An In-depth Look at Boeing 737 Max's Recent Issues: Safety Concerns and Industry Implications
The recent issues concerning the Boeing 737 Max aircraft, examining the safety implications and the broader impact these incidents could have on the aviation industry. The analysis is based on recent events, including the grounding of several Boeing 737 Max 9 models following an incident on an Alaska Airlines flight.
The Boeing 737 Max has been in the spotlight recently, and not for the right reasons. The aircraft has been marred by significant issues over the years, with the latest incident involving a Boeing 737 Max 9 model flying at 16,000 feet shortly after taking off in Oregon. A part of the plane's body detached mid-flight, creating a clear sky view for the passengers onboard. This event has raised serious concerns about the safety of this type of plane and the methods used by the industry to ensure aircraft safety.
"If it ain't Boeing, I ain't going." is an old saying among pilots
Examining the Alaska Airlines Incident
The aircraft involved in the recent incident was a Boeing 737 Max 9—a newer model than the 737 Max 8s, which were involved in crashes in 2018 and 2019 that claimed the lives of 346 people. These crashes led to nearly 400 Boeing 737 Max 8s grounding for over 18 months.
Initial findings from the recent incident suggest loose bolts and "quality control issues" with the part that detached—a plug used to fill an unused door hole—may have been the cause. Following the incident, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded approximately 171 Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft worldwide until further safety inspections could be conducted.
Understanding the Implications
Robert Mann Jr., an independent aviation analyst, believes that the issues with the Model 9 could be related to the supplier or the plane's manufacturing process. Images circulating on social media suggest similar door plug issues with other model 9s, adding fuel to these speculations.
However, Bjorn Fehrm, an analyst at the aviation industry publication Leeham News, believes that if the screws had not been fully tightened, it would have been "inconsequential." Fehrm suggests the bolts are not designed to hold in a door plug. The question then arises: what is causing these issues?
The Role of the FAA and Outsourced Inspections
The FAA plays a crucial role in ensuring aircraft safety. Theoretically, the FAA checks aircraft for airworthiness, granting them certification to fly safely. However, in practice, these reviews are often delegated to third-party organizations designated to give certification.
With a production volume of 30 to 60 aircraft per month and an aircraft containing around 4 million parts, it is perhaps understandable why the FAA relies on third parties. However, the recent Boeing incidents raise questions about the effectiveness of this approach.
The Impact on Boeing and the Aviation Industry
These incidents have undoubtedly significantly impacted Boeing's reputation and financial standing. Its share price dropped 8 percent on the first day of trading after the recent incident, and it is estimated that the FAA's grounding of the 171 planes will cost Boeing $2.3 million every day.
But the impact extends beyond Boeing. The airline industry heavily depends on the big two manufacturers: Airbus and Boeing. The grounding of the 737 Max 9s has led to flight cancellations and the need for replacement planes, highlighting the industry's reliance on these manufacturers.
So, what happens now? While it is still unclear what the long-term effects will be, it is clear that these incidents have led to significant reputational damage for Boeing and have raised important questions about safety standards and practices in the aviation industry.