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Boeing Again Under Scrutiny After Latest 737 Max Problem

Boeing Again Under Scrutiny After Latest 737 Max Problem

A harrowing flight over the weekend is again forcing Boeing to confront concerns over its planes, particularly the 737 Max, already one of the most scrutinized jets in history.

No one was seriously injured in the episode on an Alaska Airlines flight Friday night in which a portion of a 737 Max 9 fuselage blew out in midair, exposing passengers to howling wind. The plane landed safely, but the event, on a flight from Portland, Ore., to Ontario, Calif., has spooked travelers and prompted immediate safety inspections on similar planes.

Federal authorities focused attention on a mid-cabin door plug, which is used to fill the space where an emergency exit would be placed if the plane were configured with more seats.

The Federal Aviation Administration ordered the inspection of 171 Max 9 planes operated by Alaska and other U.S. airlines, causing dozens of flight cancellations on Saturday. It said the inspections should take four to eight hours per plane to complete.

“We agree with and fully support the F.A.A.’s decision to require immediate inspections of 737-9 airplanes with the same configuration as the affected airplane,” Jessica Kowal, a Boeing spokeswoman, said Saturday.

It is not clear whether Boeing is to blame for what happened, but the episode raises new questions for the manufacturer. Another version of the Max, a 737 Max 8, was involved in two crashes that killed hundreds of people in 2018 and 2019 and led to a worldwide grounding of that plane.

“The issue is what’s going on at Boeing,” said John Goglia, a longtime aviation safety consultant and a retired member of the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates airplane crashes.

Last month, the company urged airlines to inspect the more than 1,300 delivered Max planes for a possible loose bolt in the rudder-control system. Over the summer, Boeing said a key supplier had improperly drilled holes in a component that helps to maintain cabin pressure. Since then, Boeing has invested in and worked more closely with that supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, to address production problems.

“We are seeing increased stability and quality performance within our own factories, but we’re working to get the supply chain caught up to the same standards,” Boeing’s chief executive, Dave Calhoun, said on a call with investor analysts and reporters in October.

Spirit AeroSystems also worked on the fuselage for the 737 Max 9, including manufacturing and installing the door plug that failed on the…

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