Boeing Faces Another Manufacturing Delay Affecting 50 Planes

    06 February 2024

    Boeing announced this week that it was delaying the delivery of about 50 new planes to its customers because of a newly discovered manufacturing problem.

    The American airplane company is under increased scrutiny after part of one of its latest 737 passenger airplanes blew open mid-flight in early January.

    The unused door opening of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 blew out on January 5 as it took off from Portland, Oregon. The part is called a "door plug." It closes off a space that would normally have an emergency exit in it. The door plug permits air carriers to have a few more seats on the plane instead of the exit.

    FILE - A worker walks past Boeing's new 737 MAX-9 under construction at their production facility in Renton, Washington on February 13, 2017. (REUTERS/Jason Redmond/File Photo)
    FILE - A worker walks past Boeing's new 737 MAX-9 under construction at their production facility in Renton, Washington on February 13, 2017. (REUTERS/Jason Redmond/File Photo)

    No one was hurt in the Alaska Airlines incident, but the plane suffered serious damage.

    Investigators said bolts meant to secure the door plug were not tightened properly. Many airplanes owned by Alaska Airlines and United Airlines were prevented from flying as the panels were fixed. Most are now flying again.

    The American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) restricted the production of Max 9 planes until it is satisfied with Boeing's safety measures.

    Now another problem has come up.

    An employee of a company that makes parts for Boeing said some holes were not drilled correctly in the window frames of some Max jets.

    That company, Spirit AeroSystems, is also being looked at in more detail after the Alaska Airlines incident. Its parts were used to secure the door that blew out in January.

    One of Boeing's top leaders is Stan Deal. In a letter, Deal wrote that the company would have to "perform rework on about 50 undelivered planes," but it is not a safety problem for airplanes currently in use.

    The continued problems caused the leader of another airline, Emirates, to criticize Boeing.

    Tim Clark is the president of Emirates, a major airline based in Dubai. He noted a "progressive decline." He said the manufacturer must "instill a safety culture which is second to none," noting the company's leaders likely understand this is their last chance to regain lost confidence.

    Both United Airlines and Alaska Airlines have expressed their anger at Boeing in recent weeks. United's leader, Scott Kirby, said it may consider purchasing planes from another manufacturer in the future.

    The FAA said it is paying more attention to Boeing's large production center in Washington state. Jodi Baker is the agency's deputy associate administrator for aviation safety. Baker said the FAA plans to visit the factory and talk with employees who build the airplanes to find out about their concerns and the company's safety culture.

    Because of the recent problems, Boeing said it would withdraw a request it made with the FAA. The company wanted permission to deliver a smaller version of the 737 MAX airplane before redesigning a system that prevents the build-up of ice on engine inlets.

    I'm Dan Friedell.

    Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on a report by the Associated Press.


    Words in This Story

    scrutiny –n. the act of investigating or looking closely at something or someone

    bolt –n. a fastener which secures two pieces together using a screw

    frame –n. an outer structure that holds something else in

    undelivered –adj. something not given or sent to the person who ordered it

    decline –n. a decrease in height or quality

    instill –v. to cause something to be created over time through thoughtful effort

    aviation –n. the industry of flight in the Earth's atmosphere

    inlet –n. an opening that leads into an engine

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