Is the Value of a Boeing Share Greater than the Value of a Human Life?

Let’s start with a fact. The Boeing 737 MAX has killed more than 300 people so far.

I’m not sure what Boeing’s top brass were expecting when they fired Ed Clark, Boeing veteran-turned scapegoat, this week. Jubilant bells ringing in Wall Street? Millions of frequent flyers skipping, dancing towards sunset on the yellow brick road, singing “Ding dong, the witch is dead”?

The dismissal of Mr. Clark, the 737 Max Program Chief, was an act of desperation. Blame everything on one guy then, metaphorically, throw him out of the emergency exit ‘he’ created. When you foster a culture that worships Wall Street, you stop doing what you’re meant to be doing, and you build a façade of how you wish your company to be perceived while you’re in command. Then you need to protect the façade.

It’s common knowledge that Boeing cut corners on inspection protocols. They reduced engineering tolerances. And they appointed dodgy suppliers and installed automation machinery which suffers memory loss. All this was happening while they were building transportation devices that carry hundreds of people at 900 kilometres an hour, ten kilometres above the ground?

Once upon a time, Boeing was a fountain of engineering excellence, a visionary source of technological innovation with the intuition to deliver exactly what the world needed as it sought to become a global economic village.

The company’s products put long distance travel within the means of a billion people. The Boeing logo on the sides of their aircraft evoked more pride than the stars and stripes themselves.

Well, they’re no longer a symbol of America’s greatness. But they sure helped turn America into a symbol of chaos and greed.

I can’t pretend to know the minutiae of the sacking of Ed Clark. But if management believes that his non-presence in the company is going to help win back the $30bn in share value they lost, the whole company is destined to crash.

But there are two things I do know. First, if Boeing were a Japanese company, the entire C-Suite would have resigned. Secondly, this sound bite of CEO Dave Calhoun will become a GIF, and a rather better joke than his management of Boeing.

Walking out of a meeting, he remarked to the press: “We fly safe planes”.  It’s what they call a double entendre. Because Boeing don’t fly planes, they build them. Which must mean that the people of Boeing have such little trust in their product that, when they fly, they make sure they’re on an Airbus.

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