Key Points:

  • Boeing recommends inspections for 737 MAX jets after an international airline found a loose bolt in the rudder control system.

  • No in-flight incidents linked to the issue, but inspections completed within two weeks.

  • Latest development adds to string of safety concerns that have plagued the aircraft since its 2019 grounding.

FAA Monitors Inspections Following Loose Bolt Discovery in Boeing 737 MAX Rudder System

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is closely monitoring inspections of Boeing 737 MAX jets after the plane-maker issued a recommendation for airlines to check for loose bolts in the aircraft's rudder control system. This precautionary measure comes after an unnamed international carrier discovered a missing nut on a bolt during routine maintenance.

Boeing, which has delivered over 1,370 737 MAX jets globally, including to major U.S. airlines like United, Southwest, American, and Alaska, stated that the issue on the particular aircraft has been addressed. However, out of an abundance of caution, the company urged operators to inspect their fleets and report any findings.

Inspections Estimated to Take Two Hours per Plane, Deemed Non-Critical to Continued Safe Flight

Boeing estimated that the inspections, recommended to be completed within the next two weeks, would take approximately two hours per airplane. The company emphasized its belief that the jets can continue to fly safely during the inspection process.

Latest Safety Concern Follows MCAS Debacle and Deadly 2018-2019 Crashes

This development marks the latest in a string of safety concerns that have cast a shadow over the 737 MAX since its grounding in 2019. Between October 2018 and March 2019, two fatal crashes involving the aircraft tragically claimed the lives of 346 people. Investigations revealed that both crashes were partially attributed to a flawed automated flight control system known as MCAS.

Industry Expert: Loose Bolts Represent Different Problem than Previous MCAS Design Flaw

Richard Aboulafia, Managing Director of aerospace consulting firm Aerodynamic Advisory, distinguishes the loose bolt issue from the MCAS debacle. He categorizes the former as a manufacturing glitch rather than a design flaw, but notes that it reflects ongoing challenges with Boeing's production ramp-up and those of its suppliers.

The FAA's close monitoring of the inspections and Boeing's prompt recommendation for action underscore the seriousness with which the industry is treating this potential safety concern. While deemed non-critical to immediate flight safety, the loose bolt issue adds another layer to the ongoing narrative of the 737 MAX's rocky return to service. Only time will tell whether this latest development represents an isolated incident or a more systemic issue within Boeing's production and quality control processes.