NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

Boeing backpedals as United States finally joins rest of world in grounding the 737 MAX

Boeing’s next generation 737 MAX jets will stay on the ground for the immediate future — even in the United States, where the Federal Aviation Administration had, until today, held off on forbidding airlines from flying them.

The grounding order comes after two frightening 737 MAX hull loss incidents in the span of only six months: PK-LQP (belonging to Indonesia’s Lion Air, which crashed October 29th, 2018) and ET-AVJ (belonging to Ethiopian Airlines, which crashed on March 10th, 2019). One hundred and eighty nine people were killed in the Lion Air crash, while one hundred and fifty-seven people were killed in the Ethiopian Air crash, including a number of United Nations personnel.

In remarks to reporters at the White House a short time ago, Donald Trump called Boeing “an incredible company” and said of CEO Dennis Muilenburg and his top managers: “They are working very, very hard right now and hopefully they’ll very quickly come up with the answer, but until they do, the planes are grounded.”

Boeing issued the following statement:

Boeing continues to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX.  However, after consultation with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and aviation authorities and its customers around the world, Boeing has determined — out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety — to recommend to the FAA the temporary suspension of operations of the entire global fleet of three hundred and seventy-one 737 MAX aircraft.

“On behalf of the entire Boeing team, we extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives in these two tragic accidents,” said Dennis Muilenburg, president, CEO, Chairman of The Boeing Company.

“We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution. Safety is a core value at Boeing for as long as we have been building airplanes; and it always will be.”

“There is no greater priority for our company and our industry. We are doing everything we can to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements and help ensure this does not happen again.”

Boeing makes this recommendation and supports the decision by the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration].

Naturally, Boeing neglected to mention that Dennis Muilenburg had lobbied against this move earlier today. Having failed to persuade the federal government not to ground the 737 MAX, the company has now performed an about-face and claims to support this decision. Their actions behind the scenes belie their public words.

The grounding of the 737 MAX could cost Boeing billions of dollars, so it’s no surprise that the company didn’t want this to happen.

But the safety of the flying public is more important than Boeing’s profits.

Southwest Airlines, the largest operator of the 737 MAX in the United States, issued its own statement saying it was complying with the order.

Southwest Airlines is immediately complying with today’s FAA requirement for all U.S. airlines to ground the Boeing 737 MAX 8. As a result, we have removed our 34 MAX 8 aircraft from scheduled service. Southwest operates a fleet of more than 750 Boeing 737s, and the 34 MAX 8 aircraft account for less than five percent of our daily flights.

We have been in constant contact with the FAA and Boeing since Ethiopian Airlines’ accident last Sunday. While we remain confident in the MAX 8 after completing more than 88,000 flight hours accrued over 41,000 flights, we support the actions of the FAA and other regulatory agencies and governments across the globe that have asked for further review of the data – including information from the flight data recorder – related to the recent accident involving the MAX 8.

The Safety of our Customers and Employees is our uncompromising priority, and today’s action reflects the commitment to supporting the current investigations and regulatory concerns.

Our goal is to operate our schedule with every available aircraft in our fleet to meet our Customers’ expectations during the busy spring travel season. Additionally, to support our Customers, Southwest is offering flexible rebooking policies. Any Customer booked on a cancelled MAX 8 flight can rebook on alternate flights without any additional fees or fare differences within 14 days of their original date of travel between the original city pairs. A Travel Advisory with additional information for Customers will be posted on Southwest.com.

“During our 48-year history, Southwest has continuously demonstrated our commitment to Safety,” said Gary Kelly, Southwest’s Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer.

“We sincerely appreciate the trust our Customers and Employees place in our airline every day, and the Southwest Team is working diligently to minimize disruptions to our Customers’ travel plans.”

Meanwhile, United Airlines said it believed it could comply with the order with no “significant” operational impact to its customers.

Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers and employees. As we have said since Sunday, we have been in close contact with investigators as well as Boeing to share data and fully cooperate with regulatory authorities. We will comply with the FAA’s order and will ground our 14 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. We will remain in close contact with authorities as their investigation continues.

Since Sunday, we have been working diligently on contingency plans to prepare our fleet to minimize the impact to customers.

Our Boeing 737 MAX aircraft account for roughly 40 flights a day and through a combination of spare aircraft and rebooking customers, we do not anticipate a significant operational impact as a result of this order. We will continue to work with our customers to help minimize any disruption to their travel plans.

Alaska Airlines, the Pacific Northwest’s largest carrier and the only big U.S. airline based in Cascadia, does not yet fly the 737 MAX, so it is unaffected by the jet’s grounding. However, Alaska does have a number of the jets on order.

It would have been prudent for the FAA to have made this decision on Sunday.

Now the United States looks like a laggard instead of the leader it says it is.

Once again, the Trump regime has failed the people of the United States.

Not only did the Federal Aviation Administration fail to swiftly ground the 737 MAX when it should have on Sunday after the crash of EA 302, but it turns out that work Boeing was undertaking to improve the software powering MAX’s flight control system was delayed by Trump’s ludicrous decision not to sign legislation to keep the federal government fully open for business and functioning properly.

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