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Volume 26, Number 18c
May 3, 2019
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Bombardier Moves To Consolidate Assets
Kate O'Connor

Bombardier has announced that it will consolidate its aerospace assets into a single business unit under the heading Bombardier Aviation. As part of the consolidation, Bombardier will be looking to sell its Belfast and Morocco aerostructures businesses. The company says the move will allow it to better focus on its Global, Challenger, Learjet and CRJ brands. David Coleal, leader of Bombardier’s business aircraft division since 2015, has been appointed president of the new unit.

“With our clear vision for the future of Bombardier Aviation, we will focus our aerostructures activities around our core capabilities in Montreal, Mexico and our newly acquired Global 7500 wing operations in Texas,” said Bombardier CEO Alain Bellemare. “Collectively, these facilities provide Bombardier with all the skills, technologies and capabilities to design, produce and service the current and next generation of aircraft.”

Bombardier also released its financial results for the first quarter (Q1) of 2019. The company reported revenues of $970 million on 24 aircraft in its business aircraft segment—down from $1.1 billion on 31 aircraft during the same period in 2018—and $241 million on four aircraft in its commercial segment versus $463 million on eight in Q1 last year. The company’s aerostructures and engineering services segment saw a 5% increase from Q1 2018 from $446 million to $470 million.

Will Boeing Ever Dig Itself Out?
Paul Bertorelli

When Boeing finally digs itself out of the self-inflicted PR disaster of the 737 MAX story—if it ever does—I wonder how it will be graded on handling the crisis. I wonder, but I’m kinda disposed to think it will become a textbook case of how not to behave in the searing glare of catastrophic bad publicity.

I further wonder what the people who buy Boeing’s airplanes—Southwest, Delta, United and a host of foreign airlines—must have thought when, earlier this week, CEO Dennis Muilenburg insisted that the MAX line was designed properly and met certification requirements. This, of course, ignores that 370-plus MAX airplanes remain grounded, awaiting a software upgrade to the MCAS stability system. Muilenburg said Boeing’s review found no “technical gap or slip” in the MCAS software design.

In a factual sense, Muilenburg may be correct. But until all the investigations are done, including congressional inquiries, the question of certification fidelity remains open. Boeing will face a tsunami of lawsuits and not just from the families of the 346 victims of two MAX crashes, but from airlines losing revenue on their now-parked expensive assets. They’ll wish to be made whole.

What must have grated is Muilenburg’s implication this week that Boeing certified the airplane assuming that pilots could handle any anomalies with standard accepted procedures. He said pilots flying the crash airplanes didn’t “completely” follow procedures in place for runaway trim events, including amplified procedures following the Lion Air crash. Again, from what’s known at this juncture, that appears factually true.

Yet, according to a CNN report, Boeing never flight tested a failure scenario in which the single angle-of-attack indicator fed erroneous data to an MCAS subsystem capable of rolling in full nose-down stabilizer trim, a powerful potential control input pilots weren’t aware of. “Apparently, we missed the ramifications of the failure of that AoA probe,” a former Boeing test pilot told CNN.

Before the first crash of Lion Air 610 last October, pilots hadn’t been specifically informed of MCAS’s existence, although Boeing didn’t try to hide it. The aircraft manufacturer said that MCAS was not a significant enough addition to the 737 to merit mention in the flight crew operating manual, much less specific training. Along with new software that incorporates data from both AoA sensors, pilots will now get ground training on MCAS operation and potential failure modes.

Boeing did some fast pedaling on another sticky point. Southwest Airlines revealed this week that Boeing misinformed the airline about the functionality of AoA disagree lights that warn the pilots of anomalous AoA data. Southwest said Boeing’s documentation indicated the disagree lights were functional on the airline’s MAX airplanes, but it learned only after Lion Air that this was true only if the pilots’ PFDs were equipped with direct angle readouts. Southwest installed these only after the Lion Air crash.

Whether this was an innocent omission on Boeing’s part or willful obfuscation is a question that may be answered in court or in the ongoing inquiries. Either way, in the Part 25/121 world where every t is crossed and i dotted with logged revisions, it strikes me as sloppy attention to detail.

And speaking of detail, Muilenburg reset the clock on why MCAS—Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System—was there in the first place. Early press reports—including quotes from Boeing—described it as a stall-protection system that automatically added nose-down trim at high angles of attack and load factors when the airplane was being hand flown with flaps and slats stowed.

But this week, Muilenburg said MCAS was never that. It was added to the airplane as stability augmentation at the extreme corners of the CG envelope, at light weights and aft CG. It was intended to improve control feel in circumstances where light pitch forces would normally be encountered.

In a serial story like this, journalists quite naturally resort to repetitive shorthand to describe a technical element. In this case, it was: MCAS, a stall-protection subsystem, or words to that effect. We used it in stories and so did every other media outlet. We did this for five months following the Lion Air crash, but Boeing never bothered to issue a statement clarifying it.

Should it have done so? I’m not sure, but I find it curious that it did not. It makes me further wonder if even Boeing had a good grasp of what MCAS was supposed to do and/or how it would do it. Maybe it’s just another item on a long list of things the company will have to explain to its customers and the flying public if it’s to restore the luster to the Boeing brand.

Note to Readers: No, it's not something you said. Because of persistent denial of service attacks against AVweb, we're moving the site to another platform. The commenting section will be unavailable for a time. We apologize for the inconvenience, but the site will be better for it in a week or two. In the meantime, if you have a comment, email us and we'll append it to the blog.

The first line of this story asks if Boeing will ever recover from their PR Disaster. Losing 2 aircraft and killing hundreds of passengers because of a problem with the design, certification and training provided for the 737 MAX 8 is far worse than a PR Disaster. The disaster was their decision to deliver a plane that requires heroic actions from the flight crew to preclude killing everyone on board. Their PR missteps following the two accidents complicated the issue, but Boeing's failure to handle the press effectively is the least of their problems.

Gary Lanthrum

Two great articles in particular this week: the “Possible Turn” and today’s “Grading Boeing”. Keep up the wonderful, informative work!

Ron Blum

How much are Boeing paying you? Everything Boeing did was WRONG, right from the design concept of the MCAS system, so how can they get anything more than an F.

Peter Butt

MCAS is an example of computer control being able to override a pilot's control. When we enable the computers to have the final decision have we verified that the data that they're using is accurate? In these cases the pilots were the ones with the right data, but the computers overrode them. How many other systems aboard our new planes( all manufacturers) have the final decision? One last thought, how secure is the data against deliberate intrusion?

Joe Phillips

As a retired Boeing engineer, I have to admit my interest in all the MAX articles, but I have some criticism too. The way the media has piled on to viciously attack Boeing is reprehensible. The way journalists act is like chickens in a coop - if one bird has an injury or a sore, the others peck the injury until they eventually kill the injured bird. It is the same bird-brain mentality that I now see in the media.

In any other country, Boeing would be a source of national pride. Take Ethiopian Airlines for example. The Ethiopians are justifiably proud of a successful business at home. Not so in America where we tend to jealousy attack anyone who is successful. I am at a loss to explain this thinking that is common in America.

Brian Behrend

"CEO Dennis Muilenburg insisted that the MAX line was designed properly and met certification requirements."

I find that unbelievable. He should listen to the screams of terror which undoubtedly came from the passengers and crew of the crashed aeroplanes before he is allowed anywhere near another aircraft.
Will never happen though, too close to the White House to ever let a simple thing like crashed airliners from keeping his nose in the trough.

John Patson

Great, even-handed coverage, Paul.

I hope that somewhere along the way, some parties look into the Root Cause(s) of how the737MAX came to evolve. I agree with Ralph Nader when he said: “...Congress bears some very serious responsibility.” The FAA has been struggling for funding since before 2000 and not getting it has caused the loss of real engineering depth in the intervening years. Then there’s the stretching of the 53-year-old 737 Type Certificate to avoid certification expense of a new airplane.

Later, probably with Boeing lobbying pressure and urgency to quickly certify new models, Organizational Delegated Authority came into existence. This ability to self-certify was touted by Boeing management as a “competitive advantage” as far back as 2010. I think that led to allowing failure modes to slip through (e.g. battery fires) which grounded the 787. The 737MAX is another example.

Greater than either was the philosophical shift to be “more like Airbus,” giving the computer control over the pilot with envelope protection using MCAS in a surreptitious way.

Possibly related, there was a minority stockholder proposal to stop stock buybacks. This was voted down, and apparently Boeing will spend $20B this year. I wish they would spend it on R&D. They may also need the money for the lawsuits, which Boeing apparently intends to get moved to foreign courts where the awards are lower. I hope the planned congressional hearings will encourage use of the U.S. legal system as this would provide better transparency.

A. Tom Jensen

I’m still at a loss to understand why the crew didn’t simply turn off the electronics and fly the airplane. Is that too much to expect of a crew?

John Hodges

The bad PR was inevitable, given the scenario of two crashes with near-identical causes, both attributable to engineering management.

Using FAA’s establishment of Organizational Delegated Authority (ODA) as a cause of weak oversight is really tangential. If the Certification Engineering Group at Boeing were transformed into FAA employees, would the outcome have been any different?

Delegating low longitudinal stability, nose-up pitch with power, and clean stall avoidance to a computer programmer is just a really bad idea. Besides the current fatal results, the mindset which enables automation at all levels “because you can” is allowing the foolishness of inserting a 200 hour copilot into the airplane on the basis that he’s good at computer games.

And was the value of selling a better specific range by substituting software for a larger horizontal stab really worth it?

Bill Davies

“The disaster was their decision to deliver a plane that requires heroic actions from the flight crew to preclude killing everyone on board. “
~ Gary Lanthrum

“MCAS is an example of computer control being able to override a pilot's control. When we enable the computers to have the final decision have we verified that the data that they're using is accurate? In these cases the pilots were the ones with the right data, but the computers overrode them.”
~ Joe Phillips

What is heroic about turning off two switches to stop runaway trim? And a computer can override a pilot only if the pilot doesn’t turn off the computer.

Now, there are definitely problems with the initial implementation of MCAS, and Boeing should bear the brunt of the blame. Its failure shouldn’t put the plane into an abnormal situation. But... the prior crew to the Lion Air crash flipped the switches and flew the plane normally after that. Were they superhuman? Doesn’t that successful outcome kind of prove what Boeing has said all along? And why is it U.S. and European crews haven’t had this same disaster befall their airlines, despite flying far more flights for years?

I suspect that when the final report(s) come out, the problem will not be as entirely one-sided as much of the press (and comments) seem to believe. These accidents will likely shed some light on the fact that not everyone who sits in the pointy end is equally competent and/or well-trained (Asiana Flight 214, for example). Provided, of course, the local governments release all the data. Just remember, these accident investigations are not being driving by an independent body like the NTSB. Witness the differing conclusions as the investigation progressed on EgyptAir Flight 990.

Alas, I suspect my comments will be dismissed as racist or jingoistic. Or, at best, heartless. That may be the case, despite my best intentions. But, if the only focus is on the hardware and not the wetware, the problem will occur again, just with a different failure as the trigger.

Finally, until the final report(s) come out, all of these comments (my own included) are just opinion and speculation.

Kirk Wennerstrom

Sure they will ... once they get their collective heads outta their butts, stop “hacking-up” a 50+ year 737 type certificate, and stop trying to re-invent the 757.

Phil DeRosier

The MCAS story may be the most public, and by far most consequential, representation of larger and more wide spread issues at Boeing. Add in the recent action by the Air Force in twice halting deliveries of the KC-46 because of factory FOD issues and similar complaints for 787 FOD issues in the South Carolina plant. Had to imagine that coming from an AS9100 Quality Organization, especially happening again after corrective actions. The WSJ had an interesting article about the Boeing factory test pilots not being in the engineering loop for the MCAS and were barely aware of its existence during development.

I am still trying to understand how any safety review of an automated system (MCAS) with a single point of failure (single AOA configuration) would allow it to exert any authority on a flight control surface. There is certainly enough other data available from other sources to cross check the AOA value for reasonableness.

I once admired Boeing’s CMMI Level 5 development process, I am now wondering if the process has become an end to itself where common sense and experience no longer need apply. Perhaps it is time for Boeing to start looking at why these internal breakdowns are occurring and fix them along with the MCAS software.

John Salak

Paul Bertorelli wrote: "In a serial story like this, journalists quite naturally resort to repetitive shorthand to describe a technical element. In this case, it was: MCAS, a stall-protection subsystem, or words to that effect. We used it in stories and so did every other media outlet. We did this for five months following the Lion Air crash, but Boeing never bothered to issue a statement clarifying it."
I am nothing more than a Airbus pilot; and I immediately understood from reading the original media coverage that MCAS was in fact just what the acronym MCAS said it was - Manuevering Characteristics Augmentation - !
I find it disingenuous for Mr. Bertorelli to justify calling MCAS a stall protection system just because Boeing failed to correct the media's incorrect reporting. I truly expect more from AVweb, and from Mr Bertorelli, as I've enjoyed his writings for years.
Matthew Nowell

SpaceX Confirms Crew Capsule Loss
Kate O'Connor

Nearly two weeks after the event, SpaceX has confirmed that its Crew Dragon capsule was destroyed during ground testing on April 20 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. As previously reported by AVweb, the incident occurred during tests of the capsule’s abort thrusters. According to SpaceX Vice President of Build and Flight Reliability Hans Koenigsmann, the problem arose between firing the smaller Draco maneuvering thrusters and the SuperDraco abort engines.

"We fired them in two sets each for five seconds, and that went very well," said Koenigsmann. "And then, just prior, before we wanted to fire the SuperDracos, there was an anomaly and the vehicle was destroyed ... initial data indicates that the anomaly occurred during the activation of the SuperDraco system." Koenigsmann went on to say that while it is too early to determine the cause of the incident, they do have a “high amount” of data from the vehicle and ground sensors. No one was injured in the incident.

At this point, SpaceX says it does not believe there is an issue with the SuperDraco design. According to Koenigsmann, the system has undergone more than 600 tests at SpaceX’s test facility in Texas including pad abort and hover testing. The capsule, which flew its first successful unmanned test mission in March, was scheduled for its first crewed flight in July. It is not yet clear how the capsule’s destruction will affect the timing of that mission.

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AUVSI Forms Task Force On Drone Incursion Mitigation
Kate O'Connor

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) are forming a Blue Ribbon Task Force on the mitigation of unauthorized unmanned aircraft system (UAS/drone) operation at airports. According to AUVSI, the task force will be looking at ways to “refine procedural practices and provide a policy framework” to address airport incursions by unauthorized drones. The task force will begin work on May 2 and anticipates releasing findings this summer.

“UAS interfering with manned aviation is a serious issue, and it requires serious solutions. That is why we are bringing together the best and brightest minds to recommend a plan to keep our skies safe for the flying public,” said AUVSI CEO Brian Wynne. “While UAS hold tremendous societal and economic benefits, occasional bad actors threaten to undermine the great progress we have made and even put responsible, legal UAS operations in a negative light.”

The task force will be made up of former government officials, security professionals and aviation executives. Participants include former FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, National Air Traffic Controllers Association Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert, EVP of Operations at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport Chad Makovsky, and John Pistole, former Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration and former FBI Deputy Director. In addition to talking with industry experts, defense, law enforcement and government personnel, the task force say it intends to meet with National Air Space users such as UAS operators, commercial and general aviation pilots, air traffic controllers, and airline and airport leadership. They will also be taking public comments via their website.

Satellite ADS-B Progressing
Marc Cook

We’re seven months to the FAA’s ADS-B Out mandate but the ground is already shifting with a planned move from a ground-based to a satellite-based system. So-called space-based ADS-B (SBA) would help fill in coverage areas currently beyond the reach of land-based data transceivers.

Announced last year, the concept of moving the data signal from terrestrial to space would promise “global, seamless surveillance capability,” according to the FAA. “SBA may be the next step in the evolution of ADS-B, moving from the current system of ground stations to radios hosted on satellites, enabling surveillance across the entire globe,” the FAA says. The administration has set a one- to three-year timeline for testing of SBA in the Caribbean. The FAA plans to roll out SBA across North American airspace over the next decade, and touts the ability to use SBA to supplement ground-based data in the case of localized outages. No word on SBA supplanting our current ADS-B technology.

“The agency realizes that improved surveillance alone won’t accomplish what’s needed in the NAT, and that automation and communications enhancements are also needed to ensure reliable position information,” said Heidi Williams, NBAA director for air traffic services & infrastructure. “That said, the FAA has developed what looks to be a realistic road map to analyze the benefits of SBA and business aviation operators should be excited about the potential of this technology.”

Textron, USI Create Drone Pilot Pipeline
Kate O'Connor

The Unmanned Safety Institute (USI) will be collaborating with Textron Systems to bring Aerosonde Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS/drone) operator training into university curriculums. According to the companies, the agreement will create an employment pipeline for college students, secondary students, exiting military personnel and adult learners “interested in pursuing an unmanned career pathway.” The new program will be designed to support classroom and flight training directly related to Textron’s UAS platforms.

“Through this collaboration, students participating in this unique experience will be prepared for graduation and employment within the unmanned systems industry,” said Textron Systems Vice President of Tactical Mission Systems Chris Mallon. “Over the past couple years, we have seen an increased demand for Aerosonde SUAS operations, making this certification program an extremely valuable asset for those wishing to join the Textron Systems team.”

Students will be able to cover program costs using traditional student financing, financial aid and GI Bill financing. The companies have not yet announced which colleges and universities will be offering the program. Textron’s Aerosonde SUAS is capable of both land- and sea-based operations. It can carry a payload of 20 pounds and has wingspan of 11.9 feet and a maximum endurance of more than 14 hours.

Blackhawk Rebrands For 20th Anniversary
Kate O'Connor

Blackhawk Modifications has announced that it will be celebrating its twentieth year in business with a facility expansion and by pulling together four of its aviation-based companies under the new brand name of Blackhawk Aerospace. Blackhawk Aerospace will include Blackhawk Modifications, Blackhawk Composites, Blackhawk Aerospace Solutions (formerly Vector-Hawk Aerospace) and Blackhawk Aircraft Sales.

“Blackhawk Aerospace represents the culmination of each company’s core competencies coming together to make a sum that is greater than the parts,” said Blackhawk’s President & CEO, Jim Allmon. “This physical expansion and brand unity is a milestone that successfully positions us for our next 20 years.”

The company has also doubled the size of its Waco, Texas, facility with the purchase of a 10,000-square-foot hangar and offices adjacent to its current location. According to Blackhawk, the new space will be used house growing sales and marketing teams and to showcase aircraft for sale that have been refurbished under the Phoenix by Blackhawk program. Blackhawk moved its headquarters to Waco Regional Airport (KACT) in 2006.

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Picture of the Week, May 2, 2019
An Alaska U.S. Army Blackhawk with winter skies made an overnight fuel stop at Prince George Airport (CYXS). It was heading to Fresno, California, for a major overhaul. Taken April 29, 2019. Copyrighted photo by Stan Kuzma.

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