Flying Lessons Blog

Crash of TWA 800 Provides 737 Max Backstory

July 17, 2024

Twenty-eight years ago today, a Boeing 747 exploded after takeoff from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, killing everyone on board. Like the 737 Max families who would find themselves living through a similar tragedy two decades later, nothing would ever be the same. That was true for me as well. I was a correspondent for CNN assigned to report on the loss of TWA Flight 800, a half-filled flight carrying travelers to Paris at the height of the summer travel season.  My immersion in the world of air accident investigations changed the direction of my life. But there is one entity for which the… Read More…


Was Passenger on AA Emergency Flight a Hero or Hindrance?

July 16, 2024

I am confident that Oliver Jankai, one of the passengers evacuating an American Airlines flight to Miami on Friday will probably never forget the weekend he just had. Whether he was a hero, a hindrance or both, is less certain. Watch the videos and decide for yourself. The 50-year-old Austrian and his family were passengers on Flight 2045 scheduled to depart San Francisco at noon on Friday. They were headed to the Copa America soccer final in Miami (about which more later) when fire erupted on the plane, an Airbus A321, which was still parked at the gate. In an interview with a Miami television… Read More…


Boeing’s Guilty Plea Lets It Keep Its Secrets

July 8, 2024

The Department of Justice has agreed to let Boeing plead guilty to one criminal felony charge for its role in two fatal crashes of Boeing 737 Max airplanes that killed 346 people. At first glance, it may appear that Boeing is facing the consequences for its errant and ultimately lethal behavior and, according to a statement from the DOJ, the deal will protect the public. “Boeing will be required to make historic investments to strengthen and integrate its compliance and safety programs.” But I wouldn’t get too excited and neither, in fact, are the Max families. That’s because this guilty plea is a gift to… Read More…


Boeing’s Unquestioned Success, a Half Century of Bamboozling Prosecutors

July 3, 2024

If there is any truth to the adage that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome, then there are some very crazy folks in the United States Department of Justice. How else to explain the willingness of the government to consider once again, allowing Boeing to avoid a criminal trial for behavior that led to the deaths of 346 people in the crashes of two 737 Max aircraft?  We will know later this week what kind of a juicy deal Boeing gets in its latest scandal; the 5-year saga of the lethal Boeing 737 Max…. Read More…


In Airline Potty Camera Cases, Lawyers Should Have Waived This Argument

May 28, 2024

Many years ago while covering the trial of Claus von Bulow for the attempted murder of his heiress wife, I read a description of his lawyer that I have never forgotten. In an article for New York Magazine, Herald Price Fahringer was described as “silver-haired with a tongue to match”. Kudos to the talented writer, Lally Weymouth for that turn of phrase. Fahringer was equally clever. He told the judge at the 1982 trial in Newport, Rhode Island the only thing he would waive during the trial would be his hands. Fahringer died in 2015 after a 50-year career practicing law. I thought of him… Read More…


“I Pray Boeing Pays” Found Scrawled in Suicide Note of Safety Whistleblower

May 17, 2024

A Boeing whistleblower who was found dead in his truck in Charleston, South Carolina two and a half months ago, died by suicide, the city coroner announced today. Sixty-two-year-old John Barnett was found in his pickup truck with a gunshot wound to the head and a gun in his hand.  Additionally, the coroner explained that security camera footage of Barnett’s truck showed no one entering or exiting it from the time Barnett was seen backing it into a space at the Holiday Inn the night of March 8, until hotel personnel discovered his body the following morning. And while the coroner’s statement brings to an… Read More…


Boeing to Face Criminal Charge in 737 Max Crashes

May 14, 2024

The Department of Justice is resurrecting a criminal charge against Boeing that it set aside three years ago, a development that could lead to Boeing executives sitting at the defendant’s table in a Texas courtroom. Late Tuesday, federal prosecutors told Judge Reed O’Connor, that the plane maker had failed to live up to promises to behave better than it had during the design and certification of the troubled 737 Max. Within five months in 2018 and 2019, two 737 Max airliners crashed killing 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Boeing pled guilty to misleading regulators during the design of the airplane. The government had alleged… Read More…


The Worrisome Death of a Second Boeing Airliner Quality Critic

May 1, 2024

Joshua Dean, a 45-year-old safety auditor at the plant assembling Boeing 737 Max fuselages, died unexpectedly in Wichita on April 30th. He was stricken with an illness that came on quickly and defied treatment. His lawyer, Brian Knowles, said until his hospitalization two weeks ago, Dean was in robust health. “He would take care of himself, go to the gym, do yoga, eat right, drink protein shakes,” Knowles told me, adding, “He had like four undergraduate degrees. He had considered at one time, going to medical school and was really smart.” A mechanical engineer, Dean worked in Wichita since 2019 for Spirit Aerosystems, a key… Read More…


Is Boeing Management Shakeup Linked to Criminal Investigation?

March 25, 2024

Boeing’s much-discussed but hardly assured shake-up was announced early this morning. The company CEO, David Calhoun will resign at the end of 2024, and the president of the Commercial Airplane division, Stan Deal leaves immediately. Chairman of the Board, Larry Kellner will not run for reelection to the post he has held for the past 5 years. “The eyes of the world are on us, and I know we will come through this moment a better company,” Calhoun said in a letter. How strong the desire was to improve in areas beyond those linked directly to the bottom line is debatable. I suspect what finally… Read More…


Hasty Words With Lasting Consequences – a Look Back at MH 370’s Characters

March 7, 2024

Everybody makes mistakes. But of all the hasty words that have been uttered that turned out not to be the best, a small phrase Malaysia’s then Prime Minister Najib Razak used in 2014 when speaking to reporters about the missing flight Malaysia 370, has had the most impact on the still unsolved mystery. MH 370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared 10 years ago on March 8th. While there is still no official determination of what caused the Boeing 777 to veer off its path and head into the South Indian Ocean killing 239 people, thanks to Razak lots of people think they know what… Read More…


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