Boeing has alerted airlines to a new concern about some of its 737 Max planes that has caused the jet’s return to service to falter. The aerospace manufacturer recently informed 16 airlines to ground select 737 Max planes and inspect them for a specific risk to the electrical system. The company has not stated how many planes could be affected by the issue but said that it is not a problem within all 737 Max planes.

Potential Electrical Problem Introduced During Manufacturing

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A small change made at some point within the manufacturing process resulted in the use of fasteners instead of rivets to attach a backup power unit. The fasteners reportedly could not ensure a complete electrical grounding of the piece of equipment whereas rivets would have. An electrical grounding failure could conceivably cause a loss of power during flight. The swapping in of fasteners instead of rivets was described as a manufacturing alteration that was not fully evaluated.

The cockpit crew of a Boeing 737 operating the controls on a commercial flight from Oslo to Munich. Credit: John Christian Fjellestad

Boeing self-reported the issue upon discovering it while building a new 737 Max. The company then alerted airlines in possession of planes built with the fasteners on the electrical unit.

Battered Company Reputation

The Federal Aviation Administration grounded all 737 Max planes after two of them crashed and killed a total of 346 people. The first crash occurred in October 2018 and then was followed by a second crash in March 2019. Critics insist that the FAA should have acted faster to ground the 737 Max after the first crash.

A United Boeing 737-800 at San Francisco pulling into its gate. Credit: JacobAviation

The grounding lasted for 20 months. Boeing suffered a record-breaking financial loss in 2020. The 737 Max disaster forced over $20 billion in expenses on the company. The situation has left the public questioning the company’s safety processes and corporate culture.

Do you think Boeing’s reputation will be permanently damaged by the ongoing 737 Max problems?

ABOUT Boeing

Boeing is the world’s largest aerospace company and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners, defense, space and security systems, and service provider of aftermarket support. As America’s biggest manufacturing exporter, the company supports airlines and U.S. and allied government customers in more than 150 countries. Boeing products and tailored services include commercial and military aircraft, satellites, weapons, electronic and defense systems, launch systems, advanced information and communication systems, and performance-based logistics and training.

Boeing has a long tradition of aerospace leadership and innovation. The company continues to expand its product line and services to meet emerging customer needs. Its broad range of capabilities includes creating new, more efficient members of its commercial airplane family; designing, building and integrating military platforms and defense systems; creating advanced technology solutions; and arranging innovative financing and service options for customers.

ABOUT The Federal Aviation Administration

On May 21, 1958, Senator A. S. “Mike” Monroney (D-OK) introduced a bill to create an independent Federal Aviation Agency to provide for the safe and efficient use of national airspace. Two months later, on August 23, 1958, the President signed the Federal Aviation Act, which transferred the Civil Aeronautics Authority’s functions to a new independent Federal Aviation Agency responsible for civil aviation safety.

Although the Federal Aviation Agency technically came into existence with the passage of the act, it actually assumed its functions in stages. Under the provisions of the act, the Federal Aviation Agency would begin operations 60 days after the appointment of the first Federal Aviation Agency Administrator. On November 1, 1958, retired Air Force General Elwood “Pete” Quesada became the first Federal Aviation Agency Administrator. Sixty days later, on December 31, the Federal Aviation Agency began operations

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