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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

How the 737 air disasters pose concerns for the White House

A Boeing 737 Max 8 on Friday at

A Boeing 737 Max 8 on Friday at a municipal airport in Renton, Wash. Credit: AP/Ted S. Warren

There are two tracks on which the recent fatal crashes of Boeing 737 Max 8 planes become a gnarly challenge not only for the industry and safety experts but more broadly for the Trump administration.

Deregulation is unequivocally celebrated by elected Republicans in Washington. This comes into play politically as the Transportation Department probes the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval of the jetliners' "anti-stall" system.

Trump issued an order two years ago that agencies must abolish two regulations for every new one they introduce.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) cited this in light of the Lion Air Flight 610 that crashed off Indonesia, killing 189, and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which went down near the town of Bishoftu, killing 157.

"Say, for a moment, it is found that the recent issues with Boeing spell out, very clearly, that a new regulation is needed in the skies,” Schumer said Sunday. “What two aviation regulations would potentially be eliminated?"

"If we are going to get to the bottom of what, if anything, has gone wrong with the agency approval process," Schumer added, "we have to also look at how the FAA’s own newly installed hurdles are being cleared."

Boeing is a big player in Washington with connections in both major political parties. The company has pushed the federal government to cede more FAA safety responsibilities to the company, as The Washington Post reported this week.

Another question is whether China's shunning of the American manufacturer's planes for a big purchase from European-based Airbus, announced Monday, is at all rooted in the administration's current trade war with the U.S.

Reasons for such preferences are hard to tease out, especially involving the opaque Chinese government. But the Boeing disasters don't help sell its American products overseas, and this is a time of tension for exports.

Ellis Taylor, Asia finance editor at aviation intelligence firm FlightGlobal, told CNN the trade dispute "has meant that there has not been a lot of engagement between Boeing and China of late."

At the same time, Taylor adds: "The 737 Max issues will further push back potential Boeing orders [from China], but we are talking months rather than years." He said China will continue dealing with both companies.

Perhaps it was just coincidence that the Trump administration became the last major regulator to ground the planes three days after the Ethiopia disaster March 10.

Or maybe it was a gut-check — one that showed an early reluctance to break from a powerful company.

That's a question to be answered as more facts come in. The administration may not have broken anything, but it will bear some responsibility for solutions.

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