Last week, passengers on an Alaska Airlines flight endured a disaster that every traveler fears as a door blew wide open while the plane was 16,000 feet in the air. Fortunately, pilots performed an emergency landing that ultimately kept the number of injuries low. Once the plane reached the ground, however, airline regulators demanded an explanation of how this incident could occur. Then they found out the make and model of the faulty plane: the Boeing 737 Max 9, a line of aircraft that has been the center of several catastrophes in recent years.
Once the type of plane was identified, The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered dozens of 737 Max flights to be grounded as they investigated the problem. Boeing agreed with the decision, saying in a statement that “safety is our top priority and we deeply regret the impact this event has had on our customers and their passengers.” Alaska Airlines also canceled 160 flights, affecting more than 23,000 passengers while the FAA inspected planes in the company’s fleet. Regulators eventually discovered that the enormous hole in the plane appeared due to a fuselage panel that fell off shortly after takeoff. The FAA then opened an investigation into whether Boeing’s 737 Max 9 followed safety requirements approved by the agency. “This incident should have never happened, and it cannot happen again,” said the FAA.
The previous model of the 737 Max also embroiled Boeing in controversy as poor manufacturing standards and faulty design led to two fatal crashes in 2019. Four years later, the aviation giant once again faces scrutiny from regulators over its production methods. “Boeing’s manufacturing practices need to comply with the high safety standards they’re legally accountable to meet,” said the FAA. According to experts, this public rebuke of Boeing shows the severity of the agency’s concerns. “The tone of this announcement indicates the F.A.A. believes there was the potential for loss of life and the seriousness of the Boeing quality control issues,” said lawyer Mark Lindquist, who represented families of victims in the 737 Max 8 crashes.
- Why did the FAA ground dozens of flights involving the Boeing 737 Max 9 last week?
- What penalties do you think Boeing should face if the FAA finds the company guilty of using poor safety and manufacturing standards?
Sources: Alison Sider, “FAA Orders Grounding of Some Boeing 737 MAX 9 Jets After Emergency Landing,” Wall Street Journal, January 7, 2024; Mark Walker, “F.A.A. Investigating Whether Boeing 737 Max 9 Conformed to Approved Design,” The New York Times, January 11, 2024.