Does anybody want to hear about Boeing's MAX8 ?

I had promised a few people here in town a lesson in “Bisbonian Aerodynamics”, but the reality is that I am too sick to concentrate on graphics and stuff, so that will be later. I tried to include just enough in this to make it understandable to those who don’t fly for a living:

For many decades, airplane manufacturers have built "stable" aircraft...if the pilot lets go of the controls, the plane will just keep on doing what it was doing before...and if there is a bump or other disturbance, the plane will (by physics, not by control inputs) automatically return to its previous state. This was a big improvement on the original airplanes, that required constant input from the pilots to remain airborne...with predictable results.

Imagine an arrow. Heavy pointy rock at one end, light fluffy feathers at the other end. Center of gravity is pretty close to that rock. Center of aerodynamic pressure (the effects of the air flowing past the arrow) is close to those feathers. You shoot the arrow, and it goes right to where you point it. Little deviations due to wind currents position the feathers a little sideways to the relative wind, and the feathers correct the path back to where you want it. Extremely stable flying machine.

We don't want our planes to be quite that stable, because we would like to be able to turn them. So the center of gravity gets moved aft, to about 1/4 of the way back on the wing. Center of aerodynamic pressure is aft of that, but not a lot. Now, those little bumps and air currents move us around, but the natural tendency of the airplane is to return to it's previous path.
Fighter planes need to be more maneuverable, so for a long time, natural stability was reduced farther all the time, until the F-16, which has "neutral" stability. i.e. none. Four computers keep it flying the way the pilot tells it to go, but the computers are continuously adjusting the flight controls to keep the airplane from going out of control. It's kind of like backing up a trailer, but with a computer.

We don't want our airliners to be that way.

But we got one. Unknown to us.

The 737 has been a fantastically successful airplane. It's the offspring of the 707/KC-135 that I flew in the Air Force, and I have loved flying it. It has been improved over the years, through various models...I rode in 737-100s in Hawaii in the 70's, I flew -200s in the 90's, -300s and -500s through the latter 90's and 00's. (Those two took the well balanced -200, stuck a much bigger engine on it, and that necessitated bigger tail surfaces to balance everything out...but Boeing overshot. They were too big, and the airplane oversteered, especially in the up and down dimension. The -500 was same size as a -200, but with way oversized controls, and was a pretty lousy flying airplane, without the autopilot. The -300 was longer, and not as bad for overcontrolling. Both were naturally stable...just not as stable as I was used to.)

Handling was improved with the -700, and it flies pretty decently. The real problems with it are the autopilot, and I hear that is mostly because we bought the cheapest software for it. The autopilot was programed by some millenial who read about flying in a book, and has never even driven a car, let alone an airplane. Kludgy.

The -800 is a stretched -700. This is where the real problems start. We've taken a small, regional airliner, designed for short hops, and tried to turn it into something that would go to Hawaii. Airlines bought a bunch for that purpose, and then found out that they couldn't make money on that route, because at the fuel loads required for the trip, it was too heavy to get to higher altitudes where it could burn less fuel. A new engine was in order.

The biggest limiting factor on growing the 737 is the short, stubby little landing gear. The first engine upgrade demanded moving the engines partly forward of the wing, and flattening the bottom of the nacelle. The long fuselage of the 800 requires a tail skid, to try and prevent damage to the plane during takeoff and landing. Getting the plane into landing attitudes that were fine in a -700, could cause major damage in an -800 by hitting the rear end on the runway.

In order to get an -800 to go to Hawaii, we needed a bigger, more efficient engine. That combination was called the MAX8. Well, guess what. that bigger engine had to go even farther forward, and be more flattened on the bottom. When we rotate the airplane to take off, the underside of those forward mounted engines create lift, and that forward placed lift moves the center of aerodynamic pressure much closer to the center of gravity, making the plane less stable. (No one told us this). What "unstable" means, in this case, is that a tiny bit of pilot input will, at that point, result in a highly disproportionate aircraft response. To overcome that, Boeing installed a software patch that would, if the nose got too high on takeoff, adjust the tail to forcefully push the nose down. (No one told us this, either). The input to the computer comes from ONE sensor on the side of the plane, that measures the angle of the relative wind. (Not four redundant sensors, like on the F-16) So, if that one sensor has a malfunction, the plane rolls the trim forward for 10 seconds (I NEVER make a ten second long trim change...that's immense). If that still doesn't fix the angle, it does another ten seconds. And another, until the plane is uncontrollable to the pilots. (No one told us any of this.)

So, after the first crash, Boeing's first response was, "Well, all you have to do is turn off the electric trim...then the MCAS can't run the trim forward any more". To which we replied WTF is MCAS? "Oh, it's a system we installed to make the airplane safer. no big deal, really, we didn't figure you needed to know."

So, on takeoff, really the most critical phase of flight, in between talking to the tower, setting takeoff thrust, monitoring engines for proper reaction, steering down the centerline of the runway in a crosswind, calling out the go-no go speed, rotating the nose to the proper angle, slowly enough not to bash the tail into the runway, lifting off (here is where the stall warning started for both fatal flights, due to the failed Angle sensor...the stall warning shakes the control column, and makes a rattling racket). Start climbing away from the ground, and possibly pushing the nose forward to get out of a perceived stall, get the landing gear up, and flaps up, and BAM, ten seconds of nose-down trim (the system only works when the flaps are up...yeah, you guessed it, nobody told us about that) Trim back, at least some of that, which resets the system (nobody told us) and BAM, ten more seconds of nose-down trim. At this point, you are away from the runway, and the GPS knows this, and you are too low, don't have the landing gear down, and are not in position to land. The airplane has various loud warning systems that go off for each of these things, a mans voice yelling TOO LOW, TERRAIN! TOO LOW, GEAR! TOO LOW, FLAPS!, PULL UP! PULL UP!, repeating these things over and over.

So, one thing is telling you to pull up, and the stick shaker is telling you to push forward, and for your entire flying career the most dangerous, immediate action problem is a stall at low altitude...but somehow you are to put that all aside, and calmly turn off the electric trim switches.

I saw an article last night, Boeing is saying they can get a new software patch in place by next week, and everything will be hunky dory. It needs far more than a software patch. Critical flightpath decisions made by a computer need to rely on more than a single input (one Angle of Attack sensor). One can be wrong. It has been, so far, twice. Killing, on average, about 170 people per occurrence. Two would be better, three would be far better, and is the usual aeronutical standard for such questions. If one says one thing, and the other two agree on something else, at least you've got a pretty good chance of figuring out who is right.

I believe that an airliner that is aerodynamically unstable, in a certain flight regime, never should have been certified in the first place. But Boeing/USA/FAA are in an all out commercial battle with Airbus/France, and that's how these things happen.

The bottom line: This patch job solution to keep an unstable aircraft flying would be fine, if it were a fighter. Except that even in a fighter, it would rely on at least three independent inputs from the sensors, to rule out a sensor that was malfunctioning (the F-16 uses 4). To place complete reliance on one sensor on the plane is absolutely insane...and obviously fatal. It should be criminal. The black boxes are now in France, to be investigated; Boeing and the FAA are now bystanders. So who knows...some (partisan based) justice might be forthcoming.

Here is some supplemental reading that is pretty good: https://theaircurrent.com/aviation-safety/the-world-pulls-the-andon-cord...

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Azazello's picture

I was just about to email you for your opinion.
And also, about a problem a certain airline is having with its maintenance workers.

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Bisbonian's picture

@Azazello , why am I not surprised that you are the first one here. I keep re-writing, adjusting, sanitizing certain references about things I can talk about in emails, but not here. I think the maintenance issues are in that realm, too.

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

Azazello's picture

@Bisbonian
there were two other incidents where the plane began to pitch over as soon as the autopilot was engaged. They saved their planes by simply switching off the autopilot.

In reports filed last year in a database compiled by NASA, the pilots said that soon after engaging the autopilot on their planes, the nose tilted down sharply.

In both cases they recovered quickly after disconnecting the autopilot, they said.

The problem as described by the pilots, however, did not appear related to a new automated anti-stall system that was suspected of contributing to a deadly October crash in Indonesia.

abc.net.au
How soon after take-off is the autopilot normally engaged ?

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Bisbonian's picture

@Azazello , The Jakarta and Ethiopian crashes were not the autopilot. That's one of the insidious things about this MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) (i.e. software patch for bad aerodynamics)...it only works when the autopilot is OFF! It flies the plane when the pilot thinks he is supposed to be flying the plane. And Boeing didn't tell anyone it was there, until After the Jakarta crash...and they weren't fully forthcoming even then. The flight crew that flew the Jakarta accident plane BEFORE the crashed flight also had MCAS issues. They struggled with it for a while, and finally turned off the electric stabilizer trim switches, and then trimmed the aircraft through the wheel and pulley system still in the cockpit (thank some old Boeing engineer). Unfortunately, that information was not passed off to the next crew.

Those two incidents with the autopilot are, unfortunately, a different issue. Fortunately, easily solved by the typical pilot trouble shooting algorithm. "Turn that on. AAUUGH TURNITOFF! Phew."

I have an image to show you what Boeing told us, with some editorial comments from pilots, but apparently I need to change it to a jpg first.

Boeing MCAS fluff.jpg

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

Bisbonian's picture

@Azazello , my companies procedure is to turn on the autopilot after the flaps are up. Flap retraction is right after 1000 feet AGL. Unfortunately, flaps up is one of the triggers for the MCAS. If we put the autopilot on before retracting the flaps, MCAS would be bypassed, as it does not work with the autopilot on.

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

Pluto's Republic's picture

I am very interested in the technical aspects of the situation — the avionics. Is that the right word? I appreciate you laying it out for us.

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The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.
– Albert Camus
Bisbonian's picture

@Pluto's Republic , refers to displays of information that are important to the pilots...airspeed, altitude, navigation. What I am really talking about here is mostly in the realms of aerodynamics and automation. Aerodynamics is the physical effects of the interaction of the relative wind, with the surfaces of the airplane. Automation, of course, is letting a computer do something that a pilot used to do. Using automation to make up for deficiencies in aerodynamics is awfully sloppy workmanship.

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

Pluto's Republic's picture

@Pluto's Republic

...that the lone angle sensor was malfunctioning in its reading and that triggered a mandatory reaction to a potential stall?

If so, I'm a little surprised that a software patch was put forth as a solution. Can't see how it can verify the reading of the angle sensor when there's only one. I thought redundancy was a routine thing in avionics....

Anyway, there have been so many safe flights of that model. So you're saying when that stand alone sensor fails, it flies the plane into the ground? And that was a known issue, but it was not documented? And then it was allowed to happen twice? Or, is this a flaw that was only just now recognized after the second crash? Either way that sounds like a failure of the entire production system, considering the scale of the disastrous consequences.

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Bisbonian's picture

@Pluto's Republic . Single point failure in a life-critical system. We knew about this about two days after the Jakarta crash. We didn't even get a software patch, then...we got a bulletin. I have to change it to a jpg to post it here, but basically it says, "stay calm, ignore every noise and warning going on in the cockpit, turn off the stabilizer trim switches, and fly (and trim the aircraft) manually. Have a nice day. Thank you for flying Boeing."

Boeing Bulletin TBC-19.jpg

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

Azazello's picture

@Bisbonian
hasn't tanked, like it should, is that Boeing remains the #1 defense contractor and the DoD gravy train has been picking up speed of late.

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Bisbonian's picture

@Azazello We have a winner!

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

Eagles92's picture

@Bisbonian say there's NO current simulator that includes the MCAS for pilot training / certification on the MAX8. WTF?!

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Bisbonian's picture

@Eagles92 no simulator for the airplane. Years in the future. Can you say, "Rush Job"?

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

Eagles92's picture

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Bisbonian's picture

@Eagles92

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

Eagles92's picture

@Bisbonian Shouldn't have deleted! But you covered what I said anyway. Smile

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ovals49's picture

It is unfathomable that the lives of over 150 souls are depending on the correct functioning of a single sensor! An aircraft that forgoes redundant safety systems in favor of quick fix of software updates does not belong in public service. Somewhere behind this poor decision I smell the overarching greed of the profit motive.

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“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” Albert Einstein

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Bisbonian's picture

@ovals49 . I actually have re-written this, several times, to make it understandable in layman's terms without getting to the point of being condescending.

The link I posted at the end (you may have to refresh, as I added it later) takes on the economic angle on all this.

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

mimi's picture

@Bisbonian
as long as I have read you. I am the ultimate lay woman and as I have a former airman in my family who as a result of having been in Iraq during the invasion in 2003, where he among others cleared the runwasys for those planes on various air bases in Kuweit and Iraq, turned into a airplane flying phobic. Once kaput, always kaput.

Preferrably we take the ship these days. Tnanks for your great essay. For all those technophils it is a great treat.

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TTTT (too tired to talk)

gulfgal98's picture

@Bisbonian and extremely frightening to read.

This is an excellent essay. Thank you for explaining the science of what has happened and why it this aircraft has no business flying.

I thought I had read that most other countries had grounded the Max8, except for the US. Money talks while lives are endangered.

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"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~Dr. Cornel West

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." John F Kennedy

Deja's picture

@gulfgal98 @gulfgal98
FAA said they were fine, but Trump grounded them.

http://fortune.com/2019/03/13/trump-boeing-737-max/

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Trump was right when he said airplanes were getting too complicated. The more gizmos and gadgets on anything including a refrigerator, the greater the odds something will break.

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"Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

Bisbonian's picture

@dkmich

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

Eagles92's picture

@dkmich I hate those things. And I swear, they're making drivers worse, not better.

I would so much rather cast my fate to a human pilot's wind than any electronic sensor or computer. Obviously there's a place for both of those latter things, but only if they complement the pilot's judgement, skills, and instincts.

This whole thing is sickening.

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Anja Geitz's picture

@Eagles92

To the freeways filled with driverless cars, don't it?

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Play me another broken record Joe. Maybe then I'll learn why we pay twice as much for healthcare as everybody else in the world. ~ Not Henry Kissinger

Eagles92's picture

@Anja Geitz

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Bisbonian's picture

@Anja Geitz Or just learn to manipulate their sensors. Make them park off the side of the road. People are doing that...

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

@Bisbonian @Bisbonian

When my daughter was getting ready to turn 16 and get her driver's license, we were driving down the highway and saw for sale a pink mini tow truck that even had a mini pink hoist off the back. We told her it would make a perfect first car.

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"Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

I've noticed the 757/67 sits a lot higher than the 737 series and these later series designs don't have flattened engine nacelles. Seems pretty basic.

On another tack, has anyone else noticed that recent Microsoft products don't work as well as stuff they replaced? All the while, these companies are returning record profits to their shareholders. That's what's wrong with the 21st Century?

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k9disc's picture

"natural" efficiencies of the market.

Not at all surprising to find complacent product development in this time. Marketshare and retention of marketshare seems to be the only metric that matters these days, and I think it is a product of trying to maintain the situation where the quality of the product doesn't matter.

"Oh, their product is better than ours? Let's buy it and hamstring it." Or they buy it and leverage it - towards maintaining marketshare.

To make a truly disruptive move is to make marketshare a roll of the dice. A few percentage points of loss, or a tiny gap that lets a micro-competitor into the markets could be crapping out. Better to remain #2 or #3 and not have to deal with the chaos of a sea change in marketshare.

This highly conservative method of operation has been going on, officially, for 47 years now, IMO (Powell Memo) and has been the preferred method of corporate since the fascists won World War II. It is also the preferred method for Robber Barons, Gangsters, and Pirates & Emperors.

@leveymg

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“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” ~ Sun Tzu

Bisbonian's picture

@leveymg Certifying a new aircraft takes an astronomical amount of money. The 737 first flew in '68, I think. The current versions are barely recognizeable as the same plane, but because Boeing made incremental changes along the way, they were able to keep its original certification as a 737, and not have to go through the complete process again. To increase the length of the landing gear, they would have to move the attachment points farther out on the wing, since they pivot inward upon retraction. That would change the wing structure, and would also require moving the engine mounts farther out. THAT would cause more assymetrical thrust in the case of an engine failure. I am sure it would fly fine...it would basically be like a 757. But It would be neither fish nor foul, and would have to be certified as a completely new airplane. Boeing was thinking of going in that direction, and then economic issues changed their mind. Again, this article touches on that: https://theaircurrent.com/aviation-safety/the-world-pulls-the-andon-cord...

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

Pluto's Republic's picture

@leveymg

has anyone else noticed that recent Microsoft products don't work as well as stuff they replaced? All the while, these companies are returning record profits....

I see that lament in recent tech reviews, lately. People mourning the weakness and loss of function in the replacement software. I just upgraded a couple of newish Macs to the new Mohave operating system, and I've noticed a couple of basic things that went very wrong. Very wrong. I felt dismayed. Apple in the past simply didn't release a carelessly flawed operating system. Buggy, yes. They are all buggy. But flaws that a simple beta test would immediately reveal, ie.: text highlighting is essentially invisible to a great many Mohave users. And so far, there is no workaround.

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The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.
– Albert Camus
LeChienHarry's picture

@Pluto's Republic

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Pluto's Republic's picture

@LeChienHarry

There are some security features that will continue to build out.

If you connect to other Apple devices, there are improvements.

Apple News is a good thing.

There may be increased stability. The jury is out for me.

I held out for awhile on this one. I've even skipped upgrades in the past. It all depends on how you use the Mac. I don't love the new Apple Store. But, by the same token, I think I will be learning some new programs.

I'm not sorry I upgraded this time. I was disappointed that the UI was overseen by shallow slackers. But that's my thing.

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The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.
– Albert Camus
LeChienHarry's picture

@Pluto's Republic

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ggersh's picture

@leveymg

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trump will be amerika's last president

ameriKa's been crapified and yes that
has trickled down

The Liberal Moonbat's picture

Nifty. The lives of air travelers the world over now depend on the same system that Blizzard Entertainment uses to endlessly tweak its long-since-toxified MMOs...adds a whole new level of meaning to the phrase "online balance flamewars".

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In the Land of the Blind, the one-eyed man is declared insane when he speaks of colors.

and why the FUCK aren't they doing it that way now?

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Bisbonian's picture

@Battle of Blair Mountain . Multi engine planes, early on. Then came ETOPS (Extended Twin Engine Operations AKA Engines Turn Or People Swim), rules letting a twin engine airplane fly across vast bodies of water. 757 work well, and bigger stuff, 767s, 777s. The Baby Boeing isn't really the best choice, economically, because of the great fuel needed to be carried, some of it used by running the APU all the time...it's an economies of scale thing. But, when one particular airline, with a lot of clout, flies only one kind of airplane, and trains all of its pilots on that one kind of airplane, there is some economic incentive to give them an ETOPS capable 737. Actually, Aloha did it first, with 737-700s, but went out of business doing so.

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

Deja's picture

I was told on another essay that the Amazon cargo plane was a -375. That would make it from the 90s/00s, correct?

Do you know if those had the deadly sensor, maybe installed later? The plane was approaching HOU IAH for arrival. There's a poor quality video that shows it literally nose diving into extremely shallow water and muck.

The local news said it was speculated that the pilots were ignorant of how to use some type of software. Like they were trying to blame the pilots, and paint them as, well, stupid. That's how I took it, even though that's not what the word ignorant means.

Based on what you've taught me here, the pilots (all pilots across the planet, I guess), truly are ignorant of the software, what it does, how it works, and how to disable it -- because they were never told about it even being there, or trained on it -- not because they're all a bunch of bumbling idiots.

This is such shocking information. But thank you so much for dumbing it down for the rest of us. And sorry you're sick. Hope you get well soon!

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Bisbonian's picture

@Deja , specifically a 767-300. The last two digits of the variant number can indicate the customer the plane was originally built for, so 767-375, with the "75" referring to Pacific Western, a Canadian airline. Yes, it was about 27 years old. I am sure it had AOA sensors...they feed various information into the flight data computers, which is then displayed onto the instruments in a form easy for the pilots to use. Those AOA sensors are not connected to an MCAS, though, as the 767 is a naturally stable aircraft and doesn't have such a system (I think the MAX8 is the first to have it.) I haven't really paid much attention to this crash, as the 767 is actually more modern in design than the slowly evolved 737...I really don't know how it's systems work. I just wait for the final report.

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

Deja's picture

@Bisbonian
I thought it was the same, but older.

You are just a wealth of information! Thanks.

Knowing what you know now, would you fly the model in your essay, provided they weren't grounded? After "the fix"?

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Bisbonian's picture

@Deja , but will probably have to...or retire early (and without much preparation.)

I have flown a MAX only four times, as of now. Pretty cockpit displays. Ooooh, nice. On take off, I'll leave the flaps at 1 degree (inhibiting the MCAS), then engage the autopilot (inhibiting the MCAS), and then retract the flaps. If what we have been told is true, the MCAS will never get a chance to work.

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

Eagles92's picture

@Bisbonian Can the pilots' union help? As in, can you all refuse to fly the MAX8 (I guess every pilot would have to agree to this first).

I never paid much attention to what aircraft I'd be on when booking a flight, but I certainly will now. I don't want to go anywhere near one of those things, even after the "patch."

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Anja Geitz's picture

In airplane crashes before they fix this?

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Play me another broken record Joe. Maybe then I'll learn why we pay twice as much for healthcare as everybody else in the world. ~ Not Henry Kissinger

Anja Geitz's picture

@Anja Geitz

We are so lucky here at C99 to have such smart and capable people here willing to write about issues important to all of us!

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Play me another broken record Joe. Maybe then I'll learn why we pay twice as much for healthcare as everybody else in the world. ~ Not Henry Kissinger

Bisbonian's picture

@Anja Geitz , that we may get a patch-job fix to this problem. With that being the case, I predict there will be more killed. The indications are so distracting and confusing, that someone...some pilot...is not going to be able to overcome the cacaphony and nose down trim, and take another one into the ground. Not in the US...I think our pilots, armed with the information we now have, will immediately disable this system, and land the plane. So then we'll be able to (continue to) blame those inexperienced brown pilots.

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

Anja Geitz's picture

@Bisbonian

I was having a conversation the other day about food and what kind of a person you'd have to be to own a company that sells food to people and not have the safety of your product be the MOST pressing concern!?!

I just don't understand this casual indifference to the lives of human beings that are effected by the decisions these people make?

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Play me another broken record Joe. Maybe then I'll learn why we pay twice as much for healthcare as everybody else in the world. ~ Not Henry Kissinger

Deja's picture

@Anja Geitz
I was unofficially given the temp job of QC at a manufacturing plant once, while the titled QC for my shift was on medical leave.

That position was pretty much just making sure the units (automotive control modules, aka brains) looked presentable, as all the extensive testing had already been performed, and these units were being inspected prior to being packed, and shipped.

My hands were the last ones to touch those units before being touched by our customers. Even though it was only an aesthetic inspection, I took it very seriously because my name was on each one.

This whole debacle boggles the mind. It would be like my old employer skipping the testing process and simply making sure those modules, which contain components controlling anti lock braking, among other very important things, look aesthetically pleasing and shipping them off. It certainly would have been cheaper -- until people died, and then the lawsuit shit hitting the fan should close the doors on such a negligible company.

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Anja Geitz's picture

@Deja

We live in a mighty confusing world.

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Play me another broken record Joe. Maybe then I'll learn why we pay twice as much for healthcare as everybody else in the world. ~ Not Henry Kissinger

Lookout's picture

...it's all about the bottom line. What's a few more lives when there's money to be made?

Thanks for your clear explanation of the travesty.

I don't know much about planes. I spent the day looking for Amelia's plane in the Smithsonian Air and Space museum....

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9 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

I purposely have ignored everything about the MAX 8 issues to see if any useful information might appear in the MSM. Nope. Not surprised in the least. I figured someone with actual knowledge might speak up. I should have expected a fellow Stratobladder comrade and SLUF driver would be the first. Well explained IMHO.

I'm also awestruck by the complete mess Boeing made of the MCAS. The first hint was that MAX 8 drivers immediately began asking "WTF is MCAS?" I knew Boeing was in the deep end of the pool strapped to an anvil. The corporate deny, deny, deny train seems to have derailed killing many on board. (Too early?)

I've mentioned my big airplane experience in these pages before. KC-135, 727/100/200, 757-200, 747-100/200/200F/400, A320, DC-10/40/30, and A330-200/300. I think I've got a decent perspective on the long running Boeing vs. Airbus fanboy war. My time is almost split evenly between Boeing and Airbus. The DC-10 showed me what an airplane would be like if Rube Goldberg or some random shoe clerk had ever designed and built a widebody airliner. Great to fly, the DC-10, but what a kludged together mess system wise. This Boeing debacle reminds me of the DC-10 trials and tribulations.

I'm also extremely pleased to have flown the 320 and 330 as long as I did. They did a lot that was different and technologically groundbreaking. They also did almost everything right although human factor/interface needed some tuning. Over the years I came to understand why they did what they did and now mostly agree with their choices. Unfortunately, the corporate mentality of defend rather than listen and consider is every bit as bad as Boeing's. Boeing also seems to have a "not invented here" mentality.

I got a lot from your technical explanation for the layman. WOW! says it all. None of it makes sense on casual inspection. I agree that a 10 second trim input is probably a dangerous idea. I suspect the system uses a the autopilot trim system which is probably at a much slower rate. It still seems excessive and certainly so in a non-FBW (a terrible term meaning Fly By Wire) machine. I also have heard that Boeing removed the manual elevator trim wheel so that there is no secondary indication of MCAS activation. Can you confirm this?

Here's my two cents on relaxed stability. My first introduction to actively modifying the CG in airliners inflight was the 747-400. The horizontal stabilizer was a fuel tank too. It was partially filled before departure for most fuel load configurations. Filling the wing and body tanks resulted in a somewhat forward CG so the tail tank with it's long moment arm allowed a closer to ideal, 25%, CG for takeoff. An aft CG, within limits of course, is better for cruise. The further aft the CG is the less down force the horizontal stabilizer has to provide. Generating that down force increases drag and hurts fuel economy and range. The 9900#, if I remember correctly (it's been 23 years since I flew the -400), was said to increase range by about 500 NM (nautical miles). The fuel system was automatic so it managed the transfer to maintain a proper CG.

The A330 also had a managed fuel system and a 5500# tail tank. I seem to remember that it had a token amount of fuel in it on departure to validate the fuel system's proper functioning. The system always transferred fuel to fill the tank during climb and then back to the main fuel tanks nearing the destination. The 330's range benefit was similar to the -400.

The difference in the 330 was the departure CG was almost always further aft than I saw on any non-FBW aircraft. The normal CG range was, IIRC, 16-42% MAC (Mean Aerodynamic Chord). It drew range benefits from departure until landing from the aft CG. The abnormal procedure for a transfer of the tail tank required the gravity feed valve to be opened manually for early verification that the fuel already in the tail wasn't trapped. I had two aft transfer failures. Both were indicated early in the flight and the abnormal procedure worked as advertised. The book said there was a 1-2% range degradation with an empty tail tank. Both of mine had a higher fuel burn closer to 2% for a 9-10 hour Atlantic crossing. It's easy to see why airlines loved the relaxed stability systems. 2% on every flight saves humongous amounts of fuel and $$$$.

One advantage, among many, the Airbus FBW flight control system had over all previous generation jet airliners, Boeing included, was that the airplane flew exactly the same regardless of CG, phase of flight, or configuration up to the limits of the flight controls to provide the necessary forces. The 330 had gobs of control authority in all axes so it was never an issue. We also had a manual elevator trim wheel. It was used on every departure to input the required horizontal trim setting for takeoff. (The system also calculated the airplane's CG and it yelled at us if there was an error.) One other function was for degraded flight control law abnormals where the jet didn't automatically control trim. It was also the emergency pitch control in the event all of the flight control computers failed. The intent was to enable pilots to keep the "blue side up" until at least one computer could be restored. I've been told by a couple of different Airbus tech reps that test crews had made successful landings in the jet with all of the computers disabled. I tried a couple in the simulator and was successful but it always took a couple attempts. By successful I mean we survived but it was ugly.

Airbus isn't guilt free when it comes to not telling pilots everything about their systems. I was in the initial line pilot cadre for the A330 at my airline. We flew the airplane for almost two years before one of our instructors discovered that the rudder had a manual backup mode that activated automatically with no indication when all of the computers became inoperative. We had been expecting to have to control roll with differential thrust but happily discovered that we could use the rudder. Landing with the computers turned off became much easier.

I'll plug myself before I end. I'm somewhat active on Quora in the flight section. The ignorant bickering of the Airbus/Boeing fanboys is rather irritating so I usually hop in when I can offer something useful. I loved every airplane that I flew from both manufacturers as well as McDonnel Douglas' DC-10. They were different and some were more enjoyable to fly than others. Some had terrible development problems, *** cough *** DC-10 *** cough ***, but the problems were ironed out, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. There was blood spilled in every major problem. That's a human failing. The FAA not rigorously enforcing their oversight responsibilities only increases the magnitude of the failures. It looks like another case of industry capture of a regulatory agency. The MAX 8 will get sorted out just like all the rest but Boeing is (re)learning about the hazards of standing in front of the ventileur when merde is in the air.

Here's my answer to a hot topic question on Quora about the Air France AF447 A330's high dive into the central Atlantic. https://www.quora.com/Why-do-airlines-still-fly-Airbus-A330-after-Air-Fr...

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Bisbonian's picture

@vtcc73 , I got to host a local showing of our favorite movie, here in Bisbee, a few weeks ago. It was a big hit.

We would play with the fuel in the -135, too. 16-37% MAC, manually controlled. The nav liked 16 for cell shots, 25 was nice for landing, and 37 was great for fuel economy. But we could feel the difference...I really liked that about the Boeing. They've really gone backwards, here more recently. Not telling us about a feature in the airplane...they've lost me. Four more years and a few months to go...then it's me in my little Hatz, and no more Boeings.

I'm really glad the boxes are in France. I think we will get more accurate information.

MAX still has trim wheels, thankfully. No one I've flown with recently has a clue as to how to use them...I think we will start lessons, next week. I've got my own modified takeoff/climb profile, too, to keep MCAS from waking up (if what they have told us is true), stay at flaps 1 until the Autopilot is engaged, then retract. It may become standard, who knows?

One of the locals here, who had questions for me, runs the dog shelter. I explained to her that MAX was a pit bull with a really nice disposition, really a nice gentle guy...the only problem with him at all is when he happens to see a Pomeranian. He will pull and pull to go chase it, alternating with chewing on your arm. First, he will bite around your wrist, for ten seconds, then wait five seconds, while barking and howling, then move farther up your arm for ten seconds...until finally he is biting at your throat. But controlling him is really simple...all you have to do is ignore all the commotion, and pat him gently on the head, and then everything will be fine. Still want to take him for a walk?

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17 users have voted.

"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

@Bisbonian @Bisbonian @Bisbonian @Bisbonian @Bisbonian except it doesn't work with my Pits. Ambos son muy tranquilos. Can't tell that to the Cuencanos we meet on the streets though. Most crossed the street on sight for the two months we lived in town. Living up on the side of this mountain there are dogs and chickens everywhere. My boys just hang out and watch the circus. The neighbors love them when they get to know them. All bets are off when the stray tarantula or big scary beetle wanders through the yard minding its own business. What the neighbors may also not know is that either and both dogs become very serious and can be ferocious if someone decides to mess with one of us. Wearing a pitbull is never a pleasant experience.

The culture change that occurred with the introduction of the Airbus fleets was both shocking and a damn good thing. No more memorizing long lists of limitations for one. (The 747 Classic - 100/200/200F - had eight possible engine variations. An intermix of three of one and one of another was far more common than anyone liked.) All of the instruments had their limits built into the monitoring system and were digital with color coded by limitation status. Everything else like gross weights was placarded. Most limits were boiled down to "You don't kneed to know more than "at some value this happens". The motive behind this was that it was impossible to know the airplanes the way we had previously been taught to know airplanes in the military or the airlines. The old saying that we don't have to know how to build it but just fly it suddenly came true.

For example in initial A320 training the flight control laws were dissected in detail and the conditions that caused degradations had to be memorized when we first got the A320. That nonsense lasted about a year. Change came in the form of a threat by the FAA to decertify our A320 fleet training program due to an excessive number of evaluation failures. It was a much saner way to operate. The flip side was that the annunciations on the PFD (Primary Flight Display) were critical to understanding the precise mode or submode the system was working in at that time. Some of it didn't make much sense past rote memory until a newbie had spent a bunch of crossings watching it work. By the end of your first year on the jet most pilots deeply appreciated the actual simplicity in what at first seemed horribly complex. The bottom line is that the airplane always told me what it was doing if I actually looked and listened. Kind of like my wife. Well, except maybe the always part.

Your plan to bypass the system seems sound from everything you've said. It's a shame you have to go to that length. I also can't help wonder about what other traps are buried in MCAS that haven't bit anyone. Yet. Pilots seem to find previously unknown traps and flaws in a system with unerring accuracy. It lloks to me to be a poorly designed system from the little I know. I can't imagine there's not more to be revealed. Surprise! That you think that you need instruction in the use of a manual trim wheel also isn't the slightest bit reassuring.

Good luck, we're all counting on you. Fly safe mate.

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11 users have voted.
Bisbonian's picture

@vtcc73 , certainly don't need any manual trim wheel instruction. I found it the best way to coax the bulbous nose of a C-5 up under my tail without any undue fuss. I took a KC-135 to Desert Shield/Storm without an autopilot in the rack, and brought it home five months later. I lost half my hydraulic fluid after calling "landing gear up", on the return trip...merely turned off the hydraulics to save enough to get it back down the simple way, and pressed on. Manual flight controls...I loved them. In more normal circumstances, I wore through three flight suits by letting my right leg rest gently on the trim wheel, so I always knew what it was doing.

But many of my F/Os have only seen them idly spin one way or the other. We'll have lessons on fine manual control, and the dangers of not stowing that big knob when electric trim is back in play.

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9 users have voted.

"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

@Bisbonian that brings back memories. I left the Stratobladder in February 1979 for the equally no tech Tweet. Both were an education any young buck could use for a lifetime.

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Bisbonian's picture

@vtcc73 , too short a time to play, just four months in Pilot Training, but lots of good memories in that time. Much more time in the -38, since we had it for ACE...equally fun and simple, but in another dimension. Both were very very good trainers, in their own realm.

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6 users have voted.

"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

@Bisbonian was not all that much fun as a student. I had a rough time figuring out exactly what I needed to do to succeed in UPT. I had it mostly sorted out by my final contact check in the Tweet and I really shined in the T-38.

Getting the tanker was a huge shock and disappointment that I eventually came to terms with. That didn't stop me from doing everything I knew how to do to go elsewhere. Don't get me wrong. I was on a young but damned fine crew. We did everything that our wing was tasked to do. We were always the first to launch on ORIs, always picked to fly with the SAC evaluators in the annual inspection, and did every kind of higher headquarters operational mission. I was a copilot so It wasn't me who counted. I was just fortunate to be with the best aircraft commander, navigator, and boomer at Plattsburgh. I upgraded with exactly the minimum of 1000 hours total time.

I didn't have 750 hours in the tanker when I got to Castle but the squadron commander was right. They didn't send me home and lose a training slot. I had been the first to check out in the T-37 ACE program, again at the squadron commander's strong suggestion. The 100 hours I flew there was enough to qualify me for that upgrade slot. The squadron wasn't all pleased that I bolted for training command after 10 months as an aircraft commander to be a T-37 IP I had even volunteered to fly the T-33 as a target for the F-106s in Iceland. ATC grabbed me first.

I led a charmed existence at Reese AFB in Lubbock, TX, too. I was a flight commander for a year before going to PIT, the instructor school, in San Antonio. Only SAC's demand that I return to the tanker caused me to leave the Air Force. Thank you SAC. I'd done everything possible in the Tweet community as a captain at the wing level. I loved it all and would have gladly stayed in the flight training community. I still find it amazing the USAF was bull headed enough to allow an experienced IP with nearly 3000 hours in the T-37 to leave. I was the 1 in 3-5 pilots who didn't separate rather than doing what most pilots thought of as thankless grunt work. It was. Again, I'm over the moon that they forced me to choose to leave. There's your tax dollars at work.

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Bisbonian's picture

@vtcc73 , and was "way behind the curve" in the T-38, during pilot training. Almost didn't make it through the Contact phase, and then it all came together. Formation was fantastic. Walking across that stage and seeing that big silver sow flashed on the screen behind me broke my heart.

I got to Castle, though, and my mind changed pretty quickly. I loved the Boeing. All the back-ups, and back-ups to back-ups. Good solid flying machine. I went to Grand Forks and settled in. Got a Husky dog. Did all that crazy SAC stuff. Wound up being a STAN-EVAL copilot, which mostly meant I had a desk, and was easily find-able to fill a seat in a T-38 for a lunch run down to Salina, KS, for barbeque. I still see the ACE Det guy I flew with then. Alert guaranteed a long weekend in San Diego afterward, three hops in the '38. By that point, I couldn't believe how easy it was to fly.

Upgrade was good, in house instructor was good, and I had a top notch crew for three years. Took them west, took them north, and took them to the Middle East. Three round trips there, and my commitment was up, and they wanted me to take the bonus, or be grounded. I had a follow on to Castle, but that wasn't good enough. No bonus, I said, and they said you're grounded...and I said, OK, send someone to get the jet. "Where are you?" Riyadh. "Oh, you can fly it home, and then you're grounded." May the 8th, 1992. Never touched an AF jet again. Permanent SOF, Sim instructor, Practiced 737 profiles in the sim, flying only on the inboards.

Drove a park train in Arizona for a while, got my 737 job, 26 years ago now. Pretty happy with it, for the most part. They moved the retirement age, but I didn't. Everything is paid for...four more years and three more months will be thirty from my hire date, and secure my profit sharing for the year. Then Bye Bye. Apple trees to tend Wink

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8 users have voted.

"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

@Bisbonian Getting rolled into Delta was the merger too far. The culture there sucks. They want yes men and I knocked heads with a lot of the RDs over their insistence we fly the 330 like a 767. The 767 may be a decent workhorse but it lacks in every comparison to the 330 except airspeed in the climb. I took three years of their BS and chose to take the middle of the three early outs they offered. The six months of severance was exactly what I needed to pay off the house and to be sure I owed nobody else a cent. I wasn't getting any credit for retirement. I would get exactly what I was vested in in 2006. I was paying DAL to fly. I wasn't done flying but I was going to seriously go off the next time some smug, ignorant RD asshole tried to explain superiority of the Delta way. "Early" retirement, at 60 + 10 months YO, was 10 months more than I had initially signed up for but the NWA bankruptcy had raided my retirement for about 17%, but who's counting, and it was just plain time to press onto the next checkpoint in life. I got off the jet in ATL having flown all night from Lagos, Nigeria, walked away without saying a word to anyone except my crew who I thanked as always for a nice trip, and have never looked back. I had even given the landing to my first officer, a friend and Cancun expat. It was his turn and he needed the proficiency, I didn't.

I spent the first 18 months fixing up the house and yard. By then the heat, humidity, mosquitoes, and hives every time I stepped outdoors told me this wasn't what I wanted from retirement. It took us four more years to start looking further afield than the US. We couldn't see any place in the US that wasn't a slightly different flavor of the same shit sandwich. Then my wife came across Ecuador. Two months later we were in the Andes for 15 days or so. Eleven months afterwards the two of us, our adult son, two Pit mixes, four cats, and a 40' x 8' x 9' container full of stuff (Carin would have correctly called it shit) we didn't really need to ship 2600 miles found us living in Cuenca. We were at home the day we set foot back in this city.

Not being smart enough to relax we got started building the house we always wanted. It was a totally unplanned decision. It was, is, too big but this is the life we always wanted and never knew it. The 38 years of flying was my dream and now, because we boldly kept reaching for the brass ring, I'm living an extended dream. Some version of that story is what you have to look forward to in a few years.

You undoubtedly have another view of paradise but you're quickly going to discover that the airline grind was only a vehicle for making it available. I don't regret any of it and I accept that it is behind me. Life after retirement from the circus is anything you choose to make it.

The only thing that would sweeten the pot would be a Tweet at the airport fueled up and ready for a hop. There's a dream I could get into.

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Bisbonian's picture

@vtcc73 , that would be like heaven.

I'm in southeastern AZ, mostly because my partner wants to be here, near Bisbee. Given the choice, I would be somewhere else...but I would invariably pick the wrong place. We've got seven acres, a creek I can't cross at the moment to go check my mail, an adobe house, metal roof, and hopefully enough clear zone around it for the inevitable forest fire. A stonemason friend of mine periodically asks me if I have any work for him, and I never turn him down. his work is good; I'll think of something. He takes the money and runs to Chile for a while. One of these times, he won't be back. I'm building banjos and kayaks and water catchment tanks and an apple orchard, and wondering why I keep going back to work. But I have a goal now, and that makes it feel better.

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7 users have voted.

"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

@Bisbonian and a plan is the key. We start dying when we stop pushing forward or stop learning. The last four years in TN were killing me. When I got moving again, hard, I lost forty pounds and I feel better in this place and climate than I have in 30 years. I’m at 9100’ MSL and hoof up the mountain with hardly a thought. Three years ago it hurt to go to the mailbox. I won’t forget the key ideas again.

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5 users have voted.
Bisbonian's picture

@vtcc73

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3 users have voted.

"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

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2 users have voted.

And you say you're too sick to go into detail?

I heard a representative of the (a?) American pilots' union on NPR on Wednesday. He seem to be saying the union was now happy with Boeing, even though the pilots were really steamed after the first plane went down. That seemed a little odd to me. Did you hear that? And what do you think?

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12 users have voted.

Emmet

Bisbonian's picture

@Emmet . I am pissed. Yeah, we can fly this thing. No, we shouldn't have to.

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17 users have voted.

"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

Wasn't there any people who could see the whole design of the jet? Where was the Quality control and testing?

I was reading an interview with one of the people who helped conceive the A-10 Warhog and I think also the F-16 bashing the F-35. I don't know if he was technically correct, but he seem to understand how all the parts moved and fit together.

Is the problem here that Boeing so decentralized production that there was nobody who could see the proverbial big picture?

When I was at a very big chip maker they decided to break into office and business automation with their own version of a desktop computer. System had a failure rate of 50% on arrival. Dang, every part worked. But for some reason, when the system was put together, nobody bothered to test the complete system.

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Bisbonian's picture

@MrWebster , have actually test flown this MCAS system with a faulty AOA sensor. Four in Jakarta, and two in Ethiopia.

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19 users have voted.

"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

Thanks for this essay, Juan is a 767 pilot who makes youtube videos, he uploaded a couple on the Max crash:
Ethiopian Airlines Flt 302 737-8 Max Crash 10 March 2019

Boeing 737-8-9 Max Aircraft GROUNDED
Mar 13, 2019

A couple vids on the Amazon cargo crash:
Amazon Prime Giant Air 3591 B767-300 Crash UPDATE
Feb 24, 2019
https://youtu.be/Qwki7Qutoas

Amazon Prime 767-300 Crash UPDATE
Mar 12, 2019
https://youtu.be/nJo2jGz34uM

Haven't read much else until today, the tube comments are all over the place, skipped. I'm angry again at greedy employers who cut training expenses, never thought airlines could get away with that but Boeing is military in a bigly way so... yeah I don't know. maga

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10 users have voted.
Bisbonian's picture

@eyo .

Never seen his stuff, I'll give it a watch.

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8 users have voted.

"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

@Bisbonian thanks, he posted another follow-up on the evidence found so far. Just like this essay is saying (in my mind), the fucking plane crashed itself, for a lot of different reasons. Trump had no choice, can't appear too monstrous now.

Ethiopian 737-8 Max UPDATE 15 March 2019
https://youtu.be/AgkmJ1U2M_Q

The stabilizer jack screw was located in the wreckage in the full 'nose down' position. What we know so far, and why this led to the grounding of the fleet.

Edit: P.S. Juan flies the 777 Boeing, not 767 like I said in the other comment. big

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5 users have voted.
Bisbonian's picture

@eyo , no real surprise there.

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5 users have voted.

"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

travelerxxx's picture

As I've been in aircraft maintenance for 40 years (retired two weeks ago! Yea me!), I am wondering how the maintenance crews maintained and inspected these aircraft without knowledge of this system. It's unimaginable to me that such a critical system would not have set inspection schedules, troubleshooting information, flight control and/or AP rigging checks, checks of the single (!!!) AOA sensor, etc. Perhaps maintenance did know about the system? It wouldn't be the first time maintenance and operations weren't on the same page. I know I've had to have pilots explain to me that a certain function wasn't as I had learned, and conversely I've had to say to pilots, "No, if you do that you're going to crash."

Bisbonian, have you read or heard anything to the effect that the maintenance manuals did not address this "feature" of MCAS? I find it very hard to believe that maintenance did not know of this MCAS system. And, again, maybe they did. Whether the mechanics knew and those with their butts in the front seats did not, or neither knew, it's a massive failure on the part of the aircraft manufacturer. Further, I'm not sure I'm ready to give the Administrator a pass just yet either, but information may well have been withheld from them. And if information was withheld from the Administrator, then the American aviation system has failed.

Whatever the case, heads need to roll. A decade or so behind bars is not unreasonable, maybe more considering the loss of life.

The whole situation is shocking to me. I feel there's absolutely no excuse for having the flight crews unaware of such a radical potential change in the flight regime. Unbelievable.

Thanks for your report, Bisbonian. Damn good job.

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10 users have voted.
Bisbonian's picture

@travelerxxx . It's not really a system...more of a software patch.

There is a system on the plane, STS, or "speed trim system". It's another Kluge added to the airplane after the first engine upgrade (and tail resizing, etc.), the 737-300. In order to keep control column feel forces within certifiable limits, the STS trims BACK (nose up) in short bursts, on climbout. It goes for a second at the most, and we just trim forward again and keep climbing. It's a useless bit to make the plane fit certification standards. There is a light, and a procedure in the checklist if it gets out of hand...turn off the stab trim switches.

This MCAS is merely a software patch to the STS. A Kluge to the Kluge. It takes input from ONE of the Two AOA sensors on the plane (alternating left to right each takeoff, as do the flight management computers, Air Data computers, etc.) It looks at AOA only and says, AOA too high? Send in ten seconds of nose down trim. Pause 5 seconds. Too high? Ten more seconds of nose down trim. It compares against nothing. It has no limit (besides end of jackscrew travel). It would not be difficult at all to bring the other AOA sensor into the loop, and certainly not a stretch to add a third and give something for the computers to compare against. Better yet, add in airspeed, rate of increase in airspeed, VVI, any number of inputs that are all readily available. And put some sensible limits on the damned thing.

The biggest gotcha of the whole MCAS idea is that it works pretty much like the STS, which we have all been pretty much complacently ignoring for decades now. Ah, the dumb trim wheel is moving again...give it a squirt of trim the other way.... Except, it goes in the opposite direction, it runs for much longer, and it kills people. Boeing has been so "surprised" that people didn't just turn it off, as per the STS malfunction checklist, but we have been habituated to tolerating the STS.

I know nothing about the MX manual, but I know who to call...thanks for mentioning it!

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7 users have voted.

"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

travelerxxx's picture

@Bisbonian

The whole situation sounds a bit like aviation's own version of incrementalism. What started out as a minor tweak - a second or so more time given to an actuator or trim motor - turned into a hidden system, with documentation possibly known only to design engineers. In fact, the airframe's development timeline smacks of this. I've seen other aircraft changed radically, yet based legally on a very old Type Certificate.

Sometimes, these types of design changes are well beyond the understanding of the word modification. There are aircraft manufacturers who have openly skirted modern design regulations by using an old Type Certificate. Here I'm thinking of Bell Helicopter avoiding the regulation of no longer allowing fuel storage beneath passenger seats by "modifying" the Bell 206 series - which became the extremely different 407. At first look (the profile, etc.), it looked very similar, but many of the systems were radically different. In my opinion, Bell's 407 should have required a new Type Certificate, but the attorneys working for parent company Textron managed to persuade the FAA that it was just a minor change. It wasn't.

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Bisbonian's picture

@travelerxxx , I agree completely. We are up to 347 wrongful death charges, at this point.

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"I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” —Malcolm X

Centaurea's picture

In other threads, we've discussed Washington state governor Jay Inslee running for president. He looks good superficially based on his reputation as an environmentalist. The truth is, he is a corporatist neoliberal of the most mediocre kind.

As governor of Washington, he has gotten down on his knees and kissed Boeing's butt. He's given them billions of dollars in tax breaks, let them degrade employee pensions, and bent over backwards to make things easy for Boeing. (Boeing still took its headquarters elsewhere.)

Trump grounded the MAX8. I have no confidence that as POTUS, Inslee would do likewise. He wants to keep the technology and aerospace industries happy, because of $$$.

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12 users have voted.

"Don't go back to sleep ... Don't go back to sleep ... Don't go back to sleep."
~Rumi

"If you want revolution, be it."
~Caitlin Johnstone