What To Do About Boeing-And The FAA?

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There are plenty of jobs for which I’m unqualified and even more that I know I would hate, but I can’t imagine what the Boeing exec who got this particular assignment thought when it appeared in his or her internal email. As we speak, this poor soul is trying to sell the FAA on relaxing enforcement of a known safety defect on the MAX 7 and 10 so Boeing can get the two variants certified. The anti-icing systems on the engine nacelles on all the MAXes overheat and that could cause the carbon fiber structure of them to fail with nasty result. They need to be re-engineered and Boeing has a fix, but it’s going to take years.

Without an exemption, Boeing can’t certify the 7 and 10 and there are hundreds of orders, including a big one for the 7 to Southwest and one for Delta for the 10. The hundreds of already-certified 8s and 9s are flying on the condition that pilots turn off the de-icing when they get into drier air. It’s all on the pilots. They have to make the judgment on the icing conditions and remember to toggle the heat on and off as they demand. Boeing wants the 7s and 10s to be certified under those rules and then get in line for the retrofit when it’s ready. By the time the fix is ready, reports say there will be 2,000 MAXes in the air if these certifications are allowed.

Boeing submitted the paperwork for the exemption in late December and among the justifications it cited was that it was “extremely improbable” that a nacelle would actually fail. Back in December, I’m sure the company would have said the same thing about a door plug popping loose in flight.

Back in December, even given the checkered history of the type and the shaky relationship between Boeing and the FAA, I would have given odds on Boeing getting that exemption. Boeing’s clout goes far beyond that of a big business looking for a break. It’s a fundamental part of the U.S. economy, and it needs money as it recovers from the MCAS debacle. I would have bet a heavily supervised exemption was pretty much a slam dunk. Now, I’m not so sure the company or the FAA can withstand the public scrutiny such a move would attract. The FAA, after all, was tarnished as much by the control system tragedies as was Boeing.

So that brings us to late January, when at least 171 MAX 9s with door plugs are grounded and the FAA is all over Boeing in what would seem like a pretty straightforward quest to understand how a chunk of metal and plastic that should have been bolted to the fuselage suddenly wasn’t. But it’s clearly a lot more than that. It goes to the culture, the organization and perhaps more importantly the business motivation of the company and its means of pursuing it.

So, what do we do about Boeing? Maybe more importantly, what do we do about the FAA?

The Department of Transportation has been musing about bringing in some outside help to probe those issues. It’s talked about a nonprofit consulting company that sounds a lot like those outfits that issue certifications to firms that meet the organizational and business practice standards that they set. I don’t think that’s going to cut it.

So, how does the U.S. government get to the bottom of the issues that have led to this series of tragedies and breathtakingly close calls? Instead of just getting Boeing to get outside help, maybe the government itself needs some. It can’t just hire a consultant. It needs some peer-to-peer-level investigation and recommendations on how to fix this. That means inviting some really high-level help.

The U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is a possibility, but it really doesn’t have that kind of mandate. Its job is to try to ensure uniform standards and regulations throughout the global aviation industry and not to fix the systemic issues of individual members.

That leaves asking for help from another country or countries, but there aren’t that many that could offer meaningful help. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certainly has the structure and depth to conduct such a probe, but Airbus is its biggest customer and doing that kind of deep dive into Boeing’s business seems like a non-starter.

The only other Western country that has an aerospace industry that kind of parallels that of the U.S. is Canada. Most of the Airbus A220s are built there at the former Bombardier headquarters in Quebec. Transport Canada certified that aircraft as the Bombardier CSeries but, largely because of Boeing’s efforts to sink the new aircraft, Bombardier was bailed out by Airbus, which is enjoying a lot of success with the quiet, comfortable and fuel-efficient A220.

DeHavilland Canada is planning a huge new campus in Alberta to build airliners and firefighting aircraft and Bombardier still makes its flagship Global business jet series in Toronto. The whole Canadian industry’s annual output is probably only the equivalent of a few days of Boeing production, but the general concepts should be the same and Transport Canada inspectors are keeping an eye on all of that activity. Maybe they have some ideas on how to fix Boeing or even the FAA.

Beyond that, maybe that door plug dragged out of the teacher’s brush pile in Oregon will start a serious look at how the FAA is funded and managed, and, by extension, how the aerospace system is regulated and inspected. For decades, the industry has been clamoring for a different structure that takes the politics out of FAA funding so the agency can properly budget and plan for the long term.

I don’t know exactly how EASA and Canada do it and I’m sure they have their issues, but I do know I’ve never written a story about them running out of money as I have with the FAA. And I also haven’t written any stories that call into question the ability of those other jurisdictions to provide the oversight of their industries as I have with the FAA.

Maybe it’s time we asked why.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

74 COMMENTS

  1. Having worked at Boeing as an engineer from the late 80’s through the 90’s I would say that the legacy environment of engineering and manufacturing excellence started to change after the McDonald Douglass purchase. When corporate headquarters moved from Seattle to Chicago it was a ponderous move for those of us who had appreciated top level management being able to walk through the factories and talk to the employees. Today when the Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun travels to Seattle from the even newer headquarters in Virginia it is rare enough to trigger a major news flash. I think Alan Mulalley was the last Boeing CEO to really get it. Mulalley is an excellent engineer who worked his way up through the ranks. He was known to spend a lot of time on the factory floor taking to employees. Later when Ford hired him to save the company Mulalley was seen on the factory floor there and had the respect of the workers. That’s the kind of CEO Boeing needs to get back to its roots.

    • 25+ years later and still blaming the McDonnell Douglas acquisition. You think after all this time and issues they would have overcome. Also, can’t the Seattle middle managers and commercial aircraft division executives fix their issues with out having a CEO walking through the shop? Need to fix the issues now and not blame the past.

      • The issue is that there was a culture change with the merger and relocation of corporate HQ. That culture endures. Regarding a CEO walking through. Regardless of the industry, If the CEO knows the craft and can talk to the engineers and the people who work the line, this has a huge impact at all tiers. Especially more or less unannounced.

        • This is a great comment. It is about culture and the gulf between the suits and the folks designing and building airplanes.

          The felony bribery pleas by both Boeing and Top Pentagon Civilians on the failed tanker program that still has a laundry list of significant deficiencies more than 20 years later.

          Living in DC, schmoozing with the politicians and administrators generally creates cultural changes that distance HQ from the troops out there on the west coast designing and building aircraft. The distance encourages the HQ staff to make projections on costs, schedules and revenues to satisfy their bosses and keep their options in the money.

          Similar problems were found at NASA and suppliers after the loss of the Challenger. Even the outside “experts” report on the loss was about what the suits wanted to hear , not the reality. That is the outside experts other than Prof Feynman whose writings should be required for both engineering and management .

          https://www.nasa.gov/history/rogersrep/v2appf.htm

          Boeing’s culture sounds like the political side of NASA

      • The culture was changed by the new management to a form they desired. They have maintained it ever since. They obviously don’t think they created the issues.

      • CEOs need to lead by example. If they take some of their time to walk through the shop, it demonstrates that they recognize they (and the company) are nothing–nothing–without the day-to-day workers. That sets an example for all the other managers that the little details matter. And it’s the little details that are slipping through the cracks and slowly sinking Boeing.

        Yes, Boeing does need to fix the issues now, but I think they won’t actually start fixing the problem until they get all new leadership who care as much about the people and engineering as they do their own financial bottom-line.

    • Something I used to tell companies I consulted with: If the engineers don’t make it, sales can’t sell it.
      The culture of CEO’s without a clue about what it takes for their company to make what it is selling is clearly destructive. There should be a strong balance between engineering and business management. However as I see it, the culture of business schools is that every business should be managed the same way, that every worker is equivalent to a worker at the same pay grade, and that none deserve to gain more 1/100 to 1/1000 of their salary. That of-course is regardless of their actual performance, as their own performance is measured only by stock price.

      Destructive culture, unfortunately prevalent in most large businesses today. Some will say this is capitalism. I strongly disagree.

      • “The culture of CEO’s without a clue about what it takes for their company to make what it is selling is clearly destructive.”

        I agree.

    • Boeing still refuses to recognize they have a serious systemic problem.
      Treating vital, fundamental components like structure, software, and everything else as “cost centers” or whatever the current MBA-speak is, invites mis-matches in requirements and products.
      Workers who knew there was a problem with quality control at Spirit, for example, had no ability to go directly to Boeing, because they were employees of a contractor. And communication between different suppliers is impossible, so potential integration problems never come to light.
      All that means quality or design problems have to become operational problems before they’re addressed.

  2. This particular incident has nothing to do with Either Boeing or the FAA. The truth will come out eventually. However, this is all about Alaska Airlines installing Wi-Fi systems into the new Boeing 737 MAX-900 and in so doing the technicians removed the left door plug for easy access to the interior of the plane. If you look at where the Wi-Fi system is installed on the roof of the Boeing, you will see why the technicians used this particular door and not the other plug doors on the aircraft. I received this information from an insider source so let’s see what happens when the truth comes out.

    • >>Alaska Airlines installing Wi-Fi systems into the new Boeing 737 MAX-900

      Hmm. Are you talking about the 737-900 or are you talking about the 737MAX-9? I don’t know anything about Alaska Airlines specifically, but I believe that Boeing installs entertainment systems on the 737MAX variants during production. That’s not the same as the 737NG series. It was a retrofit on the 737NG (which for Alaska might have been 737-900).

      In short, you might have a point for the 737-900 but you might not for the 737-9.

      • The aircraft in question was reportedly at the vendor for that installation. And that vendor denies removing that door for the work preformed. At least, that’s the last I read. In any case, I also read the FAA has approved an inspection that allows the aircraft to be returned to service. If that is true, it has to be missing bolts. Not good in any case, but really does this need to be dragged out any further?

        • “does this need to be dragged out further”

          YES it does. The vendor story may be an error or a plant.

          The FAA does not inspect every bit of work the licensed mechanic has signed as complete.

          Boeing’s problem is not just with the FAA, major airlines who planned to place large orders are rethinking their commitments.

          It is fortunate that the decompression occurred at a lower altitude as the consequences might have been very different at cruise altitude where the pressure difference is much greater and there is the potential of the floor structure failing .

  3. The FAA needs the budget of the TSA and the manpower of the IRS to do its job effectively. We take safety for granted and we shouldn’t. The FAA should attract talent who can effectively oversee all levels of aviation with actual inspectors rather than letting every henhouse be guarded by foxes swearing to be vegetarians.

    • Your correct except for the question of where the FAA would ever find that manpower? The facts are there are very few qualified engineers currently employed by the FAA. If they had the talent, why wouldn’t those FAA folks be working at Boeing or Airbus? This conumdrum has been true ever since planes first flew and the government tried to regulate them.

    • Unfortunately the FAA, Boeing Management and some of the Boeing staff in the shop have failed to perform adequately .

      What needs to happen is a change of culture.

      Red Flags
      * Tanker program corruption (multiple felony pleas both Boeing and pentagon civilians)
      * 737 Max SAS design, disclosure , (“I used my Jehdi Mind Tricks to get FAA approval”)
      * Tanker program design failures (20 years and not fully functional)
      * Icing system fire risk
      * Quality Control issues and questions

      Nobel Prize holder Prof Feynman described a similar situation at NASA after the loss of the Challenger as the “normalization of deviance” in his legendary appendix to the Challenger Report – Unlike many corporate types Feynman was dedicated to finding the truth and making the changes required . It has certainly been the case at Boeing and to a degree with the FAA that an excess of effort has been devoted to pretending reality did not exist.

      • I’d like to add some red flags:
        Alitalia A320 – defective ADIRU (2005)
        MA 124 B777 – False ADIRU inputs (2005)
        QA 68 A330 – ADIRU problems causing disruptions in flight controls (2006)
        Jetstar flight 7 – A330 Errors in ADIRU (2008)
        QA72 – A330 – ADIRU (2008) ADIRU causing uncommanded altitude loss
        QA71 – A330 (Same aircraft) Same condition (Apparently they thought they fided the issue)
        AF447 – A330 Loss of ADIRU controls. All soles lost (2009)
        Ryan Air FL6606 – 737-800 ADIRU failure resulting in uncommanded pitch up (2018)
        MA134 – A330 -300 loss of PFD on takoff (2018) Pitot covers left on.
        A training flight in A320 Total loss of control during touch and go’s (2018)
        That’s all I could find in a short search but likley many more similar “incidents” are out there.
        Lets throw in the two Max crashes with very similar circumstances. (Loss of control)
        And while we’re at it MA370, knowbody seems to know where or what happened but it sure resembles AF447. A different make and model but likely the same ADIRU.

        You can read all about these with a easy Google search.

        What’s the common link? Automation. The ADIRU’s are flight data computers which obviously operate with software and inputs supplied by the good old Pitot static system. The same devices are supplied to both Boeing and Airbus from only two sources and without them, modern planes just won’t fly. I wouldn’t say the hardware is bad but we all know what a little data corruption can do to the computer your looking at right now.

        Maybe these should be called out as red flags also. But what would the solution be? Abandon all automation or ground all aircraft until an absolute positive solution is found? It’s a rhetorical question. But hopefully the day will come when all of those if ands and butts that live in software will be found and all the gremlins chased out. Had Boeing just kept those good old steel cables between the pilot and the hardware we most likely wouldn’t be talking about any of this. Meanwhile lets just continue to blame them. Maybe all of us posting solutions along with the FAA can become proactive rather than reactive and let Boeing know what the next problem will be.

  4. I hope the pilot unions rebel at the prospect of pilots having to guess when the air is dry enough to turn off engine anti-ice.

  5. Hang on- throughout Boeing’s history there was no need for any of this nonsense- this is just plain rent-seeking shortcutting by Boeing. The market should respond by tanking it’s stock. It’s the only way that leadership will listen and do the right things. I’m no expert in this area but traditionally when parties start to sub things out fingers start pointing at each other when things go wrong-

  6. If Boeing aircraft kill enough people you won’t have to worry about what to do with Boeing, or, the FAA. The market will take care of both of them, especially Boeing and in a rather expeditious manner on top of it.

  7. Laws were developed in our country to outlaw monopolies. All of them were ignored at the McDonald Douglas takeover. There is no incentive to build better because there is no one to take your business away. Consider air to air refueling. The single competitor out there won the bid – but politics gave it back to Boeing. Is that not correct?

    We sowed the wind, now we reap the whirlwind.

    • Comment is spot on. To add some spice the contract was awarded to Boeing and then rebid after a number of felony corruption pleas by both Boeing execs and the Pentagon’s chief civilian procurement officer and her daughter.

      Rebid and won by Northrop / Airbus. That killed by Obama and re-awarded to Boeing which at that time was HQ in Obama’s hometown of Chicago.

      20 years later the tankers are neither fully functional nor delivered in quantity.

      • Perhaps the fact the military specs were and are a moving target. To this day, they are still changing both the functionality and the mission requirements. Airbus would have done no better under those conditions. The same thing is going on today with Airforce One. But really? Do you think Americans would ever accept out President flying around in an A380? Even if they were still being produced?

  8. A significant contributor to this issue, and where the investigation should begin, is with the IAM and their inspectors. Somebody was supposed to install and torque those bolts per the drawing. Somebody else was supposed to QA that step and sign it off. Doesn’t matter how good the drawings are if they aren’t followed. I haven’t seen anyone comment on that part of the fault chain.
    That being said, the door plug install should absolutely have a fail-safe cross bar that physically prevents it from departing the aircraft without the cross bar being removed. As a former (20+ year) Boeing engineer, single point failures should be designed out. Get to work, folks.

    • “As a former (20+ year) Boeing engineer, single point failures should be designed out.”

      Yep, and that starts with single-point failures in management and corporate culture. I suspect many of the engineers have tried to design out SPFs, but corporate financial pressure may have overruled their designs for cheaper ones. Likewise, it seems like their internal final assembly processes are lacking.

      • A single point of failure would be one bolt, not four. As an engineer, could you tell us the ultimate strength of those four bolts in shear? If those bolts were the only mechanism holding the door on? Are they intended as pins or fasteners? Are they to be secured with safety wire or cotter pins with drilled bolts and castle nuts? Please explain to us how not all “bolts” in aircraft structures are meant to be “torqued”. Maybe you should dig out and brush up your FAA Aviation Maintenance handbook – Airframe H-8083. All of which would be much more valuable to these discussions than your opinion of corporate culture as a “former” Boeing engineer.

    • That’s my thought as well. I suspect the problems at Boeing and the FAA are not unique. Both Wall Street and the US Government are being driven by greedy barons more interested in short-term personal gain than long-term benefits.

      • After Boeing lost the contract due to corruption to Northrop/Airbus the way looked clear to get the tankers into production to meet a need back in 2002. However, politics prevailed and the contract was re-awarded to Boeing.

        To put this 24 year oddesy in perspective

        First manned US orbital space flight 1962
        Man Lands on The Moon 1969. 7 years

        Don’t expect good behavior unless the penalties for bad behavior exceed the differential in rewards between good and bad

    • Not just the industrial sector, it’s our entire society. You see what has been happening at our universities, correct? No need to detail anything more. This isn’t rocket science. Pandora’s box has been opened. It must be played out now. There is no other solution.

      • Actually, no, I don’t see how “what is happening in our universities” addresses the question of whether the problems at Boeing and the FAA are symptomatic of something amiss in our industrial sector.

        The problem at Boeing appears to be a willingness to put production rates (shorter wait list to get a Boeing than an equivalent Airbus) and profit ahead of a quality product. I don’t see Pandora here, just a failure to give product quality the same priority as profit.

  9. In my working life, I worked for three different companies. At the first, I knew the president and a couple of the upper managers. The president would come visit a couple times a year and would visit with the office employees when he came. We got acquired by the second company, where the CEO and upper management were up in Chicago and only came around about once a year. If he met with the employees, it was a quick meeting to tell us the usual “you’re doing great, but let’s work on controlling costs, okay?” No give and take or Q&A. Then the third company bought us. If we saw anything from the CEO, it was an all-employee E-mail or maybe a short video presentation – usually about controlling costs or working harder to generate more business. The HQ got moved to New York and then London, both for better tax purposes. The guy that they make office manager down here was a typical bean-counter yes man that didn’t know what I did or why. His only knowledge of me was my salary (too high in his opinion) or my expense account (also too high). Had it not been for my immediate supervisor, I probably would have been downsized along the way. I couldn’t wait for retirement. The point of this story is that modern corporations keep getting larger and management must oversee more employees scattered across the land, doing things that the average bean-counter CEO doesn’t really know, or care, about. His priority is the bottom line and his own bonus. Every company runs off the road from time to time. The front-line workers usually know about it first, but if they don’t have a clear line of communication to the decision makers, they can’t do anything about it. Apathy grows and things go from bad to worse. The board of directors gives the CEO his golden parachute and then hires a new hot-shot to “fix” things. Sound familiar?

  10. In Europe national agencies, not EASA investigate accidents, write up the reports and answer to judicial investigators — with variations according to country.
    Certification is done at European level, but often contested at national level, not by the authorities buy by participants — there was a huge row over changes Europe wanted to make to microlight rules in France, for example.
    The French authorities nodded the changes through, without consultation, only to be whacked over the head by associations who got politicians on their side. Eventually the most contentious change was done away with — although it was presented as compromise, not idiots in Brussels messing things up at the start.
    It is messy, and should not work, but usually does.
    Another example was changes to IMC ratings, much favoured in cloudy Britain, which EASA took a dislike to as a “cheaters” IFR rating. (This was before Brexit) Huge row, went on for years, but common sense prevailed in the end.

  11. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend watching “Downfall: The Case Against Boeing”. After over 45 years in aviation, I have personally repeatedly seen large corporations take over smaller corporations and destroy their legacy in the same manor this documentary depicts. Companies that started out from aviation pioneers, and aviators that flew and loved aviation, are taken over by huge corporations. They are run by management that has no clue what we did, or how and why we did it. The ONLY consideration for every decision made was how will this effect our stock price TODAY. Long term reputation, reliability, accountability, integrity, consequences, and safety were guffawed as rebuttal for being instructed to cut every corner.

  12. What to do? Maybe…

    1. Boeing should prioritize safety and work diligently on re-engineering the anti-icing systems to address the known safety defect rather than seeking relaxation of enforcement.
    2. The FAA should thoroughly evaluate Boeing’s exemption request, considering the potential risks involved and ensuring public safety is not compromised.
    3. Airlines with orders for the MAX 7 and 10 should assess the situation and, if necessary, work with Boeing to find alternative solutions or delays until the safety issues are resolved.
    4. The U.S. government should consider an external, independent investigation into the culture, organization, and business motivations of Boeing, involving organizations like ICAO, EASA, or Transport Canada for unbiased insights.
    5. Evaluate and reform the FAA’s funding and management structure to enhance long-term planning and oversight, learning from the systems in place at EASA and Transport Canada.
    6. Encourage transparency and open communication between Boeing, the FAA, and the public to rebuild trust and address concerns about the safety of MAX aircraft.

    • The CEO needs to tell his various c-suite people they for the next month they will have two one-hour windows a day to talk to him. Then move his desk to the middle of the 737 production floor. Anyone who wants to stop by can, and otherwise spend his time talking to every low-level engineer and assembly worker. Ask these questions: “What do you need to improve quality? What’s your biggest obstacle to doing a good job?” By the end of the month he’d be ready to light some people up and make real changes.

      • Boeings management left Seattle for Chicago for political reasons and then left Chicago for the DC area for political reasons.

        Leaders lead from the front. Boeing could stock Seattle with very strong leaders with virtually complete authority but their management style does not reflect this.

        What we forget is that civilian aircraft are a relatively small part of the overall corporation but vital industry for the nation.

  13. FAA recommends door plug inspections on another Boeing model after midair Alaska blowout.

    The Boeing 737-900ER is similar to the 737 Max 9 involved in the Jan. 5 accident in which a “door plug” panel detached from a plane filled with passengers.

    The Federal Aviation Administration on Sunday recommended visual inspections of Boeing 737-900ER planes because of its similarities to the model involved in a Jan. 5 midair emergency on an Alaska Airlines flight.

    The inspections should focus on “mid-exit door plugs,” the FAA said in a statement, referring to the same type of panel that detached from Alaska Airlines Flight 1282.

    The Boeing 737-900ER is used by Alaska, Delta and a number of overseas airlines. It is older than the 737 Max 9 involved in the Alaska Airlines flight, but it uses the same door plug design, the FAA said.

    There are 380 of the 737-900ER planes in service worldwide, a source familiar with the matter told NBC News. Boeing said in a statement on the inspections: “We fully support the FAA and our customers in this action.”

    There is no evidence that there are any problems or defects with the 737-900ER’s mid-exit door plugs, the FAA noted. The model has logged 11 million hours of operation, according to the agency.

    Operators had already conducted additional inspections of the 737-900ER following the Alaska Airlines emergency, the agency said. Sunday’s announcement said operators need to ensure the door plugs are properly secured as “an added layer of safety.”

  14. AAR, the aviation services firm contracted by Alaska Airlines, denies performing any maintenance near the ‘plug door’ of the aircraft involved in the recent incident.

    Deutsche Bank had suggested that both the emergency exits, and a possible door plug may have been removed and reattached during the affected [ N704AL] aircraft’s time in Oklahoma City.

    With the world’s aviation spotlight firmly on the recent Alaska Airlines incident, various organizations that have worked on the aircraft have reaffirmed whether or not their work related to anything near the ‘plug door.’

    Aviation services firm AAR, contracted by the carrier to perform 2KU modification to enable inflight Wi-Fi, noted it did not perform any maintenance near that part during its time onboard the aircraft in question – N704AL and most certainly did not remove the door plug.

  15. The bottom line at Spirit is simple. Too few, too new people trying to build too many airplanes too fast. If Boeing were really serious about making sure something like the plug door debacle never happens again, they would immediately cut the monthly build rate to allow workers at Spirit and everywhere else, the time to do the job right and the QA process to work. But I know that will never happen because it will negatively effect this quarters profit which will reduce the C suite executives bonus.

    Instead after the usual BS corporate spin they are trying to blame the IFE provider and Alaska Airlines. Nice try Boeing but what about all the loose hardware found on United MAX’s….crickets

  16. Door plug. Door plug. Door plug.

    It is not a door. It is a plug for an opening that can accommodate a door.

    • Seems like he press and laymen gravitate towards the word “plug” when specifically talking about these exit door “blanks”. It is not a specific term for the blanks. All the doors, passenger entry, emergency exits, the standard lower cargo and the non-operable emergency exit blanks in question on the 737 are defined as “plugs” in the vernacular of the engineering. The term plug means the loads on these doors bear out on stop fittings and do so with more force as the pressurization increases. They do not carry the fuselage loads and are treated as open holes for the purpose of fuselage structural strength. So they are all like tapered corks stuck inside a wine barrel hole but with the exception of being inserted on the wine side of the barrel. The 737 passenger main entry doors have folding gates at the top and bottom of the doors to allow them to go through the sequence of first opening inward, the folding the upper and lower gates, then swinging out of the fuselage via articulating hinges. Over-wing emergency hatches are pure plugs without the folding mechanisms or hinges and the passengers pull them out of the hole like popping a cork and the hatch is then loose to be thrown outside on the wing or placed within the cabin (hence the fit healthy passenger requirement for the emergency row). Other passenger main entry door designs are fixed plugs and skip the complexity of folding gates, like the L-1011 (stays inside the fuselage and translates up like a garage door) and 777 (side translating door like a passenger van). Point being all these doors are “plugs”. The non-plug type doors would be types like the large freighter cargo doors that open outward as a large part of the fuselage and are primary structure so when latched become part of the sealed pressure vessel carrying both the pressurization loads and fuselage hoop stress. Very heavy and complex vs the simplicity of a “plug” (cork). Quantas 747s had trouble with the large cargo doors blowing out in the early 90’s and it was discovered ground crews were over-stressing the structure by using a handheld drill to run the door actuation and latching mechanism when the installed door motor was inoperative. This was a very bad thing since the non-plug type door was a huge hole in the fuselage and required to retain the strength of the structure. Going back to the wine barrel example it was like loosing a whole lengthwise wooden slat of the barrel where the whole barrel can collapse. Unlike a simple cork being popped (“plug”).

  17. It’s so sad to see what has happened to Boeing. Obviously, corporate greed, ruination of company culture, cutting costs, and outsourcing have ruined what was once a great company. However, oversight of safety is the FAA’s responsibility, and it has completely dropped the ball! The FAA’s dual task of both promoting aviation and regulating safety lie in conflict. Is this a case of “regulatory capture?” We need fully independent oversight with no conflict of interest because, unfortunately, companies have all just gone to hell in a hand basket.

    • “The FAA’s dual task of both promoting aviation and regulating safety lie in conflict.”

      Except the dual task of promoting aviation has been removed for a while, and not for the better, either.

  18. The problem is whose name is in play. The individual who starts the company and puts his name on the product has a vested interest in his reputation. The “manager” who comes along later only has the stock price to worry about. (Who buys stock for dividends any more?). When cost cutting leads to poorer products which take the company down, the manager takes his golden parachute and moves on none the worse for wear. Everybody bemoans the demise of a once great company but hardly anybody knows the name of the person who brought it down. Seen it over and over. Anybody know the name of the CEO of Homelite?

  19. More FAA oversight and rules are not going to change the corporate culture at Boeing or any of its suppliers (Spirit in particular). Boeing Corporate is a finance company that happens to build airplanes, not an engineering company that builds airplanes and happens to make money. The constant pressure to increase output and cut costs eventually reaches a point where the cost of up-front quality is traded for escapement costs at a later time (someone else’s problem). Boeing HQ is located in Virginia/Washington DC because that is where influence is traded to keep the financial enterprise working. Boeing’s next CEO will be a DEI pick that pleases Wall Street (stock price) and the DC political crowd (regulatory capture), not an engineer that knows how to build quality aircraft. Those days have passed us by.

  20. The solution is pretty simple. Hire and promote competent engineers, kill DEI programs in the entire aviation industry including the FAA and re-establish merit based promotions. I provided engineering, IT and management consulting to Boeing, McDonald Douglas, Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, NASA, Airbus, Embraer and others in the aviation industry for 40 years. I watch as EEO and diversity programs increased, engineering competency decreased. We must realize and admit that not everyone can be the President of a company or be an excellent engineer. The industry must also stop the “yes men”. The aviation industry requires tough, dogged, no compromise engineers who are incentivized to produce the best and safest designs. Would it surprise you that this is not the case today?

  21. As an engineer, executive, and mentor with more than 50 years of professional experience, I can’t overstate my disappointment with Boeing and the FAA.

    During the 1980’s, I worked in the nuclear power industry. Our wake up call was the accident at Three Mile Island. As we worked to regain our footing, we engaged subject matter experts from the aviation industry to teach us how aircraft manufacturers addressed single failure issues, mean time between failures, and other concerns. We worked hard to think like engineers and managers in the aviation industry. We asked ourselves “Why can’t we be as effective?”

    Now I’m asking myself “Who are the people that Boeing and the FAA can use to regain their footing?” The place to start is with the newly honored fellows of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics as AIAA Fellows are persons of distinction in aeronautics or astronautics who have made notable and valuable contributions to the arts, sciences or technology thereof. In other words, we need the best of the best, AIAA Fellows, to help us regain our footing.

  22. I don’t fly but I have been some kind of mechanic all my life. It looks like someone didn’t put any bolts in that door. If even one bolt was still there it would have left a mark when it ripped out. Why it wasn’t caught in numerous inspections? I don’t know but that is on everyone. In that regard you are absolutely correct. FAA is run by politicians not airmen and the aircraft companies, flying or building, are run by venture capital not airmen. I just think we are in trouble.

  23. Wow! Good on ya Russ for daring to propose such an international solution.
    Maybe the Canadian Supreme Court can adjudicate on whether DJT is (clearly ) guilty of insurrection while we’re at it!
    It’s fascinating to see such angst about Boeing’s mismanagement now, I recall that the two crashes that brought about the Max groundings were blamed on those “dodgy third world” pilots by a significant proportion of correspondents on this forum in 2019.
    American lives at risk in American skies is different I guess.
    Yes I’ve read Flying Blind and it’s a reasonable summary of the Boeing story since the MD takeover, but the real issue is GREED.
    BTW I’m not some damnable socialist, I landed in Auckland this morning on an Air NZ 777( great plane) after two weeks skiing in Aspen – so I’m probably representative of the older/ wealthier/ more conservative AvWeb readership.
    If you let the Executives make out like bandits then funnily enough they start behaving like it too. A steeply progressive tax rate above say $1 million a year might constrain the sale of thirty or fifty million dollar homes in the Aspen / (insert gated community here) area. Rode up on a chair a few days ago with an older guy from Chicago who once worked in the steel industry before it largely closed down- sound familiar?
    As you say Russ, Airbus/Bombardier can build a decent plane. So can Embraer.
    More significantly if the Comac c919 turns out to be any good then Boeing is in deep shit.
    Expecting some haters , but sometimes friends tell you what you need to hear.

  24. I’m not entirely sure why I take Boeing’s blunders so personally – perhaps it’s the perception of a decline in American manufacturing? But I am utterly disgusted. Boeing’s mistakes are deeply troubling; perhaps their executives should consider reconnecting with reality. Instead of isolating themselves, a few months spent in Renton, working a couple of steps behind the frontline workers, might do wonders. Sending line workers to corporate for a fam flight to exchange POVs could be an interesting twist as well.

    Perhaps, this hands-on experience would offer “corporate” a firsthand understanding of how their decisions impact lives. Even a blind man in the middle of a snowstorm at night would see that Boeing’s extrication from the bottom of the outhouse hinges on the company’s ability to regain trust by demonstrating a renewed commitment to safety, quality, and transparency. We’re talking “Hail Mary” here.

  25. For those corporate haters:

    By law! Corporations are required to have a board of directors whose job is to oversee the interests of shareholders. Not oversee the installation of bolts.

    CEOs and “C” suite execs (whatever the hell that means or implies) are installed by the board of directors to make sure those shareholders are well served in the daily operation of the business and are under the control of the board. At least that’s the intention of the law.

    Any of us who own stock, 401ks or other retirement or pension programs should be glad these protections are in place. It is your money they are watching over not just those of the Warren Buffets of the world. Again, it is not their function to sit on the production floor overseeing workers. Airbus or any other corporation, be it government owned or public, is structured exactly the same. And it works.

    Middle management’s function is to produce the product as intended profitably and as specified, usually within the confines of union or worker contracts and cultures. That includes hiring the best possible employees to do the job. And that is where the problems lie. Those folks just don’t exist. Perhaps we are reaping the benefits of our lousy educational system and woke lifestyles.

    It is the responsibility of the line workers to do the job they were hired to do as described when they accepted the job. Along with the job comes the responsibility to do it properly. Putting a few bolts in shouldn’t require ongoing training.

    Missing bolts or bad software (Max crashes) cannot be laid at the feet of upper management or board members. It belongs squarely on those at the bottom. Usually, union employees I might add so let’s offer our correctional advice to where it belongs.

    I’ve never been an executive and I have no particular liking for them. But all of this rhetoric will solve nothing. It’s one of those ‘if you don’t like it’ move to Russia things. Our country, as is Europe, is based on capitalism and corporations. Without them there is no Boeing, no Airbus, no Microsoft, no Apple or any other manufacturing for that matter. If there is an entity that disrupts cultures and creates division, unions would be right on top of the list. And from my experience the IAM leads the way.

  26. The 737 max 7/10 problem is an engine issue. It’s not Boeing’s fault. The blame for the bad design lies squarely on CFM.

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