Boeing finds itself entangled in yet another manufacturing hiccup, this time concerning the delicate matter of a potentially loose bolt in the rudder control system. The Federal Aviation Administration revealed this tidbit in a statement issued Thursday morning, casting a shadow on Boeing’s ongoing efforts in the realm of quality and safety.
“Boeing recommended the inspections after an international operator discovered a bolt with a missing nut while performing routine maintenance on a rudder control system mechanism. The company discovered another undelivered aircraft with an improperly tightened nut,” the FAA said.
These are those small problems, however, that can cause tremendous incidents with the danger of the loss of numerous lives.
Boeing has issued a multi-operator message to all airlines using the new single-aisle jets to inspect the rudder movement for any loose components.
CNBC pointed out that Alaska Airlines has already begun inspecting the Max jets. Each inspection takes about two hours, and the carrier plans to inspect all Max jets by mid-January.
A United Airlines spokeswoman said the Max jets are being inspected. Both carriers, United Airlines and Alaska Airlines, do not expect any operational restrictions because of the inspections.
The Max jets had several problems related to different parts and systems. The most notable defect was the MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), which led to two separate accidents that killed 346 people. The ssitema had been installed because the new, fuel-efficient engines, however, were much larger in diameter than their predecessors and thus had changed the aircraft’s flight characteristics. So the MCAS was necessary to improve the plane’s characteristics, but poor training and programming problems turned it into an aviation hazard.
The latest defect, affecting 737 Max 8 aircraft, was found in August when supplier Spirit improperly drilled holes in the aft pressure bulkhead.
In September, Boeing CFO Brian West said the aircraft manufacturer was on track to meet the “low end” of its target of 400–450 jets for annual 737 deliveries. But in late October, during a results release, the company cut its annual 737 delivery target.
Reuters brings a glimmer of hope for the beleaguered plane. It reports that China might revive 737 MAX operations in 2024, marking the end of a tumultuous period triggered by unfortunate accidents that left scars on the plane’s reputation.