The evidence was irrefutable. Every credible intelligence agency agreed. Only idiots didn’t understand. Statesmen from both sides of the aisle and the enlightened countries of the world all saw the imminent threat.
Billions of dollars were spent. Lives were lost. Blood was shed. The problem was removed.
And yet the smoking gun was never found. Dead bodies were found, but those were created by the mayhem of hasty acts of fear and cowardice, not of solemn necessity. Not of rational deliberation. In the end, a larger problem emerged. More lives were lost than from the original problem itself.
I’m talking about the worldwide grounding of the 737 MAX, of course.
For every action, there is not an equal and opposite reaction. When decisions are made in fear and groupthink prevails, more lives end up being lost.
We have witnessed two tragedies involving the same aircraft under similar circumstances. Thus, the circumstantial evidence is strong that there is a link between the two incidents…and that link is the Boeing 737 MAX 8. But what do we really know?
It does seem like there is a design flaw in this aircraft. Boeing in a sense confirmed that directly. But it also true that after the Lion Air accident, pilots were specially trained in how to deal with sensor misreads. Was the Ethiopian Airlines pilot truly well-trained for the uniqueness of the MAX 8? We are not talking about a flying Pinto. Why does the American Airlines’ pilot union “remain confident in the Boeing 737 MAX and in our members’ ability to safely fly it”? Just like the pilots union at Southwest. And United. I strongly doubt it is because Boeing bought them off. Rather, it is because every pilot is carefully trained in how to handle a well-known issue on this aircraft type.
When we wage total war instead of precision attacks, more lives are often sacrificed. Chew on this, for a moment. If you’re an American, you have a 1 in 114 chance of dying in a car crash. If you fly, your chance of dying is 1 in 9,821. And that stat includes “risker” private aircraft. Airline accidents per one million miles flown occur at a rate of 0.0035. Put another way, even the crash of two aircraft is but a statistical blip compared to the higher likelihood of death through most alternate forms of transportation.
A Sad Anecdote
I had a client write to me last night stating:
You have me booked on one of those United Boeing 737 MAX from Houston to Ft. Lauderdale tomorrow. You either get me off that [expletive deleted] airplane or I’m driving. Help!
Little does she understand that if she drives, she is 86 times more likely to die. And maybe that is what regulators forgot as well. If all those 737 MAX groundings lead to people taking to the roads instead, the results will be more death, not less. Oh, those deaths will be spaced out so as not to draw much attention, but they add up…to the tune of 5,419,000 crashes, 2,239,000 injuries, and 32,999 deaths each and every year in the good ol’ USA.
Not to sound crass, but I’d rather take my family on a 737 MAX 8 any day of the week…
A well-meaning Iraq War supporter once offered a solution to win the war: “We should just nuke them all.” Yes, indeed…that would have won the war. And it would have hurt the very people the war aimed to help…or at least gave lip service to.
We could certainly ground all commercial aircraft…and all cars while we are at. That would keep us all safe. It would also ground commerce to a halt and hurt far more than it would help. Every life is precious, but we must think beyond the shallow confines of an enthralling incident and understand the ramifications of our actions.
I don’t subscribe to most conspiracy theories, but the flying public is nothing but a pawn in this game of global chess. Boeing should be held accountable for any design flaw. But the answer is not to ground aircraft out of an abundance of caution. Making moves cloaked in ignorance out of nothing but fear has a proven track record…and it is not pretty. Let’s all take a deep breath and learn from our past mistakes. Let’s not succumb to fear and hysteria.