In light of Ethiopian Airlines’ recent Boeing 737 MAX crash (and the 737 MAX crash months prior), virtually every airline and aviation authority outside of the US and Canada has temporarily grounded the plane.
The two sides to this situation
There are strong opinions on both sides here. Some say that concern over the aircraft is little more than paranoia, while others say it’s unconscionable that US airlines continue to fly the plane, and that the FAA hasn’t done anything.
I don’t think anyone can say with 100% certainty that there’s not something wrong with the plane. Similarly, I don’t think anyone can say with 100% certainty that there is something wrong with the plane, though following the Lion Air crash we do know that some of the features of the 737 MAX weren’t properly explained to pilots.
So this comes down to how high of a price airlines, passengers, Boeing, and our economy, are willing to pay to ensure these planes are safe.
When it comes to grounding 737 MAX aircraft in the US, there are some compelling arguments on both sides, in my opinion. In favor of continuing to fly the plane:
- The Allied Pilots Association (representing American pilots) says their pilots feel confident in their ability to fly the 737 MAX
- American’s 737 MAX aircraft are the only ones equipped with AOA displays, one for each pilot, which they say provides an extra layer of awareness and warning
At the same time, there are some things I find alarming about the lack of action in the US:
- Every single relevant aviation authority and/or airline outside the US and Canada has grounded the plane
- It’s reported that Boeing’s CEO, Dennis Muilenburg (Dennis Boeing for short), called President Trump to plead his case for the plane not being grounded, which makes me slightly uneasy
- It’s also reported that Boeing 737 MAX pilots in the US have filed at least five complaints in a federal database regarding the plane, with problems related to the autopilot during the ascent phase of the flight; one pilot called the flight manual for the plane “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient”
My situation involving the 737 MAX
Obviously this pales in comparison to the events that have occurred, but I figured I’d share the situation I’m in, since I know a lot of people are in similar situations.
Next week I have to fly from Washington back to Miami. I need to fly after a certain time, and the only nonstop flight from any Washington-area airport to Miami is on an American Boeing 737 MAX. I was planning on taking that flight long before this situation arose.
To add to this, I planned the trip so that I’d get home shortly before Ford needs to leave on a trip, meaning I’d have dog sitting duties.
So, what’s my plan? Personally, if I were single and parent-less, I’d probably take this flight. Even if I did have safety concerns, the odds are still statistically in my favor. I don’t put much thought into airline safety, and I’ll also gladly fly airlines like Pakistan Airlines and TAAG Angola, which I realize others wouldn’t set foot on. Because statistically just about any air transportation is still safer than just about any car ride you’ll take.
But here’s the thing. I have a mother and I have a husband. A day after this happened, my mom said “promise me you won’t fly one of those MAX planes.” Ford actually has similarly strong opinions, and has asked me not to fly the plane. I appreciate their concern, and I’ll respect that.
I’ll avoid the 737 MAX not because I’m worried I’ll die, but rather because it’s worth me going out of my way to put my loved ones at ease. Fortunately there’s a JetBlue flight from Washington to Fort Lauderdale. Fort Lauderdale is significantly less convenient for me, but I’ll take an extra 30 minute Uber ride to put my loved ones at ease.
Personally I’d probably still fly the 737 MAX, not because I’m convinced there’s nothing wrong with it, but rather because the odds are still in my favor. However, I also have loved ones, and I think their concerns are reasonable. Therefore I’ll take a less convenient and less comfortable flight in order to avoid this aircraft.
This is also why I personally find American’s current stance of not letting people rebook to be heartless. People fly US airlines with the confidence of knowing that they’re choosing a safe airline with an excellent safety record.
Regardless of whether there’s a problem with the 737 MAX or not, a lot of people are really, really scared. Nobody should have to board a commercial plane nervous, given the two unresolved crashes we’ve seen. This isn’t about safety, this is just about common courtesy and people having a legitimate reason to be concerned, in my opinion.
Assuming they’re not going to ground the plane, I at least appreciate Southwest’s stance. “We stand behind the plane, but we understand people are concerned, so we’ll let you change flights at no cost.”
I’m curious where you guys stand on this. To those of you already booked on a 737 MAX, are you rescheduling? Do others plan on avoiding the 737 MAX?