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   Technology StocksBoeing keeps setting new highs! When will it split?


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From: JakeStraw5/21/2019 8:06:09 AM
   of 3475
 
China Eastern asks Boeing for compensation over 737 MAX grounding
reuters.com
“The grounding of 737 MAX aircraft since March 11, 2019 has caused relatively big losses to China Eastern. With the passing of time, related losses will further expand,” the paper cited the company as saying.

“At the same time, delayed deliveries of planes ordered by China Eastern also caused economic losses.”

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From: JakeStraw6/7/2019 8:15:47 AM
   of 3475
 
Once Boeing does this, its stock will 'become a cash cow again'
cnbc.com
There’s one major thing that could make Boeing shares bounce, according to wealth manager Mark Tepper.

“Once they get the Max back in the air, they suddenly become a cash cow again,” Tepper, president and CEO of Strategic Wealth Partners, said Wednesday on CNBC’s “Trading Nation.”

“I think it’s important to understand that their cash flow burn right now is just a timing event,” he said. “They are still going to realize that cash flow, it’s just pushed out a few quarters.”

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From: Eric6/17/2019 4:27:30 PM
   of 3475
 
Boeing & Aerospace

First flight of Boeing’s new 777X delayed at least until the fall

June 17, 2019 at 6:24 am Updated June 17, 2019 at 12:19 pm


GE Aviation chief executive David Joyce speaks in front of a GE9X engine at the Paris Air Show on Monday. (Dominic Gates / The Seattle Times)



By
Dominic Gates
Seattle Times aerospace reporter

PARIS, France — Boeing’s big new 777X jet, which first rolled out of the Everett assembly plant in early March, cannot fly until at least the fall because of a problem with the new GE9X engine.

The long delay is a blow to Boeing, already struggling to cope with the crisis in its single-aisle 737 MAX jet program. It threatens to postpone the plane’s entry into service, planned for the middle of next year, and will hit both Boeing’s airline customers and suppliers.

In a revelation that stunned journalists at the Paris Air Show, Bill Fitzgerald, the head of commercial jet engines at GE Aviation, said his engineers already have a fix. But extensive testing is required for certification of the engines before retrofitting the fix to the 18 engines already completed, 10 for flight tests and eight for production models.

Boeing won’t fly the 777X until the engine is certified, said GE Aviation chief executive David Joyce.

Fitzgerald said GE will “be in a position to complete the testing by the end of the year and have the plane fly by the end of the year.”

“We’re pretty confident we’ll get through the testing this year,” Fitzgerald said, then added what seemed to be his current thinking on the earliest it can be ready: “It’ll be later in the fall.”

Only after that can Boeing decide when it is going to fly the plane, he said.

That delay is far longer than anyone was anticipating, including the leadership of Gulf carrier Emirates, the first customer of the 777X.

In an interview with the Seattle Times on Saturday, Emirates president Tim Clark said that he’d initially heard first flight had been pushed out to June 29, but that had slipped. He said then he hoped it would fly before he gets to Seattle to review the program in mid-July.

If it hasn’t, Clark said, that will begin to squeeze his timeline, which depends on taking delivery of the first 777X next June.

That now looks unlikely. It typically takes a year or more to go from first flight, through the certification of the airplane by the Federal Aviation Adminstration (FAA), to entry into service — assuming there are no unexpected hitches. On the 737 MAX program, for example, the plane entered commercial service 16 months after first flight.

Both GE and Boeing tried to play down the impact.

Ted Ingling, the general manager of the GE9X program, said Boeing has “always had a plan to get the 777X off the ground by the end of this year.”

“We’ll meet that plan,” he said.

Likewise, in a press conference Monday in Paris, Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Kevin McAllister framed the delay as “an opportunity to advance the maturity of the airplane before first flight.”

“We still expect to have the airplane in flight test this year and enter into service next year,” he said.

But at the 2017 Dubai Air Show, Boeing specifically declared a delivery date for Emirates of mid-2020, not just “next year.


The Boeing 777X has the biggest jet engines ever made. A GE9X is seen here inside the Everett assembly plant. A problem with the engine will delay first flight of the new plane, Boeing has just revealed. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

What’s up with the engine?

The GE9X engine, the largest jet engine ever built, is an awesome piece of intricate machinery and advanced technology. It’s 134 inches in diameter, and the Boeing engine pods that encase it on the 777X are 184 inches at the widest point.

GE said that during testing the engine at one point generated a world record 134,000 pounds of thrust, well above the specified thrust requirement.

Joyce said the problem was discovered in the final phase of certification testing, when a gas turbine jet engine is run for a long period under extreme, beyond-normal conditions and its performance is carefully monitored.

During that testing, about three weeks ago, he said, a sudden change in exhaust gas temperature signaled a problem. When the engine was taken apart, engineers could see the cause: excessive wear on a set of titanium parts inside the engine’s compressor section, where the air sucked in from the fan is squeezed to high pressure before combustion.

The parts are called stators, small stationary vanes on the perimeter of the engine core that together with the engine’s spinning turbine blades direct and compress the incoming air flow from the big fan at the front. An array of stators lines the inside of the compressor.

Joyce said the excessive wear indicated the parts were not durable enough, “which means the engine won’t be as durable, which means the airlines will have to pull the engine prematurely and put it in the shop” for maintenance.

Most Read Business Stories

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Muilenburg says Boeing brings ‘a tone of humility and learning’ over 737 MAX to Paris Air Show

To fix this, GE has already designed a more robust replacement stator, he said. But now it must manufacture the new parts, put them through lab tests, and then install the upgraded parts on an engine and repeat the same extreme testing that found the problem so as to demonstrate that it’s fixed and meets design requirements.

For certification purposes, all this must be accomplished with meticulous documentation of every step to satisfy FAA regulations.

Japanese suppliers surprised and concerned

Boeing’s suppliers will also be impacted by a 777X delay, particularly in Japan, where the 777 fuselage panels are made. In an interview at the Air Show, a senior Japanese industry executive, who requested anonymity to protect his relationship with Boeing, expressed great surprise at the news of the delay and said “it might cause us some problems in our factories.”

The 777 had been for many years a cash cow for the Japanese industrial giants Kawasaki, Mitsubishi and Subaru. However, Boeing cut production from seven jets per month in 2016 to just 3.5 per month during the transition to the 777X.

The executive said Boeing’s Japanese suppliers “need a ramp-up of 777X as early as possible” to begin to restore that revenue — which makes the looming threat of a delayed entry into service very bad news that Boeing hasn’t communicated to its supply chain.

The bad 777X news in Paris follows earlier indications this month of a drop in demand for the airplane.

Greg Smith, Boeing’s chief financial officer and executive vice president for Enterprise Performance & Strategy, told a recent conference in New York that because of sparse orders for the smaller 777-8X version, Boeing is “looking at the timing and demand for the -8 to see if that still makes sense, and do we want to push that out?”

That statement may have been prompted by the fact that Emirates is renegotiating the terms of its 150 airplane order, possibly cutting some of the airplanes in favor of buying 787 Dreamliners, but certainly deferring some until later.

seattletimes.com

GATES HONORED

At the Aerospace Media Awards held in conjunction with the Paris Air Show, Seattle Times reporter Dominic Gates was honored Sunday for writing the year"s "Best In-depth Aviation Feature." His March 17 story, "Flawed analysis, failed oversight: How Boeing, FAA certified the suspect 737 MAX flight control system," gave the first detailed look into the approval process for the MCAS system implicated in the two fatal crashes of the Boeing jet.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com; on Twitter: @dominicgates.

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From: JakeStraw6/18/2019 8:18:43 AM
   of 3475
 
Boeing inks deal to provide parts for rival Airbus planes
cnbc.com
The company calls the deal “the first of its kind” for Boeing.

Under the agreement, Boeing will own and manage parts for British Airways, which operates both Boeing and Airbus planes, it said.

“We are proud to have the opportunity to serve British Airways’ needs regardless of platform,” Boeing’s senior vice president of commercial sales and marketing, Ihssane Mounir, said in a release.

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From: JakeStraw6/18/2019 8:20:40 AM
   of 3475
 
Boeing to buy aerospace interiors company EnCore Group
reuters.com
California-based EnCore designs, certifies and produces airplane galleys and seats for airlines, and also supplies components to Boeing.

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From: Eric6/18/2019 11:57:54 AM
   of 3475
 
  • Boeing & Aerospace
  • Business

  • British Airways parent company delivers a massive vote of confidence in the Boeing 737 MAX

    June 18, 2019 at 8:05 am Updated June 18, 2019 at 8:47 am


    Visitors walk on the tarmac at Paris Air Show, in Le Bourget, east of Paris, France, Tuesday, June 18, 2019. The world’s aviation elite are gathering at the Paris Air Show with safety concerns on many minds after two crashes of the popular Boeing 737 MAX. (AP Photo/Michel Euler) MEU101 MEU101 (Michel Euler / The Associated Press)



    By
    Dominic Gates
    Seattle Times aerospace reporter


    PARIS, France – International Airlines Group (IAG), the parent company of British Airways and a group of smaller European airlines, gave Boeing a tremendous boost at the Paris Air Show Tuesday, announcing plans to buy 200 Boeing 737 MAX planes and build its future single-aisle fleet with the currently grounded jet.

    “We have every confidence in Boeing and expect that the aircraft will make a successful return to service in the coming months having received approval from the regulators,” said Willie Walsh, IAG chief executive.

    The order is stunning in its impact. Walsh has opted to give the aircraft a vote of confidence at a moment following two deadly crashes when it not only cannot fly, but is still subject to safety investigations and reviews that have shaken public confidence in Boeing.

    In addition, the MAX order marks an IAG defection from Airbus.

    IAG has been a longtime operator of the bigger Boeing twin-aisle airplanes such as the 747 and 777. But its current single-aisle jet fleet — flying for British Airways, Aer Lingus of Ireland; Iberia and Vueling of Spain, and low-cost transatlantic startup LEVEL — is almost exclusively Airbus A320 family aircraft.

    IAG said it it anticipates deploying the aircraft at a number of the group’s airlines including Vueling and LEVEL.

    To spur competitive pricing, Walsh wants to diversify his future fleet which will now include both the 737 MAX and the A320neo.

    The deal is not a finalized order but a letter of intent to buy a mix of 737 MAX 8s and MAX 10s, the biggest variant, the first of which still hasn’t flown.

    Boeing said the deal is worth just over $24 billion at list prices. The real value of the planes after standard discounts in the industry, according to data from aircraft valuation firm Avitas, is about $11 billion.

    However, such a large order agreed when the MAX badly needs support must have earned Walsh a discount much larger than standard.

    Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Kevin McAllister said his team is “truly honored and humbled by the leadership at International Airlines Group for placing their trust and confidence in the 737 MAX and, ultimately, in the people of Boeing and our deep commitment to quality and safety above all else.”

    It’s difficult to imagine any better news for Boeing coming out of this year’s Paris Air Show at this pivotal point when the strain of the MAX crashes weighs so heavily on the company.

    seattletimes.com

    Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com; on Twitter: @dominicgates.

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    From: Eric6/18/2019 12:12:04 PM
       of 3475
     
  • Boeing & Aerospace
  • Business
  • World

  • Boeing ends Paris Air Show drought with 787 order

    June 17, 2019 at 11:20 pm Updated June 18, 2019 at 6:45 am




    Akbar Al Baker boards an Airbus A350-1000 passenger aircraft at the Paris Air Show at on June 17. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg (Bloomberg)

    By
    Julie Johnsson
    and
    Benjamin Katz
    Bloomberg


    PARIS, France — Airbus was working to pad its lead Tuesday after a resounding first day of the Paris Air Show, when it shut out Boeing in aircraft orders by a score of $13 billion to nothing.

    Boeing got in on the action with an order for 20 787s from Korean Air Lines, and Airbus promptly fired back with a deal from Saudi Arabia.

    Here are the latest developments:

    Boeing breaks drought

    Boeing won a 30-plane 787 order from Korean Air Lines. The carrier agreed to buy 10 new 787-10s and 10 additional 787-9s valued at $6.3 billion at current list prices. Korean Air will also lease 10 787-10s from Air Lease Corp. The talks were earlier reported by Bloomberg.

    Saudi boosts order

    Saudi Arabian Airlines increased its commitment for A320neo jets from Airbus to as many as 100 aircraft, from up to 35 previously. The deal, including 15 of the newly launched long-distance A321XLR, would total about $7.5 billion at list prices.

    Next up will be a decision over larger planes: “In addition to the narrow-body order, evaluations are currently under way for wide-body requirements, expected to be concluded within the next few months,” said Saleh Al-Jasser, the airline’s director general, in a statement.

    Boeing, Air Lease strike deal

    Air Lease Corp. reached a deal with Boeing to purchase five 787-9 Dreamliners, valued at $1.5 billion at list prices.

    Electric plane

    Israel’s Eviation Aircraft made a splash at the show with the unveiling of the all-electric Alice — billed as the world’s first full-sized zero-emission aircraft. The Alice will have its first flight later this year, followed by manufacturing in the U.S. and service entry in 2022. The nine-seat commuter plane has a range of 650 nautical miles and is designed for routes such as Paris to Toulouse and San Jose to San Diego, aiming to reduce costs by as much as 70%. U.S. carrier Cape Air was revealed as the first customer, with a planned fleet of 92 planes.

    Norwegian XLRs

    Norwegian Air Shuttle is in talks with Airbus to buy the latest A321XLR jetliner as it seeks the extra range to serve smaller cities in the U.S. Midwest. The new narrow-body was formally launched at the start of this week’s Paris Air Show.

    The discount carrier originally ordered 30 A321LRs, and the total may be reduced with the switch, Bjorn Kjos, its chief executive officer, told Bloomberg Television at the expo.

    Philippines order

    The country’s largest carrier, Cebu Air, confirmed it has ordered 31 aircraft from Airbus including 10 long-range jets. The deal for 16 A330neo wide-bodies — beating out Boeing — and 15 A320neo-family aircraft includes 10 of the European planemaker’s new A321XLR model. The jets, scheduled for delivery from 2021 to 2026, would be worth $6.8 billion based on the list price.

    Prospects for MAX takeoff

    France’s Safran, which supplies engines for the Boeing 737 Max through its CFM International venture with General Electric, said it expects to see the grounded jet flying again this summer. But CEO Philippe Petitcolin warned that a delay beyond August would force a further slowdown in production beyond the cut of 10 planes a month — to 42 — that’s already been forced on the company.

    “There’d be another reduction, I don’t think we’d have any other choice,” he said.

    American Air Mulls Up to 50 XLR Jets

    American Airlines Group is considering an order for as many as 50 of Airbus SE’s new long-range A321XLR jets, a person familiar with the discussions said.

    The world’s largest carrier sees the plane, which would have the longest range of Airbus’s single-aisle offerings, as a potential replacement for its aging fleet of 34 Boeing Co. 757-200 jets, Bloomberg reported earlier this month. There’s no guarantee a deal will be reached.

    Mitsubishi edges toward Bombardier

    A takeover by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. of Bombardier’s CRJ regional jet program has merit, according to an executive at the Japanese company’s aviation unit.

    “It would make a lot of sense in the context of developing and delivering global aircraft,” Steve Haro, a vice president at Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. The comment raised the possibility that a deal could be reached soon.

    Qatar Air nears new investment

    Qatar Airways will announce a stake in a sixth overseas carrier in the coming months, Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said, as the Persian Gulf operator turns to outside investments to boost revenue and cash amid a Saudi-led embargo restricting its flights.

    “We are buying stakes in successful airlines and we will continue to do so,” he said, without naming a target company. “Soon you will hear about another investment.”

    –With assistance from Guy Johnson, Christopher Jasper, Cecilia Yap, Kyunghee Park, Layan Odeh and Sohee Kim.

    seattletimes.com

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    From: Eric6/26/2019 12:25:02 PM
       of 3475
     
  • Boeing & Aerospace
  • Business
  • Times Watchdog

  • The inside story of MCAS: How Boeing’s 737 MAX system gained power and lost safeguards

    June 22, 2019 at 2:00 pm Updated June 24, 2019 at 5:25 pm



    An angle-of-attack sensor can be seen at far right, near the nose of a 737 MAX at Boeing Field in Seattle. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

    By
    Dominic Gates
    and
    Mike Baker

    Seattle Times staff reporters


    Early in the development of the 737 MAX, engineers gathered at Boeing’s transonic wind tunnel in Seattle to test the jet’s aerodynamics using a scale model with a wingspan comparable to that of an eagle.

    The testing in 2012, with air flow approaching the speed of sound, allowed engineers to analyze how the airplane’s aerodynamics would handle a range of extreme maneuvers. When the data came back, according to an engineer involved in the testing, it was clear there was an issue to address.

    Engineers observed a tendency for the plane’s nose to pitch upward during a specific extreme maneuver. After other efforts to fix the problem failed, the solution they arrived at was a piece of software — the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) — that would move a powerful control surface at the tail to push the airplane’s nose down.



    This is the story, including previously unreported details, of how Boeing developed MCAS, which played a critical role in two airliners nose-diving out of the sky, killing 346 people in Ethiopia and off the coast of Indonesia.

    Extensive interviews with people involved with the program, and a review of proprietary documents, show how Boeing originally designed MCAS as a simple solution with a narrow scope, then altered it late in the plane’s development to expand its power and purpose. Still, a safety-analysis led by Boeing concluded there would be little risk in the event of an MCAS failure — in part because of an FAA-approved assumption that pilots would respond to an unexpected activation in a mere three seconds.

    The revised design allowed MCAS to trigger on the inputs of a single sensor, instead of two factors considered in the original plan. Boeing engineers considered that lack of redundancy acceptable, according to proprietary information reviewed by The Seattle Times, because they calculated the probability of a “hazardous” MCAS malfunction to be virtually inconceivable.

    As Boeing and the FAA advanced the 737 MAX toward production, they limited the scrutiny and testing of the MCAS design. Then they agreed not to inform pilots about MCAS in manuals, even though Boeing’s safety analysis expected pilots to be the primary backstop in the event the system went haywire.

    In the wake of the two crashes, despite an outcry from the public and from some pilot and airline industry officials, Boeing has defended the processes behind its MCAS design decisions and refused to accept blame.



    The grounding of the MAX has entered its 15th week. Safety officials around the world are scrutinizing the changes to MCAS that Boeing has proposed to ensure such accidents won’t happen again. And they are assessing what training pilots may need on the new system.

    “Safety is our top priority,” Boeing said in a statement. “Through the work we are doing now in partnership with our customers and regulators to certify and implement the software update, the 737 MAX will be one of the safest airplanes ever to fly.”

    This investigation examines what’s known about the origins and operation of MCAS ahead of the final official accident-investigation reports, expected late this year for Lion Air Flight 610 and next year for Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

    Wind-tunnel and simulator tests

    Though Boeing was locked into a plan to revamp its popular 737 model, the Seattle wind-tunnel tests in 2012 revealed a problem.

    During flight tests to certify an airplane, pilots must safely fly an extreme maneuver, a banked spiral called a wind-up turn that brings the plane through a stall. While passengers would likely never experience the maneuver on a normal commercial flight, it could occur if pilots for some reason needed to execute a steep banking turn.

    Engineers determined that on the MAX, the force the pilots feel in the control column as they execute this maneuver would not smoothly and continuously increase. Pilots who pull back forcefully on the column — sometimes called the stick — might suddenly feel a slackening of resistance. An FAA rule requires that the plane handle with smoothly changing stick forces.

    The lack of smooth feel was caused by the jet’s tendency to pitch up, influenced by shock waves that form over the wing at high speeds and the extra lift surface provided by the pods around the MAX’s engines, which are bigger and farther forward on the wing than on previous 737s.

    This was verified in early simulator modeling, with planes tested in scenarios at about 20,000 feet of altitude, according to one of the workers involved.

    While the problem was narrow in scope, it proved difficult to cope with. The engineers first tried tweaking the plane’s aerodynamic shape, according to two workers familiar with the testing. They placed vortex generators — small metal vanes on the wings — to help modify the flow of air, trying them in different locations, in different quantities and at different angles. They also explored altering the shape of the wing.

    737 MAX crisis | Complete coverage »
    Is an iPad enough to train Boeing 737 MAX pilots? Famed pilot Sullenberger says he has a better idea
    Boeing didn’t plan to fix 737 MAX warning light until 2020; it may have had a role in two deadly crashes
    Flawed analysis, failed oversight: How Boeing and FAA certified the suspect 737 MAX flight control system

    Two people familiar with the discussions said 737 MAX chief test pilot Ray Craig preferred such a physical solution to solve the plane’s aerodynamics. Philosophically, Boeing had long opposed efforts to create automated actions such as a stick-pusher — a device used on some aircraft that without pilot action pushes the control column forward to lower the jet’s nose — that would seize control of a situation from the pilot, according to one of the people.

    But the aerodynamic solutions didn’t produce enough effect, the two people said, and so the engineers turned to MCAS.

    It was simple in concept but powerful in effect, quickly solving the issue.

    In the midst of a wind-up turn, the software would automatically swivel up the leading edge of the plane’s entire horizontal tail, known as the horizontal stabilizer, so that the air flow would push the tail up and correspondingly push the nose down.

    As the pilot pulled on the control column, this uncommanded movement in the background would counter the jet’s tendency to pitch up and smooth out the feel of the column throughout the maneuver.

    An engineer recalled Craig testing MCAS for the first time in the simulator.

    “Yeah! This is great,” Craig gushed after seeing how MCAS responded, according to the engineer. (Craig left Boeing before the operation of MCAS was revised.)

    This original version of MCAS, according to two people familiar with the details, was activated only if two distinct sensors indicated such an extreme maneuver: a high angle of attack and a high G-force.

    Angle of attack is the angle between the wing and the oncoming air flow. G-force is the plane’s acceleration in the vertical direction.

    How much MCAS moved the tail when activated was a function of the angle of attack and the jet’s speed, said one of the people familiar with the MCAS design who, like many of the sources in this story, asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of ongoing investigations.

    The fix didn’t stir much controversy.

    Another Boeing plane, the KC-46 Air Force tanker, has a software-driven system that similarly moves the stabilizer in a wind-up turn and even has the same MCAS name, though the design is very different.

    Boeing’s failure analysis

    When Boeing was ready to certify the 737 MAX, it laid out its plan for MCAS in documents for the FAA.

    Under the proposal, MCAS would trigger in narrow circumstances. It was designed “to address potentially unacceptable nose-up pitching moment at high angles of attack at high airspeeds,” Boeing told the FAA in a proprietary System Safety Assessment reviewed by The Times.

    In a separate presentation made for foreign safety regulators that was reviewed by The Times, Boeing described MCAS as providing “a nose down command to oppose the pitch up. Command is limited to 0.6 degrees from trimmed position.”

    Two people involved in the initial design plans for MCAS said the goal was to limit the system’s effect, giving it as little authority as possible. That 0.6-degree limit was embedded in the company’s system safety review for the FAA.

    The Boeing submission also included an analysis that calculated the effect of possible MCAS failures, with each scenario characterized as either a minor, a major or a hazardous failure — increasingly severe categories that determine how much redundancy must be built in to prevent the event.

    Virtually all equipment on any commercial airplane, including the various sensors, is reliable enough to meet the “major failure” requirement, which is that the probability of a failure must be less than 1 in 100,000.

    A “major failure” is not expected to produce any serious injuries and is defined more as something that would increase the cockpit crew’s workload. Such systems are therefore typically allowed to rely on a single input sensor.

    Boeing analyzed what would happen if, in normal flight mode, MCAS triggered inadvertently up to its maximum authority and moved the horizontal stabilizer the maximum 0.6 degrees.

    It also calculated what would happen on a normal flight if somehow the system kept running for three seconds at its standard rate of 0.27 degrees per second, producing 0.81 degrees of movement, thus exceeding the supposed maximum authority.

    Why three seconds? That’s the period of time that FAA guidance says it should take a pilot to recognize what’s happening and begin to counter it.

    Boeing assessed both of these failure modes as “major.” Finally, the analysis looked at the inadvertent operation of MCAS during a wind-up turn, which was assessed as “hazardous,” defined in a cold actuarial analysis as an event causing serious or fatal injuries to a small number of people, but short of losing the plane (that’s called “catastrophic”).

    Hazardous events typically demand more than one sensor — except when they are outside normal flight conditions and unlikely to be encountered, such as a wind-up turn.

    According to a document reviewed by The Seattle Times, Boeing’s safety analysis calculated this hazardous MCAS failure to be almost inconceivable: Given the improbability of an airliner experiencing a wind-up turn, compounded by the unlikelihood of MCAS failing while it happened, Boeing came up with a probability for this failure of about once every 223 trillion hours of flight. In its first year in service, the MAX fleet logged 118,000 flight hours.

    So even though this original version of MCAS required two factors — angle of attack and G-force — to activate, Boeing’s analysis indicated that just one sensor would be acceptable in all circumstances.

    In flight test, MCAS changes

    About a third of the way through flight testing in 2016, as first reported by The Seattle Times in March, Boeing made substantial changes to MCAS.

    The flight-test pilots had found another problem: The same lack of smooth stick forces was also occurring in certain low-speed flight conditions. To cover that issue too, engineers decided to expand the scope and power of MCAS.

    Because at low speed a control surface must be deflected more to have the same effect, engineers increased the power of the system at low speed from 0.6 degrees of stabilizer nose-down deflection to 2.5 degrees each time it was activated.

    On the stabilizer, maximum nose down is about 4.7 degrees away from level flight. So with the new increased authority to move the stabilizer, just a couple of iterations of the system could push it to that maximum.

    Because there are no excessive G-forces at low speed, the engineers removed the G-force factor as a trigger. But that meant MCAS was now activated by a single angle-of-attack sensor.

    One of the people familiar with MCAS’s evolution said the system designers didn’t see any need to add an additional sensor or redundancy because the hazard assessment had determined that an MCAS failure in normal flight would only qualify in the “major” category for which the single sensor is the norm.

    “It wasn’t like it was there to cover some safety or certification requirement,” the person said. “The trigger isn’t a safeguard. It tells (the system) when to operate.”

    While the changes were dramatic, Boeing did not submit documentation of the revised system safety assessment to the FAA.

    An FAA spokesman said the safety agency did not require a new system safety analysis because it wasn’t deemed to be critical.

    “The change to MCAS didn’t trigger an additional safety assessment because it did not affect the most critical phase of flight, considered to be higher cruise speeds,” he said.

    The person familiar with the details of MCAS’ evolution said Boeing did the extra analysis of the new low-speed, higher-authority changes. He said the effect of the potential failures at low speed was less, and so didn’t add any risk to the prior analysis. So the documents sent to the FAA with the failure analysis were not revised.

    “You turn in the answer,” he said. “You don’t have to document all your work.”

    MCAS as it was actually implemented differed in another way from what was described in the safety analysis turned in to the FAA.

    The failure analysis didn’t appear to consider the possibility that MCAS could trigger repeatedly, as it did on both accident flights. Moving multiple times in 0.6 or 2.5 increments depending on the speed, it effectively had unlimited authority if pilots did not intervene.

    Discussions around this new MCAS design appear to have been limited during flight testing.

    Two former Boeing test pilots described a culture of pressure inside the company to limit flight testing, which can delay projects at a time when orders are stacking up, costing the company money.

    Matt Menza, a different pilot who did test flights on the MAX, recalled times when test pilots at Boeing would have the chance to thoroughly examine systems in what he called a “system-safety murder board” to explore all the potential failures. But he reported that the general corps of test pilots didn’t have a lot of technical details about the MCAS design, such as the single-sensor input.

    Boeing never flight-tested a scenario in which a broken angle-of-attack sensor triggered MCAS on its own, instead relying on simulator analysis, according to a person familiar with the process. One of the former test pilots expressed bewilderment that the angle-of-attack failure was never explored in the air.

    A variety of employees have described internal pressures to advance the MAX to completion, as Boeing hurried to catch up with the hot-selling A320 from rival Airbus.

    Mark Rabin, an engineer who did flight-testing work unrelated to the flight controls, said there was always talk about how delays of even one day can cost substantial amounts. Meanwhile, staff were expected to stay in line, Rabin said.

    “It was all about loyalty,” Rabin said. “I had a manager tell me, ‘Don’t rock the boat. You don’t want to be upsetting executives.’”


    The interior of a Lion Air 737 MAX cockpit. (Dimas Ardian / Bloomberg)


    Do pilots need more training? Boeing’s system safety analysis of MCAS, in working out the failure probabilities, assumes that the pilots will take steps in response to anything that arises, and will do so quickly.

    The pilots’ struggles to control their planes before both MAX crashes suggest that the FAA’s three-second guidance for expected pilot response time, upon which part of Boeing’s system safety analysis was based, needs to be carefully reassessed.

    “If the three seconds is not an appropriate amount of time to be able to catch a runaway stabilizer, and it actually takes seven seconds, then … we need to understand that,” said the person familiar with the details of MCAS.

    When MCAS is activated in the cockpit and moves the horizontal stabilizer, a large wheel beside each pilot that’s mechanically connected to the stabilizer begins to spin. This is the manual trim wheel. As a last resort to stop a stabilizer moving uncommanded, a pilot can grab and hold the wheel.


    In a 737 MAX cockpit console, the black wheels on each side are connected to the horizontal tail and will spin if the stabilizer swivels. The instruments... (Dimas Ardian / Bloomberg)


    The person familiar with MCAS said the wheel will spin noisily and fast, 30 or 40 times, for each activation. Meanwhile the stabilizer movement will increase the force needed to hold the control column, by about 40 to 50 pounds for a 2.5 degree movement. Such uncommanded movement that won’t stop is referred to as a “runaway stabilizer.”

    Boeing has said that to deal with this, pilots need first to have basic hand-flying skills — pull the nose up to where you want it, then use the thumb switches on the yoke that connect electrically to the stabilizer to neutralize the forces — and then shut off MCAS with a pilot checklist procedure on how to handle a “runaway stabilizer.”

    However on both accident flights, the angle-of-attack sensor failure set off multiple alerts causing distraction and confusion from the moment of takeoff, even before MCAS kicked in.

    On the Ethiopian Airlines flight, for example, a “stick shaker” noisily vibrated the pilot’s control column throughout the flight, warning the plane was in danger of a stall, which it wasn’t; a computerized voice repeating a loud “Don’t sink!” warned that the jet was too close to the ground; a “clacker” making a very loud clicking sound signaled the jet was going too fast; and multiple warning lights told the crew that the speed, altitude and other readings on their instruments were unreliable.

    Exactly what pilot training for MCAS is appropriate has become a big issue that threatens to prolong the grounding of the MAX.

    While the FAA and U.S. airlines seem ready to clear the plane to fly with just iPad training for American pilots on the MCAS fixes, some foreign regulators want more intensive simulator training for all pilots on how to handle a runaway stabilizer.

    Talk to us

    We continue to seek information on the design, training and certification of the Boeing 737 MAX. If you have insights, please get in touch with aerospace reporter Dominic Gates at 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com.

    To communicate on a confidential and encrypted channel, follow the options available at st.news.


    Early in the process of selling the MAX, according to two people familiar with the discussions, Boeing promised to give Southwest Airlines a substantial rebate for every plane if the MAX required simulator training.

    One former MAX worker, Rick Ludtke, said the rebate reported to him by managers was $1 million per plane, a figure another Boeing employee indicated is roughly accurate.

    A Southwest spokesperson said, “We do not discuss publicly the specific details of our contractual agreements,” but added that “the purchase of an aircraft is a significant investment, and guarantees for various items … are incorporated into every 737 contract.”

    Ludtke and two other former workers described internal pressures during the MAX certification to avoid any changes to the design of the plane that might cause the FAA to lean toward a simulator mandate.

    It became a significant point of attention for Michael Teal, the 737 MAX program manager, and Keith Leverkuhn, vice president and general manager of the 737 MAX program, according to a person involved in the discussions. They felt confident based on past experience that the MAX would be approved without simulator training, but they were wary, according to the worker.

    Meanwhile, Boeing’s chief technical pilot on the MAX, Mark Forkner, was also facing pressure, according to another person involved in the project. The person recalled Forkner as frequently anxious about the deadlines and pressures faced in the program, going to some of his peers in the piloting world for help.

    As first reported by The New York Times, Forkner suggested to the FAA that MCAS not be included in the pilot manual, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

    “Mark never dreamed anything like this could happen,” said Forkner’s attorney, David Gerger. “He put safety first – at this job and in the Air Force.”

    U.S. pilot unions have expressed concern at the omission of MCAS from the manual. One reason is that when MCAS activates, it changes somewhat the response of the airplane.

    For example, there is a cutout switch in the control column so that when a pilot pulls or pushes in the opposite direction to a runaway stabilizer, it cuts electric power to the stabilizer. When MCAS is active, this cutout switch doesn’t work, which could surprise a pilot who didn’t know about the system.

    Boeing ultimately won the FAA’s approval to give pilots just an hour of training through an iPad about the differences between the MAX and the previous 737 generation. MCAS was not mentioned.

    The FAA, after internal deliberations, also agreed to keep MCAS out of the manual, reasoning that MCAS was a software code that operates in the background as part of the flight-control system, according to an official familiar with the discussions.


    Two angle-of-attack sensors that influence the MCAS system are located on each side and below other instruments on the 737 MAX. Boeing chose to use only... (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)


    A single sensor

    Boeing has avoided accepting direct blame in public, saying MCAS was only one link in a chain of events. Its leaders have also said MCAS was designed according to the standard procedures it has used for years.

    “The 737 MAX was certified in accordance with the identical FAA requirements and processes that have governed certification of previous new airplanes and derivatives. The FAA considered the final configuration and operating parameters of MCAS during MAX certification, and concluded that it met all certification and regulatory requirements,” Boeing said in a statement.

    The most controversial detail of the MCAS design has been the reliance on a single angle-of-attack sensor. On both of the deadly flights, everything started with a faulty sensor. In the second crash in Ethiopia, the data trace strongly suggests that the sensor was destroyed in an instant, likely by a bird strike.

    There are two such sensors, one on either side of the fuselage. Why didn’t Boeing, especially after discarding the G-force as a trigger, use both angle-of-attack sensors?

    The thinking was that requiring input from two angle-of-attack sensors would mean that if either one failed the system would not function.




    That has implications not only for safety but for airline costs. If the system is down, a pilot might fly into a situation where it’s needed and find it unavailable. Or the airline might have to take the plane out of service and lose money.

    Both factors point toward a principle of not adding complexity: Keep a system as simple as possible.

    “You don’t want to disrupt your customer’s operations,” said the person familiar with the MCAS details. And you don’t want to “increase the risk that the system fails when you need it.”

    In this case, as simple as possible meant as minimal as the safety regulations allow. Since Boeing’s system safety analysis concluded that one sensor was acceptable, that’s what it went with.

    But that’s not the logic followed for a system on the KC-46 Air Force tanker, also called MCAS.

    Boeing says the MCAS systems on the MAX and on the tanker share only a name and a similar function, and have completely different avionics.

    But they both move the horizontal stabilizer to smooth the pilot stick forces in a wind-up turn. Their basic design architecture can be compared to some extent.

    Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek says “MCAS on the KC-46 has two sensors and the system compares the two readings.”

    Boeing’s proposed update to MCAS for the MAX will have the same.

    Last Sunday at the Paris Air Show, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg reiterated the company’s position that while the original MCAS was properly designed, “we know we can improve it.”

    The fixes include relying on two sensors rather than one, limiting MCAS to one rather than multiple activations, and revising the software.

    “We are confident that they will result in a safe airplane, one of the safest airplanes ever to fly, and that MCAS will not contribute to a future accident,” he said.

    seattletimes.com

    Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com; on Twitter: @dominicgates.
    Mike Baker: 206-464-2729 or mbaker@seattletimes.com; on Twitter: @ByMikeBaker.

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