Airplane manufacturer Boeing has reached out to customers after the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) found some its parts may have been poorly made.
Investigation into Boeing 737 Max
The regulator’s investigation, conducted alongside officials from Boeing, found that parts on more than 300 of the planes sold to airlines around the world could be faulty.
The investigation was initiated after two of the Boeing 737 Max planes crashed in Ethiopia and Indonesia killing 347 people.
This led to Boeing’s flagship aircraft being grounded and a frantic scramble to find the cause so they could get airborne again.
It has also become more important since lawmakers in the USA have become interested in how the planes passed the safety certification process that allowed them to be sold all over the world in the first place.
The investigation revealed that edge slat components on the wings, used for aerodynamic control, may not have been manufactured correctly.
This led Boeing to contact anyone who had bought a 737 Max from them and instruct them on how to check the parts in question.
“One batch of slat tracks with specific lot numbers produced by a supplier was found to have a potential nonconformance. If operators find the parts in question, they are to replace them with new ones before returning the airplane to service,” Boeing said.
Whether or not this is enough to get the planes back up in the sky remains to be seen, but it is quite doubtful.
Most notably because of the FAA’s revelation that a failure to the part would not bring down an airplane.
Initial safety reports from pilots of the 737 Max shortly after it had been introduced suggested there were problems with the newly-implemented Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System.
They believed bad data was causing the aircraft to execute unexpected and erratic maneuvers.
There is nothing in the report to indicate whether the faulty slat tracks could have contributed to the above.
However, according to a report in the Mail & Guardian, an anonymous aeronautics expert told AFP that the components are critical during takeoff and landing, so it is not entirely beyond the realms of possibility that faulty parts could actually cause a crash.
South African impact
In South Africa, only one airline has the Boeing 737 Max aircraft on its roster: Comair.
The operator purchased eight planes, all of which have been grounded until their flight-worthiness can be guaranteed.
They initially stated they trusted their flight crews and would continue to operate the aircraft in March 2019, but quickly changed their minds after an emergency order from the FAA.