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Boeing discovers more software issues in the Max

The United States planemaker confirmed to Reuters news agency on Tuesday that one issue involves hypothetical faults in the flight control computer microprocessor, which could potentially lead to a loss of control known as a runaway stabiliser, while the other issue could potentially lead to disengagement of the autopilot feature during final approach. Boeing said the software updates will address both issues. ( More...

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w2bsa 15
As a person who has worked in the information technology industry for 40 years, I can say with certainty that no software will ever be absolutely correct. Any company that’s worth their money will be constantly testing their software and they WILL find bugs. It will never end. It’s the reason why one gets patches for any software on a regular basis. This is not a lack of quality control. This is the abundance of quality control. EVERY company that writes software does this. If a software company does not do this they will go out of business.
Stephen Austin 12
As a software architect, designer, developer, tester and QA adviser, I see W2bsa's comment and raise you. There are no 'fail-safe' hardware or software solutions, only ones less likely to fail than others. The closest we can reasonably get in 2020 is highly reliable designs (heaviest, most cost, least performance) in fully redundant configurations. Never gonna happen, not in flight and not in business. Balancing acceptable risk (losses) is the key; public tolerance for how often and how deadly is ever changing. Flying is dangerous, but fly we must.
Steven Austin, agreed. Aircraft design has always been a compromise with cost, acceptable risk, and safety. This thought process is nothing new. Humans cannot make a perfect machine. Whether traveling by trains, planes, or automobiles, their will always be risk.
w2bsa, Stephen, and Thomas: I call. I have a similar 40 year background in software engineering, with the last 25 years spent in safety-significant software systems for medical devices. All of your general comments on software design are correct -- software of any complexity will have faults and defects. What alarms me (pun intended) is that, in the FINAL verification and validation phase of this software development, Boeing is still finding defects in the avionics software that have the HIGHEST risk severity possible: loss of the aircraft. In my experience, finding such new show-stopping high-risk defects at this late stage of development is a huge red flag that indicates 1) the software architecture is flawed in its ability to detect, contain, and mitigate high-risk failures ("exception handling"), and 2) the software development PROCESS employed was itself flawed in its ability to find and mitigate to safe levels these high-risk defects("defect containment") during review, inspection, and testing activities in the earlier requirements, design input, and design output development phases of this software. Finding high-risk failures in the avionics software at this late stage of verification and validation is truly alarming.

I have a family member who is a captain for Southwest. He loves flying the Max, touts the numerous safety feature improvements over previous 737 models, and "would take his family up in a Max tomorrow", if it were flying. Interestingly, that endorsement is exactly one of the litmus tests that we also use in medical device safety risk assessment: "would you connect your kids to this medical device?"

Sadly, I won't be joining him on a Max anytime soon. I've read everything I can get my hands about the Max software design and the development process employed in its creation. The deficiencies in both are truly scary to me. When and if it returns to service, I hope the Max has a long, accident-free service life, but I'll be sitting on the sidelines for a while yet.
So by reading what you find on cnn or reuters or the seattle times, you feel that you have a better grasp of the situation than he does?
Mark Henley 1
I never read any of your listed biased, trash rags. I just responded to Warren Craycroft's opinion. Don't put words in my mouth.
Edward Bardes 0
He was responding to Warren, not you.
Mark Henley 1
I second Mr. Craycroft's input... I have some of the same software development background, and V&V. In my opinion, if Boeing was still run by engineers instead of MBAs, this high number of aircraft-loss-level software errors would never have made it into the air. If the "new Boinnggg" spent any money on software DERs, I hope those folks enjoy their new careers, whatever they will be....
robin cooper 7
makes the case even more strongly that commercial pilots should do a certain amount of basic 'stick and rudder' training annually and not in a simulator.
Mike Dryden 13
These issues in themselves are not big - they would be picked up in certification.

The problem is the certification was never done properly in the first place.
OK Software it can and will be fixed. Yes we need it to sell A/C to flying companies that cannot get
pilots that have "western" flying experience/training. They need automation, but there is no need to quick train new aviators. It is much less expensive to school/train/=simulator than to investigate a crash site and the ending. Software caused the newsworthy incident, but trained pilots would have stopped the incident before it became newsworthy.
patrick baker 8
when exactly did this latest hiccup reveal itself? I remember revelation after revelation about software faults popping up regularly. Now, again it appears. As far as final approach autopilot disengagement, how about hand flying from outer marker inbound? This mess of a program, with hundreds of grounded planes that never went into service, represents far too much inventory to scrap. Nobody will need the Max for months, so get on it and improve it to the point of safety.If boeing can't fix this, they have no need to exist.
jmilleratp 9
Using low-paid, third-party programmers for something that is so critical as the software that goes into an airliner is crazy. And, it's irresponsible. And, I am guessing that there continues to be no real oversight of Boeing and their operations, even though they have killed two planeloads of passengers. Boeing needs to be made to hire high-quality, experienced programmers and have them be direct Boeing employees. They then need to go from top to bottom with the code, and, if it isn't salvageable, scrap it and start from scratch. Boeing has been given way too much slack. They need to be held to account for what they do, and get this code done right, and make sure that it is bulletproof before allowing the Max to fly again.
Phil Caron 3
Good points, but the only way this will happen is if the McDonald-Douglas executives leave the company. They are the ones who transformed Boeing into what it is today and got rid of the internal software programmers and engineers. There people do not care about lost lives, only lost profits affecting their bonuses.
Mark Henley 1
Amen to that brother...
Colin Randall 1
Agree in most parts with you John Miller right up until you talked about 'bulletproof code'.

System development tools for Safety Critical software have been around for decades, to enable the testing of every aspect and every decision path within the code but these are expensive and they consume huge amounts of time (and therefore money) to run, check and validate. Even using these tools one can never be sure that a system is 100% fault-free because a scenario that the designers never considered possible may one day happen which the software just can't figure out how to manage and in these circumstances the system should, no must (!), give priority to the flight deck personnel to hands-on fly the aircraft without interference from the IT.

Even software that is reliable over time receives 'patches' to improve either performance &/or functionality and these changes too can introduce new defects into software so for every update (no matter how small!) it's back to using these expensive and time consuming tools.

A nod to history here, the MCAS issue with the 737Max is not the first time Boeing's defective code has caused lives to be lost. Does nobody remember the FADEC problems with the Chinook? I do and I'd be willing to bet that someone 'up the executive tree' at Boeing must remember too and this is what is most damning....that Boeing didn't learn from the FADEC debacle.
Marc Rodstein 1
And you know how much Boeing's programmer are paid? You know this how?
Chris Muncy 6
It would be interesting if other aircraft, by other manufacturers, went through the same scrutiny that Boeing is going through with the Max, that other software/systems bugs would be found. I am not backing Boeing here, but when you put something like the Max under and intense microscope, you are going to find every little thing that is not correct, compliant or not.

Just wanted to toss this out there to think about.
Jim Lynch 8
I think the big problem the US government, Congress and the DoT are really finding with Boeing is a decades-old culture of arrogance and profiteering.

Having the FAA let them police their own work is only one more aspect. Arrogance, bonuses, treating potential customers with disdain, only a couple of reasons people are fed up with Boeing.

"Too big to fail" may not apply eventually. Now we are finding problems with pickle forks on the older 737, there are problems with the 787 and debris left in the fuel tanks of aircraft because Boeing wants the work done quickly.

As always, the basic problems float to the top - a greedy management who think because they run Boeing they are infallible and perfect.
bruce hall 4
Totally agree. My experience as a CFO buying aircraft from Boeing was an eye opener. Never have I seen a vendor so arrogant and condescending. Their NY law firm was just as bad with their fees high enough to impact the economics of the aircraft.
If anyone knows about a decades-old culture of arrogance and profiteering, it would be congress.
Greg S 6
Anybody who has ever worked as a programmer knows you are correct. Airbus and Embraer are also fixing bugs in their software right now as well, but nobody is reporting on that. See my response to another comment here.
Bruce Knight 2
The lesson regarding the minimal under-wing clearance to support a turbo-fan engine was there for learning in the 733,4,5. One could excuse the lesson needing to be learned in those models- but wouldn’t one think that by the B73NG series there might have been a lesson learned and a move to a new type with a new wing, maybe FBW, and do something with that overhead panel. Sure, a new type means starting over for aircrews, airlines and Boeing, but at some point it has to happen, they should have done it and put it behind them. In the diminishing likelihood that Boeing will fully bring the MAX to market, surely this is the last 73 derivative.
Why not just use a software that will run systems, and make the pilot fly the a/c like they use too...?
patrick baker 3
i will fly in the 737 max no earlier than the end of this year, but only after i have satisfied my bar of tolerance by speaking with several airline pilots from southwest about their concerns with the Boeing Bucking Bronco, 737 max. Trusting Boeing to do what is right, what is needed, is a fool's errand, but with all the scrutiny now and forever upon the company, i will sit in the plane.
a1brainiac 2
Who will EVER want to fly on a 737 Max after all this is over ?
Edward Bardes 3
I'd go out of my way to fly on one if they operate out of my city.
Frank Barber 2
Hey, the problem for Boeing is that they hid the system from the operators. Gross negligence. This was an inadvertent error but a deliberate bad decision on their part. This was bordering on criminal behavior, but don't expect anybody to go to jail.
System Differences Manual, January 2017, Page 748.

Kikutwo 2
So, is the plan to just release all the problems into the pandemic news cloud and hope that nobody is paying attention? The public is still going to fly this contraption?
Jim Welch 2
At what point do we take the Max out behind the barn & shoot it?!?
Ian Davidson 1
Anyone have any comments on the Lockheed approach to aircraft and system design ?. I recall these were the collective genius that developed DLC, as on the Tristar.

And what happened to: 1) Triple redundancy cross-checking; 2) Allowing pilot to override the system with a simple input. (Circuit breaker disconnects don't count).
Boeing, Boeing quién te ha visto y quién te ve...
Geoff Stone 1
AA brand-new Boeing 737 Max gets built in just nine days. In that time, a team of 12,000 people turns a loose assemblage of parts into a finished $120 million airplane with some truly cutting-edge technology: winglets based on ones designed by NASA, engines that feature the world’s first one-piece carbon-fiber fan blades, and computers with the same processing power as, uh, the Super Nintendo.

Mike Webb 1
Doesn't this and the plethora of other technical problems suggest that the Max, like self-driving cars, is a clever idea that can work, but not ready for use carrying live humans?
jmilleratp 3
Isn't one issue that Boeing has historically not had a lot of software designed to override pilot inputs? And, now they have tried to go the inexpensive route with third-party programmers, instead of hiring a direct, in-house Boeing team who are integrated into the company, and build a direct working relationship with company's Max engineers.
Greg S -2
Not in the slightest. Computer-controlled systems (and that means software) have been the norm on new aircraft for decades. You may well have never flown on a purely mechanical aircraft unless you are quite old.

All software has bugs. All large software systems have a large number of bugs. Every aircraft manufacturers' flight control software systems contain many bugs. Safety engineering provides redundancies and procedures to overcome faults in the systems including software. There is nothing in this story to indicate anything unique to Boeing here. I would bet it's simply fake news, coming from a source notorious for their anti-Americanism. I'm surprised MH370 didn't post this squawk.
jmilleratp 7
Not at all. I invest in Boeing, and believe in Boeing. But, designing and implementing critical software like this should mean that you have your own dedicated team at Boeing to be designing, testing, and implementing this software. Airbus lost an aircraft early in its designing software like this. Boeing has lost two. My thought is that they are trying to fix software that is structurally flawed, instead of designing software that is solid and well-coded from the start.
Greg S -2
All the evidence says you are wrong. The MAX mistakes were atrocious, but they were not software bugs in that sense of the word. MAX functioned exactly as it was poorly designed to. There was no evidence of buggy software contributing to any of the MAX crashes. And there is no evidence of buggy software contributing to the crash of any Boeing aircraft in the last 20 years that I'm aware of.
Shit flight control software devs say: "which method should I use to compare input A and input B and return the result"

Shit flight control software devs do not say "which inputs should I compare and return the result"

Thank goodness.
matt jensen -9
Time to cancel this program and move on
Yeah, you mentioned that about 8 million times.
ATCguy1 -3
mmc7090 0
Trying to eliminate pilot error by creating a pajama-clad programmer as the intercessor was never a good idea.
It is a good idea IF it is done properly... Not by random indian programmers...
Patrick Rutten -1
I am still dumbfounded at how a company like Boeing could have developed such a flawed product. I could understand this coming out of China but NOT a US airline and aerospace company.
Phil Caron 2
Boeing did not develop the flawed product. Please remember that McDonald-Douglas took over with Boeing's money and moved the HQ to Chicago to be away from the engineers and other responsible employees. Then they laid off the senior engineers and farmed out the work to India for the software and cheap suppliers for the parts. The last airplane Boeing designed with internal staff was the 777. The 777 is one of the safest airplanes there is. What other fuselage design can survive a cartwheel and stay in one piece??? Please notice that 737's always break in 3 pieces at the same fuselage attach points when they suffer a survivable crash. That is because the suppliers do not produce the fuselage ribs to specs and sometimes need a heavy hammer intervention to be made to fit. All of this is documented in numerous video reports from different investigator reporters. Chicago needs to be shut down, all they care about are bonuses, not lives. Remember the faulty designs of the DC-10 anyone???
Not that it means anything one way or the other, but Miami Air 293, one piece. Pegasus Airlines off the runway and down a cliff, once piece. Flight in Micronesia that ended up in the lagoon, one piece. China Air or whatever it was crashed in the Philippines, one piece.

All of this is documented in numerous video reports from different investigator reporters? Name one.
Phil Caron 1
60 Minutes Australia
Yeah, 60 minutes Australia claims 737's break apart because subs make the fuselage so out of spec that someone in Everett has to bust out "a heavy hammer" to make the parts fit.

You're full of shit, Phil.
James Bruton -2
It has become more than apparent that Boeing is betting on software to fix an inherently bad aircraft design. I will not fly on it when it is back in service for at least a year or more.
John Nichols 1
All things considered, if the MAX had been presented as a new type, rather than a greatly modified planform, likely none of this happens. “Inherently bad aircraft design”? I don’t see that. Hubris, cut corners, a self regulating builder, etc. etc. the airplane is new enough not to be lumped in with all her “sisters”. Not respecting the MCAS as an innovation that warranted training was this type’s downfall. Pilots who tremble when asked to fly manual reversion? What the Hell?
Edward Bardes -8
I'm starting to wonder if these newer issues exist BECAUSE of the aircraft being grounded for so long.
Jim Myers 6
Yes, because as the aircraft sat on the ground, pixies entered the electronics and rewrote the code. I truly fear for the future of our world with idiots such as yourself freely roaming the streets!
Greg S 6
Haha, but we've had times when long unused software that worked perfectly back then fails when it's starts being used again. We jokingly chalked this up to "bit decay", "code rot", or "code rust". But of course what actually happened is the environment/context changed since the last time it was used.
Why don't buy yourself a 787 and leave it sitting on the ground for 52 days without cycling the flight computers, then take her up for a spin.

Idiots aren't the problem, it's jerks who think they aren't.


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