Posted by William Charles on May 16, 2019
Airline Rewards

Published on May 16th, 2019 | by William Charles

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Boeing Claims To Have Completed 737 MAX Software Fix

Boeing has released a statement saying they have completed a MCAS software update for the 737 MAX. Boeing now needs to provide additional information to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other aviation governing bodies before a certification test flight can be completed.

Even after certification has been completed Boeing will face an uphill battle to regain consumer trust and it will be interesting to see how individual airlines handle the 737 MAX returning to service.



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parrothead
parrothead

I won’t fly it. The entire plane/engine combo is an afterthought

One
One

Smart airlines should start showing what aircraft will be used for any giver flight a customer is looking for because the choices are clear now, pay an extra $50 for a ticket on an Airbus aircraft or die in a Boeing crash. I guess most people are willing to pay that $50 🙂

J
J

That information is already available.

Hari

+1 I fly Delta and I’m glad they dont have 737 Max in their fleet to be worried about.

Bob
Bob

I am an engineer and I read the reports about the 737Max. I would not want to fly one even after the patch. The plane needs a redesign. The 737Max was unstable because they added an engine that was too big for a 737, which changed the balance of the plane. They were in a rush to get the plane out because they wanted beat Airbus’s new plane to market. Instead of fixing the design, which cost money, they went cheap and put in a software fix, the MCAS.

That’s a bad idea. The contracted the software out to people who are not well versed in critical system control. They used a notoriously flakey angle of attack instrument to guide this kludged software. There are two on the plane but they did not bother to check readings against the other one in case one failed. They did not have sanity limit checking in the software. They made it too hard for the pilot to override the MCAS.

They did not tell the pilots about the MCAS system because they were trying to say this was the same old 737 so they would not have to go through expensive requalification with the FAA. And when you cut corners on safety critical systems, people can die.

Ken Peeples
Ken Peeples

And they had the nerve to try to blame the pilots.

WR2
WR2

Also (recovering) engineer here. I believe the issue with the engines is not that they are too big, but they moved their position forward on the MAX for improved aerodynamics, but that imbalance needed to be adjusted for via software.

I agree it was shocking that there was no redundancy in the sensors, that they made it so hard to override, and they provided little to no training on the change, even after the first crash. However, it’s one system that failed, and a lot of attention has been paid to it. Redundancy has been added, and pilots are very aware of it now. I don’t see it failing again. A few people obviously screwed up, but engineering failures happen, and will happen again. People are not infallible. I have no fear flying a MAX post fix.

CM

I kind of agree with you, except for the engineers-fail statement. No, licenced engineers aren’t supposed to fail.

Bob
Bob

The reason they moved the engines forward is that they are too big and could not fit in the standard position. This created an unstable airframe that tilts the nose up when applying power (i.e. during takeoff). Boing should have redesigned the airframe to make it stable with the new engine position. That would have been the correct fix. But they chose to patch it in software with the MCAS system.

The 737 is an old plane (certified circa 1965) and was not designed for the type of automation fix they used with MCAS. Other planes, including the newer Airbus, use triple redundancy for automation. That means they use 3 sensors for every critical sensor. The computer looks at all three sensors and if they don’t agree, it flags an error to the pilot. The two working sensors can still guide the aircraft. You cannot do that with 2 sensors. These aircraft also use redundant flight computers so they can check each other to determine if a computer failed. This redundancy is critical for airplane automation. The ancient 737 was not designed for this. Therefore a single sensor failure can cause a crash. This type of fix should never have been allowed.

This was not a few engineers who screwed up. Engineers (and everybody else) are fallible. That is why there are protocols to follow for safety critical systems. A single sensor failure should not be able to bring down a properly designed aircraft. It was a management decision to ignore airline critical safety protocols to save money. It was a management decision to hide the existence of the MCAS from the pilots and the FAA. And it is a management decision to rush a “software fix” for the MCAS instead of addressing the root cause of the instability. Profit over safety.

doc
doc

It’s always been, “profit over safety.” There’s actually a high paying occupation with the sole purpose to reconcile profits versus the cost to dole out death settlements.

If the cost to repair or redesign an element of an aircraft is greater than the cost to pay out death settlements… the repair gets put on the back burner, so to speak.

What’s really disgusting though, is that — the people that come up with these cost cutting measures, get to share in the profits, that they, “saved,” by not saving passengers from certain death.

Talk about blood money.

02nz
02nz

You’re both – kind of – correct about the engine. They put bigger engines on the Max as they’re more efficient (and this was crucial to being competitive with the A320neo). But because the 737 is so low to the ground, they had to make physical changes to accommodate the big engine. These changes necessitated the MCAS system.

JG
JG

I mean yaw dampers aren’t an entirely different concept in that with swept wing aircraft you need some sort of automatic stability augmentation to counteract the inherent drawbacks of that airfoil design. The difference is you can’t have sloppy implementation and programming or zero redundancy on those sensors. So saying “the whole plane needs a redesign” doesn’t really strike me as the case, but if you say Boeing has an uphill battle to restore trust when they could have done something(s) right and instead just didn’t, well yeah I definitely agree with that.

MarcoPolo
MarcoPolo

Well said. The Boing 737 Max smells of greed and corruption.
You only live once and I ain’t taking any chances.

Ryan
Ryan

I find myself doing research now about the type of plane that I will be flying on in an effort to avoid Boeing.

Grant

Boeing execs and their family should fly on the plane after the software upgrade is complete to prove that they stand by the update.

doc
doc

In fact, the Max should be the only plane Boeing execs are allowed to fly. My guess is that – if that were the case – the plane would be grounded in short order… for good.

MoreSun
MoreSun

Their families should be left out of it and the execs should be in jail for life for murder.

doc
doc

“Murder,” is over-dramatic. There’s definitely some culpability, there. But, try to be more accurate. Obviously, if you bring murder charges when it doesn’t apply, you just end up letting the perpetrators go free.

Kind of like with some of these bad shootings. Some jurisdictions deliberately bring “murder” charges, knowing full well that they cannot convict with such a high standard.

Whether the Boeing execs deserve to go to jail is based on whether there is evidence enough to convict of a sufficient crime.

We could start by sacking them from their positions, and taking away their golden parachutes.

slowbrake
slowbrake

Nassim Taleb has an argument in his book Antifragile that goes like this:

You’re a king – enjoy the benefits and when you lose your job you’re dead.

You’re a Roman Senator – You lead the army on the battlefield yourself, and if you win – you enjoy the benefits, or you’re dead.

Pre-CEO era – You’re the boss – You enjoy the benefits, and when the company goes under – you’re destitute.

Now people just advance until they break through a level and no longer have to pay/suffer real consequences for bad decisions, someone else will. IE – politicians, CEOs, fund managers, “news” hosts, tenured faculty, etc

It’s a disappointingly accurate line of thinking.

Ken Peeples
Ken Peeples

Not buying it. FAA is toothless and coopted; has no credibility any longer. Revolving doors and legal corporate bribery in an accelerating race to the bottom. No way I’m stepping on any of those planes.

Gadget

William Charles I agree. Interesting… I wonder what will happen here. On one side, I can easily see people refusing to fly on one of these planes. On the other side, consumers overall have a short memory. Many people want the cheapest fare on the most direct flight. Discount the fare enough and I guarantee people will take the chance, provided they get FAA approval to fly again. I am not a big traveler, but been on my share of flights over 20 years in the military, and never once looked at the ticket and said… oh hell no. I was always more concerned about number of seats or creature comforts like leg room, not the make or model. You just assume safety issues have been addressed, because otherwise you wouldn’t fly.

MoreSun
MoreSun

The American consumer won’t balk enough for it to matter. We vote with our pocket books and like cheaper flights. Americans were “forced” to keep flying well after the rest of the world stopped and I bet we’ll be first to be put back in the planes. Yes, you can always opt to not fly or change your flight but that could run $$$ to $$$$ and it’s just to not feasible for many people. Therefore based on how US airlines handled the grounding (only when absolutely forced) I don’t see them waiving change fees once the aircrafts go back into operation and this will become proof that the general public sees the fix as adequate.

ETA: although many of us were avoiding AA 737Max based solely on the lack of creature comfort!

RandomEngineer
RandomEngineer

There are several problems with the 737max,
1. The original design was never meant to have the new large engines, so they had to move and compensate with MCAS.
2. planes without the paid option only had 1 sensor connectted to MCAS, with paid option you have 3 sensor I think. So if that senor go bad, like bird strike or bad maintenance. Mcas is activated. My speculation is US carries did not cheap out and paid for the package, but other carriers did not pay for the option, that’s why you don’t see us crashes.
3. Pilots was not trained on MCAS, so it took time to figure out wtf is going on, but you only have minutes at best.

With these crashes, you have combinations of factors, anyone of them could have stop it. How do you have a critical system connect to single sensor is beyond me, I am sure Boeing knew about. I hope someone is going to jail over this.

Patrick
Patrick

Nope.

Derek
Derek

I don’t fly on the ATR-72 / or the 42 due to past crashes, especially associated with icing. Thankfully that plane is now cycled out of domestic US airlines. So it’s possible people will avoid it due to bad design until it’s out of service.

Gareth
Gareth

I am not flying that aircraft for sure.

02nz
02nz

I love technology and I love air travel. But it’s disturbing that after two deadly crashes, the fix is basically the equivalent of “check for update” on my phone. I suspect that the ability to fix software after the fact contributed to an attitude of “no worries, we can just fix it later.” That’s not the end of the world with a smartphone, but a plane?! Boeing and the regulators screwed up big time with this.

doc
doc

I think it’s a bit more involved than a smartphone update. But, I agree that the underlying issue is more than just software. The problem is that the plane is unstable, full stop; and needs software to keep it stable. Which we now know is a life threatening combination.

Anything short of a full overhaul is not going to be sufficient to re-instill passenger trust back into the Max design. The engines need to be remounted or redesigned, and several tests need to be run by independent international boards. Airworthiness needs to be proven, from scratch.

Personally, I would ground the Max plane and just redesign the whole 737 line, entirely. It’s long since been time for a new, more aerodynamic and efficient mid-range jet design.

Chris
Chris

Unless I get a discount, I’m not sure why this is posted on DOC. But…thank you anyway.

Bill
Bill

All the hyperbole here. When the DC-10 was grounded after the AA crash in 1980, it had a long and relatively safe history. If the same happens with the MAX, it’s legacy will be a safe jet that was released too soon with some tragic accidents to begin its career.

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