737 Max Updates and Cancellations


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Who cares how Southwest  feels.  They got what they demanded,  they get what they deserve. 

14,000 Words Of "Blame The Pilots" That Whitewash Boeing Of 737 MAX Failure The New York Times Magazine just published a 14,000 words piece about the Boeing 737 MAX accidents. It is headlined:

On a humourous note, maybe Boeing just wants to be more.....'environmentally friendly'???  

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Regulators to examine pilot training for Boeing 737 Max jets

From Canadian Manufacturing – link to story

The review will include aviation officials and pilots from the U.S., Canada, Brazil and the European Union

September 12, 2020  by The Associated Press

Aviation regulators and pilots from several countries will begin next week reviewing Boeing’s proposal for training pilots to fly the revamped 737 Max, a sign that the grounded plane is moving closer to returning to service.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Sept. 11 that the review will start Sept. 14 at London’s Gatwick Airport and last about nine days. The review will include aviation officials and pilots from the United States, Canada, Brazil and the European Union.

The FAA said several other steps remain before the plane can resume flying, including a review to make sure Boeing’s changes comply with safety regulations.

Boeing changed computers and flight software on the Max after an automated anti-stall system pushed down the noses of two jets before they crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia, killing 346 people. Max planes have been grounded worldwide since March 2019.

U.S. safety investigators who reviewed the two crashes recommended that Boeing reconsider assumptions it made about how quickly pilots can respond during an emergency.

A spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing said the company expects to win regulatory approval to resume shipping new Max jets in the fourth quarter. It could take longer before airlines resume using the plane because of maintenance and pilot-training requirements.

Earlier Sept. 11, Europe’s flight safety authority said the first flight tests for the Max were completed.

Separately, congressional scrutiny of FAA’s original approval of the Max is about to increase. A Senate committee plans to vote next week on a bill that would impose new restrictions on the FAA’s use of employees of aircraft makers like Boeing to make safety certifications about their own planes.

Congressional aides say if the measure had been in effect at the time, it would have required FAA to examine the Max and its flight-control system more thoroughly by deeming it a new plane and not simply an update to the Boeing 737, which began flying in the 1960s.

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Link to story https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/us-congress-boeing-crash-report-1.5725876?cmp=rss

Link to FAA updates: https://www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsId=93206&omniRss=news_updatesAoc&cid=101_N_U

Boeing, U.S. regulator made series of errors ahead of 737 Max crashes: congressional report

Soc

Transportation committee says what it learned calls for urgent reforms in how planes are approved

The Associated Press · Posted: Sep 16, 2020 8:16 AM ET | Last Updated: 19 minutes ago

A House of Representatives committee issued a scathing report Wednesday questioning whether Boeing and government regulators have recognized the problems that caused two deadly 737 Max jet crashes and whether either will be willing to make significant changes to fix them.

Staff members from the Democrat-controlled transportation committee blamed the crashes that killed 346 people on the "horrific culmination" of failed government oversight, design flaws and a lack of action at Boeing despite knowing about problems.

 

The committee identified many deficiencies in the Federal Aviation Administration approval process for new jetliners. But both the agency and Boeing have said certification of the Max complied with FAA regulations, the 246-page report said.

"The fact that a compliant airplane suffered from two deadly crashes in less than five months is clear evidence that the current regulatory system is fundamentally flawed and needs to be repaired," the staff wrote in the report released early Wednesday.

The report highlights the need for legislation to fix the approval process and deal with the FAA's delegation of some oversight tasks to aircraft manufacturer employees, said committee chairman Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon.

"Obviously the system is inadequate," DeFazio said. "We will be adopting significant reforms."

He wouldn't give details of possible changes, saying committee leaders are in talks with Republicans about legislation. He said the committee won't scrap the delegation program, and he hopes to reach agreement on reforms before year's end.

The House report stems from an 18-month investigation into the October 2018 crash of Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia and the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in March of 2019. The Max was grounded worldwide shortly after the Ethiopia crash, which killed 18 Canadian citizens.

Regulators are testing planes with revamped flight control software, and Boeing hopes to get the Max flying again later this year or early in 2021, though the pandemic has complicated the outlook for the aviation industry.

Software flaw inadequately communicated

The investigators mainly focused on the reason Boeing was able to get the jet approved with minimal pilot training: It convinced the FAA that the Max was an updated version of previous generation 737s.

In fact, Boeing equipped the plane with software called MCAS, an acronym for Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, which automatically lowers the plane's nose to prevent an aerodynamic stall. Initially, pilots worldwide weren't told about the system, which Boeing said was needed because the Max had bigger, more powerful engines that were placed further forward on the wings than older 737s.

 

In both crashes, MCAS repeatedly pointed the nose down, forcing pilots into unsuccessful struggles to keep the planes aloft.

Committee investigators said they found several instances in which Boeing concealed information about MCAS from the FAA and airlines.

Read the congressional report:

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Boeing, which is headquartered in Chicago and has its production facilities in Washington state, didn't disclose that MCAS worked off a single sensor called "angle of attack," which measures a plane's pitch. It also didn't disclose that a gauge that would have alerted pilots to a malfunctioning sensor didn't work on the vast majority of the jets.

Boeing also concealed that it took a company test pilot more than 10 seconds to determine that MCAS was operating and respond to it, a condition that the pilot found to be "catastrophic," according to the report. Federal guidelines assume pilots will respond to this condition within four seconds.

Four Boeing employees working as "authorized representatives" with permission to act on the FAA's behalf to validate aircraft systems knew about the test pilot's slow response. But there was no evidence that they reported this to the FAA, the report said.

Another authorized representative raised concerns in 2016 about hazards of MCAS repeatedly pointing the plane's nose down, but the concerns never made it to the FAA.

Repeated MCAS activation and faulty sensors "were the core contributing factors that led to the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes more than two years later," the report said.

Additional training would've lowered plane's cost

According to the report, Boeing wanted to keep details about MCAS from the FAA so it wouldn't require additional pilot training. That would ruin Boeing's sales pitch for the Max — that pilots of older 737s wouldn't have to go through extensive simulator training to fly the new planes.

Investigators found that Boeing had a financial incentive to avoid more pilot training. Under a 2011 contract with Southwest Airlines, Boeing would have had to knock $1 million US off the price of each Max if simulator training was needed.

"That drove a whole lot of really bad decisions internally at Boeing, and also the FAA did not pick up on these things," DeFazio said.

He added that Boeing had an internal meeting in 2013 and agreed never to talk about MCAS outside the company. At one point, MCAS was listed in pilot training manuals, but an authorized representative signed off on removing it, he said.

In a statement, Boeing said it has worked to strengthen its safety culture and has co-operated with the committee. The company has incorporated many recommendations from committees and experts who have examined Max issues.

'Change is always hard'

Boeing said it has learned from mistakes.

"Change is always hard and requires a daily commitment, but we as a company are dedicated to doing the work," the statement said.

The FAA said in a statement it looks forward to working with the committee to make improvements, and it's already making changes based on internal and independent reviews.

"These initiatives are focused on advancing overall aviation safety by improving our organization, processes and culture," the FAA said, adding that it is requiring a number of design changes to the Max before it can fly again.

When it came to FAA oversight, investigators said they found multiple examples of agency managers overruling technical and safety experts at the behest of Boeing.

In an interview with investigators, Keith Leverkuhn, former Boeing general manager for the Max who was promoted in the company, said he considered development of the Max a success despite the crashes.

"I do challenge the suggestion that the development was a failure," the report quotes him as saying.

The Senate's commerce committee postponed a planned Wednesday meeting following up on changes to a bipartisan bill introduced in June giving the FAA more control over picking company employees who sign off on safety decisions. One improvement contemplated may be that a plane with significant changes from previous models would need more FAA review.

 

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4 hours ago, Specs said:

I wonder what the fate of SMS will be after the dust from all this settles.

Same principles at play... Airline self regulation. What could go wrong?

It's just not that simple.

First of all, SMS is about airlines flight safety management programs, not the manufacturer or the regulator and how each do their work. The manufacturer is expected to adhere to the highest possible standards and the regulator must ensure that that is the case. This whole Boeing thing, from the takeover of Boeing by McDonnell-Douglas in 1997 "reads" like, and I think should be examined from the point of view of NASA's problems which led to both the Challenger and Columbia accidents. This is an inter-organizational failure on a massive scale and can't be fixed without acknowledging this. Even as we are in a time when all words and actions are at risk of being politicized, I still think that this report has come closest to examining causes and Boeing would do well to keep quiet about impossible assurances of "doing better" and take what is said about their organzation seriously.

I have seen SMS work well where an airline has a robust flight safety program fully supported by the CEO, the Executive Management and the pilots. I think SMS is far better than the old blame-and-enforce system which used to follow an accident and which was sometimes known as "tombstone safety".

SMS is not the initial place to look either for cause, or solutions. Examining how NASA became better may hold answers, but only if they are seen and sincerely wanted. If other priorities continue to inform corporate decision-making at the top, then the same results as befell Boeing, will ultimately befall all other private or government organizations.

Many here will recognize this point of view and the familiar references, but some may be new here so the link to both excellent books on Challenger and Columbia are:

https://www.amazon.com/Challenger-Launch-Decision-Technology-Deviance/dp/022634682X

https://www.amazon.com/Organization-Limit-Lessons-Columbia-Disaster/dp/140513108X

 

Link to the House Committee Report referenced in Marshall's post above, followed by a summary-page:

https://transportation.house.gov/committee-activity/boeing-737-max-investigation

September 16, 2020

After 18-Month Investigation, Chairs DeFazio and Larsen Release Final Committee Report on Boeing 737 MAX

From the Report: “The MAX crashes were… a horrific culmination of a series of faulty technical assumptions by Boeing’s engineers, a lack of transparency on the part of Boeing’s management, and grossly insufficient oversight by the FAA”

Washington, D.C. — Today, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation Rick Larsen (D-WA) released the Committee’s final report on the Boeing 737 MAX. This report, prepared by Majority Staff, lays out the serious flaws and missteps in the design, development, and certification of the aircraft, which entered commercial service in 2017 before suffering two deadly crashes within five months of each other that killed a total of 346 people, including eight Americans.

The Committee’s 238-page report, which points to repeated and serious failures by both The Boeing Company (Boeing) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), contains five central themes and includes more than six dozen investigative findings. These themes include:

  • Production pressures that jeopardized the safety of the flying public. There was tremendous financial pressure on Boeing and the 737 MAX program to compete with Airbus’ new A320neo aircraft. Among other things, this pressure resulted in extensive efforts to cut costs, maintain the 737 MAX program schedule, and avoid slowing the 737 MAX production line.
  • Faulty Design and Performance Assumptions. Boeing made fundamentally faulty assumptions about critical technologies on the 737 MAX, most notably with MCAS, the software designed to automatically push the airplane’s nose down in certain conditions. Boeing also expected that pilots, who were largely unaware that MCAS existed, would be able to mitigate any potential malfunction.
  • Culture of Concealment. Boeing withheld crucial information from the FAA, its customers, and 737 MAX pilots, including internal test data that revealed it took a Boeing test pilot more than 10 seconds to diagnose and respond to uncommanded MCAS activation in a flight simulator, a condition the pilot described as “catastrophic.” Federal guidelines assume pilots will respond to this condition within four seconds.
  • Conflicted Representation. The FAA’s current oversight structure with respect to Boeing creates inherent conflicts of interest that have jeopardized the safety of the flying public. The report documents multiple instances in which Boeing employees who have been authorized to perform work on behalf of the FAA failed to alert the FAA to potential safety and/or certification issues.
  • Boeing’s Influence Over the FAA’s Oversight Structure. Multiple career FAA officials have documented examples where FAA management overruled a determination of the FAA’s own technical experts at the behest of Boeing. These examples are consistent with results of a recent draft FAA employee “safety culture” survey that showed many FAA employees believed its senior leaders are more concerned with helping industry achieve its goals and are not held accountable for safety-related decisions.

“Our report lays out disturbing revelations about how Boeing—under pressure to compete with Airbus and deliver profits for Wall Street—escaped scrutiny from the FAA, withheld critical information from pilots, and ultimately put planes into service that killed 346 innocent people. What’s particularly infuriating is how Boeing and FAA both gambled with public safety in the critical time period between the two crashes,” Chair DeFazio said. “On behalf of the families of the victims of both crashes, as well as anyone who steps on a plane expecting to arrive at their destination safely, we are making this report public to put a spotlight not only on the broken safety culture at Boeing but also the gaps in the regulatory system at the FAA that allowed this fatally-flawed plane into service. Critically, our report gives Congress a roadmap on the steps we must take to reinforce aviation safety and regulatory transparency, increase Federal oversight, and improve corporate accountability to help ensure the story of the Boeing 737 MAX is never, ever repeated.” 

“The Committee’s thorough investigation uncovered errors that are difficult to hear, but necessary to confront about the 737 MAX certification,” Chair Larsen said. “This report, combined with the findings and recommendations from the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines investigations, National Transportation Safety Board, Joint Authorities Technical Review and other entities, serve as a roadmap for changes to the FAA certification process. The 346 victims of the two tragic crashes and their families, as well as the traveling public rightfully expect Congress to act. As the Committee moves into the next phase of oversight, I will continue to work with Chair DeFazio and my colleagues to address the significant cultural and structural deficiencies identified in the report in order to improve safety.”

Additional information:

At the direction of Chair DeFazio and Subcommittee Chair Larsen, the Committee launched an investigation into the design, development, and certification of the 737 MAX, and related issues, in March 2019, shortly after the second crash involving a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. As part of the 18-month long investigation, the Committee held five public hearings with more than 20 witnesses; wrote nearly two dozen oversight letters, obtained an estimated 600,000 pages of documents from Boeing, the FAA, and others; received information and insight from former and current employees who contacted the Committee directly through the Committee’s whistleblower link; and interviewed dozens of current and former Boeing and FAA employees.

To access the Final Report, newly released accompanying records, including transcribed interviews of both senior Boeing and FAA officials about the 737 MAX, as well as past statements, hearing video, and more, click here.

Edited by Don Hudson
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Boeing nears decision on closing down 787 Dreamliner assembly in Everett


by KOMO News Staff

 
FILE - In this June 12, 2017, file photo, a Boeing 787 airplane being built for Norwegian Air Shuttle is shown at Boeing Co.'s assembly facility, in Everett, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
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CHICAGO - The Boeing Co. is nearing a decision on whether to move all 787 Dreamliner production to South Carolina, according to aviation experts and a new media report.

The Reuters news service reported Monday that Boeing is "all but certain" to close down the 787 assembly line in Everett and consolidate production of the jetliner in Charleston, S.C.

An official announcement on the move is expected by Oct. 28 or perhaps even sooner, aviation consultant Scott Hamilton tells KOMO News. He said the company needs to act quickly to cut production levels as the COVID pandemic takes its toll on the aviation industry

"Layoffs will inevitably come as fhe 787 line closes (in Everett)," he said. "In the context of today's environment, this is a big move."

Boeing Co. officials openly admit they are "studying the feasibility of consolidating 787 production in one location" while keeping "an eye on future requirements," according to a prepared statement released by the aerospace giant.

The statement does not address where production would be consolidated, but experts agree that it's likely to be Charleston.

Hamilton says the Charleston plant is "the obvious choice" because it is the only plant that builds the 787-10, it's a non-union plant and it has lower production costs.

At the same time, Boeing is ramping down production of the Dreamliner from 10 per month to six per month by 2022 - and the company cannot make a profit at the lower production rate with two plants still in operation, Hamilton says.

"So this is all about stemming the losses, cutting the cash bleed," he says.

If Boeing were to move all 787 production to South Carolina, that would still leave three production lines in Everett - the 747 (for the time being), the 777 and the 767/KC46 Air Force tanker.

But most workers on the 787 line and support team would likely lose their jobs in a third round, or expanded second round, of layoffs, Hamilton says. And each worker laid off from Boeing leads to the loss of three or four more indirect jobs in the community, experts say.

"And in this environment you don't want to lose those jobs at all - especially in this environment, it's going to have an outsized impact," Hamilton says.

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Concerns Expressed Over 737 MAX Redundancy, Manual Trim

Sean Broderick September 21, 2020
AOA sensors MAX 737
Credit: Boeing
 

WASHINGTON—Calls for an additional angle-of-attack indicator and concerns over the flight crew’s ability to manually trim the aircraft in an emergency are among the issues highlighted in the initial set of comments on the FAA’s proposed requirements to approve the Boeing 737 MAX’s service return. 

Boeing’s proposed fixes including software modifications that use data from both MAX angle-of-attack (AOA) vanes to activate the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) flight-control law implicated in two MAX fatal accidents that led to the grounding. If they disagree by more than a defined range, the MCAS, which provides nose-down horizontal stabilizer commands, will not activate.

“This is clearly an improvement on the original design” that used one sensor’s feed and meant MCAS could push the MAX’s nose down based on one feed of faulty AOA data, the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) wrote in comments to the FAA. “[But] it would be preferable for the system to utilize three AoA sensors (as per the Airbus A320 family of aircraft) in which case ‘voting’ can be implemented to discard an erroneous AoA value. There are other systems onboard the aircraft requiring AOA input, so how will they deal with two sensors that disagree?” 

Guy Woolman, a former Southwest Airlines pilot with 12,000 hours of 737 experience but none in the MAX, seconded BALPA’s call. 

“There should be at least a third AOA and airspeed input,” he wrote in comments to the FAA. “I had several ‘IAS DISAGREE’ messages while flying [737 Next Generation variants]. There is certainly a lot of startle as the crew is forced to search for reliable airspeed ... Couple this with other seemingly dissimilar non-normal conditions and it is easy to see why things could get challenging in a hurry. Why not have a standby AOA gauge?” 

EASA is considering mandating introduction of a third AOA sensor, but it is not expected to be a prerequisite to allowing the MAX back into service. 

In both MAX accidents, Lion Air Flight 610 in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 (ET302) in March 2019, faulty AOA data triggered the MCAS, which commanded unneeded nose-down horizontal stabilizer movements. Neither crew reacted as Boeing thought pilots would, which included using cutout switches to disable the stabilizer motor and, if needed, manually turn a vertically-mounted trim wheel in the cockpit. Instead, they were confused by a cascading series of alerts and warnings, including a SPEED TRIM FAIL, and lost control of the airplane. The MCAS functionality was added to the 737’s speed trim system’s logic, and Boeing elected not to highlight it in pilot manuals or add a new alert light on the flight deck. 

“The caution and warning system in the 737 is as archaic as the airframe design. I flew jets made far earlier than the first 737 with a better system,” said Woolman, a former B-52 pilot and Rockwell B-1 bomber flight instructor. “Properly analyzing aircraft failures can be like hunting for Easter eggs, especially if struggling with basic aircraft control.” 

BALPA also raised concern about Boeing’s proposed manual-trim techniques. Investigators believe the ET302 pilots attempted to use manual trim, per Boeing’s instructions, to direct their 737-8’s nose up after the MCAS was disabled. But aerodynamic forces acting on the stabilizer made it too difficult to maneuver with the manually-linked wheel. 

In its updated MAX training, Boeing emphasizes that both pilots may have to crank the wheel, a spool-shaped device mounted with round sides vertical between them to generate enough force to move the stabilizer. A draft training aid distributed in June illustrates the concept, with each pilot using one hand to turn the wheel, and the other to fly the aircraft. 

“Requiring both crew members to turn the trim wheel simultaneously in a non-normal scenario is extremely undesirable and goes against all philosophies of having one pilot fly and one run the” quick reference handbook, or QRH, BALPA said. “No flight control system should require both pilots to operate it at any stage, let alone in an emergency.” 

BALPA added that the newer 737’s smaller trim wheel compared to the 737 Classics, which created room on the flight deck for new displays, renders the manual-trim scenario even more challenging. Moving a 737 Classic horizontal stabilizer one degree, or unit, required about 10 turns of the trim wheel. On newer 737s, including the MAX, moving the stabilizer the same amount requires about 15 turns of the smaller-diameter wheel. Full nose down equates to a stabilizer at 4.2 deg nose down, meaning pilots would need to rotate a MAX’s trim wheel about 60 times to bring the stabilizer to neutral.  

The public-comment period on the FAA’s proposals runs through Sept. 21. As of late in the afternoon on deadline day, more than 200 comments had been received, including many from members of the public that do not favor the MAX’s re-approval. 

Comments will be considered by the FAA and, if appropriate, incorporated into a final directive outlining what changes the MAXs must undergo before they can fly again, and what training pilots will receive. The FAA plans to mandate a flight control computer software upgrade, some writing modifications, and new training. Specifics of the training programs are being reviewed and finalized in a separate process. 

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“The caution and warning system in the 737 is as archaic as the airframe design. I flew jets made far earlier than the first 737 with a better system,” said Woolman, a former B-52 pilot and Rockwell B-1 bomber flight instructor. “Properly analyzing aircraft failures can be like hunting for Easter eggs, especially if struggling with basic aircraft control.”

In fact, the B737 design has no EICAS at all.

On the trim wheel diameter-shrinkage, I did the "how many turns per degree" calculation for the NG/MAX last year sometime using an AMM and the numbers in this article are accurate, (14.6 turns per degree), and as mentioned and as reported in, (IIRC), the Ethiopian accident, the crew together couldn't move the wheel, I don't recall this accurately - I believe it was one of the simulator trials that the pilots couldn't move the wheel...due physical strength limitations due high speed.

 

 

Edited by Don Hudson
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Tx, J.O. Way I read it, there was no EICAS on any B737's but that may not be technically accurate - just going by the report.

Pg. 46, 47 of the Committee Report:

Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting System (EICAS)
Boeing obtained an FAA exception to allow the company to not install an Engine Indicating
and Crew Alerting System (EICAS) on the 737 MAX.269 Since 1982, an EICAS or its equivalent among Airbus airplanes has been common in newly certificated transport aircraft. It displays aircraft system faults and failures in the cockpit and helps pilots prioritize responding to multiple or simultaneous indications and alerts, which are often accompanied by aural alerts specific to the level of severity of a particular fault.270 But the exception from FAA relieved Boeing of the requirement that the 737 MAX must be equipped with a caution, alert, and advisory system that “[p]rovide[s] timely attention-getting cues through at least two different senses by a combination of aural, visual, or tactile indications” and that “[p]revent[s] the presentation of an alert that is inappropriate or unnecessary.”271 Instead, the 737 MAX largely uses legacy cautions, warnings, alerts, and advisories from the previous generation of the 737 aircraft.272

. . . .

In the end, the FAA accepted Boeing’s argument about the impracticality and the economic expense of installing EICAS on the 737 MAX.284 This meant that the 737 aircraft family, including the 737 MAX, would continue to be the only presently available Boeing commercial aircraft line that did not have an EICAS installed.285 Unfortunately, had the EICAS been installed on the Lion Air or Ethiopian Airlines flights, some experts believe it may have helped to alleviate pilot confusion—a contributing factor in both of those accidents.286

Edited by Don Hudson
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This is Boeing trying to do the cheapest possible upgrades and still gain certification based on the original Type Certificate.

The 737 is the most bastardized aircraft in existence.  There is no proper systems integration that would even allow for a robust EICAS system that met todays standards.  

There is still steam flowing through that airframe and the smoke still keeps the boxes running.

It's time for it to die.

 

 

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More on the AW&ST article:

https://aviationweek.com/air-transport/aircraft-propulsion/input-proposed-max-changes-spotlight-broader-737-fleet-issues?utm_rid=CPEN1000003047904&utm_campaign=25487&utm_medium=email&elq2=7cb98b91b6c3408d9daa1f0cc4ecce30

Input On Proposed MAX Changes Spotlight Broader 737 Fleet Issues

Sean Broderick September 22, 2020

Boeing 737 MAX

Credit: Collins Aerospace
 

Pilot groups and at least one regulator have raised concerns about several non-normal pilot procedures being changed following a review of the grounded Boeing 737 MAX that also apply to older versions of the venerable narrowbody.

Boeing’s proposed modifications to the MAX in response to two fatal accidents affect the model’s flight control computer software, manuals, and pilot training. While the software changes apply only to the MAX variant, several non-normal checklists being updated are the same for the MAX and the 737 Next Generation (NG). Two in particular—runaway stabilizer and airspeed unreliable—have been highlighted by several commenters that weighed in on the FAA’s proposed requirements that would codify Boeing’s changes.

The United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) told the FAA it is concerned about a lack of understanding around factors that affect manual movement, or trimming, of the horizontal stabilizer. “The manual wheel trim forces were certified by analysis and not by flight testing (or tested on non-B737MAX aircraft),” the GCAA told the FAA in comments. “Heaviness on the manual wheel trim following a failure, like runaway stabilizer, must be fully understood and experienced by crew during training and test.”

Used when automatic stabilizer trim motors fail or are de-activated by pilots troubleshooting an issue—and, crucially, a key step on the runaway stabilizer checklist—applying manual trim requires pilots to rotate a crank attached to a spool-shaped wheel in the cockpit. Analysis of factors highlighted in the MAX accidents revealed that aerodynamic forces can make the wheel difficult to turn. 

The FAA conducted flight tests in mid-2019 to evaluate the issue, and flagged it as needing further review. One of the results will be updates to Boeing’s 737 flight crew operations manual (FCOM) and training documents that highlight, in general, possible difficulties with manually trimming in certain situations. 

The GCAA expressed frustration with the lack of specifics that could help industry better understand the issue.

“The least FAA and Boeing can do is to assist the authority and the operator by providing necessary data associated to this certification and manual trim techniques,” the UAE regulator said.

A representative from one U.S. pilots’ group told Aviation Week that its concern over the same issues led it to ask the FAA for data from the 2019 trials not long after they were completed. The agency has not provided it.

The Allied Pilots Association (APA) that represents American Airlines pilots is among those concerned about a related issue—teaching pilots how to reduce forces on the stabilizer so the trim wheel is easier to turn manually. If pilots facing a runaway stabilizer do not immediately counteract uncommanded inputs using yoke-mounted trim switches before disconnecting the trim motor, forces on the stabilizer can make it more difficult to adjust manually.

“The checklist should include a note that if the method of reducing airspeed to reduce air loads on the stabilizer fails to allow manual trimming (as a result of excessive stabilizer loads created by elevator pressure), slowly relaxing the control column pressure can reduce the load making manual trimming possible,” APA said.

Boeing included details of a similar procedure, which it called the “roller coaster” technique, in manuals for some of its early jets, including the 707 and the 737-100/200, but current manuals do not discuss it in detail. APA and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) are among those pushing to get similar instructions put back in the 737 manual. Boeing’s proposed change to the 737 FCOM is a general note advising pilots to consider reducing airspeed to lessen aerodynamic forces on the stabilizer.

“This note does not provide any information for the flight crew to consider how much of an airspeed decrease will be necessary,” said comments filed by ALPA, which represents pilots at several 737 MAX operators, including Air Canada, United Airlines, and WestJet Airlines. “For horizontal stabilizers out of trim by a large magnitude, aircraft can quickly become difficult to manage at high airspeeds. ALPA believes guidance should be provided to the flight crew as to a specific targeted reduced airspeed.”

ALPA also expressed concern over Boeing’s language on the runaway stabilizer and stabilizer inoperative checklists that says both pilots may need to turn the manual trim wheel simultaneously to generate enough leverage to move the stabilizer.

“ALPA believes that a scenario where both pilots are required to provide manual inputs to a safety-critical flight control system during a non-normal event is not an ideal response to that event,” the association said. “During non-normal events it is commonly trained that one pilot continues to maintain the safe flight of the aircraft while the other pilot conducts the completion of related checklists, such as the [quick-reference handbook]. To interrupt this paradigm by requiring a two-pilot intervention on a safety-critical flight system cannot maintain the same level of safety.”

The British Airline Pilots Association expressed similar concerns in comments it filed earlier this month.

ALPA added that “if scenarios exist where the two-pilot intervention is not deemed extremely improbable,” Boeing should be forced “to implement design changes so that a two-pilot intervention is not required.”

Manual-trim procedures are especially crucial during one rare but long-acknowledged failure scenario. The yoke-mounted electric trim switches are designed so that one cannot override the other. If one fails, such as by shorting out while commanding nose-down stabilizer inputs, the other can be used to stop those inputs, but not reverse them. 

“This has the potential to leave pilots with much heavier stick forces arising from greater air loads on the horizontal stabilizer, thereby increasing the effort required to trim manually, as directed later in the procedure,” APA said. “This unique malfunction should be noted in the [runaway stabilizer] checklist, as the ability to use the main electric stabilizer trim to reduce control column forces is not available in all runaway stabilizer events.”

Boeing’s revamp of the MAX flight control computer software began following the October 2018 crash of Lion Air Flight 610, a 737-8, and focused on the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) flight control law. Following the March 2019 crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, another 737-8, and the MAX fleet’s global grounding, the FAA ordered Boeing to expand its work beyond the MCAS—quickly identified as a common link between the accidents—and examine related failure scenarios such as runaway stabilizer as well as how pilots are trained to manage them. Each of the checklist changes stem from the expanded work, but only two of the eight modified checklists were changed to align with the MAX-specific software alterations.

While the FAA is focused on reviewing Boeing’s proposed changes in light of how they affect the 737 MAX, the agency has said it will consider expanding any beneficial changes to the rest of the 737 fleet.

“Ancillary changes that can enhance the 737NG will also be reviewed by Boeing,” the FAA said in its “preliminary summary” of its 737 MAX review released in early August. “The FAA will work with Boeing to ensure that any issues related to the 737 MAX design change that may apply to the 737NG will be addressed as applicable.”
 

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Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.

Edited by Don Hudson
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1 hour ago, Don Hudson said:

More on the AW&ST article:

Input On Proposed MAX Changes Spotlight Broader 737 Fleet Issues

Sean Broderick September 22, 2020

Boeing 737 MAX

Credit: Collins Aerospace
 

Pilot groups and at least one regulator have raised concerns about several non-normal pilot procedures being changed following a review of the grounded Boeing 737 MAX that also apply to older versions of the venerable narrowbody.

Boeing’s proposed modifications to the MAX in response to two fatal accidents affect the model’s flight control computer software, manuals, and pilot training. While the software changes apply only to the MAX variant, several non-normal checklists being updated are the same for the MAX and the 737 Next Generation (NG). Two in particular—runaway stabilizer and airspeed unreliable—have been highlighted by several commenters that weighed in on the FAA’s proposed requirements that would codify Boeing’s changes.

The United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) told the FAA it is concerned about a lack of understanding around factors that affect manual movement, or trimming, of the horizontal stabilizer. “The manual wheel trim forces were certified by analysis and not by flight testing (or tested on non-B737MAX aircraft),” the GCAA told the FAA in comments. “Heaviness on the manual wheel trim following a failure, like runaway stabilizer, must be fully understood and experienced by crew during training and test.”

Used when automatic stabilizer trim motors fail or are de-activated by pilots troubleshooting an issue—and, crucially, a key step on the runaway stabilizer checklist—applying manual trim requires pilots to rotate a crank attached to a spool-shaped wheel in the cockpit. Analysis of factors highlighted in the MAX accidents revealed that aerodynamic forces can make the wheel difficult to turn. 

The FAA conducted flight tests in mid-2019 to evaluate the issue, and flagged it as needing further review. One of the results will be updates to Boeing’s 737 flight crew operations manual (FCOM) and training documents that highlight, in general, possible difficulties with manually trimming in certain situations. 

The GCAA expressed frustration with the lack of specifics that could help industry better understand the issue.

“The least FAA and Boeing can do is to assist the authority and the operator by providing necessary data associated to this certification and manual trim techniques,” the UAE regulator said.

A representative from one U.S. pilots’ group told Aviation Week that its concern over the same issues led it to ask the FAA for data from the 2019 trials not long after they were completed. The agency has not provided it.

The Allied Pilots Association (APA) that represents American Airlines pilots is among those concerned about a related issue—teaching pilots how to reduce forces on the stabilizer so the trim wheel is easier to turn manually. If pilots facing a runaway stabilizer do not immediately counteract uncommanded inputs using yoke-mounted trim switches before disconnecting the trim motor, forces on the stabilizer can make it more difficult to adjust manually.

“The checklist should include a note that if the method of reducing airspeed to reduce air loads on the stabilizer fails to allow manual trimming (as a result of excessive stabilizer loads created by elevator pressure), slowly relaxing the control column pressure can reduce the load making manual trimming possible,” APA said.

Boeing included details of a similar procedure, which it called the “roller coaster” technique, in manuals for some of its early jets, including the 707 and the 737-100/200, but current manuals do not discuss it in detail. APA and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) are among those pushing to get similar instructions put back in the 737 manual. Boeing’s proposed change to the 737 FCOM is a general note advising pilots to consider reducing airspeed to lessen aerodynamic forces on the stabilizer.

“This note does not provide any information for the flight crew to consider how much of an airspeed decrease will be necessary,” said comments filed by ALPA, which represents pilots at several 737 MAX operators, including Air Canada, United Airlines, and WestJet Airlines. “For horizontal stabilizers out of trim by a large magnitude, aircraft can quickly become difficult to manage at high airspeeds. ALPA believes guidance should be provided to the flight crew as to a specific targeted reduced airspeed.”

ALPA also expressed concern over Boeing’s language on the runaway stabilizer and stabilizer inoperative checklists that says both pilots may need to turn the manual trim wheel simultaneously to generate enough leverage to move the stabilizer.

“ALPA believes that a scenario where both pilots are required to provide manual inputs to a safety-critical flight control system during a non-normal event is not an ideal response to that event,” the association said. “During non-normal events it is commonly trained that one pilot continues to maintain the safe flight of the aircraft while the other pilot conducts the completion of related checklists, such as the [quick-reference handbook]. To interrupt this paradigm by requiring a two-pilot intervention on a safety-critical flight system cannot maintain the same level of safety.”

The British Airline Pilots Association expressed similar concerns in comments it filed earlier this month.

ALPA added that “if scenarios exist where the two-pilot intervention is not deemed extremely improbable,” Boeing should be forced “to implement design changes so that a two-pilot intervention is not required.”

Manual-trim procedures are especially crucial during one rare but long-acknowledged failure scenario. The yoke-mounted electric trim switches are designed so that one cannot override the other. If one fails, such as by shorting out while commanding nose-down stabilizer inputs, the other can be used to stop those inputs, but not reverse them. 

“This has the potential to leave pilots with much heavier stick forces arising from greater air loads on the horizontal stabilizer, thereby increasing the effort required to trim manually, as directed later in the procedure,” APA said. “This unique malfunction should be noted in the [runaway stabilizer] checklist, as the ability to use the main electric stabilizer trim to reduce control column forces is not available in all runaway stabilizer events.”

Boeing’s revamp of the MAX flight control computer software began following the October 2018 crash of Lion Air Flight 610, a 737-8, and focused on the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) flight control law. Following the March 2019 crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, another 737-8, and the MAX fleet’s global grounding, the FAA ordered Boeing to expand its work beyond the MCAS—quickly identified as a common link between the accidents—and examine related failure scenarios such as runaway stabilizer as well as how pilots are trained to manage them. Each of the checklist changes stem from the expanded work, but only two of the eight modified checklists were changed to align with the MAX-specific software alterations.

While the FAA is focused on reviewing Boeing’s proposed changes in light of how they affect the 737 MAX, the agency has said it will consider expanding any beneficial changes to the rest of the 737 fleet.

“Ancillary changes that can enhance the 737NG will also be reviewed by Boeing,” the FAA said in its “preliminary summary” of its 737 MAX review released in early August. “The FAA will work with Boeing to ensure that any issues related to the 737 MAX design change that may apply to the 737NG will be addressed as applicable.”
 

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Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.

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Did the runaway stab tonight in the sim. To simulate it in the NG you first have to disengage the autopilot, the first manual trim input starts the trim and determines the direction of the run. Night IMC, accelerating through about 230 when the autopilot disengages. As per the brief I know whats going to happen next. Aircraft is pitching up so I trim down, off it goes. Not really fast though, stopped it a couple of times with the trim switch to confirm and then called for the checklist. I'm now pitching down, immediately disengage the auto throttle and power back while trimming. There was quite a bit of load on the yoke, but it was not difficult to trim and did not require a great deal of trimming, maybe about 6 turns initially and then lots of fine tuning. Continue the exercise to a diversion and hand flown ILS, IMC to about 800 ft.

Not difficult when you know what's coming, it will be more interesting when the exercise can be properly programmed and the event happens when you don't expect it. Speed is key, we all now know what happens if you let her go.

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Boeing's own safety engineers calling for changes.

https://www.seattletimes.com/business/boeing-aerospace/union-for-faas-safety-engineers-urges-more-changes-to-boeing-737-max-before-it-can-fly-again/

Union for FAA’s safety engineers urges more changes to Boeing 737 MAX before it can fly again

Sep. 21, 2020 at 2:54 pm Updated Sep. 21, 2020 at 6:53 pm
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Union for FAA’s safety engineers urges more changes to Boeing 737 MAX before it can fly again

Sep. 21, 2020 at 2:54 pm Updated Sep. 21, 2020 at 6:53 pm

By

Dominic Gates

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

A union representing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airplane safety engineers who work on certifying new aircraft called Monday for substantial upgrades to the flight crew alerting systems and other changes on Boeing’s 737 MAX before the plane is allowed to return to the air.

The union’s comments came on the final day for public comment on the FAA’s proposed design changes, with more than 200 responses posted by late afternoon.

The FAA’s own technical experts argue that fixing the flawed flight control system that caused the two crashes is not enough and that Boeing must also address the serious confusion that played out in the cockpit in both emergencies.

In contrast, a submission Monday by the main airline pilot union in North America declares the FAA’s proposed design changes “an effective component in ensuring the safe return to service” and suggesting only relatively small tweaks to the current plan.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), representing more than 10,000 pilots in the U.K., weighed in more critically, suggesting that the MAX should have been certified as an all-new design in the first place,requiring it to meet all current requirements.

Exceptions granted

During the original certification of the 737 MAX, Boeing successfully argued to the FAA that the jet shouldn’t have to meet all the latest certification requirements governing how cockpit warnings tell the pilots that something is wrong.

The MAX was duly granted exceptions to five of the regulatory stipulations so that it could retain the legacy 737 instrument panel and crew alert system.

The FAA technical staff union argued Monday that those exceptions should be rescinded and the crew alerting system on the recertified MAX updated accordingly as a condition of the jet’s return to service.

In the Lion Air and Ethiopian 737 MAX accidents that killed 346 people, multiple warnings set off by a single erroneous sensor caused distraction and confusion for the pilots.

The union proposal would require major revisions to the instrument displays on the airplane as well as more pilot training on the revised systems, and would likely further delay the MAX’s return, which Boeing hopes will be by year end.

In early August, the FAA published its final list of required design changes to the Boeing 737 MAX and invited public comment. The comment period ended Monday and last-minute responses came in from various parties with substantial expertise.

The National Safety Committee of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) — a union that represents almost 700 aircraft-certification technical experts at the FAA, as well as air traffic controllers — recommended a series of additional changes to the MAX, including rescinding the crew-alerting exceptions.

The NATCA comments follow closely the critique of Boeing whistleblower Curtis Ewbank, a safety engineer who filed an ethics complaint internally at Boeing after the second MAX crash in Ethiopia and who then publicly repeated his concerns about the safety of the MAX in a letter to the U.S. Senate this summer.

On Friday, covering much of the same ground, Ewbank submitted his own comment on the FAA return to service plan.

Four fatal accidents cited

The changes the FAA plan mandates will fix the flight control system — the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) — that activated erroneously in the two crashes and brought both planes down. It also moves some wiring to ensure proper separation of wires controlling the horizontal tail. And it switches the avionics architecture of the airplane so that it uses both flight control computers on a given flight instead of only one.

However, the FAA plan leaves the MAX’s instrument panel displays and the pilot warning systems largely untouched. Updating them would require a major remake of the 737’s human/machine interface that would be both expensive and lengthy.

In the original certification of the MAX, in arguing for the exemptions, Boeing estimated the cost of full compliance in terms of new training for pilots worldwide at more than $10 billion.

In its submission Monday, NATCA declared that argument not valid.

“The cost of the two accidents that resulted in worldwide grounding of the 737 MAX fleet has well exceeded the stated $10 billion flight crew training costs,” NATCA states.

NATCA draws attention to how a continuous “stick shaker” alert — a heavy, loud vibration of the pilot control column that indicates the plane is on the point of stalling — triggered by a single angle of attack sensor can prove a major distraction, yet cannot be canceled as the latest regulations require. This is a problem also highlighted by Transport Canada, which has asked Boeing for a fix.

There have been two other fatal accidents, on Birgenair and AeroPeru 757s in 1996, that are associated with multiple false and conflicting alerts, NATCA notes.

The 757 is an older Boeing plane, no longer produced, but with similar alerting to the 737. In both those accidents, the stick shaker was going off warning that the plane was slowing to a stall while at the same time an overspeed warning indicated the plane was going too fast. This was also the case on the Ethiopian Airlines MAX that crashed.

“Based on a history of four fatal accidents in the last 24 years, the alerting design should be upgraded,” NATCA states.

NATCA also reiterates another recommendation previously raised by Ewbank, which is that the warning light on a MAX instrument panel indicating that the jet’s autothrottle is disconnected is too similar to a different warning related to airspeed and has no audio backup warning. This design isn’t permitted under the latest safety regulations.

Separately, NATCA recommends revising the instructions to pilots of how to use the manual wheel in the cockpit to counter movement of the horizontal tail if it pushes the jet’s nose down uncommanded by the pilot.

NATCA says the procedure as now rewritten by Boeing is lacking because it fails to specifically tell the pilots that before they hit the cutout switches to kill electrical power to the motor moving the tail, they first need to use the thumb switches on the control column to get the tail back to a near neutral position.

Failing to do that can leave the horizontal tail so far out of position that the aerodynamic forces on it make the manual wheel too heavy to move.

Data from the Ethiopian Airlines ET302 crash suggests this is what happened on that flight, with the pilots immediately hitting the cutoff switches to stop MCAS, but then finding it impossible to move the manual wheel to get the nose back up again.

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NATCA’s comments, representing the FAA’s own safety engineers, add weight to the warnings sounded by Ewbank, first internally and then publicly.

In Ewbank’s comment on the FAA plan, he outlined the need to prevent faulty readings from the MAX’s angle of attack sensor triggering multiple conflicting warnings and called for Boeing to “conduct a holistic evaluation of flight deck human factors and crew alerting, at least ensuring all alerts comply with regulations.”

“If automation is reacting to erroneous data and taking control away from the crew, if there isn’t sufficient backup data available to the crew to use, or even worse, if there isn’t aerodynamic control authority available for the crew to control the airplane, safety cannot be assured,” Ewbank wrote.

“The 737 operates in some scenarios at reduced safety margins compared to modern aircraft,” he added.

In a separate submission, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), representing nearly 63,000 pilots flying for 35 airlines in the United States and Canada, supports the planned FAA airworthiness directive (AD).

“ALPA believes the proposed AD includes relevant and effective mitigations that address the issues identified with MCAS,” ALPA wrote. It adds that enhanced training and revisions to the pilot checklists will enable MAX flight crews “to quickly and adequately respond to various scenarios.”

Noting that there is “still room for improvement,” ALPA then lists a few suggested changes to pilot alerts and checklists.

Like NATCA, the union has some concern about the difficulty in moving the wheel that manually swivels the horizontal tail. ALPA suggests the checklist specify that turning it may require the effort of both pilots and asks Boeing for a redesign to ensure this scenario is extremely improbable.

And again mirroring the concern of others about the problem of the stick shaker going off erroneously, ALPA asks the FAA to include a procedure in pilot training for the flight crew to “quickly identify and pull the associated stick shaker circuit breaker after the alert is confirmed erroneous so that crews may remove the nuisance.”

This falls well short of the alerting system changes called for by NATCA.

The BALPA pilot union submission criticizes the FAA certification process in a general way, without demanding specific changes to the MAX.

It faults the FAA’s original certification of the MAX as a derivative model, instead of as an all-new design that would have required more scrutiny and additional pilot training.

“It is strongly felt that all future substantial aircraft design changes should result in certification as a new type with a commensurate level of training required for pilots,” BALPA wrote.

Agreeing with the position of European aviation regulator EASA, BALPA states that unlike the FAA plan to use two angle of attack sensors on the MAX, “it would be preferable for the system to utilize three.”

BALPA also said Boeing should never have used software — MCAS — to correct the MAX’s handling characteristics. Such deficiencies “should not be masked” by software but “instead should require aerodynamic re-design from the outset,” BALPA states.

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

 

 

 

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Apologies if this has been posted previously - From a link in the previous article above:

 

Boeing whistleblower alleges systemic problems with 737 MAX

June 18, 2020 at 4:40 pm Updated June 18, 2020 at 9:29 pm

Investigators at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX crashed shortly after takeoff on March 10, 2019. All MAX jets were... (Mulugeta Ayene / Associated Press) More

By

Dominic Gates

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

A Boeing engineer who last year lodged an internal ethics complaint alleging serious shortcomings in development of the 737 MAX has written to a U.S. Senate committee asserting that systemic problems with the jet’s design “must be fixed before the 737 MAX is allowed to return to service.”

The letter to the Senate, a copy of which was obtained by The Seattle Times, was written by engineer Curtis Ewbank, a 34-year-old specialist in flight-deck systems whose job when the MAX was in early stages of development involved studying past crashes and using that information to make new planes safer.

His letter, sent earlier this month, argues that it’s not enough for Boeing to fix the flawed Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) that’s known to have brought down the aircraft in two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

“I have no doubt the FAA and lawmakers are under considerable pressure to allow the 737 MAX to return to service as quickly as possible and as soon as the public MCAS flaw is fixed,” Ewbank told the Senate.  “However, given the numerous other known flaws in the airframe, it will be just a matter of time before another flight crew is overwhelmed by a design flaw known to Boeing and further lives are senselessly lost.”

He goes on to suggest similar shortcomings in the flight-control systems may affect the safety of Boeing’s forthcoming 777X widebody jet.

Ewbank’s letter also reveals that he has been interviewed about his concerns by the FBI, which suggests his allegations have at least been considered as part of the Justice Department’s probe into what went wrong on the 737 MAX and whether the actions of anyone at Boeing were criminal.

He mentions he has also delivered details of his allegations to the lead investigator on the U.S. House Committee on Transportation, chaired by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.

In 2014, during early work on the MAX’s development, Ewbank worked unsuccessfully to have Boeing upgrade the MAX’s flight-control systems by adding a new data measurement system called Synthetic Airspeed that would have served as a check on multiple sensors. If it had been implemented, he believes it might have prevented the fatal crashes.

Ewbank’s original internal ethics complaint, first reported last October by The Seattle Times, alleged that Boeing rejected his safety upgrades because of management’s focus on schedule and cost considerations and the insistence that anything that might require more pilot training would not be considered.

He also alleged that Boeing pushed regulators at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to relax certification requirements for the airplane, particularly in regard to the cockpit systems for alerting pilots that something is wrong inflight.

Those systems on the MAX have been under scrutiny because during the two fatal MAX crashes that killed 346 people, pilots struggled to understand the cascade of warnings in their cockpits.

‘Hand-waving and deception’

Ewbank’s letter to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation was sent June 5, ahead of a public hearing Wednesday that featured scathing criticism of FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson for his agency’s lack of progress in addressing the lapses of oversight in certifying the MAX.

Ewbank criticizes not only Boeing for its design of the MAX but also the FAA for approving the design without proper oversight.

“The 737 MAX’s original certification was accomplished with hand-waving and deception to hide the numerous ways the 1960s-era design of the 737 does not meet current regulatory standards,” he wrote.

And he hit out at a recent Department of Transportation (DOT) advisory panel report on the MAX crashes that recommended only minor changes to the way airplanes are certified, preserving Boeing’s central role in that process. Ewbank called the report “a serious threat to aviation safety and the flying public.”

“If the FAA was truly regulating in the public interest, it would take action against Boeing for its continued deception and gross errors in the design and production of the 737 MAX by withdrawing Boeing’s production certificate,” he concluded.

Ansley Lacitis, deputy chief of staff for Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, said her office “was made aware of the letter right before the hearing” on Wednesday.

“The first step of a whistleblower investigation is to make contact with the whistleblower and we have done that,” Lacitis said. “We take these and other allegations seriously and continue to investigate them.”

In a statement, Boeing said company officials have not seen the letter.

“Boeing offers its employees a number of channels for raising concerns and complaints and has rigorous processes in place that ensure complaints receive thorough consideration and protect employee confidentiality,” the statement said. “Boeing does not comment on the substance or existence of such internal complaints.”

Boeing’s statement adds that “when the MAX returns to service, it will be one of the most thoroughly scrutinized aircraft in history, and we have full confidence in its safety.”

Ewbank could not be reached for comment.

After the Seattle Times made public his internal ethics complaint, Boeing placed Ewbank on leave. “We can confirm that Mr. Ewbank remains an employee in good standing,” company spokesman Bernard Choi said this week.

Flawed flight-deck systems

One conclusion of the DOT report on the MAX crashes was that if the 737 MAX had been certified as an all-new jet instead of as a derivative of the earlier model, it “would not have produced more rigorous scrutiny … and would not have produced a safer airplane.”

Ewbank calls this “utterly incorrect.”

He cites specific regulations for which Boeing, because the MAX was considered a derivative model, didn’t have to meet the latest safety standards. And he points to how these shortcomings could have affected the pilots in the two crashes.

He wrote that because Boeing, for certification purposes, had to evaluate only flight-deck systems that had changed from the 737 NG model, Boeing missed the opportunity to evaluate pilot reaction times.

Boeing has admitted that it made incorrect assumptions about those reaction times in designing the new system — the MCAS —  that brought down both MAX planes that crashed.

Although MCAS was new, its operation depended on other unchanged systems and its interactions with those systems were not analyzed, Ewbank wrote.

By choosing to certify the jet as an amended version of the earlier model, Boeing “severely limited the range of human factors evaluation of 737 MAX systems,” he said.

And in a comment on Boeing’s forthcoming large widebody jet, Ewbank added: “The changed/unchanged system line on the 777X is even more convoluted and involves more complicated systems than the 737 MAX.”

Ewbank reiterates his internal critique of the crew-alerting systems on the MAX, saying they failed to meet the current standards for such alerts, which are supposed to be “designed with the latest understanding of human factors to present information to flight crews and prompt appropriate reaction in critical scenarios.”

“These flaws were known to Boeing as it worked with the FAA to certify the
737 MAX, and awareness of this was creatively hidden or outright withheld from regulators,” he wrote.

Ewbank also revisits his unsuccessful push to have Synthetic Airspeed added to make the MAX safer, which would have made more reliable the various air-data measures used by the flight-control computer, including the angle of attack, the angle between the jet’s wing and the oncoming air stream.

It was a faulty angle of attack reading on each of the crash flights that initiated the operation of MCAS. 

“The known unreliability of air data, due to the potential for erroneous data caused by external factors, makes the initial design of MCAS simply unacceptable” Ewbank wrote. Yet, he says, “upper management shut down the (Synthetic Airspeed) project over cost and training concerns.”

According to a person familiar with the discussions, the FAA and Boeing, along with the European air safety regulator EASA, are discussing various system “enhancements” that Boeing could add to the MAX after it returns to service, with no firm decisions yet made.

Last week, on the specialist aviation website The Air Current, Jon Ostrower reported that Synthetic Airspeed or an equivalent system is one of the enhancements under consideration. Boeing would not confirm that.

Michael Stumo, whose daughter Samya died in last year’s MAX crash in Ethiopia, on Thursday also received a copy of Ewbank’s letter.

“This is the most comprehensive engineering analysis I’ve seen yet,” Stumo said. “It calls into question whether the MAX should ever fly again.”

“People have to die”

Ewbank notes that he left Boeing in 2015 “in protest of management actions to rationalize the poor design of the 737 MAX. I did not think I could do my duty as an engineer to protect the safety of the public in the environment created by management at Boeing.”

He asserts that, “Prior to my departure in 2015, my manager argued against the design changes I wanted to make by stating, ‘People have to die before Boeing will change things.'”

Ewbank returned to Boeing in 2018 to work on the 777X.

“I returned to the company and quickly witnessed the nightmare of the very accidents I had tried to prevent happen in real life,” he writes.

After the second MAX crash in Ethiopia, he filed his internal ethics complaint.  

Ewbank concludes his letter to the Senate by calling for a series of actions to improve the rigor of the airplane certification process, particularly in his area of expertise: flight-deck systems.

He asks that FAA regulations be thoroughly revamped “to ensure they reflect a modern understanding of computer technology and human-machine interfaces.”

He calls for a shift in the way certification work on new airplanes is delegated by the FAA to Boeing itself and how the flow of information between the two is restricted.

“The decision to sign off on any particular design at Boeing has been culturally expropriated from the engineers to management,” he wrote.

In this critique, he mirrors criticism by the Senate committee itself, which this week proposed legislation to tighten controls on the FAA’s delegation of work and ensure direct communication between FAA and Boeing technical experts on certification details.

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

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22 hours ago, Leeroy said:

Did the runaway stab tonight in the sim. To simulate it in the NG you first have to disengage the autopilot, the first manual trim input starts the trim and determines the direction of the run. Night IMC, accelerating through about 230 when the autopilot disengages. As per the brief I know whats going to happen next. Aircraft is pitching up so I trim down, off it goes. Not really fast though, stopped it a couple of times with the trim switch to confirm and then called for the checklist. I'm now pitching down, immediately disengage the auto throttle and power back while trimming. There was quite a bit of load on the yoke, but it was not difficult to trim and did not require a great deal of trimming, maybe about 6 turns initially and then lots of fine tuning. Continue the exercise to a diversion and hand flown ILS, IMC to about 800 ft.

Not difficult when you know what's coming, it will be more interesting when the exercise can be properly programmed and the event happens when you don't expect it. Speed is key, we all now know what happens if you let her go.

 

Just curious....

With full nose-up trim, what Gz load would you get at minimum-clean speed? Does the emergency checklist make any mention of using bank angle to help prevent excessive AOA in the event of a pitch up?

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Friends with whom I've discussed the MAX believe that the Europeans, (EASA) may not be willing to certify the aircraft until it has a crew alerting system. The reasoning behind this thinking is, every aircraft built in the past four decades has had such a system except the B737, and it has been argued that the absence of such an alerting system contributed substantially to the crew confusion in both MAX accidents. Both JTAR & Congressional Committee Reports reinforce this. Boeing argued strenuously and long against the EICAS requirement due fleet commonality, training & development costs.

QF32 was mentioned in exchanges as an clear example of a "save" by the crew alerting system, (ECAM).

I doubt at this point that such views would permit re-certification while an EICAS is in development" regardless of what the FAA does.

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I have never experienced full trim in either direction, huge amount of travel to get there. I would guess that the the load under full trim would be such that you could not over power it. There is no mention of the maneuver you reference that I am aware of for this aircraft. The checklist says nothing about how to recover from an unwanted attitude, it appears to assume you have regained control before things get messy.

We did use that technique on the G-159, it was the only way stop the pitch up.

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10 hours ago, Don Hudson said:

Friends with whom I've discussed the MAX believe that the Europeans, (EASA) may not be willing to certify the aircraft until it has a crew alerting system. The reasoning behind this thinking is, every aircraft built in the past four decades has had such a system except the B737, and it has been argued that the absence of such an alerting system contributed substantially to the crew confusion in both MAX accidents. Both JTAR & Congressional Committee Reports reinforce this. Boeing argued strenuously and long against the EICAS requirement due fleet commonality, training & development costs.

QF32 was mentioned in exchanges as an clear example of a "save" by the crew alerting system, (ECAM).

I doubt at this point that such views would permit re-certification while an EICAS is in development" regardless of what the FAA does.

Boeings Argument is just a way of saying we want to build it cheap and provide the same old aircraft with as few safety enhancements as possible and without having to rework the entire Avionics suite etc etc etc.

Or in laymans terms 737 Good please buy cheap plane.

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Or, Boeing provided exactly what their largest clients asked for, an aircraft that did not require a different type rating. Not defending Boeing, it was certainly a cheaper, or so they thought, solution to what their clients were asking for. Perhaps there would have been a clean slate aircraft if companies like SouthWest had not demanded a single type rating. 

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