Boeing update – the hits to its reputation just keep coming

One of the world's largest airplane manufacturers, Boeing, has seen its name dragged through the mud over the last few years.

Boeing update – the hits to its reputation just keep coming
An aerial photo shows Boeing 737 MAX airplanes parked on the tarmac at the Boeing Factory in Renton, Washington, U.S. March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo

The backstory: One of the world's largest airplane manufacturers, Boeing, has seen its name dragged through the mud over the last few years, mainly over its line of 737 Max jets. In October 2018, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed in Indonesia, killing 189 people, and a similar crash occurred in March 2019 when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed just six minutes after takeoff, killing 157 people. Both planes were Boeing 737 Max 8s, one model from the Max line. Afterward, the 737 Max was grounded globally for around 20 months, which cost Boeing over US$20 billion and led lawmakers to pass new laws on airplane certification. 

On January 5, Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 had to do an emergency landing 20 minutes after taking off when a door plug came loose, opening a hole in the aircraft's fuselage. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured, but this time it involved a Boeing 737 Max 9, which was missing four key bolts. This led to a new grounding of Boeing planes for safety checks, causing hundreds of canceled flights. Flight carrier United Airlines later announced it had found more loose bolts on some of its other Max 9 airplanes. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby later said Boeing needs to take 'real action' if it hopes to restore its reputation.

More recently: Last week, reports came out about another incident involving a Boeing plane on February 6, where the rudder pedal used to control an aircraft on the runway became stuck as it touched down at Newark Liberty International Airport. 

As for the door plug blowout incident in January, Boeing said on Friday that it thinks certain documents required by its processes during production of the plane were never created, according to a letter seen by Reuters. The US Justice Department has also opened a criminal investigation into Boeing over the incident, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The development: The hits keep on coming. Last week, a United Boeing 777-200 lost a tire just after the plane took off from San Francisco, and there was an engine failure on a different flight from Houston to Fort Myers. Then, on Friday, another Boeing veered off the taxiway into a grassy area after making an emergency landing because one of the engines had reportedly sucked up some bubble wrap and was spewing flames. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has said it'll investigate all three incidents, while the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is sending a team to Houston. United Airlines has also said it'll work with the FAA, NTSB and Boeing to understand what happened. 

The back-to-back incidents from last week don't appear to be linked to known issues with Boeing and its 737 Max and are unlikely to lead to more groundings. Still, Boeing's stock shares were down again on Friday.

Key comments:

"It is absurd that two months later we don't have it," NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy told a Senate Commerce Committee hearing last week regarding the Alaskan Airlines Flight 1282. "The NTSB needs to interview the employees," she said. "The only way we ensure safety is to find out what happened – what was done, what was not done."

"We appreciate the NTSB's work on this preliminary report and will continue to fully support their investigation," Boeing said about the rudder pedal incident.