Boeing Removes Head of Its 737 Max Program After January’s ‘Door Bolts’ Incident

On Wednesday Boeing “removed executive Ed Clark, the head of its 737 Max passenger jet program,” reports CNN, “after a dramatic — and terrifying — midair blowout in January underscored ongoing problems with the jet.”

A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board found that the four bolts that should have held the door plug in place were missing when the plane left Boeing’s factory. The NTSB report did not assess blame for the missing bolts and the accident but in a statement to investors before the findings were released, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun assumed responsibility for the incident. “We caused the problem, and we understand that,” he told investors during a call after reporting the latest quarterly loss at the company. “Whatever conclusions are reached, Boeing is accountable for what happened.”

Clark, who had been at Boeing for 18 years, had only been in charge of the Max program since March of 2021, assuming that title after the jets had been returned to service following the crashes. But he had previously held roles related to the 737 Max, including as chief engineer and chief 737 mechanic.

With the news of Clark’s departure, Boeing also announced a shuffling of a number of executives in its Boeing Commercial Airplanes unit. It created a new executive position, Senior Vice President for BCA Quality, and named Elizabeth Lund to that position.

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San Francisco Mob Lights Driverless Waymo Car on Fire

Last night in San Francisco’s Chinatown, “A person jumped on the hood of a Waymo driverless taxi and smashed its windshield…” reports the Verge, “generating applause before a crowd formed around the car and covered it in spray paint, breaking its windows, and ultimately set it on fire.”

The fire department arrived minutes later, according to a report in The Autopian, but by then flames had already fully engulfed the car…. Waymo representative Sandy Karp told The Verge via email that the fully autonomous car “was not transporting any riders” when it was attacked and fireworks were tossed inside the car, sparking the flames…

The fire takes place against the backdrop of simmering tension between San Francisco residents and automated vehicle operators… Just last week, a Waymo car struck a cyclist who had reportedly been following behind a truck turning across its path.

The “burnt-out husk of the electric Waymo Jaguar” appears in a video posted on YouTube, according to the article. “Another set of videos posted by software developer Michael Vendi gives a view into the scene as it played out and the fire grew.”

San Francisco’s 49ers play in the Super Bowl this afteroon, so last night’s celebrations for Chinese New Year could be followed by additional celebrations tonight. Police Chief Bill Scott is already urging residents to behave responsibly. “Please don’t light anything on fire.”

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NYC Wants To Create a First-of-Its Kind Department To Regulate App Based Delivery

With the increasing adoption of e-bikes and drones for efficient, eco-friendly delivery services, New York is proposing the Department of Sustainable Delivery to regulate these services, focusing on safety, data sharing, and operational permits to ease congested lanes. Fast Company reports: The first step of the new department will be a task force made up of tech, transportation, labor, and government representatives. There are currently some city regulations around delivery operations, but they’re fragmented; the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, for example, has addressed delivery worker rights (and recently announced a new minimum pay rate for app-based food delivery workers), while the Department of Transportation focuses on commercial delivery, and has taken steps to address delivery cargo bikes. “We don’t have a place where every company that wants to dispatch in volume and move freight [and goods] around in the city on a micro level comes through and has to show that they’re going to meet certain requirements,” [New York City Deputy Mayor of Operations Meera Joshi] says.

Managers of truck delivery fleets often track their driver’s performance and behavior with tools like GPS; through the new department, micromobility app companies may be required to share their GPS delivery data with the city. That data might reveal more about how long delivery riders are working, or how heavy cargo bikes’ loads are, which could lead to new regulations. Joshi also points to e-bike fires and rising e-bike rider deaths as red flags that signal the need for more oversight and legislation, which could prevent future tragedies. More information about where and when these deliveries are happening could also help the city adapt its infrastructure to this growing market. “As more and more of the city is feeling the effects of the commercialization of bike lanes, we certainly do have to rethink how wide our bike lanes are, what they are there to accommodate, does there need to be some separation between motorized and nonmotorized [bikes]?” Joshi says. “But these things need to be informed.” The city is already making some such updates. Last summer, it upgraded a stretch of 10th Avenue to include a 10-foot-wide bike lane, to better allow regular cyclists and delivery e-bikes to coexist

Tech advancements often move faster than the government, resulting in a game of legislative catch up for cities. Joshi says New York City is thinking about micromobility in this way because “we’ve seen this movie before,” referring to tech disruption, “and we’d like a different ending.” While Joshi knows that companies may bristle at the increased oversight, she says being proactive about these issues and taking steps to address them will likely help the firms and their public perception long-term. And not addressing micromobility challenges now could also impede larger climate progress. “If we are not able to show that we have a comprehensive framework, show that we’re able to manage what we have today and prepare for the unknown, we could have people, saying ‘it was better when [delivery] was in trucks,'” Joshi says, “and that would actually be probably the worst thing for the environment.”

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Cruise Says Hostility Toward Regulators Led To Grounding of Its Autonomous Cars

Cruise, the driverless car subsidiary of General Motors, said in a report on Thursday that an adversarial approach taken (non-paywalled link) by its top executives toward regulators had led to a cascade of events that ended with a nationwide suspension of Cruise’s fleet. From a report: The roughly 100-page report was compiled by a law firm that Cruise hired to investigate whether its executives had misled California regulators about an October crash in San Francisco in which a Cruise vehicle dragged a woman 20 feet. The investigation found that while the executives had not intentionally misled state officials, they had failed to explain key details about the incident. In meetings with regulators, the executives let a video of the crash “speak for itself” rather than fully explain how one of its vehicles severely injured the pedestrian. The executives later fixated on protecting Cruise’s reputation rather than giving a full account of the accident to the public and media, according to the report, which was written by the Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan law firm.

The company said that the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission were investigating the incident, as well as state agencies and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The report is central to Cruise’s efforts to regain the public’s trust and eventually restart its business. Cruise has been largely shut down since October, when the California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended its license to operate because its vehicles were unsafe. It responded by pulling its driverless cars off the road across the country, laying off a quarter of its staff and replacing Kyle Vogt, its co-founder and chief executive, who resigned in November, with new leaders.

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US Regulator Considers Stripping Boeing’s Right To Self-Inspect Planes

After a 737 Max door panel blew out over Portland, Oregon, last week, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered the temporary grounding of Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft until emergency inspections were performed. “Alaska and United Airlines, which operate most of the Max 9s in use in the United States, said on Monday that they discovered loose hardware on the panel when conducting preliminary inspections on their planes,” reported the New York Times. Now, U.S. aviation regulators say they may strip Boeing of its right to conduct some of its aircraft inspections. The Financial Times reports: Mike Whitaker, FAA administrator, said the agency was “exploring” its options for using an independent third-party to oversee inspections of Boeing’s aircraft and its quality controls. “It is time to re-examine the delegation of authority and assess any associated safety risks,” he said. “The grounding of the 737-9 and the multiple production-related issues identifiedÂin recent years [at Boeing] require us to look at every option to reduce risk.”

The regulator also said it plans to immediately increase its oversight of Boeing’s production. The FAA opened an investigation on Thursday into whether the planes Boeing builds match the specifications it has laid out. The FAA said it will audit the 737 Max 9 production line and its suppliers “to evaluate Boeing’s compliance with its approved quality procedures,” with further audits conducted as necessary.

Washington Senator Maria Cantwell sent a letter (PDF) yesterday to the FAA questioning the agency’s role in inspecting aircraft manufactured by Boeing. Cantwell said she asked a year ago for an audit of certain areas related to Boeing’s production, and the regulator told her it was unnecessary. “Recent accidents and incidents — including the expelled door plug on Alaska Airlines flight 1282 — call into question Boeing’s quality control,” she said. “In short, it appears that FAA’s oversight processes have not been effective in ensuring that Boeing produces aeroplanes that are in condition for safe operation.”

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Lithium-Ion Battery Fires on Aircraft are Happening ‘Much More Frequently’

As smoke began filling the cabin, an airplane passenger saw sparks and fire bursting from a bag in the seat directly behind her — which turned out to be a “smoky flashing lithium battery, which had begun smoldering in a carry-on bag,” according to CBS News.

The flight crew contained the situation, and “Airport fire trucks met the plane on the runway and everyone evacuated safely.” But a CBS News Investigation “has discovered similar incidents have been happening much more frequently in the skies over the United States.”

The FAA verifies the number of lithium-Ion battery fires jumped more 42% in the last five years. A CBS News analysis of the FAA’s data found that since 2021 there’s been at least one lithium battery incident on a passenger plane somewhere in the U.S., on average, once every week…

Some airlines are taking action to control the growing number of fires. They are using specialized “thermal containment” bags designed for flight crews to use if a lithium battery starts heating up to the point where it’s smoking or burning. Mechanical engineers at the University of Texas at Austin say the bags can effectively contain fire and keep it from spreading, but don’t extinguish it.
In a video accompanying the article, an engineering professor at the university’s Fire Research Group even showed a lithium-ion battery fire that continued burning undewater. “You can’t put it out. It’s a fire within the cell. So, you’ve got fuel, oxygen, heat in the cell, all.” (The article also notes a startup called Pure Lithium is working on a new kind of non-flammable battery using lithium metal cells instead of lithium ion).

Guidelines from America’s Federal Aviation Administration require spare lithium-ion batteries be kept with passengers (and not checked) — and prohibits passengers from bringing onboard damaged or recalled batteries and battery-powered devices.
Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader khb for sharing the article.

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