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Going Direct: Why Boeing’s 737 Max Catastrophe Paints A Picture Of A Deeply Troubled Company

Boeing 737
Photo by Komenton/Shutterstock

Here’s a hypothetical: A company’s new plane, of which it is publicly very proud, and seemingly rightly so, suffers a crash that might be related to an as yet unknown and unanticipated design flaw. Many die in the crash. Then, a few months later, there’s another eerily similar crash, in which many more people lose their lives. The company immediately grounds the planes and works with investigators to try to get to the bottom of it. They search and discover the cause of the crash and they work diligently and transparently to fix it.. Regulators, with whom the company has worked closely this whole time, approve the fix, and the plane goes back into service. This is, by the way, except for the disasters part, not what happened with Boeing and the 737 Max, sadly.

We do not live in a perfect world, and we in aviation should be more aware of this fact than anyone this side of the bomb squad. If something goes wrong on a plane, and there are literally a million things (or more) that could go wrong, catastrophe can and sometimes, though rarely, does follow. In the design of a new plane, mistakes will be made. This is because it’s impossible to foresee every eventuality, try as we puny humans might. Things that escaped notice, perhaps the design of a fuel tank sensor in a jumbo jet, the inaccurate production of the leading edge of a trainer—a bad choice, in retrospect—of materials for a critical tail support. Things like these not only can happen, but these are actual examples of mistakes in development that did happen. You might recognize them.

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