SEATTLE- Boeing has advised airlines to conduct inspections on newer 737 MAX aircraft to check for potential issues with a loose bolt in the rudder control system, as disclosed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on December 28, 2023.
The FAA stated that it is actively monitoring the targeted inspections on Boeing 737 MAX planes and is prepared to take further measures based on any additional findings of loose or missing hardware.
Boeing 737 MAX Loose Bolt Inspection
The recommendation for inspections arose after routine maintenance by an international operator revealed a bolt lacking a nut in the rudder-control linkage mechanism, according to the FAA.
Furthermore, the agency reported that Boeing identified an additional undelivered aircraft with a nut that was not properly tightened.
Boeing stated, “The problem identified on the specific aircraft has been addressed.”
“As a precautionary measure, we advise operators to conduct inspections on their 737 MAX aircraft and report any findings to us. We have notified the FAA and our customers, and we will keep them updated on the ongoing developments,” the company added.
Boeing has suggested that airlines carry out inspections on their MAXs within a two-week timeframe. However, Boeing assured that delivered 737 MAX aircraft can continue to operate safely, and the production and delivery of the MAX will proceed.
It’s important to note that this issue has no impact on older-model 737 Next Generation planes, according to Boeing.
No Significant Impact
United Airlines (UA), a significant customer of the MAX, expressed that it does not “expect these inspections to impact our operations.”
The FAA indicated that Boeing had issued a communication urging operators of newer single-aisle aircraft to inspect specific tie rods responsible for controlling rudder movement, checking for potential loose hardware.
The rudder plays a crucial role in determining the aircraft’s nose position during flight.
Boeing outlined that the inspections entail removing an access panel and confirming the proper installation of hardware. This process is estimated to take two hours, with Boeing conducting inspections on undelivered 737 MAX aircraft before their transfer to customers.
“The FAA will maintain communication with Boeing and the airlines throughout the inspection process,” the agency stated, requesting airlines to provide information on any prior instances of detecting loose hardware and details regarding the anticipated completion timeframe for these inspections.
Any malfunction in the rudder system that could affect its functionality is likely to be detected during a pre-flight check, as flight crews routinely inspect the rudder before the aircraft departs from the gate, Boeing emphasized.
Strict Eyes on 737 MAX
The inspections are crucial for the FAA to assess the extent of the issue and to determine whether it signals a broader lapse in production quality that warrants additional regulatory action, explained Anthony Brickhouse, an air safety expert at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
“It’s important for airlines to treat this seriously,” he stated. “However, from the perspective of a member of the flying public, I don’t perceive this as a cause for concern.”
The 737 MAX faced a global grounding for 20 months following two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019 that claimed 346 lives in Ethiopia and Indonesia. Boeing is still awaiting certification for its smaller 737 MAX 7 and the larger MAX 10.
The FAA has maintained a rigorous oversight of the MAX, utilizing satellite data to track all 737 MAX airplanes, as announced in 2021.
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