Boeing Outsourced Coding For $9 An Hour

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Bloomberg is reporting that Boeing outsourced coding of software on the Boeing 737 MAX to engineers who were paid as little as $9 an hour. The company and some of its suppliers laid off their own engineers in favor of subcontracting coding work to offshore companies in a cost-saving move that may not have saved money, according to a former Boeing software engineer. “It was controversial because it was far less efficient than Boeing engineers just writing the code,” Mark Rabin, who worked on the MAX flight test group, told Bloomberg. “It [frequently] took many rounds going back and forth because the code was not done correctly.”

The subcontractors, many of whom worked for India-based HCL Technologies, did not work on software for the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) that is the focus of the worldwide grounding of the type but did develop software for flight displays. Another Indian company did software for flight test equipment. Boeing officials said the offshore companies also were not involved with the software glitch that was discovered last week during FAA testing and will further delay the aircraft’s return to service.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Boeing’s headshed needs a MAJOR head cracking! First, they moved from Seattle, where the planes were designed and made, to Chicago, which is anti-aviation. Then, they downgraded input from their flight test people in the design of the 8737 MAX. DUMB, DUMB, DUMB!

    IIRC, their IT engineering staff cannot touch the computer code (closed-shop IT), further separating design from product.

  2. By their fruits you shall know them…Boeing used to consistently bear good fruit. That has been demonstrated by outstanding airplanes that have stood the test of time. Boeing’s calling card was not press-speak but performance in the real world.

    Now the fruit is revealing unbelievable amounts of simple common sense, out sourcing what has made the company consistent and great, ignoring the admonitions of it’s own employees, and thinking well timed public press releases, carefully crafted with lawyer infused press-speak verbiage as it’s new calling card.

    This $9.00 per hour fruit is just another nail in the eventual coffin should they not make some serious course corrections. Sure, this India based computer programming outsourcing did not involve MCAS…sure…and we are supposed to believe that? 357 families are not going to believe that either.

  3. By their fruits you shall know them…Boeing used to consistently bear good fruit. That has been demonstrated by outstanding airplanes that have stood the test of time. Boeing’s calling card was not press-speak but performance in the real world.

    Now the fruit is revealing unbelievable amounts of lack of simple common sense, out sourcing what has made the company consistent and great, ignoring the admonitions of it’s own employees, and thinking well timed public press releases, carefully crafted with lawyer infused press-speak verbiage as it’s new calling card.

    This $9.00 per hour fruit is just another nail in the eventual coffin should they not make some serious course corrections. Sure, this India based computer programming outsourcing did not involve MCAS…sure…and we are supposed to believe that? 357 families are not going to believe that either.

  4. In the olden days of 20 years ago, I was also a paid contractor, writing code for the DoD. My rate was rather spectacular compared to $9/hour, then the tech stock crash, and influx of Indian coding houses, crashed the pay scale. The Indians were nice people, but they didn’t understand what was actually needed, only that coding was required; quantity spoke more than quality. I exited the industry.
    Then five years ago, the aerospace company to which I provide services farmed out their help desk to a low-cost Indian firm. The complaints were so loud and downright vicious (typically, that once the “helpers” were off-script, they were essentially useless) that they went the other direction, and have on-site concierge stations, where one might drop by with their engineering laptop to consult face-to-face. This aerospace company does NOT farm out the FADEC coding; I also highly doubt that Boeing farmed out the most critical parts.

  5. I think it’s easy to put the blame on the $9/hr coders as it conveniently accomplishes two objectives: first, it emphasizes that highly trained and highly paid American programmers (I hate the term “coder”) are losing jobs to the lowest bidders overseas, which is a point well-taken, but not really relevant to the situation; second, it subtly shifts blame from Boeing systems engineering and testing to foreigners who just “don’t get it” when it comes to running development programs with that highly vaunted American Exceptionalism. I have run several software development programs and was pretty-much forced to use outsourced programmers in India. As a previous commenter wrote, they are nice people and do a reasonable job, but there are problems when it comes to getting the results from them that you really want. And this is the core issue. The real problem with software development is specifying what you want in the first place, and that is not the job of the programmers. The responsibility lies in the managers and systems engineers who will be incorporating that software and firmware into the final product. The error here is one of specification and testing, which is squarely the responsibility of Boeing – plain and simple. You get from programmers what you ask from them, whether they work in this country or halfway across the globe.
    The main missing specification from the MCAS software is to above all maintain the safety of the passengers in the aircraft, not to just prevent the plane from stalling (which it did, by the way). The implicit specification of this software seemed to be cover up for the fact that the basic aerodynamic changes due to the larger engines can cause a positive feedback loop to occur at high angles of attack that can result in the plane doing a backflip. This is the same situation that Volkswagen found themselves in when it was discovered their diesel cars were programmed to cheat on their emissions tests.
    Don’t blame the programmers, blame those in charge.

  6. One other factor which will probably become relevant. When you pay $9 for “coding” what you get is an awful lot of copy and pasting.
    Most of the “coders” working at that rate have limited experience and have been taught how to make flashy project web pages and the like by copying what works, pasting it, and then putting a little gloss on it.
    Mistakes in the original are replicated in the copy (including security lapses, openings to Google etc).
    Now, there is one civilian air liner maker which wrote a lot of the first code used: Airbus.
    And sooner or later, these $9 coders are going to copy code that works from it and paste it into Boeing’s projects — it is inevitable because it is how they work for $9 an hour.
    And how do you think Airbus will react when it discovers that?

  7. Indians have been playing dirty pool in this industry for quite some time…during the early 90s a “brain talent swap” was organized where a silicon valley company was to send its brains to India, and vice Versa…well the Indians arrived and in quick fashion go themselves all settled in….the visas for the Americans were denied…and guess who kept the jobs…