Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s House Renovations: All the Details, Including How Much It Costs – The Cheat Sheet

As Prince Harry and Meghan Markle prepare for the arrival of Baby Sussex, the couple are having their Frogmore Cottage home renovated. Will the renovations be finished by the time the baby is born, however? The project has hit some delays and with the baby’s arrival quickly approaching, they might be cutting things close.

Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex (R) and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex leave after attending a Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey in central London, on March 11, 2019. - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II has been the Head of the Commonwealth throughout her reign. Organised by the Royal Commonwealth Society, the Service is the largest annual inter-faith gathering in the United Kingdom.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle | BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images

The couple are facing delays on their home improvements

As home renovation projects go, there have been some delays in getting all of the pieces completed. While the couple was expected to move into Frogmore Cottage this week, things have been delayed another four weeks. With the due date coming up this spring, it’s definitely a race to get things buttoned up in time.

A source told The Sun: “it’s been all hands to the
pump. The builders have worked all week whatever the weather. But they keep
making changes, particularly on the layout.”

The source further noted: “The word is they’ve been quite
demanding, which is understandable as what homeowner doesn’t want their house
to be perfect?”

The insider added:  “Given the scale of the project, a
three or four-week delay isn’t too bad. The couple are pleased with how it’s
all going.”

What renovations are being done to Frogmore Cottage?

Their new house is undergoing significant improvements, including the addition of a yoga studio and a reported “elaborate Gone With the Wind-style double staircase,” as well as new fireplaces in the “principal rooms,” a kitchen dining area, alcove bookcases, and vanity units, the Daily Mail reports.

Additionally, security will be boosted to “Fort Knox” levels. According to The Sun, they are also soundproofing the entire home as it’s located near Heathrow Airport, so the noise of the passing jets certainly creates a disturbance, especially with their new baby.

Frogmore Cottage was previously broken up into 20 apartments
for royal staff but has been converted to five bedrooms.

How much do the Frogmore Cottage renovations cost?

With so much work to be done to Frogmore Cottage, it’s estimated that the cost falls between $2.5 and $3.8 million. Of course, there’s the debate over who is paying for the home improvements, with the Daily Mail reporting that the building work costs will be covered by the Sovereign Grant, and Harry and Markle will pay for the fixtures, appliances, furniture, and soundproofing.

The Sun’s royal correspondent, Emily Andrews, tweeted about the home being a gift from the Queen, noting in a Twitter post: “Instead the Queen has given them Frogmore Cottage in Windsor. It’s within the private Home Park and faces the beautiful grounds of Frogmore House. It’s where they had their private evening wedding party & where their gorgeous engagement pictures were shot.”

When is Meghan Markle’s due date?

While it’s unclear when the baby will arrive, the big day
will be coming soon, based on comments Markle has made recently. Without
explicitly revealing a date, Markle has shared some vague details, such as
during a visit to Birkenhead, when asked when she was having the baby, she noted,
“end of April, early May.”

The Frogemore Cottage renovations might not be completed in
time but no worries, Harry and Markle will have a place to live, as they’ve reportedly
been offered an apartment at Buckingham Palace until their home is ready.

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Hong Kong tourist falls to his death in Grand Canyon, second fatality in a week – AOL

A tourist from Hong Kong died on Thursday when he fell 1,000 feet into the Grand Canyon, the second person to die there in a week.

The 50-something aged man slipped off the Eagle Point overlook while taking photos, a spokesman for a local company, Grand Canyon West, told Reuters.

The man’s body was recovered later in the day by helicopter, the Associated Press reported.

RELATED: Grand Canyon clouds


Grand Canyon Clouds

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Confluence of Colorado Little Colorado Grand Canyon National Park Arizona

Aerial shots around Page/Arizona

Aerial shots around Page/Arizona

Grand Canyon DEIS Aerial: Confluence of Colorado & Little Colorado Rivers

Outflow of Havasu Creek into the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, Arizona

Little Colorado River (at the confluence of the Colorado River), Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona USA

Little Colorado River (at the confluence of the Colorado River), Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona USA

Little Colorado River (left) confluence with the Colorado River (right) in the Grand Canyon national park

Havasu Creek confluence at Colorado River – Grand Canyon



The incident happened on land owned by the Hualapai Tribe, company spokesman David Leibowitz told Reuters.

The unidentified man was the second person to die at the Grand Canyon in a week.

The man was part of a tour group visiting Grand Canyon West, a popular area that includes the horseshoe-shaped, glass Skywalk that juts out from the canyon wall and offers a look into the canyon some 4,000 feet below. It is west of the Grand Canyon National Park.

Earlier in the week, the body of a foreign national was found in a wooded area just south of Grand Canyon Village, park spokeswoman Vanessa Ceja-Cervante told the Associated Press.

She said authorities were notified of the visitor fatality on Tuesday evening and that the person’s cause of death was unknown.

Neither victim was identified, pending notification of kin. The medical examiner’s office was still investigating, along with the National Park Service, AP said.

Last year nearly 6.4 million people visited the Grand Canyon, AP noted.

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The Samsung Galaxy S10+ Snapdragon & Exynos Review: Almost Perfect, Yet So Flawed – AnandTech

We’ve been in 2019 for a while. Although we’ve covered one or two smartphones in the last couple of months of the calendar year, the true “2019 flagship” phone season is really only starting now. Samsung’s Galaxy S10 is among the first releases in this new wave of phones, and for many markets it outright is the very first of a brand-new generation.

Samsung mixed things up this year by announcing the Galaxy S10 in San Francisco instead of the usual Mobile World Congress event. Though not unprecedented, the big reason here for the change in venues was to reflect Samsung’s close collaboration with US carriers such as Verizon on 5G and other matters. Indeed 5G has been pretty much the buzzword for the last year or more, and the last few months have been especially busy in this regard. To that end, there will be a 5G model of the S10, however with its limited availability it doesn’t have nearly the same mass-market appeal as the new mainstream variants of the Galaxy 10.

As we’re nearing this upcoming transition period in technology, the new Galaxy S10 models have instead needed to double-down on the fundamental aspects of the phones in order to entice consumers who are increasingly holding on to their smartphones for three years or more. Here the introduction of a new screen, powerful hardware, bigger batteries, as well as a brand new triple camera setup gives users quite a number of reasons to upgrade.

Today we’ll be reviewing the lead member of the Galaxy S10 family, the Galaxy S10+. And in true AnandTech tradition, we’re going to look at both variants of Samsung’s king of phones: the North American Snapdragon 855 model, as well as the European Exynos 9820 model. With Samsung using different SoCs for what are otherwise (nearly) identical phones, this gives us a unique opportunity to take an in-depth look at the two new processors and compare & contrast them under very similar circumstances. And of course, there’s a great deal to dig into with the Galaxy S10’s new screen and triple-module camera setup. This is going to be a long piece so prepare yourselves!

Samsung Galaxy S10 Series
  Galaxy S10e Galaxy S10

Galaxy S10+

SoC (North America, China, Japan)

Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 
1x Kryo 485 (Cortex-A76) @ 2.84GHz
3x Kryo 485 (Cortex-A76) @ 2.42GHz
4x Kryo 485 (Cortex-A55) @ 1.80GHz

Adreno 640 @ 585MHz

(Europe & Rest of World)

Samsung Exynos 9820
2x Exynos M4 @ 2.73GHz
2x Cortex-A75 @ 2.31GHz
4x Cortex-A55 @ 1.95GHz

Mali G76MP12 @ 702MHz

Display 5.8-inch
2280 x 1080 (19:9)
3040 x 1440 (19:9)
(curved edges)
3040 x 1440 (19:9)
(curved edges)
SAMOLED, HDR10+, 1200nits peak brightness
Gorilla Glass 5 Gorilla Glass 6
Dimensions 142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9 mm
150 grams
149.9 x 70.4 x 7.8 mm
157 grams
157.6 x 74.1 x 7.8 mm
175 grams
(Ceramic: 195g)
RAM 6/8GB 8GB 8/12GB
NAND 128/256GB 128/512GB 128/512/1024GB
+ microSD
Battery 3100mAh (11.93Wh) typ.

3000mAh (11.55Wh) rated

3400mAh (13.09Wh) typ.

3300mAh (12.71Wh) rated

4100mAh (15.78Wh) typ.

4000mAh (15.4Wh) rated

Primary Front Camera

10MP f/1.9
4K video recording

Secondary Front Camera 8MP, f/2.2
Dual Pixel PDAF
“Live focus”
Primary Rear Camera 77° Regular Angle
12MP 1.4µm Dual Pixel PDAF

Tri-stack CMOS Sensor (Embedded DRAM),
4K60, 1080p240, 720p960 high-speed recording

Adjustable aperture f/1.5 or f/2.4
OIS, auto HDR, LED flash

Secondary Rear Camera 123° Wide Angle
16MP 1.0µm f/2.2
Rear Camera
45° / Telephoto lens 2x zoom
12MP 1.0µm f/2.4,
4G Modem Snapdragon X24 LTE (Snapdragon Integrated)
2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Category 20/13)
DL 2000 Mbps (7x20MHz CA, 256-QAM),
 UL 316 Mbps (2x20MHz CA, 64-QAM)

Shannon LTE (Exynos Integrated)
2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Category 20/13)
DL 2000 Mbps (8x20MHz CA, 256-QAM),
 UL 316 Mbps (3x20MHz CA, 256-QAM)

5G Modem
SIM Size NanoSIM
Dual NanoSIM/Hybrid SIM/microSD (Certain models)
Wireless 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax 2×2 MU-MIMO,
BT 5.0 LE, NFC, GPS/Glonass/Galileo/BDS
Connectivity USB Type-C, 3.5mm headset
Special Features Side fingerprint sensor Under-screen ultrasonic fingerprint sensor
heart-rate sensor, iris scanner, face unlock,
fast charging (Qualcomm QC 2.0, Adaptive Fast Charging, USB-PD),
wireless charging & reverse charging (WPC & PMA),
IP68 water resistance
Launch OS Android 9.0 with Samsung OneUI
Launch Prices 6/128GB:







The big changes of the new Galaxy S10 series can be summed up into three main aspects: a new design with a new screen, new internal hardware with the latest-generation silicon, and a new camera setup consisting of three camera modules.

On the design side, Samsung has continued its tradition of introducing a new design language with every second Galaxy S generation. The S8 and S9 were the first Samsung phones to employ new wide aspect ratio displays, and the new S10 continues this trend towards the inevitable conclusion of a screen-only phone. The key characteristic of the S10+ is the in-display cut-out of the front facing cameras, offering a unique new alternative to the display notch.

The new AMOLED display offers a 3040 x 1440 resolution and now comes with HDR10+ support, with Samsung promising some big increases in peak brightness. We’ll continue on the design of the S10 on the next page in more detail and talk about other new features such as the new under-screen ultrasonic fingerprint sensor.

On the internal hardware side, brand-new SoCs from Qualcomm and Samsung S.LSI promise generational jumps in performance and power efficiency. These latest SoCs benefit from newer manufacturing nodes, upgrades to the CPUs and GPUs, and introducing new dedicated blocks for neural network inferencing in the form of a new DSP and a new NPU.

For the cameras, the Galaxy S10+ incorporates much improved processing as well as support for high dynamic range image capture. And this time around Samsung doesn’t include just one or two camera modules, but instead the company has moved up to three rear cameras for their flagship smartphone. Altogether the phone now uses a trifecta of wide angle, regular main, and telephoto modules.

The Galaxy S10 mainline series comes in 3 models: the Galaxy S10e, the regular Galaxy S10, and the up-sized Galaxy S10+. With Samsung offering so many phone variations – 6 in all – we’ve decided to dedicate our coverage to just a single model. To that end, out of popular demand following last year’s review of the Galaxy S9, we’ve opted to focus on the headliner Galaxy S10+, taking a look at Samsung’s big flagship and the Exynos and Snapdragon versions that it’s comprised of.


Hardware Internals

Diving right into the detailed specifications, the SoC situation was quite a controversial topic for Samsung in 2018, with the Samsung LSI (S.LSI) Exynos-powered variant of the Galaxy S9 delivering underwhelming performance and power efficiency compared to its Qualcomm counter-part. And coming into 2019 those concerns are still present as Samsung continues its dual-sourcing strategy.

The challenge for S.LSI (and the new Exynos in particular) is daunting: HiSilicon launched their Kirin 980 SoC nearly six months ago, taking the lead in delivering the first Android SoC built on TSMC’s 7nm manufacturing node. Thanks to its process advantage and Arm’s impressive new Cortex-A76 CPU core, HiSilicon was able to deliver significant performance and power efficiency gains, which we’ve seen first-hand in devices powered by the new chip. On paper then, the Snapdragon 855 is quite similar to the HiSilicon chip in terms of CPU design and manufacturing technologies, and our first results back in January pointed out to similar great performance and efficiency gains.

We’ll come back to the chipsets in further detail over the next few pages, but suffice it to say, the new chipsets are going to play a critical role in the new phones and will dictate a lot of the user experience of this new generation.

Moving on, let’s talk about RAM and storage. The base configurations for the Galaxy S10 and S10+ come with 8GB of LPDDR4X DRAM, while the S10e starts at 6GB, so no phone at any tier is starting short on RAM. What is also great is that Samsung has phased out the 64GB storage tier for this generation, meaning that all S10 models come with at least 128GB of storage. I think this is a pretty important aspect of the value proposition Samsung is making with the Galaxy S10’s base configurations, as it contrasts very favorably against Apple’s stingy storage tiers, which sees all of its iPhone configurations start at just 64GB, with the higher-tier 256GB models costing an extra $150.

Going up to higher capacity configurations, the S10e also comes in a 256GB configuration that includes an extra 2GB of DRAM, all of which tacks another $100 on to the price tag. Meanwhile the S10 and S10+ can jump from 128GB of storage to 512GB for an extra $250. And finally at the top, the S10+ is available in an ultra-premium configuration that sports 12GB of DRAM, 1TB of NAND storage, and a ceramic back, for which Samsung is charging a $600 premium over the base configuration.

Another notable change in internal specifications from generation to generation has been the increased battery capacities. The new Galaxy S10 comes advertised with a new 3400mAh battery while the S10+ claims a 4100mAh unit. I say “advertised” here because Samsung is being a bit misleading with their numbers; for the new phones Samsung’s has shifted from listing the design capacity of the batteries to their typical capacity, which inflates the numbers some.

Sticking with the more traditional design capacity then, the Galaxy S10 and S10+ would be rated for 3300mAh and 4000mAh respectively. Which compared to Samsung’s last-generation phones, is still a 10% and 14.2% increase respectively over the Galaxy S9 and S9+. In practice, the nominal capacity (actual usable cycle capacity) for one of my S10+ units shows up as 3891mAh, which as it happens is higher than even the 3747mAh showcased on my Note9.

Along with the capacity changes, Samsung seems to have also changed their battery chemistry or charging behaviour, as the PMIC is now programmed to reduce its charge capacity and voltage at 300 cycles instead of 200 cycles. Similarly, the degradation curve appears to have been delayed, and it now reaches a lower 90% of the battery’s design capacity after 700 cycles instead of 300. The degradation curves had been rather consistent for a few generations, so it’s interesting to see such a big change in the S10, and it’s something to keep an eye on in the next year or two of usage.

On the back of the phone we have the new horizontal camera layout. The, with the inclusion of three camera modules, the S10 marks the first time Samsung has ever included a wide-angle module in their Galaxy S flagships. After many years of this being an LG-only feature, we suddenly have 3 major vendors all offering a trifecta of regular angle, wide angle and telephoto camera modules.

Relative to the S9, the main and telephoto modules in the S10 haven’t changed in terms of their official specifications: they are still 12MP sensors, one with a f/2.4 2x zoom / 45° FoV lens and 1µm pixel pitch sensor, the other with Samsung’s dual-aperture f/1.5 or f/2.4 main module with 77° FoV and a 1.4µm dual pixel PDAF sensor. It’s to be noted that the S10 adopts new sensors for both these modules, even though their specifications on paper remain seemingly the same as on the S9. Added to the duo is the new 16MP f/2.2 1µm pixel pitch 123° wide angle unit, which gives the new Galaxy S10 a new perspective on the world.

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The emerging Boeing 737 MAX scandal, explained –

Boeing executives are offering a simple explanation for why the company’s best-selling plane in the world, the 737 MAX 8, crashed twice in the past several months, leaving Jakarta, Indonesia, in October and then Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in March. Executives claimed Wednesday, March 27, that the cause was a software problem — and that a new software upgrade fixes it.

But this open-and-shut version of events conflicts with what diligent reporters in the aviation press have uncovered in the weeks since Asia, Europe, Canada, and then the United States grounded the planes.

The story begins nine years ago when Boeing was faced with a major threat to its bottom line, spurring the airline to rush a series of kludges through the certification process — with an under-resourced Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) seemingly all too eager to help an American company threatened by a foreign competitor, rather than to ask tough questions about the project.

The specifics of what happened in the regulatory system are still emerging (and despite executives’ assurances we don’t even really know what happened on the flights yet). But the big picture is coming into view: A major employer faced a major financial threat, and short-term politics and greed won out over the integrity of the regulatory system. It’s a scandal.

The 737 versus 320 rivalry, explained

There are lots of different passenger airplanes on the market, but just two very similar narrow-body planes dominate domestic (or intra-European) travel. One is the European company Airbus’s 320 family, with models called A318, A319, A320, or A321 depending on how long the plane is. These four variants, by design, have identical flight decks so pilots can be trained to fly them interchangeably.

The 320 family competes with a group of planes that Boeing calls the 737 — there’s a 737-600, a 737-700, a 737-800, and a 737-900 — with higher numbers indicating larger planes. Some of them are also extended-range models that have an ER appended to the name and, as you would probably guess, they have longer ranges.

Importantly, even though there are many different flavors of 737, they are all in some sense the same plane, just as all the different 320 family planes are the same plane. Southwest Airlines, for example, simplifies its overall operations by exclusively flying different 737 variants.

Both the 737 and the 320 come in lots of different flavors, so airlines have plenty of options in terms of what kind of aircraft should fly exactly which route. But because there are only two players in this market, and because their offerings are so fundamentally similar, the competition for this slice of the plane market is both intense and weirdly limited. If one company were to gain a clear technical advantage over the other, it would be a minor catastrophe for the losing company.

And that’s what Boeing thought it was facing.

The A320neo was trouble for Boeing

Jet fuel is a major cost for airlines. With labor costs largely driven by collective bargaining agreements and regulations that require minimum ratios of flight attendants per passenger, fuel is the cost center airlines have the most capacity to do something about. Consequently, improving fuel efficiency has emerged as one of the major bases of competition between airline manufacturers.

If you roll back to 2010, it began to look like Boeing had a real problem in this regard.

Airbus was coming out with an updated version of the A320 family that it called the A320neo, with “neo” meaning “new engine option.” The new engines were going to be a more fuel-efficient design, with a larger diameter than previous A320 engines, that could nonetheless be mounted on what was basically the same airframe. This was a nontrivial engineering undertaking both in designing the new engines and in figuring out how to make them work with the old airframe, but even though it cost a bunch of money, it basically worked. And it raised the question of whether Boeing would respond.

Initial word was that it wouldn’t. As CBS Moneywatch’s Brett Snyder wrote back in December 2010, the basic problem was that you couldn’t slap the new generation of more efficient, larger-diameter engines onto the 737:

One of the issues for Boeing is that it takes more work to put new engines on the 737 than on the A320. The 737 is lower to the ground than the A320, and the new engines have a larger diameter. So while both manufacturers would have to do work, the Boeing guys would have more work to do to jack the airplane up. That will cost more while reducing commonality with the current fleet. As we know from last week, reduced commonality means higher costs for the airlines as well.

Under the circumstances, Boeing’s best option was to just take the hit for a few years and accept that it was going to have to start selling 737s at a discount price while it took the time to design a whole new airplane. That would, of course, be time-consuming and expensive, and during the interim they’d probably lose a bunch of narrow-body sales to Airbus.

The original version of the 737 first flew in 1967, and a decades-old decision about how much height to leave between the wing and the runway left them boxed-out of 21st century engine technology — and there was simply nothing to be done about it.

Unless there was.

Boeing decided to put the too-big engines on anyway

As late as February 2011, Boeing chair and CEO James McNerney was sticking to the plan to design a totally new aircraft.

“We’re not done evaluating this whole situation yet,” he said on an analyst call, “but our current bias is to move to a newer airplane, an all-new airplane, at the end of the decade, beginning of the next decade. It’s our judgment that our customers will wait for us.”

But then in August 2011, Boeing announced that it had lined up orders for 496 re-engined Boeing 737 aircraft from five different airlines.

It’s not entirely clear what happened, but, reading between the lines, it seems that in talking to its customers Boeing reached the conclusion that airlines would not wait for them. Some critical mass of carriers (American Airlines seems to have been particularly influential) was credible enough in its threat to switch to Airbus equipment that Boeing decided it needed to offer 737 buyers a Boeing solution sooner rather than later.

Committing to putting a new engine that didn’t fit on the plane was the corporate version of the Fyre Festival’s “let’s just do it and be legends, man” moment, and it not surprisingly wound up leading to a slew of engineering and regulatory problems.

New engines on an old plane

As the industry trade publication Leeham News and Analysis explained earlier in March, Boeing engineers had been working on the concept that became their 737 MAX even back when the company’s plan was still not to build it.

In a March 2011 interview with Aircraft Technology, Mike Bair, then the head of 737 product development, said that reengineeing was possible.

“There’s been fairly extensive engineering work on it,” he said. “We figured out a way to get a big enough engine under the wing.”

The problem is that an airplane is a big, complicated network of interconnected parts. To get the engine under the 737 wing, engineers had to mount the engine nacelle higher and more forward on the plane. But moving the engine nacelle (and a related change to the nose of the plane) changed the aerodynamics of the plane, such that the plane did not handle properly at a high angle of attack.* That, in turn, led to the creation of the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). It fixed the angle-of-attack problem in most situations, but it created new problems in other situations when it made it difficult for pilots to directly control the plane without being overridden by the MCAS.

On Wednesday, Boeing rolled out a software patch that it says corrects the problem, and it hopes to persuade the FAA to agree.

But note that the underlying problem isn’t really software, it’s with the effort to use software to get around a whole host of other problems.

Recall, after all, that the whole point of the 737 MAX project was to be able to say that the new plane was the same as the old plane. From an engineering perspective, the preferred solution was to actually build a new plane. But for business reasons, Boeing didn’t want a “new plane” that would require a lengthy certification process and extensive (and expensive) new pilot training for its customers. The demand was for a plane that was simultaneously new and not new.

But because the new engines wouldn’t fit under the old wings, the new plane wound up having different aerodynamic properties than the old plane. And because the aerodynamics were different, the flight control systems were also different. But treating the whole thing as a fundamentally different plane would have undermined the whole point. So the FAA and Boeing agreed to sort of fudge it.

The new planes are pretty different

As far as we can tell, the 737 MAX is a perfectly airworthy plane in the sense that error-free piloting allows it to be operated safely.

But pilots of planes that didn’t crash kept noticing the same basic pattern of behavior that is suspected to have been behind the two crashes, according to a Dallas Morning News review of voluntary aircraft incident reports to a NASA database.

The disclosures found by the News reference problems with an autopilot system, and they all occurred during the ascent after takeoff. Many mentioned the plane suddenly nosing down. While records show these flights occurred in October and November, the airlines the pilots were flying for is redacted from the database.

These pilots all safely disabled the MCAS and kept their planes in the air. But one of the pilots reported to the database that it was “unconscionable that a manufacturer, the FAA, and the airlines would have pilots flying an airplane without adequately training, or even providing available resources and sufficient documentation to understand the highly complex systems that differentiate this aircraft from prior models.”

The training piece is important because a key selling feature of the 737 MAX was the idea that since it wasn’t really a new plane, pilots didn’t really need to be retrained for the new equipment. As the New York Times reported, “For many new airplane models, pilots train for hours on giant, multimillion-dollar machines, on-the-ground versions of cockpits that mimic the flying experience and teach them new features” while the experienced 737 MAX pilots were allowed light refresher courses that you could do on an iPad.

That let Boeing get the planes into customers’ hands quickly and cheaply, but evidently at the cost of increasing the possibility of pilots not really knowing how to handle the planes, with dire consequences for everyone involved.

The FAA put a lot of faith in Boeing

In a blockbuster March 17 report for the Seattle Times, the newspaper’s aerospace reporter Dominic Gates details the extent to which the FAA delegated crucial evaluations of the 737’s safety to Boeing itself. The delegation, Gates explains, is in part a story of a years-long process during which the FAA “citing lack of funding and resources, has over the years delegated increasing authority to Boeing to take on more of the work of certifying the safety of its own airplanes.”

But there are indications of failures that were specific to the 737 MAX timeline. In particular, Gates reports that “as certification proceeded, managers prodded them to speed the process” and that “when time was too short for FAA technical staff to complete a review, sometimes managers either signed off on the documents themselves or delegated their review back to Boeing.”

Most of all, decisions about what could and could not be delegated were being made by managers concerned about the timeline, rather than by the agency’s technical experts.

It’s not entirely clear at this point why the FAA was so determined to get the 737 cleared quickly (there will be more investigations), but if you recall the political circumstances of this period in Barack Obama’s presidency, you can quickly get a general sense of the issue.

Boeing is not just a big company with a significant lobbying presence in Washington, it’s a major manufacturing company with a strong global export presence and a source of many good-paying union jobs. In short, it was exactly the kind of company that the powers that be were eager to promote — with the Obama White House, for example, proudly going to bat for the Export-Import Bank as a key way to sustain America’s aerospace industry.

A story about overweening regulators delaying an iconic American company’s product launch and costing us good jobs compared to the European competition would have looked very bad. And the fact that the whole purpose of the plane was to be more fuel-efficient only made getting it off the ground a bigger priority. But the incentives really were reasonably aligned, and Boeing has only caused problems for itself by cutting corners.

Boeing is now in a bad situation

One emblem of the whole situation is that as the 737 MAX engineering team piled kludge on top of kludge, one thing they came up with was a cockpit warning light that would alert the pilots if the plane’s two angle-of-attack sensors disagreed.

But then, as Jon Ostrower reported for the Air Current, Boeing’s team decided to make the warning light an optional add-on, like how car companies will upcharge you for a moon roof.

The light cost $80,000 extra per plane and neither Lion Air nor Ethiopian chose to buy it, perhaps figuring that Boeing would not sell a plane (nor would the FAA allow it to) that was not basically safe to fly. In the wake of the crashes, Boeing has decided to revisit this decision and make the light standard on all aircraft.

Now to be clear, Boeing has lost about $40 billion in stock market valuation since the crash, so it’s not like cheating out on the warning light turned out to have been a brilliant business decision or anything.

This, fundamentally, is one reason the FAA has become comfortable working so closely with Boeing on safety regulations: The nature of the airline industry is such that there’s no real money to be made selling airplanes that have a poor safety track record. One could even imagine sketching out a utopian libertarian argument to the effect that there’s no real need for a government role in certifying new airplanes at all, precisely because there’s no reason to think it’s profitable to make unsafe ones.

The real world, of course, is quite a bit different from that, and different individuals and institutions face particular pressures that can lead them to take actions that don’t collectively make sense. Looking back, Boeing probably wishes it had just stuck with the “build a new plane” plan and stuck it out for a few years of rough sales, rather than ending up in the current situation. Right now they are, in effect, trying to patch things up piecemeal — a software update here, a new warning light there, etc. — in hopes of persuading global regulatory agencies to let their planes fly again.

But even once that’s done, they face the task of convincing airlines to actually go buy their planes. An informative David Ljunggren article for Reuters reminds us that a somewhat comparable situation arose in 1965 when three then-new Boeing 727 jetliners crashed.

There wasn’t really anything unsound about the 727 planes, but many pilots didn’t fully understand how to operate the new flaps — arguably a parallel to the MCAS situation with the 737 MAX — which spurred some additional training and changes to the operation manual. Passengers avoided the planes for months, but eventually came back as there were no more crashes, and the 727 went on to fly safely for decades. Boeing hopes to have a similar happy ending to this saga, but so far they seem to be a long way from that point. And their immediate future likely involves more tough questions.

A political scandal on slow-burn

The 737 MAX was briefly a topic of political controversy in the United States as foreign regulators grounded the planes, but President Donald Trump — after speaking personally to Boeing’s CEO — declined to follow. Many members of Congress (from both parties) called on him to reconsider, which he rather quickly did, pushing the whole topic off Washington’s front burner.

But Trump is generally friendly to Boeing (he even has a Boeing executive serving as acting defense secretary, despite an ongoing ethics inquiry into charges that he unfairly favors his former employer) and Republicans are generally averse to harsh regulatory crackdowns. The most important decisions in the mix appear to have been made back during the Obama administration, so it’s also difficult for Democrats to go after this issue. Meanwhile, Washington has been embroiled in wrangling over special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and a new health care battlefield opened up as well.

That said, on March 27, FAA officials faced the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation and Space at a hearing called by subcommittee Chair Ted Cruz (R-TX). Cruz says he expects to call a second hearing featuring Boeing executives, as well as pilots and other industry players. Cruz was a leader on the anti-Boeing side of the Export-Import Bank fight years ago, so perhaps is more comfortable than others in Congress to take this on.

When the political system does begin to engage on the issue, however, it’s unlikely to stop with just one congressional subcommittee. Billions of dollars are at stake for Boeing, the airlines who fly 737s, and the workers who build the planes. And since a central element of this story is the credibility of the FAA’s own process — both in the eyes of the American people and also in the eyes of foreign regulatory agencies — it almost certainly isn’t going to get sorted out without more involvement from the actual decision-makers in the US government.

* Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated that it was the landing gear, rather than the engine, that had been relocated.

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If a recession really is coming, here’s what Powell and Trump can do to stop it – CNBC

Indeed, the above-trend growth in GDP since Trump became president has come on the back of massive fiscal adrenaline, courtesy of a huge tax cut, deregulation and hopes for infrastructure spending.

Keeping the momentum going is a high-stakes game for the president. Zandi modeled various political scenarios and each found Trump easily winning re-election in 2020 — if the economy can stay afloat.

“You’ve got to settle this trade war with China,” Zandi said. “Otherwise he’s going to make things much more difficult for himself when he runs for election.”

The momentum early in the year is not on Trump’s side, nor does it seem to be pointing to recession. The final reading of fourth-quarter GDP showed growth at just 2.2 percent to finish off a year where gains hovered right around 3 percent. However, estimates for the first quarter show an increase of just 1.5 percent, beginning what could be a tough road ahead.

The administration is expected to roll out an infrastructure program aimed at boosting growth, but chances of its passage are slim. Democrats controlling the House are unlikely to want to give Trump an economic win with the election hovering just overhead.

“If I was in the administration right now, the best thing for them to do is get this trade stuff closed and for Trump … to shut up and let the economy be,” Blitz said.

That, of course, is the other option, and it’s one not being completely dismissed. Many Wall Street economists, in fact, believe the yield curve inversion is not as ominous as usual, and some are still making room for a rate hike either later this year or early in 2020.

“The problem with using the yield curve as a guidepost for policy is that it’s not always 100 percent accurate,” said Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness. “While it is the case that every recession has been preceded by an inversion of the yield curve, every time the yield curve has inverted there has not been a recession.”

Among Snaith’s concerns are that the economic data suggesting a slowdown could be clouded now by the government shutdown and temporary weather factors. If he was a policymaker, he would wait, despite how much Wall Street wants easier policy.

“Hope springs eternal on Wall Street. I’m sure financial markets would love to see a surprise cut to juice things up. With an eye on the long term, I’m not sure that’s a prudent path of policy,” he said. “The real economy’s suggesting things are slowing down. Perhaps contemplating a rate cut at some point in the year makes sense. I would wait for more information.”

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