Was Boeing the Last Bastion of America’s Obsession with Being the Biggest?

For those who are Gen Z and younger, and not living in United States, this question may seem absurd. Of course America isn’t ‘biggest’ or ‘best’ at anything today. The biggest collective ego, maybe. But  their economy is only ranked 2nd and 7th in the areas that matter. They no longer have the largest military force in the world, even though they still like to think of themselves as  global peace (or war, come to think of it) enforcers. They’re not even close in healthcare or education.

So why would we even be having this conversation? Well, anyone older than Gen Z has been brought up on a diet of America The Great. Some of it justified, almost all of it not.

But every pillar holding up this self-proclaimed title of biggest or best has toppled over, victims of the hollow rhetoric which was their foundation. But remember, they were only pillars in the brainwashed minds of Americans.  

Even with all the testosterone-fuelled nonsense about America’s righteous wonderfulness, I always felt that Boeing had one of the few justifiable claims to technological leadership and vision. The company’s sheer amount of firsts alone gave them that justification. And to cap it all, the mighty Boeing 747 was, empirically, the biggest and the best in the world. There is no argument that this aircraft redefined air transportation for both people and cargo.

The Boeing of today does not possess the technological leadership and vision it once did. In my mind, it’s the last pillar to topple. No-one, not even the most uneducated, unshaven waiter in a Missouri diner can gaze heavenward at a Boeing aircraft high in the sky, and puff out his chest with patriotically superior pride.

Last Friday, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) grounded Boeing’s 737 – 9 MAX indefinitely. This prompted Boeing to institute a more thorough checking and inspection protocol in assembly. Then they assigned a team to Spirit Aerosystems. This was the company who supplied the offending ‘plug’. Which was what caused the problem with Alaska Air’s flight the previous week. A few days before, Boeing’s share value dropped, and today the company has lost a fifth of it value. Yesterday, they circumvented the suspicions inherent with a self-audit. They appointed an outsider to improve quality control in commercial aircraft assembly and manufacture.

Lastly, but most importantly to fragile hearts desperate to hold on The Great American Myth, Airbus confirmed they had outsold Boeing for the fifth straight year.

I have had a love affair with Boeing since I first flew in an early model 747-200 in the seventies. The experience made me no longer fear flying. And in later years I would change airlines if I found my impending flight was not in a ‘Jumbo Jet’. However, the management of the company after their merger with MacDonnell Douglas was the first domino in the mess they find themselves in now.  Careless inspection, cost-cutting measures and imperious indifference to the vision of Boeing in its early years were the reasons the Boeing 737 MAX  has been the disaster and tragedy it is today.

An unrippled reflection of the country itself.

Perhaps now the late adopters will come to terms with the fact that America can certainly contribute to the world.

But they can no longer dictate to it.

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