If you haven’t really kept up on the status of the Boeing 737 MAX, here’s a brief rundown of the current situation as the MAX enters its sixth month of worldwide grounding:

  • Norwegian Air says it will stop offering some trans-Atlantic flights because the MAX grounding makes the routes “no longer commercially viable.”
  • FAA administrator says airlines might rebrand the MAX.
  • Icelandair removes the MAX From flights until 2020.
  • Southwest pulls out of Newark Airport, consolidating its regional operations at LaGuardia. The airline will remove the MAX from the schedule through Jan. 5, 2020.
  • No one ordered a MAX jet in July, the fourth straight month without a new order, CNBC reports.

The Government-Industry Revolving Door Spins Merrily Along

Steve Dickson sworn in as FAA administrator by Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on August 12. He recently left a position as senior vice president of Flight Operations for Delta Air Lines.

Is it problematic that people from inside the airline industry are tasked with regulating the industry?

Last week, an industry insider was brought on board to lead the FAA. But will Steve Dickson properly and safely regulate the industry? The 737 MAX history says no. The WSJ states:

After a 27-year career with Delta, Mr. Dickson’s bid to become the top U.S. aviation regulator has garnered White House support, and generally positive response among Senate Republicans, according to people familiar with the matter.

If confirmed by the Senate to a five-year term, Mr. Dickson would be the first head of the roughly 45,000-employee agency in three decades to come directly from a senior executive job at an airline.

That sounds like a conflict of interest.

Of course, the FAA does more than just regulate the 737 MAX; It regulates airlines as well. So it’s problematic that many of the FAA’s key officials were once high level executives in the industry they are now regulating.

The Boeing 737NG from the 1990s and Airbus 320neo from 2010 have a one in 10 million statistical probability of crashing.

But the MAX, the latest program, has a one in 100,000 statistical probability of crashing.
That is 100 times worse than 1990s designs and infinitely worse than 21st century designs.

Yet both Boeing and the FAA are pushing hard to get it back in the air!

That is why a top priority for the new FAA chief should be advocating for more funding, so his agency can do its job instead of delegating it to Boeing.

Or, perhaps Dickson is just “slumming it” in the public sector for a few years until he finds a better paying job in the business sector.

In Other News:

FlyersRights.org refused to sign a coalition letter to the Secretary of Transportation praising its new guidelines on Emotional Support Animals. 
This DOT statement does not protect passengers or animals but is oriented to granting airlines self regulation powers.

Specifically, the DOT does not protect passengers with pet allergies or phobias. It allows cats, pit bulls, horses and other exotic animals to be considered ESAs without any special qualifications or needs and does nothing to crack down on online certifications of pets as ESAs to fly for free.

 

The agency also does nothing to prevent animal cruelty of long haul air travel without reasonable relief areas or hydration.
It also fails to address the need for passengers to be able to transport pets in a humane and affordable way.
Sincerely,
Paul Hudson
President, FlyersRights.org
Member, FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (1993-present)

The FAA has banned some MacBook Pros from flights

Reports began circulating last week that the FAA had banned passengers from bringing certain MacBook Pro laptops on planes due to a battery incidents. But those reports are inaccurate.Here’s what you need to know about flying with a MacBook Pro laptop:Apple has recalled some MacBook Pro laptops that were manufactured between September 2015 and February 2017 due to overheating batteries. You can check if your laptop is affected here.
Under the FAA’s hazardous materials regulations, passengers are not allowed to bring “batteries and battery-powered devices which are likely to create sparks or generate a dangerous evolution of heat” on board, but the guidelines don’t mention specific manufacturers or devices.Ultimately, the FAA says, it’s up to airlines to interpret the guidelines and determine which devices are “likely to create sparks.” The agency advises that travelers check with their airline to see what items are banned on board.

Normalizing Facial Recognition Back in December, Delta launched the first biometric terminal in Atlanta Airport, which promised to “improve the boarding experience.”Now, Delta has expanded their program and partnered with the TSA and US Customs and Border Protection to “enhance the security process” and “help customers enjoy a seamless and stress-free travel experience in the airport.”As the National Law Review points out, “When the use of biometric data increases, the more expansive the effects of the data breach becomes.”
While it’s possible to change your financial account number, driver’s license number or even your social security number, you can’t change your fingerprint or your face (easily anyway).
Consequently, despite fingerprint and facial scans streamlining the travel process, it also puts more passenger data at risk on a larger sale.

In The Public Interest:

Consumer activist Ralph Nader recently penned a scathing critique of Boeing’s many protectors in Congress, the lack of attention to 737 MAX tragedies, failure to bring CEO and its board before a hearing or to investigate the aiding and abetting role of the FAA:
With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now
Two Boeing 737 MAX crashes, one in Indonesia last October and one in Ethiopia this past March, took a combined 346 lives. Steady scrutiny by the media reported internal company leaks and gave voice to sidelined ex-Boeing engineers and aerospace safety specialists. These experts have revealed that Boeing’s executives are responsible because they chose to use an unstable structural design and faulty software. These decisions left the flying public, the pilots, the airlines, and the FAA in the dark, to varying degrees.
Yet Congressional Committees, which announced investigations months ago, still have not called on Dennis Muilenburg, the CEO of Boeing, or any member of Boeing’s Board of Directors to testify.
Given the worldwide emergency grounding of all 400 or so MAX aircraft and the peril to crews and airline passengers, why are the Senate and House Committees holding back?

Letters:

Dear FlyersRights:
What if the MAX crashes had happened in the United States with airliners of American companies? What if a MAX had nosedived into midtown Manhattan or the center of another major American city, killing hundreds or even thousands of people? Would Boeing, the FAA and the public have reacted differently? Such a scenario might happen if the inherently unstable MAX airframe flies again. Do pilot’s associations and unions want pilots flying a plane that’s got such major flaws? The pilot’s term ‘deadheading’ gets a new macabre connotation. I believe it’s time to stop throwing good money after bad, meaning stop trying to fix and or rebrand the MAX, just scrap it. Boeing I think is extremely reluctant to scrap the MAX, because it would be tacit admission the MAX was a huge mistake and Boeing lawyers fear that would make Boeing lose every related lawsuit.
– PS

Tweets:

FlyersRights asks Greg Travis, a veteran software engineer and experienced instrument-rated pilot who posted a damning critique of the 737 MAX, if there is any effective software solution for the aircraft:

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