Another one of Boeing’s state of the art craft shit the bed, fell out of the sky, and failed.

Starliner faced “catastrophic” failure before software bug found

Starliner’s December test flight had to be cut short due to a well-publicized timing error that delayed the spacecraft’s service module from performing an orbital insertion burn. This caused the thrusters on board the service module, which provides power to Starliner during most of its mission, to fire longer than expected. As a result, the spacecraft did not have enough fuel to complete a rendezvous with the International Space Station, a key component of the test flight in advance of crewed missions.

This is a major fuck up for Boeing.

To make it worse, Boeing’s Starliner costs 60% more than its SpaceX competitor.  More expensive and worse performance is not a good metric.

Why did this happen?

Boeing didn’t conduct end-to-end tests on Starliner before its failed flight
The company divided testing into small chunks and failed to spot issues that led to the flight’s failure.

Boeing Starliner’s first unmanned flight failed in December, because the aerospace giant divided its tests in small chunks instead of conducting longer tests that simulate the whole process from launch to docking. Starliner program manager John Mulholland has revealed at a teleconference that the company thought it would be “more logical to break the mission phases into chunks and do a lot of testing in those smaller chunks.” Doing a single test run from launch to docking takes over 25 hours, after all.


I have spent eight years as a test engineer and failure analyst.  Testing individual components is an important step in the testing process.  But after you get all those parts approved, you have to test the whole assembly.

Sometimes, things just don’t fit together and interact the way you expect them to and it’s not until you test the assembly that you figure that out.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve experienced that.

They skipped 25 hours of testing on a $4.3 billion project.  An error that is going to cost them $410 million.

NASA and Boeing formed a team to investigate what happened, and a report recently published by Orlando Sentinel said that the fact that the company didn’t do an end-to-end test took NASA by surprise. [program manager John Mulholland] defended Boeing at the conference, telling reporters:

“…I really don’t want anyone to have the impression that this team tried to take shortcuts. They didn’t. They did an abundance of testing. And in certain areas obviously we have some gaps to fill.”

That’s a big fucking gap to fill.

Mulholland said that going forward, Boeing will continue doing tests in smaller chunks, but it will also conduct longer end-to-end testing. According to The Washington Post, NASA is still thinking whether to allow Boeing to proceed with its first manned flight to prevent delays or to require the company to successfully complete an unmanned flight first.

If I were NASA, I wouldn’t want to stick astronauts into a fucking rocket that HADN’T BEEN ADEQUATELY TESTED FIRST.

You do not skip out on testing like this.  It’s like Ford putting cars into production without a prototype ever being driven around a test track and saying “we tested all the parts independently and they passed, so why bother testing the whole car?”  What sort of person would go to a dealer and buy one?  Nobody, that’s who.

You would think a company like Boeing, a 103-year-old aviation company that was once the best aircraft manufacturer in the world would know that.

But they forgot.

Somewhere along the line, Boeing management forgot that they are in the business of making aircraft.  They think of themselves as BA (NYSE).

When you are an aerospace company, you approach things from an engineering perspective.  Your goal is to make the best aircraft you can.  You worry about tests and performance.

When you are a stock value, you worry about your shareholders getting pissed at you.  You cut corners to save money on testing and then your fucking plane falls out of the sky and your spaceship fails to enter orbit.

The passengers may fall screaming to earth to die in a fiery crash, but management survives with their golden parachutes.

This is how you fuck up what was once a respected aerospace company, by forgetting that it’s an aerospace company.

Right now, I want to apply to Boeing to be both a test engineer and CEO.

Yeah, I know I’ve never managed a company with $180 billion, so there will be a bit of a learning curve.  But I can say with absolute certainty that as a licensed professional engineer, I’m not going to launch a single platform before it has been proven to me to be sufficiently tested.

I won’t even require the $23.4 million salary of the current CEO.  I’m willing to take the job at one-tenth that if I can work out of the Huntsville office complex.

I think this is a very generous offer and Boeing should take me up on it now.

They are soon to be launching their future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) helicopter for the US Army, and if recent Boeing history is any indication, they won’t have suitably tested that platform and on it’s first Army trial, the autopilot will flip the helicopter upside-down and dump the aircrew into the rotors to be sprayed all over the battlefield like chum.

I’ll make sure that doesn’t fucking happen before it costs Boeing another half-a-billion dollars.

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By J. Kb

6 thoughts on “WTF Boeing? This is what happens when you think of yourself a stock value and not a technology company”
  1. “According to The Washington Post, NASA is still thinking whether to allow Boeing to proceed with its first manned flight to prevent delays…”
    I wonder if that is true. If yes, the people in NASA who support, or would even consider, that option need to be summarily fired and never allowed to work in any aerospace position in the future.
    As for Boeing, every time I see another “bad news of the week” article in the paper, I keep thinking that they will probably go out of business. After reading what you just wrote, I’m inclined to amend that to say that they should go out of business.

    1. “According to The Washington Post, NASA is still thinking whether to allow Boeing to proceed with its first manned flight to prevent delays…”

      You would think that after the “Challenger” and “Columbia” disasters, where “Go Fever” was a contributing cause, NASA would have learned their lesson. Apparently meeting the schedule is more important than lives.

  2. Testing takes time, and management HATES spending time almost as much as they hate spending money.

    And testing can expose problems that take more time to fix, so it’s risky when you’ve promised upper management delivery on a specific date.

    1. Yes, those are the considerations from incompetent moron managers.
      Competent managers, however, know that it is FAR cheaper to find a problem before the product leaves the factory, and that money spent testing is one of the best investments you can possibly make.
      I co-founded a company that acted that way. When we shipped the V1.0 beta product, one comment we got back was “your beta is more solid than most companies’ production release”. It’s hard to imagine a better compliment or a better way to start off a successful product line.

    2. “And testing can expose problems that take more time to fix…”

      Worse yet for a bureaucrat, testing often exposes design issues that makes the design organization look bad. In a former life, I was responsible for approving both the the procedures and the test results for the startup of a new nuclear facility. When the testing program uncovered design deficiencies management tried to blame the test program as “too thorough.” The regulators had something to say about that.

  3. I have created a NEW rifle round for the .308 Win. I tested the 460 grain bullet and it is perfectly formed for primo aerodynamic stability! I also improved the case using aluminum instead of brass, to reduce weight for a soldier to carry in the field. The black powder I loaded it with has been time proven! The primer I chose is the same one used for years in the finest 12 gauge shotguns all over the world. Every component is perfect, so I don’t plan to test it before marketing!! Who wants to invest in my company?

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