Why bailout stalled

By Erik Dolson

Republicans are using the national pandemic to enrich themselves and their friends. Democrats want to help Americans. It’s about that simple.

Trump wants to put Steve Mnuchin in charge of distributing bailout money. Mnuchin, formerly of Goldman Sachs, the company at the center of “Main Street bails out Wall Street” during the Great Recession. (see photo of Mnuchin and wife above — Chicago Tribune)

Mnuchin thinks economic health starts with big business in New York. The rest of us are expendable. Under his plan, how much money will go to Trump family hotels?

Need another example of Republican priorities? After receiving inside information that the economy was in trouble, Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, and Senator Kelly Loeffler, Republican of Georgia, (whose husband is chair of the New York Stock Exchange) appear to have sold massive amounts of stock while reassuring America that everything was okay. 

Everything is not okay, especially because of the Republican party of oligarchs and plutocrats. This pandemic is worse because of their actions and inaction.

Democrats want to give relief to ordinary people who are out of work, those worrying how to pay rent or make house or car or insurance payments. Democrats want to make sure these people have sick leave so they don’t spread the virus. Democrats want to help Americans see a doctor!

Trump did not cause the Corona virus, but his policies and those of the Republican party have made the consequences much worse for the working men and women of America.

Those Trump insulted for the last three years — scientists, the Federal Reserve, and yes, bureaucrats, are trying to help average Americans survive.

They know their duty is to all of America, not just padding the lives of the top 1 percent.

Boeing rot again on display

By Erik Dolson

Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun has now stepped in another large pile of his own deposit. Think of it as interest on the Boeing’s inheritance from General Electric (G.E.). Just more of the same from the plane maker.

Calhoun was trained by G.E. Chairman Jack Welch, who died last week. Welch was known as “Neutron Jack,” nicknamed after neutron bombs that killed people but left buildings intact. The Welch style of management was ruthless, including termination of 10% of all employees every year.

This had consequences for morale. Several recent Boeing CEOs were from G.E. or heavily influenced by that company. Morale at Boeing suffered, as well.

Boeing’s Calhoun was quoted in an interview that appeared in the New York Times last week as laying the blame for Boeing failures on previous CEO Dennis Muilenberg. “If anybody ran over the rainbow for the pot of gold on stock, it would have been him,” Calhoun said. The problems at Boeing, he said, “speaks to the weakness of our (former) leadership.”

What Calhoun failed to say, possibly because he is incapable of it, was that as an important outside board member, his leadership was part of that weakness as yet another alumnus of General Electric, touted during the 80s and 90s as the zenith of corporate capitalism. In fact, the Welch legacy may be turning out to be a failure when not implemented by Welch.

Growth at all costs, huge payouts based on stock price, and ruthless cutting of costs (talent and expertise) in the effort to increase profits (and bonuses for management) may have resulted in destruction at Boeing and other companies where Welch protoges landed after drinking the G.E. Kool-aid.

That beverage also involves public relations at the expense of honesty. Last month, Calhoun said that emails and texts between Boeing test pilots lamenting the build quality and training of pilots on the 737 Max represented a problem with emails and texts, not the airplanes themselves or culture at the company.

It should be noted that Calhoun stands to receive a rather large fortune if he can quickly get the 737 Max approved by the FAA  and flying again.

Denying that the communications between pilots accurately represented a crumbling corporate culture, where engineering decisions were overruled by managers under the gun to cut costs, frightened they might lose thier jobs if they failed to do so, Calhoun said the emails and texts would stop.

How reassuring.

Now, Calhoun has turned on the top managers of Boeing that he supported while he was a crucial board member and they were putting profit ahead of safety.

And he has implied it was the fault of pilots who were overpowered by software that flew two of his jetliners into the ground, software that did not exist on aircraft they were trained on. These pilots apparntly did not read the fine print in manuals that accompanied the new planes. Shame on them.

The loss of 348 lives had nothing to do with greed and failure to provide adequate instrumentation and training.

His hand in the till while he is cracking the whip, Calhoun has defended his salary and is in full CYA mode, rather than being accountable. This is the G.E. way when followed by men other than the admittedly brilliant Jack Welch, who was dealing with a fat corporation in another era.

The leadership at Boeing is still in denial, which means the company has not yet hit bottom. This is not over. Even NASA recently suggested that agency no longer trusts the company.

Small wonder. Boeing will not recover until the company redevelops the honesty required to admit and then publicly correct rot caused by 40 years of misdirected leadership. Boeing builds airplanes. Airplanes need to be safe, not just profitable.

There was another capitalist icon of the 1980’s era who seems to have been forgotten in recent decades: W. Edwards Deming, who was essential to the rise of Toyota and other Japanese automakers. Like Welch, Deming was a believer in statistics and process control, and the elimination of defects in manufacturing.

But Deming also advocated team building (rather than cutthroat competition among fellow employees), distribution of responsibility and accountability (as opposed to top management collecting absurdly valuable stock options via intimidation), and listening to those actually doing the work (as opposed to firing or smothering dissenting voices).

Calhoun has to go. He is not the man for this job. No graduate from G.E.’s school of abusive management is. Perhaps Boeing could lure Dan Davis, former director of Motorsports for Ford Motor Company, out of retirement for a couple of years. Davis has a resumé and a style that Boeing needs about now.

Back to where we started

By Erik Dolson

It took a few hours but Foxy is mostly ready to make the trip up the Strait of Juan de Fuca tomorrow. Leaving Victoria is melancholy, like having dinner alone in a favorite restaurant, but we’ll be back in a couple of weeks, a month, or later in the year. It’s hard to say, there are too many factors not under my control. I’m trying to focus on what I can control and adjust to outcomes that will be what they will.

I’d like to get out of here about 7 a.m., which means 8 a.m. and I have no clue why but that’s been the case for years when starting out. It’s weird, but I’m rarely late for an arrival. But if I’m going to beat what looks like pretty strong currents against us when we arrive at Guemas Channel, an early departure is a must.

Or I’ll lay over in Friday Harbor. It’s good to have a backup plan.

The tool bag is up in the cockpit, sails are uncovered, jib sheets run. No, I don’t plan on sailing and weather for tomorrow looks calm. But the sails are my back-up propulsion in case of engine failure.

My buddy Roy gave me a good lesson the day he signed me off as competent to be out there. He sent me forward to untie the sail cover when Foxy was heaving through pretty high chop. I learned it’s hard to hold on and at the same time use both hands to untie even simple knots. Some tasks are better wrapped up when it’s calm and Foxy’s tied to the dock.

Especially when single handing.

Even so, I’ve probably forgotten some things and made decisions that could come back to bite me. The dinghy motor is still on Foxy’s transom. Mounting it on the dinghy is a tough job by myself — I’ve done it, which is why I know. So, while I made sure the dinghy is inflated in case I need a life boat, I’ll depend on oars if I do. Which reminds me, I need to charge up the hand-held radio because using oars in the Strait of Juan de Fuca seems just ridiculous.

But jack lines are tight from bow to cockpit, my harness and life vest are on the cushions above along with my heavy weather coat. I’ll practice with the somewhat-new radar and the Automatic Identification System tonight, though I doubt the radar will be required. Still, better to have a handle on it.

It’s been five months since Foxy’s been off the dock. This is our first trip of 2020. It’s not far — we (that would be Foxy and me) are just headed back to friends at Marine Servicenter in Anacortes where she was recommissioned four years ago. Or was it five? She needs another couple coats of anti-foul paint on her hull, we’ll grease and check the Maxprop, enlarge a through-hull for a new water speed sensor. Maybe reroute some plumbing. Maintenance that can only be done on the hard.

Then we’ll splash and either head back to Victoria or maybe just to the buoy at Friday Harbor. Wherever we are on the water, that will be home for at least as long as we’re there.

Trump x 2 = 0

By Erik Dolson

Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Proving he is a loathesome creature (nut doesn’t fall far from the tree), a tweet by Donald Trump Jr. about Senator Mitt Romney’s vote to impeach Donald J. Trump Sr. shows junior’s complete lack of ethical or logical constraint.

Romney had carefully explained his religion-based decision in the Senate. No one can doubt that Romney is a man of faith. But DJTjr. chose instead to substitute his own explanation, that Romney was “bitter” that he would never be president. This is no less than saying a man is a liar about his relationship with God.

Of course, DJTjr. has no logical basis for believing he knows Sen. Romney’s intentions better than Sen. Romney, except a twisted Trumpian view of the world. But logic has never been a Trump family trait.

This classic Trump malignancy, like father like son, puts on display a vile moral emptiness that damages not the intended victim but the fabric of our society.

Of course, Romney did lose the election in 2012, but probably by a smaller margin than Trump if he’d had to run against Obama. Crowds at inauguration don’t lie.

Good God, Democrats

by Erik Dolson

Seriously? This is the best Democrats can do? Goddamnit.

Where in hell is the wicked smart, 50 to 60 something, experienced enough, visionary, charasmatic man or woman (I really don’t care) to lead my America into the next half century of challenges that face us all?

Hey DNC! Don’t you watch TV or the movies?! There’s your prototype. Find a Martin Sheen or Louis-Dreyfus! Look at the GOP! Their two most popular presidents were a “B” grade movie actor and a reality TV star! Can’t you figure it out?! Liberal bona fides don’t matter. The filters are too fine.

You have the most unpoular president in recent history, one who didn’t win the popular vote and hasn’t gathered many more supporters after three years in office. You have tremendous issues to run on, and, in Clinton and Obama, two of the best politicians to advise you. Why can’t you figure this out!?

You bumbling party incompetents are going to put up a candidate to lose against a man most people recognize as deranged, who is harming America, using the constitution to clean himself and to whom you will give another four years because you can’t find, across all this great land, a woman or a man who inspires, a leader around whom Americans can come together?

Then your system is broken. It is designed to fail in some fundemental way. Please, please, fix this before it is too late.

Boeing may need a hug

by Erik Dolson

Boeing has released information to airlines on how to convince customers and crew that the 737 Max planes are “safe” after two crashed, killing 346 people. One point made was that passengers are more emotional than rational:

“Every interaction with an anxious passenger, whether face-to-face or online, is an opportunity to demonstrate our care and concern,” the presentation said. “This is as simple as recognition of a passenger’s state of mind. Research shows that emotions drive decision-making, so a human connection will be more effective than rational appeals.” 

Perhaps Boeing should focus on fixing the planes and telling the truth, rather than manipulating emotions. 

Most aircraft fly in a “balance” of forces acting on wings and tail that rotate the plane around the “center of lift.” At any given speed through the air, wings push up with a certain force, and the tail pushes with a different force. Change the speed of air over wings and the balance will change, the plane will rotate up or down, finding a new equilibrium.

If the nose rises too far and the angle of the wing to the air flow (angle of attack) is too great, the wing will stop flying. This is called a “stall.” Usually, the main wing will stall before the tail, which will cause the nose to drop, the angle of attack to improve, airspeed to increase, and the wing (and plane) plane can start flying again.

Boeing put new engines on the 737 Max, but had to move them forward on the wing. Engine pods have their own lift. Being farther forward, there was more of a “lever arm” of lift from the engines, and this changed the balance between wing and tail, especially at high angles of attack.

It’s possible that the new configuration allowed the main wing to have more lift and not stall before the tail. If the main wing does not stall before the tail, neither wing nor tail can provide control. The airplane could fall out of the sky.

Or, it’s possible that at a certain angle of attack, lift from the engine pods might overwhelm the control of the tail surfaces, causing the nose to suddenly flip up.

In designing the plane, one solution would have been to change the wing. But a new wing would have required new certification, higher costs and delay. So Boeing installed the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) software that prevented the plane from approaching extremely high angles of attack.

In most planes, including the older 737s, if a plane’s nose drops one of the first things a pilot will do is pull back on controls to bring the nose up and increase power to gain more lift from the main wing. This appears to have happned in the two tragedies.

But changes Boeing made to the behavior of the new planes were not highlighted, nor were recovery procedures if the software was misbehaving. In those situations, pilots had to turn off the new software before they could regain control of their airplane because the software pushing the nose down was stronger than pilots.

It appears pilots of the two doomed 737 Max planes did not know this because Boeing did not want airlines to have to retrain pilots to fly the new Max. This would have increased airline costs and made the new plane less competitive, so Boeing downplayed the impact of the software and did what they could to avoid calling attention to this new characteristic, both with their airline customers and the FAA.

Boeing also included a single angle-of-attack sensor as standard equipment on the 737 Max, despite being required by military buyers to install three sensors. Airbus planes also have three sensors. The reason for three is that if two sensors disagree, which one is right? Boeing said the pilots themselves would be the “redundant” system, unless airlines wanted to spend the money on an additional sensor. Add-ons were a profit center for the plane maker.

One has to think that if Boeing, one of the largest manufacturing companies in the world, could fix this issue with a software tweak that would have been done long ago, and 737 Max planes that were piling up before Boeing ended production a couple of weeks ago would be on their way to customers. Why hasn’t this happened?

One guess is that a software tweak won’t fix a fundamental problem with the plane and the placement of the new engines. Will it still fly if computer systems failed, the MACA system was not there to babysit, and the plane encountered a condition of extremely high angle of attack where lift of engine pods destabilized the plane to the point of loss of control?

Would a plane built to those specifications be allowed to fly passengers?

If not, remember that Boeing believes “a human connection will be more effective than rational appeals.” The company may need a hug.

(I welcome comments on this topic by professional pilots, especially test pilots and/or aeronautical engineers)

Boeing is still hiding something

By Erik Dolson

I’d been working on a blog saying that Boeing chief Dennis Muilenburg had to go. Boeing beat me to it. Meulenberg was let go over the weekend before I could publish.

Muilenburg was clumsy through the crisis following the crash of two of its new 737 Max airplanes that killed 346 people. He applied political pressure and embarrassed the Federal Aviation Administration, which delayed grounding the airliner until many other nations had already done so. He repeated “Safety is our number one priority” long after that was obviously untrue. He failed to effectively communicate with his customers, the major airlines.

But it’s now critical for Boeing to accept that the tragedies resulted from deeper issues within the company that predate Muilenburg’s fraught leadership. Boeing has a cultural problem that has been stewing for decades. 

This is not a secret. Conversations with current and former Boeing employees uncover a uniform thread that runs all the way to the 737 Max: Boeing’s culture veered from making the best airliners in the world to profit and growth for its own sake.

It will not be easy nor quick for Boeing to recover. Huge damage has been done, not only to the reputation of the company but to internal resources. Good people whose primary goal was quality have been lost. Systems that provided feedback loops for safety have atrophied. Trust, within the company and in the company by customers around the world, has been squandered. It will take years, if not decades, to rebuild.

Boeing has been in denial about this cultural problem. Like an alcoholic who has been successful in business for years, Boeing has relied on presentation and powerful friends to hide core weakness. But Boeing lives in a world defined by physicis. Boeing’s attempt to fool the world has become unmanageable.

There’s a recipe for recovery that’s strangely appropriate. To paraphrase: “…Those who do not recover … are constitutionally incapable of grasping and developing … rigorous honesty… be fearless and thorough from the very start.” 

The 737 Max crisis reeks from lack of honesty. Boeing tried to pass a new engine configuration off as having the same characteristics as older 737s currently flying; said no additional pilot training was required; blamed pilots of the crashed planes; presented a fatuous power point to the FAA instead of a book of actual software changes. Boeing has been trying to buy time.

Boeing is still hiding something, despite Muilenburg’s “resignation.” If I had to guess, it’s the divergent flight characteristics caused by relocating the planes new engines further forward on the wing. Simply stated, a passenger plane is supposed to “converge” to straight and level flight at a certian throttle configuration. 

With “divergent “characteristics,” an abnormal situation will get worse, or “diverge” from straight and level, because of the abnormal condition. The new engine location causes the nose of the airplane to pitch up further when it’s already too high.

In the case of the two crashed airliners, a single (!) faulty sensor may have triggered an automated response in software designed to compensate for the divergent condition, and to make the plane seem to fly like older 737’s without the new engines. The software pushed the nose down, and the planes flew into the ground.

This may not be curable by software changes. Some regulators elsewhere in the world, and maybe even the FAA now that it seems to have found some spine when it comes to Boeing, may not approve a plane that has divergent flight characteristics. Airlines that purchased the plane may want their money back.

This could break the company.

Boeing may recover, but can no longer exist in denial. It will be fascinating to watch how the company deals with the crisis moving forward.

How history will remember them …

“… Equally important, senators acting as jurors in an impeachment trial must take a second oath as well, required by the Constitution: to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.”

And so senators—especially the Republicans—will face a choice that they should understand goes far beyond politics. They must choose whether to follow the facts, or to follow their fears; to uphold propriety, or to perpetuate partisanship; to champion the truth, or to legitimate lies; to defend the interests of the nation and its Constitution, or the personal interests of one vainglorious man. In short, whether to comply with their solemn oaths, or not.

Should they choose to violate their oaths, history will long remember them for having done so—not simply because of the insurmountable evidence of what Trump has already done, but also because Trump, by his nature, will assuredly do it all again.”

An excerpt of an article written by George Conway, a Republican, and lawyer working in New York City.

Read the whole article here.