The Scoop: Boeing grounds 737 Max 9 planes after door blows off mid-flight

Plus: The American race to return to the moon; Pat McAfee speaks out against ESPN.

Conventional knowledge would lead one to believe that after the door flew off an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 plane while in flight last week, the aerospace giant had hit a PR low point.

According to a report by the New York Times, Boeing’s PR prospects might have just gotten worse as news broke that the plane wasn’t being used for long flights over water due to three distinct instances in which the pressurization warning lights were activated.

National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Jennifer Homendy said that while it wasn’t clear the issue had anything to do with Friday’s door incident, the organization was looking into it. The NTSB said that maintenance workers for Alaska Airlines were told to figure out the source of the issue, but this step wasn’t taken with the plane in question. However, the NTSB did say that Alaska Airlines had restricted the planes in question from flying to far-flung destinations over oceans, such as Hawaii.

“It is certainly a concern and it’s one that we want to dig into,” Homendy said.

Why it matters: Other than the undeniable issue at hand here, (a door fell off a plane in the sky!), something like this may make plane passengers look a little harder at the tickets they’re booking for travel to avoid 737 MAX 9 planes. Think back to when a few years ago, Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft were involved in fatal crashes across the world. The public image of Boeing took a big hit, and the fact that things like this are still happening shows that something isn’t right with the aerospace giant.

When you’re in the airline business, your main job is to get people to their destination safely. If it’s being called into question whether or not your airplanes are capable of doing that, it’s a major red flag. Not acting on clear warning signs of safety issues and having the public find out about it from the NTSB after a major incident is, to put it mildly, not a good look. The repeated safety issues are compounding and shaking faith from both government regulators and the general public. Boeing has its work cut out for it if it’s got any hope of engendering any positive public sentiment any time soon. The key is transparency: what went wrong, how are they fixing it and how will they ensure it never happens again?

Editor’s top reads:

  • The space race to the moon is back! But instead of a battle of scientific prowess between countries that inspired cheesy ‘80s movies, this time, the competition is between private companies. ULA, which stands for the United Launch Alliance, sent its first Vulcan rocket into space. The partnership between Lockheed Martin and the aforementioned Boeing, along with the American government. is notable for another reason too — it’s positioned as a competitor to SpaceX, led by the controversial Elon Musk. The march back to the moon is important for a few reasons. First, these companies are looking to angle themselves in the public sphere as the organizations that got the United States back to the moon for the first time in decades. That sort of public goodwill can have a carryover from traditional PR and can have a significant cultural impact. Second, it’ll be interesting to see how Musk reacts to having real competition in the SpaceX arena, particularly after reports that the organization fired employees for being critical of his leadership. The aerospace industry already has a lot of intrigue surrounding it for its scientific accomplishment, and this new competition should add another layer of interest.
  • Former Indianapolis Colts punter and popular sports broadcaster Pat McAfee publicly accused ESPN brass of trying to undermine his talk show. He claimed, “There are some people actively trying to sabotage us from within ESPN. More specifically I believe (ESPN head of studio production) Norby Williamson is the guy who is attempting to sabotage our program.” This comes after a dust-up between McAfee and fellow Disney-employed TV host Jimmy Kimmel, in which New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers used McAfee’s show to spread various conspiracy theories, including the idea that Kimmel’s name might appear on a Jeffrey Epstein flight log. McAfee isn’t known for being a by-the-book media personality. But when you’re working at an older-school shop like Disney, which owns ESPN, there are expectations to show a certain public decorum. It’ll be interesting to see how this battle of wills plays out, as McAfee’s fan base is loyal and vocal.
  • The wait is almost over, Nintendo fans! According to a report by CNBC, analysts claim that a launch of the long-awaited sequel to the Nintendo Switch gaming console will be released later this year. This is a significant moment for the gaming and retail spaces, as the launch of a new console from the Japanese gaming behemoth will not just certainly cause a spike in sales, but also in media mentions about the console. Nintendo is known for its innovation in the gaming space — the Nintendo Switch threw the concept of home console gaming and mobile gaming in a blender and successfully made it work. Although Nintendo is famously tight-lipped about their releases ahead of time, expect a major PR push when the announcement is made and for the media to pick up the innovation angles and run with them.

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports, a good pint and ’90s trivia night.


One Response to “The Scoop: Boeing grounds 737 Max 9 planes after door blows off mid-flight”

    Tom Veenstra says:

    What’s your take on Alaska Airlines’ role in this? If there were 3 distinct instances warning of pressurization, what did they do (or not) about it? I for one am very concerned about the airline’s safety protocol.

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