Boeing Door Blowout Causes Turbulence Among Passengers [Flightmares]

ACROSS AMERICA — The spectacular mid-flight door blowout on a Boeing 737 Max 9 jetliner earlier this month did little to instill confidence in flying among readers who answered an informal survey for Flightmares, Patch’s exclusive feature on flight etiquette and flying in general.

We asked readers if they are less confident in plane safety or less likely to fly, and if their perception of safety changed after the near-disaster on Jan. 5. We also asked readers what they think airlines need to do to reassure them the aircraft is safe.

Some Boeing 737 Max 9 jetliners will return to the skies this weekend for the first time since they were grounded. Alaska Airlines planned to resume flights on its Max 9s Friday, and United Airlines aims to follow suit on Sunday.

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Federal Aviation Administration head Mike Whitaker said Wednesday his agency’s review of everything that has happened since the accident, including gathering information about inspections of door plugs on 40 other planes, gives him confidence planes will be safe so long as a new inspection process is followed.

It may take readers who responded to our Flightmares survey a longer to reach the same confidence level.

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Redlands-Loma Linda (California) Patch reader Tanya has grounded herself along with Boeing’s 373 Max 9 planes.

“Never cared much for flying but with this incident, which could have led to many deaths, I don’t think I’ll be flying anytime in the near or far future,” Tanya said.

She’s a skeptic of airline safety in general, and said she’s never been “100 percent sure that there wouldn’t be a mechanical failure.”

“After all,” she said, “the mechanics are humans.”

Tanya said there’s not much airlines can do to reassure her their planes are safe

“They can’t give any guarantee that the plane won’t malfunction,” she said.

Detroit Patch reader Sally was adamant, too.

“At this point,” Sally said, “nothing could make me fly on an airplane.”

‘Can’t Imagine The Trauma’

Some other readers said the accident reinforces their reluctance to fly, including Rosie, a Babylon Village (New York) Patch reader who said she was “already scared and can’t imagine the trauma these people will live with for the rest of their lives.”

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Patch Across America Patch reader Julie said the door blowout was “definitely unnerving” as she prepares for an upcoming international trip.

“I’m someone who prefers the window seat, so I selected that for several legs of the trip,” she said. “Now I’m finding myself regretting that decision because we can no longer trust companies to put people before profit.”

Madison (Connecticut) Patch reader Nancy said she has never liked to fly. “This incident,” she said, “will make me more nervous.”

Offering a minority opinion, Palm Desert (California) Patch reader Patrick said flying “is still safer than using the roads.”

“Never assume” a plane has passed safety inspections, Patrick said, “but it’s still the safest mode of travel.”

The Dish On Boeing

Several readers said they’ll still fly, but will avoid Boeing jetliners.

Janet, a Banning-Beaumont (California) Patch reader Janet said it’s up to Boeing to restore the image of the 737 Max 9s, not the airlines.

“I don’t know of anything an airline can do to reassure the public that a brand-new aircraft manufactured by the previously reputable Boeing Aircraft Company is currently airworthy,” she said. “While the individual airlines are responsible to provide properly trained and competent employees to operate and maintain the aircraft, [Boeing] is responsible for ensuring the quality, design, manufacture and the peace of mind to the general flying public that the doors will not blow off.”

Some readers pointed to Boeing’s long history of failures. The company should junk its 737 Max 9s, Across America Patch reader Rob said.

“The history of this ‘product’ makes it ‘a lemon,’ ’’ Max said. “It should be scrapped and destroyed at the expense of Boeing.”

“Before the Boeing 737 Max jetliner saga,” Rob said he assumed the plane he was flying in was safe, but the accident changed his perception of aircraft safety.

Kristen, who reads Naperville Patch and Bolingbrook Patch, both in Illinois, agrees. “Get rid of the Max,” she said.

‘Yet It Continued To Fly’

A Tredyffrin-Easttown (Pennsylvania) Patch reader pointed out that the auto pressurization warning system was triggered three times in a month on the Max 9 that lost the door plug, including once the day before the accident.

“Yet it continued to fly,” the reader said.

Travelers should be notified when they book flights what type of airplane they’ll be flying on, the reader said, adding airlines “should make the service record available for each aircraft, like CARFAX.”

William, a Petaluma (California) Patch reader, said it’s “very anxiety triggering” to fly on any Boeing airplane manufactured in the last 10 years. Airlines should stop buying the company’s planes and develop their own inspection processes, William said.

He said inspections get the short shrift “because they don’t help the bottom line” and that “corporate greed has gotten worse.”

Also in California, Venice-Mar Vista Patch reader Greg said airlines should replace Boeing aircraft with planes made by Airbus. He said he’s never been a guy who assumes the plane is safe, and the door plug blowout proved his skepticism wasn’t misguided.

“Obviously, they are not safe when fleets have been grounded multiple times with design, software, and build flaws, i.e. Boeing.” he responded to our survey. “ I’ll fly Virgin [Atlantic] instead with Airbus planes.”

Airbus jets also get Al’s vote.

“If it is a Boeing plane, I get very nervous,” the Across America Patch reader said. “Airbus is what I prefer.”
Al said passengers should be proactive and do their own research because airlines can only do so much to reassure passengers of aircraft safety.

“I now check to see what model and brand the airline is flying,” he said. “I have lost all confidence in Boeing.”

He added that “safety and quality assurance must be the main focus, not profit,” for any airplane manufacturer.

Time For Robots To Take Over?

One thing the airline and aircraft industries can do to restore consumer confidence is to hire workers “on merit and experience only, not ‘equity,’ ” said Northridge-Chatsworth (California) Patch reader Casey.

Across America Patch reader Pam agreed.

“We would hope staff are being hired based on their expertise,” she said. “Will it take a fatal accident due to negligence to change their hiring process? Hire people who know what they are doing, from mechanics to pilots.”

Bridgewater (New Jersey) Patch reader Julia said airlines should “pay mechanics more, ensure more inspections and, obviously, stop letting stuff like this happen.”

In California, Temecula Patch and San Diego Patch reader MaryAnne said it’s time to take human error out of the equation.

“I know there is a lot to inspect. [Airlines] need to have a programmed robot set up to inspect each plane after it has flown a certain amount of miles,” MaryAnne said. “We have all this AI these days — put it to some good use for the safety of human lives and get a robot to do the work instead of high-paid inspectors who are obviously not trained or qualified to do it on a human level.”

Petaluma Patch reader Phyllis says she’ll fly only in family emergencies. Airlines “will have to earn back my trust and only the future (and no more screwups) will determine that,” she said. “It’s not just the door incident. There have been so many crazy and dangerous incidents on planes in the last two years.”

Livermore (California) Patch reader Paulita said she’s not as comfortable flying as before the door plug debacle and plans to be a more active observer the next time she flies.

“I certainly won’t be sitting near the exit row,” she said. Also, she added, “I’ll be giving it more thought now and looking at things myself as I board and during the flight so I can report anything that seems off.”

Calabasas (California) Patch reader Nunya, who said she isn’t less likely to fly but is more likely to avoid Boeing planes, said it’s time for a reckoning on airline deregulation.

“The FAA should have some kind of stamp or certificate that they themselves conducted all of the inspections before a plane is cleared for usage,” Nunya said. “I don’t like them delegating any part of that inspection process to the manufacturers.”

Patrick, the Palm Desert Patch reader, said it’s the government’s responsibility “to hold manufacturers accountable, CEOs especially.”

Rosie, the Babylon Village Patch reader, said transparency and reassurance on the part of airlines are keys in winning back customer confidence.

“So many people are terrified to fly,” she said. “Maybe start education on how to help people and explain turbulence, noises and everything else scary in the sky.”

About Flightmares

Flightmares is an exclusive Patch feature on flight etiquette — and readers provide the answers. It will appear monthly on Patch. If you have a topic you’d like for us to consider, email beth.dalbey@patch.com with “Flightmares” as the subject line.

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