• Flying Blind

  • The 737 MAX Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing
  • By: Peter Robison
  • Narrated by: Feodor Chin
  • Length: 10 hrs and 45 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (386 ratings)

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Flying Blind  By  cover art

Flying Blind

By: Peter Robison
Narrated by: Feodor Chin
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Publisher's Summary

New York Times Business Best Seller • A suspenseful behind-the-scenes look at the dysfunction that contributed to one of the worst tragedies in modern aviation: the 2018 and 2019 crashes of the Boeing 737 MAX. An "authoritative, gripping and finely detailed narrative that charts the decline of one of the great American companies" (New York Times Book Review), from the award-winning reporter for Bloomberg.

Boeing is a century-old titan of industry. It played a major role in the early days of commercial flight, World War II bombing missions, and moon landings. The plane maker remains a cornerstone of the U.S. economy, as well as a linchpin in the awesome routine of modern air travel. But in 2018 and 2019, two crashes of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 killed 346 people. The crashes exposed a shocking pattern of malfeasance, leading to the biggest crisis in the company’s history - and one of the costliest corporate scandals ever. 

How did things go so horribly wrong at Boeing?

Flying Blind is the definitive exposé of the disasters that transfixed the world. Drawing from exclusive interviews with current and former employees of Boeing and the FAA; industry executives and analysts; and family members of the victims, it reveals how a broken corporate culture paved the way for catastrophe. It shows how in the race to beat the competition and reward top executives, Boeing skimped on testing, pressured employees to meet unrealistic deadlines, and convinced regulators to put planes into service without properly equipping them or their pilots for flight. It examines how the company, once a treasured American innovator, became obsessed with the bottom line, putting shareholders over customers, employees, and communities.

By Bloomberg investigative journalist Peter Robison, who covered Boeing as a beat reporter during the company’s fateful merger with McDonnell Douglas in the late ‘90s, this is the story of a business gone wildly off course. At once riveting and disturbing, it shows how an iconic company fell prey to a win-at-all-costs mentality, threatening an industry and endangering countless lives.

©2021 Peter Robison (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

A Wall Street Journal Business Best Seller

Named a Best Book of 2021 by NPR, Newsweek, and The New York Post

A Wall Street Journal Best Business Book of 2021

A New York Times Editors' Choice

"A compelling, deeply reported account, written in crisp, controlled anger. It is an indictment not just of one of America’s most celebrated companies, but of an entire era: of politicians believing business knew best, of regulators bending to their will, and of shareholder returns elevated above any consideration for the rest of society, including consumers’ safety - and lives." (Financial Times)

"Powerful and unsettling... A page-turner...One can only hope that the next generation of corporate executives will read Robison’s book." (Washington Post) 

"A disturbing account that will return much-deserved scrutiny both to Boeing and to its regulator." (Wall Street Journal)  

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

(Revised). Missing some, but informative.

(As my original review makes clear, I was disappointed after finishing this book. However, I come to realize this is a book 99 percent about business. My expectation to learn the details of what lead to MCAS, and how it failed, was unfounded. Sure, the misstatements concerning aeronautical terms are annoying, but this book does a great job of chronicling the decline of what was once the US's greatest corporation. Apologies to Mr Robison).

I have been a pilot for 50 years, an airline pilot for 44 years, a Boeing pilot for 40 years, and a retired pilot for a few years.

I jumped on buying this book because I wanted a very detailed explanation of how MCAS was supposed to work, and how it ended up killing so many innocents.

I guess, in a way, I did learn the fundamental reason (which I already knew); toxic capitalism. Managers who ruin companies, are uncaring about the safety implications of their decisions, and are disrespectful of the skills and abilities of employees doing critical work. Because they can leave with hundreds of millions in compensation before the effects of their decisions become clear, they think they are "successful", "moral" people. Their hands are covered with blood. It seems only psychopaths can ascend to the top of the corporate ladder. Arrogance, hubris, cruelty.

As far as the poor management that led to the Max and MCAS being mis-designed, and allowed to go into service, this book covers it well.

But, for anyone trying to understand the mechanics and aerodynamics of how things went wrong onboard the aircraft, this book is worse than no help. Rivets are not "torqued", the tail does not have a "small wing", air moving over a wing is not "wind". Not only are these things wrong, they impede understanding. Mr. Robison seems like a sharp person. How could these errors make it to print (or recording)?

The little guy gets indicted, the big fish go free to live with their 12 cats in a 10000 sq ft house, or try to assuage their guilt by riding a bike 20 miles a day and studying the bible, or whatever.

9 people found this helpful

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Clickbait title pushing other agendas

In first minutes was described aircraft assembly by torquing of Boeing's rivets, divulging author's inexperience regarding aircraft. Bolts are torqued. Rivets are pressed, torque would damage a rivet.
Story went quickly downhill from here as unrelated fluff and filler (CDC) subjects are represented with media bias. Regurgitation of already released stories packed with personal rants, the title is only here to sell the book while rambling on like an open forum podcast.
Returning title to Audible.

9 people found this helpful

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Great book about extractive management philosophy

Some of the early negative reviews on this book were from pilots expecting a detailed technical account of the 737 Max catastrophes. Instead, this is a book about management failures and why they happen. The book is a must-read on its proper topic. If, however, you wanted to learn about whether you can torque rivets, then no, this is not the book you are looking for.

It particular, the book eviscerates the legacy of Jack Welch, whose share-holder-value-maximizing philosophy has eviscerated the long-term profitability of GE, 3M, Boeing, and others, while destroying their reputations, and then, tragically, taking hundreds of lives. It's fascinating to learn the details of how a company can get hijacked by an obsession with the wrong metrics and short-term goals. The book details how Boeing loses the ability to invest substantively in safe, excellent new products because of a focus on business-unit profitability and other share-holder-friendly goals. It becomes a company that would not be capable of inventing the planes that made it profitable in the first place.

Perhaps the most shocking bit is that McDonald Douglas self-destructed following Jack Welch's philosophy, then was bought by Boeing, whereupon its leadership took over Boeing and destroyed the company using precisely same methodology — then killed hundreds of people — then got away with hundreds of millions of dollars. I mean, wow, what a history.

The book is an indictment of our systems of accountability, in both the private sector and government. There's something very rotten here that will only get fixed if lots of people get angry. So please do read it and get angry. And read it to prevent this from happening in your workplace. (And then read Other People's Money by Jon Kay to flesh out your understanding even further).

6 people found this helpful

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6 Wasted Chapters

The author's own description of "hundreds of hours of interviews" resulted in 6 out of 14 chapters on the personalities of Boeing and other industry executives, their love lives and pettiness. I suggest you listen to the introduction then skip to chapter 7.

5 people found this helpful

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Good read

Deep insight, we’ll read by narrator, author obviously holds some bias towards republicans. Boeing became a mess employing Jack Welch financial principles.

3 people found this helpful

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Greed in NOT good

I was so shocked to learn how much Boeing has sacrificed quality and safety for profit. I knew it was bad but when you listen to this book, you realize it is way worse than you could imagine. This is exactly why airlines and manufacturers should not be given the freedom to self-regulate. They cannot be trusted to put the public’s well-being first.

The story is incredible, but I felt the narration was a little stiff and it distracted me. I also wish they’d integrated real sound bites into the recording from some of the press conferences, interviews etc. that could have brought it more to life. Overall I am glad I listened to it though.

2 people found this helpful

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Flying Blind...for the Benefit of all Boeing Share

As a person was a frequent flyer. I am happy to that I recently retired and will never have to board a plane again. This coming from a person who loved to fly and flew around the world for 25 years. I never felt unsafe in commercial airplane. With the development of the Boeing Dream liner and 737 Max it raises the question of " What If?" ...is this the flight that goes down ... has entered the flyers mind.

Flying Blind presents the background history of how Boeing transition from a overly safety conscience company to a totally profit driven corporation at the expense of the flying public. Author Peter Robison lays the facts out as clearly as trail prosecutor of the "New Boeing Corporation" profit and production goals at as all costs.Costs of human lives. Never blaming the flawed production process but transferring blame to poor piloting of the airplane or poor maintenance of the aircraft. Boeing Corporate executives planning , pilot training and maintance of the Dream liner and 737 Max all were primary contributors to the planes failures in some cases of costing human lives. Yet...corporate bonus were paid out and blame was shifted to others than primary corporate executives. "The Pass Buck" corporate theme is alive and well at Boeing.

After reading this book nothing surprises me concerning corporate greed. having worked for 2 Fortune 100 companies I have seen it first hand. People need to be held accountable on the deaths of the flying public. Unfortunately blood money buys favors and "free pass" out of any litigation of guilt. St.Peter will have the final judgement for these money changers.

Excellent read. Should be read as case study for any business school student. Enjoy!

2 people found this helpful

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Great review of older Boeing history.

I really wanted to like this book since I’m fascinated by the story. The first part was a good history lesson. But in the later chapters the author seems to insert his political views where they aren’t called for.
For example, each time he mentions Ray Lahood he says “former Republican congressman” as if that is evidence of some type of sinister action. He also mentions that certain people are veterans of the Reagan administration because in his mind that is proof of something. He mentions that a minor character is a fan of Bill O’Reilly and even quotes an email that this pilot, I believe, sent to O’Reilly. It has no place in the story. When he mentions Sen. Blumenthal he calls him a tenacious litigator, not a person who for over a decade claimed falsely that he was a Vietnam veteran. He professes astonishment that Ted Cruz scored points on a cross examination of a Boeing exec. In his story any questionable government actions were caused either in the Reagan or Trump administrations. He ignored the facts of the 28 years between the 2. The first Max crash was in October of 2018. It stands to reason that many of the fundamental problems regarding Boeing and the FAA’s flawed relationship pre-date the author’s least favorite president. His seeming bias make me question if he has an agenda which would color his telling of an amazing story. I found myself in the later chapters questioning whether I was getting the real, unvarnished story.

1 person found this helpful

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Just, WOW.

it took me a few weeks to complete this book. I listened in the morning while preparing to go to work and while commuting to and from. some of the things I had already known, but some of them were shocking to learn. When people who are familiar with the company ask how I felt about the book, my response is always, "It will not only enlighten you to some of the shadiness that most of us did not know about, but it's going to also piss you off". I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

1 person found this helpful

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my son is a pilot ...

great story ...sad, but nice to know the details of what happened ... I feel sorry for the families!

1 person found this helpful