Let’s try to be calm about the Boeing 737 Max 8 for a minute

Before I start this post, I’d like to say something in bold:

If you decide not to fly on a Boeing 737 Max 8 after the recent crashes, this post is in no way meant to criticize you.  It’s your decision and far be it from me to tell you how to live your life

737-MAX 8, courtesy of Boeing

A quick reminder about the news media

(edited) Please be careful who you believe out there in the media.  Some news outlets benefit from pageviews while others are credentialed by major news organizations.  In times like this it can be hard to figure out who to trust, just be careful.

At time of publishing, here’s what we know for sure about the cause of the ET302 crash

 

 

 

 

Wait why did you leave that last part blank?

To date, no determination has been made as to the cause of the ET302 crash.  Anything you’ve read otherwise is speculation, some more well-informed than others.

There are quite a few assumptions being made out there about what might have caused this crash.  It’s understandable, we’re humans and we crave knowing why in times like this.  No doubt, the promulgation of air crash investigation shows are turning people into armchair air crash investigators (similar to how prosecutors complained about juries wanting super high-tech tests before voting guilty after shows like CSI became popular).  I don’t fault people for this, we like for things to make sense for us.  It seems very logical for us to look at the MCAS system on the 737 Max 8, say that’s to blame, swear off flying them, and call it a day.

Here’s what I’ve yet to see from the news media

I haven’t seen a headline saying THOUSANDS OF BOEING 737 MAX 8 FLIGHTS TAKE OFF, LAND SAFELY.  That’s understandable, that’s not really news, after all.  We expect planes to take off and land safely.  And the Boeing 737 Max 8 has, thousands of times for numerous airlines.  In my opinion it’s tough to look at the two times it didn’t land safely and say the thousands of times it did land safely don’t matter.

Wait but what about pilots and flight attendants saying they won’t fly on one?

I know a few pilots who fly the Max 8 routinely.  One of them said yesterday, from the cockpit of a 737 Max 8, that he had absolutely no qualms about flying the jet that day.  I’m not trying to discount those who say they won’t fly the jet, or the flight attendants who are re-working their schedules to avoid it, but there are probably just as many who don’t have a problem with it.  Yes yes, you may know many more pilots/crew than I do and they may all say they’re not flying the jet, and that’s fine.  I don’t need to be right here, that’s not the purpose of this article.

So what do you think happened on the flight?

I don’t know.  I’m not an aircraft engineer.  I’m not a flight investigator.  Be careful from whom you source your information in times like this.  I do know that, in time, we will know the exact cause of the crash of ET302.  That I do not know the cause right now does not mean the 737 Max 8 is unsafe, it just means I do not yet know the cause.

How can you be so sure that it’s safe?

How can I be sure that any aircraft I’ve ever boarded is safe?  Ultimately I can’t.  I have control issues so this is hard for me to accept, but there’s little I can do to prevent a plane that I’m on from crashing.  I have to place my faith in the pilots, the flight crew, the mechanics, the manufacturers, and the FAA, who oversees flights in the USA, to ensure that my flight is safe.  The airline industry is incredibly good at being safe.  If the FAA had verifiable evidence that there was a flaw in the 737 Max 8 I can guarantee you they would’ve already grounded it (like they did with the 787-8 Dreamliner when it first started flying).

So should I change my flight away from a 737 Max 8 if I can?

If it makes you feel any better, go for it.  If an airline says they can’t do it for free I can understand their point too.  The FAA and the airlines have a lot at stake here and they want to know if they have faulty jets just as much as you do.

Ok, enough, what are you actually saying we should do instead of worry about the 737 Max 8?

…nothing.  Wait for the cause from the NTSB and Boeing.  Worrying about the Max 8 will only make you a more nervous flyer and stress you out.  If you want to change your flights, go for it, but do not accuse an airline of of risking your life if they don’t accommodate you.  Let’s all calm down and let the professional crash investigators investigate.  The airline industry remains the absolute most safe method of transport in the history of the world, that same airline industry is confident, at the moment, that the 737 Max 8 is as safe.

Listen, I don’t blame anyone for thinking it’s suspicious that two brand new jet types went down in relatively short order.  Correlation, though, is not causation.  Just because they could be linked doesn’t mean they are linked.

What happens if you’re wrong, that it turns out to be unsafe and grounded like five minutes after this post goes live?

Then I’ll be thankful that the industry regulators and scrutineers were able to figure it out before any other planes went down.  Again, I’m not saying anyone is wrong for thinking that, nor are they wrong for acting on those doubts, I’m just strongly encouraging people to switch to decaf about it.  Don’t read about it or look for the latest updates, they’ll all say the same thing over and over with scary graphics and pictures of the debris field.

I’m not trying to be right or say that anyone else is wrong.  I’m just saying that, at this time, we need more information.

15 Comments

  1. Well said! A notable beacon of common-sense….in a vast sea of ignorance and conjecture.

    Reply
  2. here’s what we know:

    the plane is inherently unstable due to large heavy jets on its fuselage (check google for citations)

    one plane already crashed because of that bad system mixed with bad sensor and bad maintenance

    they didn’t train pilots about the system

    even if the pilots are trained, the system can direct the plane into the ground… what kind of default system is that? the plane should be stable not unstable

    it’s the second plane to crash for no apparent reason

    Boeing is no longer trustworthy because if it costs a few pennies more it’s not worth educating pilots for risk of competing with airbus

    the plane should already have been grounded, and in fact if anyone at Boeing knows more than this or at FAA, then there should be criminal charges

    Reply
  3. Here is the problem…..They don’t know what caused the crash and that’s why there needs to be level of caution that we have not seen. Until we know what the problem is we don’t know that every other Max 8 doesn’t have the same problem. Why not ground the plane and find out rather than risk another flight.

    Reply
  4. If it’s a Boeing 737 MAX, I CALMLY aint going … until after the comprehensive investigation of the root cause/s is done and appropriate solutions are made

    Reply
  5. As an aerospace reporter, I appreciate the appeal to reason in the wake of the tragic accident. However, you start your appeal by carelessly impugning the professional news media. There is enough of that going already; please don’t add to it.

    The vast majority of professional reporters in America work at traditional newspapers and news wire services (e.g. the AP, Reuters, Bloomberg). The newspaper industry does not pay based on page views.

    Paying by page views is more a feature of online-only content. I am not aware of any survey or study quantifying how widespread this incentive is used. It poses very real ethical questions. However, resolving these can not be boiled down to throw-away assertions that implicitly call into question the veracity of all news reporting.

    Reply
    • Dan, that’s fair. I’ll update the post accordingly, please accept my sincere apology.

      Reply
      • Much appreciated!

        Reply
  6. What is the point if this post?

    There is good reason to be suspicious of both Boeing and the NTSB. The 737 has been beset by safety issues in the past. This time the suspected issue is a new form of flight automation for which pilots have not been trained.

    The lack of training is key to Boeing’s sales pitch. That has caused suspicion, and in my view is an issue whether it not these crashes are related.

    Impugning the media isn’t helpful. Nor is it helpful to dismiss or ignore the cloud of suspicion that surrounds the US regulatory bodies charged with promoting air travel and ensuring safety. It doesn’t take much effort to see the conflict there.

    Having recently posted a series of puffed pieces largely authored by AA’s press relations team doesn’t help with this blog’s credibility. They are among the largest operators of the aircraft in question and you’ve shown willing essay to let them speak through this blog.

    Be careful. Credibility is hard to establish and easy to lose.

    Reply
    • Patrick, you are 100% incorrect. As discussed on your other comment, American Airlines has never authored a single word of this blog.

      You bring up good points about competing motivations within the airline regulatory environment, but this post wasn’t about the competing motivations within the airline regulatory environment, it was a post encouraging people to relax a bit about this. I’ve seen absolutely absurd statements on social media and in the regular media about the Max 8 and I’m simply trying to suggest people wait and see what the facts are before frothing themselves into a fury about the Max 8.

      Reply
      • You’re 100% wrong, Andy. You lift phrases directly out of American”s press releases (about social media, their take in ooeratoper and now on 737s).

        I’ll presume you are simply unaware, but this blog now literally parrots American’s press releases.

        I’ve seen bloggers throw their credibility in the trash simply because they lack awareness of how insidious corporate handouts and invites can be. That seems to be the case here.

        Reply
        • Patrick, let me get this straight, asking for a statement from American and reporting their reply to my readers is “parroting” press releases? Or that I reported what was said at an on-the-record press event? Or that I generally take American at their word when I cannot prove otherwise? Is that it? Or is there no room for non-negative stories about American in your eyes?

          If you’d like to call me a corporate shill for American I invite you to just do so, I’ve been called worse and those things were equally false.

          Reply
        • As a warning, another post about American will likely run tomorrow.

          Reply
  7. Must feel pretty awful now. After all, turns out that the FAA had been shamed into grounding the 737 Max. They’re in bed with the manufacturer.

    And admonitions to “calm down” seemed – at best – blissfully ignorant. Or – at worst – like tools if industry.

    Reply
    • I make absolutely no apologies for pleading for patience while the facts are uncovered. You’re imagining something which is not taking place again.

      Reply
  8. Actually, I think I’m spot on. Shill vs. tool?

    And outright refusal to learn from it?

    Adiós.

    Reply

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