Boeing: First signs of turnaround for troubled jets
Boeing finally managed to get some lift in its battered reputation at the world’s largest aerospace convention last week, said Robert Wall and Andrew Tangel in The Wall Street Journal. The company secured “a blockbuster sale of 200 Max jets” to British Airways parent IAG, its first order for the once best-selling 737 Max since the plane was grounded in March following two fatal crashes. Airbus was “left fuming over the deal,” which caught the rival plane maker by surprise. However, “despite the vote of confidence from one of the world’s largest airlines, Boeing is far from over the Max crisis.” More than 400 jets remain idled, awaiting regulatory approval on a software fix to the anti-stall system responsible for the crashes. Before the air show, Boeing had not sold a Max plane in months. Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger also testified before Congress last week that Boeing’s accidents “should never have happened,” said Devan Cole in CNN.com. The famed “Miracle on the Hudson” pilot told the panel that he recently “spent time in a simulator running re-creations of the doomed flights,” and “even knowing what was going to happen,” he struggled to save the planes. Pilots new to the 737 Max weren’t even required to do a simulator run, instead learning about the new guidance system on an iPad.
The air show proved “it’s not all doom and gloom for Boeing,” said Phil Boucher in Fortune. Boeing remains “one of the world’s two big aero-manufacturers and has a huge backlog of orders” for its other models, including 1,440 outstanding orders for its long-haul 787 Dreamliner through May. “In terms of publicity,” the British Airways sale was “priceless,” especially after IAG CEO Willie Walsh, a former 737 pilot, said he “would get on board a Max tomorrow.” It was inevitable that Boeing was going to get out of “the aviation industry’s version of timeout,” said Brooke Sutherland in Bloomberg.com. “Airlines would be reluctant to tilt the market-share balance too much in Airbus’ favor,” and be stuck with just one big jet builder. Boeing’s reputation won’t be rebuilt overnight, but its customers remain supportive.
“The key thing will be for regulators to show the same vote of confidence,” said aviation analyst Marisa Garcia in NPR.com. A rift has opened between European and U.S. regulators over how the Federal Aviation Administration first certified the Max jet and its flawed software. This could further delay Boeing’s hopes of getting the planes back off the ground. Without approval from both domestic and overseas regulators, “there’s always going to be a shadow of doubt about that aircraft.” Boeing’s “reluctance to take its share of the blame” isn’t helping, said The Economist. The company has “insisted that its anti-stall software, known as MCAS, did not compromise safety” and instead points a finger at the certification process. That shows a disregard for its biggest constituency: passengers. CEO Dennis Muilenburg’s “metronomic, defensive response to the disasters has compounded the mistrust.” The regulators are obviously critical, but his focus should be “to convince the flying public at large to renew their faith in Boeing.” ■