Flying Blind and Boeing’s Downfall

This past summer, I read the sad tale “Flying Blind: The 737 MAX Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing” by Peter Robison. I’ve always admired Boeing, just as my father did, so I was reluctant to recommend the book. People should read it now.

Robison provides a gripping account of the 737 MAX crisis, unraveling the series of events leading to tragic consequences and Boeing's subsequent downfall. By including exclusive interviews with current and former employees, industry executives, and family members of the victims, it highlights the technical and managerial failures that contributed to the fatal crashes while analyzing the company’s flawed decision-making and lack of transparency.

The book’s insights serve as a critical examination of corporate culture, regulatory oversight, and the profound impact of the crisis on Boeing's reputation and the aviation industry as a whole. Seeing how corporate greed can corrupt a longstanding industry leader to skip the most basic of safety requirements was sad but revealing.

It is also sad that as the safety of our team members is always our highest priority at Clayco, I took the unfortunate step of announcing to our team members that they cannot fly on Boeing’s 737 MAX 9 aircraft until further notice. This impacts about 1500 of our team members who fly weekly. We focus relentlessly and without compromise on keeping every person who walks through our doors or job sites out of harm's way, making this a necessary action to take.

The company that I used to love and admire is losing its way. After a section of the fuselage fell from the Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft on Alaska Airlines flight 1282 on January 5th, I would not personally fly on these or encourage any of my loved ones to do so.

The 737 MAX series of aircraft has also crashed before, resulting in the deaths of 346 people, more than 1,600 canceled orders for the 737-8 MAX, and the grounding of the entire fleet by US carriers from 2019 to 2020. Given the company’s market dominance, the board has allowed Boeing to put financial—not aviation—engineering first. I’m praying for their board of directors and leadership to take bold steps that focus on changing their culture back to their glory days when engineering and safety were more important than shareholder value in stock buybacks.

Stephanie Pope was recently appointed to a newly-created COO position that plays ‘co-pilot’ to current CEO David Calhoun. She’s also in discussion to be the next CEO. As a constant champion for St. Louis, where Boeing ranks as the state’s largest manufacturer and has had a presence for 80+ years, I hope that the company finds its way and gets the leadership and governance it deserves to do a complete turn-around.

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