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BBC: 737 Max - Still Not Fixed

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BBC: 737 Max - Still Not Fixed

Old 9th Feb 2021, 22:12
  #61 (permalink)  
 
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One can only hope that legislative action will begin to reverse this trend.
Whilst I can't comment on the US arrangements, the weakness in the European environment is not a lack of legislation or rules - in fact, EUR is awash with aviation rules - but commonly a lack of understanding of those rules by both regulators and industry people alike, and, in a small number of cases, a complete understanding of the rules but a lack of desire to comply with those rules. Those who seek to avoid compliance do so for a variety of reasons, some because they think they know better than the rules, some for an easy life - or a mixture of the two - and some simply because they do not know what they are dealing with. An over-generalisation, perhaps, but unfortunately I've seen it up close and personal, and I can quite understand how the latest generation of the 737 ended up in the mess that it is and also the premise of the BBC piece that prompted this thread.
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Old 9th Feb 2021, 22:59
  #62 (permalink)  
 
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GlobalNav, somewhere - perhaps a staff of one of the pertinent Congressional committees, or in the civil service cadres of Dept of Transportation (including now the new hot-shot wunderkinds brought along with the new Secretary), or amongst the many attorneys working in the several active lawsuits against Boeing - there "should" be someone who knows the status. That is, the status of what documents which have come to light from various investigations and reporting, and what documents have been produced by Boeing or other discovery respondents in the various suits.

I know that in some types of cases with multiple lawsuits by different parties, there can be useful coordination so that discovery document production is shared across the cases. Whether this is happening here, I don't know and shouldn't speculate.

As I have posted before the FAA reform legislation passed at the end of the most recent Congress did envision an overhaul of several aspects of how FAA does business. Not wanting to devote time to mastering the details and intricacies of the legislation itself - which would tend to cause posts here to be even more off-piloting track and annoying - I can't say much more. But again, as is true with the documents slowly emerging from the Boeing shadows, presumably some bright staff member or attorney someplace is quarterbacking this whole drama.

I can't leave the post without saying, some of the stuff quoted in the WSJ article today has a high cringe factor. I mean, it's so unlawyerly to say I'm mad as h*ll and I'm not going to take it anymore. One gets the sense that the proverbial windows of opportunity available to cause meaningful reform or restructuring to take place already were limited in both scope and availability, and the situation will get only more stark as time lapses on by.
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Old 10th Feb 2021, 05:22
  #63 (permalink)  
 
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I'm going to give a contrary take - the problem is that the regulatory burden has soared to the point that everyone is looking for shortcuts, or you'll never get certified no matter how good the product.
The first flight of the 747 prototype was this day in 1969. Even though it was a revolutionary aircraft in size, propulsion, and avionics - and encountered numerous issues in flight test (flutter and engine surges to name two), it was certified and in-service before the end of 1969. That would have taken twice as long (at least) with todays regulations and processes - with a corresponding increase in costs.
In 1988, Boeing certified the 747-400. It had massive issues with avionics, EIS was months late, but the cert hurdles were - by today's standards - quite low. When I was working the 767-2C/KC-46 - we were using the same PW4000 engines that had been certified for the 767 and the 747-400 in 1988. So I sourced up the cert plan they'd used for the engine control system back then. Now, this cert plan covered the PW4000, the CF6-80C2 FADEC, and the RB211-524G/H engine control systems, for both the 767 and the 747-400. A total of six engine/airframe combinations (more if you count minor models of the 767 and various engine ratings). It was 30 pages long. My cert plan for the 767-2C engine control system - a derivative system for a single engine type on a single airframe - using the same hardware, with modified software and additional HIRF/Lightning/EMI hardening - was over 100 pages long. Then, over two years after that Cert Plan had been reviewed and accepted by the FAA - at the point where I thought I was just about done - the FAA suddenly decided it was insufficient - they needed additional man-years of documentation and analysis (far above and beyond what had been done originally - for a system with over 100 million flight hours of very safe in-service experience) that even the FAA admitted wasn't going to add anything to the system safety but would allow them to check some boxes. There have been something like 100 amendments to the FARS in the last 30 years (compared to about 40 in the previous 30 years). Yes, a few addressed shortcomings or updated the regulations to reflect current technology (e.g. FBW, FADEC, and carbon composite structures). But the vast majority have been bureaucratic make-work that increased the regulatory burden with zero contribution to safety.
The problem isn't a lack of regulatory oversight. The problem is that the regulators are not looking at the right things. It's a classic case of missing the forest because they are too busy looking at a tree.
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Old 10th Feb 2021, 07:24
  #64 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by tdracer View Post
There have been something like 100 amendments to the FARS in the last 30 years (compared to about 40 in the previous 30 years). Yes, a few addressed shortcomings or updated the regulations to reflect current technology (e.g. FBW, FADEC, and carbon composite structures). But the vast majority have been bureaucratic make-work that increased the regulatory burden with zero contribution to safety.
The problem isn't a lack of regulatory oversight. The problem is that the regulators are not looking at the right things.
Complexity of systems has exploded since then. Gauges, switches and knobs are no longer handeled by humans but by algorithms and control loops that are strongly dependent on each other, introducing failure modes that - if not cought in design and certification - will cause loss of life because the effects cannot be expected to be diagnosed and fixed by human operators timely.
The 737Max is a prime example of what happens if this is not done with due dilligence and care by both the design bureau and the regulator.
Of course this increased complexity adds significant amount of effort equally to design and validation. Regulation is only second line of defence but must keep pace with this increased complexity and sometimes fails to do so - by advancing slower than technology and containing loopholes.
It is therefore vital, that organisations provide the ressources neccessary to cope with increased complexity and that individuals in these organisations do not take the bait of compensating work load by cutting corners.
Both did not happen within the regulator and the designer. Add some Forkners (people that are not governed by engineering ethics but by career considerations and slavish obedience of unrealistic objectives by superiors) and you have a Max.
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Old 25th Feb 2021, 00:56
  #65 (permalink)  
 
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Inspector General - More Criticism of FAA & Boeing

Seattle Times (website) reporting that Inspector General of Dep't of Transportation is issuing another report pertaining to the 737 MAX debacle, on Thursday (Feb. 25). Evidently this is the final report of the IG, completing the process that earlier led to an initial report (discussed on the forum on one of the MAX threads, IIRC).

Quoting the first five paragraphs from the website (by-line of Dominic Gates):

The final report by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation highlights failures that led the FAA to miss the flaws in the MAX’s new flight control system during certification of the jet in 2015 and 2016.

The Seattle Times obtained a copy ahead of the report’s official release.

“Much work remains to address weaknesses in FAA’s certification guidance and processes,” the report concludes. “FAA has not yet taken sufficient steps to ensure it best targets its … oversight to the highest-risk areas.”

The report makes 14 specific recommendations to address those weaknesses, changes it says are “vital to restore confidence in FAA’s certification process and ensure the highest level of safety in future certification efforts of major passenger aircraft.”

The FAA received a copy of the report in December and has already agreed to implement all the recommendations on a set timeline

In possibly related news, on Feb. 19 the incoming Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation (Sen. Maria Cantwell, D.-Wash.) announced the redesignation of one of the subcommittees, which now will be the Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations, and Innovation. It is suggested by a few sources that this is more than nomenclature or semantics, and instead reflects an increasing legislative focus on the designated subject matter areas. Which would make sense, in light of the passage at the end of the previous Congress of legislation reforming FAA in various potentially if not actually already significant ways (the Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act).

Even an SLF/atty is not usually naive enough to think things improve quickly based on what your Friendly Federal Government does or does not do, but then steps in the right direction are better than when they're wrong.
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