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  1. Boeing hid design flaws in 737 Max jets from pilots and regulators Congressional report finds aerospace group cut corners. Enlarge / A Boeing 737 MAX jet lands following a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) test flight at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, on June 29, 2020. A congressional report found a "disturbing pattern of technical miscalculations and troubling management misjudgments made by Boeing" with regard to the 737 Max. Jason Redmond | Getty Images 119 with 82 posters participating Boeing hid design flaws in its 737 Max jet from both pilots and regulators as it raced to have the airplane certified as fit to fly, according to a damning congressional report into why two of the aircraft crashed within months of each other last year, killing 346 people. The report by the US House of Representatives transport committee found the US aircraft maker cut corners and pressured regulators to overlook aspects of its new design in its attempts to catch up with European rival Airbus. It also accused US regulators of being too concerned with pleasing the company to exercise proper oversight. The report said: “[The two crashes] were the horrific culmination of a series of faulty technical assumptions by Boeing’s engineers, a lack of transparency on the part of Boeing’s management, and grossly insufficient oversight by the [Federal Aviation Administration]—the pernicious result of regulatory capture on the part of the FAA with respect to its responsibilities to perform robust oversight of Boeing and to ensure the safety of the flying public. “The facts laid out in this report document a disturbing pattern of technical miscalculations and troubling management misjudgments made by Boeing. It also illuminates numerous oversight lapses and accountability gaps by the FAA that played a significant role in the 737 Max crashes.” Boeing has been under multiple investigations since last year, when a Max jet operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed just five months after another owned by Indonesia’s Lion Air plunged into the sea. Investigators have found that on both occasions, a faulty sensor caused an automatic anti-stall system to kick in erroneously, forcing the airplane's nose downwards. Pilots for both Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines battled to right their jets but were overridden by the automatic system each time they did so. Members of Congress have been conducting their own probe into the accidents since last April. Wednesday’s report marks the culmination of 17 months of investigation, involving five public hearings, 24 interviews, and 600,000 pages of documents. The 238-page report details how Boeing attempted to minimize both the regulatory testing and pilot training required to fly the new Max, which was being rushed out in an attempt to compete with the Airbus A320neo. It found the company successfully persuaded the FAA not to classify the anti-stall system as “safety critical,” meaning that many pilots did not even know of its existence before flying the Max. In doing so, Boeing concealed from regulators internal test data showing that if a pilot took longer than 10 seconds to recognize that the system had kicked in erroneously, the consequences would be “catastrophic.” The report also detailed how an alert, which would have warned pilots of a potential problem with one of their anti-stall sensors, was not working on the vast majority of the Max fleet. It found that the company deliberately concealed this fact from both pilots and regulators as it continued to roll out the new aircraft around the world. Boeing has been working to correct the faults found in the Max for more than a year and recently said it hoped to begin delivering the jet again in the third quarter. The company said: “The revised design of the Max has received intensive internal and regulatory review, including more than 375,000 engineering and test hours and 1,300 test flights. Once the FAA and other regulators have determined the Max can safely return to service, it will be one of the most thoroughly scrutinized aircraft in history.” While the company cut corners in its attempts to certify the Max, the committee found a compliant regulator in the FAA. The FAA certifies new aircraft designs by relying heavily on “authorized representatives,” company employees who are authorized by the regulator to validate certain designs and systems. And the report found that on several occasions Boeing did not flag important pieces of information to the regulator. Members of Congress have introduced legislation that would toughen the FAA’s aircraft certification process, including carrying out regular independent audits on company-employed representatives. The FAA said in a statement: “The FAA is committed to continually advancing aviation safety and looks forward to working with the committee to implement improvements identified in its report.” Boeing hid design flaws in 737 Max jets from pilots and regulators
  2. FAA shares new steps for Boeing to return 737 Max to the skies New software, new manuals, and new procedures Photo by Gary He/Getty Images The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released a “preliminary summary” of its 18-month review of the Boeing 737 Max program, and with it, has detailed the remaining steps the company will likely need to take in order to allow the plane back into the air. Among the changes the agency is asking for is new software for the plane’s flight control computer and displays, a revised manual and enhanced training for flight crew, and new maintenance procedures. A few key issues remain unfinished, though, like finalizing a new pilot training process. The FAA laid out the changes both in the 96-page summary and in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published on Monday. The public will have 45 days to comment on the latter before the agency officially requires Boeing to make the changes. It won’t be until after that, at the earliest, that the FAA would re-certify the 737 Max, meaning the plane is still likely months away from being put back into service. The 737 Max has been grounded worldwide since March 2019, after it was involved in two fatal crashes that killed 346 people. One of the particular issues that doomed both flights was a piece of software known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, that was designed to stop the plane from stalling in very specific takeoff situations. Using information from sensors on the outside of the plane, MCAS was able to pitch the nose of the plane down if it believed it was angled too high. A major problem with MCAS was that, in a bid to skirt the lengthy and costly process of retraining pilots on this new piece of software, Boeing simply hid it from them and from the FAA. Another was that MCAS only pulled data from one external sensor, meaning it could be led astray if that sensor was damaged. All of this led to the pilots on both fatal flights scrambling to try and fix a problem they didn’t understand in their final moments. The FAA says its review has involved “40 engineers, inspectors, pilots, and technical support staff,” and more than 60,000 hours of “review, certification testing, and evaluation of pertinent documents.” The FAA says it analyzed more than 4,000 hours of Boeing’s flight and simulator tests, and did 50 hours of its own testing. The agency and the company recently completed three days of real-world flight tests in the Seattle, Washington area. FAA shares new steps for Boeing to return 737 Max to the skies
  3. Boeing resumes production of its troubled 737 Max airplane The plane has yet to be cleared by the FAA to return to passenger service Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images Boeing said it would resume manufacturing the troubled 737 Max airplane after a nearly five-month hiatus. The aerospace company said it would restart production “at a low rate as it implements more than a dozen initiatives focused on enhancing workplace safety and product quality.” The Boeing 737 Max has been grounded since March 2018 following two fatal crashes that killed a total of 346 passengers and crew members. Boeing continued to manufacture the airplane, but in December 2019, the company announced plans to halt production at its Renton, Washington manufacturing plant. The FAA has yet to clear the airplane to return to passenger service. Investigators have discovered numerous software glitches, apart from the MCAS flight control system that has been identified as the cause of the fatal crashes. Boeing said that during the temporary suspension, the company’s mechanics and engineers worked together to “standardize work packages” and revamp the “kitting process” to ensure that employees have everything they need to build the airplane. “We’ve been on a continuous journey to evolve our production system and make it even stronger,” said Walt Odisho, vice president and general manager of the 737 program, in a statement. “These initiatives are the next step in creating the optimal build environment for the 737 MAX.” Boeing said last year that it doesn’t expect the 737 Max to fly again until at least “mid-2020.” Air travel is being upended by COVID-19, with the major carriers having reduced service due to a drop-off in demand. Boeing recently announced it would be laying off nearly 7,000 employees as the novel coronavirus continues to hammer the airline industry. The Chicago-based airplane manufacturer — the biggest exporter in the US — had already announced it would trim its workforce by around 10 percent. Source: Boeing resumes production of its troubled 737 Max airplane (The Verge)
  4. The ancient computers in the Boeing 737 Max are holding up a fix The perils of fixing a hardware problem with software A brand-new Boeing 737 Max gets built in just nine days. In that time, a team of 12,000 people turns a loose assemblage of parts into a finished $120 million airplane with some truly cutting-edge technology: winglets based on ones designed by NASA, engines that feature the world’s first one-piece carbon-fiber fan blades, and computers with the same processing power as, uh, the Super Nintendo. The Max has been grounded since March 2019, after some badly written software caused two crashes that killed 346 people. And while Boeing has received plenty of scrutiny for its bad code, it’s the Max’s computing power — or lack thereof — that has kept it on the ground since then. Every 737 Max has two flight control computers. These take some of the workload off of pilots, whether that’s through full automation (such as autopilot) or through fine control adjustments during manual flight. These computers can literally fly the airplane — they have authority over major control surfaces and throttles — which means that any malfunction could turn catastrophic in a hurry. So it’s more important for manufacturers to choose hardware that’s proven to be safe, rather than run a fleet of airplanes on some cutting-edge tech with bugs that have yet to be worked out. Boeing took that ethos to heart for the Max, sticking with the Collins Aerospace FCC-730 series, first built in 1996. Each computer features a pair of single-core, 16-bit processors that run independently of each other, which reduces computing power but also keeps a faulty processor from taking down the entire system. Even by late-’90s consumer tech standards, the FCC-730s were behind the curve. By the time they went to market, Nintendo had already replaced its 16-bit SNES console with the Nintendo 64 (the first game console to use — you guessed it — a 64-bit CPU), and IBM had created the world’s first dual-core processor. Of course, old and slow isn’t always worse: the 737 Next Generation series is the safest narrow-body airplane ever made, in part due to these reliable, if unspectacular, computers. To keep costs down, Boeing wanted to reuse them in the next iteration of the 737 as well. The Max might still be flying today if those computers simply had to perform the same tasks that they had for almost 30 years. But Boeing needed them to do much more. TheThe important thing to know about the 737 Max is that it was a rush job. In 2010, Boeing’s only rival, Airbus, unveiled the A320neo, a direct competitor to the 737 Next Generation that could fly farther on less fuel and with lower emissions than any other narrow-body airplane. Boeing was caught by surprise: while Airbus had developed the neo in secret, Boeing’s engineers had spent five years debating whether to design a new 737 replacement or simply update the airframe, without resolution. The neo changed that in a matter of months. But in order to offer its own new product when the new Airbus came out, Boeing would have to rush the airplane out the door in just five years — less time than it took to develop either the 777 or the 787. The main selling point of the new 737 was clear: new engines that would increase the airplane’s fuel efficiency and range. But to hit that ambitious launch date, Boeing would have to take shortcuts on just about everything else. The new engines, which were larger and heavier than the ones on the Next Generation, did indeed make the Max just as fuel-efficient as its rival. But they also disrupted the flow of air around the wings and control surfaces of the airplane in a very specific way. During high-angle climbs, this disruption would cause the control columns in the airplane to suddenly go slack, which might cause pilots to lose control of the aircraft during a dangerous maneuver. Boeing could have fixed this aerodynamic anomaly with a hardware change: “adaptive surfaces” on the engine housing, resculpted wings, or even just adding a “stick pusher” to the controls that would push on the control column mechanically at just the right time. But hardware changes added time, cost, and regulatory scrutiny to the development process. Boeing’s management was clear: avoid changes, avoid regulators, stay on schedule — period. So the development team attacked the hardware problem with software. In addition to the standard software suite on the 737 Max’s two computers, Boeing loaded another routine called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). It would run in the background, waiting for the airplane to enter a high-angle climb. Then it would act, rotating the airplane’s horizontal stabilizer to counteract the changing aerodynamic forces. On paper, it seemed elegant enough. It had a side benefit, too: the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) doesn’t scrutinize software as hard as it does any physical change to the airframe. So MCAS was approved with minimal review, outdated computers and all. But Boeing’s software shortcut had a serious problem. Under certain circumstances, it activated erroneously, sending the airplane into an infinite loop of nose-dives. Unless the pilots can, in under four seconds, correctly diagnose the error, throw a specific emergency switch, and start recovery maneuvers, they will lose control of the airplane and crash — which is exactly what happened in the case of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. The second crash grounded the 737 Max. Since then, Boeing has been working to fix the software issue and get the airplane approved by regulators. But it’s been slow going. In June 2019, Boeing submitted a software fix to the FAA for approval, but subsequent stress-testing of the Max’s computers revealed more flaws than just bad code. They are vulnerable to single-bit errors that could disable entire control systems or throw the airplane into an uncommanded dive. They fail to boot up properly. They may even “freeze” in autopilot mode even when the airplane is in a stall, which could hamper recovery efforts in the middle of an in-flight emergency. Despite all of this, Boeing insists that it can fix everything with software. Boeing has elected not to go with a new, more powerful computer or to add more of them to the two already there, in order to better distribute the workload. For comparison, Airbus’ A320neo has computers of similar vintage — but it has seven of them. Boeing is “dedicating all resources necessary to ensure that the improvements to the 737 MAX are comprehensive and thoroughly tested,” a spokesperson told The Verge. “We do not anticipate changes to the hardware.” So far, the FAA agrees: it completed its review of the software earlier this year, and it seems to be on board with the proposed software fixes. But returning the Max to service isn’t as simple as getting the agency’s approval on the software. Because Boeing essentially bullied the FAA into certifying the Max in the first place, the agency is eager to prove that it knows what it’s doing now. Its inspectors are scrutinizing the airplane with less pressure to rush, and they have found several new issues with the airplane: faulty wiring, debris in the fuel tanks, and wing components that don’t meet FAA standards. Even so, the FAA’s reputation is already ruined. For decades, aviation regulators have relied on reciprocal agreements to speed up the process of certifying airplanes in other countries: if an airplane is approved by one regulator, it’s almost always approved by all of them. Now, however, Europe, China, and India each want to certify the airplane independently, which will add months to the timeline. Once the Max gets the regulatory green light, it will still be several months before it can carry passengers again. In January, Boeing announced that in order to get certified to fly the Max, pilots will have to go through full-motion simulator training (once, that is, the simulators are updated with the final approved software package). This is a full retreat from one of the airplane’s original selling points: that pilots only needed a one-hour iPad lesson to fly the new 737 model. The problem is that there just aren’t that many simulators to go around. There are only 34 in the entire world, with only two companies approved to make more. To put this in perspective, let’s use Dallas-Fort Worth. It’s home to two airlines: Southwest and American. Between them, they have 13,000 737 pilots and only one 737 Max simulator. Assuming four hours of simulator time per pilot and running the simulators 24/7, it would take both airlines about six years to get everyone approved to fly the Max. And there are 50 other airlines with Maxes in their fleets and pilots to train. So the very shortcuts that Boeing used to rush the Max into production are now keeping it on the ground. It was once the fastest-selling airplane in history. Now, nobody wants to touch Boeing airplanes: in January and February, the company took only 18 new orders, an 80 percent decrease compared to 2019. Its competitor, Airbus, recorded 296. Despite the Max’s declining popularity, Boeing remains optimistic about the Max’s future prospects. “Our estimate for returning the 737 MAX fleet to service remains the middle of 2020,” said Boeing’s spokesperson. Nothing, it seems, will prompt the FAA to send this particular design back to the drawing board. Instead, Boeing will once again attempt to compensate for a hardware flaw on the 737 Max with slightly rewritten software. It’s the same design philosophy that created this catastrophe for Boeing in the first place — and it’s the same philosophy that has failed, so far, to produce a safe and reliable airplane. Source: The ancient computers in the Boeing 737 Max are holding up a fix (The Verge)
  5. 737 Max fix slips to summer—and that’s just one of Boeing’s problems Boeing's previously best-selling aircraft won't fly until at least June. Enlarge / The 737 Max is just the most high-profile of Boeing's crises. Boeing The past 10 months have not been good for Boeing for all sorts of reasons—capped off by the failure of the company's Starliner commercial crew vehicle to achieve the right orbit in its uncrewed premier in December. But the biggest of the company's problems remains the 737 Max, grounded since last spring after two crashes that killed 346 people between them. Combined, the crashes are the worst air disaster since September 11, 2001. Both were at least partially caused by a sensor failure with no redundancy and a problem with MCAS (the new software controlling the handling of the aircraft) that the air crews had not been trained to overcome. Boeing executives are now telling the company's 737 Max customers that the software fix required to make the airliner airworthy will not be approved in the near future, and that it will likely be June or July before the Federal Aviation Administration certifies the aircraft for flight again—meaning that the aircraft will have been grounded for at least 16 months. The FAA, for its part, has not committed to any timeframe for re-certifying the aircraft. In an emailed statement, an FAA spokesperson said, "We continue to work with other safety regulators to review Boeing's work as the company conducts the required safety assessments and addresses all issues that arise during testing." In the past, Boeing could rely on its space and defense divisions to keep the company rallying when its commercial airliner business faltered, and vice versa. But over the past decade, Boeing's defense, space, and security businesses—consolidated into a single division in 2017—have not been booming. And growth in overall revenues came largely because of the sales of the 737 Max. Boeing, once known for a culture of safety and rigorous engineering, has over the past decade gained a reputation for sloppy work, blown deadlines, and flat-out scandal. Space cases Enlarge / The crew module of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is lifted onto its service module on October 16 inside the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Boeing The CST-100 Starliner commercial crew spacecraft was supposed to be a slam dunk for Boeing—a contest that, with the company's reputation in space systems (as a partner in United Launch Alliance, and one of the major contributors in building and sustaining the International Space Station), would have seemed to have been its to lose. Boeing has been doing just that. The program suffered a series of setbacks, including a problem with a pad test of its abort system. In November, NASA's inspector general reported that the Starliner would cost 60 percent more per seat than SpaceX's Crew Dragon. The Crew Dragon completed a successful unmanned demo in March of last year. And despite an explosive failure on the launch pad last April, SpaceX managed to come back and complete its last unmanned test this month. The failure to reach the ISS's orbit with the Demo 1 launch of the Starliner was a very expensive software failure. And while the rest of the flight was proclaimed to be successful—including a soft landing on land at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico—there were other problems related to the failure of thrusters on the service module connected to the way they were used to try to raise Starliner's orbit. Those thruster issues may have caused the spacecraft to fail other tests. Meanwhile, Boeing's piece of the Space Launch System has had a long road toward delivery, with its first core stage just completed. The delays have further pushed back all of the programs linked to it, including NASA's current lunar plans, and the rocket is unlikely to see its first flight until 2021. Sure, most of the spending on the program—72 percent—has been on overhead costs. So not all of the cost overruns are Boeing's fault. But Boeing's costs in the cost-plus program have been growing unexpectedly. All that apparently doesn't matter to NASA, which is going ahead and buying the rockets—offering up $270 million on top of the cost-plus contract to deliver 10 of them. Tanking it Enlarge / Boeing's KC-46 aerial refueling tanker conducts receiver-compatibility tests with a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in 2016. US Air Force Boeing's KC-46 Pegasus tanker program has the shadow of scandal hanging over it. Why? Because it forced Boeing's CEO-before-last to resign, and it put the company's chief financial officer (and former Air Force procurement officer) in jail. But because the competition was a Northrop partnership with Airbus, Boeing still managed, somehow, to swing enough political clout to get the contract anyway. And the company has run into delays and difficulties ever since. The program is $3 billion over budget and three years behind schedule. Debris left behind from manufacturing the airframes has slowed down delivery of the planes. There are problems with the system used to steer the refueling boom, and it looks like the aircraft won't be able to use wing-mounted refueling pods until at least the middle of this year—limiting the tanker's aerial refueling role. And that is its main job. Boeing took a $272 million hit on the program because the company had to redesign the tanker's wiring. Then there were "technical and supply chain" problems that further delayed the program in 2016. While the Air Force has begun taking delivery on the tankers, the aircraft entered initial operational capability testing two years behind schedule. And last year, the aircraft was banned from carrying passengers or cargo—a big part of its mission—after cargo broke free of lockdowns during flight. To top it off, delivery is behind schedule, and the Air Force doesn't expect to reach its full operational capability with the aircraft until 2022, maybe. As of the end of the 2019 fiscal year, the Air Force had seen delivery of 18 aircraft to air bases, with one more completed and awaiting delivery—making the total quantity one greater than what Boeing was supposed to deliver in 2017 under the contract. A new legacy Boeing has a bunch of other military programs in play. But with the F/A-18 Super Hornet now entering a legacy phase with the Navy, Marine Corps, and fewer buyers overseas, and with Boeing taking a backseat in a partnership with Lockheed's Sikorsky for Army helicopter competitions, the company's military footprint could be shrinking fast. A lot is riding, literally, on Boeing's space operations going forward. But given the problems Boeing's programs have faced over the past few years, capped off by the 737 Max MCAS disaster, we shouldn't wonder that Congress is taking an interest in getting more oversight over the company. And the future of all Boeing's businesses is riding on the company regaining trust. Source: 737 Max fix slips to summer—and that’s just one of Boeing’s problems (Ars Technica)
  6. Boeing employees’ frightening internal messages released in 737 Max investigation ‘Would you put your family on a Max simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn’t.’ Boeing employees discussed the problems with the 737 Max in chats and emails that the company characterized as “completely unacceptable” in a statement released today. “Would you put your family on a Max simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn’t,” one employee said to another in one chat in February 2018, according to documents obtained by The Verge and originally reported by The New York Times. “No,” the other person replied. “I still haven’t been forgiven by God for the covering up I did last year,” a Boeing employee said in a different 2018 conversation, according to the documents. The employee appears to be referring to interactions with the Federal Aviation Administration. The redacted messages come from documents Boeing sent to Congress in December, which you can read in three collections here, here, and here. The messages show how Boeing tried to reduce the amount of simulator training required by the FAA to certify pilots for the 737 Max. These efforts ultimately left pilots unprepared to deal with the fatal flaw that brought down two 737 Max planes in five months, killing 346 people. The communications “raise questions about Boeing’s interactions with the FAA in connection with the simulator qualification process,” Boeing said in its statement. “The FAA reviewed the most recent 737 MAX-related documents submitted by Boeing for the purpose of identifying any safety implications,” the agency said in a statement to The Verge. “Our experts determined that nothing in the submission pointed to any safety risks that were not already identified as part of the ongoing review of proposed modifications to the aircraft.” The chats and emails released by Boeing are “incredibly damning,” said Representative Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon who chairs the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, in a statement. “Apologies from Boeing are not enough after these astonishing & appalling emails,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, in a tweet. “Action & accountability are long overdue.” The Boeing 737 Max was the most recent update to the 737, a plane that’s been flying for so long that entire airlines have built their businesses on it. Not having to retrain pilots from the 737 NG to move to the 737 Max was a particular selling point for the plane: classroom time and simulator time are expensive. The 737 Max’s development was particularly urgent, as Boeing’s main rival Airbus had developed the A320neo, which was considerably more fuel efficient than the Boeing 737 NG. But because Boeing rushed the 737 Max into service, pilots were not properly trained — or even made aware of — a piece of software that doomed the two fatal flights. The newly released documents illustrate how forceful Boeing was in selling this idea internally, and to its customers. “I want to stress the importance of holding firm that there will not be any type of simulator training required to transition from NG to MAX,” the chief technical pilot of the 737 program, whose name is redacted, said in one 2017 email. “We’ll go face to face with any regulator who tries to make that a requirement.” If a customer wanted internal training, this employee wrote, that additional training “should be limited.” One particular series of June 2017 emails between the chief technical pilot and an undisclosed airline show how aggressive the company was in trying to limit the amount of simulation work. “There is absolutely no reason to require your pilots to require a MAX simulator to begin flying the MAX,’ the chief technical pilot wrote to the airline. “Boeing does not understand what is to be gained by a 3 hour simulator session.” The June 2017 emails show the chief technical pilot’s continued attempts to convince this airline that simulation training was not necessary. When the airline eventually relented, the chief technical pilot emailed another unnamed Boeing employee and said: “Looks like my jedi [sic] mind trick worked again! These are not the droids you’re looking for....” “Haha, I’ll send you to negotiate piece [sic] in the Middle East next,” the Boeing employee responded. “Goes to show what a little bit a [sic] accurate info can do to sway an operator in the right direction...” While Boeing’s effort to reduce the amount of simulation training was ultimately successful, not all employees were on board with the idea, according to the newly-disclosed documents. “Not sure if I will be returning in April given this - am not lying to the FAA. Will leave that to people who have no integrity,” one employee wrote in a chat to another in March 2018. “I’ll be shocked if the FAA passes this turd,” read another message between employees that May. Just two days ago, Boeing reversed course and announced it will start recommending simulator training for the 737 Max in anticipation of the plane’s return to flight. Exactly when that return will happen remains unclear; the company indefinitely halted production of the plane in January, and the FAA has still not certified it to fly again. Late last month, a senior Boeing executive reportedly told The Seattle Times that documents containing messages from the 737 Max’s senior technical pilot might continue to generate bad press for Boeing. Now we can see why. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all 27 images. Source: Boeing employees’ frightening internal messages released in 737 Max investigation (The Verge) (To view the article's 27 image gallery, please visit the above link)
  7. Boeing reportedly misled FAA about safety of its grounded 737 Max jets ‘I basically lied to the regulators (unknowingly)’ Share this story Share this on Facebook (opens in new window) Share this on Twitter (opens in new window) Share All sharing options Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images Instant messages from 2016 suggest that Boeing may have misled the Federal Aviation Administration about a controversial safety system of its grounded 737 Max jets, Reuters reports. The messages, between two Boeing employees, raise questions about the safety of the MCAS software that is thought to have brought down two 737 Max jets, killing a total of 346 passengers. In the messages, a Boeing pilot named Mark Forkner griped that the MCAS system was making the plane difficult to fly the 737 Max in simulation, according to a similar report in The New York Times. “Granted, I suck at flying, but even this was egregious,” Forkner said, according to a transcript reviewed by the Times. Forkner, who is the chief technical pilot for the 737, went on to admit that he may have misled safety regulators about the plane. “I basically lied to the regulators (unknowingly),” he said, according to the Times. The messages are from November 2016, eight months before Forkner made a request to the FAA to remove mention of MCAS from the pilot’s manual. The FAA, believing MCAS could only be activated in rare cases, approved the request. Boeing discovered the messages “months ago,” but only recently turned them over to the Department of Transportation. In a letter to Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson calls the messages “concerning” and demands to know why Boeing delayed turning them over to regulators. Muilenburg is expected to testify before Congress later this month. MCAS, which stands for Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, is a software unique to Boeing’s 737 Max jets that takes sensor data to determine how much the plane’s nose is pointing up or down relative to oncoming airflow. When MCAS detects that the plane is pointing up at a dangerous angle, it can automatically push down the nose of the plane in an effort to prevent the plane from stalling. A preliminary report from Indonesian investigators indicates that Lion Air 610 crashed because a faulty sensor erroneously reported that the airplane was stalling, triggering the MCAS system which then tried to point the aircraft’s nose down so that it could gain enough speed to fly safely. The report comes as Boeing is pushing to get the Max jets back in the air. The planes have been grounded since March 2019, when Ethiopian Airlines 302 went down. The move put enormous strain on carriers, which struggled to shift the planes out of service while minimizing the impact on customers. Boeing is expected to submit its final certification package to the FAA later this year. The FAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Boeing provided the following statement: “Over the past several months, Boeing has been voluntarily cooperating with the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s investigation into the 737 MAX. As part of that cooperation, today we brought to the Committee’s attention a document containing statements by a former Boeing employee. We will continue to cooperate with the Committee as it continues its investigation. And we will continue to follow the direction of the FAA and other global regulators, as we work to safely return the 737 MAX to service.” Source: Boeing reportedly misled FAA about safety of its grounded 737 Max jets Source: (The Verge)
  8. Boeing left out a 737 Max safety feature linked to its fatal crashes, despite including it on an earlier plane, report claims An Ethiopian police officer walks past debris of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash in March 2019. REUTERS/Baz Ratner Boeing left a safety feature off the software on its 737 Max planes that was present in an earlier version of the system, The Wall Street Journal reported. The anti-stall software system, called MCAS, misfired in the two fatal crashes that killed 346 people, pointing the noses of both planes down into dives from which they never recovered. The system relied on a single external sensor — a design widely criticised by experts. But a military jet designed before the Max used MCAS with multiple sensors, sources told the Journal. Boeing said in response that the two systems "are not directly comparable." However, part of the company's proposed fix for the 737 Max includes data from a second sensor. Boeing left a safety feature off the software system on its 737 Max planes that was linked its two fatal crashes, despite including it on an earlier version of that system used elsewhere, a new report claims. The version of the automated anti-stall system, called MCAS, on the 737 Max relied on data from only one of the plane's two angle-of-attack sensors, which measure the plane's angle in the sky. But Boeing engineers first created the MCAS system more than a decade ago for a military jet used for re-fuelling, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. In this plane, the system worked with multiple sensors — giving the pilots more control over the plane, according to the report. Undelivered Boeing 737 Max planes sit idle at a Boeing property in Seattle, Washington, in August 2019. The planes cannot be flown by their airlines as the plane has been grounded around the world since March. David Ryder/Getty Images Boeing confirmed in April that an erroneous sensor readings triggered the plane's MCAS software in the two fatal crashes: a Lion Air flight in Indonesia in October 2018 and an Ethiopian Airlines flight in March 2019 in Ethiopia. The crashes killed a total of 346 people. Preliminary reports from investigations into the two crashes suggested that there were problems with the sensor readings. In both flights, the planes nosedived and pilots were unable to regain control. Objects recovered from the sea at Tanjung Priok Port, Indonesia, after the Lion Air Boeing 737 Max crash in October 2018. Eddy Purwanto/NurPhoto via Getty Images The MCAS system is designed to prevent the aircraft from stalling — which can occur when a plane is angled too sharply up — by automatically pointing the nose down. Peter Lemme, a former Boeing flight-controls engineer, told CNN in May that the plane should have had "a fail-safe design" that "relied on two inputs to make sure that you weren't sensitive to one failure." Another flaw is that the sensors are fixed to the outside of the plane, where they can be easily damaged in flight. US Rep. Peter DeFazio, the chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, also said that his committee's investigation into the 737 Max would look at how its software relied on a single sensor. The cockpit of a Boeing 737 Max plane. Ted S. Warren/Associated Press Boeing has since defended its design. In response to the CNN report, a spokesperson said that "single sources of data are considered acceptable in such cases by our industry." But Boeing in its actions appears to see a benefit in a second sensor. The company is updating the 737 Max design, and said that its update will incorporate data from two sensors instead of just one. The plane will not fly again until regulators in the US and around the world approve Boeing's fixes — a process that most in the industry do not expect to be completed until the end of 2019 at the earliest. Sources for The Wall Street Journal said this fix will make the MCAS system in the Max plane more similar to the one in the military jet. A Boeing spokesman declined to explain to The Wall Street Journal why the systems are different on the two planes. The spokesman said said: "The systems are not directly comparable." \ Kenyans mourn family and friends, who were victims of the Boeing 737 Max Ethiopian Airlines plane crash, at the crash scene in March. REUTERS/Baz Ratner An Air Force official and other unnamed sources told the Journal that the military refuelling jet with the MCAS system also has another safeguard, which lets pilots override the system by pulling on the controls. Will Roper, an assistant Air Force secretary who serves as the branch's procurement chief, said: "We have better sensor data." "But most importantly, when the pilot grabs the stick, the pilot is completely in control." Max pilots have criticized Boeing for what they described as a plane design that lessens their control over the plane, in ways they say they were told of in advance. American Airlines pilots confronted Boeing executives about the MCAS system in November 2018, after the first crash but before the second. One pilot said: "These guys didn't even know the damn system was on the airplane, nor did anybody else." Boeing is currently facing lawsuits from the families of those killed on the planes, as well as federal investigations and demands for compensation from airlines around the world who have had their planes grounded and unable to fly since March. Source: Boeing left out a 737 Max safety feature linked to its fatal crashes, despite including it on an earlier plane, report claims
  9. Feds say Boeing 737 needs to be better designed for humans NTSB review suggests pilots may have been overwhelmed by multiple alerts and warnings. Enlarge Boeing The two 737 MAX crashes that killed 346 people and led to what is, so far, a six-month grounding of the jet, stemmed in part from Boeing’s failure to accurately anticipate how pilots would respond to a malfunctioning feature that pointed the jets toward the ground. That’s the key finding from a report the National Transportation Safety Board published Thursday, which included a series of recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration. The NTSB advised the regulator to have Boeing consider how 737 MAX pilots would handle not just problems with the MCAS system alone, but how they respond to multiple simultaneous alerts and indicators. In short, the NTSB says Boeing was wrong to assume pilots would respond correctly to the problem that ended up killing them. The crashes of Lion Air Flight 610, in October 2018, and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, in March, stemmed from a feature Boeing designed to prevent stalls. In both cases, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, activated in response to a false reading from a faulty angle of attack sensor. The pilots fought to counteract the system, which pushed the nose of the plane down, but ultimately failed. When Boeing tested what would happen if the MCAS malfunctioned, it didn’t account for other elements. The Lion Air and Ethiopian pilots on the doomed planes dealt with a cascade of problems and warnings: Their control sticks shook. Various alarms sounded. When the pilots retracted the flaps, the plane’s downward push required extra force to keep the jet aloft. The result: Their reactions “did not match [Boeing’s] assumptions,” the NTSB found. “An aircraft system should be designed such that the consequences of any human error are limited.” The FAA hasn’t said whether it will adopt the recommendations of the NTSB, which has no regulatory or enforcement power. And this is far from the end of the 737 MAX saga: Boeing and the FAA are still negotiating a fix to the plane’s software, and congressional, international, and criminal investigations into the crashes are ongoing. But as its title—“Assumptions Used in the Safety Assessment Process and the Effects of Multiple Alerts and Indications on Pilot Performance”—indicates, the NTSB report is about more than one troubled jet, one feature, one company, or even one country. The safety board wants the FAA to apply this sort of thinking to all the planes it certifies. And it hopes the agency will encourage its peers around the world to do the same. That’s because the report is all about the question at the core of modern aviation safety: How to ensure that pilots can work with the computers that have taken on more of the work in the cockpit. It’s about a field of study called “human factors.” “The field of aviation has been the cradle of human factors, and its biggest beneficiary,” says Najmedin Meshkati, who studies the field at the University of Southern California. Where ergonomics and biomechanics center on physical responses, human factors tends to center on the gray stuff packed into their skulls. It matters in fields from self-driving cars to coal mines—anywhere people interact with machines. It’s long been a major focus in aviation because so many crashes trace back to pilots’ failure to understand what the plane’s myriad and complex systems are doing, why, or how to influence them. “Whenever you have a human error, and the consequence isn’t immediately noticeable or reversible, human factors is important,” Meshkati says. That’s often the case in aviation—and the error doesn’t always come from the human. The rising use of automation in aviation has produced major safety and practical benefits, but also distanced humans from the workings of the planes they’re commanding. Meshkati draws a distinction between decision making and problem solving. The former is usually routine and procedure-based, like using your altitude, airspeed, and heading to calculate a landing path. Computers are very good at this. Problem solving comes in when some combination of factors means the procedures don’t work, when a person needs to absorb information and devise a new formula that will keep them safe. This is where humanity has the edge, but hardly a guaranteed victory. According to the NTSB report, Boeing counted on pilots following a procedure that would get them out of a situation where MCAS malfunctioned. But Lion Air 610 and Ethiopian 302 demanded problem solving: Each set of pilots was fighting a plane that wanted to dive, while considering a cascade of malfunctions and signals. Better human factor thinking, Meshkati says, would have required less, or easier, problem solving. It could have produced a procedure that fit the actual conditions of the flights, allowing for good old decision making. Of course, the FAA has other things to consider. The NTSB’s recommendations are “absolutely valid,” says Clint Balog, a flight test pilot and human factors expert with the College of Aeronautics at Embry-Riddle University. But, he says, the safety agency trends toward idealism. “The FAA has to consider, what is realistic testing?” If airplane makers had to test for every possible combination of malfunctions and cockpit alarms, they’d never get another plane certified, he says. Not all pilots are equally skilled, by virtue of their natural talent, training, or experience. It doesn’t make sense, Balog says, to design for the worst of the bunch—or the best. Cockpits as physical spaces, he points out, are designed for pilots of many shapes and sizes. But designers had to settle on limits on who can sit comfortably or reach every control. “We’ve got to figure out how to do the same thing for cognitive capability,” Balog says. This story first appeared on wired.com. Source: Feds say Boeing 737 needs to be better designed for humans (Ars Technica)
  10. Boeing to make $50 million in payments to 737 MAX crash victims' families WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Boeing Co said on Wednesday it will dedicate half of a $100 million fund it created after two crashes of its 737 MAX planes to provide payments to families of those killed, with veteran U.S. compensation expert Ken Feinberg hired by the world’s largest plane maker to oversee the distribution. FILE PHOTO: Grounded flydubai and Royal Air Maroc Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are seen parked in an aerial photo at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, U.S. July 1, 2019. Picture taken July 1, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo The announcement of Feinberg’s hiring came minutes before a U.S. House of Representatives hearing featuring dramatic testimony by Paul Njoroge, a father who lost three children, his wife and mother-in-law in a 737 MAX Ethiopian Air crash in March. Feinberg told Reuters his team will “start immediately drafting a claims protocol for those eligible,” with the first meeting with officials from Chicago-based Boeing later this week in Washington. Feinberg has administered many compensation funds including for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, General Motors ignition switch crashes and numerous school shootings. The 737 MAX, Boeing’s best-selling jet, was grounded globally in March following the Ethiopian Airlines crash after a similar Lion Air disaster in Indonesia in October. The two crashes killed 346 people. Njoroge, 35, told reporters after he testified he did not think the public would trust Boeing going forward. “Do you want to fly in those planes? Do you want your children to fly in those planes?” Njoroge asked. “I don’t have any more children.” Njoroge told a House subcommittee that he still has “nightmares about how (his children) must have clung to their mother crying” during the doomed flight. Njoroge, who was born in Kenya and lives in Canada, said Boeing has blamed “innocent pilots who had no knowledge and were given no information of the new and flawed MCAS system that could overpower pilots.” Boeing did not address specific questions raised by Njoroge but said in a statement “we truly regret the loss of lives in both of these accidents and we are deeply sorry for the impact to the families and loved ones of those on board.” A Boeing official told Reuters last month that after a new software flaw emerged the company will not submit an MCAS software upgrade and training revision until September, which means the planes will not resume flying until November at the earliest. U.S. airlines have canceled flights through early November as a result of the 737 MAX’s grounding. Boeing shares closed up 1.9% Wednesday. Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell told Fox Business Network on Wednesday that the agency has made a lot of progress since the plane’s grounding. “We have discovered some anomalies and then we have directed Boeing to mitigate those anomalies,” Elwell said, declining to set any timetable for returning the plane to service. “The 737 MAX is not going to fly until it passes the most thorough and intense look,” said Elwell, adding that he had spent several hours with Njoroge during a recent meeting. Boeing said on July 3 it would give $100 million over multiple years to local governments and non-profit organizations to help families and communities affected by the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Feinberg, who will jointly administer the fund with lawyer Camille Biros, said the other $50 million in the fund is earmarked for government and community projects. Boeing reiterated on Wednesday that the money distributed through the fund would be independent from the outcome of any lawsuits. The company is facing a slew of litigation from the families of victims of both crashes. “Through our partnership with Feinberg and Biros, we hope affected families receive needed assistance as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said in a statement. Boeing’s initial announcement of the $100 million fund was met with anger by some victims’ families, who described the offer as a publicity stunt. At the hearing in Washington, Representative Peter DeFazio, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said he would call Boeing officials to testify at a hearing. DeFazio said the committee is in the middle of an in-depth investigation and had just received a “trove” of documents that panel investigators are reviewing. Update July 17, 5:14 PM ET: The article has been updated to add quotes from Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell and to state that Boeing shares closed up 1.9% on Wednesday. Previous updates changed the title of the article, added background information about Paul Njoroge, and added a statement made by Boeing. Source: Boeing to make $50 million in payments to 737 MAX crash victims' families
  11. Saudi airline flyadeal picks Airbus jets over grounded Boeing MAX FILE PHOTO: Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury attends a news conference at the 53rd International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, France June 20, 2019. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo RIYADH/DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s flyadeal will not proceed with a provisional order for 30 Boeing 737 MAX jets, the U.S. planemaker said on Sunday after the airline announced it would operate an all Airbus A320 fleet. Flyadeal began reconsidering a commitment to order the Boeing jets after two MAX aircraft crashed in Ethiopia in March and Indonesia last October. “We understand that flyadeal will not finalize its commitment to the 737 MAX at this time given the airline’s schedule requirements,” a Boeing spokesperson said. The provisional order, which included additional purchasing options for 20 MAX jets, was worth $5.9 billion at list prices. The budget airline will take delivery from 2021 of 30 Airbus A320neo aircraft ordered by its parent, state-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines, at the Paris Air Show in June, it said in its statement. “This order will result in flyadeal operating an all- Airbus A320 fleet in the future,” it added. The two 737 MAX crashes killed a total of 346 people, triggered the global grounding of the aircraft and wiped billions off Boeing’s market value. Regulators must approve changes and new pilot training before the jets can fly again. Source: Saudi airline flyadeal picks Airbus jets over grounded Boeing MAX
  12. Boeing pledges $100 million to help 737 MAX crash families SEATTLE/CHICAGO (Reuters) - Boeing Co said on Wednesday it would give $100 million over multiple years to local governments and non-profit organizations to help families and communities affected by the deadly crashes of its 737 MAX planes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. FILE PHOTO: The Boeing logo is pictured at the Latin American Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition fair (LABACE) at Congonhas Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker/File Photo The move appears to be a step toward repairing the image of the world’s largest planemaker, which has been severely dented by the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane in March just five months after a similar crash on a Lion Air flight in Indonesia. The two crashes killed a total of 346 people. Boeing is the target of a U.S. Department of Justice criminal investigation into the development of the 737 MAX, regulatory probes and more than 100 lawsuits by victims’ families. The multiyear payout is independent of the lawsuits and would have no impact on litigation, a Boeing spokesman said. The $100 million, which is less than the list price of a 737 MAX 8, is meant to help with education and living expenses and to spur economic development in affected communities, Boeing said. It did not specify which authorities or organizations would receive the money. Many of the passengers on board the Ethiopian Airlines flight were aid workers or involved with health, food, or environmental programs. “If the money is spent on furthering the work of the people on that airplane it would be money well spent,” said Justin Green, a New York-based attorney representing several of the Ethiopia crash victims. But he said the fund would not affect his clients’ courtroom strategy: “What families really want to know is why this happened. Could this have been avoided?” After the Lion Air crash on Oct. 29 Boeing started developing a software here fix on a stall-prevention system called MCAS believed to have played a role in that disaster, as well as in the Ethiopian crash. The 737 MAX was grounded worldwide after the second crash and regulators must approve the fix and new pilot training before the jets can fly again. But just last month, regulators identified a new problem that will delay commercial flight for the jets until October at the earliest. Boeing is in settlement talks over the Lion Air litigation and has separately offered to negotiate with families of Ethiopian Airlines victims, but some families have said they are not ready to settle, exposing the planemaker to a lengthy court battle. “The Boeing brand is worth far more than $100 million and the board and executive leadership understand that is what is at stake,” said William Klepper, a Columbia Business School professor. Following an initial response that public relations experts criticized as stilted and lawyer-driven, Boeing has been on a charm offensive, with executives at the Paris Airshow last month repeatedly apologizing for the loss of life. Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg posts regular Twitter updates on efforts to safely return the 737 MAX to service and win back public confidence. Robert Clifford, a Chicago-based attorney with several of the Ethiopian crash cases, suggested some of Boeing’s $100 million pledge could be spent assisting efforts to return the remains of victims to their families. “These families are distraught about the effort to get back their loved ones,” Clifford said. “They want closure.” Boeing has also offered to match any employee donations in support of the families and communities impacted by the accidents through December. Update July 3, 6:30 PM ET: The article has been updated to remove a section heading, add language clarifying that the $100 million is less than the list price of a 737 MAX 8, add new quotes by Justin Green, a New York-based attorney representing several of the Ethiopia crash victims, and add quotes from Robert Clifford, a Chicago-based attorney with several of the Ethiopian crash cases. Source: Boeing pledges $100 million to help 737 MAX crash families
  13. WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Sunday disclosed a new problem involving Boeing Co’s grounded 737 MAX, saying that more than 300 of that troubled plane and the prior generation 737 may contain improperly manufactured parts and that the agency will require these parts to be quickly replaced. The FAA said up to 148 of the part known as a leading-edge slat track that were manufactured by a Boeing supplier are affected, covering 179 MAX and 133 NG aircraft worldwide. Slats are movable panels that extend along the wing’s front during takeoffs and landings to provide additional lift. The tracks guide the slats and are built into the wing. The 737 MAX, Chicago-based Boeing’s best-selling jet, was grounded globally in March following a fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash after a similar Lion Air disaster in Indonesia in October. The two crashes together killed 346 people. Boeing has yet to submit a software upgrade to the FAA as it works to get approval to end the grounding of the 737 MAX. In a statement issued after the FAA announcement, Boeing said it has not been informed of any in-service issues related to this batch of slat tracks. Boeing, the world’s largest plane maker, said it has identified 20 737 MAX airplanes most likely to have the faulty parts and that airlines will check an additional 159 MAXs for these parts. Boeing said it has identified 21 737 NGs most likely to have the suspect parts and is advising airlines to check an additional 112 NGs. The NG is the third-generation 737 that the company began building in 1997. The affected parts “may be susceptible to premature failure or cracks resulting from the improper manufacturing process,” the FAA said. The FAA said a complete failure of a leading edge slat track would not result in the loss of the aircraft, but a failed part could cause aircraft damage in flight. The FAA said it will issue an Airworthiness Directive to require Boeing’s service actions to identify and remove the parts from service. It said operators will be required to perform this action within 10 days, but can continue to fly the planes during the 10-day period before the parts are removed. FINANCIAL IMPACT ON BOEING Boeing in April said the two fatal crashes had cost it at least $1 billion as it abandoned its 2019 financial outlook, halted share buybacks and lowered production. The company’s shares have fallen by nearly 20 percent since the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March. Some international carriers are skeptical the plane will resume flying by August as some U.S. airlines have suggested. Tim Clark, president of Emirates, told reporters in Seoul that it could take six months to restore operations as other regulators re-examine the U.S. delegation practices. “If it is in the air by Christmas (Dec. 25) I’ll be surprised - my own view,” he said. Boeing said one batch of slat tracks with specific lot numbers produced by a supplier was found to have a “potential nonconformance” and said airlines “are to replace them with new ones before returning the airplane to service.” The company said it is “now staging replacement parts at customer bases to help minimize aircraft downtime while the work is completed.” Boeing said once new parts are in hand, replacement work should take one to two days. A separate service bulletin will go to 737 MAX operators to do inspections before the MAX fleet returns to service. The FAA said Boeing has identified groups of both 737 NG and 737 MAX airplane serial numbers on which these suspect parts may have been installed, including 32 NG and 33 MAX in the United States. The issue was discovered following an investigation conducted by Boeing and the FAA Certificate Management Office, the FAA said. An FAA spokesman said the issue should not delay Boeing’s planned submission of a software update and training revisions, but it remains unclear when that will be submitted. The FAA has said it has no timetable for ending the grounding of the airplane. Boeing said last month it completed its software upgrade but was still working to address information requests from the FAA before it can schedule a certification test flight and submit final certification documentation. Reuters reported last month that the FAA has indicated privately to other regulators that it aims to certify new software by the end of June, after which it would take several weeks at a minimum to get planes flying. Acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell told reporters on May 23 in Texas after a meeting with more than 30 international air regulators that the agency had not decided yet on training requirements. Source
  14. Boeing says 737 Max software update is complete After 207 test flights lasting 360 hours, the company says it's ready to release a fix to the flight control system under investigation for two crashes. A 737 Max lands last month at Boeing Field in Renton, Washington after a test flight. Boeing/Paul Christian Gordon Almost a month after Boeing completed test flights for the software fix to its grounded737 Max airliner, the company now says the update is finished and ready for evaluation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In a statement issued Thursday the company said it will now schedule a certification flight where FAA crews will analyze the updated MCAS flight control system that's being blamed as the cause of two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people. "We're committed to providing the FAA and global regulators all the information they need, and to getting it right," said Boeing Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg. "We're making clear and steady progress and are confident that the 737 MAX with updated MCAS software will be one of the safest airplanes ever to fly." Boeing didn't announce a timeline for when the 737 Max might be able to carry passengers again, but the Wall Street Journal reported this week that the plane will not return to the skies until mid-August at least. In any case, though, the FAA will be under close scrutiny during the certification process. On Wednesday before a Congressional committee, Daniel Elwell, the FAA's acting administrator, defended the agency's initial approval of the 737 Max against accusations that it had deferred too strongly to Boeing's enthusiasm to get the aircraft into service. Source
  15. Boeing completes test flights for 737 Max software fix The company's CEO says the updated MCAS software is in its final form after 127 test flights. Kent German/CNET More than a month after the second fatal crash of a Boeing 737 Max, the troubled airliner remains grounded to passenger flights around the world. But on Wednesday the company got one step closer to getting the Max back in service when it completed the last test flight for updates to the flight control system that's at the center of both crash investigations. Speaking at Boeing Field in Seattle, where Boeing makes final adjustments to new 737s prior to delivery to airlines, CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the company conducted 127 Max test flights over the last few weeks, accounting or 203 hours in the air. The aircraft are built nearby at a Boeing plant in Renton, Washington. "We're making steady progress to certification," Muilenburg said. "That was the final test flight prior to the certification flight ... I saw the software in its final form operating as intended across a range of flight conditions." During the next-step certification flight, Federal Aviation Administration crews will join Boeing pilots in the air to evaluate the new MCAS software and determine whether it addresses problems around the nose of the aircraft being forced down during flight. FAA certification is necessary for the 737 Max to fly passengers again, and there's no telling how long that could take. The agency itself is under scrutiny for a cosy relationship with Boeing when the Max was originally certified. So the FAA has extra hurdles to leap before it can satisfy airlines and governments outside the United States that the plane is safe. Though aviation safety agencies in other countries have typically followed the FAA's lead in certification matters, The Seattle Times reported Wednesday that Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau disagrees with an FAA report that Max pilots wouldn't need additional simulator training to learn the updated Max software. Air Canada is one of the largest Max customers, with 24 aircraft in its fleet and an additional 77 on order. Source
  16. Preliminary report into 737 Max crash clears pilots, suggests anti-stall tech to blame All eyes now focused on Boeing’s automated flight control software Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images Officials investigating the deadly crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 have said this morning that the plane suffered from “repetitive uncommanded nose-down” prior to crashing, in an apparent reference to the Boeing aircraft’s controversial automated flight control system. Officials also said that the plane had not been damaged by a foreign object, and stressed that the plane’s pilots followed the correct procedures, but could not prevent the 737 Max 8 from crashing. “The preliminary report clearly showed that the Ethiopian Airlines Pilots who were commanding Flight ET 302/10 March have followed the Boeing recommended and FAA approved emergency procedures to handle the most difficult emergency situation created on the airplane.” reads a statement from Ethiopian Airlines. “Despite their hard work and full compliance with the emergency procedures, it was very unfortunate that they could not recover the airplane from the persistence (of) nose diving.” Ethiopian officials have asked Boeing to review the 737 Max’s flight control system as a result. A full report into the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 will be released in about one year. INVESTIGATORS ARE ZEROING IN ON THE CONTROVERSIAL AUTOMATED FLIGHT CONTROL SYSTEM AS THE PRIMARY CAUSE By ruling out other causes, today’s briefing suggests that investigators are zeroing in on the controversial automated flight control system as the primary cause of the March 10th crash that killed all 157 people on board. The same anti-stall software has been cited as contributing to the October 29th crash of another Boeing 737 Max airplane, Lion Air Flight 610, which also killed everyone on board. Not only was the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, engaged on the Boeing 737 Max jet that crashed minutes after take-off in Ethiopia, but it re-engaged up to four times, according to The Guardian. The system automatically points the nose of the aircraft down to prevent a perceived stall-out. In the case of Lion Air 610, a faulty sensor sent the signal that the plane was climbing too steep and in danger of stalling. These are the only two accidents involving the new Boeing 737 Max series of aircraft, which was first introduced in 2017. Since the crash of Ethiopian Airlines 302, more than 300 Boeing 737 Max passenger jets have been grounded worldwide. Boeing began rolling out an update to its MCAS software soon after the Lion Air crash. But this week, the company said the update was delayed. Boeing had hoped to submit the update to the Federal Aviation Administration as early as this week. The FAA must approve the new software and training procedures before the Max can return to commercial flight. The update could come , according to The Wall Street Journal, with final FAA testing to take an additional six weeks. Overseas regulators could take even longer to review and certify the fix. Meanwhile, lawmakers and prosecutors in Washington, DC, are trying to determine if there was any wrongdoing in the approval and certification of Boeing’s MCAS software. The Senate Commerce Committee is investigating whistleblower allegations about improper training and certification for FAA safety inspectors. Subpoenas have been issued in a criminal investigation into the FAA’s certification process, which reportedly was mostly outsourced to Boeing engineers. Source
  17. Spam Campaign Uses Recent Boeing 737 Max Crashes to Push Malware A spam campaign is using two recent crashes involving Boeing 737 Max aircraft to distribute malware to unsuspecting users. Discovered by 360 Threat Intelligence Center, a research division of 360 Enterprise Security Group, the campaign sends out attack emails that come from “[email protected]” with the subject line “Fwd: Airlines plane crash Boeing 737 Max 8.” Supposedly written by a private investigator named Joshua Berlinger, the emails reference two recent crashes involving Boeing 737 Max aircraft. In the first incident, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed just minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport on 10 March, killing 157 people in the process. The second incident occurred several months earlier on 29 October 2018 when a Lion Air Flight 610 crashed after taking off from Jakarta airport, killing 189 people. The email goes on to discuss how the Berlinger persona found a document leaked on the dark web. This file purports to identify several companies that will suffer similar crashes involving Boeing 737 Max aircraft in the future. Under the guise of helping them protect their loved ones, Berlinger asks users to view the document by opening an attached JAR file named “MP4_142019.jar.” Spam email (Source: Bleeping Computer) Bleeping Computer creator and owner Lawrence Abrams explains what happens next: If a user attempts to open the JAR file, it will be executed by JAVA on the computer. This attachment was originally thought to only install the Houdini H-worm Remote Access Trojan, but security researcher Racco42 felt that it was too large to just be that single malware. In response, the security researcher ran the infection process through Any.Run and found that it also installs the Adwind information-stealing trojan. Bleeping Computer later confirmed this finding independently. This is just the latest instance of digital attackers capitalizing on recent events to distribute malware. Back in 2017, for interest, the U.S. government warned people to be on the lookout for charity scams and phishing attacks in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. More recently, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) pointed out that scammers are attempting to exploit the recent New Zealand mosque shooting to infect users with malware. To protect themselves against these types of scams, users should exercise caution around suspicious links and email attachments. They should also familiarize themselves with the most common types of phishing attacks. Source
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