The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has finally cleared Boeing’s 737 Max 8 aircraft to fly again after an order to ground all planes in March 2019. Boeing’s reputation has been tarnished by the two avoidable crashes that took place in Indonesia and Ethiopia and the revelation that Boeing’s corporate culture allowed the faulty planes to fly commercially before safety was prioritized. It’s probably likely that passengers worldwide are going to be cautious about stepping into a Max 8 plane, even allowing for the fact that the pandemic has left commercial flights floundering.
The FAA itself received a lot of criticism last year due to the fact that it took too long to respond to the mounting evidence of serious defects in the planes automated flight software that caused the two doomed aircraft to nosedive prematurely. The two crashes led to the deaths of 346 passengers and crew in late 2018 and February 2019, within five months of each other.
Approval by regulators may not restore trust immediately
The FAA has said that modifications that Boeing made have finally been approved and planes can fly ‘immediately.’ Approval by European, Canadian and UK aviation regulators is expected to follow fairly soon, but it might take some time before trust in the safety of the Max 8s is restored elsewhere.
There is also the matter of getting hundreds of grounded Max 8s back into serviceable condition at a time when flights everywhere have been depressed because of Covid-19 restrictions.
Congressional report identifies Boeing’s and FAA’s failings
According to Boeing’s chief executive, Dave Colhoun, improvements in the flight software have been made and have been accompanied by improvements in company culture which Boeing thinks addresses harsh criticism made by the U.S. Congress. A congressional report released a month ago pinpointed the key findings of an investigation into the reason for the two crashes. These were Boeing’s hurry to get the new aircraft ready for sale before its chief competitor, Airbus, a reluctance to take any notice of persistent warnings by pilots and engineers of faulty software design, a failure to train pilots properly and the concealing of changes that had been made to the planes.
The congressional report also singled out the FAA, criticizing it for “excessive delegation to Boeing” and not responding quickly enough to signs that something was wrong. The Congress has already approved legislation aimed at improving the way the regulator functions.
Boeing has suffered serious financial setbacks as a result of the grounding. 50 Max 8s a month were being manufactured before the groundings caused airlines to cancel orders. It estimates that it may be2022 before a return to even 30 planes manufactured a month is likely.
The company also faces fines, lawsuits and the costs of further inspections, all at a time when a return to normal airline activity is still a year or more off. The company has estimated that the grounding alone and canceled orders has cost it about 20 billion dollars.
Of U.S. based airlines, American Airlines has said that it will start using Max 8s from the end of December, while United and Southwest say that they will start using the aircraft again from sometime early next year.
It might take some time before the stigma attached to the aircraft is finally removed to allow passengers to want to use them again like they did before the two crashes. Commentators from the travel industry say that airlines should specify very clearly if Max8s are to be used on flights so that potential customers can make an informed choice before booking a flight. Another suggestion is that airlines should allow customers who book a flight before a switch to using Max 8s should be given another alternative flight choice if they don’t want to use that model of aircraft.
Most aviation accidents still take place in small planes
Plane crashes of the sort that happened to the two doomed Max 8s in Indonesia and Ethiopia are fortunately rare, although highly distressing when they happen because of the enormous suffering caused. Most aviation accidents are due to poor maintenance and pilot error in small privately owned planes. If you, or a loved one, have been a victim of a small plane accident, you should contact a dedicated and experienced aviation accident attorney at the Keith Williams Law Group in Nashville. You can contact Keith Williams at (866) 820-4457.