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Boeing’s MAX Grounding Lifts Firms That Rent Out Airplanes

During busy summer season, carriers seek to fill holes created by grounded aircraft

The global grounding of Boeing Co.’s 737 MAX jetliners has upended air travel, but one little-noticed corner of the aviation industry is benefiting from the problems: companies that rent out planes and staff.

Regulators in March stopped MAX planes from flying because of safety concerns following two fatal crashes in less than six months. Almost overnight, airlines parked more than 370 planes. Boeing was forced to stop delivering the MAX, which it had been producing at a rate of around 50 each month.

Airlines that had ordered the MAX, the newest version of the 737, suddenly faced the busy summer travel season with hundreds fewer planes available than they had expected to operate.

In other industries, customers might turn to a competing supplier. But tapping Boeing’s European rival Airbus SE wasn’t an option. Even if airlines were able to manage all the pilot training and logistical complexities of switching between jetliner brands—a feat few carriers can handle—Airbus couldn’t supply the planes. Its production lines are booked for several years.

Excerpt from WSJ
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History’s Precedents for the 737 MAX

Boeing isn’t the first manufacturer to miss critical problems when certifying a new aircraft.

Frenzied headlines aside, the recent Boeing 737 MAX crashes fit a long pattern in the imperfect history of aircraft-certification programs, which sometimes miss fatal flaws.

Start with the de Havilland Comet, made in Britain. While the Boeing 707 popularized jet travel, the Comet was the world’s first commercial jetliner, entering service in 1952.

Less than two years later, a Comet broke apart 20 minutes after taking off from Rome and plunged into the Mediterranean for undetermined reasons. The fleet was grounded temporarily, but a few months later a second Comet broke up over the sea. This time the fleet was grounded permanently, and the aircraft was extensively redesigned to combat a problem then little understood: metal fatigue.

The aircraft-certification program had failed to detect that. It hadn’t known what to look for.

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GM and Boeing Show How Safety Miscues Happen

Each design choice may be imperfect, but it takes a piling up of circumstances to create a fatal defect.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg’s comments at the company’s annual meeting last month left many baffled. Why not acknowledge that Boeing had screwed up with its now-notorious MCAS software that contributed to two fatal crashes of its new 737 MAX jets? His performance left a different taste in the mouths of specialists: The lawyers are in charge now.

An accepted duty of management nowadays is to facilitate eventual liability settlements by not using words that acknowledge faulty decisions. In a better world it would be otherwise, but word-parsing is what lawyers advise. CEOs and boards can themselves be sued by shareholders if they put a foot wrong or even if they don’t.

Less deservedly, Mr. Muilenburg was also derided for his insisting that a “chain of events,” and not a specific defect, was behind the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines disasters. He was right in a way that bears reflection given the many complex systems and imperfect machines we rely on.

Excerpt from WSJ

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When MAXs Fly Again, Will Passengers Get on Board?

Boeing Co.’s MAX plane could return to service this summer, yet convincing passengers the plane is safe will be one of the aviation industry’s toughest consumer-relations challenges in decades.

The aircraft has been grounded world-wide since March after two MAX jets crashed within five months of each other. The crashes, and what some carriers and pilots have described as Boeing’s lack of transparency in their aftermath, have undermined confidence in the plane maker.

Industry officials expect U.S. regulators may lift the flying ban for the MAX in June, but it increasingly looks like late summer before the planes start flying passengers again.

Lance White, a 39-year-old radiologist who flies a few times a year, says he has no plans to board the jets once they do.

“I just don’t know there’s anything Boeing could do to re-instill my confidence in this plane,” Mr. White said. The St. Louis resident said he would want to see the jet fly safely for at least five years before he considered boarding one.

Excerpt from the WSJ
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