:21 am ET

    The Federal Aviation Administration’s certification of the Boeing Co. 737 MAX was effective and the plane wouldn’t have been safer if it had been scrutinized as an all-new aircraft, according to an independent panel set up last year to evaluate the troubled jet.

    The special committee created by the U.S. Department of Transportation to review the FAA’s safety-approval process backed the continued delegation of some work to aircraft makers, though the committee also called for the agency’s staffing to be expanded to improve its oversight.

    The panel—headed by retired Air Force Gen. Darren McDew, former head of the U.S. Transportation Command, and Lee Moak, former president of the Air Line Pilots Association—provided its initial report on Thursday.
    Share Your Thoughts

    What should the FAA do to boost public confidence in safety oversight of new planes? Join the conversation below.

    The six-month study called for a range of improvements including stepped-up analysis of human factors that could lead pilots to act differently in the cockpit versus existing assumptions.

    The FAA took five years to certify the 737 MAX 8, the first version of the plane and the one involved in two fatal crashes. That time period is at the lower end of scrutiny of new aircraft types or derivatives.

    The MAX was certified as a derivative rather than an all-new plane, the 13th time the FAA has updated an approval first issued in 1967.

    The panel said evaluating the MAX as an all-new plane wouldn’t have produced “more rigorous scrutiny” or “a safer airplane.” It said the FAA retained design approval of the flight-control system that has been linked to two fatal MAX crashes.

    The plane remains grounded world-wide.

    “We will study these recommendations closely as we continue to work with government and industry stakeholders to enhance the certification process,” Boeing said in a statement.

    The panel is one of various probes already under way delving into how rigorously FAA officials followed and enforced mandatory standards in endorsing the safety of the planes, which entered service in May 2017.

    Justice Department prosecutors, in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the DOT inspector general’s office, are looking into whether the plane maker provided incomplete or misleading information to regulators regarding the aircraft.

    The FAA has launched a separate inquiry to determine whether certification rules and procedures were properly followed. And the DOT inspector general has launched still another effort, by conducting an audit of FAA decisions regarding 737 MAX certification.

    In addition, House and Senate committees embarked on hearings and inquiries looking into certification of the 737 MAX.

  3. Hi Kip;

    Yes, the point is moot, sadly.

    Last Tuesday, before there was solid evidence of missiles and people were speculating, I was hoping against hope that it was a turbine section that had gone thru the wing and compromised the fuel tank much like was seen in QF32, which was leaving a large trail of fuel as it returned to land. Knowing the nationalities of the passengers, I just couldn't see what was in it for the Iranian government.


    Bloomberg News
    Boeing Mocked Lion Air Calls for More 737 Max Training Before Crash
    By Ryan Beene and Harry Suhartono

    13 January 2020, 18:55 GMT-8 Updated on 14 January 2020, 08:36 GMT-8
    •    House panel confirms Indonesia carrier asked about simulators
    •    Unclear if added training would have averted 737 Max crashes
    Boeing Persuaded Lion to Drop Simulator Training for 737 Max

    Indonesia’s Lion Air considered putting its pilots through simulator training before flying the Boeing Co. 737 Max but abandoned the idea after the planemaker convinced them in 2017 it was unnecessary, according to people familiar with the matter and internal company communications.

    The next year, 189 people died when a Lion Air 737 Max plunged into the Java Sea, a disaster blamed in part on inadequate training and the crew’s unfamiliarity with a new flight-control feature on the Max that malfunctioned.
    Boeing employees had expressed alarm among themselves over the possibility that one of the company’s largest customers might require its pilots to undergo costly simulator training before flying the new 737 model, according to internal messages that have been released to the media. Those messages, included in the more than 100 pages of internal Boeing communications that the company provided to lawmakers and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and released widely on Thursday, had Lion Air’s name redacted.
    But the the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee provided excerpts of those messages to Bloomberg News that un-redacted the Indonesian carrier’s name.

    “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,” one Boeing employee wrote in June 2017 text messages obtained by the company and released by the House committee.

    In response, a Boeing colleague replied: “WHAT THE F%$&!!!! But their sister airline is already flying it!”

    That was an apparent reference to Malindo Air, the Malaysian-based carrier that was the first to fly the Max commercially.

    Doing simulator training would have undercut a critical selling point of the jet: that airlines would be able to allow crews trained on an older 737 version to fly the Max after just a brief computer course.

    In a report on the Oct. 29, 2018 accident, Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee cited a failure by Boeing to tell pilots about the new flight-control feature on the jet, called MCAS, and the need to provide training on it so that pilots would be able to better respond to malfunctions.
    The report also cited shortfalls in the crew’s ability to perform emergency check lists, fly the plane manually and communicate about the emergency. The copilot, who took nearly four minutes to look up an emergency procedure he was supposed to have memorized, was singled out for repeated failures during training.

    The 737 Max was grounded worldwide last March after an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed following a similar MCAS malfunction.

    To be sure, simulator training that didn’t address a malfunction of the system like the one crews in both disasters encountered might not have saved the jets. Separate decisions had been made not to inform pilots about MCAS, something that has drawn sharp criticism from pilots’ unions in the U.S.

    But the prospect of simulator training for Max pilots -- and opposition to it within Boeing -- were major themes in the latest batch of embarrassing internal company messages released last week.

    U.S. Representative Pete DeFazio, chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that is investigating the 737 Max, said the probe has found “more and more evidence of how far Boeing was willing to go in order to essentially cloak MCAS in secrecy from MAX pilots while also downplaying the information it shared about MCAS with federal regulators. That’s incredibly damning, and is opposite of Boeing’s repeated insistence that safety drives its decisions.”

    Lion Air has declined to comment whether it was the carrier discussed in the messages released last week by Boeing but people familiar with the exchanges, who asked not to be identified discussing a private matter, said Lion Air had initially raised concerns about the need for simulator training on the Max but ultimately accepted Boeing’s recommendation that it was unnecessary.

    Some of the messages revealed the pressure on employees -- and customers -- to avoid the additional training. Boeing’s resistance to simulator training for Lion Air pilots was reported earlier by Forbes.

    Boeing didn’t respond to a request for comment but said last week that “any potential safety deficiencies identified in the documents have been addressed.”

    “These documents do not represent the best of Boeing,” Greg Smith, the company’s interim CEO, said in a message to employees Friday. “The tone and language of the messages are inappropriate, particularly when used in discussion of such important matters, and they do not reflect who we are as a company or the culture we’ve created.”

    Technical Pilot
    The communications include a 2017 email from Boeing’s chief technical pilot on the 737 in which he crowed to colleagues: “Looks like my jedi mind trick worked again!” The email was sent two days after the earlier messages expressing alarm about Lion Air potentially demanding simulator training.

    Attached was a forwarded email exchange in which the person warned an unnamed recipient against offering simulator training for Max pilots, pushing instead for the computer-based course that regulators had already approved for flight crews transitioning to the Max from earlier 737 models.

    “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,” the Boeing pilot wrote in the forwarded message.

    While Lion Air was not identified in the redacted emails, the discussions are consistent with those Boeing held with Lion Air at the time, according to people familiar with the matter.

    “The story always comes back to the same thing: that Boeing was advancing the sale of this plane to capture market share, to capture the profits and cash flow that goes with it, and safety was treated as something that would occur without a great deal of focus,” said Robert Clifford, a Chicago lawyer who has sued Boeing on behalf of victims of the Ethiopian Airlines crash. “That’s just never the case in engineering.”

    — With assistance by Alan Levin, Julie Johnsson, and Peter Robison
    (Updates with lawmaker comments in the 13th paragraph, crash-victims’ lawyers in last paragraph.)


  5. Hi Specs, yeah - the article struck me as someone trying to put an academic blush on the writing and got a well-known notion wrong.

    Also, the author says:


    There remains a possibility that the crew were changing squawks as part of the SID prior to handover to another ATC agency, or, in doing so, had inadvertently left the transponder in ‘Standby’ mode rather than reselecting it ‘On’ (it is common practice in aviation to select the transponder to Standby whilst changing squawks to avoid inadvertently cycling through an emergency squawk code and causing ATC to react).

    Even retired twelve years, I think I can say this statement is out of date. IIRC, we stopped going to STBY decades ago as the "7700" issue was dealt with. Also, I think many a/c, (don't know about the B737-800 specifically), use the air-ground state to activate/de-activate the transponder. Also, we just don't "change squwaks at FIR boundarys or waypoints without specific ATC requests. The article struck me as a bit presumptuous and "puffed-up".

    That said, the "accidental" theory is one that demands examination if only because, so far, there is no reasoned/reasonable theory with evidence yet that supports intentional shoot-down.

  6. Ultimately, "on-purpose / by accident" must be settled on evidence both physical and circumstantial. The Forbes OpEd argues that the shoot-down was accidental.

    We'll see how the TSB investigation says when it comes out.





    Jan 12, 2020, 08:47am

    Ukraine International Flight PS 752: A Shakespearean Tragedy?

    , Contributor

    Aerospace & Defense

    I view today’s defense & aerospace issues using history as a prism.

    IMAGE_KYIV REGION, UKRAINE - JANUARY 8, 2020 - Employees of the Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) Barcroft Media via Getty Images

    The past couple of weeks have played out like some macabre adaption of the Bard’s greatest works. The opening scene was the attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad by Iranian backed militias recruited, trained and directed by Major General Qasem Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).  

    The attack on the Embassy was in response to the seemingly never-ending cycle of violence in the Middle East. The militias had attacked Kirkuk airbase and killed an American contractor and the US responded by launching airstrikes on militia facilities in both Iraq and Syria, killing some 25 militia personnel. The Embassy attack came directly after a funeral for those killed in the airstrikes and it is still uncertain if the assault was pre-planned or simply a violent extension of the mourning.

    The IRGC, however, must have calculated that the US has something of a trigger-point when it comes to Embassy attacks: the bombing of the Beirut Embassy in 1983 and the hostage taking in Iran in 1979 still linger long in the corporate memory. The latter, although not resulting in US casualties, was seen as a key factor in President Carter’s election loss in 1980 and 2020 is, after all, an election year. The parallels are important to consider.

    IMAGE_American hostages arrive at Wiesbaden Air Base in West Germany after being released from the US Getty Images

    In response, the main act of the Tragedy was the precision strike by a UAV on General Soleimani’s convoy near Baghdad airport. Exactly as per the script, the General was killed along with many in his security detail and little/no collateral damage inflicted. Revenge was inflicted by the forces of ‘good’ and the ‘villains’ retreated to lick their wounds and consider their next step. 

    The third act, and one that many observers fervently hoped was also the denouement, was the retaliatory missile strike on US bases in Iraq. The IRGC carefully calibrated this attack; a significant number of ballistic missiles were fired to look good on the domestic newsreels but launched at a time when most personnel would be in bed and not vulnerable in the open. Furthermore, the use of ballistic missiles rather than militia-fired rockets is in itself telling: the rocket plumes and trajectories of ballistic weapons are eminently observable by satellites fitted with specialist sensors that detect the rocket motor and by ground/ship based Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) radars. These systems enabled sufficient warning to be provided for personnel to get into cover. 

    There is also the rumour that the IRGC tipped off elements of the Iraqi forces, who, in turn either deliberately or via behavioural change, would have cued the US forces that something was afoot. If the militias had used closer range systems, such as 122mm rockets, then warning time is significantly reduced. 

    I’ve had the ‘pleasure’ of being on the receiving end of both ballistic missile and short-range rocket attack; with the former, the warning was sufficient to seek hardened protection and wait. With the latter, there is barely time to roll out of bed and pull the ‘Kevlar duvet’ over oneself before the explosions start. Therefore, the use of ballistic missiles was, in my opinion, a very carefully judged attempt at de-escalation by the IRGC and elements of the Iranian regime. Enough to assuage hurt pride and the embarrassment of so easily losing a senior commander, but not violent enough to invite further US retaliation. 

    Like so many Tragedies, both Shakespearean and more modern, the tale then features a dramatic twist. When I first heard reports of a Ukrainian International Airlines aircraft, Flight PS752, crashing near Tehran, I, like many of my defense and aviation colleagues, instinctively thought it was an accident with a bizarre timing coincidence. The initial photographs of the wreckage appeared to confirm the hypothesis that it was an uncontained engine failure, leading to catastrophic break-up of the engine on the wing.

    When a turbofan engine disintegrates, the turbine blades can break up and create a cloud of high energy, high temperature fragments. These fragments can puncture the fuselage, leaving shrapnel-like damage, and cut control systems as well as hydraulic and fuel lines. 

    Such an uncontained failure was the primary cause behind the Sioux City DC-10 crash in 1989, and, more recently, to a Southwest Airlines 737-700, Flight 1380, in April 2018. This latter incident was my unconscious confirmation bias for Flight PS752, which was a similar 737-800 series aircraft. In the Southwest incident, the engine exploded causing fragment damage to the fuselage, an explosive decompression in the cabin and resulted in the partial extraction through a broken window of a passenger who, sadly, later died from her injuries. 

    My imagined sequence, therefore, for Flight PS752 was a catastrophic engine failure, loss of cabin pressure, possible loss of flight controls and a crew struggling desperately to save a wounded aircraft and, ultimately, failing.

    IMAGE_ PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 17: In this National Transportation Safety Board handout, NTSB investigator 2018 NTSB

    Why did I not assume it was a Surface to Air Missile attack? I just couldn’t see how an Air Defence battery could mistake an airliner departing a major international airport on an established Standard Instrument Departure (SID) and ‘squawking’ an allocated IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) transponder code for a threat. 

    The ‘squawk’ is important. All aircraft operating in Controlled Airspace are allocated a discrete transponder code to aid Air Traffic Controllers to identify, track, deconflict and control aircraft. As the radar beam passes over the aircraft, the transponder is triggered to respond with both the 4-digit code, and also, if Mode ‘Charlie’ is selected, a read-back of the aircraft’s current altitude above mean sea level. Military SAM radars also have an IFF Interrogator which can distinguish civil ‘squawks’ and, using appropriate cryptographical codes, determine which military aircraft are friendly and which are potential threats. 

    Therefore, if fitted with such a simple method of determining ‘friend’ from ‘foe’ why did the SAM battery open fire? At the top level, it’s either a deliberate act or a tragic mistake.

    IMAGE_ Russian Tor-M2U surface-to-air missile system, known as the SA-15 Gauntlet by NATO, and similar to. ASSOCIATED PRESS

    I don’t buy into the deliberate act hypothesis. What would be the regime’s motive for committing such a heinous crime? If we assume that the ballistic missile strike was calibrated to draw a line under recent events, then there would be little to gain politically by shooting down an airliner and inflaming tension yet again. Furthermore, if the regime wanted to send a message to the US and its allies, why select an airliner from a non-aligned country, full of 3rd party nationals and your own? The world is very sensitive when it comes to attacking airliners; they are patently non-combatants and much of the world’s trade depends upon them receiving safe passage, free from interference. 

    Any sympathy that Iran may have accrued as a result of onerous US sanctions and the assassination of a top military officer will inevitably diminish or evaporate as a result of this act. The evident dislocation that the regime suffered trying to respond to the incident is also telling — there appeared to be significant confusion over what had happened. They genuinely did seem to be ignorant of the role of the IRGC in the incident in the immediate aftermath. One can only imagine the horror at discovering their culpability. 

    There does remain a lingering possibility that someone at a senior level in the IRGC felt that Soleimani’s death had not been adequately avenged by the missile strikes. Ordering the shootdown of a foreign airliner seems an odd way of expressing such bloodlust given that the IRGC employ proxy militias all over the region and have extensive low-tech threats that can challenge and attack shipping in the North Arabian Gulf. Regimes such as Iran also tend to deal harshly with commanders who go ‘off message’ – it would take someone very senior to calculate they could make such a move and survive the consequences.

    Therefore, in my opinion, the principle of Hanlon’s razor applies here. It was not a calculated, malicious act, but a tragic mistake, effected at the lowest unit level. But why?

    To understand ‘how’ if not ‘why’ it’s important to put oneself in the position of the SAM Battery crew. The current ‘official’ position from the IRGC is that the airliner was approaching a ‘sensitive site’. This statement is informative. The IRGC would have been informed, at a senior level, of the missile strikes. Doubtless, as any sensible military organisation would do, they would have likely, tacitly, informed their missile crews that the possibility of a US strike would be higher than normal that night – therefore, there is the distinct possibility that the SAM Battery was on an enhanced state of alertness.

    Anyone that has studied the ‘Western Art of War’ will understand that the Suppression or Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (S/DEAD) is a key battlespace shaping activity to permit NATO aircraft to operate at greater freedom. Therefore, sitting in a SAM Battery radar or command and control vehicle has the effect of placing a target on one’s forehead. The shootdown of an RAF Tornado GR1 by a US Patriot missile system during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 was caused by the failure of the Tornado’s military Mode 4 IFF and the flight profile as it recovered to Ali Air Salem airbase closely approximating that of an Anti-Radiation Missile (ARM). The Patriot crew, understandably nervous they were being targeted, acted under self defense. 

    There is a credible theory that the Iranian SAM battery, tasked with protecting a sensitive IRGC site, as well as guarding Tehran itself, and already on a heightened state of alert, suddenly detected a target on their screens as it climbed into the radar horizon. Doubtless, IRGC SAM batteries are briefed to expect ‘pop up’ attacks deep in their own airspace from B2 Spirit stealth bombers. What we don’t know is the Command and Control chain influence upon permission to fire, nor the extant rules of engagement.

    Most Middle Eastern countries, due to their largely conscripted armies and fears over reliability, have highly centralised command structures, requiring a high-level commander to approve weapon release. Indeed, this very convoluted firing chain has been successfully exploited by Allied and Israeli air forces over recent campaigns. The IRGC are, presumably, considered more reliable and politically pure. Learning from the experience of other Middle Eastern countries, they may well have granted a higher level of autonomy to individual battery commanders, especially in a potential ‘use it or lose it’ situation against a radar picture that is within the parameters of an expected ARM attack delivered by a Low Observable platform. 

    In such circumstances, only a few seconds are available for appreciation, decision and action. It is analogous to a cop shooting a suspect dead thinking he’s reaching for a weapon, only to find they were trying to get their phone out of their pocket. Pressure, fear and expectation are all powerful drivers.

    The remaining mystery is the IFF. Most SAM systems have IFF interlocks of some sort on the firing system – helping to prevent ‘blue on blue’ engagements. The ATC radar trace, if released, will show if PS752’s transponder was working correctly. There remains a possibility that the crew were changing squawks as part of the SID prior to handover to another ATC agency, or, in doing so, had inadvertently left the transponder in ‘Standby’ mode rather than reselecting it ‘On’ (it is common practice in aviation to select the transponder to Standby whilst changing squawks to avoid inadvertently cycling through an emergency squawk code and causing ATC to react). However, the most obvious point of technical failure in the SAM unit is the IFF interrogator.

    Sadly, the most obvious point of ultimate failure remains the SAM crew. Despite increasing automation, over 80% of all air accidents are still caused by Human Error. We are imperfect machines. Perhaps the crew were tired, on edge and startled by the sudden appearance of a target seemingly matching an expected threat system. Perhaps they were scared. Perhaps they were still angry at the loss of a senior commander. Perhaps the IFF interrogator was defective - perhaps they never even checked it. For whatever reason, ultimately, they took the shot.

    They will now have to live with the consequences of that fatal decision. Like all flawed heroes and tragic villains in Shakespeare’s work they will suffer the fate that’s due – and one that will inevitably be unforgiving in order to provide the necessary closure to all of the injured parties.

    I served 23 years in the RAF as a helicopter pilot, flying the CH47 Chinook in, inter alia, The Former Yugoslavia, Kosovo and both Iraq and Afghanistan – logging nearly 1000 combat hours during operational deployments. I specialised in tactical training and development, electronic warfare, operational test & evaluation and procurement – the latter as the Capability manager for the Chinook, responsible for buying new systems to help my friends and colleagues stay safe on the front line. After leaving the military I established my own consultancy company, Ascalon (named after St George’s legendary sword), where I provide independent advice to Industry, NATO and Governments, as well as Systems Engineering support to major defence projects. History has been my lifelong passion, and I try to asses today’s aviation and defense challenges with an eye to historical context. When not writing for Forbes, I’m a contributing editor to the Heli-Ops family of magazines.

    • ©2020 Forbes Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.




  7. The notion of an accidental shoot-down may be gaining credibility not only because of heightened tensions but because the flight path of the aircraft was in a right turn towards the airport, (could be mistaken for towards Tehran), likely descending and on fire. Missile crews would not have access to ATC transmissions, (none here anyway - just silence) and so may have appeared as "hostile incoming".

    Also, after the loss of ADS-B signal when the a/c was still heading north and just starting the right turn about 10nm from the airport, unless the wiring has changed recently for the B737, the recorders may have stopped functioning.

    In one image, the vertical stabilizer has been turned over to reveal a deeply soot-blackened surface, indicating a large & sustained fire on the left side and likely close in to the fuselage.

  8. There are no signs of a missile in the video but there are two bright spots falling away, trailing the aircraft which are likely parts of the structure. Aircraft viewed in darkness this far away are barely distinguishable except for the nav & anti-collision lights. Here, the image is large and very bright, indicating what is likely a very significant in-flight fire.


    The video shows a large explosion about 2 to 3 seconds prior to impact:






    In the link to the video vanishing point posted there appears to be an exit-hole in the turbine section. Here are two other images:



    The wreckage is widely distributed without impact craters likely indicating pre-impact break-up and showing signs of in-flight fire:



    There are single "entry" holes as seen above, but so far there does not appear to be a pattern of small entry holes as seen with MH17.


  9. Hi Marshall - yes, that's correct, AC has two MAX simulators, in Toronto I believe. I don't believe WJ has a MAX sim. According to the Seattle-Times article there are only 34 MAX simulators around the world.

    Thanks, T9! ?  So there are three separate endorsements on one's licence for these 3 types or just a differences course, I wonder?

    When I joined AC in 1973 they had five types of DC8 and added the re-engined type around 1980, but only one type rating endorsement. The differences were handled in a chapter in the aircraft manuals. The Airbus A320 endorsement permitted crews to fly the A319 & A321. The transition to the A330 / A340 was a full course, with sim work & line-indoc. In Europe, there were cross-crew qualifications that permitted A320 type-rated crews to fly the A330 & A340, if I recall correctly.

  10. Boeing, reversing itself, says all 737 MAX pilots will need costly flight simulator training

    Jan. 7, 2020 at 11:09 am Updated Jan. 7, 2020 at 5:04 pm

    Scores of 737 MAX jets are parked at the Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake. Boeing said Tuesday it will recommend that once the FAA lifts... (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times) More


    Dominic Gates

    Seattle Times aerospace reporter

    Boeing on Tuesday reversed its long-held position that pilots would not need full flight simulator training before flying the 737 MAX after the jet is cleared to return to service.

    “Boeing has decided to recommend MAX simulator training combined with computer-based training for all pilots prior to returning the MAX safely to service,” interim Boeing CEO Greg Smith said in a statement.

    He added that the change in approach was spurred because “public, customer and stakeholder confidence in the 737 MAX is critically important to us.”

    The prospect of extensive simulator training now adds another big logistical hurdle before the MAX can resume commercial flights. There are only 34 full-motion MAX simulators in the world, eight of them in the U.S., and tens of thousands of pilots who will need time on one.

    737 MAX CRISIS


    ·        New snags add to uncertainty over Boeing 737 MAX’s return to service

    ·        Boeing training pilots ask to decertify union

    ·        Boeing redeploys workers as 737 MAX production in Renton prepares to shut down


    Boeing’s change in direction was spurred by the results of four days of testing in Seattle last month, when Boeing ran pilots from American Airlines, Southwest, United and Aeromexico through a series of emergency flight scenarios in MAX flight simulators, a person familiar with the matter said. The purpose was to test the “human factors” elements of the updated flight control system, including the crew workload.

    All of the pilots managed to eventually maintain control when confronted with various emergencies, including the type of system failure that occurred in the two fatal MAX crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. However, about half of the pilots in the testing failed to follow the correct emergency procedures.

     “They were using the wrong checklists,” said one person with knowledge of the tests.

    In developing the MAX, Boeing sought to avoid the need for simulator training because it’s expensive for airlines. For U.S. airlines to run all their pilots through the limited number of available flight simulators will take thousands of hours — hours when the companies earn no revenue from ticket-buying passengers.

    Dennis Tajer, a captain with American Airlines and spokesman for that airline’s union, the Allied Pilots Association, said that when American runs its pilots through their regular training updates, it consists of a two-hour pre-brief in a classroom followed by four hours in the simulator.

    He said airlines have been given no information yet as to whether the MAX training would require a full four-hour simulator session or may be more limited.

    American has about 4,200 pilots who fly the 737 and would need the MAX simulator training. United has about 4,400 and Southwest has more than 9,000.

    As it pitched the MAX to airlines in 2011, Boeing promised the MAX would handle so much like the previous 737 NG model, and its cockpit would be so similar, that minimal training consisting of a short course on an iPad would be all that was needed for a pilot to transition from the earlier 737 to the MAX.

    The expected savings from that were so important to airlines that in December 2011, when MAX launch customer Southwest Airlines placed the first order for 150 of the jets, Boeing included in the contract a clause guaranteeing a $1 million per airplane refund if simulator training were required.

    Rep. Peter DeFazio, D- Ore., chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure that’s investigating the cause of the MAX crashes, in a statement Tuesday lamented that “it took two deadly crashes, numerous investigations and untold public pressure before Boeing arrived at this decision.”

    “From its inception, Boeing’s business model for the 737 MAX was premised on Boeing’s unreasonable, cost-saving assurance to airlines that pilots qualified to fly …(the earlier 737 model) should not undergo simulator training to fly the 737 MAX.”

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which will set the regulatory requirement regarding what pilot training is required in the U.S., is likely to follow Boeing’s recommendation.

    Later this month, a key part of the process for returning the MAX to commercial service will be the convening of the Joint Operations Evaluation Board (JOEB), a body of about 14 U.S. and foreign air carrier flight crews with diverse training that will evaluate the new systems on the MAX in full-motion simulator tests and come up with recommendations on what pilot training is required.

    The FAA will use the data from the JOEB tests to develop official recommendations for pilot training.

    “The FAA is following a thorough process, not a set timeline, to ensure that any design modifications to the 737 MAX are integrated with appropriate training and procedures,” the agency said Tuesday, adding that it will consider Boeing’s recommendation during the JOEB process.

    Once the training regimen is firmed up and the MAX cleared to fly again, the shortage of MAX flight simulators will pose a problem for airlines.

    Airlines operate 26 MAX simulators worldwide while Boeing has another eight at its pilot training sites in Miami, London, Shanghai and Singapore. In the U.S., Boeing has three in Miami; American has one in Fort Worth, Texas; United has one in Denver; and Southwest has three in Dallas.

     “MAX simulators are like unicorns,” said the APA’s Tajer.

    It’s unclear if Boeing could add software to the more than 200 simulators designed for the prior 737 NG model so they could be upgraded to simulate the MAX systems.

    The limited availability of simulators will likely lead American and Southwest to reassess previous plans to have all their 737 pilots complete the MAX training before they introduce the MAX to passenger service.

    When the expected MAX training was to be done on an iPad at any location during the pilot’s downtime, all the pilots could be asked to accomplish the training requirement in matter of a few weeks. Now it will take much longer.

    United spokesman Frank Benenati said Tuesday the Chicago-based carrier plans to train its pilots “on a rolling basis,” so the MAX can be introduced with a core group of pilots before all the 737 pilots finishing the training. American and Southwest are now likely to do the same.

    That means splitting off the MAXs into a sub-fleet of the 737s and assigning them to fly specific routes with MAX-trained crews assigned for those routes only.

    But doing this makes the airline’s aircraft scheduling much less flexible.

    If an earlier model 737 has a maintenance problem and can’t take off, the airline won’t be able to switch in a MAX from another location to take its place unless the crew happen to be qualified for the MAX.

    Neither the airlines nor the pilot unions had any prior knowledge of Boeing’s decision.

    Captain Tajer of the APA and Captain Jon Weaks, who heads the Southwest Airlines Pilots Union, both complained that they had heard no details about what training is contemplated directly from Boeing or the FAA and were not asked for their input regarding Boeing’s decision.

    “As the representative of the largest single group of 737NG and MAX pilots, it is vital we are involved in the process, as was promised by both Boeing and the FAA months ago,” Weaks said.

    Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or; on Twitter: @dominicgates.

  11. Hi Marshall;

    Thanks for the correction/addition - I should have quoted your full post - my apologies, and also, I may have misunderstood your point?

    What I'm attempting to point to (and not very clearly at times, much to my frustration), using a couple of suitable resources, is the changing character of American business practices as it affects those who do the work and making a connection between such changes and the reasons Boeing finds itself in deep difficulties today.

    The circumstances that resulted in two preventable, fatal, common-cause accidents have their seeds in the early '90's at Boeing.

    Boeing employees have clearly shown in studies*, beginning in 1996 and which I believe are continuing, that they wanted to be part of a solution to the problems they saw with their company but were rebuffed by a successive CEOs and Boards. As FOIA documents show, during this same period, this was also occurring at the FAA.

    What Boeing has revealed for all to see and for all to come to terms with is the dishonesty that justifies and protects the shift from engineering & testing to a "faster-better-cheaper" model of production. Edit to add: This kind of statement does need a nuanced approach because "faster, better, cheaper" isn't necessarily worse. In fact the books by Greenberg etc., emphasize that both Airbus and Boeing copied one another's manufacturing and management approaches. It would be naive to expect and say that Airbus did not have many of the same challenges. Airbus was not without its problems in listening and its own scent of arrogance during the introduction of the A320. I know this aspect because I experienced it. And there were the "what's it doing now?" moments and "automation" accidents. The FAA voiced the view that there would be more B737 MAX accidents over the years; Why? It could be fairly asked,  What would Boeing be today without the second MAX accident? This is why I think this issue needs the kind of examination that Vaughan brought to the Challenger accident.  

    Whether Boeing survives or not is independant of these underlying forces which were always and already at work more than twenty years ago. Whether Boeing survives or not depends upon whether the present and future leaders take the lesson they have been handed in the B787 and MAX troubles or lose it in the all-out fight to just survive. The reason I posted the Linked-in page above is to point directly to the problem with which Boeing must come to terms, or, like NASA repeating history with the loss of Columbia, "the MAX problem" will occur again.

    *From Greenberg, Edward S.; Grunberg, Leon; Sarah Moore; Patricia B. Sikora. Turbulence (Kindle Locations 418-424). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition:


    We launched our study in 1996 at a point when Boeing, which had been the dominant player for many years in the passenger airplane industry, was well into a process to cut costs and improve the quality of its products to meet market threats to its supremacy. Some have called this the “total quality” period, aimed as it was at incorporating many Japanese ideas for continuous improvement, lean production, and teaming. Our study also began when employment at the division was at its lowest level in many years and just after a bitter ninety-six day strike by the machinists’ union in 1995 over wages, benefits, and job security— issues that would continue to be front and center in future labor management negotiations.

    Our first survey in 1997, then, was conducted at a time when Boeing was already in the throes of unsettling change— not the ideal baseline by which to assess the impact of the changes at Boeing. We were, as it were, jumping into the process of change after it had already begun rather than before, as would be required in a controlled experiment. Nevertheless, the period during which we conducted the first three of the four employee surveys (1997 to 2003) saw not only an acceleration and intensification of the changes begun before the start of our study, but also the powerful effects of the merger with McDonnell Douglas. In what we could call the short-term “shareholder value” period, nearly everything about Boeing seemed to change— corporate culture and identity, business strategy, governing ethos and ethics, and more. Our interviews and surveys in this period capture the intense, almost shell-shocked reactions of the workforce to an avalanche of organizational change.

    . . . .

    Of course, change didn’t end at the conclusion of our study. For example, at the end of 2009, the 787 finally took to the air to undergo a year of flight testing, roughly two years behind schedule. Boeing executives, partly in response to problems with suppliers that helped delay the 787 program, took over a key subcontractor, Vought Industries in South Carolina. In a powerful signal to the unionized workforce in the Puget Sound region, executives announced that a second assembly line for the 787 would be built in Charlotte, South Carolina, after the workforce there voted to decertify the machinists’ union. And as we write in early 2010, Boeing is whittling away at the very generous educational benefits its workforce previously enjoyed. Even though our study captures an organization in the midst of profound change, there are no signs that the pace or extent of change will slow significantly at Boeing or at other companies. Faced with the uncertainty and insecurity produced by such disruptive change, employees are likely to find that their coping and adaptive capacities will continue to be severely taxed, with significant consequences for their attachment to their companies and for their health and well-being.

    . . . .

    We set the context for the book in chapter 2, describing why Boeing leaders believed they had to transform their company. We focus primarily on the cost revolution brought by airline deregulation, the competitive threat posed by the rise of Airbus, and the pressures to produce short-term returns in a capital market dominated by institutional investors. We show how the choices that Boeing leaders eventually made were shaped by best practices among other globally competitive firms; legal, cultural, and technical developments associated with globalization; and the growing commitment among many publicly traded companies to short-term shareholder value as a primary objective. We also show how Boeing revamped its entire system of planning, engineering, and production to maximize efficiencies.

    Chapters 3– 8 describe how many Boeing employees who lived through these changes were bruised and battered by the experience. For the most part, those who survived that period— those, that is to say, who were not laid off or forced into early retirement, or who left of their own volition to pursue other opportunities— adapted to the changes, with some doing better than others, and some carrying the scars of their experiences. Their attitudes about Boeing and their jobs, as well as their physical and mental well-being— already somewhat negatively affected at the time of our first survey in 1997 following a bitter machinists’ strike in 1995 and the turn toward a hard-line shareholder value orientation immediately afterward— tracked dramatically downward in our 2000 and 2003 surveys, as workplace changes multiplied, outsourcing intensified, and Boeing fortunes dipped. Employee job attitudes and well-being had improved in a number of respects by the time of our last survey in 2006— though not to the degree that one might have expected— as engineering and process changes took effect and proved workable, company fortunes improved, and a new airplane program that excited employees was launched.

    At the end of our study, Boeing’s long-term employees were more disenchanted than at the beginning; less involved in their jobs; more attuned to outside activities, families, and friends; less committed to their company; and deeply worried for themselves and their country about outsourcing. The end result might best be characterized as a tendency among Boeing employees working through the change process to feel more detached and resentful, as if they had fallen out of love with a longtime partner who had become indifferent to them. To be sure, Boeing employees reported they were impressed and satisfied by many of the changes they had experienced. Many reported they liked and appreciated the new energy of the company and its transformation from the “Lazy B” of the past. Many said they liked the more open and collaborative supervisory styles of their managers, the greater flexibility in scheduling their tasks and hours, better access to information that helped them perform their jobs more effectively, and more opportunities to collaborate on projects with people from other departments and with other skill sets.

    . . .

    Having said this, the problematic side of multiple, rapid, and continuous changes were much more pronounced. Layoff episodes and long-term downsizing tied to productivity improvements, outsourcing, and global partnering took their toll as people began to feel expendable, worried about being laid off in the future, and were forced to deal with a work environment where they were required to do more with less and where many of their close friends and collaborators were gone. More than a few employees said they were afraid that outsourcing and global partnering at Boeing and other companies would prove harmful to the country over the long haul as intellectual capital drifted to foreign firms, limiting opportunities for their own children and future generations of Americans as the nation’s industrial and engineering capacities were hollowed out.

    Greenberg, Edward S.; Grunberg, Leon; Sarah Moore; Patricia B. Sikora. Turbulence (Kindle Locations 418-424). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.



    • Like 1
  12. The lesson is an old one - "normalizing deviance" for the purposes of short-term, quarterly-report thinking.

    1 hour ago, Marshall said:

    No way the US will allow that to happen.

    I regret that I don't agree. As Dylan wrote, money doesn't talk, it swears.

    It  has already happened because lessons like this in the past have not been put into practise, as illustrated in the article on the Challenger accident above.

    This is the way American business practices work and there does not appear a disaster yet that gives them pause much longer than the daily news cycle. This one has staying power but in the face of power and wealth, not teaching power.

    Given stuff that has already happened like the Deep Water Horizon accident, Challenger and Columbia, the DC10 just by itself, the Opiod crisis promulgated by the healthcare industry including pharmaceuticals, etc., things have not changed. Given the possible profits and the best national & state governments money can buy, even a change in the Australian weather is dismissed as a temporarily hot day.

    Let's look at the learning opportunities. The following isn't hindsight bias: - a lot of people knew about these problems at Boeing as long ago as 2012 for the MAX and earlier for the B787 battery problem. They voiced concerns over the compromises within Boeing and the FAA a long time before these two disastrous and deadly "interventions" from their MAX design. Both Boeing and the FAA hid stuff and were dishonest with their technical people and the pilots who would fly their new aircraft. The CEO clearly lived in a different business ecology, the one being described here, and couldn't see what was actually wrong and no one could break through the thinking because it would be too expensive to stop production and re-assess the airplane.

    In discussions about this corporate disaster, I have heard comments from people who do design & engineering or who did this work at one time, and who led design teams, all at another manufacturer; - they quietly expressed the notion that they're glad they didn't or don't work in the American business environment with it's production pressures and growing scent of corruption between government agencies and corporate interests. They also observed that Boeing has seriously harmed the industry in terms of loss of trust and integrity, emphasizing that they derive no joy whatsoever in their competitor's troubles; the problems are far too serious to do so.

    To J.O.'s well-taken point, if we think about it, it's actually profitable and even fair to the shareholders to not cheat, not cut corners, to welcome healthy, informed dissent and to not ignore as inconvenient the valuable input from employees who really do know their stuff*, and cultivating too close a relationship with the regulator for the purpose of saving nickels and maintaining share prices.

    Long term profit is created simply by doing things right and holding oneself to account long before an accident or before the FBI, Congress and the flying public come into the picture to hold the entire lot to account.

    This will likely cost Boeing an unplanned-for $10B or more before the MAX is flying again and the shareholders have lost over 20% so far.

    Despite all the "reminders" and input made out of a sincere loyalty to their employer and their customers by employees and FAA staff alike, Boeing and the FAA forgot who they were, who they really worked for and what they did for a living. It seems so trite these days to say it, but they did so because they could, with impunity.

    * Turbulence: Boeing and the State of American Workers and Managers, Greenberg, Grunberg, Moore, Sikora



    13 hours ago, conehead said:

    It just never ends...

    Yes, it seems that way doesn't it, conehead? 

    But it's canonical for all organizations: For better or worse, sooner or later no matter what the organization, the government, the NGO, or "tribe", when the layers of the onion get peeled back, the principles and primary focus, that core being built by those in charge of an organization or a government or..., is eventually laid bare.

    Déjà vu - Boeing 737 Max accidents worthy of a deep probeéjà-vu-boeing-737-max-accidents-worthy-deep-probe-bryce-fisher

    Published on March 27, 2019

    Bryce Fisher

    For those of us of a certain age, the picture above is a grim reminder of what can go wrong with risky technologies. In 1986, the space shuttle Challenger disintegrated 73 seconds after liftoff killing all seven on board.

    Why I am bringing up the Challenger disaster up in relation to the Boeing 737 Max accidents? 

    A first blush, the recent Boeing 737 Max accidents seem to have the potential for similar historical significance. Like the space shuttle Challenger accident, emerging information about the design, manufacture, certification and operation of the Boeing 737 Max suggests a deep probe is necessary. 

    While some may dismiss the Challenger disaster as an aerospace rather than aviation accident, it may be instructive to refresh our collective memories of the lessons learned from it. 

    The immediate suspect in both the Challenger and Max disasters is technological. In the case of the former it is the O-rings and, in the latter, the Maneuvering Augmentation System (MCAS).

    Also, organizations are involved: NASA and Boeing respectively. While proven at NASA, we will likely learn that economic and production pressures at Boeing contributed to managerial short-circuiting of safety processes, or that management either did not fully understand the scientific or technical safety issues, or, if it did, it discounted or dismissed them. 

    In the case of the Max, there is the role of the regulator. As the authority responsible for the safety certification of the B737 Max series, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States is involved in the causal story. As of this writing, the Inspector General of the United States Department of Transport will examine what role the FAA played. Surely, the apparent conflict of the FAA’s dual mandate to promote the civil aviation industry and regulate it on behalf of the public will be raised once again. As an aside, the FBI is now involved, therefore, criminal acts and/or malfeasance is in now scope. 

    Like NASA, the Boeing and FAA “brands” have suffered severely. The public’s faith in them to manage safety on their behalf has been shaken to its core. Only after all the investigations have been completed and credible and observable changes made will Boeing and the FAA be able to restore their reputations and the public’s trust. 

    Finally, unlike the Challenger where a Presidential Commission (Rogers Commission) was convened, no decision has been made to hold one for the B737 Max, though calls for one have already been voiced. 

    As the title of this article suggests, we have seen the B737 Max story unfold before in the space shuttle Challenger accident. It should follow to ask whether the lessons learned have been wasted or not. 

    The Rogers Commission made nine sets of recommendations. These ranged in scope from broad to narrow, from addressing larger managerial to more specific technical issues. NASA developed a corrective action plan to address each set of recommendations. These, it seems, did not have the desired effect. 

    Seventeen years later, the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry killing all seven crew members on board. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) examined NASA’s safety management practices and said: “…the causes of the institutional failure responsible for Challenger have not been fixed.” 

    In piecing together the information emerging from the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines accident investigations and news reports, I am reminded of Diane Vaughan’s ethnographic study of the launch decision of the space shuttle Challenger. In The Challenger Launch Decision – Risky Technology, Culture, and Deviance at NASA, Professor Vaughan suggests her study shows “how mistake, mishap, and disaster are socially organized and systematically produced by social structures…The cause of the disaster was a mistake embedded in the banality of organizational life and facilitated by an environment of scarcity and competition, elite bargaining, uncertain technology, incrementalism, patterns of information, routinization, organizational and interorganizational structures in a complex culture.”  

    In September of this year, the International Society of Air Safety Investigators (ISASI) will be holding its annual conference in The Hague. The theme of this year’s offering asks: “Future safety: Has the past become irrelevant?” 

    On this, I will defer to Professor Ms. Vaughan: “No one has forgotten the astronauts, the incident, or the shape of those billowing clouds that recorded the final seconds of the Challenger’s flight. Nonetheless, the loss of the Challenger, has receded into history, as the unfolding present, urgently demanding attention, replaces the past.” 

    I think ISASI has its answer. 

    Bryce Fisher

  14. From Overrun occurred off the end of 14 at 1607Z

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  15. Quote

    “We are going to have to ultimately almost—almost— make these planes fly on their own,” then-Boeing Chairman Dave Calhoun said in a CNBC interview in November. Mr. Calhoun is to become the plane maker’s chief executive Jan. 13.

    This is a very big chew for a company that must yet prove that its design capabilities are equal to such a goal. Mr. Calhoun's statement regarding "...make planes fly on their own," sounds almost naïve in terms of what modern airliners including Boeing's own B787, are capable of. They have been able to "fly on their own" since Airbus designed and built the A320 in the mid-eighties.

    The Boeing Chief Executive should reveal that he possesses at least a little knowledge of his product and use terms that really do describe what he's talking about, which is "autonomous flight". What Mr. Calhoun is proposing is an entirely different, very ambitious kettle of automated fish than what he appears to believe is the solution to increasing levels of inexperience, bread-and-butter training and keeping "complexity" out of airplane manuals because pilots can't/won't comprehend it.

    Autonomous flight may or may not come, but there is no reason to believe such a system will be safer or less safe than the present commercial aviation system in place in both the western and eastern worlds.

    I think the corrupted design and oversight process that led to the MCAS debacle among other failures at Boeing can actually be fixed quite readily. What will take longer and harder is the recharging of employees including reasons-to-believe-again, a change in expectations on the part of shareholders and their carrot-and-stick approach to investing, and for Boeing, the formation of new habits and ways of working that demand more robust focus on engineering and testing, testing, testing, just like they said they used to do in the years leading up to 1997.

  16. From the WSJ, 2020.01.02

    Boeing’s Commitment To Automation Grows


    Boeing Co. is increasingly committed to transferring more control of aircraft from pilots to computers after two crashes exposed flaws in an automated system on its 737 MAX that overpowered aviators in the disasters.

    Executives at Boeing and other makers of planes and cockpit-automation systems for some time have believed more-sophisticated systems are necessary to serve as backstops for pilots, help them assimilate information and, in some cases, provide immediate responses to imminent hazards.

    Now, such changes seek to address the fact that pilots might not react to problems— including those tied to automation— as quickly or proficiently as designers assumed, according to former and current Boeing officials and industry exec- utives. The view took hold after a flight-control system known as MCAS put two MAX jets into fatal nosedives within the past 14 months that together killed 346 people.

    “We are going to have to ultimately almost—almost— make these planes fly on their own,” then-Boeing Chairman Dave Calhoun said in a CNBC interview in November. Mr. Calhoun is to become the plane maker’s chief executive Jan. 13.

    While the MAX’s problems stemmed from a misguided design of automation, many engineers and airline executives remain confident that properly devised computerized features have proven extremely reliable and will prevent accidents. They cite the safety benefits of everything from automated engine adjustments to computer-controlled landing maneuvers that are more precise and predictable than any pilot commands.

    Over the years, Boeing rival Airbus SE has tended to devise systems in which pilots are trained to let automated systems handle emergencies, and company executives have said that approach will continue.

    Executives at Boeing and Airbus have said they are also designing flight-control systems tailored for younger pilots, who generally have less flying time in their logbooks and a more innate familiarity with technology than aviators of years past.

    Airbus recently unveiled touch screens designed by France’s Thales SA for its A350 wide-body aircraft. Airbus is pursuing additional automation for single-pilot aircraft and enhanced computer-controlled responses to midair collision warnings, according to officials at the company and in the industry.

    Boeing also plans to tailor its design and training to better serve the more globally diverse group of pilots now flying its planes, said former and current company officials familiar with the plans.

    Engineers predict an expansion of automated safeguards including, possibly, artificial intelligence to assist pilots. “Such features are certainly going to have a greater role in air carrier cockpits,” said Alan Diehl, a former military and civilian accident investigator who was one of the first automation specialists for the Federal Aviation Administration.

    Some of the new systems Boeing and other companies are working on are designed to maintain stable flight while pilots troubleshoot in moments— like those during both MAX crashes—when crews face cascades of emergency alerts and warnings that can be confusing or contradictory.

    “Automation can help by verifying that pilots are doing the right things, and then helping them all the way through” an incident, said Kevin Hiatt, a former airline captain and industry safety executive.

    While manufacturers said automation fosters safety, some aviation experts harbor concerns. Studies have shown that undue

    reliance on automation can degrade manual flying skills, or make pilots less decisive in emergencies. The MAX tragedies also show how automated features can backfire if they malfunction, said Mica Endsley, an industry consultant and former chief scientist for the Air Force.

    “Engineers get very enamored with their automation,” Ms. Endsley said. “When we assume it’s perfect, then we don’t design” necessary defenses for pilots. Under most circumstances, she added, it is essential for pilots to recognize when specific automation kicks in and to have some training dealing with it.

    Boeing and Airbus have been automating some aspects of flight for decades, innovations that have helped make aviation the safest mode of transportation. From early versions of autopilots to the introduction of automated landing systems and cockpit layouts dominated by video screens, computers have steadily gained control of commercial flight.

    Beginning in the 1980s, Airbus devised what is called flyby- wire automation to prevent accidents. No matter what commands pilots give, under normal circumstances, computers on board won’t let them turn a plane too sharply or raise the nose to too steep an angle. Boeing,

    by contrast, traditionally designed automated systems that could be overruled by crew commands.

    That distinction started blurring long before automation- gone-haywire overpowered two MAX crews. Boeing has crafted extensive fly-by-wire applications, some beyond the control of pilots.

    Now Boeing is rethinking how to tailor more-sophisticated automation without forsaking its pilot-centric design approach, said the current and former company officials.

    “We’re also going to take a look at the pilot-machine interface on our airplanes in designing that for the next generation, as technology is rapidly evolving,” then-CEO Dennis Muilenburg told a congressional hearing in October.

    Boeing’s automation projects include an electrically powered cargo plane that would fly without any aviators on board. Before the second MAX crashed in March, it said it had completed the initial test flight of a totally autonomous prototype vehicle that can take off and land vertically.


  17. Boeing’s 737 MAX crisis leaves it badly behind in ‘arms race’ for next decade’s jets

    Dec. 29, 2019 at 6:01 am


    Dominic Gates

    Seattle Times aerospace reporter

    Since the second fatal 737 MAX crash, in Ethiopia in March, and the subsequent worldwide grounding of the jet, Boeing — the company that built the Pacific Northwest’s manufacturing economy and made the region a global powerhouse of aerospace technology — has suffered a precipitous fall.

    Ongoing investigations of the crashes have spotlighted the badly flawed design of the MAX’s flight control system and a largely self-certifying oversight regime that failed to catch the flaws. Congressional investigators are combing internal Boeing documents for evidence of malpractice, and a Department of Justice probe means even a criminal indictment is not ruled out. The jetmaker’s stellar global reputation is badly tarnished.

    Through it all, said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at aviation consulting firm Teal Group, Boeing has displayed “an absence of leadership, an absence of strategy and an inability to communicate.”

    The disastrous year will be followed by a precarious 2020: As Boeing’s new leaders struggle to recover control, they face crucial decisions about developing new airplanes while they cope with depleted financial resources, a distracted engineering corps and a loss of Boeing’s previous strategic advantage against rival Airbus. They’ll also face pressure to reverse a two-decadeslong decline in the company’s historic culture of engineering prowess, which many blame for the MAX disaster.

    Although newly ousted CEO Dennis Muilenburg was an engineer, he stuck closely to the financial engineering playbook of his predecessor, Jim McNerney. Whistleblowers and leaked documents have raised damaging accusations that management drove too relentlessly to cut costs and deliver on schedule.

    A former senior leader at Boeing, who asked for anonymity to speak freely, blamed the MAX crisis on a “push away from engineering excellence, driven by cost-cutting.”

     “All of us who care about Boeing, we want to learn from this and ensure it never happens again,” the former executive said. “We have to get back the engineering discipline and make it the Number 1 priority.”

    737 MAX CRISIS


    ·        Boeing documents sent to House committee called ‘very disturbing’

    ·        Boeing 737 MAX production halt ripples out as supplier Spirit stops fuselage work, United delays MAX flights until June

    ·        Renton businesses fear Boeing 737 MAX assembly-line halt will ‘impact the community in a huge way’

    Boeing’s proposed fix for the MAX — making sure the flight control system that went haywire in the crashes has multiple redundancies — in concept is solid. In practice, it’s taking much longer than anticipated to ensure the software is bug-free and hides no pathways to another single-fault failure.

    It looks like the grounding of the MAX will stretch into a full year. Yet no serious industry analyst doubts that the MAX eventually will fly again and that when it does, it will be a safe airplane.

    Aboulafia believes Boeing must not only steady itself by fixing the MAX and restarting production but then must follow up as soon as practical to secure its future by launching an all-new airplane.

    Adam Pilarski, senior vice president at consulting firm Avitas, points to the recurring cycles in the aviation industry. Though both Airbus and Boeing have suffered major setbacks over the years, the two aerospace giants still divide the business in a powerful duopoly and neither can feed the demand for new jets alone.

    He’s optimistic that despite the debacle of 2019, Boeing will reverse its fortunes.

    “In the long run, aviation is not dead. Boeing is not dead,” Pilarski said. “Eventually, Boeing can recover its strategic position.”

    Fall from grace

    In fall 2018, Boeing was riding high, raking in cash from ever-accelerating 737 production and widely seen as having the upper hand strategically over Airbus.

    Because the 737 MAX has been grounded so long, each plane will require maintenance work on the engines and other systems, followed by a couple of check... (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times) More

    Boeing’s MAX had been launched late but was catching up on the Airbus A320neo, and in 2019 Boeing anticipated flying its new 777X and launching an all-new “New Midmarket Airplane” (NMA) — a prospective 797.

    Even after the October 2018 crash of Lion Air JT610, the stock kept climbing until March when CEO Muilenburg could boast that the share price had tripled during his tenure. But with the second crash and the worldwide grounding, Boeing’s dominant position swiftly crumbled. The stock is now down a quarter from its high.

    Delivery and sales numbers show a stark divergence of fortune with rival Airbus.

    Through November this year, Airbus had 718 net orders and delivered 725 aircraft, while Boeing booked just 56 net orders and delivered 345.

    In the crucial single-aisle category, Airbus delivered 578 of its A320 family of planes and Boeing just 121 single-aisle 737s. About 400 more MAXs were built that cannot be delivered until regulators clear the jet.

    With Boeing sales stalled, Airbus raked in orders for its largest single-aisle jet, the A321neo, and launched new versions with extra fuel tanks to offer significant extra range.

    As a result, airlines are buying the A321neo for medium-range international flights, such as transatlantic routes. That’s the heart of the mid-size, midrange market Boeing planned to target with its NMA, a plane carrying 220 to 270 passengers up to 5,700 miles.

    The economics of the A321neo are forcing a shift away from larger, twin-aisle jets, which are much more expensive to buy and to operate. The jet’s order backlog has swelled to more than 3,200 airplanes as “the middle market has gotten way bigger than anyone expected,” said Aboulafia.

    But at Boeing, any new airplane remains just an idea.

    And the new 777X, delayed by engine-development problems, won’t fly until sometime next year.

    Stan Sorscher, retired Boeing engineer and longtime policy analyst with Boeing’s white-collar union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), describes a shift at Boeing over the past two decades from an engineering culture that strove for quality, high performance and problem-solving during development of a new airplane, to one focused narrowly on cost cutting.

    This deliberate strategy from the very top of the company led to massive, ill-thought-out outsourcing and the discarding of engineering talent as work was moved out of the Puget Sound region.

    Talk to us

    We continue to seek information on the design, training and certification of the Boeing 737 MAX. If you have insights, please get in touch with aerospace reporter Dominic Gates at 206-464-2963 or To communicate on a confidential and encrypted channel, follow the options available at

    Sorscher said that has led to major failures on Boeing’s latest two major airplane development programs — first the heavily outsourced 787 Dreamliner and then the minimally upgraded 737 MAX. Both planes had to be grounded over safety issues.

    Sorscher said Boeing had built up a superb engineering culture through building new planes every 10 years or so and passing on the knowledge through generations of engineers, but “we’ve now had two decades of workers who have not had the experience of going through a good, high-performance development program.”

    Boeing at bay

    As 2019 ends, Boeing is paralyzed by the MAX crisis.

    After months of optimistic declarations that the MAX fix was close to approval, the FAA pricked that bubble in December, when FAA boss Steve Dickson told Muilenburg to get real. In response, Boeing finally announced a complete halt to the 737 MAX assembly line until further notice. The board fired Muilenburg shortly after and appointed company Chairman Dave Calhoun to take over as CEO.

    “Right now, there is a fire and they have to put it out,” said Pilarski, of Avitas.

    Now Boeing must wait for FAA clearance while it braces for compensation negotiations with suppliers and airline customers. Its leverage is limited: Boeing needs its suppliers to maintain capacity to restart and ramp up production again. It needs airlines to keep their MAX orders.

    Yet Boeing faces hostility from all quarters.

    It had already alienated many of its suppliers long before the crashes, as it relentlessly pressed them to lower their prices.

    Major supplier Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kan., had kept things running well by maintaining a production rate of 52 fuselages per month even when Boeing cut its rate to 42 jets per month. The Renton shutdown forced Spirit to halt production completely.

    Boeing’s airline customers, strung along for months, have lost patience. U.S. pilot unions have displayed open anger at Boeing.

    United Airlines, tired of reassessing its schedule every month, pulled the MAX from its schedule until June and said it expects to have to cancel more than 13,800 flights for the months of December through to June.

    “Boeing has no friends anywhere,” said the former senior company leader.

    On top of this, when the FAA finally gives the MAX the OK to fly — late February or early March is the new target — it will be a daunting logistical challenge to restart the global supply chain and perform the maintenance needed to get the backlog of parked airplanes back in the air and delivered.

    Even assuming the FAA’s approval doesn’t slip further, some of the parked jets may remain undelivered through next year. It could be 2022 before Boeing’s Renton plant is back to normal.

    The future

    Aboulafia, of the Teal Group, worries that the MAX crisis will leave Boeing incapable of taking steps essential to its future, in particular responding to the new market demand for mid-size, midrange, single-aisle planes for international routes — jets like the Airbus A321neo.

    He says “an arms race” by airlines to re-equip their fleets with these new airplanes is already underway.  This month, United Airlines said it will buy 50 new A321XLRs, the extra-long-range version, to replace its aging Boeing 757 fleet.

    “This is exactly the moment that Boeing needs to invest in its future,” said Aboulafia. “There will be a wave to catch. People want a new jetliner. You prepare for the wave and you catch it.”

    He believes Boeing should drop the twin-aisle NMA concept and instead go for a replacement to the MAX that skews toward the larger end of the single-aisle segment, the A321neo’s size.

    Without the crashes, he thinks Boeing could have “turned on a dime” to pivot toward that idea. Now, with cash squeezed and debt mounting, he fears the Boeing board won’t make the necessary investment and will lose that market completely to Airbus.

    Yet the best Boeing strategy is not obvious.

    Pilarksi agrees that Boeing needs to catch that next wave. But he still sees the NMA concept as Boeing’s best answer to the A321neo. The NMA plan includes new, innovative production technology that he thinks Boeing should apply to a MAX replacement only some years later.

    Whatever strategy is chosen, he said that as it emerges from the MAX crisis, Boeing needs to “tell the market that it is not out of business.”

    “They need a moonshot,” said Pilarski. “They better start working on it. I’m sure they are.”

    Sorscher, the former Boeing and SPEEA analyst, said Boeing won’t succeed at that next new airplane unless its leaders can reassert its legacy engineering standards.

    “The cost-cutting business model is OK for mature products that don’t involve innovation and risk,” he said. But whatever next new airplane Boeing develops, he believes it must restore its “problem-solving, high-performance engineering culture.”

    Sometime in the new year, Boeing hopes for its first good-news event in many months: the long-delayed first flight of the new 777X, with its massive composite wings.

    In late January, Boeing’s new leadership will reveal the latest tally of the cost of the MAX grounding, updating the $9.2 billion estimate through October.

    The rest of the year is likely to be a long slog, getting the MAX program restarted and slowly ramping back up again. No one can yet foresee the long-term impact.

    Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or; on Twitter: @dominicgates.

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  18. hi st27:

    Thanks for the correction - the Fokker 100 does NOT have leading edge devices. I didn't read carefully enough - here's what I saw in Wiki:

    "... has new flaps and larger ailerons, and extended leading and trailing edges improve aerodynamics and increase the wing chord. "

    , and I read "leading edge" then jumped to the conclusion that that was the high-lift device. Sigh.

    So, "hard wing", & thank you!

  19. Boeing ousts Muilenburg amid 737 MAX crisis; observers wonder if new CEO Calhoun will bring the right sort of change

    Dec. 23, 2019 at 6:37 am Updated Dec. 23, 2019 at 4:58 pm subscriber#comments

    This didn't begin with this CEO and it is not likely to end with his replacement. Work habits and attitudes take years to change. The turn towards profit & shareholder value over excellence in engineering and testing began in 1997. It will literally take a generation to alter Boeing's cultural values, processes and priorities. Many saw this along the way, but were ignored, as were those who wrote to their superiors, and finally to the FAA.


    • Like 1