‘Boeing in big trouble’ for not immediately grounding jets – aviation law expert tells RT


While countries and airlines around the globe are grounding their 737 MAX fleets, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing are still allowing the jets to fly. RT talked to Prof. Dr Elmar Giemulla about the risks.

“Boeing is in big trouble,” said Giemulla, honorary professor of aviation law at Berlin Institute of Technology. He explained that “usually a plane crash is a unique occurrence and does not infect a complete series of a model.”

“Although Boeing is hesitant to confess that the indications cause this impression, it would be well advised to order the grounding of the whole fleet,” he added.

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The non-reaction of an aircraft manufacturer to obvious risks “shows an awkward view on its responsibility vis-a-vis the public,” according to the professor. “Confidence will be destroyed this way. To regain confidence will be difficult and takes many years. This here is a historical issue,” he said.

Wall Street firms Melius Research and Jefferies have estimated that it would cost Boeing between $1 billion and $5 billion to ground all its 737 MAX planes for a three-month period.

Boeing could afford the cost, as it posted record revenue of $101 billion last year (a $10.6 billion profit) and had forecast even stronger results this year.

The aviation expert disagreed with US President Donald Trump that the complexity of modern airplanes is to blame for the problems with the new jet. Giemulla told RT that the problem is actually new design and the man-machine interface.

“This aspect is well known. The cockpit crew of the Super Constellation consisted of seven people. Modern aircraft have just two pilots in the cockpit. This shows that technology has taken over many tasks. This is good because the number of crashes has decreased over the past decades.”

On the other hand, that causes new problems, Giemulla added, because many pilots are no longer used to flying a plane without the support of a computer. “Particularly in critical situations, there is a psychological barrier to switch off the computer and to be confronted with a dangerous situation and the possibility of their own death,” he explained.

According to Giemulla, who is also a lawyer, the FAA is taking a big risk by not immediately ordering the grounding of the troubled Boeing jets. “Of course, a third crash cannot be anticipated. But to let this plane fly after two similar occurrences is in fact very risky,” he said.

Talking about future problems for Boeing, he noted that sales are definitely at risk while around 5,000 orders are still pending. “I cannot imagine that the carriers leave them untouched.”

The possibility of major airliners switching orders from Boeing to Airbus depends on the composition of their fleet, the expert added. “If a company operates just Boeings they will most likely not switch because the pilots cannot just jump between the two kinds of planes. But companies with a mixed fleet will certainly think about that, to say the least,” Giemulla said.

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