This week’s crash foreshadows the end of that golden age. Another MAX 8 crashed in October in Indonesia in similar circumstances. Although investigators have yet to determine the cause of the Ethiopian Airlines accident, regulators suspect that the max 8 has a design flaw.
The industry’s technical complexity is amplified by its organisational complexity. In the 1990s a few Western airlines dominated and a handful of regulators had global clout. Now there are hundreds of airlines and 290,000 pilots worldwide. In 2018, for the first time, less than half of the global fleet was based in the West. Maintaining common standards on training and procedures is harder. China and other countries want a bigger say. The credibility of American regulators has slipped because they have let domestic competition decline. This suggests they are cosy with industry.