Editorial: Boeing crash, FAA delay test confidence
Confidence is what makes transportation work.
We have confidence in painted lines on the road keeping lethally fast cars in their lanes. We have confidence that a bus will follow its route and get us where we need to go. And we have confidence in all of the dominoes that need to fall to make 70 tons or so of metal leave the ground, soar hundreds of miles and land safely again.
At least, we did. But with the United States standing behind the Boeing 737 Max 8 until every other country in the world lost faith, should we still be confident?
Two fatal crashes for a plane that has been flying less than two years is unsettling. That they came just five months apart is more alarming. At 346 victims, the death toll is higher than the 341 Max 8s in service, and that’s scary.
President Trump issued an emergency order grounding all Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft Wednesday, after Canada — the only other country still letting them fly after Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash — closed its airspace to them.
The Federal Aviation Authority is known for seriousness. Plane crashes in the United States are a rarity, and when they do happen, they are more likely small craft, not large commercial vehicles.
Our confidence in the thousands of flights that come and go every day stems in large part from the meticulousness of an agency that doesn’t seem to believe in shortcuts or half-efforts. There are reasons why car travel is statistically more deadly than air travel, and diligent oversight is one of them.
And that is why America — where the Max 8 is made — should have been the first country to ground the planes, not the last. The FAA is all about abundance of caution. When flights containing up to 200 passengers are going into the air, caution is warranted. When they are flying over cities and towns and roads and schools, it is imperative.
We recall food that has nothing wrong with it just because an allergen warning isn’t listed. Why would we hesitate in keeping planes on the ground if people could die? When people have died?
Is it for bottom-line reasons? There could be nothing worse for Boeing than another crash. There could be nothing worse for Southwest, American and United airlines than passengers afraid of the planes they might board. Trump’s announcement could be the best thing for them all.
But everyone might have had more confidence if it had come earlier.