A European Perspective on Boeing’s 737 MAX Debacle: An “Existential Crisis” for a National Champion

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Der Spiegel has published a well-reported[1], long (~10,000 words), and devastating article on the Boeing 737 MAX crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302: “Boeing’s Crashes Expose Systemic Failings.” (The original German version was published on August 3rd, 2019; we in the Anglosphere were only able to read it on August 23.) The article is very solid (reader Harold comments: “Teutonic thoroughness”). For example, here is a detail that is new to me. Of Flight 302:

The plane smashed into the ground at a speed of 926 kilometers per hour (575.4 mph) — and physics did the rest…. The kerosene in the tanks didn’t explode and nothing burned. The fuel evaporated instantaneously due to the extremely high speed at impact.

Yikes! In this post, I’m not going to summarize the article, which I recommend you read in full and pass along. NC has covered this story extensively in links and posts; see especially here, here, and here. The competition between Airbus and Boeing, the MCAS debacle, the 737 MAX design process, the FAA’s regulatory failures, and cultural issues at Boeing are well covered in those posts, so I’m not going to focus on how Der Spiegel covers those topics. Rather, I’m going to focus on the existential threats to Boeing that Der Spiegel — with well-concealed but surely present schadenfreude[2] — identifies. There are four, which I’ll convey with extracts from the Der Spiegel article.

Existential Threat (1): Punitive Damages from Losing in Court

Der Spiegel begins by interviewing “feared lawyer” Marc Moller, “a legend among his colleagues,” working together with New York law firm Kreindler & Kreindler. Moller has tried (and won) cases for the victims of the the Germanwings crash in 2015, the American Airlines case when a Boeing 757 struck a mountainside in Colombia, and Turkish Airlines Flight 981, which exploded in mid-air due to a faulty cargo hatch. Now Moller and Kreindler & Kreindler are representing victims of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Der Spiegel summarizes Moller’s theory of the case as follows:

The competition between Boeing and Airbus does, in fact, appear to be a key element in these two crashes. The profitability of both companies depends on but a few products, and when it comes to the most important aircraft of all, the short- and medium-haul planes, Boeing has fallen behind Airbus, Moller says, and suddenly, once-loyal Boeing customers were buying jets from Airbus, preferring the new A320 to the outdated 737. Boeing had to act quickly. But instead of designing an altogether new aircraft, Moller says, engineers continued to make changes to the old 737 design and, in the end, came up with an aircraft that was dangerously designed.

The above is well understand, but here is the pain point for Boeing:

In the coming proceedings and investigations, particular attention will be paid to the time between the crash in Indonesia and the one in Ethiopia. This will be the most dangerous window for Boeing. If the prosecution can prove or find witnesses to say that people at Boeing or aviation regulators had cautioned against the further operation of the 737 Max after the Lion Air crash, it could make the company look extremely culpable. If anyone at Boeing had even the slightest inkling of the new system’s inherent risks, things could get tricky.

By “tricky,” we mean expensive“:

The Kreindler & Kreindler lawyers aren’t likely to be wearing kid gloves. And they aren’t only interested in damage payments, which are self-evident and could be in the hundreds of millions. (The $100 million that Boeing offered as compensation to families of the victims in early July is likely a joke in their eyes.) Instead, Moller and [fellow lawyer] Green are hoping to win a claim of punitive damages, which could be much more costly to Boeing. An initial hearing took place in late June and Judge Alonso ruled that the case could proceed and the lawyers could produce their evidence.

If Moller and Green are successful with their strategy, the consequences could be grave for Boeing. It may mean a tripling of the damage payments that the company would have to pay and Boeing’s insurer would not be liable. And that could threaten the aircraft manufacturer’s very existence.

I don’t know whether this threat is “in the price” or not.

Existential Threat (2): Retroactive Loss of Insurance

Triple damages are bad enough. Here is why Boeing’s insurance company might be off the hook for them. The business background is well-known:

The Dec. 1, 2010 announcement by the Europeans that the entire A320 family would be re-engineered and outfitted with new, unusually fuel-efficient and quiet engines must have hit Boeing’s Chicago headquarters like a bolt of lightning….

At the time, Boeing had no fully developed plan for a new model or an acceptable new version of the 737. Most importantly, the company was not in a position to be able to install the new generation of jet engines on its planes. So, the industry was quite surprised when Boeing, just nine months later, appeared to catch up to Airbus. In late August 2011, the construction of the 737 Max was announced, and the company even promised that the plane could be operated 7 percent more cheaply than the A320neo.

The technical background, again well-known:

Once again, [Boeing’s engineers] tried to compress the engine shape. And once again, they commissioned a customized, smaller version of the engine. They tried pretty much everything to create more space under the plane, even lengthening the landing gear by 20 centimeters. The most important change, though, was installing the turbines a bit higher on the wings and quite a bit further forward.

Changing, as we know, the aerodynamic characteristics of the aircraft, leading to the notorious MCAS system:

A former Lufthansa executive, himself a trained aerospace engineer who has decades of experience in reading technical evaluations of aircraft, is convinced that courts could very well determine that the actions taken by the Boeing engineers amount to “gross negligence.” The ex-Lufthansa manager, who has to remain anonymous due to old contractual agreements, says he is convinced that the construction of the 737 Max on the whole is “amateurish.” It is, he says, the culmination of the technical shortfalls that Boeing has essentially been seeking to eliminate since the mid-1990s.

And now we come the dodgy FAA approval process:

It was only by way of such string-and-chewing-gum tricks [as MCAS] that engineers were able to achieve the stability necessary for safe flight. The FAA was informed of the system early on and accepted it. In hindsight, it is an open question whether they were really aware of all the details of the new software solution. When Boeing first presented the MCAS system to the FAA, the program only activated reluctantly and adjusted the horizontal stabilizer trim by just 0.6 degrees. Later, though, during the development process, Boeing gave the program much more leeway [“authority”] and increased its control over the plane, allowing it to make changes of up to 2.5 degrees. According to information currently available, it looks as though the FAA never approved this much riskier system.

Because of the several inconsistencies, the former Lufthansa executive believes the company could be facing the retroactive loss of its insurance coverage for the 737 Max.

Oof.

Existential Threat (3): The End of the Boeing-Airbus Duopoly

Boeing did manage to gobble up Embraer, and Airbus Bombardier, but other competitors are rolling down the runway:

And this all comes at a time when the Airbus-Boeing duopoly has been developing cracks. The two may still be the world’s undisputed aerospace leaders, but companies in China, Russia and Japan are in the process of grabbing a bigger piece of the pie. Furthermore, it has become easier to build airplanes because a highly specialized global market of suppliers has developed that can deliver almost any part in the desired quality at the desired moment in time. The times when airplane construction was a calling card of unattainable technological excellence are coming to an end. Things are becoming more difficult, especially for Boeing.

National champions, all.

Existential Threat (4): The Collapse of Today’s Regulatory Regime

The FAA has played a dubious role throughout; its reputational damage may be even greater than Boeing’s:

When boarding an aircraft, passengers must have absolute faith that engineers and mechanics have done all they possibly can to build a safe airplane. Every traveler must be able to trust that aircraft construction and maintenance followed strict oversight and certification protocols whose entire purpose is that of reducing safety risks as close to zero as possible. But that trust has now been shaken.

The system of air travel supervision, which has been transformed into little more than a pendant of the industry itself by radical neo-liberal politicians intent on deregulation, has been called into doubt. The FAA, respected worldwide for the depth of its expertise, demonstrably rubber-stamped the Boeing 737 Max despite the fact that the agency no longer had a clear overview of the individual steps in its development and production.

Indeed, the monitoring system is no longer worthy of the name, having transformed into an arrangement in which a company like Boeing is ultimately responsible for policing itself and certifying the market-readiness or airworthiness of its own products. It has become an opaque, dangerous game that raises questions about unbridled capitalism.

When confronted with such accusations, all the FAA can do is claim that the certification of the 737 Max followed standard agency procedures and took five years.

One of the most important FAA documents for commercial air travel is called “FAR Part 25,” a 240-page document. It is essentially a list of all the safety requirements that every new civilian airplane must fulfill prior to certification…. The rules documented in FAR Part 25 are something like a constitution for global civilian air travel. For Boeing, though, the tome represents the greatest threat it is currently faced with. Although the 737 Max was officially certified in 2017 in accordance with the rulebook, there are significant doubts as to whether that certification was right and proper.

Both Boeing and the FAA seem to have made inexplicable errors. They violated standards that were developed and respected for decades — standards which earned them global trust.

Here is the nut graf on regulation:

Paragraph 25,671 of FAR Part 25 expressly states, for example, that an airplane must be able to safely land if, for example, the control surface on the horizontal stabilizer becomes jammed in flight or otherwise malfunctions.

Continuing flight in such circumstances must be possible “without requiring exceptional piloting skill or strength.” Malfunctions “must have only minor effects on control system operation” and if the failure is not “extremely improbable,” then the pilots must have the ability to immediately regain control.

Ouch. Hard to see how pilots’ experience with MCAS complies with Paragraph 25,671.

The political will to outsource erstwhile state responsibilities to industry has deeply unsettled a functioning global safety system, within which the FAA had been considered the gold standard. Everything that the FAA had checked and approved was consistently adopted by EASA and the Chinese aviation safety authority. Whether that is still the case will become clear once the 737 Max reauthorization process is complete.

The possibility that the FAA reauthorizes the 737 Max but other agencies refuse to follow suit is a rather frightening one for the aerospace industry. If producers are forced to convince several different agencies of the quality of their planes, they will lose time, money and planning dependability. And the airlines that are waiting for their planes may have to completely rewrite their schedules because a specific plane can only fly in the United States, but not in China or Africa. It would mark the end of a well-organized system.

And puts our national champion, Boeing, at the mercy of the EU and China (with Russia and Japan cheering them on). Not a good place to be (even if all these countries do own a lot of Boeing planes themselves).

Conclusion

I suppose if all the threats come to pass — an enormous judgement against Boeing, combined with the loss of its insurance, plus other countries refusing to recertify the 737 — Boeing could be bailed out with military contracts[3]. That would mean that the only manufacturing the United States can really do right now is monstrously expensive, bespoke military equipment.

NOTES

[1] Der Spiegel: “In recent weeks, DER SPIEGEL dispatched a reporting team to Seattle, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Addis Ababa, Jakarta and Paris to shed light on the events leading up to and including the crashes. They conducted interviews with Boeing executives and airline managers, visited Boeing factories and spoke to experts who explained the technical side of what went wrong. They even stepped into a flight simulator to get a better understanding. In Ethiopia and Indonesia, they tracked down eyewitnesses of the crashes and spoke to the victims’ surviving family members around the world along with lawyers and experts.”

[2] “The self-confident Americans underestimated their European competitor’s strength.” took me a minute to find this, since I was searching on “arrogant,” not “self-confident.”

[3] Or Mars. But who would want to fly to Mars on a Boeing rocket?

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

94 comments

  1. Summer

    “The plane smashed into the ground at a speed of 926 kilometers per hour (575.4 mph) — and physics did the rest…. The kerosene in the tanks didn’t explode and nothing burned. The fuel evaporated instantaneously due to the extremely high speed at impact…”

    Yikes is right. Are people dead before the plane hits the ground at that speed?

    Reply
    1. John k

      Heavens, no. Normal commercial jet flight speed, not even Mach 1.
      Granted, not the speed most jets use when returning to earth.

      Reply
    2. Arizona Slim

      I’m reminded of what JFK said about the victims of nuclear war: The living will envy the dead.

      Wondering if the passengers of these doomed planes felt the same way.

      Reply
    3. The Rev Kev

      Likely the Challenger astronauts were still alive after the booster explosion and only died when their ship hit the water so I guess that those 737 MAX passengers were still alive at time of impact.

      Reply
    4. Carey

      “..The fuel evaporated instantaneously due to the extremely high speed at impact…”

      This is the one part of the fine Der Spiegel piece that I found sketchy.
      Maybe it’s exactly so, but the claim seems off, to me.
      Hoping someone with expertise weighs in.

      Reply
      1. Yves Smith

        Diesel fuel does vaporize under high pressure. The impact would have presumably dispersed it as droplets, since it pulverized pretty much everything.

        The absence of burns in the crash area would prove that due to the lack of alternatives with a plane with a full fuel tank that the only alternative was vaporization.

        The technical details are over my pay grade but here is a study:

        https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/19aa/17767d12b8250bc734bdfb7ed7ec1367d362.pdf

        Reply
        1. charles 2

          The technical details are over my pay grade

          Really ? People who are into technical details are paid more than lawyers, investment bankers, management consultants and C-Suite officers ? ;-) !

          IMHO, this is part of the safety problem…

          Reply
          1. EoH

            A rhetorical device, perhaps, that your comment takes up for different purposes.

            Kerosene-based jet fuel is not as volatile as gasoline. It could have vaporized and dispersed before igniting. In the absence of fire damage at the crash site, that seems the most likely conclusion. Otherwise, metal heated by the impact would have ignited spilled fuel.

            If 574 mph was the impact speed, the absence of a fire would have made little difference to the passengers and crew. The information becomes most useful in assessing the effects of the automated flight controls, given that the pilots would have been working like hell to avoid hitting the ground.

            Reply
            1. Synoia

              Shock vaporizes fuel, as injected energy brakes the hydrogen bonds between the fuel molecules. In general static pressure does not vaporize fuel (if it did pumps would not work).

              Fire requires a spark in a fuel/air (oxygen) mixture. If the rate of expansion of the fuel-air cloud is faster than the flame propagation velocity there will be no fire. If there is no oxygen in the cloud of fuel there will be no fire.

              The fuel was moving at the same speed as the Plane, and probably did not stop at the crash scene, it turned to vapor moving at over 500 mph, and then “dissipated” well away from the crash site.

              “Dissipated” to me describes a low speed event. I don’t have a word or phrase to describe fuel mixing with air while traveling at over 500 mph – it would certainly be a turbulent cloud, and have moved on from the impact site very quickly.

              All my experience is with, relative to 500 mph, static or low speed fuel.

              The pictures do not show fuel soaked wreckage.

              Academically it would be interesting to know if the fuel was driven into the ground at the crash site, as opposed to moving on, or a combination of both.

              Reply
              1. PhD Chemist

                There are no hydrogen bonds in jet fuel – they are pretty much pure hydrocarbon. Hydrogen bonds require one of the lone pairs of electrons on an oxygen atom and so will not form in hydrocarbons.

                Reply
    5. pat b

      They are dead before the ground hits them.
      Decelerating at 30 G kills them in their chairs.

      The rest of the impact just buries them

      Reply
      1. Clive

        Correct, the same can happen in a road traffic accident as much lower speeds. If you think about your internal organs — heart, lungs and so on — and how they are not rigidly attached to their blood vessels but instead “slosh” around the various cavities containing them, then you can understand how rapid changes in velocity can cause them to rupture. In essence, the organs move rapidly while your body is in effect stationary. Death is more or less instantaneous.

        Reply
        1. vlade

          A detour:

          I always wondered at those “Death is more or less instantaneous” things. How do we know? Has anyone attached brain electrodes to someone and found out, and even so, how do we know what it means for that person?

          IMO, short of immediate destruction of the brain, I don’t think we can really say whether it was “instantaneous” or took a bit longer as the brain starved of oxygen.

          End of detour.

          Reply
          1. PlutoniumKun

            I can remember watching a terrifying short film made on exactly that premise. The ‘narrator’ of the film turned out to be a severed head trying to work out what had happened in its car accident. The French of course, in revolutionary times, were convinced that guillotine victims were still conscious for a minute or so after the blade went down.

            I guess since we still can’t explain consciousness (there must be a dozen or so ‘respectable’ theories floating around) we can’t be quite sure when it ends or even if it is irrevocably connected with higher brain function.

            The only comfort I think is that many people who have come back from near death experiences talk about a weird calm coming over them, even when (for example) a grizzly is chowing down on their skull.

            Reply
            1. Peter

              Luckily from my experience pain does not occur instantaneously, but delayed. I once tried to fix a halter on a horse late evening getting dark when it reared up between my arms, I moved back and stumbled, the horses hoofs coming down on the stretched leg like a sledgehammer. I fell down, and immediately tried to get up, not feeling pain at all, just the dull impact. I only noticed something was wrong when I collapsed trying to stand, realising there was a loose connection between the foot and the lower leg, both tibia and fibula likely broken…I crawled – still no pain – to the vehicle and managed to drag myself in. Then after more than a minute, the pain started….the same when I tore a piece of skin off my index finger in a industrial paint crusher..just a tickling and me looking astonished at the exposed flesh…only a minute or more later the pain started rather fiercly….so the brain apparently has some protection mechanism to ignore pain in order to allow other reflexes – get out of danger – to kick in.

              Reply
              1. EoH

                The adrenaline rush delays the sensation of pain.

                In a rapid deceleration from 574 to zero mph, death would be instantaneous (to a neutral observer). At a tenth of that speed, an unbelted passenger would be thrown through the windshield in a front-end collision.

                The kinetic energy involved increases by half the square of the increase in velocity. Increase speed ten times, for example, and you increase the energy fifty times.

                Reply
            2. dcrane

              If there is no blood flow to the brain, unconsciousness occurs much faster than one minute, or so I have read. More like 10 seconds. But maybe involuntary reactions like blinking continue for longer.

              An essay I once read suggested that “death” occurs 16 feet above the ground if you fall from a great height, since conscious awareness is always a fraction of a second behind reality. You never get the chance to perceive the impact.

              Reply
              1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

                I would argue with that from my own experience of being basically clinically dead 5 times over a period of around 2 hours. I only discovered this due to the fact that 2 of the paramedics who saved my life, chose to visit me the next day in the cardiac ward.

                No.5 hit me just outside the entrance to the A&E where they thought that they had lost me as I was out for about 4 minutes & the only thing I recall of that episode is I had a brief version of what PK mentions above, followed by a slightly longer period of disappointment at being back & then an emergency angioplasty with one stent.

                I have since become a don’t know in many fields, including the above, but I hope it was something actual & that I will find myself back there in quite a few years time.

                Reply
                1. southern appalachian

                  Something similar, long time ago, was bleeding out. Later, left during an operation.
                  State of ambiguity since then.

                  Reply
                  1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

                    I know what you mean & for quite sometime I passed it off as the effect of a lack of oxygen in the brain, which I suppose it could be but why in the form that it did ? & since then I have discovered that it is relatively common, & tend to come in a set of different templates which except for some individuals are described as pleasant & comforting.

                    I had to travel about 40 miles by road to the hospital but only remember the first time my heart stopped in the house after what I can only describe as hell on earth. I don’t recall any of the other times that it occurred, just odd snatches – puking up, noticing that the PM was holding my hand & an almost Prince Bolkonsky moment of staring at the cumulus clouds through the ambulance skylight, – likely due to the morphine.

                    The ambulance had to divert to another smaller hospital en route as the PM was exhausted from 3 lots of CPR, which as my partner stated after watching the first performance said, is nothing like it is in the movies, or even the public service vids that purport to show how to do it.

                    All I recall of being stabilised & the continuance of the journey until my little episode was being sprayed under the tongue, being rushed down a corridor on a trolley, plonked on a sort of table surrounded by people & the fact that the doctor was very non-committal when I asked him what were my chances.

                    I had no idea what an angioplasty was & didn’t give a shit either . They showed me 2 tiny pieces of grit but it barely registered at the time unlike the constantly smiling Hispanic looking fella who kept telling me that I was doing great. Eventually I felt as though I was being warmly flooded from inside & knew instantly that I was going to make it.

                    Overall it changed me fundamentally in many ways & I have abandoned intensive circuit training like a Grandad should have done much earlier.

                    Reply
      2. inode_buddha

        Sudden deceleration at 30G basically liquefies your insides in less than a couple of seconds. The liquid then tries to keep going forward, leaving the bones behind. Much like a bug on a windshield.

        Reply
    6. PlutoniumKun

      To be honest, its better for everyone it was so fast – we can just hope the angle of the flight was such that most passengers didn’t realise it was doomed.

      At the time of the crash I was working and sharing a hotel with a consultant engineer who knew two people on the flight very well – they’d been students of his – they were doing volunteer technical advisory work for an NGO and on their way to a conference. He was quite shaken as you can imagine and we were both trying to find out the details of the crash. It is probably a very small mercy for the family that they know death was instantaneous for their loved ones.

      Reply
  2. John B

    I don’t know how to put the two Boeing crashes, Boeing’s willingness to cut corners, and the complacency of the FAA, into the overall context of aviation safety. I remember when commercial airliners in the United States seemed to plunge out of the sky every year or so; they no longer do that. Also, driving scares me a lot, especially now that my children have reached driving age, but flying scheduled commercial flights appears far safer, per mile at least. It seems ironic that Boeing is facing an existential crisis over safety when its products are safer than anything made by the automobile industry, which is doing fine. What am I missing?

    Reply
    1. Samuel Conner

      It is not known what other corners may have been cut. This might be the tip of an iceberg in terms of risky cost-reduction measures.

      Reply
    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      People somehow expect it and are reconciled to it from cars.

      Also, in cars, especially if doing the driving, every driver thinks the accident will happen to “someone else” because ” I am in control”. Plane passengers know that they are not in control, so they demand much lower risks be placed upon them by the pilots and crews and staff who are in control.

      Reply
    3. PlutoniumKun

      They are not commensurable risks. Yes, flying is safer per mile. But its not a comparison of risk per mile travelled, its the cause of the accident.

      To make a comparison, think of the difference between how you’d feel if your children died in one of those ‘it just happens’ accidents in a car, and if they’d died in an accident because of a fundamental fault with the car they were driving, and the car manufacturer knew about the flaw but did nothing because it would affect sales.

      Reply
    4. John Zelnicker

      @John B
      August 29, 2019 at 5:34 pm
      ——-

      There are studies that show that people, in general, have a greater fear of an accident that almost always leads to death, but has a low probability of happening as opposed to an accident that they may survive that has a much higher probability of happening.

      The public knows that very few, if any, people survive plane crashes, but lots of folks survive car crashes.

      It appears irrational to fear the very low probability event more than the much higher probability event, but no one has ever shown that humans are completely rational.

      Reply
      1. eg

        “no one has ever shown that humans are completely rational”

        And a good thing that — we would never have survived using pure rationality

        Reply
  3. barrisj

    All of this is the logical culmination of Boeing’s multi-decade dive into crapification, beginning with union-busting heavy-handedness early this century at its then main Everett, WA, plant, thence to the non-union South Carolina facility, followed by the massively out-sourced 787 imbroglio, where a farrago of cockups required constant intervention from Everett. Overlaying all of this, moreover, is the ethos of the military contractor given primacy over what once was a superb commercial aircraft business, now dumbed down to embrace “enhancing shareholder value”, by self-destructive “labor cost-cutting” on the shop floor, out-sourcing to allegedly capture — cough-cough — “supply-chain efficiencies”, regulatory capture to speed development at the price of design thoroughness (and ultimately flight safety), all of which combined to deliver the crapified 737Max, ranking with the F-35 fighter as pure shite-on-the-wing.
    Yes, this may cost Boeing its “we Numbah One” ranking in commercial aviation, but as was noted, given a near-infinitely expanding Pentagon budget, there’s a big place-setting at the MIC table for the company, no fear.
    As a postscript, it also should be noted that Boeing totally worked the WA State government for huge subsidies to maintain the production facilities round Everett, and after banking it all, turned around and began to systematically violate aspects of that agreement, especially concerning maintenance of its assembly and engineering force, at one time the envy of the industry.

    Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        What happens when there are no more hosts left to suck dry? And its nothing but burning wreckage as far as the eye can see . . . burning wreckage all the way down?

        Reply
  4. Carolinian

    Doesn’t sound like anything new although Boeing may indeed face negligence charges for not acting after the first crash. However they have some high powered lawyers themselves.

    As for the “anonymous Lufthansa executive,” a British airline executive and former pilot placed a big contract for the planes after the crashes. The notion that the plane would fall out of the sky without MCAS has been pretty much debunked. It was the misbehavior of the AOA sensor and the engineering mistake that allowed it to happen that crashed those planes, not the inherent aerodynamics. Airbus has also made some fatal engineering mistakes but without the existential threat. If Boeing does go down it will likely be because of their bad management rather than engineering mistakes.

    Reply
    1. Carey

      1) “..As for the “anonymous Lufthansa executive,” a British airline executive and former pilot placed a big contract for the planes after the crashes..”

      and the significance of this is?

      2) “..The notion that the plane would fall out of the sky without MCAS has been pretty much debunked..”

      Sounds like strawmanning. Who has made this claim? So far, it
      seems that the two instances of 737 MAXs falling out of the sky were *because of* MCAS..

      Reply
      1. Carolinian

        1-If “airline executive” is the cited expertise then opinions vary.

        2-The anonymous quotee seems indeed to be saying the plane’s design itself is hopelessly flawed, not just the MCAS.

        Just a reminder that these planes had been flying around for a year or so before the accidents and if there were no MCAS then none of this may have ever come up. And at least according to the pilot commenter who once wrote here the pilots do bear some of the blame even if Boeing is ultimately responsible. I guess what I’m saying that those of us who are amateurs shouldn’t pretend to be experts and those who are experts seem to have a greater variety of opinions.

        Reply
        1. Robert Hahl

          Without MCAS the airplane was not certifiable or airworthy. It had to work as (not) advertised, with the required levels of redundancy for a critical system, which seems to have been overlooked.

          Reply
        2. Ian Perkins

          Amateurs like most of us can aspire to becoming educated and informed amateurs.
          Meanwhile, those who are experts seem to have a greater variety of allegiances.

          Reply
  5. Carl

    I like how they’re not afraid to call the Ethiopa crash site a crime scene. Seems as though a US paper wouldn’t use that language.

    Reply
  6. Noel Nospamington

    I would think that the last point regarding the loss of reputation internationally with the FAA will be the most damaging to Boeing in the long term. Not just for the 737-max, but also all other future Boeing planes. With the FAA now considering incompetent and untrustworthy, it will force Boeing to undertake costly approvals and/or certifications from numerous government bodies worldwide, which will also result significant delays.

    Even smaller countries who lack the resources or infrastructure to properly lack approval testing, may leverage this lack of trust in order to gain some additional concessions from Boeing.

    I really dislike the term “regulations” which has been attacked by the right wing. Typically the word “protections” is much more appropriate and should be used instead of “regulations”. Especially when there is a perception by many or most people in the general public that regulations implied capitalism, when at best this is only true in the very short term and never true in the long term.

    Protection is a necessary part of healthy capitalism, since it provides trust to consumers that the products they wish to buy are reasonable safe. The FAA decide to take the same amount of rubber-stamping and oversight as the Chinese government did with its during the 2008 milk scandal.

    While on the topic of the 737-max, it seems that Boeing and many carriers woldtwide are planning to rebrand they aircrafts if and when they do come back into service. 737-max planes with Ryanair and IAG paint-jobs have been marked as 737-8200. I wonder how long before the public catches on.

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      If Naked Capitalism itself were able to spot and publicize every single disguise the 737 MAX goes through, that in itself may speed public knowledge and keep the public totally aware.

      It could even be viewed as a deadly real-life game . . . like whack-a-mole. Only it could be called whack-a-MAX. Boeing would be left with no where to hide this plane.

      Reply
    2. PlutoniumKun

      Your first point is a very important one – The FAA has been in reality the worlds regulatory body, all others have generally rubber stamped their decisions, and thats because they were considered the gold standard in regulation. This was a huge advantage to Boeing and other US manufacturers as they could work hand in hand with them and it was no doubt a significant reason why Airbus does so much manufacture in the US.

      The FAA will take decades to recover its reputation. Europe, China and Japan in particular will now insist on complete replication of regulation and it will become a tool in trade wars. Cutting back on the FAA will prove to have been a gigantic own goal by the US industry.

      Reply
  7. Hayek's Heelbiter

    It has become easier to build airplanes because a highly specialized global market of suppliers has developed that can deliver almost any part in the desired quality at the desired moment in time.

    Oops! When trumpeting the glories of outsourcing your design and development expertise overseas, did somebody forget to mention that the beneficiaries of these blessings would some day sell said design and development expertise to the highest bidder, regardless of whom that bidder might be?

    Reply
  8. jfleni

    Remember the choo-choos which easily cris-crossed the whole country
    as little as forty years ago,and then think about Boeing and Airbus constantly playing clutch-butt with each other:
    YAHOO MOUNTAIN DEW; progress was only an Ilussion!!

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Train travel restoration could be an element of the Green New Deal. The center medians and perhaps even some lanes of the Federal Interstate Highway System could be turned into strictly passenger railroads.
      They could be Federail. Or FedRail. And the system could be called the Federal Interstate Railway System.

      Reply
  9. none

    A lot of the Spiegel article was individual human stories about people killed in the crash, the families they left behind, etc. Tearjerking to be sure, but every person on the planet has their own human story so we can take it for granted that each person on the crashed planes also had one. So that part of the article was essentially information-free. It even apparently obscured the parts of the article that went past me on reading, since Lambert’s summary calls out important points that I had missed.

    Meanwhile here is a Seeking Alpha article that I thought was good:

    https://seekingalpha.com/article/4286602-boeing-737-max-misconceptions-engineers-view

    Reply
    1. upstater

      Spiegel “information free”??? Did you read all 3 sections???
      I did not see where the Seeking Alpha article addresses the finding of the FAA simulator runs that found the flight control computer is overwhelmed in certain situations resulting in catastrophic loss of the aircraft, as detailed in MofA

      Reply
      1. none

        I wrote “that part of the article was essentially information-free”. Other parts were informative, as I also said. And the uninformative part was distracting enough to make it easy to miss stuff from the other parts. Regarding the Seeking Alpha article: I said I liked it, not that it was comprehensive. It was informative but not long enough to cover everything. A book needs to be written about the incident.

        Reply
        1. Carey

          “..And the uninformative part was distracting enough to make it easy to miss stuff from the other parts..”

          This reader, at least, did not find that a problem; not in the least.

          Reply
  10. Synoia

    Boeing was faced with the most difficult decision in business, which has killed many large companies.

    When do you stop investing is yeaterday’s best selling success?

    If you announce a new plane, with a 6 year development period, sales cease.
    If you don’t announce a new plane, sales cease.

    IBM faced this with the mainframe.
    Nortel faced this with narrowband switches.

    Boeing was toast when the previous 737Max was the best selling plane, ever. There is no recovering from that records setting successful product.

    That’s why an industry needs a number of roughly the same sized competitors.

    It is a problem of Governance of an industry, governance not best left to a random walk.

    All this bs about the “discipline of the marketplace” are nonsense, because they deliberately ignore the need for governance and risk management at every level form part, to a whole industry, and encourage gambling.

    Reply
    1. Ignacio

      This is a good commentary in my opinion: when success is the root for failure. According to Wikipedia the success story of the Boeing 737 saw the first commercial fligth in 1967 and this model has seen 10 variants subdivided in three 737 “generations” as for wikipedia developed until the 737 MAX that would be the fourth generation. After such a long story of successful improvements/re-engineering of the 52 years old model, Boeing naturally thougth that the MAX would follow the same path.

      Reply
      1. Synoia

        I’d also point out that the “Discipline of the Market” is reactive, not proactive.

        Building an economy, and its industries requires planning, which is proactive, not some random walk requireing a miracle to succeed.

        As the Chinese have so ably demonstrated.

        Reply
        1. Ignacio

          Indeed, and when product development takes for so long as in the case of aircraft the damage is large and lasting. This strikes me since a large company like Boeing must almost certainly be following good practices & quality protocols… except at decision-taking levels that seem to be not bound to those. Those practices were developed precisely to avoid such failures.

          Reply
  11. Tyronius

    The system of air travel supervision, which has been transformed into little more than a pendant of the industry itself by radical neo-liberal politicians intent on deregulation, has been called into doubt.

    The fact that these words would never, ever appear in American mass media is an indictment of not only Boeing and the FAA but of American news reporting and indeed our entire societal house of cards.

    The oligarchs have had the keys to our country for decades now and they’ve run us into the ditch while drunk on their own greed. Time to take the keys away and ground them for good… if it isn’t already too late.

    Reply
  12. The Rev Kev

    Makes you wonder what would have happened if the black boxes from the Ethiopian air crash had been successfully seized by US government authorities – they did try – and been taken back to the US for analysis. Would they too have ‘failed’ like the two cameras outside Epstein’s cell?
    The big story was how world aviation authorities refuse to accept the word of the FAA, well except for Canad that is, and grounded those birds but the bigger story was the refusal to hand over the black boxes to US authorities. That has not gotten the serious attention that it deserves.

    Reply
    1. fajensen

      Exactly! A widening fracture is forming. There is a growing anti-Americanism and a general mistrust of America here in Europe. Since Bush II and the Iraq war, it has been spreading widely outside of the hard left and became much more acceptable.

      Obama, being a polished and suave operator, allowed our politicians to pretend that they were not totally sucking up to Uncle Sam on every occasion but with Donald Trump, who relishes rubbing their faces in it, this raises the personal and political costs of being ‘too friendly’ to American policies and thinking. The people who openly like the USA are now on their way to becoming fringe.

      Looking at how Steve Bannon arriving ‘here’ and was not received with open arms also should be News. The hard right-wing have become ‘localised’ nationalists to the point where they reject the USA as an inferior model. Some of the 3’rd rankers might still take the American money, but, for ideology they look much more to Putin’s version of nationalism.

      Reply
      1. Clive

        You’re not wrong. A growing sense in the U.K. of either American anti-Europeanism or European anti-Americanism (I’m not going to point the finger of blame here because I think it’s a case of six-of-one and half-a-dozen of the other; both are unpleasant and unnecessary) was a factor — I’m certainly going to stop well short of saying the factor — in Brexit.

        While it is plausible that the U.K. is historically more pro-US than mainland Europe, I don’t get a sense that is necessarily the preferred or inevitably direction of travel. More that, after century after century of getting involved in everyone else’s squabbling (and starting a fair few squabbles of our own) we just want to sit this one out. Why can’t we (the U.K.) “do a Switzerland” for once?

        Reply
        1. vlade

          Because Swiss had to learn to live with multiple varied neighbours (while having very defensible terrain), while the UK tended to empire building.

          Independence while having to live with neighbours vs. independence to tell the neighbours what they should/can eb doing.

          Reply
        2. Ignacio

          Regarding Spain, the conservative party sees the US as the model they wish to implement in Spain and by no means are antiamerican. That is why Aznar joined Bush II and Blair in the Azores to announce the attack in Iraq. Trump has changed many things and now you can notice in most media that coverage tends to focus on Trump mistakes (not difficult task anyway) whereas during Obama tenure the coverage focused on the positive. As an example, yesterday, in the spanish public TV news, a possible deceleration of US economy was highlighted. With similar economic data this wouldn’t be done during the Obama years.

          I pretty much dislike talking about antiamericanism the same as about antisemitism, anti-islamism or antirussia. Yes, there is a widening rift, but it is not brougth by these anti-something feelings but because of diverging real policies and interests nested in the upper power circles and we need to avoid them passing those divergences as “antiamericanism” or antieuropeism” to the populace.

          Reply
  13. Tim

    The potential legal costs can’t sink Boeing. Only continued re-certification delay and lost of customers can sink Boeing.

    Reply
  14. Tim

    The potential legal costs can’t sink Boeing. It would have to be in the tens of billions to even make a dent. Only continued re-certification delay (way into 2020) and lost of customers could truly sink Boeing.

    Reply
    1. Late Introvert

      Pretty sure that retroactive insurance revocation is pretty damaging, if highly unlikely given the lack-of-justice system.

      Reply
  15. rowlf

    “Furthermore, it has become easier to build airplanes because a highly specialized global market of suppliers has developed that can deliver almost any part in the desired quality at the desired moment in time.”

    … written by someone who never tried to source aircraft parts. Why did Bombardier and Airbus have airplanes sitting around their factories for months waiting for parts?

    Reply
    1. Dave Chapman

      Boeing had almost 100 brand-new, 99% complete 737 aircraft sitting at various airfields several months before the recent software unpleasantness. Renton airfield is full; Boeing field is full; the parking lots along marginal road are filling up; and I hear that they are putting planes in Grant County airport.

      Anybody who is able to talk about it in public will tell you that outsourcing has been a total disaster. If you have 100 sub-vendors, then you can be sure that 2 or 3 of them will fail to deliver acceptable product. That is why Boeing had a seven-year backlog. It was not because of their brilliant sales force.

      Reply
      1. Fazal Majid

        Like this paper on how Boeing’s reliance on outsourcing for the 787 Dreamliner proved extremely costly for the company, as many MBA fads so:

        http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/ABPub/2011/02/04/2014130646.pdf

        Many airlines who bet on the 737 MAX may end up bankrupt, as is likely to happen to Norwegian. Pity, as they had single-handedly managed to introduce competition in the cozy oligopoly of transatlantic flights from San Francisco. I don’t know how much recourse they have against Boeing for the loss of revenue from grounded planes.

        Airbus is at capacity for at least 4 years, although the A200 series (rebranded Bombardier) are excellent and probably a good fit for many smaller 737/A320 routes. Of course, China’s COMAC is in the wings, but I doubt many Western carriers would adopt Chinese or Russian airliners. Japanese companies like Mitsubishi are also fully capable of building complete aircraft (they do much of the production for Boeing), but it’s a significant investment decision in the absence of government subsidies like Boeing, Airbus, COMAC. Even Aeroflot flies Airbus and Boeing nowadays.

        Reply
  16. VietnamVet

    Of the four existential threats, Boeing needs 737 Max regulatory approval not only by the FAA but by China and the EU. This requires a complete engineering re-review to catch all the cost cutting mistakes. Plus, pilots need simulator training so they can fly out of the various new pitch up situations. That takes time and money. Except, the global economy is in the late stages of predation – splintering into a multipolar world filled with chaos. Western governments have lost consent of the governed. Boeing won’t make a profit if the 737 Max remains grounded overseas. Boeing is in a nose dive towards bankruptcy and a government bailout. The only way to recover is with top-level management, design and manufacturing. But also the new regional economies must make peace with each other.

    Reply
  17. Basil Pesto

    I’m not sure that the schadenfreude can be considered especially well concealed, given that the German cover of the magazine reads: “The Monster from Seattle – Were 346 people victims of greed and delusions of grandeur?”!

    Reply
  18. vlade

    I’m not sure about the point 3. The end of the dupoly was announced a number of times (which of course means sometimes it will fit), but right at the moment I’m really not so sure.

    Russian S100 is a disaster, and airlines that ordered it are cancelling the orders left right and center.
    And that is with Russians having decades of experience building both civilian and military aircract.

    China I believe also has problems, as it wasn’t solve some of the material (jet turbine blades IIRC) issues even for its military jet. The material science for a lot of aircraft components is closer to magic and witchcraft than science really (as they know that if the do X, it will result in Y, but no-one really deeply understands why, it’s mostly theories that from what I know get counter-examples almost as fast as they come up. Say no-one really understands even as “simple” material as glass properly, and why some additions work as they do).

    Japanese I believe could do something, but it will still take a decade at the very best. It took Japan two decades (or more, depends on how you look at it) to get its car industry to get reliable product. They now how a general process methodology, but manufacturing even simple things takes a lot of hands-on experience that is really hard to replicate, as my friend, a CEO of medium sized manufacturing company keeps telling me.

    The story he says is that in mid 90s they sold some ofl equipment used to make one of their products. Some entrepreneurs bought it, thinking they can make killing by selling the product (which is end-user consumable) cheaper, even if it was a bit worse.

    Except it was quite a bit worse, and they weren’t able to get the process right before they run out of money. This was repeated about 4-5 times, with my friend at one stage considering buying the equiment back just to destroy it – not to save money to the would-be businessmen, but because the cheap bad product they put on the market was making a bad name for the class of the products in general.

    And, as I say, that was a relatively simple product (no moving parts).

    Reply
    1. Clive

      This is a hugely important factor and certainly I make a living (in a different field) by having knowledge that only comes from experience and, I have to say, sometimes intuition brought on from what could probably be scientifically analysed and boiled down empirically but is so sensitive to subtle interplays that it’s virtually impossible to proceduralise. It has your average MBA sneering dismissively, but I’ve seen off dozens of them in my time as a result of their over-devotion to simplifications.

      Another good worked example is in something that has been in existence for centuries but is underpinned by an extraordinarily complex industrial process. It was one of the early adopters of process cooling and climate control to aid productivity and manufacturing yields, which it did — eventually — but not without vast expenditures in both time and money to ascertain the major differences the most seemingly inconsequential tweaks to air movement, temperature, humidity, physical materials handling and exposure to other materials during the manufacturing process (amongst many others) have. Even today, tobacco product manufacturers have the most closely guarded industrial secrets and intellectual property rights imaginable (the link I’ve included above gives a gist, but deliberately left out many key details). Anyone can make cigarettes, but very, very few know how to make good quality cigarettes, in volume, efficiently, profitably and — this above all else — consistently.

      I could list many other examples — small electric motors, variable frequency high powered electronic speed controllers etc. — where the basic principles are in any textbook (or on the internet) but there’s a massive difference between basic physics or chemistry theory and successfully (i.e. quality) manufacturing practice. As Boeing are no doubt learning, much to their belated chagrin.

      Reply
      1. fajensen

        variable frequency high powered electronic speed controller

        Heh – I once filled a waste bucket with dead MOSFET’s while developing a HV-Switch for a RADAR application before finally finding out exactly what blew them up.

        The fun thing is that afterwards I was by chance talking to a retired person that used to fly Lancaster’s during the war and then went on to work on spooky things for GEC. We agreed that, yes, all of the calculations worked out, the simulations matched exactly the measurements, yet still these things would blow up!!

        Turned out he had done the same thing 30 years earlier.

        Reply
        1. Clive

          A mechanical tech I know says that sorting out failed VFDs keeps him in business — it seems that many manufacturers have forgotten everything that anyone ever knew on how to make these things and then, compounding their error, not realising that they don’t know what they don’t know. Equipment — which is often installed in subsequently difficult to access locations like behind finished interiors or built-in commercial kitchens in restaurants where there can be no downtime permitted — that should last 20 years is failing in 5 or less. It’s the end-user business which ends up having to endure the upheaval, not the manufacturer who skimped, which pays the costs.

          I tell them to buy Japanese made — as in it specifically says on the manufacturer’s plate it is actually “Made in Japan” — equipment to ensure this doesn’t happen.

          Reply
          1. vlade

            I’ve recently read about a business that fixes ultrasound stuff. Ultrasounic welding is a big thing in car industry, but manufacturers don’t do repairs. “Buy a new one” is the policy. These guys worked out how to fix the US generators, and now are raking it.

            Their main problem is training the staff to understand the whole system – which takes time, and is basically a few years apprenticeships. But not many want to do that.

            Reply
    2. PlutoniumKun

      Yes, there is no real competition for the 737/A320. The Sukhoi is a disaster of Max proportions, and possibly for similar reasons – I suspect it was rushed into service too fast for political reasons. It will take a comprehensive redesign and years of operation to convince major airlines of its safety.

      The Comac isn’t dependent on local engines, but the aircraft itself is essentially 1980’s technology, its simply not advanced enough and will only be bought by airlines for which up front price is the most important element. Its the aircraft version of a Dacia. China will need to push another generation to really compete. They are trying their best to *ahem* learn as much as they can from the Airbus manufacturing facilities in China, a lot depends on how good Airbus are at fending them off. But the French are past masters at playing that sort of game.

      The Mitsubishi is promising, but I think its likely to be an expensive aircraft. Also, like most of the competitors they made it too small in order not to go head to head directly with the 737/A320. This seemed sensible at the time, but its a decision they may well regret as the core users want capacity in individual aircraft, they are not interested in 100 seaters.

      Given the lead in times, it will be at least a decade, probably more, before Russia/China/Japan can offer real competition in the core market. For now, Airbus can rake in the profits.

      Reply
    3. Oregoncharles

      That explains a lot of crapification.

      Simple things: recently our decades-old handheld can opener disintegrated. Can’t complain: worked for a long, long time. So I went to the general store (admittedly, a discount house) and bought a replacement, with comfortable plastic handles. It was considerably more complex than the old one, and it didn’t work – it took serious muscle and some time just to open a can.

      Went back to a different store and found an utterly simple one, cheaper, with fewer little wheels and doojiggies. Like only one. Not comfortable, because for some reason they built a bottle opener into the handle, but it works, and will probably last a long time. I dropped the first one in the trash – wouldn’t want to foist it on someone else.

      Manufacturing.

      Reply
  19. Carey

    “Russian S100 is a disaster [!}, and airlines that ordered it are cancelling the orders left right and center.
    And that is with Russians having decades of experience building both civilian and military aircract.

    China I believe also has problems, as it wasn’t solve some of the material (jet turbine blades IIRC) issues even for its military jet. The material science for a lot of aircraft components is closer to magic and witchcraft than science really (as they know that if the do X, it will result in Y, but no-one really deeply understands why, it’s mostly theories that from what I know get counter-examples almost as fast as they come up. Say no-one really understands even as “simple” material as glass properly, and why some additions work as they do).

    Mmm. We will see, for sure.

    Reply
  20. charles 2

    Two remarks :
    a) Even if the legal s…t hits the fan, Boeing will still be there. It will just belong to bondholders and the family of victims of the crash.
    b) Regarding the « it is easy to make a plane with the correct set of suppliers » meme, it is conditional to the American and the European not closing ranks and doing a « Huawei » on Russian and Chinese manufacturers. The America/Europe duopoly is quite alive at the plane component maker level.

    Reply
    1. Ignacio

      Yes, doing a “Huawei” to Russian and Chinese manufacturers would be very good policy indeed… Trump has lowered the bar to levels unthinkable not long ago.

      Reply
      1. Old Jake

        >>doing a “Huawei” to Russian and Chinese manufacturers would be very good policy indeed<<

        The irony in your statement cannot be lost. An effective way of losing control of this market is forcing other deep-pocketed and patient entities to develop their own competing technologies. However it takes a long term view to understand this, something capitalism* seems not to foster.

        *We bash capitalism a lot here. I'm sure it is richly deserving, but it may rather be human nature at the root of these problems, at least insofar as we understand it in our cultural milieu. I see occasional blog posts about alternative consciousness, principally from Caitlin Johnston. It is a struggle to get my mind around it, conditioning likely.

        Reply
        1. Sparrow

          Human nature as the root problem is a given.
          Some people think capitalism is the best approach to compensate for and deal with human nature.
          Others think it would be better to oversee and keep in check human nature more often.

          Reply
  21. John A

    It will probably boil down to whether the dogs will eat the dog food.
    O’Leary of Ryanair appears to take the view that the 737max is great – and they just need to get the software right. But he’s of the mindset that the plane has more seats and uses less fuel so great for the airline and moaning that they cannot take the planes already ordered.
    The head of Norwegian, that currently have grounded 737 max that they want to get back in the air, claims any competent pilot should be able to fly it.
    It’s all down to economics with Ryanair and Norwegian. The question is, will people still feel OK buying a 10 euro ticket if there’s a chance it’s a one way trip to the ground at 500+mph, cheered by the knowledge that you’ll already be dead by the time of impact? I will take a swerve however they rebadge the max.

    Reply
    1. Ignacio

      The Ryanair and Norwegian takes don’t look responsible. In fact, since now I will avoid both airlines on their presumption that safety depends on pilots, not planes. They won’t loose much, I am not a frequent flier.

      Reply
  22. d

    really it wasn’t the FAA that chose to out source safety that was Congress at Boeings request. Why Congress thought it was good idea you might ask? Because it would be cheaper for the government, and it out sourced the work to a vendor, course they won’t notice their finger prints on it though

    Reply
  23. Mickey Hickey

    The Russian and Chinese aircraft design and manufacturing ventures are starting from the ground up. Boeing became a cropper by trying to make its bread and butter plane efficient enough to compete with Airbus. The alternative for Boeing was to start from the ground up which would mean 4 to 7 years of losses. You can understand how the Boeing executives and shareholders were opposed to that. One should keep in mind that the Russia and Chinese joint ventures have an assured 1/3 of the world market and can be successful even with maximum Huaweification by EU-USA. Britain never recovered from its WW1 victory, destroyed by debt, and the USA has been in relative decline since the end of WW2. Militarily the USA is still powerful but is now matched or surpassed by the enemies it created. The world can only be destroyed from a human habitation perspective once, collectively USA and the rest of the world have far surpassed that level of capability. Napoleon and Hitler seriously underestimated Russia and as I see some commenters are also that way inclined.

    Reply
  24. XXYY

    A couple of points worth making here:

    (o) Boeing has spent over $40 billion on stock buybacks just since 2013. Despite the usual claims of penury the company obviously has money to burn but management has just been choosing to spend it all on manipulating their stock price. This money could have been used, e.g., to fund 4 world-class $10 billion aircraft development programs. Instead, they chose a chewing-gum-and-bailing-wire retrofit of an outdated 50 year old aircraft.

    (o) The general tone of the media coverage is that Boeing was “blindsided” by a new Airbus plane with quieter, more efficient engines, and thus suddenly needed a crash (!) program and a lot of corner cutting as a result because competition. However, why was Boeing management caught totally unaware of what their gigantic, single competitor was doing, and why in any case was the market for an improved plane with a more efficient powerplant such a shocker? Wouldn’t any sentient management have known this is where their market is going and have been working on satisfying it at the same time as Airbus or sooner? One gets the impression every decision maker at the company was just out drinking for 15 years until the Airbus plane suddenly appeared on the TV behind the bar.

    It’s hard to spin this whole story as anything other than a story of complacent, corrupt, and incompetent senior management in the late neoliberal age.

    Reply
    1. Carey

      Thanks for this comment, with which I fully agree.

      “Who could’ve *ever guessed* that Airbus would put the latest-available
      engines on their already superior, much newer A320?”

      yeesh

      Reply
    2. Guru

      I believe Boeing was working on a clean sheet design to replace the 737 but the delays in the 787 program kept pushing it further out. But I agree with the last paragraph.

      Reply

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