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American Dream Betrayed

Tribune Columnist Trusts Airlines To Do What's Right With Boeing Planes

Adapted from an actual note our very own Tom Chambers sent Thursday to Tribune columnist Steve Chapman after reading his "Trump's Unwise Decision To Ground The 737 Max 8 And Max 9."

Mr. Chapman,

Late on deadline and had to crank one out?

Your lack of information on the 737 Max situation is appalling.

The 737 Max is not a tweak of the old 737. It is almost virtually a new plane, hot-rodded off the old 737, with substantially new and different engine configurations and software that is supposed to control new aeronautics on an old chassis.

Boeing used its clout with the FAA and Trump to keep the plane designated a 737 so as not to put it under more testing and approval scrutiny.

The FAA is also allowing Boeing to certify its own airplanes in a classic fox-in-the-henhouse scenario. European nations depend on America's FAA to certify American planes, and then do some follow-up evaluation. Simply said, other countries, include emerging Third World nations, depend on the FAA as the source of their confidence in American planes.

There's nothing wrong with new software, but like the instruction manual for your new toaster, there were gaping holes in the plane's instruction and procedures manual, according to American pilots. Training has also been sorely lacking.

This is even assuming U.S. pilot training is the best in the world. What about a smaller airline in a small country with its head spinning over growth and demand for flights?

It is becoming clear that Boeing thought its software was so hotshot that the plane would fly itself, so pilots didn't need to be told anything. An aviation expert on WGN Thursday morning said the new software is supposed to gather information from MULTIPLE sensors on the plane, average it out and act accordingly. But the computer is using information from only one sensor to make its commands. The software is not dealing in the reality of the actual flight characteristics.

"Why should we trust Southwest, American and other airlines with these decisions?" you write. "Because they know a lot about aviation safety and about these planes."

Are you kidding? Southwest's terrible maintenance performance has been a dirty little secret in aviation for years.

Are you so naive so as not to even consider that airlines and airplane manufacturers, backed by the FAA they bought and paid for, are simply rolling the dice? Taking a calculated risk - X number of deaths per year being risk-worthy - that a plane won't go down in the U.S.? Indonesia and Ethiopia? Who cares? Well, there were Americans aboard both flights, one from Chicago. These are corporations that have run roughshod over local, regional and national entities in this country for decades. They have deep-rooted influences on society itself simply through the profit models of their hub-and-spoke systems, and human interaction in airports and flying sardine cans.

Of course, U.S. airlines are not going to ground the planes, even "having found no basis in their own experience and data to stop." But scientific data has been available, the same data Canada used days ago to ground the planes. Concerns with the planes were voiced immediately after the Lion Air crash.

If the White House made the decision to ground the 737 Max planes, good for them, once a year. But the FAA, with alarming data we know they damn well had, should have grounded the planes. I wouldn't be surprised if Trump ordered his cronies at the FAA to hold off until he made his dog-and-pony announcement. But the planes are on the ground.

If you are on some kind of mission to protect corporations like Boeing and United simply because they have a few handfuls of executives working here, much as Crain's does, knock it off. Boeing contributes nothing to this city, and we're paying them to be here!

Simply following the story for the past days and with a half-hour of simple searching, I found what you would have needed to comment responsibly on this topic. Obviously, you couldn't be bothered.

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See also, from AP this morning: FAA's Close Ties To Boeing Questioned After 2 Deadly Crashes.

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Comments welcome.



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