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Why is Boeing in the news so much?

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Major commercial passenger airline maker Boeing is facing serious safety questions following a string of incidents on its aircrafts.
Boeing's outgoing CEO has told staff "the eyes of the world are on us".

Boeing, the U.S. plane manufacturer behind many of the world’s commercial flights, is currently facing serious safety questions.

A Boeing plane turned around after an engine cover fell off during takeoff from the U.S. city of Denver over the weekend. It follows a string of recent incidents involving Boeing aircraft.

In a memo to employees last month, outgoing CEO Dave Calhoun said “the eyes of the world are on us”.

Here’s why.

Boeing

Boeing was worth around $US112 billion ($AU170 billion) at the end of 2023 and has around 170,000 employees.

It and Europe-based Airbus are the world’s leading manufacturers of commercial passenger planes.

If you’ve ever flown on a short or long-haul flight, it’s likely Boeing built the plane.

Alaska Airlines

In January, an Alaska Airlines flight was travelling between U.S. states Oregon and California. The plane was a Boeing 737 Max 9.

A door on the side of the plane tore off mid-air, leaving a gaping hole next to passenger seats.

The plane was carrying 177 people, some of whom were injured.

It came days after the U.S. aviation regulator the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) discovered bolts on some 737 Maxes had not been properly tightened.

Grounded planes

Following the Alaska Airlines incident, the FAA forced Boeing to ground 737 Max 9 aircraft for three weeks.

It also told Boeing to stop expanding production of the 737 Max planes.

The FAA is still investigating what happened. Another government body, the National Transportation Safety Board, has found that at least four critical bolts may have been missing on the plane.

Boeing is required to outline its plans to improve safety to the FAA by June.

CEO quits

Two weeks ago, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun announced he would step down at the end of 2024.

Calhoun cited the Alaska Airlines accident as a “watershed” moment for the company, saying Boeing needed to fully commit itself to “safety and quality”.

The chair of the company’s board, Larry Kellner, will also not seek re-election.

Payout

Last week, Boeing was ordered to pay more than $US160 million ($AU240 million) to Alaska Airlines as compensation for the disruptions caused by the burst panel.

The payout covered lost revenue from the accident and the grounded fleet.

Seven passengers who were onboard the Alaska Airlines flight are suing Boeing and the airline for compensation for physical injuries.

Other flights

Since the Alaska Airlines flight, there have been other incidents involving Boeing aeroplanes.

Last month, a Boeing 787 flight from Sydney to Auckland experienced a sudden mid-air drop, injuring about 50 people. The flight landed safely.

Passengers on the Latam Airlines flight said they felt a “strong shake”, which the airline said had been caused by a “technical fault”. An international investigation remains ongoing.

Separately over the weekend, a flight departing the U.S. city of Denver was forced to turn around due to an engine cover issue.

In a statement, the FAA said the engine’s protective cover fell off during takeoff. The cover hit the wing flap of the plane before it landed.

The FAA is investigating the incident.

Whistleblower

In recent years, a former Boeing employee gave evidence against the company as part of court proceedings.

John Barnett, who worked at Boeing for 32 years, alleged 25% of oxygen masks on their planes wouldn’t work in an emergency.

He claimed he repeatedly raised concerns about safety and cost-cutting on the production line but was ignored.

Barnett was found dead in the U.S. state of South Carolina last month.

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