Can You Still Trust Boeing? What Do Industry Leaders Say?

by joeheg

Boeing has become an easy target for critics who question the safety of the airplanes it produces. This phase of the story starts in 2018 with the 737 MAX tragedy. Investigations showed Boeing’s missteps along the plane’s development that contributed to the crashes.

Even once the 737 MAX was cleared to fly again, Boeing needed to show the plane was safe to overcome people’s fears about flying on them. Search tools were developed to help people avoid flying on a 737 MAX.

However, over time, as the aviation industry implemented stricter safety regulations and the aircraft underwent numerous modifications and enhancements, the fears of flying on a 737 MAX faded away. Many airlines added the plane to their fleets, and passengers seemed to forget about the incidents or weren’t willing to change travel plans to avoid the plane type.

Reminding People About Boeing’s Problems

That was, until January when a door plug on a 737-9 MAX Alaska Airlines plane came off as the plane was climbing. Inspections of the 737-9 MAX planes in operation by Alaska and United, the two US airlines that have the planes in their fleets, found many problems. United says that several jets have bolts on the door plugs that need additional tightening. Alaska said that it found “some loose hardware” on its MAX 9s.

The news stories about Boeing and systemic problems, starting at the highest levels down to the engineering and production lines, have made people leery about flying on any Boeing airplane. Some have even started using apps designed to help them avoid Boeing flights again.

Capt. Sully calls out Boeing

But you know you’re in PR trouble when C.B. “Sully” Sullenberger, Captain of Flight 1549 ‘the Miracle on the Hudson, says that Boeing has “lost their way.”

But Capt. Sully isn’t going to avoid Boeing flights. His reasoning is that so many things do go right every day. He has trust in the people who are flying the planes, and even if something does go wrong, they’ll rise to the occasion and get us to our destination safely.

One big takeaway from his interview is that Boeing’s problems are not going away overnight. People in charge of the manufacturing and engineering juggernaut need to restore safety as the number one priority.

Changes at Boeing

Boeing CEO David Calhoun will step down at the end of the year, but the consensus is that won’t fix the problem. Emirates president Tim Clark echoed the feelings of many who were asked about Boeing by CNBC.

“To fix Boeing’s issues the company needs a strong engineering lead as its head coupled to a governance model which prioritizes safety and quality,” he told CNBC.

Others are questioning the timing of the departure.

“Announcing a change nine months in advance is useful from a succession-planning perspective but does not signal any perceived need for urgency,” said Jo-Ellen Pozner, associate professor of management and entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business. “If Boeing understood the problems the market perceives with its current leadership, it would have named an external successor with significant manufacturing and operations experience.”

Final Thought

The issues at Boeing aren’t different than those felt by other corporations. However, there are a few differences that make their problems unique. Making an airplane isn’t the same as making a washing machine. The risks are much greater and that’s why safety needs to be prioritized more than in other businesses.

In addition, no other company can come in and pick up the slack if Boeing drops off. Airbus is the only other large passenger aircraft manufacturer in the world, and it’s also at maximum capacity. Boeing has to be fixed.

In the short term, the company will be under intense scrutiny by regulators because it has shown an inability to police itself. It will be a while, if ever, before people trust them again.

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Island Miler April 1, 2024 - 5:17 pm

I’d say Airbus has some pretty serious issues, too. Most aren’t of their doing, but they still impact their aircraft. For example, PW-powered A320neos are hugely problematic. Early on, they’d lose power in-flight. Today, the recalls are centered on non-spec materials used in the high-pressure turbines, which can cause disk failures resulting in potential uncontained engine failures. I’d say loss of power and a potential hull breach is pretty bad! Luckily, this hasn’t happened yet.

The A320s also have an anti-stall feature that can produce situations similar to the MCAS-related accidents early in the MAX’s life. Look up the LH1829 incident. While no one was hurt, the dual AoA sensor failure caused an incident eerily similar to the ET302 tragedy.

The A380 also suffered from poor engineering early on in its career, with wing spar/box fatigue issues. This went unnoticed until an inspection following a fire on QF32 inadvertently uncovered the cracking.

Of course, there was AF447, which saw an A330 literally fall out of the sky because faulty pitot tube designs (Thales) caused them to provide incorrect airspeed, which resulted in the autopilot disengaging due to “stall conditions.” The pilot-in-charge reacted wrong, which was the largest contributing factor to the accident, but had the equipment fault not had happened, the incorrect response wouldn’t have occurred, either.

A more mundane issue was my VX flight from LAX to SFO way back in May 2018. The winds changed when we arrived at our departure runway, requiring us to taxi to a different runway. Well, as we did, our brakes overheated and we had to hold on the taxiway for roughly half an hour for them to cool. Industry friends say this is a common issue with Airbus.

At the end of the day, I don’t think Airbus is inherently better than Boeing. It’s just that their issues haven’t been as well-covered as Boeing’s. Yeah, the door plug thing never should’ve happened, but Boeing is looking at reacquiring Spirit, which should help to mitigate that in the future. Airbus recently did something similar with a sub they spun off. What’s more important is that your airline maintains their jets properly and staffs up with quality crews. I wouldn’t hesitate to fly any Boeing or Airbus aircraft flown by a reputable airline.

Don April 1, 2024 - 6:06 pm

Who cares what “industry leaders” say??

These are the same ilk of talking heads who said vaccines were ‘safe and effective’ or would prevent infection.

Industry shills more accurately. WHO cares what they think!!


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