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Boeing 737 Max Recertification Testing - Finally.

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Boeing 737 Max Recertification Testing - Finally.

Old 16th Apr 2023, 05:56
  #1061 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by tdracer
Sorry, but that entire story smells of BS. For starters, they don't build 737 fuselages in Renton - they are assembled at Spirit in Wichita and shipped by rail to Renton as a complete structure - structural work on the fuselage in Renton is minimal. About all that happens to the fuselage assembly in Renton is the various wiring and systems are added (and of course the wings and tail are bolted on.
As for the 737 wing - it's assembled on the same type of Gemco automated machinery that puts together the 767 and 777 wings (except of course for the 777X composite wing).
It may be a bit exaggerated, though, based on YT videos (never been to such a factory myself) I saw (both the sterile Airbus assembly as the craftsmanship style Boeing assembly lines), I recognize what WHBM writes. The wording/details might be a bit off, though the general impression: I'd say, spot on.

And let me add, that a craftsmanship style does not need to be "bad", though it has all ingredients build in, to be relaxed about applying the approved building guidelines, especially, when low-paid/low-educated workers are on the floor.

When the working environment is disorganized, keeping up a proper working habit is quite difficult. Not to say, when you want to change working habits, the first thing you do is creating a "clean" and visually "organized" working environment (easy to do) and work from there to change the working habits (the difficult part).
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Old 16th Apr 2023, 09:19
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Originally Posted by tdracer
Sorry, but that entire story smells of BS. For starters, they don't build 737 fuselages in Renton .
I think I was the poster WHBM was refereing to.. Anyway I can confirm it was as described . When I was in Renton it was taking delivery of a 757 ,which were built by lots of people in overalls with quite some noise and lots of debris in the floor.At the same time in Toulouse Airbus was already in the laser aligned business using robots in a hall with an immaculatle white floor. But that 20 years ago..
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Old 16th Apr 2023, 11:04
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Originally Posted by tdracer
Sorry, but that entire story smells of BS. For starters, they don't build 737 fuselages in Renton - they are assembled at Spirit in Wichita and shipped by rail to Renton as a complete structure - structural work on the fuselage in Renton is minimal. About all that happens to the fuselage assembly in Renton is the various wiring and systems are added (and of course the wings and tail are bolted on.
Sorry, td, but I don't see the word 'fuselage' in any of the description that was written. There is of course a bit more to final assembly than that. And I'm well aware the green fuselages are railed from Kansas to Seattle, apart of course from any that fall down a canyon in Montana on the way. And apparently quite a few do need fuselage work on arrival, from bullet holes they have picked up from yahoos doing 'target practice' along the line ....
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Old 16th Apr 2023, 12:04
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From the Guardian - The setback will probably delay revenues while the company reinstalls the affected fittings, which are used to hold the vertical tail stabiliser in place. Boeing could also face costs to replace the parts on planes going back as far as 2019. Oh dear!
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Old 16th Apr 2023, 12:46
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Willow, re your trans Atlantic views; #1058

See the 'political' answers in https://aviationweek.com/air-transpo...lt-discussions

It might be of greater importance that these subjects are published publicly, opposed to having any hard answers.

"We trust the FAA to do the right thing to solve the issues, if there are any."

"Where are you in certifying the 777X? We had a lot of discussions with the FAA and Boeing. Some were more difficult than others, but what matters is that we are agreeing on a common way forward."

"And of course, after the 737 MAX [crisis], there were lessons learned on the internal processes, items to which we need to pay more attention, such as the change product rule. What we saw was that the bilaterals are worded in sufficiently high-level terms that we can use them on both sides to [ensure] that the level of safety is what we want to achieve.
Certification is a matter of people.
It’s a matter of expertise.
We were very clear with Boeing and the FAA that we needed to define measures, solutions [and] changes with which our technical experts would be comfortable.
"


"… So it is not a surprise that the approach to certification is different in the U.S. and Europe. I think it is better this way, to be frank. If we can achieve the same results with two different approaches, our systems are even more robust."
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Old 16th Apr 2023, 13:46
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safetypee, many thanks for that. .... many, many thanks.

On the difference between craftsmen and riveting, and significantly more automated, methods of aircraft manufacturing:
Suppose one were on a commission, properly charged and authorized, asked to advise the receiver for Boeing company - which (hypothetically) has been put into receivership resulting from otherwise intractable problems stemming from the criminal matter in Texas, governance deficiencies overall, and others - about leveraging the existing company into one that is at least as automated in manufacturing as Toulouse (if not more so). At what point in time should Boeing have made the change to automated methods in the past? Is it even meaningful to conceive of such a transformation occuring at all in light of what's gone wrong to date?

Another question - after the Second World War, and the emergence of the Chicago Convention of 1944 and (soon after) ICAO, Boeing had no massive competitor in Toulouse, obviously. Boeing contributed quite significantly to the development, growth, and technological advance of the global civil aviation sector for decades -- not the only airframer to do so, of course, but the most dominant. The point isn't about eliciting sympathy for poor Boeing; no. The question is, doesn't Toulouse's achievement owe a great deal to Boeing's heavy lifting of aircraft manufacturing for several decades? Boeing did so much to create the industry which Airbus then arose to serve in some ways better than Boeing had served it and was serving it - correct? Does that not give some impetus, in other words some validity, to the idea that wrong-doers at Boeing deserve to be held accountable as completely as feasible, but the corporate entity is worth redeeming?

(I mean, this thread has opened up topically, but if the above is too, too pedantic, apologies here in advance.)
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Old 16th Apr 2023, 14:39
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"The question is, doesn't Toulouse's achievement owe a great deal to Boeing's heavy lifting of aircraft manufacturing for several decades? Boeing did so much to create the industry which Airbus then arose to serve in some ways better than Boeing had served it and was serving it - correct?"

No, I wouldn't say a great deal. Airbus's success was built on the existing, not insignificant, aircraft industry of many European counties, to name Britain in particular, but also France and Germany as other examples. Some British aircraft manufacturing companies pre-date Boeing by several years.
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Old 16th Apr 2023, 16:46
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Originally Posted by WillowRun 6-3
At what point in time should Boeing have made the change to automated methods in the past?
The degree of manufacturing automation that can be applied to an aircraft programme is, to a large extent, baked in at the design stage. In the case of the 737, that was 60-odd years ago.

I have no doubt that, had Boeing decided on a clean-sheet successor to the 737, it would have been manufactured in a completely different manner.
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Old 16th Apr 2023, 16:50
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I guess the question is why didn't they replace the 737 25 years ago?

I guess it was easy money - why change a winning team etc etc etc
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Old 16th Apr 2023, 18:14
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Originally Posted by WillowRun 6-3
.....
On the difference between craftsmen and riveting, and significantly more automated, methods of aircraft manufacturing:
Suppose one were on a commission, properly charged and authorized, asked to advise the receiver for Boeing company - which (hypothetically) has been put into receivership resulting from otherwise intractable problems stemming from the criminal matter in Texas, governance deficiencies overall, and others - about leveraging the existing company into one that is at least as automated in manufacturing as Toulouse (if not more so). At what point in time should Boeing have made the change to automated methods in the past? Is it even meaningful to conceive of such a transformation occuring at all in light of what's gone wrong to date?
Transition: The moment you start with a new frame. Airbus did so, right from the beginning, with the A300 and developed this further. However, this does require a vision, beyond a short-term financial profit. Especially after the McD merger, this vision was completely out of reach. In those days, the financial highlight had decided, that "current technology" was suitable for the future and all "developments" should be just extensions of current technology. Note, that this vision was not only rising in the airline industry. Management at many engineering companies did follow the same seminars and courses and were on the same route. Boink.

The B777 could have been a starting point, a bit early, though the same applies for the A300.

Be aware, this is not only the manufacturing, though also the acceptance, that one needs highly skilled labor to manufacture airplanes. Boeing was on the opposite road, to squeeze on labor costs in production, with all the quality problems that stem from that.

Originally Posted by WillowRun 6-3
Another question - after the Second World War, and the emergence of the Chicago Convention of 1944 and (soon after) ICAO, Boeing had no massive competitor in Toulouse, obviously. Boeing contributed quite significantly to the development, growth, and technological advance of the global civil aviation sector for decades -- not the only airframer to do so, of course, but the most dominant. The point isn't about eliciting sympathy for poor Boeing; no. The question is, doesn't Toulouse's achievement owe a great deal to Boeing's heavy lifting of aircraft manufacturing for several decades? Boeing did so much to create the industry which Airbus then arose to serve in some ways better than Boeing had served it and was serving it - correct? Does that not give some impetus, in other words some validity, to the idea that wrong-doers at Boeing deserve to be held accountable as completely as feasible, but the corporate entity is worth redeeming?
......
Actually, Airbus isn't "started" as "Airbus", though was an initially hesitating cooperation of several independent airplane/helo manufacturers in Europe, who realized that each of them individually did not have the scale to be able to properly compete with Boeing (and others) and "decided" (IE pushed by the EU), to cooperate more closely, finally becoming one company, etc.
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Old 16th Apr 2023, 20:08
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Originally Posted by ATC Watcher
I think I was the poster WHBM was refereing to.. Anyway I can confirm it was as described . When I was in Renton it was taking delivery of a 757 ,which were built by lots of people in overalls with quite some noise and lots of debris in the floor.At the same time in Toulouse Airbus was already in the laser aligned business using robots in a hall with an immaculatle white floor. But that 20 years ago..
757 fuselages were built in Renton - 737s never were. Also, 757s were built at a relatively low production rate compared to the 737 (the 757 never exceeded 7/month - one every 3 days - and most of the production was much less than that). 737s have been above 42 a month (2/day) at times. Boeing did a lot of work on process improvement in the late '90s/early 2000s that dramatically improved the working environment.

BTW, Boeing spent a boatload of money on developing an automated system for assembling 777 fuselages for the 777X program.
After several years and many millions of dollars, they admitted defeat and canned the whole project - they simply could not get the required level of quality without spending more on 'rework' than it currently costs to built 777 fuselages.
Granted, the tooling that was developed for the 777 fuselage is pretty advanced - including a large gig that rotates 360 degrees so that assembly work can be done from a comfortable working position.
As I noted previously, the 737 fuselages are built by Spirit in Wichita - it's up to Spirit what sort of mechanization and tooling they use - as long as the meet the required level of quality.

Last edited by tdracer; 16th Apr 2023 at 20:19.
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Old 16th Apr 2023, 23:59
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Originally Posted by DaveReidUK
The degree of manufacturing automation that can be applied to an aircraft programme is, to a large extent, baked in at the design stage. In the case of the 737, that was 60-odd years ago.

I have no doubt that, had Boeing decided on a clean-sheet successor to the 737, it would have been manufactured in a completely different manner.
Indeed. Discussion with a longstanding production engineer was that, when a prototype/first unit of an item is produced, things have moved on from this being done by the development engineers themselves hand-building it off the line, because it's not so much seeing that the design actually goes together and works, that is the easier bit on something well designed, but working out HOW it is going to be produced in volume, using and proving the actual production tools and procedures.
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Old 17th Apr 2023, 00:43
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Before there was Airbus, there was "Aerospatiale" iirc, with the first version of the Ariane space launch vehicle. (This stretches way back to late 1974 or start of 1975 when (a significantly younger version of) this SLF discovered the trade publication, Aviation Week & Space Technology, and from there..... well, anyway.)

I would have thought that for at least some years after the war, the manufacturers in war-damaged countries were focused on rebuilding production capacity. Especially in Germany, given Allied bombardment (no?). And of course there were the BAe-146 (U.S. introduction, 1983, Appleton, Wisconsin) and Franco-British Concorde (U.S. first visit 1974, Boston).

Okay I admit it, I traveled to both places on those occasions to ger a sight of those airplanes.

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Old 17th Apr 2023, 04:39
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Originally Posted by tdracer
....
BTW, Boeing spent a boatload of money on developing an automated system for assembling 777 fuselages for the 777X program.
After several years and many millions of dollars, they admitted defeat and canned the whole project - they simply could not get the required level of quality without spending more on 'rework' than it currently costs to built 777 fuselages.
Granted, the tooling that was developed for the 777 fuselage is pretty advanced - including a large gig that rotates 360 degrees so that assembly work can be done from a comfortable working position.
This smells like, Boeing is trying to "automate" the production of a design concept, which can not be automated (sensible).

Originally Posted by tdracer
As I noted previously, the 737 fuselages are built by Spirit in Wichita - it's up to Spirit what sort of mechanization and tooling they use - as long as the meet the required level of quality.
Yep, though, where the design of the item to be produced is not suitable for automation, any attempt to automate this, will cost a fortune and fail, be it a Boeing or a supplier.

IF not started at the initial design with concepts suitable for automated production, production automation will just plain "sock". There is no way around this.

That does not imply, that from one moment in time, ALL design items need to be reconsidered, though a stepwise change, will gradually move the whole production from craftsmanship to automation.

Does it cost "low skilled jobs" ? Yep it does. Though, it does bring back higher skilled jobs. Will the "low skilled jobs" be lost, IF no change is initiated ? Yep, the whole company will gradually disappear, because it is slowly getting behind, etc. and the "low skilled jobs" will disappear, including the company.
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Old 17th Apr 2023, 06:47
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Originally Posted by DaveReidUK
The degree of manufacturing automation that can be applied to an aircraft programme is, to a large extent, baked in at the design stage. In the case of the 737, that was 60-odd years ago.

I have no doubt that, had Boeing decided on a clean-sheet successor to the 737, it would have been manufactured in a completely different manner.
This specific automation claim seems a bit suspect. I agree that including automation as part of the initial design process is a good idea and delivers the least expensive adoption. But there are many ways to automate an operation. The usual impediment to automation is wide ranging variability. If that was the case it would not require a design change to focus on lowering the variability. Manufacturing is always welcome, and should be encouraged, to decrease variation to make a more consistent product.

Likewise jigs, fixtures, and, to a lesser extent, order of operations, can also occur without a design change.

Most remaining problems flow from the lower level variability. It's possible to make a design that is more costly, but is also more tolerant of that variation. This adaptation is not is a specific impediment but if the variation is reduced the adaptation should also respond to automation. This adaptation is often things like peeled shims that are customized based on making measurements of the varied gaps. If the underlying parts are consistent the gaps will be consistent and it may be possible to eliminate the much or most of the need to peel shims.

Perhaps there is some specific process that requires human flesh to perform the fastening work?

If I were to place a bet where things are difficult to automate it would be routing wires/cables - but that would not involve the image of a dirty trashed factory.

One big difference is that Airbus is a multinational company that also serves as a show-piece, supported by multiple governments. Showpieces can have money spent on cosmetic dressings.

I saw this in a facility that assembled medical equipment: while there was no need for sterile conditions and no one was wearing hair coverings, the workers were all issued lab coats. Perhaps it was for esprit de corp, but under the veneer it was a rather unproductive and relaxed operation. My favorite was a case of simple magnets to hold a cabinet door closed. Two different versions of the same model had arranged them differently. So I went to the floor and asked the assemblers. Two were working the station and when I pointed the differing requirements, they each claimed each version was right, and then looked at each other because they had been doing all the assemblies different ways, inches from each other, and never noticed the difference. Now - one might say - it doesn't matter, and I suspect that is right. But there had been an engineering drawing change to make them different. So, what problem in two otherwise identical cabinets, caused engineering to find one assembly unacceptable? Turned out - engineering didn't know. But they had lab coats too.

The main factor isn't to make some operation more easily automated, but to eliminate the function entirely. Doing that does require design change and, with it, some form of re-qualification. One company I worked for made fighter planes and at some time they discovered it was less expensive to buy a 500 pound slab of aluminum and mill off 470 pounds of it (or so) rather than assemble the part from 30 or so pounds of aluminum in the form of 50 little bits of sheet metal and a few hundred rivets. Of course if one of those brackets got damaged, one could grind off the rivets and replace the bracket for a few dollars. In the one-piece version a completely custom one-off part would have to be made, the remains of the stub removed, and the repair part riveted into place. Maybe pay now, maybe pay later.

Obviously, changing the length of the fuselage from series to series and model to model must have required re-qualification, so redesign would have been far easier to add in. Not sure if Boeing put that effort in or skipped it. It would be interesting to know if they did. They have made other, more significant structural changes and such changes would have saved a significant amount of money..
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Old 17th Apr 2023, 10:34
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Originally Posted by MechEngr
This specific automation claim seems a bit suspect. I agree that including automation as part of the initial design process is a good idea and delivers the least expensive adoption. But there are many ways to automate an operation. The usual impediment to automation is wide ranging variability. If that was the case it would not require a design change to focus on lowering the variability. Manufacturing is always welcome, and should be encouraged, to decrease variation to make a more consistent product.

Likewise jigs, fixtures, and, to a lesser extent, order of operations, can also occur without a design change.

Most remaining problems flow from the lower level variability. It's possible to make a design that is more costly, but is also more tolerant of that variation. This adaptation is not is a specific impediment but if the variation is reduced the adaptation should also respond to automation. This adaptation is often things like peeled shims that are customized based on making measurements of the varied gaps. If the underlying parts are consistent the gaps will be consistent and it may be possible to eliminate the much or most of the need to peel shims.

Perhaps there is some specific process that requires human flesh to perform the fastening work?

If I were to place a bet where things are difficult to automate it would be routing wires/cables - but that would not involve the image of a dirty trashed factory.

One big difference is that Airbus is a multinational company that also serves as a show-piece, supported by multiple governments. Showpieces can have money spent on cosmetic dressings.

I saw this in a facility that assembled medical equipment: while there was no need for sterile conditions and no one was wearing hair coverings, the workers were all issued lab coats. Perhaps it was for esprit de corp, but under the veneer it was a rather unproductive and relaxed operation. My favorite was a case of simple magnets to hold a cabinet door closed. Two different versions of the same model had arranged them differently. So I went to the floor and asked the assemblers. Two were working the station and when I pointed the differing requirements, they each claimed each version was right, and then looked at each other because they had been doing all the assemblies different ways, inches from each other, and never noticed the difference. Now - one might say - it doesn't matter, and I suspect that is right. But there had been an engineering drawing change to make them different. So, what problem in two otherwise identical cabinets, caused engineering to find one assembly unacceptable? Turned out - engineering didn't know. But they had lab coats too.

The main factor isn't to make some operation more easily automated, but to eliminate the function entirely. Doing that does require design change and, with it, some form of re-qualification. One company I worked for made fighter planes and at some time they discovered it was less expensive to buy a 500 pound slab of aluminum and mill off 470 pounds of it (or so) rather than assemble the part from 30 or so pounds of aluminum in the form of 50 little bits of sheet metal and a few hundred rivets. Of course if one of those brackets got damaged, one could grind off the rivets and replace the bracket for a few dollars. In the one-piece version a completely custom one-off part would have to be made, the remains of the stub removed, and the repair part riveted into place. Maybe pay now, maybe pay later.

Obviously, changing the length of the fuselage from series to series and model to model must have required re-qualification, so redesign would have been far easier to add in. Not sure if Boeing put that effort in or skipped it. It would be interesting to know if they did. They have made other, more significant structural changes and such changes would have saved a significant amount of money..
While much of the above is true, it's hard to see much relevance to the 737.

Round about the same time the 737NG was on the drawing board, I was involved in the initial development of a regional jet (we got as far as making presentations to a whole bunch of airlines before the project was cancelled). One thing that sticks in my mind is just how much of the design work was centred on manufacturability - the processes, techniques and automation that would go into the building of the aircraft.

I stand by my view that trying to retrofit all those manufacturing innovations to a 30-year-old programme would have been a non-starter, and clearly Boeing decided likewise.
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Old 17th Apr 2023, 10:50
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It's (largely) a change of thinking: "When I want to automate the production of this object, what reduction in number of components / assembly complexity can be done".

The one-piece milling is a typical example. Using CNC, you can create a complete wing-spar, with whatever additional items already attached, etc. Creating such a piece in manufacturing is a matter of "let the machine run", and no longer individual craftsmanship on a lot of individual components, requiring another site of skilled craftsmanship to assemble.

Think about a 3D printer, which easily creates 1000+ versions of the same, once the model is created. Compare that with a lot of individual injection molding parts, which need to be assembled later on, each with its tolerances, etc, to get the final object.
Noted, that 3D printing does still have its challenges regarding long-term durability, etc.

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Old 19th Apr 2023, 17:41
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Just a comment from someone who has nothing to contribute from a technical or political perspective however,

I personally have never travelled on a "Max 8", and never will. There was just so much subterfuge from Boeing and the FAA about the issues, not to mention airlines and politicians, that I could not even begin to unravel it all. Even on the PPrune, contributors were and still are putting alternative perspectives and very different ideas about what the problems really were.

In the Max 8 situation, I saw additional crew training, disabling of functionality, etc., as workarounds, but again no proper fix. The politics and technical aspects are still being discussed here and elsewhere. No one appears to be in full agreement as to whether the aircraft is really safe to fly or not. This led me to think that the problem had been dumped on pilots, introducing another level of "what do we have do now"

As with the B787 battery fires, putting them in a box was never a solution but a workaround to get aircraft delivered and flying. Normally a workaround gets fixed. To date, the workaround remains, but no fix. How did these issues get past the FAA.

I am fully aware that there is an acceptable level of failure given survivability, catastrophic failure vs revenue and known punter acceptance of risk. A vast majority of punters are quite prepared to ignore any risks and go for price and convenience. Should they be thinking this way in regard to this, and other aircraft issues?

I look forward to an unequivocal statement that these issues are definitely fixed.

IG
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Old 19th Apr 2023, 19:38
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Originally Posted by DaveReidUK
While much of the above is true, it's hard to see much relevance to the 737.

Round about the same time the 737NG was on the drawing board, I was involved in the initial development of a regional jet (we got as far as making presentations to a whole bunch of airlines before the project was cancelled). One thing that sticks in my mind is just how much of the design work was centred on manufacturability - the processes, techniques and automation that would go into the building of the aircraft.

I stand by my view that trying to retrofit all those manufacturing innovations to a 30-year-old programme would have been a non-starter, and clearly Boeing decided likewise.
My point was - there are a lot of automation advances that could be used that would not be seen by looking at the parts. More automation in part forming and part machining, more automation in hole drilling, More automation in in-line inspection. Manufacturing tools that provide data collection and process feedback. Instead of Bob or Alice having a feel for a properly bucked rivet, the tools detect the acceleration spike that matches when the rivet is properly set and tracks deviations to adjust the process if the rivets are a few PSI higher or lower in yield strength. Even sticky labels with bar codes could be used to track inventory and tools to ensure parts get to the correct locations on time and tools are inspected according to usage rather than calendar date.

All of these cut costs on rework, cut costs on inspection, cut time on the factory floor - most of all, they decrease uncertainty.

No one has redesigned chickens or cows, but farm automation is a huge industry, from the moment they are conceived to the moment they are being shrink-wrapped.
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Old 19th Apr 2023, 20:05
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Originally Posted by Imagegear
Just a comment from someone who has nothing to contribute from a technical or political perspective however,

As with the B787 battery fires, putting them in a box was never a solution but a workaround to get aircraft delivered and flying. Normally a workaround gets fixed. To date, the workaround remains, but no fix. How did these issues get past the FAA.

IG
This is one of those times of 'knowing just enough to be dangerous'. With the 787 battery fires, Boeing and the battery vendor redesigned the battery with better cell-to-cell isolation, they redesigned the charging system, they redesigned the way the battery and charging system where monitored. And then, because the fire damage made it impossible to positively determine the root cause of the problem, they did a 'belt and suspender' approach and put the whole thing in a stainless-steel box that would contain a total battery meltdown. Ten years later (with over a thousand 787s in service), there have been a handful of single cell battery failures, but no total battery meltdowns.
Yet the myth persists that all Boeing did was put the battery in a box and called it a day,

The FAA, EASA, and others went over the MAX certification with the proverbial fine-tooth comb - I seriously doubt you could do a similar review of any commercial aircraft certification and not find some concerns or oversights - and implemented corrective action for anything they found before re-certification and return to flight. If you have concerns over the FAA, why would EASA do Boeing any favors and approve the MAX if they still had any concerns?
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