Wednesday 22 May 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 22/5/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Off the ground: The 5,000th Boeing B-17, built in Seattle

Image: Getty Images

Aviation / Gregory Scruggs

Why Boeing should wing its HQ back to Seattle

The successful first flight of Bill Boeing’s Model 1 seaplane in 1916 launched a company that had a huge effect on 20th-century transport – and the aviation pioneer’s hometown. During the Second World War, Boeing plants built bombers that were crucial to the Allied war effort. Those factories later formed part of Jet City, with planes rolling off the assembly line. Tens of thousands of engineers and machinists prospered, and Boeing’s workers were encouraged to engage in civic life and even run for public office. Seattle became the town that Boeing built.

But in 2001, Boeing moved its corporate headquarters to Chicago and, in 2022, relocated again to Northern Virginia. Whenever the company’s leadership moved further from its core engineering and assembly operations in the Seattle area, the firm’s fortunes seemed to nosedive. First, there were fatal 737 Max crashes in 2018 and 2019, then the 737 Max 9 door-plug incident in January this year. Many travellers are now avoiding Boeing aircraft.

This crisis led the company’s CEO, Dave Calhoun, to announce that he will resign at the end of the year, while former COO Stephanie Pope has taken over the commercial aircraft division. But this leadership shake-up isn’t enough. To truly reform what was once the pride of American industry, Boeing must move its headquarters back to Seattle. Relocation would allow its leadership to visit the factory floor daily and address the quality-control issues plaguing its assembly lines. Closer proximity to Boeing’s talent pool would also help leaders to appoint more competent engineers for the C-suite.

If the company wants to recreate the corporate culture of its glory days, it would benefit from a return to its geographic roots. The monuments to Boeing’s ingenuity and mastery of craft in Seattle are a far more impressive means of inspiring confidence in visiting airline executives than any lavish client dinner. It’s not too late for it to change course and rediscover what helped it take flight more than a century ago. Like an aircraft waiting to be assembled, all of the parts are here in Jet City.

Gregory Scruggs is Monocle’s Seattle correspondent. This piece features in Monocle’s June issue, which will hit the newsstands this week. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Affairs / USA & South Korea

US and South Korea meet to draw up new defence deal

South Korean and US officials gathered in Seoul yesterday for a new round of talks on the thorny issue of sharing defence costs. As part of the current six-year deal, which expires in 2025, the two countries split the expense of stationing about 30,000 US military personnel in South Korea. During his presidency, Donald Trump accused the Asian country of “freeloading” and tried unsuccessfully to secure a fivefold increase in payments from Seoul – a move that stalled negotiations between the two nations.

This week’s summit aims to establish new terms that are fairer for both parties. It had originally been scheduled for later this year but the prospect of Trump’s re-election in November prompted South Korea to bring it forward. Some in the country, however, believe that the Republican right-winger’s bark is worse than his bite. Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president during the Trump years, praised his candour in a recent memoir. According to Moon, the suspension of the negotiations had no effect on the two presidents’ relations and he described bilateral ties between Seoul and Washington as “more robust than under any previous administration”.

Making a splash: Fire-fighting trains

Image: Stadler

Transport / Austria

Austria announces fleet of fire-fighting trains

Austrian railway infrastructure operator ÖBB-Infrastruktur has unveiled its new fleet of 68-metre-long fire-fighting trains. Manufactured by Swiss company Stadler, the low-emission Servicejets are designed to improve safety across the network. They are fitted with extinguishing systems, state-of-the-art ventilation and thermal-imaging cameras that enable them to enter smoke-filled tunnels.

They can also easily evacuate passengers and remove defective rolling stock. The trains will be stationed at tunnel-entry points across the country to assist in emergencies. The first of the 18 units will be installed on the Koralm Railway, a high-speed line that will connect the Austrian cities of Graz and Klagenfurt from 2026.

Image: Johann Sauty/Van Cleef & Arpels

Fashion / London

Van Cleef & Arpels opens fairy-tale London exhibition

An exhibition celebrating the rich heritage of Van Cleef & Arpels opens on Sunday at London’s Cromwell Place. Poetry in Time highlights the French luxury house’s expertise in fine jewellery and high-calibre watchmaking. Founded in 1896, the brand is known for its fairy-tale-inspired designs, which feature on many of its watch faces. One of the timepieces on display showcases tiny, enamelled flowers that open and close throughout the day.

Its Lady Arpels Jour Nuit watch (pictured), meanwhile, draws on astronomy, with the yellow-gold sun illuminating the hours of the day, followed by the diamond-set moon at night. “The designs force wearers to slow down to read the time,” Rainer Bernard, Van Cleef & Arpels’ head of research and development for watchmaking, tells The Monocle Minute.
Poetry in Time runs until 9 June.

Beyond the Headlines

The List / Global

Travel is back on the agenda but challenges lie ahead

The World Economic Forum’s biennial Travel & Tourism Development Index analyses trends in the industry for 119 countries across the globe. This year’s report, published this week, confirms that international tourism has made a strong recovery. Here are three key takeaways:

Travel is set to return to pre-coronavirus-pandemic levels. Pent-up demand, combined with the lifting of restrictions, will result in international tourism finally getting back on track this year. Mass tourism is also being fuelled by the greater availability of flights and an increased interest in natural and cultural attractions.

There are three places getting it right: the USA, Spain and Japan. These three countries have the highest recovery rates in international tourist arrivals. “This is down to a number of factors, including easy access in terms of visas, excellent infrastructure and the diverse nature of the countries,” travel writer Ash Bhardwaj tells The Monocle Minute. “Japan is really having a moment. It’s a country that makes you feel curious about the world and excited to be travelling again.”

Global challenges remain. Geopolitical uncertainties, economic fluctuations, inflation and extreme weather are still affecting the industry. There is also the risk of overcrowding and the likely return of pre-pandemic emissions levels. Perhaps discovering the joys of their own country at the height of the coronavirus outbreak will encourage some people to holiday at home.

Image: Tom Oldham

Monocle Radio / Monocle on Culture

Art of the matter

We speak to artists Gilbert & George (pictured) at their new exhibition in east London. Then we head to Tunis to take the temperature of its art scene and meet gallerist Selma Feriani. Plus: UK folk-music icon Richard Thompson drops in to Midori House to play a song from his new album.


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