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Boeing: What’s going on at the aircraft manufacturer?

Boeing: What’s going on at the aircraft manufacturer?

Boeing has been making headlines for months with breakdowns and quality defects. And: Within a month, two whistleblowers who had pointed out problems at the aircraft manufacturer died.

Anyone who gets on a plane these days may be paying attention for the first time to who the manufacturer is. Fear comes with you when you sit in a plane from the world market leader Boeing. The company has been in a constant crisis since the crashes of two 737 Max jets with 346 deaths more than five years ago.

After a similar catastrophe almost occurred in January, Boeing’s quality supervision is once again the focus of attention. Part of the fuselage of a Boeing 737-9 Max broke off shortly after takeoff. The row of seats above just happened to be unoccupied and the plane was at a relatively low altitude. The incident ended lightly – but is just one example of the company’s massive problems.

Boeing 767 makes a belly landing in Istanbul

The most recent incident: A plane from the logistics company FedEx had to land on its fuselage at Istanbul Airport on Wednesday. According to the airport, the cause was a defect in the front landing gear of the plane. The aircraft affected was a Boeing 767. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Videos of the incident show the Boeing touching down with its main landing gear and then sliding several meters along the runway on the front part of the fuselage. The airport said the front landing gear could not be extended. The error was apparently discovered before landing; the pilot had requested the control tower to land with the fuselage, it was said.

The rescue service and fire department were then dispatched to the runway. Emergency services continued to work on getting the plane off the runway in the morning. There was a hydraulic error in the landing gear, the Turkish radio and television station TRT quoted the Ministry of Transport as saying, referring to a pilot’s statement.

Fake test reports on 737 jets

The incident is one of a number of other breakdowns involving Boeing aircraft. The crashes of the two 737 Max jets more than five years ago were followed by a ban on flights in the series lasting more than 20 months. Problems with other models put the US manufacturer far behind its European rival Airbus from March 2019.

When the fuselage part of the 737-9 Max broke off during the flight at the beginning of January 2024, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finally took action. Initially, machines were no longer allowed to start until a technical inspection was carried out. In addition, the authority is now taking a closer look at the production and control processes.

Problems with Boeing 737 Max: A disaster with a history

Now the FAA is investigating again: During the construction of some of Boeing’s 787 “Dreamliner” long-haul jet, the connection between the wings and the fuselage was probably not checked. Boeing employees had falsified test reports on the “Dreamliner”. Boeing said that some of the checks on the connection between the fuselage and the wings were omitted but were nevertheless recorded as having been carried out. At the same time, the company emphasized that this was not an urgent safety problem for the current airline fleet and that no aircraft would have to remain on the ground.

Boeing emphasized that it had immediately informed the FAA of the violation. A Boeing employee observed a violation of the audit requirements and informed management, wrote 787 program manager Scott Stocker in an email to the workforce. Boeing then discovered that “several people” at the plant in the US state of South Carolina had not carried out the required tests, but had noted them in the documents as having been completed. The inspections would now have to be carried out unscheduled.

Death of two whistleblowers

Whistleblowers recently drew attention to the problems at Boeing. First it was former quality manager John Barnett, who worked for years in a 787 Boeing factory. He testified as a witness in court against Boeing until March 2024. On March 9, 2024, he was found dead with a gunshot wound to the right temple area. According to media reports, investigators assume it was suicide.

He was followed by Joshua Dean, who reported production errors at Boeing supplier Spirit Aerosystems. Now he too has died. According to a Seattle Times report, he had been battling a sudden and aggressive infection for two weeks before he died.

In his role as quality inspector, Dean reported “serious and gross misconduct by the senior quality manager of the 737 production line” at Spirit to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). After his dismissal in April 2023, he filed a grievance, claiming his termination was due to his expressed concerns about flight safety.

Source: Stern

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