- The Washington Times
Wednesday, March 13, 2019


One possible not-so-pleasant impression is that a Republican congressman sounded as if he was reading Federal Aviation Administration talking points written by the Boeing public affairs staff.

We’re talking about Rep. Sam Graves, the House Transportation Committee’s ranking Republican member.

One definitely positive impression is of Fox’s Martha MacCallum distinguishing herself as a newswoman by keeping up her hard questioning of Mr. Graves on Tuesday.

She kept asking if Europe’s governments and airlines and others in the world have grounded the Boeing plane pending revelation of black-box and cabin-recorder information, then why is the FAA saying it will let the planes keep flying till the recovered black box tells us why the second horrible crash happened.

“Let’s get the data before we make any irrational decisions,” Mr. Graves, referring to whether to follow much of the rest of the word in grounding the Boeing model in question.

Yes, Boeing is big in our economy.

The aerospace giant took in $101.1 billion in annual revenue last year.

Yes, there are thousands of orders pending for the Boeing airliner.

Yes, Boeing sales abroad do matter for our miserable and growing balance of trade deficit.

Deep breath: The U.S. rang up an all-time $59.8 billion trade deficit with the rest of the world in December 2018 alone.

But is keeping all those latest Boeings in the air and new plane orders growing mightily worth the risk of the lives of hundreds or thousands of passengers and crews?

Mitt Romney was the first Republican senator on Tuesday to say “no,” to tell the FAA to ground the darn — rough language for him — planes.

“Out of an abundance of caution for the flying public, the @FAANews should ground the 737 MAX 8 until we investigate the causes of recent crashes and ensure the plane’s airworthiness,” the senator from Utah and former governor of Massachusetts tweeted.

Sen. Ted Cruz, no left-lib scaredy-cat, also took up the grounding cause.

Democrats had led that cause exclusively till Mr. Romney spoke up.

If you stood real still and squinted, you could glimpse the wheels of political calculation moving inside dozens of lawmakers’ heads.

In Washington, there is no tragedy, no matter how horrific, that the hounds on the Hill can resist partisanizing.

But it’s the FAA and Boeing’s confidence in the plane’s airworthiness that suggests something most of us would prefer not think too much about or address at all.

It suggests the FAA and Boeing are confident that pilot and maintenance-crew training in foreign lands like Ethiopia and Indonesia is so poor as to be the near-certain cause of two disasters involving the same Boeing model in the space of a few months.

This is an unpleasant but reasonable inference on the FAA and Boeing’s part about the inadequacies — real or imagined? — of some third-world countries, a concern that takes refuge behind the guilt cells of our brains. Guiltless thinking dictates thinking that the third world is just as competent and reliable as the first word.

But again, does the reasonable inference of second-rate stringency in safety matters in some parts of the third world justify the risk of not grounding that Boeing model till we know for sure it was pilot or maintenance-crew error and not Boeing’s software or hardware at fault?

President Trump’s tweet got it right in saying planes are getting too technologically sophisticated to be safe for anyone but an Einstein to pilot safely.

This is serious bloody business. The Ethiopia crash of the Boeing 737 MAX on Sunday killed 157 people, and the Indonesia crash of the same Boeing model five months ago took 189 lives.

In the Indonesia disaster, investigators found that technical problems had been reported with the plane and that alone should have prevented it from taking off.

Victims’ relatives are suing Boeing over plane’s flight-control system.

The People’s Republic of China initially grounded the Boeing plane on Monday, followed by the EU, Australia, Malaysia, Oman, Ethiopia, Singapore, Indonesia, Morocco and Mongolia.

This is scary stuff, and the line between justifiable confidence and intolerable arrogance may be hard to find and even harder for the rest of us to abide if that line is crossed — if, God forbid, a U.S, airline suffers a tragedy with the same Boeing model that nations and airlines in Europe, Asia and Africa have grounded.

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