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The FAA has identified additional safety issues on Boeing’s 737 Max and 787 Dreamliner.


Washington DC –

The Federal Aviation Administration reported more safety problems for two families of troubled Boeing planes, the latest in a series of problems at the troubled aircraft maker.

The problems concern the anti-icing systems in the engines of the 737 Max and the larger 787 Dreamliner. While the FAA flagged these issues in a filing in mid-February, it gained more attention Friday due to a Seattle Times article.

The safety regulator continues to allow both models of the plane to fly despite the potential problems. Both issues are subject to the FAA’s standard airworthiness directive development process – rather than an emergency process – indicating that the agency and the aircraft manufacturer do not believe the problems are serious enough to demand that planes stop flying immediately.

But another safety issue is the last thing Boeing needs right now, two months after a 737 Max door plug exploded on an Alaska Air flight, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the plane shortly after takeoff. The Max has suffered a series of problems over the past five years, including two fatal crashes that killed 346 people in late 2018 and early 2019, leading to the plane being grounded for 20 months.

The importance of defrosting

Although it may seem like de-icing equipment is less important during the summer months, the cold temperatures at high altitudes that commercial airplanes fly at, combined with the amount of humidity in the clouds that they must cross, make de-icing equipment necessary. twelve months a year.

“You’re not protected by Mother Nature’s seasons,” said Dennis Tajer, an American Airlines pilot and spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association. “Airworthiness directives are not issued unless there is an unsafe condition that must be corrected. It’s worrying. This may be manageable on a temporary basis. But this is not a solution.

The FAA said the newly revealed Max problem could cause the plane’s engines to shut down. An electrical problem “could result in a loss of thrust on both engines due to damage caused by operating in icing conditions.” The fix includes replacing wiring in a panel above the drivers’ heads.

The problem was discovered during a Boeing technical analysis three years ago and is “a distant concern that has never been observed over decades of service” in current and previous generations of the 737, Jessica said. Kowal, Boeing spokesperson. The company said it reported the problem to airlines and the FAA at the time and provided a solution.

The 2021 finding aligns with the company’s order that year to ground some Max planes due to another electrical problem. The Boeing Max – at the time, recently returned to service after an immobilization of almost two years caused by two fatal accidents – was the subject of an in-depth analysis of the electrical system.

A different problem with the Dreamliner

Less than a week after the 737 Max advisory was publicly released, the FAA reported another anti-icing problem with the 787 Dreamliner. He said a damaged seal could cause thermal damage to the engine inlet and risk serious damage to the aircraft.

In 2018, the outer covering of an engine cowling that came off on an earlier version of a 737 plane broke a window on a Southwest Airlines flight. The passenger sitting next to that window, Jennifer Riordan, 43, was thrown out through the broken window. While other passengers were able to bring her back inside, she died from blunt force trauma to the head, neck and torso.

Boeing is working to redesign the 787 Dreamliner engine part to avoid further problems, Kowal said. The problem has been discovered on fewer than two dozen of the more than 1,000 Dreamliners in service, she said.

The FAA has not described any of these issues as production quality issues – which is currently its focus at Boeing after the January in-flight explosion.

The FAA orders have not yet taken effect, but they would apply to about 315 planes, including Max and Dreamliners.

Safety and quality question set

Boeing was criticized by lawmakers after the 737 Max mid-flight explosion in January for asking the FAA to certify new 737 Max models despite another flaw in the anti-icing system. The company ultimately withdrew that request, which will delay its plans to deliver the new planes to its airline customers.

But the company continues to build existing jet models with the same engine de-icing defect that is delaying certification of upcoming Max versions.

In addition to the issue of de-icing equipment, Boeing is stung by numerous questions about quality and safety procedures at its factories.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating what caused the incident and has already found that four bolts needed to hold the door plug were missing when the plane left the Boeing factory in October.

The FAA also requires Boeing to submit a plan to improve its quality controls for manufacturing its planes.

And the Justice Department is investigating whether the incident constitutes a violation of a 2021 agreement to suspend prosecution for defrauding the FAA during the initial certification of the 737 Max before two fatal crashes led to a Ground immobilization of the 737 Max for 20 months. plane.

The NTSB has not yet determined blame or fault for the door jam incident on the Alaska Air flight. That will come later in his investigation, perhaps in a year or more. But Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun told investors in January: “We caused the problem and we understand it. Whatever conclusions are drawn, Boeing is responsible for what happened. »


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