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My Letter to the Editor of New York Times Magazine - by Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger

The MCAS design should never have been approved, not by Boeing, and not by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ( More...

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Robert Spruce 38
Thank you Sully for your wise observations. AS a humble ex commercial pilot with a mere 16,000 hrs on dear old DC9's many years ago. I remember vividly my first instructors words "Follow your checklists, and FLY THE BLOODY PLANE!!"
It seems to me that these days most new pilots do not receive enough "stick time" before being let loose. They are mostly system monitors these days and that is not good.
Bill Bailey 16
That was Langewiesche's point exactly.

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

Right. The republican's fault. If this sort of partisan trash talk is what passes for analysis these days, then we're all just as doomed as the poor souls on those two ill-fated 737MAX aircraft...
Ray Fischer 3
737 Max program was announced in March, 2011. The first flight of the 737Max was January 2016. Final Certification was granted on March 2017. To even hint that somehow this tragedy is somehow the result of any political philosophy is ridiculous. The sweeping under the rug and training shortfalls you noted occurred before the administration changed parties. Check your TDS at the door, please.
Paul Curs 1
Robert you hit the nail on the head.
Sully is indeed a master pilot and a hero, however in my opinion reading between the lines he is pushing an agenda of is why I believe this:

He mentions being involved in an unimaginable emergency scenario which he handled remarkably...this is without doubt fact. But then he states a problem worldwide about inexperienced pilots...I am not certain but only assuming he is referring to pilots outside of the US without the required 1500 hours rule. Then makes another statement regarding having flown the MAX in the simulator, which in another article he commented in a while back was a very challenging situation for him given he knew going in unlike the day of the Hudson landing what the scenario was going to be. Which in my opinion thats like comparing apples to oranges when discussing experience and the MCAS fault scenario. I think it is wrong to assume any pilot no matter the experience would be able to handle that crises in a textbook manner.

However, one thing I would have liked to hear more about is the quality of training. Airplanes are getting more and more complex and likely shortcuts, throughout the supply chain and especially training Max crews. I think ICAO indeed needs to look into training standards throughout the industry.

Lastly, I understand he is an expert aviator, however I am not sure this makes him an expert certification engineer. While yes there was clearly a screw up, the intent was never the outcome. Every aircraft design has its flaw, some larger than others no design is perfect. I would question if Pipers stabilator should have been certified/underwent more scrutiny by the FAA, as well as the V-tail Bonanza and Cessna's electric flaps which has terrible failure modes...nothing is perfect. Only lessons to be learned
raphaelsv 10
The pilots acted perfectly according to the black box data, knowing what they knew at the time. The fault lies, as we all know and should know, with how Boeing made the MCAS to keep the illusion that "in a boeing pilots are always in control" while giving inadequate, or from what i have read straight up negligent, training (how many american pilots have sued Boeing for this now?) and lobbying the FAA for more "self regulation"

Its incredibly easy for anyone here, and to an extent Captain Sully, to sit and criticise training of pilots and "inexperienced" pilots. How many accidents have been caused by these types of "ab-initio" CO-pilots which so many seem to blame for everything? Arent they flying all types of planes safely all over the world? Isnt the U.S military, what some would consider the apex of flight training and airmanship, full of low hundred hour co-pilots flying atomic bombs over the continental U.S and worldwide? Are we forgetting that the captain these, yes, inexperienced pilots are flying with at all times have thousands of hours?

How many crashes happen to US commercial pilots who applied with the minimum 1500 hours they got flying cessnas over oil pipes? Of course, experience is experience, but is it better to start flying (after extensive ground school and pilot training, coupled with extensive aptitude testing even before the school) with a line-training captain who knows to look for mistakes and with thousands of flying hours under his belt as your mentor, or is it better to get your PPL/CPL, be a good pilot with "airmanship" and run the risk of having learnt something wrong and now repeating this mistake in your flying to reach 1500 hours with little to no oversight in the actual cockpit? I dont know, but i havent heard of many crashes in either case. The logan crash was caused by fatigue and horrid working conditions and pay for entry level pilots in the U.S, if i remember correctly? So lets really look at what caused this crash.

The Captain of both flights that crashed had thousands of hours, but no one seems to mention this. But I guess all these other pilots who criticise the pilots of the doomed MAX' who are alive today would have handled it differently? Inadequate training and knowledge provided of the MCAS by Boeing, bad design that didnt tell the pilots what was actually happening, Boeings "shareholder profit" over safety mentality and strong hand over the poor little FAA is what caused these crashes and thats why they should be thoroughly investigated, from CEO and down.
jbayter 2
Right on!
Matthew Husar 1
A question lingering in my mind is: Have there been any incidents of runaway trim on a Max flown by pilots working airlines in American airspace? A search of the Aviation Herald only had these two fatal accidents outside of America and Europe. It begs the question: Why?
btweston 2
The runaway trim was a result of bad angle of attack data.
jbayter 2
Remember the yaw issues on the 737 back in the 90’s. RUDDER PCU were confirmed as the cause of the accidents (2). Both of them in the USA NAS. It may be merely coincidental. The fact that both MAX accidents happened outside the US may be merely coincidental as well.
I dare to say that Training standards even in airlines taking low hours pilots are way higher than most major US airlines, where union rights and job fairs seem more relevant than pilot skills.
raphaelsv 1

Quite a nice summary of reports from American 737 max 8 pilots. Some reports of the aircraft doing something stupid but corrected by turning off A/P. In the case of the Ethiopian and Air Lion Crashes i think not even disengaging the A/P helped, and as the 737s rudder trim is not powered, coupled with the enormous loads that are exerted on the stabilizer even inside the flight envelope, there was no way for them to correct the trim.

I dont wana make any conclusions and Im probably wrong, so it will be interesting to read the full report. But heres an interesting quote from Ethiopian investigators "The 33-page report indicates the pilots disengaged power to the horizontal stabilizer system approximately 2 minutes and 35 seconds into the flight. However, according to ABC News consultant and former National Transportation Safety Board Director of the Office of Aviation Safety Tom Haueter, the data recorded from the preliminary report indicates that the pilots, at some point, turned the system back on which allowed a misfiring automatic safety system to take effect." (
bbabis 1
They never pulled the power levers back! It doesn't take long at takeoff power for aerodynamic loading of the elevators fighting the stab to lock the manual trim.
Kyle Barnoff 1
The argument of fault from plane design or pilot training is garbage. In any accident, there are multiple incidents of failure leading up to the event. ALL must be identified and addressed.

The message I read from Sully's letter? The problem isn't just pilot training. There are multiple areas of failure, and we need to address them all.
Hans Siegl 1
Nothing to ad to this
Bill Bailey 33
Before you slag the "journalist" to much you might want to look him up, he IS an expert in aviation and was a professional pilot, his name is William Langewiesche, son of the man most pilots back in the day considered a minor god, Wolfgang Langewiesche, author of Stick and Rudder. A book almost every pilot (maybe even Sully) read.
If you read his article, he wasn't so much blaming the pilots as their lack of airmanship or ability to fly the airplane when things went sideways. The facts that have been released so far especially in the Ethiopian crash back that up.

Sully makes some valid points, the Lazy B screwed the pooch and the FAA held held the poor dog down, but to exonerate the crews I think is wrong.

Now I'm an old fart that's been around airplanes most of my 70+ years and have pretty thick skin so whatever slings and arrows you shoot in my direction aren't going to hurt even if they could get past my monitor. Besides, it's past my bedtime.
Look both men up, read the Times Mag. article again and then decide.

Y'all play nice now.
Excellent post, from another Old Fart !
Hans Siegl 1
Well said, thank you Sir
James Johnson 5
I agree with Sully should like to add. Automation is great however it should never take the place of basic pilot flying skills. Multiple flying combat tours in RVN and thousands hours 767-300, 757, F100, must always expect the unexpected. If automation is not doing the job then disconnect fly the aircraft manually. Automation did not land that jet on the Hudson River. Sully's basic pilot skills did. James Johnson {CAPT,Ret} American Airlines.
I am not a pilot. In fact, I used to jump out of them in the Army. My father, however, was Chief flight Engineer for Pan Am and spent six months with Boeing in Seattle as they were designed the 747. His observation was that pilots didn't get paid a lot to fly the normal routes - they were paid to have the ability to deal with emergencies, and the more people in the cockpit the better. The airlines, and the FAA, have abandoned the flight engineer and reduced the number of hands in the cockpit. Some airlines have apparently abandoned critical stick time for airmanship. My experience is once you put your life on the line you had best know as much as you can about what you're doing or don't do it. Otherwise you should be able to get a license from EA Sports. I am not a pilot - but I have been around a long time.
jammen737 0
I’d have to disagree with. Automation had a large part with Sulley being able to land on the Hudson. However, Sulley’s great airmanship accented the airplanes flight characteristics. Essentially the airplane allowed Sulley to have the great outcome that he did. The flight couldn’t have ended as well
As it did without the combination of the two.
John Nichols 2
Yes and no. The airbus was in Alternate Law, but Sully had to have the presence of mind to light the APU. Unlikely the aircraft would have survived in Direct Law. The Boeing, in manual reversion? Easy Peasy. Technically, Captain Johnson, it was automation that landed the bus. The interface, unknown, would kill us all. Know thy airplane..
Silent Bob 12
There's nothing wrong with the MCAS, as originally designed and approved by the FAA. It was never intended to have full control of the stabilizer all the way to the nose down limit. And it was not intended to run continuously either. It was supposed to move the stab one time, in a small increment, until reset. Somewhere along the line the code was changed giving it far too much authority, along with the fact that it never should've relied upon a single AOA vane with no comparison monitoring. Boeing did screw the pooch, there's no denying that. But to suggest the whole system should be abandoned is short-sighted and asinine.
Why did the Boeing engineers think that "a single AOA vane with no comparison monitoring" was ok input for the MCAS? Why did the FAA not catch this faulty assumption?
Randy Barron 12
That is not what Sullenberger is saying. He's not recommending they abandon it, he's saying "Do it right or not at all."

They didn't do it right.
The system should be abandoned, but only for the time being, until they can get it right. If what you say is true, this should have been an easy fix. Why is it taking so long?
John Nichols -1
Actually, and obviously, it was designed to have full control of the stabilizer. It was designed to run continually, not continuously, stop, wait five seconds then, failing lockout, start (continue) once again.... the pilots fought back with ever more elevator trim, until it couldn't recover with full NU elevator. The workaround is to shut down the trim motors, manually. And quickly, fighting the HS with elevators is a dead man’s solution. But no one told them; the lockout motors are on the back of the pedestal, in easy reach.....there’s two, and they can be cycled in three seconds.
It may have been designed to be continuous, but the outside the envelope flight conditions required to trigger it were not.
John Nichols 1
Continuous: active, without interruption. Continual: active with interruptions. MCAS triggers at an AoA the computer senses is close to Stall. Then it stops, pausing to recheck the AoA trend, and reinvigorates if the condition remains (AoA too high). It can be disabled easily, by flipping the close out switches, on the back of the pedestal. (Trim motors)

A fine point, but you are mistaking “flight conditions” as sensed by a duff sensor with actual. The Trim keeps pushing Nose Down until the AoA is back in limits. With a reported angle of attack ten degrees high, the trim would never stop. It didn’t. The pilot kept correcting by using elevators and Nose up trim. The MCAS trims the Horizontal Stabilizer. That is not a fair fight. Elevators with full Nose Up trim cannot overcome the giant slab upon which they are mounted.
Karl Nicholls 3
It’s interesting that no-one has commented on the fact that Sully states that he experienced the scenarios both sets of pilots faced in a 737 Max simulator. States that the aircraft did not present as a simple runaway trim situation. He also does not say whether or not he was able to recover the aircraft himself (assuming he was able to try). There is an interesting video on Mentour Pilot where he and his co-pilot were not able to recover the aircraft in the sim. Until all the facts are out, I am placing my belief behind Sully and Petr and not others who simply comment from afar.
belzybob 14
Absolutely spot on.
Tom Fox 4
Read his original book about the Hudson landing and you will fully respect this man's opinions and work ethic. Listen to what he says !!!
Mike Lynn 4
Meantime, back in seat 30D.......I continue to be amazed at what I consider the bad judgement of Boeing executives on what kind of plane to offer. It just seems that the MAX was a step too far for the 737 line. Shoulda stopped with the NG and done a total redesign on the single-isle concept. I fully understand building a new plane is not a cheap proposition. And the Board said let's wring one more variant out of the 737 line - it's cheaper and we can make a good plane.

As for the MCAS, well it's like watching the movie "Dr. Strangelove". The twisted mind that was so graphically played by Peter Sellers was surely the whole software team that developed MCAS! We've yet to really know the degree of expertise of the software developers - how many were senior Boeing engineers in Renton and how many may have been folks in India that were scratching their heads and being asked to do multiple "reworks" on the software. Please clear this point up.

Finally, the thing I cannot forgive Boeing for is their timidity and less than communicative posture with pilots about MCAS. I completely agree with Sullenberger that real simulator time must be given to all pilots - not skimming along on an iPad! This was the uber screw the pooch on Boeing's part. Kinda like Sgt. Schultz on Hogan's Heros turinng a blind eye - 'I SEE NOTHING!" Just think of the MAX as an NG with bigger engines - it'll fly!

There is a lot of talk about accountability and correcting how things work between the manufacturer and the FAA - the cozy relationship needs to be clarified and formalized so this does not happen again. Finally, I noted Mullenberg lost the Board Chairman title. Big deal. His responsibility and that of the Board goes deeper here.
Boeing offers exactly and precisely what one or two key customers tell them to offer.
Greg S 2
Sully has his opinion and I have great respect for it. Of course it isn't the final word. Is the NTSB doing a full report on these accidents? I know they'd be a party to the investigation but I hope they're more than that, and they do their usual comprehensive full report.

I don't know what the final report will say, but I can bet on it. I bet it will show that the flawed design was the biggest problem and that lack of pilot training on the specific issue of a runaway stabilizer was a contributing factor.
JW Wilson 5
As a non-pilot: the media reported initially, that all the pilots had to do was to turn off the autopilot and trim system. Now, with Sully weighing in, I am intrigued to see how Boeing and the FAA deals with this, and to see if MCAS survives. Thanks for your insight Sully.
Rick Hunt 7
Is everyone forgetting that the crew on the flight previous to the crash flight had the exact same issue and resolved it? If that does not point to pilot training I don't know what does.....
GraemeSmith 9
The crew flying did not resolve it. They wee as stuck as the crews that perished. It was the deadheading pilot who came up with the correct response. Probably with the benefit of not having to fly and figure. He could observe and figure
Greg S 0
Why would they have left a plane in service with such a serious issue? Did the pilots not report it?
Hans Siegl 2
Like that!
Important commentary from a knowledgeable professional.
Po Lau 3
These planes should not be flown without 100% proper training. Who can guarantee 100%? What about 99.9999% What about 99.999% What about 99.99% What about 99.9% What about 99%, that's one crash out of a 100. Blame whatever you wanted to blame, a quality system does not work in a way you like it or not, but to perform and IMPROVE. These 2 plane crashed with the same cause in a very short time has to be rectified 100%, no less. For those on the defensive side, to err is humane, the machine has to be perfect! See, stick with the quality system, proven to be progressive and be better, and stick with it no matter you got a transactional CEO or not. So who's making the shot, blame it on the CEO while every investor/voter is the killer? Or the managers/bureaucrats who follow directives, or the complacent engineers/assemblers? Where do you stop...but to accept, there is a risk to every steps, and we should appreciate any active system that can uphold the quality. The FAA, being a gate keeper, dropped the ball. FAA is underfunded, and systematically, design to fail. Enforce a quality system that has been established, no superfluous political/investment/labor malicious interventions, that's quality.
Dave Weese 1
No plane should be flown without 100% training. Not just these ones...

But that is the issue facing many airlines. It cost so much to become a pilot. Yet pays so little for those coming in to the system. That's why you see 737s and other aircraft being flown in parts of the world by pilots with only a few hundred flight hours.
Jason Bell 2
In William Langewiesche's article in the NYT he apportions equal blame on Boeing, FAA, the doomed pilots, their airlines, the whole nine yards. Summarizing the mentality as "A race to the bottom[...]" of unskilled journeymen employed as airline captains, aircraft manufacturer greed selling fleets to sleazy unfit airlines, toothless regulators. The article pastes everyone.

Sullenberger's letter is grossly unfounded and misleading.
From the back of the plane - interesting thread. My takeaway is look at the Max records in the US. BETTER, WELL TRAINED pilots (at least for now, the kids learning to fly for the regionals scare me) no problems. Planes with full safety features. I worked many years for a company who devised an idiot proof system then pushed out the higher priced experienced people and hired idiots. Company almost bought the farm.

One note on Airbus vs Boeing, AB is government supported which gives them an unfair competitive advantage in the marketplace. In fact, Boeing may be the last public company building planes and yes, they have to answer to shareholders, sorry everyone wants to make money like you do too. But yes, as with the home building industry, self-inspections eventually run afoul because of economic pressure. FAA must be more involved. (And I HATE government)
raphaelsv 1
Planes with safety features is a bad thing now? huh. The problem is not safety features, the problem is Boeings lack of training on the MCAS, FAA circumvention in certifiying it and just designing a system thats flawed. It has nothing to do with pilots experience in my mind, unless you count the lack of training provided by boeing. The same problem has not happened, to my knowledge, for U.S pilots. The final report should tell us, but right now its only speculation. However, how many crashes have happened now because of "young" pilots? Dont they all fly with experienced captains? Airlines are not your business, and have not pushed out experienced pilots for less inexperienced ones, so your comparison is bullshit and misleading and has no basis in the airline industry.

You are clearly not aware of how many GOVERNMENT subsidies Boeing has gotten over its long history. Its government supported and saying its not is absurd and ignorant. You seem to speak confidently on these issues and pilot training and so on, but you dont even know about Boeing getting 64 billion in guarantees and loans (over a longer period of time of course), 457 million in grants, 13 billion in state subsidies and 18 billion in government contracts in 2014 and several tax breaks. Lets not forget how Boeing, a private company, got the US government to ban and impose 214% tariffs on competitors products being sold in the US and filed complaints on airbus for getting 22 billion in start funding. Your comment just proves how ignorant you are about the industry, and therefore your comments on the issue above should be duly ignored.
Well Raphael, I hit a sore point. Sorry but US pilots on major carriers are the best in the world and the Max stats prove it. FLY THE PLANE. That's what I'M paying YOU for. Yeah thats right I'm the gut who flies 150-200 times a year and pays the bucks. I am the company so it comes out of my pocket and its my life in the pilots's hands. Get over yourself. If you're a commercial pilot I never want to be on your plane.
And Boeing reports to shareholders, does Airbus? NO! They are government supported 100% which is an unfair advantage in a free market. Are you you European? Get out of the cockpit and learn about economics.
raphaelsv 1
Im studying economics and going to pilot school next, but good try. Reporting to shareholders often lead to the "profit over quality" mentality Boeing execs and managers have had since the McDonnel Douglas merger. Dont take my word for it, take it from Boeing engineers. Im sure you have something witty to say about them as well? Good old american engineers? Lets just wait and see what caused Boeing to push through a badly designed MCAS system (the cause of many lawsuits by US PILOTS against Boeing) to force fit large new engines on a 60 year old airframe, because thats ingenuity! Im sure it has nothing to do with profits.

Also, Airbus is a public company with shares, so yes, they do also report to shareholders. England, Germany and France own about 28% of the stock, so they are not government supported 100%. What kind of adult makes assumptions like that without any kind of knowledge or research? And if you think that makes them subjects to those respective governments, you need to take a class or two in economics.

And its true, they do get start funding from the EU, but so do many other companies. Its competition for Boeing. As a speaker for the free market im sure youre all for competition. Its also a loan, its not government handouts like the tax breaks Boeing has been gobbling up since pretty much forever. And, again, how many subsidies, tax incentives and contracts has Boeing gotten from the US government and the state of Washington? Its naive to think Boeing and the US government dont go hand in hand, both for sales of aircraft to the state and foreign countries. If there is any company that is supported by the US government, its Boeing and other aircraft and weapons manufacturers. Im sure its a tough pill to swallow but it only takes a quick google to find a lot of information on this. Is there anything wrong with it? Probably not, but you cant accuse one company of doing something and turning the blind eye towards the other, just cause youre american.

Pilots all over the world are flying airplanes safely, the fact that you think safety and airmanship is exclusive to US pilots tells me exactly what kind of person you are. Are they good? Of course! Are many of them among the best? Sure! Are they the only ones? no. Pilots all over the world were flying the max 8 as well, and the actual scenario that happened to the crashed planes have not happened to US pilots of the max 8, as far as i know. If you know of an instance like this i would love for you to share!

Im not sure why youre telling me to get over myself but ill take that advice since its generally a pretty good thing to do, and I hope you take your own advice. Cant wait to have you as my passenger! And trust me when I say i want to be the best pilot I can be, its been my passion in life to develop my airmanship to the level of those famous american pilots like Chuck and Hoover, to fly the damn plane, and there is nothing to suggest my training wont support that.
Ken Lane 2
I, too, was guilty of blaming the pilots first before all the factors came out about this MCAS system. I was even more dumbfounded that this system was not adequately taught or not taught at all to pilots and airline training departments were left to assume it operated like several other recent versions of the 737.

I shouldn't be surprised. Airbus essentially did the same thing by leaving information out of pilot training manuals on certain factors of alternate law. In one case, they put data in the instructor manual but not in new pilot manuals. I met one check airman/instructor who copied his material and handed it out to trainees.

While I still believe there is an overdependence on automation throughout the ranks of pilots from primary students up to high-time career airmen, if they are not properly informed of every aspect of a system that controls their airplane, at some point an issue will pop up and surprise them.
zuluzuluzulu 1
Any day, any time.
I think what "Sully" is saying is that pilots really need to know how to fly planes!
Here is a sound a smart article about this big issue , thank you so much Mister Sully.when à plane crashes and both pilot die , we automatically blame them, and when it’s not the case , we falsifie black boxes and other stuff ( Air France 320) amongst so many other examples. here, Boeing wanted to play smart because of Airbus and here are fatalities we all know about.Airbus is gaining space , money , customers while Boeing are struggling and it’s a pitty I am an eternal Boeing’s fan , I was always against the all computerized planes which jeopardize passengers lives and here too we have so many examples, mont st Odile , and so many A320’s which suddenly became a best seller nearly overtaking the 737 best seller of all times thank to ..... miracle on the Hudson . So Boeing has to get itself out of this mess by playing it as it has always been the best aeronautic constructor .
Fact: humans were in command of the aircraft. Fact: humans were trained to follow emergency procedures in emergencies. Fact: those emergency procedures, for those specific aircraft, were inherently wrong by design as well as by certification. Captain Sullenberger is right.

For those of us who are not professional pilots, allow me offer a hypothetical consideration. Consider a nice new car from (some fictitious manufacturer, to keep this politically neutral.) As you read the car's manual, you find that, should you need an emergency brake, pull the emergency brake handle up briskly to lock it in the on position. (Yes, I know this isn't exactly like the Boeing issues.) Now suppose the design mistake is that the emergency brake is connected to the accelerator. The Car Safety Administration oversight and certification officials agree that the design is acceptable.

Now, you are in your car, gliding down hill, and a train suddenly crosses the road in front of you and your car. The normal brake pedal breaks and is now useless. You quickly recall how to apply the emergency brake. You pull the handle up, briskly, which locks as advertised. But your car begins to accelerate horribly, quite to your surprise. Here comes the side of that train! What are you going to do?

Ah, things are getting a bit closer to the point of my post. Turning off the engine ignition stops the acceleration. That's not in the car's manual but it's a good idea, eh? But you are still heading, quite speedily, towards the side of that train. You throw the emergency procedures out of your mind and think... think... and think that it's better to hit the side of a building you are near than to hit that train. Boom, you crash but the car's airbags save your life.

Sullenberger's "building" was the Hudson River. The two PICs in those foreign Boeings didn't manage to get to any emergency procedures for bad emergency procedures.

In my hypothetical scenario, the car's manufacturer was clearly to blame. The Car Safety Administration was also (in my opinion, more so) to blame. The drivers of the cars that hit the train could have, but didn't think of, hitting a building. They would be to blame, also, but it would certainly be understandable, eh?
boughbw 1
Not one to minimize Sully's accomplishments, but if MCAS were fatally flawed more planes would have crashed or at least experienced the problems downing the Lion Air and Ethiopian flights. Instead, tens of thousands of MAX flights went off without a hitch. The reported problem with the MCAS in the US on one flight led to a terse complaint filed online, obviously a situation where the pilots figured out what was going on and addressed it.

What makes the Langewiesche article so impressive is that it builds upon a simple notion: crashes are not usually caused by a single factor unless it is obvious pilot error or running out of fuel. Crashes are usually the result of a combination of factors that were unforeseen. Langewiesche identifies a lack of airmanship, a lack of a culture of safety at the airlines involved (pilot training as well as maintenance), potentially shoddy maintenance, unclear or lacking redundancy in the Angle of Attack indicators, inadequate documentation and training by Boeing on MCAS, an FAA clearance proces that didn't catch the problem, and Boeing's unwillingness to fault the airlines to who it was selling planes for fear of losing business _in addition to_ the "do it on the cheap" 737 MAX redesign. It is simplistic to state Langewiesche's article faults only the pilots.

But if we want to look at this tired old "canard" of pilot error, let's look at Airbus. Airbus and the BEA blamed the pilots for the crash of Air France 447. This is in spite of the aircraft's computers presenting the pilots contradictory information leading them into a stall that last more than four minutes as the plane tail-dived into the ocean. The grand irony here is that this is probably the exact scenario Boeing's MCAS was designed to prevent. Under similar circumstances, the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus 330 when deprived of accurate information from their sensors and having computers unable to reconcile conflicting information to save the flights.

Driving the point home, the Lion Air plane involved in the crash suffered the exact same problem the day before it crashed. The difference was a pilot who happened to be in the cockpit who knew what to do. Not every broken plane crashes. Not every perfectly-function plane flies safely. It is an over-reach to call on MCAS to be scrapped.
John Nichols 1
My first flight instructor flew Corsairs off the aircraft carrier in WWII. “If I EVER catch you maneuvering with Trim, instead of controls, you will be dead to me....” Pun intended.
Ken Jackson 1
Although I agree with the editorial content in the article, I just spent :30 in my NYT Magazine subscription and do not find this article there. There are several unrelated letters from Oct 13 there. Something doesn’t add up.
The NYT's print and online versions aren't necessarily the same.
Ken Jackson 1
I did not know that!
Karen Ralston 1
And I should have added that the online articles always have more and better visuals, sometimes interactive.
Karen Ralston 1
The text is always the same (99%) but the visuals are not, and the date of the online version precedes the print date.
Karen Ralston 1

Print edition, Sept. 22, 2019
Charles Adams 1
This Just In:

Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson demanded an explanation from Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg in a letter Friday.

"DALLAS — Boeing was aware of troubling instant messages between two employees regarding their communications with federal regulators over a key flight-control system on its now-grounded 737 Max jet, but the company waited months to disclose them.

Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson demanded an explanation from Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg in a letter Friday."

Sully believes that BOEING failed its customers at the management level. Had they not done so we wouldn't be talking about dead people that were flying on BOEING aircraft. This entire chain of events would not have happened had BOEING done it right.

Why should we even be talking about pilots who had enough training to deal with their whole world turning upside down while piloting an aircraft full of innocent men, women, and children at all? We all know that the aviation world is moving to the world of drones. It will be a long haul but that is where the business model wants to move. AND, it will work but it must be done right. When it is, on the whole, it will be safer than having humans at the controls.

We should not even be having this discussion. Had BOEING not decided to charge more MONEY for safety two safety options we would not be having this discussion. How many of you would buy a car without seat belts (laws aside) thus saving $500.00 and then put your family in the car and drive down the Interstate? What about air bags? What about ABS?

BOEING failed and set up others for failure. People died. Don't hide the truth.
Had BOEING not decided to charge more MONEY for safety two safety options we would not be having this discussion...."

This is such bullshit. I don't know which two options you are talking about, but I assume one of them is the aoa disagree warning or indicator or... whatever it's called, you're talking about an $80,000 option on a $130,000,000 airplane. Do the math, then quit pretending it's something it isn't because 80 grand is nothing to a company the size of Boeing or Airbus. The swear jar in Charleston probably makes more (money or MONEY, whichever you prefer).

"How many of you would buy a car without seat belts (laws aside) thus saving $500.00 and then put your family in the car and drive down the Interstate?"

An AOA disagree indicator is nothing like a seat belt and a commercial airliner is nothing like a car, but ok I'll answer anyway: I wouldn't, but Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines might. Why? No idea, but who knows the needs and requirements of Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines better than Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines? Nobody, that's who. The idea that Boeing could have said "we know better" at any time before the crashes and got away with it is a joke. Both airlines would have been somewhere between deeply offended and totally incensed.
Charles Adams 2
Well, Jim, we weren't talking Boeing buying its own options, or Airbus buying them. We were talking about much smaller outfits who often don't pay for options. If you had done your research and read a few industry articles you would know that. BTW - Safety is safety be it 2 people or 200.

"? No idea, but who knows the needs and requirements of Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines better than Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines?" Don't you understand that economic pressure on small carriers have an inordinate influence on purchasing decisions? To them $80,000 dollars is a much greater percentage of the Return on Investment than it would be at Boeing or Airbus. Thus economic decisions have more influence on the overall purchasing decisions. Also, if $80K does not mean so much to Boeing, as you say, then why make the system optional in the first place? Why not leave it as a standard feature? Just as it is NOW, AFTER the accidents. Which, BTW, Boeing has taken full responsibility for.
John Nichols 1
Air France had the option to order BUSS, (back up speed system) on the ill fated A330. It demurred, and lack of an horizon and AoA indicator, many died. Forty grand. How many family members would write the check without hesitation? A certificated aircraft should not have a “list” of options. If controls alone cannot recover an aircraft, then it is not certifiable. IMO. Trim cannot be made homicidal. Boeing forgot to tell the operators. Why? Because “incompetent operators” might need the auto Nose Down. That is what they said. Arrogant? Boy Howdy.
paul trubits 1
I am old. On our first car that I remember back in the 1950s, seat belts were an option.
Philip Lanum 0
The bean counters at Boeing are in control. Everything to make a profit, shareholders are more important that customer lives, employees and now - Safety.
Disclaimer-I am a nonpilot. However, I am an advocate for veterans and others and I can not begin to count the enormous betrayal our country has committed with our military and veterans. Thus, a knee-jerk CYA letter by a government official is meaningless without holding everyone accountable.
James Green 1
Sully, with all these accolades coming from other "up front flight crew, primarily Caps. Here's one from who stated his
summer job as a 'male steward, with a quarter of the time being called, stewardess. Evemtually we were all, in a sense, gender neutral and given the name of Flight Attendant. Though it took a good years for it to fully kick in.
Sir, I lived my entire flying career out of NYC [1974-1994 That also makes me #68 in the US hired as a flight attendant] That said, 'That morning, between and radio and hearing what was going on with your aircraft. Being dressed, I grabbed my knapsack, grabbed my bike from the ceiling and headed over to 11th avenue and headed north. it happened that my timing was perfect. As you were starting your decent toward the Hudson. And, We as pretty much know what the are in a ditching. The tail section almost always breaks away.
ewrcap 1
Did FlightAware publish Langeweische’s article as well?
As a student of aviation, I found Sully's article very informative and worthy of more discussion. Sully refers to Langewiesche's article (excellent reading if you haven't) which addresses the rapid changes in aviation technology and the different type of pilot training needed to fly these new technological marvels.

I’ve had trouble understanding how supposedly properly trained and experienced pilots could have allowed the 737 Max accidents to happen. When experiencing a forced nose-down attitude, it seems that any pilot would first look at trim, noticing the complete nose-down indication, disable it and manually adjust it.

The Lion Air accident aircraft experienced the nose-down trim situation on a previous flight and handled it properly. The next crew did not handle it properly resulting in the accident.

The Ethiopian pilots completely ignored airspeed and never throttled back from take off power during the entire event. That is just mind boggling and also makes it more difficult to manually adjust trim.
It seems that these accidents were in large part pilot error and pilot training problems but it appears that new (non western) pilots seems to be trained more as check-list computer button pushers without providing the more basic but important airman intuition or skills.

Two training philosophies are at odds. One philosophy is to allow the pilot to completely take over flying the airplane while the other relies on computers to fly the aircraft and handle all problems reducing the need for hand flying and airmanship

The 737 Max is a victim of this crossroads and not wholly at fault. I hope Boeing isn’t fatally damaged in the process.
jammen737 2
“Two training philosophies are at odds. One philosophy is to allow the pilot to completely take over flying the airplane while the other relies on computers to fly the aircraft and handle all problems reducing the need for hand flying and airmanship”

Hence the main difference between Boeing and Airbus.
John Nichols 1
Not exactly. Airbus has its “manual reversion.” Direct Law. A friend flew the 320 as Captain for ten years before the 777. I asked him how many times did his aircraft (320) exit Normal Law? “ Never, not once....”
WhiteKnight77 1
I am unfamiliar as to the number of AOA sensors that are on the Max, but if there is only one, then that may be the problem. Phrogs had redundency built in for its systems that were crucial for flight such as when a line for the #1 flight hydraulic boost system blew all over the pilots while flying in South Korea while on an exercise. We were able to land safely, even if the ROK Army came out with loaded rifles pointed at us.

The question now comes up as to how many AOA vanes are needed? 2, 3, 4? It appears that multiple are needed with computerized fight controls so that if one fails, there are others that can relay such information to the flight computers to tell it the attitude of the aircraft. Also, did Boeing remove the back-up steam gauges that would show aircraft attitude and airspeed?
Daniel Sarbu -1
Damn journalists , always quick to blame the dead guys ofc, they're not here to tell their story. I am sure The New York Times Magazine journalist is an absolute expert in aviation with a gazillion hours of flying experience so he must really know what he is talking about. Thank you Sully for standing up for those that died and calling this asshole out for the idiot that he is.
It's really not that hard to look the guy up.
Daniel, he's not an asshole or an idiot. Read the article before you start calling names. IMO, it's the most cogent description of those 2 accidents I have read to date. But what do I know -an almost 66 year old retired pilot with 20,000+ hours in DC-9 type.
Hans Siegl 3
Fully agree, same age and background
jammen737 8
I’m doubtful you really know who you are talking about. As JMARTINSON said, it ain’t hard to look the guy up. William L. has plenty of experience and knowledge of what he writes about. Read the article again, if you have actually even done, and then read his book Fly By Wire.
Ron Wilcher 0
Stick to what you know about.......flying airplanes. Good god man.
John David -2
Let's see.

Who to believe here.

On one hand, are the words from one of the world's most experienced, respected and admired pilots who ever flew the azure skies who faced a real world emergency and handled it with all the skill and training he spent a lifetime in honing and achieving, versus some putz sitting behind his computer keyboard doling out all this hearsay and second handed drivel.

Decisions, decisions...!
Charles Adams 5
You know John David.... you sound like a very arrogant fellow. You must have a terrible time trying to whip the world into your expectations and rules. Try to relax. Have some fun. These forums are, in the end, meaningless. They are a way for people to share ideas and suggestions but no one is manufacturing policy and procedure here. No one is “winning” and no one is “losing”. It is just another Internet forum. Real life transpired elsewhere.
Bill Bailey 7
Read my post about that so called "putz", he knows of what he speaks.
John David -4
I read it and every other comment you made in this thread. You seem to need to comment on everyone's opinion. I don't put much stock in people who "police" every opinion made by each individual.

I read the article written by Langewiesche BEFORE I posted my comment. I'm not in the habit of posting an opinion before I've read or ascertained the facts surrounding the subject matter that made me want to comment on it.

As for who is father is, what does that have to do with anything!

I don't post very many opinions anymore because of people like you and I answer to comments made of my posts even less, so this will be the last I see or respond to anything in this thread.

Your entitled to your opinion as I am of mine.

I'll just go with a person who in this case is an actual airline pilot who has years of experience and faced a real world emergency with peoples lives at stake and preformed one of aviation's most amazing recovery & landings in recorded history, and I will do so confidently over some guy sitting behind his keyboard who has NEVER faced anything at all like that situation!
Credentials are not a matter of opinion, so if you are going to compare them then at least be fair about it. If you're not going to be fair about it, don't be so shocked and offended when you get called out.

P.S. Sully was sitting behind his keyboard when he wrote his letter, just like the other guy was when he wrote his article.

P.P.S. I know you're reading this.
Ron Wilcher -5
Well I am a pilot also and have been for 53 years. Sully is also a gun expert and every other kind that he cares to talk about. at least in the eye of the Fake News. Hell now he is a engineer and knows everything about designing an airplane too. Oh did I say he can walk on water.
Actually, he did walk on water :)
bbabis -4
SOS = Sick of Sully

No decision to make except a poor one to stretch a glide over a populated city. Water was the only choice and he had the right aircraft that made it an almost nonevent. The winter rescue was the real story.

As far as the MAX accidents, yes something went haywire that baffled the crews. Still, no one has attempted to explain why neither crew brought the power levers back from takeoff. THAT killed them. When the world is ripping by like a bat out’a hell you are not going to stall no matter what the stick shaker or instruments are telling you. Fly the plane man! Airmanship/Experience/Training were lacking in these accidents . Things happen in airplanes. Sully could at least tell you that. But after that, its on the pilot and not the machine.
Bill Bailey 5
I'm not going to pick on Sully, he made the best of a crappy hand and played it beautifully. Ditching any landplane is hazardous at best and few have carried it off as well as he and his crew did.

As for the rest of your comment, spot on !
indy2001 7
As much as I admire a fellow Boilermaker, it's time for Sully to be quiet and let the various investigations produce their reports and inquiries play out. I've heard him speak in the past and he always qualified his answers with "I'm an Airbus guy", and he always gives full credit to the Airbus systems for his landing on the Hudson River. Now he's sounding more and more like an Airbus shill as he blasts away at Boeing.
Ken Lane 2
Aren't you assuming facts not in evidence?
raphaelsv 1
wasnt the problem that the trim put the airplane in a nosedive and no amount of pulling back actually corrected the attitude? In that case, the pilots were trying to fly the airplane, but Boeings system was in the background and telling the plane to, automatically, put nose down. So are we talking about lack of airmanship or boeings badly designed system? You tell me.
John Nichols 1
At best, a qualified aviator without knowledge of MCAS would probably conclude a mechanical problem, not a trim problem. MCAS would rapidly degrade the pilots inputs, creating a trend that was unknown. Once out of Nose Up Trim (elevators) he can only ride the steeply diving beast down.
John Nichols 1
A simple “heads up” in the manual would have sufficed, plus sim and perhaps a meeting. The 737 MAX has virtually nothing in common with the original. Sistering certification of the later aircraft with the classic is a crime. It is a different type. Boeing eats canal mud on this one.
bbabis 1
You are correct. As with most aircraft, a movable stab is more powerful than the elevators. That is why any pilot typed on the 737 or similar aircraft should know that it is imperative to disengage auto-trim as soon as you realize you are fighting it no matter what the reason may be. Pulling the power back and slowing below redline would also help.
Richard Fox 0
Be quiet.
John Nichols 1
Nothing went haywire. The aircraft flew as designed, even with the duff AoA feed. The problem was not noticed until liftoff, not a good time to pull the levers back to idle. The problem was confusion, and a poor response to an increasing deck angle that is counterintuitive to Pitch management. Actually, pulling the column back was correct; but only very temporarily. When Pitch authority is lost, it’s elevators or trim, right? Somebody was flying Pitch, and it wasn’t our pilots.

It is eerily similar to Colgan. A confused pilot flying persistently with increasingly bad feedback. The Colgan problem? A Stall bug left in anti ice. Ethiopian? Similarly bad data, fought with an intuition that lacked innovative problem solving.
Richard Fox -3
Go back to sleep you old sook. Go play bingo with your crone.
Chris B 0
Computer programming for a desktop is never going to kill the user. But getting it wrong on aircraft can.

It seems that the pressure to push these aircraft down the production line and produce profit resulted in short circuiting the all the safety protocols, experience and common sense.

We're just lucky that the accident's didn't happen on US soil, over a major city.....
sharon bias 1
My banks new and improved software now takes 2 minutes rather than 2 seconds to print a deposit receipt. 2 minutes in an airplane can be the difference between life and death. Any aircraft software should be tested thoroughly. Any software updates should be tested just as thoroughly. It all goes back to the MCAS not working.
Thanks to guys like Sully, we as the flying public can confidently put our lives and the lives of family and friends into the seats of commercial airliners. The team at Boeing seem to be very well suited at selling the entire world a batch of "snake Oil". I'm sure that the litigation will take years to conclude with Boeing going bankrupt to avoid the liability.

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

Philip Lanum 1
Ah - dude.
This article is not about a B-17.
Try and keep up eh?
From the paying seats: PLEASE tell me you're not a pilot!
barry wiese -3
Christ on a cracker you are a moron. Unintelligible responses coupled with uneducated rhetoric tells me you are still living in your mom's basement, trolling this fine site while spewing your amateurish and laughable drivel within posts that proper men and women typically visit for information and like-minded aviation thinking/critical evaluation. They are relying on facts and maybe the occasional experience-based opinion - but you normally add NOTHING but ridiculous commentary, fueled by a day full of TV binge watching and too much sugar, no doubt. Time for you to go away, leaving credible commentary to the adults.
Can someone, anyone, please tell me why this website and its moderators continue to allow this idiot to litter random discussion threads? It's not like this is anything new...
zuluzuluzulu -5
i read the article in the NYT and knew the journalist was ignorant on several levels three paragraphs in.

At first, Boeing tried to blame aircraft mechanics from a third world country that probably couldnt read the english written manuals.

After some kick back from Lion air, the Ethiopian accident occurred. Boeing then blamed the third world flt crews because Everyone knows pilots die with their mistakes. that’s why we have black boxes.
George Cottay 5
William Langewiesche is anything but ignorant. Would you would like to stack your credentials alongside of his?
darrine120 2
I would like to know this of Sully. Would he have retracted the flaps with bad airspeed indication on his instruments and stick shaker activation? Would he have considered trusting the other airspeed indicators on the panel? How about touching the thrust levers? AOA sensors can fail on any airplane. The Ethiopian crew picked a fight with MCAS by putting the flaps up. It otherwise can’t function. Yes, Boeing blew it big time. These crews do not deserve absolution.
zuluzuluzulu 0
Any time
Are you challenging him to a duel? Finally, something worthwhile in the comment section!


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