U.S. grounding of Boeing jet shows limits of company’s clout

President Donald Trump announced the 737 Max 8 and Max 9 jets in the U.S. were being grounded

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on drug trafficking at the southern border in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Wednesday, March 13, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Aerospace giant Boeing is a juggernaut in Washington, employing a team of in-house lobbyists and blue chip firms as part of a multimillion dollar influence operation built to shape policy on Capitol Hill and inside the Trump administration.

But the company’s clout goes only so far.

READ MORE: Canada bans Boeing 737 Max 8 plane following fatal Ethiopian crash

Bowing to international pressure, U.S. President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 aircraft in the U.S. were being grounded following the Ethiopian Airlines disaster and another crash involving the same model jet five months earlier in Indonesia. Many nations in the world had already barred the aircraft from their airspace.

Trump said he didn’t want to take any chances, even though the Federal Aviation Administration had said it didn’t have any data to show the passenger jets are unsafe.

Still, Trump gave Boeing a vote of confidence, declaring it “a great, great company with a track record that is so phenomenal.”

The crash in Ethiopia had cast a spotlight on the FAA’s decision to continue to permit the airliner to fly even as other countries grounded it — and onto Trump’s ties to Boeing and the company’s influence in Washington.

The president spoke by phone with Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg, a frequent participant in White House events, on Tuesday. The FAA said the same day it remained confident in the aircraft even as governments in Europe and Asia grounded the plane.

Muilenburg urged Trump not to ground the fleet, according to a White House official not authorized to publicly discuss a private conversation. It was not clear whether the call influenced the FAA’s decision.

Trump’s acting defence secretary, Patrick Shanahan, worked as a top executive for the aviation manufacturer for decades. Trump has often praised Shanahan publicly, noting his reputation at Boeing for managing costs and rescuing a troubled Dreamliner 787 jet airliner program.

The Associated Press

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