Emergency Landings Put Boeing Under Further Pressure: 'Serious Transformation' Needed, Says Buttigieg

Zinger Key Points
  • Recent incidents include tire blowout and hydraulic fluid leakage on Boeing 777 aircraft.
  • European Union Aviation Safety Agency ready to suspend Boeing's jet production approval if needed.

When it rains, it pours for Boeing Co. BA as a string of recent mechanical failures that forced emergency landings have highlighted.

The company, which came under investigation by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in January after a door panel blew out in mid-flight, remained under the microscope this week following additional incidents involving its planes.

The latest, on Wednesday night, involved an American Airlines Group Inc. AAL Boeing 777 carrying 249 people. The jet had left Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, but a blown tire forced it to declare an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport.

Just two days earlier, another Boeing 777, after taking off from Sydney, Australia, on its way to San Francisco, was forced to make an emergency landing back at Sydney after reports of hydraulic fluid spilling from the plane’s landing gear.

The previous week, another Boeing 777 took off from San Francisco, heading for Osaka, Japan, when a wheel fell off on take off, forcing it to make an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport. The 256-pound wheel crushed parked cars where it landed.

These latest incidents, while unfortunate for Boeing, had no impact on the result of the FAA’s findings when it investigated safety standards at production facilities of Boeing and its supplier of fuselages Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc SPR.

Now Read: ‘Short Sell’ Boeing, Some Redditors Say But For Others It’s ‘Time To Buy’

Latest From Aviation Regulators

The investigation, which followed the Alaska Air Group, Inc. ALK plug door blow-out in January, failed Boeing on 33 out of 89 audits, and failed Spirit on seven out of 13 audits.

The FAA said areas of non-compliance included Boeing's manufacturing process controls, parts handling and storage and product control.

The aviation regulator gave Boeing 30 days to address its findings. Mike Whitaker, the FAA’s chief administrator, underlined this at a Department of Transportation press conference on Tuesday.

"In the next 30 days, we hope to have the milestones defined, with Boeing. That's the first order of business over the next 90 days,” he said.

At the same press conference, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said: “They [Boeing] need to go through a serious transformation in terms of their responsiveness, culture and their quality issues.”

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the acting executive director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), said he would suspend the regulator’s approval of Boeing’s jet production if warranted.

Although he said he felt reassured that Boeing was tackling its safety issues, when asked if he would be prepared to halt approvals on Boeing, he told Reuters: “If need be, yes.”

Whistleblower Death Update

The whistleblower who was giving evidence against Boeing’s safety standards was found dead, apparently from self-inflicted gunshot wound, in Charleston, South Carolina, this past weekend.

John Barnett was found dead in his truck in the car park of the hotel he was staying in during his testimony and cross-examinations at the South Carolina court. When he didn’t show up for further questioning by his legal team on Saturday, the hotel was contacted and staff found him dead.

Barnett’s brother Rodney told reporters on Wednesday that the former Boeing employee had been suffering post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety attacks as result of being “subjected to a hostile work environment” after he had reported safety issues to bosses at Boeing.

Police investigating the apparent suicide said they had found a suicide note in the truck, but didn’t give any further details.

Read Next: Boeing Shares Tumble After FAA Investigation Fails 33 Out Of 89 Audits

Photo: Shutterstock

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