Is there cause for concern when flying on Boeing planes?

Is there cause for concern when flying on Boeing planes?

Boeing, the renowned American aerospace company, has long been associated with safe air travel. Alongside its European competitor Airbus, Boeing has dominated the market for large passenger jets since the 1990s.

However, this year has seen Boeing making headlines for all the wrong reasons. In January, a Boeing 737 MAX experienced an emergency door plug failure mid-flight, prompting an investigation by US federal regulators.

More recently, a series of incidents involving Boeing planes have occurred. These include a tire loss during takeoff, a flight being turned back due to fluid leakage, an apparent engine fire, a landing gear collapse, a stuck rudder pedal, and a plane experiencing a sudden drop in flight that resulted in injuries to passengers. Additionally, a Boeing engineer who had raised concerns about quality control during the manufacturing process of the company’s 787 and 737 MAX planes tragically passed away.

As members of the traveling public, it is natural to question whether we should be concerned. The answer is both yes and no.

While there have been many problems, not all of them can be attributed solely to Boeing. Five incidents involved aircraft owned and operated by United Airlines and were caused by factors outside of the manufacturer’s control, such as maintenance issues, potential foreign object debris, and possible human error.

For example, a United Airlines flight lost a tire during takeoff, which was a maintenance issue unrelated to Boeing. However, the aircraft landed safely. Another United Airlines flight had to return to Sydney due to a maintenance issue involving fluid leakage. A plastic bubble wrap found in the engine of a United Airlines 737-900 caused a suspected compressor stall. A gear collapse occurred on a United Airlines 737 MAX after a normal landing. Lastly, pilots reported that the rudder pedals were stuck in the neutral position during landing on a United Airlines 737-8 flight.

In January, the door plug failure on an Alaska Airlines flight raised concerns about Boeing’s manufacturing quality assurance. US regulators are currently investigating this issue. The door plug was installed by a Boeing subcontractor called Spirit AeroSystem, and it fell off in flight due to improperly secured bolts. Spirit AeroSystem is being acquired by Boeing to enhance quality oversight. It is worth noting that Spirit also works with Airbus.

Critics argue that Boeing’s culture has changed since the emergence of Airbus as a major competitor in the early 2000s. The company has been accused of prioritizing profit over quality engineering. Former employees have expressed concerns about tight production schedules, which increased pressure on workers to complete aircraft. This led to engineers questioning the process and the FAA fining Boeing for lapses in quality oversight after tools and debris were found during inspections.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to challenges faced by Boeing and the airline industry as a whole. There has been a high turnover rate among Boeing employees, as well as a shortage of qualified maintenance engineers and pilots globally. Efforts are underway to train replacements, but this takes time.

Despite the recent incidents and criticisms, it is still safe to fly on Boeing planes. Air travel remains highly secure, including flights operated by Boeing. It is expected that these issues will be addressed and corrected by the company, as the financial impact has been significant. Even a profit-driven company like Boeing will demand change in light of these events.

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