The news regarding the Boeing 737 Max is not encouraging. The company holds close to 5,000 orders for the jet, and 387 delivered planes have been grounded. There have been significant cancellations. More than 40 countries have banned them from their skies.
Boeing has conducted hundreds of test flights since the two Max crashes, and there was initial reason to believe that the plane might be recertified by the FAA as early as January. But even if that timeline were met, which is now unlikely, countries all over the world, including China, would have to approve the recertification.
In the past, for example, the EU would accept Boeing's own test results. In the case of the Max, it has now been announced that there will be independent tests by the EU to determine if the aircraft is flightworthy.
I just booked a flight to Reykjavik, Iceland, on a 737 Max in July. I will be traveling with my family. If the Max is not fully certified, the airline I am flying will likely continue to use rental equipment on the route. I think I'd rather fly the Max.
This is a tough time for Boeing.
President Trump earlier this year offered a bizarre explanation for the state of affairs when, in a March 12 tweet, he asserted that airplanes are "becoming far too complex to fly." (This will no doubt come as alarming news to pilots, but the president seems to have gained some unique insight before he handed Trump Shuttle over to creditors in 1992.)
But let's not dwell on negatives.
Here in Florida, we witnessed an interesting landing at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility. A space plane called the X-37B landed successfully after a very long orbital flight: 780 days, which comes out to about two years and two months.
We can't offer many details about this plane except to note that the Air Force describes it as a reliable, reusable space platform suitable for playing a big role in the nation's orbital defense system.
This small aircraft doesn't get much rest. It is about 30 feet long, and we know that every aspect of its flight, which begins atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, is being studied, including avionics, propulsion and its critical re-entry systems. Back on Earth, it is constantly being prodded and probed. It will get washed after its record-breaking flight, and there will be some touch-up paint applied. Then next year, it will be asked to take to space once again, perhaps setting yet another record. When it is relaunched, few tourists will be at Cape Canaveral to wave goodbye.
Imagine the strength and tenacity of the X-37B. Imagine what we have asked of it and how well it has performed in the hostile environment of space. This single aircraft passes all of its tests then sets world records, flying missions measured in years, not hours.
As outer space becomes more accessible, it also becomes a potential battlefield, and one imagines that the Air Force is using the X-37B to test our ability to have aircraft orbiting in space with a great many capabilities but without constant refueling.
I can only imagine the technology that must have gone into the development and successful operation of this highly complex aircraft. And it might be worth taking a moment to consider that it was designed and built by Boeing.
Yes, that Boeing.