The passenger jets recently crashed in Ethiopia and Indonesia had something in common: They lacked security features that could have helped prevent the fatal accidents that Boeing pays for, the New York Times reported on Thursday.
Both upgrades were related to the aircraft's angle of attack sensors, devices that read about a ray's nose pointing up or down relative to opposing air. One upgrade called the angle of attack indicator showed the readings of the sensor; The second upgrade is a light that is activated if the sensors interfere with each other. The disagreement alone alone cost $ 80,000, according to CBS; Jet's list price is approx. $ 1
These features are considered optional and are not required by most airline regulators – but according to the Times report, they could have helped the plane's pilots realize that something was wrong in the past, and some aviation safety experts say they should never have been optional in the first instance. "They are critical and cost almost nothing for the airlines to install," Bjørn Fehrm, an analyst at the aviation consulting firm Leeham, told The Times. "Boeing pays for them because it can. But they are crucial to security."
(Of the three US airlines that have Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 jets in their fleet, only two-US and southwestern – paid for these upgrades, the Times spokesman told the Times that its jets do not include these upgrades because its pilots use other data to fly their aircraft.)
According to the Times report, Boeing also charges things like backup fire extinguishers in the cargo compartment, another Function The Federal Aviation Administration considers volunteers despite past events that show that a single fire extinguishing system is not sufficient to expel air fires. According to Times & # 39; reporting, carriers have paid for goods as extra oxygen masks for crew members.
Due to the prevalence of low cost airlines, air travel has never been cheaper – or more accessible to the average person. But air travel has become a bottom-up race for airlines trying to save money by transferring costs to consumers by charging for features that used to be considered by default, such as the choice of seats, checked bags and even carry-on luggage. The news that both the Ethiopian airlines and the Lion Air jet aircraft lacked certain security features raises a more worrying question: Are the airlines appreciated security? Consumers can choose which airline to fly with, but they have nothing to say – or in many cases, knowledge of – whether this airline has purchased specific security upgrades.
Mark Goodrich, an aviation lawyer and former technological test pilot, told the Times that charging extra for non-compulsory security features has become "a great profit center" for Boeing. But this phenomenon is not limited to the aviation industry.
In 2015, the consulting firm JD Power published a study that revealed that most car owners are willing to pay for seemingly optional security upgrades, such as blind spot detection, night vision, and collision development systems – to a point. According to the survey, buyers aged 38 years said they would not spend more than $ 3,703 for new technology, and older buyers were willing to spend even less. However, as the Associated Press noted at that time, some security features may cost much more than that, and many are not available for cheaper or older models at all.
In 2015, when the JD Power study was conducted, Toyota offered only automatic braking on its Prius cars, and only as part of a $ 4,320 package, according to the AP. This feature has become standard on new cars in recent years and the price has fallen as a result, but it is still primarily available for new cars. In other words, you should be able to buy a new car to get upgrades like this initially, a luxury many people cannot afford. (The US News compiled a list of the cheapest cars with automatic braking last year, the cheapest costing $ 16,900.)
Offering security features at an additional cost essentially creates a system of haves and garden nots; It transforms security into a luxury, not a necessity. Consumer watchdogs say this is a problem.
"Consumers should not pay extra for security features because they pay extra funds, they are not available to everyone, and they cost more than they should," says Jack Gillis, CEO of the Consumer Union for the Americas, LA Times told . "By simply incorporating the latest security features into a product, two things happen. They are accessible to everyone and therefore all benefits, and they become cheaper because of economies of scale."
If you can afford to buy individual security upgrades , is only part of this problem. As last year's wildfires in California showed, the ability to prepare for – and if necessary fly – dangers such as natural disasters is also broken down by class lines. In the fall, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West were criticized for hiring a team of private firefighters to save their $ 60 million home from the blazes tearing through southern California. (The firefighters were actually exploited by Kardashian-West's insurance company, not by the famous couple themselves; according to NBC News, these private firefighting teams are primarily available to those whose properties are valued over $ 1 million.)
Likewise, over a million people were given mandatory evacuation orders in the days before Hurricane Florence hit Carolinas – thousands refused to leave their homes because they could not afford to leave or, in some cases, because their employers refused to give them time.
These are not comparable: Buying a new car is different than buying a flight ticket, deciding where to stay or being unable to leave your home in the event of a natural disaster. But together, these examples point to a two-tier system where security is only assured to those who can afford it, often with fatal consequences.
In the case of the Boeing jets, the New York Times reports that the manufacturer will soon make certain features like the disagreeable light standard on all new jets. If investigators decide that the lack of upgrades could have prevented both Ethiopian and Indonesian crashes, it may be time to start thinking about security upgrades as a necessity, not a luxury.
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Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly the price of the cheapest car on US Newss round.