Down to Earth

Prematurely bound for heaven

On a seven thirty-seven,

If you’re lucky you just might

Survive to take another flight.

In the aftermath of two deadly plane crashes involving new, improved Boeing 737 airliners, we learn that there have been several complaints about the aircraft since it was introduced. No one is saying whether some response to these reports could have prevented the deaths of two planeloads of travelers. Also unknown is why the flying public here and worldwide heard nothing about the pilots’ complaints in the months since they were recorded.

It appears that the reports were made with our own Federal Aviation Administration and that they were made voluntarily by anonymous airline pilots. This suggests that there is no mandatory reporting requirement placed on a pilot whose airplane suddenly nose-dives on its own and must have its auto-pilot disengaged to right itself. It suggests, further, that such reports can be made anonymously, so that problems with particular airplanes can’t be tracked down. It’s clear that there’s no mention of the reports in any warning or protocol issued to commercial pilots. According to reporters for the Dallas Morning News, who discovered the complaints in a database accessible to the media and the general public, the complaints suggest the presence of a design defect that could have caused both crashes. Why none of the five reports was revealed until after the latest accident remains a mystery.

Two days after the disclosure of the anonymous complaints, all mention of them has been censored out of the news. There’s no mystery behind this peculiar circumstance. The news media didn’t do their job, and dozens of people got incinerated as a result, and that is not the sort of thing news-mongers like to talk about. Their incompetence even disables them from holding the US government accountable for its deficient and deadly incident-reporting scheme. And what if it wasn’t just incompetence? You won’t read about this in your newspaper, but people might well be asking whether the lapses of governmental and journalistic responsibility could have been purposeful. Does somebody in the chain of command at FAA or CNN own a block of shares in Boeing? Losses would have been suffered if it had been known last October that the new planes were lethal.

We don’t know yet whether the problems reported by pilots in the months preceding the latest crash were at fault in this crash, and we may never know for sure. After all, the lesson in this is that we should never trust our government or our news media to tell us what’s really happening, and so any report we might receive about this event must be considered suspect.