Boeing cuts back temporarily on 737 MAX production and plans to review design process

Boeing cuts back temporarily on 737 MAX production and plans to review design process

3:40pm, 5th April, 2019
The first 737 MAX 8 plane undergoes final assembly at Boeing’s Renton plant in 2015. (Boeing Photo) Boeing will reduce its monthly production rate for its single-aisle 737 jets from 52 to 42, starting in mid-April, CEO Dennis Muilenburg said today. In a statement, Muilenburg said he’s also asked the company’s board of directors to establish an internal committee to review Boeing’s policies and processes for airplane design and development. The moves come in the wake of this week’s preliminary findings from an investigation into the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX 8 plane that killed all 157 people on board. Less than five months earlier, a similar Lion Air 737 MAX crash in Indonesia killed 189 people. Those two incidents led to a worldwide suspension in 737 MAX flights. Both crashes were traced to the improper activation of an automated flight control system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS. The system, which was added to the 737 MAX to safeguard against stalls, relied on data inputs from a single angle-of-attack sensor — and in both cases, there were indications that the sensor was providing spurious data. The MCAS problems have in turn raised questions about the process by which the 737 MAX, the latest incarnation of a 51-year-old narrowbody design, was . The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Justice Department are conducting separate investigations into that process, which has also been the subject of congressional hearings. Boeing manufactures its 737 MAX 8 and 9 planes — as well as an earlier model known as the 737NG — at its plant in Renton, Wash. Muilenburg said the temporary reduction in the production rate would not affect employment levels. At one time, Boeing had planned to by the end of this year. Here’s : “As we work closely with customers and global regulators to return the 737 MAX to service, we continue to be driven by our enduring values, with a focus on safety, integrity and quality in all we do. “We now know that the recent Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accidents were caused by a chain of events, with a common chain link being erroneous activation of the aircraft’s MCAS function. We have the responsibility to eliminate this risk, and we know how to do it. As part of this effort, we’re making progress on the 737 MAX software update that will prevent accidents like these from ever happening again. Teams are working tirelessly, advancing and testing the software, conducting non-advocate reviews, and engaging regulators and customers worldwide as we proceed to final certification. I recently had the opportunity to experience the software update performing safely in action during a 737 MAX 7 demo flight. We’re also finalizing new pilot training courses and supplementary educational material for our global MAX customers. This progress is the result of our comprehensive, disciplined approach and taking the time necessary to get it right. “As we continue to work through these steps, we’re adjusting the 737 production system temporarily to accommodate the pause in MAX deliveries, allowing us to prioritize additional resources to focus on software certification and returning the MAX to flight. We have decided to temporarily move from a production rate of 52 airplanes per month to 42 airplanes per month starting in mid-April. “At a production rate of 42 airplanes per month, the 737 program and related production teams will maintain their current employment levels while we continue to invest in the broader health and quality of our production system and supply chain. “We are coordinating closely with our customers as we work through plans to mitigate the impact of this adjustment. We will also work directly with our suppliers on their production plans to minimize operational disruption and financial impact of the production rate change. “In light of our commitment to continuous improvement and our determination to always make a safe industry even safer, I’ve asked the Boeing Board of Directors to establish a committee to review our company-wide policies and processes for the design and development of the airplanes we build. The committee will confirm the effectiveness of our policies and processes for assuring the highest level of safety on the 737-MAX program, as well as our other airplane programs, and recommend improvements to our policies and procedures. “The committee members will be Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani, Jr., (Ret.), former vice chairman, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who will serve as the committee’s chair; Robert A. Bradway, chairman and CEO of Amgen, Inc.; Lynn J. Good, chairman, president and CEO of the Duke Energy Corporation; and Edward M. Liddy, former chairman and CEO of the Allstate Corporation, all members of the company’s board. These individuals have been selected to serve on this committee because of their collective and extensive experiences that include leadership roles in corporate, regulated industries and government entities where safety and the safety of lives is paramount. “Safety is our responsibility, and we own it. When the MAX returns to the skies, we’ve promised our airline customers and their passengers and crews that it will be as safe as any airplane ever to fly. Our continued disciplined approach is the right decision for our employees, customers, supplier partners and other stakeholders as we work with global regulators and customers to return the 737 MAX fleet to service and deliver on our commitments to all of our stakeholders.”
Transportation Department plans to audit certification process for Boeing 737 MAX

Transportation Department plans to audit certification process for Boeing 737 MAX

7:21pm, 19th March, 2019
The first 737 MAX 8 plane undergoes final assembly at Boeing’s Renton plant in 2015. (Boeing Photo) In the wake of two catastrophic crashes that may have had a common cause, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao today opened the way for an audit of the process that led the Federal Aviation Administration to certify Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 jets in 2017. Because of the similarities between the two crashes, 737 MAX jets have been grounded worldwide. Boeing and the FAA are reportedly facing multiple investigations, including the audit announced today. Chao formally requested the audit in a referral memo to the department’s Office of Inspector General. The audit is meant to “help inform the department’s decision making and the public’s understanding, and to assist the FAA in ensuring that its safety procedures are implemented effectively,” Chao wrote. It will be part of a continuing review of factors related to aviation certification, she said. In a tweet, Boeing said it would “fully cooperate” with the audit. The audit is likely to address claims that the FAA put too much reliance on Boeing’s own analysis if safety issues surrounding the 737 MAX during its years-long development. The MAX is the latest version of Boeing’s workhorse single-aisle passenger airplane, with engines that are larger and more fuel-efficient than the previous-generation 737. The heft of the engines changed the aerodynamic characteristics of the 737. To minimize the need for pilot retraining, Boeing developed an automatic control system, known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System or MCAS, which was designed to keep the plane from stalling if it encountered extreme conditions. Investigators say the MCAS appears to have played a role in last October’s crash of a nearly new Lion Air 737 MAX 8 jet in Indonesia, which killed 189 people. And preliminary reports suggest that an Ethiopian Airlines 737-8 traced a similar flight profile before it crashed on March 10 in Ethiopia, killing 157. In both cases, pilots reported flight control problems just minutes after takeoff, and soon afterward, each plane went into a catastrophic nose dive. In the Lion Air case, investigators surmise that the MCAS system received spurious data from a single sensor that monitored the wings’ angle of attack. Boeing says pilots can follow a procedure to disengage the MCAS in the event of a malfunction, but the Lion Air pilots didn’t follow that procedure. This week, reports emerged that readings extracted from the flight data recorder on the Ethiopian plane pointed to a similar angle-of-attack issue. Also this week, reports in and the raised questions about the procedures that the FAA and Boeing followed during development of the 737 MAX. To expedite that development effort, Boeing conducted its own safety analysis for the MAX and submitted it to the FAA. The Seattle Times quoted sources as saying that the initial analysis downplayed the scope and persistence of the MCAS system, as well as the need for additional pilot training. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a former FAA safety engineer said there was “constant pressure” to review Boeing’s documents quickly. The Wall Street Journal said the Transportation Department will look into whether unwarranted shortcuts were taken during the certification process. A separate grand jury investigation was being directed by the Justice Department, the Journal reported, and congressional hearings are a near-certainty. Boeing says it will soon roll out a software update for the 737 MAX that limits operation of the MCAS, and issue new guidance for pilot training as well. But the fact that multiple investigations are in the works suggests that the software fix won’t immediately fix Boeing’s image problem. Even if the FAA clears the 737 MAX for flight, regulators in Canada and other countries outside the U.S. say they won’t take the FAA’s word but . Air Canada said it plans to . Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., whose district includes the Boeing plant in Renton where the 737 MAX is built, said today that he worries about the plane’s reliance on automatic control systems like the MCAS. “It’s like when you call information, it’s great to have all these different menus, but you always want to be able to press zero and talk to a human,” Smith said during an appearance at a quantum computing summit at the University of Washington. “When you’re setting up these machines, all else fails, you’ve got to be able to push a button and just operate the damn thing.”