It’s no secret there is no love lost between Mobilians and Boeing.
In 2008, Northrop Grumman/EADS (Airbus’s parent company) won a $35 billion Air Force tanker contract — a tanker that was to be built right here in the Port City.
This was supposed to be our moment. Our fair burg would shed its self-flagellating moniker of the “city of perpetual potential” and be a global aerospace giant. The Champagne flowed and we even had a Mardi Gras parade (of course) in the middle of summer to celebrate. Politicos, business folks and citizens alike fantasized about just what this would mean for our community. It would be transformative. Our (air)ship had finally come in.
But, of course, as they say, the rest was not history. At least not for the KC-30 tanker and Mobile.
Boeing challenged the contract and harsh words were exchanged as it was under review.
In a Dec. 7, 2009 interview, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, who represents Washington State, where Boeing has a huge presence, said: “I have stood on the line in Everett, Washington, where we have thousands of workers who go to work every day to build these planes … I would challenge anybody to tell me that they’ve stood on a line in Alabama and seen anybody building anything.”
This, of course, went over very well with Alabamians, and Mobilians, in particular. You know, because, of course, Patty, we are just a bunch of dumb, barefoot rednecks that don’t know our asses from our hookworm-infested holes in the ground.
Former Mayor Sam Jones said she should have her meds checked and wrote a mock letter to her doctor. Republican gubernatorial candidate at the time Bradley Byrne offered to give her a tour of other Alabama manufacturing facilities, as did Democratic candidate Artur Davis, and the other guy who ultimately won said it was the equivalent of saying no one had ever seen computer code written in Washington State — a pretty weak zinger from Gov. Horndog, but he was probably too busy falling in love with his top advisor at the time.
As we all know, we ultimately lost the tanker contract.
Of course, allegations were made that shady backroom deals took place between evil Boeing executives and greedy politicians. I’m sure there is always a bit of shadiness anytime billions of dollars are on the table for anything, whether it be planes, trains or automobiles. But even still, since we lost, Mobilians began to regard Boeing as low down, dirty players.
And we all went back to feeling like maybe we are just the city of perpetual potential. Thankfully, we didn’t lose our sense of humor throughout all of this, though, as evidenced by Foosackly’s Chicken Fingers erecting billboards throughout the city reading, “We would like to offer Boeing a finger.”
Though Airbus would put us on an even better path to aerospace greatness just a few years later by announcing they would assemble their A320 here, Mobilians have still collectively wanted to give Boeing that finger ever since.
And at the Paris Air Show late last month, we got to do exactly that.
Boeing’s recent troubles have been highly publicized and absolutely horrifying. A “software problem” with their 737 Max resulted in the crash of two planes and the tragic loss of 346 lives. In a scathing report by Bloomberg in May, many former engineers attributed that “software problem” to a corporate culture that valued “relentless cost-cutting” over safety. The article also states Boeing cut corners so it could more quickly compete with the Airbus A320.
Boeing and the 737 Max are now under investigation by a litany of governmental bodies, including House and Senate committees, the Transportation Department’s Inspector General, the Justice Department and the FBI.
In addition to the legal woes the company faces, analysts say their “cost cutting” measures will most likely cost them and their shareholders much more in the long run, as recent surveys have shown over half of fliers surveyed would be unwilling to fly on a Max for over a year or more.
I mean, who in their right mind would?
At the Paris Air Show last month, Boeing began paying the price in terms they actually understand, the loss of an estimated $6 billion order from Saudi air carrier Flyadeal, which canceled a provisional order they had placed with Boeing for the 737 Max and picked up 30 Airbus A320s instead.
Analysts are monitoring the market to see if this trend continues, which of course would continue to benefit Airbus and Mobile.
While certainly no one revels in the loss of life that has occurred because of Boeing’s unethical — if not downright criminal — behavior, it is nice to see a company finally “get the finger” they so richly deserve.
And, if there is any justice in this world, Boeing should have to pay a far bigger price than just the loss of business. Just ask the loved ones of the 346 people who spent their final moments on planes recklessly manufactured by a company who valued profit margins far more than human life.
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