Sunday, 12 January 2020

Shit PR by Boeing

From The Evening Standard:

Planes giant Boeing was humiliated on Friday after hundreds of internal emails showed staff fraught with concerns over possible design flaws on the 737 MAX, saying the doomed jet had been “designed by clowns”...

According to documents released to Congress today, Boeing employees repeatedly raised concerns internally about design issues, with one person involved saying software had “piss poor” design and was “doomed”.

“This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys,” the employee wrote in April 2017. Another employee involved in the jet’s development wrote: “Part of me wants to see it fail so we can say WE TOLD YOU SO. That’s kind of sick of me, huh.”

That seems pretty damning to me, you'd think that Boeing would just keep quiet and pray for lenience.

But no:

Boeing apologised for the messages. “The language used in these communications, and some of the sentiments they express, are inconsistent with Boeing values, and the company is taking appropriate action in response.”

Exactly not.

Those emails are entirely consistent with Boeing's (lack of) values, as evidenced by the subsequent 737 disasters and botched cover-up attempts. Boeing shouldn't be apologising for the messages, they should be apologising for the crimes (that were exposed by the messages). The "appropriate action" would be to never cut corners like this again and listen to their engineers' concerns in future.


Ted Treen said...

Remove engineers/technicians from the board, replace them with beancounters and this (foregone conclusion) is the end result.
There used to be an old aphorism regarding "Spoiling the ship for a ha'porth of tar"...

Mark Wadsworth said...

TT, maybe that's part of it. But lots of businesses are run by people who are or were finance directors or accountants and they don't all flagrantly breach health and safety laws. See Ryanair. Everybody hates Ryanair, but their planes don't keep crashing.

Shiney said...


Oh do me a favour...... It ain't the 'beancounters' that are at fault old chap (I speak as one myself) - its the fucking PR/Marketing types infesting the upper reaches of most large corporates. They are are too concerned with corporate social responsibility/diversity quotas/outreach/greenwash/[insert latest fad here] and brownnosing rather than building a product that actually works for customers at a cost that makes a return for the shareholders - something both engineers AND accountants understand.

Take a look at Boeing's (and most large corporate's) annual reports or websites and they'll have whole pages of guff on green initiatives etc with nice pictures of their diverse workforce, and nearly no mention of what they are actually supposed to be doing.

Unknown said...


Spot on, but add HR. Being woke more important than delivering viable products and profits

Boeing to be the first mega-corp to go broke [Ch.11] by being woke?

Physiocrat said...

Interference with engineering projects is a constant problem. DfT took over procurement of the replacement fleet for the Inter City 125 trains. These civil servant geniuses came up with the idea of bi-mode trains, which can be both diesel powered and electrically powered under the wires. It sounds brilliant, but the trains have to be equipped with both systems, and one or the other is being lugged around uselessly half the time.

To compound the stupidity, they specified a length of 26 metres for the carriages, three metres more than the previous standard of 23, which is itself too long for full-width carriages, very necessary given the increasing number of full-width passengers; a useful 7cm is lost in this way, though it is worse than this because the new vehicles are made of aluminium and have thicker bodyside structures. The result of having these extra long vehicles is that it is a hell of a gap at some station platforms, the carriages need to have a lot of space between them, and the ends are tapered, which results in two metres at each end being too narrow for putting seats in, so the seats have to be squeezed into the middle part.

These trains also turned out to be incredibly expensive.

Lola said...

Physiocrat. Thank you very much indeed for that. Very very interesting - to an ex Engineer like me.

Boeing - shades of Space Shuttle O rings??

Bayard said...

"It sounds brilliant, but the trains have to be equipped with both systems, and one or the other is being lugged around uselessly half the time."

A "diesel powered" train is not directly powered by its diesel engines. The diesel engines drive a generator which powers electric traction motors, so, unless some clown specified a power car with two sets of electric motors, the bi-modal trains aren't carrying much more kit than a straight diesel, apart from the pantograph.

Dinero said...

Agreed, that Boing statement is an odd response.

Dinero said...

Boing Max 8, sales Video

Physiocrat said...

In the case of the Hitachi dual mode trains, the motors and, as far as I am aware, the electronics which controls the 50Hz supply current to 3-phase variable frequency, are common to both modes. As you say, there is a pantograph in addition, but there is also a heavy transformer and a choke, also a heavy item, which had to be retro-fitted to prevent interference with signalling circuits on certain routes. Many of thesehe trains are made up into 5-car sets and so have this heavy electrical equipment on each set. And all because the civil servants went to Crewe and thought the time to change locomotives was excessive (it is).

In addition, there are the hefty underfloor diesel engines and fuel tanks being lugged around pointlessly on electrified routes; in the case of the South Wales and Oxford services, this is most of their working time.

It's the sort of stupid concept that you would expect from civil servants. The same thinking style leads to one cock-up after another in defence procurement. It is what comes of recruiting hyper-intelligent young graduates with no practical aptitude, interest or experience.
But electric/diesel changeovers in similar circumstances at Bournemouth and Rickmansworth were carried out for decades within the time of a normal station stop. Unfortunately, the people responsible for the decision were not aware of what any train spotter could have told them.

Curtis said...

But the only reason for having bi-modes is because electrification to swansea and hereford and penzance became too expensive.

Physiocrat said...

Electrification was never on the cards beyond Bristol, Oxford and perhaps Exeter. They could have done what they did at Bournemouth between 1968 and 1988. Electric locomotive pushed the train from London to Bournemouth. At Bournemouth the electric loco came off the back and a diesel locomotive was attached at the front and pushed the train to Weymouth. The reverse arrangement applied for returning to London. The time for the changeover was a couple of minutes ie the normal station stopping time.

Bayard said...


Unfortunately, locomotives are old hat. It's all power cars and fixed formation units now. Hence the bi-modal trains. Mind you, one would have thought they could have had electric motors that run on the same voltage as the overhead supply and done away with the transformers, but I suppose it was cheaper to use a transformer and an off-the-peg gen set.

Physiocrat said...

The Waterloo-Bournemouth-Weymouth was fixed formation. 1x 4-car powered, 2x 4-car trailer units. The loco just did the Bournemouth-Weymouth stretch.

Overhead power is 25kV 50Hz. Motors do not run on that. The other problem with the bi-modes is that they are underpowered and sluggish on diesel.

Northern has just brought a fleet of loco-hauled sets into service. Locos make more sense when each train needs to have the ERTMS box which does not leave much change from £1 million. So if there are two sets running coupled together, that is another £1 million of kit doing nothing.

Bayard said...

When has sense got anything to do with it when you can be trendy and modern?

Physiocrat said...

ERTMS=European Railway Traffic Management System
TSI=Techical Standards for Interoperability.

Two EU brainchilds with huge compliance costs. Inter-operation with continental railways is minimal. Ireland got derogation. The UK jobsworths went along with the rule keeping.

Dinero said...

> Physiocrat.
For this fleet of Dual power trains how much time is spent on non electrified tracks.

Bayard said...

"Interference with engineering projects is a constant problem. DfT took over procurement of the replacement fleet for the Inter City 125 trains."

The HST 125 was designed and built by engineers. BR management and R&D (probably with input form the DoT) came up with the APT.

I travelled in one of the first HSTs before management slackened the timetables and told the drivers to tone it down a bit and, boy, were they quick.

Physiocrat said...

Routes the dual mode trains are used.
1) London KX to Aberdeen - electrified as far as Edinburgh.
2) London Paddington to Swansea - electrified as far as Cardiff.
3) London Paddington to Oxford and Worcester - electrified as far as Didcot.
4) London Paddington to Penzance - electrified as far as Newbury.

Of these,
(1) could be a loco change at Edinburgh and take just a portion of the train on to Aberdeen,
or diesel all the way; the route is not busy north of Edinburgh.
(2) could be a loco change at Cardiff and take just a portion of the train on to Swansea.
(3) electrification should continue the short extra distance to Oxford and a locomotive could take a portion of the train forward to Hereford (the route is not busy)
(4) Should be diesel all the way, or electrify from Basingstoke to Exeter on the alternative route, then loco change to continue westwards towards Penzance; the train has to reverse at Exeter anyway.

The bi-modes are unnecessarily expensive to build and operate. But to the civil service mind they are the perfect solution.

Physiocrat said...

In the early 1970s the British Railways board recruited from the aircraft industry and developed the tilting train; an experimental gas turbine vehicle was complete and ready for testing around 1975.

The traditional railway engineers were sceptical and the team, headed by Terry Miller, came up with a backup solution, based on a set of mark 3 hauled coaches sandwiched between a pair of moderately powered locomotives at each end. The power unit was the Valenta engine, I believe used in torpedo boats. The engines, which were noisy and gave off clouds of smoke, were replaced by MTU engines around ten years ago. A survey of the vehicles which was carried out around 2012 by a team from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers found that the carriages are good for another thirty years, so replacing them now is a complete waste of money. What ought to have happened was the construction of additional vehicles and locomotives to work with the older stock.

The replacement programme was heavily criticised by the Public Accounts Committee and in a report by Sir Andrew Foster but Hammond was Secretary of State for Transport and let the project go through. The original specification which the civil servants prepared for tendering produced not a single bid which satisfied all the requirements. That is what happens when an organisation recruits the most awesomely bright graduates of each year's crop, without requiring them to have a practical grasp of anything.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Din, thanks.

Ph & B, I am enjoying your debate but it's all way beyond my ken :-)

Bayard said...

"(1) could be a loco change at Edinburgh and take just a portion of the train on to Aberdeen,
or diesel all the way; the route is not busy north of Edinburgh.
(2) could be a loco change at Cardiff and take just a portion of the train on to Swansea."

(1) all change at Edinburgh on to a diesel hauled train and
(2) electrify to Swansea.