Boeing, the aerospace giant, has been facing a series of safety problems and crashes, with the most serious issues centered around its 737 Max aircraft. This aircraft is the latest version of the popular 737 model, which has been widely used in passenger aviation.
Recently, a blowout of part of the fuselage occurred on a Boeing 737 Max flying over Oregon. This incident prompted United Airlines to conduct inspections on other 737 Max jets, leading to the discovery of loose bolts and other installation issues on the failed part—a door plug used to seal additional emergency exits in certain plane configurations.
Boeing has also encountered safety and manufacturing problems with other models. In 2018, a woman tragically died when a piece of engine housing ripped off a Southwest Airlines 737, causing a window to shatter. This incident exposed the passenger to the loss of cabin pressure, but other passengers were able to pull her back inside the plane. Fortunately, similar tragedies were avoided during the recent incident over Oregon.
The genesis of many of Boeing’s recent issues can be traced back to the development of the 737 Max in 2011. This aircraft was designed as a response to the fuel-efficient model introduced by European rival Airbus. Boeing marketed the Max as an updated version of the 737 that required minimal additional pilot training, making it an attractive choice for many airlines. However, the Max incorporated significant changes, including the addition of an automated flight-control system called MCAS, which aimed to compensate for the larger engines installed on the aircraft. Unbeknownst to many pilots, Boeing did not mention the existence of this system in airplane manuals.
The MCAS system was implicated in two fatal crashes that claimed the lives of 346 people. The first crash occurred in October 2018 when a Lion Air Max 8 plunged into the Java Sea. The second crash happened six minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa when an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max 8 plummeted straight down into a field. Following these incidents, Boeing admitted that its employees had misled regulators about the safety of the 737 Max, leading to a settlement agreement with the US Department of Justice worth $2.5 billion. This settlement includes a $500 million fund for the victims’ families, although legal proceedings are ongoing.
The grounding of all Max jets worldwide for nearly two years allowed Boeing to make necessary changes to the flight-control system. However, investigations revealed a series of failures in government oversight, design flaws, and inaction at Boeing. The Max has also experienced various production issues, such as loose bolts in the rudder control system and improperly tightened nuts on undelivered aircraft. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently instructed pilots to limit the use of an anti-ice system on the Max due to concerns over engine inlet overheating.
In addition to the issues with the 737 Max, Boeing has faced manufacturing problems with its two-aisle 787 aircraft, resulting in occasional delivery delays. For instance, inspections on the horizontal stabilizer fittings were conducted in June due to nonconforming conditions. Moreover, in March, 787 deliveries were halted while regulators examined the documentation of work completed on new planes.
Boeing has expressed its commitment to safety and has provided a technical team to assist the National Transportation Safety Board in their investigation. The company regrets the impact of the recent blowout on its customers and passengers. Spirit AeroSystems, based in Wichita, Kansas, which is a key supplier of Boeing, has affirmed its commitment to collaborate with the company in resolving the ongoing issues.
Boeing’s recent safety problems and crashes highlight the need for increased scrutiny and possible regulatory reforms to ensure the safety and reliability of its aircraft in the future.