back to article Stop us if you've heard this before: Boeing's working on 737 Max software fixes for autopilot, stabilization bugs

Boeing is working on software patches for two bugs in its infamous 737 Max's flight controller – one that causes the autopilot to drop out during final approach, the other a loss of control and subsequent nosedive mid-flight. According to Reuters, Boeing is working on the updates as part of its efforts to get the 737 Max …

  1. Gene Cash Silver badge

    autopilot disengagement during final approach

    So does it tell you? Or does it silently go away while you're waiting for it to level out? That could get rough.

    Also "runaway stabilizer" is short for "elevator goes to full-up or full-down" which is about as fatal as it gets.

    I wonder how many issues the Boeing capsule is going to have on its next flight to the ISS... any bets?

    1. HildyJ Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: autopilot disengagement during final approach

      Since it's first Starliner test in December failed to reach the ISS due to runaway thrusters caused by software errors and they had to schedule another uncrewed test after additional software problems were found, I'd bet on three.

      P.S. It has to be a bad omen when my spell check "corrected" uncre'wed to unscrewed.

    2. Fursty Ferret

      Re: autopilot disengagement during final approach

      The autopilot disconnect warning is the highest priority audio warning on any commercial aircraft. I can't imagine it not sounding in the circumstances you describe.

      1. KjetilS

        Re: autopilot disengagement during final approach

        Unless there is a software bug in the warning, and this is Boeing we are talking about

        1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge

          Re: autopilot disengagement during final approach

          Or it is an optional and costly feature, since we are speaking of Boeing, the standard feature being a warning sent by mail with a low priority as soon as the plane is in range of a free wifi hotspot...

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: autopilot disengagement during final approach

        "The autopilot disconnect warning is the highest priority audio warning on any commercial aircraft."

        And yet, pilots have missed that "bong" as a contributing factor in a large number of crashes.

        Having this happen during potential situational overload scenarios is a BIG no-no

  2. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    so people are going to pay money to get on a 737 max?

    mine's a helicopter ->

    1. Giovani Tapini Silver badge
      Trollface

      Nevrr trust anything where the wings fly faster than the aircraft..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Never trust anything where only *some* of the wings fly faster that the aircraft! :)

      2. PTW

        wasn't there a line about

        "Helicopters don't fly, they're so ugly the ground repels them"

        Not my opinion BTW I love the things

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: wasn't there a line about

          "Helicopters don't fly, they're so ugly the ground repels them"

          Pretty sure no-one's left any up there though! :)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @PTW - Re: wasn't there a line about

          Ground repels them but would not hesitate to hug them at the first opportunity.

        3. Steve K Silver badge

          Re: wasn't there a line about

          I thought that was originally said about the Fairey Gannet

        4. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

          Re: wasn't there a line about

          >"Helicopters don't fly, they're so ugly the ground repels them"

          Since they always end up back on the ground it follows they must get prettier as they consume fuel. Very much like humans fuelled by alcohol.

          Science!

        5. swm Silver badge

          Re: wasn't there a line about

          One of my professors said that God never intended for a propeller to fly sideways through the air, e.g., at high speeds one side the tips of the rotor exceed the speed of sound while the other side the tips are stationary. Then there is ground resonance, flight is naturally unstable, ... Then there is a pin(s) that holds the rotor which is untestable so they replace it every 500 hours.

          It's amazing the things fly as well as they do.

      3. Richard Jones 1
        WTF?

        @ Giovani Tapinini

        Or one that has such a love affair with the ground that it gets lonely when not in very intimate contact?

    2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Just a comment - some rather fine ripostes! Makes one glad to look at El Reg (although there are other benefits)

    3. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      so people are going to pay money to get on a 737 max?

      Many years ago, when DC-10s were falling out of the sky regularly(*), a friend of mine was going on a 14 hop journey visiting various places researching into the same field as he was. The travel agent booking his flights asked him if he had any special requests, obviously thinking about dietary requirements or window/aisle seat preferences. His reply was "no DC-10s". To their credit they managed it, although it took some innovative routing. I suspect there's a lot of similar "no 737 max" requests these days(**).

      (*) The cargo door problem.

      (**) Or was, until we all got cooped up.

      1. low_resolution_foxxes Bronze badge

        Ahh, but you see, Boeing have fixed that problem (they renamed the 737-Max to something else).

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So not like they're just bodging anything together in a frantic attempt to get this thing that's costing billions of dollars every month it's not flying in the air again?

  4. Mister Dubious
    Alert

    Independent bug-gery

    "these two bugs [...[ are new and not related to the faulty MCAS system"

    Well, *there's* a comfort!

    1. Giovani Tapini Silver badge

      Re: Independent bug-gery

      These font feel like bugss,but a failure to properly assess the failure nodes. Seems to me that automation of testing has assumed too much trust that code quality is good even if they don't know what it does.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Independent bug-gery

      In what way are they new? Are they newly discovered or newly introduced with the previous updates? Neither is encouraging. The one good aspect of this is that while the planes are grounded they're not doing any harm. What with being grounded until recertified and the economic effects of the pandemic, will they ever fly again?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There will be a hundreds or even thousands of second hand aircraft going very cheap next year after many airlines implode in the next few months

    1. LDS Silver badge

      But the remaining one will try to fly the airplanes cheaper to fly.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Airframes that aren't deemed flight safe by the aviation authorities aren't cheap to fly.

  6. SU

    Bin It

    Surely with the massive downturn that aviation is suffering and the abysmal publicity that Boeing have received for this rushed bodge job of an aircraft; commissioned in haste to compete with the Airbus NEO family just binning it would be the best option?

    Due to recent events there are tens of thousands of aircraft mothballed at airfields around the world many belonging to airlines that will not emerge from this crisis. This will cause a glut of cheap aircraft to enter the market at a time when fuel costs are lower than they have been for years and with depressed global economies unlikely to recover soon will most likely stay low.

    The biggest selling point of these new aircraft is the better operational efficiency - but with low global fuel prices this is far less of an issue for airlines with tight balance sheets and little capital available for expensive new aircraft.

    That is before you consider the PR damage these aircraft will do to airlines. Traditionally a new fleet is a marketing coup for airlines. I can't think of many who would try and market this typhoid Mary of aviation.

    Boeing should take the short term pain, kill the project and actually design a new, safer modern aircraft that doesn't rely on electronic tricks to overcome design restrictions inherent in legacy designs such as this 1960's era aircraft.

    1. John Sturdy

      Re: Bin It

      Might they be able to re-use the fuselages and most of the wing structures (in fact probably almost everything structural and mechanical apart from the engines and engine mounts), and rebuild them as normal 737s?

      1. erikscott

        Re: Bin It

        I suspect they'll announce a new aircraft, the 737-1000. There will also be a field-installable upgrade kit to refit existing MAXes and make -1000s out of them. The kit will consist of a thumb drive, a 22,000 page installation manual, and an INOP sticker to go over the blank spot where the AoA light might or might not have been. Oh, and the most important part - new seatback exit cards.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      It can't

      Financially speaking, it has no choice. The Max must fly again.

      If Boeing actually does declare a loss, then the market is wide open Airbus until Boeing can create a new plane. The aviation market is cutthroat and long-term. The Max has already seriously damaged Beoing's perspectives for future market wins, if Boeing scraps it it will take decades before it can hope to regain its current market share.

      Share which was already being eaten up by Airbus.

      Boeing really doesn't have a choice.

      Not that I'm shedding a tear for them. The shameful self-certification Boeing glided itself through cost hundreds of people their lives. Boeing deserves to pay for that for a long time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It can't

        "Boeing really doesn't have a choice.

        Not that I'm shedding a tear for them. The shameful self-certification Boeing glided itself through cost hundreds of people their lives. Boeing deserves to pay for that for a long time."

        Pretty much this. Cancelling the plane would be a MASSIVE write-off. It would take Boeing down, basically ...

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: It can't

          But do they need to write it off or just treat it as a new aircraft and get it freshly and properly certified, no grandfathering. That might bring some confidence back in the short to medium term and give them a new set of "clean" grandfathering rights for newer models based on this airframe in the long term.

          That would be a lot cheaper than starting from scratch.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: It can't

        "Financially speaking, it has no choice. The Max must fly again."

        True, it has no choice. The choice lies with the customers. If they so decide it won't fly again.

      3. Denarius Silver badge

        Re: It can't

        Boeings 777x-900 also in trouble. Engines this time so not Boeings outsourced coders. 737 air-frame has been pushed way beyond original design extensions. Pity they did not keep producing the 757 which was designed to be upgraded from start with bigger engines. Same with 767. In short, Boeing is in bigger trouble than just 737.

      4. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: It can't

        then the market is wide open Airbus until Boeing can create a new plane.

        Not really.

        Both Airbus and Boeing have spent decades at predicting how big the market is for certain aircraft of certain capabilities, and then estimating the market share they will have for their version of an aircraft for that market segment - which they've become reasonably good at.

        Then they have spent decades building the manufacturing capability and the entire supply chain around producing that number of aircraft, with a bit of leeway for small increases or decreases (say 10-15%). It costs billions, takes decades to significantly expand commercial aircraft production. Not just Airbus itself, but their suppliers, the engine manufacturers, who have all built their engine production around the predicted numbers from Airbus/Boeing, and so on.

        There is absolutely zero chance of Airbus being able to increase production of the A320neo to fill more than 10 or 20% of the vacuum left if Boeing stopped producing any 737s at all within the next ~5 years (and vice-versa if Airbus had similar problems). What you will get is most of the operators of the 737, or future operators who are expanding and/or changing over to the 737 either just doing without (not expanding), or operating older aircraft that they can't replace because there is no 737 replacement or Airbus can't provide enough A320neos to replace them, thus increasing the average age of their fleets. They'll just operate their existing 737's for another decade.

        Airbus is unlikely to spend the necessary billions, and years, to significantly expanding their A320neo production capability - not to mention their third-party corporation supply companies doing the same thing - to fill a 3-7 year 737 vacuum. Any such investment, while profitable in the medium term (3-10 years) would in the long term be a massive loss-making anchor around their necks when Boeing does come online with a replacment aircraft.

        The only way you'd get this sort of investment in significantly expanding manufacturing capability from Airbus is if Boeing either collapsed entirely or withdrew from that market segment.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: It can't

          There was an alternative to the 737 not from airbus.

          Presumably it was very good because Boeing had a little cry to their pet congressman and it suddenly got a 300% import tariff. That'll teach those no good Canadians

        2. eldakka Silver badge

          Information just in ...

          I'd like to add that the whole airline and aircraft production system has taken a massive hit with the coronavirus pandemic.

          As per a Seattle Times article, which takes a particular interest in Boeing being that they are a local company and economically significant to Washington State, aircraft purchasers are massively cutting their already-placed orders, with apparently 737MAX orders being most severly hit.

          For example, a major aircraft leasing corporation, Avolon, has cut its 737MAX order by 75 aircraft (still has 55 on the books though), but hasn't - yet - cut any A320 orders. It has cut it's total orders across all aircraft types from 284 down to 165 aircraft due to the downturn caused by coronavirus. Although an analyst opinioned that the MAX could be harder hit than the A320neo because of the pre-existing MAX problems, it is easier to get refunds on cancelled orders from Boeing than Airbus because the purchaser could point to the ongoing MAX problems as the reason for the cancellations thus demand their 'deposits' back, that is, "for cause" for non-performance from Boeing in meeting the terms of their contracts. That would be harder to do with Airbus currently as to cancel with Airbus would purely be the buyer changing their mind on pre-orders, i.e. "without cause" to Airbus contractual performance, thus making it harder to get refunds.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Information just in ...

            I would also look at the chances of Airbus remaining a long term supplier of civil aircraft vs Boeing.

            Whatever Eu and WTO rules say, France isn't going to let Airbus go bust. They also have significant manufacturing in China.

            Boeing is an important military company but their civil business is centered in a state that the Great Leader has a strong dislike for.

        3. herman Silver badge

          Re: It can't

          You are forgetting that the whole tourism market has evaporated. It will likely remain that way for a long time. Neither Boeing, nor Airbus need build any new aircraft for years.

  7. IPCurious

    It's not the bugs in their software that are the problem. It's the bug in their software development process. How was an aircraft that was the product of such a process ever certified to fly? Don't the regulators look at the process?

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Short answer: It wasn't.

      Longer answer: They claimed it was no different to the original design - just some small 'improvements', and the regulator let them get away with it.

    2. low_resolution_foxxes Bronze badge

      In hindsight, it is probably accurate to say the 737 Max overall design was a "no win" design challenge.

      Your rival is creaming you in the market with the Airbus NEO fuel efficient range, your sales execs want the same super-revolution in performance, but it *MUST* operate exactly the same as the last 737 (to avoid pilot retraining).

      But this requires a bigger new jet engine, that puts the whole plane off balance (requiring automated "bodge" systems, that the pilots can't know about, cause the plane is supposed to be identical to the 1960s design).

      Ah yes, but we can't fix the design properly, cause it needs to be taller, Airports don't like paying for the expensive "walk on" walkways.

      Cue MCAS, a dual sensor automated "bodge" system, where apparently only 1 sensor was connected, with no redundancy, that faceplants into the ground when it glitches or birds damage it (even when pilots manually fight it). Oh yes - for added fun, the LED that indicates MCAS failure (dual sensor mismatch) is an "optional sales extra".

      My engineering mind is truly aghast at this chain of events.......we're not talking about a photocopier company FFS.

      1. tony72

        Cue MCAS, a dual sensor automated "bodge" system, where apparently only 1 sensor was connected, with no redundancy, that faceplants into the ground when it glitches or birds damage it (even when pilots manually fight it). Oh yes - for added fun, the LED that indicates MCAS failure (dual sensor mismatch) is an "optional sales extra".

        That was hardly a no-win design challenge. Obviously they could have conected two sensors if they wanted to, they could have installed that LED as standard if they wanted to, and so for the other changes required to make the system work, then it would have been a win. It wasn't the difficulty of the design that caused their problems, it was making stupid decisions, and then doubling down on that by seemingly avoiding proper regulatory scrutiny of what they'd done.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. low_resolution_foxxes Bronze badge

          If I understand correctly, it all got a bit messy when it came to developing markets and semi-offshoring as part of its problem.

          Historic local (read: expensive) software coders were slightly miffed, as Boeing won a $30bn contract from two Indian carriers, with the sweetener required that Boeing would allocate several billion dollars to Indian IT companies, to develop local capabilities.

          Allegedly, some of these "offshored" software coders earnt £6 per her hour and were fresh college graduates with no experience. Apparently, MCAS is a homegrown USA product using experienced US labour. To be fair, it's not the usual offshoring story, as I understand why with such enormous contracts they might want a quid-pro-quo agreement.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            The Indian contractor didn't work on any flight critical software.

            Blaming poorly paid foreign workers is like saying all those 787s with tools left in fuel tanks and machine swarf inside is because they were made by low-paid non-union red-neck idiots with two first names in South Carolina.

      2. Steve K Silver badge

        Paradox

        the LED that indicates MCAS failure (dual sensor mismatch) is an "optional sales extra".

        Which would be a bit of a sales paradox - why would an airline ever buy that extra if it related to a system that "didn't exist" anyway....

        1. eldakka Silver badge

          Re: Paradox

          The system that the LED indicator is for existed - exists - on the previous 737NG as well. It is not a MCAS failure indicator, it is an AoA sensor disagreement indicator.

          The AoA (Angle of Attack) sensors were not new to the MAX, they were and are present on the NG model, and some airlines that fly the NG (and now the MAX) have both the AoA disagreement light and the full-on AoA readouts fitted due to them particularly targeting ex-military pilots for recruitment who are used to such indicators (as military aircraft - especially combat aircraft - are fitted with AoA indicators as standard). What was new in the MAX was the additional use those sensors were put to, that is, feeding data into MCAS. So when the indicator lights up, it is an indication that there is something wrong with the AoA sensors, they are not to be trusted, and as a consequence of this any system that depends on the AoA sensors - MCAS - is not to be trusted (i.e. disabled). Which wouldn't have helped anyway as you did rightly poiint out, the pilots (prior to the Lion Air crash at least) didn't know about the MCAS system therefore they wouldn't have known to disable it even if they had the warning LED start flashing at them.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Certification process:

      Boeing exec knocks on the door of the certification department next door to his office and says. "We've finished the 737 Max, can you sign here to certify it for us"

      Certification department of Boeing (also known as the FAA): "Is it safe, does it need the pilots to rec-certify?"

      Being Exec: "Of course it's safe, no pilot recertifying needed they just need to watch a 20 minute Youtube video one of our competition winners has put together. It's exactly the same as the other 737s. Chill trust me"

      Certification department: "Great, here you go"

      Rest of the world: "Well the FAA signed it off, they know their stuff, safe for us too"

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        "Well the FAA signed it off, they know their stuff, safe for us too"

        Well, it used to be a gold standard. I think it will no longer be such!

      2. herman Silver badge

        The trouble is that even if Boeing fixes all the currently known bugs, the certifiers will always find a new bug. There will be an endless succession of bugs like in the Windows OS. No certifier will ever want to sign this catastrophe off. What if it crashes again? They would not be able to live with that.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      About that software development process.....

      @IPCurious

      "Software development process".....so twentieth century!! Once upon a time there were multiple methodologies (e.g. Ernst and Young "Navigator", Arthur Anderson (who?) "Method 1", and others).

      *

      So....in the last century some software shops had a documented end-to-end software development process. So old fashioned. Today we have Agile/Scrum/DevOps approaches...driven by random list of "user stories"....with the list changing every two weeks. Good luck writing a SYSTEM test plan.

      *

      Perhaps Boeing is a poster child for "modern" methods!!!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: About that software development process.....

        @AC

        ...and here's a comment from some "agile expert" or another:

        - "I see nothing wrong with 3-6 months of product backlog, as long as it's not all planned up front by splitting into user stories."

        *

        So....."3-6 months", "not all planned".....Agile/Scrum/DevOps at work somewhere.....

        *

        ......but let's hope it's not at Boeing!!!!!

    5. nematoad Silver badge

      It wasn't just the software development that caused this mess.

      It's the fact that Boeing tried to cut too many corners, lied to the FAA and the FAA let them get away with it.

      This reflects badly on everyone concerned and unless or until these faults are addressed Boeing and the FAA are going to have to work really hard in convincing others that they can be trusted.

      I hope that other aircraft regulatory organisations like the CAA take due note and put Boeing and the FAA under close scrutiny.

  8. David M

    Flying less

    Part of the response to climate change is going to have to be a dramatic reduction in flying. The recent effects on aviation of Boeing's bugs and of Covid-19 are just a preview of what will soon need to happen anyway. Boeing would do well to accept this, give up on developing new aircraft, and start redeploying its engineering resources onto more environmentally-friendly projects.

    1. druck Silver badge

      Re: Flying less

      Rubbish, when this is over everyone is going to want a holiday.

      1. David M

        Re: Flying less

        Quite right - me included. But there are plenty of ways to take a holiday that don't involve flying. And I did say 'reduce', not 'eliminate'. For a start, recent experience has shown that the vast majority of business meetings can be held quite successfully without flying half-way around the world to be there in person.

        1. nematoad Silver badge

          Re: Flying less

          "Recent experience has shown that the vast majority of business meetings can be held quite successfully without flying half-way round the world..."

          What!

          Do away with all the executive jollys?

          Wash your mouth out with soap and water!

          1. Denarius Silver badge

            Re: Flying less

            losing jollies. hell yes. Most meetings are best efficiently avoided

            1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

              Re: Flying less

              For us blebs, perhaps.

              But for the management class, it's a whole different story.

              Start of flight announcement, "Ladies and gentlemen, and the cattle in coach...."

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Flying less

            >Wash your mouth out with soap and water!

            While Humming the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.

            - CDC

            1. molletts

              Re: Flying less

              Or just gargle it twice with some of that trendy liquid soap that everyone seems to use these days.

        2. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge
          Devil

          Re: Flying less

          I saw that 10% of Parisians left the town when the confinement started.

          When it is lifted, one can expect the other 90% wanting to go elsewhere.

          Then you will have the best town to be: Paris without Parisians!

          (all the amenities will be opened since people working there can't afford to live in Paris anyway)

          1. dajames Silver badge

            Re: Flying less

            Then you will have the best town to be: Paris without Parisians!

            You get that every August, anyway, in the fermeture annuelle.

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Flying less

          "recent experience has shown that the vast majority of business meetings can be held quite successfully without flying half-way around the world to be there in person."

          I wonder if the junket will still be a reward after this is all over? My bet is that it will be. The C-Suite will be back to flying all over the place ASAP and that will very quickly trickle down the chain of command.

          1. hittitezombie

            Re: Flying less

            They are already flying. They never stopped.

            I monitor ADS-B traffic above me, and the amount of small private jets along with the cargo flights create most of the flying right now. Location? 25mins drive to Heathrow, outside M25 circle.

            General passenger flights are significantly down (more than 90%), but private jets are thriving.

        4. Denarius Silver badge

          Re: Flying less

          @David. Not in this part of the world David. 6 hours of security theater with 3 hours in air versus 3 by 18hour days on road across Oz. Nope, I prefer to fly. Air travel releases less CO2 for seat mile than even railways. Why ? No infrastructure between destination needed. Aside from that, Oz railways have track so bad the speed limit is 15kmh. Even 120 kmh is considered fast.

    2. Denarius Silver badge

      Re: Flying less

      yeah right. So why is Airbus's latest next gen aircraft design a ripoff of the Boeing SpanLoader flying wing concept ? Lower fuel burn, more seats because tube on wings shape is hitting limits. Materials science means higher stress shapes can be considered, such as large triangles.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: Flying less

        It's a rip off design for same reasons that every current airliner is a rip off of the DC-3 - aerodynamic design principles. Flying wing concepts have been around since the beginning of manned flight and are no more difficult to build than 'tube with wings', stable flight control was the big issue before computers could do the job.

        The problems with flying wing airliners now are a bit more prosaic, there are no window seats, where do you put the emergency evacuation doors and none of the current airport steps & gangways will fit.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Flying less

          "where do you put the emergency evacuation doors"

          This is the biggest one. Unless you have huge row spacing I can't see a blended body being evacuated in 90 seconds or less, although they'd make wonderful freighters

          Everything else would adapt and window seats are overrated (most passengers don't really care) unless you want to look out to see where the fire ISN'T before opening an emergency exit

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Flying less

            Surely you put the emergency exits in the floor? Then either have slides that go downwards, or just equip the passengers with very bouncy shoes.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Flying less

        " why is Airbus's latest next gen aircraft design a ripoff of the Boeing SpanLoader flying wing concept "

        Why do dolphins look like sharks when their ancestors had four legs and horns?

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Flying less

          >Why do dolphins look like sharks when their ancestors had four legs and horns?

          Scene: a Hollywood pitch meeting.

          You know Jaws was big, and Jurrasic park was big?

          What about a shark with legs and horns and claws.......

  9. tony72

    New?

    To be clear, it is said by Boeing that these two bugs, involving the autopilot and stabilization, are new and not related to the faulty MCAS system

    So are these bugs new as in newly introduced regressions, or newly discovered but have been lurking for a while? I guess the latter, but the former possibility makes me wonder how scary it might be to receive a software update notification from Boeing these days.

  10. BebopWeBop Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Since then, Boeing has been battling to get the Max aircraft updated, tested, and approved for use.

    I suppose that has been tough as they are unused to doing so without FAA collusion?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. newspuppy

    "If it's a Boeing I'm not going....."

    I can hear now how Boeing's famous phrase shall be updated by the masses....

    Tragic really... as Boeing had such a good reputation.....

    I do hope that C-level management shall take notice that the cost of not doing development whilst following procedures... far outweighs the initial savings.

    The facebook approach (run fast and break things) should never be used in any critical risk roles...... unless one can accept the loss of life.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @newspuppy - Re: "If it's a Boeing I'm not going....."

      What was the airline that decided paying the families of potential victims would cost less than replacing a part on all their planes in the fleet ? May I remind you that companies are in business to make money so public safety is only a hindrance to their goal.

    2. RichUK

      Re: "If it's a Boeing I'm not going....."

      A good reputation? Their planes generally have a good safety record but Niki Lauda had to hold their feet to the fire to get them to own up to and fix the issues when one of his 767s crashed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lauda_Air_Flight_004

  12. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    The 737 Max is a brilliant demonstration

    of why the FAA should never, ever allow a new model to be certified without taking it through the complete process.

    I don't care if it's just the paint job that changed ; it's different, it needs to be recertified.

    Now that the proper certification process is being followed, new issues are being found that Boeing can no longer sweep under the rug. The issues must be fixed, and Boeing cannot do otherwise because the plane will not fly if it doesn't. And as long as it doesn't fly, Airbus is sweeping the market.

    You feel that, Boeing ? That's your balls in a vise. And the vise is closing. And it's all your fault.

    Well, yours and the FAA's as well, but the FAA won't be taken to court, now will it ?

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: The 737 Max is a brilliant demonstration

      " why the FAA should never, ever allow a new model to be certified... "

      ...without having other aviation regulators check its homework.

      Believe me, after this: THEY WILL

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: The 737 Max is a brilliant demonstration

        >...without having other aviation regulators check its homework.

        >Believe me, after this: THEY WILL

        Until they get the phone call from the Whitehouse asking if they still want that military aid and whether they would like 50% tariffs on their imports to the USA unless they agree that the plane is safe

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: The 737 Max is a brilliant demonstration

          Targetted tariffs are illegal under WTO rules, any tariff must be applied to all countries that do not have an explicit trade agreement. Sanctions could be imposed but they up the political game and a couple of quite big countries might just offer a much better aid deal.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: The 737 Max is a brilliant demonstration

            >Targetted tariffs are illegal under WTO rules

            In the words of uncle Joe:

            How many divisions has the WTO ?

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: The 737 Max is a brilliant demonstration

      Boeing's problems date back a long LONG way - in fact right back to when financiers and bankers gained control of the company in 1971 as it nearly went under thanks to the 747

      That's right - its greatest aviation/engineering triumph contained the seeds of its eventual destruction, but attempting to match that flying financial disaster movie took out Lockheed and Douglas and allowed the predators to keep running the zombie for a while longer than they should have been able to get away with.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "A software system called MCAS – introduced to compensate for the effects of fitting engines larger than previously used by the 737 family – is suspected to be the cause, combined with faulty sensor readings and virtually non-existent pilot training for the feature."

    Sorry, but a bit of fixing here: the first crew to crash had literally (not virtually) no training nor even knowledge of MCAS since it was deliberately put out of flying manuals.

    Once panic kicked in at Boeing, only, did they issue notes to all crew of this undocumented "feature". They then had knowledge, but still literally no training.

    1. low_resolution_foxxes Bronze badge

      There is a minor sales point we sometimes gloss over.

      If 737max was a separate plane with its own certification, pilots would "lose" 737 regular certification by training for the Max.

      Hence the categoric emphasis on *must* operate like a 737. US pilots can only work on one type of major aircraft at a time.

  14. Wobbly World

    Not fit for purpose...

    Sadly Boeing gave pilots a plane, proven during early testing, that was

    “NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE.!!!”

    Both of the 737~Max accidents were entirely avoidable, shame on Boeing!!!

    Boeing knew the situation, with the 737~Max’s excursion’s into terrain, was irrecoverable, as a result of design failures in the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, (MCAS) being give too much authority and its reliance on only one Angle of Attack Sensor, (AoA) that resulted in a single point failure!!! Something that should NEVER of been allowed to fly!!!

    With regard to the Max-xxx return to service I understand that Boeing propose to use just two flight control computers, that fails to make allowances for the probability of a microcode flaw or a bit flipping, and means there is no way of determining if the system is receiving erroneous data. Why they are doing this I don’t know it just seems wrong. You always need an odd number of data inputs in order to identify erroneous data and avoid voting deadlocks. It’s even stranger when you realise all of this stuff in avionics was solved 40+ years ago!!!

    I have no sympathy for the pain Boeing is suffering, it cannot ever be as much as the pain suffered by those people that died and their families!! There is currently a criminal investigation into the facts and as I see it there are no excuses for what went wrong at Boeing. The people at Boeing and the FAA that were responsible for this debacle should receive the harshest punishment that is available to the courts, such that it makes an example, striking fear into to the industry in the hope that it will never allow such sloppy engineering to ever happen again!!!

    RIP. To all those people that Boeing sadly buried in terrain...

  15. Zarno Bronze badge
    Mushroom

    One way to fix.

    Only one way to fix this that I can see.

    rm -rf /datastorage/designs/737_MAX

    mkdir /datastorage/designs/737_MAX_V2

    Icon because that's what rm -rf does...

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: One way to fix.

      "mkdir /datastorage/designs/737_MAX_V2"

      They did.

      In the 1980s.

      And then shelved it

      Because nobody would buy it

      Because it wasn't a 737 and pilots would need to be recertified for it

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_7J7

  16. autisticatheist
    Black Helicopters

    Is it really worth continuing with it?

    I'm not an engineer or an accountant or anything else that might construe an expert position, buuuuut..........

    Do Boeing honestly believe that *anyone* will allow themselves to be booked onto a flight on one of these things, ever?

    Icon: only one relating to flight.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Is it really worth continuing with it?

      "Do Boeing honestly believe"

      Sure. Just rename it.

      Don't believe me? Look at the model names applied to the ones on order for RyanAir

      MAX is gone already. Now it's the Boeing 737-8200

  17. RichUK

    It's happened before

    Was watching one of those air crash investigation programmes the other night. An airliner crashed because the software did something the pilot could not have anticpated, indeed the pilots and the airline did not even know the software was on it*. The plane crashed. Clearly the lessons were not learnt - this is exactly what happened in the first 737Max crash.

    (*The engines surged due to ice ingestion. The pilot throttled back to clear them, but unbeknown to the pilots the software override them and immediately put the engines to max thrust again; the engines were terminally damaged and the plane crashed. The software had been installed by the manufacturer with good intentions, to prevent a different kind of crash, but the law of unitended consequences. It's the episode called "pilot betrayed" if anyone wants to catch the reruns)

  18. Gadbous

    I just can't wait.....

  19. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Even if certified as "safe to fly"

    There are "other issues"

    If this ends up type-certified as "Not a 737" (meaning pilots can't just jump from older ones into a MAX), then that's a nightmare scenario for Boeing as it puts them in actual contractual breach with most of their customers and allows those customers to walk away from purchases without paying the 80-90% chargeback penalties that are in the standard Boeing bill of sale.

    And that isn't just a matter of "software makes it fly like a 737" anymore either. After all, if Airbus wanted to they could reprogram an A320 to do that.

    The issue - as shown by the crashes and the long delays getting it back into the air is that you can make it fly "like" a traditional 737, until it doesn't - and then it REALLY doesn't, so Pilots have to be prepared and trained for software failure.

    On the other hand if you strip out MCAS and all the other stuff installed to make it emulate an older machine, ie: making it fly "natively" - then it doesn't fly like a traditional 737 either.

    Boeing rat rodded the 737 to make the NG and really pushed their luck. There are handling characteristics on THAT aircraft (particularly around stalling behaviour in the 800s) that would result it from being _banned_ from the air if it wasn't grandfathered on the original 737 certificate - and arguably the FAA should never have approved it, showing how badly compromised they've been and for how long they've been compromised.

    The MAX was ratrodding the design well beyond the limits of stability(*) and sensibility. It should never have been allowed to fly and I wouldn't be surprised if something happens like special type certs are issues for existing aircraft allowing pilots with specific training to fly it, but any further builds will NOT be granted certificates of airworthiness

    (*) Literally - the MAX is dynamically unstable and the only other kinds of aircraft that are dynamically unstable are intended for aerobatics or combat. Excluding military and actual aerobats, GA or Sport designs that are dynamically unstable end up with severe restrictions applied on usage and no unstable civil transport design has _EVER_ been approved for flight before (it shouldn't have got off the drawing board!) - why do you want an aerobatic bus?

    It's a shame that the excellent, but dated original 737 frame has been allowed to be turned into a deathtrap for the sake of profit (airline and airframer). This undoes about 40 years of aviation safety improvements.

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