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What Really Brought Down the Boeing 737 Max?

Malfunctions caused two deadly crashes. But an industry that puts unprepared pilots in the cockpit is just as guilty. ( More...

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hal pushpak 27
The author of the article, William Langewiesche is a well-respected aviation journalist, pilot and author, and son of Wolfgang Langewiesche (who wrote "Stick and Rudder" in 1944 and still in print -- a bible to those of us who learnt to fly in the 60's and 70's.) A very credible article, written, as expected from the perspective of a stick-and-rudder pilot. IMHO, a very credible article written from the perspective, as expected, of a "stick and rudder" pilot.
Jeff Steiner 5
On top of being a well-respected journalist, he's a very good author, and I particularly enjoyed Inside the Sky and Fly by Wire, both excellent reads!
Silent Bob 53
So here we are what, 6 months into the grounding? As we maybe are nearing the end, after Boeing has been beaten like a rented mule (not necessarily undeserved), NOW it's time to address the elephant in the room regarding the pilots' lack of experience and training? Really?! This underscores everything that's wrong with media, esp American media, these days. Run with a narrative for months that only presents one side of a story, then when things have died down and people have already made up their minds quietly present the "other side". Welcome to modern "journalism" eh.
boughbw 19
Last week, a couple who lost a loved one in one of the MAX crashes was featured on NPR. A secondary problem to the sensationalized, lacking journalism is the well-meaning but ill-informed family members pushing Congress (and other bodies) to act in ways that are not going to be productive in stopping more crashes. Tugging at the heart-strings of a legislative body eager to appear to be doing something is a great way to make bad legislation.
George Cottay 1
I suggest you find a better crop of news sources, Bob. The complex story has been well covered in many outlets.
boughbw 12
I am not sure the number of news sources is quite as relevant as the reach of the most broadly-cast ones. I also do not think either of us -- who are higher-knowledge consumers of aviation news -- can generalize our media consumption habits to the larger populace of news consumers. I'm with Silent Bob here: most of the media coverage I have seen has been sensationalized and dubious in its accuracy. The reason William Langewiesche's article is so welcome and refreshing is that he cuts through a lot of the myths that have arisen about the plane, and replaces it with a far better representation of what probably happened.
Silent Bob, is not the New York Times part of the American media? They published this story, which raised pilot training as a major contributing factor to these accidents (just as you've suggested), and yet you complain about America media.
Silent Bob 12
Somehow you missed the point of my rant. This is something that should have been investigated and reported soon after the accident(s), not 6 months later when most people have already made up their minds that Boeing is 100% at fault.
Karl Scribner 8
The “Journalism” referred to is in fact dead. Click bait and out and out smear reporting, the hurry to print it now and apologize, or not, for erroneous content later is the norm. Create a narrative, excite the mob, what ever it takes to get the first click.
The first story the NYT printed on this story was a hatchet job. Over time their reporting has improved. In one newspaper it pretty much confirms Silent Bob's point.
Phil Howry 9
Automation on the flight deck is great until it malfunctions; at that point the acquired flying skill sets of the crew takes over.

Domestic aircraft manufacturers design and build passenger aircraft under the regulatory compliance/oversight of the FAA, domestic airlines purchase and operate aircraft under regulatory compliance/oversight of the FAA. How much control does the FAA have over foreign airline purchasing and operations?

Is it remotely possible the underlying causation of the tragedies originated with flight crew training, routine maintenance of the aircraft, ground handling and/or rudimentary weight & balance envelope criteria? In all the "finger pointing" surrounding the related tragedies, I've not heard any "armchair critiques" of the foreign airline's operational form, function, or compliance track record. As sad as these tragedies are, I'm thoroughly convinced neither the FAA, Boeing, or any domestic airline would by commission or omission intentionally put lives at risk. Safe air travels to all!
Not that simple. While what you says is all true, Boeing never the less built a system that results in difficult to manage scenario following a single point of failure.

Should the crews been able to deal with the situation anyway? Maybe. Bit I think the results speak for themselves: If a specific model of plane crashes multiple times for exactly the same reason, something's not right with the plane.
Derek M 1
I keep coming back to the reason MCAS was developed in the first place. Secondarily, the fact MCAS had no redundancies.
boughbw 16
The redundancy is the pilot. Disabling MCAS and autopilot, then flying by hand is what was required. The pilots failed miserably.
rene burlet 4
So you clearly don't know what's going on , MCAS is like an octopus it has tenticals in the entire aircraft you can't just turn it off. Not that simple or the Max would have been flying months ago .. Just FYI..
Jonathan Tack 10
What you’re saying is not information - it’s imagination. Your own imagination. Boeing designed the failure mode of MCAS to behave and be detected by the pilot as a trim runaway. Trim runaway for every aircraft has a mandatory memory procedure. Do the procedure. And then don’t UNdo the procedure. Strike 1.
Oh by the way, unusual attitude response? Also a mandatory memorized procedure. Strike 2. And attempting to steer an out of control airplane by bringing the autopolot online? Autopilot starts with an A, as in Augment the Aviator, not S as in Save the Aviator.
Ethiopian 302 struck out 3 times on airmanship flaws. No the MCAS doesn’t link to everything in the controls like an octopus.
airuphere 1
MCAS only operates when autopilot is off - or you’re hand flying so..
Randy Reynard 21
Learning to fly the plane without all the technological assistance BEFORE one progresses to TAA (Technically Advanced Aircraft) is the most fundamental way to prevent such tragic accidents. There have been several accidents over the years where the pilot became a passenger with the plane calling the plays instead of the pilot controlling the aircraft -

As a flight instructor, my number one mantra with every student is always "Fly the plane FIRST" all else is secondary. The more advanced the technology, the more the pilot has to be intimately familiar with all the systems, knowing not only how they work, but what to do when they don't and how they can misbehave. Not all airline training programs in the world are equal in their emphasis on what to do when things don't work as expected.
FlaminSquirrel -6
"... the most fundamental way to prevent such tragic accidents..."

I respectfully disagree.

A single point failure that results in multiple faults, causing 2 crashes for exactly the same reason in the space of months is clearly a serious design flaw. Yes the crews performance was below par, but no pilot is on their A-game all the time - building a plane that requires that they always are is not the way to do things, and that's the fundamental flaw.

The second crew perhaps have little excuse for screwing up, given the publicity of the first crash; however I'd argue that crashing a plane to draw attention to every 'gotcha' would result in a lot of wreckages; again, I agree the pilots should have done better, but that doesn't mean the primary root cause isn't the plane, because it is.
kyle estep 24
This is what many of us that fly the B737 in the US have been saying. Yes Boeing dropped the ball by not building in redundancy but many of these foreign carriers are very sketchy with their training and experience. Every Indonesian airline wasn't banned from Europe and North America because we just didn't like their choice of shoes. Their safety record is abysmal and their government is negligent, and they aren't the only country that isn't welcome in our airspace (or in some cases it's the aircraft type that's banned such as the old Soviet Union built airplanes)
Are those carriers dodgy? Yeah probably, but the MAX wasn't grounded for no reason either.
john kilcher -1
Profits over people. Multiple sources on line paints the picture quite vividly. Leeham News is an excellent source to research issues about the Max 8.
strickerje 4
Rhetoric like “profits over people” are just gross oversimplifications designed to elicit an emotional response. I’d say the article was petty balanced in its assignment of blame, and it’s hard to ignore the fact that the two crashes occurred in developing countries with known flaws in their pilot training programs, while western airlines with orders of magnitude more flights on the 737 MAX have not had such crashes. And claiming the worldwide grounding of the fleet proves the aircraft is unsafe is textbook begging the question - in the wake of the second crash, governments worldwide were under political pressure to “do something” by an uninformed public, fueled by an uninformed media.
Trying to attribute blame won't help. You need to identify the root causes of an accident and address all of them. Poor crew competence doesn't mean the plane wasn't/isn't flawed because it is - both factors came together to cause this crash (they aren't mutually exclusive).

Crew competence needs to be addressed, but that is hard to measure and will take time. Fixing the plane can be done demonstrably and relatively quickly.

In terms of politics, I think the authorities would find it hard to justify themselves if MAX wasn't grounded and it happened again. I think it's been a quite some time since a specific model of plane crashed twice in short succession due to the same fault.
strickerje 5
I agree with you that the root cause was a design flaw; my point was just the “profits over people” rhetoric is an oversimplification that implies this was some sinister ploy by Boeing rather than an honest mistake (drive by perhaps an overestimation of crew competence). I have confidence the MAX will be fixed, but accidents will continue to happen at an alarming rate in the developing world if the crew competence issue isn’t addressed (as they have been since long before the MAX entered service). The rhetoric by the media and the general public has completely ignored that aspect up until now (NYT included, ironically).
21voyageur 2
John, I think that you have touched on a silent underlying issue that being profits. Boeing's main customers are not the airlines nor the people they in turn serve. The number one customer to Boeing, or Airbus, etc., is the shareholder. Drive costs down (outsource, cut corners, etc) to reduce hard costs and automate as much as possible in order to keep training costs down. Sad but the reality of free enterprise. The Max issue will simply a speedbump in time while the drive towards autonomous commercial aircraft continues. My 2 cents worth.
themold 14
From the very beginning, I have had my suspicions about pilot training at these foreign carriers. Pilots that cannot identify a malfunctioning trim system and immediately disable it have no place in a commercial airline cockpit. They only have training enough to get a license. These kind of pilots are NOT aviators, they are system managers. That accident should never have happened. As long as nothing goes wrong, they get away with it until something does go wrong.
rene burlet 0
Are you an expert in airline operations ? You do understand the World has shut down all 737 Max operations , this is not a pilot problem. I am a 35 year major airline captain and can tell you for sure you are full of it. Major airline training takes a tremendous amount of dedication and is through , and rigorous. I am so disappointed at all the in experienced pilots that think they know everything. Land a job at a major airline and you'll have a different conclusion.
30west 5
Rene, your comments are broad and over-reaching. They apply to the best airlines in the world, but not to most.

I am assuming that your view is from a top tier airline (a view that I also enjoyed), of which there are many throughout the world. However, most airlines worldwide don't hire pilots at the same high level of experience, don't train pilots to a very high standard and don't maintain their jets to the highest standards.
sparkie624 4
two things common with both fatal crashes are:
1.) Having on 1 AOA Vane
sparkie624 10
Crap... Hit enter too soon
2.) Crew Training on preparedness

I think either of those 2 had been compliant, these crashes would have never happened.
racerxx 1
Without a doubt.
Joe Iacolucci 26
I talked to a pilot friend who told me never to fly on non us carriers to Asia. In Asia that is much more difficult. The reason, pilot training or non-training. Just like the Asiana crash in SFO pilots can't fly the planes by the seat-of-their-pants anymore. They rely on automation and if multiple things go wrong they can't save the flight. If you can't FLY the plane you shouldn't be in the cockpit no matter how many computers there are.
Don Quixote 2
Agreed, I stick to U.S. Airlines. A lot are ex-military, even if they aren't, the airlines themselves won't hire you without what is it, 1,500 hours minimum? I believe the Ethiopian F/O only had like around 300 hours.
Andrew L -1
I agree, where you’re born dictates your flying ability. /s

Should I start listing accidents where US pilots are to blame?

Training and safety culture dictate levels of safety.
And, a more intelligent person wouldn't use straw man arguments.
strickerje 1
And Indonesia has an abysmal record of training and safety culture.
stardog01 13
There's a lot of smart aviation people here. Tell me how I'm wrong on this assessment.

Boeing created an inherently unstable aircraft (the stronger and larger engines and how they were placed relative to the wing potentially leading to pitch-up).
Then Boeing developed software to correct this instability issue.
Boeing didn't inform pilots and the airlines that the software existed.
The software relies on a single flight input that can return erroneous readings and isn't overridden when the input disagrees with the backup input.

Am I missing something here? Why are people defending Boeing and this aircraft model?
boughbw 3
Did you try reading the article?
Jeffrey Bue 3
The B737 is not an "inherently" unstable aircraft. That is a myth that needs to be put to bed. People keep repeating so often that it becomes in-grained as "truth". If you want to hear a NO BS layman's version of this incident I highly recommend watching this guy's channel.
john kilcher -2
Could nationalism play a part?? The good old U.S. vs. Airbus? Stay tuned is this bird gets turned down by foreign flying authorities. It ain't over yet.
M20ExecDriver 3
It's like everything else in this world, former skills dumbed down so a caveman can do it. That is until the fecal matter hits the fan.
indy2001 9
Finally a decent, objective report on the two crashes and the excessive criticism of the 737 Max. I'm frankly surprised that it was printed in the New York Times, which has often led the call for the Max's grounding. Let's see if the long-awaited reports are as lame as the report predicts. (For my part I would fly on a 737 Max in the US today if they were flying.)

And yes, there is a paywall. These should be banned here. But for once I signed up for a free subscription just to read this important article.
The criticism isn't excessive.

I don't think the crew should be let off the hook (especially the Ethiopian crew), but just because something should be within their capability doesn't mean it's actually easy to deal with. They were presented with a simultaneous runaway trim and instrument issues, all because of a single point of failure. Safety is achieved by having multiple layers, so that's not adequate IMO.

Ultimately, the results speak for themselves: If a specific model of plane crashes multiple times for exactly the same reason, something's not right with the plane.
Mike Dryden 1
You're not taking your analysis of the crew far enough. I don't think the airline training and assessment process goes far enough. If it did, they wouldn't have been in the cockpit.
I totally agree with you that the crew should have been able to deal with the situation. My post was primarily a response to indy2001 saying criticism of Boeing was excessive, which I don't think it is.
I don't know if it works *every* time, but Chrome's Incognito mode bypassed the paywall for me.
Ken Phillips 8
No, folks who are blaming carriers are out of line. Boeing sold the 737Max with the assurance that minimal training would be necessary. There is simply no way that blame can be shifted from Boeing, it's engineering and design staff and executives.
sparkie624 3
I disagree.... The Carriers have to share some of it... I mean really, options you order for safety, and just doing the minimums that are required... The Carriers have to share some of it... Maybe nt the Majority, but most certainly some of it.
Arjan Hulsebos -6
Then pretty soon the 2nd engine will be sold as an extra safety feature....
And if an airline declines to purchase that 2nd engine...who's to blame?

The airline. Of course. Just because that's how it's *sold* doesn't mean that's how *you* have to buy.
sparkie624 1
The FAA does have some say... Where as in the US, they require 2 AOA vanes.. and as we can see for a good reasons. Other countries are not as strict as we are... And I hate to say it... Would not surprise me to see a Single Engine Airliner.... Some smaller regionals are using Cessna Caravan's already.

[This comment was deleted.]

I agree 100% w/ Chaney’s points. Additionally, having flown previous versions of the 737 I can’t say I like where the line has gone starting with the -800 as in they shouldn’t have been built, but not for the reasons you may think. IMHO takeoff and approach speeds that exceed 767 and 777 numbers are an indication that the design has exceeded it’s natural limits. I’m guessing it’s only because of Southwest, Ryan Air and American that these designs went forward rather than a modern replacement.
Pete Locascio 2
When I was an Airline Pilot, we were routinely trained for runaway stabilizer scenarios during simulator periods. Opposite stick pressure followed by using the stab trim cutout switches to kill power to the stab trim motors. The procedure was a no brainer. Why didn't this ever occur to the crews on these flights?
airuphere 2
Looks like a good article .. paywall.. heads up
Use Chrome's Incognito mode and I think you'll bypass the paywall. It worked for me.
Frank Barber 2
Bad risk analysis. Just like NASA's risk analysis for the shuttle program or Douglas on the DC-10's famous left side cargo door design. But it's not just Boeing, Airbus had three close calls with the A330's which dove for the ground, see the "Air Disaster" show regarding Qantas 72. Even now the A320 NEO CG problems all bad risk analysis, which can be limiting payload wise or Murphy's Law will show up unexpectedly.
notarookie 2
I agree 100%. Mr. Langewiesche is to be commended for his superb article telling the real truth about the whole MAX saga. It's about time.
notarookie 2
I must add that after reading some of the comments in response to this article that I find it hard to believe that any professional pilot could question its conclusions and express the opinion that the aircraft was the problem.
strickerje 0
Sounds like confirmation bias to me. Practically every mainstream media outlet has beaten us with the “Boeing is evil, profits over people” rhetoric for the last 6 months that the general public has been conditioned to disbelieve anything contradicting that. This is why it’s important for us in the scientific community to review everything for ourselves and not just blindly accept the “consensus” of others, since even we aren’t immune to it.
Bruce Knight 2
I’m only a private pilot that flies 172’s through clouds, so have no actual experience in complex aircraft. Many comments here about issues with pilots causing the two MAX crashes and resulting in the grounding. What I can’t understand is why there were no requirements for additional sim training. Wouldn't it make sense to overdo flight crew training in a new variant- even if it doesn’t require a new type certificate? We are taught as pilots to be over-cautious in flight planning, why the different approach when you’re carrying paying pax? We don’t know what is being said in the Boeing board room (other than I’m sure monthly board meetings are most likely being held almost daily now)- how could a board comprised of some of the most competent people in the aerospace / financial world authorize the development and marketing of this product, when (as said here) it required pilot competence equal to or better than that described as being what we here in the US / “western world” develop? I’m sure that Boeing marketing knows their international customer base.
Derek M 3
The entire purpose of Boeing developing MCAS was so they could sell the MAX on the premise that the airlines wouldn not have to incur the expense of training pilots to fly the new aircraft.
Phil Howry 4
I assumed the design intent of the "MAX" was increased flight endurance and capacity, associated pilot type/class rating is the FAA's decision. Here again, the FAA issues both aircraft "Air Worthiness Certifications" and pilot licensing criteria.

Regardless, most domestic airlines conduct simulator-based recurrent pilot training that can be programmed to "simulate" almost any flight condition and/or flight-deck system abnormality. The key is: Pilot Training & Experience!

Statistics show the cause of most vehicle accidents/incidents is inexperienced young drivers.
TedG1 2
The article, and several responses, attempt to zero in on some of the causes of these disasters. While the author acknowledges poor design, he also identifies pilot error. Fine. But we must get to the root cause. Why are pilots not being trained to better respond to emergencies? Why are manufacturers allowed to self-regulate? Regarding the former, it seems that a poor training regime, as mandated by government certifiers (not just the US) is to blame. Perhaps some pilots are incapable of piloting beyond training in rote action steps. A certified training system should be able to weed them out. Regarding the latter, why wasn't the FAA properly funded so that it could hire the proper competent engineers to do its job? Why was the FDA allowed long ago to allow drug companies to conduct their own clinical trials, and manage test results however they want? Root cause for both: you and I are too blame. We hired (voted for) legislators that shorted funding to government regulators for years. After all, per Saint Reagan and his disciples, government regulations are bad, right? It's easy to blame the FAA. It's harder to acknowledge the root cause: we're not giving the FAA enough funds to hire competent regulators. These disasters will continue until the root cause is fixed. In the meantime, people will continue to take Statin drugs to their detriment because the medical industry tells them to. And the FDA is nowhere to be found. Boeing and big pharma correctly serve their shareholders. That's fine. Capitalism is fine. But, we're fools to allow them to self regulate. It always comes down to money.
Mike Dryden 2
Steady on Ted. You might get accused of socialism. That gets you burned at the stake these days, doesn't it?

I think Robert misses the mark. $39 to Ft Myers is only one part of a complex puzzle. The airlines want profits to satisfy the mighty shareholder. To do that, they have to offer the lowest price they can to get load factors up. The bean counters demand costs out of the business to cover the lower fares, and will take the fastest, easiest way out to get it. The plebs don't sign off on marginally profitable routes. Airlines and regulators do. Manufacturers support that because they want the sales. The local government wants the route because not having it might cost them votes (like it's their fault). Business wants them to open up business opportunities (at the lowest cost, see bean counters above). The plebs use them because they are there and they are cheap.

Profits are necessary. They drive growth, fleet renewal, better planes, wage grow (hahaha, I know). Heck, get enough of it, and it even drives competition.

The challenge the FAA has (as the FDA shares), is that stuff has become so complex that regulators can't be subject matter experts on everything. Back in the good old days, pull this wire and that bit moved, pull on the wing this much and it broke - well beyond what was calculated - these things are good. It's not so simple any more.
john kilcher 1
why no mention about MCAS in the emergency handbook??? Why no simulator training for all pilots and, WHY did the country of Brazil refuse to buy this bird? Just more questions.
boughbw 1
Brazil's Gol Airlines flies only 737s, including 8 MAX-8s.
Brazil's TAM airlines is now part of LATAM. TAM has consistently flown the A320 series on domestic and, much to my dismay, at least one international route.
Brazil's Azul was founded by a former JetBlue exec, and follows the same template: Airbus 320s and Embraers.
Mike Elrod 1
Brings to mind a night in Mui Wo (Lantau Island) having some beer with an AirBus guy working with Cathay training. Take away comment he was not surprised at Asian crashes due to pilot ability, amazed that there aren't more.
This is a well researched and written article. I agree with the author’s conclusions.
Duane Osman 1
Human beings create machines. Humans are not perfect, so their machines are not perfect. There will always be design, maintenance and mechanical failures. We can only seek to minimize the suffering and fatalities.
From the back of the plane:I would fly the MAX driven by a pilot from a major U.S. carriers every day since the crash. Why no problems here in 1000a of flights? The lack of skills outlined here is also why I avoid regional carriers whenever possible.
Will Europe certify the MAX when it's in their interest not to to give athletes Airbus a continuing edge?
Pravin Balram 1
The pilots for the doomed MAX's did not seem to know how to read some of the basic instruments on an airplane, ie: airspeed and altimeter. Regarding responsibility it has to be shared can't blame Boeing for a mal-functioning AOA sensor or not throttling back on your air speed or disabling the auto trim.
I believe the MAX WILL be one of the safest planes to fly once its back in service and perhaps the outcome of this unfortunate incident will prompt an investigation into the operations of these low budget airlines, on crew training and maintenance, etc.

Lastly I have learnt from my VFR training to FLY!! the plane NO amount of redundancy in the design of the plane will help if you don't understand the basics of flight. Just reflect on the miracle on the Hudson and how that could have gone horribly wrong if it wasn't for the skills of the flight crew.
rene burlet -1
You are clearly not very experienced. No airline in the world is going to hand over the keys to a multi million dollar aircraft and intrust hundreds of lives to untrained pilots. Major airline flight training is very rigorous and thorough.
Mike Dryden 4
Going to guess you didn't read the article... the guy in the right hand seat on the Ethiopian flight had less than 200 hours total time when he got his hands on a 737. So clearly some airlines do.

"who had graduated from the academy just a few months before and had started serving as a 737 co-pilot when he had merely 154 hours of flight time. Since then, he had gained another 207 hours."
airuphere 3
Not in cadet programs like Ethiopian Air. Every major airline in North America you will need 1500 hours TT to interview.. at these cadet airline programs - they are putting commercial pilots with 250TT in the right seat.. HOWEVER the right seat is NOT an internship!! It is the CO- pilot. Big difference.
rene burlet 1
I still have a newspaper ad from the sixties that read , wanna be an airline pilot for united ? requirements are H.S. grad and a private pilot license. So Im a 35 year captain for united and can tell you that today you need an ATP multi engine well over 1000 hrs PIC part 121 a 4 year degree and pass a very exhaustive interview process.
airuphere 1
Yup totally.. I wasn’t going into specifics I was just trying to show him that Ethiopian and Lion let’s guys in the right seat with 250TT.. the requirements you list are all the same up here north of the border - with the major I work for
patrick baker 1
plotage, simple flying expertise is in shorter supply than in the past. The contemporary cockpits repleat with small screens of multiple presentations, may be a shortcut to simplicity, but far too many lower time pilots, non-military trained, place reverence in the diplays without knowing what they are looking at, or how to respond when/if something new or unexpected presents itself. Perhaps expansion needs to slow down until the pool of competent pilots catches up with helter-skelter expansion. It is only safety, no real big thing........
dumbing down displays to accomodate lower time pilots around the world does not make me feel confident.
Jim DeTour 0
After testing it was found even the best of pilots would be doomed. The system was found to be cutting in every 10 seconds with extreme nose down even with the system disabled. The system not deactivating was the problem, not bad pilots.
notarookie 3
You are wrong. Please read the article.
ToddBaldwin3 -1
Articles posted behind paywalls are not nice.
Use Chrome's Incognito mode. It bypassed the paywall for me.
racerxx 2
Guess those authors work for upvotes and lollipops?
ToddBaldwin3 3
No, but this is a public forum. If you are going to post an article, it would be nice if everyone could read it without having to subscribe to it.
Chrome's Incognito mode will usually bypass paywalls. It did for me with this one.
john kilcher 1
We get it, got it???
Boeing has deliberately and shamelessly perpetrated the meme of pilot failure to divert attention from its own callous responsibility in the management philosophy that led to the development of this plane and the MCAS system. In a rather lengthy article from The New Republic, we read of the decision making blunders that led to the production of a "self-hijacking" plane.
strickerje 2
You lose all credibility with nonsense like “self-hijacking plane”. Such is the state of so-called “journalism” these days.
Just a quote from the article. It's a fascinating and discouraging read.
strickerje 2
If that’s how the article describes it, then it’s not worth reading.
I agree with you that journalists are sometimes prone to hyperbole, but this article is really very well researched and written, and I would advise you to read it rather than simply blow it off because of a turn of phrase that doesn't appeal to you. Read it first. It's really one of the most complete, and most recent, analyses of what went wrong with the overall design of the plane, the skimping on planning and personnel on the part of management and the terrible error of not informing pilots sufficiently about the very existence of MCAS.

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

btweston 36
I’m here for the poorly written comments.
bentwing60 0
In the middle of the sarcastic stream as usual! Haven't seen btwhatever at the top of a thread yet.

[This poster has been suspended.]

boughbw 3
Langewiesche wrote that "airmanship" is "anachronistic" because women are now pilots as well.

Langewiesche did not state that pilots were not trained to bank 30 degrees or more, he wrote, "The same cannot be expected of airline pilots who never fly solo and whose entire experience consists of catering to passengers who flinch in mild turbulence, refer to 'air pockets' in cocktail conversation and think they are near death if bank angles exceed 30 degrees."

The publication wrote:
"William Langewiesche is a newly named writer at large for the magazine. He is a former national correspondent for The Atlantic and international correspondent for Vanity Fair, where he covered a wide variety of subjects throughout the world. He grew up in aviation and got his start as a pilot before turning to journalism. This is his first article for the magazine." Though a minor distinction, the Times and the Times Magazine are different publications. This is not a standard reporting article, it is an in-depth article that infuses opinion and experience from the author as a lens to understand the story.

If you cannot be bothered to get the facts right about the article, I know about how much faith I place in your opinion.
notarookie 1
I respectfully disagree. I believe the article was totally true and accurate. A CFI ain't no PhD.
Someone screwed the old pooch at Boeing! Components on the planes control system failed.
Too arrogant or possibly too greedy to admit it could be something they caused in the first crash. The second one could have and should have been prevented. You cant blame the crew and white wash the Boeing failures to respond to repeated failures of systems on the aircraft. This article seems to still point a few fingers at everyone other then the manufactures team, and a plane that should not have required "Super man" in the cockpit to fly it or save it.
David L -2
The author continues the Boeing narrative, it's not our fault if only the pilots turned off the trim switches. He makes no mention of the role the stabilizer brake played in these disasters, maybe he does not know what that is or how it is disabled with MCAS. I question his credibility, stating he had 4 runaway trims when most of us have never had one or heard of one in an entire career.

Obviously, he was paid by the word, nothing new for a lengthy article full of xenophobia.

Put in a similar circumstance, multiple conflicting aural and visual warnings, a poor designed QRC and obvious fear that they would die in 41 seconds, we have to wonder how these armchair quarterbacks would do in similar circumstances.
Silent Bob 2
Um, the 737 doesn't have a stabilizer brake. I question your credibility.
JetMech24 2
Incorrect, the 737 does have a stab brake, but it is automatic and not controllable by the pilots. We test the brake system on the jackscrew regularly. It is still needed to prevent runaway stabs, not runaway stab trim.
Silent Bob 1
Well, in the immortal words of Mr Johnny Carson, “I did not know that”. I looked and it is in fact in our manual, however not surprisingly there is zero info on how and when it functions. It’s mentioned in concert with manual trim, which leads me to believe it keeps the stab from moving under air loads when elec and AP trim is disabled. Would this be reasonably accurate? So in any case like you said it has no bearing on runaway trim and wouldn’t have been a factor with MCAS anyway.
David L 2
Bob, the stabilizer brake is a mechanical device on the legacy 737's. On the NG it was changed to an electro-mechanical device but worked the same way. On the Max, for some reason, Boeing used the electrical part to disable it when MCAS activated. Why this matters in every stabilize run-away training event the first thing is taught was to oppose the run-away with the yoke. This immediately stopped the runaway with very loud cluck under the cockpit floor. At that point, the trim switches were moved to the off position and the QRC was used to complete the procedure, but the brake had already solved the problem and gave the crew time to think about the rest of the procedure.

You can imagine the confusion the crew experienced when the trims wheels continued to move, and the crew had no training or idea that MCAS disabled the brake. It may have only been one straw, but added together and you end up with a tragedy. This is a common simulator training exercise, but maybe something that you would not get reading a book.
Silent Bob 1
Ok, there's still some confusion but we're getting closer. You're speaking of the control column trim cutout switches which as you said operate when column movement opposes trim direction. And apparently MCAS is able to bypass this for whatever reason Boeing has not shared with us. This and other reasons are why they certainly share a large portion of fault. The Max also retains the stab brake JetMech mentioned, which physically holds the stab in position, but the why isn't explained in our pilot manuals.

As I understand, using the yoke trim switch will disable MCAS when activated and then for 10 seconds after. At least one accident crew was doing this, however they kept releasing it allowing MCAS to reactivate. They also could have used either pedestal cutout switch to disable it, or even grabbed the trim wheel by hand which is a QRH suggested action. Again this is all happening in a confusing environment which was overwhelming the crew(s). Also, at least one crew tried multiple times to (re)engage the AP, indicating an over-reliance on automation. Ironically MCAS is not supposed to be active with the AP engaged, so had they been able to engage it they might have been able to at least get some time to figure things out. The AP won't engage if there's too much pressure on the yoke which is prob why it wouldn't engage.


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