Weekly 737Max roundup

The week was dominated by Boeing’s CEO giving speeches and news interviews, as the company begins a major PR spin campaign to get its reputation back.

The speeches were a mix of “sorry, but can we remember we’re here to make a shed load of money and let’s move forward”, designed for airlines and business on the one hand. On the other hand – prime time news interviews designed to convey sympathy and sorrow to the general public.

The New York Times revealed that silo working – over compartmented design work practice – lead to a situation where nobody working on the MCAS system fully understood it.

More than that, the decision to remove one of two sensors that made it work properly was neither understood, appreciated or explained. Each design unit assumed the other knew and there was no central point where anyone could discuss it or find out why. So it fell between the cracks and nobody challenged it.

In the speed to get the aircraft ready assumptions were made that decisions had been made by someone somewhere, that it was all OK.

So much so that it was assumed, again, it was such a simple automated process it wasn’t even worth mentioning in training and manuals. A further assumption was that it had two sensors not one, the removal of one never being explained.

Programming specialists weren’t told about the sensor removals and the system was overly aggressive in its responses when activated. Nobody knew to make it any different.

When this first happened I said all along it would be just this aspect of working. Nobody meant any harm, but everybody lived in a state of delusion constantly making assumptions that someone somewhere was doing the right thing.

This was never pilot training, it was and always has been a design flaw. Boeing must bear that responsibility.

Furthermore it has to go over the 777-8/9 with a microscope to make sure the same type of issues haven’t dogged that aircraft. Boeing are of course saying already that it’s perfectly fine, but a full review must surely have been a priority.

American Airlines and United Airlines CEO’s have expressed doubts about how anyone would want to fly on the 737Max again.

When one says it it’s believable but when two say it it’s a PR job.

This is how it goes: say what you know people are thinking. That establishes an empathic link with the customer. They get that you can see their concerns. Then say not much, create journey abandonment options: it’s no problem to change if you don’t want to fly on a Max. Eventually they’ll forget or be too unwilling to change planes.

Because if the CEO’s really meant it, if they really thought nobody would fly on them, they’d cancel the rest of their orders and buy Airbus and sue Boeing to take the faulty aircraft back. They haven’t and they won’t, so this sympathy trip is all spin.

Meanwhile Icelandair have extended Max groundings to mid-September, and Boeing has let news drift out that some 58,000 man hours of work will be required to fix the existing aircraft around the world.