The Seattle Times' review of Flight/Risk, an Amazon documentary that attempts to bring answers to the two Boeing 737 Max planes that crashed in 2018 and 2019, is quick to point out that it features Dominic Gates, "a longtime aerospace reporter for the Seattle Times whose coverage of the jet’s troubled history earned him and three other reporter colleagues a Pulitzer Prize in 2020." You can read that review here. It claims the directors, Karim Amer and
Omar Mullick, gave the family members of the dead "faces." It mentions that at the "Seattle screening of the movie," Gates "received an ovation at the picture’s conclusion." As you can see, this review, unlike the present one, is very positive.
Let's begin with Senator Ted Cruz. He is one of the good guys in this atmospheric documentary. He is shown grilling Boeing execs in much the same way Senator Elizabeth Warren often grills bankers. Even Donald Trump is presented in a light that makes him sound and look competent and deeply concerned. The documentary does not interview one union leader. It also says nothing about Boeing's unrelenting efforts to weaken union power (the entire motivation for opening a plant in South Carolina). Nor does it mention Washington's huge tax break to Boeing, which, as everyone on the left knows, only ended in massive layoffs that exhausted Boeing's workforce in 2016 and 2017. No. For Flight/Risk, the 737 Max mess has as its prime cause executives who, naturally, wanted to make fast and huge profits as well as a workforce that was simply overwhelmed by the surge in demand for the latest product.
In this picture of the tragedy, the crashes brought all kinds of people together. Those on the right, those on the left; those in Africa, Asia, and the United States. And, most importantly, Dominic Gates's "classic shoe-leather" journalism exposed the truth of Boeing's "missteps and misdeeds." He had secret meetings with whistle-blowers; poured over documents, connected the dots, and wrote the exposé. The truth is now out there; the world knows exactly what happened. Democracy dies in darkness—that sort of thing.
But Gates only did all of this sleuthing after the crashes. Before that, you will find nothing of the kind. If Boeing laid off workers, even as 737 production at the Renton plant was "still ramping up," he would never fail to feature Boeing's explanation, sometimes in the opening sentence:
Fierce competitive pressure is forcing Boeing Commercial Airplanes into a new cost-cutting push that will include eliminating jobs, BCA Chief Executive Ray Conner announced at a senior leadership meeting Wednesday morning and in a webcast to all employees.
Not once did Gates or any business reporter at the Seattle Times ever question the neoliberal ideology of competitiveness. And worst of all, one of the most powerful sectors of the American economy, finance (it exploded 40 years ago), does not exist in his picture of the world and, as a consequence, for much of the documentary. Boeing's devotion to the principle of shareholder-wealth-maximization is barely mentioned. This is like discussing 21st-century American consumerism without serious consideration of credit cards or the refinancing of mortgages.
The documentary ends, predictably, on a positive note. Now that everything has been solved, we know what Boeing did wrong, the CEO was fired, the dead and their survivors have been heard, it's time to jump out of a small plane with the Black African daughter of a man who was killed in an Ethiopian Airlines crash. She falls fast through the air, there is that moment of danger; but then the parachute of the man she's strapped to rapidly unwraps, spreads, and catches the sky. She will safely fall to the ground. She is healing.
In short, avoid Flight/Risk and watch instead Downfall, another 737 Max doc. It at least mentions stock buybacks (a major development in contemporary finance) and certainly benefits from the absence of Gates.