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.

 

Fires That Forge Us

by Erik Dolson

Thanksgiving. No reservations available, but there’s seating in the bar. The restaurant has run out of turkey, I decide duck will do. The dish is labeled “Canard Deux Façons,” so that’s what I order.

At first, there’s just the surprising way you toss “du rien” over your shoulder while walking away from the table after I say thank you; the speed with which you glide weightless from dining to bar and back, feet barely touching the floor; the way your laugh proves presence at every table you serve.

But standing there talking to me while holding an armful of heavy plates, you slip unimpeded into places I guard closely at heavy cost. You just returned from France, I lived and studied there decades ago. When your age, I waited tables in places just like this. You want to ask a question, maybe two. Will I be around?

Why are choices so hard? Why do you need to traverse the world? Why do you need to go, when you’ve finally created a life where you want to stay? Read more…

What are friends for?

By Erik Dolson

“Daddy!”

Donnie Boastful was at his desk in the Oval Office trying to solve the Tik Tok Toe game in the “Washington Times.” Normally he wouldn’t tolerate an interruption, but it was Ivanka, and, well …

“What can I do for you, you gloriously amazing most wonderful human (from my loins) who ever graced this planet earth in the history of time?”

“Daddy, they say I should give back my China trademarks that I got after our wonderful trip there last summer! Because that bad Biden boy had to quit his job on a China board of directors!”

“Ivanka, sweetest and most lovely creature who ever walked the world, what have I always told you since you were a tall, willowy young female of immense beauty?”

“That if I wasn’t your daughter…”

“Not that.”

“I know! I know! You said to never tell the truth! That it just confuses people!”

“That’s true, it does. But I was thinking of something else. It’s about ‘rules.’ “

“I know! Rules are for other people! We Trumps do what we want!”

“That’s right! So the bad Biden boy has to resign, but you and Don Jr., and that other boy in the family don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. That’s just the way it works.”

“Oh, Daddy, thank you!” Ivanka ran over to his desk and took both his small hands in hers and held them tightly to his side while she gave Donnie Boastful a peck on the cheek.

“Oh, hi Uncle Rudy!” She sang out as she left and Rudy the Rat walked in.

“Hi, Ivanka,” Rudy said. “Boss, I think we got a problem, two of my men got busted as they were leaving the country.”

“What do you mean, Rat, ‘we got a problem?’  Didn’t you just say they were ‘your’ men?”

“Well, they gave a lot of money to your campaign.”

“A lot of people gave a lot of money to my campaign. I couldn’t possibly know all of them. Or any of them. By the way, now would be a good time to ask: Are you still my lawyer?”

“Of course! I just said so on TV!  Some wise guy reporter asked if I was working for the government in Ukraine, and I said, ‘No, I work for the President!’ ”

“You could have said yes, because I’m the President and working for me is working for America. Say, did you see Lou Dobbs? He said that I fulfilled yet another campaign promise getting us out of the Middle East, that pulling out was a brilliant, seventh level chess move.”

“I didn’t see the Dobbs show today, but I’m supposed to go on it tomorrow again. Sheesh, I think I’ve been on Fox 17 tines this month!”

“Rat, don’t start thinking you’re a star. I’m Prime Time Donnie, capiche?”

“I work for you, Mr. America.”

“Great answer. I’ve got a press conference in 20 minutes and have to pretend to slap that guy from Turkey around for roughing up the Kurds. I’m gonna say I’m thinking about destroying his economy, and that I’m going to have conversation on what to do about it. I might send a team over to Turkey. I’ll have them stay in the Trump Twin Towers. It’s the most spectacular hotel in Istanbul!”

“That’s brilliant, Boss. All those people whining about the Kurds. What do they know? What did the Kurds do for us? They’re just in the whey. We made the Kurds some promises … so what, promises are made to be broken, right? This is Trumpworld, right? Just ask them people who built your hotels in Atlantic City!”

“Yeah, didn’t the Kurds read my book? Hellooooo?! They been fighting for so many years over there, it’s easy for them!”

“Who really cares, Boss? Just those people who talk about honor like it’s something you can spend!”

“That’s right, Rat. And it got that impeachment hoax off TV for a whole week! That’s not the reason we’re clearing out of the Middle East, though. I wouldn’t do sumthin’ like that just to change the subject or nothing, right?! It’s because I promised my base!”

“And you keep your promises, Mr. President. Even if Lindsey Graham yesterday said kinda sorta not the nicest thing about what you did.”

“Lay Down Lindsey? He’s just providing a little cover for himself. He’ll fall in line. Vladimir told me he’s got dirt on Lindsey and if I have any trouble, I just need to give Vlad the word. Besides, so what if we pull out of the Middle East? What difference is it going to make? Let them solve their own problems over there! Maybe it’ll disappoint a couple of people, but who cares?”

The intercom on the desk in the Oval Office buzzed.

“Mr. President, the prime minister of Israel is on Line 1. He says it’s urgent.”

“Hey, Rat, would you mind using the back door as you leave? I’m not sure we want that a lot of people see you’re still around.

“Bibi! How you doin’? How’s things in Jerusalem? You know that’s one of my favorite places, right? I think you need a Trump Towers Jerusalem, Bibi, has a nice ring to it, don’t it? It should go right on the beach. Maybe we can do a deal. Hey, sorry I didn’t get back to sooner, it’s been a little hectic around here, maybe you heard … ”

A new political party

By Erik Dolson

My friend The Editor said yesterday that he is not represented by either major political party. Mountain man in style yet utterly modern, educated in history, a gun-toting liberal (though he’d deny that liberal tag), his values are timeless and he has no place to turn.

Me either. America needs a new political party, so I’m going to start one. It’s important to understand that I’m completely unqualified for this effort, and that this shortcoming has never stopped me before.

A party needs a platform, which is something to stand on, or stand for, I’m not sure. But it seems that we all want freedom to be who we believe ourselves to be, and I can stand for that.

So the first plank of this new party is to advocate for personal liberty. That is tied closely to personal responsibility, to preserve and care for one’s self. To fail, if that so happens.

So this party favors opportunity over equality. We recognize that persons of varying desires and abilities will necessarily have different lifestyles. Rather than guarantee equality, we strive to provide opportunity which will lead to a striving that will benefit all.

A society without opportunity will become destructive. For this reason, a “meritocracy” is favored over an “inheritocracy.” There is a point where accumulated wealth will be redistributed.

The second plank is to recognize that while an individual has liberty, we are also a community. Community has a responsibility to preserve itself, and community requires common values and behavior. We need a common language to minimize friction, and reenforce that we are a community. That language has been and should continue to be English.

Individual persons and community benefit from education. This shall be provided to all citizens until their 18th birthday. From their 18 birthday to their 21 birthday, all individuals shall provide service to the community, with an opportunity for extended service. This contribution will be compensated with direct income and/or additional education equal to years served.

Consequences are necessary for change of behavior. At the same time, it’s an uncertain world and sometimes life is harsh. It’s not always the fault of the person who suffers.

Universal health care is a basic human right. Individual persons and the community benefit from optimum health. This not “free.” Each persons shall contribute on an individual basis a “co-pay” to reduce the likelihood of abuse of the service. Additional service will be available to those who choose to make additional contributions, but a percentage of these contributions shall go to preserving the basic care for all. Opportunity, not equality.

The dynamic relationship between community and persons will always have friction. In general, preference should be given to the rights of individual persons who meet their personal responsibilities. In disputes between persons, bias shall extend to those persons who would expend energy and resources.

A baker can bake a cake for whomever he or she chooses. Marriage is a contract between individuals. Government shall have no role in determining who shall or shall not be married, aside from enforcing / mediating those contracts.

A key word in this platform is “person.” Corporations are not persons. They are self-sustaining organisms in their own right, their existence dependent on successful pursuit of profit in a competitive universe, creating jobs and wealth as a byproduct. This is a good and necessary process. It feeds us.

However, pursuit of profit can impinge on the liberty of persons. This will happen if corporations become too powerful, and they will in a competitive universe because evolution favors the powerful and leads to the powerful becoming even more powerful.

We need rules to arbitrate between individuals and keep corporations in check. To enforce the rules we need government. Government shall be made up of persons, and elected by individual persons.  Government shall favor competition, striving to maximize competition between corporations for the benefit of persons and community. Too big to fail is a failure of this process. Many competitors in a transparent environment benefits persons and community.

Lobbying by corporations, whereby corporations determine the actions of the government charged with regulating their behavior, is prohibited. Wolves shall not write rules governing the care of sheep.

But among the rules are rules that keep government itself from becoming too large and powerful in its own right.

Persons have a right to privacy, and complete ownership of their personal information. At the same time, persons and community benefit from maximum transparency when it comes to shared interests.

Corporations do not have a right to privacy, nor does government. The community’s business shall be conducted in the view of the community.

That ought to do it. Smarter people than me can flesh out the few details left over (smile).

Oh, the new political party probably needs a name. I’ll suggest American Citizens Together, because it captures the most important theme. It also lends itself to great banners and bumper stickers.

A.C.T. Now!

Can you hear me?

John Scherer: (Erik,) I’m sure you have better things to do than troll my posts!? If you do, offer up some factual debate for your Party’s waste of taxpayer money.

Erik Dolson: Yes, John, I do. I don’t know why your posts ended up on my feed, I assume Facebook thought it was important. But the whack jobs at “SonsofLibertyMedia.com” (that you reference) took my breath away, and made me realize that the difference in our view points was far wider than I had assumed.

To begin with, the anger is palpable. This was something I’d noticed before, not with you but with many of your political pursuasion. I thought I understood it and could agree with much of it, especially given the loss of jobs and security of the middle class, although I thought it should be directed at Republicans who sent those jobs overseas and not Dems who were trying to provide healthcare.

I realized that the loss of community culture to immigration could add to the felt insecurity, even though on balance immigrants make our country more wealthy, not less.

And I certainly understood the anger of those who felt their paychecks were being taken and given to people who wanted to sit back and do nothing but smoke crack and make babies.

I think you and I could come to an agreement on how to work on, even if we can’t solve these problems, as Americans. But you and those like you are so spun up in anger that we can’t communicate. I believe that much of this comes from profit centers at Fox News, which has learned to monetize outrage, but certainly the psychotic who sits in the White House spewing bile across our golden waves of grain is responsible as well.

So is the arrogance of liberals who ignored the plight of the working man for too many decades while fighting stupid battles over who can bake a cake, when they should have been out there demanding equal opportunity for the heartland, not just the cities.

But then it gets weird. I can’t understand the weaving of odd little factoids into grand conspiracies of outrage like those offered by “SonsofLibertyMedia.com” except to believe they have found a niche in which they can make a few bucks by peddling nonsense. But this is America, and if people want to buy pet rocks or shit in a bag, they can do so and somebody will find a way to sell to them.

Bottom line? I won’t defend Liberal waste of taxpayer money, because I can’t, and I won’t ask you to defend the way the oligopolist drug companies and oil companies and banks and their lackey politicians continue to make life miserable for millions of Americans as they hollow out our country and destroy opportunity.

We have more in common with each other than either one of us does with those we are asked to defend. But you can’t hear me even when I’m agreeing with you. They have succeeded in making you believe that I am the enemy, and I don’t know how to respond to that.

Have a good day.

The leash

By Erik Dolson

“Mr. President, may I have a minute of your time?”

“Billy Barr! You can have more than a minute any time, Billy. Come on in, you know how to approach my desk, right? Have I told you what a great job you’re doing?”

“Thank you Mr. President, I’m just doing my job.”

“And you’re doing it greatly! That’s what I just said! You spun Meuller Mutt until he corkscrewed into the ground, you’re investigating England and Italy for traitors who said the Russians helped me win the election, when everybody KNOWS it was my own stable genius … and you’re wiping out the Bidens with investigations in Ukraine and China … you da man, Billy Barr! Well, you would be da man except I’m da man. You know that, right?”

Donnie Boastful sat up higher behind his desk so he could throw a keen glance down at the Attorney General of the United States of America.

“Mr. President, I wanted to talk to you about … ”

“Say it.” Donnie Boastful clasped his little hands together, and hunched his shoulders. His mouth turned down into a determined tight little frown, a sign that he was going to hold his breath until he turned blue, or start saying very mean things.

“I’m sorry sir, but it’s important that we … “

“Say it, Billy.”

William Barr, Attorney General of the United States of America, long regarded as a man of ability and essential integrity, looked down at his hands resting on his thighs. The deep jowls that gave his face the slight look of a bloodhound fell forward as he made the inevitable decision.

“You da man, Mr. President,” he mumbled.

“I’m sorry, William, I didn’t quite catch that.”

“You da man, Mr. President,” William Barr said in a much louder and clearer voice while looking up at the president, who he could barely see behind the edge of the huge desk.

“Thank you, Attorney General Barr. This is what you’ve been saying all along, right? That whole thing about being a ‘Unitary President?’ That means ‘I’m da man?’ ”

“Well sir, not you so much as the office. Under the “strong unitary executive” theory, a president has more authority than is normally recognized by those who favor the weak unitary executive …”

“Billy?”

“Yes, Mr. President.”

“You’re doing that thing again. What’s that on the carpet right there? Under your right knee.”

“Besides what looks like the shadow of Jeff Sessions burned into the fibers? An eagle clutching golf clubs … ”

“Arrows. We threw out the one with golf clubs. That’s not the point. What’s the whole thing, the whole picture?”

“Well, if I could stand up sir, it would be easier for me to see.”

“No. Stay. It’s the seal. The presidential seal,” said Donnie Boastful.

“Yes sir, I see that now.”

“Do we call it the ‘executive seal?’ ”

“No sir, we do not.”

“And who is president?”

“You are, sire. I mean, sir.”

“So, I’m president, and you are helping me by promoting the strong president theory, and that means I can pretty much say who does what, is that right?”

“In the executive branch, yes it does.”

“So don’t make this so complicated. I’m the president, chief executive officer of this corporation, I mean company, I mean country. I hired you, I can fire you, and I can tell you what to do. Just like I did on my TV show. Is that the strong executive theory? It is if I say it is, right?”

“That would be a possible interpretation, Mr. President.”

“Billy, can’t you just say, ‘Yes, Mr. President?’ It would be so much easier.”

“It would be under certain circumstances …” Attorney General Barr mumbled.

“Billy? William?”

“Yes, Mr President?”

“That’s much better. You can go, now. As you crawl to the door, would you keep an eye out for a contact lens? Ivanka lost one this morning as we were having coffee.”

“Yes, Mr. President.”

“I think you’ve got this, Mr. Attorney General. And again, good work on throwing more shade on that Russian influence hoax. And I don’t know who put what in Sanders’ water bottle, and don’t you tell me — I don’t wanna know. Remember, all I said was he could become a problem, know what I mean? That heart attack was really smart, though! Stick a fork in him, he’s done!”

“Mr. President, sir, can we talk about you demanding impeachment for U.S. Senators and Congressmen who disagree with you? That’s not really under your authority …”

“You mean Reject Romney and Shifty Schiff and Nancy Nonsense? They are not showing me the respect, Billy. They’re hurting me, which means they’re hurting America. Which means they’re traitors, Billy, and I want you to investigate them for high crimes and misdemeanors. Get the goods and then we’ll impeach ’em.”

“Mr. President, we can’t impeach them, and certainly not for expressing an opinion … ”

“Billy, strong unitary president … did you forget? Hey, I’ve got to go. I have a 1 p.m. tee time out at Trump International with the owners of two NFL teams, AND, I’m making them pick up the tab for lunch and greens fees! I think I’ll charge them double.”

“Mr. President, you can’t profit from … ”

“Oh, Billy, don’t worry so much! They can afford it, and I gave them a little quid for their quo pro when those players were kneeling and disrespecting Amerika. Not kneeling like you are, but in a dishonorable way.”

“Mr. President, sir, may I ask you something? Why do you make me kneel when I come in here? You don’t make Rudy kneel, and he’s a lawyer.”

“Respect, Bill. It’s a matter of respect. I respect you more than Rudy.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Whenever I deal with someone that deep down inside I fear might be smarter than me, better than me somehow, I have to abuse them, tear ’em down, humiliate ’em. It’s how I prove that I’m superior. It’s not that hard to understand.

“Hey, if you find that contact lens, leave it on Pence’s desk. He’ll run it over to Ivanka.”