There are perhaps few thoughts as terrifying as being on a plane that’s making a beeline for the ground. Or the ocean. Or particularly, a building in the middle of a major city.
Your death is almost guaranteed. And it’s completely out of your control. All you can do is sit down, buckle up and accept it.
It’s no wonder that aerophobia affects as many as one in three people.
So far, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in plane crashes globally. They’ve claimed the lives of Buddy Holly, John F Kennedy Jr and Otis Redding. And although the numbers are slowly declining, going from 3,346 global airline deaths in 1972 to 101 deaths in 2017, there’s clearly still room for improvement.
Just last week, the passengers aboard a Boeing 737 MAX 8 flight to Nairobi experienced the nightmare we all dread, as due to an auto-pilot malfunction, the plane nosedived six minutes into the flight, killing all 157 people aboard.
This is the second disaster of this nature, coming after the Boeing 737 crash in Jakarta back in October 2017. In an eerily similar case, the plane nosedived into the ocean just minutes after take-off, killing all 198 passengers on board. In what seems to indicate a deep programming flaw, the pilots of both planes also reported problems with the auto-pilot system and asked to make an emergency landing.
As a result, on Thursday, Donald Trump joined the United Kingdom, European Union, China, Australia, India and 40 other countries with his decision to ground the fleet of Boeing’s 737 MAX airplanes.
He issued an emergency order to ground all 737 planes in the US until further notice, telling reporters:
‘They [Boeing] have to find the problem…and they will find it.’
Surprisingly, the plane is a new model, having just been released in November 2018. And although there are yet to be any conclusive findings, it looks as if there is a programming fault that prevents pilots from regaining control of the airplane.
Since the groundings, US$25 billion has been wiped off Boeing’s market value, and their shares have dropped nearly 6.9% in Wednesday’s trading. And although the company has maintained that the 737 planes are safe, they supported the decision to ground, stating:
‘Boeing has determined — out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety — to recommend to the FAA the temporary suspension of operations of the entire global fleet of 371 737 MAX aircraft.’
Regardless, the tragedies have sparked renewed debate about how we can prevent these gruesome disasters from happening in the future. And whether or not airplanes have reached their peak potential when it comes to safety and efficiency.
How can we make tragedy a thing of the past?
While the Boeing disaster is somewhat of an anomaly, there’s no reason it shouldn’t spark debate about how planes can be improved upon overall. According to the Bureau of Aircraft Accident Archives, in 2018, plane crash deaths jumped sharply to reach 1,040 — almost triple that of 2017.
And when it comes to Boeing, the world’s largest plane maker, two crashes in five months shouldn’t be in the headlines in 2019.
It’s worth noting that we’ve already come incredibly far when it comes to flying technology. As I, like most people, know next to nothing about aerodynamics, my overriding thought when I’m on an 80,000kg steel airplane gliding effortlessly through the air is that this shouldn’t work.
It defies belief that we’ve cracked the code of gravity. And it truly is a testament to our species.
But this by no means indicates that we’ve reached our full flying potential.
Thanks to the push towards renewable, environmentally friendly energy sources, and a move away from traditional forms of energy like coal, the electric transportation market is booming.
Elon Musk for one (unsurprisingly), has been contemplating how an electric plane could work. As he alluded to on the Joe Rogan Experience, he has been designing a battery-powered ‘electronic super jet’ that could be the way of the future:
‘The exciting thing to do would be some sort of electric vertical takeoff and landing supersonic jet of some kind…The trick is you have to transition to level flight…and the thing that you would use for vertical takeoff and landing is not suitable for high speed flight. I’ve thought about this quite a lot.’
Clearly this is an idea still in the works. But as a proponent for sustainable energy, Musk is incredulous that companies continue to rely on fossil fuels for energy and is fast working towards a complete eradication:
‘We’re taking vast amounts of carbon from deep underground and putting this in the atmosphere – this is crazy…We should not do this. It’s very dangerous. We should accelerate the transition to sustainable energy.’
Now, we don’t know exactly what Musk has in mind to power this new jet. But we can take an educated guess.
Source: Proactive Investors Australia
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The silvery flakes pictured above are a new form of battery fuel that can charge an electric car in seconds, and keep it running for thousands of kilometres. There’s no doubt Musk has looked into this for his Tesla vehicles, and when it comes to a lightweight, efficient fuel for electric jets, this marvel of chemical engineering fits the bill perfectly.
As The New Yorker writes, this battery fuel ‘…may be the most remarkable substance ever discovered.’
This week in Money Morning
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Are stocks about to nosedive in the same way Boeing 737s have been lately? For the past few years, stocks have been pumped up. But as history tells us, this divergence can only last for so long. And as Harje wrote on Thursday, one of two things has to happen. Either earnings can rise, or stocks can fall. Which stock, cheap or expensive, do you want to hold when the latter happens?
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Does it matter whether the Aussie market is going up or down? Not really. Does it matter that Boeing dropped 12% overnight when news broke of their second 737 MAX 8 plane crash? Probably not in the long run. And as Harje wrote on Friday, this is true of the mainstream news in general. Not only is it often useless, but it can also be straight up wrong. Take recent stories about Facebook for example…
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Until next week,
Editor, Money Weekend