By Salim Lone
The heartbreak of 157 lives snuffed out in seconds in the plane crash in Ethiopia yesterday has rapidly turned to outrage. The decision today by airlines to suspend flying the Boeing 737 Max acknowledges it was a death trap. But the decision to suspend the plane should have been taken by Boeing and regulatory aviation authorities – months ago, after the plane’s first crash in Indonesia last October killed nearly 200 passengers.
A key and malfunctioning component in the plane was known to have caused that first crash, with official investigations making it clear then that the Boeing company had given totally inadequate information about this central component in its manual. The NY Times wrote last year that Boeing may have done so in order to compete better against the best-selling rival Airbus A320, which was made in a way that involved less pilot training. Such training is expensive and can discourage airlines from buying new planes.
The world knows that even the most renowned companies will mislead buyers to sell their wares. But to play with lives in the most heavily-monitored aviation industry – whose safety standards have consistently improved globally – was a step too far and will fuel the already growing disillusionment with capitalism as a system that meets basic human needs. (See more at end of this post).
Boeing in fact had acknowledged last October that Indonesian officials had told it about repeated errant data readings experienced by the new 737. Incorrect data readings can set off the automated anti-stall system to force the plane into a nose-dive, even if the plane is not on autopilot. Stalls are one of the most common causes of airplane crashes.
At that time, the pilots’ union for American Airlines had said that this emergency system had not been included by Boeing in the standard operating manual. In addition, the flight checklist — which contains information for manually overriding the emergency system — was incorrect, the union said.
This earlier NY Times article will be useful for those wanting to know more details of Boeing malfeasance.
As indicated earlier, renowned companies do deliberately mislead buyers to sell their wares. Volkswagen had created soft wear that would hide make its cars’ high emissions even as it touted how environmentally friendly the cars were. VW was fined hundreds of millions of dollars in the US. One of the world’s largest banks, Well Fargo, acknowledged that it created new bank accounts for older customers without their consent, in order to earn hundreds of millions of dollars. But this latest example is repugnant beyond words and will have a huge impact on Boeings sales – and launch hundreds of wrongful death lawsuits.