Dear Boeing, After You Fix the Plane Please Repair the Company

It’s been an awful last seven days for Boeing. Yes, it could have been worse if there had been loss of life on Alaska Airlines flight 1282. But the media fodder of another stumbling industry giant has contributed enormously to triggering the alarm to prospective passengers and investors.

The former are scrambling to find seats on carriers who fly other types of aircraft and the latter, well, Boeing’s 8% share value drop speaks for itself. For airlines and manufacturers, the threat of loss of lives if the problem isn’t fixed immediately and transparently, has always been heightened by media hysteria. This incident has been no different.

Actually, it’s been made worse by the likes of Sir Tim Clark, President of Emirates Airline. He was reported as saying Boeing has a recent history of quality issues. This is an airline which has no Boeing 737’s in its fleet, only the 777. Actually, it has the world’s largest fleet of Boeing 777’s in the world, and has over 200 more on order. Firstly, Sir Tim has just spread the distrust to a wider scope than just the 737 MAX. He’s suggesting the problem exists with Boeing’s entire commercial offering which includes the 787 and the last of the 747’s. Secondly, he’s just cast a shadow over his own airline. Odd behaviour from the President of what many, myself included, believe is the finest airline in the world.

And on the subject of confusing signals sent out by Presidents, Boeing’s occupant of that position, Dave Calhoun, acknowledged it was Boeing’s mistake which caused the accident. But to the outside world, he didn’t specify what the mistake was, exactly. This is reputation management at its most Machiavellian. Was the mistake in manufacture? Was the mistake in the choice of external supplier? Can the mistake be pinpointed to an engineering inspection? This is precisely where so-called honesty and transparency become somewhat opaque.

Caretakers or Undertakers?

Can you imagine the Boeing war room, where PR specialists and lawyers are debating how to minimize the fallout. Perhaps the 8% drop in share value was considered a successful containment. Perhaps the strategy of acknowledgement was intended to get Boeing off the landing pages of online news media and relegated to item number 3 on broadcast news.

Whilst safety is a non-negotiable component of air travel, it would be a pity if Boeing were to suffer further value and reputation loss. This may seem contrary to the tone of this article and our article which preceded it on Sunday. But it’s not, I assure you. Boeing has achieved too much on behalf on humankind’s progress in the last hundred years for it not to significantly contribute to our future. As a brand name, it has been synonymous with technological pioneering.

A Forward-facing Legacy

Demonstrate the impossibility of an idea becoming reality, and Boeing will go ahead and demonstrate otherwise. Travel to the moon was impossible, because generating enough thrust to escape the Earth’s gravitational pull was physically  unachievable. Boeing disagreed. An aircraft carrying three hundred people and weighing 400 tons was absurd, impractical and highly dangerous. Boeing reckoned differently and changed commercial air transportation for good. And that’s just the commercial side. The other sectors in which the company operates will amaze you.  Whilst the media must hold Boeing accountable for any incidents that involve human safety, let’s not do our best to tear down this giant for the sake of viewership.

Maybe the management should audit themselves. Perhaps their current model of external supply needs re-evaluating. Certainly Wall Street can be a little less demanding on profit and a little more aware of the value of engineering excellence and barrier-breaking technology.

Whatever you may think of it today, the world needs Boeing and the optimism in which it defies the impossible. This tech giant is the original example of the question “why” followed by the answer “why not?”.

As a media platform ourselves, we understand how our sector could use reach and reason to help this icon of progress. Not just laugh while it burns.

Inside Telecom provides you with an extensive list of content covering all aspects of the tech industry. Keep an eye on our Insights sections to stay informed and up-to-date with our daily articles.