A troubled flight over the weekend is forcing Boeing to again confront concerns over its planes, particularly the 737 Max, already one of the most-tested jets in history.
No one was seriously injured in an incident on an Alaska Airlines flight Friday night in which a portion of a 737 Max 9’s fuselage flew through the air, sending passengers into the air. The plane landed safely, but crashed in Portland, Ore. The incident, which occurred during a flight from Ontario, California, has horrified passengers and prompted urgent safety inspections on similar planes.
Federal officials focused on the mid-cabin door plug, which is used to fill the space where an emergency exit would be placed if the plane is configured with more seats.
The Federal Aviation Administration ordered inspections of 171 Max 9 planes operated by Alaska and other US airlines, leading to the cancellation of dozens of flights on Saturday. It says the inspection should take four to eight hours per aircraft to complete.
“We agree with and fully support the FAA’s decision to require immediate inspection of 737-9 airplanes with the same configuration as the affected airplanes,” Boeing spokeswoman Jessica Koval said Saturday.
It is unclear whether Boeing is to blame for what happened, but the episode raises new questions for the manufacturer. Another version of the Max, the 737 Max 8, was involved in two crashes that killed hundreds of people in 2018 and 2019 and grounded that plane around the world.
“The issue is what’s going on at Boeing,” said John Goglia, a longtime aviation safety consultant and retired member of the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates airplane crashes.
Last month, the company urged airlines to inspect more than 1,300 delivered Max planes for possible loose bolts in the rudder-control system. Over the summer, Boeing said a major supplier the holes were drilled incorrectly A component that helps maintain cabin pressure. Since then, Boeing has invested in and worked more closely with that supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, to resolve production problems.
“We’re seeing increased consistency and quality performance within our factories, but we’re working to bring the supply chain up to the same standards,” Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun said on a call with investor analysts and reporters in October. Are.” ,
Spirit AeroSystems also worked on the fuselage of the 737 Max 9, including the fabrication and installation of the door plug that failed on the Alaska Airlines flight.
Deliveries of another Boeing aircraft, the twin-aisle 787 Dreamliner, were virtually halted for more than a year, until summer 2022, while the plane maker asked the FAA to address various quality concerns, including paper-thin gaps in the plane. Had worked with. Body.
Another flaw discovered last summer again slowed deliveries of the aircraft. And production of both the 737 and 787 has been slow amid quality and other supply chain issues.
The Max was grounded in early 2019 after two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed a total of 346 people. For more than 20 months, Boeing worked with regulators around the world to fix problems with the plane’s flight control software and other components.
By the time passenger flights resumed on the Max in late 2020, the crisis had cost the company about $20 billion.
Two medium-sized versions of the aircraft, the Max 8 and Max 9, have since been flying. But the smallest, the Max 7, and the largest, the Max 10, have still to be approved by regulators.
The Max is the best-selling aircraft in Boeing’s history. More than 4,500 outstanding orders for the aircraft constitute more than 76 percent of Boeing’s order book. The plane is also popular among airlines: About 5 percent of the nearly three million flights scheduled globally this month are planned to be operated using the Max, mostly the Max 8, according to aviation data provider Cirium.
Alaska Airlines has 65 Max 9 aircraft, while United Airlines has 79 aircraft. Both were doing inspection on Saturday.
On Sunday, Turkish Airlines announced that it would grind immediately Five Max 9 aircraft are in its fleet until further notice.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators have begun investigating the case and are expected to look into multiple factors. Initially, they are expected to review radar and other data to locate the broken part of the plane. They are also expected to see what work Boeing or Alaska Airlines did on the aircraft.
“It’s the kind of thing that, until you really get into the investigation – you identify all the facts, conditions and circumstances of this particular incident – do you determine whether this is a one-time or a systemic problem.” It is,” said Greg Faith, an aviation safety expert and former NTSB investigator.
Meanwhile, everyone who builds, services, operates and regulates aircraft will remain in the spotlight.
“Every American deserves a full explanation from Boeing and the FAA about what went wrong and what steps are being taken to ensure that another incident does not occur in the future,” Republican Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio said in a post Saturday. yes.” On X.
mark walker And Safak Timur Contributed to the reporting.