Turbulence a matter of course for Boeing’s 737 Max 8

Cantillon: Episode comes at bad time for US planemaker as rivalry with Airbus heats up

Boeing is reportedly making extensive changes to the flight-control system in the 737 Max 8.

Boeing is reportedly making extensive changes to the flight-control system in the 737 Max 8.

 

The decision by the US to ground Boeing’s 737 Max 8 planes on Wednesday was probably inevitable, given the growing clamour from other aviation authorities and airlines.

It has been an horrific week for the US planemaker.

While Boeing has been resolute in its defence of its new aircraft, the tragic crash of the Ethiopian Airlines flight has raised questions that it appears to be struggling to answer.

In a statement following the US government announcement, Boeing said it continued to have full confidence in the safety of the 737 Max. However, after consultation with the US and other aviation authorities, and its customers around the world, it has determined – in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety – to recommend the temporary suspension of operations of the entire global fleet of 737 Max aircraft.

One important question that has arisen this week since the tragedy of the Ethiopian Airlines crash is whether pilot training for the new aircraft was sufficient. UK commentator Julian Bray noted that one pilot complained he had received updated training on his iPad for just 90 minutes to operate the Max 8.

Software issues

Another troublesome query is whether there were issues with the software, with the Washington Post reporting yesterday that Boeing is making an extensive change to the flight-control system in the Max 8.

Earlier in the week president Trump raised concerns on Twitter as to how complicated aircraft have become, it’s undeniably the case that less pilot intervention has led to improved flying conditions for passengers down the years.

Whatever the case, this troublesome episode for the 737 – which had a rock-solid reputation in the eyes of passengers – comes at a bad time for Boeing as its rivalry with Airbus heats up. But that is now the least of its worries. Passengers, rightly or wrongly, will be slow to step on board a Max 8. And when all is said and done, they’re the only ones who matter.

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