back to article Deadly 737 Max jets no longer a Boeing concern – for now: Production suspended after biz runs out of parking space

Boeing said on Monday that it plans to temporarily suspend the production of its 737 Max jets next month to focus on clearing out the 400 or so aircraft currently grounded in storage. The jets have been gathering dust since March 13, 2019, when America's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an emergency order grounding …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So what happened

    To the head of the Max project's design department? I can't see him being terribly popular with the bosses.

    Unless the order came from the top, like in the Volkswagen case.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So what happened

      Not their problem, the blame can be squarely laid on HCL and friends. I'm sure HCL and friends will find the right $9/hr temporary worker's head to offer up on a plate if Boeing needs it.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: So what happened

        Whilst the Boeing exec who decided to outsource to HCL presumably got a nice bonus?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @phuzz - Re: So what happened

          Obviously, because that's why they keep doing it.

      2. Raj

        Re: So what happened

        It’s HCLs problem ? Last I checked, the planes have ‘Boeing 737’ written upon them, not ‘HCL 737’ . You need to do better than blame-some-brown-guys here .

        Boeing makes the aircraft . They are responsible for ensuring the fidelity and functionality of every last piece of hardware and software, regardless of whom they subcontract to . Unless the subcontractor willfully concealed or misrepresented things to Boeing - which NO ONE is claiming here - this is entirely on Boeing , and for good reason .

        The only thing the Bloomberg article makes clear is Boeing’s incompetence . Hand out mission critical software to lowest cost bidder ? Check . Piss poor product management including not accounting for lack of domain knowledge ? Check . No in house QA at the very least ? Check .

        There’s a good reason why the throw HCL under the bus tactic hasn’t fooled anyone yet . The optics and facts are against Boeing . There’s no way they can pin 300 lives on anyone else especially when there’s absolutely no malicious wrongdoing on the suppliers part. Just Boeing’s.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So what happened

          Yup, that's exactly how it works.

          (career in aviation here)

        2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: So what happened

          this is entirely on Boeing , and for good reason

          I disagree, if the FAA had done its job like it is supposed to, that 737 MAX wouldn't have been certified in the current configuration and with the current software, so those crashes wouldn't have happened, so this is partly on the FAA. And the FAA couldn't do a proper job because the USA government cut funding, so this is also partly on the USA government (it happened over a pretty long period, so for a change I am not going to blame it on Trump)..

          1. AlbertH

            Re: So what happened

            The FAA are notorious for "going easy" on big American plane makers, whilst giving the Foreigners a hard time. That's just one part of the problem. The "grandfathering" permits should also be stopped.

            The biggest problem is the fundamental design flaw that made the anti-stall software necessary. This stupidity needs to stop - the underlying design problem is one of physical balance.

            Rather than try to frig the flight envelope with software, they should have redesigned the whole airframe correctly. It would have cost a lot more, but when weighed against the lives already lost, the reputational damage, and the future orders that they're going to lose to Airbus (and others), getting it right would work out in everyone's favour.

  2. sbt Silver badge
    WTF?

    ... the FAA's statutory mandate to "promote" the aviation industry

    I should be surprised this was a thing, and yet...

    It seems so blindingly obvious given the risks of regulatory capture anyway that regulators should never have that kind of promotional role. That's for departments of industry, surely.

    1. Mephistro

      Re: ... the FAA's statutory mandate to "promote" the aviation industry

      And let's not forget all the certification "grandfathering" bullshit. Complex engineering systems don't work like that, FFS!

      1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: ... the FAA's statutory mandate to "promote" the aviation industry

        @Mephisto - Grandfathering works OK as long as the rules are followed. In-service safety data is worth much more than predicted or calculated safety performance and all new systems will, after a number of hours in service, have actual safety performance data which are more accurate than the original design calculations. I know which data set I'd rather rely on when I'm flying.

        Of course, this only goes for elements of the system which can truly be grandfathered - i.e. the config. and function in the system is unchanged from its parent's and can be isolated from any new elements of the design. It's getting much more difficult as more systems move into, or depend on, software to carry out functions which once were, essentially, black-box hardware solutions and much easier to make a grandfathering case for.

        Having worked on safety-critical systems I'm familiar with the attempts made by designers, suppliers and operators to persuade regulators that grandfathering can be extended beyond reasonable boundaries because it can save a shedload of money in throughout the project lifecycle from design through V&V and even into maintenance/support. . What's needed is a strong regulator and I fear that this might be part of the problem in the 737 case.

        1. Mephistro

          Re: ... the FAA's statutory mandate to "promote" the aviation industry

          Just to make things clear: when I wrote "grandfathering bullshit" I was referring to the way it was used in the context of the 777 MAX, not to grandfathering in general. Obviously, in said context, changing the weight, power and size of one of the most important elements in a plane -the engines- and adding on top of that a piece of software to compensate for the differences should be a huge reason for NOT allowing grandfathering.

      2. MNGrrrl

        Re: ... the FAA's statutory mandate to "promote" the aviation industry

        > Complex engineering systems don't work like that, FFS!

        As an engineer, I'll say they absolutely can and do. There's thousands of different makes and models of vehicle on the road. They are, for the most part, complex and well-engineered. With a little effort someone who's driven one can drive another, because while they may be significantly different in terms of performance and features, operation is fairly standard.

        This was not a failure of engineering per-se, but rather an attempt to engineer a way around regulations -- and instead of stopping it dead in its tracks as the industry authority on such matters should have, they allowed it and a bunch of aluminum pancakes resulted.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: ... the FAA's statutory mandate to "promote" the aviation industry

          > They are, for the most part, complex and well-engineered.

          Indeed, Fiat's market share has dropped significantly over the years, alhamdulilah.

        2. RudyF

          Re: ... the FAA's statutory mandate to "promote" the aviation industry

          "This was not a failure of engineering per-se, but rather an attempt to engineer a way around regulations "...

          Clearly, this was both. Engineering failed, spectacularly, one might add. And the blokes at the FAA "allowed" that to happen...

        3. Fluffy Cactus

          Re: ... the FAA's statutory mandate to "promote" the aviation industry

          I know next to nothing about how to build a jet engine and a jet airplane. Yet I also like Mr. Feynman, who knew nothing about Space-shuttle Challenger, yet he figured out how it happened and why. From folding paper airplanes and letting them fly, both into the wind and against the wind, I know just a wee bit about airworthiness. With that knowledge, I'll say:

          It's about BALANCE. In theory and in practice, you want a plane that "sits in the air comfortably". Anytime a plane either is too heavy at the front, or in the back, you got a problem with BALANCE. Kindly use your imagination, and keep your sense of humor handy as well.

          With paper planes, it's easy to counteract a paper plane's tendency to fly up too steeply into the air, (especially against the wind) and to enter a stall condition, making it dive deeply, only to go up steeply again. That results in an "upsy, downsy, upsy, downsy" flight path, which can be fixed either by a counterweight (a paper clip, generally) at the nose, or by "ripping some wing-flaps (aka elevators) into the back-wings" and to adjust these "elevators on the back wing slightly downward" (via trial and error), to make the flight path smooth, easygoing, long-lasting and super-cool.

          With jet planes, a gigantic paper clip attached to a B 737 Max to the nose, or thereabouts, is generally out of the question. Neither Office Depot, Office Max, or anyone carry such sufficiently gigantic paper clips, and even if they did, the result would be a type of "doo-hicky, duct-tape like" solution that does not inspire the desired confidence in the flying public. Thus, we can disregard the paper-clip solution from the start.

          Clearly, Boeing tried to produce a solution that involved the elevators on the back wing, and a type of air-flow measuring device in the front, (which in essence functions like a weather vane or wind vane), that is electronically transmitting input to the flight computer. MCAS then tries to put together the info about speed, angle of the plane, stalling limits, and the level of change in how fast it's moving upwards or downwards, and provides automated output, leading to automated corrective action. Fair enough.

          But then again, in practice, if the plane is flying in a type of weather, such as when either hot air over a desert, or humid hot air over an ocean, or a T-storm, is rising rapidly, would the weather vane input show false info, simply by being pushed slightly upward? I'd say that's a consideration. Has that been considered? Just wondering! Testing in Washington State, but then flying over Sahara or over tropical seas? Think!

          Likewise, the elevator flaps in the back wings are really important to any pilot, because they make the plane either move up, or move down, or stay level. If I were a pilot, and some flight computer suddenly overrules my ability to maneuver the plane, I'd be more than slightly concerned, especially if Boeing, as it turned out, did not even inform me about this possibility. I am not accusing Boeing of wrong-doing, I am just reporting ideas.

          Sure, is man always right? No! Is the computer always right? No again! Man vs machine, an age old problem. Lot's of variables to consider, such as balance, fuel use, profitability, etc.

          Next, has Boeing considered refining the way the input from the weather vane indicators is handled? This type of input appears to be subject to more random moves by the elements, weather, etc. Updrafts, downdrafts, water, rain, ice, storms, etc... how are these factors weighing in on how the raw data is being used?

          Has Boeing considered actual counterweights to the forward position of the new more efficient jet engines? Yup, weight costs money, but sometimes a small change makes a big diff.

          Also, could the position of the thrust reversers be changed, such that only one part, one half of them, could be used to provide slight upward thrust as a corrective action, (as opposed to MCAS interfering with the elevators in the back wings). I think that the thrust reversers currently are used only horizontally, providing breaking action to the forward left and to the forward right upon landing, with each half of them fully deployed. A 45 degree rotation of the reverse thrust "thingies", and revamping, so that they could independently provide a bit of either upward or downward thrust could be a solution to that MCAS dilemma. Can you imagine what I say here?

          Cost? I don't know! Come on, I started with paper airplanes, how should I know cost accounting? That's your job.

          Sure, for the military, nothing appears to be too expensive to try, while for the commercial market nothing appears to be too cheap to try. How about some balance between the two? Really now, Boeing, can't you use some of your military profits to make your commercial planes a wee bit safer? Give yourself a push and do it. Without imagination, you got nothing.

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Re: ... the FAA's statutory mandate to "promote" the aviation industry

      "Tragically, the FAA’s analysis—which never saw the light of day beyond the closed doors of the FAA and Boeing—was correct."

      So that's Boeing and the US government demonstrating awareness of factors that lead to the deaths of 346 people? Deep pocket liability anyone?

  3. elvisimprsntr

    And where are the C-Suite Execs who were all patting themselves on the back for the billions in new airframe development they saved by bolting on a new engine on a 50+ yo platform when they got caught with their pants down by the Airbus A320neo?

    1. Dave K Silver badge

      And don't forget trying to save yet more money by designing MCAS to work with the data from a single sensor (instead of three sensors that would have provided redundancy), save money by being secretive about MCAS to avoid re-training of pilots and hence maximise sales, generate extra money by making a warning system for a faulty MCAS sensor an "optional extra"...

      Boeing can trot out the line of "We're committed to safety" as much as they like, but the fact is that during the development of the Max 8, "profit" was more important than "safety".

      1. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

        "More profit" was more important than "less profit". There. Fixed that for you.

        Seriously though, the buck stops with the CEO. It happened on his watch. He needs to stand down.

        1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

          Not exactly profit. Not for Boeing at any rate. They were simply trying to keep the market from slipping away to the A320neo.

      2. eldakka Silver badge

        (instead of three sensors that would have provided redundancy)

        You actually only need two sensors if it's a system the plane can fly without. With two sensors, you will be just as able to detect a problem with the systems and to then turn it off and fly without it. Three sensors are really only needed if you must have that system functioning to continue flying - turning it off is not an option.

        However, for this option to be available - using two sensors and turning off MCAS if there is a problem - you'd then need to:

        1) Train the pilots on MCAS, what it's for, how to turn it off (i.e. what Boeing didn't do);

        2) Train the pilots on how to fly the plane without MCAS, since MCAS was designed to compensate for changed flight characteristics, they'd need to train the pilots on those characteristics, and how to fly manually compensating for those characteristics when MCAS is turned off.

        However, in this case, the whole point of MCAS was so that pilots didn't need to be trained, beyond a 60-minute familiarisation package, on the aircraft.

        Therefore with only two sensors, in effect, pilots would need full training and certification on the 737 MAX as opposed to just a 737 certification, which would defeat the whole point of MCAS - not needing pilot flight training.

        One wonders whether it would be cheaper to create MCAS (component costs, installation costs, design, engineering, software development and maintaining that software for decades etc.), with three sensors for appropriate redundancy so no pilot training would be needed, vs not having MCAS at all and providing appropriate flight training to the pilots on how to fly the 737 MAX.

        1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

          "vs not having MCAS at all"

          It's possible that the FAA won't let Boeing do that, short of re-designing the MAX's aerodynamics to make it inherently stable. Boeing, of course, will be pushing for a simpler software and training fix at this point. No third AoA sensor and related FC computer and certainly no changes to aerodynamic surfaces, engine cowlings, etc. The problem with the current design, to use an automobile analogy, is that it handles (in pitch) like a car with bald tires and bad front end alignment without the automated correction system (MCAS). And the FAA might not accept such a bad stability situation, even with pilot training. I'd like to be a fly on the wall in the Boeing/FAA discussions on this topic.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Claiming to be committed to safety...

        In the same way that tech companies are committed to protecting your privacy and PII, it seems.

      4. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Boeing can trot out the line of "We're committed to safety" as much as they like, but the fact is that during the development of the Max 8, "profit" was more important than "safety".

        Boeing management was committed to safety ... of their bonuses.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "bolting on a new engine on a 50+ yo platform "

      It's not really a 50+ year old platform; the rough shape is the same, but large chunks of it have been redesigned more than once to reduce weight and improve performance. It's more like a grandfather's axe, handed down through the family with the handle and head replaced when needed, but it's still grandfather's axe....

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        The issue is that the axe (head and shaft) were easier to understand when a replacement part was specced.,

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          In this analogy they've bolted an oversized head, onto an existing shaft, and now when you use the axe you run the risk of the head flying off and smacking you in the face.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            You've got that t-shirt scar too?

      2. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        The problem is not a 50 year old airframe or design: Instead, its a 50 year old AIRFRAME SPECIFICATION that hasn't properly matched any model of the aircraft since its first design upgrade and, by now, bears little, if any resemblance to the current aircraft.

        Couple that with an FAA due diligence performance which looks very like "we'll sign it off as soon as you tell us which box you want the signature in" and crashes are inevitable.

        Seem to me that the bosses of both Boeing and the FAA should be for the chop.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Seem to me that the bosses of both Boeing and the FAA should be for the chop.

          Please include some Congress critters as well for cutting the FAA funding.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "when they got caught with their pants down by the Airbus A320neo?"

      Not that they needed to: The Boeing 7J7 was developed and then shelved in 1989 for one very simple reason: It wasn't a 737

      Boeing already had it and the 757 able to step into where the 737MAX operates. It was AIRLINES who demanded this aircraft. MCAS was an attempt to ensure it flew like older 737s - avoiding needing a supplemental type certificate. However Boeing utterly screwed the pooch on the software and implementation of the system hardware.

      MAXes will fly again - quite possibly with MCAS disabled by regulation in EU airspace - and it's quite likely that pilots will have to have supplementary type certification to fly it - which wipes out every single piece of commercial advantage that Boeing (and airlines) expected to gain from rat rodding the airframe one last time.

      NGs already have undesireable handling characteristics near stall meaning pilots have to put the stick forward and and _wait_ until the nose is actually down before throttling up (this goes against every bit of stall training given in other aircraft up to this point). MAXes had it in spades plus excessive throttle-related pitch changes in normal flight - and MCAS was supposed to prevent the latter.

      (This is quite apart from the other scandals involving Boeing parts suppliers falsifying documentation for substandard (handmade, well out of spec, not CNC milled) NG parts and Boeing assembly lines beating the shit out of them and the skins to make the things fit, then falsifying _their_ paperwork and painting over the damage before sending them down the line for final assembly. This happened in the late1990s-early00's and the FAA helped Boeing cover it up, including shitting all over the whistleblowers - 3rd generation Boeing employees)

  4. Mephistro
    Flame

    "Tragically, the FAA’s analysis—which never saw the light of day beyond the closed doors of the FAA and Boeing—was correct."

    It wasn't correct at all, it was extremely optimistic in the light of the two crashes in two years at the very beginning of the commercial life of the 737 MAX, with just a few hundred units sold.

  5. G Mac
    Coat

    Minor edit...

    "The jets have been gathering dust since March 13, 2019, when America's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an emergency order grounding all 737 Max models in response to every other aviation authority in the world having grounded the models after two crashes with the new aircraft that killed a total of 346 people."

    There, fixed it.

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: Minor edit...

      Actually I don't believe it was pressure from other aviation authorities which led to the FAA grounding the deadly plane.

      By the American safety model - 'it has to be proven unsafe to be grounded' rather than the 'it has to be proven safe to fly' precautionary model adopted elsewhere - the FAA would probably have had their arses sued off them for billions by Boeing if they had dared to ground it.

      It was only Trump coming out and saying the plane must be grounded which gave the FAA an excuse to do that knowing Boeing wouldn't dare go against Trump

      So, ironically, we can thank Trump for doing a good thing, by doing a bad thing, in telling the FAA to break the rules they were meant to comply with.

      It's a funny old world.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: I don't believe it was pressure from other aviation authorities

        There was pressure. Wikipedia states that first China, then Europe grounded the 737 Max before Trump came out to seal the point.

        Basically, he had no choice because everyone else was going to ground the plane anyway, so he just followed the movement.

        1. sbt Silver badge
          Trollface

          ... he just followed the movement

          Quick, pull the chain!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Pascal Monett - Re: I don't believe it was pressure from other aviation authorities

          China! Just imagine the humiliation.

      2. dajames Silver badge

        Re: Minor edit...

        By the American safety model - 'it has to be proven unsafe to be grounded' rather than the 'it has to be proven safe to fly' precautionary model adopted elsewhere - the FAA would probably have had their arses sued off them for billions by Boeing if they had dared to ground it.

        That, surely, is part of the whole problem here. It should be the FAA's duty to ground the plane if there is reasonable cause to believe that it might not be safe to fly. There should be no grounds for Boeing (or anyone else) to sue them for doing that (unless, perhaps, it could be shown not only that the plane was safe, but that it had been obviously safe all along).

        It really worries me that commercial entities are even allowed to sue government bodies in ordinary law courts. Yes, the state must be accountable ... but not in the same way as a business.

      3. Dave K Silver badge

        Re: Minor edit...

        That's a failure of the FAA's model in that case. Aviation authorities around the world were grounding the plane, the FAA was one of the last to do so.

        When people's lives are at stake after two suspicious crashes, you shouldn't let a potential deathtrap keep flying whilst you "look for proof". You should err on the side of caution and ground the thing until you're sure that it is safe.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Minor edit...

          > That's a failure of the FAA's model in that case

          Nope, the FAA's approach is the same as every other ICAO signatory. The other gentleman got it arse backwards.

      4. Lars Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Minor edit...

        It might be good to remember that when aviation authorities elsewhere like in China and Europe "grounded" it it was also prohibited from their air space, and in practise a worthless plane totally regardless of Boeing and the FAA.

      5. Fluffy Cactus

        Re: Minor edit...

        Well, yeah, uhm, gee, Trump doing something right is sort of like praising Hitler for the autobahn and the VW. And somehow, I don't know how, I think it's possible to build a freeway and a car without starting a war that kills millions. But that's just me!

  6. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Once every agency worldwide is happy, I would hope that Boeing goes through every aircraft very thoroughly to check for things like leaking seals and other bits that deteriorate with age and no use. Seals are a big problem as they dry out without fluid flowing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sure they will... Those planes have lost them enough money already, which means some shortcuts will have to be taken to lower cost, for instance by stretching regular maintenance intervals a little more.

    2. Goldmember

      Luckily, it wouldn't be Boeing's responsibility to do that. It would just be up to them to issue directives on things to look out for. It would be up to the airlines' maintenance companies to find any faults and check seals etc. They'd all be on much higher alert, and would be much more vigilant than usual, due to everything that has happened with this model.

  7. STOP_FORTH Silver badge
    Trollface

    Rebranding exercise

    I'm surprised marketing haven't fixed this already. I'm thinking R101, Comet 1, Pinto and Starfighter have a nice ring to them. I don't suppose the original trademark holders still have a use for them.

    I'm sure a responsible regulator like the FAA would be amenable to calling it something completely different to 737, but grandfathering in 737 type approval.

    1. jaywin

      Re: Rebranding exercise

      Ryanair's undelivered aircraft have been photographed carrying the model name 737-8200 rather than 737 MAX 8. They've also admitted they won't be telling passengers whether they're flying a Max or not.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Rebranding exercise

        I imagine the seat reservation screen will give the game away, but I believe in the longer term the plan is that they change over completely to MAX, which means the solution is simple - don't fly Ryanair.

        1. iron Silver badge

          Re: Rebranding exercise

          I already don't after they made my partner cry at check-in in Gatwick, almost stole a doctor's letter she needed (I had to demand it back) and refused to honour its requests. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.

          1. Muscleguy Silver badge

            Re: Rebranding exercise

            They separated us from our teenaged children. We were all lined up on the airbridge, the kids just in front of us. The line moved off they did, we were stopped by the functionary. ‘Those are our kids’ I said to her as the youngest looked back anxiously. To no avail whatsoever.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Rebranding exercise

              Unfortunately that's common in concentration camps flights.

        2. Julz Silver badge

          Re: Rebranding exercise

          Not flying with Ryanair is the solution to a great many problems.

        3. jaywin

          Re: Rebranding exercise

          I imagine the seat reservation screen will give the game away

          They're saying they will be running it as one fleet, with specific aircraft models only allocated the day before the flight, so I guess the plan is for them to have an identical seat map as the current fleet.

          1. ibmalone Silver badge

            Re: Rebranding exercise

            Can we call this Irish Roulette?

          2. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: Rebranding exercise

            Ah, well, just don't fly Ryanair, to be sure.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Rebranding exercise

              if you fly Ryanair, you can never be sure, air to be sure.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Rebranding exercise

        "Ryanair's undelivered aircraft have been photographed carrying the model name 737-8200 "

        Which is the aircraft's technical designation anyway. MAX8 is/was the marketing name.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Rebranding exercise

      "I'm sure a responsible regulator like the FAA would be amenable to calling it something completely different to 737, but grandfathering in 737 type approval."

      Wouldn't matter. What happened merely allowed the other agencies around the world to say out loud what everyone already knew.

      EASA, CAA and CASA are not going to let the FAA mark their own homework anymore (although the Japanese might).

      Boeing's scored itself a fine tooth comb inspection of the 737MAX testing procedure and microscopic oversight of the 777X tests which have caused _its_ costs to start ballooning virtually uncontrollably - and that's well before the reinspection of everything related to the 787 gets underway.

    3. Fluffy Cactus

      Re: Rebranding exercise

      Maybe they'll come out with the 737 FXD - hopefully fixed.

  8. MNGrrrl
    Megaphone

    Complacency!

    That is the story here. This sh-- show is in my back yard, hi, American, and complacency is what brought those planes down. Or more technically, regulatory capture. We let the regulators get chummy with the rest of the industry, money changed hands, stupidity ensued. Nobody in this dumpster fire is going to do anything about it, but that's the truth. The FAA now gets to have its dick stomped by, er, basically it's equivalent in almost every country. Like, uh, I'm sure there's countries so small there are no paved runways that can drop pants on them with good reason.

    They have no credibility now. The trade implications are substantial: We had standards. We've learned this lesson before; If you let any other influence than a culture of safety and rigorous application of engineering dictate policy, you're gonna get f***ed. And so another American institution bends over and bites the pillow because of an increasingly corrupted political process.

    This is, really, quite maddening. I've spent the last three years watching my entire government de-evolve before my very eyes. I'm truly at a loss of words; Apologies my country has now thrown several crowded airplanes into the dirt with the only explanation being a "technical fault". Let this be a light house on the subject of safety of the flying public: Keep your regulators and your corporations separate or there WILL be consequences.

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Complacency!

      I've spent the last three years watching my entire government de-evolve

      The 737 MAX was certified a mere 2 months after Trump's inauguration. I'm afraid your government has been de-evolving for significantly longer than three years: everyone was deliberately looking the other way until an overweight buffoon with flyaway hair realised their lack of attention offered a route to personal power. If it's any comfort, it's not the only country in which this scenario has played out and it's not as if we in the UK weren't warned.

      1. MNGrrrl

        Re: Complacency!

        > I'm afraid your government has been de-evolving for significantly longer than three years:

        You're not wrong. We were on a slow, uncomfortable descent into madness before. The kind that hits you Monday around 10am after you've run out of caffeine and that last donut has dried your mouth out but you're trapped in an unending powerpoint presentation and everyone is seated so you don't want to get up and be a bother to anyone or, worse, draw any attention. It was quiet, slightly dignified, suffering. It felt like we would pull up any time now... yup... any time.

        Now we're in an aluminum pancake on fire in a swamp, with a news ticker running along the bottom of the screen, and those who escaped the flaming wreckage are desperately wishing for the days of petrified donuts and cold coffee.

      2. el_oscuro

        Re: Complacency!

        On this side of the pond, when I heard that Brexit had passed, I knew we were doomed and that The Donald would get elected. The exact same type of rot that led to Brexit was here and driving it too.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Welcome to Seattle

    For survivors in the forward cabin, your baggage will be available there, and there and way over there.

    For any lucky enough to survive at the rear, your luggage is currently on fire....

    1. XSV1
      WTF?

      Re: Welcome to Seattle

      Yes and the fuckers in the Boeing boardroom still get to take home handsome salaries. The fucker-in-chief makes US$30 million a year. It's fabulous to watch him squirm in this video below:

      https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/30/boeing-ceo-grilled-over-salary-accountability-on-capitol-hill.html

      1. el_oscuro

        Re: Welcome to Seattle

        One of the very few things that Douglass Adams didn't get right in the HHGTTG: The Sirius Cybernetics marketers will not be the first against the wall when the revolution comes. They will have to get in line behind these people.

  10. nrasmussen

    "... anti-stall – sorry, plane pedants hate it when we call it that..."

    When you say that MCAS is there to prevent stalls, it kind of implies that it was put in as a safety feature. However, it wasn't.

    It's there to make the MAX handle similar enough to previous 737 models that pilots wouldn't have to get a separate type rating for the MAX, but could fly it with the 737 type rating they already might have.

    It's all about saving money.

    1. Electronics'R'Us
      Holmes

      Re: "... anti-stall – sorry, plane pedants hate it when we call it that..."

      Agreed, but there is something even more fundamental; the aircraft cannot be certified as airworthy under part 25 of the FAA airworthiness regulations without some system that prevents an increasing rate of angle of attack for a constant pressure on the controls.

      In certain phases of the flight envelope, the angle of attack rate can increase uncommanded (which can indeed induce a very nasty stall situation and is all due to the size and placement of the new larger engines); that is the primary reason MCAS is present (quite apart from any other consideration).

      .

    2. JimC

      Re: "... anti-stall – sorry, plane pedants hate it when we call it that..."

      Its more complicated than that. MCAS was put in because without it the planes had some extremely nasty handling characteristics that are absolutely prohibited, and rightly so, as Electronics R us says above. That wasn't unreasonable, I very much doubt that its the only plane that has similar fixes in software, and as far as anyone can tell that part of it was OK. It wasn't anti stall, it was to prohibit getting in a situation where it would be difficult to avoid stalling. If my understanding is correct it was perfectly reasonable.

      But, and this seems to be where it has gone wrong, once they had that system in place they then extended it into another part of the flight envelope to deal with another more minor handling issue, and the scope in which it would come into play was greatly extended, and that's where everything went wrong.

      1. Valerion

        Re: "... anti-stall – sorry, plane pedants hate it when we call it that..."

        Its more complicated than that. MCAS was put in because without it the planes had some extremely nasty handling characteristics that are absolutely prohibited, and rightly so, as Electronics R us says above. That wasn't unreasonable, I very much doubt that its the only plane that has similar fixes in software,

        Indeed, many fighter planes are also unstable.

        They, however, are equipped with ejector seats.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: "... anti-stall – sorry, plane pedants hate it when we call it that..."

          "Indeed, many fighter planes are also unstable."

          This is very much the difference. Civil transport aircraft aren't supposed to BE dynamically unstable under any reasonable circumstances(*), let alone need software/hardware to correct it, or special recovery procedures.

          The largest 737NG was _ALREADY_ dynamically unstable (ever increasing stall characteristics) and as such should have been the absolute end of the line.

          (*) Deep stalling of a T-tail is an extreme condition well beyond any kind of normal flying - on civil transports usually only ever encountered in extreme handling tests.

    3. Lars Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: "... anti-stall – sorry, plane pedants hate it when we call it that..."

      "......MCAS is there to prevent stalls..."

      Well, MCAS decided the plane was stalling and put nose down eagerly until it wasn't stalling any more.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: "... anti-stall – sorry, plane pedants hate it when we call it that..."

        737 was designed to go to more airports than earlier jets. Small regional airports without facilities, they had built in boarding steps.

        The airports without facilities needed to be able to load the baggage, so the 737 was given short legs, low to the ground.

        This was fine with early turbojets but later fanjets got too close to the ground and had to have a flattened off cowling bottom. The turbofans got bigger to be more efficient and 737 needed an airframe configuration change with the way the engines were mounted on the wings. Because the certification could accommodate this better than a longer undercarriage ground clearance. So Boeing came up with their tape-lashup solution and people died.

  11. Lazlo Woodbine Bronze badge

    I'm wondering why, if the aircraft have been grounded since March, they're still building new planes, and why they're suspending production next month rather than right now...

    1. Noram

      They probably assumed the grounding would be over fairly quickly and they could get them back into the air. They wouldn't have wanted to stop production straight away as it takes months for them to get the planes built. so it's better for the bottom line to try and keep making them with an eye to quickly retrofitting any required changes and being able to deliver a large number in a very short period of time once they can fly again.

      I suspect the reason they're stopping production soon is probably to do with space concerns at the factory, as there are only so many aircraft you can park up indefinitely before they get in the way of moving the aircraft that are allowed to fly out of the production hangers, and incoming parts deliveries, I think they were already using staff car parks for them months ago.

      Someone has probably worked out they'll run out of storage space next month, or that they've already run out of space outside the production hangers and the ones under construction now can't be moved until they've cleared space...

      Personally I still cannot believe they were allowed to put aircraft into civilian use that appear to have ignored safety lessons learned over the space of 50+ years in everything from basic aircraft handling to basic instrumentation safety, not to mention pilot training, as everything that seems to have gone wrong with the 737 max seems to be variations of things that caused crashes resulting in industry standards/requirements being changed in the past.

      1. dajames Silver badge

        Personally I still cannot believe they were allowed to put aircraft into civilian use that appear to have ignored safety lessons learned over the space of 50+ years ...

        It rather sounds as thought their management systems are so dysfunctional that they didn't actually realize that that was what they were doing. It must be airliner design 101 to have multiple redundancy in all control systems -- but MCAS has no redundancy at all.

        Whoever designed it didn't know the rules of the game, and nobody was assigned to check their work.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "It must be airliner design 101 to have multiple redundancy in all control systems -- but MCAS has no redundancy at all."

          It's worse than that.

          MCAS uses angle of attack sensors - 2 of them.

          Except that it was setup to use a different ONE on each flight - and whilst the flight software could tell that the AOA sensors were giving different readings (even if MCAS was only using one for input), it was an $80,000 option to have this information actually display a warning message (not a dedicated light, just an information message) on the instrumentation LCD - which most airlines didn't bother with as an "option" it's not exactly something that seems essential to a beancounter.

          On top of that, if you use 2 sensors on an aircraft, if they disagree all you know is that they disagree, not which one is correct. Critical sensors normally use 3 or another odd number (as with computer clusters, to avoid splitbrains)

  12. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

    Airlines losing money waiting for new planes

    Nothing to the money they'll lose when passengers refuse to fly on any 737 MAX 8, or whatever they get rebranded as.

    1. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

      Re: Airlines losing money waiting for new planes

      "Boinge 738 Extra - not related to the Boeing 737 Max, not at all, no sir! - with new safety features including:

      - a flight control system that doesn't ditch when the pilot wants to climb

      - more than one sensor

      - safety features; previously an optional extra that can only be installed by clicking a button.

      Boeing - slightly fewer deaths and slightly less profit - with you almost all the way!"

  13. naive

    Is it a good idea to design a passenger plane needing active computer assistance to stay airborne ?

    There is a difference between computers validating if the pilot uses controls withing acceptable limits, and computers themselves actuating controls without input from the pilot just to keep the aircraft in the air.

    This is acceptable for fighter jets, 2019 built 737-Max jets ending up doing domestic flights in Africa around 2050 will probably cause a carnage once the computers start sending the aircraft nose down in the Savannah once sensors fail due to maintenance issues.

    1. Adair Silver badge

      Re: Is it a good idea ...?

      This is the thing: they designed an aircraft that, without constant computer input, was/is fundamentally un-airworthy.

      Bolting engines onto an airframe that was never designed to cope with said engines is an obvious recipe for disaster - and disaster ensued.

      Why the entire Board of Boeing have not already resigned - they are responsible - along with whoever is head of engineering and head of safety, I do not know. They obviously value money more than people, and so, like the product of their greed, they are unfit for purpose.

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Is it a good idea ...?

        Bolting engines onto an airframe that was never designed to cope with said engines

        This is the bit I never understood. The ground clearance was already marginal in the previous generation (witness the odd-shaped engine intake cowls) so wouldn't any sane company have been looking at that compromise as a stop-gap, and furiously redesigning the aircraft to take the larger engines which would obviously become available in the future, or perhaps designing a completely new aircraft in that capacity / range bracket?

        The stated reason at the time was to maintain compatibility with existing airport infrastructure - something to do with door heights - but is that really a problem?

        From a layman's point of view, sticking the engines forward of the wing and unbalancing the aircraft is only marginally less radical than bolting them to the back and flipping the tail upside-down.

        Whatever happened to the MD-90 / 717?

        M.

        1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

          Re: Is it a good idea ...?

          No it wasn't, but the bean counters would have pointed out that:

          * redesigning a taller undercarriage to accommodate the new, bigger engines in their proper place would be awfully expensive as well as adding weight, which reduces payload capacity.

          * the bigger undercarriage would have almost certainly occupied valuable cargo or fuel tank space, causing even more expensive redesigning

          Both of which might impact sales.

          Finally, a company test pilot may well have pointed out that a taller undercarriage alters the pilot's visual picture during both takeoff and landing and that this would certainly impact crew training costs and, for airlines with older 737s, reduce aircrew assignment flexibility.

          Result: beancounters and board insist on using old, short undercarriage and on fitting that mis-designed, but cheap, MCAS. As a result their decisions produced a dangerously unstable aircraft.

          Bottom line: in an engineering company the board-level management MUST think like engineers or something nasty is quite likely to happen. This is why such companies often fail once the board is entirely made of venture capitalists, money men and sales persons.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Is it a good idea ...?

            "redesigning a taller undercarriage to accommodate the new, bigger engines in their proper place would be awfully expensive as well as adding weight, which reduces payload capacity."

            Not at all. Such an aircraft already existed. It was called the Boeing 757 and works extremely well, as well as having greater payload capacity because it has engines with much BIGGER fans than can possibly fit under a B737's wings and are much more efficient.

            The problem was, it isn't a Boeing 737 and pilots need 757 cockpit certification, ground handling crew need 757 certification, service crew need 757 certification, gates need resetting to different heights etc.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Is it a good idea ...?

            * redesigning a taller undercarriage to accommodate the new, bigger engines in their proper place would be awfully expensive as well as adding weight, which reduces payload capacity.

            And then some, as the needed landing gear geometry is pretty much defined by the air frame. The wheels themselves form a part of the lower aerodynamic surface, being sealed into cutouts in the bottom of the fuselage (only the struts are covered by doors). The MAX 10 has a mechanism to allow the gear to extend about another 10 inches, to prevent the poor thing from bumping its butt on rotation, if it ever gets to fly at all.

    2. jtaylor

      Re: good idea to design a passenger plane needing active computer assistance to stay airborne ?

      It sounds like you want to avoid Full Authority Digital Engine Control.

      On the 737 MAX*, computers control the engine operation. The pilots can start the engine, command thrust, or shutdown. They can see temperatures and shaft speeds, but have no direct control over individual parts. Imagine your car if they took away the manual choke and added electronic ignition.

      MCAS isn't required to keep the aircraft in the air. If the pilots are trained on the 737 MAX**, they can fly without it. Hell, it's probably safer with MCAS disabled.

      Active yaw damping is another situation where computers "actuate controls without input from the pilot." If that malfunctions, you just get seasick. You don't die. So we'll leave that.

      Engines, though. It's hard to stay airborne without engines.

      *possibly most other modern airplanes too

      **extra training is exactly what airlines did not want

  14. Andre Carneiro

    Airbus, take heed

    I would be surprised if this insidious management culture was unique to Boeing so I’m rather hoping this will be a watershed moment for the whole industry and Airbus, Bombardier, Embraer, etc take a good hard look at their own processes.

    Airbus need Boeing as much as Boeing need Airbus.

    I do not wish to see Boeing sink because of this, but the senior management really should be behind bars. There needs to be severe punishment.

    1. Fatman
      FAIL

      Re: Airbus, take heed

      <quote>....but the senior management really should be behind barsfacing a firing squad. There needs to be severe certain punishment.

      There, FTFY!!!

  15. localzuk

    MCAS seems like a bodge

    Is it me or is the entire MCAS system idea a bodge to fix a design flaw? Seems a bit like the drinking bird on the Simpsons pressing Y to vent gas etc...

    Surely, Boeing should have fixed the actual design problem with the jet?

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: MCAS seems like a bodge

      Surely, Boeing should have fixed the actual design problem with the jet?

      But to do that they would have had to give up the grandfathering rights of the airframe, and go through a completely new regulatory and certification process, which would have cost them both money, and time - which they didn't have if they wanted to compete with the Airbus A321neo.

      1. localzuk

        Re: MCAS seems like a bodge

        I wonder which has cost them more? Getting a new airframe certified, or having to have their entire fleet of this model grounded, along with having to stop production, and renaming the thing? Not to mention, the outcome of any lawsuits against them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: MCAS seems like a bodge

      Poor analogy. The drinking bird was predictable and repeatable ;-)

    3. teacherboy

      Re: MCAS seems like a bodge

      That would require increasing the wing dihedral at minimum. The whole point was so Boeing did not have to certify a whole new aircraft type.

  16. ForthIsNotDead
    FAIL

    Seriously... WTF?

    "That design violated basic principles of redundancy for generations of Boeing engineers, and the company apparently never tested to see how the software would respond, Lemme said. “It was a stunning fail,” he said. “A lot of people should have thought of this problem – not one person – and asked about it.”

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-28/boeing-s-737-max-software-outsourced-to-9-an-hour-engineers

    Seems like the blame has to fall squarely on the shoulders of Boeing. The Indian subcontractors are free to submit poorly engineered software and systems design all day long. It's the REVIEW process that is an essential part of any safety-critical design process. I have not worked in avionics, but I have worked in IEC61508 projects, and it's the same thing there. It's about engineering rigour, and being able to DEMONSTRATE, in a court of law if so required, that appropriate rigour was applied at all stages of the design, from initial requirements gathering to integration testing.

    This is a slam-dunk. People should be going to jail. It's an American company though, so nobody will go to jail.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Seriously... WTF?

      Seems like the blame has to fall squarely on the shoulders of Boeing.

      Part of the blame should fall on the shoulders of FAA as well (and government for seriously underfunding FAA).

  17. Danny Boyd

    Solution

    If Boeing has run out of parking space for these so called airplanes, why not start stuffing them up the C-suite managers' a... Erm, I mean, rear orifices.

    But let's be humane and cut off the wings first. Not the tail though, no!

  18. Milton

    Run the numbers?

    Has anyone done an informed estimate, comparing how much Boeing expected to save by kludging oversized engines onto a half-century-old airframe design (and the inevitable chain of further kludgery), with the eventual likely losses incurred by the consequences of the two crashes?

    I am 100% certain that plenty of engineers, both junior and senior, will have raised increasingly worrisome issues as the 737 kludging progressed. It seems equally certain that damnfool greedy management ignored them.

    The fan sizing fiasco lies at the heart of this, necessitating one compromise after another, increasingly nasty kludges to try to rectify a problem—often caused by the previous 'fix. Undercarriage length; engine pylon re-placement; CG problems; handling changes and trim issues: eventually leading to a clumsy attempt to cater for the resulting pitch-up-on-power tendency—which then had to be tucked away, to preserve the supposed common type rating in order save money on pilot training.

    Managers will have been repeatedly warned, by worried engineers about this chain of kludgery. What did they say? What did they do?

    Someone, or several someones, in very senior positions at Boeing said: "We've gone too far now. It'll cost the company (and my bonus) too much to change course to a new airframe. Keep quiet. Keep kludging."

    The human and financial cost of this shortsighted, weaselling greed has been staggering.

    Who made those decisions?

    1. AVee

      Re: Run the numbers?

      I'm not an expert on what is for sale on the airplane market, but I guess the whole recertification/retraining issue is a really big deal for Boeing. It's probably not just the extra costs for both Boeing and the airlines, if it's a different plane and not just a new version of an existing one the buying decision changes. Customers forced to buy a different type of plane where they must do the retraining of crew anyway will suddenly start comparing all options and may decide to switch to a different manufacturer. Once that happens Boeing has lost that customer for the foreseeable future.

      It also might indicate Boeing is not capable of producing a really competitive plane and relies on the deep buy-in of it's existing customers to survive.

  19. YARR
    Boffin

    Alternate 737MAX design kludge

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but the pitch up issue that MCAS addresses happens because the larger diameter engines are positioned further forward of the wing (and higher up). This means the thrust is acting from a different point than earlier 737 models. High thrust causes a turning moment about the plane's centre-of-mass, requiring elevators to compensate.

    Why did they not put a small duct on the back of the engines, so the thrust acts from the same point as earlier 737 models? Ducts must be practical since they were used in the Lockheed Tristar.

    The thrust reverser could be moved to the end of the duct, or be directed through a flap in the duct.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Alternate 737MAX design kludge

      Why did they not put a small duct on the back of the engines

      If you compare the Tristar, the Trident (that one has a fourth engine), the 727, the DC10 and probably many others, you will see that the ducts are on the intake side of the engines, not the outlet. There's probably a reason, I wouldn't know. Interesting question though.

      But I don't think it would solve the problem anyway, I have never given it much thought, but the real question is, where is the actual force acting? Is it at the point where the hot and cold gasses exit the "inside" of the engine, or is the fan like a big propeller with the force it creates acting at the blades? Or a bit of both?

      M.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Alternate 737MAX design kludge

        >Trident (that one has a fourth engine),

        Only on the Trident 3, the Trident 1 & 2 had 3 engines.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Alternate 737MAX design kludge

          Only on the Trident 3

          I meant on the image I posted, which was the clearest I could find but was, as you say, of a later model with an extra engine, which sort of proves the other problem with central engines - difficulty upgrading to versions with bigger fans. Somewhat similar to the 737's problem!

          M.

      2. YARR

        You're right those planes have intake ducts. Outlet ducts would certainly be possible (since that what thrust vectors and reversers do) but may be less efficient for normal use. Like you said, they may not fix the pitch up issue either way.

        Another option might be to mount the engine further back (in the "correct" position to avoid the need for MCAS), and have a duct for the upper part of the cold air stream immediately behind the main fan. The duct could redirect the cold air down the sides of the engine, under the wing, then emit it above the hot air stream behind the wing. This would allow the engine to be positioned higher up with part of the upper fan in front of the wing.

    2. el_oscuro

      Re: Alternate 737MAX design kludge

      I think the issue is that the bigger engines become an actual lifting body like a wing when the angle of attack is increased, i.e when approaching a stall. Because of the forward placement, they tend to re-enforce that stall and make it worse.

      1. Morat

        Re: Alternate 737MAX design kludge

        Is it lift? or induced drag acting upwards in front of the centre of gravity? I'm not sure if there's a difference. Either way I can see why the plane pitches up when the underside of the engines start to to hit the airflow ahead of the wings - and everything I know about aerodynamics I learnt from paper planes and youtube. How did this get past Boeing?

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Alternate 737MAX design kludge

          Is it lift? or induced drag acting upwards in front of the centre of gravity? I'm not sure if there's a difference.

          For all practical purposes there is no real difference, in both cases there is an upwards force in front of the centre of gravity.

          How did this get past Boeing?

          It didn't get past the Boeing engineers, but it did get past the Boeing bean counters as those didn't pay attention to paper planes and YouTube (no money in those for them).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Alternate 737MAX design kludge

      The issues with low-slung engines are well known and designed for, with regard to pitch up with increasing power; the center of thrust isn't particularly far off from the previous models. However, a (rough) cylinder can become a significant lifting body when angle of attack increases, and the larger, further forward engine nacelles do just that. If you're flying at low speed and high angle of attack, it's possible that they'll generate enough lift to counteract your horizontal stabilizer's lift, making the aircraft very easy to pitch up. Requiring progressively less, and possibly after a certain point, no additional control column pressure to increase a given control input violates requirements that control feedback resist this, and leaves the aircraft uncertifiable without something like MCAS to prevent this tendency. You can think of MCAS as a system to counter-balance the engine nacelle lift, to allow it to handle as the previous model did with smaller engines (not necessarily designed as an anti-stall system, but it does prevent certain flight conditions that could rapidly lead to a stall).

      (others already commented about the nature of the ducts, so i've removed that part of this comment)

  20. arctic_haze

    Doomed?

    I've seen opinions by real pilots that 737 MAX will never be allowed to fly again as a passenger plane. After reading now that without MCAS the plane would not be certified at all, I start to understand why.

    Will the solution be Pentagon buying the 400 machines as cargo planes or something? I do not say a wise solution but just a way of helping Boeing by Uncle Sam.

    1. Aqua Marina

      Re: Doomed?

      “Without MCAS the plane would not be certified at all,”

      This is not true. Without MCAS certification would have to be achieved by different method. Boeing didn’t want to have to change the method or training required because of the cost and time. If money and time was not the issue, pilots would be up in the skies right now flying the plane with the training appropriate to the airframe flying characteristics.

      Downvote away!

  21. developer_xxl

    let them suffer

    I hate the people dies from some "technical glitches". let boeing suffer for all the victims.

  22. Ribfeast

    Why not just have 4 smaller engines instead of 2 big ones? You get the increased power etc, without having the plane too far off the ground for loading/unloading passengers, which I believe is what they were trying to avoid?

    The 3rd sensor as mentioned above would also be a good option.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Cost of construction, cost of fuel, cost of maintenance. I suspect the significance of each varies with role, but there's a reason why the A340 never really took off (bad pun), but the A330 is doing great (fewer engines to maintain, and they're more efficient). Also, you've basically just reinvented the Boeing 707.

    2. jtaylor

      "Why not just have 4 smaller engines instead of 2 big ones?"

      That's a fair question. It's because efficiency scales with engine size. The purpose of the 737 MAX was to be more efficient.

      Also, cost scales roughly with number of engines. Unless the half-size engine is made with half the number of parts, manufacturing isn't radically cheaper. Cost of maintenance doesn't change much with size, either. And with more engines, you have more engine-hours per flight-hour, and thus a higher rate of engine problems per flight-hour.

      If Boeing had built a "747 MAX" instead, maybe we wouldn't have these problems. Airlines wanted a cheap twin-jet, though, so that's what Boeing made. They just cut costs in some really stupid ways.

  23. rskurat

    So do executives at Boeing of the FAA ever fly in 737s? I suspect not.

    I stopped taking flights using 737s 25 years ago, after I heard about the spontaneous oops-there-goes-the-rudder issue. This plane has had problems for 30 years, at least.

  24. David Woodhead
    FAIL

    Head for the hills

    These mothballed part-completed planes are now effectively a pile of scrap.

    There is a wonderful book called The World's Worst Aircraft by James Gilbert, in which he documents the same thing happening to, I think, the Convair 880. The problem is that once the build team has been reassigned to other work, no-one knows any longer exactly what stage of construction each plane has reached. If and when you come back to it say three months later, exactly which sections of the miles of wiring, for example, have been installed / connected up / tested? It turns it to be cheaper either to rip everything out down to the basic ariframe and start again or just to scrap it.

    If I had any Boeing shares I would dump them now while there's still some residual value.

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