Professor Sees Fear & Financial Implications From Boeing Groundings

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by BRETT MARSHALL, CSU Public Relations Assistant

‘It’s a psychological thing for the passengers. When you ground an airplane like that, everyone gets overly scared. Now they don’t want to fly in it. Even if they fix it, they (passengers) don’t want to fly in it.’

Tom Peterson, Minnesota State Mankato Assistant Professor of Aviation

Aircrafts carry more than 8 million people around the world daily. So what happens when a certain type of aircraft crashes twice in a six-month period?

The world found out between March 10 and March 13 when countries all around world indefinitely grounded Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft after a software malfunction caused Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 to crash six minutes after takeoff with 157 passengers and crew on board.

Southwest Airlines is among those that have invested heavily into the new Boeing 737 MAX.

Tom Peterson, Minnesota State Mankato assistant professor of aviation, shared his thoughts on the groundings and what impact it could have on the airline industry moving forward.

“I don’t think it was a bad decision to ground the planes, but it had some big implications,” he said.

Passenger trust in the flying the 737 MAX along with the cost to airlines and Boeing are among the repercussions.

“It’s a psychological thing for the passengers,” he said. “When you ground an airplane like that, everyone gets overly scared. Now they don’t want to fly in it. Even if they fix it, they (passengers) don’t want to fly in it.”

Airlines also take a big financial hit from the groundings. The groundings also financially hit the airlines.

“The airlines that are heavily invested in these 737, you know, American Airlines is one and Southwest is another one, they have to cancel a lot of flights while these things are down. So on the bottom line it’s pretty expensive,” Peterson said.

Boeing’s stock prices plummeted following the groundings. Airline shares dropped $50 to $373.30 between March 8 and 14. This was after Boeing had a stock price of $440.62 – its highest in five years – just a week earlier.

“Boeing’s reputation is at stake now and that could create further problems for them down the road,” Peterson said.

Earlier this week, Boeing said resolving the software problem suspected for the crashes may take longer than expected. Peterson said this event may be a wakeup call to Boeing and other companies that build aircrafts.

“Occasionally I think we get a little too smart for of ourselves and add a little too much automation to (the aircrafts),” he said. “They were trying to make the aircraft much more fuel-efficient, much quieter, all these things that we complain about and are concerned about and, in doing that, they just created new problems.”

Peterson hopes that after Boeing fixes the issue that more precise and widespread training is mandated to ensure no further crashes.

“Hopefully everyone gets all the necessary training to go with the fix because not all airline training is the same.”

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