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Flying Blind: Boeing's Max Tragedy and the Lost Soul of an American Icon

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A fast-paced look at the corporate dysfunction--the ruthless cost-cutting, toxic workplaces, and cutthroat management--that contributed to one of the worst tragedies in modern aviation Boeing is a century-old titan of American industry. The largest exporter in the US, it played a central role in the early days of commercial flight, World War II bombing missions, and moon la A fast-paced look at the corporate dysfunction--the ruthless cost-cutting, toxic workplaces, and cutthroat management--that contributed to one of the worst tragedies in modern aviation Boeing is a century-old titan of American industry. The largest exporter in the US, it played a central role in the early days of commercial flight, World War II bombing missions, and moon landings. It remains a linchpin in the awesome routine of air travel today. But the two crashes of its 737 MAX 8, in 2018 and 2019, exposed a shocking pattern of malfeasance, leading to the biggest crisis in the company's history. How did things go so horribly wrong at Boeing? Flying Blind is the definitive expos� of a corporate scandal that has transfixed the world. It reveals how a broken corporate culture paved the way for disaster, losses that were altogether avoidable. Drawing from aviation insiders, as well as exclusive interviews with senior Boeing staff, past and present, it shows how in its race to beat Airbus, Boeing skimped on testing, outsourced critical software to unreliable third-parties, and convinced regulators to put planes into service without properly equipping pilots to fly them. In the chill that it cast over its workplace, it offers a parable for a corporate America that puts the interests of shareholders over customers, employees, and communities. This is a searing account of how a once-iconic company fell prey to a win-at-all-costs mentality, destabilizing an industry and needlessly sacrificing 350 lives.


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A fast-paced look at the corporate dysfunction--the ruthless cost-cutting, toxic workplaces, and cutthroat management--that contributed to one of the worst tragedies in modern aviation Boeing is a century-old titan of American industry. The largest exporter in the US, it played a central role in the early days of commercial flight, World War II bombing missions, and moon la A fast-paced look at the corporate dysfunction--the ruthless cost-cutting, toxic workplaces, and cutthroat management--that contributed to one of the worst tragedies in modern aviation Boeing is a century-old titan of American industry. The largest exporter in the US, it played a central role in the early days of commercial flight, World War II bombing missions, and moon landings. It remains a linchpin in the awesome routine of air travel today. But the two crashes of its 737 MAX 8, in 2018 and 2019, exposed a shocking pattern of malfeasance, leading to the biggest crisis in the company's history. How did things go so horribly wrong at Boeing? Flying Blind is the definitive expos� of a corporate scandal that has transfixed the world. It reveals how a broken corporate culture paved the way for disaster, losses that were altogether avoidable. Drawing from aviation insiders, as well as exclusive interviews with senior Boeing staff, past and present, it shows how in its race to beat Airbus, Boeing skimped on testing, outsourced critical software to unreliable third-parties, and convinced regulators to put planes into service without properly equipping pilots to fly them. In the chill that it cast over its workplace, it offers a parable for a corporate America that puts the interests of shareholders over customers, employees, and communities. This is a searing account of how a once-iconic company fell prey to a win-at-all-costs mentality, destabilizing an industry and needlessly sacrificing 350 lives.

30 review for Flying Blind: Boeing's Max Tragedy and the Lost Soul of an American Icon

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    “It was 6:20 a.m. when Lion Air 610 departed the runway. The nose gear had barely left the ground when [Captain Bhavye] Suneja’s control column began shaking, the cue for a potential stall. Two alerts signaling bad altitude and airspeed readings blinked on. Flight data recorders don’t pick up the expressions on pilots’ faces, or the stab in their spines, when they sense their docile machine might kill them. Harvino, the copilot, immediately asked the captain if he planned to turn around. Suneja “It was 6:20 a.m. when Lion Air 610 departed the runway. The nose gear had barely left the ground when [Captain Bhavye] Suneja’s control column began shaking, the cue for a potential stall. Two alerts signaling bad altitude and airspeed readings blinked on. Flight data recorders don’t pick up the expressions on pilots’ faces, or the stab in their spines, when they sense their docile machine might kill them. Harvino, the copilot, immediately asked the captain if he planned to turn around. Suneja suggested they get clearance to a holding point to buy some time. ‘Flight control problem,’ Harvino radioed. As Suneja steered toward the new heading, the nose mysteriously dipped. He squeezed a switch on the control column under his thumb to push it back up. The nose lifted, but then dipped again. For eight minutes, the tug-of-war continued. The blue expanse of Jakarta Bay filled the windows…” - Peter Robison, Flying Blind: The 737 MAX Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing The 189 passengers and crew filing into Lion Air Flight 610 early on the morning of October 29, 2018, had little cause for concern. The skies over Pangkal Pinang, Jakarta were blue, the weather forecast was clear, and the plane they were flying – a Boeing 737 MAX 8 – was quite new, the fourth-generation entry in a durable line of aircraft that had been flying since 1967. Nevertheless, thirteen minutes after takeoff, Flight 610 went nose-first into the Java Sea, killing all aboard. Boeing was quick to point to pilot error, and to note Lion Air’s questionable safety history. CEO Dennis Muilenburg did such a good job of deflecting blame that Boeing’s stock price actually soared, even as its planes plummeted. Four months later, it happened again. *** In Flying Blind, Peter Robison tells the story of how Boeing changed from a great American company that embodied innovation, expertise, and consumer trust, into just another modern corporation being used as an ATM machine for the benefit of the board, the officers, and its shareholders. Unfortunately, this is a familiar tale of late stage capitalism, filled with perverted organizational cultures, cost cutting, and deregulation. Most of the time, the victims of such business practices are the company’s workers, who end up getting fired to raise stock prices and assure their boss’s generational wealth can stretch to at least the fourth generation. This time, though, three-hundred-and-forty-six people died tremendously horrifying deaths, all so that Boeing could curry favor with Wall Street analysts and CNBC. Robison gives you a front-row seat to this ugly transformation with a crisply paced, well-sourced narrative that will leave you infuriated. *** Losing market share to Airbus, Boeing had two options. First, they could design a new, ultramodern plane, likely at a cost of around $20 billion. Second, they could spend a fraction of that amount to churn out another iteration of their workhorse 737. Ultimately, Boeing went through door number two. Part of the redesign involved larger, more efficient engines mounted on the front of the wing. This allowed for pretty significant cost savings, as less jet fuel was needed. The problem – as it turned out – was that these front-mounted engines could push the nose upwards under certain conditions, leading to a stall. To forestall – literally – this event, Boeing came up with the “Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System,” or MCAS. Tied to the angle-of-attack indicator, the MCAS would automatically push the nose back down if the angle-of-attack became too extreme. Though sound in theory, the MCAS had some practical issues, both in design and execution. For one, the MCAS operated on only a single input, the angle-of-attack sensor. When you have a single point of failure – a probe vulnerably mounted outside the plane – and that single point fails, you have trouble. On Lion Air 610 – and the subsequent crash of Ethiopian Airlines 302 – the angle-of-attack sensor was mis-calibrated, leading the MCAS to keep pushing the nose down, while the pilots tried to pull up. In a very real sense, a computer overrode the humans, fatally hewing to its own calculations. There was a workaround to this, but initially, Boeing did not even tell pilots that the MCAS system had been installed, because telling pilots would have been an admission that further training was required. For Boeing, training meant costs, and costs had to be avoided. After the first crash, instead of fixing the MCAS, Boeing gave pilots a procedure to follow if the MCAS failed again. The procedure, though, had to be completed within ten seconds, something that even test pilots – sitting in a simulator, ready for trouble – struggled to complete. (Side note: Though Robison does not explore this issue, I find the technology-vs-human angle to be fascinating. It is almost the exact opposite scenario of Air France 447, in which an outside mounted sensor – a pitot tube – failed, and the pilots overrode the autopilot, took the plane outside its envelope, and caused a perfectly functioning aircraft to stall, and then drop over 30,000 feet like a stone, right into the Atlantic). *** While the flaws in the Boeing 737 MAX were technical, Flying Blind is mostly about human greed. A Bloomberg business reporter, Robison begins with a gripping recounting of the doomed Lion Air flight, then provides an overview of the chain of shortsighted decisions leading to the bottom of the Java Sea. Following this prologue, Robison circles back to William E. Boeing and the founding of his eponymous company. In better days, Boeing had a reputation as an engineering firm, willing to spend an extra dollar – or few million dollars – to make a safer aircraft. Robison identifies the turning point as Boeing’s 1997 merger with McDonnell-Douglas. This marriage of storied companies resulted in the rise to power of Harry Stonecipher, a Jack Welch protégé. Stonecipher and his McDonnell Douglas crew – referred to as “hunter killer assassins” – decided that Boeing was bloated and inefficient. He culled and slashed, boosting the stock price while getting rid of longtime employees, outsourcing supplies, moving plants to non-union states, and putting important aeronautical decisions into the hands of guys with MBAs. He also made everyone send emails in “all-caps,” which is just unspeakable. Helped along by a neutered FAA – which began paying bonuses to regulators who helped their “clients” meet deadlines – the stage was set for the inevitable. The fallout from the two crashes is also covered in depth. Boeing very well might have escaped after the Lion Air crash, taking advantage of their low-income victims to pay off the families. The second crash, though, killed people who had access to microphones, including a woman related to Ralph Nader himself. Wielding bullhorns instead of slings, numerous Davids went after Goliath, with some success. Of course, this is not a fairy tale. When Dennis Muilenburg finally got axed, he received over $60 million in parting gifts, which does not exactly feel like justice. *** Flying Blind does a good job of combining mechanical explanations, solid business writing, and interpersonal drama. Reading it, I felt like I understood the nature of the engineering issues related to non-redundant systems, the concept of stock-buybacks, and also the personal motives of culpable Boeing officers, who decided it was more important to keep their jobs than blow the whistle. The momentum Robison builds eventually falters a bit towards the end, as the MAX disasters get overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, it’s hard to fault Robison for failing to find the right literary conclusion, when there is none to be found in reality. None of the responsible parties went to jail. The man most blameworthy left with a severance sufficient to spend a few dozen lifetimes on a tropical island. Congress managed to tweak the law so that the FAA no longer works for airplane manufacturers, but corporatism is still alive and well. *** When big businesses are critiqued, the inevitable response is that a “corporation is not a charity.” That is absolutely true. In point of fact, I would go so far to say that a corporation is not anything. It is a figment of our collective imaginations. It is a legal fiction. It does not inhere in the natural world; its existence is not prescribed on a stone tablet given to us by an ancient prophet. Despite being nothing more than a construct, a 21st century American corporation is imbued with all the constitutional rights of a person, and none of its individual responsibility. Meanwhile, the men and women controlling this made-up entity are almost entirely shielded from both criminal and civil liability. Until this is changed – which requires not a pitchfork, but a pen – planes will continue to crash for avoidable reasons; rivers, fields, and skies will continue to be polluted; important regulations will continue to be removed; politicians will continue to be purchased; and once-solid companies will continue to be gutted for short-term gain.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Flying Blind is gripping: a tale of Boeing's corporate greed and putting shareholder returns ahead of safety, and the wrenching story of the 737Max and two cataclysmic plane crashes. It is first-rate reporting and riveting writing. Also? Boeing's rise and fall mirrors all too well so much of the ethical problems that dog so many American companies these days. Flying Blind is gripping: a tale of Boeing's corporate greed and putting shareholder returns ahead of safety, and the wrenching story of the 737Max and two cataclysmic plane crashes. It is first-rate reporting and riveting writing. Also? Boeing's rise and fall mirrors all too well so much of the ethical problems that dog so many American companies these days.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    Not very insightful, I can't say I learned much, but the story of modern Boeing needs to be told. Robison doesn't dig too deeply, though, and some of his conclusions are rather questionable (e.g., blaming stock buybacks for American inequality). > The Boeing team working to recertify the plane grumbled that while Canadian regulators held their feet to the fire on the final design changes, Air Canada pilots had continued flying the plane without passengers to keep their licenses current. > Meant t Not very insightful, I can't say I learned much, but the story of modern Boeing needs to be told. Robison doesn't dig too deeply, though, and some of his conclusions are rather questionable (e.g., blaming stock buybacks for American inequality). > The Boeing team working to recertify the plane grumbled that while Canadian regulators held their feet to the fire on the final design changes, Air Canada pilots had continued flying the plane without passengers to keep their licenses current. > Meant to cost $2.5 billion—a simple derivative of a model updated a dozen times since the 1960s—the MAX easily exceeded the $20 billion Boeing might have spent on an all-new program. The direct cost was $21 billion, including compensation to customers, aircraft storage, pilot training, and settlements to the families. Through the end of 2020, more than six hundred MAX orders had been canceled, a loss of another $33 billion at typical selling prices. > The amount of the criminal penalty was only $243.6 million, which, as the complaint noted, was about what it would have cost Boeing to let MAX pilots train in a simulator in the first place.

  4. 4 out of 5

    James Costa

    As a frequent traveller this book fascinated me. I'm obsessed with planes and which ones I;m flying. I like the A380 and a 777 when it's done right. This book is truly. terrifying read. This book gives a detailed account a about the airplane industry and its foundations as well as in depth look at Boeing. I was rivited from page one and it's funny but sad to say, "this book could save your life." Most of us know about the two 737MAX's that went down but this books tells you how it all could have As a frequent traveller this book fascinated me. I'm obsessed with planes and which ones I;m flying. I like the A380 and a 777 when it's done right. This book is truly. terrifying read. This book gives a detailed account a about the airplane industry and its foundations as well as in depth look at Boeing. I was rivited from page one and it's funny but sad to say, "this book could save your life." Most of us know about the two 737MAX's that went down but this books tells you how it all could have been prevented. It's a story about greed, cronyism, and just plain stupidity. To think that this info about the plane would not get out is just crazy. The whistleblowers at Boeing should be commended and the people resposible should go to jail and not get golden parchutes. Every person who is thinking of getting on a 737MAX should read this very important book. I will say it's one of my favorite books of 2021. Thank you to the publishers and Netgalley for the advanced copy.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Danielle | Dogmombookworm

    FLYING BLIND | Learning about the early years at Boeing that were defined by great innovation and competition, during a time period where it was understood that greater and better products would nudge out lesser products and be championed by forward thinking leaders who had to anticipate market growth 40-50 years in the future was truly enlightening. In contrast, reading about the downfall of that same company was devastating. Boeing faced strong competition from Airbus and McDonell and Douglas a FLYING BLIND | Learning about the early years at Boeing that were defined by great innovation and competition, during a time period where it was understood that greater and better products would nudge out lesser products and be championed by forward thinking leaders who had to anticipate market growth 40-50 years in the future was truly enlightening. In contrast, reading about the downfall of that same company was devastating. Boeing faced strong competition from Airbus and McDonell and Douglas and then against the merged MCDonell Douglas. In an attempt to minimize competition and gain capital assets, Boeing agreed to a merger with McDonell Douglas, which in addition to being a horrible cultural fit, decidedly brought in all the worst from a failing company. Cut-throat and overly focused on financials, Boeing changed course, adopting GE style management, like cutting 10% of staff every year, no matter the current year's success, and striving towards more financially minded efficiencies like outsourcing which limits the amount of control a company has in fully knowing the product they're making, no matter the cost. The cost as we all know was the failure that was the 737 MAX 8, resulting in 346 deaths. The original 737 was created as a response to Douglas's DC9 with no vision for that model to be a long term winner. Over the course of 50+ yrs, rather than creating a new product line that met current demands, Boeing continuously modified the 737 creating more and more derivatives. Reading this book was fascinating to learn about Boeing, but it was as much about generalized corporate values (greed) of "too large to fail companies." When leadership only concentrates on $ (bottom line, stock price, lining their own pockets with dividends from buybacks), ethical concerns get sidelined or completely ignored. From a consumer standpoint, you assume these companies are making, at a bare minimum, safe products since it impacts us all, and you assume there are safeguards in place from independent entities that are empowered and capable of testing against transparent requirements. It really shouldn't be shocking anymore.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David Dayen

    Robison did yeoman work telling not just the story of an air disaster but the story of a corporate disaster, a once-proud company pushed into the hands of knaves and greedheads who set about destroying its good name. To the bitter end, these men (I believe all men) refused to recognize how their hubris led to the deaths of 346 people, the destruction of hundreds of billions in wealth, and the fabric of an entire industry. They should teach this one in classes about the modern culture of American Robison did yeoman work telling not just the story of an air disaster but the story of a corporate disaster, a once-proud company pushed into the hands of knaves and greedheads who set about destroying its good name. To the bitter end, these men (I believe all men) refused to recognize how their hubris led to the deaths of 346 people, the destruction of hundreds of billions in wealth, and the fabric of an entire industry. They should teach this one in classes about the modern culture of American business.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Mckay

    Flying Blinded by Indignation For the same reason my 16 month old loves to point out every plane in the sky, I’m fascinated by the aviation industry. Skunkworks was the first book I read, and after reading Freedom’s Forge and Losing the Signal, Flying Blind felt like a perfect fit. However, the narrative ends up becoming just another superficial journalist book. Specifically, it suffers from a lack of norming and indignation at satisficing. Making new airplanes at the level of safety the world Flying Blinded by Indignation For the same reason my 16 month old loves to point out every plane in the sky, I’m fascinated by the aviation industry. Skunkworks was the first book I read, and after reading Freedom’s Forge and Losing the Signal, Flying Blind felt like a perfect fit. However, the narrative ends up becoming just another superficial journalist book. Specifically, it suffers from a lack of norming and indignation at satisficing. Making new airplanes at the level of safety the world has come to expect is hard. Doing it continuously as a large organization is harder still. The 737 Max during its most dangerous period had 2 fatal accidents, a rate of 4/1,000,000, about 20x other 737s (ouch), but still a non-trivial standard to achieve. Obviously Boeing messed up the rollout of both the 787 as well as the 737 max, but after reading this book I expected a company in shambles trying to pick up the pieces. Instead Boeing’s market cap is still more than Airbus, about 35% off its peak, and roughly the same as it was in 2018. Not a great investment, but not nearly the disaster story painted by the author. The narrative of the teddy bears of Boeing engineering being swallowed up by the hunter-killer drones of McDonnell Douglas would have been enough for a think piece editorial, but I was hoping for more from a book. 26th book of 2021

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tina Hsu

    Primarily a history of Boeing and Boeing managers, which has been done before, I expected more insight and opinion on the MAX crashes.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    My husband worked for Boeing before and after it merged with McDonnell Douglas, and he spoke frequently of the deterioration of the Boeing culture. This book validates everything he said--about safety, Boeing management, the FAA, ethics, and the emphasis on the stock price. It was fascinating to hear the names that he had mentioned over the years, and to learn the parts they played in the big picture. Ultimately, each player had a responsibility to speak up to prevent the design flaw and its cov My husband worked for Boeing before and after it merged with McDonnell Douglas, and he spoke frequently of the deterioration of the Boeing culture. This book validates everything he said--about safety, Boeing management, the FAA, ethics, and the emphasis on the stock price. It was fascinating to hear the names that he had mentioned over the years, and to learn the parts they played in the big picture. Ultimately, each player had a responsibility to speak up to prevent the design flaw and its cover-up that resulted in two catastrophic crashes of the 737 Max. My husband spoke up about the 787 Dreamliner, and it cost him his job. Anyone connected with Boeing should read this book. I listened to the audio, which was also very good.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jon L

    I was really looking forward to this book, and I'm not sorry I read it, but I was a bit disappointed. The style is not the detached, pure history that I was hoping for. There's a lot of good information, but I did find one or two factual errors and at various times the tone becomes a bit petty as the author's bias leaks in. There are occasional cultural references that may not mean anything to future readers, and a few snide comments and salacious info about characters that are really ancillary I was really looking forward to this book, and I'm not sorry I read it, but I was a bit disappointed. The style is not the detached, pure history that I was hoping for. There's a lot of good information, but I did find one or two factual errors and at various times the tone becomes a bit petty as the author's bias leaks in. There are occasional cultural references that may not mean anything to future readers, and a few snide comments and salacious info about characters that are really ancillary to the story. Also, I was hoping for a lot more detail on the tragic design and decision making and who was involved. To be fair, this information may not be currently (or ever) available. But my primary complaint is the overall flow. Topics that could be covered in a sentence or two are given two paragraphs, and the story tends to jump around in the timeline too much. I also think there's far too much emphasis on the details of how certain characters became said characters. In short, it has somewhat the aspect of a polemic and opinion piece. Not that I don't agree with many of the author's views, but I was looking for a cool presentation of fact.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    It was just an ok book for me. Driven largely by the clear political bias the author has. I just never fully trusted what lens I was reading through. Whether I agree with his politics or not I would have at least liked not knowing what they were. Greed, chasing the bottom line, and cutting for profit are exceptionally common themes in stories like these. Would I recommend the book? No, probably not.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ben Denison

    Amazing book. Amazing story. This is a review of the downfall Boeing and events within the company that led up to the 737 Super Max software issues that caused plane crashes and exposed a rotted out company culture. The book goes back and gives a great history of Boeing and it’s inner-workings, culture, and management practices. Much built upon an engineering background of innovation, testing, and safety. But as the company grew and the marketplace became more competitive things changed. Boeing bou Amazing book. Amazing story. This is a review of the downfall Boeing and events within the company that led up to the 737 Super Max software issues that caused plane crashes and exposed a rotted out company culture. The book goes back and gives a great history of Boeing and it’s inner-workings, culture, and management practices. Much built upon an engineering background of innovation, testing, and safety. But as the company grew and the marketplace became more competitive things changed. Boeing bought / merged with McDonnell Douglas and as Boeing was the bigger/buyer, somehow the McDonnell Douglas guys maneuvered into control and quickly changed the priorities and culture within the new company. Interesting backstory of new managements adherence to GE’s (jack Welch’s) style and many of Welch’s minions involved in Boeing. The priorities of Cuts, profit focus, highly stressful, high performance metrics hit or you’re gone. The new Boeing changed priorities to profit, streamlining, shareholder value by cutting employees, breaking off subsidiaries such as training, parts, and even design to outside contracting firms. Many firms winning contracts that had no experience but merely the lowest bid. A great review of the progression of the airplane maker competition between Boeing, Europe’s Airbus, and others. Pressure to cut costs, cut corners to save time to market and/or cost to customers. The priority of cost cutting caused shortcuts in training of pilots, training manuals, testing of new cockpit controls, etc. Internal objections were either swept under the rug, or highly discouraged. The software changes and certain possible aids cost extra. Also a frightening look at the FAA’s failed methods of review and inspection of plane controls, parts, systems. How basically the inspectors report to Boeing and their bonus’ depend on Boeing. Great book. I didn’t like how he tried to tie all this to Trump or these business leaders’ faith. He conveniently pointed out every Republican connection , but not that this rot of the company started in the 90’s. Seemed like a stretch.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    This book is a relatively comprehensive account of the events surrounding the two crashes and subsequent worldwide grounding of the Boeing 737 Max 8 airplane. It is well written and engaging. I literally had trouble putting the book down, although I am not sure why. The book places the story of the Max in the broader context of Boeing and its corporate evolution from an engineering driven firm to one driven by cost-cutting and shareholder value (and executive bonuses)., via a corporate takeover This book is a relatively comprehensive account of the events surrounding the two crashes and subsequent worldwide grounding of the Boeing 737 Max 8 airplane. It is well written and engaging. I literally had trouble putting the book down, although I am not sure why. The book places the story of the Max in the broader context of Boeing and its corporate evolution from an engineering driven firm to one driven by cost-cutting and shareholder value (and executive bonuses)., via a corporate takeover as a result of a large merger. So it is the story of a firm, focused around a corporate catastrophe. The story is rich and involves several distinct storylines that come together around the Max crashes and their aftermath - none of them are particularly positive or upbeat and all are geared towards greater appreciation of the value of flying other planes - or even driving. This is not much of a holiday book - unless one is a fan of Die Hard 2. I would like to say that the book locates blame in one or a few persons but it is clear that the crisis was a team effort. Nor was the crisis solely an airline industry event. The management behaviors associated with it were common among US firms at the time, although the shadow of GE under Jack Welch does look large. The Max crisis does show how all the various threads in the story managed to come together to a devastating effect. Does the book have continuing relevance? It likely does, although COVID-19 has reduced popular demand for flying and channelled concerns about flying into different directions. I still will check and see what type of plane I am going to fly on going forward. This book is a good example of a business case history in book form and well worth reading for those with an interest in such cases.

  14. 5 out of 5

    WM D.

    Flying blind was a good book. It examined how Boeing went from a power house company to a company in trouble. I did not know much about the aviation industry until I read this book. A must read for anyone who likes non fiction

  15. 5 out of 5

    Margie Dewind

    I found this book interesting because of its reminder that soulless managers exist in all types of organizations and because it suggests that my fear of flying has some basis in real dangers.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin Kunkel

    This is a deeply reported, appalling, and frightening book about how corporate greed and capitalism perverted an American company that used to prize safety and engineering above all else. Highly recommend, although it will make you scared to fly!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Victor Liu

    Extremely eye-opening read. Showing the recklessness of putting profit over safety, it portrays the destruction of a company once famed for building extremely safe and reliable airplanes. I found the juxtaposition between the Japan Airlines 747 crash in the 1980s, where Boeing took full responsibility for the accident and their eschewing of guilt during the 737 Max crashes stunning.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Spice Giant

    A well-documented study of how a company goes from respected & reliable to unconscionable

  19. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    First of all: I absolutely recommend this book. Robison writes quickly, fluently, and easily; it's a page-turner of a book, as interesting - more interesting - than any novel, which says a lot for a book theoretically premised on the failure of a tiny system called MCAS. In a six-month time period, from October 2018 to March 2019, two Boeing 737-Max planes crashed, killing a total of 346 people. When the first plane crashed, news emerged that a little system called MCAS - ("what's MCAS?" FAA "reg First of all: I absolutely recommend this book. Robison writes quickly, fluently, and easily; it's a page-turner of a book, as interesting - more interesting - than any novel, which says a lot for a book theoretically premised on the failure of a tiny system called MCAS. In a six-month time period, from October 2018 to March 2019, two Boeing 737-Max planes crashed, killing a total of 346 people. When the first plane crashed, news emerged that a little system called MCAS - ("what's MCAS?" FAA "regulators" - ha - asked themselves) had been the cause. Boeing stood behind its plane, and implied instead that poor airmanship and poor training on the part of a "non-Western" airline had caused the crash. Then in March 2019 came the second crash. This time the pilots had the checklist. They knew what to do if the MCAS was erroneously triggered. And yet the plane still crashed. In retrospect, by Robison's telling, this ending looks almost inevitable. At its inception, Boeing was a pioneer, an engineering company to its bones: all-American, perfectionist, a little maverick - a titan. If something was wrong, the company fixed it, no questions asked. Safety and perfection, good sound design - that was Boeing. In a world of Douglases and McDonnells and de Havillands that made mistakes, and prioritized money over engineering integrity, Boeing did things right, and while the others rose and then fell and then fell some more, Boeing continued to rise. But then, in Robison's telling, things began to change. Economic deregulation, stock buybacks, stockholder value above all else - at some point in the second half of the 20th century, Boeing lost its way. Boeing bought McDonnell-Douglas, but McDonnell-Douglas values devoured Boeing from the inside out. Then came the inevitable fall from grace, except it was hidden, because stock prices rose and rose and rose. A succession of short-sighted CEOS and chairmans came next, all of whom prioritized stock price and price-cutting and outsourcing, against the advice of longtime engineers, over everything else. Cheaper is better. Why design a new plane when it's easier to just update the new one? So many corners were cut in everything that it's a wonder there were any corners left at all. They sold real estate; they sold factories; they farmed everything out to the cheapest possible subsidiaries. You could, Robison seems to argue, say they'd sold the Boeing soul. So, why MCAS? The TL;DR. Boeing had to compete with a new Airbus plane, but didn't wish to spend the money to develop an entirely plane - far too expensive. So they made the decision to just update the aging 737, long overdue for an overhaul. They made it lighter and stuck some more powerful engines on the plane. The heavier engines, though, made the plane prone to pitch-ups during tight turns. Instead of creating a hardware fix, Boeing decided on a shortcut (surprise!) : a software fix - the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, already added in a weaker form to the inspiringly-named and utterly uninspiringly-designed 767 Dreamliner (yes, of the lithium battery fires). MCAS automatically pitches the nose of the plane back down at high altitudes by the tune of about .6%. Along the way, though, engineers discovered the pitch-ups happened more frequently than they anticipated. So they increased the extent to which MCAS could pitch the nose down, and they allowed it to happen at lower altitudes too - a point at which there would be no room for pilots to maneuver. Crucially, they made it override normal pilot controls; even more crucially, they created a single point of failure: a tiny angle of attack sensor. And worst of all, they eliminated the error messaging about a faulty angle of attack system - "AoA disagree," a disagreement between one sensor on the captain's side, versus the copilot's side - except for customers who purchased an upgraded package. Cost-cutting at its worst. One tiny, tiny sensor goes wrong, and thus begins a whole, horrible chain of events. They launched the MAX, assured airlines no additional simulator training was needed ($$$), and didn't even bother mentioning MCAS in the new guides, except in the index. There's something exquisitely and horrifically tragic about this fast-paced, engagingly-written account. It's Shakespearian; Icarus falling with his dripping wax-wings. Boeing is American ingenuity and something historic, one of the last great American titans. But Robison here rips off the curtain to show us that Boeing has lost itself - and too many lives along the way. Robison is bipartisan in his critique: the FAA has been rendered spineless, and Boeing has been seen as too big to fail, by both Republican and Democratic presidents, although President Trump gets the brunt of his criticism. His bias is perhaps a little too clear: there are no counter-narratives in this book, no "other side" to the clear story he lays out - perhaps my only criticism of this book. But then, does there need to be another story, a counter narrative, in a story that has a body count like this one? This book runs rife with sickening choices, egotism, and massive payouts - golden parachutes, millions and millions of dollars for men (and women) who effectively allowed 346 people to be flown into the ground. In the wake of the crashes, Congress held hearings, but Robison argues that no one was ever truly punished. A few low-level enablers were sent packing; Boeing paid minimal fees to the tune of a few million - not even the amount they would have paid for the training Boeing claimed wasn't needed; and CEO Muilenberg was fired (with $62M in compensation - not much of a loss). The FAA, which had evolved into a rubber-stamping "regulatory" body that actually just reported to Boeing, with officials actually being rewarded for approvals rather than catching errors, was lightly updated - but not really. In short: a couple surface-level changes were made, but no real change. The same horrible circumstances that led to the crashes are still very much in place. Robison tells a story of industry gone wrong; short-term false profits prioritized above human life. One engineer messages his colleague, "Would you put your family on a Boeing 737-MAX?" The answer is, of course, no. But 346 people did get on 2 737 MAX planes. The message here seems to be: they still could.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Marco G

    A Person in the book as quoted as saying someone has to die before bowling does anything. The Boeing Max 737 was called the death jet. People died over shortcuts Boeing did specifically shortcutting safety measures related to a software and training which led to the death of over 300 people on two Max 737 plane crashes. Boeing went so far as to use race in saying the Indian pilots involved in these crashes were inferior to American pilots. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The comp A Person in the book as quoted as saying someone has to die before bowling does anything. The Boeing Max 737 was called the death jet. People died over shortcuts Boeing did specifically shortcutting safety measures related to a software and training which led to the death of over 300 people on two Max 737 plane crashes. Boeing went so far as to use race in saying the Indian pilots involved in these crashes were inferior to American pilots. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The company failed to adequately train the pilots and specifically buried mentioning a new software on the plane in there diagnostic manual that pilots refer to when flight errors come up. This software glitch for which disease Indonesian pilots didn't know how to handle caused the plane to plummet to the ground no matter how hard the pilots yank that their control stick. I knew this was an issue and still undercut safety and training. At the same time chief executive officer and other high level executives walked away with hundreds of millions of dollars due to returning shareholder value, stock BuyBacks etcetera etcetera. And to date no one has gone to prison over this which makes it so frustrating. This book will make you want to check what kind of airplane you're getting on the next time you fly. I believe there is a Netflix documentary being released this week about this Boeing fiasco. This is a great book that was hard to get through because of how horrifying these shortcuts Boeing did to undermine the safety of their planes. Very shameful how highly regarded American company went from being engineering focused to focusing solely on maximizing shareholder value and stock BuyBacks and financial metrics to enrich themselves and their shareholders.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jihyuk Bok

    When I heard that the second Boeing 737 MAX was crashed in Ethiopia, I was in shock and asked myself; how that company which has so well-known reputation for the finest technology could have possibly not known the single point of failure in their latest airplane? It must have been a coincidence. Nevertheless, it was true. More importantly, these accidents were not just glitched misfortune but the result of accumulated policies of neo-liberalism. The book “Flying Blind” tells you this tragedy fro When I heard that the second Boeing 737 MAX was crashed in Ethiopia, I was in shock and asked myself; how that company which has so well-known reputation for the finest technology could have possibly not known the single point of failure in their latest airplane? It must have been a coincidence. Nevertheless, it was true. More importantly, these accidents were not just glitched misfortune but the result of accumulated policies of neo-liberalism. The book “Flying Blind” tells you this tragedy from exactly the point of this. It seems obvious to me that people should concern about the companies like Boeing when they choose short-term financial benefits, such as stock prices instead of the employees and customers. However, companies simply pretend they are not doing any harmful action by their marketing, and it works great in manipulating people's minds. Companies in the global trade era have been accustomed to disenfranchising laborers' and customers’ rights and its very outcome is consequently the accident like 737 Max. In the book, one FAA agent told the stories of how he had to warn the Boeing management who refuse to heed his words many times. “How much blood do you want to soak in seats?”. As time passed by even this terrible warning has become pointless for those who only don't mind even blood-soaked money. If blood spilling out of the innocent victims, and cries from the families don't help to make things right, how can one possibly imagine the future of their children bright, or even safe?

  22. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Swisher

    “At the SEC, run by a former executive from the E.F. Hutton investment bank, the implementation of Rule 10b-18 in November 1982 drew little notice in the press but opened the way to a sustained transfer of wealth. The rule gave companies that purchased shares of their own stock in the open market “safe harbor” from charges of manipulation, as long as they didn’t exceed a limit of 25 percent of the daily trading volume. Over the subsequent decades, the University of Massachusetts economist Willia “At the SEC, run by a former executive from the E.F. Hutton investment bank, the implementation of Rule 10b-18 in November 1982 drew little notice in the press but opened the way to a sustained transfer of wealth. The rule gave companies that purchased shares of their own stock in the open market “safe harbor” from charges of manipulation, as long as they didn’t exceed a limit of 25 percent of the daily trading volume. Over the subsequent decades, the University of Massachusetts economist William Lazonick wrote, “stock buybacks have channeled the productivity gains of U.S. business into the hands of the richest households, while the persistent gushers of corporate cash have played a major role in the rise of the financial sector over the once-dominant manufacturing sector.” From 1981 to 1983, he calculated buybacks consumed only 4 percent of net income for the largest U.S. companies. By 1996 it was 27 percent; by 2006, 46 percent; and by 2016, 50 percent. Two generations later, in any prosperous American city, the unequal effects are plain - Teslas, luxury high-rises, avocado toast. And tents”

  23. 5 out of 5

    David

    Excellent exposé about how the new culture of Boeing led away from the input of engineers and led toward a complete fealty to the profit motive. This interest in profit above people plays out in the tragedy of the Boeing 737 MAX, whose design flaws led to 2 crashes killing 346 people with almost zero accountability. This corporate scandal is explored in detail and at times is absorbing and jaw dropping.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Gacek

    A once innovative company with engineers that had the final say and safety first, fell from the sky due to Jack Welch-Ian metrics of making a profit at all costs for the shareholders and executives. The change came about when Boeing acquired McDonnell Douglas. MD’s culture ate Boeing’s boyscout culture. And the FAA has no backbone along with the congressmen that took power away from the FAA and basically allow the airlines to police themselves. Hence the 737 Max crashes that were avoidable but t A once innovative company with engineers that had the final say and safety first, fell from the sky due to Jack Welch-Ian metrics of making a profit at all costs for the shareholders and executives. The change came about when Boeing acquired McDonnell Douglas. MD’s culture ate Boeing’s boyscout culture. And the FAA has no backbone along with the congressmen that took power away from the FAA and basically allow the airlines to police themselves. Hence the 737 Max crashes that were avoidable but the self policing allowed bad design and poor communication and deafness

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ang

    Well this'll make you never want to fly in a Boeing plane ever again. It'll also make you want government regulations on the airline industry and on stock buy-backs. Well this'll make you never want to fly in a Boeing plane ever again. It'll also make you want government regulations on the airline industry and on stock buy-backs.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jak Krumholtz

    Beware the bean counters. I’m going to pay attention to the plane I’m boarding now. Boeing replaced their historic focus on engineers for cost cutting for shareholders. They're also an example of not taking responsibility after preventable accidents, including blaming the victims. Beware the bean counters. I’m going to pay attention to the plane I’m boarding now. Boeing replaced their historic focus on engineers for cost cutting for shareholders. They're also an example of not taking responsibility after preventable accidents, including blaming the victims.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Antonio Stark

    An incisive critique about how the 737-Max came to be. Perhaps the third book I read that was published after the Covid pandemic. The book rightly starts when Boeing was one of many airline manufacturers, then acquired McDonnell-Douglas, with "profit makers slicing through the engineers like knife on butter." The self-destructive management style eliminated assets, outsourced more of its supply chain, and *owned* the government that was supposed to oversee them (the FAA). From the launch of 777 An incisive critique about how the 737-Max came to be. Perhaps the third book I read that was published after the Covid pandemic. The book rightly starts when Boeing was one of many airline manufacturers, then acquired McDonnell-Douglas, with "profit makers slicing through the engineers like knife on butter." The self-destructive management style eliminated assets, outsourced more of its supply chain, and *owned* the government that was supposed to oversee them (the FAA). From the launch of 777 to the Starliner spacecraft, this was an epilogue of how America's once-greatest manufacturer came to decline.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    This book should be on the shortlist of the best business reads of 2021. Robinson recounts a tragic tale of what happens when short term profiteering overtakes prudential management. It's a shame the practices that destroyed Boeing have practically become religion in corporate America. Financialization, a blind devotion to outsourcing, and a culture of weak risk management comprise the devil's playbook on how to hollow out a company while enriching management. This book should be on the shortlist of the best business reads of 2021. Robinson recounts a tragic tale of what happens when short term profiteering overtakes prudential management. It's a shame the practices that destroyed Boeing have practically become religion in corporate America. Financialization, a blind devotion to outsourcing, and a culture of weak risk management comprise the devil's playbook on how to hollow out a company while enriching management.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Doug Gordon

    Made me think twice about climbing on another Boeing airliner; I think I'll stick with Airbus! Made me think twice about climbing on another Boeing airliner; I think I'll stick with Airbus!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Viola

    Downfall: The Case Against Boeing. Awful: The Case Against Netflix REVIEWS AngryWorkers | 7 Mar 2022 Media outlets have heaped great praise on the Netflix documentary, ‘Downfall: The Case Against Boeing.’ And the ratings haven’t been bad either. Its made it into the Netflix Top 10 most watched list. No mean feat for such a narrowly focused documentary. The film certainly does a great job of sympathetically depicting the anguish of the bereaved relatives of the 364 victims of this disgusting, corp Downfall: The Case Against Boeing. Awful: The Case Against Netflix REVIEWS AngryWorkers | 7 Mar 2022 Media outlets have heaped great praise on the Netflix documentary, ‘Downfall: The Case Against Boeing.’ And the ratings haven’t been bad either. Its made it into the Netflix Top 10 most watched list. No mean feat for such a narrowly focused documentary. The film certainly does a great job of sympathetically depicting the anguish of the bereaved relatives of the 364 victims of this disgusting, corporate crime. The commitment of the families to their loved ones, skilfully presented in the Rory Kennedy directed movie, undeniably stirs feelings of anger and dismay at the injustice suffered by so many innocent people. The documentary examines the decision and events leading to the crashes of two 737-MAX aircraft within five months of each other (Lion Air flight from Jakarta 29th October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa 10th March). The 737-MAX, we discover, was developed in a hurry to compete with the more efficient aircraft being produced by Boeing’s rival, Airbus. In the haste, a fundamental design flaw was engineered into the aircraft. Due to the new, more powerful engines being fitted to the decades old 737 body and wings, a system needed to be added to prevent excessive lift to the nose of the aircraft. The Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was fitted without informing the pilots and with only one point of failure. When the system failed, it sent the planes into a catastrophic nose dive that pilots were powerless to correct. After the first crash, the company attempted to shift blame onto ‘foreign’ airlines and pilots. With more than a whiff of racism, Boeing implied that a lack of understanding, training and professionalism was to blame. Pilots’ unions requested the planes be grounded, but Boeing reassured everyone that a software fix would patch the problem for now and that they were working on it. Amazingly, they were believed, and Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) did nothing. After the second crash, the aircraft was grounded while an investigation was started, but Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg – who looks suspiciously like Goldmember from Austin Powers 3 – continued to deny the problem and blame pilots. The documentary takes us through the consequent inquiry, families’ campaigning and congressional committees. Our indignation reaches a crescendo when the final frames inform us that Goldmember got a $62million handshake when leaving Boeing and the company was simply fined $2.5billion. For all the excellent detail and forensic examination, when it comes to looking at the overarching picture and making sense of how these tragic events came about, the documentary leads us away from reality to a fantasy land where an “admirable” firm of “incredible stature” and an “outstanding record on safety” is led astray by “cash on Wall Street.” There is comfort in this view. We can weed out bad apples. Rein in excessive forces within the system and seek solace in nostalgia for a past age that heroes can rebuild. From the very beginning, the film is framed in a way that needlessly narrows our perspective and obscures relevant information that would enhance our understanding. A Wall Street Journal journalist informs us that, “Boeing has had such a storied history and such an incredible stature in the industry.” And has been integral in ushering in the “safest period in aviation history.” Time and time again, the loss of this great company’s impeccable record on “safety” is bemoaned. The fact that Boeing is one of the biggest arms dealers in the world is never mentioned. Boeing regularly makes upwards of $20billion revenue a year in arms sales, maintenance and services. They’ve delivered contracts worth $22billion for Saudi Arabia in the last decade alone. Saudi Arabia is responsible for the bombardment of civilian targets in Yemen. The UAE, that is also implicated in these atrocities, is another recipient of Boeing’s weapons. Israel, whose repeated human rights abuses in Gaza and the West Bank are well documented, are, of course, another of Boeing’s customers. When Joe Biden made campaign promises to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and when his administration made steps in that direction after gaining power, Boeing and Raytheon successfully lobbied lawmakers to change their minds. Even aside from the most egregious examples of arms sales, Boeing and other arms dealers use their huge resources to influence political systems in a way that make us all unsafe. US arms companies have spent $285million on campaign contributions and $2.5billion on lobbying over the last 20 years. The top 5 companies spent $60million on lobbying in 2020 alone. They don’t part with this money lightly. They expect a return on their investments. It’s not the only thing that increases militarism and war, but we’d be foolish to think that these payments don’t influence politics and make our lives less safe. As Raytheon and Lockheed Martin recently told their investors, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is good for business. In an earnings call on the 25th January 2022, Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes stated that, “….of course….. tensions in Eastern Europe… tensions in the South China Sea….. I fully expect we’re going to see some benefit from it.” While Boeing’s Chief Financial Officer Brian West didn’t mention Ukraine in a recent earnings call, he did say that, “in defence and space markets we’re seeing stable demand.” They “see strong bipartisan support for national security, including Boeing products and services….. security spending remains a priority given global threats.” These are some seriously dangerous incentives being flaunted in public. Military aviation is also a major contributor of global greenhouse gas emissions. The world’s militaries are responsible for around 6% of global emissions. With the biggest defence budget, the US is the main contributor to these and military aviation (and Boeing) play a big role in that total. As things stand, a loophole exists in the Paris Climate Change Agreement, that allow countries to exempt military emissions when calculating and reporting their levels of decarbonisation. Commercial aviation is projected to consume up to one-sixth of the temperature budget allocated to keep the planet below 1.5C warming. Boeing or any other aircraft manufacturer will produce as many planes as there is a market for. They will make planes until the last metals on earth are used up and the air is unbreathable, as long as there are people willing to buy them. Not because they have turned evil but because that is how companies operate in our system. The idea that a corporation could ever look out for our safety, except in the most narrow sense, is outrageous. Yet, this is what is stated and implied throughout the documentary. Genuine safety and security comes from empowered workers deciding what goes on in their workplaces and communities. Not because we are inherently more noble than CEO’s, but because we have a material interest in maintaining and improving our communities physical and mental health. When we see workers in this documentary, they are seen either impotently standing aghast while an undercover journalist informs them that important components are not being fitted to the aircraft; or they are talking about how powerless they were against management’s disregard for safety. The same workers state that, “it was an excellent company to work for”, and about the sense of pride they had when seen out and about in uniform and people would say, “you work for Boeing, that is wonderful.” The only collective voice that is discussed is that of the victims. The workers are helpless atoms, grafting away on the production line. Their potential collective power in challenging management’s disregard for safety isn’t considered. The long and hard strikes and disputes that litter Boeing’s history and were responsible for making this a “great company to work for” are ignored. The negligence in omission is even more clear when we consider that legal cases, against unfair dismissal and union busting behaviour at the new South Carolina plant, were in the media around the time of this documentary’s filming. Stretching back to a huge 20-week strike in 1948, workers at Boeing have continually fought to for their pay and conditions. The workers, building B52’s, have never done enough to challenge the company’s complicity in war crimes or environmental degradation, but things like the union’s funding of public housing projects in 1967, show that their power could have evolved into something that could have. Instead, workers’ collective power has diminished to such a degree, that it barely gets a mention in a documentary about the poor production of an aircraft. Alternatively, Republican congresswoman and senators are held up as the heroes of the hour. The likes of Ted Cruz, a man with all the moral integrity of a wet sock, is put on a pedestal and presented as holding the wayward corporation to account. These are the very people that have pushed for and enabled the ‘financialisation’ of the corporate world, which this documentary blames for this tragedy. The story that is told is of a company that was marvellous until its 1996 merger with McDonnell-Douglas, which meant that Boeing was now a “financially driven company” and needed brave law makers to keep it in check. The misdirected anger and hypocrisy within the analysis is ridiculous. This was never a ‘good’ company, and complicit law makers are never our saviours. That, “….the safety culture at Boeing fell apart …. was corrupted from the top down by Wall Street….” may hold a nugget of truth. At least for commercial airliners. But it doesn’t take much investigation to find out that this, and any other corporation, puts profits before people on a regular basis. It’s almost as if, as soon as the safety risk shifts away from the victims of bombs, rising sea levels and air pollution to relatively affluent passenger jet users, only then does it become a problem worth discussing. The problem with this and so many other popular Netflix documentaries is that they have terrible politics. They’re either advocating consumer choices as the solution (Cowspiracy, Seaspiracy) or better top-down management of the problem (Social Network, Downfall), when what is needed is a complete change to the way we produce things. The only way this can be achieved in a way that benefits everyone is through working people collectively taking control in their workplaces and communities. Likewise, we shouldn’t expect corporations like Netflix to produce content that delivers the information we need. As entertaining as it can be, we have to do our own investigating and digging to find out the best way to interpret events. Aviation doesn’t have to be controlled by vast profit-hungry conglomerates. It could be organised by workers and the community in a way that suits our needs but doesn’t destroy our local or global environment. If the death of 364 people isn’t enough to bring about that realisation, maybe nothing will. If you have or haven’t watched Downfall yet, I hope this will helps you interpret and enjoy the movie for what it is. A very good, but wholly incomplete and misguided story. Source .angryworkers. org/2022/03/07/downfall-the-case-against-boeing-awful-the-case-against-netflix/

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