Boeing just recently notified the Federal Aviation Administration that parts of 737 Max and 737 NG may have been improperly manufactured, not reaching the standards for strength and durability required of an aircraft. The FAA has issued a statement concerning their investigation, revealing that 148 leading edge slat tracks, manufactured by a sub-optimal supplier, weren’t up to snuff.
Boeing has already identified the serial numbers of aircraft negatively affected, with 32 NG and 33 Max aircraft in the U.S., and 133 and 179 affected worldwide, respectively. The FAA stated thus:
“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 has also issued an airworthiness directive which mandates the removal of these defective parts. Aircraft operators must comply within ten days.
Ironically, the 737 Max had already been grounded by the FAA prior to this incident anyway. This was due to a fatal crash in March over the skies of Ethiopia, in which 157 people lost their lives. This hot on the heels of a crash in Indonesia which caused the deaths of just shy of 200 people. It is suspected that the anti-stall system of the aircraft may have been responsible for these crashes, but the situation is still being investigated. For now, the FAA has not given even a vague timeline as to when the 737 Max will be cleared for flight again.
For now, it’s worth noting that this is nothing to panic over. The fact that the FAA isn’t even willing to give a soft timeframe for clearing the craft means they are putting lots of time and resources into making sure it doesn’t cause any terrible accidents again. As for the issue with the sub-tier manufactured parts, they are easily replaced, and failure would certainly not result in a crash anyway.
Still, it’s a little disconcerting to know that a producer as large as Boeing made such a mistake in the production of vehicles that have to safely ferry thousands of people every year. Hopefully they’ll be quite a bit more careful in who they trust to produce their parts from here on in.