This morning The New Republic published a devastating story about the corporate avarice and corrupt culture of Boeing and how it led to the catastrophic failure of the 737 MAX. Wonder why Boeing’s stock hasn’t plunged since two of its planes crashed? Writer Maureen Tkacik traces how Boeing downgraded the actual designing and making of planes in favor of questionable supply chain mandates and insulating its stock price from market shocks.
The piece’s lead sets it up:
Nearly two decades before Boeing’s MCAS system crashed two of the plane-maker’s brand-new 737 MAX jets, Stan Sorscher knew his company’s increasingly toxic mode of operating would create a disaster of some kind. A long and proud “safety culture” was rapidly being replaced, he argued, with “a culture of financial bullshit, a culture of groupthink.”
And it goes down from there. The New Republic reports how not only did Boeing set up manufacturing conditions that seem ripe for error, when confronted by the MAX’s failure, it tried to muddy the issue by deflecting blame elsewhere:
“Back to my very essential question, why wasn’t the MAX 8 grounded in November after the first crash in the Java Sea? One hundred and eighty-nine lives were lost, and executives at Boeing cared more about its stock price than preventing such a tragedy from occurring again,” and so had begun “a pattern of behavior blaming innocent pilots.”
Tkacik sets up the battle inside Boeing thusly:
No one who knew anything about anything thought it was a good idea to slash research and development spending, lay off half the engineers, or subcontract whole chunks of a plane without designing it first. It hardly mattered. “It was two camps of managers, the Boeing Boy Scouts and the ‘hunter killer assassins,’” remembered Cynthia Cole, a former Boeing engineer who led the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) during the 787 saga. “How do you merge those two management philosophies? The hunter killer assassins will destroy the Boy Scouts. That’s what happens.”
Hunter killer assassins indeed…
To this day I don’t understand why the Board of Director’s has not fired the Boeing President, and CEO and replaced the Chairman. Seems to me the blame for Boeing’s problems has to lie with someone in the organization. And if that is not the President and CEO then who is it?
The reporting appearing online earlier today and hitting print in the upcoming New York Times Sunday Magazine on September 21 by leading aviation-focused journalist and former pilot William Langewiesche titled “What Really Brought Down the Boeing 737 Max” adds further details about terrible gaps in Boeing’s performance, but more importantly goes into frightening details on how insufficient airline pilot training undercuts safety in some countries around the world. Find and read this gripping piece to learn how pilot performance emerges as another cause in the two 737 Max crashes. I had already learned of remarks from experienced 737 pilots that mistakes were obviously made in the operation those two short flights by their crews in reaction to the cascading failures of the Boeing machine.
I believe Boeing is in a terrible situation. It needs money to fund development of a new long-haul wide-body plane, but I don’t see how Boeing could raise that kind of money now. Moreover, the world’s airlines have now lost faith in both Boeing and the FAA. And what about passenger resistance to flying the MAX and maybe other Boeing planes? The airlines desperately need a second supplier of jetliners, since Airbus is unable to meet all the demand and the airlines need a second competitor to keep Airbus honest. Keep an eye on China and on Mitsubishi.