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2nd Crash Of Boeing 737 Max 8 Leaves Flying Public Concerned


An aviation analyst tells NPR today he's making fine distinctions about the Boeing 737. After a type of 737 called a MAX 8 crashed on two occasions, he said he would avoid certain planes but fly others. He even said he might fly himself but would be reluctant to bring his family. If that's the thinking of an expert, what's on the minds of the flying public? Here's NPR's Eric Westervelt.

ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: Some two dozen airlines around the globe have grounded their Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes following the deadly crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia. At Oakland International Airport, Lynn Tsumoto, just off a Southwest flight from Seattle, asked why Southwest and American, the biggest U.S. operators of the MAX 8, haven't done the same out of an abundance of caution.

LYNN TSUMOTO: Well, I'm wondering why they don't when all the other airlines - the majority of airlines - are.

WESTERVELT: You'd like them to hit pause.

TSUMOTO: Yeah. I'm uncomfortable that they aren't. And make sure everything's working, that their pilots are adequately trained.

WESTERVELT: Her partner, Iqbal Bukhari, a self-described airplane buff, says he always checks what kind of plane he's flying. He was relieved Monday when he saw that his flight was not the model that's had fatal problems. But Bukhari says until he feels more safe, he'll try to avoid any flights that involve the MAX 8.

IQBAL BUKHARI: I had apprehensions. We've had, like, two fatal crashes this year already. And I think it's high. It's a high rate. You know, we haven't had fatal crashes in a while. All of a sudden, we're having a rash of them.

WESTERVELT: Southwest and American say they stand by the aircraft, as does the Federal Aviation Administration. Both airlines faced a flood of angry customer tweets Monday accusing the companies of downplaying safety fears and not waiving change fees. One American customer tweeted at the company, I'm not asking to change because it's a convenience. I'm changing because the plane is killing people. The $200 should not apply. In a tweet Monday, Southwest wrote, we remain confident in the safety and air worthiness of our Boeing fleet. That said, we're working with customers individually if they'd like to change their upcoming reservation. I caught up with Southwest customer Verna Chapman as she was rolling her suitcase out of baggage claim. I asked her if she's having second thoughts about the 737 MAX 8.

When Southwest says they're safe - don't worry - are you taking them at their word?

VERNA CHAPMAN: I don't take anybody at their word in this day and age. I kind of, like, want to know what the circumstances were. And - 'cause we're getting ready to fly to Detroit on the Southwest flight in a couple days. So, I mean, I will do some research of my own.

WESTERVELT: And Chapman says she'll keep on top of news of the investigation. More than 2.6 million passengers fly in and out of U.S. airports every day. Bobby Barrera notes that America's airspace is considered among the safest in the world. Barrera just flew from San Antonio with his wife and daughter. He says he fully trusts Southwest and its safety record.

BOBBY BARRERA: We did not talk about it. We didn't raise any issues about it. I figured if they weren't safe, they wouldn't be putting us in the air. We're just as likely to be killed on the way to the airport - or actually more likely, probably - than in an airplane crash.

WESTERVELT: So, he adds, we didn't worry about it at all. Eric Westervelt, NPR News, Oakland, Calif. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Westervelt is a San Francisco-based correspondent for NPR's National Desk. He has reported on major events for the network from wars and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa to historic wildfires and terrorist attacks in the U.S.