Three days ago Southwest grounded 81 of the almost 550 737’s in its fleet and the North American media simply lost its mind. I’m sure that those on board flight WN 812 were very, very scared – and with good reason – but the way the media has played this story and driven home messages laced with fear and doomsday scenarios is nothing short of ridiculous.
To recap, WN812 was en route from Phoenix to Sacramento when the fuselage ruptured, leaving a sizable hole leading to sudden depressurization in the cabin. The plane was diverted to Yuma where it landed safely with only one person on board sustaining minor injuries.
In the days since then Southwest and other carriers have performed vast amounts of inspections and have treated the matter with seriousness and professionalism. The media however has not handled this all that well. The sheer volume of conjecture and baseless statements is astonishing.
Let’s consider a couple of the headlines that have surfaced:
FAA Requires Boeing 737 Checks After Southwest’s Midair Split
Mid-air split, are you kidding me? Did the plane snap in two leaving all on board to plummet to their deaths?
Older Boeing 737 Jets Are at Risk for Cracks
We’re talking about a sophisticated, multi-million dollar piece of equipment not a wheel of brie, it doesn’t just go dry and start cracking with age. To gloss over the science – pressurization cycles – for the purposes of getting eyeballs to news pages is highly irresponsible. To then table the possibility that all “older” 737’s are unsafe is simply ridiculous. The 737 family has proven its worth for decades; to use such a broad brush based on one incident is simply not acceptable.
Television media has been equally irresponsible. Forget what The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg have to say, I was watching local news from a Seattle area channel last night and the anchor was rattling off all of the major 737 operators in the US – even though they all have different maintenance practices and fly different variants of the 737. The cherry on top was “the threat this poses to Boeing jobs” which was of course “after the break.”
The media should not understate the seriousness of what happened to ship N632SW – or indeed what could have happened – but to start belching out ideas with little basis in fact is patently ridiculous and needs to stop.