There are thousands of them flying overhead right now, and with more than 100 customers worldwide, the Boeing Next-Generation 737 is a staple aircraft in fleets of the most prominent airlines. While the MAX was intended to replace the original version, the jet is now becoming the aerospace and defense giant’s latest model under fire for safety concerns.
Just last month, AeroTime Hub reported a Virgin Australia’s Boeing 737 began disintegrating mid-flight.
According to the story, the flight originated in Brisbane and was supposed to land at Melbourne Airport before the “spontaneous disintegration” forced an about-turn. An hour later, the damaged jet landed safely at the departure airport.
But that’s not all, in what The Register called a “blackout bug”, the tech publication reported in early January 2020 that Boeing 737 cockpits are going blank when landing on certain runways.
Amid the well-reported woes facing America’s largest airframe maker, yet another one has emerged from the US Federal Aviation Administration; a bug causing pilots’ display screens in the 737-NG airliner family to simply “go blank,” the article continued.
The Boeing Next-Generation has three classifications: the 737-700, 737-800 and 737-900. Each airframe has different specifications ranging from maximum and second-class seating to length.
In late 2019, CNN filed two reports highlighting “cracks” found in the fuselages of 737’s in service. The initial report showed structural cracks were discovered in 38 Next-Generation jets. The cracks were found in inspections ordered by the FAA.
The article also showed approximately 6,800 Next-Generation jets are in use around the world, although it is not clear how many need immediate inspections.
CNN posted a follow-up to their coverage weeks later reporting Irish airline, Ryanair, was the latest major Boeing customer to find cracks in some of their 737’s. The cracks were found on what is known as the “pickle fork,” which helps attach the wings to the aircraft, according to the story
During a Jan. 29, earnings call, Boeing’s newest CEO, Dave Calhoun, attempted to reassure the public saying, “the company’s culture is centered around strong shared values, safety, quality and integrity.”
“Every day, we will foster an inclusive environment that embraces oversight and accountability,” he said. “We will listen and resolve any and all employee concerns pertaining to safety.”
In the wake of the MAX crisis, an executive overhaul at Boeing and emerging safety issues with the 737’s in service, industry whistleblowers from China to the U.S. are resurfacing once again.
Charles Shi, a former Far East Supply Chain Manager for Moog Aircraft Group in China told Tarbell, “Moog Aircraft and Boeing knowingly sourced substandard aerospace parts from a verified Chinese counterfeiting supplier-NHJ”.
“The matter was knowingly mishandled by the FAA,” he said. “When a criminal complaint was filed, the Chinese law enforcement refused to bring charges on NHJ after criminal facts were verified.”
Although they declined comment, noted Boeing supplier, Collins Aerospace, once sourced parts from the Chinese company as well. NHJ no longer markets or provides services to the aerospace industry.
FAA Spokesperson, Lynn Lunsford, told Tarbell, FAA investigators visited a Moog facility and reviewed numerous documents, including engineering drawings, manufacturing production documents, raw material certificates of conformance, audit reports and receiving inspection reports.
Investigators selected random parts and tested them, she said. All parts conformed 100 percent to the material composition specifications outlined in the engineering drawing requirements.
Lunsford said investigators also conducted a traceability review of the raw material certificate of conformances on lots delivered since October 2014.
In one case, investigators substantiated a problem with a cadmium plating supplier, and the impacted parts in stock and in-production were quarantined, she said. The suspect parts were then tested to assess the risk of failure. Based on the test results, Moog recommended a disposition of “use-as-is.” Boeing accepted Moog’s recommendation because the issue did not constitute a safety-of-flight concern.
Lunsford said the FAA closed the matter because “our investigation determined Boeing and Moog took the proper corrective action based on the findings.”
The Silent Whistleblower and the 787
For Boeing, safety issues extend beyond any version of the 737. Gerald Eastman, a former Precision Assembly Inspector at Boeing for nearly 20 years, published a blog as far back as 2018 claiming industry-whistleblower and Boeing QA Manager, “Mitch” revealed thousands of defective or scrap parts were likely installed on 787’s in service today, including two whole body sections.
According to the post, the cover-up was due to “corruption” at Boeing’s management level. Despite multiple attempts, Eastman did not respond to Tarbell.
Boeing will “Modify Culture and Restore Trust”
“I know we’ve got things to work on and changes to make,” Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said.
“I’ve got to restore trust, confidence and faith in The Boeing Company,” he continued. “This thing isn’t entirely broken. Leaders have a massive role to play in how to fix a culture, and I have to demonstrate that; one step at a time, every inch of the way.”