Two tragic air disasters may not down Boeing

BOEING WAS hoping for good headlines on March 13th, the day on which it planned the glitzy unveiling of its new long-haul 777X jetliner at its factory outside Seattle. Instead, tragic events three days earlier in Ethiopia prompted it to cancel the event. On March 10th a Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed near the capital, Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people aboard. The apparent similarities between this crash and one five months ago involving a MAX 8 operated by Lion Air in Indonesia raised concerns among aviation authorities around the world. By March 13th virtually all the world’s fleet of MAX 8s had been grounded by airlines or regulators. The tragedy has also frightened Boeing’s investors. Within days its share price fell by more than 10%, wiping nearly $30bn off its market value.

Accidents, even tragic ones, do not usually have such a chilling effect on planemakers’ shareholders. The crash last month off the coast of Texas of a Boeing 767 carrying cargo had virtually no impact on its maker’s share price, despite claiming three lives. As Howard Wheeldon, an aerospace analyst, explains, this is because most crashes are caused by human error. Airlines who hired those humans therefore get most of the blame.

This time is different. It is the second crash in less than a year involving a brand-new MAX 8. As in Indonesia, the...

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