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Rarely are commercial jet airliners grounded. For Boeing, the catastrophic failure of an optional emergency exit "plug" is another major setback for the storied airplane manufacturer.
Roughly five years ago, two 737 Max airplanes crashed shortly after takeoff claiming the lives of over 350 people. While the primary cause of those calamities was due to a design flaw in a flight control system, this latest near catastrophe may also be the result of a design or manufacturing defect. It wasn't until after the second fatal crash of the 737 Max that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which regulates airlines and airplane manufacturers, made the rare decision to ground the Max. Boeing knew almost immediately after the first crash that a design defect was the cause, yet they insisted the Max model was safe for flight. It was almost two years before Max returned to the skies.
Fast forward to this past weekend: Boeing again finds itself facing a business, regulatory, and public relations crisis. This time, the FAA did not delay a decision to ground the Max 9. With loose bolts and fittings found on other 737 Max 9 airplanes, there is reason for concern that there are serious quality control issues at Boeing. The Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 which prompted the emergency action by the FAA was only 3 months old.
What is going wrong at Boeing? Has the ramp up in mass production of the 737 Max created an inferior aircraft? Is Boeing once again putting profits over safety? What about Alaska Airlines? There were pressurization warnings on at least two prior flights. Why didn't Alaska look deeper into the root cause of the pressurization issue? Was this a sign of something more dangerous to flight safety? These and many other questions will be asked by the NTSB, other airlines, and the public in the course of the ongoing investigation.
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