A WestJet 737-800 at LAX (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Opinion: It’s Time to Rebuild Trust in the Aviation Industry

Recently, I participated in a discussion panel about the Boeing 737 MAX incidents, which took me to a lot of research, and deep thinking about the aviation industry, which I admire and respect.

Studying the final report on the Lion Air 610 accident, I realized that technology can create better products but we still need to deal with humans and their limitations. As a former aviation professor, I explored numerous aspects of the industry within the course of any given week.

One day, I was teaching aviation safety and studying accidents and the next day I was teaching aviation law and regulations looking at the industry from a totally different angle. An engineer can see one angle a judge may see from another point of view, and an airline administrator needs to be sure that they will be able to pay the bills.

What changed in the aviation industry in the last years, in my opinion, was that airlines finally found that everyone was making money but them. As I read in an article many years ago, the money is not in running an airline but in selling to airlines. Aircraft manufacturers were making money, airports were making money and many other industries were making money because of airlines, but not airlines themselves as they were always struggling.

The great revolution for airlines was to discover that it was time to grab a bigger piece of the pie.

An important part of this revolution was to get better deals in buying airplanes, which put more pressure on aircraft manufacturers to reduce development and production costs. Technology should make air travel safer but also help airlines either to attract more revenue or reduce operational costs. This conflict and the growing competitive environment may challenge the supreme rule of aviation” safety first.

We need to consider that an important victim of the Boeing 737 MAX incidents and all its repercussions was the reputation and trust we had in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing. It feels like we lost our heroes.

Watching the congressional hearing on Boeing, we should consider that the reaction is not because people are against the FAA or Boeing but the opposite. People admired them and it is hard to deal with the perception that they failed.

It is time to rebuild trust, to review where the industry is going and anticipate problems before they happen. We can blame a faulty component, a mistake or other causes, but more than anything, aviation is an industry of people and people need to trust and understand each other. In a world in which profit may be the only way to survive, we need to establish boundaries and restore the public’s confidence and respect for the industry.

We cannot change everything in the world but I hope that our industry will be a reference for making this world a better place. There is a time to compete but there is also a time to work together and find solutions that will benefit everyone.                

Peter Biondi
Peter Biondi
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