The absent, critical point in the Boeing Chief Engineer stories

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Highly scrutinized B727 Max 8

Boeing Chief Engineer Retires

No one notices he was head of ODA for Max 8

So much to learn from him!!!

Every investigative journalist, who can spell airplane, and every Hill staffer, whose boss is on either Aviation Committee, has been scrutinizing, for almost a year, every detail about the Boeing 737 Max 8. Their goal was not to save Boeing, but to bury America’s largest exporter. Everything, on which this large organization has misfired, has been found, reported and/or asked as an embarrassing question. Subscriptions and C-SPAN ratings have been elevated by all of these assiduous searches.

It is, therefore, most surprising that these detailed internet detectives missed a most relevant fact about John Hamilton either for his Senate and House testimony or for this article for his retirement.

Information from the NTSB and the Joint Authorities Technical Review (JATR) made it clear that the communication flowing between the FAA and the Organization Designation Authority (ODA) did function well. Here is one explanation of the JATR criticism:

“The Report continued to suggest that the Organization Designation Authorization Program, or ODA (interesting changed acronym from its previous “DOA”), the program by which the FAA grants the manufacturer/designer, in this case Boeing, authority over the certification project, is weak due to inadequate CAA oversight. The JATR team concluded that FAA resources fall short which may have contributed to an “inadequate number of FAA specialists being involved in the B737 MAX certification program.” In short, the FAA was incapable to oversee Boeing’s activities due to a lack qualified engineers and technical expertise. 

 

The Washington Post’s article on JATR adds to the communication critique—

“People who needed to know things in order to make informed decisions didn’t know everything they needed to know,” said Christopher Hart, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, who chaired the panel. “That was the challenge. Then when they found out about it, it was a fait accompli and it was too late. In fact it was, in most cases, after the crash occurred that they found out. ‘Really? I didn’t know that was an issue.’”

 

 

 

 

 

Among other problems, the panel found that vital information about the automated feature, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) — including how it was intended to work and its technical underpinnings — was provided in a “fragmented” fashion.

“Although MCAS may have been briefed to some FAA personnel, key aspects of the MCAS function such as intended function description, its interfaces, and architecture, were not directly visible to the FAA in a straightforward manner through the certification deliverable documents,” the panel found.

Specifically,

 the FAA’s oversight of Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS)

OR

the Boeing ODA flagging of the MCAS issue

OR

BOTH

posed problems in the certification of the Max 8.

What did all of the sleuths miss. It is fairly salient in his Boeing biography:

Executive Biography of John Hamilton

John Hamilton was named the chief engineer for Boeing Commercial Airplanes in March 2019. In this capacity, Hamilton is responsible for bringing the necessary engineering resources and capabilities together from across the company to work through the major accident investigations and other technical risks impacting Commercial Airplanes products and businesses.

From July 2013 through March 2016, Hamilton served as the vice president of Safety, Security and Compliance and oversaw the Commercial Airplanes Organization Designation Authorization (ODA).

Hamilton previously served as the vice president/chief project engineer for the 737 program with responsibility for the safety and product integrity of the airplane’s design, including the integration of engineering design, product strategy, improvements and compliance to Boeing and regulatory standards and requirements.

As the prosecutorial questioning by Senators and Representatives to determine what failed with ODA, would not it been appropriate for one of the bright assistants to dig up that Mr. Hamilton was the head of ODA during the Max 8 certification? Wouldn’t she/he want to hand that important fact to the Member questioning the Boeing Chief Engineer and the man responsible for ODA? It would have been a Perry Mason moment of the ages bringing immense public attention if not praise for such a telling inquiry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the journalist, by identifying the real significance of Mr. Hamilton’s retirement, the lede would not have been buried.

Boeing Engineer in Charge of Boeing 737 max 8 “Self-certification” RETIRES

Boeing commercial airplanes chief engineer who testified in 737 Max investigations is retiring

Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief engineer John Hamilton , who was leading the response to the 737 Max crisis, is retiring, CNBC confirmed Wednesday.

The new head of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Stan Deal, and Boeing’s chief engineer, Greg Hyslop broke the news in an internal memo to employees:

“John had planned to retire last year, but we asked him to stay on to help us with the 737 Max investigations and return to service efforts … We are immensely grateful to John for lending his expertise and leadership during a very challenging time.”

The Seattle Times was the first to report the news.

Lynne Hopper, vice president of Engineering for Commercial Airplanes, will take over the chief engineer role, and will continue to support Boeing’s Max efforts, the company said.

In a statement to CNBC, Deal and Hyslop said Hamilton has “exemplified” Boeing’s “values of safety, quality, and integrity” throughout his 35 years at the company. “Now, after a career dedicated to excellence, John is retiring,” their statement said. “His guidance over the past year caps an outstanding career that covered multiple programs and functions, including serving as chief project engineer for the 757, Next-Generation 737 and P-8A, leading the Aviation Safety organization, and finally as the BCA Engineering leader. John’s strong commitment to safety will be one of his lasting legacies.”

Hamilton testified before Congress along with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, who was removed by the company’s board as chairman in October so he can focus on running the company after the 737 Max crisis.


By failing to discern that there was much to learn about how the Congressionally authorized ODA failed, the Hill missed an opportunity to IDENTIFY what failed. These two crashes were tragedies, but our elected representatives did not use their investigative powers to learn, for example:

Why did the ODA NOT explain the MCAS significant changes to the FAA?

Was the ODA-FAA failure to communicate a conscious decision to preserve the Boeing delivery timeline or just internal unconscious failure?

If Congress terminates ODA and the other CAAs, which use this designation, continue, would that hurt US aerospace companies’ international competitiveness?

Based on your extensive, detailed knowledge of the ODA process, what would you recommend should be changed in order to enhance the integrity of the program?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the FAA is required to move the ODA functions back into its organization,

how many engineers would you recommend be hired by the FAA?

what engineering disciplines would you recommend the FAA hire?

These same points could have been made by some thoughtful journalist!!!

Thoughtful debate and questions are intended to improve the FAA’s mandate and authority. A predicate to such an inquiry is good research. The Hill staff personnel are usually quite talented and highly motivated. Journalists are also characterized as smart and driven. Did they all miss this important aspect of Mr. Hamilton’s career or did the absence of any questions signify that the answers might not be as “juicy” as the actual questions asked?

 



 

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