Monday, October 28, 2019

Did Environmentalism Bring Down the Boeing MAXs?

Punitive eco-taxes, aviation regulations, activist investors, green NGOs and climate-aware passengers conspire to force airlines and manufacturers to lower CO2 emissions by using less fuel, which accounts for 99 percent of aviation’s carbon footprint.

No one has said it explicitly yet, but this relentless pressure to reduce emissions appears to have been a significant factor in the disastrous safety failures of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which resulted in two fatal crashes in the past year, claiming 346 lives.

The warning from Boeing’s catastrophes is that climate ideology can have fatal consequences.

The 737 MAX was trumpeted as “Boeing’s game changer.” It reduced emissions by 14 percent and Boeing raced it into production to compete with a climate-friendly new offering from Airbus.
14% emissions reduction! Who cares about a few hundred foreigners when you can save 14% of the CO2 emissions!
But in order to achieve its green goal, Boeing had to use much bigger engines that didn’t fit in the usual position under the wing of the repurposed, 53-year-old 737 design.

The engines had to be moved forward and hoisted higher.

As a result, the aerodynamics changed, and the planes had a tendency to pitch up and potentially stall on takeoff. Boeing’s solution to this hardware defect was an imperfect software bandage that would automatically correct the pitch. In both crashes, preliminary investigations found this software kicked in even when the plane wasn’t stalling, with lethal consequences.

To understand the 737 MAX fiasco, you must go back to 2011, when Boeing faced an existential challenge from Airbus’ low-emission A320neo, which had been developed under stringent new European aviation climate regulations.

American Airlines, an exclusive Boeing customer, was threatening to defect to the A320neo, as the New York Times reported. Three months later, Boeing announced the 737 MAX.

The eco-imperative for Boeing was more than woke posturing. Its customers, the airlines, were demanding better environmental performance because of regulations and mounting threats from climate-conscious institutional investors. Biofuels and electric planes aren’t yet viable, so fuel efficiency was the only option.
None of this excuses Boeing for not providing documentation and training to the foreign airlines after the new plane was rolled out, and basically offered as a superior replacement for the original 737, with which pilots were well familiar. But yes, sometimes more eco-friendly is not safer.

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