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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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 5 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 4 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.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Rennie

    So, does anyone out there still believe in Friedman anymore? I mean, really, truly, in their heart, believe? I've encountered so many MBA graduates who believe that culture means nothing, that what you make means nothing, and that cost cutting, outsourcing, and a zero sum approach to relationships, employees, and suppliers is the path to success. And yet there's so much evidence that this just doesn't work in the long term. It's killed GE. It killed McDonnell Douglas, and it might have killed Bo So, does anyone out there still believe in Friedman anymore? I mean, really, truly, in their heart, believe? I've encountered so many MBA graduates who believe that culture means nothing, that what you make means nothing, and that cost cutting, outsourcing, and a zero sum approach to relationships, employees, and suppliers is the path to success. And yet there's so much evidence that this just doesn't work in the long term. It's killed GE. It killed McDonnell Douglas, and it might have killed Boeing. The cream of American industrial accomplishment, brought down by greed and ideas that, on their face, should be dismissed as foolish and dangerous. Seriously, I want to know: who believes this stuff anymore? What's truly dismaying about books like this are the numbers of people who are obviously smart, and who obviously have to deliberately decide to NOT do the right thing. It's sad.

  9. 4 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.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Riccardo Lo Monaco

    Wow. Way more going on here than I ever imagined. This is the content I’m here for. Can’t believe this company is still alive.

  11. 4 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?

  12. 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.

  13. 4 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

  14. 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.

  15. 4 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.

  16. 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!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    Absolutely frightening how much control Boeing hasw of the approval process and will do anything to boost the company share price.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This book was painful to read because it brought some memories of my own experiences at Boeing. It's pretty accurate as far as my knowledge of the environment goes. I highly recommend it to get a good idea of how Boeing's culture changed after the "merger" with McDonnell Douglas. This book was painful to read because it brought some memories of my own experiences at Boeing. It's pretty accurate as far as my knowledge of the environment goes. I highly recommend it to get a good idea of how Boeing's culture changed after the "merger" with McDonnell Douglas.

  19. 5 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.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Robert K

    Boeing blew this big time!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amyiw

    Well that’s makes me even madder at our politicians, both democrat and republican. This is written in a liberal POV as he takes more digs at republicans that did nothing but the whole of the congress and government institutions, which I think we’ve learned, is bought and pretty much controlled by big business over the last years and the pandemic. Didn’t matter which party was in charge, they gave the authority to businesses to police, monitor, and test safety of consumer products that should be Well that’s makes me even madder at our politicians, both democrat and republican. This is written in a liberal POV as he takes more digs at republicans that did nothing but the whole of the congress and government institutions, which I think we’ve learned, is bought and pretty much controlled by big business over the last years and the pandemic. Didn’t matter which party was in charge, they gave the authority to businesses to police, monitor, and test safety of consumer products that should be watch over by government. It isn’t just the FAA, which I didn’t know how bad it was until this book. Still you can see it in the Pharm and food industries, which affect us even more, as it is daily and everyone eats. Outsourcing and maximizing profits for the stock holders and executive board members is the game for big business, not making the best quality and safest and keeping cost low for consumers. We’ve given the this power to the big businesses to the detriment of our country’s ability to one, provide for our people, and two, confidence in our system and institutions. Boeing is the last of American big plane manufacturers and used to have the best plane with competition from MacDonald Douglass another American manufacturer. MacDonald is gone but Boeing was around, now competing with Airbus. In the years since the end of MD, Boeing has made record hand over fist profits for both their executives and stock holders. Rather than truly improve the airplane they kept up this model and sacrificed excellence to mediocracy and in the plane business that means a lack of safety and eventual downfall. Only now with the pandemic and realizing that we need this business here in the States, there is the push to save Boeing. Did the people that perpetrated this gutting of company? No just like the banking crisis, only the small fish paid any price, the rich keep their money or ger richer. Very frequently it is with sacrificing safety. We can hope that isn’t the Pharma and Food industry but we have already seen plenty of the same happening there at the same time as they test their drugs and write the safety data. And this comes with the sacrifice of the trust of the people these very institutions are supposed to serve. Also the sacrifice of global respect for basing our decisions on sound science, not what is put forth by Boeing in its reports. It is scary and I’m not sure if America can get back its trust or respect in the world’s eye with fundamental change to protect its people no matter what their beliefs and start being a government of the people rather than special interests. I am a pilot so this hits close to home as I know how specific many of the rules are for small aircraft, the replacement parts, even though sometime the same as on any car, need to be certified for the aircraft and then end up 3x or more expensive. Each plane has a complete overhaul every 100 hours or year and to replace any piece of equipment with something different has a whole slew of regulations to overcome along with redundancies. That Boeing was allowed to police themselves with all the regulations and safety factors just maddens me.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Grant

    This is a familiar story. You've probably read a book like this. A once-great American company slowly hollows itself out and sells its soul under successive leadership teams obsessed with juicing the stock price at all costs, all in the name of 'creating shareholder value' that they ultimately completely obliterate. And, of course, the executives escape largely unscathed while everyone else is left suffering the consequences. While the beats of the story are in some ways familiar, I thought Robis This is a familiar story. You've probably read a book like this. A once-great American company slowly hollows itself out and sells its soul under successive leadership teams obsessed with juicing the stock price at all costs, all in the name of 'creating shareholder value' that they ultimately completely obliterate. And, of course, the executives escape largely unscathed while everyone else is left suffering the consequences. While the beats of the story are in some ways familiar, I thought Robison did a wonderful job balancing the book between the storylines and the technical details. The book explains the faults with MCAS clearly without feeling like a technical manual or overly dry. The infamous 737 Max doesn't really appear as a character until you're something like a third of the way through the book. Instead, Robison shows that the Max crashes don't happen without the decades of disastrous rot that led up to it. He tells a loose history of Boeing, from its early days through the utterly poisonous merger with McDonnell Douglas to the successive sociopathic Jack Welch disciples that take charge of the C-suite. While Robison holds up some products and aspects of the old Boeing's engineering culture in a favourable light, I don't think he's overly hagiographic, especially since the philandering of the older executives tends to paint them in a less favourable light. The book had me gritting my teeth a number of times. Even before the Max crashes happen, you have so many of the 'greatest hits' of everything that's wrong with modern business, from dumping all the company's resources into stock buybacks that are almost entirely contrary to its self-interests (all the while slashing employee benefits, of course), to abandoning its hometown multiple times, to chasing tax incentives from non-union states and vigorously union busting, to a bible-thumping CEO who doesn't seem to see any incongruity between the good book and merciless layoffs and profiteering, to a terrifying level of regulatory capture. He then neatly pulls together the threads of the 737 Max affair itself, shading in some details that I didn't recall or read during contemporary reporting, such as how primitive and unhelpful the cockpit instrumentation was compared to almost any other contemporary airliner, and just how lazy/obsessive the company was at carrying over elements from the existing model to avoid new pilot training at all costs. Audiobook performance: As usual, Feodor Chin is a capable and confident narrator.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mike Henry

    As a close follower of business news not to mention a frequent flyer on Southwest Airlines, which is to say 737s, Peter Robison's "Flying Blind" piqued my interest as soon as I saw it. Even casual followers of the 737 Max tragedy and preceding problems such as the battery fires on the Dreamliner, are aware of how the once mighty Boeing started to lose it's way with the C-Suite and bean counters wresting control from the engineers and changing the company's culture. Robison though does a great jo As a close follower of business news not to mention a frequent flyer on Southwest Airlines, which is to say 737s, Peter Robison's "Flying Blind" piqued my interest as soon as I saw it. Even casual followers of the 737 Max tragedy and preceding problems such as the battery fires on the Dreamliner, are aware of how the once mighty Boeing started to lose it's way with the C-Suite and bean counters wresting control from the engineers and changing the company's culture. Robison though does a great job of exposing the sheer scope and scale of Boeing's transformation from a proud and storied American manufacturer to a corporation almost manically focused on profits. I'm a devout capitalist but it seems that all too often things have to be taken to the extreme with bad (and in this case deadly) outcomes before a corporation and its shareholders realize they've lost their way. Robison traces this path to disaster expertly. Among other things Robison details how Boeings acquisition of McDonnel Douglass resulted in the fairly rare case of the acquiree essentially forcing their culture on the acquirer, in this case a brash management style hellbent on cost cutting. I remember when Boeing moved its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago and at the time thinking "that seems odd but, Ok". Robison ties this together with many other shifts in philosophy to explain the mindset of senior management and their disregard for those most responsible and closest to the business of building the complex machines and systems that are modern aircraft. Every now and then there's just a touch of partisan or ideological snark that I don't even necessarily disagree with. I just prefer the author to report the story, make an observation and let the reader draw certain conclusions. This is a minor point though. It's an excellent book and it puts down a marker against which to judge the future and how Boeing recovers and if it can regains its vaunted image and dare I say it corporate soul.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mark Moran

    I really interested in companies going through periods of great change, and try to read books about that whenever they come out. As with this one, many of them are negative change. The book was well-written and moved quickly. It did a really good job summarizing the broader history of Boeing and the industry required to tell the story of the 737 MAX (and the associated failures of the FAA along the way). As an engineer, this was a tough book to read. Boeing has been one of the great engineering c I really interested in companies going through periods of great change, and try to read books about that whenever they come out. As with this one, many of them are negative change. The book was well-written and moved quickly. It did a really good job summarizing the broader history of Boeing and the industry required to tell the story of the 737 MAX (and the associated failures of the FAA along the way). As an engineer, this was a tough book to read. Boeing has been one of the great engineering cultures, and has done some truly amazing things that represent the best of who we are (the 747, the Saturn V). Like GE, and IBM, and so many others, it's tough to see a once-great company get taken over by people that want to value shareholders over all other stakeholder groups. In this case, that singular focus cost hundreds of people their lives. The book also does a very good job telling the story of the gradual decline of the FAA over the last 40 years, and how it has been systematically stripped of power to stop problems like this. While the story was tough to read because of the cost of the failures, it was written with the crisp tempo of a journalist and the context that I think only someone who knows Seattle could provide. Definitely one of the best business books I have read in the last few years. If you are interested in aviation, industry, or enterprise transformation, I strongly recommend this book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Malu

    Scary nonfiction about Boeing and the 737 Max crashes. The author argues that over the past couple of decades Boeing's culture changed from focusing on good engineering to focusing almost completely on profits, culminating in two avoidable crashes of 737 Max planes in 2018 and 2019 that resulted in hundreds of deaths. The scary part is that, as the author puts it, "Boeing got away with murder" and many of the managers / leadership involved are still working on planes there and faced little to no Scary nonfiction about Boeing and the 737 Max crashes. The author argues that over the past couple of decades Boeing's culture changed from focusing on good engineering to focusing almost completely on profits, culminating in two avoidable crashes of 737 Max planes in 2018 and 2019 that resulted in hundreds of deaths. The scary part is that, as the author puts it, "Boeing got away with murder" and many of the managers / leadership involved are still working on planes there and faced little to no consequences. Additionally, the FAA made no major changes in oversight after the incidents. Even worse, the 737 Max's are becoming more widely used and have a couple of issues that could cause crashes in the future. I thought the author laid out his arguments and narrative about what happened at Boeing quite clearly and this book definitely made me a bit more nervous about flying on one of their planes.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Anirudh Narla

    Robison's Flying Blind is a damning indictment of how cultural shifts at Boeing ultimately resulted in the flawed 737 MAX 8 and the two tragic crashes. Through the accounts and stories of the people who worked there over the years, the book details how Boeing changed from a company that once focused on engineering and safety to one focused solely on the bottom line. It provides especially illuminating, and infuriating, insight about the many executives at the company, their approach to running t Robison's Flying Blind is a damning indictment of how cultural shifts at Boeing ultimately resulted in the flawed 737 MAX 8 and the two tragic crashes. Through the accounts and stories of the people who worked there over the years, the book details how Boeing changed from a company that once focused on engineering and safety to one focused solely on the bottom line. It provides especially illuminating, and infuriating, insight about the many executives at the company, their approach to running the company, and the direct impact that their decisions had on the tragedy. This is a compelling read, though at times I found it a bit meandering especially when describing some people. Even familiar with the issues of the 737 MAX 8, I still found some of the details in this book shocking. Ultimately it left me questioning not just Boeing, but also modern corporate culture (especially the Welchian), and government oversight.

  27. 4 out of 5

    André

    Robison does an outstanding job at making corporate culture itself as well as changes to corporate culture - how they start, how they manifest themselves - palpable. In that sense it is not just a superb book on how Boeing turned from the admired beacon of American ingenuity to a shareholder-value-driven mess that stumbled from 787 crisis to a 737 MAX with fatal design flaws (to the next 787 crisis, although that latest development is not touched upon in this book - it does so fit the pattern, th Robison does an outstanding job at making corporate culture itself as well as changes to corporate culture - how they start, how they manifest themselves - palpable. In that sense it is not just a superb book on how Boeing turned from the admired beacon of American ingenuity to a shareholder-value-driven mess that stumbled from 787 crisis to a 737 MAX with fatal design flaws (to the next 787 crisis, although that latest development is not touched upon in this book - it does so fit the pattern, though). As such, it's definitely not just recommended for aviation buffs, but pretty much for anybody with an interest in corporate culture, management styles and the ramifications of balancing cost, budget, and quality (including safety).

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    A terrifying if unsurprising read for those following Boeing's recent history, most of the material is covered fairly well in a Fresh Air episode with the author (https://www.npr.org/2021/11/29/105978...). While I appreciated Robison's research, I felt there were several areas where I wanted more exposition -- how has Airbus's interaction with the FAA evolved over the same period? Did the DC-9/MD-80, with a similar history of constant minor updates and modifications, teach any lessons about modi A terrifying if unsurprising read for those following Boeing's recent history, most of the material is covered fairly well in a Fresh Air episode with the author (https://www.npr.org/2021/11/29/105978...). While I appreciated Robison's research, I felt there were several areas where I wanted more exposition -- how has Airbus's interaction with the FAA evolved over the same period? Did the DC-9/MD-80, with a similar history of constant minor updates and modifications, teach any lessons about modifying a mid-century design fifty years later? How has victim compensation been resolved (or has it?)? But overall, a story that needs to be told and that Robison tells quite well.

  29. 5 out of 5

    yusuf habib Dibs wazit

    Fascinating insight and infuriating read. I’ve read many books on psychology and have watched countless hours of YouTube. When reading this book, all I could see were traits of Psychopathic people in charge at the head of Boeing. From fake apologies to lies and coverups. They literally only cared about money. Boeing went from a mighty Engineering company that prides it’s self on excellence to a company that was infected with psychopaths who lined the company’s management to cater well to their p Fascinating insight and infuriating read. I’ve read many books on psychology and have watched countless hours of YouTube. When reading this book, all I could see were traits of Psychopathic people in charge at the head of Boeing. From fake apologies to lies and coverups. They literally only cared about money. Boeing went from a mighty Engineering company that prides it’s self on excellence to a company that was infected with psychopaths who lined the company’s management to cater well to their pockets. And this in turn has lead to 346 people dead due to corruption. What is more infuriating, is that these top executives got to walk away with blood money! 🩸

  30. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    Two days before hopping on a plane might have been a slightly ill-advised time to pick this up... though on the upside, a) neither of my flights of the past week ended up crashing and b) neither of them involved a Boeing 737 MAX (factors which may or may not be related). A gripping eye-opener tracing the development of Boeing from its early days through its decades as an immensely prestigious company with a reputation for excellence to the corporate dysfunction of cutting corners, prioritizing p Two days before hopping on a plane might have been a slightly ill-advised time to pick this up... though on the upside, a) neither of my flights of the past week ended up crashing and b) neither of them involved a Boeing 737 MAX (factors which may or may not be related). A gripping eye-opener tracing the development of Boeing from its early days through its decades as an immensely prestigious company with a reputation for excellence to the corporate dysfunction of cutting corners, prioritizing profit over anything else and general mismanagement that led up to the shocking 737 MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019.

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