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The Federal Aviation Administration has warned that the near catastrophe on an Alaska Airlines plane last week should not have happened and ‘cannot happen again.’

In their Thursday statement, regulators added that they have informed Boeing that they are conducting an investigation to determine if the aircraft maker failed ‘to ensure completed products conformed to its approved design and were in a condition for safe operation.’

‘The safety of the flying public, not speed, will determine the timeline for returning the Boeing 737-9 Max to service,’ the FAA said.  

It comes after aviation experts expressed concerns that flawed Boeing 737 Max planes have filled the skies due to an inexperienced workforce.

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Wall Street analyst Jason Gursky said the aircraft maker’s struggles are partly caused by the ‘relatively inexperienced’ workforce that replaced the veteran workers who did not return after the Covid-19 pandemic.

FAA warns ‘this incident should not have happened and cannot happen again’ as it launches probe into Boeing’s killer 737-Max after door blew off in mid-air: Regulator accused of failing to keep tabs on aviation giant

Aviation experts have concerns that flawed Boeing 737 Max planes have filled the skies due to an inexperienced workforce

There were no serious injuries from Friday's terrifying air failure, but passenger's belongings including phones flew out the aircraft

There were no serious injuries from Friday’s terrifying air failure, but passenger’s belongings including phones flew out the aircraft

The new workers face a steep learning curve when it comes to assembling passenger jets, and small errors during the process could have fatal consequences. As the Times notes, other Max 9 Jets haven’t had issues with plugs blowing out, pointing to a manufacturing slip that was not caught in time.

Earlier this week, Boing CEO Dave Calhoun acknowledged errors by the planemaker as more than 170 jets remained grounded, telling staff the company would ensure an accident like the mid-air Alaska Airlines panel blowout ‘can never happen again.’

Calhoun’s remarks were Boeing’s first public acknowledgment of errors since a so-called door plug snapped off the fuselage of a nearly full 737 MAX 9 on Friday, leaving a gaping hole next to a miraculously empty seat. The problem-plagued aircraft’s 8 variant suffered two fatal crashes in 2017 and 2018 that were caused by its computers and which killed more than 300. 

Calhoun said he had been ‘shaken to the bone’ by the accident, which rekindled pressure on Boeing over its troubled small plane family almost five years after a full-blown MAX safety crisis sparked by deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

Boeing has previously faced scrutiny over its planes after the two deadly crashes involving the previous model of the 737 in 2018 and 2019.

However, unlike those deadly crashes, the Alaska Airlines’ incident was not caused by a design flaw, but by loose plus that blew up mid-flight, which makes it likely that the error occurred in the manufacturing process. 

As columnist Peter Coy points out in his op-ed, ‘A design flaw can be fixed once and for all, but sloppiness in manufacturing tends to be chronic and harder to put right.’

Earlier this week, Boing CEO Dave Calhoun acknowledged errors by the planemaker

Earlier this week, Boing CEO Dave Calhoun acknowledged errors by the planemaker

He explains: ‘Imagine that one person with a power wrench doesn’t tighten the bolts on a door plug enough. Or overtightens them and strips them. Or fails to thread through the thick wire at the top of the bolt that keeps it from loosening. Or, worse yet, leaves the bolts out entirely. 

‘Then imagine that the person’s faulty work isn’t inspected or that the inspector overlooks the mistake. The plug is then covered, and the plane goes into service with a potentially fatal flaw. Speculation, of course, but easy to imagine.’

To complicate matters further, the fuselages for the 737 Max 9 are made by Spirit AeroSystems Holdings and not Boeing, making it harder for the planemaker to catch the errors.

Alaska Airlines and United Airlines, the two U.S. carriers that use the temporarily grounded planes, have found loose parts on similar aircraft, raising fears such an incident could have happened again.

The alarming findings came as the National Transportation Safety Board released new photos of the damaged Alaska Airlines door plug after it was found in the backyard of a suburban home in Portland.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced on Monday airlines could begin safety inspections of 171 Boeing 737 Max 9 grounded planes.

In a separate meeting on Tuesday, Boeing told staff the findings were being treated as a ‘quality control issue’ and checks were under way at Boeing and fuselage supplier Spirit Aerosystems (SPR.N), sources familiar with the matter said.

Boeing has sent written orders to its own plants and those of its suppliers to ensure such problems are addressed and to carry out broader checks of systems and processes, they said.

An emergency exit used as a cabin window blew out of the Alaskan Airlines flight from Portland to California at 16,000 feet

An emergency exit used as a cabin window blew out of the Alaskan Airlines flight from Portland to California at 16,000 feet

Boeing shares fell 1.4 percent on Tuesday as United canceled 225 daily flights, or 8 percent of its total, while Alaska Airlines canceled 109, or 18percent. 

Calhoun also told Boeing employees the company would ‘ensure every next airplane that moves into the sky is in fact safe.’

He praised the Alaska Airlines crew that swiftly landed the plane, with only minor injuries to the 171 passengers and six crew.

According to aviation outlet The Air Current, the Alaska Airlines aircraft involved in the incident had come under scrutiny by officials just a day before the window blew out.

The outlet claimed that on January 4, an intermittent warning light appeared as it taxied to a terminal from a previous flight, which led the airline to remove it from extended range operations (ETOPS). Later that same day in a separate flight, the warning came back on.

The Boeing 737 MAX 9 jet involved in the incident had reportedly only gone into service in November 2023, and was practically new by aviation standards after reportedly undergoing less than 200 flights before the incident.

The NTSB began an investigation that is likely to last months and focus on the paneled-over exit door that blew off. The so-called door plug is installed on some jets that have fewer seats instead of an emergency exit panel. The jets ordered grounded by the FAA all have those panels installed. 

HISTORY OF SAFETY ISSUES

It is the latest setback for Boeing’s best-selling plane, which has seen a series of concerning safety incidents that have damaged the company’s reputation over the last years.

Video game designer Sean Bates assumed the phone had been dropped by a jogger when he found by the side of a road in rural Washington State because it didn't have a scratch on it

Video game designer Sean Bates assumed the phone had been dropped by a jogger when he found by the side of a road in rural Washington State because it didn’t have a scratch on it

The flight that was set out to arrive at Ontario International in California turned back around after the plug door came off on Friday night

The flight that was set out to arrive at Ontario International in California turned back around after the plug door came off on Friday night 

A Max 8 jet operated by Lion Air crashed in Indonesia in 2018, and an Ethiopian Airlines Max 8 crashed in 2019. Regulators around the world grounded the planes for nearly two years while Boeing changed an automated flight control system implicated in the crashes.

Boeing has estimated in financial reports that fallout from the two fatal crashes has cost it more than $20 billion. It has reached confidential settlements with most of the families of passengers who died.

Federal prosecutors and Congress questioned whether Boeing had cut corners in its rush to get the Max approved quickly, and with a minimum of training required for pilots.

In September, 2019, Boeing fired the top executive of its commercial airplanes division, Kevin McAllister, a year before ousting former CEO Dennis Muilenburg.

In 2021, Boeing settled a criminal investigation by agreeing to pay $2.5 billion, including a $244 million fine. The company blamed two relatively low-level employees for deceiving the Federal Aviation Administration about flaws in the flight-control system.

After a pause following the crashes, airlines resumed buying the Max. But the plane has been plagued by problems unrelated to Friday’s blowout.

In January 2020, Boeing suspended 737 production, its biggest assembly-line halted in more than 20 years, before resuming it at a ‘low rate’ that May.

In September 2020, an 18-month investigation by a U.S. House of Representatives panel found Boeing failed in its design and development of the MAX as well as its transparency with the FAA, and that the FAA failed in oversight and certification.

From Friday evening to Monday morning shares of Boeing  fell 8.6 percent - from 248 to 228

From Friday evening to Monday morning shares of Boeing  fell 8.6 percent – from 248 to 228

That December Congress passed legislation to reform how the FAA certifies new airplanes, including requiring manufacturers to disclose certain safety-critical information to the FAA.

In January 2021 the European Union Aviation Safety Agency approved the MAX’s return to service in Europe but in March China’s aviation regulator said major safety concerns with the MAX needed to be ‘properly addressed’ before conducting flight tests.

The next month Boeing halted 737 MAX deliveries after electrical issues re-grounded part of the fleet.

In November, current and former Boeing company directors reached a $237.5 million settlement with shareholders to settle lawsuits over safety oversight of the 737 MAX.

Questions about components from suppliers have held up deliveries at times. Last year, the FAA told pilots to limit use of an anti-ice system on the Max in dry conditions because of concern that inlets around the engines could overheat and break away, possibly striking the plane. And in December, Boeing told airlines to inspect the planes for a possible loose bolt in the rudder-control system.

A passenger on a Southwest Airlines jet was killed in 2018 when a piece of engine housing blew off and shattered the window she was sitting next to. However, that incident involved an earlier version of the Boeing 737, not a Max.





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