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Flying Blind

author: Peter Robison (2021)
date read: 22 October 2023
rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

I had high hopes for this book, but it fell short. It tells the history of Boeing and the culture that led to the crashes of the 737 MAX, but a lot of it is from an external, impersonal perspective. Most of the first-hand accounts seem to be from family members of the victims of the crashes – understandable, but frustrating if you want to understand why Boeing is the way it is. I would have liked to see more from Boeing employees, especially people who worked there in the “good years”.

When I read books like this, I often find the little stories and moments the most revealing – more so than the big picture strokes. For example, the book briefly mentions Boeing issuing a mea culpa for a 747 crash in Japan, and this being a remarkable thing. But we don’t learn anything about why Boeing decided to do that, or what happened internally before they did.

The broad strokes I already knew: Boeing was an engineering company, had a reverse-takeover by McDonnell Douglas, and business folks started making decisions – prioritising shareholders over safety. I wanted more detail.

I also found the book hard to follow in places, with a revolving cast of business people I struggled to distinguish.

It’s not a bad book, but it doesn’t match the bar set by similar books I’ve read and was hoping for her (Rust and Liftoff being two examples).

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