About a month after reporting the biggest annual loss in its history, the aviation giant Boeing has once again found itself in a safety crisis. Earlier this week, dozens of 777s crashed in the U.S., South Korea and Japan, following the crash of engine parts over a residential suburb of Denver on Saturday, minutes after a United Airlines flight from the city’s international airport took off on its way to Hawaii.
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The plane on which the failure occurred has been in service since 1995 and was trained by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly by the end of 2022. “This is an older and very reliable model,” aviation safety expert John Cox noted in a conversation with the Denver Post, emphasizing that it was a rare malfunction. “Well-maintained aircraft can fly safely for over 40 years,” he stressed. However, it was reported yesterday that a similar incident occurred on Saturday in the Netherlands as well, when engine parts of a 747 cargo plane fell after taking off from Maastricht Airport on its way to New York. Both Boeing models have Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines installed, although the Dutch aircraft is a smaller version. United, the only American airline whose Boeing aircraft are equipped with the engine model in which the malfunction occurred, reported that it would temporarily shut down the 24 aircraft. It has 28 more aircraft with this engine currently in storage. According to expert estimates, the malfunction occurred after a fan blade in the motor disconnected and as a result hit another blade.
Two fatal crashes
The serious incident that occurred in the US comes in the wake of a malfunction reported last December in the engine of a 777 aircraft taking off from Naha Airport in Okinawa, Japan. Following the Okinawa incident, the Japanese authorities ordered an increase in the maintenance of these engines.
A different type of malfunction occurred on Tuesday on the 777 plane of the Emirates airline, which was forced to land in the Netherlands on its way to New York, due to suspicion of a fuel leak.
Recent events are added to a series of crises that befall Boeing and oppress thereputation This is while recovering from the 737 Max ground that has only been completed in recent weeks. The model grounded around the world for 18 months following two deadly crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 passengers and crew.
Due to the drop in demand for its aircraft in the background of the Corona plague, as well as the ground of the 737 Max, Boeing recorded a record loss of $ 11.9 billion for 2020. For the fourth quarter, Boeing posted a net loss of $ 8.4 billion on revenue of $ 15.3 billion, reflecting a 15% drop from the same quarter in 2019. For the full year, there was a 24% drop in revenue compared to 2019, to $ 58.2 billion. This is the second year in a row that Boeing has suffered losses, after the one recorded in 2019 was its first in more than two decades.
At the same time as reporting the gloomy financial results for 2020, Boeing postponed the integration of its wide-body 777 X in commercial service for another year, to 2023, due to declining demand in the shadow of the Corona and requests submitted by customers to receive the aircraft at a later stage. Added to this was a delay in the aviation regulator’s assessments as to when he could approve the aircraft for use. In a conversation with investors last month, Boeing CEO David Calhoun noted that the company intends to make software changes and mechanical changes to the model, at the request of the international aviation regulator.
The 777 is replaced by an economical model
In an attempt to address the consequences of the decline in demand, Boeing is gradually slowing down the pace of production and reducing the workforce. Last December, Boeing announced that it would reduce the production rate of the 787, the Dreamliner, to five aircraft a month from 14 originally planned. This model is also not without problems and is currently undergoing safety tests, after Boeing factory workers in South Carolina installed improperly sized connectors in the fuselage.
Regardless of the recent mishap, a number of leading international airlines have begun to put the 777 out of service, including Qatar Airways, Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines and Emirates. Last May, American Delta announced the shutdown of all 18 of its Boeing 777s in favor of more fuel-efficient models.
Recent incidents are not related to the reduction in manpower that was part of the consequences of the plague. “The corona has led to widespread layoffs and outlaws in the aviation industry, but the shortage of manpower does not change the level of maintenance,” said Ross Eimer, a former United pilot and CEO of Euro Consulting, who told the Denver Post. “It does not affect the processes to be performed in the engine,” he noted. “It may take longer with fewer people, but they do not skip stages just because they are fewer people.”