Boeing continues to shock the world with insufficient explanations and generally unsatisfactory assurances when it comes to defending the safety record of its 737 Max-8 passenger jets which came into service as recently as 2017. This comes after a 737 Max-8 operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air crashed on 29 October of last year, whilst the same model operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed on the 10th of March. Most of the world moved to ground all 737 Max-8 jets in the immediate aftermath of the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines flight.
While most countries into whose air space the planes could have flown, took the decision to ground all of the jets pending thorough investigations into the plane’s inherent safety, the United States instead decided to drag its collective feet on the matter. It was only on the 13th of March that Donald Trump appeared to overrule a statement from America’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) delivered on the 12th of March (and openly supported by Boeing), which did not recommend grounding the world’s collective fleet of 737 Max-8 jets.
As such, the United States has been the last major country to ground the jets and have done so only after days of public outcry which saw many Americans refuse to board flights on the jets in the aftermath of the Ethiopian Airlines crash. Now that even the US has grounded the jets, Americans who refused to board 737 Max-8 flights over the last few days will almost certainly be compensated for refusing to board the aircraft.
There are two major theories regarding America’s reticence to follow the global trend in respect of the 737 Max-8 jets. First of all, many have accused Washington of seeking to use the power of the state to prop up a major American company during a time when its share prices have tumbled for self-evident reasons. Previously however, Donald Trump stated on Twitter that modern jets like the 737 Max-8 are too difficult for pilots to fly and made the seemingly absurd suggestion that modern jets should be designed to be flown by people with average intelligence.
It did not take long for some (mostly in the US) to openly suggest that the pilots of the ill-fated Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights were somehow “too stupid” to properly fly the jets. When it comes to Ethiopian Airlines, this is especially insulting as the carrier has a very good safety record and is considered one of the best air carriers based on Africa.
Because of this, jumping to blame Ethiopian Airlines and its highly experienced pilot who went down with the flight on the 10th of March, is not just an irresponsible position but one which subtly hints at a racist attitude towards Ethiopians more broadly. The notion that a jet that has had two dramatic crashes in an incredibly short space in time should have its components less scrutinised that an air carrier with an otherwise good safety record, sounds more and more as though certain people with vested interests in Boeing’s share price are merely throwing Ethiopian Airlines under the proverbial bus.
The US government already has a reputation of “going soft” on domestic companies whilst scrutinising foreign companies in a manner that appears to be motivated more by a desire to manipulate the marketplace than one that is derived from an ethical position.
Take for example Huawei technology which is effectively barred from freely and fairly entering the US market. The US continues to allege that Huawei’s 5G technology is somehow a tool through which to conduct espionage even though Huawei’s existing 4G systems are operational across the world, including in Europe and have never been the cause of any incident.
Evidence free allegations against Huawei are made all the more absurd when it has been proved that the US government’s NSA has used domestically produced 3 and 4G technology to spy on its own citizens. This was revealed to the world through the whistle-blowing efforts of former NSA worker Edward Snowden.
Of course, a malfunctioning mobile network does not cost lives in the way that a malfunctioning passenger jet does. Because of this, one could imagine that if there was such a thing as ‘Huawei Jets’ and two of its planes crashed in a short space of time, the US would have been among the first to ground all such jets.
Yet when the shoe is on the other foot and America’s largest commercial jet manufacturer has its safety record questioned by those who have witnessed the two recent tragic crashes, the entire world saw that the US publicly dragged its feet on the issue when the global consensus, even among America’s top allies was that keeping the 737 Max-8 jets airborne was simply a risk not worth taking until the necessary questions have been scientifically answered.
Of course, it may well be that both flights crashed due to human error and that it was nothing more than a horrific coincidence that two of the same types of jets crashed within weeks of one another. But until this can be proved beyond any reasonable doubt, it would be irresponsible to look the other way as for almost a week, the US authorities tried to do.