More 737 Max Delays: Boeing's Corner Cutting Cost a Fortune and 346 Lives

-edited

The 737 Max may now be grounded for as much as a year. A new report assesses the corner cutting mistakes.

A Boeing contact suggested I read Bjorn’s Corner: Cutting corners in aerospace costs a fortune.

It seems more and more likely the 737 MAX grounding will go well beyond six months and it can approach nine months to a year depending on developments in the next months.

The costs to Boeing for the MAX debacle are now approaching the costs of a new aircraft development.

The end result of the management culture which produced this engineering shortcut is horrendous:

End Result

  • Two aircraft and 346 lives lost.
  • Boeing in eight months transformed from an admired civil aviation leader to a distrusted brand, subject to several criminal investigations.
  • The economic losses are not yet clear but they will approach the costs of a new aircraft development.
    Must the management which pushed for lower costs and higher profits now learn the hard way: there simply is no way past thorough and sound engineering in aerospace. Any shortcuts will cost the company many times more than what was saved in the first place. In the extreme, it can challenge the existence of the company.
    Bjorn Fehrm, the author of the article is a fighter pilot and an aviation consultant.

Comments to the article are interesting. Please consider a set of comments by Fehrm in reply to a question.

  • Research: MCAS was implemented with repetitive nose down trim commands if AoA stayed high. The research for the update found the necessary augmentation only needed one nose down cycle. Research for MCAS was not correctly done.
  • Implementation: MCAS was implemented with a single sensor trigger and without global limitation on nose down trim. The implementation of the update uses dual sensors and deactivation of MCAS if they don’t agree. It also has a global limitation of nose down to leave 1.5G nose up authority to the pilot via the elevator. The implementation of MCAS was not correctly done.
  • Testing: The testing of MCAS was done by Boeing on behalf of FAA. It did not judge the single sensor triggered repetitive MCAS as dangerous. It judged the Pilot would easily identify an incorrectly functioning MCAS despite not knowing of the function and how to distinguish it from the very similar and ever-present Speed Trim System function. The testing of MCAS was not correctly done.

Not Learning the Hard Way

Boeing saved nothing and lost its reputation and 346 lives by cutting corners.

But did Boeing really learn anything?

I suspect this will all be swept under the rug with a small set of fines and a promise to not do this again.

Ten years from now such promises will be long forgotten.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (40)
No. 1-14
gflop
gflop

It seems like more gender studies graduates and fewer engineers would solve this problem pretty quick!! /sarc

Curious-Cat
Curious-Cat

I hold an MBA degree from a good school. More and more I am beginning to think I and my fellow MBA degree holders are largely responsible for so much of the world's grief. Our rolls in profit maximization in Boeing and banking should be exhibit 1.

Carl_R
Carl_R

Getting back to the click-bait discussion of the fact that the software work was done in part by $9/hr contract programmers, it would seem that the $9/hr programmers did an excellent job, and are not at fault here at all. The system worked exactly as it was designed to do. Unfortunately the problem was that it was not well designed at all.

HubbaBuba
HubbaBuba

Would be nice if significant costs for this could be charged to the senior management fo making these bad decisions. Unfortunately, as we know the largest losses will fall on everyone else. Although hopefully, it's no more unfair than the GFC bank bailouts and zero management accountability..

thimk
thimk

Boeing heavily discounted the planes, it was that or put them on Ebay.

Webej
Webej

It's not just the mistakes that were made. It's also the fraud committed in getting the thing approved. Nor is the FAA free of blame. But revising the authority of MCAS to 4× the original without resubmission of the plans is simply black letter fraud.

Six000mileyear
Six000mileyear

Today's "career" means moving often to keep the promotions and salary increases coming. With that observation, I've got to ask, "How many managers who made design decision on the 737-Max moved on before the problems surfaced?" Those who moved on will not be held accountable unless there was criminal intent or a complete disregard for human safety. Most likely a committee made the final approval, which hides individual responsibility. Such is the game inside a corporation.

Pabredig
Pabredig

Obviously, there are some serious issues with regards to the certification of the 737 max, but this isn't a new debacle. Airbus has had it's fair share of mistakes and lives were lost because of this plane makers mistakes. The fact is this article along with so many others is full of misinformation that leads people to believe all the details without fully understanding the processes that goes into engineering and then building planes. Yes, people died and that's unfortunate, but the simple fact is the pilots that flew those planes, didn't have enough flight time have any business being inside the cockpit of those planes.

Kranski
Kranski

So if the highest 346 executives and employees of Boeing took the seats on those doomed planes would they still design it the same way? Like, you know, cost-savings are very important.

SteveW***
SteveW***

Remember the previous Dreamliner battery issues/fires? What else has Boeing messed up and hidden in the 737 Max design? Why did 2+? sensors fail so early in working life? - I'd have a hunch there is something more to it like a systemic wiring fault or production issue Hope they do a comprehensive design audit of everything.

Personally I now have low trust in them to the point of really not wanting to fly on it.

Sechel
Sechel

The 737-max may have seemed like a brilliant financial stroke when they planned it but i don't see how they can save it. i would not fly it even if brought back into service. seems like some chickens coming home to roost.

gflop
gflop

While the debate "rages" here in the comments about BA management versus $9/hr programmers... I note the FAA approved all the nonsense, and accepted zero blame.

If taxpayers can get exactly the same results (eg the FAA is just going to rubber stamp the manufacturer) -- why can't taxpayers save some money by eliminating the FAA? They aren't actually checking anything.

Ditto the FDA. All these drugs coming to market, tested by their manufacturers. The FDA adds millions to the costs (and those millions in costs get passed on to customers) not to mention uncertainty. Yet, there is no reason to believe the FDA actually prevents bad drugs from making it to market. So why does the FDA exist? Consumers have to take their chances either way, the FDA just makes everything cost more.

Go ahead and tell us about all how the SEC saved public investors from getting fleeced... aaaand its gone.

For those keeping score, the FAA, FDA and SEC cost taxpayers billions each and every year (plus bureaucrats get a pension, guaranteed by taxpayers who don't get a pension).

awc13
awc13

"The testing of MCAS was done by Boeing on behalf of FAA."

unbelievable