Beleaguered Chicago based U.S. aircraft manufacturer, Boeing, is facing new problems that have surfaced with its fleet of grounded 737 Max airplanes. The discovery of faulty slat tracks by Boeing engineers and the FAA comes hard on the heels after the near certainty that the planes had been equipped with faulty software. This software malfunction could have caused the deaths of 346 passengers and crew on the ill fated Lion Air (Indonesia) and Ethiopian Airlines planes that crashed within a few months of each other.
The new fault does not seem to be potentially as dangerous as the software problem, but may possibly damage planes while in flight, affecting their performance. It does not affect all Max 8s, but only those that were equipped with slat tracks from a particular supplier. A significant number of older model Boeing 737 NGs have also been identified with the faulty parts.
Defective slat track panels discovered on Max 8s and Being 737 NGs
According to the FAA, the defective slat tracks are panels that move along the leading edge of a plane’s wing responsible for controlling lift. The panels move along tracks built into the wings. The FAA’s statement on the defective slat tracks reported cracks and other noticeable physical fractures seen on the parts manufactured by a single Boeing parts supplier. So far, 133 737 NGs and 179 Max 8s worldwide have been singled out as planes that could have had these defective parts installed. 33 Max 8s and 32 NGs that are based in the U.S. are reported to be affected. As many as 138 individual components used to assemble the slat tracks are potentially defective, according to the FAA.
The FAA has ordered an airworthiness directive at Boeing to ensure that all faulty parts are replaced within 10 days, even though planes that have not yet been grounded can still fly during that period. The directive will not affect those already grounded planes (the Max 8s) but could have delayed their return to active use once the software update had been tested and approved and retraining completed satisfactorily.
It’s not good news for Boeing which has yet to resolve the disastrous software malfunction which is suspected to have been responsible for the two air plane crashes already mentioned above. As a result of the probable link between the software fault and the crashes, Boeing finally ordered all Max 8s to be grounded until a software update was issued and training for pilots to be completed. That has not yet been finalized.
Boeing already facing losses of over 1 billion dollars
Boeing has reported that it has already lost 1 billion dollars as a result of the cessation of sales orders and grounding of its Max 8s worldwide, following the 2 air crash disasters. This figure doesn’t include losses due to claims made against it by the 2 airlines involved and any separate claims made by family members of the crash victims through the U.S. courts. In addition to Boeing’s direct losses, its share price has dropped by around 20% since the grounding.
While Boeing is reported to have finished its software update, which it thinks will solve the earlier problem, this has not yet been fully tested by both the aircraft manufacturer and representatives of the FAA. The FAA at this stage appears to be in no hurry to give final clearance for the lifting of the grounding order. Some air line spokesmen have privately expressed an opinion that they would be surprised to see the grounded Max 8s cleared for further use before Christmas this year.
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