Analysts decry 'lynch mob' mentality in grounding of 737 Max aircraft

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A Boeing 737 Max jet flown by Norwegian Air.
A Boeing 737 Max jet flown by Norwegian Air.

With the U.S. joining Canada, Europe, Australia, China and other countries in banning the Boeing 737 Max 8 from its airspace, aviation analysts condemned what they say was a decision made in the court of public opinion rather than based on facts. 

The planes were grounded after Sunday's fatal crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max 8 jet. Last October, a Lion Air 737 Max crashed into the sea soon after departing Jakarta, killing all onboard. 

Aviation analyst Bob Mann of R.W. Mann and Co. said, "The entire episode was handled badly, by people trying to score points in the court of public opinion with no more information about probable cause than the Lion Air accident report. 

"As a result, FAA and Boeing became road kill in that rush to judgment," he said. "A sad commentary on the loss of scientific inquiry and informed, data-based decision-making."

Mann is among the aviation analysts who support the FAA's stated confidence in the Boeing 737 Max 8's safety. The U.S. airlines that fly the Max 8, American and Southwest, had also expressed their support in the aircraft. 

Aviation analyst Mike Boyd, president of Boyd Group International, said that misinformation has caused nations and carriers to ground the plane rather than focus on what he believes are the likely culprits: insufficient training and poor maintenance. 

"What we have now is basically a lynch mob attitude toward that airplane," Boyd said, adding that much of the commentary is coming from "people who don't know an airplane from an ATM machine." 

"The reality is the pilots' union of American Airlines came out and said on American carriers that airplane is safe because people are properly trained," he said. "Who am I going to listen to, Dianne Feinstein and Mitt Romney or the safety director of a major pilots union?"

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Both senators had been among the chorus calling for the FAA to ground the Max 8 planes until the Ethiopia crash investigation is complete.  

Boyd said Trump's decision today "appears to be a strategy to get this mess resolved ASAP."

"Boeing will deliver upgrades in software, and in the process we will find pilot error and management failure at the two airlines that had accidents," he predicted. 

Considering that Ethiopian Airlines' first officer had only 200 flight hours of total flight experience and that Lion Air in recent years had been banned from operating in Europe, Boyd said both airlines might have training and maintenance issues.

Boyd said 200 flight hours is "the equivalent of a student pilot." 

"In an emergency, that meant he was useless," he said.

"Whether it is a sensor, software, hardware or a training issue, it is puzzling and demands prompt study, but is not a basis in itself to avoid the aircraft," said Mann. "By contrast, there are many reasons to avoid flying on certain airlines that operate Boeing 737 Max aircraft, including any carrier in parts of the world where aviation safety oversight lacks rigor and resources."

He added that most of the world's 737 Max 8s operate in China, followed by the U.S. "There have been no issues reported in either operating environment," he said. 

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