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Boeing under renewed scrutiny over latest 737 Max issues

A harrowing flight over the weekend has once again forced Boeing to confront concerns about its planes, especially the 737 Max, already one of the most watched jets in history.

A section of the fuselage of an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 exploded in mid-air on Friday night. No one was seriously injured and the plane landed safely, but the incident occurred on a flight from Portland, Oregon, to Ontario, California. The flight caused panic among passengers and security checks were immediately conducted on similar aircraft.

Federal authorities have focused on mid-cabin door jams that are used to fill the space for emergency exits if the plane is configured with more seats.

this FAA orders inspections On Saturday, 171 Max 9 planes operated by Alaska Airlines and other U.S. airlines were inspected, leading to the cancellation of dozens of flights. Inspections of each aircraft are said to take four to eight hours to complete.

“We agree with and fully support the FAA’s decision to require the immediate inspection of 737-9 aircraft configured in the same configuration as the affected aircraft,” Boeing spokesperson Jessica Kowal said Saturday.

It’s unclear whether Boeing is responsible for what happened, but the incident raises new questions for the manufacturer. Another version of the Max, the 737 Max 8, was involved in two crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed hundreds of people and led to the plane’s global grounding.

“The problem is what’s happening at Boeing,” said John Goglia, a longtime aviation safety consultant and retired member of the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates plane crashes.

Last month, the company urged airlines to Check out more than 1,300 Max aircraft delivered There may be a problem with loose bolts in the rudder control system.This summer, Boeing said a major supplier Improper drilling Since then, Boeing has invested in that supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, and is working more closely with the supplier to resolve production issues.

“We’re seeing improvements in the stability and quality performance of our plants, but we’re continuing to Work hard to bring the supply chain up to the same standards.”

Spirit AeroSystems was also involved in the 737 Max 9 fuselage design, including manufacturing and installing the door jam that failed on the Alaska Airlines flight.

Deliveries of another Boeing aircraft, the twin-aisle 787 Dreamliner, have effectively been stalled for more than a year. until summer 2022while the aircraft manufacturer worked with the FAA to address various quality issues, including paper-thin gaps in the plane’s fuselage.

Another flaw discovered last summer has again slowed deliveries of the planes. Because of these and other issues with quality and supply chain, production of the 737 and 787 has been slow.

The Max was grounded in early 2019 after two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed a total of 346 people. For 20 months, Boeing worked with regulators around the world to resolve problems with the plane’s flight-control software and other components.

By the time Max passenger flights resumed in late 2020, the crisis had cost the company an estimated $20 billion.

Since then, two midsize versions of the plane, the Max 8 and Max 9, have been flying. But the smallest, the Max 7, and the largest, the Max 10, have not yet received regulatory approval.

The Max is Boeing’s best-selling airplane in history. The aircraft has more than 4,500 outstanding orders, accounting for more than 76% of Boeing’s orders. The plane is also popular with airlines: of the nearly 3 million flights scheduled globally this month, about 5% are planned to use the Max, mostly Max 8s, according to aviation data provider Cirium.

Alaska Airlines has 65 Max 9 aircraft, while United Airlines has 79. Both companies were inspected on Saturday.

On Sunday, Turkish Airlines announced it would immediately on the ground Five Max 9 aircraft in the fleet until further notice.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board have begun looking into the case and are expected to examine a variety of factors. First, they are expected to review radar and other data to find the part of the plane that exploded. They are also expected to investigate what work Boeing or Alaska Airlines performed on the plane.

“Until you actually get into an investigation — and you establish all the facts, conditions and circumstances of this particular incident — you can’t determine if this is just a one-time issue or if it’s systemic,” said Gregg, an aviation safety expert. Former National Transportation Safety Board investigator.

At the same time, the people who build, maintain, operate and supervise the aircraft will be in the spotlight.

“Boeing and the FAA are providing every American with information on what went wrong and what they can do to ensure another incident doesn’t happen in the future,” Ohio Republican Sen. J.D. Vance said in a post on Saturday. Full explanation of actions taken.” on X.

Mark Walker and Shafaq Timur Contributed reporting.

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