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New 737 Max Problem Interrupts Boeing’s Recovery From 20-Month Grounding

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

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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Hydrogen Fuel Could Enable Zero Emission Passenger Air Travel

Air travel relies on fossil fuels and therefore represents a significant source of global CO2 pollution. Aerospace engineers at Airbus and the startup ZeroAvia see hydrogen fuel as the most viable route for eliminating net carbon emissions from air travel. Airbus has publicly released three zero-emission aircraft designs, and ZeroAvia has received millions in investment to develop zero-emission aircraft for commercial use.

3 Zero Emission Aircraft Designs From Airbus

Airbus has announced the ambitious plan to have zero-emission aircraft in service by 2035. The company’s three proposed designs are a regional 100-passenger turboprop, 120 to 200-passenger turbofan narrowbody, and a blended wing aircraft that could transport up to 200 passengers.

Picture taken at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (LFBO) in France. Credit: Laurent ERRERA

The turboprop would adapt gas engines for hydrogen fuel and have a range up to 1,000 nautical miles. The turbofan narrowbody could travel up 2,000 nautical miles and rely on turbofan jet engines modified for hydrogen fuel. The blended wing aircraft goes beyond modification of existing engines. The blended wing design allows for a wider fuselage that could store more hydrogen fuel.

Current Advantages Of Hydrogen For Aviation

Although electrically powered aircraft can work, battery weight limits them. Hydrogen, however, could work for aircraft in two ways. Hydrogen can power fuel cells that produce electricity for direct conversion by an engine, or hydrogen can be burned directly by a hydrogen engine.

Storage tank for liquid hydrogen fuel located just to the Northeast of Kennedy Space Center’s former shuttle launch pad 39-A. Credit: TomFawls

With hydrogen appearing to be the most viable alternative to fossil fuels at the moment, ZeroAvia has been working with British Airways to learn how hydrogen could meet the demands of commercial aviation. Hydrogen can be sourced from water through electrolysis or derived from fossil fuels. If sourced from water, the CEO of British Airways said that hydrogen could provide zero-emission regional air travel by 2050.

Do you see hydrogen as the right path to zero-emission flight or should electric batteries receive more research?

ABOUT Airbus

As a proven leader in the global aerospace sector, Airbus designs, produces and delivers innovative solutions with the aim to create a better-connected, safer and more prosperous world.

These cutting-edge products and services – which span the commercial aircraft, helicopter, defense, security and space segments – benefit from our wide-ranging expertise and continued emphasis on innovation.

A commercial aircraft manufacturer, with Space and Defence as well as Helicopters Divisions, Airbus is the largest aeronautics and space company in Europe and a worldwide leader.

Airbus has built on its strong European heritage to become truly international – with roughly 180 locations and 12,000 direct suppliers globally. The company has aircraft and helicopter final assembly lines across Asia, Europe and the Americas, and has achieved a more than sixfold order book increase since 2000.

ABOUT ZeroAvia

Aviation accounts for over 12% of total transportation emissions, growing at the fastest rate on the way to doubling by 2050.  Released at high altitudes, aviation emissions have 2–4x the impact of comparable ground source emissions.

ZeroAvia enables zero-emission air travel at scale, starting with 500-mile short-haul trips, at half of today’s cost. The Novel approach removes many limitations of the current zero-emission programs.  $100+ billion market in faster, safer, cleaner, more convenient local travel.​ Resulting market disruption creates 100,000+ unit demand in the next 10 years.

ABOUT British Airways

British Airways is a full-service global airline, offering year-round low fares with an extensive global route network flying to and from centrally-located airports.

British Airways can trace its origins back to the birth of civil aviation, the pioneering days following World War I. In the 100 years that have passed since the world’s first scheduled air service on August 25, 1919, air travel has changed beyond all recognition. Each decade saw new developments and challenges, which shaped the path for the future.

On August 25, 1919 Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited (AT&T), a forerunner company of today’s British Airways, launched the world’s first daily international scheduled air service, between London and Paris. That first flight, which took off from Hounslow Heath, close to today’s Heathrow Airport, carried a single passenger and cargo that included newspapers, Devonshire cream, jam and grouse.

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3D Printing Technology Reduces Weight Of Aerospace Parts

Aircraft weight directly impacts fuel usage because more weight equals greater fuel consumption. For orbital satellites, payload weight matters when rocketing equipment off the planet. Additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing, will likely prove to be vital for the future of aerospace manufacturing. Major organizations, like Airbus and NASA, have already leaned on 3D printing technology to decrease weight and enable greater versatility and speed on production lines.

3D Printing Already Prevalent At Airbus

The A350 XWB built by Airbus includes over 1,000 3D-printed parts. With this process, aerospace manufacturers can achieve 50 to 80 percent weight reductions in some parts. Even modest weight reductions, like the 15 percent lower weight of a 3D-printed spacer panel on the A320, provide significant fuel savings over the course of an aircraft’s lifetime.

Airbus A350 XWB, ILA 2018. Credit: Matti Blume

The Eurostar Neo series of satellites contains 500 3D-printed parts from Airbus, including radiofrequency parts used in a satellite’s multi-waveguide blocks and switch assembly networks. In addition to reducing weight, 3D printing cuts down on manufacturing and assembly times and thereby increases production efficiency. The parts manufacturing done for the Eurostar Neo series represented a big step forward for aerospace 3D printing because Airbus mass-produced the parts. They were not limited to the prototyping and testing phases.

3D Printing’s Role In Space Flight And Exploration

The newest space rovers developed by NASA include more than 70 3D-printed parts. 3D printing can handle extremely complex parts compared to traditional manufacturing that relies on tools, dyes, and casting molds. NASA engineers use 3D printing during development and testing of space rovers because they can make quick adjustments to prototypes and improve designs relatively quickly.

Metal casted part with help of 3D printed ceramic shell. Credit: Loran Mak

The growing adoption of 3D printing within the aerospace industry indicates the precision and quality achievable with the technology. How prevalent do you think  3D printing will be in the future of manufacturing?

ABOUT Airbus

Airbus is an international pioneer in the aerospace industry. We are a leader in designing, manufacturing and delivering aerospace products, services and solutions to customers on a global scale. We aim for a better-connected, safer and more prosperous world. As a proven leader in the global aerospace sector, Airbus designs, produces and delivers innovative solutions with the aim to create a better-connected, safer and more prosperous world.

These cutting-edge products and services – which span the commercial aircraft, helicopter, defense, security and space segments – benefit from our wide-ranging expertise and continued emphasis on innovation. A commercial aircraft manufacturer, with Space and Defense as well as Helicopters Divisions, Airbus is the largest aeronautics and space company in Europe and a worldwide leader.


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is America’s civil space program and the global leader in space exploration. The agency has a diverse workforce of just under 18,000 civil servants, and works with many more U.S. contractors, academia, and international and commercial partners to explore, discover, and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity.

At its 20 centers and facilities across the country – and the only National Laboratory in space – NASA studies Earth, including its climate, our Sun, and our solar system and beyond. We conduct research, testing, and development to advance aeronautics, including electric propulsion and supersonic flight. We develop and fund space technologies that will enable future exploration and benefit life on Earth.

ABOUT Eurostar Neo

Airbus Defense and Space has successfully completed a key milestone in the manufacturing of the first Eurostar Neo satellite, with the successful integration of the Service and Communication Modules of EUTELSAT HOTBIRD 13F.

François Gaullier, Head of Telecom Systems at Airbus Space Systems said: “This is an important milestone for our new generation Eurostar Neo program, and is all the more remarkable having been achieved despite the Covid pandemic. With increased payload capacity and more efficient power and thermal control systems Eurostar Neo combines major innovations with tried-and-tested technologies, resulting in a product line that will be as reliable as ever while delivering the best performance in the market.”

Airbus’ Eurostar Neo platform has been developed in the frame of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Partnership Projects, together with the French space agency CNES, and strongly supported by the UK Space Agency and other agencies across Europe.

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Perseverance Touchdown On Mars A Triumph of Aerospace Technology

On Feb. 18, 2021, years of work by aerospace scientists culminated in a successful landing of the newest Mars rover Perseverance. The semi-autonomous vehicle had been traveling the solar system toward the red planet since a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket propelled it off Earth on July 30, 2020. Perseverance features several improvements over its predecessor Curiosity and has transported a helicopter to Mars that will soon attempt a flight in the Martian atmosphere.

Versatile Semi-Autonomous Robot

At roughly the size of a small car, Perseverance carries many types of equipment meant to analyze soil, search for microbes, record audio, and take pictures and video. Its robotic arm includes a coring drill. The rover carries 23 cameras.

Its semi-autonomous software represents a big advance over Curiosity. Perseverance can plan its own routes as it explores the surface and therefore cover more ground every day due to not needing to wait for instructions from Earth.

The powered descent stage being assembled for the Mars 2020 mission seen at NASA’s JPL on June 10, 2018 in Pasadena, California. This will be the final stage to bring Mars 2020’s rover “Perseverance” to the Martian surface from 200 miles an hour, to 2 miles an hour. Credit: Bluesnote

Perseverance includes an upgrade to its wheels intended to prevent the wheel wear problems experienced by Curiosity. The new rover’s wheels are 1 mm thicker and have a different tread pattern. Engineers expect the new tread design to perform well on sand and resist damage from moving across sharp rocks.

Historic Helicopter Flight Planned

Perseverance has succeeded in deploying the helicopter Ingenuity. The 2 kg helicopter has sent signals to Earth confirming its readiness to operate. Currently, Ingenuity remains connected to Perseverance which continues to charge the helicopter’s lithium batteries. Once the helicopter separates from the rover and attempts flight, it will rely on its solar panels for recharging. Should Ingenuity succeed in flight, it will represent the first controlled flight in a non-Earth atmosphere.

Credit: NASA

Are you inspired by the success of this Mars mission? What aerospace advances do think will come next?

ABOUT Curiosity

Curiosity is about the size of a small SUV — 10 feet long (not including the arm), 9 feet wide and 7 feet tall — (about 3 meters long (not including the arm), 2.7 meters wide, and 2.2 meters tall), or about the height of a basketball player.  It weighs 899 kg (1,982 lbs in Earth gravity; 743 lbs in Mars gravity). Features a Geology lab, rocker-bogie suspension, rock-vaporizing laser and lots of cameras and it’s mission to search areas of Mars for past or present conditions favorable for life, and conditions capable of preserving a record of life.

The prime mission lasted one Mars year or about 23 Earth months, and Curiosity continues to operate on Mars today.


Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System, being larger than only Mercury. In English, Mars carries the name of the Roman god of war and is often referred to as the “Red Planet“.

The latter refers to the effect of the iron oxide prevalent on Mars’s surface, which gives it a reddish appearance distinctive among the astronomical bodies visible to the naked eye. Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere, with surface features reminiscent of the impact craters of the Moon and the valleys, deserts and polar ice caps of Earth.

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