Two crashes in six months – the Ethiopian airline and the previous crash of an identical Boeing 737 Max 8 Lion Air in Indonesia. Both crashed within minutes of take-off and in both cases, all on board lost their lives. That’s a lot of people dying only because they flew Boeing 737 Max.
Almost the entire world has grounded MAX. This also marks a change in global geopolitical dynamics? Even 5 years ago, would the entire world have got together and banned the largest aircraft company from flying one of its planes? Somewhere, Trump and his rhetoric and policies have backfired. Five years ago, no one would have dared do this to an American company. Today, everyone seemingly wants to get back! And China was the first, within hours of the crash, it banned its airspace for Boeing 737 Max 8. The rest of the world followed soon though it took a while for India to react. It’s another story that Spicjet continues to fly the Boeing 737 despite the current fear.
Trump, as expected, has refused to ground Boeing 737 and US Transportation Secretary flew the very same flight yesterday to show the world that its safe. She said that the department will ground MAX planes if it’s determined they are not safe to fly. Southwest and American Airlines, who fly the 737 Max 8, and United Airlines, which flies the 737 Max 9, have all said they have no plans to take the plane out of service. Well, based on what the US thinks, it looks as though the world is reacting illogically, just a knee jerk reaction, coming out of fear?
Irrespective of what the US Govt think, the Dow was worried and the Boeing stock crashed over 12%. The economic impact of this worldwide grounding could be huge as 350 jets of particular model of Boeing, the 737 Max have been delivered to airlines. There are orders for about 5000 more of these MAX jets. Boeing was also all set to unveil its 777X model today, which under the current circumstances is being postponed.
Boeing, to beat competition from Airbus been producing more cost effective models. But in this pursuit to increase market share and earnings, somewhere its eye on safety, the priority of the airplane is lost. To cut costs, Boeing has pretty much outsourced everything, most of its software comes from vendors, they have cut down on their technical fellow ranks, reduced engineering, retired older but much experienced staff in favor of cheaper and less experienced new hires and bitten off a sizeable portion of its testing process. All this to boost earnings but coming at the cost of safety of passengers.
One does not know, at this point of time, when this ban will be lifted. Boeing has said that it is updating its software but that alone might not be sufficient. Maybe a report after a full investigation is the only way this crisis could come to an end.
There is gossip that the order for 5000 MAX, which is already in the pipeline could also see an impact. If the investigation does not come up with anything conclusive, citing no reasons for why this failure happened, the safety of the new jets will remain shrouded in a blanket of doubt and fear. Thus if the investigation is inconclusive, the orders could either get delayed or there could even be cancellations.
What will happen if there actually proves to be some design flaw with the 737 Max? Surely orders will get cancelled and orders might drift to European company, Airbus. It could also be a big win for China’s Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) but its doubtful many would go for a ‘Made in China’ plane as of now.
We simply do not have an alternative airplane – that’s the monopoly which Boeing enjoys and switching to a new airline would be very costly. In all probability, Boeing will correct the current technical flaw and life for all of us, who have not lost a dear one to the MAX crash, will go back to normal. The Boeing and the Spicejet stock price will bounce back.
But every time a crash happens, we think for a few seconds about how risky it really is to fly. We take the safety for granted and put our life, literally, up in the air. So next time, we take off and land, say a small prayer as today, flying seems to have become a question of fate and luck.