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Yesterday, at the Paris Airshow, the news broke that IAG (the parent company of British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, etc…) had signed a letter of intent to purchase 200 Boeing aircraft. Had that been the end of that particular piece of news I doubt many people would have raised an eyebrow, but the fact that the aircraft IAG says it ‘intends’ to buy is the Boeing 737 MAX makes this interesting.
The Boeing 737 MAX is the aircraft at the center of two recent air disasters, the aircraft that we now know Boeing cobbled together in haste (as it panicked that Airbus was gaining a competitive advantage), the aircraft that was fitted with a critical flight control system that Boeing chose not to mention to any of the operating airlines, the aircraft whose FAA certification process was, from a layperson’s point of view, a joke, and, most importantly it’s an aircraft that is currently grounded worldwide.
Yes, IAG just said it ‘intends’ to order 200 frames of an aircraft which, as things stand, is not allowed to fly passengers anywhere in the world.
I’m going to lay my cards out on the table here and admit that this annoys me. It annoys me a lot.
I’m not annoyed or outraged that IAG is buying an aircraft responsible for killing over 300 people and I’m not annoyed or outraged that IAG is buying an aircraft that, up until now, has been a potential flying death-trap – I’m annoyed because IAG just gave Boeing a massive boost at a time when the aircraft manufacturer should be getting hammered.
I’ve never much cared which aircraft manufacturer’s aircraft I fly in, and I generally have little time for people who deliberately choose Airbus over Boeing or Boeing over Airbus…but right now I really, really detest Boeing.
Everything I’ve heard and read about how the 737 MAX came into being and how the aircraft was certified as safe to fly by the FAA leaves me with a feeling that Boeing knowingly put people’s lives in danger in its chase for profits and market share, and I’ve yet to see any real signs of contrition from anyone at Boeing.
You could argue that Boeing can’t really show contrition because that would risk prejudicing all the lawsuits it’s currently facing but, not only has Boeing not shown contrition, it has also gone on the offensive and attempted to shift blame on to the pilots involved in the two disasters.
That, as at least one major Pilots’ union pointed out, is inexcusable.
The way in which the Boeing 737 MAX was conceived, developed and certified was, at best, deeply flawed, and the way the manufacturer has behaved since its aircraft killed 346 people has been appalling…and it deserves to be pilloried for all this.
Sadly, to understand why Boeing should be made to pay for its abhorrent behavior requires a moral compass that supersedes everything else and, fortunately for Boeing, Willie Walsh (IAG’s CEO) certainly doesn’t have one of those.
Most of the time Willie Wash comes over as a remarkably odious human being, but he’s also no fool. He can smell a great deal a mile away and he can also smell desperation.
Right now Boeing reeks of desperation and, like a shark sensing blood in the water, Willie Walsh came circling.
Walsh knows that the 737 MAX will, at some point, be certified to fly again (although I’m in no hurry to fly in the aircraft) and he also knows that few things in the aviation world are as toxic as the MAX currently is…so he undoubtedly saw the chance to make a deal.
With the 737 MAX grounded worldwide, with no one showing any love for Boeing and with Airbus signing up airlines to buy its new A321XLR aircraft in droves, Boeing desperately needed some positive news. It needed a ‘win’.
Walsh’s negotiating position couldn’t really have been any stronger (and Boeing’s couldn’t really have been any weaker) so when the two parties sat down to thrash out a deal Walsh had Boeing exactly where he wanted it.
I have no doubt that he played his hand to the full and there is absolutely no way that Wash didn’t walk away with a fantastic deal from Boeing.
Better still, IAG has only signed a letter of intent (which isn’t the same as an actual order) so Walsh has committed his company to very little and IAG may yet never actually take delivery of a single MAX aircraft.
Still, that doesn’t really matter. Aircraft deliveries were never what this was all about.
IAG’s letter of intent wasn’t about Boeing securing an order for the 737 MAX. It was about a major global airline player making a big show of support for the hateful aircraft and giving Boeing an incredible boost when it most needed it.
It’s a boost that Boeing was absolutely desperate to get and a boost that I wholeheartedly wish it had never received.