Letter: Having bigwigs on board doesn’t make 787 Dreamliner any safer

So the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is flying again. I loved the story from the Chicago Tribune (“United Dreamliner returns to service”) reprinted in the Anchorage Daily News. The fact that the CEOs of Boeing and United were on board for the flight from Houston to Chicago, along with Boeing’s chief engineer, is offered by the nameless reporter as “a signal of confidence to the flying public that Boeing 787s are safe to fly.” I seem to remember that RMS Titanic had on board for its only voyage the White Star Line’s managing director (J. Bruce Ismay), as well as the Titanic’s designer (Thomas Andrews). Didn’t that ship sink or was it all just Hollywood and the magic of Leo and Kate? 

I also loved the comment by one of the flight’s passengers, Steve Brill: “The CEO is on the plane, so it must be safe.” Yes, and “With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good.” I try hard to teach my students logical thinking, and then a comment like Brill’s gets made. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry or both. Both, I think.

— Toby Widdicombe