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Boeing’s big blunders

Updated: Feb 16

By Winston Chu and Ella Polak  Feb. 14, 2024

Liliana Chai Art

One moment, the plane was quiet, with passengers settling into their seats as the Boeing 737 steadily gained altitude. Then, with a loud bang, the cabin suddenly filled with the deafening sound of air rushing in, and oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling. About 20 minutes into Alaska Airlines Flight 1282—after the plane had reached an altitude of 16,000 feet—a piece of fuselage detached from the plane and created a gaping hole in place of a wall panel, causing rapid depressurization and forcing an emergency landing. While no fatalities or serious injuries were reported, numerous objects, including phones, a pilot’s headset and a child’s shirt, were sucked out of the door-sized hole.


These specific models of planes, known as Boeing 737 Max 9s, are certified for 220 passengers. However, Alaska allows a maximum of 178 passengers to maximize space. Therefore, some of the originally installed emergency exits had been replaced by door plugs—which are not meant to be opened. Investigation over the faulty door plug at Spirit AeroSystems and Boeing are currently underway by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). While Spirit is the one who produces the fuselage—the main body of the planes—Boeing is responsible for final assembly.


In December 2023, a lawsuit was filed against Spirit for allegedly allowing the distribution of products known to be defective, including manufacturing scraps and missing fasteners. Since 2018, quality failures among Spirit’s products have been frequent, with defects spotted on the tail fin of some aircrafts and in incorrectly drilled fastener holes. The 2023 lawsuit claims Spirit had even told workers to not check for significant defects, placing an emphasis on product quantity over product quality.


Inspections by United Airlines and Alaska Airlines of their several models of Max 9 planes revealed loose door plug bolts. Boeing has acknowledged its production oversights and pledged complete transparency and cooperation during the federal investigations. Additionally, in response to the incident, the company has formed a new quality control team to oversee its commercial plane production.

Liliana Chai Art



“I will definitely be skeptical about flying on Boeing planes in the future, but I cannot avoid it. For accessibility purposes, I have to fly Boeing just because of how widespread their planes are,” Sophomore Warren Tan said.

Echoing this sentiment, while the company was known in the 20th century for its safety and reliability, many consumers have lost trust in Boeing due to numerous accidents in recent years. Most notably, a software error in the 737 Max caused two crashes in 2018 and 2019, killing hundreds. The planes were grounded worldwide for over a year, resulting in over $21 billion in financial losses for the company, per CNN. Boeing’s troubles have not ended here, however; on Jan. 18, the engine of a Boeing 747 lit on fire mid-flight, prompting an emergency landing and another FAA investigation. The company’s stocks have dipped more than eight percent as their reputation falters.


“Boeing planes have issues with quality control—though accidents in planes can happen, it is unusual for this many incidents to be taking place in one airplane company. Boeing should be working towards making higher-quality planes that are less likely to crash and malfunction,” Senior Sky Shih said.

Despite going through difficult times, Boeing will likely remain a leader in commercial air travel, given that its only significant competitor is the European company Airbus. However, this incident only adds to a pattern of mistakes that has pervaded the company in recent years. As regulators continue to investigate, questions remain concerning both the quality of Boeing’s products and the future of the company


 

About the Contributors


Winston Chu

staff writer

Winston Chu is a sophomore at Leland High. He enjoys writing, debating, and sleeping.







Ella Polak

page editor

Ella Polak is a junior at Leland High School and is the Feature World and Lifestyle Page Editor for The Charger Account. She enjoys watching TV, listening to music, and hanging out with friends.






Liliana Chai

artist

Liliana Chai is a freshman attending Leland High School and is an artist for the 2023-24 Charger Account. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, playing piano, sleeping, arts and crafts, and writing poetry. She is looking forward to Journalism and hopes to explore new ideas while collaborating with other people.

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