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737-Max Fiasco is about Late Capitalism and Terminal Decline of USA

By now, almost everyone of you must have heard about the 737-Max fiasco. In case you have not, let me quickly summarize it. About six months, a 737-Max 8 airliner with barely 800 flight hours crashed in Indonesia resulting in the death of all 189 people on board. Even at that time, this incident raised many eyebrows- largely because it was barely 3 months old in addition to being the most recent version of the long-running 737 family of airliners. The crash was subsequently determined to be the result of undesired behavior by a new automated trim control system. At that time, Boeing promised current and future customers of its new ‘737 Max’ series that the trim control problem would be fixed by a software update or something along those lines.

And then about three days ago, another 737-Max 8 went down under similar circumstances killing all 157 people on board. While we do not, yet, have the final report on this accident- it appears that this particular crash (too) occurred within a few minutes of takeoff and had something to do with the automated trim control behaving in an anomalous manner. Which brings us to the first question regarding this pair of airplane crashes- How does a large corporation such as Boeing with decades of experience building tens of thousands of airliners manage to build an updated version of the venerable 737 with bad flight characteristics during takeoffs and landings. In case you are wondering, dozens of incident reports from all around the world, including USA, filed during the past year about this version of the 737 have reported similar problems.

But what does any of this have to with late capitalism and the terminal decline of USA? A couple of poorly designed airliners falling out of the sky and killing over 300 people, while tragic, is by no means a harbinger of national collapse.. right? Well.. let me put it this way- I see it as another sign of the ongoing terminal death spiral of USA, at least of the form it exists in today. To better understand what I am talking about, let me ask you another question- At what point did people in USSR stop becoming optimistic about their future? The answer to that question is.. sometime in the mid-1970s. But why then and not during WW2 or the early 1950s when material conditions were far worse? Well.. because people will persevere in face of adversity if there is a realistic hope for a better future, but they won’t care about a system if there is no hope for one.

But how did this societal malaise manifest itself? Well.. in many ways and a multitude of areas. The one common thread which ran through most of them was a slow but steady degradation of pre-existing capabilities. Apparently, the quality of things built during that era, from apartments, cars, consumer appliances to unmanned space-probes and commercial aircraft, well.. basically anything not absolutely essential to survival of the existing government, went down. I have long held the view that post-2008 USA is increasingly like ex-communist countries in Eastern Europe after the early 1970s. Think about it- youth who do not see a brighter future for themselves.. check. An out-of-touch elite who want to maintain the status quo.. check. Widespread despair and slow decrease in life-expectancy.. check. Rampant alcoholism or drug addiction.. check. Increasing crapification of consumer products and services.. check.

I could go on, but you get the point. But how does the 737 Max fiasco fit in this picture? Let me explain.. but before we do that, let me give you a quick historical primer about the 737 family of aircraft so you can better appreciate what I am talking about. The project to develop the 737 was started by Boeing in the mid-1960s because they wanted a bigger 727 that could fly a bit further. At that time, Boeing had already making the 707 for longer routes, 720 for medium distance routes and the 727 for short hauls. In case you are wondering, all three of these aircraft were powered by turbojet or first-gen turbofan engines. And yes.. this fact is relevant. The 737 was originally designed to use first-gen and therefore low-pass turbofans. While these engines were less efficient and more fuel hungry than later high-pass turbofans, they were also far slimmer.

Some of you might wonder as to what this fact has to do with the current 737 Max fiasco. The answer is.. a whole fucking lot! Because Boeing wanted an airliner that was simple to operate, easy to repair and with a high dispatch reliability, they made some design choices. Specifically, they built an aircraft which sat pretty close to the ground- something that was possible because of the slim first-gen turbofan engines (-100 and -200). And it worked very well. After a somewhat slow start, sales picked up and it became pretty popular. But then Airbus came on the scene and its 310 series started providing competition for the 737. Boeing responded by developing the 737-Classic (-300, -400 and -500). This is also where they first faced the problem of how to install a fat high-bypass turbofan in a low-slung design meant for older and slimmer turbofans. They did it with some ingenious shaping and positioning for the new engine and it worked.

The next major update, aptly named the 737 Next Gen (-600, -700, -800 and -900) proved to be their most successful. Its engines were a bit less fatter than the Classic series, while being more efficient. It, however, proved to be the furthest they could safely stretch their original design. For a decade or so, this design was in a happy sales equilibrium with members of the Airbus 320 family. And then Airbus started developing the Airbus 320neo. It offered considerable fuel savings, lower noise levels and a longer range than its predecessors. But most importantly Airbus was able to develop it without spending a ton of money because the original design it was based on (the 320) could easily accommodate even wider turbofan engines. Remember that the 320 was developed after 2nd gen turbofan engines were developed.

Anyway, this forced Boeing to update the 737- with even wider and more efficient turbofan engines. The thing is, they had two choices. They could either use their institutional knowledge and ability to build a new design from scratch or they could just try to somehow shoehorn the new big-ass engine into the 737 design template. They chose the latter option for reasons that had everything to do with financial considerations. Through a combination of “clever” placement of the extra-fat engines, a slight height increase in their landing gear and a bit of wing redesign- they were able to develop a design that checked all the boxes their bean-counters cared about. However physical reality is a bitch and the new design had a less-than-optimal weight distribution and flying characteristics. Loathe to abandon something that almost worked, they decided to use a software solution to improve its flight characteristics.

Enter the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). Without going into too much detail, this system was not well implemented and caused problems when the aircraft changed altitude rapidly such as during takeoff and landing. Furthermore, the issues with this system were not consistently reproducible- which is a fancy way of saying that the system misbehaved in an unpredictable manner. Also, the new cockpit interface which came with his update was different from the one in its predecessors and it took multiple steps to switch it off and the MCAS was automatically turned back on after each flight. Did I mention that the new manuals and checklists did a poor job of explaining the updated interface and this system.

In summary, Boeing built upon an old design template to save money resulting in problematic flying characteristics. To make matters worse, the hardware and software components of their auto-trim system (meant to fix poor flying characteristic) was inadequately engineered and poorly implemented. The user interface through which this system could be overridden was unfamiliar, poorly designed and even more poorly documented. On the bright side, a bunch of senior Boeing executives made a shitload of money and performance bonuses. And this is what happens when you run a company based on the whims and series of MBAs, bean-counters and other ivy-league scam artist as opposed to listening to and respecting the judgment of your engineers.

What do you think? Comments?

  1. P Ray
    March 13, 2019 at 11:47 pm

    They also saved a great amount of money, time and training by not actually conducting classes with the pilots who were going to fly that new aircraft.

    What efficient and economical smart guys.

    Hopefully somebody is now getting a big house as part of a surprise inheritance!

  2. One Deplorable DT
    March 14, 2019 at 5:11 am

    I wonder how much money they saved hiring H1B Visa applicants and/or outsourcing to develop the MCAS software? Oh well, everyone is equal, right? And a programming BootCamp certificate from Mumbai is surely as good as an EE degree from MIT or CalTech. Even better thanks to diversity!

    • P Ray
      March 14, 2019 at 5:18 am

      My experience is that people with EE qualifications … are not very good with programming, whether explaining or developing software.
      They should try having an actual qualification in Computer Science.

    • March 14, 2019 at 8:10 pm

      One Deplorable Down Low, boi I am sure glad I got one of my guys here in this land of hindu muffins…

      look at this vibrant critiquing our “lifestyle” -WTF !!!

      We gotta tear down these horrid posters that are popping’ up around Portland and West VA…

    • lalit
      March 15, 2019 at 12:09 pm

      Does not look like they hired a whole lot of H1Bs
      https://www.immihelp.com/employer/THE+BOEING+CO/5520237/applications

      Face it, the U.S. is in the decline on all fronts.

      • P Ray
        March 15, 2019 at 6:20 pm

        I think the only way you can say there is real decline is when guys of other ethnicities are given a shot at mating with the nubiles of White America.

        “Decline” means nothing when genital racism is rampant. Because men without willpower will wife up landwhales and singlemoms … while the kid gets to perpetuate a whole different culture.

  3. P Ray
    March 14, 2019 at 5:16 am

    Hearing about “Max” series passenger planes crashing, brings back memories of the Area 88 OVA episode 3, around 27:17.
    Of course, in that situation multiple engines on the plane caught fire before it hit the ocean.

    Maybe “Max” is not a good suffix for planes …

  4. doldrom
    March 14, 2019 at 8:54 am

    This article is the first fundamental take on this issue that I have seen so far.

  5. James
    March 14, 2019 at 4:42 pm

    Or maybe the engineers are to also blame because Boeing and its greed likes to save money by employing cheap labor H-1B visa workers, specifically from India and China who are not even that high skilled.

    • lalit
      March 15, 2019 at 12:06 pm

      Boeing and Hughes do not hire H1Bs. You need security clearance to work for them which means you need to be a citizen or at the very least, a green card holder. And I’m not sure about the green card holder.

    • lalit
      March 15, 2019 at 12:10 pm

      They were not hiring when I was looking back in 2004. But they seem to now, but not a whole lot
      https://www.immihelp.com/employer/THE+BOEING+CO/5520237/applications

    • P Ray
      March 15, 2019 at 6:18 pm

      Or maybe the engineers are to also blame because Boeing and its greed likes to save money by employing cheap labor H-1B visa workers, specifically from India and China who are not even that high skilled.

      See, this is the part I have trouble with.
      If engineers from India and China are so useless, why is the US spending so much money to ensure force parity with the militaries of India and China?

      India has the BrahMos cruise missile(fastest in the world),
      China has railguns (trialling now)

      I’m actually thinking at some point in the future there will be a false-flag operation where an orbital platform will be used for bombardment …

      Also, isn’t it convenient to blame engineers from India and China … when management approves the outputs of the engineers (wherever they are from)?

      Stupid management also brought people Theranos.

      • James
        March 17, 2019 at 11:31 pm

        P Ray said so much FALSE information about immigration into the United States, specifically H1Bs, that it really blew my mind. First off, it’s NOT “hard” to immigrate to the United States. If that were the case, we wouldn’t have taken 1.2 MILLION legal people in last year – a record high! You forget to mention the 55,000 foreigners can apply to the DV Lottery and get their green cards easily. You also omit to discuss CHAIN MIGRATION where third world families can sponsor their adult siblings and parents without any issues. The question isn’t how to get into the United States anymore. It’s more, “when would you like to move into the United States”.
        Regarding H-1B visas:
        1. 75% of H-1B visas go to Hindu turds from India. They have gamed the system where they, and their respective Indian consultancy companies apply for a huge amounts of blanket H-1B visas just to get the majority share of them.
        2. H-1B visas DO NOT EXPIRE if an employer files an I-140 (immigrant petition for non-immigrant worker) and it is approved. Their H-1B then becomes unlimited and NEVER expires beyond the 6 year duration that it used to. Furthermore, an approved I-140 allows the spouse of an H-1B a work permit, the H4EAD, which allows the spouse to work ANY job at ANY place. She can be a Starbucks barista for all it’s worth.
        3. H-1Bs can transfer jobs to different companies. Perhaps you should brush up on immigration law you pathetic idiot: https://www.h1base.com/visa/work/H1B%20Visa%20Transfer%20To%20A%20New%20Employer/ref/1169/

      • P Ray
        March 17, 2019 at 11:44 pm

        James – failure in reading comprehension costs many people their jobs.
        I didn’t say those things, merely relayed on the statement of someone in law enforcement in the US.

        You can see this image:

        Let reason magazine know where they made a mistake – you’ll become a published author.

        You’re the pathetic idiot who can’t see I was quoting someone else. Native english speaker indeed.

        P.S. Keep ensuring qualified people can’t go over there, then lament the poor quality of things coming out of the US.

      • P Ray
        March 17, 2019 at 11:55 pm

        Here’s the actual experience of a qualified immigrant … going to 15 years trying to stay on in the US, and failing.

        Looks like James the Joker will have all sorts of excuses about why this guy failed, right?

        https://www.vox.com/2015/6/23/8823349/immigration-system-broken
        I spent the last 15 years trying to become an American. I’ve failed.
        By William Han Jun 23, 2015, 8:00am EDT
        SHARE
        I have lived in America for the past 15 years. I have two Ivy League degrees. And I am on the verge of deportation.

        It must be that the people getting to stay on in the US, maybe they have 3 Ivy League degrees, right James?

        Or is the US immigration system broken? Nevermind, James, you can fix it, just take a job with them …

      • James
        March 18, 2019 at 10:33 am

        LMFAO! You quote other people, then attempt to share a far-Left news site from Vox, then you attempt to excuse yourself that those are not views but someone else’s? Such an incompetent idiot you are. I have worked for an immigration law firm, as well for the US consulate in a foreign country. I think I know the system better than the stupid comic cartoons, and retarded Vox article you shared. Ask yourself, why is Dearborn, Michigan predominantly all Muslim now? Or why is Silicon Valley all Hindu turds now? Why is Minneapolis now referred to as Mogadishu? Yeah, immigration is “so hard” to the United States. Please, give me a break you incompetent fool.

      • P Ray
        March 18, 2019 at 10:47 am

        ^ You worked for an immigration firm, yet could not stop the breaches of law?

        That makes you impotent. And the fact that you didn’t raise it with lawmakers, means you agree with it.

        Seem you’re the “incompetent fool”.

  6. Lalit
    March 15, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    You talk a lot about Aircraft and rockets. Were you credentialed as an Aeronautics Engineer or a Physicist?

  7. lalit
    March 15, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    They were not hiring when I was looking back in 2004. But they seem to now, but not a whole lot
    https://www.immihelp.com/employer/THE+BOEING+CO/5520237/applications

    • James
      March 16, 2019 at 2:57 pm

      Try looking at myvisajobs.com. Also, Boeing could be contracting the H-1B visas from a third party in-sourcing company like TATA or Infosys, so that data would not show up in the H-1B sponsorship section.

      • P Ray
        March 17, 2019 at 8:14 pm

        This is from a current law-enforcement officer, about immigration and H1B (specially meant for the “they’re stealing our jerbs”
        and the “migration to the US is easy, if you can’t you’re an idiot” gangs):

        someone else said:
        The bigger problem is that legal immigration is just as bad, and leading to the same outcome. We are importing people who do not share the same values overall, and their children are being taught by nut jobs who make them hate America, aside from that difference in values and thus we are importing a similar problem whether it’s legal or illegal by nature. That’s the big illusion people keep hitting the wall on is that it’s not just illegal migrants causing demographic changes that are not all for the better in the long run.

        Current LEO: This is the last post I will make on the subject, but it is stupid hard to immigrate to the US legally. Basically you need to invest $1m cash into the US economy, create at least 50 full time jobs directly, be a doctor or some shit, marry an American, or last, come here on an H-1B visa, which there are very few of. Immigration into America is stupid hard and numbers are very low. It’s literally a non issue. If you don’t believe you can go look up the waiting list for H1-Bs.

        Note: most H-1Bs expire like student visas, meaning you go back when it runs up, you get fired, quit, or the company goes under.H1-Bs are also non-transferable, meaning that they are for specific jobs. You can’t even get the exact same job at a different company.

      • James
        March 17, 2019 at 11:30 pm

        P Ray said so much FALSE information about immigration into the United States, specifically H1Bs, that it really blew my mind. First off, it’s NOT “hard” to immigrate to the United States. If that were the case, we wouldn’t have taken 1.2 MILLION legal people in last year – a record high! You forget to mention the 55,000 foreigners can apply to the DV Lottery and get their green cards easily. You also omit to discuss CHAIN MIGRATION where third world families can sponsor their adult siblings and parents without any issues. The question isn’t how to get into the United States anymore. It’s more, “when would you like to move into the United States”.
        Regarding H-1B visas:
        1. 75% of H-1B visas go to Hindu turds from India. They have gamed the system where they, and their respective Indian consultancy companies apply for a huge amounts of blanket H-1B visas just to get the majority share of them.
        2. H-1B visas DO NOT EXPIRE if an employer files an I-140 (immigrant petition for non-immigrant worker) and it is approved. Their H-1B then becomes unlimited and NEVER expires beyond the 6 year duration that it used to. Furthermore, an approved I-140 allows the spouse of an H-1B a work permit, the H4EAD, which allows the spouse to work ANY job at ANY place. She can be a Starbucks barista for all it’s worth.
        3. H-1Bs can transfer jobs to different companies. Perhaps you should brush up on immigration law you pathetic idiot: https://www.h1base.com/visa/work/H1B%20Visa%20Transfer%20To%20A%20New%20Employer/ref/1169/

      • P Ray
        March 17, 2019 at 11:48 pm

        ^ You’re the pathetic idiot who can’t see I was quoting someone else. You’ve made so many assertions, but only have 1 source.

        You can see the full reason magazine article here:
        https://reason.org/news-release/can-you-navigate-the-immigrati/
        let them know you’ve spotted a mistake – you can become a published author.

        Until then, you’re just going on about how someone is an idiot … when they let you know what others said.

        P.S. If you don’t like others coming over, why don’t you try getting a job in immigration?

      • P Ray
        March 18, 2019 at 12:07 am

        More stuff to debunk James the Joker, from 2019 no less:
        https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/2/26/18235347/us-work-visa-o-1
        The best $6,160 I ever spent: a US work visa
        I needed to prove that I was an “alien of extraordinary ability” — a relatively daunting task, to say the least.
        By Karen K. Ho Feb 26, 2019, 8:00am EST
        SHARE
        The Goods
        It’s one thing to feel like a fraud when you tell people what you do for a living. It’s another thing to pay $6,160 to ask the United States government to judge if you’re a genius at it.

        I didn’t know applying for a work visa would involve reassessing my entire career and its impact, and repeatedly explaining how badly I wanted to return to a country whose leader kept telling the world immigrants weren’t wanted. A few of my American friends half-jokingly asked, “How can I move to Canada?” Relatives asked me if it was worth giving up my government-funded health care.

        For years, I had struggled to develop a media career north of the border. Despite several internships, diligent networking, and some good clips, I constantly worried I wasn’t good enough to break out of low-paying entry-level gigs, no matter how hard I tried. At my first Asian American Journalists Association conference in New York, I learned there were lots of job opportunities in the US, but I needed a work visa to get any of them.

        For all the criticism of how asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants should just “do it the legal way,” many Americans I meet don’t know the relatively small number of options there are for foreign professionals, even with sought-after skills and experience in science and technology. The H-1B visa is dependent on a job that’s willing to sponsor, limited in number, and awarded by lottery for five days in early April. Multinational companies willing to transfer staff from other offices have the option of the L-1 visa. Foreign correspondents for non-US news organizations can get the I visa. Canadians and Mexicans who have a job offer from an approved list of positions can get a TN visa through NAFTA, but that trade agreement was under heavy negotiation through spring and summer of last year.

        I eventually figured out grad school would be my best way around the problem. From the moment classes started, my main goal was securing a job in business journalism that would defy what I’d heard and sponsor me. But I couldn’t hide how much I wanted to work in magazines, even if the days of them sponsoring executive assistants ended decades ago and the idea of successfully breaking into one felt as likely as traveling to Mars.

        I NEEDED THE O-1, THE SAME KIND OF WORK AUTHORIZATION THAT NOBEL-WINNING PROFESSORS AND MUSICIANS LIKE JUSTIN BIEBER HAVE.
        Despite other offers in the US and a lucrative opportunity in Hong Kong, I accepted a postgraduate fellowship in my dream industry at my grad school under the terms of the one-year work program for international students. I would deal with the cost and complications of figuring out my long-term future later.

        Unlike building Ikea furniture, finding an apartment, or repairing a bike, I knew “how to legally work in America” wasn’t something I could DIY to try to save money. Government rules and policies on immigration were changing quickly. I was already juggling the fellowship plus freelancing on the side. I was fighting personal doubts on a daily basis about whether my work was any good, meaningful, or being read in the first place; I didn’t need additional anxiety about whether I was screwing up the paperwork out of ignorance, inexperience, disorganization, or stress.

        The other visa options wouldn’t work for my situation. I didn’t have a preexisting full-time job offer (H-1B, TN), I had turned down jobs that would have sponsored the H-1B (but still carried the risk of losing the lottery), I didn’t want to work at a company’s Canadian office for at least a year and then try to eventually transfer (L-1), and I failed to be hired as a foreign correspondent for a national Canadian newspaper (I). The constant waves of layoffs also convinced me the work visa had to allow me to work on several different projects, not just for one employer. I needed the O-1, the same kind of work authorization that Nobel-winning professors and musicians like Justin Bieber have for non-immigrants deemed “aliens of extraordinary ability.”

        If there are so many loopholes to American law, why are the most qualified people having trouble to migrate, James the Joker?

        Unless the system is broken. So can you fix it, James the Joker? Or will you rail against me to prove you have a bigger e-pen0r?

        Besides that, if the US becomes too strict with immigration, the best and brightest minds will go to India and China. I hear the Indian Brahmos cruise missile and China’s railguns need experienced people … maybe one of the reasons “people you consider mediocre” get to stay on in the US, is because the Americans don’t want them giving an advantage to India or China …

  8. P Ray
    March 18, 2019 at 12:59 am

    Another lovely article about qualified people being told to leave:
    https://www.theage.com.au/world/europe/long-swedish-word-has-a-short-message-for-aussie-workers-go-away-20190301-p5112p.html
    Long Swedish word has a short message for Aussie workers: ‘go away’
    By Nick Miller
    March 18, 2019 — 3.30pm

    I’m just wondering what is this delusional “White unity” people are talking about. Countries take care of their own, other people have it all up to chance, whether they can fuck a local or fabricate the papers.

  9. Yusef
    March 21, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    “At what point did people in USSR stop becoming optimistic about their future? The answer to that question is.. sometime in the mid-1970s. But why then and not during WW2 or the early 1950s when material conditions were far worse? Well.. because people will persevere in face of adversity if there is a realistic hope for a better future, but they won’t care about a system if there is no hope for one.”

    I think this is somewhat questionable. People in the mid-70s USSR were relatively content with their lives despite their awareness the “Soviet Experiment” had not and would not lead to the “workers’ paradise” people worldwide originally anticipated. They were likely going to putter on and be more or less satisfied with the arrangement. It is generally forgotten the Soviet Union had succeeded in putting in a basic level of sustenance, security, and safety for a remarkable number of people and was the most egalitarian society in human history. This is not to say there weren’t worrying problems– those are always present.

    After the seventies came the eighties, rapid successions in leadership after the death of Brezhnev, the Chernobyl disaster, but also remarkable reforms and the rise of Gorbachev, the most popular leader in the history of the USSR who was hailed by everyone paying any attention as a great reformer and may well have eventually improved the USSR’s standard of living and quality of life to something much closer to the rest of the west. Relations with the US appeared substantially improved and even Ronald Reagan made mention of this. Unfortunately this is also mainly forgotten.

    I think what happened is exactly what Gorbachev claims– he was betrayed. The U.S. especially had no real desire to let the soviets thrive and supported the coup which installed Yeltsin and the machinations leading to nearly the entire accumulated wealth of the people falling into the hands of a very small number of “oligarchs”, a.k.a. crooks and scoundrels, with big scoops going to terrible people in the U.S. orchestrating the “privatizations.”

  1. March 31, 2019 at 8:37 pm
  2. April 3, 2019 at 2:19 pm
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