The lead story tonight at the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and the Financial Times is that Boeing has hit the pause button on manufacturing 737 Max planes, with its “infamous self-hijacking software MCAS,” in the words of Moe Tkacik.
Boeing now has more 737 Max aircraft in its inventory that it sold before the troubled jet was grounded worldwide. One bit of good news is at least for now, the 737 Max workforce has been spared; they are being shifted to other planes. But as we’ll discuss, employees at major parts-makers for the 737 Max may not be so fortunate.
On the one hand, I have to confess to schadenfreude in seeing Boeing suffering the consequences of its reckless, self-serving behavior and its success in capturing the FAA. It was disturbing, even with no stake what happened to the 737 Max, to see CEO Dennis Muilenburg’s scapegoating of pilots, misrepresentations about Boeing’s awareness of problems with the plane, and repeatedly unrealistic timetables about when the 737 Max would be greenlighted to fly again.
Boeing also seemed to be remarkably obtuse about the significance of the damage it had done to the FAA and how having the US regulator discredited was not in its commercial interest. Even while it is in the doghouse, Boeing has repeatedly tried to pressure the FAA by presenting timetables when it expected the agency to grant its blessing. It isn’t merely that the FAA has found new problems with the plane as it has looked harder, such as physical difficulties in operating the manual trim wheel, leading to delays in the certification process. It is also that the agency has twice found it necessary to slap down Boeing’s ham-handed efforts to muscle the FAA by disputing Boeing’s assertions.
But even so, seeing Boeing suffer more, and more tangible damage from the 737 Max fiasco hasn’t yet dislodged Muilenburg, who is in his own way, as arrogant and tone deaf as departed Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf. Some try to defend Remarkably, not only did the AAP statement fail to include any of the actual outcomes literature on such cases, but it also misrepresented the contents of its citations, which repeatedly said the very opposite of what AAP attributed to them.