How to fix Boeing: Hard truths and difficult solutions

Article by Ethan Peasley-Lynch

Photo by Justin Hu on Unsplash

Old design, new problems

Without a doubt, you've heard about the latest set of Boeing 737 MAX problems. It started a few weeks before a door blew off an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 midflight, when Boeing issued an advisory to 737 MAX operators concerning loose bolts on newer units. Loose. Bolts. How this could ever happen at a corporation such as Boeing is beyond me, but the fact of the matter is that this is not an isolated incident. The 737 MAX's design flaws are responsible for the deaths of nearly 350 people, and its 20 month long grounding cost the airline industry untold losses. This presents Boeing, and indeed the US aerospace industry with a choice: either work to fix the problems with the 737 MAX, or cut losses and start from scratch. I'm almost certain Boeing and the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) will opt for the latter, but I believe that will be detrimental to both passenger safety and to the long-term health of the US economy. Regardless of what Boeing does to remedy the loose bolts and malfunctioning exit doors, there will almost certainly be new problems in the future, especially with the 737 MAX 10 model that Boeing is attempting to certify. In doing so, the corporation has requested an exemption from new FAA safety regulations in order to further stretch the nearly 60 year old design. However, in my opinion, the FAA should not only reject this request, but ground the 737 MAX permanently.

Time for an intervention

Boeing's current CEO, Dave Calhoun, has said that Boeing will not pursue a new narrow-body aircraft design until the early 2030s, in order to take advantage of new engine technologies. In my admittedly unqualified opinion, this is a terrible decision. By relying on the 737 MAX, Boeing is placing its most important market in the hands of a fundamentally flawed and clearly unsafe airplane. This not only endangers passengers but also the long-term prospects of US manufacturing and industry as a whole. Airlines aren't stupid - they're not going to keep buying an airplane that has repeatedly been grounded for safety issues. If Boeing doesn't replace the 737 MAX with a clean sheet narrow-body quickly, Airbus will almost certainly take a significant portion of market share. The issue with this idea is that Boeing would obviously never do this willingly. However, the FAA could force Boeing's hand by permanently grounding all 737 MAX models. While certainly detrimental in the short-term, a clean sheet narrow body by Boeing could revitalize the US aerospace industry and bring in thousands of orders. Airlines are already looking to replace their aging 757 fleets, often with Airbus' A321neo. Boeing could take back both the 737 and 757 market sectors by designing a family of aircraft that replaces both. Waiting over a decade for new engine technology will likely be a mistake that leads to Airbus and other competitors securing a significant share of the narrow-body market. While certainly not a perfect solution, is in the interest of both passengers and the US economy for the FAA to ground the 737 MAX and force Boeing to create a new design that takes advantage of modern technologies. It's time for Boeing to let the 737 rest, and to compete for market share.

Works Cited

Bogaisky, Jeremy. “Boeing May Not Roll out a New (Potentially Autonomous) Airliner until 2035; Promises to Return Cash to Investors in 2026.” Forbes, 2 Nov. 2022, Accessed 11 Jan. 2024.

Coffey, Helen. “Boeing Threatens to Pull Boeing 737 MAX 10 Unless given Safety Requirement Exemption.” The Independent, 8 July 2022, Accessed 11 Jan. 2024.


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