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Boeing pilot involved in Max testing is indicted in Texas

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Boeing pilot involved in Max testing is indicted in Texas

Old 17th Oct 2021, 05:46
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A tragic event becomes even more so


From the initial days after the ET302 accident, I have felt such profound sorrow for the families of the victims on that airplane, primarily because there was never going to be a simple and concise explanation for the airplane to crash. There are so many points along the way where a decision was made which at the time would appear logical and based in fact but in hindsight was found to be the wrong decision. Those who work outside the business of airplane design and certification would have a difficult time understanding how such decisions which are based upon past practice and judgment might have been made. It is so much easier to blame "profits over safety". So much easier to place all the blame on the Technical Pilot, who was not told of the design change. It has been my fear that latching onto this simple narrative will keep the industry from identifying the real root causes of these accidents and thereby delay putting the processes in place so that we do not see a similar event in the future. This news from the 737 flight controls community, should it be true, only makes the 737Max tragedy worse. And so I feel sorrow for them as well as how does one come to closure on decisions that one has made that had such profound consequences.
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Old 17th Oct 2021, 07:54
  #42 (permalink)  
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Pilot DAR, #31, A30 737, #41
“… would have been acting as a member of a certification team”

Not necessarily so. It appears that Boeing’s organisational structure was in ‘silos’; design / engineering, certification, flight test, and support / ‘training’, each having interface with similar structured FAA. e.g. responsibilities for part 25, or preparing and assisting operators with part 121.
FAR 25, certification activity might imply DER status, but perhaps not so for FAR121.

Also, that ‘training’ aspects should have been based on a known certification standard.
If so; then the key issues revolve around assumptions and communication (culture - individual, organisation, national), but identifying what, when, or who, might be impossible - organisation structure, or more likely hidden by legal process, client / lawyer privilege.
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Old 17th Oct 2021, 13:46
  #43 (permalink)  
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I agree that Forkner is alone in this
“… would have been acting as a member of a certification team”

Not necessarily so.
I'm not familiar with Boeing's organizational structure, nor how delegation works there, and I'm not much of a part 25 guy, but I do know that including a system like MCAS in a plane requires more than just flight design requirement findings, so more than just DER/AR pilots involved in presenting to/acting on behalf of the FAA. Design requirements other than those for flight would still require a finding of compliance by the FAA or a delegate, who would not be acting in the capacity of pilot. The first two requirements which comes to my mind, for example, (though there are certainly many others):

Sec. 25.1309

[Equipment, systems, and installations.]

(c) Warning information must be provided to alert the crew to unsafe system operating conditions, and to enable them to take appropriate corrective action. Systems, controls, and associated monitoring and warning means must be designed to minimize crew errors which could create additional hazards.

Sec. 25.1322

[Flightcrew alerting.]

[(a) Flightcrew alerts must:
  • (1) Provide the flightcrew with the information needed to:
    • (i) Identify non-normal operation or airplane system conditions, and
      (ii) Determine the appropriate actions, if any.
    (2) Be readily and easily detectable and intelligible by the flightcrew under all foreseeable operating conditions, including conditions where multiple alerts are provided.
    (3) Be removed when the alerting condition no longer exists.
Someone had to make a finding for those too, and it would not have been a person acting in the capacity of test pilot.

I have no opinion about pilot Forkner's role in certification of the MAX, but I believe that a failing would not have been his alone...
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Old 17th Oct 2021, 14:29
  #44 (permalink)  
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I've read all this stuff above, and I have no legal training or expertise of any kind.
But I am an aviator, and I can relate to the role that Mr Forkner was in, and many
of us enjoy our bit of B.S. in the pub, part of the unwinding process, relieving
stress and pressure. We never expect it to be recorded and then produced out
of context years later. Emails the same!

How much was it that the incumbent CEO of the time 'retired' with ....$$$

Out of the vast entity that Boeing is, this man seems to be singled out as the bad
guy, and must surely represent the ultimate case of being 'Thrown under the bus'

I just want to say it seems.. plain wrong!
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Old 17th Oct 2021, 14:41
  #45 (permalink)  
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Blame the water boy

Pilot DAR,
I agree.
The ‘failure’ involved the whole system of certification - the process was deficient; its difficult to prosecute a process.

Re Alerts and Warnings; these fell through gaps in certification via assumption - mistaken severity level, differing views of pilots capability. Responsibility for this cannot reside with just one ‘lowly’ person.

It was Boeing’s ball game on a muddy pitch with inadequate refereeing, and when found to be offside, loosing the game, blamed the water boy.
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Old 17th Oct 2021, 15:03
  #46 (permalink)  
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tdracer, thanks for correcting my previous over-statement about everyone knowing that increments to pilot training were to be relentlessly avoided. Without having been carried away by the apparent wrongness of the heave-ho of Forkner under the bus, it might have been accurate to state: to the extent it was an objective of the 737 MAX program as directed by senior management and the board to avoid any additional training of pilots if at all possible, this objective was widely known (in the company) and thought to be important. Even if not taken literally by everyone who worked on the program (as you point out).

A30 737 #38 - of course the federal government's media release invokes well-crafted, well-edited platitudes about the heavy responsibility of those who interact with regulatory authorities. If these pronouncements are smug, self-righteous and entirely consistent with the awesome power of the government to seek a criminal conviction in a court of law, so much the better.
As to #41 and the plea bargain the DOJ reached (technically a deferred prosecution agreement), reasonable minds may differ about whether the company received a massive and unwarranted pass, achieved by means of who-knows-what insider connections or otherwise.

There isn't much disagreement, as far as I have read, with regard to the fact that the functionality change in the MCAS system was something that Forkner had some obligation to make known to FAA. But that his failure to do so should be the stuff of a criminal prosecution? Well, everyone on this forum, presumably, completed secondary school, in which the main curriculum is learning to think for yourself.

tdracer said it best and that's why I'm repeating it here:
"It wasn't Forkner's responsibility to educate the FAA about the existence of MCAS, or to inform them that the functionality changed late in the program (although it's unforgivable if he intentionally withheld the info from the FAA when he found out). Some AR in flight controls had that responsibility - and he/she has a lot to answer for . . .[.] Discovery is going to be interesting - there will be volumes of emails and Coord Sheets that have nothing to do with Forkner. Further, it's unforgivable that Forkner apparently discovered the change in MCAS by accident - again someone in flight controls should have made sure that the Chief Pilot knew all about any flight control changes."
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Old 17th Oct 2021, 20:51
  #47 (permalink)  
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To the best of my knowledge, all the Boeing Experimental Test Pilots are ARs (basically same as DER) - certainly all the pilots I knew were ARs. While FAA pilots typically fly certification tests, they don't always do so - during a busy flight test program FAA pilots are not always available, especially during remote testing and on weekends. So they'd delegate the compliance finding to the Boeing AR pilot(s). Further, as an AR, there is a responsibility to keep the regulatory authority informed of meaningful changes - and MCAS certainly qualified. Now there is another possibility - one of my biggest complaints with the delegated certification process was the roadblocks they put inhibiting direct communication between the ARs and the FAA. So it's possible that Forkner expected the Boeing cert group to inform the FAA - and someone in cert dropped the ball - but that still shouldn't stop Forkner from telling the FAA pilots about MCAS.
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Old 17th Oct 2021, 22:41
  #48 (permalink)  
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Thanks td. My uncertainty is if Forkner was employed as a test pilot, thence which chain of command he was in, and from that, for which area of certification / operational support (FAR 25 / 121) he held responsibilities.
I assume that a test team would develop and approve a system (AR), a support team would evaluate a system re training required and manuals.
Which department in the FAA would Forkner liaise with, test certification or operational approval. If test certification then the FAA should have known about the system and the latest changes, if operations, then Forkner could have briefed the FAA to the best of his knowledge, which subsequently was identified as erroneous.
With hindsight it appears that neither of the Boeing teams had appropriate descriptions - common understanding of the system as proposed, also that the test aircraft and development simulator differed.
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Old 18th Oct 2021, 00:18
  #49 (permalink)  
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Old 18th Oct 2021, 02:23
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I'll always remember when I heard that Stonecipher had been named Boeing CEO. I was driving in to work with the radio on - there was an item in the news that Phil Condit had resigned as CEO - I immediately yelled YES!!!, slamming my hand on the car roof. Then the other shoe - 'and will be replace by Harry Stonecipher' - OH !
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Old 18th Oct 2021, 06:00
  #51 (permalink)  
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what did this Stonecypher guy do...or not do?
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Old 18th Oct 2021, 07:19
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Where do I start? He brought the MacDac style of building airplanes to Boeing - a system that worked so well that it basically put MacDac out of the business of building commercial aircraft
It was Stonecypher who masterminded the whole outsourcing thing that made the 787 such a mess. He and Condit were the ones that decided that Boeing needed to focus on making great amounts of money and 'stockholder value' - not on building great airplanes.
The short answer is that pretty much everything that is wrong with Boeing today can be traced back to Phil Condit and Harry Stonecypher
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Old 18th Oct 2021, 08:42
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To those of us who have spent a career on Boeing aircraft this is very very sad.

tdracer. Is it retrievable?
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Old 18th Oct 2021, 08:46
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Boeing did this to improve the stock market appeal like MDD had done before moving from banks to stock market financing. They even moved their company HQ closer to the big east coast financial places.
And Boeing wanted the defense business of MDD to be able to compete in the JSF selection.

Last edited by Less Hair; 18th Oct 2021 at 09:02.
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Old 18th Oct 2021, 11:38
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I still can't understand how Boeing manages to have its stock value getting on for double what it was five years ago. We have had the 737 two-year grounding, now the 787 new deliveries grounding, the 747-8 programme abandoned with few sales, the 777X pushed back by years, all the potential law cases - where on earth are they getting the shareholders' money from. It's no wonder Wall Street thinks there's no real issue if the stock value does this.
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Old 18th Oct 2021, 16:17
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what happend here is typical capitalist total take over. business is apparently worth more than any kind of professionalism, integrity and knowledge. This as well as CEO and everybody involved in this should be on trial.
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Old 18th Oct 2021, 16:24
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It sometimes feels like the value of what is given up cannot be measured properly in modern economics so it is just comfortably ignored until the price paid finally shows anyway.
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Old 18th Oct 2021, 17:38
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Below is a very good summary of what happened at Boeing that continues to this day:


Keep in mind the Boeing CEO, purported to be a hard-nosed leader, was on the Boeing Board of Directors for 10 years all during the lead-up to and during the entire Boeing Max fiasco. Any leader who did due diligence would have discovered early on during that 10 year BOD tenure, that like it or not, the 737 could not compete against the Airbus A320 in the narrow body single aisle market. The Airbus had all the attributes Boeing didn't have and couldn't have without biting the bullet and designing a new aircraft to replace the old 737. Instead, the MAX was simply concocted as a cost saving measure. Right now, Airbus holds a huge advantage over Boeing in the narrow-body jet market. Its A220 is far more efficient than the smallest 737 MAX. Meanwhile, the A321neo and its longer-range variants can fly further and boast better performance than the largest 737 MAX jets.

Boeing's best bet for countering Airbus' advantages would be to launch an all-new narrow-body jet family sooner rather than later. Today, CFMI dominates the engine market for small narrow-bodies. CFMI LEAP engines power all Boeing 737 MAX jets and nearly 60% of Airbus A320neos. The LEAP will also power the COMAC C919: a Chinese-built narrow-body jet that is on track to enter service within the next year.

Boeing's CEO's prediction that jet engines won't get much more efficient will likely prove off-base.
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Old 18th Oct 2021, 18:03
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How do any of these people get their appointments and promotions? You think it’s solely because they are geniuses at their jobs? How long have you worked in the aviation industry? In my 40 years experience I can say that (saving one or two exceptions) the usual reason is that they are Yes Men who will do anything to further themselves, including stabbing colleagues (and each other) in the back. I could tell you stories about some I know who are at the pinnacle of this industry, and whose true story and route to glory would make a devil blush. When you’re in Aviation Management there are no innocents - you got there because you deserve it, lock stock and barrel.
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Old 18th Oct 2021, 19:09
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Turbine D - thanks much for the Atl article about the culture changes brought on by and through the McD-D combination.

It provoked a question and, though this could end up adding nothing but a show of ignorance about aeronautical engineering, manufacturing and flight ops (on my part), here goes. Boeing had been an enterprise where engineering was dominant, and then that got lost because of the McD-D combination. Okay, and McD-D designed and built the DC-10 airplane, with the improperly designed components which led to the Turkish air crash disaster outside Paris. And which also had the configuration of hydraulic lines and slats (IIRC) which, when the engine tore off the port wing from American's Ten on takeoff from Chicago, caused the stall speed to decrease without any conceivable way for the aviators to know that the flying qualities of the airframe had changed. (Another thread some months ago contained a knowledgeable post which pointed this out - that's the basis I have for stating it here.)

So is there a connection, a way to make cause-and-effect sense, between the fact of McD-D Ten design flaws, and the way in which the "culture-change" at Boeing led to air crash disasters again? I've tried to recall something similarly wrong with Boeing commercial aircraft design, like the Ten had (if my understanding is correct) but if there was something like that, it's eluded me.

I tried to convince myself, at the time of the corporate headquarters office move, that it had to do with being awestruck over the quality of the airspace architecture for the area under Chicago ARTCC. But no, that wasn't it.
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