The troubles for Boeing concerning the 737 aircraft do not seem to end. Earlier this year, the entire Boeing 737 MAX fleet of all delivered aircraft across the globe was grounded, since the aircraft was found to have a faulty software (MCAS) which took control of the aircraft and pitched it downward, which may have played a large part in the two crashes, one in Asia and one in Africa of the plane type.
Since then, Boeing first went on the offensive, blaming the improper training of the pilots, and then finally coming around to accept that they may have been wrong about it the whole time. Last week, on CBS News, for the first time, the Boeing CEO expressed regret and apologised to the families of the victims of the Lion Air and Ethiopian crashes.
While Boeing stated that the aircraft will fly in July 2019, industry body IATA and various regulators are not so sure the timeline would be that quick. They state that it will be longer to have the entire industry come to common ground on the 737 MAX and that there should be no rush to lift the grounding. In the meanwhile, the 737 MAX aircraft continue to be on the ground, with many of them piling along at the Boeing facilities in Washington, USA.
However, the bad news does not end there. Boeing has just notified the FAA, which is the US Aviation Regulator, about potentially unsafe parts on 312 Boeing 737 family aircraft. The FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive immediately, reproduced below.
Boeing has informed the FAA that certain 737NG and 737MAX leading edge slat tracks may have been improperly manufactured and may not meet all applicable regulatory requirements for strength and durability.
Following an investigation conducted by Boeing and the FAA Certificate Management Office (CMO), we have determined that up to 148 parts manufactured by a Boeing sub-tier supplier are affected. Boeing has identified groups of both 737NG and 737MAX airplane serial numbers on which these suspect parts may have been installed. 32 NG and 33 MAX are affected in the U.S. Affected worldwide fleet are 133 NG and 179 MAX aircraft.
The affected parts may be susceptible to premature failure or cracks resulting from the improper manufacturing process. Although a complete failure of a leading edge slat track would not result in the loss of the aircraft, a risk remains that a failed part could lead to aircraft damage in fight.
The FAA will issue an Airworthiness Directive to mandate Boeing’s service actions to identify and remove the discrepant parts from service. Operators of affected aircraft are required to perform this action within 10 days. The FAA today also alerted international civil aviation authorities of this condition and required actions.
Like you would see, this does not just affect the MAX series of aircraft, but also the Next Generation 737 aircraft, which are one generation before the 737 MAX being put in service. While we don’t know which aircraft could be affected, Boeing should have this list and would have supplied it to the FAA as well as the regulators who govern those aircraft. As per Boeing,
Boeing has identified 21 737NGs most likely to have the parts in question. To ensure a thorough assessment, airlines are advised to check an additional 112 NGs.
In India, there are three airlines which operate the 737 families of aircraft, with SpiceJet being the biggest one. They have inducted a whole bunch of ex-Jet Airways aircraft as well. Vistara has just taken on board two aircraft and is supposed to bring in another 8 737 NG aircraft. Air India Express, which exclusively operates on regional routes out of India is the third carrier for the 737 NG aircraft.
We should expect more news in the days to come if any of these affected aircraft are at an Indian airline. While the 737 MAX would take its own sweet time to get back in the air, the NG series has about ten days to get this fixed.