Growing concerns after the crashes of two Boeing 737 Max 8 jets in five months have led leaders across the world to ground the planes until risks can be more accurately assessed.
Until Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump was not among these leaders.
At least five pilots in the United States have reported problems operating the aircraft at crucial moments and experts have spoken to the anomaly of two brand new planes of the same model crashing in one year. “That rings alarm bells in the aviation industry,” said CNN aviation analyst Mary Schiavo, “because that just doesn’t happen.”
In a phone call with the President, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg urged him to refrain from grounding the Max 8, assuring the model is safe. Former head of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub had a chilling theory why:
This does not bode well for Americans who fly. Boeing donates $1 million to Trump's sketchy inaugural fund and the U.S. breaks with other nations that have grounded the Boeing 737 after two brand new planes fell out of the sky. https://t.co/OVdmfdJHna
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) March 13, 2019
Trump’s inaugural fund cost a record $107 million—more than double the previous record of former President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Unlike his predecessors, the Trump team did not put a cap on corporate donations.
Since last year, the inaugural committee has been under investigation for possibly promising access to the White House in exchange for hefty donations. Boeing donated $1 million.
Shaub is suggesting that the President is keeping the Max 8 in the air to please a donor corporation, rather than possibly save lives.
Lawmakers have called for Trump to ground the planes.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Boeing 737 Max 8 Jets: "Every one of these planes should be grounded right away. They are accidents waiting to happen… I have advised my family members to switch airline because these planes are unsafe at any speed right now." https://t.co/RzlysAifG5 pic.twitter.com/OqwMJYkyz1
— The Hill (@thehill) March 13, 2019
That the President would prioritize political contributions over people’s lives would be downright dastardly, yet—after two years in to Trump’s tenure—it’s not out of the scope of imagination.
Not surprised one bit. I am certain 45’s only question when making a decision is, “Does this person support Trump?”
— Full Stop (@NahNotOnMyWatch) March 13, 2019
Not a surprise it’s all about the money. Trump will break with every nation in the world for the money
— just in case (@dspilman00) March 13, 2019
I’m always saddened at my lack of surprise in the open corruption going on in this administration.
— Eileen (@ereeder27) March 13, 2019
We see quite clearly how this government operates; not by the people or for the people, but despite our needs and concerns.
— Lynne Antonelli (@lynne_antonelli) March 13, 2019
Though the United States has yet to ground the planes, Americans are settling on embargoes of their own.
Don’t fly on this Boeing 737 until otherwise
— Fernando E. Banales (@BanalesFernando) March 13, 2019
Yah. Well, I refuse to get on one of those.
— sandralynpierce (@apiercingtruth) March 13, 2019
Ummm…travelers need to refuse to fly on 737MAX.
— headless_snowman⛄️ (@hockeyhoose15) March 13, 2019
Trump has yet to make a final decision on whether or not to ground the planes, with more meetings expected on Wednesday afternoon.
We can only hope he weighs his options more diligently than taking a substantial corporate donor at his word.
Update: This piece has been updated to reflect that, after massive public outcry, the President has said he will ground the Boeing 737 Max 8 until its safety can be assessed.