“Boeing risks facing a difficult investigation and further damage to its image”

A China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 on May 29, 2020 at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in China.

Xi Jinping thought to himself “shocked”. It is rare for a Chinese president to express heated sentiment as he did Monday, March 21, on television, after the crash of a Boeing 737-800 NG of the company China Eastern which resulted in the death of 132 people on board. For the American aircraft manufacturer, this is a new blow after the two accidents of its other model, the 737 MAX, in 2018 and 2019 (346 victims in total), which had grounded his plane between one and two years following countries and cost 20 billion dollars (18.2 billion euros).

Read also China: Boeing 737 crashes with 132 people on board, no survivors found

This time, it is the 737-800 NG, put into service from the 1990s, which will remain on the tarmac, while nearly nine hundred of these aircraft are operated by Chinese companies, and thousands in the United States. . Three-quarters of the 11,800 flights scheduled in China on Tuesday were canceled, with the crash amplifying the effect of Covid-19.

Need fresh money

Boeing shares lost 3.6% on Wall Street on Monday due to the accident and a risk of a delay in the takeoff of the MAX aircraft – authorized only in December by Chinese civil aviation, without the flights have resumed. What will become of Chinese orders, which represent a quarter of global sales of the latest 737, estimated at five hundred aircraft this year? The Chicago giant needs fresh money and only receives it on delivery.

And what will happen to the conduct of the investigation into the accident, the Chinese authorities being still reluctant to recognize a responsibility which may certainly come from the design or manufacture of the aircraft, but also from its maintenance or the behavior of the pilots?

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The group will face two difficulties: the political and commercial tensions between Beijing and Washington, revived by the Chinese refusal to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which can thwart the serenity of the investigators’ work; and a further deterioration in its image, three years after the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines accidents.

Downfall: the Boeing case, the Netflix documentary released in February, confirms – after the investigation by the US Congress – that the aircraft manufacturer had indeed sacrificed safety on the altar of profit. Icon of American industry for decades, Boeing is not done with lawsuits of all kinds.

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