Boeing endures another turbulent week as profits slump

Photo: Jeff Hitchcock

The past week has been a tumultuous one for the world’s largest plane maker. It has been eight months since the Boeing 737 MAX was grounded worldwide, following two fatal accidents, yet, the damaging revelations continue to come.

In the latest twist in the 737 MAX saga, text messages came to light showing test pilots were not only aware of the aircraft’s fatal design flaw, but also worked out that the company had lied to the FAA about it. They also exchanged emails, joking that they had “Jedi-mind-tricked” the regulators into allowing minimal training.

Former airline pilot and aviation journalist Bob Grimstead criticised Boeing for pushing ahead with the aircraft’s certification, despite knowing that the MCAS software – a safety system which is the suspected cause of two fatal crashes in the last year – was potentially unsafe.

Mr Grimstead, who has described MCAS as being a “cobbled together” electronic substitute for proper aerodynamics, said: “The Boeing company that I knew in the 20th century was second-to-none. Safety was paramount in their designs. It was a great company producing great aeroplanes. Unfortunately, in the 21st century, it’s now run by bean counters, at the cost of 356 lives to date.”

Also this week, Boeing made a slew of announcements, including:

  • A one-year delay to the 777X project
  • A cut to the production rate of the 787 due to the US-China trade war
  • A 53 per cent fall in profits compared to this quarter last year
  • Plans to return the 737 MAX to flight before the end of the year

But the European Union Aviation Safety Agency cast doubt on the latter announcement when they announced they planned to make their own assessment of the 737 MAX’s suitability to return to service. Regulators would usually be guided by the manufacturer’s national regulator, in this case, the Federal Aviation Authority, who in turn delegate much of the process to Boeing themselves.

The question now is whether Boeing have weathered the worst of the storm, or if the company still faces an existential threat. 

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