Yesterday I asked if the three remaining North American air carriers that are still flying the Boeing Max 8 should ground them until the results of recent crash investigations are completed. Those would be Southwestern, American Airlines and Air Canada. The rest of the world has essentially grounded the planes, even though it remains unclear whether they have serious safety issues or the two crashed flights were simply unlucky.
Today the story has shifted a bit. It’s been revealed that some pilots had already registered concerns over the safety and stability of the planes. The complaints were submitted anonymously, but if these professional fliers were asking questions before the most recent crash, why didn’t we know about this until now? (Dallas News)
Pilots repeatedly voiced safety concerns about the Boeing 737 Max 8 to federal authorities, with one captain calling the flight manual “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient” several months before Sunday’s Ethiopian Air crash that killed 157 people, an investigation by The Dallas Morning News found.
The News found five complaints about the Boeing model in a federal database where pilots can voluntarily report about aviation incidents without fear of repercussions.
The complaints are about the safety mechanism cited in preliminary reports about an October Boeing 737 Max 8 crash in Indonesia that killed 189.
While it’s still too early to draw any firm conclusions, those complaints from the pilots sound rather ominous. Multiple reports claimed that the problems they encountered dealt with the autopilot and a tendency of the plane to begin “suddenly nosing down” shortly after takeoff. (Both of the crashes to date happened shortly after takeoff.) Other pilots complained that the operator manual provided with the aircraft was inadequate and pilots were being allowed to fly the planes “without adequate training or fully disclosing information about how its systems were different from those on previous 737 models.”
Again, we should be asking why this information is only coming to light now and why the planes were in service if these issues had already been raised. As the news of these details spreads, more and more passengers are expressing concerns, with some flatly refusing to board flights on the Max 8s. (CBS Dallas)
“It seems unsafe to continue flying them,” one man wrote American Airlines on Twitter.
“I will straight up cancel my tickets if my flight is on a 737 Max,” a woman wrote Southwest Airlines.
The union representing American Airlines flight attendants, the APFA, expressed concern, as well, telling members in a letter, “If you feel unsafe working the 737 Max, you will not be forced to fly it.”
Southwest and American are the only US airlines flying the 737 Max 8, with 34 and 24 planes in their fleets respectively.
So the flight attendants aren’t being forced to work flights on Max 8s if they are concerned for their safety, but Southwest and American Airlines aren’t offering passengers refunds or transfers to other flights if they’re afraid to get on the planes? At this point, the complaints are increasing in volume to the point where it seems like these airlines have to be thinking of backing down and grounding those planes. Boeing’s stock is taking a beating this week, but the ruckus doesn’t seem to be affecting the fortunes of the airlines nearly as much. Or at least not yet. But that could change rapidly if they’re being seen as risking people’s lives just to save a few bucks.
If you’re preparing to fly and you don’t want to risk flying on a Max 8 but don’t want to get the shaft on tickets you’ve already paid for, go back to my piece from yesterday. There are a few tips at the end that might save you a headache. Or possibly a plane crash.