Note to FAA/US Airlines & Boeing: Say Bye to Your Reputation!

As of now all major countries except the United States and Canada have banned flights by the 737 Max from landing, taking off, or flying over their airspace. This is probably becoming one more area where we, as in the “United States”, no longer lead the world. 

Here is an updated list of countries which have banned the aircraft (India has joined the party within the last hour or so):

  1. China
  2. Cayman Islands
  3. Ethiopia
  4. Indonesia
  5. Australia
  6. Singapore
  7. United Kingdom
  8. France
  9. Germany
  10. India

Interestingly because the United Kingdom announced that they would not let the aircraft fly over their airspace, it pretty much forced Europe’s hand given the number of flights which cross over the UK. These actions were of course initially said to have been done out of an abundance of caution, but within the last day or so Boeing has declared that it will be issuing a software update effective immediately for the 737 Max. This to me seems like Boeing’s way of saying, yes there is something wrong, but we won’t publicly state in fear of our share price tanking more than it already has this week.

Regarding the FAA:

As of now the FAA has just released the following statement, which basically says they are evaluating the situation.

In addition to the statement issued above,  a Boeing spokesperson has stated that the FAA has mandated that the company issue a software update by the beginning of April:

Boeing has been working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on development, planning and certification of the software enhancement, and it will be deployed across the 737 MAX fleet in the coming weeks. The update also incorporates feedback received from our customers.  

The FAA says it anticipates mandating this software enhancement with an Airworthiness Directive (AD) no later than April. We have worked with the FAA in development of this software enhancement.

It is important to note that the FAA is not mandating any further action at this time, and the required actions in AD2018-23.51 continue to be appropriate.

While I can see why FAA and US airlines have not grounded the aircraft yet (U.S pilots on average are more experienced than other areas of the world), the FAA needs to hammer it home that flying should not entirely depend on the prowess of the pilot. Flying is a tandem activity which requires 100% from both the aircraft and the pilot to ensure the safety of the passengers on board. Just having one or the other will not suffice. It could very easily be that one pilot is short on experience by just a single instance. The Chinese Civil Aviation Ministry could not have said it better:

“We are facing uncertainties about whether pilots have the courage or the capability to fly” if an aircraft has difficulties, Mr. Li said.

“When a pilot is operating manually, if he receives inaccurate signals, which has happened multiple times, it will bring trouble,” Mr. Li said. “As a government supervision department, we should make sure all problem are solved before we allow aircraft to be used.”

The FAA was once the gold standard for aviation safety; an organization which was looked up to as a role model for the industry. China making the first move on this matter, may signify yet another changing of the guard.

Regarding Boeing:

Of course there are legal issues at the heart of this matter as well. Boeing doesn’t want to face an endless number of law suits for taking blame on a oversight on their part. However by not taking the blame I think they are just slowly destroying brand reputation. I for one wouldn’t be surprised if airlines start cancelling orders of the aircraft based on the track record Boeing has established with this incident.

Regarding the Airlines:

The airlines are fighting a losing battle here with unions demanding that they stop flying and pilots claiming that they have complained multiple times already. Southwest is allowing free changes as of yesterday while AA is not. The fall out from this will not be negligible for AA if they continue down this road.

Background:

If you are not familiar with the problem the 737 Max is facing, here is a very informative diagram created by the “AIR CURRENT.” Basically if the pilot were to take off from a runway at an angle which was deemed as too steep by the aircraft, sensors would attempt to over correct the angle by moving the nose down. This results in losing vertical speed and eventually results in the plane completely stalling (falling out of the sky)

Bottom Line:

So Boeing really needs to face the music here and either come out and take the blame or continue to try to lobby its withering cronies in Washington. They purportedly even directly requested Trump not to ground the aircraft type in the U.S. For me it would go a long way to restoring its reputation in my mind, if Boeing were to come out and take the blame at this point. The FAA and the U.S government on the other hand have no excuses here, they need to ground this aircraft before something else happens. An April mandate for Boeing’s software update is not good enough. We needed the update 8 months ago before we lost any lives to this problem. The government’s responsibility is to the people, not corporations and their shareholders. Action not being taken now might just end up hurting the reputation of both Boeing and FAA and putting people at risk unnecessarily. As for the airlines, they just seem to be trying to milk it for what it is so far. Shame on everyone!

Say bye to the credibility of the FAA and US Airlines as pressure mounts. Keep those tweets and reservation changes going! Safety first!