Feds to audit Boeing 737 MAX's FAA certification

#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/03/19/feds-to-audit-boeing-737-max.html

U.S. Transportation Secretary Chao told DOT inspector general to conduct an audit of the FAA’s certification process for the Boeing 737 MAX 8.

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#2

Just read more on this today from the New York Times. Sounds like Boeing’s big issue is that they wanted to build a plane that didn’t require additional pilot training, so they took a redesigned plane but added a software override that would theoretically make it behave more like the existing 737 and then didn’t even tell the pilots that the software override existed, much less provide a way to disable it if it malfunctioned.

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#3

Step 3, profit.

Fucking hell.

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#4

I mean, I’m sure Boeing didn’t want any of their planes to crash either (if only because that would be disastrous to their profits) but they clearly made some serious mistakes along the way.

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#5

Of course they didn’t want their planes to crash. If that was the goal, there are faster ways of going about it.

It sounds like they just cut a few corners as any company that has been in business as long as they have would be prone to do. Oops. Live and learn, I guess.

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#6

As many aviation experts have noted, the placement of the new, larger diameter engines on the 737 MAX changed the flight characteristics of the plane and made it inherently want to “nose up” at full thrust, so the software was a band-aid fix to compensate for a mechanical design deficiency. The plane never would have been designed with that engine placement if it was a new, “clean-sheet” design but they were trying to change as little as possible on the existing plane to get it out there faster.

As a mechanical engineer I HATE unnecessary software fixes that could be solved with a good mechanical design. I see them in my industry sometimes, but usually in less safety-critical applications. It boggles the mind that the software for something that important was relying on a single sensor input.

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#7

This.

A lazy way to fix some basic aerodynamic problems.

Oh, and guess what? Those larger diameter engines are LOUD AF for people on the ground.

Oh, and Boeing in neck deep in FAA’s Nextgen air traffic control system. Psssst Feds…

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#8

Deregulation at work. Yeah, huge companies can be “trusted” to police themselves and to not release products that are a danger to the public. Trust them.

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#9

Think of how many corners prior planes have already cut. Ones where, for whatever reason, there hasn’t been an issue. Probably creating a culture and company memory of allowing this, since it was never a problem in the past.

Right up until it is a problem, and then you’re reminded why you were not supposed to cut corners.

Most failures tend to be a cascade of problems. Where any one of them wouldn’t be fatal, but the chain as a whole is a catastrophe. From the reporting, it feels like they cut corners here in a way that shortened that chain to just a single item. Prior corner cutting has probably been saved because it only caused an issue at one spot in a failure chain with the others preventing failure.

Extra bonus, the reporting has also indicated they would sell you the option to add other items to the failure chain, thereby increasing the number of items that must fail for a catastrophe. :frowning:

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#10

I regularly do some workshops where we work through failure case studies. I guess I’ve got my selection sorted for next time…

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#11

Oops. Live and learn, I guess.

Ermmm…

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#12

Fixed that etc.

#13

Holy Redundancy Department of Redundancy Batman. The FAA IS the Feds, and certification IS an audit process. This reeks of cover-your-ass. If the FAA’s own auditing process never raised a flag on this during certification, what’s the point of all the regulation in the first place?

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#14

Fixed that etc++

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#15

Well, the FAA has lost its gold standard. Many are now looking to the EASA instead as the certification authority to trust. At least the EASA is fully staffed and has a director, the president of the USA has left the FAA director vacant for over a year*.

*Nominating the guy who piloted his private jet does not count.

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#16

BTW He just nominated a former Delta guy.

On Delta and Boeing:

“Delta is one of the world’s largest operators of Boeing aircraft and our valued partnership with Boeing will remain strong as we safely and comfortably serve our customers across the world every day,” said Greg May, Senior Vice President – Supply Chain Management and Fleet. Delta.com

The FAA / Boeing love fest continues unabated. Airlines self-regulating is bad news for all of us.

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#17

This is a tricky one, because almost anyone qualified to run the FAA would almost certainly have worked with Boeing in some capacity. The global passenger airline industry is basically a two-horse race between Boeing and Airbus.

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#18

Agreed but, it’s not just airframes, it’s airports and airspace across the country. In some parts of the country air traffic and air traffic noise pollution has reached an industrial scale. FAA has authority to increase traffic at will without regard to the people underneath and as airports get bigger and add more flights everyday the problems gets worse. The airlines face no resistance and no oversight because you know, profit. Having an airline insider at the helm does little to help.

#19

“When something is not behaving according to the laws of physics, it is probably a software problem.”

#20

Well, you could look within the ranks of the FAA itself — not just the engineers, investigators and so on. In theory, the most competent person to run an agency should be someone who knows the agency, not someone who comes from the business the agency has had to keep an eye on lest they risk lives in their pursuit of profits…