Foreign Policy Blogs

When Wings Fail and Accountability Follows

The Comet was one of the Worlds First Jetliners. Poor design lead to the plane coming apart mid-air.

One of the first jetliners after the Second World War was the British made Comet. It was a symbol of the post war era, and a new way of seeing the world after the Blitz and over a decade of an economy that focused purely on need as opposed to any sort of luxury. The Comet was to transform the expectations of the average person, who could save up and afford the trip of a lifetime on an aircraft that seemed like it arrived from the future. As one of the first jetliners, the Comet established much of the modern air transport industry we use today. As with the recent crashes of the 737 Max 8s however, the failure of the Comet due to the pressurized cabin creating cracks in the rectangular window frames lead to a few successive disasters. The design of the windows required a rounded design, as the edges of the passenger windows lead to the air frame eventually coming apart. The Comet was modernized and the windows changed. While it became safer however, the reputation of the Comet lead to its premature fall from grace, especially when the 1960s era Boeing planes came into their own.

Air safety became paramount and more people would take advantage of lower cost flights and faster travel. The future of the industry eventually turned to larger aircraft and lower cost as opposed to smaller planes with tremendous speed. The latter still existed as a service however with the Concorde. For most of its career, Condordes had excellent safety records until a tragic crash late in its life in Paris in 2000. What stood out at the time was the assumptions surrounding Concorde’s crash, with British officials placing an excessive amount of fault at the hands of the crew, and continuing to operate the aircraft before it had been subject to a full investigation by Air France and the French government. For a period of time, Concordes were flying out of Heathrow while it was suspected it was not safe. A mixture of money, bias and pride left their passengers in danger before any conclusive report was issued to ensure its safety. The cause for the crash eventually was released, but in the end the Concorde’s reputation and age meant that they no longer are offered as a service by either country.

The evolution of the travel industry owes a lot to the first several versions of the Boeing 737s. If you have flown on any airline, the chances are that you have been on a 737. The record of the several versions of the 737 have likely the best safety record of any aircraft flying today, and it is why when two 737 Max 8s crashed within a year of each other, the planes should be grounded and sent back for intense testing. While the 737 Max 8 and Max 9s may not ruin the reputation of the older 737 versions, it will take a toll on customer satisfaction and preceived safety for the next few years. What should be avoided are shortcuts and poor communications by the companies that produce the aircraft and use the aircraft when addressing passenger concerns. Unlike the Comet, the 737 does not come from a new technology nor are they a special case or pride of national industry like Concorde. Until the 737 Max 8s can overtly demonstrate their safety, no one should take added risks boarding that airliner.

 

Author

Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration

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