HomeAir LineBoeing relieves head of its 737 program after safety problems

Boeing relieves head of its 737 program after safety problems

The company tries to turn the page on the crisis unleashed by the Alaska Airlines flight mishap

A month and a half after a piece flew into the air on an Alaska Airlines plane, Boeing has replaced the head of the 737 Max program, as reported by the company in an internal note to which several local media have had access. After a career of almost 18 years with the American company, Ed Clark says goodbye to the company with immediate effect. Katie Ringgold replaces him as vice president and general manager of the 737 program and the Renton (Washington) plant, where the devices for that line are manufactured. It seems like a statement of intent that the company is trying to start with a clean slate.

Boeing is in crisis mode since a panel that covers the gap that in other configurations is used as an emergency door detached leaving a hole in the fuselage in mid-flight, causing rapid decompression. The Alaska Airlines plane, a Boeing 737-9, that had taken off from Portland International Airport (Oregon) heading to Ontario (California) had to return to the airport of origin and make an emergency landing. Two flight crew members, four cabin crew members and 171 passengers were on board. Seven passengers and a flight attendant suffered minor injuries.

The piece that jumped into the air on January 5 did not have the four corresponding fastenings to ensure it was securely fixed, according to preliminary research results of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). “Overall, the damage patterns observed (…) indicate that the four bolts that prevent upward movement of the plug (of the intermediate exit door) were missing before it moved upward off the stop pads” , the 19-page report said, Illustrated with photographs and graphics.

After proceeding to the immobilization of the vast majority of the devices of the 737 Max 9 modelthe Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) opened a formal investigation against the company and then announced that subjected Boeing’s production process to audit, in a hard blow for the company. In its analyses, Boeing has been finding other deficiencies. The aircraft manufacturer revealed that a few weeks ago an employee of its supplier Spirit AeroSystems alerted his boss that two holes in the fuselage of 737 Max aircraft had not been drilled exactly according to Boeing requirements. The supplier passed it on to the manufacturer, which will have to do additional work on about 50 planes, which may delay some deliveries.

The company is taking steps to strengthen the quality of the 737 program, including additional inspections at its factory and at major suppliers and increased oversight by airlines. It also decided to halt 737 production for a day to refocus its employees on quality. Additionally, Boeing has appointed an outside expert to conduct an in-depth independent evaluation of the quality management system.

The incident, although without catastrophic consequences, has once again put Boeing and its 737 Max model in the eye of the hurricane after its flight permit was withdrawn in 2019 — the American manufacturer until suspended its manufacturing— following two fatal accidents that cost the lives of more than 300 people in a different variant than the one in which the accident has now occurred. In October 2018, the flight crashed in the Java Sea, Indonesia. 610 of the low-cost company Lion Air operated by a 737 Max 8; A few months later, in March 2019, 157 people died on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 in the largest air disaster of that year, also involving a 737-8.

Waiting to see the impact that the episode will have on its production process and customer trust, the company closed the last year with losses of 2,222 million dollars (about 2,050 million euros). Although these are red numbers, their amount is less than half that the 4,935 million dollars of losses from the previous year. Boeing’s revenues grew by 17% in 2023 as a whole, to $77,794 million, operating losses were reduced by 78%, to $773 million, and operating cash flow shot up 70% in the year, to $5,960. millions of dollars.

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Source: Cincodias

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