April 17, 2024

Another day, another rough ride for Boeing’s PR department. Reuters reported Monday evening (Jan. 29) that the company was going to withdraw its request for a safety exemption on its 737 Max 7, which is not the plane that had a door fall off mid-flight.

Boeing had originally sought the exemption in December. The Seattle Times reported that it would have covered a defect in the plane’s engine de-icing technology that could have led the engine’s cover, or nacelle, to fall off.

Getting the exemption past the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may have proved a tall order politically, if not bureaucratically. Last week, senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois released a blistering letter saying that “Boeing forfeited the benefit of the doubt long ago when it comes to trusting its promises about the safety of 737 MAX, and the FAA must reject its brazen request to cut corners in rushing yet another 737 MAX variant into service.”

In a statement, Boeing responded that “while we are confident that the proposed time-limited exemption for that system follows established FAA processes to ensure safe operation, we will instead incorporate an engineering solution that will be completed during the certification process.”

Headaches to the max

Boeing first announced its next-generation 737 Max series of aircraft in 2011, and they took their first flights in 2016 after becoming the fastest-selling planes in the company’s history. But since then, they’ve been the source of raft of safety problems and bad headlines:

🛬 The 737 Max 8 was grounded in more than 50 countries in 2019, after a key sensor made the planes difficult to control in the air. Ethiopian aviation authorities would later say that the technology was the main cause of an Ethiopian Airlines crash that year, though their US peers disagreed.

🛫 The 737 Max 9 was also temporarily grounded earlier this month, after the fuselage broke on an Alaskan Airlines flight. Following inspections of other 737 Max 9s, Boeing announced that loose bolts had been found in the door plugs of more of the planes. The model is back in the air now, but the headaches are just starting for Boeing’s customers, who now face financial problems related to cancelled flights and supply chain issues.

✈️ The 737 Max 10 hasn’t had any problems, just lots of delays. Though United Airlines’ CEO says a combination of late deliveries and safety issues mean that his company may have to consider a future without the planes, Ryanair’s deal-scouting CEO says he’s still down to take any cancelled orders from other carriers.

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