In the Name of Safety: Grounding the 737 Max 8/9

In light of the most recent crashes involving the Boeing 737 Max 8 (Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air), there was a global grounding by every airline and every country operating the aircraft.

There is certainly suspicion surrounding how the aircraft’s design and automation may have played a role in both accidents, but given the years of extensive research, testing, development, and training that goes into bringing an aircraft to market, it is extremely rare to have a sweeping declaration like a global grounding.

However, given that two have gone down — under similar circumstances — only a few months apart, it stands to reason that the aircraft may suffer from a design flaw. It’s something that never occurred in the previous 50+ years of service and 10,000+ (!) deliveries of prior editions of the 737.

The two incidents mentioned above could just be incredible coincidences. And there will certainly be much more information coming out over the next few weeks and months, so we don’t want to jump to any conclusions. There are too many lives at stake, and there’s simply too much to lose by making assumptions. But in an age where innovation and automation seem paramount, incidents like the above should give us all cause to pause. Even with today’s computerization and automation, some things still need the human touch.