Incredible Hubris, or Tragic Mistake?

“A VERY RISKY BET”

March 13, 2019

Photo: Acefitt, Wikimedia Commons, CC-SA 4.0

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

Boeing is a great company and it makes excellent aircraft, both civilian and military.  I hope and pray that they are not making a tragic mistake by not calling for a temporary grounding of its new 737 Maxi until the black boxes can be analyzed and the cause of the two horrid crashes just after takeoff can be sorted out.  It is reported that in both cases, the aircraft’s advanced automated systems caused the craft to nose-down so as to gain airspeed and, when the very experienced pilots reacted by pulling back pull-up to trim the plane, catastrophic destruction occurred.  As with automated systems anywhere, those in the Maxi are written in code and tested carefully.  But anybody who’s been around computers and automated systems can tell you that systems sometimes hiccup.

While we won’t know for certain until the real facts are in, Boeing and the American and Canadian airlines that continue to fly the aircraft before the cause and fix are sorted out are taking one heck of a gamble.  One surmises that the Boeing execs are hanging tough because they have a degree of confidence that no more accidents will occur – after all, many thousands of flights in the same model aircraft over the five-month interval between the two tragic crashes have experienced no such problems.  And, if Boeing were to cave and ask that the fleet be grounded, the company might see some cancellations of planes on order.  Okay?

But, imagine the impact on Boeing if another tragedy occurs before the fix is in?  They wouldn’t merely lose some orders for new planes; their credibility would be shredded – forever!  And, more than likely, business would dry up faster than a sidewalk after a quick summer rain shower on a July day.  In addition, their refusal to take this precaution would invite lawsuits and investigations (you can bet that ambulance-chasing attorneys are already salivating).   Boeing is making a very risky bet.  If I were in the Board room, I’d argue for caution.  Many of the flying public would appreciate such a move as prudent and worthwhile.  The black boxes will hopefully yield answers in a couple of weeks at most, so the grounding might not be for very long.  I’ll bet even the carriers who are still flying these models of 737 would also be quietly relieved.

Corporations need ‘bold’ leadership, but hubris should never cloud their judgment.  My family and I have flown all over the world during the past half-century and have probably logged over one million air miles among us.  But I, for one, would not fly on a 737 Maxi until this is sorted out.  How about you?

Old Frank

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