Boeing 737 Max 9

Footage from the Alaskan Airlines flight landing at Portland, Oregon over the weekend was dramatic. Images showed a refrigerator-sized hole in the side of the craft, with terminal building lights visible through the gap as the plane landed.

The cause of the emergency was a cabin door exit plug had blown out and the aircraft was forced to return to Portland International Airport, landing safely with no significant injuries to passengers and crew.

This latest news from United Airlines tells us they have found issues with loose bolts in the area of the cabin door exit plugs following an FAA-instigated inspection of their fleet of the same aircraft. The same failure was identified as Alaska Airlines prepared to conduct the same FAA inspection.

It is too early to speculate as to the root cause of this problem. It does appear to be systemic and comes on the heels of Boeing’s problems with rudder systems, holes in pressure bulkheads, electrical problems and, most tragically, the infamous MCAS software issue that caused the deaths of 346 people in two crashes in 2018/9. All of these and more relate to the 737 Max.

Boeing used to have a tremendous reputation for quality and safety. It will take them a long time from the current position to regain it and earn the passenger loyalty – previously encapsulated by  “If it’s not Boeing, I’m not going.”




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