For now, Max jetliners must remain grounded

Commercial aircraft production is a high-stakes business in more ways than one. Federal regulators, however, should stick to their position of emphasizing one of those stakes — lives.

Boeing Co.’s 737 Max jetliners have been grounded throughout the world since March, when two of the craft crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia. A total of 346 people died.

As investigations of the tragedies proceeded, there were questions about whether Boeing had addressed safety issues adequately. That prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to order the 737 Max be kept on the ground.

But the plane is integral to Boeing operations. Even though the 737 Max could not be used, and orders for it were affected by the crashes, the company kept producing the planes. As many as 400 of them have been manufactured and placed in storage, pending FAA approval to resume flying the big jets.

Recently, Boeing announced it will stop producing new 737 Max planes, beginning in January. That will halt production at the firm’s plant in Renton, Wash., where about 12,000 men and women work.

To Boeing’s credit, it does not plan to lay off any workers “at this time.” But the longer it takes to gain FAA approval, the more likely it is that the company will have to lay off workers. And, of course, there is a trickle-down problem: Companies that supply parts for the 737 Max may have to lay off workers.

Of course, FAA officials should be mindful of the economic effects of their actions — but those should in no way affect decisions. Until FAA experts are 100% satisfied the 737 Max is safe, it should remain grounded.


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