Response to Boeing Max 8 groundings includes new aviation leadership
Friday, July 12, 2019
The Boeing 737 Max 8 airplane model was the most common plane flying the friendly skies — until recently. After several high-profile crashes killing hundreds of people, this model has been withdrawn from use so it can undergo an upgrade with new safety features for its alert system, which is rumored to have contributed to the crashes.
Costing American Airlines $185 million in the second quarter, this aviation development has sent more than ripples through financial markets and manufacturing hubs. As Boeing moves forward to adjust safety feature software and materials, airlines also scramble to compensate for flight cancellations and groundings.
American reports thousands of grounded flights: 7,800 in a three-month period to be exact. The company currently has 24 737 Max 8 planes, with 76 more on order. These planes are grounded through early September, and the deadline is expected to be extended.
Southwest Airlines also uses this model, and it has seen a major impact as well with the groundings. 150 flights daily have been cancelled through October 2019.
A Texas court is currently reviewing a lawsuit initiated by consumer plaintiffs who claim Southwest colluded with Boeing to cover up a fatal design defect.
This lawsuit has been filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, alleging that the companies colluded to cover up faults — resulting in unnecessary deaths, per Bloomberg Law: “More specifically, the complaint alleges Southwest economically propped up Boeing by strategically placing orders for 737s in exchange for early access to new models of the plane. It also claims Boeing rushed the defective 737 MAX 8 to market and Southwest helped to cover up the defect by assuring customers the plane was safe.”
Prior knowledge on the part of both airline and plane manufacturing entities is a hefty charge. Additionally, Southwest pilots are suing the company for losses and legal fees during the grounding.
It’s not just companies involved in these rumored collusions. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is also challenged to provide leadership at such an important time, and it is now undergoing a nomination process. Former Delta Airlines executive Stephen Dickson is President Trump’s choice for the FAA’s top position; however, some Democrats oppose the nomination due to lawsuits and Department of Justice investigations.
One controversial issue here is “a lawsuit brought by a Delta pilot, Karlene Petitt, which alleged the airline retaliated against her by putting her on leave with pay after she reported safety concerns to Dickson and another executive.” Delta denies the allegations.
As the dust settles on Boeing and airline companies’ responses, the FAA will surely have its hands full.
On July 10, the Senate Commerce Committee voted 14-12 to appoint Dickson to the FAA post. Now the nomination must be cleared by the full Senate.
34-year Boeing veteran and 737 program leader Eric Lindblad has also announced his retirement as the recovery light at the end of the company tunnel remains dim.
With lost profits soaring and effective leadership in short supply, the months ahead for aviation remain uncertain — to say the least.
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