Boeing Holds Emergency Meeting as Congressional Scrutiny Looms

-edited

A survey reveals Boeing workers felt pressure to approve unworthy systems. Boeing's board is in emergency meetings.

US regulators say Boeing withheld ‘concerning’ internal messages on 737 MAX. With planes grounded, Boeing's Board in Emergency Meetings to deal with the crisis.

Boeing’s board of directors and top staff from its commercial airplanes division were due to meet in Texas on Sunday and Monday after a 2016 exchange was released which suggested the company had known about problems with the flight control system years before it became implicated in two fatal crashes.

In the messages, which were between two lead technical pilots on the Boeing 737 Max Program, one complained the system was “running rampant” and difficult to control. “Granted, I suck at flying, but even this was egregious,” he said.

Boeing’s 737 MAX jets have been grounded since March. It has been racing to find a fix to the problem, although has said the jets may not return to service until next year.

Congress Ramps Up Scrutiny

Adding still more pressure on the company, Congress Ramps Up Scrutiny of Boeing Executives, Board

Investigators for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee looking into the design and certification of the 737 MAX have received details of a three-year-old internal Boeing survey showing roughly one in three employees who responded felt “potential undue pressure” from managers regarding safety-related approvals by federal regulators across an array of commercial planes. Workload and schedule were cited as important causes.

The summary of the survey as of November 2016 also indicated that 15% of those who responded encountered such situations “several times” or “frequently.” The survey results were provided to the committee by an individual, rather than as part of Boeing’s formal process of turning over documents, and were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The survey, which hasn’t been reported before, wasn’t specifically focused on the MAX but covered employees across a range of Boeing commercial airliner programs; it came near the end of the MAX’s multiyear federal approval process.

Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, the Democratic chairman of the House committee, indicated that at the hearing later this month he plans to ask Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg about the company’s internal culture and what he sees as a lack of accountability for two MAX crashes that together claimed 346 lives.

Boeing’s directors, expected to meet on Sunday in San Antonio, recently stripped Mr. Muilenburg of his dual role as chairman. Board members intended the move to serve as a public signal that they were holding management to account as the MAX crisis drags on, people familiar with the matter said.

“That’s not exactly major accountability, and it probably goes deeper into the organization,” said Mr. DeFazio in an interview, adding that he was also dissatisfied with the board’s oversight, which he described as “pretty lame.”

“Even if you grant that the board thought that the original crash was pilot error and bad maintenance,” he added, “certainly they should have stepped it way up after the second crash, and I haven’t seen that.”

Swept Under the Rug?

I long suspected this would all be swept under the rug.

And it still might, despite the Congressional investigation.

So far no one has been fired. All we have seen is reshuffling of executive titles.

This is despite survey reports that say 29% of the more than 500 employees who answered it by late November of that year were “concerned about consequences" if they report problems.

Forget about fired. What about criminal negligence?

Guilty or not, negligence is damn hard to prove, especially with FAA brooms in place.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (51)
No. 1-16
avidremainer
avidremainer

So another company's future put in doubt by the bean counters. Perhaps this is a case where more independent regulation rather than less would have helped.

7 Replies

Matt3
Matt3

Really? Because our regulators have proven to be so competent? Most of the regulating bodies are much like the TSA. They just follow a script, don't think and create lots of rules that don't make a difference.

avidremainer
avidremainer

I agree that you have to have good regulation and good regulators but what you say is not an observation about regulation but the inadequacy of current legislators and those they employ. The Regulation of the banks and financial industry prior to 2007 was, in the UK, useless. It hasn't improved. We all have a duty to make sure we are not sheep to be shorn.

Stuki
Stuki

The reason basically all US companies are by now ran, and owned, by middlebrows in the first place, are excessive regulations. Staying in business is less and less about beating the other guys at the hard work of engineering and manufacturing, and more and more about appeasing regulators, investors, ambulance chasers and other half literate, self promoting grand standers of every mediocre stripe on creation.

Left free and unfettered to do so, paying end users route around overpriced and under performing garbage put out by incompetent riffraff. Such that the only way to stay in business, is to not put out that sort of mediocrity.

Which resolves to: Not waste scarce resources on zero-or-worse-value-add clowns who don't directly contribute to the quality of your offering itself. Which is why, in societies ran and owned by exactly those guys, people aren't left free to leave them by the wayside to shape up or starve, the way they ought to.

avidremainer
avidremainer

Repeal of the Glass-Seagal Act was the start of it all. Clinton's repeal of regulations which stifled banker's greed was a huge mistake.

Stuki
Stuki

The Fed, FDIC and the rest of the drivel aimed at suckering suckers into falling for the scam, that banks and banksters failing is some sort of bad thing, was the start of it all. Banks failing is no more of a problem than lemonade stands doing so. Which is just a special case of the general one that, in economics, there are no special cases. Banks need no other regulation than any other lemonade stand nor coffee shop. All any "special" status means, is that the ones designated "special" are having wealth which others had to work to create, transferred their way. That's it. Crass theft via officially mandated wealth redistribution.

Once you have a Fed, they'll transfer wealth to the connected dilettantes who are their reliable supporters. That's what central banks do. That's all they do.

Glass-Steagal was no more than another in a long line of attempted coverups aimed at suckering the same suckers into believing that arbitrarily writing and "interpreting" reams of nonsensical drivel, can somehow change that. It can't. Nothing can. People granted an asymmetrical privilege to print money, will use that privilege to serve themselves and those closest to them. At the expense of everyone else. Always. Everywhere. Without fail. Ever. There are no "yes, but" 's. And things are never different this time. Haven't been since at least the Big Bang. And won't be until at least The Big Bust.

avidremainer
avidremainer

It is sad to say that when you are putting your x in a box you have to choose the least worst. Was the world of Glass-Seagal and strong financial regulation perfect? No. Was it better than now? Of course it was. Thatcher and Reagan started the rentier economy we have now. Clinton completed the job. Of course the insiders and money men do better than anyone else. It is just that now we are robbed blind. Anything or anyone who tips the balance the other way should be supported.

Herkie
Herkie

I don't buy it, total Laissez-faire has been tried and it was a disaster that REQUIRED regulation to fix. How about some industrial waste in your morning sausages? How about 6 companies own everything? How about the end of labor unions? How about we reinstate slavery and serfdom? It does not work, people allowed to do anything will do just that, anything, their greed and lack of respect for other people and life means we would be in hell, far worse than where we are now.

numike
numike

Boeing expresses regret over ex-pilot’s 737 MAX messages, faults simulator Reuters Congress Ramps Up Scrutiny of Boeing Executives, Board WSJ

awc13
awc13

"The summary of the survey as of November 2016 also indicated that 15% of those who responded encountered such situations “several times” or “frequently.”"

That is not the culture that you want at any organization, especially one that produces airplanes.

justaned
justaned

I would like to point out that, according to a professional pilot, these texts are between two simulator pilots; and relate to actions encountered while using a flight simulator. See this- a very informative channel as regards these aviation questions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btZXVPfh-pE I would point out he works for an airline, and is not a Boeing apologist.

Sechel
Sechel

Boeing hasn't admitted it yet, but the 737 MAX is dead

Maximus_Minimus
Maximus_Minimus

Why isn't the FAA investigated? It lost credibility, and its certification won't be automatically rubber stamped.

Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett

"Boeing's board is in emergency meetings"

...

Emergency. In case anyone doesn't know ... means any meeting lasting more than an hour and not concerning executive compensation / stock buybacks / tee time at local resort course.

RonJ
RonJ

"Boeing’s board of directors..."

Are these people who have no experience in the industry?

Freebees2me
Freebees2me

More good news for our friends at GE. They apparently don't get paid a dime for 737 MAX engines until the plane is delivered.

Where are all these engines?

The company delivered 424 engines to Boeing in the first quarter for installation on 737 Max aircraft.

Webej
Webej

Any charges and investigations will simply serve as a foil for serious action. The FAA certified systems that they did not test and verify, and Boeing changed the design without resubmitting. That is all black letter fraud. Jail time. No intent or anything needs to be proved. The MCAS system was ultimately given 4× the control authority that was initially designed, without resubmission. At that stage it was abundantly clear that things were not working as designed ...

mark0f0
mark0f0

Even the 737NG has a problem percolating to the surface, and that is, the so-called "pickle forks" that attach the fuselage to the wing. And require major disassembly of the aircraft to replace. Parts that are supposed to last the life of the airplane are becoming cracked in dramatically shorter time-frames.

buffteethrblog
buffteethrblog

I have been an engineer for over 20 years. What happened at Boeing is common. There is always a tug of war between engineering and management. Engineers most times want to get it prefect and managers want to book sales. You hope that we meet in the middle but as the saying goes: Cheap, Fast and Good pick two. It looks like Boeing picked Cheap and Fast. I remember joking during one a weekly status meaning (before this whole Boeing thing) that "It is a good thing we don't make planes". The pressure it there to get the product out now now now and you end up cutting corners somewhere in design, testing or both.

Six000mileyear
Six000mileyear

Airlines and travelers can hold Boeing accountable by refusing to fly on their planes.

Casual_Observer
Casual_Observer

Letter to the Editor Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger New York Times Magazine Published in print on October 13, 2019

In “What Really Brought Down the Boeing 737 MAX?” William Langewiesche draws the conclusion that the pilots are primarily to blame for the fatal crashes of Lion Air 610 and Ethiopian 302. In resurrecting this age-old aviation canard, Langewiesche minimizes the fatal design flaws and certification failures that precipitated those tragedies, and still pose a threat to the flying public. I have long stated, as he does note, that pilots must be capable of absolute mastery of the aircraft and the situation at all times, a concept pilots call airmanship. Inadequate pilot training and insufficient pilot experience are problems worldwide, but they do not excuse the fatally flawed design of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) that was a death trap. As one of the few pilots who have lived to tell about being in the left seat of an airliner when things went horribly wrong, with seconds to react, I know a thing or two about overcoming an unimagined crisis. I am also one of the few who have flown a Boeing 737 MAX Level D full motion simulator, replicating both accident flights multiple times. I know firsthand the challenges the pilots on the doomed accident flights faced, and how wrong it is to blame them for not being able to compensate for such a pernicious and deadly design. These emergencies did not present as a classic runaway stabilizer problem, but initially as ambiguous unreliable airspeed and altitude situations, masking MCAS. The MCAS design should never have been approved, not by Boeing, and not by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The National Transportation Safety Board has found that Boeing made faulty assumptions both about the capability of the aircraft design to withstand damage or failure, and the level of human performance possible once the failures began to cascade. Where Boeing failed, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) should have stepped in to regulate but it failed to do so. Lessons from accidents are bought in blood and we must seek all the answers to prevent the next one. We need to fix all the flaws in the current system — corporate governance, regulatory oversight, aircraft maintenance, and yes, pilot training and experience. Only then can we ensure the safety of everyone who flies.

Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger

Maximus_Minimus
Maximus_Minimus

MCAS for the fully autonomous pilotless planes! Because if there is one thing than is suitable for automation, it is the airline industry.

mark0f0
mark0f0

Lol. Pilotless airplanes are an even easier problem than self-driving cars, and we know how impossible fully reliable pilotless airplanes are...