‘This Airplane Is Designed by Clowns’


Grounded 737 Max jets in Victorville, Calif.
Grounded 737 Max jets in Victorville, Calif.Credit...Mario Tama/Getty Images

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The airplane maker released more than 100 pages of internal messages to Congress yesterday, many of which showed employees mocking federal rules and joking about flaws in the 737 Max. It wasn’t pretty.

Some of the messages:

• “Would you put your family on a Max simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn’t,” one employee said to a colleague in an exchange from 2018, before the first of two deadly 737 Max crashes.

• “This airplane is designed by clowns, who are in turn supervised by monkeys,” an employee wrote in an exchange from 2017.

• One employee, upon learning that pilots of an earlier 737 model didn’t need flight simulator training for a 737 Max, wrote, “You can be away from an NG for 30 years and still be able to jump into a MAX? LOVE IT!!”

“We regret the content of these communications,” Boeing said in a statement, adding that it was apologizing “to the F.A.A., Congress, our airline customers and to the flying public for them.”

The revelations aren’t likely to help get the 737 Max flying again anytime soon. Though the Federal Aviation Administration said that the messages didn’t reveal any new safety risks, Boeing will almost certainly face more scrutiny from Congress.

More: American and allied officials now believe the 737-800 plane that crashed in Iran on Wednesday was shot down by Iranian forces, probably in error.

The huge electronics expo in Las Vegas ends today, after hundreds of tech companies and gadget makers unveiled their latest offerings. Many of those will probably flop, but what’s clear is that our lives will become a lot more connected, Brian Chen of the NYT writes.

• “Your next car will probably connect to the internet. So will your TV and doorknobs. One day, you may even adopt a robot companion capable of analyzing its environment and reacting to your actions in real time.”

• Google and Amazon highlighted the huge growth of their virtual personal assistants, with an Amazon executive saying consumers interact with its Alexa service “billions of times a week.”

• Mr. Chen thinks that auto safety technology, like features that monitor drivers’ blind spots, may be the most practical thing to emerge from this year’s expo.

The television industry aired a record number of scripted shows in the U.S. last year, John Koblin of the NYT writes. That’s a lot of programming — and expect that number to keep growing.

Roughly 532 shows were broadcast, according to research from the cable network FX. That’s 52 percent more than in 2013, the year that the first season of “House of Cards” debuted on Netflix. (Include reality shows and daytime programming, and the number swells to more than 1,000.)

It’s all because of the rise of streaming services. Netflix alone spent $15 billion on original programming last year, while offerings from Apple and Disney introduced yet more shows. HBO and NBC will add to the race when they debut their services this year.

Is that a bad thing? John Landgraf, the head of FX (which is owned by Disney), thinks so:

• TV programming will become more expensive. (Disney’s “The Mandalorian” cost about $100 million to make, while Apple reportedly expects to spend $150 million per season on “The Morning Show.”)

• But most programs probably won’t get enough viewers to be considered successful.

“The danger of the internet is that everything becomes junk food,” Mr. Landgraf said.

More: Password sharing cost streaming companies about $9.1 billion last year, according to data from the research firm Parks Associates.

The S&P 500 hit a record yesterday. Market conditions look great. But there could be reason to worry, James Mackintosh of the WSJ notes: There’s a lot of red ink on company balance sheets.

The S&P closed at 3,274.7, extending the nearly 30 percent rally that it posted last year. Matt Phillips of the NYT credits that winning streak to continuing low interest rates and high consumer confidence.

Not even economic concerns like the trade war are frightening investors. “There’s nothing that tells me that we’re at a peak and the market can’t go higher,” Bruce Bittles, the chief investment strategist at Baird, told the NYT.

But a lot of companies are running at a loss. Nearly 40 percent of publicly traded American businesses have lost money over the last 12 months, including Tesla and G.E., Mr. Mackintosh of the WSJ writes. That is the highest level since the late 1990s, excluding recessions.

Investors should be worried that “their willingness to tolerate losses at companies promising growth has allowed many new businesses to finance losses well beyond what’s justified,” he adds.

The announcement by Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, that they plan to step back as senior members of Britain’s royal family has generated tons of headlines. But Jason Karaian of Quartz has fun imagining what the move might have looked like if it were a corporate deal.

• “The directors of House of Windsor P.L.C. (formerly House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha A.G.) note recent speculation in the media about a spinoff of its Sussex-based operations. Discussions are at an early stage about the future of the division, which was officially formed in 2018.”

• “Traditions are important to the firm but in this fast-changing global economy we acknowledge the need to be nimble. This includes altering our corporate governance when necessary.”

• “Greater independence for the group’s Sussex-based operations is in keeping with the approach of other world-leading companies consolidating younger, more speculative units into dedicated divisions.”

• “There will be no Q. and A. It has not been a great quarter.”

More: How could Harry and Meghan achieve “financial independence?

Willie Walsh will step down as the C.E.O. of International Airlines Group, the parent of British Airways, in March. He’ll be replaced by Luis Gallego, the C.E.O. of the Spanish airline Iberia.

The Managed Funds Association, the big hedge fund trade group, hired Bryan Corbett from the Carlyle Group as its new chief.

Citigroup named David Chubak as the head of its U.S. retail banking unit.

Deals

• Grubhub denied news reports that it was in the process of selling itself or had plans to do so. (Bloomberg)

• The retirement services company Voya Financial had reportedly considered selling itself. (FT)

• Occidental Petroleum plans to “significantly” cut jobs after completing its $38 billion takeover of Anadarko. (CNBC)

• Rushing to take advantage of low borrowing costs, American investment-grade companies have sold more than $61 billion of bonds so far this year, double what they did during the same time last year. (Bloomberg)

Politics and policy

• The White House yesterday moved to allow major energy and infrastructure projects to proceed without detailed environmental reviews. (NYT)

• California may seek to reach agreements with pharmaceutical companies to introduce its own prescription drugs for the state’s 40 million residents. (WSJ)

• The Chamber of Commerce appears to be embracing more policy proposals favored by Democratic lawmakers. (Axios)

Tech

• Hackers forced the currency exchange company Travelex offline and have threatened to sell sensitive consumer data unless they are paid $6 million. (NYT)

• The electric scooter company Lime plans to leave over a dozen markets and lay off 14 percent of its employees. (WSJ)

• Waste from electronic devices is rapidly becoming a huge problem. (FT)

• Mark Zuckerberg has stopped his annual tradition of setting personal challenges for himself. They included wearing a tie every day and learning to hunt and cook. (Facebook)

Best of the rest

• The Lebanese authorities have ordered Carlos Ghosn not to leave the country. (NYT)

• WeWork has drastically slowed its expansion in New York City and London. (Bloomberg)

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