ST. LOUIS – The United States is still allowing the Boeing 737 Max 8 to fly at airports nationwide while countries around the world have grounded the aircraft.
Southwest Airlines has 34 of the Boeing 737 Max 8s. That’s the type of jet that has crashed twice in less than six months, first in Indonesia and then Sunday in Ethiopia.
“I figured those pilots wouldn’t be on the plane if they didn’t think it was a safe airplane,” said one man who flew on a Max 8 jet that had just arrived at St. Louis-Lambert International Airport from San Jose.
Some Southwest passengers didn’t even know what kind of plane they were flying.
“Thank goodness,” Liz Williams said. “Should I kiss the ground or something?”
Sean O’Connor, who was on the San Jose flight, said he’s not sure if the plane should be grounded in the US.
“I’m not saying to ground them I’m not saying don’t ground them,” he said. “I’m saying I trust that the manufacturer of the plane and the transportation agency is going to do the right for the American public.”
Mel Burkart, a former TWA airline captain and SLU professor, said crash investigators in Ethiopia will check into the pilots’ background and experience.
“They were low time. I would say the co-pilot wasn’t experienced at all with 200 hours and the captain had 8,000 hours, which is probably minimal experience,” he said.
Burkhart wondered how long the pilot and co-pilot had been flying the Max 8. Passengers seemed to be taking questions surrounding the aircraft in stride.
“I thought there was a chance I might be on one but what am I to do? I went ahead and came on it,” said passenger Karen Doherty.
Southwest plans to add 200 more of the Max 8s to its fleet. Boeing released a statement Tuesday, saying the company maintains full confidence in the Max 8.