Wednesday. 30/10/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Venetia Rainey

Boeing concern

Dennis Muilenburg, CEO of Boeing, will today face a second session of grilling by US lawmakers over company failings that led to two plane crashes and the deaths of 346 people. Under tough questioning yesterday – the anniversary of the first incident, involving a Lion Air flight – Muilenburg admitted that the aviation giant had made mistakes but insisted it had learned from the accidents in Indonesia and Ethiopia involving its now-grounded 737 Max planes. Chief among the issues he is expected to be asked about today is why a deadly safety-feature flaw wasn’t disclosed to the relevant regulatory body, the Federal Aviation Administration.

This is the first time a company official has publicly testified on Boeing’s role in the tragedies and much is riding on it, as the firm is aware. Yesterday its website was replaced by a special memorial page mourning “those whose lives were lost”, and a similar full-page advert was taken out in several major newspapers.

Yet this PR blitz has failed to obscure the massive problems facing Boeing. It had expected the Max to be cleared for flight by the end of this year but that’s now looking unlikely. Further delays may mean the entire plane has to be scrapped, a huge blow for the largest manufacturing exporter in the US and a potential drag on the country’s economy. Reforms now being touted centre on strengthening the FAA and creating a new branch dedicated to studying flight automation. This could (rightly) make the process of getting new planes into the air in the US lengthier and costlier. That may prove problematic for Boeing as it struggles to get back in the game but, in the long term, it’s a positive development for the industry at large.

Geopolitics / Africa

Tipping point?

While much of the world’s attention remains drawn to Syria, a bigger crisis could be brewing further south. Africa’s Sahel region has seen a string of violent attacks in recent weeks, including on a mosque in Burkina Faso and army bases in Mali. They are examples of a worrying spread of lawlessness in this vast area south of the Sahara. And they have occurred despite a series of military efforts – some with European backing – designed to regain control. Longstanding problems here include the encroachment of radical Islamic groups, extreme poverty, ethnic strife and the impact of climate change. But, given that this region is the size of western Europe, the world should be paying more attention. Left unchecked, an exodus could be imminent – and it’s one that could reach the shores of Europe.

Energy / Singapore

Catching the sun

Singapore has announced that it will ramp up its use of solar energy from the current 1 per cent of its total electricity demand to 4 per cent by 2030. The move will enable the city-state to reduce its use of natural gas, oil and coal. It’s not the first time that Singapore has taken on an ambitious overhaul, after it revolutionised its water technology in the early 2000s. If the goal is achieved, energy from the sun will meet the power needs of about 350,000 households in the republic. But, given the shortage of land on the island, finding sufficient space to install solar infrastructure without disruption could be a challenge. Government officials say that to successfully reach their target, panels might need to be installed on fences, building façades and even reservoirs. Let’s hope that Singapore residents keep their sunny disposition throughout the transition.

Transport / The US

Off the rails

The Bay Area’s transit authority (Bart) is developing an app that will allow riders who take the service to San Francisco’s airport to fast-track their way through security. The incentive is hoped to boost ridership on the airport line, whose passenger numbers have dropped 16 per cent since 2015, ostensibly due to the convenience of ride-sharing. And herein lies the problem: Bart only operates from the international terminal, forcing passengers using the other three terminals to switch to an air train to complete their journey. Rather than a gimmicky app, Bart would do well to invest in planning further extensions to the airport line, with new stations at all terminals. But if they’re set on gimmicks, why not consider an airport lounge for Bart passengers? At the very least it would be cleaner than their notoriously filthy stations.

Design / Tokyo

Changing the game

Determined to leave a positive legacy after the Olympic Games next year, organisers in Tokyo unveiled a stunning new timber stadium for gymnastics this week. The Ariake Gymnastics Centre’s design draws on traditional construction methods to form a smart, sustainably minded building that will be converted into an exhibition centre after the Games, with its wooden seating repurposed and donated to schools and other public buildings. Although architect Kengo Kuma’s temple-like Olympic Stadium will be the main design draw at the Games, we’re equally interested in projects such as the Ariake building and the Athletes’ Village plaza (also timber), which will be recycled once the event ends. Japan is known as much for its problematic scrap-and-rebuild approach to urban development as it is for good design but the Games and its clever infrastructure additions to the capital should help swing the pendulum towards better building.

M24 / The Stack

‘The Year of the Dogs’

Renowned ‘National Geographic’ photographer Vincent J Musi on his latest book on dogs. Plus: ‘Gay Times’ celebrates its 500th issue and we preview MagCulture Live with founder Jeremy Leslie.

Monocle Films / BELGIUM

Brussels + Antwerp: The Monocle Travel Guide

Belgium had no fashion history until six young designers put their country at the centre of that world in the late 1980s. To celebrate our latest travel guide, we travel to Antwerp to see how the fashion scene has matured. Available now at The Monocle Shop.

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