During a recent Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholder’s meeting, Warren Buffett said that he “will never hesitate even for a second to fly on a 737 MAX” once it returns to the skies.
If you regularly read our blog you will know that one of our reporters flew on the doomed Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX just before it crashed. He certainly didn’t have the foresight that it would fall out of the sky, even though the Lionair plane had crashed before he flew.
The planes in the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines tragedies had similar problems. Faulty readings which the aircraft’s MCAS system tried to compensate for and pilots that were not trained sufficiently to deal with this problem.
If these faulty readings are fixed, and pilots are retrained, Warren Buffett is right, the plane should fly well.
So Why Is Buffett Wrong?
A flight on the B737 MAX is not just about the physical safety of the aircraft. One must also consider the mental wellbeing of the passengers on board.
Whether these planes are safe or not, many passengers will not want to board them because of fear. We know we should trust authority, they know better than us, right? And yet I am disturbed by all these incidents. The crash footage is the stuff of nightmares and not easily forgotten.
Regardless of whether they are safe or not, the mere thought that they might not be safe and that you may be boarding a doomed jet will be too much for many passengers to bear.
Is this fear justified? Probably not, but I know my own mental limitations and I will not be comfortable or happy flying myself or my family on a plane that has previously fallen out of the sky, twice. At least, not until I have seen this plane type fly for long enough to give me confidence in its safety record.
Although I’m still flying, I will be avoiding the B737 MAX and sticking to British Airways A319 & A320s around Europe for now. If a B737 MAX rolls up to my departure gate, I will not be getting on.
As for Buffet, there is debate online about whether he even flies normal domestic flights. The cynic might suggest that this comment may or may not have been influenced by the fact that he owns serious volumes of shares in airlines. Apparently, he owns a decent percentage of shares in Delta, Southwest, American and United airlines. Obviously Southwest, American, and United all have 737 MAX aircraft in their fleets.
Warren Buffet is probably not wrong in terms of safety and we all know that the most dangerous bit of a flight is the drive to and from the airport. But his decision to happily fly on the B737 Max would be wrong for my family and I. At least for now.
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