So I’m sure a lot of you have read by now that an Ethiopian Airlines 737-8 Max crashed shortly after take off from Addis Ababa on its path to Nairobi this morning and unfortunately all 150 passengers perished on that flight. My sincerest condolences to the victims of the crash (there were 8 Americans and 18 Canadians in the crash). This comes just a month after a Lion Air 737-8 Max went down minutes after taking off from Jakarta.
So now we have two incidents of very new aircraft (just months old) crashing just months apart. Without a doubt this screams the idea that this is no coincidence. This is especially true given that the last two years have been the first and third safest years on record for the industry as a whole. The accident rate in 2018, in fact, was 1 fatal incident per 2.52 million flights. In case you are thinking Ethiopian Airlines is some random airline from Africa, it isn’t and boasts a passenger safety record similar to that of any major world airline.
Given that we learn and change training/aircraft protocols from investigations, it will be a long while before we have solid answers on what happened in both these incidents. We haven’t even learned much about the Lion Air crash as of yet. The entire investigation will likely take years.
WHY I AM WORRIED
The really worrisome part about this entire ordeal is that following the Lion Air crash, Boeing made some adjustments to the flight operator manual indicating that the new aircraft had a new feature that pilots weren’t trained on.
— The FAA (@FAANews) November 7, 2018
Further substantiating this argument is the fact that several SWA and AA pilots have complained that they have been “left in the dark” regarding some new features on this Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. A Southwest Airlines pilots union said the following:
Is there anything else on the MAX Boeing has not told the operators? If there is, we need to be informed.”
So clearly there are some gaps in pilot training and what features Boeing has said would be part of the new aircraft.
A Different Take:
My biggest worry of all is about Boeing and the amount of influence lobbyists from the aircraft manufacturer have over directives and actions set forth by the FAA and the US government. Boeing is the single biggest lobbyist in Congress and that definitely tells you that they will have a say on regulations. After all, the Boeing share price is at an all time high and company executives and investors will want to protect their investments from an impending stock price drop.
I do hope greed doesn’t get the best of safety but you never know especially in the Trump era of politics. Who knows how much damage the recent shutdown did to aviation safety?
In general, there is enough shade surrounding this aircraft that I would avoid it until the governing bodies address some of these issues.
As passengers, we need to personally express our distrust in this aircraft type and have it temporarily grounded pending investigation. I would personally make sure to check what aircraft type is being flown on my next flight and even call in to have my flights changed based on that. As Lucky has said, it is likely that supervisors will make exceptions in cases like this. Southwest Airlines is the biggest operator of this aircraft type and you can easily check the type of aircraft being utilized on your flight by clicking on the flight number or by looking it up on SeatGuru.
And of course go out and tweet @SouthwestAir, @AmericanAir, @United expressing the need for this investigation to happen. The least these airlines can do is perhaps retrain the pilots based on the new feature, since a lot of them seem to be “in the dark”.
My Final Thoughts:
While I don’t think flying this aircraft type is completely unsafe, I do think this deserves further investigation on the part of the NTSB, Boeing, and the airlines before they are deemed airworthy once again. I’m sure Boeing will try to minimize the damage to their share price caused by these incidents, but I hope beyond anything that the FAA and other governing aviation authorities do the right thing and take a closer look at these aircraft.
I’ll keep this updated as the investigation happens.