A "mistake" was made.
Boeing could be in hot water with Washington after a panel in one of its 737 MAX 9 airplanes was blown out during an Alaska Airlines flight on Friday, forcing the pilots to make a nailbiting emergency landing just minutes after takeoff.
In response, the US Federal Aviation Administration ordered some 171 of the Boeing aircraft to be grounded worldwide. No passengers were seriously injured, but the harrowing nature of the incident has reignited concerns over the aircraft's safety that were raised in 2018 and 2019, when two deadly crashes involving the previous generation 737 MAX 8 aircraft were caused by glaring flaws in their onboard sensors and alleged pilot error.
Now, action on this latest incident could spill into Congress. On Tuesday, Senator J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) has called on the Senate Commerce Committee to hold a hearing that would "evaluate incidents involving the 737 MAX" as well as the FAA's oversight, as quoted by CNN.
The aerospace manufacturer has also drawn the scrutiny of the White House, according to CNN, which said the same day that President Joe Biden is personally tracking the FAA's grounding of the Boeing planes for inspection.
Federal investigators currently believe that the airplane's panel broke off because some of its screws were either missing or not installed correctly, the New York Times reported. Known as a "door plug," the panel is installed where an additional emergency exit would go in a higher capacity version of the plane, providing a passenger window instead.
Just ten minutes into the flight and some 15,000 feet high, the door plug was torn off the fuselage, leaving a large hole that violently depressurized the cabin and had passengers fearing for their lives. The powerful vacuum sucked up several smartphones and even tore a child's shirt straight off his body. Fortunately, no one was sitting right next to the window, or the accident could have proved fatal.
Boeing president and CEO David Calhoun said that the company will cooperate with FAA investigators to make sure such an accident "can never happen again."
"We're going to approach this, No. 1, acknowledging our mistake," Calhoun told a staff wide meeting on Tuesday. "We're going to approach it with 100 percent and complete transparency every step of the way."
There's certainly a lot to answer for. A report by The American Prospect points to cost-cutting measures by Boeing as possibly to blame. The Lever reported that an employee at the supplier that manufactures the door plugs warned Boeing of an "excessive amount of defects" just weeks before the accident.
Further indicating manufacturer error, United Airlines said it found loosely tightened bolts when inspecting its own fleet of 737 MAX 9 aircraft, though it didn't reveal how many were affected.
We'll have to wait and see where the ongoing investigations lead us. But as far as the public's trust in Boeing is concerned, the damage is done.
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