Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been criticized for his response to the latest Boeing 737 MAX 9 drama by a leading left-wing publication. I’m much more willing to give Buttigieg the benefit of the doubt.
Should Pete Buttigieg Be Doing More After Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 Emergency Landing?
The Nation, a progressive magazine founded in 1865 as a successor to William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, took Buttigieg to task for his responses to recent tragedies like the Southwest Airlines meltdown in 2022, the Northfolk Southern train derailment in Ohio, and now the emergency landing of a Boeing 737 MAX 9 a week ago after part of the fuselage blew off at 16,000 feet.
Buttigieg has responded to each of these calamities in the spirit of crisis management, prioritizing the offering of soothing public relations messages over trying to find the root causes of problems. He seems to think his main job is to assure the American people that the system is in good working order rather than preventing repeated calamities…
With the Alaska Airlines disaster, Buttigieg has again taken the approach of going to the public with the reassuring message that there’s nothing to worry about and the system is fundamentally sound.
Sometimes the most effective and meaningful criticism comes from our ideological allies instead of from our opponents. So does The Nation have a point that Buttigieg is “reactive rather than proactive, offering after-the-fact solutions rather than looking at the systematic problems that are bedevilling American transportation.”?
I don’t sell myself as a safety expert. But I have followed the aviation industry closely for 20 years, written about it for 14 of those years, and I know many pilots, airline mechanics, regulators, and folks at Boeing. The system has redundancies in place such that if one thing goes wrong (i.e. two engines instead of one), the plane does not fall out of the air. And I think that is worth noting. Meanwhile, The Nation thinks it is all a matter of luck that planes are not falling out of the sky:
The close calls are a matter partly of luck and partly of airlines trying to be more cautious with flawed planes. This is not a sustainable model for an industry where millions depend on safety every day. Flying under this system is a game of Russian roulette. At some point, luck runs out and the barrel has a bullet in it. When we fly, we’re just whistling past the graveyard.
I don’t agree. With flight tracking software and social media, problems can no longer be kept secret. This is a good thing. Every aircraft manufacturer and airline should be held accountable. And yes, Buttigieg should absolutely focus on accountability.
But I think there is an important place for providing a reassuring message because if you’ve read headlines this week, you might think your next flight is a danger or that flying is more dangerous than driving. Statistically, at least, the answer is no to both. Flying is safe. Flying remains safe. We should always take reasonable steps to make it safer, but that does not mean the system is broken.
A progressive publication has attacked Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for not doing enough in response to the Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 issue. But I think a cautious approach is a wiser alternative to overreaction and assuring Americans that our system of aviation remains remarkably safe is not just a politician’s lie, but the truth…at least when compared to alternative modes of transport.