Boeing 737
Credit: Liam Allport/flickr

There have been two deadly crashes of Boeing’s new 737 Max 8 airplane in the last five months, both of which were highly unusual. Until they can figure out what is causing the problem, it’s hard to say that these planes are safe. That’s why most of the world decided to ground the Max 8 after the second crash in Ethiopia. But they are not being grounded in the United States, and there’s some reason to believe that our safety isn’t being put first.

Early Tuesday, Dennis A. Muilenburg, the chief executive of Boeing, spoke to President Trump on the phone and made the case that the 737 Max planes should not be grounded in the United States, according to two people briefed on the conversation…

…Mr. Muilenburg has worked to cultivate a relationship with the president, although it has sometimes been uneasy.

Shortly after he was elected president, Mr. Trump assailed Boeing for the estimated cost of its program to build new Air Force One planes that serve as mobile command centers for the president.

The “costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter a month after winning the election but before he took office. A couple of weeks later, Mr. Muilenburg visited Mr. Trump at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., to try to smooth things over.

“It was a terrific conversation,” Mr. Muilenburg told reporters after the meeting, explaining that he had given Mr. Trump “my personal commitment” that Boeing would build new Air Force One planes for less than the $4 billion estimate. Weeks after the conversation, Boeing donated $1 million to Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee. The company had donated the same amount to help finance President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2013.

Boeing’s CEO is doing what a lot of major businessmen do. He’s greasing the skids for his behemoth of a company by making million dollar donations to the president. But he’s also assuring the president that his aircraft is safe, which is a judgement he cannot yet make on the merits and for which he is obviously not a dispassionate and objective observer.

I’d like to believe that President Trump isn’t influenced by Boeing’s million dollar check and Mr. Muilenburg’s personal patronage of Mar-a-Lago, but I don’t believe that for a second. Do you?

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at